Articles for life and relationships by Moreah Vestan
Change Your Questions, Change Your Life
I’m curious if people realize that some questions they ask themselves could be harmful? Have you ever asked or heard "Why did this happen to me?" or "Why can't I get it right?" or "Will I ever find work I like?" They can only lead to negative thinking. Since that's probably not the desired result, what could happen if people only asked questions that brought forth useful answers that moved them forward?
I've listened to Tony Robbins' tape on The Power of Questions a few times. Robbins says the quality of your life depends on the quality of your questions. If your brain is like a search engine and you put in, "Why is it so hard to meet women?" all it can bring up is possible negatives. What would your search engine brain come up with if you asked, "What are three things I could do this week that would be fun to do to where I could meet interesting women?" Can you hear your brain searching its archives of information and thoughts to bring up three or more responses?
What questions could change your life or even your outlook for the day?
Just for the experience, try some of these and come up with your own. Those will be even more insightful for you.
Relationship with Yourself
- What could I do that would be a treat for me today and only take a few minutes?
- How could I set up a reward so that a task I've been putting off gets done? For instance, when I finish this essay, I'm taking the bus to a noon rockabilly concert downtown.
- What can I tell myself to lighten up when I've been criticized or hurt?
- What creative expression can I build into this week? Writing? Painting? Woodworking? Redecorating? Visiting galleries and museums for ideas? What day is it planned for on my schedule? Am I committed to doing it?
- Where would be a restful place to read a book and have a picnic?
- How much time (15, 30, or 60 minutes) will I spend on organizing and sorting today so I will fully enjoy the walk/gym/treat/reading I plan for later?
- What music would inspire me right now? Did I just turn it on? If not, it's okay to stop reading and turn it on now.
- What clothes make me feel really good? When will I wear them? Are they ready to wear--pressed, nothing missing, a good fit?
- What is one step I know I need to take to fully express who I am? If I'm not sure, when will I take 20+ minutes to journal about what that might be?
- What beliefs do I need to change to be more loving? Accepting? Encouraging? Happy? Fulfilled? Successful?
- What habits must I change to be more financially responsible? What reward will I give myself for specific progress?
- What park or nature spot can I visit to revive my spirit this week? When will I go?
- How can I ensure that I follow a healthier diet--call a friend for support? Eat only when I'm hungry? Stop eating after 8:00 pm? No food while watching TV? Join a teleclass.com class to learn what others are doing?
- What can I get of value from having a cold?
- Who would love to hear from me today?
- Who can I call to say "I'd like to spend more time with you"? What dates and times can I clear on my calendar to offer them times to meet?
- Who am I ready to forgive?
- What are some ways I can say "No”? One technique, if it's hard to "just say no", is to offer 2 positives, 1 negative, and 1 positive. "I appreciate your asking me to go dancing, and know it could be fun, but I have other plans that night. I hope you'll have a good time without me."
- Who can I connect with today to support me in making my dreams a reality?
- What are some beneficial aspects of the troubling/ frustrating/ scary situation I'm experiencing with a special person in my life? (Might it be a chance to become more open and intimate? To mirror and paraphrase so you and that person truly understand each other? To reconsider your commitment? To seek outside support to improve the relationship? To practice being kind? Assertive?)
Professional and Community Relationships
- Who can I call to brainstorm with on a project I'm excited about?
- Who can I exchange my time or services with to get body work, remodeling, child care, housework, computer help, whatever I want done?
- What organization could I join to support the goals I have?
- What can I say to a boss, employee, or co-worker that would be honest, would please or honor them, and could improve our relationship?
- What one thing at work would make my job more desirable? How can I implement that? What support do I need to make it happen?
- In what organization would I most like to contribute to my community?
- How much time will I offer? When will I start? What are the benefits to me and to them?
- What role do I want to play in my church, my children's school, my neighborhood? Is the next step in my daily planner?
- What can I do this month to better serve the global environment?
- What questions might serve you? What questions may you need to ask and answer? Use this list as a supportive friend. Clear dreams, acted on, come true.
The Joy of "Yes!"
Lisa is a trainer at the gym where I work out with my daughter Katie. I've observed that one of the other trainers in this all women gym will sometimes come to Katie, me, any of the women and say, "No. Hold the weights/ your wrist/ your elbows like this." And she'll demonstrate. So far, so good. But when Lisa sees the same incorrect positioning, she shows the correct movement and stays there until we get it, and then we hear, "Yes! That's right! Perfect! Yes!"
With the other trainer, we are still shown the correct placement of hands and feet, but with Lisa, we also got the strong clear anthem of positive reinforcement. Her words ring out as I write this. They are so accessible that I can pluck them from my memory tree and savor the taste and smell of their fruit. Their juice drips down my chin. I put them on a ledge where I see them as I work at my desk. As my heart shrivels if I focus on past putdowns, so my spirit becomes Superman and I can fly, self-propelled, when I remember to wear the cloak of "Yes! You did it! Yes!"
Just as new ideas lose their just-harvested freshness after they've been tucked into the mind's filing cabinet, so new habits lose their momentum if not kept in motion. So I wonder how it would feel to incorporate yes into my daily life. What would it feel like to say "yes" (without a grimace) to laundry or filling the tank or weeding or the other tasks that seem to have no finality, no date-of-completion? Can I say "yes" a bit more quickly or at least less grudgingly when an employee or employer makes a request? Might I be willing to say "yes" to a child about playing ball together? Will I say "yes" to myself about a leisurely soak in the tub or lovingly prepared Portobello mushrooms or catfish with capers? I just tasted both of those for the first time in the past few months-treats I will say "yes" to again!
What might you notice about the things you say "yes" and "no" to? I'm not suggesting you say yes to every request of your time. You deserve to have your boundaries honored and your needs met. But if "yes!" will enliven you, make you stand taller, bring a smile to your face, and foster a bond with people you care about, say "Yes! Right on! Go for it! Yes!" And taste and smell and hear the joy of expressing who and what you are. Yes!
The Comfort of Completion
I could never figure out why I'd constantly put off filing papers. Oh, I knew that was pretty normal. . After all, it's kind of boring. But I think I've found a viable answer to why I've never been able to stick with finishing things and then putting them away, and it could change my whole life! My mission has been "to stimulate discovery and focus on fulfillment". The other night in a co-counseling session when I was, once more, berating myself for all the things not finished in my life, I asked my counselor if she saw anything missing in my mission statement. As we talked, I got it! Filing my 1000s of papers does NOT stimulate discovery nor give me fulfillment, little wonder the filing rarely gets done. So I added "mindful completion" to my mission. I'm still toying with the exact wording, but the concept is there. I would often ask myself "What choice would be most fulfilling right now?" And I'd always find that surfing the Internet, reading a book, making phone calls and following up with coaching clients would win out over filing any day of the week.
Now just because I've added a couple words to my mission statement doesn't mean I'll look forward to handling my paperwork. But I noticed--and that doesn't mean it'll last forever--that I felt almost elated when I got out my four thick 3-ring notebooks and started putting unsorted papers behind the dividers where they belong. I haven't made a very big dent yet, but the knowledge that "mindful completion" is important and doable helps me face the bulging boxes of loose paper with more equanimity. I've started again to take in the 1/2 inch high "JUST NOTICE, DON'T JUDGE" sign taped to my printer. And having 1/3 of my 3' X 5' desk clear is a lovely feeling when I come into the room. There have been many times when I'd just shove the papers over to make room for my arm and the mouse to get online.
I've had this inner and outer battle for years, chastising myself for my messy desk, criticizing myself for not being able to find bills or notices of events that are "in the pile." I've been embarrassed to have people come into my bedroom office--I fear their judgment of "How can she live like this?" I've been reassured often enough to know I'm unlikely to lose friends over it, so it is truly MY problem. I coach other people to move past their blocks and to take steps forward in the direction they want to end up in. So this is MY step forward. First, to keep that 1/3 of my desk clear--excuse me, there are just a few things still there....Ah, that feels better! That leaves room for the vase of fresh lilacs, and there's space to twirl the singing top, and there's that inner relief of knowing nothing urgent is buried. I put the Do It Now stuff in my folder that is always out. It's only the I-Can't-Decide or the I'll-Get-To-It papers that end up in large shoe boxes--papers waiting like cans on an assembly line to be taken to the next part of the process.
Why the inner battle accompanying the outer? Mostly it's time prioritization. It IS more satisfying to do a 25-second reply to an email, to read the Daily Quote or the Relationship Coach newsletter, to coach someone into doing the things they've held back from, even to go to the gym. When it's done, it's done and I know it. With sorting papers, there will always be more. I've told myself many times, "Just catch up with what's on your desk once. Then it'll be easy to stay caught up." Of course, Life intervenes--with a three-day trip to Vancouver (I had a great time!), a beloved brother who's going through hard times and needs a caring ear, an outing with my adorable 4 year old granddaughter--and things start piling up again.
Many people can relate to unfiled stuff. And yet I envy those, like my friend in Vancouver, whose condo had nothing out of place. My head knows that probably 80% of my papers could be recycled and I'd never miss them, but my very curious nature doesn't want to miss anything, and I've not exorcised my inner packrat. What to do? It starts with making a commitment to keep that third of my desk clear at all times, and to file papers at least 30 minutes a day because I value mindful completion. I know how serene my insides feel when I walk into my neat, organized office. I also know the power of habit. The step for now is to associate the filing of papers with the pleasure of completion rather than the pain of tedium. Sound doable? We’ll see.
When I’m on Course toward my Heart's Desire
How do I know when it's time to move forward? If my work is just giving me income, what could make it also a source of satisfaction? If I asked each time I felt dissatisfied “How can I get through this creatively, so I can experience contentment,” I might do all sorts of things differently. When I’m noticing fear, confusion, procrastination, or a lack of support, and pay attention to that experience, getting to my heart’s desire is much easier. Focusing on what would make me happy (instead of what’s making me unhappy) is like the starting bell at the races. I become attuned to the track ahead and am on course.
I find that getting clear on whether this situation, whether it is work, love, family, service, or any number of activities is leading me to fulfillment needs to be reflected on regularly. If I say I want a beautiful garden and it’s June and I haven’t bought the seeds yet, I might reflect on if I’m gardening for me or so I can have the image of me as a gardener. If I say I want to grow spiritually, but only read novels and don’t meditate or talk to others about how I can grow, I might conclude that my goal is not showing up as that important. Maybe my desire for that has changed. It’s okay to change my mind along the way.
When I’m on course about my heart’s desire, like a skater training for the Olympics, it’s easier to bring that into manifestation. I remind myself that balance may be equally important. If I spend the majority of my time surfing the web—I’m an information enthusiast—how does that contribute to my financial security or my friendships or my health?
I’d love to believe that I can simply do what feels right, and intuition can certainly give me guidance. However, I’m convinced that I need to make commitments in order to truly have my heart's desire. Unfortunately for this person who’d prefer to “do my thing”, that usually means setting up a plan and getting support and being accountable for what I commit to. I know I like acknowledgment and recognition when I get new articles up on the web, regular speaking engagements, and more coaching clients. I also know that won’t happen by hoping.
I notice there are some shoulds about the amount of time and energy I ought to put out to get what I want. The main thing that works on shoulds for me is when I keep my attention on the desired results. When I know I’ll like the consequences or outcomes of my actions, I’m like a horse with blinders—I can only see what’s ahead and am not easily distracted. I find I’m willing to go full out for what I want when I can visualize with my various senses how it will look or feel or taste. For those times that I balk, I might affirm "I get to feel good about everything I do" or "I approve of myself." I also follow my own 11 principles for the pursuit of pleasure, because it makes the steps toward my dream more appealing.
When I can be at ease, unstressed, in any situation or circumstance I am in, I am able to garner all my resources toward my goal. Hurrah! I get to be content with my now and also move toward my heart’s desire!
The Security of Support
I used to believe getting support was a sign of weakness. I was wrong. I first explored the value of support in Context Training's Excellence Series nearly 20 years ago. I remember I wanted badly to be more disciplined about my writing. We'd heard the trainer's story; he always made excuses for not exercising. But when he got a support partner, she wouldn't take no for an answer. She'd come to his desk at the appointed time and say, "OK, Jim, put your walking outfit on." And no matter what he said--"Oh, I can't tonight; I have to finish this report before I leave" or "I'm feeling bushed; I'm just going home now" or "You don't understand; I don't want to go walking in the rain"--no matter what, she didn't listen to the excuses. She just stood there and let him know she wasn't leaving without him. That is support.
I knew that was what I needed if I were to write this book. I'd started "Moreah's Memoirs and Musings" in the 1980's, and had about 50 subscribers. Writing from my heart, my experiences, was and is my favorite form of expression. I've done a monthly column for Seattle's Active Singles Life since 1992, and I enjoy that too, but it comes more from my head. The musings come from a childlike delight in the treasure chest of the Universe. When my friend Shay said she would be honored to offer daily support in the form of an email, and brief comments on what she liked, I knew the book would be written. Now I meant to write each day, and in the two months since I began, this is my 18th essay, but two essays a week is so much better than none! I've come to count on the email. Here is a Belief Partner who knows as clearly and surely as I do that the book will be and is being written. Support like that is priceless.
I dare say we all have different experiences of support. Even the thesaurus shows many possible ways of looking at it: to encourage, hearten, reassure, inspire, cheer, comfort, uphold, validate, sustain, fortify, reinforce, bolster. Would you do an experiment with me? Pick something you really want to Be, Do, or Have in your life. Picture what the support would look like for you to realize that dream or vision. Would it be a daily phone call? A timer set each hour so you would remember to breathe deeply, to read 5 minutes of inspiration, or to stretch? A daily planner in which each night you'd take a few minutes to prioritize and write in tomorrow's goals? A daily walk, alone or with a partner? Getting on a listserv of like-minded people to share what's working for you?
How does support promote security? Again, from the thesaurus under "security"-- safety, protection, safeguards, invulnerability, solidity, reliability, trustworthiness, predictability, assurance, constancy, unflappability, balance, unchangeableness. These are the things that make a child feel safe--knowing there are clothes, toys, hugs, food, and the parent's daily presence and love. We're all just grown-up children; we still need to feel safe, loved, supported. Many of us get that from our family, close friends, significant others. Some of us have formed an extended family to make up for the natural family's closeness or support. We count on others to empathize with our pain as well as to celebrate our pleasure.
Right now, one of my favorite people is very depressed. We've talked on the phone a lot since he's out of state, and in some amazing way I feel supported by being there for him. Probably a bit like a child might feel when he brings in a bouquet of dandelions, or like a baker feels bringing extra cookies to his friends. When you're reaching out to others, notice any ways you feel supported as well--you get to feel helpful, loving, understanding of the human condition.
What I advocate in addition to sharing the daily ups and downs with loved ones is to create various support systems for different needs, different short or long-term goals. For me, that showed itself in a massage after being on my feet three days at a trade show. Anticipating that made the hours much less physically draining. On the massage table, with the meditation music on, I totally relaxed and took it in.
Another type of support is Nature. I bring in forsythia in April and feel free spirited in tandem with their yellow beauty that shoots out in all directions. I gather lilacs by the bucket in May to inhale their fragrance by my desk and at my bedside. I walk on the beach, amble in the woods. I stop and nearly fly myself whenever I see ducks or dozens of birds flying in a group. I give myself the first hour after I wake to journal, daydream, plan the day. If I'm physically or emotionally at a low, I let myself hide under the covers when I need to, and ride out the inner turbulence. It amounts to parenting myself in a way. I know what my inner child likes, and don't insist on broccoli if she prefers beans. I let her choose what games to play--at least when I remember to.
(Before you go on to something else, consider making a list of the people, places, situations, objects, activities and experiences--did I miss anything?--that support you, make you feel secure and assured. Then whenever you need the equivalent of a hug or "You can do it" or "I'm there for you", if the perfect support is not available, you can check your list, and make sure you do for you what you'd do for someone else you love. Three cheers for support!)
When is Enough Enough?
Sometimes it's hard to know when enough is enough. I'm at a restaurant, and the food tastes so good I keep eating even when I'm no longer hungry. I'm on an outing and we keep walking and talking and get home well after sunset. The papers on my desk take over like blackberry vines or morning glories, and I wonder if digging will suffice or if I'll need to excavate. I do the Easter egg hunt with Kayla and forget what happens when I eat a lot of candy all at once. I send out a flurry of emails and then lose track of who I'm supposed to follow up with when, partly because I let myself get distracted with all the OTHER things I hear, see, and wonder about.
Is there a time to call it quits, to say "Enough is enough"? Or can I really indulge myself like a kid on Christmas morning? What criteria do I go by? What feels good? What I can get away with without having to buy a larger wardrobe or hire a secretary? Is it about living on the edge, and daring Fate to wrestle me to the ground? Don't I get any control over the late bus, the lost work when the computer crashes, the lack of chemistry when everything else is right with the man? Well, obviously, though I do have control over my choices, I sure don't have much say about whether I'll be in an accident, if I'll be laid off, or when my stocks will lose value. Is it all a crap shoot? Well, hardly.
So what stands between me and a flat belly, a cleared desk, more time to lay back with a book or a daydream? I suspect it all comes down to clarity, mentored by commitment. Right now, and my friends would say "now" has been a couple decades long, I seem to be clear mainly on my love of variety, exploring and discovering the Internet. I have no problem telling my world about the findings, but I'm likely to leave those bones of information unsorted, uncatalogued, and therefore unhelpful to myself or the world. To "know they are here somewhere" does not give the data a chance to become useful knowledge.
How is clarity operating for me here? Well, as long as the Do-er, which is the part of myself I probably most identify with, is in charge, I'll probably keep on churning out new web sites to explore, various markets for my coaching, alternative destinations for weekend outings, and yet more self-help books as I search for ....what??
The practice of Voice Dialogue (www.delos-inc.com) would suggest I get in touch with my Aware Ego and make my choices from that non-judgmental, objective place rather than from my Do-er. I agree that would be wiser. Sometimes, however, I am unconscious of the fact that I have not just drifted into Doing, but have landed and parked there for the duration. My Aware Ego, the Self I want to identify with, is like a flag person slowing me down for a barrier, but that Self can not help me if I don't notice the flag.
So Clarity comes nipping at my heels again and barks till I acknowledge why she's yipping at me. That herding dog Clarity knows that if I keep heading north and then detour west, and back south, that I'll never get to the destination I'd earlier set for myself. Now I CAN change my mind about where I want to end up, but do I want to head back over the same territory I just covered? What if I took extra planning time up front to scope out all the rivers to be crossed, the mountains to contend with, the mosquitoes to defend against? Would the lack of surprises keep me from enjoying the variety I so crave? As an Enneagram "7" (http://www.prosperity.com/enneagram/holly/howto.htm is my favorite site), I can't bear to be bored; I don't want to miss out on good things; I'm more a one week Scout checking the trail ahead than a one year Explorer taming the new land.
Part of the truth for me is that I haven't come to clarity--probably I give mixed messages to that heel nipper--about short term versus long term destinations. And so I certainly can't make a focused commitment. I do make commitments all the time, and I do follow through on most of them. But they are discrete and separate, like items on a grocery list. What would it be like to be the event planner of my life--to revolve the activities and experiences around a common theme? Now I do want balance, so that I have time for my granddaughter, my coaching, outings, reading, journaling, breakfast on the deck, following the stock market, exploring new web sites, and all the things that bring me joy and pleasure.
What might a common theme be? For this week --which can be a long commitment for me-- it will be completion. I agreed with my coach, ten minutes ago, that for the next week I will finish each thing I start before I go to the next thing. If I'm afraid I'll forget, I can make a note. One consequence of that will be that I won't lose as much if the computer freezes up. I will prove to myself that I can focus! And I'll have the "new experience" of a whole week of completions. When I visit my brother in LA Thursday to Sunday, I'll ask his support in staying with one subject instead of flitting back and forth. It's merely an experiment. Just Notice, Don't Judge.
I am so very curious what your common theme might be. Or what Being or Doing activity would be an interesting experiment for you for a week. If you felt like it, might you choose to read Hal & Sidra Stone's books on Voice Dialogue? Might you do something each day this next week to modify a habit that has almost become unconscious, like mine of doing many things at once. This past week, whenever I ate, I did only that. I didn't add TV, didn't bring food back to the computer, didn't talk on the phone. If someone was there to share the meal, we talked. If not, I turned meal time over to my Daydreamer. It's a new habit I very much like.
What might you discover about a new way of Being or Doing? I’m curious.
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