When Everything Slows Down

Who Am I 5-1

It’s been hard to motivate myself since the pandemic created a massive change in everyone’s lives. It’s slowed down my already diminished “have to do” list. My routine has become, I wake, shower, meditate, eat, clean dishes, call family and friends, check the news, eat, clean dishes, watch movies on Netflix, sleep.

In between I procrastinate with reading what’s new during the pandemic—what changes are being made and when and how we will be able to move freely again. I am also lured into watching movies Netflix is adding to its site.

Eager to write for my blog again after taking time off to finish a book I’d written. I vowed that I’d write every day so I could post every week. But that’s not happening.

I confess to not having been a responsible blogger in the past. I didn’t always post fresh material each week.

But now it’s worse. I don’t feel the inclination to write about what I wrote before. That never stopped me from sitting at my computer until an idea propelled me on to write.

It’s possible that having slowed everything down to essentials in my life has resulted in not feeling any urgency to get my work done. My reaction to the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic was to double down on meditation and walk to commune with nature every day. I watch only movies and read books that are funny and/or uplifting. It’s my carefully calculated way of keeping myself from becoming depressed.

Knowing this is not who I am, I wonder how I can keep myself from feeling distracted each time I sit down to write. Having become so calm has turned into a problem.

My research brought up the fact that procrastination is because of discomfort, but at first that made little sense to me. Feeling discomfort writing before didn’t stop me from writing. It was a little anxiety that helped me to begin writing before.

We motivate ourselves to work with something outside ourselves. When our work is something we love to do, the work itself motivates us. Because I no longer had a routine, I needed to find extra motivation to work despite having lost what had motivated me before the pandemic.

Celebrated author Nir Eyal shares powerful insights on the science and psychology of procrastination in a podcast on Mindvalley. He says that everything we do is to escape discomfort. We need to learn how to control and manage our discomfort to take action.

In my case, needing to learn a novel way to manage my discomfort became my goal. First, I needed to acknowledge that involving myself with something other than what I planned to do was due to discomfort. By naming what it was, I realized whatever had my attention was procrastination, not anything else.

Nir Eyal offers two ways to do this. The first step is the 10 minute rule. You say to yourself, “I don’t crave distraction anymore. I can get past this distraction in 10 minutes”.

Set a timer for 10 minutes. You can either return to the task you wanted to do or sit with the discomforting sensations of either blame or shame.

Blamers criticize other people. “It’s So and So’s fault for keeping me from being able to work.“ Shamers condemn themselves. “If I had any guts, I wouldn’t be tempted with stuff that doesn’t serve me.“

Be present with the urge to blame or shame until it stops. Allow the thoughts to play out until they lose their strength.

The second step is for when you feel guilty about making time for entertainment. If you want to watch something on Netflix, instead of feeling guilty, if you intend when you want to do this, you are changing how you’re approaching what you think of distraction.

By determining the details first, getting the information, then defining by scheduling the time, you do it without feeling you’re procrastinating.

Another suggestion from Eyal is that if you set a period of time you will lock out on your calendar to work without distraction, you don’t have to deal with the discomfort of feeling pulled away from working to procrastinate.

These suggestions helped to help me overcome the fears that came up when I tried to write. Telling the truth to myself helped me define what was happening. Rather than judge my response, I could distinguish what action to take.

The best that’s come from facing the truth is I don’t crave distraction anymore. It’s so much more satisfying to feel good about a job well done.

Besides, now that procrastination is all right when I plan for it, I can still enjoy it.

 

 

 

It’s nothing like anything ever before

Image0005

When I learned we had to stay home and distance ourselves, the news wasn’t alarming. I’m an artist and writer, and I’m used to being alone.

That was then. I knew I could meet friends for lunch, go to the gym, go shopping, and anything else I wanted to do after working. Now, there’s nothing to do besides work, cleaning, cooking or finding something to entertain me after work.

That would have been fine for a little while, but hard when we don’t know how long this isolation will last. Nothing is certain now. There’s nothing to look forward to.

My two granddaughters were to graduate in May, one from high school, the other from college. I’d been flippant when I heard they wouldn’t get to celebrate with their friends. When I wrote that I’d watched them get their diplomas in my imagination and told them how proud I was, I thought it was a cute way to approach their loss.

Today, I read two articles about grief. The first was about all the students who won’t be able to have a graduation ceremony. It described how hard it was for these students to lose all they’ve been looking forward to these last four years.

These youngsters had been looking forward to all the festivities and honors for over four years. Now that was being taken away from them, my initial response to my grandchildren in my estimation turned out to have been disrespectful.

I’d become one of those women who has lost touch with compassion. I know women like that. Their entire world revolves around themselves.

That’s not who I want to be.

The second article about grief was about all of us. A group who met shared their feelings about living with the pandemic. One woman said she felt grief. They asked an expert, David Kessler, to find out how to manage their feelings.

Kessler is the world’s foremost expert on grief. He co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.

Kessler says, “Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. Losing normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

What can individuals do to manage all this grief?

Kessler advises us to start with work on the different stages of grief. The stages aren’t going to be linear. He says, “There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.”

And he states “Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”

There’s anticipatory grief, which is really anxiety. Anxiety is fear and conjures up worst-case scenarios. That’s when you must make yourself think about the best-case scenarios.

“We all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one does because we’re all taking the right steps. Neither scenario should be ignored, but neither should dominate either.”

Kessler suggests:

  1. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. You can name five things in the room. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay.
  2. You can also think about letting go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands.
  3. It’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Be patient. If someone is usually adaptable but is now contrary, think about who they usually are and not who they seem to be in this moment.
  4. This is a temporary state. It helps to say it.

Finally, Kessler adds; “I’ve been honored that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s family has given me permission to add a sixth stage to grief: Meaning. I had talked to Elisabeth quite a bit about what came after acceptance. I did not want to stop at acceptance when I experienced some personal grief. I wanted meaning in those darkest hours. And I do believe we find light in those times. Even now people realize they can connect through technology. They are not as remote as they thought. They realize they can use their phones for long conversations. They’re appreciating walks. I believe we will continue to find meaning now and when this is over.”

It’s helped me to find meaning to this pandemic. One way I’ve found meaning is that when  distancing myself from others, instead of being stoic in my aloneness, I am finding balance in my life between being sequestered and in touch with my humanness. I feel better about myself and find that I’m more accepting.

This pandemic might hold some significant meanings for you, too. Challenges are the beginnings of change and growth.

You can read the entire article, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief” at: https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief?

If You Want to Move Forward, You Have to Move With the Truth

gayle

I wrote my memoir not sure why I needed to do this. I’m an artist. Having been painting and learning to paint better was my life.  I knew little about writing.

But something deep inside was stirring. I had the urge to write about myself. Maybe I wanted to explore why I’d done what I had, but I was so intent on knowing truths that lay deep inside, the why’s seemed irrelevant. Something was there to explain why writing my story would make sense.

I couldn’t get what I was after by planning what to write. Thoughts kept me further from what I was after.

The truth comes from that place of feeling good; the place known to be in the flow. It’s where you embrace what is. We find truth living in the moment without a care in the world.

The truth never comes from our thoughts. Our thoughts are full of beliefs, judgments, and fears we formed through the years. Our thoughts are in the truth’s way. They’re the blocks to our happiness.

Arriving at the truth requires us to put aside our beliefs, judgements and fears. How do we do this? There are many teachers who can show you a way like Byron Katie, Joe Dispenza, and many other teachers on Mindvalley and other sites.

But I’ve found a simple way you can learn to do this for yourself. Writing your story will help you see where past experiences contributed to form those beliefs, judgments and fears. Let me give you an example from my life story.

When I was first married a long time ago, in the 60s, I believed I was beholden to my husband. He was the one earning the money I lived on while I was free to do what I wanted to do. In return for my freedom, I believed I had to comply to his wishes.

On Sunday nights, when our maid had the night off, I’d ask my husband if we and our four children could go out to dinner. He’d tell me it was okay. I bathed and dressed the children, and when I was ready to go my husband would decide he’d rather stay home. He’d go to the grocery store for TV dinners.

I’d feel harassed and beaten down. I’d cry.

Several years later my beliefs, thoughts and fears had gotten worse, and I became depressed, I went for therapy with a psychologist. When I told him what happened at our house on Sunday nights, he asked me why I didn’t take the children out without my husband.

It was as if a light bulb went on in my head, illuminating all the options I had that I hadn’t seen before. In that moment I realized no one was keeping me from going out to dinner but myself. The only reason I couldn’t see was that I believed it wasn’t possible.

Where did the belief that I couldn’t spend money without my husband’s approval come from? When writing about that time in my life, I saw how that belief came from all the times he admonished me for spending money. Each time I capitulated, and the more I didn’t question this belief, the harder it became to see any options for myself.

Writing my story helped me see how I’d believed I wasn’t good enough. Why else would I allow someone else to dictate what I can or can’t do?

The first step in changing and moving forward comes when we realize that questioning our thoughts leads to empowering ourselves. The opposite—when we blindly continue following our beliefs, judgments and fears—we disempower ourselves.

If you really want to change and move forward in your life, you need to begin to “clean house” of disempowering beliefs, judgments and fears. It gets easier with each success. In fact, after a while you will hear your thoughts and be able to turn them off.

One easy way to learn how to do the work of disempowering your thoughts is to go to Katie’s website https://thework.com/, where you’ll find a step-by-step description of how to do it.

I’ll be posting more about our thoughts in more posts, so stay tuned in. I welcome questions you might have for future posts.

 

 

 

 

Who Am I? Change is Easier With an Honest Answer.

 

Let’s suppose you want to change your life. You might want to change your job, your routine, or some bothersome habits, but you don’t know where to start. So you ask yourself, “Who am I?” “Who would I prefer to be?” “What do I really want to do?”

Change is frightening and the temptation to resist it is powerful. However, the rewards of change – the opportunity to learn new things, to rethink tired processes, and to improve the way we see ourselves – is worth the effort.

Change is a process. It takes effort on your part. And the fear of losing what you have depended on for your identity or the fear of failing can feel very intense.

Things do not change; we change.

Henry David Thoreau

We can only change our circumstances from the inside out. As Wayne Dyer says,

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

I was watching the movie, “Starry Night”, on Amazon recently. Although the movie is a fantasy of Vincent Van Gogh coming back to vindicate the wrongs done him in his life, toward the end of the movie, there are several true excerpts from letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo.

One of them shines a brilliant light on Van Gogh’s beliefs about himself and his art.  He says,

What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then—even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”

When Van Gogh was alive, his work wasn’t appreciated. But that doesn’t mean his work didn’t have tremendous value.

To live mindfully, according to Thích Nhất Hạnh in his book, The Art of Power, ”the most important thing is to have confidence in your work, to make sure that your work embodies your best in terms of understanding and compassion.”

Van Gogh’s art contains insight, understanding, and compassion, all the attributes of a masterpiece. Van Gogh tells Theo in the letter he sent to him that he wants to make sure that his work embodies all the beauty that he is not personally thought to be.

So, what does this story have anything to do with why your sense of self is important?

Despite the suffering of his soul, unable to attain success through his work, Van Gogh was able to let go while painting to find a deep well of satisfaction and a sense of merit. He couldn’t have painted the beauty in his work without having let go of his sense of self. When he painted he was able to let go and “get in the flow” of painting. 

Then why was only one of his paintings sold during his lifetime?

John Kehoe, pioneer in the field of Mind Power, says your subconscious mind is a second, hidden mind that exists within you. It’s a reflection of what you believe you deserve. The subconscious acts upon the predominating thoughts that reside within your conscious mind.

You know more about your conscious mind. It’s the mind that exists to take care of and protect us. It’s our thinking mind. But the thoughts flitting through our mind can be, and often are, full of fear.

Fear generates judgments, blame and, ultimately, beliefs based on fears we’ve harbored for many years. Experts say these fears are mostly generated from birth to age seven. Perhaps these beliefs served us well when we were younger, but they have now become the negativity that is preventing us from all we want in our lives.

The subconscious attracts circumstances and situations that match the images in your mind. When we pay attention to the concepts conjured by our past negative thoughts the way Van Gogh did with his evaluation of his worthiness, the subconscious delivers what it believes to be the truth, but not what we really want.

By believing himself to be the “lowest of the low”, Van Gogh was telling his subconscious that he wasn’t worthy. Since the subconscious delivers us a match to our predominating thoughts, attracting success would have been hard for him, if not impossible.

When we’re closing ourselves off from the Universe’s abundance and unlimitedness, we can only receive that which we believe we deserve.

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.

Willie Nelson

This brings us back to the beginning of this blog. When we know that we’re the reason we’re not receiving what we want, that it isn’t fate or anything else outside of us, we can begin the process of discovering the thoughts, fears, and beliefs that prevent us from receiving what we want.

You may be able to do this for yourself. Many have. But if you’re like me, you’ll need motivation. Here are some inspirational quotes you might need to get over even your hardest obstacles.

  • “Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same.” — Unknown
  • “Don’t make a change too complicated, just begin.” — Unknown
  • “Small changes eventually add up to huge results.” — Unknown
  • “Action is the key to all success.” — Pablo Picasso
  • “Don’t expect to see a change if you don’t make one.” — Unknown
  • “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

I’m in the process of changing who I am for the umpteenth time. It doesn’t get easier-there seem to be new blocks every time I strive to have more for my life – but it does get more rewarding each time I change. That’s because I’ve found that digging deeper and admitting the truth goes a long way to manifest all that I want to be and have.

For more on “Who Am I?”, go to this link, https://dorettab.com/answering-big-questions-life/

 

Why we often create the same theme multiple times?

I came across the painting above going through 300 slides that were recently converted to digital.  It’s one of many paintings I did in the past depicting lovers in a jungle scene.  Since I’ve been noticing that same themes  crop up in my artwork a lot, I asked myself:

Why have I felt compelled to examine this particular subject over and over again?

This quote may elucidate this conundrum:

If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint a hundred canvases on the same theme.

Pablo Picasso

Many writers and painters have often used the same theme to create their art. John le Carre wrote spy fiction.  J.M.W. Turner, considered the founder of English watercolour painting, was famous for his landscape paintings with their unconventional emphasis on light, colour and atmospheric effects.

And then, there’s this that further clarifies why I felt drawn to paint this subject.

I do not think writers ought ever to sit down and think they must write about some cause, or theme, or something. If they write about their own experiences, something true is going to emerge.

Doris Lessing

I know it’s getting into muddy waters discussing “alternate” truths.  It’s been a hot topic since Kellyanne Conway spoke those words in defense of our president.  But without questioning what a truth is, how can we know how our truths affect us?

The one thing I know for sure is that knowing a truth doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same truth for someone else.  We all carry a set of beliefs that we hold as the truth. This doesn’t make my belief any more true than what’s true for others. 

Our truths may be like other people’s truths, but often they are not.  Contrasting beliefs can often causes division and sometimes conflict, especially when some people want to force their beliefs on other people.

My own beliefs have changed over time.  Big changes have caused new, different circumstances in my life, and with those new circumstances I felt impelled to reevaluate what is the truth for me in the present.

The Impressionists faced harsh opposition from the conventional art community in France, but through the impressionist’s independent exhibitions and their well-heeled admirers, they were brought to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s.  This was a result of the changing belief and acceptance of impressionism as art.

So it stands to reason that there’s no one truth.

Even though I was painting the same theme many times, the paintings included different subject matter.  Some were the jungle scene with a single person, some included a couple, some depicted dancers. 

The answers to my question began with remembering the time I first saw a jungle scene in a painting.  It was a painting by Rousseau of a woman next to a lion in a jungle.  The painting impacted my 12 year old self because I’d been struggling with the truth that women didn’t count for much in the fifties.  My interpretation of having the lady next to lion, both peaceful,  meant that a woman could be as strong as a lion–a colossal awareness for my disappointed and angry self at that time. 

As I look at my different jungle themed paintings now, I realize that I have approached each successive painting with a new viewpoint of the subject—updating the truth.  No longer needing the lion to remind me of my strength, I am safe in a jungle alone.  Lovers and dancers are depicted enjoying the beauty and expansiveness of the setting.  I am aware now that it was that jungle scene which set me free to be my highest, true self and now I’m free to be there in any guise I choose.  

The truth does emerge when we paint our experiences.