Tag Archives: Driven Diva

A Bird in Hand

By Valerie Sheppard

As I engage in spiritual transformation discussions with my clients, workshop participants, and members of my Heartful Awakening Circle online community (www.HeartfulAwakenings.com) who are making choices to have more of what they want in their lives, I am noticing a trend.  It’s one that feels prudent and wise on the surface, but detrimental when you get to the ‘deepest intent’ that underlies that.

The troublesome aspects of life today are forcing many into total upheaval.  Relationships, jobs, finances and lifestyles are all in a state of flux, and many weighing options to take their experiences to new levels of fulfillment and security.  As they do so, an ages-old proverb appears to be coming into play, and it might be hurting all of us.

A bird in the hand is worth (better than) two in the bush

Sources like Wise Geek.com and Phrases.org agree this proverb is saying that you’re likely to be better off by sticking with something you already have, rather than pursuing something you may never get.  The warning is that if you pass up a sure-thing (the thing you already have/know) to go for something that might be better, you may end up without both.

There are several accounts as to the origin of the proverb, some dating back to the 13th century, including that it comes from medieval falconry where the bird in your hand was the means to getting the two in the bush.  In this case, without the larger and skilled predator skills of the falcon, one wouldn’t be able to eat the smaller birds in the bush for dinner.  Perhaps you gained this wisdom when you read Aesop’s Fable of The Hawk and the Nightingale, in which a Hawk tells its nightingale prey as the latter begs to be released,  ”I’d be crazy to release a bird I’ve already caught in favor of birds I don’t even yet see.” There is even a Biblical reference from 1382:  Ecclesiastes IX – A living dog is better than a dead lion.

Regardless the proverb sounds like a lesson in the wise use of resources.  However, it’s putting a nice “useful” cover on a base emotion of fear, and on scarcity, lack, and limitation beliefs that prevent us from trusting ourselves and taking greater risks to experience our higher good. 

I’m recalling a particular apparatus on a ropes course at California’s renowned Challenge U, one of my favorite experiential learning facilities.   On this apparatus, you’re walking a tight-rope some 40-feet in the sky.  As you traverse the rope with your feet, you are using your arms to balance yourself on individual ropes hanging above your head.  These upper ropes are spaced just far enough apart, that you have to let go of one to grab the next one!  So each step along the way, you have to dangle out there in mid-air for a millisecond holding onto nothing before you can reach the next rope. [You are wearing top-notch safety gear of course, including helmet, safety harness, and gloves, and you’re being guided by one of Challenge U’s expert coaches.]  While there are other apparatus in the ropes part of Challenge U’s tools, this particular experience helps one feel what it’s like to be in the void while going toward a goal. The idea is to help people learn to feel the fear, and keep going anyway.

This is the heart of Courage, Faith and Trust. 

There are times when the bird in hand is practically killing us, and still we won’t put it down until something better is right at hand.  We probably all know at least one person who hates their job, but stays anyway, just for the money; a couple who stays married long after the relationship is over solely “for the kids” or the financial security; people who won’t risk going for something they dream about because they’re not sure they can make it.

I certainly have been there.  Before I left my last corporate job in 2006, I was “grinning and bearing it” long after I knew I was unhappy.  When I stepped into my radical sabbatical, I felt fear of loss, lack and limitation at a deep level.  It wasn’t easy leaving my corporate salary and business comfort zones.  This proverb came up many times. But in the end, I chose to step out anyway.

We’re in a time of massive shifts in the Universe.  The New Age of Enlightenment is upon us, and the energies it’s bringing are about destruction of the old, outdated, no-longer-serving-us aspects of our consciousness to make way for Truth.  Now, perhaps more than ever before, each of us is being supported to step into the void in order to claim higher ground.  But instead of stepping out in Faith, many are locked in fear and “hanging in there” with energetic vibrations that are holding them back.

I believe the struggles we’re seeing around the world are about coming out of this stasis.  More of us have to be willing to step into and learn to thrive in the void if we are to truly shift the vibration of social consciousness.  We must learn to be listen to the signs along the way screaming NO!, it’s time to leave, exit, release, drop, or whatever form of not-doing- it-anymore fits.

We must have the Courage, Faith and Trust to answer the call to leave before
the something better comes along if we truly want to live our most vibrant lives.

Perhaps our various forecasts of the future have numbed and misguided us.  Humankind’s ability to “predict” weather patterns, revenue, stock performance, life expectancies, prices, unemployment, purchasing, political races, etc. may be teaching us to look too long before we leap.   When we wait for the exact right moment to make change happen in our lives we miss the greater gift that comes from the willingness to dance with the questions and experience the fear as we choose to move forward anyway.

We must make peace with the unknown, and see our ‘Bird in Hand’ dilemmas as calls from the Soul to step into the void and feel safe! 

We’re always in some form of the unknown.  We can only know so much about how things are going to play out, and even in the midst of our sophisticated systems for projecting and predicting, we still get it wrong.  It feels more important to be at peace without knowing.

In the NOT knowing, we’re actually at our most flexible point.
In the NOT knowing, we’re open to more possibilities and in the possibilities,
there are more opportunities for triumph.  

Here’s your call to action:  Look at where you are “hanging in there,” or “grinning and bearing it” through what is not serving you, believing it’s your proverbial Bird in Hand.  Go into the fear that is keeping you from acting in your own best interest and make peace with whatever is causing it.  As the fear subsides, instead of waiting to see what will happen if you let go, perhaps it’s time to let go first, and then keep your heart open for the possibilities that you’ve just created!

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Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

By Valerie Sheppard

Today I enjoyed a wonderful You-Tube video with a group of people staging a ‘laugh-in’ on the subway. It is a wonderful illustration of how laughter is contagious!  To watch it, click HERE.

One of the joys of participating in and teaching Laughter Yoga is that I’ve experienced first hand that laughter, whether purposefully generated or in response to something we see or experience that’s funny, has the same wonderful and generative benefits:  we relax, endorphins go racing through the body, and we receive a big injection of HAPPINESS!  Whoever first coined the adage that laughter is the best medicine was right!

The Benefits of Laughter
Physical Health Benefits:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease
Mental Health Benefits:

  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and fear
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Enhances resilience
Social Benefits:

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps diffuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

You’ve probably already heard me say that happiness leads to success and not the other way around.  It stands to reason then that if laughter gives you happy moments, it can contribute to your success.

Whatever else you do in any given day, take a few minutes to spend some time in laughter.  You can visit my laughter page where you’ll find funny videos, jokes and images, find a laughter club near you (if you’re in Orange County, come join me at the Laguna Beach Laughter Club), check out some improv comedy live performances or videos, or start giggling for absolutely no reason at all!  When you keep it going for more than 20 minutes, the laughter itself is therapeutic and will energize and inspire your day.  If you’d like to bring more laughter into your workplace, invite LaughFit to create a program there.

Wishing you a laughter-filled day, a life overflowing with happiness, and much success in all things.

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Meditation: A Tool For Happiness or An Exercise in Frustration?

By Valerie Sheppard

3 Great Tips to Turn Your Meditation into a Rewarding Experience!

When I first started meditating several years ago, it was anything but fulfilling!  I would make time in my calendar, sit down and “try” to meditate.  I would get uncomfortable trying to hold the same still position, my mind would be full of thoughts and chatter, and I would feel frustrated and unfulfilled when it was over.  Can you relate to that?   Meditation certainly didn’t live up to its reputation of a centering, peaceful, rejuvenating experience.  I was ready to throw in the towel!

Fortunately, I didn’t!  I kept exploring meditation and my relationship with it through workshops, and even multiple-day silent retreats.  Over time, my investment paid off.  I found various tools that have worked for me, and my experience  of meditation has been richly rewarding ever since.  In fact, meditation has become my favorite means of staying centered and feeling that I am in the flow.  It has become the foundation of my daily spiritual practice and something that greatly feeds my soul and state of happiness.  Hallelujah!

I’d like to help you create a similar relationship with and fulfilling practice of meditation.

Tip #1

Let go of pre-conceived notions of what meditation is and isn’t.  If, like me, you have these ideas about how you “do” meditation and what is “supposed” to happen when you meditate, you may be holding yourself back.  Yes, there are “techniques” and some of them have specific postures and durations associated with them.  But it’s not necessary to start with those forms of meditation.  You can simply start by taking a break in a busy day, closing your eyes, and following your breath.  For me, that was a great start.  I let go of the things-to-do list, and for a few lovely moments, was quietly with me.  In “True Meditation,” Zen Master Adyashanti advises that our attitude is key to our meditation experience.  “We need to come to meditation in a way that is fresh and innocent.”  In other words, let go of the list of ideas and expectations you have and start with a totally clean slate.

Tip #2

Give up “trying to meditate.”  If you are trying to do anything while you’re meditating, you’re defeating the purpose of meditating.  The point here is to let go of doing-ness altogether.  The act of meditating is the only act.  You’re not trying to control the body or stop thought.  When you’re doing this manipulating and controlling in meditation, you’re actually resisting what is, and when you’re in resistance, you cannot feel peaceful and you cannot quiet the mind or body.  It’s in allowing that you are able to do that.  You simply sit and allow everything that happens to happen.  Eventually, the body rests and the mind quiet.  The more often you meditate, the more the body and mind get into a rhythm of releasing and quieting.

Tip #3

Commit to creating a practice.  The experience of meditation and the benefits derived from meditating deepen and expand over time.  David Fontana, author of “Learn to Meditate:  A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment” says “meditation is a path without end.” We engage in the practice without expectation and keep engaging with open heart and mind.  If every day feels daunting to you at first, choose a different frequency.  If 20 or 30 minutes feels out of the question, sit for 10 or 15 minutes instead.  You can also do briefer and longer sits if you feel called to do so.  I meditate for 30-60 minutes daily and also integrate 2-5 minute mini sits whenever I feel the need to decompress.

The key is to get started and keep going!  Once you integrate these 3 tips, any meditation technique you work with will become easier for you.  In fact, I’ll bet that over time, despite current appearances to the contrary, you will soon discover the Master Meditator that is already within you!

If you are interested in pursuing this more deeply, come check out my next Be Still and Mindful Meditation Tele-workshop at www.StillandMindful.com   I promise it will be fun, easy and rewarding!

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From Driven Diva to “Happy to Be ME!™”

By Valerie Sheppard

Happiness can feel like a land far away.  A place that once we arrive, the stay is brief.  This was my experience for most of my life.  I would hit a great place, feel unbelievably happy, and be convinced that I would feel that way forever more.  But soon, the feeling would wane, and then disappear.  I used to wonder why something so wonderful was so elusive, and why it had to be wedged into such fleeting periods between periods of ‘not-very-happy-at-all.’ I’m glad I started asking myself questions like that. One-by-one, they led me to where I am today:  Happy to Be ME!

But back in 2005, I was stressed out, overworked, and driven.  What I affectionately call a “Driven Diva” in fact.  A serial over-achiever, striving day in and day out to get to success and fulfillment.

  • I would push to make things happen.
  • I believed I had to be poised even in the highest stress situations.
  • I often felt like there was a double-standard keeping me from having it all.
  • I had to do it all because I figured asking for help would be a sign of weakness.
  • I was smiling on the outside, but secretly mentally and emotionally exhausted, and a little resentful on the inside.

The happiness I was looking for would come in external occurrences:  praise or recognition from bosses, vacations, expensive meals, promotions, a good bottle of wine, a fun date.  But deep down, I knew something was missing.  I knew happiness wasn’t supposed to be the way I was experiencing it.  I knew there was much more, I just didn’t know how to access it; I didn’t know what to shift to have the kind of happiness I deserved.  And I was envious of people around me who looked like they did.

Thank goodness those days are behind me!  Thank goodness for that momentous day in Hoag Hospital Emergency Room, where I asked another question that started the journey into the biggest shifts in my life.  Thank goodness for the “radical sabbatical” that started in 2006, and all the things I’ve experienced that have helped me connect to the authentic happiness within, and keep the happiness flowing in my life no matter what is going on around me.

Why is my focus on happiness?  Because one of the things I’ve learned is that happy people have stronger immune systems, are more successful and live longer.  Yes, all those years I was chasing happiness as a result of success, I had it backward!  So if you want to feel more healthy, fulfilled and create more success in your life, take a trip inward and tap into your own innate place of joy!

Where is this you ask?  It’s actually who you really are.  You are Magnificent Essence – the ME in Happy to Be ME! – the spiritual nature of you that is having the human experience of your life.  True and lasting happiness is already a part of who you really are, and therefore available to you every minute.  The longer you look for happiness in things outside you and that you can’t control, the longer you’ll be unfulfilled and unhappy.

“Finding” authentic happiness is about a journey within; it’s about creating a deep relationship with yourSelf.  You have to go beneath the personality, identity, story and woundology of who you are – that’s  the me in “mighty ego.” Instead, remember the Truth of who you are as “Image and Likeness of the Divine.”  As that Truth, you are Peace, Love, Freedom and Joy.  Everything you seek is always already inside you.  I have lived in 10 states, moved 22 times and visited 27 countries on 5 continents, and the journey into me has been the most rewarding one I’ve ever experienced.  And I never had to go anywhere to take it!  How magnificent is that?!

Here are some tools you’ll want to have on this journey:

  1. Desire to be free of limiting beliefs and behaviors that hold you back and willingness to take committed action;
  2. Some specific steps to take that can be your roadmap;
  3. A guide to help you through the tough spots;
  4. A support structure to keep you going as the journey unfolds.

We live in the human realm, and here, there will always be human experiences … struggle, lack, limitation, fear, frustration, disease.  But when you tap into the Magnificent Essence of you, you will transcend the debilitating effects of these experiences and authentic happiness will be a part of your life even in the midst of those and other things that would ordinarily make you unhappy.

In the end, it’s about free will.  You get to choose how your life will be.  You can choose to continue to search in struggle and suffering for fleeting moments of external happiness.  Or you can choose to give yourself the only happiness that matters:  that which is the real you.

For people ready to choose the latter, I am standing by to help.  There is nothing more rewarding than to give back and share what has worked for me.  The Heart of Living Vibrantly™ was founded on my desire to help others find their own roadmap to authentic happiness.  Every time I share an insight or a tool that shifts someone’s life for the better, I am deeply grateful and fulfilled.  It is rewarding in a way that all my past successes will never be.

Each month I offer a FREE Coaching Call and Meditation.  If you are ready to take committed action and step into a more vibrant, heartful life centered on your own declaration of “I’m Happy to Be ME!,” I encourage you to join me.  You deserve to have the Peace, Love, Freedom and Joy that is available.  You deserve to have all of You.

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