In Praise of My Female Friends

There is an interesting and wonderful pattern in my life; I am surrounded with incredible women.  Having moved quite frequently over the years, I have faced that frightening prospect of making new friends as a professional adult.  Somehow, in each place I’ve lived, I have managed to befriend some of the most interesting, accomplished, hilarious, strong, kind, and thoughtful women.  My female friends make me laugh till I cry, they challenge me to be a better person, they inspire me to make a positive change in the world, and they remind me of the power that women have when we come together.

Regardless of the reason we come together  (whether it’s dinner, spirituality, philanthropy, happy hour, or work), each woman brings a unique set of experiences and perspectives that benefit everyone involved.  And no matter what country we call home, female friendships and connections illuminate the commonalities between us and humanize us to the other.

The universe has been kind to me.  There is no shortage of amazing women in the world and I have been fortunate enough to build extraordinary friendships in my life.  My friends are my family and I feel honored to call these women my sisters.

Further reading:

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“Women’s friendships are a renewable source of power”: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin at TEDWomen 2015

“I don’t know what I would do without my women friends…they make me stronger, smarter, braver.” YES!

TED Blog

Lili Tomlin and Jane Fonda speak at TEDWomen2015 - Momentum, Session 6 May 29, 2015, Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California, USA. Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED Lili Tomlin and Jane Fonda have a friendship that has spanned decades. In an interview with Pat Mitchell, they revealed what they look for in friends — and why female friendship is just so special. Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin have been friends since 9 to 5. And the pair walks onto the TEDWomen stage to talk about the importance of female friendship, the audience standing up to applaud as they take a seat on a couch.

“What do you look for in a friend?” asks host Pat Mitchell, kicking off the conversation.

“I look for someone who has a sense of fun,” says Tomlin. “Someone who’s audacious, who is forthcoming, who has politics, who has even a small scrap of passion for the planet. Someone who is decent, has a sense of justice, and thinks I’m worthwhile.”

Fonda’s eyes light up with a smile. “I don’t know what…

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How to be good at stress

Such a timely reminder!

“One strategy is to choose a more positive mindset toward stress. Make a conscious choice when you’re stressed to view stress as helpful, and the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. This mindset can actually shift your stress physiology toward a state that makes such a positive outcome more likely, for example by increasing your growth index and reducing harmful side effects of stress such as inflammation.”

ideas.ted.com

What does it mean to be “good” at stress? Does it mean you don’t get stressed out? That you stay calm under pressure and bounce back from adversity?

Actually, no. The truth of stress as I’ve researched it shows two important things. Firstly, that trying to avoid it is fundamentally counterproductive. Secondly, that thinking that we can emerge from stressful circumstances unscathed and unchanged is precisely the wrong way of thinking about things.

Instead, we need to start thinking about how to have the courage to grow from stress. This view of resilience was first described by the psychologist Salvatore Maddi, who founded the Hardiness Research Lab at the University of California Irvine. He dedicated his career to identifying what distinguishes people who thrive under stress from those who are defeated by it. The ones who thrive, he concluded, are those who view stress as inevitable, and rather than try…

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Putting My Practice to the Test

Practicing mindfulness meditation and engaging in authentic living has provided a much-needed, positive foundation for my life.  I practice being intentional in my communication with others and work to foster empathy in my life.  These practices and efforts can be easy when things are going well, but it is when we face deep disappointments and challenges that our practice is put to the test.

Recently, I faced one of those disappointing, and unforeseen, situations at work and I have been attempting to come back from it for the past couple weeks.  I’d like to say that because I practice mindfulness that I was able to perfectly handle my negative emotions, but in reality the first thing I did was attempt to suppress them.   As Skylar Liberty Rose wrote in her post, Depression or Suppression? Where Do the Silent Screams Go?, “We want to take the raging storm in our head and package it so beautifully that nobody will ever have a single iota that havoc wreaks within.”

I had practiced suppression of emotions for years before I began my mindfulness practice and it was an easy default for me.  But it didn’t work well then and, not surprisingly, it didn’t work well now.  My negative emotions remained with me and, because I was attempting to suppress them, my negative emotions leaked out into my interactions with my coworker friends.  Unfortunately, this resulted in the need for me to issue an apology for the hurt that I inadvertently caused.

But after my apology, I felt even worse.  All I could think about was the fact that, not only was I trying to work through my own hurt, but I ended up causing hurt to others.  And it seemed that my mindfulness and empathy practice didn’t make me any better at handling disappointment and it didn’t keep me from hurting people I cared about.  Julia Cameron writes, “All of us have an inner Censor, that nasty voice that tries to discount what we are doing.”  She warns that we must not believe what it tells us.  In my low moment, I truly believed the negative narrative that my inner Censor was telling me.

Because of my mindfulness practice, I was able to quickly become aware of my inner Censor telling me this negative narrative and I acknowledged that it was my choice to believe this narrative or not.  I chose to remind myself that mindfulness and intentional communication are not magic wands.  We don’t start practicing and immediately and permanently become fully aware and perfect individuals.  These tools allow us to be aware in each moment and effectively work through the varied challenges we face as humans.  As my yoga instructor reminds my class, “this is our ‘practice’, not our ‘perfect’.”

Because of my intentional communication practice, I was able to be more empathetic to others even while dealing with my own hurt.  This allowed me to more effectively communicate with my coworker friends and make amends to them.  Because of my mindfulness practice, I was able to release my judgement about my own emotions and have been practicing sitting with my hurt.  My mindfulness practice will assist me in the process of working through my negative emotions and releasing them.

Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote, “There is an art to facing difficulties in ways that lead to effective solutions and to inner peace and harmony.  When we are able to mobilize our inner resources to face our problems artfully, we find that we are usually able to orient ourselves in such a way that we can use the pressure of the problem itself to propel us through it, just as a sailor can position the wind to propel the boat…Developing skill in facing and effectively handling the various ‘weather conditions’ in your life is what we mean by the art of conscious living.”

As this recent experience has shown me, I won’t always respond to challenges, disappointments, and hardships perfectly, but I am responding in a much more effective manner than I ever have before.  In putting my own practice to the test, I can see that my mindfulness and intentional living practice is helping me to develop my skill in facing and effectively handling the various ‘weather conditions’ in my life.

Want to be happy? Slow down

“It’s not uncommon for our culture to confuse stillness with being idle, with maybe wasting time.”

ideas.ted.com

In 1972, Matthieu Ricard had a promising career in biochemistry, trying to figure out the secrets of E. coli bacteria. A chance encounter with Buddhism led to an about turn, and Ricard has spent the past 40+ years living in the Himalayas, studying mindfulness and happiness. In this free-wheeling discussion at TED Global in October 2014, Ricard talked with journalist and writer Pico Iyer about some of the things they’ve learned over the years, not least the importance of being conscious about mental health and how to spend time meaningfully. An edited version of the conversation, moderated by TED Radio Hour host Guy Raz, follows. First, Pico Iyer on how he became taken with the idea of staying still:

Guy Raz (left), Pico Iyer (center), and Matthieu Ricard (right) discuss mindfulness and the importance of being still at TED Global 2014. Photo by Duncan Davidson/TED. Guy Raz (left), Pico Iyer (center), and Matthieu Ricard (right) discuss mindfulness and the importance of being still at TED Global 2014. Photo by Duncan Davidson/TED.

Pico Iyer: When I was in my twenties, I had this wonderful…

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Fear is Sticky

Here’s to making bold and love-based decisions in 2015!

e. f. Brave

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is enjoying a magnificent holiday.

‘Tis the season and the year to evaluate decisions of the past and goals for the future. This mid-life crisis keeps roaring along!

If I could impart any advice to you lovely twentysomethings, it would be not to make decisions based on fear. In my own life, fear-based decisions have left me feeling very stuck.

Now, I am not talking about risky outdoor adventuring and the like. Fear can certainly serve a useful purpose in preventing bodily damage! Here’s what I mean…

Let’s see, there is the omnipresent fear of failure, followed by the fear of not being good enough, the fear of disappointing others, and the list goes on. When I look back on these fears now, I think, who cares?

I opted for a career in medicine for fear I could not be successful as a writer. Fear of…

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How to take great photos—even on your cell phone

There are some great points to keep in mind here, my favorite is #4. “…Taking time to consider what’s in the frame…” doesn’t just apply to taking photos!

TED Blog

8photography_tips

Taking great photos isn’t just about having a nice camera. I’m a firm believer that good photography comes from smart photographers who think creatively and know how to make the most of what they’ve got—whether they’re working with fancy DSLR or an iPhone.

On TED’s design team, where I manage TED’s Instagram account, we’re always on the lookout for beautiful, arresting images. Below are 8 non-technical, non-intimidating tips that I continue to refer to even after years of taking pictures.

  1. Keep your lens clean and your battery charged. Yes, both of these things are obvious, but they’re also very easy to forget. With my camera, I like to keep at least one extra fully-charged battery on hand, and I always keep my phone charger with me because it’s such a bummer when you want to take a photo but can’t. Phones can get especially dirty from riding around in…

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