Life Mapping

If you are a goal-setter you might like the idea of life-mapping. Life-mapping can be done in many ways. It represents the big picture of your many goals and dreams and what you would like to carry out in the long run. It is a healthy exercise as long as you use it as an inspiration to enrich your life, and it does not become an obsession, meaning that one might focus on it solely and not live fully because things are not happening the way one intended them to happen. Many times, especially if you believe in Divine intervention, things might not work out the way we want or plan, but in the end, it was all for a greater good – a better ending.

I have practiced life-mapping for some time. I have used time lines, picture boards, and even a treasure map style to highlight long-term dreams and goals. One thing I can say is that a lot works out as planned, but many other things do not, despite putting the work and walking the path. However, I still like the idea of life-mapping and practice it to keep me inspired and on track. Right now, I am using a different style that I thought about, and is easy to post anywhere and is more portable than a picture board. You can carry it on your planner, and it gives you an overall glance of your dreams and goals. I believe that you are never too old to do life-mapping. It is never too late to enrich your life and enjoy it more, so in my eyes, this practice stops at your death-bed.

The idea was inspired by my icon to-do-list. It is life-mapping by using icons that represent what you want, and you can do this as a time-line or as a step by step map to guide you. Here is the life-map I came up with, and I can share it here because the icons mean something to me, and not necessarily mean anything to anyone else, so in a way it is still somewhat private. A picture or an icon can have as many meanings as you give it. The meaning is up to you. This life-map was done using Microsoft Publisher. I started using footprints and changed to cat prints because after all, our family includes 6 cats, so they are in the journey as well. In addition, I left empty fields at the end to fill as needed, and these are represented by a potted plant with an interrogation sign. I used two pages for mine, but you can make your icons smaller and fit them on one page, or use as many pages as you would like. You can also use only a few icons to represent the important points only, and not necessarily every detail. It is a good idea for visual people. You may also do it in 3-5-10 … year increments or overall. Other ideas include drawing your icons if you are artistic, or painting them. In addition, if you want to make it more detailed you can dedicate a journal or planner just for life-mapping. Mine is just a more general approach. Life-mapping is ever changing, but it serves as visual inspiration, and it can be adjusted as necessary.

Life-Mapping

Life-Mapping

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I hope you enjoy this idea.

 

 

 

Back on the Saddle and the Need for a Blank Slate

Sometimes, when you come to a halt, being that a physical, material, emotional, psychological, or spiritual pause, the need to start fresh arises. After change, a rock on your boat, or any kind of disturbance, there is that silent pause, a very personal and intimate moment that only I recognize, and the prelude to what comes next in action. It is not so much the defining moment but the silent moment that makes the next one possible – whatever I may or may not decide – choose – act. It may be a source for strength or not, because it depends on how I embrace change, view it, and the emotions/feelings that I associate or attach to it. From that silent moment on, I either get back on the saddle (even in the midst of change) or not.

It is at that moment of truth that the need for a blank slate presents itself, summoned by vision and attitude, faith and determination. Back on the saddle again, I resolve to start on a blank slate, or a new page. One thing I know for sure is to change the ink, to not write in old ink on the pages of the new journal of life. A blank slate is a wonderful start, even if it may not look it right away. Vision becomes clearer as the writing starts once more.

We are writers of our lives. Sometimes we write to slow, too fast, or scribble; other times, we run out of ink in the middle of a page – an important page many times – and we pause, refill, and continue writing the great novel of our lives, which is eternal.

 

Picking Up the Pebbles, Carrying the Rocks, and Embracing Boulders

Present Universe/Earth – The location

Human – The vessel

The Material – The physical state, the condition in the vessel

Change – Fuel, motivator

Target – The journey, the material experience in the vessel at the location

Goal – Growth through the experience, enjoyment, discovery, being, creation, union … to each its own journey, One as Many

Time/Space – Now (always Now, other measure of time is irrelevant)

Report – Ongoing

 

Although life might seem a weird experiment at times, it is a journey, a destination in itself, and a different experience for every person. It presents its challenges as a way to keep the journey going in the now. Without challenge, conflict, unfortunate events, fortunate events … without change, there cannot be movement, journey, growth. It is necessary as fuel to keep us going. Imagine a life of perfect harmony, everything goes one way – perfect, and nothing happens that will let you have/create a frame of reference that serves as a compass to evaluate your journey. If everything is as perfect as it can be, how would you know the difference? Simply put, without a compass/navigator you might be lost.

Many times, change (fuel) will present itself in various degrees of difficulty, as much fuel as we might need to propel us to the next level. I truly believe that. Sometimes, the size of a pebble, other times as a rock, or even a giant boulder. Sometimes even as the entire quarry. However, if growth is the goal, the natural way would be to keep walking the path, pick up the pebbles, carry the rocks, and even embrace the boulders, and if we have to go inside the quarry, may we find the message in its walls. And when we do, evolution continues.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

 

What I’m Reading Now

I am enjoying the last pages of Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton by Rebecca Shambaugh, author of It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor (which I intend to read soon). Politics aside, and no matter if you like Mrs. Clinton or not, the book offers many good points and insightful advice not only for leaders but for everyone, that is, if you would like to become a better communicator and listener. The points/ideas presented in this book are great for business owners, and as an indie writer, I found it very helpful, and full of excellent ideas tailored to today’s world. The way we communicate today is not the same as a few decades ago – even in conservative Washington. The points presented here are classic advice with contemporary sense. In general, I found it a very good read, easy to navigate, well presented, and organized. I enjoyed it.

2014 Writing Goals

I have set two major writing goals for this year, editing and publishing The Book of Sharon before the end of the first quarter, and writing Sunrise Souls before the end of the year. If I get to the editing of the last one, I will be very happy, but for now, writing it is all I am expecting. In addition, I am hoping to develop my author website a bit more; it has been under construction. As far as this blog goes, I am hoping to post at least three times a week. Those are my only writing goals for this year – few and clear. My main focus will go towards regaining my health. Other projects will be on hold for now.

Today, my nephew sent me an email that had an Allan Watts short video about one of his lectures on meditation. One thing caught my attention immediately – his definition of meditation. He views meditation as a way to bring you back to reality (to the real world, to the life that we live in a daily basis, to the now, to be present …). When I thought about it, I realized that my concept of meditation was at conflict with this definition. I viewed it as a way to relax and step out of reality – a way to alleviate stress or any present inconvenience. This view is opposite to the purpose of meditation. I found this interesting, and I think that many people think of meditation as a way to escape reality instead of getting back to it. I thought this was brilliant.

As writers we tend to retreat; we spend long hours alone dipped into our own worlds and thoughts, and many times far away from reality. Meditation may be a good tool for writers, that is, as a way to bring us back to life into the now.

Promises to Keep

It is nice to be back after some time away from writing during the Thanksgiving break. December is here, and I am thinking about the end of the year already. It seems that 2013 flew away, and I find myself pondering about all the goals that I set for this year. Many I accomplished, many I did not. On a scale from 1 to 5, number 1 being less challenging, I think that this year presented its challenges in all aspects of my life, and I give it a 4. However, there are 29 more days until the end of the year, and each one represents an amazing opportunity. I have many promises to keep to myself (one way to view important goals).  Although I don’t like to miss a goal, even when things are out of my immediate control, I realize that as long as I am here, I can keep working on the things that are meaningful to me (goals), and upgrade them to the promise level.

Calling these unmet goals Promises to Keep, helps me focus with intention and without blame/frustration in the new year. I invite you to use this approach and see the difference in attitude when you approach the new year.  Of eleven major goals that I set for 2013, I accomplished six so far, and I intend to turn those other five unto 2014 promises.

I am already working on setting new goals for 2014. The process excites me and keeps me going despite any obstacles that may appear unexpectedly. It is how I function best, and  how I keep myself inspired when “life” happens. Today, as I thought about this year and pondered about the next, I felt a sense of relief and grounding knowing that as long as I have promises to keep, all is well.    

Writing Lesson From a Squirrel

Sometimes, little bits of wisdom come from unexpected sources, that is, if we observe and listen.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting outside eating peanuts while I talked on the phone with my aunt. I noticed a squirrel looking at me and getting close. I threw a peanut on the ground and it came running towards it. The squirrel took the peanut and ran with it, not too far, and then, I saw the squirrel bury the peanut. Right away, it came back for more. This time I threw a few peanuts to the ground. The squirrel became excited running from peanut to peanut, and grabbed one. It ran to a different spot and buried the peanut.  The squirrel repeated this process, and I added a few more peanuts to the pile. I noticed a Blue Jay bird following the squirrel and squawking loud. The squirrel ignored the bird and kept busy, running back and forth, until she buried all but two peanuts. When it returned for the last two, the squirrel climbed on a garden bench and slowly ate them. That was when the epiphany hit. This is what I learned.

The squirrel did not know about instant gratification. It worked hard saving the peanuts for the future, and ate only what it needed for the moment, enjoying it after a laborious effort, and from the bounty that it encountered that day. Although the Blue Jay bird was loud and annoying, it totally disregard its presence, and kept going back and forth until the job was done. Think of the Blue Jay as a symbol of obstacles and the negative influences in our path. You can apply this lesson to your daily living, finances, goal setting, and life in general; however, I applied it to writing. Many times, as writers we will have to work hard, put many books out, and work for peanuts, to be able to appreciate the rewards later. We may meet many Blue Jays in our path, sometimes naysayers or loud squawkers who will try to derail us from the main purpose, but we must ignore them and keep working hard to complete the job, and enjoy its rewards when we are ready.

You might be thinking that the squirrel only ate two peanuts and saved the rest. But let me tell you that after it ate those two peanuts, I deposited a whole bunch of peanuts on the ground, and the process started all over again. In the end, not only its efforts paid – it ate, it had a future source of food, and a whole new pile of peanuts to work on saving – the benefits compounded. I am sure that it will be very happy for some time.

Write, write, write, ignore the naysayers, work through the obstacles, and keep working towards the goal; in the end, your efforts will produce rewards, and the rewards will compound. I learned that from a busy squirrel in my garden.

photo by M.A.D.

photo by M.A.D.

Perseverance – Is it Worth the Pain?

Tape measure

Tape measure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it worth it? I have asked this a few times. It is a question that one time or another will cross your mind and heart. The answer to it is as individual as we are. It comes down to not so much the Why or What or even When but of How Much. How much do you want something (Fill the blank)?  This is where the answer is. I have read countless of books on achieving goals/dreams and many of them focus on the Why. Find your why and you will find a reason. This is true; however, sometimes a reason is not enough, no matter how powerful. Sometimes it comes down to how much you want something, and is it worth the pain to achieve it. By pain I mean all the things you will have to do, modify, change, refuse, sacrifice, endure … to persevere to get what/where you want.

Is it a matter of time? To each its own, time is irrelevant, I have found (although necessary as a measure in the physical). It is my perception of time that matters. How long am I willing to keep on going, on believing, on working towards this or that, on waiting, on just being there, on trying, on moving on, on … How much am I willing to give? How much of my time, my energy, my effort, my hope, my faith, my focus, my interest, my … How much? How much longer will I … persevere? Is it worth it? The answer is as individual as you are. How Much for you is all about You. You, Me, we are in constant evolution. You, Me are one and of the same. It adds another layer, doesn’t it?

Write, Write, Write, Then Take the Plunge and Make Things Happen

Lao Tzu, traditionally the author of the Tao T...

Lao Tzu, traditionally the author of the Tao Te Ching (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was in elementary school, I read a quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse (also known as Lao Tzu, Lao Tze, Laosi …), and it stood with me for the rest of my life. In Spanish, because that is the language in which I read it, it read “De las cosas ni lo mucho ni lo poco, en el termino medio reside el equilibrio.” Translating it to English it means, “Of things, not too little nor too much, in the middle resides the equilibrium.”  I don’t know why when I read this from a book being read in the classroom that day, this quote made a home in my memory but it has lived with me since. I remember reading it over, and liking it for some reason. In a way, I think it has permeated how I lived my life, and I don’t know if that is good or bad. It sounds the opposite to “live to the fullest all the way!” But I have always beware of excess. Thank you Lao Tse?

As a writer,  I applied that philosophy, most likely unaware of it. In the beginning, I wrote, and wrote, researched the craft, learned, pondered, kept learning, pondered some more, and decided to take the plunge. I became an indie and published my work.  The key here is that it was not a rushed or prolonged decision; it was taken after much research and deliberation, but at a comfortable time for me as a writer.  I think this quote applies to the process I experienced before self-publishing. Thank you Lao Tse.

At times, aspiring writers follow the advice “write, write, write” but that is as far as they go. They get stuck in the writing phase, and maybe do a little research about the craft, and begin doubting themselves. Fear is a normal part of the process, so is doubt. Researching and learning, while writing, will take care of those two nuisances. However, not too little nor too much (or too long) that you become paralyzed and do nothing about your future as a writer, whether that is embracing the traditional model of publishing or becoming and indie writer. At one point, you will have to find your equilibrium before taking the plunge.

The middle is where balance resides but you have to find your own middle to find your equilibrium, and decide when it is the right time for you as a writer to take the plunge. Not too little as to be unprepared, not too much as to become paralyzed by procrastination or doubt/fear. In the later, you might have to see if there are some areas where you need strength by learning a bit more, and find your balance. Once you find your equilibrium, you can make a comfortable and informed decision.  You will have found your equilibrium.

Doubting Your Path, Saving Your Step

In most cultures, education is important and regarded as primordial in obtaining a great job, and a better future/life. I agree that education is one of the greatest tools/steps a person can take to enrich his/her life, as well as to open doors to a good future (and present); however, at times, society blinds us to accept expectations that may not be our own. It is not unheard of the person who becomes a lawyer planning to earn a healthy income, when his/her heart is speaking art, and every cell of his/her body is aching to live creating art (whatever the form), but the mind is focusing on the material/monetary part of making a living, therefore he/she chooses the path of less resistance, a more secure path. Years later, despite a successful career and many achievements, there is a void that can be felt, despite futile attempts to fill it with —————– fill in the blank. What is that void, and why?

Most likely, it is the crevices of the creative self, drying out and opening up, longing for a fresh start, and a bit of creativity.  It is the soul that starved for art for so many years and the creative spirit that has not died because it still has not fulfilled its joy. Some answer the call, changing careers and accepting a joyful way of life, while others ignore the call, deciding to stay safe, and sacrificing the experience of a more fulfilling journey. They have their own reasons, all valid, however costly.

The myth of the starving artist continues to keep the creative spirit at bay, preventing some artists to use education as a great and valuable tool to perfect their craft and create a satisfying pathway when they embark on the journey of their lives – selecting a career they love, loving what they do, doing what they love. Education enriches the journey. When you doubt your path, you can save your step, or a lifetime of steps, by using education to enhance your passion.

What if you doubt your path, even when you know that it is what you should be doing? You have listened to your heart, took a few steps in the right direction, and now, you doubt. You may have come to a halt, saving your step, and puzzled, frustrated at the lack of results, enveloped in exhaustion, saturated with the sweat of your hard work, dedication, and tears … collapsing almost, with every heartbeat that becomes faint, as you fall into your knees, looking at the dirt on the road, the dust that surrounds your creative self, and you see the drops that seem to kiss it, as they fall, the tears, the sweat … . I am so tired, you think, because you cannot utter the words. The lack of results (whatever your measure) rendered you mute, numb to creativity, desolated, angry. Angry with you and the entire world. Why? you think. I have done everything I should, and more; why? you whisper, why? you cry out! In your hands, the dirt of frustration you hold tight, squeezing every grain, until you open them, and slowly release the sand into the breeze, watching it go, lifting your eyes up, up from the dirt of the pathway, and taking in the same breeze that carries the sand. Then you notice the sky, the clouds, the birds … as if for the first time.  Because you have looked at your steps for so long, focusing on the pathway, hurried in your journey, dying to get there fast, you forgot to look up and take in all the beauty that looking up held for you. It is a new perspective now, and all it took was to save your step. Now, somehow your path seems anew, the journey seems full of possibility, and your creative soul, refreshed. Doubt? You don’t seem to find it. You breathe, you dust yourself up, you smile, and feeling grateful you happen to find yourself standing up, ready to take the next step. It is a new perspective, and all it took was to save your step.