Thursday, December 29, 2011


It’s been described as a still small voice deep inside each of us, a whisper, a gut feeling. What is intuition really, and how can we tell when it’s speaking to us? I have been thinking about this topic and having some breakthroughs on listening to my own intuition, and woke up this morning determined to write about it when I noticed in my email inbox an excellent piece by Martha Beck on just that. (see link below)

Her description of the two personalities of intuition hit me like a ton of bricks. I had just completed a weekend spiritual seminar in which I realized how fully I typically dismiss my intuition. I simply chalk it up to something else – some fantasy, or daydream of my conscious mind, and not really something deeper that can be trusted and followed to bring me greater joy.

Last January I participated in a retreat for cancer survivors at the famous Miraval spa in Arizona, and one afternoon I attended a program on intuition. At one point we were asked to partner with someone next to us who we didn’t know, and exchange a personal item – a piece of jewelry or clothing. We were led through a brief meditation to get centered and then told to pay attention to any messages we were getting about the person whose item we held.

Immediately, I saw images of a beautiful brown horse, and almost as instantly, I dismissed them as not the REAL message I was supposed to be focusing on. My logical brain reasoned that these images were only coming to mind because I knew, of course, that Miraval was famous for its Equine Experience. I had been hearing about how amazing this program was since the minute I’d set foot on the property. I forcefully tried to clear the horse images from my mind so I could sense something personal about this woman sitting next to me. The horse popped up again and again and I got so frustrated with myself that I couldn’t seem to do this. The entire exercise was less than 90 seconds long, but I made myself wrong for most of that time.

When the facilitator asked us to share with our partners, I reluctantly told her what I had “seen.” She exclaimed, “I JUST finished the Equine Experience and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.” When I described the horse I had seen, she confirmed that indeed her horse had fit that description. She told me in turn that when she held my ring in her hand, she wanted to slump to the floor and take a nap. I told her I had just come from one of the most relaxing yoga classes I’d ever taken, and had actually fallen asleep at the end of shavasana. I do yoga regularly and that had never happened to me before.

The stories shared by other participants around the room were equally amazing. They ranged from images, like mine, to physical sensations and even emotions. One woman got a pain in her hand, and her partner confirmed that she had severe arthritis in that exact spot. You’d think such an amazing experience would help me to better recognize and trust my own intuition, but sadly, it didn’t.

You might be able to tell from what I’ve shared so far, that I’m a bit of a retreat junkie. I love personal and professional development, and take advantage of any opportunity I’m given to participate in a workshop, retreat or seminar. The cancer crowd loves these sorts of things, and they often ask us to tap into our feelings or spirit in some way. I have seen people have incredibly profound experiences and share tremendous and life-changing insights they have gained through these events.

I, on the other hand, have beat myself up that I “must be doing it wrong,” because I just don’t seem to be having the same level of insight or emotional reaction or deep understanding. I remember a visualisation once to find our spirit guides where people described seeing a tiger or lamb or horse and feeling a strong connection. I saw nothing, and was so mad at myself for not getting it. The truth is I probably did see something, and dismissed it as not important or profound enough and therefore, not memorable or worth sharing.

Perhaps you can identify with how quickly we are willing to believe a negative thought or emotion we have. You make a strong connection with someone and then they don’t call and you tell yourself you made it all up. The connection wasn’t really there. In this way, you begin to doubt yourself. These negative thoughts are easier to believe than the idea that someone might actually like us, but has just been too busy to call or got distracted by life.

I recently had one of these experiences AGAIN, and as the negative thoughts, beating myself up, feeling hurt and questioning my feelings began to gain momentum the words TRUST LOVE floated through my consciousness. If I dismissed it, and let my worry take over, it came through again, and again, and again, until finally I stopped imagining the worst case scenario and listened to my intuition to trust.

I believe it is actually our highest self that allows us to feel the emotions to begin with. It is the best part of us that opens us up to vulnerability and trust and love. It is the ego that beats us up, questions anything good, and tries to make us feel unworthy or unlovable. The ego screams at us in a way that is difficult to ignore, and so we usually believe it. Intuition whispers and calms, and invites us to step into a better way, and because it’s so soft and non-intrusive, we often miss it. Or even worse, hear it and dismiss it.

Recently, I had a vision during a meditation in which we were asked to receive guidance and messages about our lives. As I have many times before, I dismissed what I saw as a product of my conscious brain that was getting in the way of what I was REALLY supposed to be seeing. I forcefully tried to push it from my mind, but it persisted. The image is one I’ve actually seen many times before but hadn’t given much thought to. It is this: me, in a white dress, on a hillside with the sun shining down, getting married to a man in a kilt. I have always imagined myself marrying a man in a kilt. I assumed this image came to me because my family heritage is Scottish on my dad’s side, and my favorite book series features a strong Scottish Highlander as its main character.

However, what if it’s the other way around. What if I was drawn to those books because I have a stronger connection with Scotland than my family heritage? Perhaps I am destined to marry a man in a kilt with sparkling blue eyes and a heart-melting brogue. I don’t know if I am or not, but I do know that I met such a man at the same event where I had the vision, and that I feel a very strong connection to him. Whether the vision comes true or not with this man or another, I know one thing for sure. I am NOT dismissing my intuition this time. I’m going to trust it and see where it leads me.

Are there times in your life when you ignored an intuitive feeling?

Can you think of a time when you listened to your intuition?

What is the benefit of trusting this higher part of yourself?

Martha Beck piece on Intuition

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Commitment might seem like a strange topic for a column about single life, but a couple of things happened to me this week that demonstrated the power of commitment and I knew I had to write about it.

I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed. It was all about the history of marriage, her disdain for it as a concept and her eventual surrender to it. My sisters are both married, and one of them told me once that she could feel secure through the rough times in her marriage – the disagreements and arguments and tensions – because she knew her husband wasn’t going anywhere. They were committed, and therefore safe to share their true feelings, allow themselves to be vulnerable and assert their perspective. As a single person, that resonated so deeply with me, and confirmed my willingness to wait for that kind of relationship as well.

It also reminded me of the power of commitment in all areas of life. This quote by W.H. Murray, of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition sums it up: "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: 'Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.”

This was brought home to me this week in a big way. Since I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, I have been saying I was going to write a book about my experience as a single survivor. I have been writing this column diligently every month for more than four years now, and in the back of my mind, I always thought perhaps someone might stumble upon it and want to publish it. I have no idea how many people read it regularly, and I get only occasional feedback about its impact on readers, so I really had no idea how easy it was to “stumble upon” my writing. Well, this week it actually happened. A publisher contacted me out of the blue to talk about A Single Cell the book.

Now, it’s important to talk about the role of commitment in all of this. Because for five years I have been talking about writing a book, and hoping to be discovered, but it wasn’t until I made a commitment and took action that it actually happened. Let me share what I’ve been up to the past few months. In April I bought a book How to Bring Your Book To Life this Year by Andrea Constantine and Lisa Shultz. In July, I joined a book group of women who are committed to writing books. We are reading the aforementioned book, meeting monthly to talk about our books and holding each other accountable. Through this process, I have been thinking about my book, doing the exercises in the book I’m reading, brainstorming titles and I have declared publicly that my book will be published by the end of 2012.

I have ideas for three books, and I have been diligently practicing learning to receive (the topic of my last column) because I thought that would be the book I’d write this year. If I hadn’t been practicing my receiving, I might not have taken my friend Mike up on a generous offer he made me a month ago – to join him at an author conference in Las Vegas last week. This event was rife with publishers, agents, marketing gurus, book designers and others. I couldn’t afford to attend this event on my own and almost said no to Mike’s offer to go as his guest and share his hotel room for free because even the plane ticket and meals were a stretch for me.

However, because I allowed myself to receive that gift from Mike, I made great connections, learned a ton about the publishing industry and most importantly, began to see myself as an author and speaker with a message that can make a difference to people. I came home and started putting together a press kit, surprising myself at how many media interviews I have done over the past few years on this topic – on television, radio and in magazines. I stayed up late to work on this one night, and the very next day, a publisher came knocking on my door. Coincidence? Absolutely not! Whether or not this publisher is the one actually doesn’t matter either, because my commitment to getting published will carry me toward the right path. It is the commitment that is most important.

I have mentioned Mike Dooley and his Thoughts Become Things mantra before. I heard him speak recently at a signing for his new book Leveraging the Universe, and what he shared fully supports this idea. I should point out that I have heard this message a million times from other speakers, authors, gurus and friends as well. There is always a moment in time, though, that cements something we have heard before and we really learn it, and see how it applies to our lives. The way Mike Dooley phrases it is this: set an intention, and give it to the universe – don’t worry about HOW it will come to pass. By fixating on a certain path, we limit other opportunities that might not even be on our radar. Let the universe find the most efficient and effective path for your intention. Your job is just to put it out there in the world.

At my Unitarian Universalist church, we light a chalice at the beginning of each service, and at the end, when we extinguish it, we say the following: We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth, the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment. These we carry in our hearts until we are together again. I wish for you the fire of commitment. Take a moment to explore and write down the things you are committed to today. It is only through setting the intention and/or making the commitment that they will come to you. Once it is set, let go of any fixation on the way it might come to fruition.

I am committed to:

Living an adventurous life

Enjoying complete freedom over my schedule

Making a contribution in the world through my words and actions

Generating abundance in the form of love, prosperity and joy

What are YOU committed to?