Highlight your life

I like using highlighters.

You know, those fluoro pens you use to make certain passages or sentences stand out in books. Or that function on your Word document that does the same job in the digital space. When I highlight something, it’s because it stands out for me and I want to remember it and to find it again easily when I return to that piece of information.

The same can be said for looking at life. There are certain things that stand out for me – most of them good memories, but some of them unpleasant.

Highlight the successes

It has been said that we learn the most from our failures, from the difficult things of life and that our successes teach us very little. There is truth in that and I encourage people to find their unique superpowers in the difficult things of life – the ground is so fertile there!

However, it is easy to gloss over our successes when we feel we’ve not reached the goals we set for ourselves. And it is here, when we are perhaps being hard on ourselves, that it is important to look back at what we have achieved, and see what our successes can teach us.

My life’s highlight reel

boys

I am mother to three amazing men, two of whom are married, and I now have six grandchildren. I’ve learnt that mothering never stops – I sometimes wish I could make things better with a Band-Aid and a kiss as I did when they were little. But it is our relationships as adults that has challenged and delighted me the most.

 

bungee

 

A bungee jump off Auckland Bridge showed me that I’m a risk-taker.

This jump was prophetic – within the space of 12 months I had ‘jumped’ into a completely new phase of my life.

 

I volunteered to be part of The Salvation Army’s work with asylum seekers on Nauru and then returned in a full-time capacity as the religious liaison officer.

nauru

 

 

This experience, although short (about eight months) changed my life. My capacity as a human being expanded enormously and I discovered some of the hidden things about myself – which have since become the basis of my speaking and coaching business.

 

graduation

I always wanted to get a degree but did not follow that path straight out of school.

But, that dream was not forsaken, and I completed an honours degree in theology, focusing my 20,000-word paper on evaluating Australia’s response to asylum seekers and refugee in light of the ethics of the book of Isaiah – an edited version of which has since been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

At times I felt as if I’d bitten off more than I could chew, but as one of my sons said, “Mum, if it was easy, everyone would do it!”

 

I stepped outside my comfort zone and invested a significant amount of money in business coaching.  The result? Speaking in Los Angeles to an international audience and meeting Al Pacino, interviewing Fredrick Eklund and being coached by Hugh Hilton!

I am now doing what I dreamed of – speaking professionally and running my own events! And earlier this year, my first book, “Powered by your Past” was released and my next book, “I Have Seen The Moon” – a memoir of my experiences working with refugees on Nauru – is due for release in December.

But aren’t you just bragging?

Yep. I’m bragging…but in a healthy way.

Bragging is generally seen as a negative thing to do because we suspect that the braggart is making more of their achievements than is realistic or true. And because of this perception, we so often don’t celebrate any of our successes.

But we should celebrate what we have done with our lives. We only get the one life and if we get to the end and can’t look back with some joy and satisfaction then what has been the point?

Your highlight real

No, that’s not typo.

I deliberately wrote ‘highlight real’ because I want you to celebrate what is real in your life, what you have really achieved, what the real successes have been. Take a look back over the last five years and note the highlights and write them down. Now, look back over the previous ten years…look for the successes of all shapes and sizes.

Don’t discard things that you think are not world changing – if they changed your world, or someone else’s world, in some way then they are world-changing!

So…what’s in your highlight real? If you’d like a space to share…add some of your highlights in the comments below.

Let’s celebrate together.

 

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Own the past – as a gift to yourself

For many years, although I had acknowledged the impact of various life experiences and the part they had played in shaping me to be the person I am today, there were some events and circumstances that I wished had never happened and of which I felt ashamed. These situations were not necessarily ones of my own making and I did not need to feel shame, but I still did.

A real breakthrough came when I read these words by Brené Brown – “Owning our story, and loving ourselves through the process, is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Own my story! That was the missing key! I knew what my past had entailed, I had acknowledged it, even accepted it, but I had never owned it as my own. Somehow, I had always wanted to reject some things from my past, just wish they could disappear. And now, I knew I had to own them, take them into the fabric of who I was. Own them as my own, as part and parcel of my story!

And the moment I did this, all shame and guilt disappeared.

own the past

Owning the past is a gift to yourself

Everyone likes getting gifts and many of us like giving gifts almost as much as, if not more than, receiving them. There is joy and satisfaction in being on both sides of the gift fence. However, fewer of us take the time to give gifts to ourselves, often thinking that it’s a waste of money or that we’re OK, we don’t need anything special. I imagine that very few people would see some of the events of their lives as gifts – often they are seen as hindrances and baggage.

However, my experience of owning my past has enabled me to see that this process is a gift I give to myself – not only a gift of freedom from guilt and shame but also a gift of potential for the present and the future.

Own the past and unwrap the gift

When we receive a beautifully wrapped gift we don’t say, “thank you very much” and then put it on a shelf to admire the wrapping – we open it to find out just what the gift is. Children are especially adept at ignoring the wrapping, tearing it off in their eagerness to find out what’s inside.

This is how the gift of the past can be for us.  We can either put it aside and just look at it from time to time, or we can rip that wrapping off and tear open the box and discover just what is awaiting us, what has been gifted to us.

While we are sure that a wrapped gift will contain something we have always wanted, something that we will like, we are not so sure when it comes to opening the gift pf the past. We often approach this task with trepidation, afraid that opening the gift of the past may expose us to unwanted or difficult emotion – and that is definitely on the cards.

However, like the unwrapped present left on the shelf, the gift of the past unopened is of absolutely no use to us.  We must be brave and tear that wrapping off!

Own the past, unwrap the gift and be richer

When I talk to people about being powered by their past, many nod in understanding because they have come to appreciate that rather than being a Pandora’s Box of evil things, the past is a treasure chest of wonderful attributes, lessons, and understanding that we can call on right now. It is in reflecting on the past, on the insight gained by facing different situations, on the strength developed by enduring hardships, the wisdom accumulated by processing success and defeats that we find that we have developed our own unique superpowers.

These superpowers may not be the ability to see through walls, aka Superman, or read minds, as Professor Xavier of X-Men can. However, our superpowers are as uniquely individual and as authentically powerful as those of our favourite superheroes. We may not realise that we have such power, or we may take them for granted because they have developed over time. This is where a guided Backstory program, that enables us to own the past as the gift that it is and identify our own unique superpowers, can be so helpful.

If you would like to find out more about owning the past and identifying your own superpower, leave your details below and I will be in touch. Together, we can own the past, unwrap its gift and start using our superpowers for today and into the future.

The past is a treasure trove

Pirates!

When we think of pirates the images that are conjured are of parrots, wooden legs, the skull and crossbones flag, buried treasure, tropical islands or sailing the high seas and a multitude of movies and books have been created around this theme.

Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, like so many pirates of fiction and fantasy, presents a romanticised version of pirating, of the rascal with a heart of gold, and of adventures where the good guys win. But real pirates were not like that, and neither are modern day pirates that still ply the seas and oceans of the world. They operated outside the boundaries of the law and did not let anything get in the way of the thing they desired the most – treasure!

Pirates stole treasure, pirates buried treasure, and pirates made treasure maps so they could find it again.

Nauru 3

The past is buried treasure…but you don’t need a map

I often hear people bemoan the fact they feel stuck in the past, that they seem to make the same mistakes over and over again, or that they are doomed or fated to keep repeating the past – and not in a good way. If we haven’t felt completely stuck in the past, most of us know that feeling when something from the past jumps up and bites us, usually at the most unexpected or inappropriate time.

What is happening here is that there are events, feelings and situations that we have buried in our pasts but, unlike buried treasure, we don’t need a map to find them as these issues present themselves unasked for. The temptation then, because the feelings that accompany these memories are often difficult or unpleasant, is to bury the issues again, this time in a deeper hole.

The past is a treasure trove…let’s get digging!

But burying the past doesn’t work, and we know that, but for many of us it’s the only way we know to deal with the unpleasantness of our pasts. But I believe there is a better way.

What if, instead of burying the past, we actually dug it up, dug into it, and tried to find the treasure buried there? I believe that it is in the more difficult, even the most difficult, times of our lives that we develop unique strength and power that is just waiting for us to tap into. But if we insist on merely burying the past we rob ourselves of so much treasure that is just at our fingertips.

Now I’m not talking about the work that a counsellor or psychologist may do to help with past trauma. That is the work for professionals which may be helpful to address some deep-seated issues – and which I have used myself to great effect. No, what I’m referring to is reflecting on the past, asking questions of yourself, with some guidance and feedback, so that you begin to see what lies behind attitudes and beliefs, actions and decisions.

The past is a treasure chest of backstories  

Unconscious drivers are those factors and attitudes that drive our lives and decision-making, things like our beliefs around who we are, what we are worth, or what we can achieve. These unconscious drivers can be found in areas such as money and finances, business and work, education, health, national identity, gender and diversity, relationships, faith and worldview.

Unconscious drivers are not necessarily formed only in trauma or great difficulty, but also in the more everyday things of family and culture, and encompass ideas and attitudes that were communicated to us as children. They are ideas and attitudes that we are not consciously aware of or, if we are, we don’t question where such viewpoints originate from.

But we notice them when they impact our relationships and disrupt our peace of mind.

The hidden treasure in backstories

All these stories from our pasts, all these backstories, contribute to who we are today. But if we don’t know what our backstories are, or if we don’t realise the impact they have on the present, then we continue to be held hostage by the surprises of unwanted feelings and memories that bring us pain and discomfort.

If you would like to know more about how to use the backstories of your past to really bring power to the present and the future, put your contact details below.

Then we can work together to uncover the power of your past, to unearth the unconscious factors driving your life, and develop wonderful strategies to use the treasure trove of your past as power for the future!

Embracing the present…responsibly

When we think of being present to the moment, mindfulness or meditation come to mind as activities to develop this skill…and both are great because they encourage us to slow down.

In recent blogs l have detailed a couple of practices I’ve included in my life to embrace the present – such as taking a walk and experiencing all the things that could be seen, felt and heard, and sitting by the beach and seeing what unfolds. I know others have found activities like colouring-in to be very helpful at embracing the moment and staying focussed on the present.

But there is a much deeper aspect to embracing the present, one that cuts through to the heart of who we are as people.

Embrace the present by not playing the victim

All of us have the capacity to play the victim in one or more areas of our lives.

At work or in our business, we may feel we are at the mercy of market forces or unreasonable workmates or bosses. We may feel that others have had more “lucky breaks” than we have, and feel that we are always at a disadvantage, or overlooked for promotions or advancement.

In our relationships, we may see ourselves as the ones less-valued. We may view our pasts as hindrances to developing solid friendships or the relationship we’ve always wanted. We may feel “unlucky in love” and sense we are destined to not find that person with whom we can the kind of relationship we long for.

However, embracing the present asks that we not play the victim, that we accept that we are where we are because of our decisions. This is not an easy thing to do and requires courage to face up to the mindsets we have shown and the choices we have made which have contributed to where we are right now.

This does not negate the fact that there are forces at work and people outside our control, but the one thing we can always govern is how we respond to these people and situations and whether we stay in the place we’re at…or move on.

We do have the power to respond to our circumstances in ways we choose…and responding as a victim is not helpful on any level, primarily because it allows us to sidestep any responsibility we have for the situation we are in. And a victim mentality is very unattractive quality to foster as others find such thinking difficult to connect with and we can start to see everyone else as either better than us or more fortunate.

Playing the victim card can lead to a lack of gratitude for all that we do have to be thankful for or that we can celebrate. This victim-mentality can bring us to a point where we can see no good in anything, either in ourselves, in others or in our daily life experiences. This is very sad and limiting way to live.

Embrace the present by not blaming others

A corollary to playing the victim is blaming others.

Most of us can look at one or more situations in our lives – either presently or in the past – and rightly attribute blame or culpability to another person. And others are often to blame for significantly contributing to the more negative impacts life has on us.

But, living in a state of perpetually blaming others ensures that we stay stunted in our growth as individuals and that we never take responsibility for the part we’ve played in these more difficult situations. It is not comfortable to look at our own shortcomings or to objectively assess our complicity in terms or poor decision-making or limiting mindsets. However, it is an essential place to get to because, at this point, we are able to look at ourselves with realistic eyes.

Embrace the present and take responsibility

At the heart of embracing the present is the imperative to take full responsibility for where we are, right at this moment.

Focussing activities – such as I mentioned earlier in this blogpost- are opportunities for us to disengage our brains from the blame game long enough for us to assess our situations with clear eyes and a focussed mind. This is where mediation is so helpful because, as we engage with our breathing and disengage our conscious minds, we are more able to take a step back from ourselves in a conscious space and look at life through fresh eyes.

Even the more childlike activities of colouring-in and running our hands through bushes and grasses allows us to step back from the cares of our lives, from the usual paths our brains move in, and give ourselves time to reset our thinking. And in resetting our thoughts we are more able to see our own actions and decisions in a different light and can more readily assume responsibility where we once had resisted.

Once our minds are clearer, we are more able to realise that the place we find ourselves in is a direct result of all the choices we have made up to this point in our lives.

Embracing responsibility is a sign of maturity

It takes a certain measure of maturity to be able to assess the impact our decisions have had on the difficult things we have experienced and to accept responsibility for where we are. But doing so frees us up to move forward without the baggage of the past, without the ties of unrealistic expectations of life and allows us to be open to possibilities that remain closed while ever we see ourselves as victims or others as to blame.

Embrace the present. Accept responsibility. Live freely and lightly.

 

Surprises await as you embrace the present

I had not long moved to Melbourne and I decided to explore the Surf Coast west of the city. I drove through Geelong and then on to Torquay, stopping for coffee, lunch and a bit of shopping. My final destination was Bell’s Beach – the famed big surf beach, home to world class surfing competitions.

I am not a surfer – body surfing, yes, board riding, no – but I love watching surfers interact with the waves and skilfully do something I cannot do.

I went down the long flight of wooden steps to the beach – not really a beach but more of a rocky foreshore –  and found a dry rock to sit on. The day was cold, and the sky overcast, but that did not deter the wet-suited surfers from making the most of the available waves.

I expected to enjoy myself but was not prepared for the surprise that came with this decision to spend time embracing the present.

Embracing the present is a choice

My faith or world view perspective is that of acknowledging a presence bigger than my own, which I call God. As I sat down, I was very aware of my connection both with what was going on in front of me and around me and I also wanted to touch base with the Divine. So, I said to God, “If you want to talk to me or show me something, I’m open and listening. But if you just want me to be here with you, I’m really OK with that.”

So, I found my rock and watched.

I watched the surfers paddle out and sit astride their boards or lay full length as they too watched and waited. I watched as they caught a wave, black-clad bodies lithely springing up and swaying and dancing on the board as they manoeuvred it to make full use of each wave. I watched as more surfers arrived, stretching long limbs in readiness for the waves, picking their way carefully over the rocky foreshore before sliding effortlessly onto their boards to paddle with long strokes out to their compatriots.

They had made a choice on this grey to embrace their present, be present to the pull and tug of the waves, and the vagaries of the weather. I had made a choice to sit, to watch and to wait.

A surprise and an answer

I watched too as a red cattle dog trotted back and forth at the waves’ edge, looking out at the riders. His master must be among the surfers, I surmised.

And, after a while, the dog saw me too.

Over a period of about ten minutes, with no encouragement on my part, this red cattle dog gradually came closer and closer to the rock on which I was sitting. He circled the rock a few times before coming slowly to stand beside where I was sitting, as we both looked out to sea.

I did not touch him or talk to him. I just watched and waited. Gradually, he sat down beside me, then he lay down beside me and finally he lay his head on my feet. We sat together, like that, for another 15 minutes or so. I resisted the urge to pat or stroke him – after all, he was an unfamiliar dog. But I was able to see the name written on his tag, Enzo, Prince of Darkness.

I knew I had the answer to my question of God – in the just sitting, in the being present, I had the opportunity to experience the Divine through this dog. We were one and connected for this short space of time, for this moment in time.

What other surprises await in the moment?

I didn’t know that this would be the surprise awaiting me when I made an intentional choice to embrace the moment on the cold August day at Bell’s Beach. And I think that is just the point.

Embracing the present opens us up to unthought-of surprises, unanticipated events and occurrences that stay with us forever. I know I will never forget that day at Bell’s Beach and each time I recount this story I am taken back to the day, to what I experienced and how I felt as Enzo chose to join me, chose to share his present with me.

Not every time I embrace the present am I gifted with a wonderful surprise such as this. But if I don’t choose to be in the moment, then I will never be gifted with such moments or if I am, I will not notice them, or they will pass unappreciated.

What about you? Do you have an “in the moment” surprise that you would like to share? I’d love to hear what it is so please add it in the comments below. We can encourage each other to make choices each day, to be in the moment, and to embrace the present, and see what surprises await us.

 

This is the day – embrace it!

I like walking.

This love of walking began in childhood when, on family holidays, my parents and siblings and I would trek around the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. We explored the Giant’s Staircase and walked the miles to the Ruined Castle and back. Those walks were teaching me, although I didn’t know it at the time, to be in the present moment, to embrace the present, and to observe what was happening all around me.

Embrace the present to make memories

I have some very sharp clear memories of those walks – of slipping on the scree on the side of the mountain, and of sitting atop a pinnacle barely a meter wide and looking out over the Megalong Valley towards Mount Solitary.

Then there’s the walk through Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia, with my not-yet fiancé, our hands swollen from the heat and yet needing to have fingers interlaced as we walked the last few kilometres back to the bus. Or walking to school at the top of the street –  a short walk but such a milestone for a child when you are deemed old enough to do the walk on your own and cross the busy road in front of the school.

These memories are strong because walking is a process that keeps you grounded (pun intended). Walking allows the present moment to intrude on my thoughts, as a bird skitters in the bushes or eyes me warily from the roadside, and as the dogs I may be walking decide to stop suddenly or pull ahead.

Walking is an in-the-moment activity, a chance to truly embrace the present.

Embrace the present for a now wow

Most of the time now, I walk around my neighbourhood. Not long ago, as I took a familiar route, I decided to add another dimension to my walking. I am a tactile person, I love to feel textures. This day, I allowed my fingertips to touch the foliage in the gardens as I walked. I reached out my hand and brushed through lavenders and rosemary, releasing their beautiful perfume. I reached up and tugged gently at the overhanging willows and acacias. I skimmed my palm across the top of diosma and geranium.

Each plant had a different feel. Each plant sent different messages to my brain. Some bushes were spiky, others smooth, while others almost silky. Some released perfume and others had none. Not only did I notice the feel of these various plants, I noted their colours, the varying shades of green and the shapes of the leaves, as well as the types of flowers in bloom, in bud or dying on the bush.

grasses

Embrace the present in your own skin

I only have today. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is yet to be. If today is the only time I have, if this moment is the one with which I am gifted, I am learning that I must embrace the present, to live in it and out of it. While it is great to reflect on the past to be able to learn from it (which I do), while it necessary to plan for the future and develop strategies to reach my goals, the ultimate reality is right now, in this present moment.

I have decided that I do not want to waste this moment. I have decided that I want to live fully in this moment. And to do so requires that I be fully present to what I am actually doing (and in this very moment, that means watching my fingers as I type and feeling the pressure of my fingertips against the keys of my computer).

Being present to the moment, embracing the present, is a conscious choice. it is intentional. It is a decision I get to make, we get to make, every moment of the day.

What embracing the present does is to challenge me to like being in my own skin – I cannot escape myself when I am embracing the present.

Being intentionally present allows me to be conscious of my heart beating, of the slight tinnitus from which I have always suffered, of the state of my nails, and of how my shoulders are feeling as they hunch over the keyboard. At the moment, it is silent, the dogs are sleeping and there is very little background noise, just the occasional thump of water through the pipes or the distant hum of a passing car or a plane flying overhead – and then the musical notification of another email hitting my inbox!

Find your ways to embrace the present

Each of us lives individually unique lives. No two people experience a given moment, even a shared moment, in the same way, or develop the same memories of that event. Each of us sees the world through our particular eyes. And it is so important that we value what we see, what we experience, what we feel.

Our individual experiences of life are our own. They challenge us, they shape us, sometimes they bring pain, and often they bring us joy. Some moments we want to prolong, others we wish would be over before they begin.

But all we have is the present.

How do you embrace the present in the individual circumstances of your life? In its busyness? In its moments of quiet? I would love to hear what you do to embrace the present moments of your life. Make a comment below and share your present with the rest of us.

 

Invite stillness to embrace the present

I went out for a drive on the first fine warm day after a week of rain and cold. Spring in Melbourne is so changeable and winter this year had seemed particularly long. I put the top down on the car and allowed the sun to warm my skin – one method I often use to embrace the present and feel more in touch with what is happening around me.

I turned right at the bottom of the road, rather than left as I usually did, to explore a part of the bay area that I hadn’t previously seen. After driving about 15 kilometres to Flinders I found a parking area that looked out towards Phillip Island. I knew I needed to stop and just, well, stop, but I found it hard to do so.

I’d had a busy morning – organised a new learning plan, took part in a weekly podcast, had a one-to-one discovery session with a potential client – and I’d come out on this drive to be refreshed. But I found stopping hard. I wanted to embrace the present so, even though I  was tempted to get my phone out and check emails, or play Words with Friends, or look at Facebook, I resisted reaching into my bag. I wanted to get out of the car and go for a walk, but I knew I needed to just stop, to be still. It was very hard to just be still.

But…I did. I stopped. Just sat in the car and looked out at the ocean. I tried to think, to put words to what I was seeing, to what I was feeling, but I realised that this was just another way of doing something, so I stopped. I just stopped, I was still, and embraced the present moment.

Be still, and see what is happening…in the present.

And, interestingly, it was not long – only minutes – before I started noticing things that I hadn’t previously seen. The couple in the car next to me were having a conversation and I could catch snippets of words through the open windows. I wanted them to be quiet and as I looked across to their car I noticed a blue wren hopping on the ground between our two cars. A blue wren. Brilliant blue, long tail flashing in the sun. I was delighted!

I watched as the wren skittered to the bushes that lined the car park and I tried to get a photo, but he was too fast. So, I just sat, and watched. The wren disappeared into the bushes and a seagull wheeled in and perched on the fence – no doubt hoping that someone in the cars ranged along the fence would have some hot chips or a piece of bread to share.

Then it happened. The blue wren flew out of the bushes and hopped along the road right next to my car. He bobbed his head, hunting the ants that scurried across the pebbled tarmac. His head and back flashed blue in the sun. What a gift – in the present – which i would have missed if I had not invited stillness into my life.

For the next 15 or 20 minutes I just looked. And I noticed the white caps on the waves far out on the bay. I watched the flock of birds wheeling and dipping against the pale blue spring sky. I saw the woman who stopped only long enough to take three snapshots of the view and the minibus of tourists who were given a lesson about the history of the bay.

Embrace the present in a new way.

And then, I felt it was okay to move on to the next beach. Here I walked the beach, eyes closed, listening and feeling without sight to guide me, allowing this present to embrace me. Over the gentle shush of the waves I heard the plip of tiny foam bubbles breaking as each small wave spilled onto the shore. I felt the wind seem to blow right through me, as if through my soul, washing away what I no longer needed. I felt the sand slope beneath my feet, and was aware of the different angels at which I placed my feet. I experienced how easy it was to lose my balance without sight to guide and steady me.

It’s not easy to find the time to be still in our busy days. But this afternoon made me realise that if I am to embrace the present I must actively and intentionally invite stillness into my life. It was not easy to stop, to be still. I resisted the pull of stillness. But I knew I had to find some way of inviting it into my life, because without those moments of stillness I would be unable to truly embrace the present, as my head would be well into the future, planning the next thing to do.

Embrace the present, intentionally.

What do you do, what can you do, to invite stillness into your life?

Not everyone can take a walk on the beach but I’m sure that each of us can find ways to invite even a moment of stillness into our lives so that we become more aware of what is happening right at this present moment.  I am convinced that without intentionality towards stillness – of body, of mind, of soul – that we can never truly embrace the present and enjoy what is taking place in our lives at this very time.

I’d love to hear what you do to embrace the present, to be still in the moment, to intentionally invite stillness into your life. Let me know what you do in the comments below.

 

If you’d like to know more about embracing the present, just leave your details and we can share a free 30-minute Discovery Session together and explore ways that a Backstory Program could help you live your most fulfilled life.

Watching birds to embrace the present.

There are Australian Ibises in the backyard.

They walk with long, determined strides, expansive wings tucked neatly into their bodies. Their long, black, curved beaks forage in the loose topsoil, looking for snails and worms.

I have seen them – 20 or more – sitting in palm trees, their collective weight bowing the large palm fronds so that they sway and bounce as one bird leaves, or another takes its place. Their feet, long grey toes splayed to spread their weight across the ground, seem unsuitable for palm-frond-perching.

Watching birds – an embrace-the-present activity I enjoy.

When I watch birds, my mind is no longer occupied by the cares of the day, nor by plans for the future. To really watch birds, to take notice of what they are doing, I must stay in the moment or I may miss the joy and beauty and surprises that they bring.

Birds are easily startled and, so, I must remain still to be able to take in all that is happening. Birds also change their activities quickly – one minute they’re walking across the grass, and the next they’ve taken flight. I must absorb the moment, embrace the present, before it gets lost in the next.

But I believe I can learn from birds, from watching them.

Embrace the present rather than dwell in the past

Two things that people do that can cause them pain are dwelling on the past or living for the future.

It is helpful to review the past and learn lessons from it, a process I do regularly especially when an unexpected response is triggered. I encourage my clients to do the same, because the past is a treasure trove of information and power for the future.  However, we must not make the past our home, or dwell there.

I have watched as a magpie stands beside a dead mate, which was probably been hit by a passing car.  It stands, as if in mourning, for their lost mate. But they don’t stay standing there forever. They have to move to stay alive – to not get hit by a car and to find food. They must come back to the present, embrace the present, to survive.

Embrace the present rather than merely live for the future

I have also noted birds in nesting season, gathering pieces of fabric and tufts of grass to build a nest. They are planning and building for the future, when that nest will hold eggs and hatchlings. But when the nesting season is done, the nest is abandoned as the birds and their young stay in the present –  growing, learning to fly and establish themselves as adults. The birds may return to that nest next season, or they may build a new one – depending on their nature – but they are not always preparing for new young.

If we live only for the future, we can miss the joys of life where we are today – in the present.

Embrace the present by making the most of the circumstances

Another aspect of watching birds is noticing how they make the most of wind currents.

If you’ve ever watched seagulls you know how they can hover on sea breezes, and hang suspended before dipping their wings to catch a changing current to take them out over the feeding ground in the ocean. Hawks, eagles and other raptors are expert navigators of the air streams, using them to soar and dive, and to travel long distances with minimal expense of energy. They embrace the present and truly go with the flow!

Birds know how to embrace their current circumstances, to use the air streams that present themselves to reach the goals and targets they are aiming for. Too often, we humans rage against the present, demanding that it be something more to our taste and liking. And yet, if we could learn from the birds, we would be able to embrace the present and allow what is happening right at this moment to empower us. We would find ourselves perhaps in new and unexpected places, but also more at ease and relaxed.

seagull

Embrace the present and live life to the full

I have not yet met a person who does not want to live a fulfilled and happy life. However, many of us sabotage that desire by either dwelling on the past, and allowing the experiences there to rob us of joy in the present. Or, we are so focussed on the future, with our plans and ambitions, that we miss the daily joys and surprises. Or, we judge our present circumstances and find them wanting, and allow that judgement to colour our day.

But, we have the choice – each day, each moment. Choose to embrace the present and you may be surprised by what you see.

I would love to hear how you embrace the present. Add your thoughts in the comments below.

Want to find out how embracing the present can bring you closer to that fulfilled life?  Just fill in your details for a FREE 30 minute Discovery Session (Skype, What’s App, Zoom).

 

 

Embrace the present – not just endure it!

It was day four of a six-day, 2514.9km road trip as a pillion on a Kawasaki Versus 1000 Adventure Tourer, behind my partner, Bruce, with a stop to see my mum along the way.

We’d travelled through varying weather conditions – from snow and rain to warm spring sunshine. Pink and grey galahs peeked out from their nests in a hollow tree and sulphur-crested cockatoos screeched as they flew. Brumbies (Australian wild horses) surprised us in the high country and emus stalked through the plains grasses. Magpies kamikaze-dived at the bike while crows cawed at us from their carrion dinners.

But this day, I was in no mood to notice what was going on around me. I was having trouble just staying in place on the bike.

Gusty winds blustered in from all sides and I hunched my shoulders and hunkered down behind Bruce, hoping to avoid as much of the wind as I could. But there was no escaping it. My head bobbled when gusts of wind caught under my chin and my shoulders ached from bracing myself against a sudden head wind. The weather forecast was for wind wherever we went that day so all I was trying to do was endure the ride, get through the day, and hope that tomorrow would be more settled.

And then it hit me. Not a sudden shift in wind direction but a sudden shift in mindset.

I recalled the three pillars of my speaking and coaching business – own the past, embrace the present, create the future. In this challenging situation I had forgotten the second principal – not endure the present but embrace it! In that moment, I decided to embrace the present I was experiencing, as difficult as that was.

So, I sat up straight, squared my shoulders and looked straight ahead. And as I did so, I reflected on how those three actions can apply to other situations than bike riding in strong wind.

Sit up straight – any difficult or challenging event or life circumstance can be much better dealt with if I have a good posture. On the back of a bike in strong wind, this means having a strong physical posture. But in other situations, that may mean having the right posture of mind or attitude. Rather than hunkering down and hoping that things will blow over, changing posture or mindset can give us confidence to face the challenges, even if we can’t change the circumstances.

Square my shoulders – being hunched over is a defeatist position. The head is lowered and the shoulders are rounded. But squaring the shoulders, both literally and figuratively, communicates an intention to face the challenges head on. We can choose to be defeated long before we are actually conquered or we can choose to succeed in the face of often overwhelming odds. The choice is ours.

Look straight ahead – I have often reflected that I can face anything if I know what it is. And I know what I am facing if I am looking at it squarely. Having a bowed head, whether against the wind or against life, can seem like an attractive option – if I don’t look at it perhaps it will go away! But ignoring a situation does not remove the difficulty – it will still be there the next time we look up. However, challenges can seem smaller when we actually look at them, inspect them, and pull them apart into their component pieces.

Sit up, square off, look straight – good ideas for both life and bike riding.

Transition

Spring holds out such promise.

The grip of winter slackens. Blossoms show their faces, smiling happily at the warming sun.  New leaves edge their way out of their swollen buds. Grass begins to grow apace and lawn mowers can be heard again on weekends.

In Australia, spring begins on September 1 and, once that date hits, people look longingly at their summer clothes – at shorter sleeves and less layers. But it isn’t summer yet. There is a long way to go before that warmth is a constant reality.

spring

Spring is a transition time. Winter is gone but summer has not yet come. And winter does not readily let go. Most spring weather is unsettled at best. One day is warm, the next cold winds plunge us back to winter’s depths. Even in the space of one day, clouds and sunshine co-exist.

That is the nature of transition.

Whether it is transitioning from one job to another, one role in the workplace to another, moving into a new relationship, moving to a new house, moving interstate or overseas – transitions are exciting but difficult times as all change brings with it a certain measure of insecurity.

So, as we transition in different aspects of life, let’s take a few lessons out of Spring’s notebook.

First, be prepared. In Spring, we always carry an umbrella for those rainy days and a coat for the sudden cold bursts. So, as we transition, find ways to stay warm and dry – have some go-to favourites for those times when the changes are too much, such as favourite activities, books, movies or food. Above all, keep in touch with friends.

Second, rejoice in the warm days – when everything is going well and life is good. Embrace them, revel in them. Explore new paths, have new experiences, make new friends. This is why you decided to make that shift, move house, find a new relationship.

And lastly, remember that Winter always comes to an end. On those days when transition is hard, when the changes seem too big, when you just can’t find your feet – remember, that Winter does not last forever, Summer is coming.