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When the apocalypse seems near

13 Nov

outside it looks as if we’re close to the apocalypse.

my mind wanders and wonders:  how long it will take until humans have destroyed what created them and what keeps them alive: this planet that supports life as we know it.

in a random conversation with a stranger i met while walking with my N95 face mask, this cynical stranger said that the fires make more room for new development. this ignites the fire inside of me that wants to lash out and cry:

“when will we humans finally understand that life is not about making more money and having more things. it is about celebrating what we have, treating it with respect, and sharing generously. it is about learning to realize that we are all bound together. if one of us hurts, we will all feel it sooner or later. the hurt will come back to haunt us, either in our dreams or in the form of outright hostility and war. when will we as a nation understand that the future will only be joyful if we start to connect with the basic conditions that create joy today?”

—– frankly, the air quality—or lack thereof—in the last days has depressed me. it is the manifest symbol of so much that we need to overcome, leave behind. it seems an impossible task. ——

for me, the terrifying hurricanes and the huge wildfires of the last years are not only great tragedies but are also painful signs of planetary imbalance. how do we restore balance?

i am reminded of the tenant of eastern philosophy that teaches that what we want to see we first have to create inside ourselves. the question then morphs into “how can i create more harmony in a time when i am upset?”

here is what i can do today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow: i can do my best to keep myself centered. to not lose perspective on what really matters. to celebrate what i have. to speak my truth and stand up for what i believe to be true.

on a practical level, for me, this means to keep practicing these things:

1) meditate — this focuses the mind.
2) choose to stay positive. (ask: what is the learning opportunity in this?)
3) celebrate what i have. focus on gratitude.
4) choose simple nurturing activities such as exercise, or a walk, or a connecting with a friend or loved one, or listening to uplifting music.
5) get enough sleep.
6) stay grounded and get one thing done at a time.

following this prescription creates more resilience and greater strength. it allows me to stay present with what is while staying centered and true to my values. it helps me move ahead in large or small ways and to do my part in co-creating the future.

about me: My name is Eva Ruland and i want to be a part in changing the world. I do this by guiding women on a path to more clarity, more self esteem, and to more self empowerment. Read more at evaruland.com

The photo is by Luke Flynt. Thank you for sharing it at unsplash.com!

© Eva Ruland, November 2018

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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

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

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

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