Archives for Mentoring

Good News

That Moment You First Meet Your Best You

For so many years I have lived with the suspicion that there is a much kinder, sweeter, more loving being inside me than the one I spend most of my waking hours with.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not lodging a complaint about being "conscious me." These days, I feel like I mostly do a reasonably good job of staying optimistic, seeing the positive, treating myself and others with kindness and respect, and always trying to do my best.

I'm talking about something far beyond these basics.

I'm talking about a being who is - luminous. Expansive. Tuned in.

I'm talking about an "inner me" who maybe wouldn't even be able to manifest in my day-to-day without significant interruptions to that same day-to-day (for reasons of aforementioned luminosity, expansiveness, and empathy).

Recently, I realized that this being exists. I have proof.

She has always been there. I have proof of this too. 
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Poking the Worry Monster

What is a "worry monster?"

For me at least, it is that part of myself that can worry on command.

You can wake it up out of the deepest, soundest, most dreamless sleep, and it will just start worrying. You don't even need to suggest a topic.

This is relevant for two reasons:

1. First, because my personal worry monster loves to snooze even more than it loves to worry. So it is usually happily engaged in endless snoozing....unless it is disturbed.

2. And second, because sometimes I just can't seem to resist poking it.

You see, there is this other part of me - I suspect it is the worry monster's mentee - that just thinks it is unwise to let too much time pass without any worry at all. 
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When is it Okay to Celebrate Yourself?

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about a movie I personally didn't much care for....along with my reasons why.

I felt my points were valid - although I certainly didn't expect them to speak for everyone. After all, there are plenty of people who like things I don't like - movies included.

In this, I also expected to hear from folks in defense of the film (which I did).

What I didn't expect was to hear from folks who perceived my positive identification with the perseverance and eventual triumph of the film's main character to be narcissistic.

One reader in particular commented:

I found this [post] highly narcissistic to be honest. I ‘made it out alive’ so why can’t (oh I mean won’t) you mentality. I hope you didn’t hurt yourself patting yourself on the back.

I didn't mind her honesty one bit, and I commented back to that effect.

But I did mind being told that congratulating myself publicly for a hard-won personal victory was narcissistic. That stung.

So first I looked at whether it stung because some part of me thought she might be right. Am I narcissistic? 
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I’ll See You in My Dreams

I'll just say this up front - it is awfully hard for me to admit I liked any movie that made me cry this much.

And while sometimes I need "a good cry" as much as the next person, I didn't on this particular day.

Yet even with all this stacked against it, "I'll See You in My Dreams" turned out to possess that rarest and most ephemeral of all cinematic qualities - total authenticity at the heart of a tale of fiction.

As I grow older (45 this year - wow!) I find I have less of a craving for that famous quality provided by so many films - total escapism.

I think this is because, these days, I have lots of ways to escape if I want to....and a correspondingly reduced desire to escape in general as I realize more than half my time here has likely already flown by!

So the outcome is that sometimes what I crave most in a film experience is something much less easy to come by - the affirmation of what is real.

And by this I don't mean knowing answers to common trivia questions or being able to recollect my multiplication tables (I had a hard enough time remembering those on the first go-round!)

What I mean is the affirmation of a realness of life that is both totally messy and totally worth it.

What I mean is a map pointing towards the intersection of grief and gratitude, tears and smiles, complete with instructions for how to find it again from, well, anywhere.

What I mean is a dip into the depth of a totally worth-it life being fully and well lived...that also just happens to be BYOB and ends in approximately 120 minutes. 
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Animal Mentors

A Choice Between Safety and Survival

Last night I started watching a new BBC series called "Hidden Kingdoms."

In this series, little wild beings like mice and beetles get their 15 minutes of fame as the camera takes a look at what it is like to be tiny and totally on your own in the wild world.

For instance, if you are a sengi, or elephant shrew, and you are not even as big as one toenail on the giant creature you are named after, how do you cope when that same giant creature lumbers by and obliterates the trail-based safety system you worked on all morning (and your whole life, really)?

If you are a sengi, you rebuild the trails, of course.

But then what if lightening strikes in the African desert right near your trail system and you have to run for your life?

What then?

The answer is surprisingly unpleasant...for both the sengi and BBC's viewers. 
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Animal Mentors

How to Know You Really Love Animals

It says "To Shannon, love Jack Hanna." :-)

Back in May, I got to meet legendary zoo director and animal activist Jack Hanna.

He even signed a cool postcard to me - addressing me by name.

At the time, I was pretty confident we were meeting as equals - two fellow animal lovers who simply choose to cohabitate with different numbers of non-human companions (me, 2; Jack, 200? 350?).

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How to Join the Peace AND Prosperity Club

When you read today's post title, you probably thought to yourself, "That sounds great - sign me up for that club!"

And I agree - I'd like to join too!

But here's the thing - at least in my own journey to date.

I can remember back to when I had plenty of prosperity (like in my first white collar job).

But at that time, I had no peace.

So I couldn't join the club.

Now, I can say I have more peace than I ever expected to have - in fact, I have so much peace now that even on true anxiety-producing days, I can usually find my way through it and back to the peace.

But the prosperity....where is it?

So I still can't join the club.

So now my new goal is to acquire plenty of both so they will finally let me in.
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Good News

The Secret to Sustaining Happiness

Many years ago, I was sitting on the floor of an ashram, wearing what looked (to the westernized me at least) a lot like pajamas.

Our lesson that day was about happiness - how to find it, how to hold onto it.

Our teacher explained, "People will fight so hard to get rid of pain, suffering. But when it comes to joy, they think it should just come to them and stay all by itself."

Since that day, I have never taken my own happiness for granted. 
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Celebrity Mentors

What Would Judy Say?

My mom sometimes likes to check out library books for me to read.

Recently she presented me with a particularly unexpected selection: "What Would Judy Say? A Grown-Up Guide to Living Together with Benefits."

I have watched Judge Judy on TV for years, but I'd never really taken the time to get to know the woman behind the show.

Well, my loss! Judge Judy is UH-mazing!!

She has the coolest website called "What Would Judy Say?" where she tackles issues as diverse as cancer and divorce, child custody and roommates, finding your passion and (obviously) living together outside of wedlock.

Now, to clarify, I am not currently living with anyone outside of wedlock or otherwise - except for, of course, my 14-year old parrot, Pearl, and my 13-month old tortoise, Malti.

But I have in the past, and if I did so again, I would follow Judge Judy's advice to the letter - especially the parts about taking care of what my mentor calls "my own side of the street."

Judy would call this "no joint anything."

I call it planning for my own future....whether or not my significant other will or won't plan for his.

The thing I like the most about Judge Judy is how very, well, grownup, she is about it all.

On the reverse side of her book, she shares an African proverb:

Only a fool tests the depth of the water by jumping in with both feet.

Maybe you are nodding your head right now (I was when I first read it!) But I have done this....I have jumped in with both feet, sometimes even thinking myself brave as I did!

Later I found out testing the water with one foot would have been both wiser and braver....and would have likely required far fewer band-aids.

The truth is, while there is plenty of drama in Judge Judy's television courtroom, little if any of it is coming from her.

And while she can appear brusque or sharp at times, I have always sensed a deep underlying compassion - a kind of "get over it already life is short and if you don't get unstuck now you'll just have to get unstuck later!"

There is something else I didn't know until I read "Living Together with Benefits."

Judge Judy has been divorced twice - and one of those times was to the man she has since remarried (and is still married to), Judge Jerry.

She has definitely had her share of heart aches and heart breaks.

She has five children and 13 grandchildren.

She is not someone who sits on the sidelines, watching and listening to - and often, um, judging - others' choices, and then writing about them.

She has lived what she writes about - which is to say, she is a mentor I can much more readily trust. 
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From Meditation to Mental Resilience

I have never been in jail.

Thank goodness.

But even the thought of going to jail...even the merest firing up of my imagination around the subject...brings on unimaginable stress.

When I have imagined myself in jail, I have pictured myself sitting for meditation 24/7, in that way winning over all the "real" criminals with my gentle spirit and wise mind.

Or at least keeping my eyes closed so if doom approaches, I won't have to say hi before it finishes me.

Speaking of stress, recently I read a fascinating article that reports on what scientists are learning about building resilience (aka "the ability to quickly bounce back from tough experiences").

It reminded me of what I have shared so many times with friends who fear public speaking (and I mean fear it - the way I fear jail).

Our limbic brain - the very primitive part of our brain that remembers our caveman-with-spear days like they were yesterday - responds to stress as if it were a fanged predator.

Or many fanged predators.

So when my artist friend stands in front of a crowd of 3 or 300 to share her work, her prefrontal cortex is thinking "cool, maybe all 300 of these folks will buy a piece."

Meanwhile, her limbic brain is thinking, "300 predators....and they all look very hungry. Get me out of here!" 
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