The True Beauty of a Woman

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The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart,
the place where love resides. The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole,
but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.

 – Sam Levenson, excerpt from “The Beauty of a Woman”

Beauty consumes a lot of time and energy for most modern-day women. Whether it be shopping for makeup, trying to lose weight, primping before a hot date, fretting over a pimple that shows up the morning of an important meeting, researching and finding the skin care system that’s actually going to work, spending a fortune on anti-aging cremes and visits to the dermatologist… maintaining our appearance is a lot of work!

But what if the one thing we needed to enhance our beauty to its utmost was absolutely free? What if it was something we already possess? Right here, right now.

Because it absolutely is.

Outer beauty is a reflection of our inner experience.

At the tail end of my marriage, I remember looking through photos from my father’s surprise birthday party and noticing for the first time what seemed to be a permanent frown on my face. You know…  those candid shots where people catch you off-guard? When you’re relaxed, not “putting” on a smile? Just being you?

Yeah… that’s when it really hit. That’s when I witnessed that the misery I’d be experiencing inside was starting to show up on the outside.

Up until this point, I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of hiding how I felt. But I was wrong. My deep unhappiness was written all over my face.

Staring at the photos that day was my ah ha moment. That was when I realized things had to change. And as soon we decided to set each other free and part ways, you better believe that frown turned upside down.

No doubt outer beauty is either magnified or diminished depending on what’s going on inside of us.

And what is the magic ingredient for magnifying our inner beauty, which then translates to our outer beauty?

One word: Joy.

And how do we find that joy and inner radiance?

By being true to ourselves. By being authentic. By going after what it is we want in life. And never apologizing for who we are but rather embracing every part of us. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Realizing that to be human, is to be imperfect.

The funny thing is, once we stop covering up or hiding the things we feel are imperfect, that’s when our true beauty starts to shine. Because true beauty is all about just being YOU. The wonderful, fabulous, imperfect being that you are.

If you take a moment, you’ll notice who around you is in touch with their inner joy. It can be seen in the sparkle of  someone’s eyes. The lift in their step. The glow of their skin that no amount of makeup or creme could ever replicate.

These are the people we feel drawn to. No matter the measure of physical attributes, it’s that je ne sais quoi that sparks our interest when we meet someone. It’s intangible yet undeniably powerful.

That is the type of beauty that never fades. It’s timeless and readily accessible at any time.

No one and no thing can give us lasting joy. We have to create it for ourselves. Then, once we find it, find what makes us tick, we can share that joy with others.

For the more joy we have, the more beauty we exude on all levels of our life. Which creates more beautiful things in and around us that makes life worth living.

So how about you? How do you define beauty? When do you feel your MOST beautiful? What brings you joy? What turns you on inside and brings you to LIFE?

Today’s blog is part of August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest
(#BOAW3) to which I’m a proud contributor for the third year in a row!
Head on over between now and March 2nd to read the other submissions
and for a chance to win a prize!

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The Process of Finding Our Path

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Each one of us has our own unique way of finding purpose in our lives. There’s no “one way” of finding it. If it were that easy, there wouldn’t be hundreds of books published on the subject or countless numbers of workshops. So what I offer here on my blog is just a suggestion, of course. It’s a compilation of different resources I’ve found that have helped me.

And like I said… because I know what it’s like to live a life disconnected from purpose, I have a huge passion for sharing what I’ve discovered.

I’ve mentioned Parker Palmer a few times now because his life’s work centers around teaching others how to live a purposeful, authentic life. So we’ll continue with some of what he’s shared.

In A Hidden Wholeness, he uses a Taoist tale written 2,500 years ago that offers up a beautiful example of how something is created in our lives. Be it a work of art, a new business… anything really. As Khing the master carver shows us, it all begins within.

Read through the story, see what it evokes in you, and let’s compare notes. 🙂

The Woodcarver

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood.  When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lai said to the master carver
“What is your secret?”

Khing replied, “I am only a workman:
I have no secret.  There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
on trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell-stand.

Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
And begin.

If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

What happened?
My own collected thoughts
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood:
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits.

Gosh… there is just so much there. Where to even being?! I feel like I could spend 3 blogs just diving into what he’s expressing through this story. Parker Palmer takes an entire chapter to discuss its meaning. But I think the main point here is: go within and you will find the answers. 

So if you’re confused about what you should be doing with your life, or perhaps you already know but are unsure as to what step to take next, just take a moment and ask yourself what it is you truly want. Then tune in, listen, and see what you find.

If we take the time to pause in our lives, free ourselves from distraction long enough to tap into our inner knowing, we’ll find we already have the answers. And just like the bell stand, the masterpiece of what we so deeply desire is already there. Waiting to be revealed.

So how about you? What struck you most after reading the story and how can you apply that message to your own life? Or does it apply at all? If you feel you’re living your purpose in life, how did you find it? What worked for you?

Finding Our Way Home

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Theologian Frederick Beuchner defines vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” Which I love. Because it reminds us that there is a need in this world that only we can fulfill. And our joy points us in the direction of that specific need.

But why is it that some of us find ourselves at a place in life where we’re working jobs that don’t tap into that deep gladness? Why is it that we would choose work that, in fact, does the opposite and takes the joy from us? Because it happens. A lot.

Parker Palmer illustrates the reason why in the beginning of his book, The Hidden Wholeness: A Journey Toward an Undivided LifeApparently in the olden days, at the onset of a blizzard, farmers would tie a rope from their house to the barn. So in case of a white out, they’d be able to find their way home. It wasn’t uncommon for people to get so disoriented during a bad blizzard that they would lose sight of their house and perish in the storm.

Terrible to think about I know. But how many of us are experiencing the exact same thing in our lives right now? We’ve ventured out into the storm of life and somehow lost our rope. Our connection to home. We’ve departed so far from our truest nature, from the inner knowing we arrive on this earth possessing, and we’re struggling to find our way back?

We go through life, never quite understanding why we’re here, not realizing that the answers are right in front of us. Hidden beneath expectations, obligations, and ego. The blizzard, as Parker Palmer puts it, “swirls around us as economic injustice, ecological ruin, physical and spiritual violence… fear and frenzy, greed and deceit…” Each of us faces quite a lot in our daily lives.

And this to me is the real tragedy of life. Allowing these outside forces to obscure our path to real joy and instead, living on the periphery of the greatness within.

I’m no expert but I have been there. I lived through years of confusion, blinded by the storm, not knowing what I was meant to do. Then finding out, but not yet having the confidence to believe in my calling. So I realize it’s a process. Answers may not come over night but they do come. And my desire to share what I’ve learned thus far is my attempt to throw you a rope. To help guide you back to your homeland where the world so desperately needs you to be.

So where are you at on your journey? What questions do you have about where you’re at right now? Is there something you’re dying to do but haven’t yet? I love to hear your comments so do share. 🙂

Full Speed Ahead

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Today we ring in the Chinese New Year. Which I’ve always preferred to our traditional calendar New Year.

I don’t know about you, but I always feel this pressure around the holidays to get it together and then bam. New Year’s Day hits and there’s this air of expectation to launch into the New Year with resolutions in tow, ready to start afresh with new and improved habits. Which is great for getting us motivated and envisioning our future goals!

But by now, the excitement of the first of the year has worn off and we’re now settled into our routines. The resolutions either stuck or they didn’t. For many, there’s always that let down of slipping back into old habits. And around about now, there’s this lull.

That’s when the Chinese New Year comes in to remind of us again of the potential of new beginnings.

This year’s symbol of the Wooden Horse is all about charging into the future we’ve envisioned and unabashedly pursuing our dreams. Through this inspiration, I’m launching a new direction with my blog.

Well, not really a new direction. The whole intention of my blog has been to inspire us all to live life to the fullest. But now I want to focus primarily on our callings as individuals.

Some of us know what we were put on this earth to do and are doing it. Some of us know why we’re here, but haven’t yet stepped out in that direction. And some of us are still searching.

Having been on the journey of losing then finding my path, I am now deeply passionate about helping others find their purpose in life. And once found, provide the support and inspiration to believe and trust in their new-found way.

If this interests you in any way, then stay tuned! I’ll be bringing you stories of inspiration, articles, and guides to help you on your journey. The journey, I feel, that’s the most important one we could ever embark on. Because once we find our purpose and lock into that, it’s full speed ahead to all the greatness that life has to offer.

So where are you at on your journey? Have you found your calling? Are you still searching? What tools do you feel you could most use at this point in time? Also, if you want to read a wonderful article about the Year of the Horse, click here. Happy New Year! 🙂

Purposeful Giving for Greater Fulfillment

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In Susan Dominus’ New York Times article featuring Adam Grant, the 31-year old Wharton School professor of organizational psychology, she poses the question: “Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?” Not really a fan of the message that the title conveys (giving to get) but I am a huge fan of Grant and the example he sets for us all.

The bulk of the article focuses on the sheer amount of giving that Grant integrates into his daily life. Mainly with his students but really to anyone who comes along asking for help, whether he knows them or not.

In addition to his regular work load, he often responds to more than 200 emails a day, writes over 100 letters of recommendation a year, and sets aside four-hour blocks of time each week to counsel any student who may need help. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Giving, it seems, is Grant’s purpose.

What makes him different from most of us? He never says no to a request for help. Ever. It seems there is no end to his giving.

If this were any other professional, it may not have piqued my interest quite as much. But because Grant’s field of expertise is the study of efficiency and productivity in the workplace, one naturally takes a closer look at how he structures his own life.

For Grant, helping is not the enemy of productivity, a time-sapping diversion from the actual work at hand; it is the mother lode, the motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity… The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.

I just love this because it shows that one of the best things we can do is help one another. Which should be obvious, right? But how many of us feel we don’t have time? How many of us are already overwhelmed with all our duties? Working, taking care of our families, being a good friend, a good spouse or partner, exercising, maintaining a household, paying bills, and somewhere in there, factoring in a little fun. But this article proves that incorporating time for service actually enhances all the other facets of our lives and it’s worth taking the time to do so.

That’s what I think Dominus meant with the title of this article. Correlating giving with levels of success.

Every time we give, we receive. But I think we can all agree it’s best to give without the expectation of receiving. To give from the heart. Which is really all Grant is doing. Giving in the way he feels called.

I especially love the study he did as a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s fund-raising call center. The failure rate for callers was around 93% and morale was very low because of the amount of rejection the employees endured. Well, Grant had the idea of bringing in scholarship recipients to speak with the callers to show them the results of their efforts.

A month after the testimonial, the workers were spending 142 percent more time on the phone and bringing in 171 percent more revenue, even though they were using the same script. In a subsequent study, the revenues soared by more than 400 percent. Even simply showing the callers letters from grateful recipients was found to increase their fund-raising draws.

Simply put, when we connect giving with a sense of purpose, we deepen our sense of fulfillment and increase our productivity. Hence, becoming more successful in every sense of the word.

As we enter this season of giving, what are some ways in which you feel called to give? How can you take that spirit of giving into the new year? What are some ways you’re already giving to those around you? If you read the full article, what was your takeaway? Would love to hear your thoughts so do share. 🙂

Photo courtesy of http://www.wma.us

Finding Our Life Purpose Through Listening

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What if, finding our life purpose, our calling… whatever you want to call it, was as simple as just listening? Listening to that voice. Listening to those urges. Listening to what tugs at our soul.

This is what Parker J. Palmer has advocated for decades through his work. And he should know. He started off, like millions of others, in a field where he was determined to rise to the top. But realized once he got there, that the position in which he’d worked years to attain, was actually a poor fit for him. He admits having felt “stifled” and knew that something else was calling him in a different direction.

In the article, Are You Listening to Your Life?, Palmer touches upon his “journey toward an undivided life” (the subtitle to his book A Hidden Wholeness) and gives his readers hope that they too can find their true purpose. Just by listening.

Vocation, I’ve learned, doesn’t come from willfulness. It comes from listening. That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” Before I tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen for what my life wants to do with me.

I’ve come to understand vocation not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received—the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation doesn’t come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I’m not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be.

So all we have to do is listen. It’s as simple as that.

But simple does not always mean easy. And Palmer talks about the resistance we experience even once we hear the truth of who we are and what we’re meant to do. Which is normal I think. It’s only natural to be weary of the unknown even if it’s, as Palmer says, our “birthright.”

So if you’re on the path of self-discovery and getting better in touch with your own calling, I highly recommend reading the full article and perhaps checking out some of Palmer’s books. And though this idea of a calling or life purpose may seem elusive now, take comfort in knowing it’s already there in you. Just below the surface. Waiting to be heard and revealed.

So what are your thoughts? Did Palmer’s words give you any insight? If you’re stuck on the road to finding your purpose, what is it that most troubles or confuses you? Or if you’ve reconnected with your calling, what helped you rediscover it?

The Simplicity of Discovering Our Purpose

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In one of my recent blogs, I brought up the topic of purpose and doing what you MUST do with your life. Not what you feel you “should.” And I received a really interesting comment which inspired me to explore this topic a little more deeply.

Julia noted that the business of “pursuing your passion” or finding your calling has become a billion dollar industry. And commented on how she sees it producing anxiety in people around her because they haven’t yet found “it”. Their dream. What they’re destined to do. And how sad it is to see them so miserable.

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And it is. For those who don’t have a clear purpose, or passion as Julia has called it, it can be overwhelming and seem very elusive. And since I’ve been on both sides of the fence- having been out of touch with my purpose and then finding it and living it- I want to attempt to alleviate some of this pressure from those on the search.

We all acknowledge that there’s two types of people. Those like Beatrice Rana who found their calling from a very young age and those who find their passion and purpose later in life.

If you are still trying to figure out what to do with your life right now, what your purpose is, try this on for size.

Forget about purpose for a minute. Forget about having to HAVE some vision for your life.

What is it you feel compelled to do right now? Today?

What do you WANT to do today?

If your day job isn’t doing it for you, is there something that’s been in the back of your mind for a while that you’ve just been ignoring?

If you don’t know, just be patient. It’ll come to you.

And if you consistently act upon things you honestly feel COMPELLED to do (not things you feel you should do) guaranteed that will lead you to a purposeful life which is essentially, living and acting upon your truth.

I think where many of us get caught up is trying to figure it all out. What that big picture is supposed to look like. And that creates the pressure that Julia mentioned. And especially if we expect to make money right away from what we find to be our purpose.

But it’s really quite simple. Visions and dreams are great for those who have them but if you don’t, don’t fret. You’re not alone. And if you really have a passion for finding your purpose, you can make it just this simple.

That’s what I did, and it worked for me. 🙂

So how bout you? If you found your purpose later in life, how did you find it? What advice would you give others? If you’re searching for purpose, does this make sense? If not, let’s discuss. This is a subject I’m passionate about and I’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂