The Case of the Self-Doubting Diva

At a training I gave years ago, our ‘self-doubting diva’ had passionately shared her dream of starting a wellness retreat center for women.  But she was very stuck then.  She showed up to various of my webinars and mini-masterclass recordings over the years.  Then suddenly, one day, during the launch of my flagship Core Self Discovery program, I received her registration confirmation email.

I was thrilled to have her join me.  I later found out what had precipitated her unexpected leap into deep transformational waters.  She had lost her job of many years.  More to the point, she had been fired.  The effects on her were so devastating that she later shared with me that she had contemplated ending her life.

Every day she bounced between her anger, feelings of worthlessness, and paralyzing fear for her future.  When she saw my invitation in her email, she took a real leap.

What she couldn’t see then was that she had finally “un-stuck” herself.  That her greater dreams and goals were at last moving forward.  

But her head was still caught in the midst of this terrifying day-to-day of unknowns–the perfect feeding ground for all of her fears.

When we started the Core Self Discovery work together, she wanted to break free of her fears and her stories and feel good again.  The problem was that she was still holding onto so much anger and the need to control everything.  Her entire life paradigm needed to change.  She had been giving excuses for so long–excuses to not take the real risks in her life and go after her dreams–that she didn’t remember how to be her true self and call out her excuses for the B.S. that they were.  

That’s why she had been so disempowered, self-doubting and asleep for so many years.

What she discovered in our group was the safest space she’d ever experienced.  And in that space, everyone–including herself–was able to begin challenging the excuses, the fears, the painful life experiences and the [untrue] stories that they had each been carrying around.  All the reasons each of us get stuck at times.

Back to our Heroine-in-training…  She realized pretty quickly that all her answers [read: excuses] that seemed legit and reasonable had zero value in our laser-coaching.  They couldn’t withstand the truths that were already inside of her–and she came to know this clearly and quickly.

That’s when it started to get really good.  She began listening to her heart intelligence and her gut wisdom.  She took some pretty big leaps and risks in the coming months–toward what she most wanted.  And wouldn’t you know it?  Things began changing for her quickly.  

She’d always been “the person you can count on to get the job done.”  So she learned the differences between her being accountable to others but not to herself, and her being radically responsible to herself first and then having healthy boundaries in her accountability with others.

She learned to see all the emotional blackmail that was happening in her marriage and family relationships–and she stopped it.  She took back her own truth, and consequently, her real power.

She began a new career that was her passion at the same time that she landed a job that paid her almost twice what she’d been making before–  Remember, she was the change that needed to happen.

She learned through the Core Self work how to show up beautifully to herself for the life she knew she wanted.  She learned to listen and to trust her own intuition.  And she learned to take hold of the responsibility and the power of validating herself–instead of relying on others to prove her worth.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is not.

It is definitely some hard work.  But as you can see, it paid off immeasurably!  

This is exactly the whole intention of doing the Core Self work.  I call it developing our own Sovereignty in our lives.  We know sovereignty in someone when we see it because of their confidence, their warmth and generosity, their being quite comfortable in their own skin, unconcerned and unafraid of what others will think of them.  

It’s the magic combo for each of us bringing our unique gifts and presence into the world.

A word of caution:  This work is not casual.  It doesn’t let you off the hook of yourself.  It is totally focused on the greatest expression of who you are right now in your life.  That doesn’t need to look like any huge accomplishment or position of authority.  It is exactly you, knowing yourself and accepting yourself–and pursuing what your inner wisdom and passion are directing you to do.

If you’d like to rediscover your Core Self, these are a few ways I can support you: 

  1. Take the Self-Acceptance Assessment
  2. Join my free online community at The Center for Transformational Influence 
  3. Schedule a free 30 minute Discovery-Strategy session to discuss your biggest challenge and my recommendations for moving through it. 

Even Oprah would say Purpose isn’t an Oprah-thing

“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.” ― Bill Watterson

Purpose.  It’s talked about like the Holy Grail.  You’ve got to have it to know yourself.  To be “arrived.”  Without your purpose you’re lost and floundering.  etc. etc.

I disagree.

When people talk about answering the question of why they’re here or what their purpose is, it always sounds like we expect it to be one thing.

We approach it like, “I’m here to have dinner.  Once I’ve decided on, prepared and eaten that meal, it will be done and that’s all there is.  All there needs to be.  I just want it to be the RIGHT meal!” 😉  

So we put off trying new foods.  We read the cookbooks of different countries and cuisines but never experiment with them.  We wait to grocery shop for so many new and interesting ingredients because we’re trying to determine that single right meal so we know exactly what to shop for. In the meantime, we keep eating the same boring things every day or even fasting, waiting to be sure and clear on that One. Right. Meal.

Now, I admit that having that one clear thing that feels like it fully expresses your soul, your heart and your mind all at once is fantastic AF.  And it’s on the days where we feel lost or directionless that we wish just a little (or a lot) that we were Oprah too, able to leap that tall skyscraper of purpose in a single beautiful bound.

But when I facilitate my Core Self Discovery groups, I teach that purpose is already living alive and well inside us.  Everyone of us.  And it has been since the beginning, wherever you want that beginning to be for you.

I tell them that I believe their purpose has been living its way out from inside of them from the start.  Can they catch the clues?  Find hints that… that what?  …That show them more clearly who they are?

What if purpose doesn’t live in words we can speak with the confidence of god himself?  What if purpose isn’t an arrival point on some elusive treasure map of success or fulfillment?

What if why I’m here is to daily practice living fully and truthfully from my own heart?  

What if purpose lives in how present I am with myself?  With my life right this moment?  

What if?…

A friend said to me today, “You seem to really know why you’re here.  I’m so glad you figured that out!” with the implication that he was still searching and uncertain.  I had to laugh.  No matter how clear I get about *why I choose to be here*, I’m always still asking.  

There’s magic in the asking.

If we’re really honest, I think we already knew this.

This I do know:  I want to savor as many “simple or gourmet, right–and wrong–meals” as I’m able to adventurously discover during this crazy go on the planet.  And to share in them with a lot of people.

There’s a purpose in there somewhere.

A Dream Without Feet: bringing it to life

So how do we dream?  What does “dreaming our own dreams” ask of us?

“It’s simple,” I said.  “You decide to love your aliveness more than your feeling of safety – Dreams enter in at this tiny powerful opening.  And then you have the task to follow one and hold onto it–no matter what.”

But there is a bit more of a method, I would say–more to *becoming dream-fertile,* and more to answering the call of a dream once it enters inside of us.

First.  We must have a heart wide open and expressing this unique desire that has entered into us–into our hearts.  This is the beginning of every dream ever conceived.

Some dreams are stronger than others.  The ones that are the most insistent and compelling?– I will tell you, these are the ones you MUST do because whatever soul we may have is speaking clearly to us in a dream so forceful.

Then.  We must be willing to take the risks.  The reason it’s a dream is because it is beyond our current reality.  And so, in order to bring it into living breathing reality, we must step off the edge of what keeps us comfortable.   We ‘engage’ our dream when we show we are willing to risk for it.

And finally.  We must hold the dream clear and true inside of us even when everything we see and experience would say our dream is impossible, too far away to ever happen.  This is almost always the most difficult part.  The place where we lose the thread of our dream amongst the practical realities of our every-day.  

Or it is where we hold on so tightly that it breaks our heart that the dream is not there.  Then we fight with ourselves to let go of our dream because it hurts so much.

But the gift of our dreams does not promise a timeline or a clear directed path to their fulfillment.  And so we lose ourselves, and we let go of our dreams, and we get lost and silently fight our own inconsequence creeping in.

Or we fight for our dreams against entropy and against the reality we see.

A dream lives above the ground.  Within us, it floats and dances and teases us with its tantalizing possibilities.  It gifts us temporary wings to move ourselves above the treetops of our everyday neighborhoods and routines.  We can see for miles with a single dream.  We can see the curve of the earth and the stars in the next galaxy and even, what the future might hold for us… 

But all dreams are waiting for legs, and for feet.  This is where you and I must not be complacent.  We can’t afford to ignore the dreams that come to us.  They hold our living life inside of a single inspiration.  The legs and feet of the dream are us.  We are the tether of every great cosmic idea to earth.  The ‘means’ of its possibility made real.

And if your dream does not come from your heart, but rather from your head or from the accomplishments of others you see around you?  Then it is not really a dream, but rather more of a goal.  So treat your goals as goals, and treat your dreams as the proper delicate miracles that have found you–and only you–in all the world.

I believe in my dreams.  I believe in your dreams too.  It is the very same as believing in you.

Do your dreams still know where you live? Can they find you?

Sitting at the Padaria Reis Magos taking my tiny coffee in the brilliant August sun… staring out at that ocean the color of dark lapis and sparkling aquamarine— shot through with gold light and white caps. 

I fly out in four hours. 

What a glorious summer it’s been… balconies open to the breezes through the days and nights, waves on the shore below weaving through my playlists as I sat writing my second book. 

I should mention, cold showers were my AC on the hot days, and just shorts and tank tops even at late night dinners down the coast. 

I unexpectedly formed more family here on the island this time. Already my Michael and Elle–my German Psychotherapists, and a few others… but now I have a community of Madeirans, Russians & Ukrainians, South Africans, Germans and even an American … 

And… 🥁🥁🥁 (drumroll, please)  I have a Portuguese ID number and bank account! No small feat for a summer on the island. Even Petra, the bank manager working with me, was astonished, telling me emphatically, “You must be a very good person!  Everything works like magic for you!”

So I sit here with that perfect line of the horizon dividing the sky and an infinite sea of possibilities in front of me. And I think how many years I ached to live in my own home, abroad. It’s very close to coming true, this dream of dreams. 

I am surrounded by people in this little community who picked up their lives from far points on the globe to live in a new world. To find and to make a life and community in a paradise for themselves. 

So many moments in these past years of extreme discomfort. Of feeling often stuck, landlocked, life-locked. Adapting to the unexpected full-stops. Having to take the short steps for survival as an entrepreneur through a pandemic. The short steps to build stronger health. 

I will tell you I struggle so damn hard with short steps. 

But how can I tell you, too, arriving this summer and all the conversations with strangers and new friends giving me exactly the perfect information I needed at the perfect moments to move my dream forward…   All I did was answer the extreme ache inside, this past March, to book my summer here no matter the sacrifices. 

It’s hard to let go to the flow of life and dreams when security hangs in the balance. But oh how unimaginable the adventures and the miracle-leaps that occur. 

It’s been two years of arrested movement… only to have the timer of life suddenly ring for the event you didn’t know was always coming. Or maybe I did. Maybe we do. 

It’s just difficult to trust our hearts when our eyes are seeing the same routine happening each day. Still. There are the moments I unequivocally said YES. And I know for sure, we must pay close attention for those moments. And we must take the deep collective breath before destiny or providence, and declare our YES. 

I have said since I was a teenager, I would rather not live than to be inconsequential in my life. When we lose our dreams, we begin our slide toward death and inconsequence. 

Dreams are more precious than we ever realize. The dreams we have? They find *us*—not the other way ‘round. This is why I ask you whether your dreams can find your single unique address on the map of human life?  Our dreams arrive, then exist and live inside of us. They go quiet and disappear if we ignore them. 

Be honest enough to dream, and to listen to the dreams that enter in… Our dreaming is a gift no matter who we are.

My Pandemic Truths: part 1

I had an interesting conversation today with one of my clients.  I was talking with her about navigating the challenge between having deep intimate relationships and living an independent life.

I will say straight off that I am not implying this is the way for everyone.  I don’t think there is one way of anything for people, this intimacy versus independence.  Yet, it is a very real and lived experience for many, and particularly women.

Well, my brain points out, we are encultured to being social from before we’re born.  Our society rewards females for emotions, connection, supporting and serving, and communication from our earliest experiences.  So much so that it’s taken much research to try and parse out nature versus nurture in these seeming gendered behaviors.  And then there’s the recent history of female emancipation to consider…

So as I see it, in the question of intimacy versus independent genius expressed, the latent consequence of woman’s invisible tutelage is her affinity for the relationship… often (dare I say usually) at the cost of her creative work and her independence in many a life span.  Can I say that? 

It’s just that I continue to encounter this challenge in women all around me.  How do they live up to their relationships, while being on the quest of self to fulfill the passion and genius in their solitary soul?

It’s a worthy question.

But the thing that interests me most is the continual brave new world of creativity and independence that pushes inside many of us (of all genders).  It seems anathema to our desire to also have deep intimacy and connection in our relationships.

“What is this?” I’ve wondered since I was a teenager.  (Yes.  I’ve been looking at this problem for a long damn time.)

And, “Why is this?  Why does it seem that both are not possible?”

The truth of experience is that we straddle an intimacy/independence teeter totter.  If we go too far to one end of it, the other loses the gravity of our being and hangs suspended and useless in the air.

Have you noticed this?  Have you felt that you had to choose between those you love and having your own wild independence?  Or your true and continuing freedom to create what is in you to create?

Clearly I have, or I wouldn’t be writing this, would I?

So here are some of my thoughts about this vitally important subject.  And why I’m titling it My Pandemic Truths:

You see, while the pandemic utterly curtailed my world-traveling, adventure-living exploits, it certainly did not curtail my creative genius.  Sure there were strictures that I had to work with or around.  But that is always the case in creative life.

Instead, the pandemic calmed the frenetic global psyche to such a degree that I could be and think everyday without the maddening cultural push for more, more, more.  I could meander without fear of bumping into hundreds of others in my psycho-emotional life.  My independence had empty streets and parks, skies silent except for birds.  Wild animals, like our own untamed selves, showing up in our neighborhoods because everything had suddenly become silent.

And in this unlooked-for freedom, the tsunami of my deepest genius broke land and began flooding every part of my world.  It was brilliant.  It was relief.  It was a gift.

And then there was the global panic of fearing the unseen–this invisible virus that was claiming lives or at least health.  The vast unknowns of its origins, transmission, mystery symptoms and possible death.

Somehow, I was not afraid.  I was cautious, respectful, taking common-sense measures to protect myself and others.  Yet I didn’t fear it.  In fact, I likely had covid while studying French in the south of France in January and February of 2020 with a classroom of 16 from 9 different countries.  I got very sick twice while there, respiratory illness.

But this fear of the unseen, or you could say the unknown, is how I have lived every day for the past ten-plus years.  I have continually challenged myself (or been thrown unceremoniously) into the unknown and inscrutable and have apparently developed quite the resilience.  This became super evident to me as everything shut down in a day.  And over the weeks and months that ensued.

Strangely, the social solitary life I have lived for a decade made navigating this pandemic quite easy for me.  Being inside my home except for walks and groceries for months on end, connecting with people over zoom, was very like my life abroad.  I am always in countries where English is not the native language, and in some where it is hardly spoken at all.  How does a person live in that kind of solitude?

Quite beautifully, I found.  The richness of the world, of people, of experiences speaks inside of me like days-long conversations with a soulmate.  Could I have joy in the sunlight playing over little back alleyways I took like a native in Laksman Jhula, with no one else there to share in it?  Could I alone hold the joy of a sudden rainbow under a strange sky in Canico de Baixo, diving itself on the far horizon into an ocean so deep blue it flirted with black?

What of the anxieties of finding my way alone in new countries, cities, in the dark of night where I knew no one?  Or the occasional terrors of getting totally lost, missing a flight in a strange part of the world, or having all my plans fall apart upon arrival?

A well-practiced solitude is a rainy-day card to keep tucked in your back pocket.

And speaking of back pockets…  I pull out Ray Bradbury’s book Zen and the Art of Writing, (one of the three books I always travel with,) and I open the well worn pages to his chapter on The Care and Feeding of a Muse.  You have to seduce your muse, he tells us.  You can’t call their name and have them come running.  (laughing…)  And if you do call, they will generally run in the other direction.  So how do you get your muse’s attention?  Get it to cooperate?

I’ve discovered my muse is always on ride-along when I am flying by the seat of my pants.  She is keenly capturing every nuance of me, my perceptions, my emotions as I find myself once more out of my depth or beyond my known.  

Isn’t yours?

So she loves it immensely when all that’s planned goes to smash, or I meet the most miraculous people somewhere foreign, or the world itself shuts down for a pandemic.  Yes.  Strangely, she does.

Which is why this creativity and independence side was in brilliant ecstasies.  I have gone long periods without someone in the same space as me, sharing in my days.  I have been alone far enough out and long enough back to thrive like Miracle-Grow and flowers in a solitude of spring rain.

And what of the deep intimate relationships?

As Martha Beck writes through her protagonist in Diana, Herself, “All is all, always.”  The first and deepest intimate relationship is with myself.  That is a muse, indeed.  Strangely and unexpectedly cultivated, I am with myself everywhere I go.  My own experience of my life is so exquisite and closely regarded (by me) that there is seldom the risk of falling asleep into a routine or a set of expectations.

All other relationships of my life derive their depth and their meaning from the depth and meaning I have with myself.  And so, I feel deeply connected every day to those whose hearts I have shared, however long or brief, close or distant.

“On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur, l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”  This means, of course, that missing is a state of the mind, and that in the heart we are always together as though no time has passed, no distance separates us.

Seeing with the heart opens us to joy.  And joy as we’ve learned, lives in the cracks of life’s many fractures.  Were we to pull back to a bird-eye-view, these crevices might appear as a kaleidoscope to us, joy emerging in brilliant colorful bursts at each shift of the lens.

I think learning to be with myself made these joys more evident, though they were always there.  

We can get so caught-up in the other person, in the together experience–which is its own compelling wonder–that we lose sensitivity to the tiny ubiquitous joys.  The pandemic made us all look more closely, if we cared to sit still in our own minds long enough.  And there the joys were.

The creative brilliance that issued from our global community is testimony to this relationship between the deep intimate connections we form and our creativity and independence.

Though you might not seek it as I have, still, your creative genius comes alive when you have enough time and quiet with your own thoughts.  So much is possible.  So much becomes probable.

Balancing that act became infinitely easier for me through the shutdown.  Was it because I was off the hook for all the showing up I do?  If I’m honest, there’s a yes in there.  But more than that, it made my solitude a given, for a time, a precise mathematical value that all else had to be reconciled to, rather than the intentional consequence of my leaving the country and the timezone.

Excuse, you say?  You might be right.  Which is my point in the first place.  Why would I need a pandemic to find my balance on that teeter totter between intimate connection and fierce independent creativity?

Perhaps it’s the world that’s wrong, all of us running pell-mell down the steep hills of generations compelled toward some elusive progress.  Meanwhile the revolutionaries are sitting atop that hill, just painting what they see.  Or writing about it.  Or ignoring it altogether.

My greatest take-away from you is that you’re damn smart.  And it would be a shame for both of us to casually trade off our genius and the independence enough to see it through, for a relationship of lulling comfort.  Wouldn’t it?

But a relationship of passion?  …That’s another story.

Only Rembrandt can paint Rembrandt…

I stopped. I knew what I was looking at. But you wouldn’t understand how my eyes locked and held. 35 inches pupil to pupil. It seemed a respectable distance. Yet I stood for far too long to stay a spectator. 

I think we both knew that.

23 inches now. Barely brushing the rope barrier. Blocking others. It was a small room anyway. They could look from the side.

I have absolutely no idea how long I stood, longer than I’ve ever stood in front of a painting, immobile, alive, fiercely selfish. Strange.

As another person stepped up and looked at him, perhaps 45 seconds, then stepped away, I am not joking, it seemed the master of light smiled. A self deprecating smirk to himself that I witnessed. As if to say, “See?”

Obscurity. The light on his cheek and nose. A setting sun. Eyes in half shadow. What was it?–an entire world in them? But the casual observer would not peer beyond the easily illuminated horizon. A horizon he carefully guided in oils, burnt umber and lead white. 

There is pain. Resignation. The set of his mouth matches the resigned…   …..sadness.  And yes, acceptance, in his recessed gaze.

I didn’t know I’d come to see you. Where is your home, Monsieur Van Rijn? 

“In the brush and the light, caught, in this moment, mademoiselle.”

He offers no apology for the sparseness of himself. Rather he has made a peace with obscurité. He moves easily between the foreground and the darkness of distance and depth. What can never be seen. Never be painted.

…The furrow of concentration, of consternation between your brows. 

“Don’t study my face. It’s not important.”

I see. 

“Yes. All you ask about is in my eyes. And they alone hold the soul of this body, this canvas, this striving against fortune herself… for what? To hang on the auspicious wall of the Uffizi for casual observers and name-chasing sycophants?”

I’m sorry.

“It’s of no consequence.”

And I catch the slightest smile, this time warm in its resignation. Its consequence.

13 Things to Change “Self-Help” to Really Help You

  1. Understand that YOU are the one who helps you, not the charismatic guru, inspiring book, powerful program, like-minded community, or organization promising transformation.
  2. Own your own power– but don’t drink your own kool-aid. 
  3. That shalt not follow the rules.  Unless they are your own rules that you’ve thought through, tested against your Principles, and take full accountability for yourself.
  4. And on the subject of Principles… Take the time to figure out your own.  They aren’t the same as Values.
  5. Figure out your own BIG questions.  What are the questions you want to answer about life and death, about meaning and what matters, about who you are, etc.  Too often, people sell self-help by selling the questions.  They might even try selling you the answers to these questions.  But stop them right there!  Don’t buy someone else’s questions, find your own!  It’s OK to borrow someone’s questions while you’re figuring it out.  But if you let someone dictate your questions, you’ve given them your power.  And you also risk letting their answers run your life.  Thus are cults made.
  6. Follow yourself.  We all get truly lost in this world and this life.  But contrary to the negative press it gets, being lost is a sacred path, not an indictment of worthlessness or lack of ability to be successful at life.  It takes our getting lost in order for us to figure out how to follow ourselves in this ever-changing life.  This is the path of trust.
  7. Don’t follow someone else at the expense of your autonomy and inner authority.  If learning from someone costs you your independence or your ability to listen to and trust yourself…  RUN!  Run like the wind!  Your autonomy and inner authority are the early warning system that something might be undermining you.  Listen to it!
  8. Make friends with your Ego.  You will never get rid of it.  The best any of us can do is to learn it so well that it can’t get away with bullshit.  And then, to make friends with our ego.  It’s rather like a parent catching on to their super-mischievous child and pre-empting every attempt to get into trouble.  The parent can learn to laugh AND set boundaries, to love and appreciate this child for who they are–one who will always try to get away with things, while firmly keeping them in line.  Life gets immensely easier this way.
  9. Find your own motives–and challenge where they come from.  I sometimes think that 90% of self-help is built out of people not knowing their own motives–or how to find their motives and vet them out to see if they’re ego motives or enlightened motives.  Obviously, enlightened motives will produce more inner fulfillment, joy, compassion, creativity, joy, connection, and most of all, accountability.
  10. Lifestyle and bank account DO NOT a guru make.  We tend to give instant authority to people who’ve exhibited the ability to be good capitalists–to make a lot of money and have a lifestyle of wealth and affluence.  But good capitalists can teach capitalism–not enlightenment principles.  To equate enlightenment with being successful financially is one of the grossest lies our current $9B self-help industry “banks” on.  Literally.  Your inner path is internally validating.  Be suspicious of anyone–including yourself–validating your consciousness according to wealth, fame, cultural, intellectual or lifestyle measures.
  11. Find good teachers and mentors:  They will not turn everything into a dollar, though they will charge for their time.  People before profits.  Your time with them will lead you back to yourself–not to them, their programs, their books, or to becoming a follower.  Your investment with them is exponential for you.  The best teachers/mentors over time will make themselves more and more invisible, meaning that you will become more conscious of your own authority, your own ideas, and your own power and responsibility in your life–on your terms.
  12. When everything goes to shit in your life, there is NOT something wrong with you.  There never was.  Hard, bad and heartbreaking things happen in life.  It will help you much more to “find yourself” through these experiences, than trying to find answers to why they happened to you.  The phrase I [hate] the most, “Everything happens for a reason,” is a lazy excuse to avoid meeting the real struggles of life and letting them deepen us. 
  13. Knowledge is not self-awareness or enlightenment.  Self-help tends to teach that what you learn and what you know automatically imbue you with enlightenment.  They don’t.  The great Buddhist teachers constantly challenged their students to let go of knowledge so that ‘awareness could alight upon them like a small bird.’   The more we think we know, the more ignorant we become.  Though knowledge can be helpful to challenge our limited thinking, it is not our conscious awareness.  This comes when the mind looks away and wisdom suddenly rises.  And no one can bring you to enlightenment.  Anybody selling this is only after power.  Say No, and instead turn inward, inside yourself to pursue the consciousness you are seeking.

I obviously have a lot to say on this subject, lol.  I am passionate for exposing the destructive myths of consciousness and what it means to be self-actualized.  I’m equally passionate for raising consciousness, freeing our minds, and trusting our hearts.  Beginning with myself, of course.

This is a good start 😉

Understand that YOU are the one who helps you. It is not the charismatic guru, the inspiring book, the powerful program, the like-minded community (yoga or otherwise), or the organization who promises transformation.

Own your own power– but don’t drink your own kool-aid.  It’s the moment we think, “Ahhh yeah!  I really get it.  I’m woke!”, that we have crossed over into ego.  It happens so subtly, this idea that *we know* and everyone else is outside unless they see the world like we do.  We’ve “drunk our own kool-aid.”

That shalt not follow the rules.  Unless they are your own rules that you’ve thought through, tested against your Principles, and take full accountability for yourself.  Don’t follow someone else’s rules or ideas simply because the person seems[ more confident or certain.

And on the subject of Principles… Take the time to figure out your own.  They aren’t the same as Values.  Your Core Principles are what you will stand for no matter what in your life.  It takes some soul-searching and some time to get solid and clear on yours.  But once you have them?  Nothing– I repeat, Nothing, can take you down.

Figure out your own BIG questions.  What are the questions you want to answer about life and death, about meaning and what matters, about who you are, etc.  Too often, people sell self-help by selling the questions.  They might even try selling you the answers to these questions.  But stop them right there!  Don’t buy someone else’s questions, find your own!  It’s OK to borrow someone’s questions while you’re figuring it out.  But if you let someone dictate your questions, you’ve given them your power.  And you also risk letting their answers run your life.  Thus are cults made.

Follow yourself.  We all get truly lost in this world and this life.  But contrary to the negative press it gets, being lost is a sacred path, not an indictment of worthlessness or lack of ability to be successful at life.  It takes our getting lost in order for us to figure out how to follow ourselves in this ever-changing life.  This is the path of trust.

Don’t follow someone else at the expense of your autonomy and inner authority.  If learning from someone costs you your independence or your ability to listen to and trust yourself…  RUN!  Run like the wind!  Your autonomy and inner authority are the early warning system that something might be undermining you.  Listen to it!

Make friends with your Ego.  You will never get rid of it.  The best any of us can do is to learn it so well that it can’t get away with bullshit.  And then, to make friends with our ego.  It’s rather like a parent catching on to their super-mischievous child and pre-empting every attempt to get into trouble.  The parent can learn to laugh AND set boundaries, to love and appreciate this child for who they are–one who will always try to get away with things, while firmly keeping them in line.  Life gets immensely easier this way.

Find your own motives–and challenge where they come from.  I sometimes think that 90% of self-help is built out of people not knowing their own motives–or how to find their motives and vet them out to see if they’re ego motives or enlightened motives.  Obviously, enlightened motives will produce more inner fulfillment, joy, compassion, creativity, joy, connection, and most of all, accountability.

Lifestyle and bank account DO NOT a guru make.  We tend to give instant authority to people who’ve exhibited the ability to be good capitalists–to make a lot of money and have a lifestyle of wealth and affluence.  But good capitalists can teach capitalism–not enlightenment principles.  To equate enlightenment with being successful financially is one of the grossest lies our current $9B self-help industry “banks” on.  Literally.  Your inner path is internally validating.  Be suspicious of anyone–including yourself–validating your consciousness according to wealth, fame, cultural, intellectual or lifestyle measures.

Find good teachers and mentors:  They will not turn everything into a dollar, though they will charge for their time.  People before profits.  Your time with them will lead you back to yourself–not to them, their programs, their books, or to becoming a follower.  Your investment with them is exponential for you.  The best teachers/mentors over time will make themselves more and more invisible, meaning that you will become more conscious of your own authority, your own ideas, and your own power and responsibility in your life–on your terms.

When everything goes to shit in your life, there is NOT something wrong with you.  There never was.  Hard, bad and heartbreaking things happen in life.  It will help you much more to “find yourself” through these experiences, than trying to find answers to why they happened to you.  The phrase I [hate] the most, “Everything happens for a reason,” is a lazy excuse to avoid meeting the real struggles of life and letting them deepen us. 

Knowledge is not self-awareness or enlightenment.  Self-help tends to teach that what you learn and what you know automatically imbue you with enlightenment.  They don’t.  The great Buddhist teachers constantly challenged their students to let go of knowledge so that ‘awareness could alight upon them like a small bird.’   The more we think we know, the more ignorant we become.  Though knowledge can be helpful to challenge our limited thinking, it is not our conscious awareness.  This comes when the mind looks away and wisdom suddenly rises.  And no one can bring you to enlightenment.  Anybody selling this is only after power.  Say No, and instead turn inward, inside yourself to pursue the consciousness you are seeking.

Carmell’s Top 10 Thriving Strategies for Isolation

Carmell Live Events

Carmell Live Events

(from living fairly isolated around the world over the past 10 years, and living through a pandemic shutdown…)

  1. Form a simple, natural routine.It must be simple enough so that you will do it at least 5/7 days a week.  That you can easily come back to it if you get “off”.Should feel natural to you so that you can experience the feelings of familiarity, ease and home in the routine itself.  These naturally give the mind a way to relax against the stresses that isolation can cause. 
  2. Have artifacts of connection.We all have different ways of connecting to artifacts–those objects or things that have meaning for us.  Like Tom Hanks’ character had with the soccer ball he drew a face on and named Wilson in order to have someone to talk to, or how I carry 3 specific books with me, my journal and my favorite mug when I travel for long periods…Recognizing and reaching out to touch those few things that most feel like connection to us are powerful daily touch-points for us psychologically and emotionally.  These can be anything–
    1. running our camera roll pictures as the changing screensaver on our computer that bring us to reexperience moments in our lives
    2. An altar, meditation cushion, symbolic relic, or place for spiritual practice or concentration.
    3. A special knick knack, a rock/crystal, a specific glass for your wine each evening, or a meaningful gift from someone.
    4. A book or quote. Or a special bookmark in the book you’re currently reading.
    5. Special incense or scent that you love and lifts you up when you smell it.
  3. Get natural light every day, as much of it as you can.  Out-of-doors is preferable!You know as well as I how much your brain depends on natural light for your circadian rhythms and subsequent hormone balance.  We feel better just getting natural light into our eyes.
  4. Nature, nature, nature.It seems so simplistic, and yet, when we are isolated and out in nature, certain sixth and seventh senses begin to emerge naturally in us.  We are a part of life on the planet, alive and breathing.  We connect to this when we spend time in nature.If we are able to be ‘deep’ in nature such as on a hike, in a forest or desert, out on water, or far from neighborhoods or cities, we can begin to get the sense of geologic time–long ages in the rocks beneath our feet or the oldest trees around us or the ocean meeting the beach of a continental plate over hundreds of thousands of years. Feeling the ages of life around us is strangely calming and relieving–the sense of continuity that we are a part of. 
  5. Have regular face-time and conversation with people you care about.If you haven’t previously cultivated such relationships, start a small circle of people who are also looking for this type of connection and support who will meet up regularly over video as well as phone.  Being able to ‘see’ someone even over video is highly impactful to the brain and our socialization.Conversely, if you are someone who has to show up professionally to facetime all of the time, you may find, like me, you relish the quiet that isolation can bring.  If this is the case, be sure to intentionally plan connection time at least once a week with people you care about.  This helps avoid the risk of depression that can happen unconsciously when we don’t get that connection-interaction we need.
  1. Closely monitor addictive behaviors and have a plan for having new experiences to counter the disconnection that underlies our addictive behaviors.  Addictive behaviors can be:- sleeping too much
    – staying up too late every night
    – binge-watching movies or series
    – overindulging sugar, alcohol, carbs, weed, other substances
    – being critical towards those close to you (this can sneak up on us)
    – becoming too rigid with our routine–we can take it too far
    – etc.When you have a plan for new experiences, your brain looks forward to the future in anticipation which is highly effective to help against the disconnection isolation can cause.  In addition, new experiences automatically spark our creativity giving us inspiration to use our creative abilities in novel and diverse ways.  This can bring us to flow-state which is an excellent counter to the effects of isolation–a true deep connectedness. 
  2. Take up a new passion or interest.I don’t tend to use the word hobby because it feels too discardable for the time and personal investment we make.  I prefer to go for finding a new passion–a musical instrument (or a difficult piece of music), learning a new cuisine by making different dishes and inviting people over to eat them, learning to dance hip/hop or the samba, learning the birds in your area, a writing group, or… wait for it… Karaoke!!
  3. Laugh.  Find ways to laugh.  Laughing is a radio channel you tune into.  When you tune into laughter, you unconsciously seek it out, seeing or hearing the humor in situations all around you.  The more you tune into laughter, the more there will be to cause for laughter.  It really is the best medicine!
  4. Look for ways to help.  There’s probably nothing more powerful in our human drama than seeing others who may need help, and showing up to help them.  This form of human connection brings us to the very center of our existence.  To reaffirm that we are not alone, and at the same time to remember that while we are important, it’s not all about us.
  5. Do work of the self.  Get to know yourself in new and different ways from what you’ve always assumed or expected about yourself.  The work of the self is how we can feel connection even when we are alone or isolated.  As I say to people, I am never alone even when I’m alone.  This is because I am with myself and I have a deep and vibrant relationship with this phenomenal soul within me.

The ability to thrive when we are isolated hinges entirely on our paying close attention and listening to ourselves.  It also depends entirely on the actions we take.  In my Core Self Discovery work, I not only guide you in the deeper work of the self, I also bring you more fully into thriving in any environment–including isolation.

You can learn more about Core Self Discovery here.  Remember, your own company can turn out to be the first most fulfilling relationship of your life!

xo, C

Do I focus more on what I want? Or primarily on my responsibilities?

My client is amazing.  And I mean that in a national headlines sort of way.  So it was very telling when we got clear about how she focuses.  I asked her, “Do you want to focus more on what you want, or do you want to primarily focus on your responsibilities?

It’s a good question for me, and for all of us, isn’t it.  We tend to hyper focus on our responsibilities every day, handling the ever-long list of things to be done.  

We consider others’ feelings and make decisions around them.  We try to figure out what will work for everyone else… forgetting to take what works for us into account to the same–or greater–degree.

We’ve made it a habit to focus on our responsibilities.  That’s not bad, right?

But what about when it encroaches on what we want?  What happens when our uber-responsible selves focus on responsibilities to the detriment of moving toward what really matters most to us in this moment?  Taking action toward what we want?  Thinking more of the time about what we want–instead of mostly thinking of all the ‘considerations’?

It’s strange when I put it into words, that it sounds a bit selfish.  Very strange indeed.  Because, I know I am the one responsible for my life, not anybody else.  So if I’m not handling the responsibility to think about, move toward and take action on what I want… Who will?

Is that selfish?

I don’t think so.

Rather, it feels like a shift in priorities.  Ahhh… That’s it!

How did our good intentions of being a responsible person get taken over by obligation, guilt, and fear?  How did I go from living my life to living my life for everything and everyone else?

Most of us do this.  It’s not rocket science.  

But maybe we should consider balancing that pendulum swing.  Maybe we should practice becoming more conscious of what we want–and stepping up to that.  Just for us.

Is it selfish to want more time with loved ones instead of working constantly?

Is it selfish to want time to myself?  It shouldn’t be!  Have I made having time to myself something I feel guilty about?  Why?!  Why would I do that?

Is it selfish to want more from my life than just working all the time?

Or is it selfish to pursue my career goals that matter so very much to me, without feeling guilty for my ambition and discipline?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t check our priorities too.  We absolutely should check in with our heart, our gut and our loved ones to make sure we are staying aligned to what matters most to us.  

But at the same time, I think it bears mentioning that we should do a gut-check on how conscious we are of what we most want in our life right now.  And then to give ample attention to it in order to live a life that really matters to us for the time we’ve spent.

I remember when the second house I tried to buy didn’t work out (wasn’t meant to be), and I had no clear direction at that point.  

My only spark inside was to head to France to study French for a bit.  Even though travel for me is a way of life, still, I hesitated a lot!  It seemed like so many unknowns to actually go after what I wanted.  And how was it going to further my business to study French?…  It wasn’t.  It was just for me.  So how could I justify THAT?!

Add to that, I truthfully had wanted to study French in France for decades.  So when I got on the overnight flight from JFK to Paris on New Years Eve 2019, I was pretty excited, sure.  But I was also having this internal dialogue with myself, saying, “WTF, Carmell?!!  This feels so totally… …irresponsible?…!”  Er– well, yes.  

Still, I went.  

I was so incredibly happy living for two months in Aix en Provence when I had been struggling for months before that, trying to find what I was “supposed” to do since the house-thing wasn’t working out.  

What I had really been trying to figure out was the ‘responsible’ thing I was supposed to do, instead of listening to what I really wanted inside.

We are wise, my friends.  We are so wise.  Life is not only about work.  It’s not only about our daily workouts, our bank accounts, our families, our success, etc.  Life is not about one thing.  It is about us living the most intentionally and truthfully that we possibly can right now.  

And that starts by listening to what we want. 

The New Year is upon us.  Do you know what you want?

Love. Why I hesitate to talk ‘about’ it, and why it’s the #1 emoji I send ❤️

It’s the cliché.  I can’t do it.  I’m not a “hearts and flowers” kind of person, yet the red heart emoji is the #1 emoji I send.  What’s that about?

I don’t say “love you,” very often because it’s too casually non-specific.  And if I’m going to convey that emotion, I feel pretty strongly that I need to be responsible for it.  

So I say most often, “I love you,” instead of just “love you.”

Yet… the laissez faire treatment of love is everywhere.  We tend to skate over moments for deeper connection, to pretend not to see the stranger passing us on the street or in the grocery aisle.

We treat those closest to us with expectation more than appreciation.  And we don’t even realize we’re doing this.  

We choose to be laid-back and observing instead of open and intentional, interested and affectionate.

What is wrong with showing love to people?

Can’t we figure out our own unique way to not only say the right thing, but to reach them with our meaning?  To connect with their hearts–even for a brief moment?

It was Memorial Day when I was 14 years old.  My mom was taking us to the cemetery outside the city, flags lining the manicured drives, petunias, geraniums and marigolds in abundance.  

She wanted us as unthinking kids to connect with what Memorial Day really meant.  The observance of others who have passed in service to our country.  And the observance of all loved ones–our own families and others–who have passed as well.  

We parked and got out.  My younger siblings took off toward the swan pond, eager to see if the eggs had hatched from the swan nest.  I began wandering through the different fields of graves, watching the people who were placing flowers or flags in careful devotion.  It didn’t occur to me until later that they were mostly older.

And then over a small rise, as I was making my own way toward the swan pond, I saw the woman.  She couldn’t have been more than 30 years old.  She was kneeling, bent in half over a grave, sobbing.  I was caught– stunned and mute.  My heart felt her flood of grief in an instant, heavy and unstopping.  I found my own eyes suddenly brimming, my heart barely able to watch her pain.  I can feel her still to this day as I write the words.

It was then that I noticed the toddler wobbling his way around the gravestones near her.  He was unaware of his young mother’s heartache, playfully exploring in the spring grass and the warm sun as the waves of her cries carried across the air, unquenchable.

I stood rooted to the spot.  I couldn’t look away from her.  I knew I couldn’t pass her casually by in all of her grief, to go down and see the swans.  I wondered, at 14 years old, if it was appropriate for me to go to her and put my hand on her heaving back.

I stood there for a long time.  At the very least I witnessed her, my own heart broken entirely in two as I stood, not ignoring or walking away.  Her crying continued without lessening.  And yet I knew I wasn’t trusting myself as a ridiculous young kid to go up to her and cry with her.

I have thankfully had many unexpected moments since where I listened to my heart instead of to my head.  I have held strangers and loved ones alike in sorrow, in joy, in frustration, in anger, in fear, in celebration.  

And all of it has been love.  Every ounce.  Every breath.

We get this one single moment.  Just this one, right now.  And then we get the next.  And it is no small act to express sincere love.  To trust ourselves to do what our heart thrusts upon us.  –And to be so aware and aligned with our heart that we know unequivocally what it is nudging us to do.

I have found many ways to express love sincerely and appropriately in business relationships.  

I have found ways to love those who were not open to deeper connection–where I knew with utter certainty that they had received the gift regardless of whether they could meet me there.

I have worked very hard to love in healthy ways those who have wronged or injured me.  Not because I have to, but because it is my heart’s path to freedom for us both, each time.  That means freedom to love.

The love I feel is not passive.  Not ever.  Nor is it casual.  However I have come to this, I am very certain that the love in my heart is a massive continual river flowing to the ocean of our deepest connection with each other.  Like all waters taking their easiest course to the sea, my heart cannot do otherwise.

And so that is why the red heart ❤️ is the #1 emoji I send–while I simultaneously balk and cringe at clichés.  That is why I will never miss an opportunity to meet someone where they are.  Love is the sincerity behind my intensity as a person.  

My ways of love are my own.  I believe we all have our own ways.  Yet it is our greatest responsibility and gift to make sure in our own ways, that we are not half-assing our love.  

That we are not keeping ourselves partly held back because of fear of what others will think–Who Cares?!  

Or because we have been hurt.  Yes–and you and your heart are stronger than that hurt!

Or because we think so little of our own worth that we believe what we have to offer is not good enough, or is just not enough.  It is greater than you think.  You… are greater than you think.  

And when you extend your love sincerely without asking that it be validated, you will feel with total certainty how truly important you are.  Just like every other person.

That is the great secret.  Love gives to the giver and the receiver alike.  

It is a gift of grace that continues with a person whether they acknowledge it or not.  

It transcends all the ridiculous ways we separate ourselves as humans from one another.  

To truly love is our most radical act of life.

❤️, C