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Happy New Year!

1 Jan

I am wishing you true joy for 2015 and whatever it takes to get there.

happy 2015

How do you go about increasing your joy? Start with clarity and conscious intent. Be clear about what you want and why. Go to the root cause of what is in the way of your happiness. Then set a conscious intention to give yourself what you need. Find tools to support your intent, such as creating an intentions collage.

To be clear sounds easy, doesn’t it? But often we get caught up in side aspects and deviate from the path to our bliss. You may think, If only i had xxxxx dollars my troubles would be over. or, If only i had a house in xxxx my life would be so much happier. Or, If only i was a size S i would find a partner and all would be bliss. However, while the money, the house, and the partner may give you temporary joy, they may not be the solution you are really yearning for.

Here is an example from my own life. As a teenager i always dreamt of studying fine art in Paris. When the time came to apply for university, i decided to study methods of engineering in Berlin instead. I loved Berlin but i did not relate to the milieu among engineers. But why did i choose it? Because i had a strong need for security and a financially stabile future, after my father had become an invalid as the result of a stroke. Of course, i could have found job security elsewhere, even in a field that was closer to my heart. The trouble was that i did not know how to listen to my heart, and any advise i received did not take into account what i was passionate about: beauty, visioning and the workings of psyche. It took me many years to become clear and rectify my choice. Today i know better.

Here are some tips for you If you want to begin the new year with conscious intent.

1) Question your motivation. Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you plan on changing jobs? Why do you long for a partner?

2) Break it down. Once you go deeper and realize that, for example, you feel lonely and hope that a partner would relieve your loneliness, begin to think about things you would enjoy sharing. Then think about people who you can approach and invite to share activities. Or, the other way around, think about activities you enjoy and find groups and venues that offer this activity.

3) Define new goals. Continuing with the example, now you can state the goal of finding good company. Next, find concrete action steps. Make plans with friends, and go and participate in activities.
Hopefully, the result will be that you experience less loneliness and feel more fulfilled. Being less needy will increase your sex appeal considerably and, over time, you may meet a potential partner naturally, through sharing activities you love.

As always, i am available for coaching if you decide to get support. Find more info at evaruland.com.

Happy 2015!

How easy is it to be grateful?

19 Nov

With Thanksgiving around the bend, there is a lot of talk about gratitude. From boosting your happiness to improved health, there are real reasons to cultivate gratitude.

Gratitude is easy when golden opportunities fall into your lap or when you fall in love. It is also easy to be grateful when you are comfortable and without worry. But what about those days that are challenging?

how easy is gratitude?

Yesterday, i was not feeling well. I went through my day and skipped doing things that were not essential. In the evening i soaked in a hot bath tub by candle light, and drank a grog—a northern European home remedy, in my case consisting of a shot of aquavit with hot water—to sweat out the bug. Then i went to snuggle up under a cozy comforter and topped my medication with Oscillococcinum (a homeopathic flu remedy).

What does this all have to do with gratitude? When you’re not feeling well or when things don’t go in your favor, the last thing most of us think of is gratitude. Can you remember ever thanking your boss for firing you? Or being grateful to your partner when they dumped you? Usually, our thoughts are caught up in our misery. We focus on the negative, not on any upside. Most of us need a little distance to see the positive that can arise from a negative experience. After finding new opportunities, or meeting a more loving partner, we can, in hindsight, see the wisdom in negative experiences. For example, i can look back and say: Yes, i thank the guy who broke my heart 20 years ago. Without that experience i would most likely not be living here in California and writing this newsletter to you.

The big question is, how can i gain a positive spin on experiences that do not please me in the moment? I can use the power of my intellect, my insight, and my experience with the ways of the world. Coming back to the example of coming down with a cold or flu, i could be grateful for the simple home remedies i have learned. I could also tune into gratitude for a warm house and indoor plumbing that allows me to effortlessly pour a warm bath. And, i could tune into gratitude for all the times when i am not sick, when my body works well.

In more serious cases of disappointment, frustration, and pain i can train myself to see the opportunity for growth. “Wow, i am invited to look at this issue some more!” “I can get closer to healing my fear of [fill in the blank].” Or, i can say: “Wow, the universe has something else in mind for me. What could that be?” I am not saying that this is a universal truth. I am aware there are really tough challenges that are not easily turned into obvious opportunities. Sometimes, we have to surrender to the darkness and make peace with existence. Sometimes the only question to ask is “What can i do to make it easier to go through this?”

That said, for all of us there are many easy things to be grateful for. What are 5 things you can come up with? Anything goes.

Here are some examples, meant to inspire you to find your gratitude for today:

“I got a parking spot right in front of the theater.”
“That chocolate was delicious.”
“It was nice talking to my friend on the phone.”
“I am going on a dream vacation!”
“I got to read a little before going to bed.”
“My daughter did her homework without being asked.”
“I enjoyed a wonderful walk on the marina.”
“So glad my friend is feeling better.”
“I love this new book.”
“I sat with my cat/dog for an hour.”
“It felt great to be acknowledged by … today.”

To read up more on gratitude, and the wisdom of paying attention to the small things, check out my blog entries What went well? and The Magic in Gratitude.

And if you are in the Bay Area and want to do something special for yourself, treat yourself to my Gratitude Collage worksop this Sunday afternoon. This is a great workshop to bring a friend to. You share the fun of creating, plus you up their chance at happiness. I make it easy to be generous with my Gratitude Special: 2 for $130

Sunday November 23 | 2-5:30pm | Berkeley | Register at http://evaruland.com/collage_gratitude.html

© Eva Ruland, November 2014

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

Embracing the inevitable — Accepting aging

26 Jun

When i was a teenager i thought of myself as old. By the time i got close to thirty i didn’t want to have anything to do with being old. Being old then seemed to mean being settled in. I was not ready to settle. My thirties brought lots of adventures, the biggest of them being my move from Berlin to San Francisco. I became a student again and i was filled with youthful energy, the energy of exploration and possibility. At 42, when i married a man who is 7 years younger than i am, i felt in my prime. When he met me first, a year prior, he thought that it was amazing how i could pass for 28, unless i had spent the night on a red-eye flight. That was flattering. At 43, i had a major car accident. I lost my short-term memory, chunks of my mid-term memory, and my sense of equilibrium and physical balance. I could not walk down stairs without holding on to a railing and carefully testing how much i had to lower my foot before stepping. Even though 4 weeks earlier i still had been a youthful 42 year old, now i felt like 84. I am sure you have no trouble believing that these changes were a major shock to me. From then on i had ample opportunity to look at what defines who i am and how my age and aging play into my sense of self.

You have probably heard people say that there is a blessing in everything. In the case of my accident, i could not see the blessing for a rather long time. Now i know that it taught me the value of intuition, broadened my sense of self beyond the brilliance of my mind, and gave me a practical lesson in accepting what is. In a way, my accident prepared me to accept the fact of aging. And, just as i was pro-active after my accident and invested energy in re-training my brain and nervous system, now i am pro-active in training my brain and my body to stay fit, hopefully for a long while. I hope to maintain as many capacities as possible for a long time to come. As to my skin, i continue to take care of it and admit to a good deal of vanity. Yet, i know better than to compare myself with others, particularly those who are a decade or more younger than i am—which many of the wives and girl-friends of my husband’s buddies are. This is my life, not a competition—yet another hard earned insight at which i arrived only over time.

Dare to be yourself.

Dare to be yourself.

Aging is a challenge that most of us are not prepared for. Not only is it not a subject that is taught in schools. Culturally, aging is treated as if it is something to be ashamed of and that we better hide. I say it’s high time to change that. And the best place to start this revolution is with myself. How do i view my own aging? As something i deny and plaster over, or as something i embrace and play with? I have decided to go for option 2. When you see me, you’ll notice that i began to consciously show some gray, the badge of aging. I do it my way and juxtapose it with a bright red. That’s where the play comes in. To my surprise i have gotten many complements for it, particularly from young people. I am growing old, i show it, and i am beautiful. What would it take for you to participate in this new movement of embracing yourself fully, including your age, and say, “I am growing old, i show it, and i am beautiful”?

If you find this article inspiring, please pass it on to others. And if you would like to embrace yourself more fully, i’d be happy to have a conversation about how i can best help you with that. When you look at it as an adventure in self-discovery where you get to set many of the rules, midlife + up can have its own appeal. Let’s savor it!

News! On January 12, 2015 i will start a special workshop addressing midlife issues through reflection, personal writing, coaching tools and art. It’s called Not Young, Not Old, What Now?  Intro To Midlife Alchemy For Women. Come and explore, take stock, and develop a new perspective on where you are at in life. Interested? Read more at http://evaruland.com/MidlifeAlchemy/index.html

We will meet on Monday evenings.
Hope to see you there!

© Eva Ruland, June 2014

What really matters

12 Apr

The last few weeks have been intense for me. Death was around me, not in my innermost circle, but close enough to affect me. And, just removed enough to not be drawn into the paralysis of inconsolable loss.

6thVisionTrees

This is how my last weeks have been:

On March 1st, a dear friend of my husband died of cancer, after years of battling it. We were as well prepared for this as one can be. And he died well, in his home. But nobody was prepared for what came next. Within the week, the husband of one of my dearest friends was run over by a car while bicycling up to Tilden Park. He was left in critical condition by the roadside by a driver who fled the scene without calling for help. Luckily, a passerby called 911 and he was brought into the ICU in time so that eventually he will recover without lasting impediments. He is still on the mend and was just released to go home. What a relief! But, life had more in stock. Just after feeling the tremendous relief of knowing that he would be alright, i got an email from another dear girlfriend saying that one of her best friends was dying of cancer. My friend, who was still in South America on a year-long sabbatical, decided to come home early to be with her friend. And yesterday it was my turn to be of support to her when she returned from her friend’s death bed.

In between the accident and the last death, i drove down to Pacific Grove and spent three days by the ocean in beautiful Asilomar with 200 women — coaches and healer solo-preneurs. My intention was to learn about marketing, about how to reach more people with my work in order to have a greater impact, help more people, and have greater ‘job” security. I heard a lot of talk about finding my target audience, my niche, about giving talks, and about having enrollment conversations. But my heart was not in it.

What stuck with me, as i realized last night, is this momentous lesson of life: that death can be just minutes away at any given moment. This lesson was to bring me in touch with how precious and how fragile life is.

Appreciating my life and that of the people i love and care for is one thing. Making friends with the idea of death is another. My friend and i talked about our own deaths and how we hope the circumstances for it would be. Dying in peace and in a respectful environment is important to both of us. To me, my own death will be my ultimate initiation. It will be the most paramount act of surrendering. As i see it, at birth we are thrown into life in a cathartic way. We grow up becoming more and more attached to certain ways we think of ourselves (as intelligent, pretty, gentle, strong, successful, weak — you name it) and to things and situations, with comfort and security playing a big role. At the same time, we grow less curious, adventurous, and willing to take risks. We shut out the thought of death because it is the antithesis of the security we try to create for ourselves. But, in the end, death will destroy all our attachments. It seems to me that being more adventurous, more courageous, and more authentic, is not only a good way of experiencing life more fully; it is also a good way to prepare for death.

If you are struggling with taking risks or stepping outside of habitual patterns and expectations that don’t serve you, or feel that your soul’s yearning has been neglected for too long, contact me to explore how i can help you step more into your true nature and get the soul-nurturing you need. It might just be the time to let go of the “I should” and replace it with a clear “I will” that expresses your commitment to yourself.

Please forward the link to this article on to friends and family to inspire others to include the reality of death in their attitude toward life. And, if you feel called to share your thoughts about life and death, use the comment function to engage with me and others. I look forward to reading your comments.

© Eva Ruland, April 2014

Awe + Wonder

9 Dec

Awe is a state beyond happiness. It puts you right into a state of bliss. You feel humbled and utterly grateful to be alive. The present moment is experienced as filled with an overwhelmingly beautiful wonder. When you are in a state of awe, happiness is not a question. Awe expands happiness into unknown dimensions.

I bet you have experienced awe and wonder in some form when you were a child. A moment that comes to mind for me is coming into our living room after dark on Christmas eve and seeing the huge Christmas tree (which, I knew, had been brought in that afternoon) alight with candles and sparklers in the otherwise dark room. My father sat at the piano and both my parents were leading us in singing Christmas carols. I could sense the proximity of the Christ child who, according to the legend we were told, had just been visiting with my parents to drop off presents. In my state of awe it all made sense; i could feel the presence of the divine. It manifested in blissful, speechless elation.

Nature can inspire awe.

Nature can inspire awe.

But you don’t have to be religious or a believer, or a child, to experience awe. Let me give you another example. I experience awe when i see an amazing performance, am in the presence of art that speaks to me, or hear music that resonates with something deep inside me. I remember going with a friend to visit an artist in his impressively big, almost palatial, artist’s studio, in the center of Berlin. At some point I realized that this was not a typical visit. I felt the presence of something tremendous. It was the combination of the more than life-size mysterious art, twilight-like lighting, and a entrancing song from Goretzky’s symphony #3 that touched my soul. I felt transported into a place of bliss that was almost unreachable, a diaphanous and fragile state, that felt like it would vanish at any moment, yet it was there and I was in it in that moment.

It seems to me that the key to my experience in that moment was letting go of control and of judgement. I allowed myself to take in the magic of the place, the art, the music, the unusual conversation. I was there to experience, and i did not have to be in charge of anything. Control is the anathema to awe. The more control we have the less we can experience awe.

How to cultivate AWE

Awe is something that comes to you, not something you can generate. Yet all it takes to feel the wonder of a moment is an open mind, the kind of inner attitude that Buddhists call beginner’s mind. If you can cultivate an open mind you are cultivating an aptitude for awe. You can train yourself to be more predestined to experience awe. Being open is the key, but how do you become more open?

– Try letting go of preconceived notions of what things, situations and people are and how they are supposed to be.

– Allow yourself to be curious. Try looking at the world with fresh eyes. Take in colors and shapes as if you have never seen colors or shapes before. Go out for walks and discover the wonders of nature. Visit galleries and open up to being drawn in by art. Let go of the notion that you have to understand everything.

– Take time to just be, without anything scheduled. In our hectic lives that is oftentimes not easy to do. But you can give yourself small windows of time throughout the day. For example, park your car 3 blocks from where you’re going and walk with your eyes wide open. Look at the people and dogs, cats, and birds; take in the front gardens around you. Look into people’s eyes without judging them.

– If you’re philosophically inclined, contemplate the odds of atoms joining to molecules and dancing in just the right way to create a tree, a child, a bird. Ponder the mystery of life perpetuationg itself: for the tree to grow seeds that generate new trees; for the child to be born and protected for years before it becomes an adult and has children of its own; for the bird to lay a fertile egg and create a new bird. Bow to the miracle of life. Cultivate reverence.

– Shed the stale mantle of “been there, done it.” Jadedness and cynicism are certain poison to awe. Tune into the amazing symphony of coincidences that were and are necessary to create the world around you and your life in it. Allow yourself to be receptive to the sense of awe and wonder that nature, life, and the ingenuity of ideas and art, can inspire.

Tune into Awe mode and get a head start on your journey to happiness.

* * *

Any change takes awareness and discipline – most of us struggle with at least one of the two. It’s certainly easier to grow with the support and guidance of a teacher, coach or mentor. If you would like to explore working with me and getting me on your support team, contact me at eva_at_evaruland.com.

© Eva Ruland, December 2013

The Magic in Gratitude

1 Nov

In contemporary Western culture, the idea of gratitude is something that we draw attention to only once a year, on that third Thursday of November. The other 364 days are filled with achievement, desire, and gratification to accomplish all of the things that others want and expect from us. In the busy-ness of everyday life, we are left with little time and inclination to pause and contemplate gratitude.

In Buddhism, gratitude—along with other attitudes of the heart, such as generosity and kindness—is considered one of the eight paths to happiness. And, as far as I can tell, this is grounded in solid experience of the human psyche. It took me some navigating to fully commit to and understand the power of gratitude apart from the polite “thank you.” But being polite has rather little to do with the authentic, or heart-centered, feeling of giving thanks.

Gratitude collage

Gratitude collage reflecting my summer visit to Germany

I first started experimenting with gratitude when my world felt rather glum. The idea was to use gratitude to bring light into a dim situation. Did it work? Yes, it did.

 

What did I do?

Every night before I settled into bed, I created a gratitude list in my journal. When you’re feeling glum, it is not easy to come up with anything positive for which to give thanks. Nevertheless, you can uncover basic gifts of your existence:

Today, I am grateful for making it through another day.

Today, I am grateful for having a house/apartment to shelter me.

There are so many things to be grateful for: your life; your body; the use of your arms, hands, feet, legs; the sun that shines; the rain; the food you eat; a random friendly smile; the friend you talked to; the seasons; nature….. As your outlook gets lighter, gratitude tends to flow more easily.

Gradually the darkness in my soul and my gratitude list became more playful — I began to notice the songs of the birds. And as my awareness for the positive grew, I began to see the light again. Eventually i turned my mind to the possibility of a positive future. And, voila, it unfolded. My experiment proved that gratitude has nothing to do with any outer situation or riches. It is an inner attitude.

Recently, I conducted a second gratitude project. This time, it was not about me but about others. Because i knew from own experience that gratitude has a tremendous power to transform I wanted to share in order to inspire others to try out a gratitude practice for themselves. I began posting a daily gratitude thought on Facebook. The response exceeded my expectations. Many shared the things they were grateful for as comments on my wall. Others started posting their own gratitude thoughts on their Facebook walls to share with their friends. In a short time there was an entire wave of gratitude sweeping through my corner of Facebook. I received notes from people saying they were looking forward to finding my daily gratitude posts and adding their own. Others thanked me for the inspiration to post their gratitude. My hope that others would follow my example and post something they were grateful for was more than rewarded. Then came the real surprise. After engaging in this public gratitude practice for about five months, I began to notice that I was much happier than I had been, and for no ‘real’ reason. I had not moved to my dream house, and the world at large was still not at peace. All that had changed was that I had picked up on my old gratitude practice again. There it was, confirming once again: A gratitude practice leads to more happiness. And doesn’t it make so much sense? Focusing on the good lifts the spirit and contributes to an overall sense of positivity and so enhances our happiness.

 

Try it for yourself.

Gratitude 101: All you need is a journal or notebook, or, if you prefer to do it publicly and inspire others as well, a Facebook wall. Choose one time every day to think about what you are grateful for. I recommend doing it either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, but it can be done any time of day with consistency. It takes only a couple of minutes. Write down at least one item (or create a list of things) for which you are grateful. Commit to doing it for at least 4 months. Soon enough, you’ll notice how you reap more happiness!

Gratitude 102: If you have a practice of sharing meals with your partner, children, or colleagues, suggest focusing on positive experiences and thoughts over the meal. Share your gratitude and invite them to share theirs. And do this not just on Thanksgiving. The positive will beget more positivity!

© Eva Ruland, November 2013

Why SoulCollage?

12 Oct

Have you ever wondered why I as a transformational coach offer SoulCollage® workshops? It is because SoulCollage® is a highly accessible and effective tool for transformation. SoulCollage® is a vehicle into the soul: an opportunity to give voice to all of who we are. Doing so we become more aware of our complexities, and ultimately we become more whole. We become the person we are meant to be.

3 soulcollage cards from the September workshop

3 soulcollage cards from the September workshop

SoulCollage® is a creative psycho-spiritual system that allows us to discover ourselves at our own pace, one card at a time. It meets each of us exactly where we are—it does not over-challenge nor under-challenge. Each card contributes to a more complete picture of who we are. SoulCollage® honors the personal, archetypal, energetic and spiritual dimensions of our being. The result of practicing SoulCollage® is psychological wholeness, self-acceptance, inner peace, and balance. I highly recommend SoulCollage®. For me, SoulCollage® is the easiest, most effective way to go deep. Come and check it out. Please contact me if you have questions.

To find a SoulCollage® workshop visit www.evaruland.com/soulcollage.html

These are two different ways to experience SoulCollage®. The Sunday workshop gives you a taste of this powerful practice. The newly forming group which meets twice a month for 3 months allows you to deepen your practice. In both the workshop and the group we will create cards and share them by giving voice to the elements of the cards. As an added bonus of coming to the group you will make strides toward developing your SoulCollage® deck. Having  a SoulCollage® deck is like having your own personalized super tarot deck. — No artistic background needed. Come and enjoy this process that is powerful yet easy to practice.

© Eva Ruland, October 2013