Right now

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

It has been a good and busy week. For me, a being who prefers a somewhat unstructured though intense schedule, structure has been an important tool in the last few days. Some matter of discipline has been required to manage the diverse and numerous tasks, duties and commitments at hand.

All of this has me thinking (as usual), though even my thinking is limited by my attention to the task at hand. Hmmm. The task at hand is all there is, yes?

This morning I had breakfast with a group of friends; colleagues who were attending a workshop designed to help them prioritize what matters. Each had her own stories, none of them without many personal challenges. Prioritization is a simple concept of course, yet its one we often long to embrace while trying to do and be everything that is asked of us.

I went about my day after that meeting, vaguely reflecting back on the ideas the group shared, and feeling (for the most part) in balance. Then I met other friends for dinner. A story they shared brought the lesson to life.

Two relatively young colleagues close to them were recovering from near-death crises, both apparently brought on by work stress. They appeared to be relentless in attempting to do more than is possible or healthy, and were literally stopped in their tracks.

Suddenly, I realized how many people I work with day to day live on this edge, pushing body, mind and spirit to their very limits. The red line, if you will.

If you are operating on the red line, ask yourself one question now: Is this effort and energy directed at what matters now? If the answer is yes, keep moving (and sleep well). If you hesitate or answer “No,” stop. Reassess the task at hand. Ask yourself what’s important right now, and allow the answer to be your guide.

Looking for Fun

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

It’s my guess that even the most lighthearted of you would agree that life on planet earth can be a little heavy at times. And I’ve grown to learn that we have to balance that with heaviness with light. There are many ways to lighten the load. One of them is to have fun.

Almost a year ago, I shared with a friend that I had a goal to have more fun. She asked me what kinds of things were fun for me, and that’s when I knew I was in trouble. It was hard for me to think of any.

Now I have to add a caveat here. The dictionary includes “enjoyment” in the definition of fun. I see them as different. I lead a happy life, and there are many, many things I enjoy. It’s just that most don’t have that quality of light frivolity that defines the essence of fun. For me, fun does not have to be funny, but it has to be light. 

So I’ve been searching for fun experiences ever since. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. I’m sharing what I learned here in the hope of sparking the same quest in you, if your life could use a lightening of the load.

Here’s what I learned about fun.

  • Fun requires connection – with another person, a group, or the animal companions. I take pleasure in many solitary activities – reading and writing come to mind — and I get great fulfillment from them. Fun requires two or more.
  • Fun (for me) has to represent a break from things I find difficult or tedious. A jigsaw puzzle for example, a source of fun for many, does not make my list. That kind of thing creates stress for me.
  • Fun requires space, not ticking clocks. Some tasks can be fun or stressful, depending on whether there is time. Recently a friend taught me how to bake bread. It was a fun experience in part because we had the time to do it properly. I have built that time into subsequent loaves and have no desire to rush that special activity.
  • Time can be short. A spontaneous romp in the yard with my dogs tops my fun list, and it can be done as stress reliever at just about any time and for as long as I wish.
  • Fun has a characteristic similar to that of flow. Flow, proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, is described as complete absorption in what one does. Next time you have fun, notice how your immersion and engagement seem to make the time fly by.

I also learned that fun is very individual when I joined a group of friends for a play that was touted as “hilarious.” Given my quest for fun, it sounded perfect. Not only did I find it silly (not at all funny), I was struck by how many others (most of the people in the theatre) laughed out loud, thoroughly enjoying the performance. I realized (once again) how different we all are. And that’s why your quest for fun, should you take on the challenge I’m offering, will be as unique as you are.

Have fun.

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.
–Simon and Garfunkel

Moment by Moment

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

I’m collecting experiences – positive ones. And I am going to continue to write about them until they no longer amaze me, until living in a peaceful and harmonious state is just the norm.

Last week, as I set out on what was to be a very busy schedule that involved multiple cities, I created an intention to remain unaffected by the flotsam and jetsam around me. I decided that I would shield myself from the “junk” energy that floats around anywhere people are trying to get from here to there with inevitable delays  – airports and freeways – and the contagious frustrations that issue from mobile technology, to name just a few.

The examples I share are quite trivial in some ways, but the impact on my overall state of being and thus the work I accomplished was profound. I transformed a long airplane delay into time for a delicious and healthy dinner. Energized, I still accomplished everything planned at my destination, just with slightly less sleep (which I didn’t need because I wasn’t exhausted from the stress of it all). Once on the plane, I proactively engaged a flight attendant in a conversation and ended up hearing some very funny stories. As I was leaving the plane, she said “No matter what happens out there, remember to just laugh.” Great advice that served my goal. I didn’t laugh when my laptop battery failed (permanently) mid-document, but I did manage to switch my attention to productive, creative work that didn’t require a pc.

What I noticed was this: managing my state of being – my energy, my mood – required laser-sharp present moment awareness and attention. It is so very easy to become affected by the energy and circumstances that surround us, and remaining unaffected is a moment-by-moment choice.

Right after my trip, I ran across an article on Oprah.com in which life coach extraordinaire Martha Beck advised to “achieve bigger goals take smaller steps.” And suddenly it dawned on me. My goal to be peaceful at all times (a big goal as far as I’m concerned!) doesn’t have to be a goal at all. It doesn’t have to be something “out there” to be achieved. It comes to fruition every moment I am willing to take a small step in alignment with my intention. A moment-by-moment choice.

This principle applies to most goals you set. If you have an intention to “be healthy,” your body is literally healthier, (perhaps momentarily), every time you choose an apple over a donut. If you have an intention to “build a relationship,” the relationship is stronger (albeit slightly) with every positive action you take. You – and I – have the ability to control the direction of our lives in some small way every moment.  For me, knowing that brings peace.

Be in Joy

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where I am a weekly blogger. I made this post during the Christmas season, and given the heightened emotions that seem to be present all around, it’s message is relevant on this summer day.

All this summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts  that have appeared  on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. Enjoy!

This is a season to celebrate love and compassion for all. It’s the time we pause to notice the simple joys of connecting with one another. Isn’t it?

Everywhere I go, people say “It’s such a busy time.” But why are we busy to the point of being stressed out?  I think it’s because our lives have no room for error – (consider the impact of a head cold or a flat tire) – and then the “holidays” come along, with gatherings to attend, gifts to prepare and greetings to write, and we’re over the top.

I don’t have any answers about how to make day-to-day life more manageable. (At least not today). But one thing I do know is this. It’s up to you to either enjoy this time or suffer through it. My suggestion? Enjoy. Be in joy.

Today was one of those busy days for me. When at last I was free to relax on the hiking trail with my friend and two dogs, I felt just a bit of guilt, knowing how many things I had to do. But if there’s one place I can quickly focus on the moment at hand and enjoy it, it’s my desert trails.

We had been walking for some time, letting the dogs choose the path. Suddenly my friend, who was ahead of me, said, “I’ll give you that hug now.” Earlier, I had sent her today’s “Note From The Universe,” which had advised me that one of the secrets to peace and joy is to give more hugs. I’ve never been one to hug a lot, so I don’t know what possessed me. The season perhaps?

Before I could reach my friend, my dog Kairos jumped up, embracing her in a hug around her waist. Kairos is a hugger, though I did not know his vocabulary was this advanced. I am proud of his obedience accomplishments, but had no idea he would respond to a hug request this quickly. It was an unexpected joy. The whole thing made me pause and try to experience the moment with all my senses. The desert sunset, the chill in the air and the spirit of the season. Enjoyment.

So, here’s my lesson, and one I’ll offer you. In these next days, when you make a choice to spend your time visiting, shopping, decorating or something else, do it with passion and presence. Step into the experience at hand and enjoy it. Be in joy.

How Magic Works

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

In the past I have written of my desire for a magic wand, knowing all along I already had one. I had simply misplaced it.

My magic wand is pretty basic. It does not command world peace (though I would like that) and it appears unable to intervene in matters of life and death. But it is reliable for the small things that often fool us into believing they are monumental.

The magic reappeared a few days ago. In considering the next day’s schedule, I realized that I had underestimated the time it would take to get to the airport, and had over-extended my availability to a well deserving client. The morning before our call (and my flight) I thought, as I have done so many times before, “Let this be resolved to our mutual benefit.” I was unattached, though intent.

The request was one I am very familiar with. When I make this type of intention known to the universe, I always do so in the spirit of mutual benefit. So it was surprising to me when, by noon of that morning, I had not received a request to reschedule. I then asked Laura, my assistant, to gently request a rescheduled date. I remained unattached, fully willing to honor the original commitment if necessary.

My surprise quickly changed to amusement when I learned that Laura had made the request at the exact same time my client’s assistant had emailed a decline for our meeting. It seems the time was inconvenient for him as well. The meeting was rescheduled for our mutual benefit.

As I thought about this incident, I heard the words in my head say: “It’s just everyday magic.” And I thought of the wisdom of Dr. Wayne Dyer, whose book Real Magic reminds us that real magic means creating miracles in everyday life.

If these principles work on rescheduling appointments for shared convenience, I believe they also work on the bigger stuff. It’s not my magic wand that’s inadequate, it’s my faith. Rather than searching for a better model of wand, I vow to grow in my ability set an intention, then detach with the knowing that the best result will prevail. I challenge you to do the same. There’s a magic wand in your psyche just waiting to be put into service.