Live Fully Uniquely You

The Delicate Nature of Growth

In my little corner of the world right now the dogwoods and azaleas are all in full bloom. The flowers on these early spring trees are delicate, yet plentiful and they fill up the landscape in a way that makes me feel light-hearted and full of wonderment. The dogwood blooms are mostly white or varying shades of pink and the azaleas burst with vibrant shades of color in pinks, purples, and reds. Many of the new spring blossoms and blooms are of a more delicate nature, and it’s got me thinking about when we have new ideas or new things we want to implement in our lives and how they can be bursting and beautiful, yet delicate as well.

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Do you know the excitement of a new idea? When we have them they can give us an immediate sense of joy and of possibility. Maybe it’s a new art project, or a new direction in our career, or a new passion we want to pursue. Whatever it is, we might follow the new idea, start to take steps to create it and incorporate it in our lives, feeling excited and even wanting to share that excitement with others. Just like new blossoms, we must take special care with it, lest it get caught in the “frost” of an early blooming. You see, the azaleas start blooming here on those first warmer Spring days, when the weather isn’t consistently warm yet, and they are in danger of some cold nights or even a frost that could quickly hasten the experience of their glorious gift. To protect them, some people will cover the azaleas when they know the weather is going to drop and this will save the delicate flowers from a premature demise. In the same way, we want to protect our new ideas by discerning with whom we share them, especially in the beginning phases of their creation. A marvelous and beautiful yet delicate idea could be easily frosted out or cooled off by “well meaning” criticism or sharing it with someone who cannot see it for what it is and care for it properly. When we are just starting to consider and shape a new idea, it is also still new to ourselves so we’re also at risk of self-criticism or self-doubt and really only need loving support to pursue it in those early “Springtime” stages of it’s manifestation.

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Azaleas are also some of the first food for pollinators like bees and butterflies. As your new ideas come into fuller fruition they will be nourishing to you too. And, slowly, thoughtfully, as their progression warms the environment of their creation, they may be nourishing to people you share them with as well. Just remember, in those early days you might want to have a “frost cover” handy to protect the beauty and the delicacy of your inspirations. As you’re thinking about where you’re headed in your life and the new things you’re excited to create, be excited, be open hearted, but hold those ideas close to you just a little while longer as they come into full bloom. And maybe find some friendly bees and butterflies in your life to encourage the “pollination” of those ideas out into the world.

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Being Fully Present For Each Other

Today I was thinking about the act of listening to people and some of the ways that I have practiced doing this over the years so that I can be as present as possible with them while I listen. It occurred to me that there are three specific ways I have honed this skill that are slightly different from each other…listening, active listening, and witnessing…and it’s useful to know and decide what a given situation might call for. There is an attitude of non-judgement held for all of them, which is an important part of where to start. Non-judgement for the person you’re listening to as well as for yourself.

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Listening: Many of us, even if we’re “good” listeners, can sometimes get distracted by our own thoughts when listening. We might be thinking about what to say in response or be reminded of a similar situation we want to share. Depending on the conversation or the situation, advice and sharing can be useful, maybe even requested and expected. I think what’s a little tricky is that sometimes we get caught up in our own thought processes, thinking too much about what to say that we’re not really being fully present with the person we’re listening to. Even if we’re looking for advice, sometimes just having someone listen to us fully can go a long way in knowing our own heart and mind. Sometimes we just need to talk it through, right? Like, just have a sounding board to get to say things out loud to someone else so we can hear them more clearly ourselves. Our full, present attention can go a long way in helping someone work through a problem or make a decision they’re stuck on. Have you ever had that experience of just being listened to and figuring something out?

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Active listening: I think there is a definition of this out in the world, but I’d like to share my personal version of it. I think of active listening as listening with more of an intention to note important things that might be said. Not to judge or analyze, but to let the person know that I am hearing what they’re saying, or even maybe to help them clarify what they’re saying, depending on the situation. It still starts with just listening, but maybe you’re noticing something that you want to ask them about in order for them to process something better. Or maybe you pick up on something that they are totally unaware of. You may or may not decide to point it out to them, but it might show you something about them from a different perspective and perhaps help you to think about them a little better or with a deeper understanding.

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Witnessing: When I’m just listening to someone as a witness, my intention is to simply hold space for whatever they are sharing, not judging it, not thinking about it too much, just noticing them and giving them a space to be who they are as fully as they can in that moment. Comments aren’t generally needed, but sometimes sharing what you appreciate about what you see in them can be a loving way to let them know that you see them.

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This has got me thinking about how we might apply all of these modes of listening, not just when listening to others, but when listening to ourselves as well. There are those times when we find some silence and stillness just for ourselves and can be present to ourselves fully, maybe for a few minutes, for an hour, maybe longer. Maybe we just need to get quiet and listen. Maybe we need to listen actively and find some internal feedback that can help us move forward in a new way. Or maybe we just need to let ourselves be and witness ourselves exactly as we are, without judgement, with love and acceptance and see what happens.

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It has been of the utmost importance in my life to have people who could listen to me in all of these ways so that I could witness myself, go deeper in my self-reflections and self understanding. It’s also gone a long way towards me having the attention to listen to others in these ways and become aware of any places that I might feel “triggered” by someone else, which in itself is a great learning experience and revelation if you’re willing to own it as yours, not theirs.

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What are some ways you enjoy listening to others? Are you able to give enough space for someone to be themselves and show that to you? What triggers sometimes get in your way that could be a source of growth for your own journey? Take some time this week to practice listening to someone else in one or all of these ways and notice what it feels like to be fully present, in the here and now, in this moment.

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Everyone is Creative

Creativity is the fundamental nature of the universe. It is the process of creation itself, not just random insights of a few creative people. It is a basic, everyday, human capacity.

There are many different perspectives about what creativity is and what it means. Webster’s Dictionary definition is simply “the ability to create” and the Oxford Languages dictionary defines it as “the use of imagination or original ideas, especially in art.” Many people think of creativity in relation to artists or “creative people”, and may categorize themselves as creative or not creative. In our modern world, the potential for creative processes to have an impact on business models has been more prominent and incorporated into daily practices for new ideas to emerge towards successful bottom lines.

Everyone is creative…it’s how we work. We have creative minds and spirits meaning we have the ability to create things. Create with our hands, our minds, our bodies. We all have the ability to come up with solutions to problems and that takes creativity. Not just artists have the use of their creativity, although they may be more tapped into that inherent part of themselves. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go ’round, and we each have a natural affinity for certain types of work or ideas, based on who we are. Some kinds of work or projects require a formula or a prescribed way of doing it to get the best result, but that doesn’t mean that creativity can’t play a part in how that formula gets used.

We may not be fully aware of all the decisions we make, but whether it’s conscious or not, we create our lives the way they are. It may not always feel that way to many of us, as we can feel forced into certain roles, certain positions in our society, and feel like we had nothing to do with how our lives are lived. Although this may be true to some extent, given we live in a world of inequality and disparity, creativity opens up the possibility to change it and to make decisions that move us into a place of infinite potential.

“It opens our hearts and doors to our mind. It brings us to hidden parts of ourselves. It allows recognition of uniqueness and identity. It can help draw out what is already there within – hidden talents and inner capacities can emerge. It connects us with our passions.”

This is just one reflection received by a group of 30 young people who immersed themselves in creativity, reflection, and connection to each other and then shared their own reflections from the experience. This exercise was done through the National Youth Council of Ireland (nyci) and focused on why creativity is important and what it contributes to how we view the world and potentially make changes in it.

We have the capacity for creativity at all times in our daily lives. We use it to make decisions about how we decorate our homes, what we wear, how we put ourselves out into the world. We are creating all the time, even if we don’t realize it. We can nurture that creativity through regular practices, like pursuing interests that energize us, taking time out for regular meditation and reflection, spending time in nature, trying a hobby just for fun. Trying anything new or different can expand our minds and hearts into more possibility and help us tap into our creative spirit.

In “The Artist’s Way” (not just for artists), Julia Cameron teaches the use of “Morning Pages” which is 3 pages every day of free writing first thing in the morning, as a fundamental practice for tuning into our creative selves. Any type of journaling for self-reflection can have a great impact on our understanding of ourselves and help us navigate through our thoughts, our emotions, our awareness. Some people use journaling along with their yoga practice, to reflect on it and process anything that may have come to the surface during their practice.

What are some of the ways you like to tap into your own creativity? How do you see creativity showing up in your daily life? Bring some awareness this week to how you go about your day, and see if you can notice any times that you’re using your natural creative ability. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

If you’d like a way to nurture your creativity, check out this monthly Mandala Meditation workshop that was created for exactly this purpose of tapping into and exploring our unique creativity and the possibilities it holds for us. Meditation is incorporated into the workshop to provide focus and intuitive connection, and provide a safe, non-judgemental space to relax, create, and have fun.

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Love & Compassion…For Real Though

True love and compassion takes work. It takes the courage to look at ourselves first and explore more deeply all the ways we don’t feel that way, while letting go of self judgment.

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So many of us understand that love and compassion is the way to change the world. But we sometimes feel like it is “woo woo”, or like there’s no way that could really be all there is to it. It’s a simple idea, but not always an easy one to manifest as we are each dealing with our own humanity, figuring out how to exist and flourish as best we can in this beautiful, crazy world. Really stepping into true love and compassion…trusting in it, believing in it…takes courage, self exploration and forgiveness.

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When it feels hard to believe that love and compassion could change the world, it’s not because we don’t wish it to be true, but because the hopelessness about what’s possible can creep in and pull us towards the false safety of staying closed, protected, and separate from our fellow humans. We live in a world that, in addition to love, compassion, understanding, kindness, good deeds, and friendly neighbors is full of hatred, fear, wars, bigotry, and oppression. How do we make sense of it all, and how we do keep holding love in our hearts while experiencing all that is happening around us? Taking the time to look inside ourselves isn’t just about us…it affects how we feel, think, and act with the world and can ultimately help us find the love, compassion and understanding we seek.

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We are naturally born with hope, zest, and love. We can see this clearly in children. The harshness of the world comes at us at different times in our young lives, and little by little the “realities” of life creep in. The adults around us have been scared and scarred by the crushed dreams of their own hopelessness and fears and they pass that along to us. In small ways and sometimes in big ways, we start to lose our connection to the place inside of us where we know that love rules. We are naturally protective of our own lives and well-being, and we can get confused by the hate and doubts and blame and fear that we see, not only in the world around us, but in ourselves. How do we work through all of that? How do we understand the span of human emotions and feelings, that they’re all valid, and that we can take responsibility for managing them? It can get very confusing when those feelings overwhelm us, pulling us to act on them either towards ourselves or towards others. Because we feel like we are protecting ourselves, we can feel righteous in our actions, and lose sight of our natural connections to other humans, and our connection to ourselves.

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There are many ways to explore our understanding of the world, start to shift our perceptions and find some peace and understanding within ourselves. In yoga and meditation, we use the breath to guide us towards our internal space and bring connection back to our inner knowing. In Yoga philosophy there are Sutras pertaining to the Kleshas which are the ways of human suffering. The first klesha, avidya, encompasses all the other kleshas and is about the misconception and ignorance that creates misunderstanding…not only of those around us but of ourselves as well. It’s about the disconnection from our true selves that causes us to suffer through our ego, pride, attachment, aversion, hatred, and fear.

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If we decide to take responsibility for our own feelings and go towards healing this misconception of ourselves, it can start with small steps and if we choose, we can explore more deeply. Self exploration tends to be like peeling back an onion, finding many layers as we go. It’s important to get and have support to work through it all, whether it be meditation, therapy, spiritual guidance, personal coaching or something else.

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As we embark on our individual growth and development journey, we start to see how it’s essential to bringing us back in sync with love and compassion for the world. It doesn’t mean we won’t ever feel unkind, or angry, or scared, or like we don’t like some people. How do we practice kindness that isn’t about just pretending or being all “nicey-nicey” when we don’t want to be? Does operating from a place of love and compassion mean we take crap from people or don’t stand up for ourselves or don’t voice our opinions? Not at all. It can be an act of love to call someone out on an unthoughtful, aggressive behavior that is harming someone else, and ultimately harming the perpetrator as well. It can be an act of compassion to be kind to the person who is cranky and having a bad day. But it’s really never a ‘should’ or a ‘have to’. We are ALL a work in progress and as we cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves and our own struggles, we can create loving, thoughtful actions for ourselves, while realizing that others are in their own part of their own journey, just like us.

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We are often hard on ourselves for all the places we struggle and we’re hard on others for the places they struggle. One of the hardest things to do can be dissolving the cycle of judgement that keeps us stuck in the energy of blame, doubt, and mistrust. The world is full of judgement, whether it be about how someone looks, their fashion choices, what they believe, who they date, how they act, how they speak, etc. We are constantly assessing people and making internal or external judgements about them. Those judgements really start within ourselves, where we’re hardest on ourselves, and we pass them along to others where it’s hard to face our own struggles. Pulling those internal pieces apart is so important in finding a clearer understanding about what’s happening in order to end the cycle and come back to love and understanding.

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Forgiving ourselves for any ways that we may have gotten lost, not done everything perfectly, or maybe harmed others, is another important key in the process of self-understanding. There are many things we do throughout our lives out of anger, fear, lack of information, ignorance, or self-righteousness. We’re not always aware that we’re doing it, and if we become aware later, we often tend to feel badly (consciously or subconsciously) about how we acted. It is not only important, but necessary to find the forgiveness of ourselves that allows for the healing of those choices. It ultimately helps us to forgive others as well, and bring us back to a more centered, peaceful place in ourselves, allowing for love and compassion to shine through.

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Where are you at in your personal journey? What ways have you explored or would you like to explore towards becoming strong and grounded in your own internal knowing and staying present in love and compassion? Can you forgive yourself? Can you find a place of non-judgement for any ways that you’re hard on yourself? Be kind, be gentle, be courageous, start with yourself, the rest will follow.

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Longevity Living is an idea, a concept that embodies all aspects of leading a full, meaningful, loving, healthy life. Finding your joy and passion as part of leading that life, and knowing life isn…


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