Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is There Room for More BOOM in Your Life?

By Amy Phillips-Gary

As we gear up for 4th of July picnics and fireworks, the news seems filled with the deaths of several famous folks.

On this celebratory time of the United States' “birthday,” it's an odd feeling for me to also be thinking about the passing on of people who were iconic as I grew up.

This amalgam of mourning and 4th of July revelry lead my thoughts to life itself. There are lots of unknowns and much we could choose to be fearful about.

At the same time, there is so much to appreciate and celebrate. Each and every moment can be infused with a sense of aliveness, passion and spark... if we choose.

In the midst of the sadness and fear you might encounter from time to time, I encourage us all to create space for more BOOM!

It is too common for people to fall into routines driven by responsibilities and lists of things we “have to” do. A life by default is not one fully lived.

Isn't it time to amp up your spark? Light the fuse and be part of the amazing colors and sounds streaking through the atmosphere!

Tap in and spread your spark around

Some of us aren't aware of what makes us feel alive. And I mean ALIVE! Energy is pumping, toes and fingers are tingling and absolutely bursting with vitality.

Think back to a time in your life when you felt even close to this description of aliveness. What were you doing? What was unique about those moments?

You probably don't want to live in the past, but you can be informed by it.

Experiment with activities and ways of interacting that helped you feel more vibrant and alive in the past. Use that as a starting point to discover new ways to tap into your spark.

Acknowledge any bit of vitality you can and nurture it by continuing to be, do and think in ways that help it grow.

One way to multiply the vitality you are starting to feel is to allow it to expand. Don't keep that spark all to yourself!

When you are with other people, don't hold back for fear they won't understand you. Fear of rejection is most certainly a way to dampen down the nascent spark you've tapped into.

Instead, be yourself and be as beautifully vibrant as you can be in this moment.

When you stay present and really listen and interact with others, you will not only nurture your own spark, you might just inspire theirs as well.

Go to your Source

As you might already be aware, that spark you feel when you do whatever it is you do and engage with those around you comes from within you and outside of you all at the same time.

The boom of being fully alive comes from the Universe, Source, God, Goddess, Spirit, Yahweh, and so on.

Depending on your spiritual path, the name you give to your Source and the specific beliefs you have about it will vary.

Regardless of your religious or spiritual path, there is available to all of us a deep and enduring energy that-- when we tap into it-- allows us to be fully alive.

Sometimes this is experienced as an all-encompassing peaceful calm and other times it is a charged electricity that runs throughout us. Still other times it is both of these or more.

If you are having a difficult time tapping into your spark, consider returning to your spiritual Source. It doesn't matter what name you give it, just open yourself up to touching in and beyond.

You might find meditation or prayer helpful as you connect with your Source. You could also sing, dance or go for a hike and get in touch with nature. Whatever means you find useful in transcending your everyday routine and busyness, try it.

And when you discover (or re-discover) a sense of spark, know you have connected with your Source. Practice returning to this state of aliveness regularly. Rely on this practice when you encounter difficulties or merely boredom.

Give thanks and appreciation for this gift and for your life. Just as we celebrate the lives of those celebrities who have moved on, celebrate your own life that's still in play as well as those around you.

Nurture your spark and color the world with all that you are and can be.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Inner Renovations

By Amy Phillips-Gary

Do you ever feel like you're boxed into a room with a very very low ceiling?

I certainly do at times. It's as if there's some imaginary boundary that's preventing me from moving ahead with my plans and intentions.

Whether it's a ceiling on my finances, my relationships, my creativity and career or my ability to have a healthier fitter body, that blocked feeling is oh so real.

And I put the ceiling there.

It is almost epidemic the way many of us erect ceilings on our own capacity and then act as if we're helplessly trapped.

What's your ceiling look like?
Take some time and identify the ways in which you've constricted your life. It could be that you've modeled the example of the adults who surrounded you as you grew up.

You might want to live a more financially abundant life than your parents, for example, but it seems scary or perhaps even “wrong” to transcend that ceiling you've always known.

The ceiling you've created for yourself may have made sense in your past.

If you experienced abuse, diminishing or making yourself invisible could have been a very smart way to stay safe and preserve your well-being as much as possible.

The boundaries we've set for ourselves are neither good nor bad.

Avoid judgmental labels and devote more of your energy to noticing. Are you moving closer or further away from your goals?

Sometimes we are so accustomed to our habitual ways of living that we simply cannot see the ceiling-- even if it's boxing us in.

We resign ourselves to a life that feels out of our control and we play victim to external forces.

Whenever you find yourself yearning for something different, something more, sit up and take notice. Your discomfort and unhappiness are signaling you to take a deeper look.

Within those inner calls for something new is probably a self-created ceiling.

When you recognize that you are feeling constricted, you are a step closer to freedom.

Dare to be more

“I dare you!”

These are the words kids sometimes use to goad one another.

It might be like those famous movie dares such as retrieving a ball from the scary neighbor's yard or the ill-fated “triple dog dare” that resulted in one kid's tongue sticking to the school's frozen flagpole.

As you probably are well aware, dares like these can lead people to choices that are harmful or just plain foolish.

But a dare can also help you move beyond where you are and to a place where you never dreamed you could go!

You can dare to dissolve that imaginary ceiling and expand. Of course, this can be a scary undertaking and it might even feel like it violates a rule.

When you dare yourself to apply for that grant, quit your job and go back to school, ask an acquaintance out on a date or have that difficult conversation with your partner, you are taking a risk.

There are lots of unknowns and you cannot be assured of how it's all going to work out. It is up to you whether the risk of possibly moving closer to the dream life you have for yourself is worth it.

Perhaps you are 100% sure that you want to take the dare, yet that darn ceiling seems rigid and immovable.

The really wonderful news that you might not want to hear is that you are 100% powerful.

No matter what your current situation is and what your past experience was, you are ultimately the one who created the ceiling in your life and you are the one who can dissolve it.

Keep reminding yourself of where you want to be as you continue to open up to the fact that you can get there. Dismantle the beliefs that might be lending your ceiling strength and rigidity.

Your ceiling may seem to come down all at once, but chances are it will be a gradual process. Create room for expansion within your life one decision at a time.

So get clear about what you want and recognize the obstacles you've set in your own way. Then step out and be more-- I dare you!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

'Cause I'm a Woman...

By Amy Phillips-Gary

I can bring home the bacon
Fry it up in a pan
And never let you forget you're a man
'Cause I'm a woman...”

I clearly remember strutting around and belting out this perfume ad jingle as a teen.

Not only was Enjoli selling perfume, they were also contributing to the creation of a gender role in the U.S. in the 80s.

Of course, this image of white, heterosexual, middle class women who could hold down a career, care for home and children AND be sexually satisfying wasn't only being promoted in advertisements.

This was a time when more women in this demographic were participating in the paid job market. There were struggles and shifts that needed to be made.

Expectations about what women could do were being challenged. In similar and different ways, those assumptions persist today.

Identifying Assumptions

Gender, of course, is one of many identity markers used in our culture.

We all walk around sorted into a sex, a gender (sometimes these are different), a race, a socio-economic status, an ethnic or geographical marker, and the list can go on and on.

And accompanying each of these identifications is a whole heap of expectations and assumptions.

Many of us try to resist some of these stereotypes while we embrace and celebrate others. We might choose to play up particular identities that we hold and try to hide or diminish others.

For years I took it as my challenge to dispel gender stereotypes and demonstrate once and for all that women are strong and can't be boxed in by that “weaker sex” label.

I have moved into a different place in recent years. The choices I've made as a mother and a woman-- who is also white, heterosexual, middle class, and so on-- have shifted. I actively resist the stereotypes less than I did before. I no longer see it as “my job” to prove anything about women as a gender.

I've come to this place, in part, because I've begun to realize how fluid, multi-dimensional and layered I am. And I know this has to be the case for women and men everywhere.

Don't get me wrong, I still fume when my male neighbor informs me that I cannot operate a roto-tiller simply because I'm a woman-- more often than not, I try to prove him wrong.

Open the door to all that you are.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are all unfinished creations. The beauty of it all is that we get to do the creating and there really is no “end” point to the process.

Each and every one of us walks around carrying particular identity markers that were given to us culturally and some self-adopted as we've moved through our lives.

Some might argue that being a man or a woman biologically means that you will have particular propensities and tendencies.

I want to shift the discussion away from whether it is nature or nurture that “causes” girls to play with Barbies and boys to turn sticks into pretend guns. Instead, I'm intrigued by how we can all expand beyond these imposed boundaries, if and when we choose to.

How many times-- and this might be tricky to guess because it can be automatic and unconscious-- do you take a particular path in life or respond in a certain way because that's what's expected of you?

I encourage all of us to become more aware so that we know when we're shoving down a desire simply because it's “against” some cultural, familial or personal rule about what's appropriate for someone of “your” identity demarcation.

Practice opening the door to all that you are-- and allow space for you to expand and grow in whatever direction you truly want to go.

Create space for others.

As you begin to give yourself permission to be or not be some particular aspect of your assumed identity, you can grant the same space to others in your life.

Be sure to allow your partner, your children, your neighbors, co-workers and clients to discover their own capacities for expansion.

Don't assume that an opportunity, task, experience, gift, or anything will automatically appeal or not appeal to those close to you simply based on their identities.

Don't lock anyone into a role or a set of tendencies simply because it is his or her identity or even was a preference in the past.

Conversely, grant others the gift of embracing an action or way of being even if it is in alignment with a stereotype. It might not feel limiting to them as it does to you.

Embrace all of who you are-- including those identity markers if you choose them-- and be what you want to be.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's Time for a Cleanse!

By Amy Phillips-Gary

Have you ever felt like you simply needed a fresh start?

If so, a cleanse might be just the thing for you. A cleanse is usually a defined period of time during which you give your system a break from your usual habits or even try out new ones.

Cleanses usually revolve around diet and the digestive system. They sometimes involve fasting and other times a significant change in what is eaten. They can also center on emotions, thinking and spiritual practice.

For the next two weeks I'll be doing a dietary cleanse. During that time, I'll eat a vegan, wheat-free diet. I'm also taking an oxygenating supplement that will help me move out those toxins and clear the way for a healthier system.

I know many people who have done cleanses. I've tried many different types myself. There are about as many ways to do a cleanse as there are reasons for it.

At the root of a cleanse is usually a desire, on the part of the cleanser, to make a change-- to let go of old limiting habits and develop some new ones.

Cleansing the body
A dietary cleanse gives your digestive system a break from your usual way of eating. It might last for a day, a few of weeks or even longer.

After a dietary cleanse, the person might choose to continue aspects of the cleanse diet or may decide to gradually return to his or her customary ways of eating.

Some people cleanse primarily to lose weight. Others might be most focused on boosting the health of their major organs and bodily systems. Still others cleanse with a spiritual or social intention as their motivation.

Fasts or Juice Fasts: Several cleanses involve some form of fasting, choosing not to eat food for a period of time. The fast, according to proponents, helps the digestive system rest and the colon, kidneys and liver can be more easily be cleared of toxins.

Juices, herbs and supplements as well as plenty of water are usually consumed during these types of cleanses in order to keep the body hydrated and energized.

Fasting should be done with care and research. If you are interested in a fasting cleanse, compare various products and methods. Read about what others have experienced when cleansing in this way and decide if it is a fit for your life and body.

Food Cleanses: Making a sometimes radical change in what and how you eat can also be a cleanse. Set aside a particular time frame and use that cleanse as an experiment to see how you feel eating in this different way.

Herbs, vitamins and supplements are also available to assist with these types of cleanses.

There are literally hundreds of ways to do a food cleanse. You might decide to cut out all refined sugars for a period of time for example. Or you could choose to switch to a vegetarian diet as your cleanse. Some people eat alkalizing foods and avoid those that increase acidity in the body.

Do your research and set up a plan and time frame for yourself.

No matter which type of dietary cleanse you try, it might help you to be aware of the possible de-toxing effects you could experience. These are different for everyone.

Cleanse with positive intentions

No matter what type of cleanse you decide upon, I encourage you to pay attention to your intentions and motivations.

Line up your attitude and energy with a sense of what you want and the choices and possibilities before you rather than with a fear for “what will happen if I continue in this way”.....

Get curious about which new habits help you feel better.

Rather than, “I am not allowing myself to eat refined sugar because it is bad for me and I am overweight,” try “I am choosing not to eat refined sugar, for example, because I am curious about how I might feel as a result.”

A cleanse may just be the change of pace and break from the usual that your body is craving. When you infuse your cleanse with positive intentions, the effects can extend to your mind and even soul as well.

Decide what kind of experience you want and create a plan for yourself. Stick with it and celebrate your movement toward a clearer, healthier you.

More information on cleansing and examples:
General information about fasting and juice fasting

The Master Cleanse

Blessed Herbs Cleanse

General information about dietary/food cleansing

Acid-Alkaline foods and diet information

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Who's Leading Your Life?

By Amy Phillips-Gary

Are you a leader?

When you think about leadership, an image of someone like political leaders John F. Kennedy or Barak Obama might come to your mind.

There may also be people in your personal life such as a friend, parent or head of a group to which you belong who are role models and guides for you.

Do you consider yourself a leader in your own life?

This question might sound silly at first read.

How can a person be a leader for him or herself after all?

It's wonderful to be inspired and motivated by others. But when it comes down to it, if you aren't leading your own life-- at least to some degree-- you're probably not directing yourself toward the goals you ultimately want to achieve.

No matter how compelling the person is whom you are choosing to follow, without self-leadership, you are left dependent and even in danger of ending up with a life that was not what you had in mind!

Rather than being practiced at looking outside yourself for what your next step should be, as your own leader you look and listen within for possibilities and then make choices as the primary creator of your life.

How to Be (and not to be) a Leader
There are many ways to be a leader.

You might have encountered a leader who seemed to you to be overbearing or even tyrannical. Many of us have also experienced leaders who seemed untrustworthy or weak, disorganized and confused.

Your self-perceptions might also fit some of these descriptions.

None of these ways of being a leader seem all that competent or capable.

I want the leaders in my life to help direct me toward some desired goal. And I want to feel respected and vital to the team I'm on in the process.

It is the same when you are the leader and you are also the team.

Effective Leadership Qualities:
*Integrity-- trustworthy and follows through
*Clarity-- a vision and plan for the present and future
*Dedication-- persistence and focus
*Openness-- willingness to explore possibilities
*Fairness and Humility-- respect and valuing others and self
*Comportment-- a bodily sense of confidence, clarity and trustworthiness

Embrace the Leader Who is YOU!
I invite you to take a closer look at the kind of leader you tend to be-- for yourself and for others.

Even if you are “only” leading yourself or your children, start to pay closer attention.

What are the beliefs you hold about leaders? Perhaps you experienced leadership as a diminishing or otherwise negative force and now you resist being a leader or following others as leaders.

Make note of the assumptions you make about leaders and leadership and ask yourself if you want to continue to hold onto them.

Is there a new leadership model you'd like to develop? If so, what does it look like? You might include attributes such as those listed above or you may have a completely different set of effective leadership characteristics.

Once you have a clear and positive vision of leadership, begin to embrace yourself as a leader. Try out some of these ways of being.

For example, you might look at yourself in the mirror more often to see how you tend to hold your body. Experiment with different ways of holding yourself and notice how you feel.

Do you feel stronger or weaker in particular shapes? Does this change your life outlook at this moment at all?

This isn't about criticizing or judging yourself as inadequate. It's about learning your comportment habits and deciding to try something new.

What changes might you make in others areas of your life to start being the leader you want to be?

I wish for all of us to fully embrace ourselves as effective and capable leaders. There are certainly times when we look to others for guidance and inspiration. This is one way we come together as a community.

As we each stand confidently and clearly directed toward our visions for the future, we can more fully contribute to that sense of community. We can inspire and guide others and also allow ourselves to be inspired and guided while maintaining our own sense of self in the process.

Imagine an inter-connected world full of assure and capable leaders-- and see yourself as one of them!