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Archive for Growth


On my daily morning walk with MacDuff, we pass a ditch with running water. Sometimes the ditch is fairly full, burbling and moving along. Once, it was so full it overflowed onto the empty lot on the corner. And other times, it is simply a trickle. The water itself is usually clear, with a definite movement to it. But it can also be quite muddy and slow with a lazy attitude.

When I think about it, the water in this ditch can be like a mirror of my own path through life, and perhaps yours too. It begins its life on earth as it falls from the skies or melts from ice into a stream. In the same way, we begin our lives on earth in a clear direction as a baby. We bring special characteristics to define our personality and attitude toward life. We are here on earth at a specific time, in a particular place. We are gifted with certain challenges and benefits. Within these boundaries, we move through life, much as a river flows, coming upon many twists, turns and obstacles along the way.

Water is a great teacher. It shows us how to move through the world with grace, determination, ease and humility.

  • When a river flows over a waterfall, it gains power and moves on. As we encounter our own waterfalls, we may tumble but after falling, keep moving along.
  • Water can inspire us to be flexible and let go of the familiar when it no longer serves us. We can be brave and not waste time clinging to the past, but flow onward without looking back.
  • At the same time, if there is a hollow to be filled, water does not run away from it in fear of the dark. It humbly and courageously fills the empty space. In the same way, we can face the dark moments and overwhelming fears in our lives rather than fleeing in panic.
  • Water can tumble and create froth, shimmering as it goes along the path of the river. We can also sparkle and have fun in our lives. As we come to joy filled times, we make happy memories.
  • Water can also lap quietly along the shores of a lake. We too can embrace or create peaceful times for ourselves. Those tranquil spaces fill our hearts and souls. They remind us who we are and why we are here, expanding feelings of appreciation and wonder.
  • Water can get stuck, building up pressure behind an obstacle or blockage. We too can get stuck, not able to move past a certain point. But like water, we can move around or over the stumbling block. We can move on, being ever flexible and ingenious. We have tools and resources within us. All we have to do is tap into them.  
  • Water can turn into ice, penetrating cracks and fissures in rocks. The pressure can eventually cause the boulder to shatter. We too can come across difficult times where we feel broken, lost and alone but use our strength to achieve goals.
  • Eventually, water returns to the earth or flows into the sea. It is not afraid of losing its identity or being weak. We also can be with others, contributing and merging without losing energy. There is no resistance, for the highest good is to help one another. 

Is your life like water? Does it flow? Or are you stuck? Let me know what’s happening in your world.

Learn and Grow

It’s okay to find problems in things that we like. That’s how we grow.

—Ali La Benz

Duff here. I like My Life to be smooth sailing. No worries. No fuss. Unstuck. But I have discovered That’s not always Possible. Let’s take Grooming, for instance. (Actually, Mom calls what happens cutting My hairs.) I am delighted to see Ashley, My groomer, and We begin with a mini lovefest. She coos at Me, talking gently as She picks Me up to place Me in My Special Spot. Next? I like My Warm Bath. (I’ll bet You do, too.) That is living unstuck.

The Problem arises when Ashley begins to clip the Fur on My face. I screw up My Nose and look like a Little Old Man. I back Up. I shake My Head. I do everything in My Power to let Her know: All is not well. But She is kindly persistent and finishes My Cut. I am then released to be the Handsome Groomed Dude I am. What happened? I grew into a new Perspective. After getting over That Problematic Hurdle, I’m living unstuck.

How about You? Do You find problems in the things You like? When camping, is it too Cold? Or when You are served a Favorite dish, perhaps not the way Your Taste Buds remembered? I say: Stretch a Bit. Learn and grow. It builds confidence. And Your Future Self will thank You. #unstuck-living#learn-and-grow

Maintaining Your Road

So many signs along the road as I go for my morning walk! Some are about upcoming events (Dance! Friday night!). Others to locate a lost pet, complete with picture, description and contact number. Then, there are road signs. Dead End. No Right Turn on Red. School Zone. But the one that intrigued me was: Primitive Road. Caution. Use At Your Own Risk.

Roads, especially the dirt ones, are a specialty of our rural areas. What makes for a well-built road? First, they are graded to become flat and smooth. The best ones have a slight crown in the middle of the roadway to allow rain or melting snow to drain away. A very durable material of surface gravel, stones, and fine dirt is then dumped on the area and smoothed with massive pieces of equipment. Next is a layer of finely compacted earth, designed to be long-lasting to the weather.

But after a while, washboarding occurs. That’s the choppy ride you get when traveling over five mph on this jarring surface. The road itself resembles an old-fashioned washboard, hence the name, and if you speed along, can even be hazardous. Potholes can also be menaces, threatening axels and alignments of cars. But to repair and maintain them, huge graders are brought in. They take about an inch from the top of the surface, blend it with new materials and lay it back down. The road is smooth again.

The sign and the road are like life. At a very early age, you begin to build a foundation of belief and knowledge. This is similar to creating a smooth road and is indeed Primitive. The sources of this base usually come from your mom and dad, other family members, school experiences and sometimes your church. As a baby and toddler, you are cautious, for the world is new to you. Slowly, you build a framework of know-how. What is successful is retained, while you toss that which is not useful. Over the years, you develop a pattern of life for yourself.

But every now and again, a pothole pops up or you hit a washboard. Life is bumpy or even treacherous. Your experience from the past cannot cover this new event. Perhaps it’s the death of someone close to you. Or the failure of a business you started up. Or the frustration of not dropping those pounds that appear to be glued on permanently.

You can choose to stop there. After all, the sign says, “use at your own risk.” But then you take a chance on getting stuck where you are, never venturing out to new horizons or trying new venues.

But how to positively maintain your road? Here are some ideas:

  • Check out your beliefs. What was useful in the past may not always be what works in the present. And may not fuel those dreams for the future.
  • Test your risk quotient. Take a chance and venture to somewhere new. Do something you’ve never tried before. Stretch your horizons.
  • Take a look at your personal potholes and washboard situations. A relative rub you the wrong way? A friend try to put limits on your life? Start the day with a negative outlook? Time to grade the top layer? Or perhaps dig deeper and sort through some of the stones and gravel of learning placed there years ago? Take an inventory and make some changes.

Life is an adventure. You can keep on traveling the washboard of experiences. Or begin new adventures to smooth your life and enjoy growth for your heart and soul. The time is now.

Want to be More Resilient?

Alongside the dirt road, a cedar tree grew for many years. It had endured rain and snow, sleet and hail. Heat was of no matter, for it had long ago acclimated to that temperature. Its roots had traveled deep into the earth, where it was sturdily anchored. But one day, a powerful wind swept through the area. The trunk of the tree was snapped off, leaving a meagre section for support. To look at it you might think it was doomed to die, that there was no more life left. But as the inner section healed, the tree once again began to grow. Yes, it grew sideways for a time, for the limb was left parallel to the ground. But as it gained strength, little branches started to sprout and greenery popped up from the rugged outer edges. This cedar was built to last and continued to be resilient and flourish for many years.

Resilience is that indescribable quality that allows some people (and trees) to be knocked down by whatever life hands them and come back stronger for the experience. And similar to this cedar tree, you too can overcome failure and find a way to rise from the ashes.

What qualities make up this ability to snap back?

  • First is a positive attitude. And with it, the ability to create options. I’m sure the cedar tree didn’t say to itself, “I can heal myself and grow some more.” But it does have an innate ability to dig deep and nourish itself.
  • Next is flexibility, being able to see failure as “a way it didn’t work” rather than “I’m a loser.” What you say to yourself is critical when encouraging new ideas and perspectives.
  • Regulating emotions conserves energy and allows your mind to create new perceptions and strategies. The cedar tree didn’t bemoan its fate or curse its bad luck. It depended on a deep inner strength to thrive.

Want to be more resilient? Here are some tips:

  • Accept change as an inevitable part of life. You may not be able to reach some goals you have laid out for a successful life. Life intrudes in strange ways. Accept your situation as it is and move on. Free up energy for productive tasks.
  • Move toward your goals. Develop those realistic results. Ask: “ What’s the one thing I know I can do today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?” Then follow through and do it.
  • Be a detective and find opportunities for self-discovery. The cedar tree didn’t know it could continue to grow offshoots and sprigs. You won’t know the resources you have inside of you until you are challenged to uncover them.
  • Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own feelings and needs. Fall back on hobbies you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise on a regular basis and maintain a good eating plan. Remember to breathe deeply. When you take care of yourself, you keep your mind and body primed for more growth.
  • Cultivate a positive outlook. An optimistic mind-set draws a positive picture for the future. As you visualize what you want rather than worrying about what you fear, you will free up creativity and innovation.

After a major setback, you can take the story of the sturdy cedar tree and mold it to your circumstance. You too can develop deep roots of tenacity and use them to propel you forward. Resources, as strength, courage and faith, can work to help you change course in midstream and grow in a different way.


Enjoying the Little Things . . . on the Mountain

As I went on my walk yesterday, I began to delight in the pleasure of paying attention to trees. So many kinds, shapes and varieties of trees here on the Mountain. I can recognize them by their bark, their leaves, their height. But to really know a tree, I have to watch it closely: where it stands, how it moves, its relationship to other trees.

Think about the mighty Ponderosa pine. Tall, with branches clustered toward the top part of the tree. Strong, sturdy branches with flexibility to manage powerful winds. Massive roots anchor the tree firmly into the ground. This infrastructure runs deep to tap nutrients from the belly of the earth. If its bark is thumped or cracked, it quickly grows a new layer to heal that wound, that scrape. Evergreen is the name of this tree, for its needles grow day after day and are constantly replenished. As the old, dead needles drop to the forest floor, they create a soft carpet to insulate the ground below. This begins the cycle of decomposition as bugs and beetles burrow in to break down the load. The roots are able to absorb the nutrients, promoting further growth.

Next is the juniper. Sturdy, hale and hearty, it grows wherever it can get a foothold. Its branches are shorter and stubbier, giving durability a new name. Its shape is like a bush, more rounded to withstand heavy snows and drought. This plant also features buds, complete with yellow pollen in the spring to ensure new beginnings.

And then, there is the aspen tree. The Mountain is gifted with vast stands of aspens. Their gray-white bark is in sharp contrast to the brown of the pine or the juniper. The aspens grow as a community: their root structure supports the entire group. The runners grow out, then pop up to develop into yet another tree. They grow close together, supporting each otherl Interconnected, they nourish the clusterl To me, the aspen is a graceful tree, bending as the wind ruffles the leaves. And those stands of golden leaves in autumn are a sight to behold.

All of these trees weather storms, parasites and insects. They handle droughts, floods, heat and cold every day. And they continue to flourish and grow. Perhaps their bark gets bumped or scraped. They have to have time to grow back together. If attacked by an insect, the trees have to have the time to mend and repair. They can regulate their own resources to heal because that’s Mother Nature’s design.

You also have these resources, these capabilities. Your roots travel deep into your past, bringing experiences you can use to further your forward momentum. Learnings and teachings are gathered from many different situations over the years, providing knowledge and wisdom for growth and development. You, too, can repair and heal. Just as a tree needs time to grow, it needs rest during the winter before spring growth. You also need time to take a break, to take a look at where you have been and savor the moment. Your mind reaches to the sky for inspiration and creativity as your roots reach for nourishment and sustenance. You are in a perfect place to feel your connection with all that’s around you as you live on the mountain. How do you feel as you make your connection with outdoors?

I’m curious: How do you tap into your inner resources?


Stars. We in the White Mountains are gifted with clear skies and bright stars. I step out for my morning walk and am dazzled by all the stars I can see. Some are large with a steady light. Others are much smaller and seem to twinkle. Some are grouped in bunches, leaving a vast area of darkness between them and others. Still others have a color, or perhaps I’m seeing a planet. I know if I looked through a telescope into the sky, I would see far, far out into the galaxy, with nebula creating other formations. And as in the course of nature, some are even extinguishing themselves.

As the sunrise comes each day, the stars seem to disappear. The Morning Star, in its glory, is the last to remain. These glittering points of light are not visible to the naked eye with sunlight around, but are still there. When clouds are overhead, the stars are blocked from sight. But they are still there. During a new moon, the stars are brilliant. I can easily see them, with the shape of the Big Dipper sharp and clear. The Milky Way arches across the sky, creating a path for the imagination. During the recent full moon with its intense light, these sparkling delights were barely visible. And yet they still exist.

Just as the stars as always there, you have a treasure chest of resources within yourself. Some of these gems sparkle and shine, for you have used them for a long time. Others are waiting to be discovered or polished. Just as the stars are constant, your skills, talents, and abilities are always there. You might not be aware of them, but they are waiting for you to discover them.

The bigger stars are more prominent. Similar to skills you have developed over the years, they shine their light. Like to fish and have done that for a long time? Your “fishing star,” with knowledge of tension in the line and muscle memory as to how you pull the fish in, is fairly bright. Quilted for years and are honing your skills? Your “quilting star,” with an eye for exact lines and perfect cutting techniques, will be dazzling.

Some stars are much, much smaller. These ideas need to be nurtured inside before they can be put out to shine. How about traveling? The concept starts as a tiny seed (“I think it would be fun to head over to Durango and ride the train”) then expands your world with new adventures. That star may grow brighter as the next trip is overseas. But that first dream starts out small.

Some of these stars would include developing personal traits. Courage, inner strength, future planning or even a sense of humor would fit here. These small stars can be cultivated to someday burst into a swirling nebula of opportunities and values. Getting along in years and realize you need to know more about the computer to further your game plan? You may tap into courage and grit and begin to learn. Did life change dramatically with a death or divorce? Time to discover and polish up the stars for inner strength. Perhaps even a sense of humor.

This treasure chest within is always available to you. Your challenge should you choose to accept it is to discover the stars inside you— the skills, talents and abilities—and make them shine. Your life, your body, and your mind will thank you. For after all . . . is it possible that stars are like a handful of diamonds randomly tossed across the sky? Who knows what you will find?

Bringing over 30 years of experience to her practice, Joan is a highly qualified NLP practitioner and hypnotherapist. She specializes in anxiety, panic attacks, fears, and phobias, using her knowledge to help her clients become no-limit people. Many have found her friendly ways and precise techniques to be the easiest road toward a better life.

New Year? New You!

The New Year brings an avalanche of suggestions for resolutions, many of which will last three weeks . . . or less. There’s the tried and true: lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking. And there’s nothing wrong with those. I’m all for them. But to live unstuck this year, I want you to have some fun and be successful with your goal. And here’s one you’ll have a good time with: meet one new person each month. That’s right, just one person. Not someone you already know. Not someone with a similar background. But someone with different interests or other perspectives than yours. Of course, you’ll have to turn off your inner filter (the one that blocks new ideas) and pay attention to what the other is saying. Challenging? You bet! But think of the mind expanding possibilities and new worlds you’ll venture into. If you can step into that person’s life, if even for a short time, you can broaden your horizons and stretch your mind. And your brain will thank you.

Where to find these folks? Chat with someone at the grocery store. Or at the gas station. Here’s another one: if you have a friend with a new baby, there nothing more pleasurable than a new mom with her little one. You could take a class at Northland Pioneer College or visit the Arts Alliance of the White Mountains. People interested in rock hounding or the arts will bring a whole other point of view into your life. See someone climbing off a motorcycle? Stop and chat. Find out where they’re going and a little about the bike. Talk with small business owners. I have learned a lot from Suzy at her Consignment Store about antiques. And Bonnie at Crafter’s Mercantile about gifting and creating. A wealth of knowledge. Get curious! I’m certain extraordinary ideas will come to you too. Live unstuck.

My challenge for all of us this New Year is to meet someone new each month. And we’re not confined to only one. We can meet more. But at least one person with a different point of view. An unfamiliar frame of reference. We’ll celebrate living unstuck in 2018! #UnstuckLiving

The less you talk, the more you’re listened to.

—Pauline Phillips