December 26, 2013

Holiday Blessings

The Holidays are fun for some, sad for others, both for many of us.  I grew up without much in the way of celebrations and having my birthday at the end of December when people were out of town or out of money or getting ready for New Year’s Eve parties only made me feel more lonely.  So move ahead many years and I learned to create my own celebrations, invite my favorite people, and create traditions that were warm and happy and fun.  

And that certainly describes our Wow Holiday Potluck, always at the end of the year in the midst of the Holidays and usually held at the home of one of our founding Wowettes, a lovely and candle-filled home brimming with warmth and a cheerful host.   It was hard to plan this year, with holidays being in the middle of the week, and I wasn’t surprised at a smaller than usual group attending.  But wow, did they make up for it in silliness, great stories, and generally being happy that we were together.

The tradition that we created many years ago was to enjoy our yummy potluck and then gather our chairs in a circle to share our hopes and wishes for the New Year.  But we do it in a special way by expressing ourselves by starting with “I am”,  instead of “I will…” or “I hope to be…”. We say it in the now, making it real, as if we are already experiencing what we wish will come in the future.

Here is what the ladies shared:
“I’m thin and happy and my cousin is doing well and I’m healthy.”
“I am exercising more, taking care of myself, happy as a single woman, continuing to enjoy the company of these wonderful women.”
“I am traveling and winning the lottery.”
“I am no longer worried about my mom or daughter.  I am continuing to be content in my own life and wish it for my friends.”
“I am content and serene and know that I am enough.”
“I am happy and joyful and in love with myself unconditionally.”
“I am eating healthier, following healthier routines, de-cluttering my life, and getting organized.”
“I am the best mother, sister, girlfriend, and friend…and I am my own best friend.”
“I am very happy to be invited to this home, to be the mother of two beautiful children, happy to be what I am, and continue to enjoy my volunteer work.”
“I am continuing to life in confidence, continuing to walk through my fears and no longer let them run my life, and continuing to think of myself as a loveable and precious person.”

I was surprised, and pleasantly so, that the predominant thread was of self-acceptance, inner peace, and enjoying what we have and who we are.  I’ve spent most of my life learning to recognize my inner demons, repair damage from my early years and troubled family, and create a peaceful life for myself.   Each of us, in our own way, has our own demons that threaten our happiness, whether we recognize them or not.  Having a safe and warm and nurturing place to share these dark places in our lives and how we have grown past them and how we finally feel peace is priceless.  We are an eclectic group of women, yet coming together to love and laugh and share our hearts is a great gift we give each other.  Your openness and courage give me strength to continue on my path of healing and happiness and for that I am very grateful.    

June 1, 2013

Stress is Optional!

Another last Thursday evening of the month, another wonderful Wow meeting.  Once again, yummy food, a group of happy and cheery and chatty women, and an amazing speaker.  How blessed we are to have women friends who gather together to share, nurture, and learn something about each other and life.  Lucky us.
Our speaker was the delightful Adam Timm of  He quickly accepted my email invitation to speak to our little group and his ensuing emails were cheerful and happy and enthusiastic, so I was very much looking forward to meeting him.  From the moment he walked into my house, I felt a kinship, like he was an old friend.   I just felt good being near him, sensing his calmness and joy of life.  
He joined us for dinner and then took the floor to present his talk about stress, introducing his topic and best-selling book, “Stress is Optional! How to Kick the Habit.”  No stranger to stress, I have spent many years seeking ways to cope with work of running a neurosurgeon’s office, being a single mom, living alone, etc. etc. etc.  I realize that each of our lists of stressors would be different, but this is one tough world and we each have our share of things that could put us over the edge.  Adam teaches that it’s our reaction to life’s situations and our perception of them as stressful that causes us to have a powerful physical and physiological reaction.  Our bodies react to our perceived stressors as a threat, causing a fight-or-flight reaction during which it releases powerful chemicals that creates havoc in our bodies and often potentially dangerous health problems. 
But, per Adam, the answer is so simple.  From his own experience as a 9-1-1 operator in his 20s, he had his share of stress.  Three years ago, he felt as if he was living in a prison, wishing he was somewhere else, doing something else.  He was in a toxic relationship, felt daily indigestion and tension headaches, and was angry and frustrated.  He happened upon a forty day meditation class and his life turned around and he became joyful and easygoing.  Realizing the importance of what he had learned, he started a similar class for 9-1-1 operators and his new second career was off and running, allowing him to change the world, one stressed person at a time.
Adam has found four very simple secrets of recovery, a way to go from stress and daily agitation to a life of calmness and joy.  And what are these secrets? 
1)      Breathe.  Breathe properly and deeply from the lower belly.  Alone, this proper breathing can lower anxiety and our perception of stress, increase our joy, and interrupt our subconscious train of thought to allow us to react differently to our daily circumstances. 
2) Take time to balance work and play.  We work hard, we should play hard.  We should take the time to plan fun activities, say yes to offers from friends, seek ways to be a part of the beauty that surrounds us that we often can’t see from our stressed-out view. 
3) Get to the root of our stressors, find out from where the stress arises, learn what are our triggers.  Just the awareness of why we react the way we do, like when we react from an old subconscious fear caused by a traumatic incident even from childhood, can allow us to change our reaction now. 
4) Commitment.  Ah, making a commitment to these simple steps.  Taking ten or fifteen minutes out of our 24-hour day to hold still, close our eyes, breathe deeply from our belly, and be quiet can turn our life around.
Such simple things, it’s almost hard to imagine changing our life so easily.  These are things I already knew and techniques I’ve practiced before.  But being around Adam, who is so obviously the embodiment of what he teaches, feeling his calmness and peacefulness and joy, made it all real to me.  Adam gave us a gift of knowledge, of greater awareness, and of seeing it fulfilled in front of our very eyes.  He offers such bliss to anyone who contacts him with free consultations, his book, and weekly emails with hints that promote this way of life.  I’m not sure if Adam realizes how much he has made the world a better place by sharing his story and his wisdom with us, but for me, I have been blessed to have been in his presence, feeling his joy and moved to make a commitment to make my life more like his.