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I was thinking recently about the fact that when you get right down to it, all you have is yourself.  “You” hold your talents, your learned skills, your heart, your capacity to love.  Everything else is kind of someone else’s stuff. You are the one who makes the decisions about what actions to take.  You are the only one who can take those actions (or non-action, if that’s what you choose.)  So, doesn’t it make sense to take good care of you?  Seeing that’s really all you have?

In Cheryl Richardson’s weekly “Life Makeover” newsletter,  she suggests tiny treats and asks us how our life might change if we were to give ourselves one tiny treat a day.  (See her website for more.) Agent Cooper believes in this as well.  Every day, he says, don’t plan it, just give yourself a treat.  Whether that’s a good hot cup of joe or a few minutes to read your favorite magazine.

There are so many things you can do. Small, easy to do things that cost little or nothing.  For one thing you can try to be less hard on yourself.  I don’t know about you, but I’m often going on with myself about how I did or where I stand.  I was cleaning yesterday and trying to stay in forward motion to get done faster.  But when I left the duster on the other side of the room and had to go back for it, I found myself chattering on about being so distracted.  Instead I decided to accept it every time I had to retrace my steps.  And you know, it turned out, I did it faster. So I might not be in a position to buy myself an expensive gift right now, or go on that  2 week island getaway, but just by going a little easier on myself, I can remind myself of my worth. 

I’ve decided, as well, that I’m going to try to take two afternoons off each week.  When I say off, I mean it.  Working from home, the lines get blurred and it becomes easy to slip into a little work.  When I take time off, I have to focus on doing just what I feel like doing.

I am of the belief that most of us have little practice at doing this. We never give ourselves the chance.  It’s just a matter of a little time to give yourself a wonderful gift.

When I get to that appointed time off, I sit still for a few minutes and breathe deeply.  Then, as I rest into myself, my thoughts, I look for what I feel like I want to do.  If no answer comes, I might just sit there a little longer and see if anything arises.  If not, maybe I’ll take a nap or watch a funny movie. Perhaps I’ll go spend some time outside, just strolling around, doing nothing. I suppose, if I have an urge to clean the kitchen, I’ll do that.  But I want to stop first and ask myself: Will this be a fun thing to do?  Is this really what my heart is calling out to do?  And try to find what makes me feel excited about doing.  You’d be surprised how many things there are to do when you’re doing “nothing.” I wonder how many people do this even on a vacation.  There’s always some place to go, something to do.  I think, even if it’s only a few minutes, once a week, we all need to allow ourselves time to do nothing.

If you take a moment to think of it, it’s not hard to come up with a couple of things that feel good to do. Sitting with your pet.  Eating a favorite treat.  Getting a massage.  Just taking a drive.  Small, tiny treats that can warm you up and let you know you’re appreciated for all that you are, can really improve your mood and lighten your day.

Get good at this and see how easy it is to give tiny treats to others . . .

Most people like to set New Year’s Resolutions about this time of year.  While most of us will stick to them for a couple weeks, some of the more disciplined may hang on into February.  But by March, most of us are caught up in thoughts of Spring and the resolutions are long gone.

Most of the personal growth teachers that I read realize this is a pattern for most of us and they try to find new, innovative ways to deal with this New Year, fresh start.

Debbie Ford, having written a wonderful book called, “The Best Year of Your Life,” asks some questions: “What are your deepest desires for this new year?  What are you willing to give up to get them? What habits, limiting beliefs, unhealthy relationships or situations?”  I think that’s very direct and practical.  Most of the reason we don’t keep to our resolutions year after year is because we keep the same limiting beliefs that won’t allow us to change.

Cheryl Richardson suggests looking back at the lessons of the previous year and coming up with a couple of pithy phrases to remind you of them.  I liked hers: Do less whenever possible and do more of the kinds of things that make you feel good. Do your deep and quiet desires, first.

Libby Gill is into the catchy phrases, too.  I think it helps to remember them that way.  Instead of goals, she says, try themes.  Like a tag line.  I came up with “Let it Shine,” but am now leaning toward “Fun and Easy.”  I want to create more fun and more ease in my life this year.

Most all of them tell of an exercise to project yourself into the future, to January, 2011. Looking back on the year, ask yourself, what are the things you’re most proud of, that were your major accomplishments?  I surprised myself when I said that if we’re healthy and get to do some of the things we love to do, that will be a good year.  But looking back on 2009, I realize we had that.  I’d like more for 2010.

I did this jumping ahead and looking back exercise on October 10 this past year, projecting myself to 10/10/10.  As part of the Accountability Club, Libby Gill asked us to bust it up into three month segments.  Where will I be on my goal 9 months into the year, 6 months, 3?  Where are you going to put your energies to reach those milestone?  All good questions.

There are many ways to work with this Fresh Start we have every year.  I think the key is not to set unrealistic goals and focus more on creating new practices that will support you to reach your goals. I’ve been calling them New Year’s Intentions.  Whatever you call it, it’s a good thing to think about the new year and make some plans. 

I’m leaning toward our new weekly accountability goals as a good standard for the whole year: Letting go of the outcome allows you to do more.  Wearing life loosely gives you the energy to do that.  And seeking Awesome Moments keeps you focused on what’s joyful in the moment. (Goes along with Cheryl’s piece to do the really joyful things first.)  I’m such a planner, though, I need a few Intentions.  But I try to keep them simple and doable. I also write them up and look at them regularly, so I remember what I’ve intended to do, well into the year.  Nothing feels better than getting to the end of the year and realizing you’ve checked off everything you wanted to do that year.  What a wonderful way to start off the new year!

I wish everyone a healthy and wealthy 2010!

I love Thanksgiving.  Not because of the turkey – I don’t eat turkey.  Not the big meal.  Heaven knows I don’t need that!  Being with family and friends is always a pleasure, but that’s not it either.  I love Thanksgiving because it’s a celebration of Gratitude and I believe in the power of Giving Thanks.

All the spiritual teachers encourage thankfulness. Chellie Campbell plays the “Glad Game.”  Cheryl Richardson, the “Thank You Game.”  They want us to know it’s fun, easy and extremely healthful to regularly recite what you’re grateful for.

There is not one person I know that, given a few moments of peace, couldn’t rattle off a dozen or so things to be grateful for. The air we breathe, the beauty of nature, family and friends.  All that we need.  Pretty good digs to live in.  A song that fills you, a movie that lifts your heart, a book that enriches or delights. Once you get started, it’s hard to stop.

Just think what the world would be like if everyone held gratitude in their heart all the time!  It’s as easy as coming up with 5 things you’re grateful every day.  Watch that quadruple as you open your eyes to see even more. Paying attention to the things you have, rather than the things you don’t, will leave you feeling full and generous.

Look at what thankfulness can do when you’re in the midst of some not-so-glad stuff. Come up with a handful of reasons to be grateful for a person you’re angry at or estranged from, or something you’re not happy about. Then, without saying a word, watch the nature of the situation change to something that’s easier to hold in your heart. Gratitude paves the way for forgiveness. And forgiveness is the ointment that mends all tears. Like magic.

Cheryl Richardson suggests remembering to be grateful for the people who don’t usually hear it.  Any time I can tell these people how thankful I am for the work they do for me.  The staff of my insurance agent’s office who are always so kind and helpful.  The reference librarian who finds exactly the information I need.  The mail lady who brings packages to my door when it’s raining.

I wish for everyone lots of reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving and every moment of every day thereafter.

It’s easy for me to go on about how I love journalling.

Journalling has become much like brushing my teeth.  Depending on the circumstances, I can go a day without it, but by the second day, I am well aware of its absence.   It is as much a part of my day as my wakening cup of green tea or my ever-present bottle of water.

Journalling gives me a place to figure things out.  My pen knife feeds me with nourishing words.  It carves out the ugly stuff leaving only the good.  It allows me to complain and attack and say all the nasty things I need to say until I can come back around to understanding.  It’s the canvas on which I spill my life so I can look at it.  It is like listening to music, watching movies or reading books, except that is My story.  I can marvel at the workings of my mind or shine a light on the places where things are stuck.

I credit both Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron with inspiring me to create the practice of it.  I always get confused on who came up with it first.

Cheryl Richardson, in her wonderful book ”Life Makeovers,” talks lovingly about journalling, too.  She tells us that keeping to her journal has changed her life in many ways, including eating better and making more “inner directed” choices.  It does give you a place to review your priorities and make sure they are heading you where you wish to go.  I, too, feel like there has never been a better listener in my life.  It’s like I’m talking directly to God.  It forces me, in a way, in order to get my fix of journalling, to take time alone, in quiet, to really do it right. Cheryl says that through journalling, “I feel deeply connected to my soul and what really matters.”

Seems such a small thing for such a huge result.  Cheryl’s book offers many such small changes that produce big returns.  None, for me, quite as powerful as writing in my journal.

Here are a few tips:

1) Make it a routine in your life.  Every day, the same time, write three pages. (I use cheap spiral notebooks.)

2) Don’t fuss about what you write.  It can be anything.  I often get caught in what I call “agendizing,” reviewing my day.  Telling about a dream can fill up almost half the 3 page requirement.  If you get stuck, Cheryl has one of the best list of journal starters I have ever seen:
                  This morning I feel . . .
                  I’m always daydreaming about . . .
(I made it more immediate by saying, “These days I’ve  been  daydreaming about . . . “)
                  My nagging inner voice keeps telling me to . . .
                  The thoughts that roll around in my heard are . . .
(Again, “The thoughts that are rolling around in my head . . . “)
                  My soul longs to . . .
                  What I’m most afraid of is . . .
                  My inner critic tells me . . .
                  What I’m most grateful for is. . . .

3) Trust that the journal will accept whatever you have to say and no one else ever has to see it.

4) If you think you’re just too busy to do it, think of it as relieving yourself of built-up thoughts so you can think more clearly during the day.  It will help you better deal with your busy life.

5) Have fun with it.  Natalie and I use fountain pens.  I like to vary the color of the ink.  I can use my journal to dream things up and figure out ways to play.  I can write funny stories or draw pictures.  It’s your journal, you can do with it whatever you choose.

I believe that the world would be a happier, saner place if everyone wrote three pages every morning.

Reading over Cheryl Richardson’s “Life Makeovers,” I spotted this one. She tells us how important it is to schedule some time to do whatever you feel like doing. In this crazy world of tight agendas, it’s good to give yourself a break from it all. We need to slow down sometimes and feel. Cheryl says, “By creating the space to live in the moment, we strengthen the connection to our inner wisdom and give ourselves a much needed rest from the routine of day to day living.”

I am a believer in this philosophy and try to do it regularly. However, I don’t always do it. I try to block out time that’s free from “appointments or obligations” as she suggests. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because I work from home, but more often than not, I find myself working on something. I always forget to stop and ask myself what I feel like doing. That, I’m afraid is the key: to just allow myself to follow the muse. Her final word is to “trust your gut and act.”

On the positive side, I would say that taking that time is beneficial, even if I do a project that feels lighter than my usual work. I try to schedule one afternoon and one weekend day a week. I rarely get all that time, but I figure, if I keep those times open, without the obligations, I can make something of them. From Cheryl’s guidance, next time, I will remember to put on the brakes and check in with myself to see what I wish to do. The idea, really, is to be able to float.

I’ve heard this advice from other sources, named in different ways. I highly recommend it for allowing your to-do muscle to rest awhile. Even if you do some “work,” at least you’re not gritting your teeth and sticking to a rigid schedule. I think the ultimate here would be to take a break spontaneously. Say today, I doan wanna and I’m going to take the day off! I’m not there yet, but in the meantime, I will follow Cheryl’s advice and continue to schedule these times. Maybe with practice, I’ll get better at allowing the spontaneity to flow.

From the book, Life Makeovers, by Cheryl Richardson

I want to use Wednesdays to write about the exercises in books I work through. I don’t happen to have such a book at the moment. When I don’t, I’ll dip into something like this Life Makeovers.

One of the chapters is about Life Accessories. I like that concept. Like you’d add a scarf or a piece of jewelry to accessorize your wardrobe, you can do the same thing for your life. Cheryl is talking about the things we can use to support us during the day. The accessories that help us to feel our lives, to experience it more fully. “Things you love to look at, listen to, taste, smell and feel.”

I have filled my office with things I love to look at. There is a silver heart that hangs beside my monitor which reminds me to have a heart full of love. On the other side is a fish on a sacred string that represents abundance and the flowing nature of life. Sitting on the printer shelf, above my eye level, I have two 1-inch picture frames. One is me as a child and one is my husband as a child. Anne Lamott asks us, as writers, to look at our projects in one inch pieces. Start small. That reminds me I don’t have to do it all at once.

I was reluctant this morning. Some days I jus’ doan wanna. I want to go back to bed or play or talk to a friend. It is good to allow yourself to do those things, sometimes. But you can’t do it all the time. There’s a time for everything and this morning, I needed to do some work. I popped on some music and whammo, I’m into working again!

I have this love affair with the group America. They have been with me for a long time. As a teenager, confused about life and boys and the future, America was always there. Looking cute, singing sweetly and calming me down. They still do that for me! Someone once said my life may have taken a different turn had I used drugs or sex or any number of other tempting soothers. America kept me sane and out of trouble. Today, they bring me back to my center.

I have many spiritual objects that bring me peace and remind me that all is well. Candles and incense create a mood. The colors in my office excite me and bring me joy. I also have a couple of pictures of my spirit animals given to me in a Shamanic healing session. I have pictures of family and loved ones, too.

I enjoy a good rock now and then. Smooth stones feel good in the hand. You can use one as your gratitude stone. Every time you pick it up, remember how grateful you are. There’s a lovely story about a gratitude stone in The Secret movie.

Cheryl goes on to suggest more tactile things like a lovely cup for tea or an animal to pet. We can use our senses in other ways, too. Drinking that cup of tea, slowly, with awareness. On Cheryl’s list is also great-smelling hair products. You can use the accessories around you. I have a massage pad I put on the sofa and float away. Life Makeovers reminds us to use the heaters in the car seats. I keep thinking about putting up a pretty sheet in front of where I pull my car in the garage. Add a dash of colorful paint somewhere to spruce things up. My afternoon cup of tea and the stashed sweater in my desk on the job made me feel more like I was home. Cheryl likes to put on cozy socks when she’s at her desk. Even something as simple as a pen you love can remind you that life is good and there is much that supports you.

If you look around, you are likely to find many Accessories that can make you feel better. All you have to do is be aware. What scents make you feel peaceful? How does different music affect you? What feels good against your skin? What makes your heart warm when you look at it?

My Five Favorite Life Accessories:


Incense and candles

My massage pad or foot bath

Cold water to sip

The objects in my office

I wanted to write about Cheryl Richardson’s Newsletter, Life Makeovers. I was concerned that they were just going to be a duplicate of the book, but they’re not. Her newsletters offer fresh topics and new, doable challenges. Though Cheryl has taken a few weeks off this summer, and substituted newsletters from last year, they were still helpful and insightful. There is a chapter in the book about how important it is to take time off and away from your work. Advice that someone who works from home can really use!

Though you can read this book at any time, the text (as well as the newsletter) is meant to be read from January to December. So, there are some seasonal items. But not so slanted that you can’t use advice from November in July. I’ve learned many things and renewed others from reading her book.

I would suggest reading it leisurely, one week at a time to really work the  challenges. I believe this book can, worked religiously, make over your life. Give it a try!  Again, to sign up for the newsletter, and no doubt, buy the book, go to

Life Makeovers. 52 Practical and Inspiring Ways to Improve Your Life One Week at a Time.

Though I am reading this book straight through, I haven’t finished yet, so expect more. Several years ago, I read Cheryl’s book Take Time for Your Life.  So I was eager to read this companion book

This book is meant to be read a chapter a week.  To savor and work the teaching.  Each chapter ends with a Take Action Challenge. There are questions to ponder and promises to make.  They are, for the most part, simple and doable, usually not taking more than a little contemplation and writing down a goal. For example, in Week 10, she talks about finding Balance in your life. 
The Take Action Challenge asks you to finish these statements:
The first ball I’d like to drop is:
The way that will play out in my life is:
The new behavior I will practice this week is:
Making the teaching concrete.

Now, I’ve been doing these kinds of things for a long time.  Many of the things Cheryl offers  I’m aware of or have already incorporated in my life.  But I think that’s just fine; there’s still much to be gained. Some chapters leave me feeling encouraged that I’m doing something right.  In other chapters I found a delightful gem to improve my practice like thinking about things I need to figure out and putting them to my higher consciousness to figure out. Say I will check back in a few days to see what my brain has conjured up!  She has lots of ideas to add more fun to my life, too.  When clearing out she suggests to “let go of more than you feel comfortable with.”

After each challenge she gives a list of resources.  Both web sites and books for further information.  I like that.

Each chapter starts with a quote from a broad array of people.  Week 5, The Gift of Time begins with a quote from Lao-Tzu.  “Time is a created thing.  To say ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to . . .’” 

Out of reading this I came up with a three-step program: The first step, as always, is to focus my attention on the present moment.  Second, comes from Cheryl’s teaching of Extreme Self-Care.  I believe that from that, love begins to overflow onto yourself and others.  The third step might be to count the ways you can love.

Cheryl has a Life Makeover Newsletter that is very informative, too.  More on that next week. I don’t yet know how this book comes out, and I think it’s important, so I will write Part 2 next Monday.   In the meantime, check out

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