That third glass of wine. Hurtful lovers. Amazing lovers who just aren’t the right fit. Stories from the past that keep us safe. The this-will-relax-me smoke. That gluttonous dessert. Remaining content for fear of not knowing.
For the last 10 days, the man and I have abided by a long list of “Yes” and No” foods, giving up caffeine, alcohol, sugar, gluten grains, dairy, eggs, soybean products, shellfish, high mercury fish and more.
We’ve done this both as an attempt to get to the bottom of my food allergies, and also to give our bodies a reset. While I’m a fairly clean eater, there are three indulgences that keep me relaxed and cozy: wine, cheese and dark chocolate. Before starting this cleanse, the whole idea of no wine for fourteen days seemed absurd. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try.
In the first few days, I found myself wanting to buy all the dark chocolate when I passed by that aisle in the organic market. Every wine shop spoke to me, inviting me to come in and try their newly featured wines. Anytime I saw someone drinking a glass, I felt drawn to have one with them. It was especially difficult on Valentine’s Day to not share a delicious bottle, and we actually both tasted two sips before deciding to go instead with sparking water.
With each impulse, an opportunity presented itself. The opportunity to go within, hear my inner voice, listen to the emotion, and get in touch with what I’m really craving.
"Do I really want that chocolate?" led to "No. You’ve been working non-stop all day and you’re feeling a little lonely right now. What you really want is a cup of tea and thirty minutes of deep connection."
"I want wine! I want wine! I want want!" turned into "Actually you really don’t want wine. You want to slow down your thoughts and some yoga stretching is the best way for you to do that."
The biggest insight so far is this: Letting go gets easier every day. As I become increasingly aware of my attachments, I’m able to navigate them and choose for them not to control me. And the more I tap into and listen to what I really want, the better my decision making, and the more fulfilled and productive I feel.
After ten days, I feel clear. Focused. Highly productive and effective. I feel like I’m growing and glowing on the inside. I need less sleep. I’m in bed by 11:30 and awake earlier than 7. My ideas are flowing and my creativity is being channeled in a way that feels even more cozy than that evening glass of wine.
While I imagine myself bringing wine and some of these indulgences back into the picture (hello moderation!), this break has given me greater insight into what’s below my cravings, and how—when I give myself the chance to really listen—saying “No” actually feels better than saying “Yes.”
So let me ask you: What one thing do you feel drawn to “cleanse” from your life for a set period of time? Is there one thing you feel scared to give up, but know it’s time? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.
When You're Feeling Stressed, Overwhelmed & Want to Recenter
Ever find yourself staring at the computer screen in the middle of a crazed day, wondering:
How will I get all of this done?
What are my priorities right now?
Is there enough time?
What the hell have I been doing for the last few hours?
I have moments of overwhelm and fogginess. Most people do.
With inputs coming from all angles all day, it can be easy to get pulled away from what matters most.
In times of overwhelm and daze, here’s what what works for me, which may support you too:
+ Notice your breath. To get out of my head and back into the moment, the very first thing I do is notice my breath. When thoughts arise, I imagine them in a bubble and I envision myself gently tapping them with a feather. This slows down my thoughts and brings me back to the present. Sometimes I will stay with my breath for a few moments, and other times I will sink in for five or ten minutes, visualizing imagery that brings me peace. The vision of running barefoot through an open field or walking along the beach quickly brings me back to center.
+ Clarify priorities. Sometimes overwhelm is rooted in not knowing where to focus time and energy. Ten minutes spent revisiting the “Top 3” most important tasks for the day helps refocus what will bring a sense of joy and peace by end of day. Have more than 3? Try an “On Deck” list to know where to focus later. If you’re visual, below is a quick and dirty mind map from my journal with projects inside the circles and tasks stemming out. I’ll sometimes have one or two of these per week to refocus and know where to go next.
+ Revisit commitments.Liz D’Alto posted recently, “Never put off til tomorrow what you can straight up cancel today.” She added, “Sometimes we overcommit. Some may see canceling or breaking commitments as out of integrity. Is that less integrous than showing up, not being present, wishing you weren’t there, or giving less than your best?” Well said, Liz. So, what are you taking off your plate today?
+ Journal it out. To get to the bottom of what’s going on, I’ll often find peace in clarity by answering “What’s making me feel overwhelmed right now is…” or “My greatest sense of stress right now is…” By having a dialogue and addressing the overwhelm head on, I work through rather than avoid it.
+ Schedule space. Imagine uninterrupted space with no meetings, no email answering and no inputs driving you. Feels good, doesn’t it? Block off a chunk of time each week for thinking, creativity, writing, or whatever it is that you feel called to do. Follow your curiosities and let intuition and inspiration lead the way.
+ Artist Date. Speaking of creativity and space, a key part of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a book dedicated to helping you unlock your highest creative potential, is Artist Dates—a two-hour block of time set aside for nurturing your inner artist (we all have one). The whole point of these dates is receiving—opening yourself to insight, inspiration and guidance. Ask yourself: what is the child within me craving? What play date do I want to take myself on? Schedule it in the next week and go do it. This has shown up for me in the form of free form yoga dance, painting ceramics, art gallery visit, longggg walks, sunset bike ride, and so on.
And that is how I break free from overwhelm. What helps YOU get out of daze and into flow? Let’s jam in the comments below.
Hello first Monday in the second month of the New Year!
Have you paused to reflect on how your intentions are unfolding in 2014? Are you looking to January as a benchmark for how the rest of your year is evolving?
My first month of the year was — how shall I put this? — effing intense. Between a new site in production, a creative collective with ten powerful creatives and entrepreneurs launching today (Whee!), a book concept coming together, trying (ahem, failing) to write here each week, and travel for workshops and love, I found myself in full on hustle mode, challenged to get everything done WHILE enjoying the process.
Some days I flowed like a river downstream, experiencing such profound joy that there was nothing in the world that I’d rather be doing. (Kind of like right now.) Other days I threw things across the room and screamed at the top of my lungs. I was a bit surprised and delighted when Farhad looked at me curiously and replied to my antics with, “Feel better now?” (Oh yes. Muchhhh better.)
Looking back on the days when I was alive and on fire compared to the days when I was throwing things, there’s one simple ritual that repeatedly got me into a zone of joy and flow.
It all boils down to: the first hour of the day.
That first sixty minutes sets the intention for your entire day. (And if you’re thinking “I don’t have 60 minutes,” we’ll get to that in a minute.)
Some days I’d wake up, check my phone, feel inundated by email, begin replying in bed, distract myself from emails by going on social networks… and quickly find myself in a less than ideal headspace. (Sound familiar?)
Other days I’d wake up, get my cuddle on, make a cup of tea, do morning journaling, set intentions and define success for the day, go for a brisk walk, grab a green juice… and quickly find myself lost in the beauty of the moment, not even bothered by Brooklyn’s chilly winds and growing snowfall.
Guess which day ended up leading to thrown objects and which ended up leading to flow?
Let me ask you this: do you want to start your day by honoring other people’s needs and demands? Or, do you want to honor and love yourself first, creating a sixty minute ritual that enlivens your spirit and supports you in fully showing up for the day ahead?
I know what you might be thinking. “I don’t have sixty minutes” or “I have somewhere to be that’s early.” Can you start with just ten minutes and see where that takes you?
So what does your sixty minute (or ten minute) morning ritual look like? Let’s define it and hold each other accountable in the comments.
How to close the gap between your creative talent and taste
On my fireplace mantel reads a mantra: Get out of the way and let the creative force work through you. Show up at the page and write down what you hear. Eavesdrop rather than invent. You don’t have to be in the mood. Just write … you aren’t doing it. Accumulate pages, not judgements.
It’s a reminder to show up at the page. To create the space for creative expression. To choose creativity over doubt. And most importantly, to allow it to flow through me. Getting into this space of flow and divine connection rarely happens right away. It takes time. It takes a quantity of writing to reach a quality of expression.
A few weeks ago my friend Dan Cohen was in town and we caught up for a drink. If you don’t know Dan, he works with Apple by day and shoots photos and puts on photography shows by night and weekend. His pictures speak to my soul. Give me goosebumps. Inspire me to explore and adventure.
While he was in town, he wanted to snap a photo of me. I was delighted to experience his creative process and discover that it took 34 photos, four breaks, and one too many New Yorkers crossing our path to capture that perfect frame and moment.
It’s just like writing for me. All day every day I journal and take note of my observations, experiences, interactions and insights. It takes hours, and often days, before the dots connect and lead to one of those “OOO I need to write about that” or “THIS is exactly what I need to do next” moments.
No matter your art form (painting / photography / writing / designing / coding / thinking / ideating / dancing and so on), a quantity of expression will lead to the quality you aspire toward. Or as This American Life host and producer Ira Glass says, “The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work.”
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close the gap between your taste and your talent.
So what are you creating this week?
p.s. The Unmistakable Creative recently interviewed me about my vision, creative process and that sort of thing. You may enjoy it here.
How do you feel when someone asks, “What do you do?”
Does it spark frustration? Confusion? Disinterest?
What if it that age-old question was one of your greatest opportunities for connection, spreading your message and moving your ambitions forward?
Trust me, I get it. We now live in an economy where many of us are doing more than one thing. Our description of working and living goes beyond a title and job description.
Doctor. Lawyer. Consultant. Designer.
Painter. Musician. Writer. Developer.
Mother. Father. Husband. Wife.
It’s not that simple anymore.
We have the husband and consultant who works from home, creates and sells art in his downtime, and volunteers with troubled youth.
We have the freelance writer who runs a farm-to-table dinner series on the side, and spends weekends on the farm.
We have the investment banker who travels and photographs the world in his free time, inspiring people to explore and play.
As our interests and doings become varied and multi-disciplinary, the ease at which we describe what we do lessens.
So how on earth can you describe what you do and do so simply? Let’s break it down into a real-life before and after example.
Him: So what do you do?
Me: I’m a writer.
// end conversation // end opportunity for connection //
Him: So what do you do?
Me: Everything I do is rooted in redefining Ambition. I’m interested in shifting the conversation from one of “Getting ahead” to one of “Coming alive.”
Him: Oh wow. That’s really interesting. What do you mean by that?
Me: We’ve been taught that in order to be successful, we must get ahead. But what happens is that we often lose ourself and what really matters in the process.
Him: I really connect with that. This is totally up my sister’s alley too. What do you mean by coming alive?
Me: To come alive is to tap into the truest and most natural expression of who you are, making sure your life is an expression of that. So I support people in shifting from fear-led decisions to heart-led choices, self-doubting to self-expression, focusing on competition to fostering collaboration, and chasing what’s next to fully experiencing what’s right now. That sort of thing.
Him: This is awesome. My sister needs to hear about this. She’s an amazing artist but self-doubt keeps blocking her. How do you go about doing this work?
Me: I write, speak, lead retreats and experiences for creatives and entrepreneurs, and occasionally work with the right inspired companies or individuals one-on-one. I’m also writing a book.
Him: Oh awesome! When and where can I buy this book?!
And off we go into soul-connected paradise…
In sharing what we do, when we focus on the mission driving us and why we do it, we create the opportunity to quickly connect in a deep and intimate way. We also increase our odds for moving our ambitions forward in an organic way.
"My sister NEEDS to be at your next retreat."
"I have an Editor I want to introduce you to."
"This conference sounds like a perfect place for you to speak."
Now it’s your turn. Are you ready to try out this new approach?
Start by answering and getting clear on this: What is the mission that I’m here to serve? And why do I do what I do?
For example: Maybe you work in healthcare but what drives you is removing the barriers around accessibility so you can create a world with more happiness. Maybe you’re a designer but what moves you is the power of love and supporting people in seeing their greatness. Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur who experienced a spiritual awakening, and now you’re motivated to show people the power of slowing down, being present and cultivating the joy within.
Your story is unique. And your message matters. Whatever it is that you do, there’s a reason for it. There’s a deeper force motivating you to show up day and after. There’s a nut you’re trying to crack in your own life. What is it?
If you get stuck or want to share, let’s jam in the comments below. I’m here for you.
That seems to be everyone’s favorite question lately. And my least favorite question ever.
It’s a question that leaves my shoulders stiff and my breathing tight.
"Um… we haven’t thought much about it yet," I say. "We’re thinking May 2015. Plennnnty of time to plan."
And then I change the subject.
After witnessing one too many of my stiff shoulders, tight breathing and quickly changing the subject reactions, I stopped to check in and ask myself: Why are we having a wedding? Why are we putting an enormous amount of time, energy and money into one day? How else can we spend this time, energy and money?
While I’m all for weddings if that’s right for you (and we’ll gladly savor hors d’oeuvre, drink one too many glasses of champagne, and dance the night away), it’s never felt right for me. I was never the little girl dreaming about her wedding day.
So after the epiphany, when Farhad came home, I sat him down, fully expecting push-back.
"Baby, I have something really important to share…."
"Yes…?" he says, with that oh-no-what-now look on his face.
"Why are we having a wedding? I really don’t want one. I already feel like I’m "married" to you!"
And to my surprise, he exclaims, “THIS IS WHY I’M MARRYING YOU! Or spending forever with you. Whatever we want to call it.”
And so we’ve stopped putting pressure on that one day.
We’ve stopped putting pressure on ourselves to serve what other people may want or expect, but not what we want or expect. That pressure limits possibility. It kills imagination. It stifles dreams. And it builds resentment.
As we’ve let go of the traditional notion of marriage, a whole new world of choices has opened up. Union and “marriage” is now a wild adventure, rather than an expected routine.
With this new lens on marriage, we’re exploring what aspects are meaningful to us, and how we can go about unifying our love in a way that aligns with who we are as a couple.
We see “marriage” in two ways.
First, there’s the contract. The LLC of love. The piece of paper that officializes our union, gives me permission to change my last name, and makes taxes less taxing.
Then, there’s the union of love. The deep commitment. The active expression of our unconditional love for each other. The celebration of our time together on this earth. The setting of intentions. The beginning of our family.
As we’ve started the brainstorming process of what this union might look like, we imagine three to six months of world travel, commencing the journey with a trip to the Courthouse. Saying sayonara with a flowy white dress in my suitcase, we’ll spontaneously discover the place that resonates with our hearts, minds and souls along the way. Then and there, I’ll put on the dress, we’ll step into our ideal scene and say our vows. The rest of the trip will be our honeymoon. When we return stateside, we’ll celebrate our love with family and friends.
In imagining our ideal union, we feel deep alignment, a rush of excitement and great anticipation. Isn’t that how weddings ought to feel? Isn’t that how life ought to feel?
I’m curious: where in your life are stiff shoulders and tight breathing holding you back from possibility and your wildest imagination? How can you view what feels like “have to” through the lens of “hell yes want to”?
"I feel like I’m pushing you away," I said to the love of my life just over two weeks ago.
His eyes glazed over, his body froze, and it felt like time came to a sudden halt.
I instantly burst into tears.
What followed was the most challenging conversation of our relationship. And the most beautiful awakening for us both.
In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks talks about “Upper Limiting.”
We each have a maximum level of success, love, happiness, intimacy and pleasure that we think we can have in our lives.
When life is growing, expanding, improving, and going well, we unconsciously do things to sabotage ourselves, so we go back to the familiar place where we feel in control.
Simply put: we hold ourselves back from achieving our greatest potential.
So here I was in our relationship, feeling closer than ever, creating our home, planning future trips, writing frequent love notes and finding myself falling more deeply in love each day when I was suddenly overcome by a series of destructive thoughts:
What if Farhad stops loving me?
Gets killed in a car crash?
What if I am alone? Heartbroken? And sad?
Overcome with panic of what could be, I began to slowly distance myself from him—without even realizing it.
It was much safer this way. He couldn’t hurt me and he couldn’t leave me if I distanced myself first.
After he wiped away my tears and I brought his seemingly frozen body back to life through hugs and kisses, we committed to giving each other the space for reflection and introspection.
The next day, as I was flipping through books on my Kindle, I saw the cover of The Big Leap and a wave of relief overcame my body. I’m talking head-to-toe goosebumps. That’s when it dawned on me that I was upper limiting.
Immediately I whipped out a notebook and in pure detective style, traced back to the origin of my limit by asking, “Why do I fear Farhad leaving me? What is the root?” The answers that followed weren’t surprising: My father’s death in a car crash as a child, losing contact with a step-father, and a relationship that tore me apart in college.
In connecting the dots of my past, and realizing how they were showing up in my present, I now had the language to let Farhad in on my experience, and share how he could support me in breaking through with our combined awareness, unconditional love and understanding.
So the next time you find yourself distancing yourself from the one you love, getting sick in the middle of a huge and important launch, or spraining your ankle six weeks after hiring a personal trainer, ask yourself: Could I be upper limiting?
It just might be your path to profound clarity and forward movement.
This post was healing to write and scary as shit to share. Thanks to Farhad and Payal for inspiring and encouraging it, and Geada for reading the draft! Thanks to GNTLMN + William Hereford for the image.