Feeling Gratitude & Being Appreciative

Off the top of my head, and in less than 5 minutes, I generated all these ideas—big and small, specific and general of people, relationships, and experiences that fill me with gratitude.

As I breathe in the crisp, cold, early morning air as I walk Gus, a sense of gratitude washes over me. I start to explore that feeling.  A cascade of experiences and names of people start tumbling through my mind— the training courses I have attended, the courses created and delivered, the people met, the new relationships formed, the books read and listened to, the places traveled, times with family and friends, and the list goes on. And these are very specific memories I’m thinking of—like snapshots in my mind.

Honestly, there have been challenges this year too. Life is full of ups and downs. In my world of family and friends—sickness, chronic conditions, and death—to the state of our country, the ever-present scourges of racism, misogyny, lack of adequate food, healthcare, and housing, gun violence, immigration atrocities, unequal educational opportunities, our class system, the reality of climate change, unstable geopolitics, and more.

I have had to develop ways to effectively work with and handle these realities. In essence, I am particular about the sources of information I choose to consume and conscious of the “right” amount of information. I seek to be informed and engaged without becoming overwhelmed as this is the way I move forward.

What are the tools and resources you use to re-balance?

Who and what support you in your efforts to live in a state of equilibrium?

I want to be sure that I’m being clear that working to achieve equilibrium through:

  • eating well
  • hydrating
  • exercising
  • connecting with family and friends
  • learning
  • creating art consistently
  • and reading books that challenge me

enables me to volunteer my time to organizations/causes I believe in and pursue my (rigorous) studies in chaplaincy. I’m not talking about ignoring the world and our challenges to sit and eat bonbons on the couch (but you knew that). I am talking about ensuring that I have the energy to pursue change in my personal and the larger world.

Here are just a few books I’ve read over the past few years that support my mind, body, and soul. Perhaps you will find one or more of them interesting.

I’d love to hear from you about the resources and practices you turn to on this journey. Please share them!

I realize what a very full year I have had…   I am reminded of how much there is to appreciate in my life. With that in mind, I was thinking it’s time to offer another Appreciative Living Learning Circle. It seems fitting to start before the end of this year and continue it into the beginning of next year. If you’re curious to learn more, check my Calendar page.

Reflecting on the Shape of Our Lives

Two weeks ago, I posed these questions…

🌀 What experiences have nurtured and shaped you throughout your life?

🌀 Who has inspired and supported you over the years? Who might do so in the future?

🌀 As you view and reflect on all these answers, how have these “nutrients” formed your essence? (Another metaphor may be, “What is the foundation you are standing on?“)

🌀 What more do you want to bring into your life? And, conversely, what will you let go of or re-shape to better serve who you are now and want to be in the future?

I am wondering if you made the time to answer them. I hope so! Here’s the overview of my thoughts:

As promised, I devoted time to reflecting on the people in my life—past and present—who have helped me grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. While my drawing identifies few folks by name, I took a walk through my memories, from childhood through to the present. The revisiting of my life experiences—from relationships to schooling, travel, work, and more has led me to appreciate the successes and challenges that have, in part, formed who I am at this moment in time.

Happily, I have an ever-widening circle of friends and colleagues who continue to inspire me. Interestingly, I am letting go of just a few of my projects (though I love them) to make more time for what I am deciding matters most to me.

I hope that you have savored your journey from the past to the present too.

Opportunities for learning and growing—oh my!

Gosh, it’s been an amazing couple of weeks! I’m stretching in new and unexpected ways!

What’s your spring been like?

  • In March, I began a course of study that requires me to use new processes and formats. Part of the work is writing/drafting, submitting, revising, submitting, revising, and sending off finished papers about all of our courses. It’s a rigorous (and lengthy) process! 
  • I’ve started working with a mentor. Deciding on the shape of that experience with a person completely new to me is both exciting and challenging. I am at the beginning of a two-year journey and there is much to consider… my background, interests and goals, her expertise, our styles of interaction, the nature of such a relationship—it’s complex!

  • Just last week, I offered a joint coaching session to the two participants who had most successfully followed the guidelines I created for assessing graphic recording work, (from my session for the Visual Jam). It was such a delight working with these women who came in with high-quality visuals and helping them to make their pieces even better. Another set of eyes, a different perspective, it’s a gift.
  • I’m developing a visual storytelling piece to present at a conference in July. While the concept is really clear in my mind, how it comes together on paper/my iPad is still a work in progress. I decided that I needed support and so reached out for an accountability buddy—to get the work and play of it done—and to offer me feedback. It’s been awesome! My colleague, who is an accomplished author, shares ideas that would never have occurred to me. Happily, I do the same for her current project.
  • One of my clients is seeking to dramatically change her approach to digital recording. Each coaching session we review recent pieces together, identifying what’s working and why, then we discuss alternatives to the options chosen re: layout, use of color, lettering hierarchy, iconography, and the harmony of text and drawings. (This is the type of work I do for myself too. At the end of almost every project, I look at what I have created and think of at least one other way to do it completely differently! It is both a blessing and a curse to have those insights.)

What projects are on your plate?

How are you gaining perspective about your work? 

Who are your mentors, guides, or coaches as you continue to learn and grow? 

How is the “feedforward” you’re receiving supporting your goals?

As you can tell, I always believe that it’s possible to do things just a bit better! Old dog, new tricks!

Reach out to me if you want to explore your next best steps.


Postscript: In honor of  May as Mental Health Awareness Month, I am going to post again tomorrow with my visual from two weeks ago and one of my favorite resources for taking good care of myself. 

A step into a secondhand bookshop becomes a leap into reflection…

Two weeks ago we headed to the Berkshires for a long weekend that included stopping in nearly every secondhand bookstore in each of the little towns we visited. I happened to pick up a copy of Gay Hendricks, Five Wishes in Yellow House Books (what a gem of a place!). I admit it, I love books that encourage me to make time for deep self-reflection, planning, and application.

As I savored the central questions of the book, I thought of more questions and answers that supported digging deeply into the slim volume. (I feel that I can’t share Gay’s questions, as the total experience of reading the stories is essential to understanding and engaging in the processes.)

* H/T to Martin Haussmann’s original drawing

This drawing* feels like a fertile place for brainstorming then organizing my thoughts to harvest the answers to my preliminary questions that lead to the BIG questions and answers. (Mmm, that feels like a lot of process when written, though natural and seamless when lived.)

I’d like to ask you:

🌀 What experiences have nurtured and shaped you throughout your life? 

🌀 Who has inspired and supported you over the years? Who might do so in the future?

🌀 As you view and reflect on all these answers, how have these “nutrients” formed your essence? (Another metaphor may be, “What is the foundation you are standing on?“) 

🌀 What more do you want to bring into your life? And, conversely, what will you let go of or re-shape to better serve who you are now and want to be in the future?

I think these questions can be asked about our whole selves (who are we and how do we show up in all aspects of our lives) and/or the questions can inform our understanding of how we approach a project or a relationship. What do you think? Would grounding yourself, by thinking and feeling deeply and broadly better inform your day-to-day living/being? Have you developed a process for reflection that shifts to insight and action?

The visual I shared will become the initial space in which I gather my thoughts. I need to see EVERYTHING before moving forward into discovering how they come together—it feels like alchemy to me. I’ll share my work next week.

If you would like a copy of this visual (without the questions), contact me and I will send you a file. Of course, you may have a different metaphor or way of approaching this big, juicy endeavor. I’d love to hear from you… perhaps you will share your work too!

A New York state of mind… Wait, not quite

Do you ever find that a change of state makes a difference in your thinking and feeling?

Just last weekend we headed north for a long weekend away from home. While we were going to an area we love and know quite well, we were staying in a different town which brought the excitement of much to explore.

And so, when I say “state” I am using every meaning possible—physical state, emotional state, and literally, in a different state or location.

Just getting away for a couple of days was the breath of fresh air that I needed to stir up a number of the questions I’ve been asking myself in disjointed ways. I had the time and space, early in the morning sitting in front of the fire all by myself with a cup of coffee, to think and feel into the changes that seem to be afoot.

What’s in your immediate future? 

Is there time and space, interest, and financial resources, to step out of your daily routine for a few days, to really shake it up and give yourself an empty canvas for creating the life/more of the life that you desire? 

I feel myself moving—literally turning as if I were an ocean liner—it’s a slow, arching turn allowing me time to weave the strands of thread/my thinking together (please pardon the mixed metaphors).

How do you envision/feel your change process? 

Certainly, I don’t use a more intuitive process for all the changes I make in my life. Sometimes change appears to happen quickly for me (though I think of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink and realize that my “quick” decisions are often brewing for quite some time and are not the quick deductions that I believe them to be). Other times, I almost feel the stirring in my body—thoughts swirling in my head, sometimes just beyond reach—and feelings in my gut.

Maybe it’s also the books I’m reading and listening to:

And perhaps, the foci of the art I’m creating in workshops—ideas, questions, and musing about where I have been, where I am not am now, and how I envision the future. 

Version 4 of this labor of love.

Version 4 of this labor of love.

Also, the visual I’m developing for Garnet Health Medical Center for patients facing palliative or hospice care might enter into this mix. (When I started my internship at the hospital, I was unclear about the difference between palliative care and hospice, so offered to draw a visual to be given to patients and families needing to understand these concepts and practices as they face big decisions).  


Visuals of people’s wishes and visions for their last days.

Or the visuals I’m creating with folks seeking to think through what they desire and hope for their end-of-life experiences and my visual obituary workshops… both of which are life-affirming experiences. And the ongoing work and play in VEOLI ( the group of visual practitioners who have banded together for over 18 months to bring conversations about death into the light of everyday life.

All these experiences plus the joy in teaching the meditative art form of Zentangle are paving the way to a new imagining of my future… I can feel it!

What are you noticing, thinking, feeling, imagining about all of your life? Are you curious or perhaps even hungry for a shift or even a completely new direction?

If you seeking to explore your future, I’m happy to share some of the many resources I have gathered over my years of one-to-one coaching and facilitating such conversations. If you’d like a companion on the journey of transformation, let me know… it’s some of my favorite work (and play).