From the ears of Introverts: How sound and music can influence your energy

This article first appeared in issue 2 of The Introvert Effect Magazine https://theintroverteffect.com/free-introvert-magazine/

As a sensitive, introverted type of soul – you might have noticed a thing or two about sounds and music. You might be aware of sounds and music that get your attention, what drives you crazy (don’t you dare tap your fingers on a table near me!), what drains you, what gives you a headache, what energises you and what helps you feel a sense of peace. Getting to know and understand your sound and music sensitivities, preferences and stressors is a helpful, practical and fun way to boost your physical and emotional well-being and productivity. You can create your own toolkit of music and strategies to help you thrive in different environments and conditions.

Listening to music can have a profound impact on our bodies and energy. Research has shown that music can affect our heart rate, increase oxygen flow, influence cortisol (stress hormone) levels, motivate for increased physical movement, maximise concentration and promote sleep. The most important thing when you are choosing music to boost wellbeing – make sure you like it. There’s no need to overcomplicate things by worrying about beats per minute for a relaxing song – consider, do I like it? Does it make me feel relaxed? Listen closely, consciously and with intent. Get to know the music. What is more powerful than listening to music? Singing. You don’t have to get up on stage, but even a few minutes in the shower can be an easy way to relax, or ramp up your energy with a more upbeat song.

For those of us that identify as sensitive and introverted, auditory stimulation that we did not choose and do not have control over can feel irritating, distracting, draining and overwhelming. For example, passengers having noisy mobile phone conversations near us on public transport can set our teeth on edge. Working in an open plan office can be distracting – and it’s not always possible or appropriate to tune out with headphones. And if you have young children like me, well…they do say that children are sent to teach us!

If you know you are going to be exposed to an overwhelmingly noisy environment – schedule in time later where you can recover. Visit a garden and listen to the birds, lie down in silence, listen to music of your choice in the bath or aim for an earlier night’s sleep. Sometimes silence is a long way off in my busy day, so I counter this by listening to a favourite song that re-energises me. (Even though it’s more sound, it’s sound that I love and that I choose – somehow it magically re-sets me).

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Create Your Music + Sound Kit

It’s so easy with Spotify and YouTube to find songs and music – I’d love to invite you to spend some time exploring and creating your own kit.

Here are some prompts – why not go and find a song to fit? I’ve shared some of my favourites.

For focus and clarity: Bach Cello Suite No. 1 – Yo Yo Ma (lots of structure, one instrument, beautiful – this helps me think and feel peaceful – I listen to it before facilitating a coaching session).

For confidence: Consider a song that makes you feel strong, sure and empowered. Think about the lyrics and the energy combined. My favourite is #41 by Dave Matthews Band (“I will go in this way and find my own way out” are lyrics that resonate with me).

For relaxation: Typically music that is slower tempo and doesn’t jump around a lot in the melody is relaxing – however this is personal, so if Metallica relaxes you – then you know what to do. I like Loreena McKennitt’s album Nights from the Ahlambra.

For release of pent up emotion (frustration, anger): Something that matches your energy is a good choice – think faster tempo, louder volume, drums, guitar...I tend to choose songs I can really ‘belt’ out and tend toward songs from the guitar bands of the 90s (showing my vintage here!).

For writing/working: If it has lyrics then I can get more easily distracted. On Spotify, I have a favourite playlist of acoustic guitar unfamiliar songs (if they were known songs, I’d be singing instead of typing). It’s called Acoustic Concentration (the one with 450k followers).

For celebration: What songs makes you feel joyful? Consider what songs evoke beautiful and happy memories from past celebrations you can revive, and lean into those feelings again. My personal pick is “These Days” by Powderfinger.

There are endless ways that music can help serve you in managing your energy as an introvert. Be conscious and intentional of how you listen, where you listen, why you listen and what you choose. We can’t always control the stimulation that comes at our ears in this busy world, but we can always find ways to retreat and to come back to ourselves with music.

© Naomi Morrow, 2017.

The Happy Hustle: Think and speak your way to greater self-compassion

Hustle.

That word is tossed about in the online business world like confetti at a 90s wedding.

It might be thrilling for some, but to me it comes off harsh, unforgiving and likely to leave a weird stain.

Hustle – as a noun it is defined as ‘a state of great activity’ – fair enough? Yes, but as a verb it is defined as ‘to jostle or push roughly.’

When you are in the midst of hustle, do you feel that your thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours are pushing roughly about your mind and body? Is there a sense of overwhelm? Phone calls, emails, client work, reviews and blog posts all clamouring for your immediate attention? Inner critic piping up and giving you a running review of scathing commentary?

It is undeniable that hustle can be a productive and stimulating place.

But, when hustle allows its mates to gate crash – that’s where the challenges ramp up. Hustle has heaps of friends – you may have met them before: control, anxiety, despair, overload, apathy, irritability, comparison, exhaustion, perfectionism.

I’m sure you already have some wonderful strategies to minimise the damage that these gate crashers can do – and they may include things such as exercise, meditation, speaking to a supportive friend/mastermind/coach/mentor/counsellor, reviewing and making changes to your commitments, outsourcing, naps, chocolate, journalling and yoga.

Your best work emerges from you when you are in a space that is aligned, trusting, open and curious.

How you speak and how you think greatly influence how you feel and operate in these busy times.

Photo: Georgie James Photography

Photo: Georgie James Photography

Creative thoughts + words to boost your self-compassion.

 

1.     Don’t say “I HAVE to do (x, y or z)”  Say “I GET to do x, y, z.”

As in, “I get to respond to these emails now. I get to phone the event co-ordinator now.”

How lucky am I? I get to do these things.

This shifts you from obligation to gratitude in one word.

2.     Interrupt the inner critic with a song or silly voice.

Ever find yourself thinking “You’re a failure! You’ll never sell enough tickets for your event”?

Next time, imagine or say those words with a silly voice or that of your favourite TV comedy character.

Alternatively, sing those words in your head or out aloud, to the tune of Happy Birthday.

This helps to diminish the power and authority of your inner critic, to interrupt it in its tracks and have a laugh and treat it as unhelpful nonsense. Then you can move on to doing what you need to without undue distraction. Repeat as necessary. The more you intervene, the more your inner critic will get the hint: You’re not buying into her message anymore!

3.     Ask yourself three important questions

When you are in the midst of hustle and overwhelm, it can be easy to lose touch with your big why. The real reason you do what you do. Stop and check in with yourself.

  • What are my key values as a solopreneur?
  • Am I currently in or out of alignment with these?
  • What is one thing I can do, say or think right now to move closer into alignment with my values?

For example, one of your key values might be boldness and you notice feeling a discord with this because you’ve been hesitant to express your true self in business and do things your own way. You might then decide to move closer to alignment by deciding to finally post that very personal blog post, or creating a positive affirmation to repeat to yourself to help you feel more aligned with this value.

4.     You don’t have to like it, but can you make room for it?

Much of our so called negative feelings (dissatisfaction, anxiety, overwhelm, despair, irritability etc) arise when we judge an experience to be unpleasant or unwelcome. We try to get rid of the ‘bad’ feeling. It’s the trying to getting rid of it that often causes more distress.

Practising an attitude of acceptance can help you navigate through a busy hustle period.

This is how it is, not how it was, might have been or should have been. Not how I wanted it to be, hoped it would be or planned it would be. I accept that this is how it is (Unknown).

Trust yourself, you can make room for this.

5.     Toss that Confetti

Ha! We were getting a bit too serious, don’t you think?

I want you to remember to celebrate. Even the small wins! Share your stories, share your successes. Don’t play small and keep quiet. When you show courage to share wins, you create a climate for everyone else to do so too!

Self-compassion wants to find you playing, laughing, smiling and celebrating. It’s just as important tending to you in both positivity and in challenge.

Find your way back to the joy of the hustle, where it’s a happy hustle (a state of great activity) – not a push and a shove.

--

Remember to acknowledge that you are a beautiful work in progress, and in your devotion to experiencing the fullness of life and meaningful work, you embrace a loving and compassionate environment for your whole self – no matter what.

© Naomi Morrow, 2017.

Embracing Uncertainty

The things that make life worthy and magical: love, wisdom, creativity + spirit – they all spin on an axis of uncertainty.

But for many of us, uncertainty can be an uncomfortable and unwanted experience.
The desire for certainty is strong, and feeling in control is like an anchor in uncertain waters – but it is an illusion and it does not last.

Life is supposed to unfold with some mystery isn’t it? Are we really supposed to have all the answers all of the time? Are we really adrift if the plan or the path ahead is unclear?

When we try to avoid or fight uncertainty, we risk an existence that is devoid of colour, deeper meaning and connection – and indeed, more painful.

In my journey from desperately seeking certainty to a new openness to the unknown – I have felt inner peace, re-awakened my creativity, more connected relationships and lasting joy.

Here are my stories and my five lessons on embracing uncertainty.

It’s December 2015 and my mother will die next week. My soul suffers, but I hear its call for me to finally embrace uncertainty.

I hold a new vision for living more boldly.

I know that uncertainty is inevitable and necessary.
I quit my safe job and start my braver life.

It scares some people, this shaking of the status quo. But it inspires others.
Me? I’m equal parts inspired and terrified, but at least I know I am living.

I learn that the most devastating uncertainty can be a source for our greatest growth.

I learn that uncertainty calls us inward to create what we need most.

The lesson is to be creative and curious.

________________________________________________________________________________

It wasn’t always this way for me, embracing uncertainty – I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been referred to affectionately or less so, as a control freak.

It’s 1992. I’m 12 years old. I’m deeply certain of two things: Firstly, when I grow up, I will marry Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block.

And secondly, when I grow up, I know exactly what I want to do for a job - a Music Therapist. I read about it on a careers day, and I feel it instantly, the knowing, this is what I am meant to do. This is who I am.

From then on, I know exactly what is required of me. There is a clear plan. I study hard, I practise my instruments, I do work experience, I even change schools to be in the right music program. I am certain this is my path.

And so it is. I am accepted into the course, graduate four years later and my career is rewarding.

In 2004, Joey McIntyre and I move to the country.

Oh wait, no not Joey McIntyre. That didn’t work out. Despite my pre-teen certainty!

In 2004, my partner Shaun and I move to the country. And that’s when everything changes.

Music therapy jobs in the country are not falling off trees. He leaves every day for his fulfilling new career and I sit at home, waiting and watching a lot of uninspiring TV. I don’t try anything new because it does not fit with my plan or my tightly wound image of who I am and what I do.  I realise that I have made my career such a big part of my own identity that without it, I feel lost, unimportant and uncertain.

It’s only my growing frustration and time that move me to the next thing. A job in an unrelated field. I rally and resist because it does not fit with my plan, but I do it anyway. It takes me half an hour each way but the country scenery is breathtaking. As I drive, I sing Joni Mitchell’s entire Blue album. The people are good and I learn well beyond the world I have so far inhabited – about culverts, potholes, grazing permits, grants for the tennis club and resilience. Being in flow in this new chapter creates space for openness and curiosity which allows me to realise what’s possible.

I learn that releasing the grip on control allows something new to emerge if we are open to it.

I learn that hankering for the past steals us from living in the now.

The lesson is to be present and curious.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It’s October 2015. I see her and my knees feel weak. She looks old and in pain, but she wears a defiant smile. My suspicions about the cause of her pain are finally confirmed. Yes, it is, she says and stretches up from her wheelchair to hug me.

I ask How Long? But she doesn’t want to know. Only God knows, darling, not the doctors.

The TYPE A in me is raging. I want answers, I want more tests, I want explanations, I want treatment, I want control.

But there are no answers and no control. And there sure as hell isn’t any certainty.

I wait until I’m in the hospital lift before googling ‘adenoid carcinoma.’

The bottom drops out and I’m floating. There is nothing for me to hold except my breath.

My dear Mum shows me how to surrender and how to accept– even on the very worst day and on all the very worst days that are yet to come.

I learn that I must keep breathing even when it hurts, especially when it hurts.

The lesson is to be accepting.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It’s 2009 and I’m in hospital. I’m sore, beaten and bruised but here I am, singing and dancing.

My new baby is in my arms. She doesn’t sleep, I fear she will never sleep. But I’m determined not to press that call button. The midwives told me to not hesitate if I need help, but they’re just saying that. They have to say that. I won’t press the button. I’m not weak, I know what I’m doing. I’ve got this.

She cries now. She’s still crying. I’m rocking, I’m singing. She’s still crying. Maybe she doesn’t like my version of Mockingbird. I look at the buzzer and then quickly look away – I’ve got this. She still cries – louder now. I sing louder – thank god for a private room. She cries. I cry. I don’t have this. I still don’t press the buzzer.

For a control freak like me, becoming a parent is rife with uncertainty. Gone is any sense of control about my body, sleep, time or interior decorating (I never thought I would need to clean honey from my dog’s fur. Yes, when you hear “MUUMMMM….he’s honeyed the dog! – it means exactly that).

I feel huge uncertainty when they are sick, when I am sleep deprived + in my ridiculous quest to be a “perfect” mother.

Yet they teach me more about life than any other relationship, Zen Master or text book. When I finally admit that these experiences are difficult and I am not a mythical superwoman, I show myself greater self-compassion.

I learn that when we seek to control our environment in attempts to preserve self-image, we miss out on opportunities for support and growth.

I learn that rewards of sharing vulnerability and uncertainty with those we trust outweighs the risk.

The lesson is to be forgiving of ourselves.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 

 So, to revisit: here my 5 lessons on embracing uncertainty:

Lesson 1. Be creative

I don’t want to hear you say you’re not creative. You are, simply by being human. The way you think, speak, live, love, work and create is unique. No-one else is like you. Be creative with your language. Notice the words you use. Are you saying: This is awful! When will this end? When will I know? I hate surprises! I hate uncertainty!

Your mind and heart are always listening. Experiment. Use language such as “This is interesting, this is a chance for growth, I can handle this, I can learn to handle this.”

Being creative is also about becoming more comfortable with living outside black and white, right and wrong. There is beauty and growth in the grey. Experiment with your own creative voice – journalling, painting, writing song lyrics, dancing, making a vision board, redecorating your room, planting a garden – find ways to tap into your creative spirit and express yourself.

Creating boosts your well-being and resilience, making you someone who can better thrive in uncertainty.

Lesson 2. Be present

Uncertainty makes us want to run away, either back to the past or into the future, anywhere but now. Yet it’s right NOW that is our only real thing. Learn to be present. Be aware of your senses, notice what you can hear, see, smell, taste and touch. This helps you ground into the present moment. Be deliberate in your daily tasks. Being present and mindful is about paying attention without judgement. Simply observe.

Lesson 3. Be curious

It helps to ask questions. What can uncertainty teach me? How might it feel to loosen my grip on certainty and control? What other things could I be doing if I wasn’t wasting all my time and energy on trying to control everything?

Lesson 4. Be accepting

You don’t have to love uncertainty, but it’s time to drop the fight + create room for it.  Pay attention to where you feel uncertainty in your body. For me, it’s my stomach. Breathe deeply into that space and imagine making even more room for uncertainty to stay. Accepting it doesn’t mean you have to like it, but you can make room for it.

Lesson 5. Be forgiving

Learning to embrace uncertainty isn’t going to be easy. So make a committed ongoing practice. Show compassion for yourself. Celebrate even the smallest steps you make toward living more wholeheartedly with uncertainty.

By embracing uncertainty, we are saying yes. Yes to risk and reward. Yes to love, wisdom + spirit: within ourselves, our relationships, our work, our creativity and our communities.

Uncertainty is inviting you to let go and lean in.

Go and dance with its magic.

You have one life, embrace it all – even the uncertain, ESPECIALLY the uncertain - and be in bloom.       

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.

**THIS post was first presented at the speaking event, On The Rise, Melbourne, December 2016. 

7 Steps to Self Trust

During the 2016 Summer Olympics, I listened to Australian Swimming Commentator Giaan Rooney call the 4x100 Women’s Freestyle Relay. After the race, she made a comment about the trust that each of these athletes has to place in their teammates to always do their best.

Trust is an essential part of living a full life. Whether it’s at work, in family relationships, partnerships, engaging in creativity, starting up a new business, returning to study…invariably we are faced with situations that require us to trust others, and to trust ourselves.

Any undertaking that is worthwhile and important asks us to consider how we might trust more freely and readily. Trust is linked with courage, confidence, experimentation and risk. All necessary elements for leading creative, fulfilling and rich lives.

As a women’s life and creativity coach, I observe how many of us struggle to deeply trust ourselves.

How is it that we too frequently dismiss our initial gut reactions, downplay our own needs, experience turmoil in making decisions – that if we listened a little more closely to ourselves, to really tune into what our heart/gut/intuition is telling us and to know that it is OK to step into a place of greater self-trust. If things don’t work out as planned, then to know it’s not permanent and that things and ideas can be changed. That a change in direction can be viewed as interesting and with curiosity, rather than a setback or situation for concern.

Image: Georgie James Photography

Image: Georgie James Photography

Do you trust yourself that you are doing the very best you can, right now, with all you have and all you know now?

Do you truly believe that you can always do things differently later, if you need to, if you want to, if you have further information?

What stops us from trusting ourselves more?

Over-reliance on information and stories from the past.

Yes, we can always learn from past experiences and situations. But, when we look at the past, we have a lens that filters that information, or even distorts it completely. This means we are looking at that past event with different eyes, different emotions and different thoughts and beliefs. So it is impossible to interpret it now, as we did then. And nor should we, as because we now see things in altered way – it is a sign of growth, learning and new perspectives.

This means that we should not solely rely on past information to form an accurate and helpful position on how much and why we need to trust ourselves and our potential.

Preoccupation with trying to predict the future.

When we spend too much time trying to predict and control the future, we are not present and attentive. This can lead to increased anxiety and avoidance – which minimises our opportunities to experience a rich, full and meaningful life.

What can we do to trust ourselves more?

1.     Get comfortable with making mistakes.

2.     Get comfortable with being ‘wrong.’

3.     Get comfortable with appearing foolish, silly and imperfect.

4.     Celebrate when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, extend ourselves and grow.

5.     Forgive ourselves for past mistakes or perceived failures.

6.     Get our heads out of the past and into the now.

7.     Learn to be still and quiet. Resist temptation to be constantly ‘busy’ or ‘distracted’ – intuition can’t be heard above the noise and inattention.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.

How to be more resilient: Key learnings from The Resilience Project

“Developing Resilience in Young People” was the title of the event facilitated by Hugh van Cuylenberg of The Resilience Project. The event was supported by Wodonga Council and Gateway Health, through Healthy Together Wodonga.

Here’s my key take away messages of how we can boost our own resilience and that of the young people in our lives by practising empathy, gratitude and mindfulness.

1.     Pain can be transmuted into gold.

Hugh described the devastation and helplessness felt as an older brother witnessing his sister’s battle with Anorexia Nervosa. Years later, whilst teaching in a remote Indian village, he was profoundly struck with the deep happiness described by the residents, many of whom were homeless, orphaned and without ready access to safe drinking water. Intrigued by this village’s incredibly low mental illness rates (1/85) compared to the current crisis facing Australia (1/7 children and 1/4 adolescents diagnosed with a mental illness), Hugh embarked on exploring the topic of resilience and sharing his knowledge with Australian schools, workplaces and communities. His expertise and research knowledge is conveyed with deep passion from his personal experiences. Stories of suffering are imbued with heart felt meaning and inform his drive.

Look closely: consider how you might reconstruct your pain and create something from it.

2.     Noticing moments for gratitude

Gratitude is about focusing on what you already have, not the “If and when” model of happiness – (‘I’ll be happy when I get a promotion/bigger house/ sports car/ top marks/when I lose x amount of weight’). The “If and when” is not a sustainable approach to happiness.

Hugh told a story of a student at the remote village school in India who he describes as ‘the happiest person’ he’s ever met. Stunzin, who was homeless and an orphan, spoke very little English. He slept outside under cardboard for shelter and warmth. He would smile often and point to what he was grateful for, saying “Dis” (This): shoes, despite his feet growing too big and having to cut the ends off to fit; the shop awning for keeping him dry whilst he slept at night on the street; the water he walked for hours to retrieve in heavy buckets for boiling at school and so on. Stunzin noticed and gave thanks for what he had. If you search #dismoment on social media, you will see that Stunzin’s approach to life has inspired many.

Notice: where can you stop and acknowledge what you have with gratitude? #dismoment. This is a practice you can do yourself, but imagine the power as you show others this practice…Your children, work colleagues, friends?  

The sun. Welcomed after a pretty cold and gloomy NE Victorian Winter © Naomi Morrow, 2016

The sun. Welcomed after a pretty cold and gloomy NE Victorian Winter © Naomi Morrow, 2016

3.     The Gratitude Questions

Ever tried to keep a gratitude journal but started to recycle the same responses over and over (eg. my health, my family etc) and got tired of it?

Try answering these questions daily to keep things fresh and unique:

  •                   What is the best thing that happened to me today?
  •                   Who am I most grateful to today and why?
  •                   What am I most looking forward to tomorrow?

Research shows a multitude of benefits for keeping this daily practice going. Keep writing for 21 days and your brain can retain a pattern for scanning the world not for the negative but for the positive.

If you keep going for 42 days, you: are less likely to get sick; have higher levels of energy; feel happier; are more enthusiastic; are more attentive; are more determined; are more optimistic; have a better quality of sleep; and have lower levels of depression and anxiety.

Journal writing on gratitude is a quick, creative, free + effective way to boost resilience.

 4.     Wear your friend’s shoes (or: show empathy)

The audience giggled as Hugh told a story of asking a group of children what they thought empathy meant. One young girl suggested it was when you wear your friend’s shoes. She was on the right track! The metaphorical ‘stepping into another’s shoes’ is the willingness and capacity to try to understand the situation and feelings of another. Showing empathy is a key step to developing resilience.

How to cultivate this? Encourage your child to plan one act of kindness to carry out during the week. Who are they going to help? How? Review at the end of the week. What did they do? How did they feel doing it? Also keep an eye out for an opportunity to engage in a random act of kindness during the week. Give it a go yourself too. Each time you do something kind for others, your brain releases oxytocin (the feel good hormone) – which leads to increased confidence, energy, happiness and positivity. The boost to your wellbeing by engaging in these kinds of acts is long lasting.

5.     Influence the strength of your emotion.

Within seven seconds of hearing your favourite song, you can increase your positive emotion or decrease your negative emotion. Within 30 seconds of exercise you can make a change. Laugh – and the change is immediate.

You know what song you like. You know what exercise you like to do. You know what makes you laugh. Seek out these things and keep them in your bag of wellbeing tricks.

For the young person in your life – what song do they like? What exercise do they enjoy? What jokes, movies, stories make them laugh? Use them.

You can control the strength of your emotion. You can teach your child that they have power over theirs.

6.     Practising mindfulness.

An adolescent brain now takes in the same amount of information in a one week period than 20 years ago, where that same amount of information was absorbed over a whole year.

It is vital that adolescents, children and adults alike have opportunity to practise mindfulness and reduce mental clutter and overwhelm.

Mindfulness colouring can be a way to experience ‘flow’ – that is to experience enjoyment, lose sense of time and not be distracted by worries.

A number of mindfulness meditation apps exist. The Smiling Mind App has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, relieve stress, prevent heart disease, improve sleep, reduce chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, enhances decision making, improves focus and decreases drug and alcohol abuse.

The problems are complex.

The solutions need not be complicated.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

Rob Bell Wake Up Project Event: My top 5 Take-Away Messages

Admittedly, I wasn’t too familiar with Rob Bell and his work – but after I’d heard Elizabeth Gilbert refer to him as a “most inspiring spiritual leader” I was intrigued.

It was a clear winter day in Melbourne when Rob Bell spoke about all the big things: life, spirituality, love, suffering, creativity and mindfulness.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

Listening to Rob speak, I felt more sure of who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. Yet for every time I thought YES, I now understand X or Y about me – there raised another three questions. That’s what happens when you go a bit deeper on yourself.

I filled half a notebook with AHA moments, phrases, snapshots of stories, wisdom + reminders. I can’t relay it all here, but if his work calls you – please check out his latest book How to Be Here.

1.     What can you create from EVEN this?

When we talk about life, living and relating to others – and finding our way in the world, we soon come to learn about suffering. When in the midst of suffering, whether it’s experiencing loss, illness, despair, pain – Bell suggests that we can always ask “I wonder what could be created out of even this?”

What new thing, action, belief, connections or presence could we consciously choose to adopt as a new creation out of our suffering?

This isn’t about looking for reasons why we suffer, but about finding ways to acknowledge that suffering presents us with an opportunity to know ourselves and our world in a new way. Could we choose to consciously become softer, more self-compassionate, more empathetic? Could we create new connections and reach out to others experiencing similar circumstances? Could we create a new path through life that acknowledges and transcends, rather than vainly tries to deny our experience?

Consider how many support groups and fundraising charities have been founded by someone who has lost a loved one to cancer. What can be created from even this?

As I listened to this message, it was impossible for me not to be thinking about the death of my mother last year. Every day following this loss, I consciously ask “How can I live wholeheartedly right now? How can I express my truth fully? How can I be my boldest self? How can I show love?”

Consciously create your life – pain and all.

2.     Is your ladder against the right building?

From a young age, we intuitively learn about ladders. We learn: study hard at school = get good grades. Get good grades = get into a good university. Get good grades = get a good job. Work hard = get a promotion. Work harder = get the corner office. And so on. All the ladders are there, waiting for us to climb up. We learn: keep striving, keep going up.

Rarely do we stop to ask “Is my ladder leaned up against the right building?”

Is this what I want? Many people get right to the top, achieve incredible success and wealth, but never have asked the deeper questions. Who am I? What will my life be about?

Some of us get really good at climbing ladders.

Is the endless striving and materialism fulfilling you?

Bell said “People make all kinds of radical choices to live the life that means the most to them.” They might choose to live frugally most of the year in order to travel extensively, or to sacrifice a certain level of income to maximise time with family or on a creative outlet.

Making a change and moving ‘down’ from the ego is a disruption of sorts. Moving toward greater vitality and health can challenge the assumptions of your society, tribe, family and/or workplace. The centre of consciousness has a message “This is how we do things” but you can make a disruption by saying “This is not my path.”

Ah. Being a disrupter. How does that sound? Waking up to what is possible and most meaningful for you. Do things your way. It’s certainly not going to be easy, because it will likely generate ripples of dissonance, but living in a way that’s not true for you won’t be a picnic either. What will you choose?

3.     What is that to you?

Ever notice yourself becoming too focused on what others are doing?

Wasting your energy comparing your parenting, business success, perceived wealth, physical appearance, accolades etc to other people?

Who you aren’t, isn’t interesting. (“I’m not smart enough, I’m not successful enough”)

Who they are, isn’t interesting. (“They are smarter, They are more successful”).

The time and energy you spend in this space takes you away from your capacity to live a rich, full and meaningful life. You are in control of how and where you expend your energy.

Decide now that you will not compare what you DO know about yourself with what you DON’T know about someone else.” – Rob Bell.

Ooh. Tough one but I’m going to try. I’ve already had my husband on to this for me, replying “What is that to you?” when I’ve been too focused on how I think someone should have behaved. It’s pretty effective when you boil it down. Keep your eyes on yourself, not over your shoulder or over your fence.

What is that to you?

4.     What is the number one here?

There’s that thing we want to do. But it’s big. And we’re stuck. We know what the first step is, but what happens at step 17? We don’t know. It’s unclear. So we don’t even start, because we want certainty and a smooth path.

And the longer we stay stuck, it gets harder to move into action. We get tangled in a sea of complicated thoughts, trying to second guess all the unknowns along the path. So to appear capable, confident, skilled. Not foolish. God forbid we make a mistake!

How do we cross over from spectating to participating?

Ask, “What’s the number one here?” Then just do it. Once you’ve done that, then you’ll do two – even if two may be different by then.

Step by step by step. It’s impossible to see the whole course, so commit to action, be curious and open. Keep moving. You don’t need to have a clear vision of step 17 yet!

Wowsers, some big truth telling here. As a new business owner, I’m faced with new. Different. Unknown. Unfamiliar. All the time. I’m committing to shifting my perception to one of excitement, intrigue and purposeful incremental action rather than anxiety, fear and avoidance of action.

Care to join me?

5.     What can you do to remind yourself that you have today?

A physical reminder, or moving meditation, can help anchor you into a space of gratitude and presence. Remembering that you are here and alive today.

Bell spoke of people who are thriving at a deep level, have a ritual that is personally meaningful for them that helps them feel into that place of aliveness.

He spoke about moving houses many times with his wife and family, and always carting around the heavy boxes of ‘good’ china that remained saved for a ‘special’ occasion – but were remain unused. Remembering that every day is a gift, they now use the special china for family breakfasts. It is a tangible, physical reminder to celebrate and mark life with gratitude for the here and now.

For some it might be baking cake, going for a hike in the forest, surfing, running, singing, sewing. The possibilities are endless. Choose what gives you that sense of awe and vitality and do it.

Are you putting off doing something special? Don’t wait.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

Why ‘mistakes’ are good for us: Lessons from my 'ruined' painting.

I’ve been yearning to make space again in my life for creativity. Being a mother of three young ones, studying and establishing my own business it’s been difficult to find the time where I can be creative as a solo pursuit. (I definitely enjoy my creative time with children, but now I’m talking about myself…where I can be alone with my thoughts and ideas and experimentation).

So I signed up to do Nicola Newman's online painting course. I was super excited. It probably wasn’t the best time for me, signing up in the week leading up to launching my business – but I couldn’t shake the call to be creative any longer. I enthusiastically visited the art shop with toddler and pre-schooler in tow to buy the requisite materials. I chose my paint colours, palette knife, palette and the special glaze wash. I recall checking a few times with the young assistant that the last product was exactly what I needed – having never used it before. I was doubtful that she had given me the right one, but she insisted and so I bought it.

About a week later, I decided it was time to create my painting. The children were in bed. I laid everything out on the kitchen table and got to work. I watched the teaching video as I painted my abstract work, learning about layering and texture and techniques. I felt excited to be honouring my creativity in this way. I loved the way Nicola made it seem so easy, I loved the process and I was having fun. As I was painting, what was emerging was really pleasing to my eye. My inner critic would normally be chattering away about the relative skill or not in my painting, but this time she was silenced. I felt creatively alive!

When I had decided my painting was finished, I left it to dry after admiring my work briefly. When I was sure it was dry, I mixed up the glaze wash. It did not look like the product in the video, and I felt a little niggle of concern, but in my haste to finish the painting – I applied it. My painting disappeared. Under a layer of colour. It smooshed all the paint together into a wobbly, blurred, I-don’t-care-how-long-you-took-to-create-that-special-art giant blergh. I felt myself become angry, sad, frustrated as my inner critic rose up to give her unwelcome commentary.

“That’s what you get for trying something new! You’re not expert enough to do this! You can’t get all your hard work back now – it’s gone! What a waste!”
Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

I packed up sadly, sullenly. Defeated.
I sat with these feelings.

Eventually, I began to notice other thoughts.

What had I learned here? Remember the Tibetan monks creating beautiful, painstaking mandala works from sand that are only temporary? To be washed away? Didn’t I love the process though, wasn’t I really in flow? Why did I need ‘proof’ of how I spent my time? Did I need validation that I could ‘do’ art? When did product become more important to me than process? Couldn’t I simply try again another day?

Yes, it stings when we try new or difficult things and it doesn’t work. We feel disappointed. Disheartened. Tempted to return to that place of safety, where we don’t extend, challenge, try or risk. But there’s no richness or growth there. It’s a barren and boring land.

I’m so passionate about bringing more self-compassion, joy and creativity into the world that I realised I had better keep trying with myself. Work in progress. The canvas can be painted again.

And I had to be honest with myself. Instead of looking outside myself for explaining the problem (“the shop assistant sold me the wrong product”), I owned up: “I put the glaze on before the paint had dried completely”.

What I learned is that my ‘mistake’ (AKA my impatience or more positively reframed ‘enthusiasm’)…ended up forming an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for my new painting.

If we stop to review what we feel are our imperfections, flaws and mistakes and consider them with more patience and compassion – we can then begin to see how they are providing an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for our life. A life we where can be open to new learning, building upon past experiences, being creative and experimental.

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

© Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

Want to be a Life Coach? My Beautiful You Coaching Academy experience + affiliate offer

With Julie Parker, CEO + Founder of Beautiful You Coaching Academy Image: Fi Mims Photography

With Julie Parker, CEO + Founder of Beautiful You Coaching Academy

Image: Fi Mims Photography

It was when I was on maternity leave from my work as a counsellor that I was contemplating the next chapter in life.

I had been feeling that it was time for me to expand into something new, something creative, something uplifting…something else…I wasn’t sure. I was exploring all kinds of courses when I stumbled upon the Beautiful You Coaching Academy.  

The Beautiful You Life Coaching Course is for people just like you – people who want to make a difference, see others grow and shine, work with people they love and feel connected to – and yes – create their own business and a life they love.” BYCA

The description of this course, its content and outcomes were so warm, welcoming, heart centred and creative. It was so easy to imagine myself as a Beautiful You trainee, it sounded just the thing for me at this time. But I didn’t sign up immediately. My head needed to do its thing: try and talk my heart out of it. So my head said things like: “What is a life coach anyway? Is this a reputable course? Will anyone actually take you seriously? Stick to university courses!” and so on and so on and so on….

I tried to think about doing another university degree, but I could not stop thinking about Beautiful You Coaching Academy. I returned again and again to their website. I read all about the amazing certified coaches who had come from such diverse and interesting backgrounds, residing all over the world, and who were now enjoying fulfilling and location independent entrepreneurial work. I read about the incredible CEO + Founder Julie Parker’s success and experience as a life and business coach, trainer and TEDX speaker with growing excitement. Her background in my very own field (Social Work) was a little something to please my questioning mind. Julie’s words were so warm and inspiring they leapt at me and dove straight into my own heart.

My heart won. I signed up. I remember vividly the day the postman delivered a large package containing my extensive 400+ page BYCA life coaching manual and 200 + page workbook, along with a beautiful set of inspiration cards for my desk all tied up with a pink ribbon and a lovely welcoming note. I knew then I was in for a pretty amazing ride!
 

Inspiration Day, Melbourne. Image: Fi Mims Photography.

Inspiration Day, Melbourne.

Image: Fi Mims Photography.

And what a ride it was. I very naively thought that being a six month course that it wouldn’t be all that challenging. I was wrong, in the very best way. Fourteen modules of topics, supported by comprehensive reading and worksheet exercises, incredible group calls, audio lectures and interviews with experts; opportunities to meet in person at the Inspiration Days; a closed Facebook group for ongoing support; opportunities to develop coaching skills with a peer buddy and receive feedback; coaching client resources and access to a private membership site to receive support and constructive feedback on all personal learning and development. Read here for more details about the course.

The Beautiful You Coaching Academy Life Coaching course is comprehensive and well-structured, and offers a great mix of coaching skill and business development teaching and learning. Beyond this, what really stands out to me is the exceptional personal support from Julie and the assistant trainers. This support is nurturing but don’t let that fool you – they will challenge you to be your very best, to bring everything you’ve got to your study and if you do this, the personal growth you stand to gain is DEEP. Unprecedented. Not only are the trainers wonderfully supportive, but the connections and friendships made with fellow trainees are incredible. The connection simply doesn’t end when the course does – the vibrant community continues! What an amazing foundation for an emerging life coach.

Ubud, Bali with some of my amazing fellow coaching trainees on Graduation Day. Image: Fi Mims Photography

Ubud, Bali with some of my amazing fellow coaching trainees on Graduation Day.

Image: Fi Mims Photography

I learned the specific skills and gained the courage I needed to establish my life coaching business. Today, as I write this, it is less than two months since I have graduated from BYCA. I have developed my brand that feels just right for me, established a website, engaged my ideal clients in coaching (both Pro- Bono and Paid), been interviewed as an expert on Wellness and Creativity, had my writing featured in an online journal, delivered a presentation and workshop, created an e-workbook  and become a Certified Coach. This blows my mind! Before I started this course, there is no way I would have believed all this would happen, and happen so soon!

Graduating in Bali. Why wear a mortarboard when you can wear a flower or pink goddess crown? Image: Fi Mims Photography

Graduating in Bali. Why wear a mortarboard when you can wear a flower or pink goddess crown?

Image: Fi Mims Photography

I could not recommend the Beautiful You Coaching Academy more highly and I am proud to be an affiliate for the Beautiful You Life Coaching Course. 

If you choose to sign up to the Beautiful You Coaching Course through my affiliate link, I offer you a bonus package of a FREE 3 month coaching series. This is worth $720 and counts toward your future certification as a Beautiful You Life Coach. I will also include a special gift just for you.  You will receive this bonus offer upon confirmation that you are still enrolled in the course following their refund period (approximately one month after starting the course).

It is important that before you sign up to the course, and the last link you click, is my affiliate link. If you don't the Beautiful You Coaching Academy won't know that you have enrolled through me, and you will miss out on my bonus package.

Want to know more? Send me an email through the form below, or directly to naomi(at)naomimorrow.com

"What will people think?" 6 tips to stop worrying and live more boldly.

So, I have a brand new business and website. I still can’t quite believe it’s real. It wasn’t so long ago now that I was feeling really stuck. I knew I wanted to change something, but I wasn’t sure what to change, where to begin or how to begin.

I felt stuck. I was toying with the idea of changing my work/career direction but then BAM! The thoughts came. Loud and Clear.

“You can’t change things now, you’re too old!”                     
“You can’t change things now, you’ve already changed too many times!”

 Pfft. It didn’t take me too long to blow those two off.

But then the next one shouted,

“YOU CAN’T CHANGE NOW, WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?

Indeed. What will they think?

It can be such a paralysing question. It’s interesting, as I wasn’t worried about what my loved ones would say – as they are supportive of me and my choices…I was actually worrying about the invisible and unknown thoughts of random people who are not in my inner circle. Acquaintances. These thoughts would strike upon me at various times: when I considered a career change; when I was about to hit publish on a blog post, or even just as I was about to start writing. Not a word would pour out of me. I was censoring my words, ideas and opinions. Trying to play it safe, appeal to everyone and not offend or upset people. It was completely frustrating, kept me small and stuck. In other words, it kept me safe.

I wish I could say exactly what the moment was when I stopped caring and just went for it. I’m definitely not immune to having the ‘what will people think?’ thoughts now. But, I have noticed they crop up less and less.

Looking back, there were a few things that helped me move into action, stop worrying about what others think and simply do what I wanted to do. I’m sharing them in the hope you find them useful.

1.       Identify your needs

Find some quiet time and space to go within. Journal write, or create a vision board. Listen to some of your favourite quiet music. Consider where you are now in life. Where do you want to be? How do you want to feel? What do you want to be doing differently? What is missing that you can’t let go of? What is your heart calling for you to do, explore, release, chase, seek, be?

2.       Seek inspiration.

A book that really helped me was “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brenè Brown – it’s been a total game changer for me. Brenè urges us to let go of what others think by making a commitment to being our authentic self.

This is described as a daily practice where we are “cultivating the courage to be imperfect; to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made from strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.”

So be real, strong, gentle, kind and believe in yourself. Let that goodness grow inside of you and keep at it every day.

3.       Do a risk analysis

 Ask yourself. “What will the cost to me be if I don’t step up/make a change/do xyz?”

For me, I knew if I didn’t pursue my new path in coaching, publish my website or write from the heart – I would feel stifled. Stuck. Small. Not aligned with my values. Inauthentic. I decided I couldn’t risk to have those feelings grow bigger or spill into the rest of my life. Especially as a mother. I wanted to model living with courage, joy, clarity, peace and fulfillment to my children.

When I look up from my computer, I have a sign that reads “The cost of not following your heart is spending the rest of your life wishing you had.” It drives me.  

Brene Brown warns against the risk of hiding yourself and your gifts from the world:

“Our unexpressed ideas, opinions and contributions don’t just go away. They are likely to fester and eat away at our worthiness.”

Equally consider, what are the potential gains for you to make a change?

4.       Do something different – start small

Take frequent small risks. Say yes before you feel 100% ready. No-one is ever 100% ready! Where is the magic sign that says ‘yep, here you go. Ready!” Hint: There isn’t one. It’s an arbitrary measurement from your ego. I found that by saying yes to the little things, I gained momentum and confidence and found myself saying yes to even bigger things. Things that previously would have felt out of my league or too scary to contemplate. (But they were precisely the big things I deeply wanted to do!).

5.       Give yourself permission to feel

Talk about the fear with someone you trust. Journal write. Hide under a blanket with some chocolate if you must. Allow yourself to feel the fear. If you try to resist and keep it pushed down, it will just keep shouting at you, trying to make you get smaller and smaller and smaller.

It’s natural to feel fear, worry and doubt along the way. It’s a sign of you stretching and growing beyond your comfort zone. Even though fear may be present, you can still take action. It does not need to dictate to you what you can and can’t do – even though it will give it a red hot go!

6.       Seek support + accountability.

Finding a person who is going support you and challenge you to keep growing and extending yourself is invaluable. Perhaps you can team up with a friend and be each other’s cheerleader? Surround yourself with people who make you feel capable, confident and inspired. Don’t underestimate the power of spurring your friend on too!

Perhaps you might consider working with a coach to help you hone in on your goals, set actionable steps, inspire and motivate you and help bypass the blocks and fears that are trying to get in your way.

Are you contemplating making a change in your life? Are you tangled in concerns about what others might think?

Post a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Looking into the mirror.

lr-cool-wall-georgie-james-photography-6.jpg

Photo Credit: Georgie James Photography

When you look into the mirror…

What do you see? What do you believe? What do you feel?

For many of us, the mirror is an uncomfortable place and we seek to avoid it. (I am not immune to this – I do love that my dance class has no mirrors, so in my mind I am Beyoncé).

The mirror is a place where our real authentic self is shown back to us, right now in the moment. But when we look, we often see the past and the future simultaneously, and a distorted view at that. When we look at the mirror, we also hear the story we hold about ourselves that is not always so forgiving.  It rises up to narrate to us a tale about our failings, our weaknesses, our fears and our flaws.

It is a challenge for us to be visible and fully present every day, and to accept ourselves as we are.

My wish for you …

Look into the mirror and wait. Breathe and wait. You may feel uncomfortable, irritated or silly. Keep breathing deeply.

Notice what you see. Notice what you believe. Notice what you feel.

Allow whatever comes up to be present. Keep breathing. Keep waiting. Keep looking.

Looking at yourself now: Notice your strength. Your courage. Your compassion. Your tenacity. Your hope. Your humour. Your faith. Your curiosity. Your adventurous spirit. Your purpose. Your passion.

That may have felt difficult, or it may have come easy. You may have noticed the shadows too. The shadows may show up as uncertainties, anxieties, doubts, irritations, rages, jealousies, pettiness, fears, hurts, pains, frustrations, selfishness, greed and vanity. Shadows are part of the human experience. They are inevitable. To be self-compassionate is to acknowledge both your light and shadow, and allow them space to co-exist.

Give yourself permission to be a learning, growing and imperfect human being. Release your grip on the pursuit of perfection, the relentless search for happiness – and create a generous safe space for light and shadow to co-exist.

Living a life that is full of juicy, interesting and rich experience necessitates jumping in wholeheartedly with a degree of openness and curiosity about what will meet you. Trying to deny, minimise or completely avoid the shadow side risks cutting yourself off from the full magnificence of life. Reflected light from a mirror is always more startlingly bright against the darkness.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.