The Year of Your Heart’s Desire

The-Year-of-Your-Heart's-Desire

“…the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any language.” Wikipedia

Happy New Year! The Year of Your Heart’s Desire is a timely reblog from 2011. Make 2017 the year of your heart’s desire!

by Andrea Chilcote

Have you made a New Year’s resolution? If so, stop right now and notice how it feels to you.

Did you sigh wistfully, thinking “the party’s over soon,” or sense a need to buck up and get discipline? Did the feeling energize you—or deflate you? It’s estimated that only 10% of New Year’s resolutions are achieved. And it’s no wonder, given that they are often uninspired.

The Latin root of the word resolution is resolutionem ‒ the process of reducing things into simpler forms, loosening or “unbinding.” In his Word Power blog, Gregory Rineberg points out that in the last 500 or so years, we have used the word resolution to mean just the opposite ‒ holding firm in determination, resolute in pursuing a course of action.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from etymology. Consider as a metaphor the loosening or unbinding of your passions and true desires before taking resolved action. In my last post, I spoke of how intuition can work in tandem with our clever mind to manifest success if we allow our heart to take the lead. “Here is what I want and need,” we say from the higher self, our creative center, and then the mind responds, “Okay, let’s figure out how to get that for you ‒ here’s the right action step to take.”

When we lead with our head vs. our heart, we pursue faux goals. A faux goal is a pursuit disguised as noble, but does not truly reflect our heart’s desire. Many New Year’s resolutions fall into this category. Of course, it sounds honorable to start exercising, get organized or save money… but what’s the real reason for taking these actions? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my goal or resolution reflect a “should”‒ something I think or have been told I should do?
  • Is the goal more important to someone else than it is to me?
  • Does the thought of doing or achieving it give me energy or take the wind out of my sails?
  • Have I pursued this before without lasting success?

Sometimes we formulate resolutions as some sort of punishment for our supposed failures (“I ate too many holiday desserts…” or “I took too much time off…”). A goal born out of regret is handicapped from the start.

Examine Your Goals
What higher purpose is achieved when you get what you say you want? It that your true heart’s desire?

Recently, I met a man who was preparing for a second heart bypass surgery. He was disciplined enough to exercise regularly and eat a heart-healthy diet, yet 15 years after the first surgery, he had to endure it again. I asked him where he got the courage and resolve. His reply, “I have five grandchildren and I want to be here as they grow up.”

Take Inspired Action
Lead from your heart. Decide first what you desire, what purpose you are pursuing, then, and only then, define the action steps. Test the actions with the question, “What will that get me?” and include positive effects as well as negative ones ‒ before resolving to achieve them. A helpful hint regarding purposeful action: you’ll know it when you feel it, not when you think it.

Our new book, “Erik’s Hope,” is the culmination of my 13-year pursuit to share the lessons of a shelter dog named Erik with the rest of the world. The goal of publication has been achieved, and at the same time, the journey is just now beginning. I have never been filled with more resolve to have this story reach others who can consider and apply the lessons in ways that transform their own lives. My resolve is born out of my deep knowledge that this experience with Erik, this message of hope and inspiration, is purpose-based. It’s one of the things I’m here to do in this life, and it gives me joy.

So go ahead, resolve to lose weight, save for retirement or leave work earlier. These are noble pursuits for sure. But first ask yourself the question, “What will that get me?” If the answer fills you with passion, if you feel a sense of purpose or meaning, you’re on the road to success.

This life we are leading here on planet Earth is finite. While it’s fleeting by eternal standards, we all are here now for a reason. Make 2017 the year of your heart’s desire!

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The Words Will Find You

Andrea Chilcote, Erik's Hope, White Wolf

by Andrea Chilcote

Do you want a simple way to tap into your very soul’s wisdom? Take dictation.

Several years ago, my colleague Karla Boyd shared a practice for accessing one’s personal vision or purpose. It has remained a staple in my toolkit, and I’ve expanded it to situations in which I need to access my intuition or help other tap into theirs. Sometimes I even use it for deciding what to write about in these posts.

Here’s the process. First, write a question that’s on your mind or in your heart. You can imagine you’re asking the question of your own highest and best self, or some other wise person, present on earth or not. Examples would be: “What do I need to be happy in my job?” or “How can I communicate advice to my teenage son?” The best questions are those tough questions that can’t be easily answered using our logical minds.

Then…just write. Write the answer in a stream-of-consciousness format, without stopping to judge the quality or validity of what you’re writing.

Early on, I was amazed at the insights that came – even as I puzzled over where they came from. Then a few years later I attended a life-changing workshop led by renowned writing teacher Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg has revolutionized the practice of writing and she teaches a similar process for accessing the heart and soul. She’s a purest about insisting that her students hand-write their work, and write continuously for 10 minutes without stopping. She says it doesn’t matter if your inner critic tells you what you’re writing is garbage – keep writing!

The results are truly amazing, and in fact I used the technique while writing the passages from Erik’s Hope in which the character “White Wolf” counseled my dog Erik. I wrote as if I was White Wolf himself, and was often astounded by how eloquent and smart he was…so much so that I now consult “him” on a regular basis.

Here’s a recent example. I was struggling with how I would open a meeting in which the stakes were high and asked (wrote), “White Wolf, of what shall I speak?”

Here’s the answer I received:

Andrea, speak from your heart. Speak the truth and that truth will be heard by all who need it. Be present as you teach, and the words you need will find you. Above all be kind. Be in gratitude for what you have now and for what will be. Treasure each moment. Be the light.

Even though I haven’t shared the details of that meeting, I think you’ll agree that White Wolf offered sage advice. He never lets me down. What I needed was not an opening speech, but rather a reminder to adopt the right state of being – truth, presence, kindness, gratitude and light.

If you believe, as I do, that the answers are inside of you, try this method of accessing them. As White Wolf says, the words will find you.


 

This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

Mirror Mirror (2014)

Andrea ChilcoteEven though I’ve written of this “mirror” concept many times, Brene Brown helped me finally “get” it.

by Andrea Chilcote

What if many of the things we hear, see and experience, outside of ourselves, are just reflections of our own inner state? In each of our lives there exist other people and situations acting as mirrors for the aspects of ourselves that we either dislike or admire. If you believe, as I do, that all living things are part of a mass consciousness, separate in personality and possessing free will but connected energetically ‒ spiritually in fact, then this “mirror” principle makes sense. And, as is the case with many of my life lessons, a dog is teaching me just how closely connected we all are.

WhisperThis past year, I have learned that I have a four-legged mirror living in our home, sharing my life. Her name is Whisper. She’s a Malamute ‒ my husband’s Malamute to be precise, and she’s been our companion for eight years. I can hear her comment now, if only she could read a blog: “Yes, it’s taken Andrea eight years to get the message. Pitiful humans!”

The truth is, I’ve always been aware that Whisper reflects my feelings and fears. Whisper shows her sweet and loving demeanor to every human she meets. Other dogs? Not so much. So when we hike in the desert and inevitably run into other dogs, she often takes an aggressive stance, testing my physical strength (a Malamute is a strong creature) and frustrating me as a supposed leader. It would be easy to write her off as impossibly dog-aggressive or rationalize her behavior as protective of me or her handler, but there’s more at play here. Whisper mirrors my feelings. If I can remain present, calm and objective, there is usually no trouble. If I feel the fear of a potential fight, or, as is more likely the case, judgment of people who can’t or won’t control their own dogs, Whisper acts out my emotions. Knowing this, the solution seems simple ‒ yet managing feelings is far from easy. Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, advocates calling up a calm-assertive state of being, using an inside-out approach of managing one’s thoughts and feelings before taking outward action. I challenge you to try it now.

Imagine some person or group for whom you feel judgment ‒ from mild superiority to true disdain or contempt ‒ the degree does not matter. We all have these feelings at times. Okay, now that you’ve got it, try to release it. Stop feeling judgment, quickly. Tough, yes? For me, it can be very difficult and at the same time, a very worthwhile pursuit. If I can manage my thoughts and feelings, then I can manage my actions ‒ and this, in my opinion, is the key to the universe.

Go back to the judgmental state you just identified. What is this person or situation reflecting that is true for you? Do you feel a fear that was previously unrecognized? Is there some aspect of the other person’s behavior that triggers a memory of your own shortcomings, a mistake you made, a lesson you learned? Identify it, feel it, and ‒ here’s the magic ‒ it will be transformed.

Once a previously unconscious emotion is brought to the surface, your logical mind can make sense of it, and you can act appropriately. Take the feeling of fear, for example. If the fear represents a real threat, you can act on that. If the fear is based on history or a habit of thought, you can let it go. The truth will indeed set us free.

There’s a bonus to this process, given that we are all connected. When we transform our inner state, others respond in new ways. It makes for a more peaceful hike, as well as a better world.

The Paradox of Presence

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly The Paradox of Presence_imageblogger.

I’m beginning to believe that being present is the most important thing to be. That’s a big statement for me, at least the part of me that’s driven, calculating and constantly planning for this or that contingency.

This morning I received a note from a friend, Carol, who runs a successful business training and development business. She had just read my post, Be Present – Another Reminder, and she was compelled to share this story:

“In early April of 1999 I took a sailing trip off the coast of Mississippi with some of my experiential learning friends. We titled the trip, ‘You must be present to win!’ At that time I had been recently laid off and was just working contracts, trying to find what’s next. During the sail we discussed what it means to be present and what you win if you are present.

It was truly an amazing two days doing things I love to do and with people I love to be with so it was rather easy to be present. I could tell you almost every moment of that trip still today. The outcome was a very clear path forward. I was moving back to Iowa closer to family and starting my own consulting firm. And on May 7th, 1999, I did just that with absolute clarity and resolve.”

Carol’s story reminded me of my own that I recount in my book Erik’s Hope. One day, at a crossroads regarding a decision about starting my business, I abandoned my typical desk work and followed my heart (and dog) to the beach. After a full day of meandering among sand, surf and a bountiful sand dollar harvest, I was quite clear about my decision. Magic ensued, as predicted by these famous lines:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

For both of us, the present moment was the mechanism that allowed us to see our future steps clearly. That’s a tough concept, as our tricky minds hijack the moment and we think planning the future is more important than feeling what’s true now. In fact, the act of being present will carry us into our perfect future. It’s the paradox of presence.

Begin it.

When we embrace the moment (an idea), and stay present, we automatically embrace the next (a possible action). One thing leads to another.

If you are at a crossroad, overwhelmed, or even bored – draw in a breath. Look, listen and feel the presence around you. I’m betting your next move will serve you well.

Relating to OurSelves – Putting Self First

Putting Self Firstby Andrea Chilcote

This post is the first of a three-part series entitled “Relating to OurSelves.” This segment deals with honoring yourself first in order to build capacity for helping others.

Lately it seems I have less time and more demands on that precious time. Sound familiar? When I recently shared this lament with a trusted confidant, she asked me to do something that on the surface sounded simple. Her request? “State the following, then tell me how it feels to you: ‘I am the most important person in my life right now.’”

Well, it felt incongruent. Even though I believe that unless I care for myself first I cannot possibly care for important others in my life, I sure did not feel it in the midst of my all-too-busy day.

Many women tend to be healers – we’re the gender more often charged with care-giving. (This is not intended as a criticism of the many care-giving men out there who are natural nurturers – it’s simply a fact that women usually assume the role more explicitly).

So my friend’s question sparked thoughts about the great equilibrium of giving and receiving. It can be out of balance literally, or in our heads. Rejuvenating activities, gratitude or compliments from those we love, as well as simple acts of kindness shown to us, all produce healing energy. Are we allowing enough of that in our lives?

Consider the literal examples. We can starve ourselves by constantly doing for others, never taking the time to replenish in whatever way creates true enjoyment. We can surround ourselves with people who take only (energy vampires, as Dr. Judith Orloff describes them), rather than spend time with people who know the beautiful dance of give and take. If you are one of these givers, you probably recognize the toll it takes on you, and, most likely, the things that you seek – acceptance, purpose, love – are elusive.

More insidious is the type that is made up in our minds. In this scenario we do a lot and are offered a lot, but – we don’t notice what’s coming back to us because our metal drive is so focused on the next task. I get caught in this mind trap often. I am blessed with a loving husband as well as friends, clients and animal companions who give me as much or more than I give out. But often I miss these precious gifts because the to-do lists in my brain trick me into believing I have no time for them.

The affirmation offered by my friend – “I am the most important person in my life right now” – was profound. Once I made that statement, I was forced to re-focus on the present moment. What I was doing did not change, but the way I did it changed significantly. I came back alive, appreciating the small and beautiful give and take in the interactions of life.

As I moved through the next several days, I did, as usual, a great deal for others. What I provide the people and animals I love brings me great joy. And I en-joy that work when I come from a place of integrity in myself and my capacity.

So, take the challenge given to me. Can you love yourself enough to care for those you love?

Putting self first is a continuing theme for me this new year of 2014. I invite you to read my latest blog about Self-Care on The Spirited Woman – where I am a weekly blogger.

Mirror Mirror

by Andrea Chilcote

What if many of the things we hear, see and experience, outside of ourselves, are just reflections of our own inner state? In each of our lives there exist other people and situations acting as mirrors for the aspects of ourselves that we either dislike or admire. If you believe, as I do, that all living things are part of a mass consciousness, separate in personality and possessing free will but connected energetically ‒ spiritually in fact, then this “mirror” principle makes sense. And, as is the case with many of my life lessons, a dog is teaching me just how closely connected we all are.

WhisperThis past year, I have learned that I have a four-legged mirror living in our home, sharing my life. Her name is Whisper. She’s a Malamute ‒ my husband’s Malamute to be precise, and she’s been our companion for eight years. I can hear her comment now, if only she could read a blog: “Yes, it’s taken Andrea eight years to get the message. Pitiful humans!”

The truth is, I’ve always been aware that Whisper reflects my feelings and fears. Whisper shows her sweet and loving demeanor to every human she meets. Other dogs? Not so much. So when we hike in the desert and inevitably run into other dogs, she often takes an aggressive stance, testing my physical strength (a Malamute is a strong creature) and frustrating me as a supposed leader. It would be easy to write her off as impossibly dog-aggressive or rationalize her behavior as protective of me or her handler, but there’s more at play here. Whisper mirrors my feelings. If I can remain present, calm and objective, there is usually no trouble. If I feel the fear of a potential fight, or, as is more likely the case, judgment of people who can’t or won’t control their own dogs, Whisper acts out my emotions. Knowing this, the solution seems simple ‒ yet managing feelings is far from easy. Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, advocates calling up a calm-assertive state of being, using an inside-out approach of managing one’s thoughts and feelings before taking outward action. I challenge you to try it now.

Imagine some person or group for whom you feel judgment ‒ from mild superiority to true disdain or contempt ‒ the degree does not matter. We all have these feelings at times. Okay, now that you’ve got it, try to release it. Stop feeling judgment, quickly. Tough, yes? For me, it can be very difficult and at the same time, a very worthwhile pursuit. If I can manage my thoughts and feelings, then I can manage my actions ‒ and this, in my opinion, is the key to the universe.

Go back to the judgmental state you just identified. What is this person or situation reflecting that is true for you? Do you feel a fear that was previously unrecognized? Is there some aspect of the other person’s behavior that triggers a memory of your own shortcomings, a mistake you made, a lesson you learned? Identify it, feel it, and ‒ here’s the magic ‒ it will be transformed.

Once a previously unconscious emotion is brought to the surface, your logical mind can make sense of it, and you can act appropriately. Take the feeling of fear, for example. If the fear represents a real threat, you can act on that. If the fear is based on history or a habit of thought, you can let it go. The truth will indeed set us free.

There’s a bonus to this process, given that we are all connected. When we transform our inner state, others respond in new ways. It makes for a more peaceful hike, as well as a better world.

Being Present

Erik's Hope

Kairos at home

by Andrea Chilcote

I am on my way from Arizona to Toronto, sans winter coat. This is despite having purchased a new down-filled dress coat just last week while in New York, in the midst of yet another experience of being ill prepared for winter wind chills.

So the question I am asking myself is this: “Was I so present to the mild winter pre-dawn in Cave Creek that I didn’t realize I left the house in just a light business jacket (didn’t realize it until entering the airport actually), or was I consumed by a cluttered mind, flotsam and jetsam taking the space allotted for clear thinking?”

I’m going with the latter, the former being an admittedly clever rationalization. Despite a life-long commitment to staying present in the moment, I still succumb to the pull of my analytical mind, oblivious to my surroundings or the task at hand.

Some view being present as a virtue. I don’t see it that way. In my opinion, it’s just an available choice, a minute-by-minute choice as to how to walk through one’s day. It’s a way of fully engaging in life’s joyful moments as well as managing inevitable stressors. And it’s a requirement for true connection with other human beings.

The dogs teach me the lesson of presence anytime I’m awake enough to notice. Those familiar with the story of the sand dollars in our new book Erik’s Hope will recall how I learned to access my creative intuition through Erik’s gift of a day of play on a beach in South Carolina, as well as how I learned to truly treasure precious time with him when the end was near.

That lesson is ongoing. When Amigo suddenly became ill in January of this year, he required intense care. We had hope that he would recover, and of course I wanted to be with him; offering the kind of care only a mother could give. I have a vivid memory of sitting on my bathroom floor as dear Dr. Kit tended to him shortly after surgery. We began to talk of my travel schedule that week, and what I would do. I stopped mid-sentence and said: “I cannot worry about Wednesday, or even tomorrow. I can only manage right now, and now, today, I am here, available and present.” That philosophy carried me for three months as Amigo rallied and regressed until his inevitable death. People came along to help when needed and things got done, as they always do. I look back on times like this in my life (and there have been a few this year) and wonder where my stamina came from. I am certain that I channeled my energy wisely, allowing only the matter at hand to matter.

Erik's Hope

Erik's Hope In Kairos

The mind is a useful yet tricky tool. Our capacity for conceptualizing, analyzing and calculating is unrivaled in the animal kingdom, and this ability easily seduces our attention away from the matter at hand. It can craft fears and contingencies, and infer meanings that do not exist. Or it can be a brilliant partner to the creative process. Working in tandem, it’s as if our heart says “Here’s what I want and need,” and our mind says, “Okay, let’s figure out how to get that for you.”

This summer, a wise friend met my new pup, Kairos. She said “Andrea, Kairos has an important purpose in your life. He is here to help you tame your ‘eagle mind,’ and remind you to lead with your heart.” One need only look into the depths of his blue eyes to understand that is true.

Yes, I am willing to allow my heart to take the lead. And perhaps I’ll remember my coat on the next trip.

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