Author Archives: Donna Mills

About Donna Mills

Donna earned her certification as a hand analyst from the International Institute of Hand Analysts in January, 2013. She is also a Certified FranklinCovey Coach and a Certified ARTbundance Coach.

Ism

Ism

The Olympics are over now, put to bed with a grand finale on Sunday evening.

Last week, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, those same Olympics prompted several posts about sexism in sports reporting.

SwimmerOne post included a satire of the way Michael Phelps’ accomplishments would have been described had he been a female. The focus was on his marital status, his quick return to swimming following the birth of his baby, time thus spent away from his baby, the support he received from his family, and his classification as ‘arm candy.’ The article was short on references to strength, determination, commitment or sacrifice—the basics required of every Olympic athlete. The article was well done, very funny, and it did a great job of emphasizing the way men and women are perceived in a sports venue.

On the serious side, when Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú crushed the world record in a gold-medal performance, an NBC commentator said, “And there’s the man responsible—her husband and coach!” The camera panned to a man in a green shirt cheering and raising his fists to the sky.

I was watching that event. I heard that comment. And I’m embarrassed to admit that it didn’t register as the “Are you kidding me?” comment that it actually was.

Such is the power of awareness. (Or lack of it.)

Before we can change anything, we have to be conscious of the need for that change. A friend told me last week that in the sixties (1960’s, not 1860’s), the public swimming pools in Los Angeles were open for white people on Days 1-4, for Latinos on Day 5, and for African Americans on Day 6. The pool was then drained and refilled on Day 7.

My jaw dropped. Seriously? She said that her husband, who is Latino, told her, “Yes, we had one day a week. Didn’t really think anything of it.”

The fact that people could be bamboozled into viewing such conditions as routine, as appropriate, just astonishes me. Yet, in truth, we do tend to accept the way things are, without examining them too closely. What’s known, familiar, and comfortable tends to persist—unless we become aware that change is in order.

And those changes don’t need to be as important as battling sexism or racism. For me, it was literally putting on my glasses and looking at my kitchen counters. Yikes! Where did all those splats and spots come from?

How about you? What areas of your life might you view with a new set of eyes?

Seeds Into Flowers

Seeds Into Flowers

“Find the seed at the bottom of your heart and bring forth a flower.”

Mixed Floral Bouquet

This quote by Shigenori Kameoka was another thought-provoking prompt in yesterday’s Purple Ink Café Writer’s Circle. It made me reflect on the way I mentally divide my writing between ‘business writing’ and ‘personal writing.’

Business writing, of course, consists of educational articles and blog posts, all of the verbiage that I create to populate my website, and emails and courses that have to do with my work as a creativity coach, hand analyst and mastermind facilitator.

Personal writing, on the other hand, encompasses journaling, self-reflection, descriptions of things I’ve seen that I want to remember, the random essay on something I feel strongly about, personal emails, and even the old-fashioned thank you note. Personal writing is more, well, personal.

Then it struck me that maybe these two parts of my writing (and my life) aren’t really that separate and distinct. The reason I do the work that I do is the same reason that I journal or touch base with friends or relatives—I want to connect. I want authentic relationships, both with my internal self and with other people.

All of my writing is, at its most basic level, an attempt to communicate. Even when I’m describing our upcoming clutter clearing mastermind, the point of that communication is to let the people who have a need for this service know it’s available if they’d like to participate. Is that communication less valuable, more crass, than a personal journal entry exploring my own feelings about my (possibly) extraneous possessions?

All of the seeds we carry in our hearts can become flowers. It doesn’t matter if the flower is a rose or an orchid or an amaryllis. Each has its own form of beauty, and each is worthy of cultivating, growing and sharing.

What seeds are lying dormant deep in your heart? What flowers might those seeds bring forth?

Perfectly Imperfect

Perfectly Imperfect

Here’s a phrase from a poem on gratitude shared in this week’s Purple Ink Café Writers’ Circle: “Our swimsuits, flapping in the breeze.”

Black Swimsuit

It created a rather humorous picture in my mind of an oversized swimsuit literally flapping around my body. That picture was immediately replaced by a picture of a swimsuit hanging out to dry after a day at the beach.

I can enjoy the beach, but am not a ‘beach person’ per se. I do love the ocean, though—the vastness and power of the sea, the way you can lift your gaze to infinity. It provides a bit of perspective when I get so balled up in my day-to-day concerns that I forget there really is a bigger picture.

And the specter of the swimsuit provides another challenge for me. It’s disconcerting these days to see all of the bumps and bulges revealed, and the icky blue veins and hills and valleys in these legs that once were smooth and firm, the product of years of ballet classes.

But this is also where I can see that it’s possible to take note of those imperfections, then move on to the blessings experience provides. It reminds me of my mother-in-law, Eleanor, who swam into her seventies, and never expressed self-consciousness about her appearance. Because she knew what really mattered—the delight of sharing joyful life events with her children and grandchildren.

Do you ever wonder how much we miss by worrying about appearances? There’s so much more to life than the way we look—physically or otherwise. As a recovering perfectionist, it’s challenging to expose myself to judgment, either by saying something that might provoke disagreement, or sharing a painting or an article that may be flawed in some way, or exposing a less-than-pristine housekeeping habit that’s still in the ‘working on it’ stage.

And that’s when walking my own talk can come to the rescue. The hand analysis and creativity coaching I do meets and greets that judgmental mindset, and allows me to see the appeal of the perfectly imperfect. There is true beauty in living, becoming vulnerable, taking some chances, gaining wisdom, and passing it along. We are all works in progress and beings in process, and there is magnificence in that.

Rambling

Rambling

Just want to give you a heads up. This is a much longer post than I usually write. It marks half a year of weekly posts (week 26), so I decided to indulge in a bit of a ramble, and hope you’ll come along.

Yesterday, Kathy Kane’s Writers’ Circle opened a delightfully random trip into my past. She provided the perfect prompt—a YouTube video of Aaron Copeland’s composition, The Quiet City, coupled with the visuals of old photos and Edward Hopper’s paintings.

This is what came:

I don’t know how he does it. Edward Hopper manages to capture that loneliness that permeates the city, the country, the rural, the urban. Even when there are a number of people in the scene, each one seems steeped in solitude.

Minimal lines? Flattened compositions?

His work reminds me a lot of my life as a child in Richmond, California. We had a Chinatown across the bay in San Francisco, a long soda fountain in the supermarket, cafes with a counter and round, backless stools. Gas stations with two pumps (regular and ethyl) dotted Highway 99, the north/south route through the San Joaquin valley, where we’d travel to visit old family friends. The days of swamp coolers, when “Air Conditioned!” signs on movie marquees in that valley meant escape from the 100+ degree sidewalks.

Apartments had tile floors. The first home my parents actually owned had three bedrooms and one bathroom. A mother, a father, and four siblings lived there. A single black rotary telephone with a long nylon cord, a gas wall heater in the hall, and a battered secondhand upright piano in the living room. It felt comfortable.Black Rotary Phone

We had a washing machine, but we also had a washboard. It was a big rectangular wooden frame with a metal interior. At first glance it looked like an oversized grater, but the metal part consisted of horizontal ribs rather than holes for cutting. My babysitter would fill the sink with water, stick that washboard in, and rub clothes up and down the metal ribbing to clean them.

Our laundry was hung on a clothesline, which stretched from the porch to the fence at the other end of the back yard. It had pulleys, so you could pin a sheet, a towel, or a garment, then pull the top of the line towards you, and the garment would sail towards the fence. We could get two rows of clothes going at the same time.

Collecting our dry clothes reversed the operation, pulling the lines to the porch, unclipping the clothespins, dropping the clean laundry into a basket, and returning the clothespins to the clothespin bag. I remember that clothespin bag—striped blue ticking on a hanger, with the front hanging open like a kangaroo’s pouch. I wonder now how we ever got dry clothes, especially in the winter. Living across the bay from San Francisco, we had a lot of fog and a lot of rain. Even summer highs hovered around 70 degrees. The day the clothes dryer was delivered, my mother and sister rejoiced.

We were the last family on the block to get a television set. I was five years old. My dad didn’t believe in buying anything on credit. But the clothes dryer and the TV were two purchases my mom made on her own. We kids were always at someone else’s house, watching TV. Maybe that’s why she took that huge step. Or maybe she just wanted her own chance to relax after a long day at work.Console Television

The day the TV was delivered, I was swinging on the front porch rail. Our porch was painted brick red, with black wrought iron handrails. The delivery men huffed and puffed a huge crate up the steps and into our living room. Television sets came in cabinets back then, like a major piece of furniture. You could close the wooden doors and hide the screen.

But because it ran on tubes rather than on solid state circuits, there had to be space for what seemed like dozens of those glass cylindrical tubes. The TV was at least 24 inches deep. And when the picture went fuzzy, we would pull the tubes out of their sockets and take them down to the supermarket, where there was a ‘tube tester.’ We’d stick each one in the proper sized socket, and when the defective culprit was located, we’d buy a replacement tube, take it home, insert it, and hope for the best. Usually, it didn’t help, and the whole process would begin again.

There were also buttons for horizontal and vertical hold. The picture would sometimes roll like the photos on Instagram when an enthusiastic user is viewing photos. The vertical hold would stop the flipping so we could actually watch the show. Horizontal hold kept the dark slashes of zigzag static from streaking across the screen.

When I think of how different my life is now, and how different the childhoods of my grandchildren are from my own, it boggles my mind. Even my profession didn’t exist then. Coaching was limited to sports, and science-based hand analysis hadn’t been discovered.

And at the same time, my Connections Life Purpose did exist, and I’m grateful for the chance to live it even more fully now, in 2016.

How about you? Where have you been? What childhood experiences and memories continue to impress and shape you? And where is your Life Purpose calling you to go?

Discovery

Discovery

Isn’t it a treat to watch a child begin to explore the world?

human-766937_1920 (1)

When I take a walk with my grandchildren, I see my surroundings in a totally different way. Seeing my world through their eyes is a whole new adventure—hearing a birdcall and discussing whether it’s a dove or a crow. Perceiving a dandelion as a precious flower, carefully plucked by chubby little fingers, rather than viewing it as a noxious weed. Watching two women with a baby in a stroller walking on the other side of the street, and making up stories about their lives. How big is their family? Do they have to go to a job every day? Or is that grown-up a parent staying home, taking time, like we are, to walk in the middle of the day?

I probably listen more closely to these children than to anyone else. They are excited about what they are sharing with me, unabashedly seeking confirmation and validation. Their thoughts and feelings haven’t been censored to the extent that they will be when they experience more of the challenging bits of life. So they are honest and fresh. And being with them is a tremendous source of fulfillment for me. Not surprising, since Connection is my Life Purpose.

These children are a conduit to a wonderful world of observation that’s not muddied by a major overlay of prejudgment. Or tainted by that enemy of the adult, taking the familiar for granted. That ability to observe newly, I think, is the foundation of creativity.

How about you? Can you step back and allow yourself to become child-like? (Not talking childish here…huge difference!) If so, what stirs in you? And how does it relate to living your own Life Purpose?

If we’ve already worked together, you know what your Life Purpose is. If we haven’t, you can get some ideas using my free workbook, Exploring Common Threads. You can sign up to the right of this post, and have it sent to your very own computer. It’s a great place to start this creative exploration!

Be Who You Are

 

Dr. Seuss Quote

Isn’t this a fabulous quote?

It was a writing prompt in Kathy Kane’s inaugural Purple Ink Cafe Writers’ Circle, and so appropriate for those of us navigating the School of Love!

How can I get more comfortable with being who I am, and saying what I feel?

As I’ve gotten older, this task is a little less daunting than it once was. It’s been a long time coming, but it has finally dawned on me that I’m really not the focus of everyone’s attention. (Older women, by the way, can become virtually invisible—especially once you cross that great divide between ‘miss’ and ‘ma’m’!)

When we are teenagers, we have this self-consciousness that stems from the conviction that everyone is looking at us and judging us. The reality? Everyone else is so busy worrying about what others are thinking of them that they have very little time or energy to notice us.

This can be pretty obvious, too, in general conversations. How often do we really listen to what the other person is saying, right in the present moment, and absorb it? Frequently, we are forming our responses in our heads while the other person is still speaking. We miss the import of what they are saying, because we want to make our point or share our experience.

I get this mental image of two heads facing each other, with a mirror separating them. Each person’s words are bouncing back to the speaker, never penetrating the partition.

If we don’t believe we’re being heard, it’s hard to share our feelings. Feelings, after all, are messy things. Just going inside ourselves and sitting with them can make us feel pretty uncomfortable. Then to have to bring them to the surface and reveal them? Possibly to someone who may deflect them or disagree with them? Not easy.

But this is the curriculum in the School of Love—learning to identify and share our feelings, appropriately and at a proper volume.

Sometimes, we get a bit obsessed about the negative feelings that dwell beneath the surface, and forget that there are a lot of positive things down there as well. School of Love folks have the lifelong challenge of digging down, understanding what’s going on with our emotions, and then expressing them authentically and appropriately.

And when it gets scary, channel Dr. Seuss!

Shine Your Heart

Shine Your Heart

Often in my yoga class, when we are either in a cross-legged sitting position or standing straight and tall in Mountain Pose, our teacher tells us, “Shine your heart.” It’s an instruction to pull our shoulder blades back and down, and present our hearts to the world.mountain-pose-815291_1280

It made me think of what this means. When I’m shining my heart, I’m exposed. Standing tall, letting others literally see the place in my body where my heart resides, is a posture of willingness to let others in. It’s a confident stance, but it’s also a vulnerable one.

It’s a contrast to what I often see when I’m out in the world. People walk around the mall or the grocery store hunched over the smartphones clutched a foot from their chests, staring at the ground focusing on the sounds coming through their earbuds, or hugging a grocery cart.

All of these stances are protective. They exclude others; it’s virtually impossible even to make eye contact when the shoulders are stooped and the gaze is lowered. And it makes me sad.

It may just be a posture thing, but it makes me wonder if it’s a vulnerability thing. “Let me draw in and hide myself, so I don’t have to interact with someone who may reject or disapprove of me, or make me feel uncomfortable.”

How about an experiment? Stand up, draw your shoulders towards your stomach, and bow your head. How do you feel?

Now, raise your head and draw your shoulders back, reaching your shoulder blades down towards your hips. How do you feel?

What does it mean for you to ‘shine your heart’?

 

 

Independence Day

Independence Day

This week, we in the US celebrated Independence Day.Fireworks

Barbecues and fireworks are what we typically associate with the Fourth of July. This year, spanning the entire weekend, random neighbors were setting off personal fireworks. I didn’t get much sleep; our poor dog was traumatized, and trying to be a good ‘mom,’ I attempted to soothe her. Curled on the couch with this panting, quivering pet gave me a chance to think a bit about the whole concept of independence—of freedom.

Back in 1776, those upstart colonists, chafing under British colonial rule, declared their independence from King George, and spent the next seven years fighting the American revolutionary war.

Fast forward 240 years. We are no longer subjects of the British crown. Instead, we are subjects of governmental and financial systems, often run amok. The political canvas in this election year is painted in the most ludicrous, garish colors I’ve ever encountered. But this isn’t a political rant—nope, not going there!

What it does make me consider, though, is what Stephen Covey described in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as our Circle of Concern and our Circle of Influence. Our Circle of Concern consists of those events and circumstances over which we have no control. The hateful, violent tragedies that seem to have become almost commonplace occurrences are in my Circle of Concern. They grieve me deeply, and I can’t control them.

What l can control, however, is what lies in my Circle of Influence. This, for me, is where freedom actively impacts my daily life. The choices I make, the words I speak (both to others and to myself), and the kindness I show—all of these are in my Circle of Influence. I can make a difference, right here, right now, to each person who interacts with me.

We all have this freedom of choice.

And this freedom can lead to living our Life Purpose, collecting those experiences that will fulfill us, and make life better for those in our Circle of Influence. Or it can lead to squandering these priceless, irreplaceable days of our life on earth.

To quote Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

 

The School of Service

The School of Service

Do you know someone who absolutely delights in doing things for others? This is the person who plans the family parties, who babysits with a smile, who is the first in line to donate blood or chauffeur the soccer team to their next tournament game. They honestly want to help others achieve their goals and dreams, often providing free advice and resources to help make it happen. When they are asked to do something, their automatic response is ‘yes.’

I have several relatives like this, and they are wonderful people. That said, I worry sometimes about whether they are getting totally stressed out by taking such good care of everyone else. Are their own needs getting sidestepped in favor of everyone else’s?

On the flip side of the coin, do you know someone who demands that everyone else cater to them? There are folks who exude an air of entitlement, who take and take without appreciating (or even seeming to realize) the efforts others are making on their behalf. The dinner menu, the television remote, and division of the household chores are all under this person’s control.

WHORLThese two kinds of behaviors embody the extremes of the School of Service. If you have four whorls in your ten fingerprints, this is your school.

The goal of students in the School of Service is to be conscious of the ways in which they want to serve. It is an ability and a willingness to discern and choose genuine, joyful service, without falling into servitude (which breeds resentment and burnout).

In navigating this school, people can fall into the two extremes described above, and suffer their negative effects. In the first instance, if you are constantly giving to everyone else, you may exhaust yourself, begin to feel resentful, and go from joyful, willing service to obligatory, victimizing service. You may also be making unconscious bargains with those you serve—“I’ll do this for you, but you need to come through for me in return.” (This isn’t service, by the way. It’s commerce.)

Any of these scenarios can result in a pendulum swing to the ‘other side’—swearing off being of service because you are tired of others taking advantage of you. You adopt the entitlement posture.

How about you? Do you fall into either of these camps? Whether or not you are in the School of Service, it’s helpful to notice your own service-related behaviors and attitudes!

 

 

 

The School of Love

The School of Love

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been focusing on the Life School aspect of your Soul Psychology. We’ve looked at the School of Peace and the School of Wisdom. This week, the School of Love is on the docket.

LOOPThe fingerprint pattern associated with the School of Love is the loop. If you have at least eight loops in your set of ten fingerprints, this is your school.

If you’re in the School of Love, you’re here to learn to become fully present to all of your feelings, regardless of what those feelings are, so you can work with them. When you can accept yourself and your feelings, and develop the ability to communicate them authentically and appropriately, you find the closeness, love and connection that you deeply desire.

What are some of the challenges in the School of Love?

You may have a hard time recognizing and identifying your true feelings. You may judge your feelings as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ and/or judge others’ feelings using the same good/bad yardstick. Feelings actually aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ they just are. If you judge them, you are likely to try to bury them—which means burying a part of yourself. In order to work with your feelings, it’s vital to honestly experience them.

You may withhold your feelings from others, stoically (and unreasonably) waiting for them to guess what’s going on with you. (“If you really loved me, you’d know how I feel…”) Conversely, you may indiscriminately share exactly what you feel at all times in all places, without regard for how appropriate that sharing might be.

I had a classic experience with that ‘appropriate’ piece a few years back. A couple of my friends took a lot of pride in their open, honest relationship, and their ability to ‘tell it like it is.’ But they missed the fact that the communal dinner table wasn’t the place for a frank discussion of an issue that really belonged in their own private space. The airing of their feelings, at full volume, had the rest of us cringing in our seats. So there’s a need to be sensitive to what you’re saying, where you’re saying it, and to whom you’re saying it!

How about you? Are you willing to take the emotional risk of authentically and appropriately expressing your feelings? Do you tend to ‘stuff’ your feelings, or are you more inclined to ‘let it all hang out’? How has that impacted your relationships?