A Circle of Women.

A Circle of Women.

Women’s circles perfectly illustrate the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Women’s circles are formal or informal gatherings in the interest of bonding, sharing energy, and creating ritual. The origins of women’s circles are ancient, but their applications are as modern as the women who participate in them.

There are no hard and fast rules as to how to form a women’s circle or how to run one. Some circles invent their own agendas, rituals, goals, and ceremonies, while others borrow ideas from sources as far-ranging as Buddhist or Native American cultures. Some circles are open to new members at all times, while others prefer to practice with a set number of members, closing the circle once that number is reached.

In a typical gathering, the women who are present sit in a circle. Generally, for the sake of cohesiveness, one woman is chosen to lead the circle each time. Allowing a different woman to lead each meeting allows for a multi-perspective approach to the process. One circle leader may choose to create and teach a ritual involving using the voice to release negative energy, while at the next meeting another leader may feel inspired to lead a silent meditation.

On the other hand, a circle may choose to be more focused over the long term and gather around a particular intention, such as working together to determine a course for healing Mother Earth. When the healing feels complete, the women may choose to stay together with a new focus for their work, or the circle may disband.

At their best, women’s circles perfectly illustrate the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The work that can be accomplished within the loving embrace of our sisters is far more powerful than what we could achieve on our own.

If you are not already part of a circle, you may want to start one. Follow your intuition as to the women with whom you’d like to work, reach out to them, and set a date to begin. After that, you can simply allow the circle to create itself.

Men need not be forgotten when it comes to circles and they, too, can come together to form their own circles and create strong bonds and healing in a way that is specific to all men.

By Madisyn Taylor
Making Time

Making Time

It’s a common dilemma. There never seems to be enough time. In my twenties and well into my thirties this was a frequent complaint of mine. “I just don’t have enough time”! Or “I will when I find the time.” As if time was playing hide and seek with me and I just needed to keep looking for it.

I was obsessed with time. Always wearing a watch, always checking to see where those precious hands were pointing. And scared to waste a mere minute on something trivial or, God forbid, fun. Scheduled to the minute with no breathing room, time was my nemesis.

My relationship with time began to change when I had my first child. Time began to change right in front of my eyes. It became more treasured and precious. But it also changed consistency and become more malleable.

It appeared I could change my perception of time, stretching it out. I couldn’t do the impossible, and add more minutes into my day, but I could slow down the time I had been given.

Unconsciously at first, I began to make small changes that seemed to give me the time I thought was missing. I felt like a child in a candy-shop at first, like I’d uncovered special sci-fi secrets that bent time against its will.

These three changes have stuck with me over the years and are tools I always lean on if I find myself out of time.

1. Single-tasking

Having children meant more to do. More laundry, more mess, more everything. And at first pass, it’s tempting to buy into the illusion that multitasking will help save time. Washing the dishes, while baking the cookies. Hang the washing and pull those weeds that have popped up.

But what I found (aside from burnt cookies), was that rather than helping, multitasking just made me feel chaotic and even more pressed for time.

Instead, what I found was that by doing just one thing at once, and finishing it before starting the next thing, I felt calmer and more relaxed. And it made me feel like I had been gifted a few more minutes!

2. Overestimating

I have been a chronic over-scheduler my whole life. And when I thought about why I was doing this (and consequently running late, or feeling robbed of time), I realized it was often because I was underestimating how long tasks or appointments would take.

So I started to overestimate. Hair appointment? Three hours. I have very thick hair! Grocery shopping? At least an hour in a small town where I know every third person.

And this overestimating did two things. It automatically reduced the length of my daily to-do’s. With each task taking an average of 30 minutes more, I simply didn’t have space for so many.

And second, it made me feel as though I had the luxury of more time. Sometimes we forget that it’s only ever ourselves in charge of how we spend our time.

3. Noticing

I also found myself noticing more. Rather than rushing through each task on autopilot, I found that if I paid closer attention to what I was doing, time seemed to go a little slower.

From little tasks, like watering a plant, to bigger ones like making a meal, I paid deeper attention to the mini-tasks inside each job. I took closer notice of what the plant looked like, and I paid attention to the texture and smell of each vegetable I cut.

This deep noticing, a mindful activity, gave time a sluggish feel. I began to feel a sense of happy meandering instead of thoughtless rushing.

And I began to feel as though I had found more time.

Change your perception. Change your life.

Neuroscientist David Eagleman has called time a ‘rubbery thing’, stating; “It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.”

Research by Eagleman and others in this field has shown that mindfulness meditation increases the perceived duration of a task. Essentially slowing down the feeling of time.

When we focus our attention on the here and now we can change the way our brain stores information via attentional processes.

For me, this change in perception is life-changing. The freedom that comes with no longer feeling so rushed, busy and out of time is priceless.

Of course, there are still times when I slip back into autopilot, but now that I know the secret to slowing my time, it doesn’t take long to pull out my tools again.

And it’s no longer a secret. Extra time is available to anyone willing to turn off autopilot and try something a little different.

You don’t need to hunt for lost time anymore. Just pay deeper attention to the time you have. It works. I promise.

By Emma Scheib

When is enough?

When is enough?

Where do you derive your sense of enough?

Is it from feeling full after a delicious meal or from reaching a certain distance during an afternoon run? Perhaps you measure enough by how many tasks you accomplish at the office, how many likes your new post gets, or how many smiles you give and receive over the course of a day.

Enough is defined as “as much as is necessary; in the amount or to the degree needed.”

But for many, enough falls short. To put it simply, enough is not enough. What’s necessary or needed is ignored in favor of what will bring us fleeting highs, external validation, or temporary admiration.

As we continually push the bounds of enough, we might lose sight of what matters: the roof over our head, the shoes on our feet, the car, bus, or bicycle we rely on for transportation, the long-term relationships we cherish, the clean bill of health we easily take for granted, the water in our faucets, the food on our table.

Instead, we focus on how we’ll achieve our next milestone, mistakenly believing that each new accomplishment will solidify our standing, or better yet, improve it. We seek bigger spaces to fill with bigger and better things, hoping that more square footage will lead to lasting contentment. We chase novelty in fleeting trends and passing crazes, forgetting that these too are designed to leave us in a constant state of yearning.

When enough is no longer enough, we’re destined for disappointment.

Hedonic adaptation refers to our tendency to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major recent positive or negative events or life changes. When we graduate college, get a promotion, or buy a new television, our expectations and desires rise accordingly. In other words, we’re no longer satisfied with the way things were because we grow accustomed to the way things are now, and the degree of freedom, choice, and privilege they afford.

Rather than seeking long-term happiness, fulfillment, success, and recognition through short-term pleasures, we can reimagine our understanding of enough.

We can stop confusing essentials with excess and start celebrating being able to meet our basic needs. We can ask ourselves:

  • What do I need to do to keep my body healthy?
  • What do I need to eat to ensure I don’t go hungry?
  • Where do I need to cut back so I can pay my bills/ reduce my debt/ save for something enjoyable?
  • What relationships are most important to me and how can I help them flourish?
  • Where in my home do I feel most joyful/ energized/ relaxed/ inspired? How can I tap into this feeling with what I already have?
  • How does my present job enable me to find a greater sense of meaning or purpose?
  • Which of my belongings/ hobbies/ relationships detracts from my recognizing that what I have is enough?

Most importantly, we can acknowledge that our deepest source of enough must come from within ourselves. Before we can expect any person, place, or possession to contribute meaningfully to our lives, we must know and believe that we alone will always be enough; that nothing external will make us whole or our lives complete; that our value is not determined by what we do or what we own; that seeking to feel like we’re enough through any other means will not replace our need to be enough for ourselves.

Knowing that you are enough is not an invitation to stop growing or striving, but an opening to honor these qualities within yourself. It allows you to find enrichment in the midst of difficulty and encourages you to make the most of what you’re given.

When we are enough for ourselves, we gravitate toward creating lives that prioritize our values over our possessions; that foster healthy, supportive relationships; that enable us to recognize what we have control over and what we don’t; that continually allow us to connect with and share our strengths; and that provide a model for others to do the same.

Today, instead of seeking more, I invite you to seek enough. When you fill your plate, let one helping be enough. When you spend time with loved ones, let their mere presence be enough. When you exercise, let your efforts be enough. When you work, let what you get finished be enough. When you check social media, let one time be enough. When you walk in the door, let your surroundings be enough. When you go to bed, remember that you alone are enough.

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About the Author

Emily Rose Barr, of A Soul Awake, is a lighthearted creative who pauses to take note… of laughter, color, conversation, open doors, and finer details.

Life’s natural rhythm.

Life’s natural rhythm.

By Madisyn Taylor

Slowing down and listening to your own natural rhythm can quickly connect you to the Universe.

Nature’s natural rhythms orchestrate when day turns to night, when flowers must bloom, and provides the cue for when it is time for red and brown leaves to fall from trees.
As human beings, our own inner rhythm is attuned to this universal sense of timing. Guided by the rising and setting of the sun, changes in temperature, and our own internal rhythm, we know when it is time to sleep, eat, or be active.
While our minds and spirits are free to focus on other pursuits, our breath and our heartbeat are always there to remind us of life’s pulsing rhythm that moves within and around us.

Moving to this rhythm, we know when it is time to stop working and when to rest. Pushing our bodies to work beyond their natural rhythm diminishes our ability to renew and recharge. A feeling much like jet lag lets us know when we’ve overridden our own natural rhythm. When we feel the frantic calls of all we want to accomplish impelling us to move faster than is natural for us, we may want to breathe deeply instead and look at nature moving to its own organic timing: birds flying south, leaves shedding, or snow falling.

A walk in nature can also let us re-attune is to her organic rhythm, while allowing us to move back in time with our own.
When we move to our natural rhythm, we can achieve all we need to do with less effort.
We may even notice that our soul moves to its own internal, natural rhythm – especially when it comes to our personal evolution.

Comparing ourselves to others is unnecessary. Our best guide is to move to our own internal timing, while keeping time with the rhythm of nature.
The Science of Gratitude.

The Science of Gratitude.

We are all generally aware of the benefits of gratitude—which include a more positive outlook on life, and even physical benefits such as a reduction in the symptoms of stress. Especially as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we make a mental note to be more grateful. Less appreciated, however, are the potential organizational benefits of practicing gratitude.

A summary of the science of gratitude by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley sheds light on how being grateful can improve both performance and culture in the workplace. Formal research into gratitude is a relatively new field. In 2000, there were only three peer-reviewed articles on the subject.

Fifteen years later, there are hundreds of such papers. Of particular interest to business leaders is research on what social scientists call “upstream reciprocity”—basically a fancy way of talking about paying it forward.

Gratitude connects us

When someone is nice to us, and we return the favor, that is a form of direct reciprocity that we expect. However, it turns out that people who are the recipients of acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, and who make a point of feeling grateful, are also more likely to help a third party.

The ripple effects of that kind of indirect reciprocity are a powerful tool for business leaders looking to build a strong organizational culture.Robert Emmons is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. As he points out, feeling grateful is a two-step process. First, we recognize the presence of something positive in our lives. Second, we acknowledge it comes from an external source, often another person.

Gratitude involves a humble recognition that we are interdependent, that we need one another. In this way, gratitude can become a kind of “social glue” connecting not just individuals, but organizations. One study suggests the potential for organizations to “institutionalize” gratitude by making such expressions part of workplace culture.

The authors note a “significant relationship between gratitude and job satisfaction” and suggest that “organizational leaders can boost job satisfaction by regularly prompting grateful emotions.”

This is your brain on gratitude

In its summary of the benefits of gratitude, Berkeley’s Great Good Science Center cites recent research showing how feeling grateful enhances functioning in regions of the brain governing social bonds, and our ability to read others. Moreover, even though we think of gratitude as an emotional state, it also enhances cognitive functioning and decision-making.

In one study, writing gratitude letters produced measurable brain changes that lasted months after the intervention.This research confirms Barbara Fredrickson’s assertion that gratitude has a “broadening” effect on how we think, and at how we look at the world. It allows us to “discard automatic responses and instead look for creative, flexible, and unpredictable new ways of thinking and acting.”

When we are grateful, we are more inclined to seek support from others, to reframe challenging situations through a positive lens, and to engage in creative problem-solving.

Gratitude is a kind of mindfulness

It is no accident that the benefits of gratitude resemble those of mindfulness. Both practices ground us in the present. If we are thankful for what we have, we are less likely to ruminate over the past, or anxiously anticipate the future. 

Gratitude is similar to mindfulness in another respect as well: it helps increase our resistance to stress. As one researcher states, it is an extremely effective way “to fill the resilient tank.” Other research finds that gratitude acts as a natural anti-depressant.

We are just beginning to tap into the benefits of deliberate gratitude. Organizations that practice gratitude will attract and retain top talent and create a culture conducive to innovation and thriving.

By Naz Beheshti

Belonging vs. Fitting in.

Belonging vs. Fitting in.

Excerpt from Elisha Catts.

Have you walked into a room and suddenly felt like you don’t fit in? Perhaps you’ve been the only woman in a male-dominated field, or the only guy wearing a suit while everyone is in jeans. Perhaps the difference has been internal rather than external—a subtle feeling that everyone else is connecting and you don’t quite “click.”

These experiences can make you question whether you belong—in your workplace, among your friends, in a room of strangers, and even in your own home. They can leave you feeling empty, hurt, and even questioning your purpose in life.

The missing link in situations like these is having a sense of belonging—knowing that there is space for you, the real you, in every place you walk into.

World-renowned author and researcher, Brene Brown, says this about belonging:

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” —Brene Brown.[1]

Belonging is an intrinsic need for all humanity. Without a confident sense of belonging, we stumble around and end up settling for something far more dangerous to our well-being, acceptance.

Fitting in to find acceptance

The greatest imitator of belonging is acceptance. It is easy to believe that if people accept you and your lifestyle that equals belonging. This simply isn’t true. Belonging, despite its name, isn’t found in an external location. Belonging and acceptance are two entirely separate entities.

Acceptance is pursued through the act of “fitting in”—choosing to act the way others would expect, want, or even need you to act. Acceptance-seeking can only be satisfied when the desired response of the people you are trying to fit-in with is achieved. The challenge that comes from acceptance-seeking is that you end up on a roller coaster of emotions, dictated by another person’s approval.

Not only is this unhealthy because you are compromising or burying your very own identity, but it is dangerous because you have no control over the approval of others. You are putting your entire well-being into the fickle whims of other humans.

The major division between acceptance and belonging is that belonging doesn’t come from without, it begins from within.

Author Parker Palmer writes, “Long before community assumes external shape and form, it must exist within you.”

Before community, and that elusive sense of belonging can exist, it must take shape inside you. I’ve heard it said that one must find belonging within oneself, but I believe it is far more than that.

First, you have to find your self.

The first step on the journey of belonging is to discover who you are, and stop believing that belonging is given to you by somebody else or something else.

Find your “onlyness”

An author on TEDideas wrote that belonging is found when we discover our “onlyness”—the very things that make us unique. Onlyness is the sum of your personality, your history, your hopes, your loves, and all that you are; it is the essence of you.

Finding your onlyness is a journey, not a destination. A person doesn’t wake up and suddenly know the beginning, end and in-between of their self. It takes time, and a multitude of experiences, good and bad, that begin to shape the unique facets of your soul. And honestly, the journey isn’t always easy or pleasant.

Sometimes it requires that you learn some harsh realities of life. Other times, it might mean you need to stop sabotaging yourself and get out of your own way.

Brene Brown describes this process as walking through a wilderness. It’s wild and sometimes incredibly uncomfortable.

“Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness–an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.” —Brené Brown

What is belonging?

Brene Brown is an expert on the subject of belonging. She describes it as, “the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” But it extends beyond that to something internal as well. It is the willingness to bravely acknowledge we belong to something greater than ourselves, and that our belonging isn’t dependent on our actions or the approval of others. It simply is our human right.

Belonging is in direct contrast to fitting in. It has roots that go deep and are unshakeable, whereas acceptance is shallow and fickle. Belonging brings emotional security, but acceptance-seeking is undependable ground that is constantly shifting beneath you.

A true sense of belonging comes when you can be unapologetically you, and know there is a place for you in the world that isn’t dependent on whether people accept you or reject you. It is also a place where growth happens—because you can be vulnerable about your own weaknesses, without shame, and choose to learn from others and improve in those areas.

When you walk confidently and humbly in this way, you build trust in your relationships because the people in your life are secure in knowing the truth of who you are. This establishes strong bonds within your relationships. If you are simply trying to fit in, it compromises your own personal integrity and erodes trust and emotional connections.

Belonging is not dependent on others

A common misconception is that it is up to other people to make you feel like you belong. Belonging begins with the willingness to stand alone and take ownership of your own life and decisions.

Does this mean you should never take into account the thoughts and feelings of others? Of course not. But believing that you have to be someone else to belong will never work.

The reality is no one is perfect. While you’re berating yourself for having a messy house, just remember, there’s someone breathing a sigh of relief, because their house is messy too—and you just reminded them that we’re all imperfect, together.

Despite our greatest desires, other humans have a great BS detector. When we attempt to project ourselves as someone that we’re not, it will be known, even if it’s intangible. True relationships and belonging cannot be built on a lie.

Belonging can be developed

To overcome the desire to settle for acceptance, we all must push past years of conditioning by our peers and the world around us. We are constantly told that we need some product, some look, something, to make us who the world wants us to be; when all we really need is to be ourselves.

However, we can use this to our advantage by recognizing that everyone else feels the way we do. Everyone is afraid of being rejected. Everyone is afraid of not fitting in. Turn this upside down. Accept everyone. Treat everyone like you would want to be treated. Invite them to belong as their true selves.

Even if you don’t feel like you belong yet, you can practice by inviting others to belong. You can accept others for who they are, in every different situation you walk into. While belonging starts with taking a deep look at who you are, it also takes form as you make space for other people to really be themselves too. The more you make space for others’ unique-ness, the easier it becomes for you to hold space for yourself.

You belong

Regardless of where you start, searching for a sense of belonging is a natural human experience. It is integral to our lives and is part of everything we do. So whether you start by helping others or diving into personal introspection, remember that belonging is already yours. You belong just as you are. Right where you are. You don’t need anyone or anything else to give you a sense of belonging.

Did you know that there are over 7 billion people in the world?  But there is only one you. You have a place on this earth that no one can take away. You have experiences and knowledge that are uniquely yours. All of who you are—your onlyness—cannot be replicated. Whether others choose to accept you or not, you can bring yourself to the table with the confidence that you belong, right where you are and just as you are, simply because you are.

So walk out into the world, your workplace, and your relationships with the confidence of knowing that you belong. Because you really do.

[1] Brené Brown (2010). “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”, p.40, Simon and Schuster

[2]Mother Teresa (2010). “Where There Is Love, There Is God: A Path to Closer Union with God and Greater Love for Others”, p.329

There is only now.

There is only now.

by Madisyn Taylor

Being present lets us experience each moment in our lives in a way that cannot be fully lived through memory or fantasy.

It can be easy for us to walk through the world and our lives without really being present. While dwelling on the past and living for the future are common pastimes, it is physically impossible to live anywhere but the present moment.

Nevertheless, we can easily miss the future we are waiting for as it becomes the now we are too busy to pay attention to. We then spend the rest of our time playing “catch up” to the moment that we just let pass by.

During moments like these, it is important to remember that there is only Now.

In order to feel more at home in the present moment, it is important to try to stay aware, open, and receptive. Being in the present moment requires our full attention so that we are fully awake to experience it. When we are fully present, our minds do not wander. We are focused on what is going on right now, rather than thinking about what just happened or worrying about what is going to happen next.

Being present lets us experience each moment in our lives in a way that cannot be fully lived through memory or fantasy.

When we begin to corral our attention into the present moment, it can be almost overwhelming to be here. There is a state of stillness that has to happen that can take some getting used to, and the mind chatter that so often gets us into our heads and out of the present moment doesn’t have as much to do. We may feel a lack of control because we aren’t busy planning our next move, assessing our current situation, or anticipating the future.

Instead, being present requires that we be flexible, creative, attentive, and spontaneous. Each present moment is completely new, and nothing like it has happened or will ever happen again.

As you move through your day, remember to stay present in each moment. In doing so, you will live your life without having to wait for the future or yearn for the past.

Life happens to us when we happen to life in the Now.