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  • Create Aliveness in the Holiday Season

    The most transformative moments in our lives are those moments when all of a sudden something important is illuminated.

    When we have those big Aha’s!

    The trigger could be a simple or profound insight, or a life changing event – like a birth or a death, a marriage or a divorce – or the trigger could even be an experience like the one we might have standing on top of a mountain for the first time.

    What we are feeling is ALIVENESS!

    And it is in these trigger moments, good or bad, that we actually are the most alive. We feel a certain type of energy in the air. We feel the skin on our body and the beating of our heart. We feel totally connected.  We are present in the moment. It’s electric – it’s what some call a peak experience. Because in those moments and during those life events we know we are really HERE! It’s visceral!

    And that’s just it, we feel these peak experiences so intensely because, during them, we are smack dab in the middle of the power of life.

    What’s happening the rest of the time?

    We’re still alive, of course, doing our thing, going through the motions, perhaps even fairly consciously.

    But what if every moment in our lives or at least lots more of them felt just as electric as a peak experience? What if we were fully tuned in far more of the time? What if we could have that heightened “electricity-in-the-air experience” all the time?

    I remember when my son was born. We were given a book titled “On the Day You Were Born”. It showed every aspect of nature, on our own planet earth, and our own planet in motion with everything else –  the entire universe. And all of it was welcoming our baby into life … into the world, into the motion of everything … into the flow.

    It was such an exciting feeling to see these connections so clearly in that pivotal moment.  We are all part of the flow. We ARE the flow.

    Everything is connected, and everyone affects all things at all times.

    Those momentous peak experiences simply remind us of this fact. But in reality, we are always in the flow. And even more, we are directing it all the time.

    We just don’t know it or notice it.

    But here’s the thing:

    We DO have the ability to be present to that connection daily. And WOW! What an opportunity that is.

    To wake up, grab our life force and really show up in our lives. No matter what we are doing. To take off the filters that cloud our connection and, with the intention of being fully present, step into the aliveness of the moment.

    And intention is all it takes to begin to learn how to feel that aliveness every day and to learn how to keep that feeling going.

    Here are some simple ways to practice …

    Right now, as you’re listening to me, notice if your brain has taken you to the next item on your to-do list, taken you away from being where you actually are in this very moment. Are you here? Or are you thinking about what’s next? Or what happened earlier today?

    In order to be present in this moment, I’d like you to do a quick experiment. First, find your feet. And put all of your attention/concentration in your feet. Feel them. I’m doing it too. Second, Feel your feet connected to the floor or ground. And now BREATHE … breathe all the way into your feet … and, as you do, feel your breath move through the rest of your body.

    Perfect! Thank you for doing that with me. You are now in your body. And once you are in your body you are on the road to being present.

    The more you breathe into your feet and feel that you are actually connected to the earth, the more the rest of your body will start to show up too. Because what you are doing is taking your energy and attention out of your head and bringing it home into your physicality – into your physical being … into the present moment. And it only takes a minute.

    Once we are in our bodies we can really see where we are. Our focus is fully on what is around us, our vision is zeroed in on the now.

    Our culture makes multi-tasking seem attractive, but when we are doing one thing and thinking about another, or doing multiple things at once, it’s pretty hard to breathe and be in your body … and, therefore, it’s difficult to truly feel alive or to simply enjoy the present experience of being fully engaged in a task.

    To build on the exercise we just did and help you become even more present, walk around the room you are in or, if you are outside, even better.

    First connect to your feet, take a breath and walk slowly forward. As you do, feel your footsteps … the bottoms of your feet connecting to and releasing their connection with the floor or earth. Then, as you walk, begin to name aloud or silently to yourself every object or being you see, taking each in fully.

    Really notice what is around, you …

    The lamp with the burlap shade, the wooden table, the striped cat, the woman with the red coat, the mirror with the gilded frame, the crazy patterned pillow, the tree fallen in the path.

    With every object or being you name as you walk, you will become more and more present to the moment, more and more grounded … feeling more and more alive.

    For those of you who feel anxious from time to time – this exercise alone is a great anxiety reducer. Again, just a few minutes spent doing this exercise will make a world of difference.

    We’ve all heard the phrase, “stop and smell the roses.” And most of us take that saying as a caution to slow down, to take the time to enjoy life, to stop doing too much. It might be just the ticket.

    It’s good advice at times… and it may sound a lot like what I’m talking about – but it’s not.

    And perhaps it’s not the most helpful advice for today’s fast-paced world or in times of real stress.

    We need to realize that at whatever speed we’re moving, no matter what is happening – good or bad – and regardless of how much we have on our plates, we can and need to be fully present and we want to feel fully alive.

    Aliveness has nothing to do with stopping. It has nothing to do with how much we have going on. If we stop to smell the roses, we might not actually be smelling them if we’re thinking about what we have to do next.

    And in fact, sometimes the most alive we feel is when we’re moving at lightning speed …

    As long as we stay in the present.

    So, don’t stop and smell roses … instead learn how to get into the present regardless of how fast you’re moving or what is happening (and yes you may need to slow down to do that at first), but after you practice and learn it …

    Move fast, move slow, do a lot, do a little, take breaks, get back to it … and through it all … BE PRESENT … LIVE YOUR WHOLE LIFE IN THAT ZONE – fully connected, fully in the flow, fully alive.

     

    Is There Support When You Mention Divorce?

    I was speaking with someone today who was sharing the feeling of being scared while talking about separating from her husband. She did have trepidation about separation and divorce but what really frightened her was the response she was getting from the people around her to the potential dissolution of marriage. The responses were so strongly negative and unsupportive, that she thought that they must be afraid of something.

    She was excited that I had started a private Facebook group to discuss a new way to deal with divorce because she said that people forget about “that part.” When I asked what she meant, she said that people forget about the part leading up to separation or divorce; that people forget that the individuals involved need support. The story she was telling me highlighted that bystanders will often express their own opinions instead of listening.

    It’s sad that when someone is looking for support in the fragile moments of making the huge decision to explore the dissolution of a marriage that what shows up is fear or judgment by others.

    The world of divorce is often fraught with so much negativity one can’t see the forest for the trees. The potential outcome is often the focus so people forget how important all the steps in the process are. If friends and family are only focused on the outcome, the couple may feel like they are floundering in a sink or swim effort during the early stages of decision-making.

    It’s easy to forget how shocking it can be when someone says something out of the blue that’s a real zinger and knocks you off balance. Listening to her was an important reminder that a good support system is critical.

    Much of my work is with people who are in the process of making the decision to separate or divorce or those who have already made the decision and my job is guiding them through more positive ways to approach their situation. Part of this involves talking about the people in their lives who have a lot to say about the dissolution of marriage – whether it’s sharing war stories or giving advice or offering words of approval or disapproval. Since they are not part of the couple, their situation may not apply.

    I am so involved in the arena of giving those divorcing the support they need that I can forget how many people don’t reach out for professional support, or how many people go ahead with this very difficult life change without the support of their family or friends, simply because of how their family and friends may feel about divorce in general.

    I don’t think anyone goes down the road of divorce lightly. If someone has gotten to the point of deciding to leave a relationship for a period time or has made the decision alone or with their spouse to end the union, they are jumping into the unknown. To take that leap there is, most often, a very good reason. How great it would be if co-workers, friends and family members could remain neutral or supportive.

    Often people who are making a major life decision do find that it is a bit frightening to those around them. In the case of divorce, the observer may be afraid they will have to take sides or be involved in the “fight” in some way. They may be afraid for the person or the couple’s children because so many divorces are antagonistic. They may remember their own break ups or their parent’s break ups. They find themselves looking at their own relationships and sometimes they become afraid for themselves.

    Dissolution of marriage is a tricky process. It shakes the foundations of many belief systems.

    But maybe it is more important to recognize that all people deserve to be in relationships that are healthy for them and sometimes it just isn’t so.

    My heart went out to the person who felt she had to do this on her own. It was clear she had good reason to make this difficult decision. I hope that those around her help strengthen her resolve or simply stand by her side without judgment.

    Why a Group for Women About Life?

    goddessMany years ago I had a serious back injury. I was working at a flower shop to earn extra money and get a discount on flowers for my wedding. It was kind of silly. I was taking a break from my regular job as an Art Therapist and thought I should be making money while I was taking the important step of getting married. Goes to show that doing something that we think we are supposed to do or be – in my case, independent; an equal partner – doesn’t always work out the way we think it will. Actually it really backfired. I ended up lifting a planter. It was a huge, empty planter. Who knew it was incredibly heavy?

    Well that was a week before the wedding. It was a big mistake that launched an incredible journey. Not only did it create a difficult start to our new marriage, it taught me what it meant to heal from the inside out.

    It took months and months. Unbelievably, when I was almost back to normal, I got rear-ended at a red light and the healing process began all over again. I guess I hadn’t gotten the full message yet. Once again, I was flat on my back.

    For over a year I read all about healing. I listened to meditation tapes. I read all about the body and I read all about people. I read science fiction, biographies, most significantly heroes’ journeys.

    Among the books that changed my life and perception were The Goddess Within by Roger and Jennifer Woolger (now unfortunately out of print), and Goddesses in Every Woman by Jean Shinoda Bolen. Both books spoke to a need for connecting with different aspects of ourselves and bringing balance into our lives.

    During that time, which I call “my time on the moon,” I began to wonder what I wanted to do with my career and focused specifically on how I was bringing these aspects of myself into the light and into balance. Specifically, I wondered what I would want to attend if I was interested in expanding myself and looking deeper into who I am and how I could be excited about my life.

    After much thought, I created A Group for Women About Life, because that’s the program I wanted to experience. I wanted to participate in creating community, exploring all aspects of being a woman and a human being alive on the planet right now, something that would actually have an impact on the way I thought or the choices I would make going forward.

    When I created the program I really had no idea how powerful the process I had designed was. Oh, I knew it would be fun and I did know it would be impactful and that people would learn more about themselves and their relationships and position in the world, but I had no idea just how impactful.

    I had no idea that people would find a fresh way to look at their relationships, or find the courage to change jobs, or start businesses, or choose to heal very old wounds, or be able find community where they once felt alone. I knew that people would benefit from awakening the parts of them that had been asleep because of fear or inactivity. But I didn’t know what it would mean to have every aspect of the self actively awake and working in concert. Amazing – really amazing!

    After seven years of running the program I stopped to give birth to a new creation, my son, and begin a different journey. Now it is time to bring this program back. We are in a time of great change. We need our internal lights to be on and working in concert – and getting there is a delicious journey.

    Sometimes when we operating based on what we think we are supposed to do or be, we don’t have the whole picture because there is another part of ourselves that hasn’t spoken up yet. Sometimes the voice of our culture is stronger than our own. Sometimes we hear our own voice but it is a one-sided conversation. We don’t use all facets of our intuition to make the best decision – even though often the information is within us waiting to be tapped.

    I think I would not have worked in the flower store if I had been fully in touch with my true strength – my aspects of Artemis or Athena. I think if I had been in touch with my Demeter aspect I would have taken better care of myself. Maybe, if I had been in touch more fully with my Persephone, I would have looked deeper within. Had I been more in touch with my Aphrodite aspect I might have been more focused on the relational adventure of joining with another person – my husband to be. I don’t know what decision I would have made back then, but I know with all those beautiful voices chiming in and helping me be fully awake and balanced it probably would have been a better one.

    I am so excited to invite you into this sacred and exciting journey once again. It is a wonderful, fulfilling ride.

    To learn more about A Group for Women About Life, get on our update list. If you are ready to sign up right now, schedule an enrollment call with Liz.

    For men who are interested in a similar transformative journey please click here  and we will be sure to keep you updated for future programs.

    Uh Oh! It’s the Holidays and We’re Getting Divorced!

    Along with all the joy the holidays bring there is often a lot of discussion about the challenges and stresses of being with family. All the holiday hype can make it difficult to get to those warm feelings of home, the deep connection we have with our loved ones, and the joy of being together. When we add divorce to the mix all sorts of difficult questions and stresses show up.

    But despite the to-be-expected potential irritations of being thrown together for a yearly visit with family, I think this time of year gives us a unique opportunity to have a really great holiday outcome, whatever form your family may be in at the time.

    Specifically, we have the opportunity to choose to see the good that is possible by having a vision for the kind of holiday and family experience we want to have.

    That said, when people are in the middle of what some might call a family crisis – a separation or divorce – there can be even more obstacles to seizing that opportunity. So here’s how it tends to go in the typical divorce or separation. It starts with assumptions like:

    “It’s going to be awful or stressful.”
    “We’re going to fight about where the kids go.”
    “It’s going to be heartbreaking.”
    “We’re not going to agree on what to do.”
    “This is going to be really artificial.”

    These are only a few of the stressful thoughts we might encounter. Some of these end up as self-fulfilling prophecies:

    We are so on edge, we end up responding to things we think will happen instead of creating what we hope can happen.

    So, how can we make the shift from just getting through the holidays to actually enjoying aspects of them without a full load of stress?

    Even though the stages of uncoupling can be difficult – and even though everyone’s situation is different, and even if you might prefer to simply escape – there is much you can do to make things better.

    Those of you who’ve worked with me on divorcing differently know that putting your vision first, and making inspired choices that bring you a better outcome, is key to not just surviving, but to thriving during a separation or divorce.

    Here are a few tips that will help you create a peaceful and hopefully joyful holiday, despite all the challenges you might be facing. Use them as a your guide to approaching divorce differently this holiday season.

    1) Be prepared for that rise in your emotions. Being prepared can actually help you stay more balanced.

    2) Consider how you can keep your usual holiday routine – especially if separation or divorce is new to you. For example, if going to that great vacation spot is what you’ve always done, figure out how you can still do just that.

    3) Think about what you really cherish about the holidays and present it clearly and simply with “I” statements in order to begin a discussion about options for how to celebrate. If you’re making a request, be ready to suggest a compromise or alternative. For instance, you might say, “Christmas Eve has always been the most special time in my family and I would like to take Sally to see her grandparents that night. How would you feel about taking her to be with your parents on Christmas afternoon?”

    4) If your focus is keeping the family together, find a way to keep the continuity of family by planning a special, time-limited event. You can also design certain guidelines regarding behavior if you’re concerned that tension will cause emotions to erupt. Example: Decide together that provokers of bad feelings (sarcasm, criticism, harsh tone, petty arguments) are off limits for the event – and remember to think creatively: you can take separate cars or decide together what topics to avoid. Essentially, you are making an agreement to keep things agreeable for those moments or events, which is a great way to build a foundation for going forward when children are involved.

    5) Envision what is meaningful to you while also considering what’s meaningful to others: What do you know about what is important to your soon-to-be ex partner, or your children, about the holidays, and how can their wishes be incorporated?

    6) Know when it’s best not to try to be together and plan accordingly.

    7) Breathe!

    There is no one correct way to do this – and there is no rule that says this new way of doing the holidays has to be terrible.

    Most importantly:

    There is no rule that says your way has to be typical, traditional, or the way it was.

    This is a time to create new traditions. Traditions that fit your personal circumstances and that bring a new and different focus into the holiday mix.

    And, certainly, there may also be sadness and a yearning for what you thought would be wonderful for a very long time. So, allow yourself to honor that sadness and begin to create something that you are comfortable with for this year.

    You may change how you do things next year, but listen to yourself regarding what you need this season – YOUR VISION – and have a heartfelt holiday.

    Wising you the best in the New Year,

    Liz Goll Lerner
    Your Inspired Choices

    P.S. Be the first to get my new Divorce Well & Thrive webinar for more on what it means to divorce well and how to begin to create YOUR OWN PERSONAL VISION for a very different kind of separation or divorce. It will arrive in your in-box as soon as it is ready!

    Don’t Do It Alone

    Colorful Hands Forming Heart Shape

    Fall is a time of transition. The sunny days give way to cooler breezes and beautiful colors. The cycle of life is before our eyes. There are many transitions in life. Some involve simply adjusting to the days getting a bit shorter and others are more complex.

    On the surface we move into task mode. What does this change mean and how do we take action or cope with it? Underneath the surface many emotions may arise.

    When big changes take place, like loss of a loved one, aging, assisting someone who is aging, divorce or even a child leaving for college, we see them concretely in tasks that arise, often involving de-cluttering, or moving furniture or even moving to another residence. Underneath, our own tectonic plates are moving. Not only are we navigating the external world, we are navigating how to metabolize these changes internally. How are we making sense of our world as it is changing shape? How do we steer the ship in unknown waters?

    I was working on clearing out my computer the other day, when I came across sets of varied instructions I had given to the home health aide who was caring for my mother who lived in another state. I realized anew that I had been managing every aspect of my mother’s life from a physical standpoint and at times emotional as well. That meant in addition to caring for my family and working, I had another full time job.

    From an external view, it was about priorities, love and managing all the balls in the air as best I could. Did things slip through the cracks? Yes. But everyone’s health and safety stayed afloat. In addition, huge questions and role transitions were taking place.

    Every day in my practice, I speak with or see someone going through a major life transition. There is no rulebook, but there are guides. It is important to hire people, when you can, to help sort out the complexities. My colleague, Penny Catterall of Order Your Life, who I use for help with organizing my life, has been indispensable to those going through these kinds of transitions from moves, to downsizing, to helping with the paperwork (medical forms, bill payment, culling files, etc.) that there just isn’t time to do when you are focused on major unexpected and sometimes expected life events.

    Whether it’s divorce, a child leaving for college or being an adult parent in a care giving situation learning how to be a respectful advocate, remember to reach out and get the help you need whether it is coaching, counseling, geriatric consulting or organizing and administrative. Don’t do it alone.