Mar 092017
 
Yoga - on the way down

Tonight, I went to yoga class for the first time in SEVEN years.

And boy, was it humbling!

It also sent my Monkey Mind into overdrive.

I thought I’d worked through all of my body shame, but oh boy, did it show up tonight, BIG TIME!

 

Even though I stopped playing soccer 7 years ago and it’s been even longer since I was a Division 1 athlete, as I attempted downward dog, plank and other pretzel-like machinations, I found myself holding myself to the old standards and expectations of how my body was supposed to perform.

And because of that, I was mentally beating up on my body. Feeling angry at it, like it’d let me down. At one point, I got so frustrated, I nearly cried! As you might imagine, this mindset does not help when one is trying to do yoga!

After 40 years of soccer (with too many injuries to name), Lyme Disease, 2 car accidents and a dislocated shoulder and torn rotator cuff, you’d think I’d have a little more compassion and understanding for the ole gal – after all, I was living in my body as it went through all of that!

But no… it seemed like the more I tried to quiet my Monkey Mind, the louder my Inner Critic got. In fact, by the time class reached the half way point, I had already talked myself out of coming to any more classes (I’ve signed up for a series of 4) and was ready to pick up my mat, go home and call it quits!

 

Then came the balance portion of the class.

Much to my surprise, my balance was excellent! I could do Eagle, move into Airplane and even stretch out into Warrior 3 with only the slightest wobble. I was shocked. And elated!

After the balance portion of the class, we did some more moves that I had a hard time with, but I wasn’t so hard on myself this time around. And when I laid on my mat at the end of class, I felt a small sense of victory welling up inside me.

And I knew I’d be back next week.

 

Because guess what – my body *didn’t* let me down. It got me through yoga class.

This strong, brave body of mine allowed me to play 40 years of soccer.

It bounced back, injury after injury.

It birthed my beautiful son.

It got me through Lyme Disease. Two pretty serious car accidents. And a dislocated shoulder.

Most recently, it allowed me to trek across snow, lava, tundra and glaciers in Iceland.

 

My body has *not* let me down.
Rather, it has been a steadfast, loyal partner; allowed me to do so much.

So instead of beating up on it, I think I’m going to go soak in a tub, rub it with lotion, snuggle it into some cozy pajamas and put it to bed. And before I go to sleep, I am going to read it this poem, out loud:

For My Mother When She Doesn’t Feel Beautiful

Don’t worry about your body.
It isn’t as small as it once was,
But honestly, the world needs more of you.
You look in the mirror
like you’ve done something wrong,
But you look perfect.
Anyone who says otherwise is telling a lie
to make you feel weak.
And you know better.
You’ve survived every single day,
for as long as you’ve been alive.
You could spit fire if you wanted.

~ Clementine von Radics

So the next time you’re beating yourself up about something – not getting that grant, falling short of your annual appeal goal, getting less from a donor than you’d hoped – STOP. Take an inventory of all the things you HAVE accomplished, and all the good work you’ve done. Then celebrate those things. Celebrate yourself. Treat yourself with the love and compassion you’d shower on your best friend.

Because just like my body didn’t let me down at yoga class tonight, you didn’t let anyone down, either.

Because we all do the best we can in every moment of every day.

And our “best” is going to waiver, minute to minute, day to day, week to week.

And our best is all anyone can ever ask of us — including ourselves.

 

I’ll be back on my yoga mat next week. Will I be any better at those poses? Probably not. But we can’t let our Monkey Minds prevent us from showing up; from being present; from giving it our all; from doing our best. We need to treat ourselves with love and compassion, go to bed, get up, and give it another try. Because the world needs us now more than ever.

 

Yours in imperfection,

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 March 9, 2017  Posted by at 3:09 am Sarah Uncensored
Feb 082017
 
Courage to Ask For

Lately, I’ve been struggling with overwhelm. This is what I’ve been juggling:

–Preparing for tonight’s session of my class, Consultation and Program Evaluation.

–Memorizing my V-Day Monologue and the opening song for this Friday’s performance.

–Preparing 8 trainings for our trip to China, which are due this Thursday.

–Organizing my trip to Iceland, which is in less than 2 weeks.

–Trying to finish up my book, due to the publisher on March 1st.

And ya know, do stuff like walk the dog, feed the cats, feed myself, keep up with the laundry…

Honestly, I was feeling so much stress and pressure that I’d gone numb.

 

Then yesterday, a light bulb went on. Encouraged by a friend who has some experience in the publishing world, I asked my publisher for an extension. AND GOT IT! I now have another two weeks in which to complete my manuscript.

It was like someone released a pressure valve – my entire body went “aaaaaahhhhhh” and relaxed. My entire being relaxed! In the blink of an eye, I went from overwhelm to overjoyed!

I immediately got out my calendar and rearranged my schedule (thank g-d I use pencil!), eliminating my pre-dawn writing sessions and creating space for my friend’s party this weekend. And I scratched my laptop from the list of things I need to pack for my trip to Iceland. Now I can go chase the Aurora Borealis at night, instead of working on my book!

I’m no longer numb — I feel happy, upbeat, creative. Expansive. Like anything is possible. I feel like I’ve got my mojo back!

Amazing what a simple question can unleash, isn’t it?

 

It’s not like I haven’t seen the “ask and you shall receive” thing work time and time again, but somehow, I’d managed to forget all about it in the face of all these deadlines.

And let’s face it, we women aren’t always good at asking for what we need or want… because assertive women often get called names, like “uppity b*tch”… and worse.

 

But what happens when we don’t ask for what we need and want?

What do we give up – and lose – in the process?

What is the point in playing it small?

 

Yes, of course it felt like a bit of a risk to ask my publisher for an extension. After all, I have a contract.

And, in truth, I’m a Recovering Perfectionist.

And I’m kinda used to being able to juggle multiple projects and pull rabbits outta my hat, so ya know, my Ego had more than a little skin in the game.

BUT.

I was also between a rock and a hard place – trying to do too much, losing sleep, eating poorly, feeling scattered and stressed – all of which kept me from giving anything my full attention or best effort.

And that’s not okay with me, because integrity is one of my primary values.

 

So I thought about the Worst Case Scenario – what was Praeger going to do, cancel my contract? Take back the advance? Not likely – not this far into the game. And really, two weeks wasn’t likely to affect their production schedule much, particularly if it meant I could deliver a better-quality product.

Then I thought of the Best Case Scenario – in a word, sanity!

So – I asked.

And I got!

 

It feels good to have spoken up. To ask for what I needed. To have taken my power back.

Now, I’m back on my game. In the driver’s seat. In alignment. In integrity.

And that sure beats being numb!

 

So – what is it that you need and want right now?

And what question(s) are you willing to ask so you can get it?

And what Best Case Scenario is waiting for you on the other side of that ask?

Take a deep breath and make that leap, my friend. It is sooooo worth it!

 

Always got your back,

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 February 8, 2017  Posted by at 3:23 pm Sarah Uncensored
Jan 192017
 
Stretched Too Thin

I’m writing this on four hours of sleep.

Last week, I got so cranky that I was ready to slap the next person who asked me to do one more thing. As someone who’s been called “chronically perky,” this is not my norm!

For the past week, I’ve been subsisting on egg salad and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And tea. And soup. I’m not sure a single vegetable or piece of fruit has passed my lips!

Over the weekend, I came down with a cold. One of those kick you upside the head and fill your brain with fog kinds of colds. At a time when I can least afford to be sick.

In this day and age, it seems like we’re pulled in a million different directions, trying to meet competing demands. Many women are also trying to negotiate work/life tension. We can be asked to wear many hats in a single day, and it can be exhausting.

How do you know when too much is too much?

Here are some signs you’re stretched too thin:

  • You’re eating on the fly, grazing instead of eating a meal. Eating standing up, instead of sitting down. Or eating things that don’t really give your body the fuel it needs (oh, ya know, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…)
  • You’re cranky, on a short fuse, and are getting upset by the little stuff (maybe you want to slap someone…)
  • You’re over-tired, unable to concentrate, forgetting things, and/or bumping into things (I have a few bruises on my arms because lately, I’ve been bumping into doorways!)
  • You’re unable to finish things.
  • You’re feeling a sense of overwhelm, dissatisfaction. Or perhaps you’ve gone numb.
  • You’re suffering from headaches, acid indigestion, and/or gastro-intestinal upset.
    Or you get a cold… or some other illness…

These are all signs that we’re out of balance.

The notion of “balance” can be deceiving, because our lives – and its demands – are forever changing. Because of that, it may feel like achieving any sense of balance is impossible. But it’s not!

Achieving balance is about identifying and holding on to what is important to you, and building the skill set (and the courage) to say “no” to what isn’t. It’s about keeping YOU at the top of your priority list; at the center of your own life. (And no, I’m not talking about becoming a complete a*hole narcissist – I’m talking about loving yourself enough to treat yourself as well as you’re treating everyone else!).

Last week, I talked about creating an Absolute Yes! List.

And, because of what’s going on in my life right now, I spent some time this weekend – between naps and cups of tea – revisiting mine.

I wrote a list of the things that MUST get finished by the end of this month, then I looked at my calendar and started rescheduling things for February and postponing some other stuff until March.

I created a new, highly structured daily schedule for myself that will allow me to focus on the items on my list, then transferred it to my January calendar. Now, anything new that pops up is either going to have to fit into one of the pre-existing categories (for example, I will not schedule anything during the 2 hours/day I’ve set aside for writing!), wait until March, or be an instant “no.”

I made sure to book a massage for myself, as well as a few play dates (because all work and no play means Sarah starts wearing her Cranky Pants!). January 31 will be here before we know it, but I also know – from experience! — that if I don’t start taking better care of myself immediately, things are going to go from stupid to ugly. Fast!

I also decided to ask for some help. Which is hard, because I feel like with my kiddo off at college, I “should” be able to handle my life.

But I’ve also learned that “should-ing” all over myself doesn’t help move me from problem to solution. So I’m hiring more help!

While the next few weeks are probably going to be as INTENSE as the last few, there *is* a light @ the end of the tunnel. When January 31 rolls around, I’ll revisit my list and the schedule I’ve constructed to see what needs to shift.

If last week’s Absolute Yes! List exercise felt too complicated or time-consuming, here are some things you can do to alleviate some of the pressure you’re feeling:

  • Examine your daily life. Are there things that you can delegate to others? Look at your calendar, your daily “to do” list, a list of your longer-range projects and ask, “which of these can only I do?” Then, delegate everything else! I know it can be hard to ask for help, but allowing others to help us makes them feel good and gives them a way to express that they care about – and want to support – us. All you have to do is ask!
  • Pick the 3 most important things to you right now and write them down. Use this list to filter your decisions about what you do and don’t do. If you are filling your life with things that do not support these priorities, they are a no! Revisit your list on a monthly basis to see if it needs to change.
  • Find three ways (they can be simple) in which you can make your work life more efficient and productive. Here are three that work for me:
    (a) Check email for only 15 minutes 1st thing in the morning, again at noon, and again just before the end of the day – there is very little that can’t wait a few hours it prevents you from getting distracted all day long
    (b) Clean off your desk and clean out your office– and keep it clean. It took me two weekends to clean out my office, but knowing where things are and being able to put my hands on them quickly makes for a more productive, less frustrating (and draining) work day.
    (c) Use the Pomodoro Technique – focus on a single task for a 25-minute burst, without interruption (turn off your phone and shut down your email program!), then take a 5-minute break. Then repeat. You’ll be amazed at how much work you can get done in a single, focused 25-minute period!

At home, it might be changing the way you – and your family members — prepare meals. It might be buying a case of toilet paper and another of paper towels so you don’t have to worry about running out. It might mean spending some time each Sunday night planning for the week ahead (don’t forget to involve your family in this discussion and ask them ways they can contribute to making it a good week!). There are myriad blogs out there on how to make your work and home life easier/more efficient – I encourage you to check them out, so you can find what resonates for you!

  • Do one thing to move toward your dream. What desire or passion has been put on hold? Maybe it’s a book, a painting class, a trip, changing jobs or careers, or volunteering to support a cause that’s important to you. It may seem counter-intuitive to take on something new when you’re already stretched thin, but doing something that feeds our souls makes us happier (hence my massage and play dates!) and gives us more energy. Squelching our spirit can take a huge daily emotional toll on us. So put the wheels in motion to accomplishing one of your dreams and see what a difference it makes! And don’t forget to enlist your family’s support and cooperation!
  • Start a morning practice. Mine includes a 30-minute walking meditation (with my dog in tow!), followed by journaling, but you need to find one that works for you. One of my friends starts his morning with inspirational readings and prayer. Another starts hers with yoga and meditation. It doesn’t so much matter what you do, but that you do it. Take time every day to ground and center yourself, even if it’s only for 15 minutes.

Today, life can be demanding, but being stretched too thin negatively affects our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Being vigilant in maintaining a sense of balance in our lives can help us make adjustments before things tip in the wrong direction.

Like anything, it’s a process. Take a step back and look at where you are today. Then, make some adjustments to your life and in 30 days, take another look, then make more adjustments. Keep tweaking things ‘til you’re feeling happier and more fulfilled.

One step, one day at a time…

Taking care of yourself will enable you to continue making the world a better place. These days, the world needs you more than ever!

As always, I’m here to support, encourage and help you!

Hugs,

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 January 19, 2017  Posted by at 3:28 pm Sarah Uncensored
Jan 122017
 
What are you willing to say -no- to so you can say -yes- to more joy-

Ever feel like you’re stuck on a treadmill?

That your time – and your life – is spent doing a lot of stuff you’d rather not?

Well, I’d encourage you to knock that sh*t off.

Right now!

Because we only have this one precious life.

And no one has ever gotten to the end of it saying, “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time folding laundry!”

 

When I first became a single Mom, Christopher was only 2 ½ years old and I was working a full-time job. I felt like I was working 4 shifts – the morning, GetToDaycare/Work shift, the FullDayAtWork shift, the AfterWorkFeedPlayBatheBedtime shift, and the TryToGetOtherSh*tDone shift. I would routinely collapse into bed, exhausted, only to start the cycle all over again about 6 hours later.

After several months of this, I completely lost it.

While scrubbing the toilet at 1:00 am, I started crying, saying out loud “this is not how I want to live my life!” I just sat on the edge of the tub and sobbed – not just because I was working myself to the bone and felt miserable, but because I didn’t see any way to do it differently. As a single Mom, I had to work. I wanted to spend quality time with my son. And my toilet sure wasn’t going to clean itself!

 

As it turns out, there was – and is — a different way to do it.

Several months after the Toilet Episode, I happened to catch an episode of Oprah while taking a sick (read: mental health) day. Having caught up on all the chores around the house, I was flipping through the channels, looking to decompress a little before I picked up Christopher at daycare.

Oprah was interviewing Cheryl Richardson, who was talking about her book, Take Time for Your Life. She was talking about self-care, leading the life you want to lead, and other magical, unicorn-y stuff that made me feel like I’d fallen asleep and was dreaming!

What do you mean, I don’t have to live this four-shift, pedal-to-the-metal, no-room-to-breathe life? I’m a Single Mom! Who’s going to clean the toilet if I don’t? My two year old???

Yet I felt a glimmer of hope that maybe, something else was possible here.

 

So I ran out, bought her book, and devoured it.

One of the most powerful tools I learned from her was the Absolute Yes List.

Creating an Absolute Yes list is a powerful way to live an intentional, fulfilling life, full of waaaaaay more happiness and joy than you might imagine possible.

Like any practice, it’s not foolproof, and it takes practice, but the more you use it, the better you become at it.

It also requires courage, because in order to say more “yes,” you also need to say more “no.”

And I know from experience that can be scary!

 

But saying yes to yourself is also super empowering. And liberating. And fulfilling. And… it actually creates room in your life for more amazingness. And who doesn’t want that?!

So – with a nod to Cheryl, here’s how I create an Absolute Yes! List:

Set aside 30-60 minutes and go to a space where you won’t get interrupted (even if it means locking yourself in the bathroom!). Get out a pack of index cards and a pen – or, if you’re feeling artsy, markers. If you don’t have index cards, strips of paper will do.

Step 1: List each of the top 5-10 dreams you have a separate index card
Put something like a cloud on each card so you know this is a “dream” item
Set this stack aside, face down.

Step 2: List each of the top 5-10 things that bring you joy on a separate index card
Put something like a smiley face on each card so you know this is a “joy” item
Set this stack aside, face down.

Step 3: List each of the top 5-10 things you feel you must do on a separate index card
Put something like a star on each card so you know this is a “must do” item
Set this stack aside, face down.

Step 4: List each of the top 5-10 things you hate doing (but do anyway) on a separate index card
Put something like a sad face on each card so you know this is a “hate doing” item
Set this stack aside, face down.

Step 5: Take a look at your calendar for the last month
List each of the top 5-10 things that took up your time on a separate card
Put something like a clock on each card so you know this is a “time” item
Set this stack aside, face down.

Step 6: Take a look at your checkbook/online banking statement for the past month
List each of the top 10 expenses on a separate card.
Put something like a $$ on each card so you know this is a “money” item
Set this stack aside, face down.

Ok. Now, take your DREAM list and put it in order, vertically, with the most pressing dream at the top.
To the right of that, place your JOY list and put it in order, vertically, most joyful item to least.
To the right of the joy list, prioritize your MUST DO list, vertically, most to least pressing.
To the right of the must do list, lay out the CALENDAR item cards, vertically, most to least time spent.
Finally, to the right of the calendar list, lay out the MONEY items, most to least expensive.

Now – take a look at your lists, from left to right.

What do you notice?

Is the way you’re spending your time and money aligned with what brings you joy?
If not, what adjustments can you make today? This week? This month?
What can you say no to, so you can say yes to more joy?
Write these things down!

Is the way you’re spending your time and money going to help you realize your dreams?
If not, what adjustments can you make today? This week? This month?
What can you say no to, so you can say yes to your dreams?
Write these things down!

Are there ways you could stop doing or delegate the things you hate doing?
Write these down!

Are there ways in which you are spending your time or money that are actually undermining your dreams and your joy? What are they? And what adjustments can you make today? This week? This month?
Write these things down!

NOW – take out a fresh set stack of index cards (or strips of paper) and write down 1 of your dreams on each card. Under it, write “I am going to _____________ for the next ______________ (amount of time) so I can ______________ (goal).

Do this for each of your dreams.
Then do it for each of your joys.

You now have your Absolute Yes! List.
From now on, anything that is not on this list is a “no.”

Stick these cards up some place you will see them every day – preferably, several times/day. When you’ve achieved one of the goals, take the card down, and replace it with another. And so on, until you are living the joyous life of your dreams!

I know… you’re saying, “this will never work for me, because…”
But guess what – that’s just a story.
How do I know? Because I used to tell myself all sorts of stories, too.

Trust me. This works!
Christopher is now 20. I got off the misery treadmill 17 years ago and haven’t looked back!

It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had to do some work to let go of perfectionism and people-pleasing, and to live with other people’s judgements and their disappointment. But I’ve also learned some pretty great ways to say no, such as:

That won’t work for my family.
Gee, I’d love to, but I’m not available.
Thank you so much for asking, but I’m unable to say yes.
Etc.!

And I’m pretty damn happy with my life.

Give the Absolute Yes! List a try and see if you can’t make room for more joy.
If you have any questions or need support, I’m here, and I’ve totally got your back!

Hugs,

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 January 12, 2017  Posted by at 2:13 pm Sarah Uncensored
Jan 032017
 
happy-new-year

If you watch TV or are exposed to commercials of any kind (now that there are TV screens at the gas station and in the check-out aisles, they’re kind of hard to avoid!) you know that the New Year is the perfect time to:

Get in shape!

Eat Right!

Lose weight!

De-clutter!

Organize your house! Your kids! Your life!

Quit Smoking!

Start Flossing!

The basic message is: January is the perfect time to start whipping your body and life into shape so that it resembles the cover of a magazine!

 

I don’t know about you, but it’s enough to leave me feeling woefully inadequate!

What can make it even worse is walking into your office on the 1st working day of the new year only to confront that pile of unfinished business from 2016. And feeling like 2017’s “to do” list is already unwieldy. It’s enough to suck all of the holiday joy right out of the air!

 

At this time of year, many of us make RESOLUTIONS.

I find it much more helpful to make INTENTIONS.
(I don’t make them on December 31st, I set them every morning.)

What’s the difference between the two, you ask?

 

According to the dictionary, RESOLVE means to settle or find a solution to a problem or dispute, or to decide firmly on a course of action. INTEND means to have a course of action as one’s purpose or objective, or to design or destine someone or something for a particular purpose.

The key difference between the two is the word PURPOSE.

 

In my experience, most of us make New Year’s resolutions that are focused on exterior characteristics, and based on how/what others expect us to be (fit, thin, organized, beautiful, etc.).

And perhaps that’s why so many of us fail to keep them, because they’re rooted in external factors, rather than what we really want for ourselves.

Setting intentions means being intentional, acting with purpose; it means looking inward, listening to your gut, deciding what it is you really want for your life, and then taking the steps – however tiny! – to move you in that direction.

Being intentional is not about doing stuff (e.g., working out, eating better, organizing the clutter, etc.) — it’s about being. And it’s a process.

I am by no means arguing that we shouldn’t aim for self-improvement. Getting exercise and eating healthfully are important. Reducing your level of stress by getting rid of stuff you don’t need and organizing the stuff you do is a wonderful thing. What I’m saying is that doing all of that is meaningless without also exercising your heart and
de-cluttering your mind.

 

Each one of us is faced with dozens of choices every single day. Some of these are small (which pair of shoes do I want to wear?) and some of them big (what are we going to do about Mom and her dementia?). Even when it doesn’t feel like you have a choice, you do.

Sometimes, it’s easier to take the path of least resistance, to go along to get along; not take the time to explore all of our options and selecting the one that works best for us — but even in that, you’re making a choice (that’s a little bit of a mind f*, I know).

Anyone can be intentional and lead a purpose-driven life. Being intentional is not about becoming a vegetarian, eating organic food – some of which you grow yourself — homeschooling your children, drinking only fair trade coffee, or any of those things. You don’t need to be “New Age,” “woo-woo” or a “hippie” to live intentionally.

Living intentionally doesn’t have anything to do with the specific choices you’re making at all.
It’s about your purpose. Your intent.

Living an intentional life is about coming to understand why you do what you do, and doing those things that best serve you – and clearing away all the rest. I can tell you from experience that it’s not always easy! But the more practice you get, the stronger you become and the easier it gets.

One of the first BIG purposeful decisions I made was the fall of my senior year in college. I was supposed to go to my paternal grandmother’s house, as per usual, but there was some family drama going on that would have required me to choose between two factions of relatives. Because I (a) loved all of them and (b) refused to let them force me into choosing between them, I decided to go to a friend’s house that Thanksgiving.

I got phone calls from several angry relatives, who were not happy with my decision. It had been hard enough to make the decision in the first place – I was shaking in my boots, even after I made it! — but to get beat up by the people I loved for having made it was devastating. Still, I simply would not – and could not — choose one set of relatives over the other. Nor was I going to make myself crazy by trying to make it to both celebrations. So I went to my friend’s house and had a lovely time. No stress, no drama — just turkey, stuffing, laughter and fun.

And guess what – when I saw them all at Easter (they’d patched things up by then), everything was fine.

I hadn’t been struck down by lightning for side-stepping the family drama and nobody stopped loving me for having skipped out on Thanksgiving. But even if they had – while it would have been painful, it would have been okay. Because I loved myself too much to put myself through all that sh*t.

It’s gotten a lot easier since then!

All this to say that being intentional – purposeful — is about thinking through each decision, weighing your options and all the possible consequences (both good and bad), and making your decisions with your eyes wide open. Being intentional is about taking a step back and evaluating the things you are – and aren’t – doing, and to what degree they are – or aren’t – working for you, and using that information to inform your future decisions.

It also means you’re constantly reevaluating those decisions as you go along – because after all, life changes and we evolve. Let me give you an example – back in the mid-90s, my marriage was in trouble. I won’t get into the details, but I was in a lot of pain and was seriously considering terminating the relationship. I was working with a therapist to figure out what to do. Given that I had a 1-year-old at the time, it was a significant and weighty decision.

During one of our sessions, I was beating myself up, wondering how I could have married a man who, in the long-run, turned out to be such a bad match for me, what was wrong with me, blah, blah, blah.

My therapist reminded me that in every minute of every day, we make the best decision we can with the information we have – but that doesn’t mean that will continue to be the best decision for us.

That was one of the most liberating things anyone has ever said to me, because it gave me the freedom to make a different choice – not just about my marriage (which I later terminated), but about everything.

None of us are locked into the decisions we made – last week, last year, last decade.
We don’t have to enslave ourselves to decisions we made in the past.
We can make a new choice in any minute of any day.

So – how do you start living intentionally? Living a purposeful life? And shedding all the mental and emotional clutter that’s holding you back?

 

One day and one step at a time. With a dash of faith and courage thrown in.

Here are some of the things that have helped me live a more intentional life:

  • Cheryl Richardson’s book, Take Time for Your Life. I loved this book, because the book is divided into 7 chapters, each focusing on a different part of your life. Plus, she provides exercises to help you think (feel) through what you want. Reading this book shortly after I became a single Mom had a huge impact on how I’ve lived my life for the past 18 years!
  • Morning meditation. I might sit down and meditate for 10 minutes, or I might do a walking meditation for 30 with the dog in tow. The point is to use the opportunity to drop down out of your head and listen to your heart. What does it want? What is it yearning for most? And what one thing can you do today to move in the direction of that yearning?
  • Journaling: I start out with stream of consciousness writing, then move to structured writing, as follows:

My intention for today is:__________________________ (sometimes I look up quotes to get inspiration)

Three things I’m grateful for:
(on really tough days, this might be my breath… my health… the roof over my head… there is always something for which we can feel gratitude!)

Three wins/successes I’m celebrating:
(this might be something as simple as getting the dog on 3 walks, drinking enough water… it doesn’t have to be something huge!)

I’m in the process of:
(here I list 3 things I desire in my life – for example, strong, loving friendships. After each item, I answer the question, “What do I need to do or what does that look like today?” So, in terms of building strong, loving friendships, it might mean sending a note to a friend, calling her up to schedule a play date, or something else.)

Then I write the 3 things that I AM GOING TO DO TODAY, NO MATTER WHAT!
Again, these don’t have to be ginormous undertakings – they should, however, be things that relates to the 3 items that you’re in the process of… sticking with the strong, loving friendships example, it might be “I’m going to make a birthday card for my friend Suzanne.”

After this, I write down the 3 things that feel too big for me, and that I’m turning over to the Universe (or God, or Allah, or another spiritual being of your choice) to handle on my behalf.

Next, I write my Desire Statement, which goes as follows: “I am in the process of unfolding all that I need to do, know, have and be to: ___________________________.”

Finally, I finish this sentence: “I’ve decided that: __________________________.”

No matter how many times I use this framework, I never cease to be amazed at the things that come pouring out of me as I write. It’s a great way to get clear about what I really want.

  • Focusing on my strengths and positive attributes. When you focus on what you perceive to be your failings and shortcomings to be, and resolve to “fix” them, you’re focusing your time, attention and energy on what is wrong. This places you firmly in the negative. And yuck! Who wants to spend all their time there?

This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive to identify and improve our character flaws. For example, one of the things I realized while on retreat in Peru this past summer is that there are still ways in which I inadvertently “stiff arm” people, keep them at a distance. It’s an old habit, one that comes from having a rough childhood and not always feeling safe. I’ve come a looooooong way on this front, so I was actually surprised to discover that on some level, I still keep people at bay.

However, rather than focus on the negative, and making myself “bad” for not yet kicking this old habit (which was, after all, developed when I was just a kid, as a form of protection), I am instead focusing on how much I love getting to know and being with other people. To cultivate more of this in my life, I continually ask myself:

–How can I be more open?

–How can I be more inviting?

–How can I better receive the friendship and love that others have to offer?

–What gestures can I make to let people know that I want and appreciate them in my life?

One of the little things I’ve done since I discovered this about myself is to visit my neighborhood friends as the mood strikes me. Yup, I drop by, unannounced (when I was a kid, this was par for the course among the Moms in our neighborhood). If they’re not home or they’re busy, it doesn’t matter – what matters is that I took the time to make the effort to connect with people I care about. And even if we only visit for 5 minutes, they know that I cared enough to stop by and see how they were doing.

I’ve also spent some time journaling about all the ways in which I have kept people at a distance over the years. Cried about it. Forgiven myself for it. Talked to a few of them about it. This has allowed me to let it all go and in doing so, step even more deeply into how I want to be.

So – what do you love about yourself? What do you love about your life? And how can you get more of that?

By choosing more of what feeds you, you will automatically be saying no to the people, places and things that don’t.

And this is how intentional/purposeful living happens – one “yes” at a time.

 

I’m not saying this is easy. But it is simple.

It takes practice.

And courage.

And intention.

I believe that self-love starts with self-knowledge. Doing a deep dive on who we are in this world. What and who is important to us. What serves us, and what does not. What we want to make time for, and what we do not. What we want to say YES! to (which automatically means saying no to something else). Creating space in our lives for what’s important. Of value.

YOU are the greatest gift you have. To give to yourself. To your family and friends. To your clients. To your organization. To the world.

So this year, let’s ditch the Resolutions (which are usually rooted in judgement).

And switch to intentions (which are a much more compassionate way to go)!

Give it a try for 30 days and see how it goes (what do you have to lose?!).

 

I’d love to hear from you!

What’s your experience with resolutions?

What do you think about all this intention stuff? Does it sound like total crap, or something you’d be willing to try? And if so, what intentions do you want to set during this first week of 2017? If not, what’s holding you back? And how can I help?

Here’s to a New Year, filled with positive intentions!

I’ll always have your back,

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 January 3, 2017  Posted by at 11:20 pm Sarah Uncensored
Dec 282016
 
mad-scientist

I don’t know about you, but at this time of year, I feel both nostalgic about the year that’s coming to a close and excited about what the coming year might bring.

This year, however, I’m mostly feeling MEH.

Maybe I’m suffering from a sugar-carb holiday hangover?

Or maybe I’m just tired.

Because for me — like most people — 2016 was QUITE the year!

 

During the last 12 months, I have been alllll over the emotional map. I felt ecstatic, morose, and everything in between – sometimes, all in the same day! The days, weeks and months seemed to whip by at break-neck speed and events happened faster than I could process them.

In looking back at it all, however, I can say that it’s been a powerful year of adventure and growth. Mostly because this has been the Year of the Mad Scientist.

When 2016 started, it was not my intention to conduct a series of seemingly crazy experiments. But that’s exactly what I did!

 

Last winter, I contacted Prager Publisher to see if they’d be willing to publish my book. They said yes! The Field Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising is due out in September. Hot damn!

Last spring, I flew to Los Angeles to make a presentation @ the Network for Social Work Management Conference. While I was out there, I met up with some friends I’d made via a virtual writing group to which I’d belonged. Yup, I hung out with people I’d never met, except in cyber space. And ya know what? They turned out to be amazing!

Last summer, I went on a 10-day retreat in Peru. I knew no one but the retreat leader, and went with absolutely no idea of what was on the agenda, except that we’d be doing some hiking and working with a medicine man. I traveled 4,000 miles and got the spiritual shit kicked out of me. But you know what? It was exactly what I needed. I dug deep, did the work that was in front of me, and let go of some stuff that was no longer serving me. I came home committed to living an uncensored life; to taking it to the next level (even though I have no idea what that means!).

When I came home, I started writing this new blog, Sarah Uncensored. While it felt super risky to put myself out there — to be vulnerable — the response has been heart-warming and affirming.

 

I experimented with new ways of teaching this year, too. I taught a hybrid course (mix of in-person and online) as part of the Masters in Counseling Program @ Becker College. I was stretched even further when I said “yes” to designing and teaching a pilot program @ Clark University called the High Impact Learning Community. We taught 2 linked courses to 11 graduate students, who also worked on 3 projects for a nonprofit client.

We had to adopt a completely new approach to teaching. We also had to figure out how to co-teach effectively, as some of our sessions were held together and we have vastly different personalities. The students had to shift their role, as well, to that of active, engaged learners. In the end — because we were all committed to learning and adapting as we went – we enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about ourselves. Doing something this experimental in an academic environment was a bit nerve-wracking, though, because we were under the scrutiny of our department head (who ok’d this pilot) and the Associate Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. No pressure though!

I experimented with online trainings, as well, creating 8 of them for the Nonprofit U – which is the online learning center located on our website. This felt like a risk, too, because I had no idea how they’d be received. Sales have been slow, which has been a bit of a blow to the ole ego.

I also experimented with video, creating “Donor Do’s and Don’ts” with the help of a friend. It was really fun to interview some of the thoughtful philanthropists I know and to hear their perspective on what they like best and least about the donor experience. I was happy with the end result, but learned in the process just how long it takes to shoot and edit video (which is a LONG time)! Because this video is part of an online training, hardly anyone has seen it, which makes me feel like I wasted all that time and energy — not to mention the good will of my friend. This is not to say I can’t repurpose it, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little deflated.

 

In looking back over the year, I can see how well these experiments paid off, how much I learned and grew from each experience.

It required stepping out of my comfort zone.

Taking risks.

Trying something new.

Making a leap of faith.

A willingness to mix it up.

Play the Mad Scientist.

 

Were there times when I was scared?

Was shaking in my boots with the fear of rejection or failure?

Felt disappointed by the outcome?

You betcha!

But in equal measure, I was surprised and elated by the results.

I learned and grew sooo much as a result of the risks I took.

 

And at the end of the day, I just really couldn’t stand still — I didn’t feel like there was any other choice than to simply move forward. Because we’re on this earth for one precious ride — we may as well enjoy it!

 

So, what’s on deck for 2017?

Who knows!

What I can tell you is:

  • We’re writing a paper about the High Impact Learning Community, with the idea of publishing it in a journal and presenting at a conference.
  • I’ll be in a local production of the Vagina Monologues in February – watch out world, Sarah’s getting on stage!
  • I’ll be traveling to Iceland this winter to do some photography, and to Beijing, China in the spring, where I will be training the Chinese about human service management.
  • My book will be out in September! This may be accompanied by a book tour – stay tuned for deets!
  • I’ll be working on my new venture – The Philanthropy Playground, which is a dynamic, interactive site where nonprofits and change-makers can come together to make the world a better place (http://www.newera4nonprofits.com/the-philanthropy-playground/)
  • That I will be uncensored, all the time. There will no longer be a separation between the professional and personal. Does this mean I’m going to have sloppy boundaries? Uh, no. But it does mean that I’m going to speak from the heart. Be more vulnerable. And let the world see how flawsome I am. (Gulp!)
  • That I will have more fun, be more fun, create more fun, and do more fun. Because I have been way too serious for way too long!

So – how ‘bout you?

What’s 2016 been like for you?

What are you most proud of?

What do you want to leave behind?

And what are you looking forward to most?

 

Here’s to a fabulous New Year to you and yours, my friend.

Hugs,

signature_first-name

 December 28, 2016  Posted by at 2:25 am Sarah Uncensored
Nov 172016
 
imperfection

So… today we sent out an email to our Tribe and posted to our Facebook page about a give-away we’re doing to celebrate National Philanthropy Day… only to discover that we’d gotten the date wrong (apparently, it was the 15th).

Oops…

My embarrassment was significant.

After all, as a fundraising “expert,” I’d just made a HUGE gaff.

Then I started laughing, because the situation was so ironic that it was funny.

 

How did I shift gears so quickly from total humiliation and shame to laughter and joy?

Because I hold a deep belief that DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.

I would rather offer up a free gift to our tribe in celebration of National Philanthropy Day on the wrong day and let the world see my mistake than try to cover it up, because to me, love and authenticity are way more important than perfection.

While I believe it’s important to engage in planning and carefully consider our strategies, tactics and actions – and execute everything with a high level of integrity — it’s easy to get so caught up in the planning and the details that we fail to move into action. Or to wait so long that the impact of our action is significantly diminished.

 

I will never forget when I was a grad student and my work study job was to revamp and manage an admissions program that linked potential students with alumni. The original way the system was set up was based solely on geography, but I thought it would be better if we could add other criteria, like area of practice, age, etc. I kept adding layers in an effort to create the perfect matching system. It was gonna be great!

After several months of tweaking, my supervisor said, “Ya know, at some point, we need to actually start making matches.”

OH. That…

That was my first lesson in DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. Believe me, I’ve had many, many more in the intervening years!

 

As we hurtle towards year end, and in light of the recent election results, there has never been a better time to adopt a DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT attitude!

We need to raise more money, so we can help more people.

We need to communicate more broadly to more people about the work we’re doing – and more importantly, about the impact it’s making in the world.

We need to do more of what we’re already doing, but need to do it BETTER. LOUDER. BOLDER. STRONGER.

 

Because the people who turn to us for help are counting on us.

And we need to be there for them.

That is, after all, why we got into the business in the first place, right?

 

Planning is important.

Strategy and tactics are essential.

Integrity and authenticity are paramount.

But massive imperfect action is better than standing still.

Matching prospective students with alumni in a timely manner was WAY more important than making the perfect match – and infinitely better than not making the match at all.

 

People don’t expect you – or your organization — to be perfect. In fact, the more real you are, the more likely they are to like and trust you – warts and all! Just look at musician Amanda Palmer, who in 2012 was able to raise $1,192,793 via Kickstarter from 24,883 fans. Wait – what?! How did she do it? Well, Amanda doesn’t just share about her shows, music, triumphs, and successes, she also talks about her hang-overs, her fears and her failures.

It allows people to really connect with her – and for her to connect with them – in a very human way and on a very human scale.

Amanda believes that “when we see each other, we want to help each other.”

And I believe that too.

 

Being imperfect allows people to see that we’re human, too. To connect with us on a deeper and more significant level. Being imperfect creates space for them to step into the work with us, rather than liking and supporting us from afar.

In striving for perfection, we miss out on opportunities and the gifts that our friends and fans have to offer.

So, let’s get over this ridiculous pursuit for perfection — which doesn’t exist and is really just a way for us to keep the people we serve and the people who care about our cause at a distance — and start being REAL.

 

What impact could you have if you stopped waiting for _____ (fill in the blank)?

What do you need to take massive imperfect action on today,

To raise more money?

To help more people?

To have a bigger impact?

Let’s give up on the myths of certainty and perfection and settle for action.

Let’s stop waiting for ______ and just get sh*t done.

Let’s not squander the present and the opportunities that each new day brings waiting for things to be certain or perfect — because neither will ever arrive.

 

The people we are in business to serve need us.

And they need us now.

These are the only moments we have.

Let’s use them wisely.

Hugs, Sarah

PS If you want to watch Amanda Palmer’s TedTalk – which I use in all of my fundraising classes! – you can find it here:  https://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking

PPS Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 November 17, 2016  Posted by at 7:25 pm Sarah Uncensored
Oct 282016
 
no-kool-aid

As bold and sassy and direct as I am, there are ways in which I am still holding back.

It’s a hangover from my childhood, during which I was told on a regular basis I was “too much”:

Too smart.

Too boisterous.

Too outspoken.

Too much of a Tomboy.

Too… well, you get the idea.

I even had a boss tell me I am “too confident.” (How is that even possible???)

 

In telling me that I was too much, they were in essence telling me, “You’re not enough.”

Every time someone told me I was too ____, they delivered a soul-crushing blow, because what they were telling me was that the full, open and honest expression of myself – however that was taking place in that moment — was not okay.

That *I* was not ok as I was, that I somehow had to figure out how to be someone – and something — else.

 

I will never forget the time my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Allison – who I’d had in Kindergarten and was my absolutely favorite teacher, because she played the autoharp, taught us how to play Mancala, and how to write poetry – told me she was going to start calling me Sally, because there was another Sarah in our class (only she spelled her name Sara).

When I told her (apparently in a very FIRM voice!), MY NAME IS SARAH, NOT SALLY, she told me I was not to talk back to her and sent me to sit in the hall for 5 minutes.

Rut-roh!

I felt utterly confused! My name IS Sarah – not Sally. How was telling her my real name “talking back”? Why was that wrong? Didn’t we all have our very own names for a reason? It didn’t make any sense, but apparently, I’d trespassed, only I had no idea how.

I felt ashamed and humiliated. I had been scolded by my very favorite teacher! I thought I’d lost her love forever. I’d blown it, lost my standing as one of her star pupils. I was devastated!

Beyond this, I had been Sent To The Hall (which, at age 7, may as well have been Siberia!), which was something that only happened to Bad Kids. I had been separated from my classmates, ejected from my tribe.

I knew what happened to Bad Kids who got Sent To The Hall – they got teased at recess. I knew another round of humiliation awaited me after lunch, and I nearly threw up, thinking about it.

I also felt wrong. Not wronged, but rather, that there was something wrong me with. Because I’d just done what had come naturally to me, and it had not only gotten me in trouble, it had gotten me Sent to The Hall.

I remember thinking that I’d better figure out what I’d done wrong – and fast! — because I never again wanted to be Sent To The Hall (or worse, The Principal’s Office – aka The Pit of Doom)!

After what felt like an eternity, I was called back into the class, but I couldn’t look Mrs. Allison in the eye. My shame and humiliation was too great.

I also avoided looking at any of my classmates, lest they make fun of me, stick out their tongue, or make a face. I slunk back into my chair and slouched down, for what turned out to be the next forty years.

The only reference Mrs. Allison made to the incident was to say that she would call me Sarah L. and the other Sara, Sara H. Then life — and 2nd grade — resumed.

 

Mrs. Allison was not the only adult in my life who was telling me that I was too ____. I got that message, loud and clear, from many of the adults in my life, including my family.

At the same time, many people – including many of these same adults! – lavished me with praise and accolades for being so smart. But then they’d turn around and tell me not to outshine my siblings, classmates, peers, or elders. If someone told me this today, I’d make a face at them and say, “WTF?!”

But as a kid – just like every kid – I yearned for support, acknowledgement and validation from the adults in my life. So for a long time, in order to get these things, I tamped down my flame, turned down my light. Slouched down in my seat.

 

At the same time, I’ve always been a fighter. There has always been a part of me that stood up. Fought back. Refused to drink every last drop of the Kool Aid.

Somehow, these messages of being “too much” didn’t stop me from being a soccer star, an outstanding student, or 1st seat violin in the local youth orchestra at age 12. BUT – in spite of all these achievements, I still felt like I should tone it down, because I kept getting told I was too much.

It made me feel ashamed of being brilliant. For being ME.

 

But there’s only so long you can shackle yourself before you either lose your mind or decide you’ve had enough.

Fortunately, my break-through (break down?) came when I was fairly young, while I was attending college. Finally, I was among a bunch of other brilliant people and no one was chiding us for being super smart, or telling us not to outshine other people. I was playing soccer on a Division 1 team with a bunch of other talented, competitive women. Lots of people on campus were involved in extracurricular activities and adopting leadership roles. Truth be told, It was the first time I felt like I could b-r-e-a-t-h-e!

Being surrounded by all this talent, at a school where I could really get involved and connect with my professors and fellow students, I started to get a better sense of who I was and what I was capable of. In that dinky town in upstate NY, I flourished. The more deeply I stepped in to myself, the less of a hold the “too much” had on me.

 

This is not to say I shed the shame of “too much” I’d been dragging around with me in four short years. It hasn’t been that simple!

It’s taken a l-o-n-g time and a lot of hard work to get to where I am. And I’ve still got some work to do, because I STILL find myself holding back at times; not being the full expression of myself, or worrying about what someone will think about the purple hair and the tatts.

But mostly, I don’t care.

It’s not that I don’t care about other people, or their thoughts, feelings or opinions.

It’s that I love myself enough to know that I AM ENOUGH just as I am, with all my flaws.

I am not too much or not enough of anything.

I’m just ME.

And that’s a pretty awesome thing to be.

 

I have some regrets and wish it hadn’t taken me quite so long to get here, but also accept this is my path, my journey. If this is what it took to get here, then ok.

I felt like I have really come into my own.

Like I’ve come home, to myself.

 

So – what I want to say to you is:

DON’T LET SOMEONE ELSE DULL YOUR SPARKLE.

Be your beautiful, unique self.

Don’t silence yourself. Or tamp down your flame.

Live.

Breathe.

Be YOU.

 

Because you are the only you this planet is ever gonna see.

And you’re beautiful, perfect and flawesome. Just the way you are.

Right now. In this moment.

 

We all yearn for love, support,  acknowledgement and affirmation.

But guess what – these are all gifts you can give yourself!

Don’t look to the external world for validation, cuz haters gonna hate.

So, even when you’re feeling torn down by the world and ready to give up, remember:

Don’t slouch down in your seat.

And definitely don’t drink that Kool Aid!

Hugs, Sarah

 October 28, 2016  Posted by at 12:57 am Sarah Uncensored
Sep 212016
 
do-one-thing-that-scares-you-quote

There have been some things going on in my life recently which have been kind of flipping me out. One of them was getting an email from my publisher, saying they were gearing up for my book launch.

GULP.

This sh*t just got REAL.

 

On one hand, I’m not worried about my book – I’ve written tons of articles and blogs and created numerous PowerPoint presentations on the subject matter I plan to cover. Whatever material isn’t covered by those items is in my head or on my hard drive. Easy-peasy, right?

Welllll not so much.

Because on the other hand, I am TERRIFIED.

I have to write ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND words. They’ll accept the book if it has anywhere from 90,000 – 110,000, but still, that’s a lot of writing!

And it’s due March 1st. Which means between now and then, I have to write more than 4,000 words/week! Plus review and edit the entire manuscript. Of course, this number will be off-set by the blogs, articles, etc. I’m integrating into each chapter, but it’s still a pretty significant amount of writing to do is what amounts to not much time.

And let’s not forget that Thanksgiving and the holidays shorten the timeline!

And I’m going to Iceland for two weeks in February…

Bottom line – I have a LOT of work ahead of me.

 

And it’s not just the fear around being able to crank out the appropriate number of words.

In this book, I’m really going to be putting myself out there — coming out of the spiritual closet and getting on my soapbox about what I believe is undermining the nonprofit sector’s ability to make a bigger difference in this world.

What if no one buys my book?

What if I put myself out there and all I hear are crickets?

What if there’s backlash to what I’m saying?

 

Yes – I have purple hair.

Yes – I have tattoos; two of which are new and in highly visible locations.

Yes – I have done many, many courageous things in my life.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m not afraid or that I’m not sh*tting my pants as I take those leaps of faith or tentative steps forward.

 

However, what I’ve learned in my life is that I can either let this fear stop in my tracks, or move forward despite it. In the face of terror.

I can either stunt my own growth and development by censoring myself, or I can do what I need to do to be my full self in the world. To speak my Truth. To do what I need to do to fulfill my life’s purpose. Even if it scares the crap outta me!

I get to choose.

At the end of the day, it’s not really a choice. Because I’m not willing to censor or edit or hold myself back anymore. The price is too high. The cost too dear. Still, taking that 1st step in the face of fear can be quite a challenge!

So, how do I move forward?

  • Shaking in my boots! It’s ok to be afraid. I tell myself this as many times a day as I need to hear it – it’s ok to be afraid, it’s ok to be afraid, it’s ok to be afraid…
    (Think Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: she kept repeating “there’s no place like home…” and she got there, right?)
  • One inch, one step at a time. In this instance, I’m on a deadline, so the pace is being dictated by external factors. But most of the time, I can move into – and through – my fear at a pace that suits me. Sometimes it’s like a snail; others, it’s like Usain Bolt.
  • By allowing myself to imagine the worst possible outcome. When I do this, I always discover that I’ll survive and that the planet will keep spinning, even if it’s an epic fail. Sure, my ego might be a little bruised and I might end up with a little egg on my face, but hey, I’ve been through waaaay worse than that!
  • By asking for help. From friends, family, colleagues, and everyone else on Team Sarah. They may not be able to make my fear go away, but they can sure hold my hand and cheer me on while I move through the process!
  • By showing the love, patience and compassion to myself that I would to one of my best friends who’s doing something scary. Each time the fear shows up, I ask myself what I can do that will make me feel better? It might mean taking a walk, playing with the dog, cry, calling a friend, taking a bubble bath, buying myself some flowers, writing 500 words… whatever it is I need to do to take care of myself, I do it.
  • By putting it out there. I’ve found is that when I take something out of the dark and bring it into the light, it loses some of its power over me. Does telling you that on one level, I’m completely freaked out about writing this book make the fear go away? Hell, no!

    But it helps, because I know that you will be able to relate to feeling deep-seated, deer-in-the-headlights fear about something at some point in your life. You know how this feels. And because of that, I’m guessing you’ll be among the people rooting for me to finish this book and for it to do well in the marketplace. (And if you’re not, please keep those thoughts and feelings to yourself! 😉

It’s not easy to move forward in the face of fear, but the rewards are huge. Not only to I overcome whatever fear I had (take that!), but I accomplish something I wasn’t sure I could, and that feels good. Most importantly, I step more deeply into my true, authentic self. And that? Priceless.

 

So, I’m wondering what you’re afraid of. Where might you let fear be holding you back? And what price are you paying for that? What reward(s) wait for you on the other side? And how can I support you in taking those 1st few tentative steps in the direction of your dreams?

Leave a comment below or get in touch with me: sarah@newera4nonprofits.com

Because when all of us are together, none of us is alone.

 

 September 21, 2016  Posted by at 2:13 pm Sarah Uncensored
Aug 242016
 
Peru_down the lane

Last month, I went to Peru for 10 days.

I spent most of my time on retreat in Pisac, a small town along the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley (Machu Picchu is down river). Pisac is about an hour outside Cuzco — the seat of the Inca Empire — at 10,000 feet above sea level.

The first few days, I felt like I had an iron band around my lungs and my head was p-o-u-n-d-i-n-g. Neither of these conditions were particularly helpful on our 2nd day, when we visited the Inca ruins at Tipon (the irrigation system there still works, which blows. My. Mind). Climbing up hill to see the ruins was hard enough, but then we climbed up the side of a mountain to see more. When I looked up at the steep set of stairs in front of me, I thought, “are you kidding?!”

Yet I wasn’t about to give up and miss out. So I plodded my way up the mountainside, one laborious step after another. As a former jock, struggling like this did a number on me — every negative thought I’d ever had about my body got right up in my face. Needless to say, this did not help! Although I felt like my lungs and head were going to explode, I persevered, taking one step after another up that #@$&%! hill.

One of the things that helped me keep going was the support I got from the other people with whom I was hiking. One of them hiked alongside me, keeping me company. Given that I knew she would prefer to be bouncing up the mountainside (she’s like that), this meant a lot to me.

When we got to our destination – another set of ruins about ½ way up the mountain (there were more ruins atop the mountain, but thankfully we didn’t go up that high!) – we were rewarded with a spectacular view and a tasty picnic our hostess had packed for us. Our guide – the medicine man with whom we were to spend much of our week – also lead us on a guided meditation, designed to help us set our intentions for the week ahead.

My intention?
To stop hiding.

Yes, I know that you are really confused right now.
Because I’m pretty open.
And honest.
And out there.

It doesn’t take a lot of guesswork to figure out how I feel, because I wear my heart on my sleeve.
(And apparently, on my face!)

And I do, after all, have purple hair…

But there are ways in which I hold back.
Tamp down my flame.
Don’t say what I think or share what I’m feeling.
Censor myself.

And it’s not good – for me or anyone else, or the world.

I’m not quite sure what being “uncensored” will look like, or what form “not hiding” is going to take.
All I know is that in that moment on top of that mountain, I knew I had to stop.

Thankfully, I had another 8 days in Peru to start figuring it out!

I spent much of the week doing incredibly deep work, digging up stuff that I didn’t always want to examine or explore. At the same time, I knew that I HAD to do it – I’d come to Peru for a reason and I needed to do the work in front of me, like it or not.

So, I jumped in. With both feet.

I fasted.
I observed the restrictions on food and electronics that were placed on us.
I journaled for hours on end.
I slept more in one week than I probably had in the previous month!
I cried (and cried…and cried….).
I forgave – myself and others.
And released a lot of stuff that wasn’t serving me anymore.

And what I noticed is that I started to feel lighter. Clearer. Different.

On Friday, when we took a hike around the lagoons at Kinsa Ccocha – at 12,000 feet – I didn’t struggle the way I had at Tipon, even though we were at a higher altitude. Not a single bit of Body Shame showed up.

Whoa! Given how hard I’ve been on myself on that particular subject, that was nothing short of miraculous. While we sat on a ledge, overlooking the lagoons and picnicking, I realized that in five short days, I’d shifted into a completely different place than when I’d landed in Peru. And the trip wasn’t even over!

The work — and the changes — continued through Sunday afternoon, when two of us headed to the Cuzco airport and from there, to Lima, and then back to our respective cities. I felt sad to leave Peru and the three amazing women who’d shared this incredible journey with me, but was also happy to come home, and see my son Christopher, our dog Callie and Muffin and Chico, our cats. To see my friends and get back to work and to life in the Woo.

Here are the lessons I learned in Peru, the messages (mandates) I received:

  1. I need to release Christopher (he’s 20 years old, a junior in college, and essentially leaving the nest). This is not to say that I’m a clinging, controlling Mama – in fact, I’m anything but! However, there are ways I can prepare and support him (and myself!) for his growing independence.
  2. Lighten up! Yes, I laugh a lot, but I also tend to work a lot and can get overly serious about life. More playtime is definitely needed!
  3. Let go of control. Yes, I am very easy-going, mellow, and go-with-the-flow, but in Peru, I realized that I am very careful about what I let people see, especially when it comes to my flaws (confesses the Recovering Perfectionist…). So, get ready for me to be more vulnerable, and to see more of my flawsomeness!
  4. Step into deeper integrity in your work. This one was super subtle, but there were definitely some lessons to be learned on this front.
  5. Bring in people off the front porch (both literally and figuratively; in other words, let people in)!

I also got the message that I am going to start earning money in a new and surprising way. Whatever that means…

All of this – and more – is in the process of unfolding. Of taking root.
The transformation that began during those 10 days in Peru continues.
In ways I can’t describe and in ways I cannot yet even imagine.

I’m not sure where I’m headed or what will come of all of this, but I trust that I am being lead where I need to go.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me!

Hugs, Sarah

 August 24, 2016  Posted by at 4:15 pm Sarah Uncensored