Love & Feathers & Shells & Me

Faith & Confidence: Could They Be One and the Same?

Over the last month or so, I've been working my way through a wonderful book called "Your Heart's Desire" by author and intuitive teacher Sonia Choquette.

This book, first published back in 1995, is precisely the book I need now in 2019. If I had read it then, when I would have just been graduating college and launching into a new and extraordinarily ill-chosen career in the oil industry, it probably would have broken my heart.

But today, it lifts my heart and gives me so much more than hope. It gives me practical steps I can take to tweak and adjust and ponder and reframe and comprehend and heal and move ahead with confidence.

Or, as Sonia prefers to call it, with faith.

In the book, she writes:

One of my favorite definitions of faith is "confidence in the future based on what you have done in the past."

Can I just tell you how my mind broke out into its own peculiar version of the happy dance when it read this?

For so many years, decades really, my mind has been insisting that a reliance on "faith" is my weenie heart's weak attempt to get out of doing the brass tacks hard work of course setting, and, of course, course correction. 

Book Mentors

Do You Need an Adult Time Out?

I have realized lately that I am not always clear about what I want.

Whether in life, in love, for my future or for my present, it can be far too easy to get caught up in checking items off my daily to-do list, only to finish one day after another exhausted, spent, wondering if it will all ever add up to anything more than a mangled piece of paper full of check marks at each day's end.

I hope it will.

But I am learning it may take a bit more than just hoping before that actually occurs.

Specifically, I am learning this from my newest favorite mentor and teacher, Sonia Choquette, whose book "Your Heart's Desire" has been moved to the very top of my reading stack for the foreseeable future. This is because, while I feel like I understand most of the instructions she gives in each chapter, I don't understand yet how to follow those instructions.

After all, the book's title is "Your Heart's Desire," not "Your Head's Desire."

There is a big difference, according to Sonia.

And actually, I am starting to realize this myself, because when I ask my head what it wants it gives different answers to this question than the answers my heart gives.

My head's desires are all about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and even here it seems permanently stalled out at the ground level (food, shelter, safety, wads of extra cash....).

My heart, on the other hand, has desires it seemingly pulls out of every fantasy romance novel I ever read as a girl - true love ever after, starting and ending every day with beach-side sunrises and sunsets, taking a semi-permanent vacation while occasionally typing out yet another best-selling book featuring my precious trio of feathers and shells.

Suffice it to say we have a little inner disconnect standing in between me and a straight shot forward into my dream life.


No: the Complete Sentence We All Need to Say With Confidence

I have been in love with words for as long as I can remember. My mom taught me early and well how to read, and I took it from there and ran with it.

But over the years (decades, more like) I have begun to realize that I like some words more than others. Some words I really don't like at all. Some words are so wonderful I never get tired of them ("coffee" and "wine" being two particular favorites).

And some words I downright hate. Until only the past few years, the word "no" has been in this category.

Only just recently I learned that "no" is not just a word but also a complete sentence. I guess I've always known this deep down in the part of me that senses when a sentence is complete or not yet complete. But I haven't known why.

So I do what I always do when I don't know something and want to know it - I look it up. What I discovered is that "no" is a complete sentence because it represents a complete thought.  I like this.

After all, when I say the word "no," I am not likely to encounter anyone who shares my language who doesn't understand what I mean (whether or not they believe me is another story and also the building blocks of #metoo and other movements I admire).

And yet when I do say "no," I am also now realizing I often behave, and speak, as if the other party in the conversation isn't quite clear on my meaning. For example, I might say "No, but.....(fill in the blanks with lame excuse)."

Or I might say, "No, thank you," which of course I do because I am a good Southern girl and this is how my mom taught me to say it.

Rarely, despite more than one self-help workshop that delved into depth on this exact skill, do I ever just simply say "No" when I am saying it out loud and someone else is close enough to hear me.  


Are You Happy With Your Payday?

My newest beloved mentor, author and intuitive teacher Sonia Choquette, recently released a video on Instagram about manifesting money.

Now, every time I see the word "manifest," something inside me feels a little let down. It thinks (which I guess is a clue about which part of me is feeling let down) that "manifesting" is only for people like Sonia who don't first have to do battle with their mind which insists the whole exercise is just a worthless load of hogwash.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of battles with my mind on this very topic. After all, if it was as successful at manifesting money (or anything else) as it claims to be, we wouldn't need to be learning how to manifest, now would we?

So in spite of certain strenuous objections coming from the upper left hemisphere, so to speak, the rest of me has watched Sonia's new money manifesting video at least four times now.

Because the whole structure of manifesting is so alien to the system I learned growing up, where every success comes from something you build "out there" with 100% sweat equity instead of "in here" with visualizing, feeling, praying and sweat equity, I typically have to watch podcasts like these multiple times before even the basics begin to make sense, let alone sink in.

Yet there is some deeper part of me that understands what Sonia is teaching on a - dare I say it - intuitive level.

She says we get paid every day and in fairly equal measure to the amount of work we do. But until we can start tuning in to all the other ways that payment flows towards us, we won't ever realize it. This means we won't have the chance to choose a different payday if the one we have now isn't working for us.

Examples she gives of paydays include receiving approval or accolades from others, reinforcing a deep inner belief (such as that it is better to give than receive or that nothing ever works out for us), money of course, feeling good about using our skills and talents to help others - you get the idea.

Where things can get tricky is when the payday we get isn't the payday we want from the specific work we do.

Here is an example Sonia gives that resonates in many ways to my own work life as a freelancer writer.

So let's say an artist paints a lovely painting. People see it and give her lots of compliments, which makes her feel good. But no one buys it. Inside, the artist uses this as (more) proof of what her parents have repeatedly told her over the years - that she can never make a living doing what she loves, which is painting.

This is a type of payday. Instead of money, her payday is more input that is reinforcing her own learned belief her work will not support her. 


Attention! Intention! Action!

A few posts ago, I shared what I am learning from author, intuitive teacher and mentor Sonia Choquette about how focusing my attention inevitably creates intention, whether I meant to do it or not.

In other words, my focus in many ways determines what I experience in life. If I send my attention routinely to thoughts of lack, scarcity, loneliness, illness, I shouldn't be surprised when my life fills up with these experiences.

If, on the other hand, I send my attention to connection, friendship, love, laughter, I should expect more of these to show up on my doorstep and give a good, hearty knock.

As you might expect, as I've begun to work with my attention to be sure it is setting intentions I can get behind, so to speak, there have been a few mishaps and more than a few stressful moments.

Sonia says this is because being a person happens on multiple levels and it is important to get all the levels on board.

For instance, let's just say I want to attract a new close friend into my life. So I start very intently focusing my attention on all the wonderful attributes of this new friend. This person is funny, warm, trustworthy, kind, reliable, and so forth.

But then, in my search for a real-life new friend who fits this particular bill, I inevitably encounter lots of folks who don't fit the bill, whether a little or a lot. This can make me - and when I say "me" I basically mean my conscious mind - doubt whether the plan to make new friends is a sound one. It can also make me doubt whether I am someone who can make new friends.

Once these doubts start cropping up, my inner mental commentary can quickly get clogged up with thoughts like, "well maybe it isn't such a good idea after all to try to meet new people."

And here is where things can really get interesting. 


Tackling the Trolls with Love

I don't know about you, but I often treat the internet as a much safer, healthier place to hang out than it actually is. Like walking into a seedy bar assuming it is a posh hotspot, I fully acknowledge it is my own error when this occurs, and it my own job to make sure that it doesn't.

In one recent post, I blogged about a mentor who taught me how to "zip up" to protect myself from negative energy and unnecessary hardship.

When I go to our local park to walk, attend a concert or even enter a thrift shop, I have become accustomed to "zipping up" to safeguard myself in this way. If there is any source of chaotic, restless, overly dramatic or unbalanced energy lurking nearby, it won't find any place to plug in with me.

But where I all too frequently forget and outright neglect to do this is when I open up a web browser or app and enter the vast, still largely anonymous world of cyberspace.

In the so-called "real world" of the physical plane, my goal is to avoid being mugged, run over or worse. In the cyber world online, my goal is to avoid being trolled, bullied or worse.

While online trolls may give themselves faces and names, in that at least they post some type of photo and add some sort of moniker to their online profiles, this doesn't do much to repress their seeming natural inclination to give anyone and everyone everywhere a generous helping of their personal opinion.

This is particularly the case for anyone who ventures online and already possesses somewhat of an existing follower base. Like a playground fight between a known schoolyard bully and their target, it usually doesn't take long before a little scuffle turns into a school-wide rumble.

It happened to me again the other day. I won't go into the details, but let's just say I posted something about one of my pets that apparently irritated a great number of people. The next time I checked my app, there they were - all the trolls that I so haven't missed - spewing hate, judgment, very personal opinion and assessment. One individual even posted that they were "embarrassed for me."

(After doing my best to shake this off, it occurred to me that at least if they were embarrassed for me, there was no need for me to also be embarrassed for myself. So I can check that off the list. Whew.)

Of course I got really mad at myself when all this unfolded, because I really should and DO know better. I know that trolling can happen at any time and for the strangest of reasons. I didn't zip up, and so getting attacked by trolls hurt way worse than it had to. Totally my bad.

And I truly believe it would have hurt at some level anyway, because even if I was fully zipped up and protected, even armed as I am these days with my mentor Don Miguel Ruiz's life-changing Four Agreements, one of which is to "take nothing personally," encountering anger, judgment, shame, hate always hurts to some degree, whether expected or unexpected.

I can also share that in my more elevated moments, I have even done compassion meditations for the trolls, understanding that behind each relatively unknown photo and username is a real living breathing being who can't be feeling all that great about themselves or their lives, or else they wouldn't be so keen to inject misery where none existed before.

To my way of thinking, at least (and acknowledging this is totally unsubstantiated by more than personal opinion, since I have yet to see any formal research that locates, contacts and polls trolls to see why they do what they do and how they are feeling when they do it), no one who is happy, healthy, connected in loving friendships and relationships, and actively engaged in being of service in this world, is going to have any extra free time to troll.

Even though I wouldn't necessarily say I am scoring five stars in each of these areas myself, I can look back to times recently when I have happened upon blog posts or articles that offended, irritated or scared me, and I haven't commented on them. Maybe showing such restraint is a disservice in a way, but I just didn't have extra energy to spend on the aggressive and antagonistic comment thread that would have likely ensued.

In other words, in coping with the periodic presence of trolls in my own online life, I have been working hard to adopt this perspective: "trolls are people too." 


Turning Scarcity Into Sufficiency, One Thought At a Time

Over the past several years, I have been endeavoring to stop seeing scarcity everywhere I look and start seeing sufficiency instead.

As an example, let's take Exhibit A: my bank account.

I work full-time in the service industry as a freelance writer. Sometimes my clients need lots of articles. Sometimes they don't need any articles at all.

In either case, it is rare to get any kind of heads-up before my workload (and my monthly bank balance) increases or decreases accordingly.

There are pros and cons to working in this type of industry, and for me the pros consistently outweigh the cons (including having my choice of officemates).

But for all the enormous increase in "gig economy" type workers of late, when it comes to mainstream matters like paying health insurance premiums, buying a new vehicle when your 14-year-old ride finally calls it quits, coping with unexpected expenses like your young tortoise's CT scan tests and similar big ticket items, my protective, survival-based mindset has been firmly set to "expect scarcity" for as long as I can recollect.

However, this is not entirely accurate. I am just now starting to realize that if I get up, walk around to the other side, take a fresh look at my fiscal situation, what I see is actually one example after another of total sufficiency.

I see being able - one way or another - to meet my financial obligations each month in full. I notice how when emergencies do arise, a bit of creativity and determination has always provided me with the means to incorporate those expenses without undue hardship.

I perceive that I have even been able to take a week-long summer vacation for the last few consecutive years, complete with extra expenses for professional pet boarding, forgoing an entire week's income and emerging not measurably worse off for it.

This is kind Like, really cool.

Now, I will admit my definition of "sufficiency" as "making ends meet" could probably use some tweaking. 

Love & Feathers & Shells & Me

Getting Comfortable in Your Own Company

Over the last several months I have logged a significant amount of time alone with myself.

As a natural introvert, when I say I've spent a lot of time alone, I mean a LOT.

The other day, I was telling a dear friend how I hadn't left my casa for three straight days and nights - not even venturing as far as the end of the driveway (although Pearl and I had spent many happy hours basking in the sun on our little treehouse porch).

She expressed....shock. And that is when I felt it. SHAME.

Shame for spending three back-to-back days of time with only me.

I sincerely doubt my friend intended to shame me. No, this was an inside job. Her words touched some bruised hidden bit within me that reacted with an instant snap, snap, snap of its sharp, ashamed little teeth.

The day I shared this with my friend, I had at last ventured out to run errands, shop for groceries, do a bit of judicious thrifting, that sort of thing. Everywhere I went, everyone I saw seemed absorbed in....a certain small rectangular handheld object.

They were so intent! So focused! The day after that I ventured out again, this time to take a brisk walk at a favorite local park. What did I see? More of the same. 


Making a Wish Versus Setting an Intention

"Make a wish." Is there any phrase more universal, more central, more human than our ability to wish, to dream, to imagine?

I have found that, yes, actually, there is.

When I was little, I truly believed that the wish you get to make when you blow out the candles on your once-a-year birthday cake was a special wish. It had more power than my other daily life wishes. It would only come true if you didn't tell anybody what you wished for, ever.

I don't remember how good I was at keeping my own secrets (not very good, I suspect) but I do remember that a distressingly low percentage of those big birthday wishes ever came true.

The one I remember that did come true - my 7th grade self's passionate wish for a pet parakeet - only did so after a full year spent engaged in pestering, whining, hounding and begging my mom.

So was it really my "wish" for a parakeet that came true, or rather was it my dogged intention to make it come true no matter what? 


Lights! Attention! Intuition!

In the wake of separating from my long-time love of 15 years earlier this year, I made the decision to plunge myself headlong into a new way of living.

In some kind of happy coincidence that I now suspect was less coincidence and more genuine divine assistance, I happened across a short video talk by intuitive author and teacher Sonia Choquette not long after my love and I parted ways.

Of course I was searching for a different author and a different talk when this occurred. But something about her voice, her manner, her particular way with words, encouraged me to stay put. A quick internet search unearthed some striking similarities between us in the realm of recent catastrophic relationship losses.

I then learned she had written not one but two memoirs about how she healed and rebuilt her life after unexpectedly separating from her husband of more than 30 years. I ordered both as well as some of her other books and commenced to reading.

That was approximately four months ago. I am still reading. I have found the lifeline I was seeking to haul myself up out of a painful rehashing of my broken past and into a still hopeful, still chock-full of potential present and future.

I have found - in a word - intuition.

Sonia says that where our attention is focused is what we will create next in our life, whether we want to or not. This is a very challenging teaching!