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Why do we resist change? (Or, do we?)

Why do we resist change?

In this edition of Soul Notes, let’s talk about change.  I’m not talking about change for change’s sake.  I’m referring to those anticipated or even avoided changes that gnaw at us, and keep us at best distracted or at worst completely stuck, immobile, and hunkering down and ducking from opportunities that may expand us, help us and others, and even allow us fully to flourish.

Rather than resisting or avoiding change, perhaps it’s worth flipping it on its head:

What if instead it was a matter of welcoming and embracing change, in spite of, or even especially when, the outcome is uncertain?  It need not be reckless nor done with wanton abandon.

With, in many instances, hotly contested races in the midterm elections held in the United States this week, many voters heartily embraced a change in the ruling political party and a rebalancing of power among the three branches of government.  Not everyone held on for dear life to the status quo.

Some changes are certain.  They are taken as a given, without resistance: The ebbing and flowing of the tides.  The waxing and waning of the moon.  The rising and setting of the sun.

Stages and seasons of growth in nature:  those are accepted as certain, or nearly always so. Nature takes a certain trajectory, follows a certain course, pattern, cycle, movement, and rhythm. Of all the species, it is humankind that is perhaps the most not-so-kind to the natural world.  We are the species that most interferes with the grand design of this world.

It is we who inject and impose contorted calendars and appointment schedules into what is an otherwise orderly order.  We invoke what are for the most part arbitrary time changes such as “daylight saving time.” It is this imposing of our will over divine will that I would venture to say brings us strife and grief, and long-term suffering at the hands of fleeting, or even altogether unmaterialized, gains.

Maybe it really does come down to the invocations expressed in the Serenity Prayer:  Accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and invite in the wisdom to know the difference. For those circumstances we cannot change, we can still indeed change our response.  (See The Meaningfulness of Meaning here, referencing the work of Viktor Frankl.)

We are in control.  We get to decide how we respond. We get to take inspired action.  We get to adapt, move forward, expand, and grow.  And why not?  To stay stuck is tiring, uninspiring, and altogether dull.

For your consideration:

Is change something to be avoided at all costs?  Why or why not?  Does it depend on the situation?

Okay, your turn

Where has embracing change, even when initially it seemed scary, brought about improved outcomes for you?  On the other hand, when would you have benefited from accepting a situation exactly as-is, and had fully appreciated it in that moment?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Let’s talk about richness

There’s so much to be savored in the richness

In this new moon’s edition of Soul Notes, let’s talk about richness.  I’m not talking about financial riches. I’m not talking about material wealth.

I’m talking about a richness of life and living.  I’m talking about a depth of flavors and sensory pleasures, not unlike a savory pot of wildly aromatic boeuf bourguignon simmering on the stove on a cool autumn evening. Or, the richness of sipping ever so slowly from a cup of hot cocoa.

No, this hasn’t turned into a culinary blog.  Don’t worry –This is still Soul Notes. : )

For purposes of this article, though, again, I’m referring to a richness of being.  Living a rich life is akin to an acquired taste — something that you build up to, and appreciate, like dry red wine and strong black coffee.

Is there ‘such a thing’ as ‘too much of a good thing’?

“Oh, but, there’s always the risk of there being TOO much richness,” you may be exclaiming.  Maybe that’s true when it comes to food and beverages.  It’s not so true, though, when it comes to living a full and enriching life. A well-lived life means having a depth of experiences. It’s not best lived at the surface level.  A shallowly lived life is as bland as a soup without salt or pepper.

For your consideration:

I invite you to set aside a few moments to get quiet and listen for insights on where you’d like to bring in more richness, more fullness of flavor, into your life.

Take a stand. Claim it.

Finish this sentence for yourself:  “I’m choosing to call in more richness in my….”

Then, consider:

What would enhance your day-to-day experiences in that area?  What would it mean to you if you were to add more layers of depth to those experiences?  What one inspired action can you take, starting today, to bring more richness into that area of your life?

For me, I’m welcoming in more richness in my relationships, both in business and personally.  The one action I’m taking in that direction is by publicly proclaiming it here on this blog, with you!

Okay, your turn

What area of your life, would you say, holds the most richness for you right now?  In what ways has that served you, and those with whom you have been interacting?  How would you define a richly lived life?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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Sandpipers dot the shoreline

Sandpipers

Dozens of them

dot the shoreline

as they scamper toward the receding flow of the tide

as it heads out

and back in again

while the ocean water

flows back toward the beach.

 

Symphonically

they keep in rhythm

with each other

and with the tide.

 

Barefoot

I press my feet and toes deep into cool wet sand

on a sweaty Summer’s day

as dusk drops in

 

With each stride

my head dips toward my chest

and I drop into reflection

and then I bring my head back up again

looking out into the setting sun’s light

 

Turning toward the Pacific Ocean

I survey the water

and take in the view

toward the west and the northwest

 

I see the trail of

sailboats

that are heading back toward and around

Marina del Rey’s nearby jetty,

And

I breathe in the view of

the Santa Monica mountains

and the coastal edges of Malibu

peeking out ever so slightly

off in the distance toward the right

 

All the while

I allow all that is

all that is

weighing heavily on my heart

and all that is

swelling my heart

and filling me

with

love

sorrow

sadness

grief

awe

mystery

devotion

reverence

revelation

serenity

solemnity

peace

calm

 

I am a body

and a soul

walking

my path

 

And it

Is

poignant

challenging

heavy and

light

and

dark

and

bright

 

Tragic

and

beautiful

and

joyful

and

in the end

as in the beginning

it is

all

divine

Okay, your turn:

What comes up for you as you read this poem?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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The power of remaining calm

Calm among the chaos

As details continue to surface surrounding the rescue of the 12 young soccer players and their coach from miles deep within a set of interlocking waterways flowing between the jagged rocks of sea caves, we are learning that among other amazing aspects of this story, meditation likely played a key role in their more-than-a-fortnight’s survival under what were extremely perilous and life-threatening conditions.

This group having found themselves trapped miles away from their original entrance into the caves, it would be more than a week before anyone would locate them and provide food.  And it would be another several days before the first of three sets of rescues could be made, eventually bringing all the boys and their coach to safety — out from the deep darkness and into the light above.

The cave divers and the meditating monk

The flood waters and threat of the impending monsoon season had kept them held captive as a group, huddled atop a small ledge above the water line, with little air and little food or other basic life-sustaining necessities.  What they did have, was their Buddhist monk-trained coach who, it has been reported, led them through an ongoing practice of meditation. Meditation helped to calm their nervous systems and likely served to focus them on the possibilities of sustaining life rather than on the dread of extreme suffering or even possible death.  It allowed them to reserve and extend their precious, seemingly limited resources.

They had each other.  They had meditation.  And they had an unending access to a depth of another kind – that of spiritual sustenance.

None of this is to say, of course, that without the unparalleled coordination and carefully orchestrated efforts of the expert cave divers and other rescue volunteers and medical personnel, this group would have made it out safely.  All the individuals involved with their rescue (including one former Thai navy Seal who lost his life) are due a profound debt of gratitude, respect, and honor.  It’s beautiful to see all this humanity working together.  It is also, however, to acknowledge that more than physics, technology, and biology were at work here.  As the monk’s training and meditation exemplify, it was heart, mind and soul over matter. And it all mattered.

Hearing their story reminded me of the quotation from Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. In describing the importance of maintaining a strong inner strength while being held captive in the concentration camps during World War II, he said that in spite of the severe, primitive conditions, those who survived the best were the ones who “were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” (Page 36, emphasis added).

Thankful for inner calm

One time while swimming in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California as a teenager, I found myself facing a near-death experience.  Thankfully, the experience was quick and I emerged without any dire consequences. But, after swimming out in the ocean away from the beach, I was suddenly wrapped up in a set of cross-currents, and was being pummeled around under water pretty forcefully.  I recall thinking that eventually I was going to run out of air, and saying to myself:  “If it’s my time to die, this may be it.”

I thank in part my ability to remain calm and clear-headed.  Instinctively, I (or my body, rather?) knew to preserve my breath and my strength while submerged in open water. I was fairly confident in that moment, that I could probably make it back to shore, if I could only determine which way was “up.” I released any resistance to the oncoming series of waves, and surrendered as eventually a big curling wave scooped me up and carried me up to the surface. If I had allowed myself to panic, at best I risked flailing around wasting precious breath; and at worst, I risked swimming in the completely wrong direction, going deeper and away from the surface rather than popping back up to the top and catching a fresh breath of air.

My experience, although potentially dangerous, was nonetheless brief. The extended period of time that the young soccer players and their coach faced deep within that set of sea caves, however, and their ability to remain that calm for that long, is nothing less than awe inspiring.  It will be so illuminating to learn more about them as they fully recover in the days and weeks to come.

For your consideration:

If and when our conditions are suddenly such that we are stripped down to the barest of elements and a matter of basic survival, priorities become abundantly apparent.  Choices to be made are brought into sharp focus.  In those moments, it helps, I would say, to have a deeply contemplative practice already in place.

Okay, your turn:

When have you found yourself in a turbulent situation, and one where maintaining a sense of calm ended up serving you well?  Has there been any other time you didn’t remain calm and wish that you had?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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The wisdom of the sages

There’s sage and then there’s sage !

Sage, as we know, is a type of herb. The sage plant has been used by a number of cultures for thousands of years.  It has been used in Chinese medicine.  It has been used by Native Americans in various ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. Some have even suggested that it leads to immortality!

In China, sage tea has been called the “thinker’s tea.” Along with its anti-inflammatory properties, it has been known to help improve memory and overall brain function.  Perhaps that is why the word “sage” also is used to describe a person who is wise.  It can also be used as an adjective (as in “sage advice”).

The title of this article is a deliberate play on words.  Sages and ages. They both connote a harkening back to ancient times as well as serve as a current example of ancient traditions put to good use in the so-called modern age.  Has there been a resurgence, or have these practices been put to good use all along?  Are we perhaps simply more aware of them now, due to the internet, globalization, and social media?

Sage has even become a somewhat trendy baby name, at least in the United States.  I wonder if it’s part of the ‘Apple’ craze?  (Referring to the celebrity’s baby’s name, not the computer company.)

We all remember being asked the question when we were young: What do you want to be when you grow up?  Me:  a philosopher.  I didn’t hear anyone around me saying that they wanted to be that.  It wasn’t exactly listed anywhere as a possible career track.  That didn’t matter to me.  If it was needed, and served a purpose, why couldn’t it be an occupation?

I wasn’t even exactly sure what all a job as a philosopher would entail. I knew in my heart, though, that it was a role that would be important and one that would be of service to others.  In my imagination, philosophers were the wisest people in their communities.  And, as such, they had a responsibility to answer seekers’ questions and provide helpful suggestions, recommendations, and solutions.

Sometimes we picture “wise ones” sitting on a mountain top, or living in caves in the Himalayas.  In my mind’s eye, I pictured them more along the lines of a wise man or wise woman in Ancient Greece sitting quietly in a town square, as the local villagers would stop by whenever they were seeking an answer to an inquiry or when wrestling with a concern that was weighing heavily on their soul, or when struggling with a conflict they couldn’t quite resolve.

I pictured philosophers dispensing wisdom not unlike a modern day pharmacist dispensing medicine.  And, I did truly envision “philosopher” as an actual vocation, and a paid position, for sure.  I even had a specific annual salary in mind.  I thought that a philosopher should make $300,000 a year.  Here was my reasoning:  At the time, the President of the United States’ annual salary was set at $200,000. Knowing that, accordingly, I figured that philosophers should be paid at least 50% more than the President, as they would be at least that much more wise and valuable to the country and citizenry!  Apparently, I really had put a lot of thought into this (grin).

While Philosopher or Sage may not be a job title, certainly there are modern day professions where others seek their guidance and advice.   Lawyers fall into that category (hence, the term “counselor at law”).  As with some other professions, within law, there are rules of professional responsibility.  It is part of the licensing process, and continuing legal education requirements as well.  And, as covered in this week’s Six-Minute Saturdays episode, many lawyers including myself were drawn to the law as a career because of a deep desire to be of service.

Admittedly, not all legal advice is the sagest or the wisest. I would suggest, though, that the profession is at least designed to serve that purpose, and with that intention.  And, ultimately, the client retains control over whether to heed that advice, ignore it, or even to seek additional opinions.

For your consideration:

So, with that in mind then, allow me to pose this question: Upon whom, ultimately, do we need to rely, for the sagest advice of all?

Are we not, each of us, deep down, our own best philosopher?  We simply need to access that inner wise sage.  That’s why meditation is important.  That’s why getting quiet and still is wise. By listening to our own inner guidance and messages, we each hold the power and divinity to reach the most appropriate conclusions and answers for ourselves.  And, that is valuable beyond compare.

Okay, your turn:

What’s been the sagest advice that you’ve ever received?  What’s the sagest advice that you’ve ever given? What’s the best advice that your inner-sage has revealed to you?  What made it so?  Did you act on it?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Reclaiming our Six Minutes: Infusing Time with Moments of Joy and Sessions of Solace

Six-Minute Increments: Redefined

Recently, I was doing a little spring cleaning and decided to dive into a filing cabinet that I hadn’t opened in years. One of the first several file folders I pulled out contained a copy of one of my daily time sheets from my first year as an associate at a 100-person law firm in Los Angeles. Also in that file folder was a print-out of the year-end time tally sheet from my full first year at that firm. In defense practice (aka, “big law”), as is typical, my time was measured in terms of one-tenths of an hour — you know, those seemingly endless strings of six-minute increments. There they were – every billable and non-billable time segment all tracked and tallied.

In big law, no matter how many hours one puts in during a given day or evening (and there are often many), it is back to tabula rasa the next morning. Without or even sometimes with a strong center, that tends to do a number on your psyche and your overall sense of well-being. It can take a noticeable toll on your physical health as well.

Reclaiming Our Time

So, what to do about it? While I realize it’s naïve to think that billable hours will suddenly disappear altogether as a common metric, it is definitely within each attorney’s control to “reclaim their time” (to borrow a now-gone-viral phrase used by Rep. Waters during a congressional hearing last year) in ways that are more sustaining and rejuvenating, and from a place of strength and empowerment.
Now I can hear you asking: “But if I’m already packing in so many hours on cases, building a book of business, and attending continuing legal education seminars, how could I possibly squeeze in any other time for myself or any other more life-sustaining activities?” To that, I say, consider this: a lot can be experienced in six minutes or less. Ask any downhill skier or 1,500 meter runner (or person looking to catch the last remaining flight)!

You’re already capably putting in time well spent on behalf of the best interests of your firm and your clients, so why not do so for yourself? Without getting into the metaphysics of how to bend time (although that is definitely a fun topic to discuss with a friend or colleague over a glass of your favorite beverage) – let’s explore creative ways to “take back time,” and make it yours, at least once in a while.

Alternative Ways to Use Time

You can weave a number of short activities into your work day, throughout the week, or on the weekends. Here is a list to keep handy, of some examples to try, that are easy to do up to six minutes at a time:

  • Deep breathing in and out, slowly and deliberately
  • Looking out a window and focusing on an object in the distance such as a tree or the horizon
  • Standing quietly in a comfortable yet grounding and centering yoga position (such as mountain pose or archer pose)
  • Tapping your feet or dancing to an upbeat song (such as “One Love” or “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, or “Say Hey” by Michael Franti & Spearhead – heck these songs are only 3-minutes each, so in six minutes you can listen to any of them twice!)

These won’t transform your world or your law practice in an instant.  They will, however, likely shake you loose from any overthinking, fuzzy thinking, frazzled nerves, or just plain fatigue and burn-out…if even but for a little while.

What’s to be gained

The benefits to be gleaned from these brief and empowering uses of time are many, and include:

  • Giving your mind a rest
  • Giving your body an opportunity to move and change positions
  • Allowing your breath to slow down and become more even, and less erratic
  • Granting yourself the gift of returning to your law practice more refreshed and less strained
  • Seeing your case strategies from a fresh angle or perspective
  • Gaining clarity around a perceived roadblock in a particular case or cases
  • Ultimately effectuating more creative, surprising strategies and potential outcomes for your clients

A Respite from the Frenzy: Six-Minute Saturdays

To help get you started, I’m creating a series of short videos that I’m calling “Six-Minute Saturdays” (SMS).  Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel to be among the first to receive notifications of these videos as they are released on…yes, you guessed it: Saturdays.  You can view them of course whenever it’s convenient for you.  (I figure this way, you’ll be encouraged to devote at least one six-minute time segment a week completely,100%, to you!) The kick-off video for SMS is available for viewing now: To watch it, go here.

For your consideration:

What will you do for six minutes that are “all your own,” devoted solely (and soulfully) to your own well-being, starting today?  Pick one from the list above, or come up with one of your own, and let me know how it goes!  As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.

Okay, your turn:

When you find yourself feeling stressed and unable to focus, what do you tend to do?  What’s your default ‘coping’ mechanism?  Does that help…in the short run or the long run? If that hasn’t been working well for you, what would you like to choose to do, instead, if even for a brief six minutes?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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An Ode to Love (aka, ‘not your usual’ love letter)

February, the month of love.  Oh, how we love (and sometimes don’t) love thee, February!

This new moon’s edition of Soul Notes is dedicated to love.  May love find you and you find love in all the divinely inspired ways possible…this month, and always.

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Dear Love,

Thank you for sunsets

and sunrises

Thank you for moonrises

and moonsets

 

Thank you for rainbows

and moonbows

and mountain tops

and mountain bottoms

And landscapes

and horizons far and near

and seas to cross

and seas to see

and salty wind sprays

off the ocean

And unswept beaches

with crawly sand crabs

and scurrying sandpipers

 

Thank you for the crunch of gravel

and the scent of pine needles

and the shape of pine cones

and the sweetness of pineapples

 

Thank you for fireflies

and hummingbirds

and macaws

and geckos

 

and the clippity clop

of Clydesdales

 

and the sounds of drumming heard from the drum circle

down in the valley

 

Thank you for heart beats

and heart swells

and heart warmings

 

Thank you for goodbyes

and hellos

 

Thank you for touch

and taste

and ecstasy

and bliss

 

Thank you for stretches

and stretching

and growing

and restoring

and

Thank you for the

remembering

 

Thank you for new levels

and old reliables

 

Thank you for healing

and healing space…s

 

Thank you for being there

even when I don’t seem to notice

 

Thank you for seeing me

Thank you for hearing me

Thank you for listening

 

Thank you for knowing all the things

The secret secrets

and the not so secret

 

Thank you for the holding

and the mystery

and the understanding

and the hope

and the reassurance

 

Thank you for the reason

and the unreason

of it all

 

I am with you

We are with you

I am you

We are you

And it is…

divine

Okay, your turn:

What does this poem bring up for you?  What is love?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The Meaningfulness of Meaning: Living a Life Worthwhile

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the concept of meaning and what that constitutes in terms of a meaningful life.  In this article, I’ll make references to one of Viktor Frankl’s books, originally entitled From Death Camp to Existentialism, now more commonly known by the title: Man’s Search for Meaning.

A doctor of psychiatry, Viktor Frankl (Frankl) is the founder of the psychotherapeutic school of thought he named logotherapy.  In contrast to Sigmund Freud’s focus on human instincts and the human drive for pleasure, Frankl focused his work on man’s (humankind’s) quest for finding meaning in one’s life.

Part One of Man’s Search for Meaning documents Frankl’s personal experiences as an inmate in concentration camps during World War II.  In Part Two of the book, he elaborates on logotherapy and how his experiences in the camps provided the backdrop for himself to become in effect his own best patient.  Part Two includes examples of patients he treated outside of the camps along with scientific and statistical data to illustrate his points.

Prior to being captured, Frankl had already written the manuscript for his first book, The Doctor and the Soul.  He had tucked the manuscript into his coat before being forced onto the train for Auschwitz.  Once at the camp, he and all the other prisoners were stripped of their personal belongings.  Accordingly, the manuscript he had hidden in his coat was quickly confiscated.

Adding then to the already deep poignancy of Frankl’s observations made during the Holocaust, is the fact that he by necessity documented them all from memory.  He kept his mind sharp by reconstructing in his head the original manuscript of that first book that he would later rewrite and publish.  The only physical remnants of the original manuscript that he had been able to reconstruct while in the camps were in the form of key words and phrases that he would surreptitiously scribble on tiny scraps of paper.

Beyond the Physical:  Love, Spirituality, and A  Life Mission

Physically separated from his wife in the concentration camps, Frankl didn’t know if his wife was still alive.  It was in his mind’s eye that he would hold onto an image of her.  Just as through love he would cling to an image of his wife –- through a sense of commitment to his life’s work and overall life’s mission –- Frankl with devotion clung to the hope and intention of (re)writing his manuscript and publishing his psychological findings, all to the benefit of his profession and mental patients worldwide.

According to Frankl, love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. Love finds its deepest meaning in one’s spiritual being, within the inner self. He also said that even during his time in captivity, glimpses of nature, music, and humor helped him and others to survive.  They were grateful, he said, for the smallest of mercies.

Frankl further went on to contend that by devoting oneself to a cause to serve or another person to love, that the more human and actualized one becomes. In view of the possibility of finding meaning in suffering, he suggested then that life’s meaning even can be potentially unconditional.

If and when conditions get tough on the outside, spirituality can play an even more important role from the inside:

“In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 36, emphasis added).

In other words, the type of person each prisoner would become resulted more from that person’s mental and spiritual state, than purely his physical state.  Profoundly, Frankl maintained that one can decide to keep (and benefit from keeping) one’s human dignity, even in a concentration camp.

The Meaning in Suffering

Frankl was not suggesting that to have a meaningful life, one must suffer.  He did profess, however, that if there is meaning in life at all, there must certainly be meaning in suffering.  According to Frankl, those prisoners who discarded their inner morals, and who concluded that their lives were pointless, and thus “gave up” psychologically, were those who “forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 72).

The Importance of Having Faith in the Future and the Power of Personal Choice

Frankl also understood the importance of having faith in the future. Without a belief in a better future, he said, a prisoner was subject to losing his spiritual hold, and thereby made himself more susceptible to mental and physical decay at a much more fervent pace.

So, what to do?

We may not be able to change every situation that we face in life.  We can, however, change ourselves and our approach.

Through our attitudes, choices and decisions we make and the actions we take, we can rise to any challenge and accept the opportunity to infuse any situation with meaning, even the most difficult ones.  Meaning is possible with or without (although perhaps most strikingly during times of) suffering.

Our lives are lived in moments.  And every human being, as exemplified by Frankl, has the freedom to change themselves — and their experience of any situation in life — in an instant.

 “[E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 66).

Each of us gets to decide what our existence will be in any given moment, and what we will become in the next moment.

That is true freedom.

Freedom Plus Reasonableness

Freedom alone, however, is not enough.  Frankl makes clear that freedom to choose must be combined with responsibleness.  Otherwise, as a race, the human race, we are destined for destruction. Every person has both potentialities within us – to be either a swine or saint, he said.  Which one is actualized, says Frankl, depends on the decisions we make, and not on the conditions we face.

So the beauty and the promise of Frankl’s work and legacy I would say is this:

Each of us has the challenge and the opportunity to bring with us the values of our past, make empowered choices and take responsible actions in the present, and thereby create futures of the highest value to humankind.

With that, we find meaning.

All is not lost.

Much is gained.

 

For your consideration:

What makes life meaningful? Can there be meaning in suffering?  Is suffering required?

Okay, your turn:

What has helped you bring a sense of meaning into your life?  Was suffering a part of it?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Ode to the ol’ “comfort zone”

Comfort Zone/Discomfort Zone…Is it Really that Simple?

How many times have you heard or read something along the lines of: “To grow, you must always get and be outside your comfort zone”?

Personal development types often talk about how important it is to go outside your comfort zone.

There is definitely some validity to that, to a certain extent. Sometimes we stay static and hang on for dear life to the status quo even when we have or in spite of  having strong feelings to the contrary.   We may be yearning for a positive change in our lives, yet we stay stuck because stepping out of our usual routine feels scary, uncertain or even dreadfully painful.

Let’s break down the concept, however, a bit more. I’d say there’s a vital distinction to be made between what may or may not be within your comfort zone, and what resides within your alignment zone. Focusing solely on what is or isn’t within your comfort zone I’d say is too darn simplistic. “Change (solely) for change’s sake” — always, and in all ways, without scrutiny — is a rather compulsive, rudimentary and dare I say dumbed-down approach to spiritual growth.

Let’s dive further into this whole idea. Let’s fine-tune it.

Here are examples to help illustrate what I mean:

Let’s say that over the years, you’ve become comfortable in a relationship, or in your career (or even with regard to your living room furniture, for that matter!) Let’s say that you keep going along living your life with these people or things, etc. — keeping things as-is — keeping things “status quo” – so to speak, because well, it’s familiar. Surely, it is often easier to keep things the way they are, instead of risking them in exchange for the unknown.

What if, however, one or more of these situations no longer serve you, and are no longer in furtherance of your highest good? Or, what if they never were what your soul truly desired, and somehow you found yourself with these people or situations or things in your life? What if the relationship, the job, those home furnishings —whatever they may be– really don’t  “light you up?” Well, that’s a pretty good sign that even though they may be considered as being within your comfort zone (i.e., in terms of “hey, at least they’re familiar. I know what it is I’m getting”) — they may not be within your alignment zone.

In these situations, it IS in your best interest to stretch outside your comfort zone, and take the leap, with faith and trust, to make a healthy change. The good news is that the first step off the ledge is by far the scariest and the toughest. The more you do it, the more familiar THAT then becomes. You then have the experience of having done it (and you survived – yay!) Hey, what do you know, THAT (new thing) itself becomes less uncomfortable. That builds confidence, and satisfaction.

When A Situation Does Not Serve You or Your Highest Good

If you heard my interview from the Soul Shine Series, you’ll recall that I left the practice of law right in the middle of a recession, without another job lined up. I listened to my intuition that told me that being a civil litigator was anything but in alignment with whom I was meant to be in this world. Even though I had offers from other law firms back then, I made the conscious choice to take instead, a corporate job in legal sales, where I could find respite from the often 70-hour weeks and strain of contorting myself into what had really begun to feel out of alignment for me.

Despite the “good money” I was making as a lawyer, the conflict and lack of congruence with my authentic self that it required, was not in service of my highest good. Leaving the practice of law, and a high paying job before I had secured another one (I was steeped in law school debt too at the time), was definitely outside my comfort zone.   Alas, however, it was beautifully and soulfully rooted well within my alignment zone.

I’m not suggesting that this type of leap is right for everyone.  It may not have been right even for myself at another point in my life.  At that juncture, though, for me, it proved to be a very good choice. I’m forever grateful for making that decision to “jump ship”. I started that corporate job on July 1st of that year. On July 2nd, I found out that my father had died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Eight months after that, my dear brother died from suicide. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like for me to experience those deep back-to-back losses while still practicing law. My new boss and team at my new corporate job were blessedly supportive and deeply understanding. And, I now had a newfound, sacred space created for me from which to grieve.

A really key factor is deciding for yourself, from a place of self-respect and self-honor: What is and is not with your alignment zone. For more on how to get clear on what is in alignment for you and in congruence with your soul’s desires, go here.

“All the comforts of home”

Now, maybe that relationship, that job, or your favorite comfy chair, are in fact within your comfort zone and in alignment with your true, authentic self, and your soul’s true desires. Well, in that case, I say: Bravo! Brava! Congratulations! There’s no need then to force yourself to step outside either of these zones. There’s no reason to step blindly outside your comfort zone purely in the name of so-called “personal growth”.

It is not wise to live outside your comfort zone all the time. To do so, means running the risk of becoming addicted to change for change’s sake. You end up staying so busy trying out new things that you’ve left no room to cherish, savor, and delight in any of them! You run the risk of treading roughshod right over any opportunity to observe, reflect upon, and learn from the experiences.

It’s a matter of integrity

Ready to fine-tune this concept even more?   I’ve not really heard any gurus put it quite this way in the 20 years or so that I’ve been involved with personal transformation. And, when my own intuition brought it to my attention during the last year or so – it nearly knocked my fuzzy slippers off!

Okay, here it is –

It’s really important and often may be necessary, to venture outside your comfort zone if and only if  it stretches you in a life-enhancing, life-fulfilling way, for you (and not for anyone else). Allow yourself to make those distinctions on what is accordance with your own standards, and not judging by anyone else’s.

If stepping up and out of your comfort zone provides the personal growth you need to pursue your dreams and in furtherance of your soul’s desires, then that is what is within your alignment zone. And to that I say, full speed ahead!

If you’re yearning to become your full, 100% genuine, full-grade, authentic, YOU – that only you can be, and that the world NEEDS you to be – THEN, you beautiful SHINING LIGHT you – that is when you do step right up and out of your COMFORT ZONE, to FULFILL YOUR DESTINY!

If, however, something feels completely outside your alignment zone, do not allow yourself to be lured into stepping outside your comfort zone just so that you can say that “you’re growing”.   You may be simply growing what ends up being (for you, anyway) a patch of weeds, rising up from contaminated soil. When, instead, wouldn’t you rather create your own beautifully sacred and authentic garden?

It can be great to take an inspirational leap — but, just be careful what it is into that you’re leaping. You may be leaping into a fluid, soulfully infused river that is guiding and leading and taking you toward your divine destination. Or, you may be lured into a thrashing current of muck that ends up taking you way off-course, throwing you against the rocks, and catapulting you right out of your integrity and authenticity. Being out-of-integrity is in no way in furtherance of your divine purpose. It does not uplift you or anyone around you. It does not lead to higher consciousness.

Dare to buck the system, especially when it’s out of integrity for you, no matter how deceptively cloaked, and under the guise of “personal growth,” it may be!

Let your intuition be your guide. It knows the truth. It knows your truth, for you. For tips on invoking your intuition and conducting your own “gut checks” go here.

The beauty of support

I would encourage you to seek outside support along the way, as well.   It is essential to have support around you from loved ones and other kindred spirits who honor and replenish you along the way. Seeking and securing guidance from a trusted advocate, counselor, mentor, or other teacher can be hugely beneficial as well. We are not meant to do this all on our own.

Throughout your transformational journey, make your choices wisely and with care. Why? Because you’re worth it. Definitely worth it!

For your consideration:

Get quiet, and reflect for a moment: What is something right now that you truly and authentically desire, that is outside your comfort zone — and how would stretching outside that comfort zone bring you closer to your desired state? On the flip side, allow yourself to get clear on what one thing that may seem pressing for you right now — that, even if you were to go outside your comfort zone — simply would NOT be in alignment for you? What is something that if you were to pursue it, would simply feel completely out of integrity?

Okay, your turn:

What’s one true (and in-integrity) desire — that if you were to step outside your comfort zone and attempt — would completely rock your world in the best way possible? In contrast, what’s one thing – that even if you were to step outside your comfort zone and attempt – would end up making you feel out of alignment and ultimately as if you were a sell-out?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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When the phone rings at 3 AM…

That call at 3 AM

Yes, that one. The one that jerks you awake – the bolt straight out of bed when the phone rings – kind of phone call.  Some years ago, I received such a call:

In the jet black of night, I answer the phone.

“Hello, is this Lori Noonan?” I hear a man’s voice ask on the other end of the phone line. “Yes,” I manage to say while in complete darkness as I fumble for a light switch.

“This is the County Coroner. I have news about your brother.” I am barely able to register what he’s saying and what’s really happening. I feel as if I’ve fallen into a deep, dark, hollow well.

The Coronor continues speaking, and says rather matter-of-factly: “He shot himself in the head and killed himself.”

The voice continues, stating rather brusquely: “He was found out near some railroad tracks, in his car, with a gun. In his wallet, the only contact info was a card with your name and telephone number on it. So, I’m calling you.”

I try to keep my composure and attempt to process what I’ve just been told.

Without skipping a beat, however, the Coroner just keeps talking, asking me questions and rattling off directives.

“Can you call the other family members?”

“They need to be notified.”

“Can you take care of that?”

In that moment, all I desire to do is to ask about my brother. My heart and my mind go straight there — to my brother, out in the rural outskirts of town, in the dark of night. In my mind’s eye, immediately I picture my brother out there in his car, in his final moments, full of despair.

Why by the railroad tracks, I ponder. Was he planning to stop the car on the tracks? Was that his plan and it somehow went awry? Was he worried about injuring others on the train, and backed away? Or, maybe he waited for a train to approach, but a train didn’t come by at that time of night? Oh, but he brought a gun with him, though, too. What exactly was his plan, and how long had he been planning this? What were his final thoughts? Did he really see suicide as his “only way out”?

My mind jetted from one scenario to the next and back again. Meanwhile, the Coroner is still talking.

Suddenly, the voice on the other end of the line punctures my imaginings, and pierces straight through and into my mindstream. This is when I heard something that I hope I never hear again, and pray that no one else ever has to hear when receiving this type of news:

With agitation in his voice, the Coroner says: “Okay, I gotta go now. I’ve got to get off the phone. Half his skull is missing, and there’s all kinds of blood and mess that I’ve had to clean up, and I’ve already had to stay past the end of my shift.”

I had just been envisioning my brother in the moments before his death. In my mind’s eye, he was still out there in his car, and was still very much alive.   I certainly wasn’t prepared to have that image immediately sliced through with a proverbial scalpel from the Coroner. Envisioning my brother with half his head blown off, and blood everywhere – that was an image that I neither needed nor desired.

The call just seemed so very callous. It was not as if I was an objective bystander, a non-interested third party, a ‘passer-by’ learning of this, for the first time.

It’s 3 AM, and I’m now standing in the middle of my apartment with the phone in my hand, and I feel so, so alone, so very alone.  And, my heart aches so, so deeply, for my brother. It felt as if my chest suddenly had caved in on itself. Heartache, in that moment, was anything but a euphemism.

And, it hit me that I would be the one then calling and informing the other family members.

From the darkness out into the light

Now, my intention here is not to vilify Coroners. I realize that they have a stressful job to do. I just wish that he had handled that conversation differently – with at least a bit of civility, a modicum of compassion, an ounce of sensitivity.

This happened quite a few years ago, and perhaps training and call protocols have improved since then? Or, maybe this one phone call was an anomaly? I’m realizing that it may be helpful for me to find out. It may be time for me to reach out to others who are facing or have faced suicide in their family. It may be time for me to advocate on their behalf, and to help medical professionals understand their point of view.  I’m feeling that it may be part of my own spiritual path.

Answering a Call of a Different Sort

I’m looking into ways that I may be of service, and share my experience with those in the mental health professions, and medical personnel, and the like. Recently, I’ve learned that here in the United States, there is a national organization that provides educational programs and classes for staff members who provide mental health treatment services. And, this organization has trained presenters who present on topics such as “ending the silence” in schools, and out to the general public as a way to promote awareness of mental illness.

Is this part of my calling? Yes, it feels as if it may be. Perhaps I may hold a lantern — to shed light along the dark passageways – for those with suicidal thoughts, and for those family members who feel so alone in helping themselves as well as their loved ones through such travails. At this point, it remains somewhat undefined. I am willing, however, to explore, follow my intuitive impulses, and find out.

Okay, your turn:

Do you recall a time when you received such a phone call? What, if anything, could that person have said that would have “lessened the blow”? In what ways would you be prompted to convey such a message, if you are or were in a position to inform someone of such news?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.