Countdown to 2015 – 8 – Au Naturale, Wandering in Nature

The countdown to an adventurous 2015 continues with Nature, that sexy beast, coming in at 8. So with 10, we set intentions and with 9 we expressed gratitude for where we’ve come from and what has come to us. I can’t go further without mentioning the essential component of ‘time in nature’.

Why? Well, we’re all nature. We can start with that. We’re energy, vibrating at our own unique frequency, alive and connected to all that is alive. I believe we are at our happiest when we are most fully living our true nature, the ultimate expression of our essence and I think time in nature can turn our attention there.

I would bet on my infinite potential human life that there are studies about the good effects that time spent in nature has on a being’s mind, body and soul. Just today I read that this is a known contributor or common denominator in the lives of centenarians (people living to be over 100 years old).

Mostly I can just speak from personal experience.

When I am trying to process something there is nothing that helps me more than taking a mindful wander in nature. Depending on what is on my mind, what I want to be on my mind or what I am trying to get out of my mind, this mindful wander may be an adrenaline induced, heart pounding, sweaty climb up a mountain or it may be a slow, barefoot walk through a peaceful forest listening for the quietest sound I can hear or sitting in silence at the side of a lake.

Is there anyone who doesn’t find a mountain or ocean or flower to be beautiful?

Pachamama, Mother Nature, is my favorite artist in the world. The chaotic creativity of a buzzing jungle, the intense colors of a sunset that don’t even seem possible, the equal parts mystery and reason in the cycles of the sun, moon, tides, seasons and connection of it all…it is sheer mastery.

The Earth is a great healer too; it can provide everything we need. Shelter, food, medicine, each other, beauty… It is not a coincidence that we have evolved from cultures who were highly reliant on and educated in the dynamics of nature and the elements as a Provider and Teacher.

I cannot say with confidence that there is anything more humbling than a stormy ocean at night, a towering mountain adorned with crackling glacial ice or any other circumstances when nature decides to show her immense power and demand your respect.

And yet nature is also the most delicate of places…the peaceful, soothing sound of a flowing river, the calming “shhhhhhhh” of rustled tree leaves; everything perfectly in balance, ebbing flowing, responding, embracing what is.

In my humble opinion, the greatest of adventures happen in nature. It offers the most intensely beautiful experiences with all sorts of unpredictable circumstances…the greatest challenges rewarded with awe-inducing scenery that makes your head and heart ache with trying to understand how it is even possible.

And it can make you feel so small. I think this is beautiful. Sometimes I purposely picture myself in a natural place and I zoom out to a star-level view and I realize that I have a place in the world and yet anything seems possible from that perspective as I’m just a tiny person in an expansive universe.

Quite simply, nature mirrors us or we mirror nature. This makes it a magnificent teacher when we choose to spend dedicated time outside. Even in a city, we can go to a park or notice a flower growing in an unlikely place. I think it is so important to commit to going further into the great outdoors, the wilderness too.

If possible, an extended time living in nature is ideal…days, weeks, months. Notice all of the different sounds, species, colors and scents around. It is a gift and it is a lesson to live in a place long enough to notice the changing levels of the river, for instance, and to watch buds turn to blossoms.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

And now I’ve lost myself in my love letter to nature, so back to the point.

When processing something or when setting an intention, take a moment to go wander in nature while focusing on the question or desire and then notice what shows up. Maybe even pick a plant, rock, lake, animal, flower…whatever draws your attention and sit in its presence and notice its energy and where your thoughts, emotions and energy go.

Make a point of getting outside as often as possible, the more remote the better, but any nature will do. Notice how all of your senses are stimulated.

Plan an adventure in the great outdoors.

Sleep under the stars. Go somewhere where you can see the stars. Wish on a star.

Play outside. Create something outside. Be sure to have a hobby that is done in nature. It is no coincidence that moving to the 300+ days of sun and mountains in Colorado changed the quality of my life.

Read a book about our connection to nature…my favorites are by the author Bill Plotkin: Soul Craft, Nature and the Human Soul and Wild Mind. Or read some John Muir, National Geographic or learn a bit about Teddy Roosevelt.

This blog post could be a book and so I’ll leave it here for now.

My love of nature has brought me to the mountains of Patagonia, where I am living on a lake in Argentina and writing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to Patagonia…in pursuit of my passions and wanting to help others find theirs through this book and interactive guidebook.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me turn these passions into something to give and share. What I like about kickstarter is that it brings together people who are working towards something, who have something to share with people who want to be a part of making it happen.

I have 8 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of the type of material that will be in the interactive guidebook/journal, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days. They will be focused on personal development practices, specifically around getting ready to plan a glorious, adventurous new year. Number 8 here is focused on spending time in nature.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps; also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com as well.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me, the countdown to 2015.

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Countdown to 2015 – 9 – Gratitude

I am so grateful to write this post. Countdown to 2015…number 9 is brought to you by GRATITUDE. I am of the opinion that every intention, relationship, adventure, challenge, triumph, day, night…and yeah I’ll say it, life and death…should start with gratitude. I think it is that important.

If we can’t start from a place of gratitude, recognizing the good in the world and in our lives, we have nothing. I mean to be dramatic.

Expressing gratitude creates a mindset and a soulset (new word?) of abundance, possibility and positivity. It acknowledges where we’ve come from, what we’ve received and what good was there and is there. It is a response to the energy that has acted in our favor. It is a gift back to that source.

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” ~ Albert Einstein

Even in the worst of situations when the only thing we may have to be grateful for is to be alive, what a crazy wonderful thing that is…to be alive.

There’s that joke by Louis CK where he talks about flying and how people are getting pissed off about their wifi not working on a plane, for example, when they should be enjoying how crazy cool it is to be sitting in a big hunk of metal flying through the air at turbo speed.

There are thousands of studies that link gratitude to a state of well-being, happiness, personal growth, even good sleep. It is not a coincidence; it is truth. And it is easy. There is value in acknowledging that we are not alone in this world. We are supported and we are connected and we are part of a greater whole.

Some ways to keep gratitude front and center in your life (and please share others in the comments!):

Do something for someone…maybe someone you know or maybe a stranger…that is unexpected. Reflect on what you are grateful for and then share that in some way with others.

Keep a gratitude journal…handwritten or use an app. Record something you’re grateful for every day. Some days may be easier than others and some of the richest material may come out of the hardest days.

Let the last thought when you go to sleep as you shut your eyes be about the things that happened in your day that you are grateful for. 

Say “thank you” and mean it, maybe even hold eye contact while doing so if you’re face to face.

Take the opportunity on Thanksgiving and other milestone marker days to spend dedicated time thinking, writing and expressing what you are grateful for.

Set up some sort of sacred space in your home dedicated to your life, your intentions and such, where you can place notes and objects and reminders of what you are grateful for. Create imagery around it to keep it in your awareness.

Reach out to someone right now and tell them you are grateful for them and why. 

Journal about what is good in your life or even what is hard in your life and find the things within that for which you are grateful.

When you’re feeling your best of best or your worst of worst, let the first thing you do be to express gratitude…to acknowledge what there is to be grateful about in the situation.

Thank yourself for following your intentions and your passions and acknowledge what you’ve done for yourself.

I am so very grateful to have been on a journey of self-discovery for the last two years. I’m grateful for the experiences, the people who have supported and encouraged me and for realizing my talents and passions that I now wish to share.

I am grateful to have discovered a passion for adventure, transformation and for writing. I want to share that.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me turn these passions into something to give and share. What I like about kickstarter is that it brings together people who are working towards something, who have something to share with people who want to be a part of making it happen.

I have 9 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of the type of material that will be in the interactive guidebook/journal, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days. They will be focused on personal development practices, specifically around getting ready to plan a glorious, adventurous new year. Number 9 here is focused on starting your year with gratitude.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps; also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com as well.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me, the countdown to 2015.

Let’s Go on an Adventure in 2015!

We have this package of “a year” that we celebrate with champagne and kisses and often resolutions…the Earth has made another trip around the sun, through the cycle of the seasons, the shortest and darkest days, to the longest and brightest days. I don’t need to look too hard to find reasons to celebrate life and this seems like a pretty damn good one. I’ll take it.

So amidst all of the celebrations, I like to spend some time reflecting on the previous year…

What were my intentions last year? 

What did I do to work towards them? 

What were the key decisions and turning points in my journey towards those intentions?

Did any of them manifest? Have any of them changed?

What were the surprises? How did I respond?

What were the challenges and the lessons? What did I learn about myself?

Where did I find synchronicity and serendipity?

What were the highlights? The lowlights? and why?

What were my relationships like this year? What new people showed up in my life?

What did I let go of? Where did I explore something new?

And I like to then look forward to the next chapter of my story…

How have my intentions evolved for what I want for my life?

What do I want out of this next year?

What opportunities are available? 

What are my priorities?

How can I apply what I learned last year?

What do I need to do and what do I want to do?

What am I willing to do to make it all happen?

What resources do I have?

What’s my plan for checking in with my intentions and tracking my progress?

How do my dreams for the next year fit into the dream for my life?

This may seem a bit intense and those of you who know me know that that is sometimes true, but I like to think about it as passionate and intentional. I’m not doing this because it’s a “thing”…hashtag resolutions…I’m doing it because I actually do intend to make these dreams a reality. And when I’m intentional about setting intentions, the universe seems to conspire to help them become a reality…always in a way I don’t expect and not always on my time frame…but it happens.

I should also say that the questions are just meant to help guide me in this mindful exploration. I like to get creative and have fun with the process too. When I’m done, I end up with a list of meaningful intentions for the new year. And by all means, I celebrate.

New dreams, realms and possibilities are opening to you now.

New dreams, realms and possibilities are opening to you now.

One of my intentions, my Top Priority intention for next year, is to write and publish my book on my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around my passions and an interactive guidebook to personal change to go with it.

I’ve launched a campaign on kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! to help me make this happen. What I like about kickstarter is that it brings together people who are working towards something, who have something to share with people who want to be a part of making it happen.

I have 10 days left in my campaign. All or nothing…not to be dramatic, but you really do get everything you’ve raised if you meet your goal or you get nada.

To give people a taste of the type of material that will be in the interactive guidebook/journal, I am doing a countdown to 2015 with ten blogs over ten days, starting with this one. They will be focused on personal development practices, specifically around getting ready to plan a glorious, adventurous new year.

If you like what you’re reading here, please consider backing my campaign, any donation helps, and also please share my campaign with others who might be inspired. You can find out more about me and my story at erinkmac.com as well.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me and stay tuned for the countdown.

Write Now

I know this is going to sound biased coming from a writer, but I highly recommend everyone have some sort of writing practice as a personal development tool. If nothing else, it’s fun to be an adult and find your diary from when you were 6 years old and pouring your heart out. I sometimes picture myself at 80 years old reading the things that I’m writing now.

One of my favorite things to do is carry a little moleskin notebook around with me ‘a la Hemingway’. Here’s an exhausting, but not exhaustive list of the types of things I write down in there: the occasional ‘To Do’ list, book recommendations, my intentions for the year (at the front, so they are regularly in my face), little pieces of wisdom I learn from someone or discover myself as I’m out experiencing this highly stimulating world, inspiring quotes, dreams to be worked with later, more bits of wisdom, agreements I make with myself, doodles, and ideas as they pop into my head that I want to journal about or act on later. Last year I put my vision board in this little book so I could carry around the images with me. I also made a list of things I want to do regularly at the back of the notebook, where I give myself a “point” when I do them. I don’t know why a drawn line helps keep me motivated, but it does.

When I’m working towards a goal or making a change in my life, my sense of awareness is heightened. I am curious and ask questions and notice the little things around me. I think I’ll remember something later, but often just don’t. This little gem of a notebook becomes a treasure trove of these thoughts and discoveries. It lets you capture things “real time”, gives you a flavor of where you’re at with things when you look at it as a whole and also gives you a souvenir from that time in your life. And of course I realize this can be done electronically, but not for this chick. You’ll forever find me with my moleskins covered in random stickers. Flipping through the pages and seeing my own handwriting or scribbles is more intimate and holds more substance.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

And then there’s journaling…not just for traveling! Time never seems to tire, always just trucking along, tick tock, tick tock. We have experiences, we change, we grow…we let go of things, we gain new things, we let go of people, we meet new people. We make big changes and little ones, we live, we dream and hopefully we live our dreams. I can’t express how much I have learned about life and myself from regular journaling. Sometimes I’ll sit with a specific question or something I am trying to work through and write it all out, one of my principal methods of processing. Other times I just give myself a page limit, say 3 pages, and I free associate anything and everything that comes to my mind. (Julia Cameron calls this ‘morning pages’ in her book The Artists Way)

For journaling I actually type instead of going the handwritten route, which seems so contradictory to what I just said above. I’m living out of a backpack right now and so it simply makes more sense. If I could afford it, I’d have a sherpa just for my journals. Instead, go ahead and tease me, but I use the “handwriting” font on my MAC and type away. I like to do this in the morning as sort of a meditation…thoughts come up and they go on the paper. It honors the chaos by giving it a destination somewhere besides my brain…and then I can read it later and experience myself from the outside. I also like to journal at night with a glass of wine, by a fire and/or some cozy writing space. It doesn’t have to be a class or work, get comfortable and have the glass of wine.

New Years is coming up and my birthday is in June…for me, these are two natural milestones for reading back through my journals. Any cadence or milestone is great, whatever works, but definitely do it. I notice themes, ideas that unfolded into action and reality, relationships that have evolved, places where I got stuck, the things that helped me get unstuck, the new things I’ve tried, the feelings I’ve felt and what triggered it all, and little nuances that seemed like nothing at the time, but become the keys into my soul.

A few more little things I do that have been cool to do and to have later:

I keep a gratitude journal separately and I do join the modern ages for that one and use an app. There are apps that let you take pictures to go along with a daily entry. The one I’m using right now has a list of by date and title I’ve given to each entry, and then I can click on it to read what I wrote. Some days it is harder than others, but those are maybe the most important days to find something to be grateful for, the simplest thing. This is my first year doing it and I’m excited to look back through the year.

I also keep a running list of new things I’ve done in the year or “big” things I’ve done…no rule here, what makes the list is just according to me. I think it’s both important and fascinating to see what you’ve done, how you’re spending your time, what your priorities are, what goals you accomplished. It can point you to your passions, dreams, challenges, and new goals.

“We write to taste life twice.” ~ Anais Nin

If you like this post, you might like the big project I’m working on now. Please check it out: Let’s Go on an Adventure!

Dancing with Abundance

What a fitting time of year to be writing about abundance as the Northern Hemisphere celebrates the colorful harvest and the Southern Hemisphere bursts with the green of new life all around.

If you look at the word abundance itself, it seems to almost break into the words ‘abound’ and ‘dance’…as in, many opportunities abound! Anything is possible! And it is the interactive, connected, boundless nature of energy and life force in us that enables abundance. It is the dance we do with each other and spirit that brings these opportunities to life. And the great news is that we are all a part of this dance.

So how do we dance and seize the opportunities that abound? Perhaps it starts with recognizing the innate goodness inside each of us that makes anything possible that we choose to believe, that comes from this place of truth. We are all born with this space and ability to be good and to follow our true nature. The more of us acting from this space, the more opportunity for abundance. And because each of us have this space then we can know that there is enough goodness to go around for everyone. It is intangible, which can make it scary, but because of its intangibility it is endless. Our true nature and everything that comes along with it is something to be shared, not given away or taken.

After all, we are all unique and so we will have our own way of tapping into and interacting with this goodness, this essence. From this space we can feel the potential of what is possible and we can be in relationship with it within ourselves and each other. And the more we honor our own nature and encourage others to blossom, the more we share in this dance.

It may be helpful to take a look at the opposite of abundance, scarcity, to draw a more complete picture. The images, emotions and words that arise when I think of scarcity are: negative, emptiness, being without, alone, fear-based, limited, selfish, restrained and just plain dark. I see abundance as positivity, coming from within, connected, possible, confident, aware, present, fulfilling, collective, limitless, accessible and colorful.

Why do we need abundance? What does abundant thinking do for us? It helps us look for the positive in our lives and to see what we do have. It helps us look for opportunities and to believe that they are possible. It encourages us to help each other and participate actively in the collective evolutionary journey. We overcome fears…fear of running out of money or time, fearof unfulfilled dreams. We live in the present…we no longer need to say “ah, someday…” or “I will be happy when…” or “I will do xyz when…” Thinking abundantly shows gratitude and acknowledges Spirit and intentions and the power to manifest that we each have when acting from our true nature.

Some simple examples of switching from scarcity thinking to abundant thinking (These are for exemplary purposes. Any one of these or another example could be a whole blog):

Scarcity thinking: Someone took my idea and they are successful and now I’ll never make it as a ________. I’m jealous.
Abundant thinking: I am unique and have my own angle to share that resonates with others. This person’s success is an example of that. I’m curious and learning.

What actions can we take towards abundance? How do we think and act abundantly?

  • Change scarcity statements into affirmations.
  • When sitting in scarcity or perceived scarcity, acknowledge what you do have and see the abundance. It is available.
  • Meditate, be present. The past has brought us to this moment. The future will be decided based on what we do and feel in the present. Be abundant with your present moment.
  • Help others from a true space (not conditional giving).
  • Set intentions and believe they are possible.
  • Trust.

You Can’t Change Without Changing

You can’t change without changing. Now that seems a bit obvious. I started using this phrase with clients though because I was discovering a phenomenon of sorts. The desire to change was there, or sometimes even just the realization of the necessity to change and yet they were stuck. I started witnessing this with friends in their personal lives as well. But really, let’s be honest. I started noticing this in me.

“Oh that’s not how we do things here.”

“That’s not me.”

“I can’t do that.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I would if I could.”

“It’s not working.”

It is natural to want to start making changes slowly and subtly while still hanging on to the comfort of what we know even if it is the very comfort that we wish to leave. The brain is an efficient organ that survives on recognizing familiar situations and putting the familiar responding circuit into action. Therefore, it actually experiences something new as a threat, or in the very least, something what it is: new! A new response is called for and this is outside of the majority of the tasks that the brain performs. Remember that we also have brain cells in our heart and our gut, which can explain the pangs of knowing that we get when you can “feel it in your gut” or your “heart is telling you to do something.” It really is a full body experience to change. So we need to break these old circuits to create something new, if you want to look at it from a neuroscience perspective.

I also like to look at it from a more emotional and/or spiritual perspective, and that is to say that we have to create the space for change…sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally, sometimes in our minds. At a minimum we need the space in our awareness.

personal example:

Stuckness: I have been dreaming and planning a move abroad, and I am ready, but I have this house and a mortgage. It would be great if the house could be a form of savings for me. It won’t rent for enough money; it won’t sell. This has been going on for months and months. I am stuck.

Letting go: The house represents my ego and my old way of being and is keeping me anchored to my old life. For what I am about to do, it is best for me to let it go and sell it. What do I need to do to get this house sold? Who can help me? It is possible. (and it was)

Now this is a personal example and I’m just giving the minimal details. It took me a lot of work to decide that was the right decision for me. As I sat and cried while writing out the check for the amount of money I lost. I thought, “Am I absolutely crazy? No, I just believe in my dream this much and I am taking the leap.” And imagine how tough it was one year later to hear of friends buying and selling houses within hours. When I tell people I meet here in Argentina, “I sold my house and moved abroad,” they often say something along the lines of “That’s incredible, but I just don’t understand why you sold your house??” I don’t know the Spanish yet for how to say, “Great question! Well, it represented my ego, my old way of living, an old failed relationship and I was ready to let go and create space for new!”

So a few simple thoughts to help trigger the unsticking process:

Play the “what would it look like” game. Let yourself dream and create a vision. When you make the change, what will it look like? What will it feel like? What will you be doing and how will your situation and people around you respond? How will you know when you are there?

Then look at what is standing in your way. What is in your control and what is out of your control? Be honest about this. Great news! You can’t change something out of your control so you can cross those items off of your ‘to do’ or ‘to worry about’ list. Rather, look at any road blocks and barriers you see and focus on how you can navigate them. Sometimes you can break them right down. Sometimes it involves much more work and you might even feel you are getting away from the original point. Go back to your vision exercises. Don’t try to skirt road blocks; they’ll show up again. That’s a promise.

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know” – Pema.

When taking the leap, acknowledge the role in your life that the state you are leaving has played. Creating space for new can often feel like a mini death of sorts. It is important to acknowledge what was good, what you can take with you and to grieve the loss.

Reach out to others for help.

Be honest with yourself.

Now jump.

I like to use the analogy that I had to use to try skydiving for the first time. Just jump out of the plane and then let the rest happen…let the view zoom by, let the parachute do its job and trust that it will, enjoy the float back to solid ground. You have to let go though. Now I’m not saying we should just run and jump out of a plane the second we realize we want a change. Rather, letting go and fully saying yes to the change is often the last part, the hardest part and what can keep us stuck. So get yourself ready, jump and enjoy the ride.

This can apply to tangible situations like I described for myself (selling a house), but also to growing yourself as a person, relationships and other less tangible transformations.