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In my last post, I discussed how we can rebuild our self-trust by making commitments to our goals and them chunking them down into bite-sized doable bits. In this post, I am going to address how our inner dialog and dynamic stirs emotions that impact our self-trust and discipline.

It takes discipline to meet your daily commitments to yourself, regardless of your emotions, regardless of circumstances. Do you notice that you have an adverse reaction to the word discipline? I know I used to. When I was growing up being disciplined was code for being punished.

So here is a little something that helped me reclaim that word in a powerful way. Consider being disciplined as being a “disciple of” something. If you are disciplined about getting into your artist studio every day, you are being a disciple of your art, your curiosity, your wonder, your integrity. When you think of it that way, does it help?

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Some of us, by nature and/or nurture, are more impacted by our emotions than others. Some people are able to “just do it,” as the Nike phrase goes. I tend to be emotionally based and have procrastinated more than once with “I don’t feel like it” or “I’m just not inspired right now.” If you operate from an emotional base, it can be challenging to get good traction with a new discipline or habit you want to build.

Your energy level might be low, perhaps you are physically depleted, both of which can contribute to your emotional state. In any case, it’s important to work with what you have. Start where you are.

Also, if you recognize that your current emotional state is due to low energy reserves or physical illness, be gentle with yourself and get curious about what your body needs from you and how you can nurture yourself to a better physical and energetic state. If you are in a state of grief over loss, experiencing trauma, terror or other deep emotional pain, again, please nurture yourself and get whatever help you need.

If you are in fairly stable energetic and physical states, and you are stalling out on your commitment to yourself, then look to the emotions conjured by your own internal dialog. These are more illusion than reality. They are driven by thoughts about the past or the future and they are the result of some way we are talking to ourselves.

Think of your emotions as an alchemy of thoughts and physical sensations. For example, I might feel my heart racing right before I go on stage and at the same time I am having a flurry of thoughts. If my thoughts are fear based, I am likely to experience my heart racing as stage fright. If my thoughts are thrill and adventure based, I am likely to experience my heart racing as excitement. In each case, the circumstances are the same, but how I interpret them is different.

Become the observer of your inner dialog.

As you state intentions, meet commitments and get into action, your fear and excitement buttons will get pressed. Your saboteur is suspicious of change and prefers status quo. A couple of ways it may show up as you embark on your new adventure are as a slave driver/bully or (on the other side of the coin) a complete enabler of all things slothful and indulgent.

Both set off a dynamic that can keep you entertained until the day you die, never having accomplished much of anything. Both of them erode your self-trust because you are in a battle with yourself. Let’s take a look at each.

Inner Slave Driver/bully: this is a critical and demanding voice. You are never doing enough, never working hard enough and what you produce is not good enough. Even when you have committed to something and met that commitment regularly, the slave driver will be on your case. There is more to do and do better, more to study and you do not have time for a break. Fun and recreation are not part of this picture. Play has no place and when you are working it has to feel hard and you have to feel miserable in order to get your merit badge for showing up. This is not love.

Inner Indulgent Enabler: this is the pendulum swing opposite of the slave driver that says things like: You’ve worked so hard you deserve a break or one more cookie won’t hurt anything, you’ve been so good anyway. This is not love.

Both voices run a volume continuum from whisper (which is hardly noticeable and so very sneaky) to an echoing scream. They are like drug pushers, if you believe a little of what they say to you, it is only a few more steps down a slippery slope to a lifetime of procrastination. They work you individually and as a team.

If you are prone to ongoing internal dialog with the slave driver, you are likely locked into a bully vs rebel dynamic. The slave driver bullies you, berates you and criticizes you. It can lead to a response like (my most familiar one) a rebel who says “screw you I will do what I want!” (in the name of freedom). It can also lead you to respond like a victim who curls up into a fetal ball, depressed and weary awaiting rescue.

If you are prone to listen to the inner enabler, you are likely to procrastinate by way of saying “mañana.” I need a break today, I don’t have enough energy right now, I lost my inspiration and it feels too hard to get it back. You will then go on and do something easy, like watch TV, go on Facebook, play video games, or do some other more menial task. This last one is clever as it is an indulgent response to the slave driver. “Heck, at least I am doing something on my list.”

Neither of these voices is helpful. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Their true intention is not to get the work done, but to avoid it.

Sometimes they are mirrored by those around you; a spouse, parent, even a coach. You can project your bully or indulgent voice on them. It is a way to blame others for your own internal battle.

Your best bet is to become familiar with these voices and realize that you are not the voices and you are not the emotional response you have to those voices.

Step away from the inner dialog and listen with your observer. What is the dynamic you see at play? Is it more slave driver and rebel? Is it slave driver and victim? Or is it more indulgent and enabling?

Can you see where they double-team you? An example would be: you are on the couch playing a game on your iPad. It started as a quick well-deserved break and has turned into a two hour marathon sponsored by your inner enabler. Now the indulgent voice gives way to your slave driver who berates you for being a couch potato, time waster, video game addict. You are being shamed and criticized. By whom? Yourself. You are not the couch potato and you are not a victim.

You are the author of these dramas, not the characters. As the author, you can direct and re-direct the script, but first you have to be aware that you are the author and it will be very helpful if you have an awareness of the kinds of things each of your characters says. What are their favorite strategies?

This is an assignment I give most of my clients who are beginning a coaching journey. What is your self-talk? How much of it do you even notice and how much do you just embody without question?

There is another voice that you will want to cultivate. It is a nurturing voice; one that has your best interest at heart and tells you the honest truth, never shames, but lovingly redirects. You might imagine a higher self, soul or grounded parent. This is love.

Many of us have difficulty finding this voice at first. We tend to equate it with the indulgent enabler.

I am reminded of something I saw years ago at the SD Wild Animal Park. A young Asian mother with her toddler who appeared to be a few months new to walking were ambling along the entry path. She let the toddler wander and be curious under her watchful eye. Whenever the toddler was headed toward potential trouble (off the path, in front of an oncoming crowd of people) she would gently redirect the child with her hand. No words were said, there was no grabbing, forcing, yelling, admonishing.

This is what it feels like to be guided by our nurturing voice. Every moment we can redirect ourselves, not with shame, shouting, guilt, force, but with a loving light touch that does not allow for self-pity, indulgence, waiting games. It is also a helpful voice for emotions and avoidance that arise when we get confused or don’t yet know how to do something. This voice can lovingly guide us to ask for help from someone who does know how.

In conclusion, what I will say is, most of our emotional responses to our commitments that lead to procrastination, inertia and depletion of our self-trust are actually responses to this internal dialog and drama to which we’ve allowed ourselves to become captive. While we may feel we are at the mercy of this dynamic, we are not. We are actually the creators and so, we can re-create.

What about these dynamics is familiar to you?

How will you gently re-direct yourself and re-create your life today?

If you would like some help with identifying your dynamic and getting off the emotionally run procrastination train, I invite you to consider coaching with me.

Next in this series, I will write about momentum.

Photos and words: Copyright©2015 Kathy J Loh

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“Anyone else having a bumpy re-entry? Today was one of those days where by noon I was already back curled up under the covers and needed to do a bit of yoga to re-center.”

A lovely, creative colleague of mine posted those words (above) on her Facebook page the first Monday of 2015. It caught my attention, because I’d already posted to my business development group that I was finding myself in a state of huge resistance to returning to work after two weeks “off.”

I enclose off in quotes because truly the weeks of Christmas and New Years are not a time of rest and retreat. All that time “off” is needed to attend to the busy-ness of the holidays. I posted my agreement as a comment in her thread and was comforted to see others, especially my creative friends, do the same.

While I didn’t feel like I wanted to crawl under the covers, I did want to stop time. I especially wanted to stop the tidal wave of emails coming in from marketers with whom I’d traded my email address for freebies this past year. It seems that the new year, the time of making resolutions, putting away the last year and gathering (or in most cases re-gathering) our hopes for the new year, is a good time to market your programs to people. But, to me, it all came across as too much noise.

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Apacheta, offering to Gaia with gratitude – I later added rose petals from my solstice ceremony

Add to that, the noise of my panicked inner slave-driver chastising me for not having my own program launching with the others and that was all it took for my inner dragon to arise from its slumber. That’s good actually. I can use a little fire. Healthy anger is an indication that some boundaries have been crossed. I needed some boundaries. I needed to quiet the noise and shut off the inner slave-driver. I started opting out of all the lists and deleting emails. I refused to get on the new year-new you-productivity bound train. Instead, I stood on the platform and watched the train roll out of the station. As I did, I began to wonder. Why?

Why do we think that turning a calendar page from one year to another means we suddenly have a boatload of will power we didn’t have before?

Why do we think it’s time to rev our engines? If your holiday has been as relaxing as a two week silent meditation or spa retreat, perhaps you are ready to go on January 2nd. But for many of us the holiday has been go, go, go and January 2nd feels like jet-lag after a European whirlwind tour.

Yet, there is more at play here than a busy holiday.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, January falls in the dead of winter. The days are very short and the nights are long. Unless you are a night owl, trying to fit all you want to accomplish in the daylight hours is extremely challenging. It’s not natural to begin pushing ourselves to adopt new schedules and achieve high productivity in the winter months. OK, for you, maybe, but not for me and certainly not for the others who responded to my colleague’s Facebook post.

For me, what is natural at this time of year is to slow down, hibernate a bit, plan, and look within. As Ted Andrews wrote (in his book Nature-Speak):

This is actually a time for withdrawal from our outer activities, so that we can give birth to the light within our own darkness. To bring new life from the darkness of the womb is the goal of this season…These universal rhythms converging upon us are keyed to enable anyone who is seeking to awaken the interior gifts and light….Unfortunately, society has created an attitude of participation in continual gatherings and outward celebrations. This is contrary to the energy and rhythms of this season. The energies playing upon humanity stimulate great introspection and facilitate meditative states of awareness, and time should be given for these.

If we have attended to the gathering and preparations of Autumn, then we are ready to pay attention and receive the whispers, signs and messages from the Mystery that help guide us on an inward journey where we may commune with our soul and shine a light on our shadow.

All I really wanted to do, besides meditate, journal and walk, was put away the holiday decorations, clear the clutter, clean up my office and make it a beautiful and welcoming space within which to work. I wanted to futz and putter. I liken it to stretching the canvas, sharpening the pencils, noodling at the keys, ordering seeds.

Every creative knows that a good deal of puttering and dream time is needed to get the flow going. Futzing evokes the muse.

The other thing that happened was I reviewed my journal from the turn of 2013 to 2014 and I discovered that I had not accomplished all I’d hoped to. Honestly, I already knew that, but there it was in black and white. It was deflating to see that year after year, I wish for the same thing that does not materialize and it was disheartening to assume this year would be different. Still, I know I didn’t fail, because I certainly lived a wonderful year. I grew. I loved. I played. I stayed in business doing work I love.

What if I just let these perennial wishes go?

If I want to grow a garden, I first plan it. I browse seed catalogs. I dream of the harvest in Technicolor savoring, in my imagination, the smell and taste of fresh ripe tomatoes. I determine the space that I will designate as garden and when the soil is ready, I till it. I amend it. I till it some more. I will not plant until the days are longer and the frost is past. Why not do the same for my life?

At the Winter Solstice, I did just this. My planning consisted of setting the resonance for my future and in so doing, I invited my future to reach back and show me the way. The tug I feel upon my heart; the messages I receive from animals and experiences of synchronicity; those chills I feel when I make a proclamation or someone else says something to me with which my soul is in alignment; those events are my future speaking to me, beckoning me, the one for which I built a resonant field, not with specific form, but with how I want it to feel and who I want to be when I am living it.

When dreaming a future, form can be so limiting. Resonance is generative. My Solstice ceremony was to build that resonant field that invites possibility, while releasing with compassion and forgiveness the past and anything that does not align with that field or hold that resonance.

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2015 New Year Collage

So, when the first Monday of the new year arrived, for me, the soil of 2015 was nowhere near ready to be tilled, not to mention harvested. I want to hear my own voice, not the voice of others telling me what is missing in my life, what needs fixing and their method for doing so. Oh boy, can the “never-enough” ego get hooked by all that advertising!

It is winter and I want to hang out with my soul; the two of us cozy by the fire. I want to hear my soul acknowledge my journey thus far with love and compassion, as it will. I want to know the truth of myself, not as someone who is broken and needs fixing, but as a unique expression of the Divine, whole and complete; a perfect rose unfolding more and more each day. I want to have a clear sense of what is truly productive and not mere busy-ness.

Together my soul and I can dream the delicious future that calls to me, putter about and weave it into a visionary tapestry. I may not know what it means yet and I may not be able to control the form, but I can listen deeply, beneath the ego’s complaints and rest in the inner knowing that I am deeply loved and held. It’s OK to simply be me following my own rhythm. That rhythm is what gives me my desired sense of experiencing time-out-of-time.

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Under the window of the collage

And you, dear reader, how will you dance to your own rhythm and fashion a life that suits your soul and invites the assistance of the Universe in a profound way?

A coach is a powerful ally who assists you with visioning a future in alignment with your true rhythm and soul’s calling while also helping you stay the path when the forest gets thick and the way unclear. I offer several options to help you fall in love with life again. Watch also for an upcoming FUN way to move through your fears (group program). To sign up to be the first to hear about my new offerings or to contact me for a consultation, check out my website

Copyright© January 2015, Kathy J Loh, All rights reserved

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