Archive for Love Letters from Lala Land

How Will You Spend Your Last 92 Days?

If you don’t know how you’ll spend your last 92 days, then you’d better think fast!

Why?

Because between today and January 1st, there are just 92 more days.

Quick question: When you first read the title of this post, did you think I meant your last 92 days, as in here on Earth? If so, good – that’s what I was hoping you’d think.

You see, I assert that your response to the latter can inform how you’ll ultimately respond to the former. Or, in other words, what you want your last 92 days in life to be like is something to think about when contemplating the 92 days left before we ring in another 365.

On many of the websites I visit, the experts are touting how important it is for us to consider carefully how we will spend this last quarter of the year. How will we get the most out our businesses?” they ask. “How much money can we make?” That’s all well and good. I may even think about the answers to those questions.

But what I want to suggest to you (and to me, too) is that we also think about what’s vitally important to us before choosing how we spend the gift of the upcoming days, and the all the ones that follow.

As the prolific writer Annie Dillard so wisely tells us, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

… which leads me to another quote for us to remember, from the also prolific writer, the late Stephen Covey, who said, “Begin with the end in mind.”

So yes, let’s ponder how to make the most out of our next 92 days. And as we do, let’s not forget to take Ms. Dillard’s and Mr. Covey’s wisdom into account. How do we really want to live, after all?

Do we want to die before we die, or do we want to live while we’re still alive?

After that sobering thought, how about a little levity? Check out how this guy (and his dog) choose to spend some of their time by clicking here.

Are You Playing the Tapes All the Way Through?

Last night, as crazy as it sounds, I set my alarm for 4:00 am, and actually I got up when it went off. You may remember, in a previous post, I wrote about how, even though I hate getting up early in the morning, I love being up while most of the rest of this part of the world is sleeping.

But today was different.

You see, once I got up, had my steaming hazelnut coffee in hand, and sat down in the (not at all sunny) sun room, suddenly all I could think of was going back to the comfort of my bed instead. I felt as though it was calling to me in that ghostly-yet-angelic-singing kind of way, “Laaaaaura… Laaaaaaaaaura…”

I was conflicted.

On one hand, I could imagine how nice the bed would feel: the sheets so cool, the mattress so welcoming, the blanket so soft. And, of course, there was the additional three and a half hours of sleep to consider…

The name-calling got louder.

Then, instead of marching right back up those stairs, as though to the tune of a pied piper, I paused. Aware that I had at least two choices here, I leaned in for a moment to the idea of writing and meditating in my favorite chair, Dogberry loyally lying by my side, and the pitch black of not-yet-morning surrounding us, just past the many windows on three sides of the room.

First, I imagined how good it would feel to do what I had set out to do, and the reward I’d get from honoring the promise I’d made to myself. I also thought about why I wanted to be up in the first place: to honor my desire for quiet time (while awake) and to connect with myself in a way that I so seldom do in the light of day.

Ahhh.

Then, I thought of how I’d feel when I got up from having gone back to bed, and having not followed through on my promise to myself.

Ick.

You see, after I had thought through the choices to their likely conclusions, I knew what to do. I knew what I wanted for myself. I knew how I wanted to look back on this seemingly small yet pivotal moment. I also knew how I didn’t want to look back on it – as yet another time when I said I wanted to do something, made a promise to myself to do it, and then let myself down by not doing it after all.

So, how did I come to this decision, especially with the bed was calling to me like a beautiful Siren, singing her mesmerizing songs and luring me toward the rocks?

I “played the tapes all the way through.”

(I know, we rarely listen to tapes anymore, but bear with me. Instead of the looking at the literal meaning of the practically obsolete words, let’s explore their metaphorical meaning.)

I see the concept of “playing the tapes all the way through” as similar to how I might view an invitation from a friend, or narrow down what activities I might take on over the weekend, or on any particular work day. It’s an opportunity to fully consider my options, and to make the best decision for myself at that time.

How exactly do we do this?

There are just three steps:

1. We accept the opportunity presented to us as an invitation to create our lives more consciously rather than doing so by default.
2. We take a breath or two, and ponder the action or actions we’re contemplating taking.
3. We consider – and this is key – the likely eventual outcomes for the choices before us, and how we expect we might feel about those choices once we’ve acted on them.

It’s that simple!

Sure, in some instances, we can’t possibly know what the outcome of each choice might be. Most of the time, however, when we’re honest with ourselves, we can make a pretty darned good guess. And that was the case for me with this morning.

After I “played the tapes all the way through,” it was clear what the better choice was. As I said, I chose to stay up. It’s not that going back to bed was a bad choice. There were certainly benefits to follow the call of the bed. But staying up was right for me in that particular set of circumstances. How can I be so sure?

Our Values are Our True Divining Rods™

Our Values are Our True Divining Rods™

I was honoring my values.

By staying up and writing, dreaming, thinking, and feeling, I was aligned with my values of authenticity, connection, contribution, courage, creativity, integrity, and spirituality. Frankly, it’s not very often that all of my top values meet in one decision, but here they did,  hence the relative ease of this decision. More often, my values are separate from each other, and in an order of priority. It’s my job, then, to figure out what that order is. And sometimes, they are in direct conflict with each other. “Playing the tapes all the way through” is an excellent tool for me to use in that particular situation, too.

Can you see how remembering to “play the tapes all the way through” can be helpful to you, too? I hope so. And my assignment to you is to use this tool right away, no matter how large or small the decision. This way, it can become a habit, and eventually, even be second nature to you. And won’t that be nice?

But what if I don’t know what my values are?

Don’t worry! I’ll be writing soon about what values are (and aren’t) and even more about how we can use them in our lives. For now, though, know that I’ll be back tomorrow with seven more strategies for arriving at the best choice for ourselves in situations of internal conflict.

Until then, don’t forget to imagine that we still use tapes, and then “play them all the way through!”

A Post Script of Two More Things to Remember:

1. This is just one example of how our world, our circumstances, our thoughts, and feelings offer us friendly invitations. They invite us to  to dip below the surface of the actions we take without thinking. And thus, by taking this deep dive, we can live fuller, more meaningful lives.

In the example above, I had a choice to make. It wasn’t a life or death situation, but I answered the invitation to go deeper. As a result of that process, and of doing what was revealed to me as the right course of action, I know myself better. In addition, I felt rewarded by my decision to listen to myself and for my motives, and raised my levels of self-trust and self-esteem.

2. And finally, know that these invitations do not demand our attention, nor are we expected to answer them. There’s no need to put that kind of pressure on ourselves. They’re there for us, however, should we choose to remember the age-old adage of  “watch, look, and listen,” and then step out into the world more confident, knowing that we are aligned with authentic selves.

I look forward to hearing what you think, and to seeing you tomorrow!

Bright Lights and Barred Owls, an Elegy

Today, on September 11th of all days, I present a poem for you. It is in loving memory of my client turned friend, Tayyibah Taylor. She was a brave and beloved ambassador of – and dedicated activist for – world peace.

“A Bright Light, A Barred Owl: An Elegy”

Our bright light has moved on.Tayyibah Taylor in hot pink
And we have moved
From Shock and Disbelief
To broken-heartedness
For ourselves, for all – and at the
Loss of her song, and her being
That mellifluously brought a potent, loving message.

Our bright light has moved on.
Clothed in vibrant wisdom, and with
Exquisite engagement,
Her worldwide heart and
Her other worldly delight,
No longer embrace us –
Not in this realm.

Tayyibah Taylor w/sparkler

Sparkling Tayyibah and her Sparkler

Our bright light has moved on.
We know not to where –
Perhaps Allah as she believed.
We do know
As she lost her battle,
We lost a champion and one
Of the highest magnitude.

Our bright light has moved on.
And she visited me, on the way to her
Soul’s next evolution, by embodying a barred owl.
Cloaked in the song of “Who cooks for you?” she spoke
As in unison with Quan Yin. “I hear your cry.
Compassion and Mercy to all,
Including you.”

Our bright light has moved on
Though her message lingers – an invitation
To be a woman with wings, migrating as necessary,
Leading us all heartlong with her love lantern
So that we see the divine, invisible and
See beyond the human, visible
In the faces of our families and our enemies.

Tayyibah Taylor

Tayyibah Taylor, in the Colors of our Planet

Our bright light has moved on.
She now beckons us to pick up our purposes,
Travel across borders created by mankind,
And through veils created by a power
Greater than we, and surrender,
Finally, to building and then crossing countless
Bridges to peace.

II.
For your life, Sister Tayyibah Taylor, bright and
Guiding light, we give thanks.
And for the gifts you brought us,
The gift that you were,
We will know you, in the call of the barred owl,
The eyes of the gentle doe, and the magnificence of the flamingo,
If we will but listen, if we will but see.

III.
Our bright light has moved on
And so must we –
Not soon, but eventually –
When we are ready.
We must get ready.
But first, we must grieve.
Our bright light has moved on.

Laura Overstreet Biering, Clarkston, GA
©2014 All rights reserved

PS To learn more about Tayyibah and her legacy, click on her name in the opening paragraph, and/or visit these links:

PPS To learn more about the Barred Owl and the “medicine” it is believed to bring, visit one of these links:

PPPS  And finally, just to be clear… As you know, the majority of photographs on this blog are ones I’ve taken. The ones included in this post, however, are not. If and when I find out whose they are, I will certainly post that here.

Throw Forward Thursday

It’s Throw Back Thursday on Facebook.  I feel sure you’ve enjoyed, as have I, seeing the pictures of your friends as adorable newborns, as toddlers trying to walk, teenagers striving to find themselves, couples getting married, and more.

Today, however, I want to offer you something different: Throw Forward Thursday.

You see, I’ve just watched an incredible video, one that I hope you’ll stop right now and watch along with me, as I watch again and again. It’s aimed at women, but I do believe the brave men who watch it will be just as inspired by it as I’ve been.

Please – whoever you are, no matter your gender, your age, or any other circumstance or situation you find yourself in –  please, give yourself the gift of the 4 minutes and 15 seconds it takes to watch this short, powerful film.

I wholeheartedly invite you do so, and then comment with your feedback. I’d love to hear how it affected you – what you thought, what you felt, what you are re-inspired to do, or what you are now inspired to do and/or be for the very first time. In other words, as a result of watching this motivating movie, how will you now Be You Out Loud as never before?

Here’s the video: Your Calling?

PS A favor: If you are willing, I ask you to please share this – specifically the post, and in general, my website and blog, too. You may not get a prize, but you will get my deep appreciation.

PPS Some shameless self-promotion: If you know others who could benefit from a conversation with me, about their callings or  anything else on their minds and hearts, please ask them to email me for an appointment.them to me. It would be my pleasure to offer this to them, as my gift. Why? Because it would mean I’d get t0 be myself out loud, while helping them get clear on how to do that for themselves! And if this person is you, and you’re not a current client, you’re just as welcome to contact me for a chat! Come on in, the water’s fine!

Will I Do, a poem

Will I Do

I bow to the world
In awe of its beauty
Complexity

From the chair where I sit.
I listen, listen,
Hear, hear

Sounds, audible and
Messages, inaudible.
Now what

Will I do

With what
I have
Heard?

Rise and live it
Or remain
In this chair?

What will I do?
What?
Regardless

Of what
I do do,
Will I do?
©2014 Laura Overstreet Biering, Clarkston, GA

Forgiveness Day

… just a quick note to let you know that today is Global Forgiveness Day.

Is there someone you need to forgive or even want to forgive, but just haven’t had it in you? And if you did finally forgive, how would that affect your relationship with that person or group? Even more importantly, how would it affect your relationship with yourself?

The great, late Nelson Mandela said,

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

It’s true that when we haven’t forgiven someone or some group, anger turns into resentment, resentment festers within us, and eventually it becomes like an open wound, going with us everywhere we go, and quite possibly poisoning everything we do. Yikes!

Forgiving doesn’t mean that we condone another’s behavior. The Greater Good Science Center has this to say about what forgiveness is and is not:

“Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

“Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.

“Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.”

Although it’s not pretty, I’ll admit that I, too, have succumbed to the temptation not to forgive. And don’t worry, I won’t ask you to report in on whether or not that’s true for you. My only request is that you take a risk and join me, if only for this one day, and do yourself the giant favor of forgiving just one person or group, and just as GreaterGood says, empower yourself to… heal and move on with your life.”

If you’re wondering how in the heck to do that, go back to that Greater Good page, and look at the column on the right. It has additional articles on forgiveness, even one called “How to Cultivate Forgiveness,” as well as book recommendations, videos, and a quiz.

While it’s certainly vulnerable, and it may not be very fun for us to do this, both the relief and release will be liberating, won’t they? And just think of how much energy we will free up. What will you do with that energy? Whatever it is, I hope it allows you to be all that you are and to have the positive impact on the world that only you can.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll feel so good that we do it more than one day a year. 🙂

 

PS FYI: In the spirit of multi-purposing, I’m calling this post on Forgiveness Day the “F” installment in the AB…Zs of Self-Care series of blog posts.

You may be right. I may be crazy.

Today is the first day of my participation in the 500-Words-a-Day-for-31-Days Challenge.

How many words is that so far? Tee-hee. Just kidding.

I confess that I’m not completely looking forward to this project. It’s kind of daunting, although parts of it will be great, I’m sure. And some parts, I imagine, will be excruciating. I’m trying to think of it , though, like all those Morning Pages I did when I was teaching The Artist’s Way so frequently. No matter how I feel, no matter much or how little I think I have to write about, no matter the time constraints on my day, no matter what my energy level is, whether emotional, psychic, mental, spiritual, or physical, I’m going to do this. And I’m going to do it every single day!

Except for the days I don’t.

But don’t worry… Making that statement doesn’t diminish my enthusiasm or willingness to write every day. It’s just my way of making a full out commitment and still being gentle with myself because life does happen, as they say.

I can hear some people now saying now, “What? Are you crazy? You’re going to try to do that, too, with all the other things you’ve got going on?” And to that, I’d have to say, “Maybe I am!” There’s certainly a lot of evidence to that fact. But this is something I really want to do, and I think it will be good for me. Not in the way that taking medicine is good for me (except on those excruciating days, maybe), but good in the way that it will be empowering and enlivening, rich and elevating. Plus, I think it’ll really help me with this whole blogging thing. I really want to get in the habit of writing to you, as well as sharing my photographs with you. And yet another reason to honor this commitment (to myself), is that if I’m not creative, I can get really cranky!

OK. Now I really do want to know how many words. Whoa – 339 already! Oh, that is so cool! I thought it was going to be 110 or maybe 125, but something really low like that.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. 🙂

I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up about all the things following through on this writing commitment could do for me, but I admit that there’s a part of me that’s thinking it’s going to be a piece of cake and really pay off.

Then why am I even telling you about it? Because it’ll help me actually do it, easy or not. Like having a good coach gives my clients accountability for doing the things they want to do, you will serve as accountability for me here.

But, just to be clear, you don’t get to check in with me every 5 minutes about it, OK? And don’t expect new blog posts every day or even every other day, either. Some of the stuff I write will be for my eyes only.

Speaking of accountability, I know it helps to have a friend join in on activities like this, so I think I’ll ask my friend and web goddess, Suzanne Bird-Harris, to join me. I think she’ll enjoy it and get some good stuff out of it, too. And maybe she could stop having to pay for a hotel room, which she sometimes has to do to get some peace and quiet in order to be able to write. (Now that’s dedication to one’s craft!) Plus she’s fun and she’ll both kick my butt if I need it and love me at the same time.

Don’t you want to do it, too? I’d love to have you along for the ride and hear how it goes for you. If you’re thinking “yes, that’s for me,” just go to this link and read all about it. He’s makes a good and inviting case. And, in the event that we get stuck, he even gives us writing prompts.

Here’s a little aside… Where writing prompts are concerned, there’s this really cool book filled with them called “A Writer’s Book of Days” by the talented writer Judy Reeves. I recommend it highly because, even if you aren’t a book addict like I am, there’s just a lot of really helpful stuff in it, even in addition to a prompt a day for 365 days.

Well, would you look at that? 738!

Now, I’d love to keep writing to you, especially since I’m on such a roll, but Jeff says that no matter how many words we write in one day, we still have to write 500 words the next day. And I know what it’s like to go to the gym after a long absence and work out like a maniac, trying to get a head start, or make up for lost time, or both. I also know what it’s like to not be able to go back to the gym for a week because I shot my wad on that first day. Maybe you’ve experienced this, too.

So, in order not to overdo it today, because I do want to come back to my writing tomorrow, I’m going to wrap this thing up. And maybe I’ll see you tomorrow with another post. But remember, don’t you count on it. I’d hate to disappoint you, but I will if I have to.

I am the main one I’m hoping not to disappoint in this endeavor. Wish me luck.

(And that’s 921!)

Rita Doing Some Writing on Retreat at the Farm

OH – IMPORTANT NOTE: The picture you see here is of my friend Rita, who came down from Chicago for the most recent retreat at my farm, Brinson’s Race. Here, she’s doing some writing, facing the growing cotton field, with my dog Little Bit at her back, protecting her from squirrels.

Doesn’t it look inviting? Wouldn’t you like to spend some time there? Or would you prefer to be doing your writing facing the pecan orchard? Or maybe in the woods, by what we call the little pond? Regardless of your preference, you can.

Want to know how and when? Read on…

I have set aside the weekends of September 26, October 10, November 7, and even December 12, as potential dates for delivering retreats at Brinson’s Race. The title and subject of the retreats will be Creating A Wholehearted Life: The Daring Way™. It’s Brené Brown‘s most recent program, and brilliantly covers all of her research up to now, through video, discussion, and rich, experiential exercises.

Of course, you could enroll in an in-person group and enjoy the experience over a couple of months. And if you want to do that, just go to this link and sign up.

Or, if you’d rather dive into the work all at once, while in a beautiful, bucolic setting, go to this (same) page.

Either way, head on over to this page on the True Voices website, and check it out.

FYI – The only retreat that is listed on that page is the one in September. If you are interested in one of the other dates, please just give me a holler at 404.296.8221, fill out the contact form on this website, or write me directly at Laura (at) TrueVoices (dot) com.

Talk to you very soon, I hope!

Love,
Laura

PS My gratitude, admiration, and apologies to the great Billy Joel regarding the title to this post. 🙂

Getting Up Early v. Being Up Early

The former, I hate. The latter, I love!

How can I be so adamantly sure?

Because five out of the last seven days, I have gotten up between 2:30 and 3:30 in the morning. In the past, even the mere thought of doing this would send me into fits of laughter and/or tears. But what started as a difficult necessity – taking care of an old dog who can’t “hold” it through the night – has become a sheer pleasure.

Now don’t get me wrong. As I said, I hate getting up and always have. In fact, as I write this, I’m thinking that when my mother reads it, she’ll probably not believe me or she’ll think I have been taken over by aliens. I’ve never been easy to coax out of bed. Leaving the layers of the warm, cozy covers and turning on the light, always too bright in the dark, can be a stark and cruel way to wake up.

But being up? That’s a different story.

Right now, as I sit in my sun room with, ironically, the darkness of the morning’s wee hours all around me, the only lights my lamp and laptop, I am relishing the experience. There’s a sense of time standing still, as though I have all the time in the world, and I feel a freedom and a permission to do whatever I want. There’s an often unfamiliar focus I feel, allowing me to be “all in” while doing whatever I want to do, and without the distractions that inevitably come when working during the day. There’s also a nearly tangible peace that comes from simply sitting here, hearing the crickets and the occasional night birds “doing their thing,” being themselves out loud, encouraging me to do the same. And it feels as though they are the my bridge, connecting me with the whole wide world. Sweet.

Who would’ve thunk it?

As a coach, it’s common for me to work with my clients on their perspectives. I know that changing the way we view something and choosing the meaning we give it, can completely transform our experience of it. And this brings me to a question – a coaching question – for myself.

What if I chose to have the same perspectives during the day as I do here in the middle of the night? Perspectives such as:

  • There is enough time for me to do everything I want to do;
  • I have permission to do anything I want to do;
  • I can focus, and being “all in” helps me do that;
  • I can set boundaries that keep me from being distracted; and
  • I can choose to be aware of the peace that comes from “doing my thing,” thus contributing to the rich and complex tapestry that is our world.

Yes. Viewing my day through any one of these lenses could change quite a lot. But working with all of them could transform my world!

My Sweet Old Man, Dogberry

My Sweet Old Man, Dogberry

So, as difficult as it is for me to get up, whether for Dogberry (pictured here) or for me, I will continue to do it, even if just a few times a week, so that I can have the opportunity to be up.

And I’ll begin right away working those perspective into my daily life… as soon as the sun rises.

PS What about you, my lovely? How could you see your day differently and change your / our world?

Happy Ag Day

Although the day varies from year to year, in 2014, National Agriculture day is today!

According to the National Agriculture Day website,  Ag Day, as it’s more commonly called, is organized by the Agriculture Council of America. It’s a day to “recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture.”

In the past, I wouldn’t have given this date much thought. It’s not that it wasn’t worthy of thought, it’s just that now, thanks to the generations of farmers in the Brinson family, and the generosity of my father, I own a farm. It’s called Brinson’s Race and the pictures above and below are of the cotton field. For pictures of other parts of the farm, check out the website, www.BrinsonsRace.com.

farm cotton trees

But, back to Ag Day…

Whether or not you have a farm, I invite you to join me in honoring this day. In fact, here are a just a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Spend a little time to better understand how fibers are produced, and what life is like for those who produce it, 
  2. Encourage the kids in your life to at least consider agriculture as a career, or
  3. Eat well today, and as you do, think about all that goes into bringing that food to your table.

Happy Ag Day!


Happy Happiness – From Me and Macy the Pit Bull

In my previous post, I talked about the United Nations International Day of Happiness. And I teased you by saying that if you’d come back, you would see what the UN has deemed the Face of Happiness. Well, now you see it. It’s the glorious face at the top of this post, the face of Macy, the pit bull!

Macy, like so many dogs in shelters, particularly pit bull mixes, was once on the PTS list. In case you don’t know, the lable of PTS means the dog (or cat) is scheduled to be put to sleep, the widely used euphemism for to be killed. Do you know just how bad the pet overpopulation has gotten? Check out what the Humane Society has to say.

But let’s get back to Macy. Fortunately for her, she was rescued by Grateful Dogs, the oldest all-breed rescue group in San Francisco. In the attempt to help Macy get adopted, photographer Jayme Heimbuch took a series of pictures of her, and Jackie Shen agreed to foster her. Of course, Jackie fell in love with Macy and eventually adopted her. This is what we gratefully call a happy ending.  But, as you now know, there’s more!

Jayme posted this picture of Macy on a stock photo site,  and somehow, in their worldwide search, that is where the UN found her. And they must have fallen in love with her, too, because her beautiful smile is now a part of the United Nations Postal Administration’s commemorative stamp collection honoring the relevance of the Happiness Campaign of the UN.

David Failor, Chief of the United Nations Postal Administration said, “Our first commemorative stamp for 2014 celebrates the United Nations proclaimed International Day of Happiness which recognizes the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world. Is there anything better than celebrating happiness?”

You can see the full Macy stamp, called “A Sweet Dog’s Muzzle,” the other five happiness photos, and even order copies, in the UN’s postal bulletin called FASCINATION.

As you enjoy this picture of Macy and the other photos chosen by the UN, I invite you to ask yourself, “What is the faces and other images of happiness to you? And how can you keep those front of mind for yourself and others?”

And I will join you in pondering the same…

Happy Happiness to us all!
Laura