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Processing Down Under

26 Nov

Greetings from Australia. I’m in a beautiful valley in the bush of New South Wales where I have joined a team of volunteers at a retreat center. We work long hours expanding the retreat center and spend the rest of our waking time together in practices for personal and spiritual development. At this point it is 4 weeks since I arrived here and it feels like a good time to reflect and share some of my experiences and insights with you.

Our group here consists of eleven people—9 volunteers and 2 leaders. As we are half an hour driving distance away from the next town there are no distractions. The only other living beings we meet are kangaroos, wallabies, lizards, exotic birds such as colorful parrots and the mythic looking lyrebird, and every once in a while a cow or an echidnaThe eleven of us constitute the human faction of this ecosystem and we are family, colleagues, friends, and mentors for each other. We spend 15-16 hours together every day, except on Sundays when the official program ends at 2pm.

How long has it been for you since you spent 15+  hour days with a group of 11 people? For me, it’s been almost 40 years. Frankly, as someone with a nervous system that is easily overloaded, I am surprised how well I have been doing. But don’t get the wrong impression–it has been amazing and it has been hard. In summary, the first week was about arriving and adjusting and I constantly struggled to keep up. The second week my nervous system frequently shut down making it impossible to track where certain things were. I lost my phone (most importantly functioning as an alarm), all kinds of paraphernalia such as sunglasses and protective safety glasses, and even my toothbrush. All of this caused more stress, irritated people around me, and made me more vulnerable. I had an emotional mini-collapse when, within the span of 5 minutes, three people addressed me with criticism or had a tense tone in their voice. The third week I had to contend with physical pain (lower back pain, something totally new to me), and the fourth week I spent facing some of my less charming traits mirrored in a person I was teamed up with. Lots of opportunities for struggle and for growth and transformation!

Here in a nutshell is what I’ve learned so far:

Always add at least 1 mm wiggle room when building something for a 3-dimensional fit.
My vulnerability allows others to understand my process.
The deeper I allow myself to feel, the bigger the potential for transformation.
Defiance is a mechanism that walls me off from others.
Rigidity and the wish to control are rooted in fear.
Kindness toward others generates ease and engenders kindness.
Gentleness, kindness, and generosity are the most powerful tools. They melt the heart.
Surrender and trust are cosmic superpowers that draw in higher support.

Time to go and join my team and experience another adventure of a very human kind.

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Stop comparing yourself to others

27 Feb

Recently, i heard a photographer say: “Stop comparing yourself to others. If you compare yourself you will ALWAYS lose.” She was talking about marketing and addressing other photographers and artists. But i think that what she said is true for everyone.

We are trained to compete and live up to other people’s standards. And we are trained to look for perfection. BUT: as long as we chase an abstract ‘perfect’ we neglect to look at who we truly are. We invest in where we will fail, as opposed to where we will shine.

We all are unique. There is no one else like you in the entire universe. But as long as you look to be perfect and measure it on someone who is not you, you dismiss yourself. As long as ‘perfect’ is measured on something outside of you, you will fail to become the unique you you are meant to be. Think of it as copying on a xerox machine. What is better, the original or its copy?

Comparing yourself is a default. You were trained to do so. It’s natural and most have made it their second nature.  Plus, it is easier to look outside of yourself for orientation.

It takes a lot of courage to be yourself. Not only do you need to cultivate the ability to listen carefully inside, you also need ways to face self doubt. You need to see with clarity what is fear, self-sabotage, and plain old habit. And yet, once you embark on the path of being you the reward is phenomenal.

Learn to be yourself. Learn to love yourself truly. Instead of spending hours, days, years, to become someone else, use your time and put it toward what is close to your heart. Follow your passion, live your purpose.

Stop the comparison game. Stop putting all your resources into becoming what you are not. Start to explore and honor your unique self, acknowledge yourself for who you are, and embrace what makes you special. You came into this life to be uniquely you. That’s where you will find inner and outer rewards.

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This might be difficult. Remember that you are going against a life-time of habit. If you experience difficulties, don’t be discouraged. Instead, consider getting help. Let me help  you be more yourself and discover a life of joy and ease. Click here to read more about my transformational approach and here to send me an email.

© Eva Ruland, February 2017

11 years later — a true story about consequences of loss

5 Sep

I am back from Germany and had a great time. The biggest blessing i experienced in Berlin was community, and the greatest gift i received was the support of a very capable friend who offered to help me and my four siblings sell my mother’s house which has been empty for many years. We siblings have dragged our feet—my sister local to the house who was my mother’s caretaker and is the main heir has been too emotional, and those of us far away did not feel in charge, as we are only secondary heirs. But after years, even from the distance across the globe, i have become upset about the situation. It feels disrespectful to my mother’s memory to not deal with the estate (the house has been neglected and is in disrepair). So, when i set off to go to Germany, facilitating a settling of my mother’s estate was my major objective, next to spending quality time with my 5 year old niece Stella, my sister Anne, and some other people close to my heart.

I tell you about this not to cast blame on anyone but to share a story of loss and its consequences. Underneath my sister’s procrastination (the house was left to her) was an overwhelming sense of loss with which she was left more or less alone. It may be that my family’s situation is particularly extreme as we siblings have dispersed in all winds, living on three continents, in time zones so different that talking to each other on the phone regularly is almost impossible. But i know that my sister’s pain and isolation is not an uncommon occurrence. Major losses are super tough challenges. And it does not matter much whether it is the loss of a parent, a friend, a partner, a close family member (including pets), or the the loss of one’s long-term relationship, one’s health, or one’s youth. The shock of death and separation, the scariness of major health problems, and the depressing cultural implications of dwindling youth are not only hard to face—we are usually not prepared for them and most have no support structures to help. When this loss is the death of a loved one there might be a lot of sympathy, but there is usually little capacity to be in the presence of grief. When the loss is that of one’s youth, often there is not even sympathy.

For the last two years i have been offering Midlife Alchemy. My intention with it has always been to offer a structure that provides the space to reflect, process, and find support in times of loss, impending loss, or during a major redefining of one’s self. I want to fill the cultural gap around loss and offer a place that encourages authenticity and trust, inspires self-reflection and sharing, and becomes a place for emotional healing and transformation. With Midlife Alchemy I am offering the kind of space and support here that i wish my sister would have in Germany.

Midlife Alchemy is not just about loss. It is about embracing what is and connecting with your inner strength in the face of what life presents you. It is about reconnecting with your true nature so that you can gracefully unfold and be the beautiful being you came into this life to be.

A new in-person Midlife Alchemy group in the Bay Area is forming this month. We will meet on Thursday evenings. You can find more information at http://evaruland.com/MidlifeAlchemy. Please don’t hesitate connecting with me if you are interested but have any questions.

Pink?

10 May

Pink was never my color. I stayed away from it because i did not want to come across girly. Today, i turned around and chose pink. It’s right in my face, too. I got pink bangs. WOW!

When showed the colors i wanted in my hair—bright pink, a radiant red, and a dark leafy red, the stylist grabbed the hot pink and held it on my forehead. She suggested to die my baby bangs pink. Okay, i said, and she was in disbelief. She double checked three times with me. Yes, i was going for it.

She worked on me for over 2 hours. First, the color had to be stripped from my hair so that the lighter colors would show. The smell of ammonia creeped me out. How can i do this to my hair and my skull, i thought for a moment. But there was no going back. I was in for the ride. I had to sit under a heated hood for a while to bake the color in. No denying it, this treatment was not nature friendly.

But, then, once the bleach was washed out and the pink applied, i forgot all about the chemicals. I fell in love with my little patch of pink. She put in foils on the side and added color for the highlights. When the foils had come off, and my hair was washed, i felt giddy. I could not wait to see the result. And there it was: bright and pink right on my forehead, and red, orange and pink stripes on the side. While she was blowdrying my hair i saw colorful feathers appear on my head. “My true feathers,” i thought, “i am showing my true colors.”

I love my new colors. They uplift me. This pink has nothing to do with the pink of being a well-adjusted, well-behaved girl. This pink is the color of joy. It feels exuberant and is super liberating. When i went to a networking event tonight, lots of women came up to me to compliment me on my hair and my courage. That’s when i realized that my hair has become my messenger. The message is: dare to be yourself.

I invite you to connect with your own pink. Your pink might be orange, or turquoise, or purple—and it may or may not want to show in your hair. What is your true color? How can you connect with and step into your authentic self?

Need help? I’d love to support you in living your life from your truth, unapologetically, unabashedly, and gracefully. After all, i believe that the universe had something special in mind when it made you.

[photos: Pat Mazzera | hair: Universe @ Festoon Salon Berkeley]

© Eva Ruland, 2016

What color is your blossom?

31 Mar

Spring has started with sunshine and a show of lush green and the first blooms. It is as if nature put on a perfect show to teach us a lesson—that we are at our best when we show our innate beauty, that which makes us unique.

Spring is a celebration of new possibilities and of differences. Flowers come in different colors and shapes, and so do humans. Some of us are high endurance people, others are sprinters; some of us have a firm grasp on facts, and others are more ethereal and easily travel into the realm of imagination. I see us all as unique flowers, contributing to the beautiful tapestry of life.

Spring is your time to embrace your uniqueness and celebrate it. It’s the time to get yourself out and show yourself in your you-ness. What is your unique color? What does your blossom look like?

I offer 3 different ways of supporting you in making strides toward being yourself more fully.

Coaching. In this completely individualized approach the focus is on you, where you’re at and where you want to be. Coaching supports and guides you in taking a new kind of  responsibility, that of agency. This is the deepest approach to self-discovery and has lasting effects. Ready for a life-changing journey? Read more here or contact me.

Midlife Alchemy group. I guide you and the group through a transformative process of self exploration using writing and imagery. Sharing in the group creates a community and accelerates insights. A new midlife alchemy group will start in May. http://evaruland.com/MidlifeAlchemy

SoulCollage group/workshop. I guide you in the process of connecting with your soul through images. This is a quick+easy approach to self-discovery. Repeated participation is highly recommended. Check out dates and sign up: http://evaruland.com/soulcollage.html

All 3 approaches have specific benefits and lead you to experience profound change in how you see yourself and your world. They work well in tandem—the more attention and time you invest the faster you’ll see change.

If you need help deciding on where to start, contact me. We’ll talk about it and i will help you choose what’s best for you right now.

Happy spring!

© Eva Ruland, March 2016

Let go and be yourself

31 Jan

A while ago a came across a poem of great beauty and wisdom that i want to share with you and reflect on. Here is the poem:

She Let Go by Safire Rose

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments. She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her. She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go. 

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go. She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go. She let go of all of the memories that held her back. She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

I believe that this poem describes a key to happiness. The letting go described here is the letting go of judgement of self and others, the letting go of the wish to please. It is the letting go of expectations, our own and those of others, and of fears. Our world changes drastically once we let go. While everything around us might continue to be the same, how we experience it changes for us once our attitude changes. Just imagine life without being self-conscious or worried. Once we let go of expectations we not only let go of a major source of stress, we also side-step disappointment. Once we stop caring about what others think and expect, and throw our own harsh inner critic in the wind, we make room for our essence to unfold. We become more ourselves.

Once we free ourselves from playing a role and squeezing ourselves into a box of expectations that doesn’t fit, we gain authenticity. We finally become true to ourselves. We shift from living a life dictated by outside factors to living our soul’s longing. When we do that we connect with the river of joy. This river of joy runs through us and every animate being. It springs from the source and runs through our soul. Once we take down our walls of defense and pretension and allow our soul to shine through, we automatically connect with this river of joy. It is as if “the sun and the moon shine forevermore.”

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Having trouble letting go? I can help you. Choose a modality (coaching, SoulCollage, or Midlife Alchemy) that resonates with you, or contact me at eva_at_evaruland.com.

© Eva Ruland, January 2016

Inner Beauty Never Fades

26 Jan

INNER BEAUTY NEVER FADES — Or does it? Sadly, it can fade away and often does. But, differently from outer beauty, inner beauty can be completely restored.

Recently, i listened to a talk which the speaker began by saying “I want to make one thing clear: i am absolutely, amazingly awesome,” and he featured a big grin. Then he continued with a smile “and here is one more thing: you are too.” He was talking about being in touch with your inner sense of belonging, with the feeling that you are loved and utterly lovable that lets your inner beauty shine out into the world bright and clear.

Sun Sheperdess by Julie Dillon
Detail of the painting Sun Shepherdess by Julie-Dillon. http://www.juliedillonart.com/

Imagine the spark in a toddler’s eyes. Remember how their eyes glow? They reflect the shine of adventure, the joy at every discovery, and the sheer insatiable hunger for new experiences that can freely develop when you are young, innocent, and feel loved. I saw this glow in the eyes of my 2 year old niece when i last visited Germany. Frankly, i was surprised at how much she charmed me. She was just turning 2 and her life was a big, fun adventure.

Then i thought back and remembered the charm of her mother, my 12-year-younger baby sister. She glowed too when she was little. But when she was my niece’s age, the first big shadows descended upon her. My father’s stroke shook up all of our lives. All of a sudden, life did not continue the way we were used to. The biggest factor that indicated that something was off was the fact that our mother was rarely home and when she was, she was tired, bent by worry. Even though my sister was only 2, and all us older siblings doted over her, she, like the rest of us, could not ignore that something upsetting had happened, something that stole our mother’s peace. All of a sudden, the solid rock of our family, was shaken with one parent being on the brink of death and the other scared and utterly overwhelmed at the vision of her future as a single mom of five, the youngest 2 and the oldest 14. As it turned out, my father was to live for 5 more years, however not as his former self, but as an ailing, incapacitated man who needed more care than any of us children. This change shows in family photos—mostly the lack thereof—and in the photos of my sister’s early childhood. She lost her innocent trust in life very early.

However, you don’t have to lose or nearly lose your father as a young child in order to lose your trust in life, and perhaps in yourself. Too many restrictions, or too many obligations, can do the same thing. If you are constantly reminded that you cannot do such and such because you are too small or because it is not safe, or if you are burdened with too many responsibilities too early, you lose some of your innocent shine. And you lose even more when you don’t feel loved.

Let’s take a moment and look at restrictions and also at moral stories. These can cross our path in the form of a relative or a teacher. There might have been an aunt who always knew how to stop you in your tracks with a blood curdling story or a warning. When i was small we had an old book, from the late 1800s, with admonishing stories for children. I still remember the horror i experienced at the story of Suppenkasper, a boy who did not like his soup—just like me—and refused to eat it. The rhyme said that “on day seven he was dead ” and the illustration showed him getting thinner and thinner every day, and on day seven you only saw a grave with a cross. I hope most of you were spared those kind of stories. But there might have been a pseudo well-meaning doomsayer in your environment who always had to point out that you couldn’t possibly expect to be loved if you continued to do such and such. They would probably end on a notion such as “You better be a good child.” Most of us can’t ignore their need to be loved and liked—as a child or as an adult. So, we begin to compromise our truth for the sake of pleasing someone.

After years (and decades) of pleasing others, you might not even be able to clearly hear your own inner voice anymore. It has been dimmed—and with it your inner glow has dimmed. BUT, it is never to late to liberate yourself from old internalized pressures and stories, and begin to reconnect with your own truth. In the beginning, it might be hard to hear the thin voice inside you. Everybody else’s voice has had their free run for such a long time and shouted over your own inner voice. And even harder than to retrain yourself to hear your inner voice is it to choose it when it means going against the wish (or the domineering bullying) of someone else. But, it can be done.

Here are some ideas for those who feel they want to start tackling their transformation.

• Start imagining yourself already at your goal: in your center, feeling amazing.
• Try to see yourself do all the things that you are passionate about. Allow yourself this vision and allow yourself to enjoy it.
• In your thought experiment, give yourself full permission to please yourself. Step into your truth. See yourself do things your way.
• See yourself literally or metaphorically skip joyfully through your day.
• See your new glow radiate out.
• Love yourself with all your might.
• Bring this vision into your day-to-day life. Try to implement one thing at a time.
• Become your own advocate.
• When you look into the mirror, smile at yourself.

This might be really difficult. Remember that you are going against a life-time of habit. If you experience difficulties with any of the above, don’t be discouraged. Instead, consider getting help. Depending on where you’re at, choose a therapist, or choose a transformational coach. I love this kind of deep work. With my help you will not only find out what is truly meaningful to you. You will also learn to take incremental steps that lead you to live your life in sync with your inner truth. This will tease out your inner beauty, and along-side, you will discover a life of joy. Click here to read more about my transformational approach and here to send me an email. Let’s reawaken your inner beauty, shall we?

© Eva Ruland, January 2015