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Renewal & Resilience

31 Mar

If you are anything like me, you’ve had a winter sprinkled with colds and the flu. That can be depressing. I tried to make the best of it and gave myself permission to spend a couple of days in bed, and hours on the sofa, a book close by and the cats snuggled up with me. Now i am really ready for spring renewal.

I enjoy the sun and the warmer days, but today my head is hurting and my energy is not totally back. My reality is not either/or at this moment. But I have choices. I can focus on all that is not right: having a headache, feeling low energy, feeling melancholic when thinking of some recent deaths—one in my family, several in my circle of friends—or, i can focus on what is right. I can focus on the lovely sunshine that warms me, the delicious tea i’m drinking, the slight breeze that keeps me fresh, the cats who teach me how to relax. I can focus on the love i experience coming my way and the love i feel for others, and on the perseverance of mother nature who continues to produce greenery and new buds even though we humans constantly attack it.

Even though my main focus as a coach is on the positive, i do not always and exclusively focus on the positive and on easy feelings. I know the benefit of acknowledging the dark. I know that we can only blossom fully when we embrace our history, and our capacity for light and dark, and are in touch with all our feelings as they occur. Like the lotus that roots in the mud, and many flowers that feed on compost, we have to integrate the dark to flourish and to become whole.

A word that comes up in this context is resilience. How do we train ourselves in resilience? A friend shared a learning incident from a movement class she was in. One of the regulars had a foot injury and meant to sit out. The teacher encouraged her to find and explore movement within limitation. She began to use her arms and hands and upper body to express herself. I find this a lovely metaphor for resilience and strength: find the movement within the limitation. For me today, it means sitting in the sun, writing to you on my laptop while listening to the birds and the wind in the leaves. It does not mean that i do not mourn the recent passing of my brother-in-law (who joined the family when i was still a little girl) and all the other loved ones that i have lost and that i miss and that this death reminds me of. It means that i try to find a balance in my reality. I try to find movement within the current limitation.

How can you find movement within the limitation of the moment?

© Eva Ruland, March 2018

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Turning on the inner light

18 Dec

We have entered the darkest time of the year, marked by the Solstice, speedily approaching. In the old days, without electricity, indoor plumbing and built-in heat, the dead of winter must have been hard not just on one’s physical body but also on one’s mental state. In my imagination, that’s when some of our ancestors created rituals of light to ignite the spirit of hope, celebrating the solstice as a turning point of the year and marking the rebirth of light. Christmas, Chanukah, Deva Divali and others all fall around this time in the northern hemisphere.

I grew up with plenty of magical moments that were a part of our December, and light played a significant role in them. There were the late Sunday afternoons sitting by candle light and sharing stories and treats. I remember that every Christmas eve there was a huge Christmas tree standing in the corner of the living room, lit with many candles and made extra magical with sparklers. Our Christmas tree inspired awe in us youngsters, each time it was ritually lit. I loved the sparklers and the old glass ornaments topped with a hint of frosting, and the figurative ornaments which sent me on imaginary journeys, the birds sitting on branches dreaming of long flights to the south, the little white angel with the snow-white hair, and the sleigh made from glass beads, ready to cross Siberia or go straight to the North Pole. Now, in my daily practice i try to tap into the joy and wonder i experienced on the Christmas eves of my childhood.

When we experience joy (or awe) we shine—our inner light shines through. I am sure that you have seen a friend’s or loved one’s face light up when they hear of something that brings them joy. The light generated through joy makes them shine. And here is a little secret: you too will shine when you learn to cultivate joy.

How can you make your light shine more?

If i have learned one thing in the many years of being a student, teacher and coach, it is this: What we focus on prevails. I have learned that in order to experience joy i must nurture the potential of happiness inside me. Today i want to share just three strategies on how to cultivate joy and begin to turn on your inner light.

1) Focus on the positive.

This sounds like a no-brainer but if you are used to finding potential problems in every situation—which is how our brains are programmed to protect ourselves from possible adversaries—you are facing an uphill battle. You are embarking to undo not just a life-time of habit but also millions of years of evolutionary coding. Nevertheless, taking into account the brain’s plasticity your chances are good. For the holidays i recommend this:

Create positive experiences:

  • Set the intention to do something uplifting for yourself, and possibly for others. Plan uplifting activities. Ask yourself these questions: What makes my spirit soar? What nurtures my soul? What brings a smile on my face? Who makes me feel relaxed and comfy? Who inspires me? Who makes me laugh? Plan a gathering with someone who makes you feel good.
  • Instead of being the devil’s advocate, play with being the advocate of the light. Find the positive where you would habitually complain and focus on the negative. Share with others that you are experimenting with taking a positive stand. Invite them to join you in the experiment.
  • Do something new. Set the intention to be open to new experiences. Try looking at the world through a child’s eyes.
  • Be willing to say no to experiences that pull you down.
  • Limit time with negative people. If you can’t avoid seeing them (because they are family, for example) let them know ahead of time what your plan is. Interrupt the day with a nature walk to reset you.

Sometimes, creating a positive experience can be as easy as smiling at someone. Try it!

2) Cultivate gratitude.

Connect with all the positive in your life and stop taking it for granted. Be grateful for all you are and all you have. No, it’s not silly. It is awesome that your body is serving you so well even if other bodies seem more perfect, and even if yours is aging or having other problems. It has been with you for so many years and done so much for you. Wow. It is a blessing that you have a roof over your head, with indoor plumbing and running water. It is wonderful that you … fill in the blanks. Try writing down a list of things, big and small, that you are grateful for every day. Want to read more about gratitude?  Click here.

3) Acknowledge yourself for all of your efforts.

Yes, that includes efforts that did not quite succeed. You did something—that’s awesome. Celebrate when you created a great experiences for yourself or someone else. Celebrate when you did something new or something that seemed difficult. Give yourself credit for all the little things that nurture you or others. You fed the cat, you walked the dog, you went for a walk, you made the phone call you were dreading. All these are things to acknowledge yourself for.

And with everything, the more you practice the easier it gets and the more you’ll notice that what may seem tedious at first works. Best of luck cultivating joy and turning on the inner light!

How can you make your light shine more?

Need help? Visit my coaching website and contact me for coaching.

© Eva Ruland, December 2016

Hesitations and blessings

26 Jul

In August, i will take 3 weeks off to visit friends and family in Germany. I had some hesitations manifesting in me that caused me to procrastinate finalizing my plans. Eventually, i made the decision to go and to address the reasons for my hesitation. I was worried that i would not feel at home at my sister’s place. She and her family live in a small apartment without a guest room. When i last visited, i had a hard time adjusting to their schedule and getting enough sleep. I never recovered from my jet lag while i was with them. My sleep deprivation and her sense of being encumbered in her space led to unnecessary arguments that we both suffered from. So now i am being proactive and have created conditions for my visit that are more conducive to cheer and shared moments of joy. I will first visit Berlin, where a friend will put me up in her guest apartment. This will give me the space to withdraw and rest, and to feel welcomed by several friends. When the time comes to visit my sister, i will not stay with her; i am renting a small apartment close by. Once i got all of this figured out, all my hesitations vanished and now i am looking forward to my time in Germany.

How is your summer going? Have you been taking time off, or are you planning to do so? Perhaps you are not traveling but finding ways to relax at home or visit places nearby that nurture you. That’s what i have been doing once weekly for the past few weeks. Whether it’s a walk on the beach in Alameda or a hike in the forests of the peninsula, it’s amazing how nurturing even the tiniest mini vacation is. Try it out. Just ask yourself these questions: What are the places that nurture me? When can i take 2 or 3 hours, a half day, or even a whole day off to venture out? How can you make your summer relaxing and reenergizing?

 

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.”

————

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

Gifting—Now and Then

5 Dec

Gifting is an art. With so many options available, gifting has not become easier, it has become more difficult. How can you make sure you get the right thing? Most of us have already so much, more things than we need. We have the means to go and buy ourselves that book by our favorite author, the sweater that feels so cozy, or a beautiful trinket for our house or garden. Where does that leave gifting? Here are some thoughts on the nature of gifting and how gifting has changed over time.

In the northern hemisphere the holiday season is a time of darkness and cold. For our ancestors the dark season was a time of rest, as the days were short and the cold didn’t allow for much work outside. It was also a time of gathering around the fire, keeping each other company and minimizing the use of resources such as wood for warmth and candles for light. It was a time of storytelling and handiwork (such as needlework, knitting, and carving), some of it creative, much of it utilitarian. Some of the handiwork would be for personal use, some intended as a gift for a dear one. The grandmother would knit socks to help keep the grandchildren warm. The granddaughter might adorn a simple napkin or apron with a stitched pattern and so add a touch of beauty to family life. The father or grandfather would carve a new bowl or make a toy to delight the kids. By the time of greatest darkness, when the festival of light, Hannukah or Christmas, came along, trinkets of appreciation were passed on. Families and friends shared what they could conjure up, showing that they cared.

Gifting needed preparation and work. It was a sign of devotion, an acknowledgement of connection and care to pour ones labor into a gift. Later on, when crafts, trades, and the first industries changed society and currency became more common, gifting became the art of knowing what someone wanted and accruing it for them. That might have included asking help of a cousin or a merchant who ordered an item that was not easily available locally. Books and fine fabrics were shipped long distances to bring joy. Gifting was still work and the one gifting usually received pleasure from the joy their gift engendered.

Somewhere in the last century, the West reached an unprecedented level of wealth while simultaneously having access to fast means of transportation and communication. Mass production dropped prices, and mass consumption was born. The result of this was that many material wishes could be made true for most Westerners much more readily then at any time before. And this had its affect on gifting. The threshold for acquiring things dropped so low, that buying gifts became a chore you take care of in one day of massive shopping. For a while gifting become an exchange of things nobody needed.

Today, most of us in the West are privileged to have not only our daily needs covered. Most of us have more material goods than we need or can easily store. We have the means to go and buy ourselves that book by our favorite author, that sweater that feels so cozy, or that beautiful trinket for our house or garden we were charmed by. What we have less of is time and leisure, a sense of belonging and of purpose. Our lives have become complicated and stressful. So, what do we do with that innate longing to show our appreciation through gifting? Here is a suggestion: give the gift of a creative experience this holiday season. Find a class that offers an easy approach to creativity (or self reflection) and get a gift certificate for it. Give a gift that creates an opportunity to slow down and create something, or to explore one’s self in a way most people usually don’t ever find time for. A collage workshops to set goals for the New Year makes for a great gift, and so does a coaching workshop that helps participants integrate and become clear on what matters. Even more creative is SoulCollage®—a way to explore one’s interior world. I have all these available as gift certificates at evaruland.com/gifts.html, helping you make wonderful, meaningful gifts that will not add to the landfill.

May your holidays be sweet, cheerful and bright!

© Eva Ruland, December 2015

What went well?

2 Oct

Generating Happiness: Part 1
Researchers and practitioners agree that gratitude possesses a magic power to bestow happiness. Why would that be? As brain researchers have found, our brain is structured to respond to the negative. Negative information sticks with us immediately, even minor negative experiences, whereas it takes an average of seven repetitions to remember minor positive occurrences. This neuro-mechanism is an evolutionary trait of the Paleomammalian brain in complex vertebrates, including humans, meant to improve their chance to survive. Think about it this way: when you live in the wild an inbuilt alarm system that registers danger and does not allow you to ignore it but prompts you to act on it, is a powerful, life-saving advantage. However, our life conditions have changed. In today’s world, there is little need for this inner alarm system. In fact, for many people today this trait of our Paleomammalian brain complex is an obstacle to happiness and well-being. For us, the question of how can we free ourselves from the constant alarm of this sensitive system has become important. Since it is hard-wired into us, we will not be able to disarm the system. But we can retrain ourselves and our brains so that we notice the positive more. How? That is where gratitude comes in.

gratitude

Gratitude is a marker of a turn toward the positive. Our inbuilt alarm system prompts us to create mental lists of problems. It nudges us to pay attention to all that goes wrong and to emphasize bad experiences. Practicing gratitude aims at turning the emphasis toward the positive. That does not mean that our Paleomammalian alarm system becomes defunct. It continues to exist. But, when we begin to list positive experiences we add a new dimension. By practicing gratitude we create new neurological pathways that begin to register the positive. Instead of mentally listing everything that goes wrong, listing things that go right adds a new perspective. We create a new positive feedback system. Gratitude trains us for a more positive outlook. And what does a positive outlook do to us? It conditions us to more fully enjoy life.

How can you begin a gratitude practice?
Today, i want to invite you to widen your understanding of gratitude. In the most widely used sense of the word, gratitude is directed toward generalities. We are grateful to our friend for supporting us; we are grateful to our mother because she gave birth to us and hopefully nurtured us. We might be grateful for nature, or grateful to the earth, because it sustains us. These are all incidences of the general sense of gratitude. If you get stuck with this sense of gratitude your list may be short and full of repetition. You might soon feel silly writing down the same things every day. That’s why i suggest that you expand your understanding of gratitude to specifics. Think of things that went well and include them in your list.

What went well?
Mentally, revisit your day and note the moments in which you felt good: remember the cozy moment with your pet that gives both of you comfort; the moment of heart-to-heart connection with a friend over the phone; the understanding smile you received from a clerk; the way your body relaxed after you exercised; your delight in a beautiful flower. Even finding a parking spot right in front of your destination, or an easy commute, make for things that went well. It does not matter how mundane these incidents are, or how fleeting the moments of pleasure. All that matters is that they uplifted you for a moment, and that you take note of something going well. Start a journal and begin to write down your what went well moments.

The how of starting a gratitude practice
The word practice implies repetition. Our psyche and our body are slow to change. That’s why it is important to create a structure with built-in repetition. Make writing down your what went well moments a daily habit. Choose a regular time everyday to make your journal entries. It’s most powerful to choose to do the exercise just before going to bed or in the morning, just after waking up. At night, your positive thoughts can effortlessly flow into your dream world. In the morning, you start your day on a positive note. But if neither of these times are practical for you, find another recurring event and connect your journaling with it, for example before you go to lunch. List at least three things that went well in the last 24 hours. Stick with the practice—repetition is what creates a habit. In the beginning you might have to think hard to come up with your list of three moments. Over time, you will notice that your lists flow with more ease and grow longer. If you miss a day, forgive yourself and get back on track right then and there with a new journal entry. Your journal is your witness. As you fill it with positive moments you give credit to the positivity in your life. The effect of training yourself to notice what went well is astounding. All of a sudden your life seems to change from a life that is full of problems and things missing to a life that is full of grace. Try it. Stay with it.

© Eva Ruland, October 2014