I am back from my first virtual meditation retreat. I’ve attended in person silent meditation retreats in the past, the longest was over a long weekend. So the thought of a 7-day silent meditation retreat was both inviting and terrifying.
I'm still processing the insights gleaned over the past week and will be sharing pearls of wisdom with you over the coming weeks.
For now, I simply wanted to share one of the benefits I gained at the very beginning of the retreat. The teacher asked us to close our eyes and think about our intentions for the retreat.
Now I had thought about what I wanted to accomplish during this week, but to my surprise I heard a voice that answered the question differently. Here’s what came up:
1. Slow Down - Initially I took this to mean slow down physically, but over the course of the week I realized that it was an invitation to practice slowing down mentally and emotionally too. Making space and time to notice my racing thoughts and allowing them to settle like the falling snow in a snow globe. Also creating enough room to allow the rising of emotions and learning how to be with them, especially the uncomfortable ones.
2. Connect With Your Heart - I tend to analyze things a lot (maybe over analyze is more accurate). As a result, I spend more time in my head, thinking about what to do rather than taking some time to connect with my heart. This practice is already helping to inform my decisions as well as how I show up in the world.
3. Practice Loving Yourself - This one for me is the hardest of all. I’m really good at extending love and compassion to others. Giving it to myself in a genuine, open-hearted way is less familiar. To help me in this area I’ve been noticing how I speak to myself. Not just the actual words used, but also the tone of voice. If I hear harsh tones, I practice softening it. And I’ve been asking myself, “How can I care for myself today?” I am exploring additional ways that I can deepen this practice over time. Stay tuned.
So I have decided to carry these intentions with me from the retreat and bring them into my daily life. I’m looking forward to the lessons I’ll learn and the insights that will come. And I will approach all of these aspirations with an attitude of curiosity and non-judgment.
Have you been on retreat? Do you use intentions to guide your daily life? I’m curious to hear about your experiences. Share in the comments below or send me a note at Michelle@drmichellebailey.com.
I attended the funeral of a dear friend this weekend. He was only 3 years older than me.
In addition to the loss felt by the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one, there is the stark reminder of impermanence. It got me thinking about what really matters most.
As another week begins, I asked myself how I would answer the question, "what mattered most", at the end of my life.
Here's what came up for me:
Did I welcome everyone and everything?
This speaks to how open-minded and open-hearted I was in my interactions with the people, places and things I came into contact with each day.
How well was I able to suspend judgment and assumptions? How gracefully did I respond to situations that were uninvited in my life?
If I were to give myself a grade, I wouldn't be looking for perfection. Instead, I would focus on my intention for meeting people where they are, extending a little grace, and being willing to learn from my mistakes.
Did I empower those around me?
One thing that is very important to me is to remind others (and myself) that we have choice. In each moment of each day.
In every breath we take...on the inhale and the exhale.
Even when it seems like we don't have any options.
We always can control how we show up and respond to what life brings our way. That is up to us.
We can make decisions from a place of courage and confidence and strength.
The decision to speak up. The decision to let go. The decision to say no.
This is not to say that making those decisions are easy. But, they are yours to make.
Did I love fiercely and compassionately?
Love. It is such a simple word and yet so charged for so many.
I want to love unconditionally. I want to love hard and with abandon. I want those around me to feel my love.
And maybe, to feel that depth of love for themselves, if only for a few moments.
Love is such a powerful force. In my opinion, one of the most powerful forces that we have control over.
Love yourself. Love other people. Love all sentient beings everywhere.
Did I light the way for others?
One of my regular practices is to see the light in myself and in others. I say this is a practice, because it sometimes feels difficult to see the light in someone that causes harm to others.
When this is the case, I imagine the person as a young child (as a pediatrician I have a huge soft spot for children). This helps me to become curious about why they may be showing up as they are. It ignites compassion in me which opens my heart and allows me to see them in a different light...to actually see their light.
I want to live my life in such a way that others want to see the light in others. And I want to reflect their own light back to them. Because in all honesty, it's usually much harder for us to see the light in ourselves.
We are so hard on ourselves. And unkind. I think it's a precious gift to help others see their own light and in doing so, it helps us to pull back the veil so that we can see a glimpse of our own light.
So at the end of my life, I want to know for sure that
I was welcoming
I was empowering
I was loving
I was lighting the way
That mine was a life WELL lived.
What matters most to you? I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on this for yourself.
And allow the answers to inform the work that you do every day - not just in your vocation, but in the way you choose to show up to live each day.
I'd love to hear what matters to you. Share in the comments below or drop me a line, Michelle@drmichellebailey.com.
Have you ever read a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book?
I was introduced to them when I was looking for a gift for my oldest grandson. It was recommended on a list of gift ideas for preteen boys. If you haven't heard of them before, the reader is presented with two or three options at various points in the story. “To follow the man into the cave, turn to page 43. To return to the village, turn to page 57.”
It’s a really cool concept that turns a story into a game. You passively enjoy the plot for a while, then you get to dive in and make your move.
These books are like training wheels for your life. The only difference is, in your “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, you are the audience and the author.
Every day in your real life you are presented with choices. If you don’t like them, you can create a new one. Sure, it may seem that your options are limited by finances, family, employment or education, but remember this…
YOU are a powerful, intelligent, creative human being
with ample, unseen resources.
Your life is your choice, your design.
And the really fun part is this…you aren’t doing it alone. You are writing your story with the help of everyone around you. Your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers give you fresh choices and story prompts every day.
When you activate your inner author, other people’s choices become inspirations for your own. Obstacles become hurdles to leap over and bounce points to send your adventure in exciting new directions. Opportunities create new paths to explore. Every moment is a chance to make your next move and design your story and craft the adventures you want to live.
Ask yourself, who are the characters in your story, and what role or influence do they play in your life? Who do you spend your time with? How do you spend your time? Where do live? What is your lifestyle? What do you do that brings you ultimate fulfillment in your life?
It’s your story, you get to design it. And the sky is the limit.
What helps you to exercise your power to design your life?
End of year performance reviews...it's a process that many employees dread. In a lot of companies, setting goals and assessing progress on those goals occurs as a "check-box exercise".
While it's true that there may be very little guidance to help you set meaningful goals, the real missed opportunity is in not taking ownership of managing your career. One of my most memorable coaches was famous for saying "Be the CEO of YOU". I'd never considered this concept before AND I never forgot it.
What if you look at your life as you would a business? You are the CEO of your life and you get to decide how you want to develop it, run it and the impact you want it to have. You get to be in the C-suite and this responsibility includes directing your career.
How often do you check-in and reflect on your career? Are you actively engaged in managing it and charting your course or are you simply living and working on the default setting?
I encourage you to be proactive (rather than reactive) as it relates to your career. What are your reasons for doing the work that you do? Whether you're employed or self-employed, are your core values a match for the values of the company that you work for? If you had to choose all over again, would you choose the work that you're doing?
It is definitely worth the time and energy to pause and reflect on your career. Where are you now? Where do you want to be in the next 1-10 years? Are you moving in that general direction or have you wandered off track?
Keep in mind that what you wanted at the start of your career may not be what you want at this stage of your life. Your career can be a vehicle for growth. Professional development is more than just continuing education credits. It should support the goals you've set for yourself and allow you to stay engaged and excited about your work.
But, the temptation is to stay comfortable. With growth comes change and that usually means some level of discomfort is required. Stretching and growing when faced with welcome and unwelcome challenges can lead to developing new skills and reimagining your career.
If you've set your career development to autopilot, it's time to get behind the wheel and decide where it is you want to go. Don't worry if your immediate answer is I don't know.
I suggest starting with a blank piece of paper and a pen and jot down what's important to you about work. What natural strengths and talents do you have that you can leverage within your career? What elements of your current work bring you joy? What consistent positive feedback do you get from others that may provide some insight into the value you contribute to the workplace?
For example, I've noticed that the words "approachable" and "calm" are often used by my peers and customers to describe me. This was true in both my former and current organizations. I now claim my ability to help others feel a sense of calm as one of my superpowers.
Once you have a better sense of what you want, write down 1-3 goals that you want to pursue that will move you in the direction of your ultimate career goals. Then, create a ritual where you conduct a quarterly review to evaluate your progress. Bonus points for scheduling a monthly check-in to celebrate mini-milestones you've hit along the way.
I think this is a topic that isn't talked about enough, especially for professional women. If this is an area that you'd like to learn more about (future articles with practical tips, strategies and resources), let me know in the comments below or send me a note at Michelle@drmichellebailey.com.
Busy seasons. I don't know where I first heard this term, but I understood what it meant. Those periods of life you find yourself in where you're really busy at work...at home...and everywhere in between.
Although at times it began to feel unmanageable, you knew that it was temporary. It was just a busy season.
Fast forward and it seems that most people I talk to are living busy lives perpetually, not just for a season.
Constant busyness has become the norm and is often worn as a badge of honor. At other times it feels like this is just the way it is and we have absolutely no control over it.
But in the midst of all that life has to offer, there are times when it is necessary to step out of the chaos and busyness and take a break. I call this the power of pressing pause. I want to share 3 signs with you that may mean it's time to press the pause button.
1. When you're in overwhelm
I always think of Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole. That's what it feels when I'm in overwhelm. That I somehow landed there without really knowing what happened.
It may show up as missed deadlines, a sense that there's too much on your plate or an avoidance of people or messages. Essentially it feels like there is way too much to handle and you don't know where (or how) to start.
The first step is recognizing where you are. The next step is hitting the pause button to take the time to download all of the thoughts swirling around in your head and get them down onto paper. You can then decide what you choose to get done now, what can wait and what can be permanently deleted.
2. When you're faced with an important decision
Struggling with a big decision can be anxiety-provoking. You put so much pressure on yourself to make the right decision. So much so that you may put off making the decision for days, weeks, months or indefinitely. The problem is when you avoid making a decision, it will sometimes be made for you (in essence you're deciding to allow someone else to make it for you).
And on the flip side, if you rush to make a decision, you may be dissatisfied with not just the outcome, but your reasons for making it in the first place.
Pressing pause when you are faced with a big decision can create the space needed to reflect and get clearer on the options available. Making a decision from a place of clarity and confidence is always better than making one out of confusion and desperation.
3. When you're grieving
Change, no matter how welcome or unwelcome, can bring stress along for the ride. It can signal loss...of the way things were...of opportunities that never come to be...and of expectations that are not met.
Whether it's the unexpected news of the health challenges of a loved one, the injustices in the world reported by the media or a sense of loss of work that was once fulfilling, dealing with loss feels hard.
The grieving process brings with it many emotions that shift and change from moment to moment. In these situations it is valuable to press pause to make room for the emotions to ebb and flow.
To open up to them rather than resist them, fight with them or ignore them.
To breathe into them and be with them for as long as they need to be here.
To ask for help when you're struggling.
To find that small still place of refuge that lies within you and to hear the soft inner voice of wisdom.
In each of the situations above, pressing pause also allows for discernment. Time and space to figure out what you have control over and what you don't. Breathing room to ask yourself what you need most in this moment and to listen for the answers. A reprieve to choose how you can honor and meet your own needs (prioritizing self-care, asking for help).
The length of your pause is not as important as the courageous act of acknowledging that you need one and taking action to press the button. There is so much power in the pause. And when used strategically, it can serve to support you on your journey.
So what is your sign that tells you it's time to press pause? Share it with me in the comments below.
We're halfway through March which means the first quarter of the year will be over in just over 2 weeks.
Remember those goals that you set at the start of the year...how is it going? Are you making progress?
If you just thought to yourself "What goals?", it's not too late to revisit them and get back on track.
Here are a few tips to help you hit the reset button:
Start with clarity
Explore options without editing
Make them visible
Break them down
Find accountability and support
So, take advantage of this reminder to bring focus back to your goals. And if you didn't set any at the beginning of the year, this is your opportunity to set a few meaningful goals to help you chart your course this year.
What strategies do you use to stay on track and make meaningful progress towards your goals?
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