Creating Your Sanctuary

Creating Your Sanctuary

My first thought when approached with the subject of Creating Your Sanctuary was “easy peasy, I’m a designer at McCready Interiors, I do that for clients and customers every day”. I ask many questions to find what they want their environment to reflect, then select styles and fabrics or leathers that will be successful in creating that feeling.

A sanctuary is a place of refuge, a place of safety, a place to retreat, it should reflect whatever brings you a sense of peace and tranquility.

In reflecting and researching for my blog, I considered that my personal sanctuary actually changes quite often. My home is obviously a sanctuary where I retreat at the end of the day, but I soon realized I have many opportunities for a sanctuary; a walk in the woods, my gardens, a yoga class, even a visit to the home of my best friend since high school to enjoy the hot tub and catch up.

Your sanctuary may be the beach, an exercise class, a girls night out, or a space in your home you can make your own. It could be those moments when you have the opportunity for “no boys (or kids) allowed”, a big comfy reading chair or a place you can have quiet time to reflect, meditate, or just slow down to recharge.

As women, many of our lives are centered around taking care of others;  we are nurturers, caregivers, helpmates. We tend to do for others before taking care of ourselves. When we give our all to everyone else, there is little left for ourselves.  The importance of self-care is critical to our well-being. We must take the time to regard ourselves highly enough to carve out time and space to enjoy a sanctuary of our own.

Creating your sanctuary is simply making a space that gives you the opportunity to surround yourself with an area to take a breath and unwind.

If you are able to start with a blank slate space, select a wall color that reflects calm to you. Select pieces that avoid clutter and chaos, keep the space simple. This is an area you want to be able to completely relax in.

Carefully edit what you place in your sacred space, less is usually more when you are looking for a place for quiet or meditation. If nature brings you calm and joy, place greenery or nature-inspired artwork there. Position your comfy reading chair facing a window so you can enjoy the view. If the beach is your sanctum, use colors that reflect the sand, sea, and sky. Surround yourself with beauty and an atmosphere of calm. Turn off the TV and turn on your favorite music if you don’t want silence. I have many Pandora stations I can select from to enhance whatever mood or feeling I want to focus on. I choose Motown if I want to escape and maybe dance a little (when no one is watching), Glenn Miller if I’m feeling nostalgic, Eric Clapton or the Beatles for a variety of reasons, and slow smooth jazz or classical choices to for a quieter environment.

Candles whether real or the real-looking battery powered styles can set the mood with soft lighting. Many of us have essential oils and diffusers to provide soothing scents to help create the perfect environment.

When we make time to devote to ourselves and nurture ourselves, we become our better selves. A sacred space is a perfect place to let our best selves shine through. Creating a sanctuary isn’t difficult. Just remember to keep it reflective of who you are and what kind of energy you want it to invoke.

The Courage to Create

The Courage to Create

I’m a sucker for talent competition auditions. America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, X-Factor, The Voice, American Idol – I love them all. It melts me when some shy, half-panicked, visibly shaking unknown takes the stage, and pours their heart and soul out for the judges and the audience. What a vulnerable moment! What courage that must take! The best of these auditions are never flawless, but that’s the point. It’s easy to share yourself and your gifts with the world if they are “perfect”. If you know exactly how the audience will respond, you’re not really taking a risk at all. Courage and bravery entail uncertainty, insecurity, and self-doubt. And perhaps that’s why courage and bravery are my favorite human traits.

We humans are so deliciously imperfect. Most of us stick to our comfort zones where we at least feel competent. Places and spaces where we know the ropes, and generally know what kinds of reactions to expect. But life is too short and too full to spend all your time in the shallow end of the pool. And not just life, but you yourself are too full of possibilities. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, “you are large, you contain multitudes”. Who knows what potential you truly encompass? Could you compose a song? Paint a picture? Write a novel? Direct a movie? Act in a play? Entertain a crowd with juggling and jokes? Sing an opera? Run a marathon? Raise a child? Build a house from scratch? Fall in love? Become a better version of yourself? Yes — you could do all of these things. Every single one. But you cannot and will not do any of these things if you require perfection.

Imagine what the world would have lost if the Beatles refused to release an album until it was perfect. If Da Vinci burned the Mona Lisa because he couldn’t get the smile just right. If Dostoevsky gave up writing because, hey, why compete with the likes of Tolstoy? Now you may be thinking, “If those weren’t examples of perfection, they were pretty damn close. There’s nothing that I do that falls into that category.” But don’t forget, just as acts and even thoughts of destruction karmically scar the soul, so too do acts of creation have a redemptive effect on the creator.

When you create and express your essence, you have brought something brand new into the universe. How better to express and experience your innate divinity? I believe that every act of creation is a prayer. And prayers do not need to be perfect, but merely heartfelt. Prayers also don’t need to be public. Likewise, even if you never share your creations with the world, they will nevertheless enrich your life immeasurably. But, selfishly, I’m hoping you will share your gifts with the rest of us. Our various creations help to unite us, and the experience of communion, I believe, is also divine.

So DO. Let us inspire each other with both our successes and our failures. Life is for living, and we best all get busy – there’s so much to try! Take faith and have courage and don’t let unobtainable perfection stand in your way. If you stumble, we’ve got your back, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Recognize the good – Hakarat ha’Tov

Recognize the good – Hakarat ha’Tov

Choosing to be grateful is just a shift in thinking. For some, it is a significant shift. For others more subtle. To me, the key word in our topic for November is choice.

Our thoughts naturally seem to turn to thankfulness and gratitude as we approach Thanksgiving. We are inundated with commercials meant to tug at both our heart and purse strings to remind us to appreciate the little things, not to mention those Hallmark movies that I love so much.

Social media is full of folks proclaiming their gratitude for things both big and small. Recently I even jumped into the pool. I committed to posting three things each day for which I’m grateful. I was going to make a conscious effort and demonstrate it for the whole world to see. Do you want to know how many times I did this? Once. Let me repeat: I did it once.

I set the intention wholeheartedly. I put it out there and dropped the proverbial ball. I publicly said that I was going to do this every day for November. It happened once!

Beating myself up

The reason I’m sharing this with you is that I want to focus for a minute on choosing gratitude and self-compassion.

One of the benefits of the mindfulness practice is that one learns to experience life in the present moment. Recognizing it for what it is, not resisting and then making a choice – rather than reacting.

Before I started practicing mindfulness, the dialog in my head would have been something like this:

What are people going to think? I only posted once. Am I a truly selfish person?

Couldn’t I even list three things a day?

Am I so important or busy that I couldn’t take time out of my day to post?

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Letting myself off the hook

Luckily, along with living mindfully and choosing gratitude comes a little thing called compassion. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, it took me years to learn about compassion. I could be overly compassionate toward others but rarely toward myself. This current situation was a time when I needed to choose to pull out the self-compassion card.

Does anyone remember my announcement on Facebook? Answer: Most likely, no. Technically, I could go into my timeline and delete it (going there now. click, delete and gone). Does it mean that I am ungrateful because I didn’t send a press release to Richland Source every time I had a moment of gratitude? NO. I needed to let myself off of the hook. It doesn’t even matter what the reasons were for not sticking to my plan. I felt guilt and shame.

By writing this post, I have the opportunity to reflect on this recent situation. The truth is that I feel gratitude in a million little moments in every single day. Just like most of you. We need to choose to recognize those times, but it doesn’t always require demonstrating through a grand gesture. A quiet acknowledgment does the job.

Recognize the good

As usual, I’ve taken the long road, but my point is that we can choose to appreciate things around us that are good. In Hebrew, it is called “Hakarat ha’Tov.” (pronounced HA-car-ott, HA-tove)

The literal translation is recognizing the good. When we are not experiencing gratitude, and we suddenly recognize it, we can choose to show compassion to ourselves. Choosing gratitude can be just this little shift in our thinking and remembering this short phrase: Hakarat ha’Tov.

So here it is ladies. It’s another thing that we can add to our list of things to not over-think. Gratitude. It’s not about forcing a feeling, keeping to a schedule of Facebook posts or feeling obligated to do something. It is a simple thing, Hakarat ha’Tov, or recognizing the good.

Thanksgiving is on Thursday so my call to action for each of you, a “no pressure” call to action, is to recognize the good.

Gratitude & Ice Cream: Tips for Living Vibrantly, Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

Gratitude & Ice Cream: Tips for Living Vibrantly, Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

It’s easy to live an energetic life when everything is going your way. But how do we live a thriving life when things aren’t going the way we planned?

Life is hard.

As “life” wears on us,  we start to get tired: mentally tired, emotionally tired, tired of work, tired of schedules, just plain tired.

Since we’re only human, we get cranky when we’re tired.

And when we get cranky, we start to focus on the negatives in life.

At this point, you have two choices: you can either pull yourself out of whatever funk you’re in and live vibrantly, or you can allow yourself to wallow in that low feeling, where you gain nothing, but you sure do waste a lot of energy and good days.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.
—Helen Keller

Instead of focusing on the negative, let’s focus on the positive, and seek to remember one powerful fact: our happiness is a choice.

We have the power to choose to live a vibrant life despite the fact that things don’t always go our way. We may not have everything we want or think that we need, yet we can choose to be happy with what we do have, and live life to the fullest.

When we commit to changing our outlook, a radical shift occurs. The lows feel less low, and the mundane starts to take a turn for the more exciting. We begin to understand that agonizing over the past that we’d like to change or trying to alter the future that we can’t predict gets us nowhere, and instead we start to find joy and appreciation in times when we felt all could be lost.

So what can you do today to start living a life of vibrancy? Here are a few of my own favorite tricks for climbing out of the daily grind:

1. Gratitude

Think about everything in your life that is good.

Start with the basics:

Do you have a roof over your head?

Do you have food to eat every day?

Do you have clothes to wear?

Then move on to things that are more personal:

Maybe you have children who are the light of your life.

Maybe you’re dating or married to someone who treats you like royalty.

Maybe you have the good fortune of a job that you love, or maybe…

…you have your health: mine isn’t perfect, but it sure is a whole heck of a lot better than it was ten years ago – and for that, I am grateful.

2. Spend time with loved ones

Family—and close friends who might as well be family—have a profound effect on boosting your mood. If family time isn’t a fit for you, you can get the same “warm glow” from volunteering, so hook up with an organization whose work is meaningful to you and spend some time helping others instead.

3. Focus on what matters

Ask yourself: “Is this life-changing? Will this have any significant impact on my goals for this life?” If the answer is no, move on. Don’t bother dwelling on things that upset you. Your mind has more important things to do. See tip #5 for an extension on this.

4. Feel the happiness of savoring little things

Here are my top three:

1. A pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Any pint will do.

2. Soaking up the sun, drinking a frosty beer at The Phoenix Brewing Co in the company of my husband and friends.

Bonus: Vitamin D, good for your mood and your energy. (It should be noted here that the Vitamin D comes from the sun, not the beer… drinking beer solely to get vitamins may actually have the opposite effect.)

3. Loving on my dog Juno. I think she likes a long hug as much as I do – I do squeeze her pretty tight, so she may just be stuck in it. It feels good nonetheless.

5. Mindfulness, pure and simple

Catch yourself in those negative moments, and change the subject or change the tone. Learn to become aware of yourself and the thoughts that you’re thinking. You might be surprised at how often you’re weighing yourself down with subconscious negativity.

Yes, life is hard. But there’s good news, too: we are in control of our own selves and the way that we view the world. We soldier on through the tough times, and learn to embrace the good in this world. When we do that, taking nothing for granted, we are able to live our most vibrant lives.

The Day We Discover Why

The Day We Discover Why

When I was asked to write about “Honor the Story”, my real story about my values and life purpose in this moment today, it terrified me and created a long thought provoking session within myself.

What does it mean to honor? I thought honoring my story was another form of respecting what my life had become, accepting it, and moving forward. The bible clearly states there is a difference between respect and honor. We are taught to honor those in authority, your parents, or your boss, whether you like the person or not you respect the position. Giving honor where honor is due has tremendous power, so why can it be so hard to honor our own selves? We honor others; teachers, coaches, care-takers, and we treat them with respect. Aren’t we worthy of the same? Doesn’t our story, our path in life matter just as much as those we hold in high regard?

Self perceived notions

My values have not always been what they are today. Much of my life circumstances I did not choose, some I have been slow to embrace, others I have welcomed. I used to believe my value in life could only be measured by how successful I was and how others perceived me. It was all because I didn’t want to further disappoint anyone, which I now realize stemmed from my self-perceived notion of my imagined unworthiness as a foster/adopted child.

My purpose has changed due to the myriad of positions I have held in my life, due in part from trying to “prove myself” to the world. First at the tender age of 13, as the youngest employee of the YWCA as a baton twirling instructor, through today where I enjoy sharing the health and nutritional benefits from organic tea leaves, to a part-time receptionist at St. Peter’s Parish Center, and being the secretary on several boards.

Honoring the moment

Through my many “careers” I realized that instead of enjoying the moment, I was always focused on the next possibility, this is a struggle even today and I am certain other entrepreneurial types suffer from the same. But peace came from within when I started honoring my sanity and finally quit trying to plan my life. I now let the plan guide my life, but not always without a little kicking and screaming! What I have realized and now honor is the beauty of God & family, and the cultivated friendships through my journey that have lasted a life-time.

When I agreed to write this blog for MBA, I decided a mission statement to myself was necessary:

I have much to share with this world, but my needs must be my priority to keep my world and sense of well-being in balance. I wake up happy and thankful each day and will continue to believe that I do deserve the good things in my life. It IS my birthright to be happy, to be successful and to be loved.

Beautifully thriving life

Beautifully thriving life

Take a moment to consider our naturally designed state of being; like the love, happiness and curiosity of a toddler. You see, we are created in love, therefore; we are love. As an adult, we must learn to let go of the past, so we can look forward with “fresh eyes”… to love and nurture our beautiful thriving life.

Human nature allows us to get stuck in old habits and viewpoints long after they quit serving us. However, we do not have to stay in the same mindset. We are free to cultivate new thoughts and ideas at any time and at any age. We all know men and women who have the spirit and enthusiasm of the very young, we also know people who act and think in the reverse. Why are we fearful of change? Perhaps, it’s the fear of the unknown, a lack of self-confidence or just not knowing what we don’t know.

Who will you be?

The choice is always available to us and we can choose as often as we wish. Ask yourself, “How will I show up today? What are my intentions?” What a relief to know that our old thoughts and resentful feelings of today, when rooted in nourishing love and compassion for ourselves are able to reinvented. Through these reinvented thoughts and feelings we are able to create whomever we want to see in the mirror.

I will open my eyes to whatever I choose to see today, and yesterday’s experiences have only the power I do—or don’t—give them.

My personal story has been one of many rebirths. I grew up in a broken home with many life-altering experiences through childhood and into adulthood.

I was searching for a place to belong to feel loved which lead me to marry young and divorce the same man twice. That event lead me to the multi-role job of a single mother with two wonderful girls. Days after the nest was officially empty, I am blessed to have found new love and have recently remarried.

Change is our destiny

I consider myself lucky to have had my father who would tell me “You are able to do anything you put my mind to.”

Professionally I have chosen to reinvent myself a few times. As a young woman, I managed a mobile food service business with 20-25 employees. I switched gears to work in the salon industry as a sales consultant. Next up, I earned my real estate license in 2008 and started selling homes part-time in addition to my salon construct still.

Then, I decided a couple of years ago to take the leap into a full-time real estate career.  My heart is so full today because helping people find the right home is incredibly rewarding.

This is what I know for sure: Where ever you want to go – you can,
What ever you think you can do – you will.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t change. Life = change. It’s not a magic trick, it is simply your will. Your thoughts become your words, become your actions, become your reality.

A beginners mind and living in curiosity will allow you to experience each moment with fresh eyes.