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From Darkness Into Light: Winter Solstice Edition

From Darkness into Light

This week, in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching Winter Solstice and the turn ever so slightly toward longer days and shorter nights. It’s a shifting out from the darkness and into more light.

Now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

It’s a continuum, of course, just like the rotations of the earth, sun, and moon. Between the two polar opposites, or contrasts, lies the fluidity, the flow… It’s a rhythm and a cycle from the internal to the external, and back again. It’s a peeking out, and an emergence — from deep within the earth (ourselves) and out into the world above the surface (out into our external surroundings, relationships, etc.)

So, now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

Three Soul Starters

If you’re in my tribe, you’re likely a woman attorney who has placed a lot of emphasis on your career, on your law practice, and on serving your clients. As the year winds down, and Courts too “go dark” for a few days around Christmas and New Year’s, I invite you to devote some sacred time and space to:

1. Consider where things are going well for you in your life and career
2. Envision where you’d like to see some things change, shift, or dissolve
3. Get excited about what your “Dream Theme” for 2018 might be (no need to commit right this minute…let your heart and mind wander for a bit and explore some possible themes that resonate for you)!

To set the stage, I urge you to put in your Calendar now a date and time during the next two weeks where you will allow yourself the opportunity to do this exercise. Rather than thinking that you’ll somehow wake up on New Year’s Day, amongst the typically frenetic energy of a New Year, and that somehow you’ll magically have your year ahead “all figured out” — take advantage of taking a few days off during the holidays to honor yourself and where you’d like to take your life and career the next 12 or 13 moons.

If drafting a yearly plan makes sense to you, feel free to try that on for size. Write it out, map it out…use one of the many “planner” systems available…if that helps you get started. There are all kinds of smart phone apps and digital reminder systems available now; and I remember the days of hard copy Franklin-Covey binders, and those hand-held Palm Pilots. What I know, from my own experiences, however – is that no matter what system you use they serve only as placeholders for your intentions and not as creation generators. Like any good tool, they are only as helpful to the extent that you use them, and use them consistently, and with frequent check-ins throughout the year.

Also, remember that any plans are simply that. They are not iron-clad. And, until you start taking action to implement them, you’re really only making guesstimates, anyway. And, that is more than okay! Be comfortable with knowing and trusting that you will likely, nee nearly always, need to make adjustments along the way. As when commanding a boat as it traverses the waters ahead, you’ll need to use the rudder faithfully and consistently to keep you on course. All systems go – push off from the shore. If you take the space to do so now, at least come January you will have gotten as clear as you can “from the dock” about where you’re ultimately headed. And you’ve envisioned whom you’d like to join you on the adventure, and you’ve packed a few appropriate provisions for the journey. Then, allow the magic of the adventure with all its joys and surprises to take its course!

This will help set you, your life, and your law practice up for success in the coming year. It will help you complete this year and ease into the next one, from a place of feeling calm, centered, assured, strong, and confident.

Illumination time!

Just as with the Winter Solstice, and moving forward from there, what is ready to be revealed? What needs to come out from the shadows and into the light? What needs to be released to lighten the load? What would make for a smoother, more secure, less encumbered voyage ahead? Revisit what you wrote down in response to the Three Soul Starters above, and annotate them now by incorporating into them your “illuminations.”

For your consideration:  What’s your DREAM THEME?

As you reflect on the year to date, and as you begin focusing on where you’d like to be heading as 2018 approaches — notice what emerges for you.

I encourage you to select what I’m dubbing a “Dream Theme” to serve as a guide post and to carry you through from now until this time next year.

You’ll be amazed at what you start to notice, once you select your Dream Theme. I’m curious as to what yours will be!

Your Dream Theme may change shape over the next several weeks…allow it to do so! Right now, mine is something along the lines of strength through vulnerability (or “vulnerable strength,” for short).

Okay, your turn:

What’s your Dream Theme for 2018? What have you come up with so far?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughtsfeelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.
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Traveling light

As life is a daring adventure or nothing at all (thank you, Helen Keller), have you felt into where you are traveling next in your life’s journey?

Coming around the bend into a new season after last week’s solstice, as well as into a new calendar year, it’s a good time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re headed. Reflecting on your own spiritual path, how well would you like to “travel” into the next trip around the sun and during the next thirteen moons?

This edition of Soul Notes is devoted to traveling light.

Carry on baggage, or checked baggage?

Maybe it’s a good thing that airlines make you pay for extra baggage. “Whaaat?,” you exclaim.  Well…We’re paying an energetic price anyway  for extra baggage: in our travels, in our relationships, in our lives.  Adding $25 or $50 or whatever it is the airline charges only makes it all that more apparent.

When airlines first invoked those extra charges several years ago, I did feel disgruntled and rather taken aback by the new policy.  How affronting that they were going to charge us for something that had always been included within the price of our airfare? I’m beginning to appreciate, however, that the extra-bags policy has brought to my attention the benefits of packing light.

I now value the ‘selection process’ inherent in choosing what I need or desire most to bring on a trip, and deciding what items really are better left behind.   I read somewhere (or did I imagine this?) that just as with portion control on your dinner plate, it’s helpful to lay out what you think you may wish to pack, and then reduce it by half.

Doing so requires prioritization.  It’s an exercise in discernment.  It’s living life consciously.  What really matters to you?

Traveling light means paring down

Heading into the new year, how about we take a little inventory of our lives?  Maybe it’s time, by design, to travel light.  Release what is weighing you down.  Let go of what is holding you back.  Finally recognize and cast off that which has been making things take longer and unnecessarily draining on you rather than sustaining?

I’ve decided that there’s a reason luggage is called that – it’s because you lug it around with you. When traveling abroad, have you ever found yourself dragging a suitcase all around — on and off trains, up and down stairways, and from hotel to hotel?  Unless you have your own private valet, this quickly becomes a direct and obvious reminder of the value of traveling light.  Keep this vision in your mind’s eye when packing for your next trip!

Additionally, while on your next trip — business, vacation, either or both – be aware of what, if anything, you actually wish you had  in fact brought with you. Or, maybe some things for you have shifted in their priority or meaningfulness?  Is it time to reprioritize?  If so, make the appropriate notations and adjustments for next time.

Time for an inspection and perhaps a refresh

Now is a wonderful time, in another sense, to “check” your bags.  Give them a good once-over. Any rips, tears, or frays?  Any broken zippers?  Are the wheels wobbly and about to fall off?  Maybe the bags are still functional, yet have long lost their luster?

Is your passport up to date?  Better to take a look and determine that now rather than later.  Some countries require a passport to be at least six months away from its expiration date, when you are visiting.  Again, what may be an annoying policy, I have come to realize, actually serves a useful purpose for us as well.  It helps us to take our travels seriously.  There’s a discipline to it; a consciousness to it.

Don’t think this is all about stodgy planning.  I’m all for spontaneity, too.  I’d say having the passport up to date ahead of time actually allows for precisely that!  You’re ready to go at a moment’s notice (especially if you’ve gotten in the habit of bringing only what fits in a small carrry-on bag…see how this works?)

Review and Replenish

Every 90 days or so (you can use the solstices and equinoxes as an easy guide from the natural world) examine — not only your luggage and passport, but your life’s dreams and ambitions.  Not unlike the natural world, your life is dynamic and fluid.  Quarterly review and replenishment is about right – any more often than that, and you may be disallowing your aspirations their full due.  Your life is worth it – no short-changing or robbing your priorities the opportunity to fully settle in and calibrate. Throughout the year, consider:  How do you feel?  How do you wish to feel?  Lighter?

For your consideration:

What are you carrying into 2017?  Lay it all out in front of you.  Now, consider cutting it by 50%.  Be selective.  You get to choose!

For another practical example, and one I did myself after Solstice:

Clear out your refrigerator. Okay, before you groan about this one, first put on some of your favorite music and spray something pleasingly fragrant in the air. Next, dedicate no more than 55 minutes at a time to:

Taking one shelf a day for the next (however many shelves are in your fridge) days to clean it out.  Wipe down the dividers. Remove the cruddy crusties from jar lids.  Check for items well past their expiration dates.  Put in a fresh box of baking soda.  Toss out old condiments that you barely ever use (how many different types of mustard do you really need?) What about that small jar of maraschino cherries hiding behind that other small jar of pickled relish – can you even remember why you bought either of those – was it for a party you hosted back in 2011?

When you’re done at the end of the week, cherish a clean fridge, and consider how it’s a metaphor for entering the new year lighter, freer, and more refreshed.  And, if the metaphor doesn’t work, at least you can now find the almond butter!

Okay, your turn:

What are you ready to leave behind from this year?  What are you excited about and energized about bringing with you into the next one?

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

© 2016 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
 
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Ode to the ol’ “comfort zone”

Comfort Zone/Discomfort Zone (Either/Or): 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 by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Start, and the pressure will be off

When the time is on you, start and the pressure will be off

Remember where we are in our series? Yogi Bhajan, a master of kundalini yoga and spiritual teacher for decades to thousands worldwide, taught a set of principles that he coined the Five Sutras of the Aquarian Age.

Our 5-part series in Soul Notes continues, with this edition devoted to Sutra #3: “When the time is on you, start and the pressure will be off.”

May we all heed this one, and get off our buts! (“But, what about…?” Or: “But, how will I…?”) 

“When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off”

[Sutra 3, Yogi Bhajan]

 

Start where you are!

When the time is on you– that just conjures up a feeling of the weight on your shoulders, doesn’t it? Time somehow personifies into an ogre, the ever lurking “Procrastination (Wo)Man,” pressing down on you, constricting your every movement. You’re stuck! Or, so it seems. Alas, what is a soulful, spiritual being to do?

Start. Start where you are. Seems obvious, right? What often happens, however, is that we tend to get ahead of ourselves, and feel as if we should “already be further along.” So, starting from where we are feels like a failure, from the get-go. So we don’t go. Anywhere. At all.

What does it mean when we tell ourselves we should be further along? According to what time table? According to the imaginary one in our head?

Even according to the laws of physics, we can only take the next step from where we are, right in this moment in time. While fanciful imaginings of time travel are as fun for me as the next seer, trying to catapult ourselves ahead of the natural next step is like trying to jump onto a fast moving train. That only works in the movies (and even then only about half the time). In our minds it feels just about as implausible, anyway. So, we simply avoid moving forward altogether. We stand still. Our courage wanes. Our dreams stay on hold.   All the while, the pressure continues to build. And, the longer we postpone it, taking that first step just seems all that more arduous.

Focus on the joy, the sense of fulfillment, instead of the dread

The burden of the waiting, and the avoiding, ultimately exacts a much greater toll than does the actual doing. So, I invite you to join me in hereby proclaiming, from this point forward: “the wicked dread is dead!”

Consider this wild  thought: What if  you were to start?

Instead of feeling the pressure being on, how about feeling the pressure being off ? Ahh…feel into the welcomed state of relaxation. The one where your furrowed brow softens; your shoulders lower back down to their natural position; and your breathing becomes slow, steady, and replenishing.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

Approach your intended result from a place of confidence and remove all doubt. As you center yourself, experience the task at hand as if you have already handled it with great aplomb. Stop the worry at its source – in your mind. Allow yourself to move forward from a place of inspiration, not perspiration. Let your spirit, your soul, be your guide.

Spirit is above time and space

“When you are afraid, ‘What will happen tomorrow?’ you are not living, you are just dragging. Spirit is above time and space.” –Yogi Bhajan, 7/29/78

We are in a time of elevated awareness and consciousness.   With that elevated consciousness, often comes increased pressure. Expect it, and you’ll be ready. You won’t be caught off guard. Embrace these new levels of pressure, rather than stalling out and avoiding them. “It is now time that we must learn the way to be happy and to thrive under these new elevated levels of pressure.” – Yogi Bhajan, 7/27/99.

Tips for Starting

Remember, Sutra #2: “There is a way through every block.”  Believe that to be so, and be confident in taking that first step.

1. Take any  step in the direction of your intended end state. Sound too daunting? Make the steps smaller. Break them down into bite-sized chunks. [For a refresher on dismantling blocks, go here.]

Still too big? Make the steps smaller yet again, so that your first step is the size you KNOW you can (and will) take.   Martha Beck, PhD calls these “turtle steps.” Feeling of success builds confidence. The proof of the pudding, is in the eating.  (proverb).

2. Set a timer or countdown clock for 11 minutes. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in that amount of time. It brings into sharp focus the immediate task at hand. Moreover, the very act of actually STARTING gets you in motion, and up, out, and away from that nasty procrastination pothole.

3. “Make it to the mat!” As we explored in a previous post, it’s important to put yourself in the right environment to jump-start your activity. As my kundalini yoga teacher says, “just making it to the mat” is the critical first step. Get yourself over to your writing desk, or to the piles of files you’ve been avoiding. Set up an environment that feels good and welcoming, and gets you warmed up and ready to GO! [For more tips on making it to the mat, go here.]

Rise to the occasion! Start, and the pressure will be off!

Okay, your turn:

What prevents you from getting started? Recall how you felt when you (finally) started on a project that you had been avoiding…In retrospect, do you wish you had gone ahead and started sooner? Will you start sooner the next time around?

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.