An Invitation

You can create a life you love… right here, right now.

You’re going to work with the raw material of your life… exactly as it is.

Start with a willingness to practice creating moments of
Peace, Joy, Empowerment, And love… in each day.

What would that look like?
What is peace? Joy? Empowerment? Love?
How does one live those qualities?

Peace is a deep inner quiet we each have within us, that can be accessed anywhere, any
time, by briefly pausing, breathing deeply and allowing one’s self to be still.

Joy is the exuberant feeling that comes from being aware and awake to the small miracles
and wonder of life in each moment.

Empowerment is recognizing one’s ability to take action, and taking action.

Love is making a choice in this moment to support one’s divine potential or that of
another with kindness and compassion. Love is not an adjective, it is a verb.

You can create a life you love by bringing these qualities to the circumstances of your life
as they are now. All you need is a sincere “yes” to yourself… and a daybook…

A daybook can be on your phone, I-pad, computer. It can be a big beautiful journal or a
little notepad that can be carried easily in a pocket or purse. It can be a graphic journal
where you draw instead of write.

Each day just take a moment to record:

When today did I create a moment of peace?
When today did I create a moment of joy?
When today did I create a moment of empowerment?
When today did I create a moment of love?

As you begin doing this right here, right now… your life will change and you will begin
creating a life you love.

Our Marriage

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I . . . choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.” — Anais Nin

9fb5674722cc4c6731c44468b4ec2ec1Today I have been married for 37 years to Brian M Allred. We are in a hotel room at the Oregon Coast. It is pouring outside, so I am on my computer writing and he is lying on the bed reading an article on memory in Psychotherapy Networker magazine. My memory has traveled to November of 1977.

After my post- graduation stint as a newspaper reporter in Salt Lake City, I had gone home to Vancouver, Washington to heal. I was depressed and worn out from the dark shadows I had been faced with—both professionally and personally. My oldest brother Rodney, 17 years my elder, and his wife Jean, had become parental figures for me after the deaths of my parents years earlier in my life.

Rodney had called me in Utah and encouraged me to come home. Then he called my managing editor and told him I would be needing a leave of absence. Once I was home, he encouraged me to attend a social group for young adults sponsored by our church. I resisted, he persisted. He won.

Begrudgingly I drove my VW bug to the house where the group was meeting. My hair was dirty so I’d wrapped it up in maroon floral scarf and called it good enough. I remember sitting down and noticing Brian right away. I thought he and I were the only ones in the room at first. (I have just asked him and he said ‘no, Kenny was there too!’ )

I believe him. And I think my mental image is based on the importance of that meeting. Something about him made me curious. He says he had a heightened interest in me, that I was “definitely different.” We both agree that it felt like we were the only two people in the room.

e0718e20e8ca6bba98ad80b3237a5326Our first date was a New Year’s Eve dance. Before we even left for the dance we talked non-stop for at least an hour. We both love to dance and danced and talked all night and into the next morning. When I went home, I went into Rod and Jean’s room and said, “I think I’ve met the man I’m going to marry.”

Brian was going to college and living at home after having lived in Bolivia for two years. He told his parents later that morning, “I think I’ve found the woman I want to marry.”

Two days later we got engaged! Three months later, we married!

Meeting Brian was somewhat like washing ashore onto a tropical island after surviving a storm. My heart threw open its doors to this man because he was deeply spiritual, intelligent, and very funny. I fell in love with him because he seemed to welcome the whole of me—the strong accomplished parts that sometimes kept other people at arms-length, my critical side, my vulnerable parts, and perhaps most importantly my potential.

I chose the quote at the top because it so describes how Brian has continued to hold my talents and potential. When we were first married and broke, he made sure I had a typewriter so I could continue to write. A few decades later when I said I wanted to go to graduate school to become a counselor he immediately said, ‘That’s a great idea! You’d be a great counselor! When I told him it was going to cost over $30,000 he simply replied, “We’ll find a way to make it work.”

382473_10201514806737220_397311553_nHe complements my seriousness with his light-hearted-ness. He loves to tease and joke, which sometimes is annoying to me. But as I’ve aged I’ve come to see that he is the perfect antidote to my traumatic childhood, always supporting my efforts to heal, but also nudging me to not take myself so seriously.

“I knew you were deep when I married you,” he chidingly once told me, “I just didn’t know I was getting the Grand Canyon!”

And once, he had the nerve to ask me if having both of my parents die when I was young was “the ultimate home alone experience!” That might sound appalling, but it was actually mind-expanding. He is the only person on this planet I would have allowed such an inquiry. It led to a wonderfully deep conversation about something other than the profound loss. It became an exploration of how in some ways I was very unencumbered and basically could do anything I wanted to without concern about parental approval or disapproval.

487919_4266538270085_1932597733_nUltimately, he has always held a secure base that not only allowed me to be who I am, but allowed a continual unfolding. And his own unfolding has been quite remarkable. Three years ago, at age 56, he received his own master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. He was the oldest man at his graduation ceremony and the only one with six daughters in their twenties and thirties jumping up and down and screaming as loud as they could as he received his diploma. We are now in private practice together.

It may sound like I’m nominating him for sainthood. Even though he survived living with seven women for many years, I’m not. We both have our weaknesses, our limitations, along with our strengths. We are counselors who have gone to counseling.

So now I’m crying and Brian just said, “Are you crying?”

“Yes.”

“How come?”

“I’m just so thankful for you.”

“You better write about me more often then!”

Enough said, except for “Happy Anniversary Sweetheart!”

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Reclaiming our Lost Selves

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“My life had started to feel so stagnant, like it was atrophied. Everything shrunk down to the roles I played. I had loved doing them, . . . but they were drying up and they weren’t really me . . . I felt there had to be some other life beneath the one I had, like an underground river or something, and that I would die if I didn’t dig down to it.” – Sue Monk Kidd

My ‘to do’ lists were put on hold in early March.

11039592_10203233730995543_1124593088_nBurnt out and needing a break, I boarded a plane to Hawaii with my husband Brian to visit our eldest daughter Annie and her family.

Every day we got up, packed a lunch and our swimming suits and headed to a different beach. Swimming in the warm water, sitting in the sun, and walking on the beach gave me a chance to slow down and contemplate what my soul needed in the crazy current of my life.

Disowned parts of myself rose up to bloom as big and bright as the gorgeous tropical flowers. I knew that if I wanted to live fully alive I needed to make room for my orphaned selves.

How would I do that?

Airplane over ocean.Flying home over the vast Pacific Ocean I considered how I allowed myself to be carried by life’s current. To surrender to life’s flow can bring peace and trust in all that is bigger than us, but there are also whirlpools that can quickly capture us, taking over if we are not mindful.

The myriad tasks and responsibilities of life can end up owning too much of us. And that is what happened to me. My life had become over-focused on work and under-focused on play.

It’s easy to slip into the enticing idea that if we just do a better job of planning and organizing we can reign in the chaos of our lives; make things manageable; create a smooth flow. There is some truth in this. But I believe a greater truth: taking time to tend to the garden of our souls grounds us to manage the myriad tasks of a chaotic world.

With this idea as a guide we ask:

What brings me home to the whole of myself? What parts of myself have I lost along the way? How can I create space for those lost or disowned parts?

bird_of_paradiseBeing on vacation reminded me of the importance of taking time to nurture our passions. An awareness bloomed of how much I had ignored the artistic side of myself. I had a renewed desire to sketch, make some collages, to connect to that largely ignored part of myself. I am endlessly looking for time to write, but I realized I also needed time for artistic creation, something that is not about words.

So this morning I got up at 6:15 and did something I hardly ever do. I got out my art supplies and began to create. I gave myself permission to see it as a process with no deadline, an enjoyable indulgence that did not require perfection, only my presence. My only agenda was to allow whatever unfolded.

11026419_10203243612042563_1683315404_nI also was aware soon after returning that I need more play in my life. I am very responsible and overly committed to ‘doing something constructive.’ My inner child was calling to me to ‘chill,’ to allow for more play, more fun.

We live full and complicated lives – we attend to children; go to work; clean the house; make sure there’s food to eat; launder the clothes; clean the house; drive the school carpool; keep multiple sets of little finger and toe nails clipped; meet deadlines; write reports; return phone calls. The do-list of our lives is indeed endless.

But what if we allowed ourselves to live ‘off-list’ as well?

What if we created a place for parts of ourselves that are lost, to come home?

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in TheodoraLorraine Hunt Lieberson began her career as an accomplished viola player. While on tour her viola was stolen. Rather than just replacing it, she took it as an opportunity to develop her voice. She devoted herself to that ‘lost’ part of her abilities and in two years became an amazing mezzo-soprano.

We often set aside old passions for new responsibilities; we lose track of our adventurous selves. We can become so wedded to a certain project or purpose that we ignore the part of each of us that longs for variety and exploration. 

It takes introspection and commitment to see the parts of ourselves that are not represented in our daily lives and to create a place for them at the table.

Then and only then can we begin to access our deepest knowing, our wisest guide, and some of the more surprising parts of ourselves.

Flying back from Hawaii I realized I was not just coming home to our house, I was coming home to myself.

 

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Serenity

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Tamera is on vacation, visiting her daughter, Anne, in Hawaii.  So for this week’s post we are going to repost the article from March of 2014.  New articles will resume next week.

“Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. Every breath we take, every step we take, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.” ― Tich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

525_10201648544560582_34680106_n-1-300x199Do you ever have fantasies of running away? Do you imagine living in a small cottage on a beautiful, serene island?   Would you like to escape the relentless tug of other people’s needs, or of constantly being ‘on’?  Have you lost your self and think you could find her if you just had even 15 uninterrupted minutes alone?

The answer is not found in running away.  The answer is the bedrock of all recovery: SERENITY.  Our inner emotional world can be afloat in the flotsam of unhealthy habits, compulsions, obsessions, and addictions.  Somewhere on the surf we might also find anxiety, resentments, and the sticky muck of shame and guilt.

Digging The Vegetable GardenRecently I reconnected with an old friend I haven’t seen in years. She has faced enormous trauma and tragedy in her life and yet what I felt most in her presence was serenity. She did, in fact, run away so to say. But rather than running away from herself, she was returning to herself.  She retreated from the everyday pressures of her old life and found work gardening.  Her soul bathed in the peace of being alone yet connected to nature.  As she worked she prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more.

And gradually she found herself restored to serenity, and fully reengaged with life.

Life is difficult and it is so easy to seek self-soothing through unhealthy habits, addictions, compulsions and obsessive thoughts.  Anxiety often underlies these emotional escape mechanisms.

Let’s look at a few definitions:

Addiction is overdependence on a substance or activity that interferes with our life and can cause a physiological dependence that leads to withdrawal symptoms if the addiction is stopped. People persist in addiction despite negative consequences in life.  They are drawn by the pleasure the addiction offers, but as deeper work is done, uncomfortable emotion precedes addictive behavior. Despite the temporary pleasure, a person becomes owned by the addiction and as they say in Narcotics Anonymous, “One pill is too many and a thousand are never enough.”

ocd2Compulsion is a persistent, uncontrollable impulse to perform a stereotyped, irrational act that is not necessarily pleasurable. The compulsion is engaged in to find relief from obsessive thinking. But one can never wash one’s hands enough to be free from those thoughts.  Compulsive behavior can also include engaging in any recurring activity to manage our feelings. But compulsions usually end up managing us!

 An Unhealthy Habit is any systemically repeated behavior pattern performed automatically, or without thinking that causes a person negative consequences.

All of these dysfunctional conditions have something in common: They take us away from ourselves.

Serenity is a way of coming home to our true self.  We claim serenity when we come to our own assistance,008_IMG_1083_B instead of abandoning ourselves through destructive behaviors. We learn healthy self-soothing practices. We become very familiar with the feeling of peace and how it is created in our lives. We learn that vital to serenity is accepting what is.  That doesn’t mean that ‘what is’ is alright, but it is, in this moment, reality. We don’t overcome our realities by escaping.

Mary O’Malley, author of The Gift of Our Compulsions, A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Acceptance and Healing, successfully overcame a lifetime struggle with compulsion. It brought her to a place she could write these words: “I trust myself  . . .  I also trust my life. I know how to wake up each morning and open to the unfolding of my day—both the easy and the difficult parts of it—aware that whatever shows up is a part of my journey into an ever-deepening connection with life.”

When we trust ourselves, our lives, our God or Higher Power, our anxiety lifts.  While conscious effort is required in life, controlling is not. As we let go we feel the hummingbird energy of anxiety gently fly away.

But trusting ourselves can be especially difficult. We are often held back by fear. The unknown is daunting. And fresh-spring-bud-green-powerpoint-templates,1366x768,65328past mistakes can cause us to doubt ourselves.  Despite our humanity, we can hold onto trust by meeting ourselves with compassion and curiosity. Our past is no longer baggage, but compost—a natural fertilizer from which we can blossom.

I wanted to run away this week. I couldn’t without being completely irresponsible, so instead I ran to my journal for a bit.  In my writing I found clarity and formed an intention to say “no” to requests for my time that carry me away from my purpose.  I increased my commitment to continue paring down an excess of possessions that complicate life. I decided I am going to stop rushing, that I am going to exit—wherever possible—the impossible pace of life in our culture.

I vowed to seek serenity each day through stillness, more self-awareness, acceptance, prayer, sacred study, and offering myself the gift of my own presence.

It is time to fully come home to ourselves and to therein find spirit, peace, and serenity, the bedrock of emotional health.

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Creativity in Bloom

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“I have come to realize . . .that the great divide is not between those who are artists and those who are not, but between those who understand they are creative and those who have become convinced that they are not. The great divide is between those who understand that their very nature is that of an artist and those who remain unaware or in denial of their artisan soul.”
–Ervin Raphael McManus, The Artisan Soul, Crafting Your Life Into a Work of Art

4 a.m., Sunday morning: I have just gleefully lifted the calendar page from February to March. I have pushed the refresh button on my life!

February was month of survival. My website crashed and was under reconstruction for three weeks (thank you web wonder Colin Bondi!) We had car trouble with both of our vehicles. And both my husband and I struggled through miserable cases of the flu accompanied by colds!
1521580_10203499936364220_328891649_nBut yesterday we walked hand in hand down 5th Avenue in Portland, OR, our next-door-neighbor city. The sky was blue. Radiant sunlight bounced off the myriad windows of tall office buildings. The trees were shyly showing their tiny pink buds with the first blooms of spring.

I am ready for a spring-cleaning of my soul! I am ready to thrive versus just survive! And what that has come to mean over the past 24 hours is embracing my true creative nature. One of the most important aspects of creating a life we love is embracing our creative nature, for we are all creative. As we do, we begin living not from our lists, but from our souls.

This requires a re-commitment to caring for our souls.

“When soul is neglected, it doesn’t just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning.” writes Thomas Moore in one of my top ten favorite books, Care of the Soul, A guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life.

His book teaches us that it is only by “caring for the soul we can find relief from our distress and discover deep satisfaction and pleasure.”
10915222_10155254016885413_1954659329647914859_nSoul-care calls for creativity and creativity always calls us back to a sense of aliveness and a deep connection with the essence of who we truly are—creative beings. A move from surviving to thriving happens when we connect to that creative aspect of our natures.

Recently a dear friend of mine survived a stunning series of losses. Within just two years she suffered the deaths of several people close to her. Her sister/best friend, a vibrant, lively woman, died unexpectedly in the prime of her life! Over the next year, three other relatives also passed away.

She found herself in a cynical slump, not only devastated by the losses, but profoundly disappointed with the unfairness of life. She moved into emotional survival mode—which includes a failure to thrive. Over time and with some help she reconnected with what made life worth living for her. It called for a spring-cleaning of the soul. ‘Spring’ is the key word since it indicates a renewal of life, a rebirth. She grieved, she sorted out what it all meant to her and she made some important decisions about how to live on.

As she engaged in this soul cleanse she emerged reconnected to what brings her meaning and happiness in life. Her recovery came with courageous acts of creativity.
OlivierAntiquesShe is now starting an online business selling vintage items she has discovered in “treasure hunts” at garage sales, second hand stores, and even from relative’s who are ready to clean out. This connection to items from the past, which is a passionate hobby of hers, in turn connects her to her own soul. She is turning it into a way to thrive in her everyday life.

Spring’s arrival can be a time for us to bloom. We can clean out the cobwebs of creative laziness from our souls. We can embark on a quest to care for our souls by reconnecting to a passion for life.

Most quests start with an unanswered question. Ask yourself now: What speaks to my soul? What makes me feel alive? What would I try if I didn’t let fear get in the way?

Gardening_Spring_FlowerMy soul spring-cleaning is calling for more space to make my creativity an everyday experience. The areas in my life where I am creatively stuck (for example, allowing myself to draw more) are largely because of fear! It helps to remember that fear is just another way of talking about ‘false evidence appearing real.’ The false story I tell myself is that because my drawing isn’t good enough I shouldn’t draw or can’t draw. Can you see the irony of that? How can my drawing get better if I don’t draw? I simply have to allow myself to start where I am. That is one long cobweb to swab with the broom!

A delicious new book I am devouring (and writing in the margins of with multiple colors of ink) is The Artisan Soul, Crafting Your Life Into a Work of Art, by Ervin Raphael McManus. He declares, “Let us never relinquish our rights as creative and creators,” he writes, “a soul that is free and alive is a soul that creates.”

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