Stripping Labels: Leading By Living

Stripping Labels: Leading By Living

Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses is an idiom often used to express an optimistic perception of life. But the sad truth is, optimism is a disposition rarely extended to others. Instead, we tend to look at others and decide what color glasses to wear when viewing them, based on our judgment of them.

Humans have a natural inclination to favor certain sects of society while believing there is justification for harboring caution (at the least) if not outright hatred (at the worst) against certain groups of society. Generally, those biases are formed to include themselves and people like them.

Despite recent trends, I believe women more than men are pigeonholed in their careers and their relationships. Women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work (especially minorities). Women more often than men are trapped in abusive relationships. Women are sexually assaulted more than men. Women are forced into human trafficking more than men. Women are forced into underage marriage more than men. Women are forced to endure female mutilation. I can go on. The topic of bias relates to me both personally and professionally. I face huge biases – not just due to my gender but also my race, which is stereotypically associated with my tendency to speak up. From what I’ve experienced, there is an overt and obvious difference between me and my white, especially male, colleagues and friends. When I speak up firmly, I face resistance from certain people and am made to feel discounted as a nuisance. When my white friends and/or colleagues, male or female, behave in the same manner, often more frequently and more blatantly, they are taken so much more seriously, and their opinions are valued. It got to the point, where I found myself having to confront the dilemma of whether to lighten up or stop speaking up altogether. It felt to me as if I was never heard, and I didn’t want to be labeled as the so-called “Angry Black Woman,” (ABW). I didn’t want to be viewed as unintelligent or bitter either. Talking while black and female proved to be quite the double-hurdle for me. I have personally had other colleagues tell me they have had to face some form of negative labeling in their career. One woman was told by a manager that she “did not fit the corporate image” when she was being considered for an advancement opportunity. She asked for feedback regarding how she didn’t fit the corporate image but then asked for the interview anyway. She got the interview. It went well and she was offered the position.

Humans also have a natural inclination to form biases. I sincerely believe one must consciously will themselves to not behave in those undereducated, underdeveloped ways of thinking. How do you inspire humans to think for themselves?? To break away from their norms and their beliefs? In this climate and in what I see happening in this country, it seems virtually impossible. The answer for me is to live it. Show others in my own behavior and choices. If you want to see an improved environment, be an improved environment all the time – without exception.

In order to be compassionate and try to help others remove filters, my path lies in Christ. By showing others that they can look at the world through the lens of Christ,  they can free themselves of preconceived ideas, biases, and bigotry against others; they can, instead, open themselves up to love. And like so many others, I believe we must love as Christ loved.

 

Embracing Positivity Through Digital Media

Embracing Positivity Through Digital Media

Hey there! I’m Emily Parsons, a digital marketing guru and lifestyle blogger. I believe that everyone has influence and the power of consciously influencing those for the better. It wasn’t that long ago that I left Atlanta, Georgia and moved back to Ohio. I had worked in Corporate America for long enough and needed a fresh start.

I realized pretty fast that the hustle and grind of Atlanta wasn’t what I wanted long-term. I moved back to Ohio, without a set job and two months worth of savings to get me by. Fast forward two years and I’m now living my dream, helping small businesses and women entrepreneurs lead consciously through this fast-paced digital marketing world. I started sharing tips & tricks for blogging, social media and creating an authentic brand. I had no idea that these topics would lead to such amazing changes in companies and myself.

Social Media has completely changed the way we perform, how we run a business and can take your circle of influence from 2 people to 200,000 overnight. It might sound cheesy but my current life and career are exactly where I want to be. I am able to live out my passion for helping people, growing businesses and positively influencing individuals on a daily basis. What more could I ever ask for! If I could effective one aspect of our society, it would be that everyone allows themselves time for daily personal development. Taking time to invest in ourselves, opens us up to a whole new world of opportunity.

You might be asking why you should embrace the new digital marketing millennium? Well, 97% of US adults under 65 are on social media at least once a month. The vast majority are on it every day. 57% of Millennials say that social media has made the ads they see more relevant to them. 48% of people say they made their last online purchase as the direct result of a Facebook ad.

Digital marketing allows small businesses to compete with a much smaller advertising budget. When managed effectively, it gives them laser-focused control over where and how they spend their money. When you have this kind of control and the data to support decisions, you make smarter ones. How amazing is that?!

My goal through digital marketing and social media is to reach as many people as possible in a positive way. If I’m able to spark a sense of joy and excitement for life with one person then I am living out my passion. Social Media gives us the ability to influence so many people, let’s make it a consciously positive one!

Creating Your Sanctuary

Creating Your Sanctuary

When I was a child, I had two sanctuaries.  One was under a huge tree in the woods visible from my house.  The leaves of this tree were thick and the ground beneath was soft with leaves and moss.  The branches hung low to the ground so that I felt invisible to the world outside (although my house was safely close by and could be seen and heard).  My second sanctuary was my bedroom. I had a room at the front of the house with two windows overlooking the yard, neighborhood, and the woods beyond. I pushed my bed under those two windows and sat there reading for hours, immersed in the authors’ story while watching the world outside my windows.

As I look back in time and remember these spaces, I recall the sense of safety and contentment I felt.  I’m also noticing the elements that characterize these spaces. What can I learn about creating my modern sanctuary from these childhood spaces?

How comfortable are you being alone with yourself?

My safe space has an element of alone, invisibility, quiet, and yet it must have eyes on the world.  For me, watching the movement of the world allows my brain to soften and my mind to wander. I work while watching cars going by from the windows of The Butterfly House.  My meditations are eyes open, where I can calm mind and body by regulating my rhythm with the chorus of the world around me.

What arrangements and elements create, for you, a sense of safety?

I prefer to sit with my back against a wall.  As a child, I would tuck my body into the corner of my bedroom.  When I was under the tree, my back was resting against the security of the trunk.  And I realize I need something on which to place my feet. I either place a footstool or a table directly in front of my meditation chair.  If I’m sitting on a cushion on the floor, I often place another cushion in front of me. Sometimes I place the cushion or a blanket on my lap. Notice how your body feels when you arrange your space.  If you close your eyes and listen to your body in harmony with the space around you, what do you notice?

What colors and textures bring softness to your body and mind?  

You might start by asking yourself, What vistas allow your mind to relax and wander?  Do you love to overlook fields and valleys, rivers and trees, sparkling lights of office towers, or the ebb and flow of ocean waves?  Consider these things when selecting colors and textures. If your favorite place is a beach on the Caribbean, then choose colors that remind you of sand, sun, and Caribbean waters.   You may put a hammock or a hanging chair in your sanctuary along with a happy light or a full spectrum light box. If you like rivers and trees, you might collect river stones and place them in a bowl and burn candles to represent bonfires. Your colors may be shades of brown and green with touches of grey.

What words and phrases encourage you to explore your beliefs and values?

Surround yourself with words that open your mind to new ideas and possibilities.  If you love to read, place books in your sanctuary that encourage thoughtfulness. I am surrounded by books that I can read a paragraph or chapter that will set my mind down new roads of thought.  Poets such as Rumi and Mary Oliver. Authors such as Tara Brach, Roland Merullo, and Robert Wright. Be intentional about the words and thoughts that may penetrate or influence your thinking and allow the wisdom of others to invite you to explore new ways of being.

What sounds resonate with you and make your body hum?  

I love to meditate with the free app called Insight Timer.  This app has a feature making it possible to choose a chime and set it to repeat at designated intervals.  I can create a 20-minute meditation with three repeating chimes, each chime, for me, a reminder that I’m meditating.  If my mind has been captured by a story, the chime encourages me to return to my breath, and if I’m deeply in the meditation, the chime invites me to sink deeper.  Wind chimes have the same effect (if they are the correct tone). When the wind kicks up and activates the gong in the trees at The Butterfly House, I immediately sense my body moving toward the sound.  It’s an immediate call to quiet; my body softens and my mind calms. For you, it may be the sounds of the waves and the seagulls or the wind in the trees and bird song. My suggestion is that you choose sounds, or choose music that doesn’t have words or lyrics, and notice how your body and mind responds.  Continue to move toward sounds and music that connect you to the energy of the world around you.

What smells bring you comfort and joy?

This can be a tricky one.  Do you know that fragrances, all fragrances, including pure essential oils, are hormone disruptors?  70% of synthetic fragrances contain a chemical called phthalates which disrupt the body’s normal hormone function and have been linked to things like birth defects, breast cancer, and obesity.  Any label that says “fragrance” is likely to contain phthalates. If you’re reading this and think, “hogwash,” consider this. Most people will agree that lavender helps you relax. Why do you think lavender has that effect on the body? My research indicates that lavender interacts with the neurotransmitter in our brain called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which regulates anxiety.  It has also been proven to be an endocrine disruptor having a mild effect on the body’s levels of estrogen and testosterone. My advice to you is to choose wisely, do your homework, avoid scented candles, and less is more. Be intentional about the fragrances with which you surround yourself.

There is no “one size fits all” when creating your sanctuary.  Consider gently activating all your senses, stimulating your thoughts, and nourishing healthy emotions. So, Let’s recap:

  1. Know yourself.  Create your space in a location where you will use it (a corner of your family room, an empty bedroom away from the rest of the world, or a treehouse in the backyard).
  2. What elements help you feel safe (a locked door, your back against the wall, a weighted blanket)?
  3. What colors and textures calm your body and mind?
  4. What words and phrases motivate you to grow and evolve?
  5. What sounds activate your parasympathetic nervous system (binaural beats, Marconi Union, Enya)?
  6. What smells calm you and bring you joy?

If you’re interested in creating your sacred space and would like additional guidance and coaching, we are offering, in our sacred space (The Butterfly House), the workshop, “Creating Your Sacred Space” on March 18th.  Click here for more information.

Sending you love and a deep breath!!!

Mindfully,

Annamarie

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.

What’s Your Definition of Living Vibrantly?

What’s Your Definition of Living Vibrantly?

When I was asked to write about living vibrantly, I had to stop and think. Do I live a vibrant life? Do I know how to live vibrantly? What is living vibrantly? Sure, I put on a great smile for most people and I seem to always be having fun, but do I live in the moment? Do I live a healthy and balanced life? Do I take time to focus on me?

Over the last few months, I have been working on those very things. I have been trying to create an environment that is working towards a happy and healthy lifestyle. I have been pushing myself to exercise more, I have made changes in my daily work life, and I have started/stopped/started eating healthier. But is this enough?

Living vibrantly comes through living in the now

How many people can truly say they live in the now? Throughout your day, do you find yourself daydreaming, imagining a better future, or maybe you’re planning that trip to the beach. To live in the now means to be conscious, aware and in the present with all of your senses. It means not dwelling on the past, nor being anxious or worrying about the future.

So many of us struggle with that. I know I relive that embarrassing moment over and over again. I dwell on something I should have done or how I could have done it better. I worry if I will ever “get it right”. And even worse, I focus so much attention on other people’s happiness, that I forget to worry about my own.

Since I was asked to write this blog, I have been working on those very things. I have been trying to stay in the moment, focusing on my happiness, and working towards a better me. I have found a few tips that have really worked well and want to share those with you.

1. Manage your stress and you’ll fix almost everything.
Stress is the cause of a staggering number of health problems and worsens any medical condition. Stress causes us to age faster, throws our hormones out-of-whack, and makes us feel anxious, fearful and irritable. Learn to recognize the signs of stress in your own body and mind, and counteract them actively.

2. Sleep is ground zero.
If you don’t get enough sleep, everything else will suffer. Sleep deprivation puts you in a pre-diabetic state, messes with your metabolism, makes you dramatically more likely to be overweight, increases your appetite, decreases your productivity, hampers your immune system, and makes you tired, moody, anxious and likely to be depressed.

3. Be childlike.
Who said you had to grow up and be so serious? Cultivate the very best of the child within you. Practice childlike awe for majestic things, childlike silliness, childlike faith, childlike hope, childlike play, and creativity. When it comes to certain things, children do them way better than we do. Recapture it – it’s still inside you.

4. Don’t wait.
Don’t put off something that you know you need to do, don’t wait until things are perfect. Figure out how you can start now, start small. Just start. You’ll be so glad you did.

5. When your body says stop, listen to it.
Learning to listen to your body is a key skill in life. Drink water when you’re thirsty. Eat good food when you’re hungry and stop when your body says it’s full. Sleep when your body wants to. Stop pushing when you feel tired. Take a vacation when every ounce of your body and mind is screaming for it. Take a break when your shoulders tense up or your neck starts aching. Take really good care of your body, and listen to it. In turn, it will take really good care of you.

What I have learned most over these last few months is that everyone has a different definition of living vibrantly. What is yours? What steps can you take to be happy and successful in your life?

How I Am Living My Most Vibrant Life

How I Am Living My Most Vibrant Life

Many people see me as lively, animated, and energetic so writing on the topic of vibrant living seems a natural fit. Those adjectives are synonyms for vibrant, sure, and yet, I think sometimes the most accurate description of me is a Type A person who needs to learn how to relax! I think living vibrantly may be viewed differently by different people but to me, it is a practice in mindfulness; noticing what gives us joy, purpose and embracing those things with enthusiasm. Taking the time to truly feel what life gives us in the moment is key. And, for someone like me, a bit of forcing myself to slow down from time to time to smell the roses and see the joy in the slower pace.

I’ve always felt that life is too short to fit in all of the things I’d like to try, taste, and see; places to visit, people to meet, experiences to savor. I long ago realized the only possible way to approach my life would be to pay close attention to each opportunity that comes along and take full advantage. It’s a necessity for me. A few ideas to help with that:

  • Eat right and exercise. Vibrant Living isn’t possible if we’re overloaded with sugar and alcohol, sitting on a couch in front of the TV. Mindful eating and moving make it possible to better enjoy life’s opportunities. And yes, sometimes that enjoyment means a great dessert, an awesome cocktail, and a Netflix binge!
  • Stay positive. When we focus on what bugs us, especially if we give it voice, it becomes who we are. If you’re annoyed about the snow, you’re not noticing the opportunity to learn to ski.
  • Keep tabs on your spending. If a big house gives you joy, by all means, buy the biggest house you can afford. But if what you want is travel, you might rethink how you divide your disposable income. I don’t have the biggest house or best car by any stretch, but I have awesome photographs from my travels and interesting stories to tell about being in plays in New York or raising my children in France. It’s all about making the spending choices that are right for you.
  • Appreciate what you have. If you don’t count your blessings, you’ll be unhappy with your lot in life. It’s impossible to live a vibrant, meaningful life when focused on what you don’t have.
  • Keep a record of your experiences. Something as simple as taking a minute each evening to think back on your day; acknowledging what you enjoyed and, this is very important, what you did well can make a huge difference in your attitude toward life.

Recently, Yale University began offering a class on happiness called “Psychology and the Good Life”, a course teaching how to be happier; how to live a better life. Enrollment exploded with 1200 students signing up. They didn’t have a classroom large enough so the course was simulcast around campus. Their tips include spending less time on social media and more time on real experiences, expressing gratitude, performing random acts of kindness, etc. It sounds obvious yet it’s not how many of us live. While I’m not sure that happiness necessarily equates to vibrant living, the similarities outweigh the differences and we benefit.

Learning to retrain where I focus my energies is one of my more recent life lessons. I’m not from Richland County and my main focus upon moving here was my kids. The people I met were largely other parents. It was a lot of fun working with these parents on school-related projects; organizing a school party, sewing costumes for drama club and chaperoning kids on marching band trips. However, our interactions stopped there and I never gave it much thought. Now my kids are grown and I see I’ve neglected to form my own personal relationships over the years. Shifting my prior focus toward my own needs by better-recognizing opportunities to make friends through shared experiences and connecting in meaningful ways is helping me live my new, best, most vibrant life.