by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I recently felt frustrated by my efforts to practice social distancing and isolation to keep others safe when I looked around to see that many aren’t taking these same precautions.
Our community and country are divided on the issue of wearing face masks as a way to protect others from the risk of getting Covid-19.
There has been a striking difference between those who continue social distancing versus those opting for family holiday gatherings. There are dramatically differing political views and varied approaches to protecting others that stem from completely opposing perspectives. I noticed how this prompted my aggravation and how this could easily lead to becoming angry and stressed.
A friend pointed out that anger toward those who don’t take the pandemic seriously is a righteous kind of anger because it’s about justice and equal care for all. I agree.
But I also sometimes feel my anger toward those with opposing opinions about the pandemic risk treads a fine line toward my becoming disparaging and judgmental. This kind of negative thinking can harm your well-being because it causes stress. Stress causes mental and physical anguish.
As I continue praying about this during my daily Buddhist chanting routine, I’m awakened to the importance of forging respect for the life of every living being regardless of opposing ideologies. I work to steer my thoughts away from a ‘them versus us’ mentality.
As I let go of anything I have no control over, I release negative energy from my heart. I focus instead on what I can do; continue social distancing to protect my elder mother, myself, and others. I focus on how I can positively contribute to the situation. This change of heart helps me cope with my stress.
And it leads me to keep looking for a silver lining in pandemic life.
When I refocus my energy toward the positive within any situation, I become more capable of enduring difficulties with a more cheerful spirit. Doing this inner work is meaningful for me because when I feel better, I treat others better. When I can treat others better, we all feel better.
This long year of social distance and isolation has motivated my practice of gratitude. During this incredibly challenging year, I have learned to develop my sense of appreciation no matter what. I find that actively seeking things, people, and circumstances to appreciate is good for my mood and significantly impacts my day.
If we had gone through this pandemic crisis 20 years ago, the impact of our isolation would have been so much worse. I’m thankful this pandemic didn’t happen until 2020 because now we have the fortune of technology as a way to connect.
Fuel For Deeper Spiritual Practice
Another thing about this quarantine life that I am grateful for is that the stress of this situation has fueled my Buddhist practice of daily chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I’ve begun using my spiritual practice to go inward for deeper work, reflection, and rejuvenation.
Whether you use prayer, meditation, yoga, exercise, reading, or a combination of these, carving out spiritual time for yourself has a positive impact. Self-care effort is an antidote to the frenzied habit of being constantly busy. It also counters the negative aspects of our excessive social media activities.
Center Yourself On Positivity
Speaking of gratitude, another thing that helps me navigate the challenges of pandemic life is to list three things I appreciate each morning and again each evening. This practice helps me center myself on positivity, regardless of what’s happening around me or in the world. It also raises my life state no matter what my obstacles may be.
Use Restrictions As Creative Fuel
I’m learning to put a favorable twist on social restrictions, too. Limitations push me to look for a new way to do things outside my typical habits or routine. These challenges provide an opportunity to spark innovative thinking, which research proves is good for mind, body, and spirit.
We can’t visit our elders or family members because we don’t want to risk getting or spreading the Covid-19 virus. This constraint has prompted us to find other ways to connect, like visiting elder relatives through the window while using a phone call to speak. When I took Mom to visit my nearly 90-year-old aunt, we stood outside her window singing Merry Christmas via a phone call to my cousin, who was inside with my aunt.
The quarantine has also prompted us to use FaceTime and Zoom for family holiday activities, write holiday cards and letters, and send old-fashioned thank you cards. The calm of writing holiday cards and thank-you letters and the joy we send through these messages bring us a boost in our mood, too.
Transform Old Traditions With A New Approach
These social barriers have provided us with new ways to revisit nostalgic traditions like driving separately to see holiday light decorations while social distancing to protect those at risk. Or parking in front of holiday light displays while chatting with loved ones by phone or FaceTime to share the moment.
Since our family opted for a family Zoom instead of a face-to-face gathering on Christmas, I created videos and photos of my elder Mom’s gift-receiving process. I posted these photos and videos on Google drive for the rest of my family to enjoy. You could do the same or upload the videos and photos onto another cloud service like Amazon, YouTube, or Vimeo! This frees us to focus on heart-to-heart connections during our family Zoom without the distraction of opening holiday gifts.
Online videos and photos can become treasured collections, along with recording legacy stories by your elders for future preservation. Create a digital movie that may be shared online with a simple link (and stored on an external hard drive for use during a future event once the pandemic is behind us).
More Nature Connection
Pandemic 2020 has motivated my nature connection. Nature immersion has become an even more meaningful treasure as well as spiritual and physical replenishment. Plus, it’s free!
My nature walks always inspire my creativity. I often take nature photos and create my products from these, along with positive affirmation statements. I've also written a photo essay series featuring my nature photos here. My nature visits have inspired me to create nature calendars. You can find these and many more of my nature-inspired products here. Nature inspires me to write poetry, blogs, and even dabble in a bit of painting and seasonal projects like leaf art!
Boredom Propels Movement!
The lack of structure from quarantine life has brought boredom, but this has sparked a greater interest in getting more exercise. Exercise outdoors in secluded parks and neighborhoods and even online for changing it up on rainy, snowy, cold days has broken up the boredom of seeing the same walls through work and personal life.
The benefits of exercise decrease stress and regulate hormonal balance. Exercise lowers stress hormone production and boosts physical, mental, and creative energy. So, thank you, Pandemic 2020, for the motivation to get up and move!
Games For Staying Sharp & Quality Downtime
Another perk of pandemic life has been finding new things to keep us both social and cognitively sharp. Game playing has become a way for more quality-based social connection for my elder Mom and myself during this shutdown. As an online business owner, games have also forced me to take much-needed technology and social media breaks and get some quality downtime.
Learning new games pushes us to develop our cognitive skills and grow new neurological pathways. Isn't this way better than becoming a useless couch potato?
I hope these ideas have given you something to appreciate in this challenging year. Leave a comment letting me know. Explore and offer your answers to these questions:
What has the pandemic caused you to appreciate?
What advice do you have for someone to see the silver lining in the pandemic?
How can you use the difficulty of pandemic life as fuel for creativity, gratitude, or connection?
What ideas do you have to improve your quarantine brain?
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by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
If I could go back in time to speak to myself in my youth, or, if there’s one thing I could say to those remaining after I’m gone, the message would be, “Don’t waste your time being afraid.”
Fear has been the one internal opponent that has slowed me down, held me back, or blocked my ideas and actions. Not external obstacles or misfortunes, but this inner voice of anxiety.
In the past 2 years, I’ve started living Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to do something everyday that scares me. I’ve learned it’s liberating to challenge myself to experience new things, ideas or experiences, or go for higher, different goals as a way to grow my courage overall.
But I’ve also learned that getting to the root of fear is hugely important.
The inner energy of my intent or feeling while taking action makes a powerful impact on the outcome.
It is important to act. Yes, do that.
But go deeper. Look at that fear. Deal with that emotion. Get to the core of it. Spell it out. Analyze it. Ask yourself what you’re afraid of.
Once you get to the root of that fear and dissect it, you find clarity. When you see clearly what your fear is based on, you can use reason to counter each fear.
Let’s use an example:
I’m launching my new online business. This new venture requires that I learn things I’ve never done. That alone has caused me fear.
But when I look at that fear through the lens of reason, I find it’s absolutely reasonable to feel fear simply because this is a new experience for me. Things we haven’t challenged before often naturally make us anxious.
This helps me see my fear as normal for my situation. This viewpoint relaxes me and diminishes my fear. I feel calmer and a bit proud that I’m pushing myself into new things and beyond my comfort zone.
One way to decrease fear is to acknowledge your courage in taking on new endeavors, in pushing yourself to feel the fear and take action anyway. It’s important to take a moment to celebrate that kind of victory. Celebrations of personal accomplishment are also a strong deterrent to feeling fearful!
As a new entrepreneur, and a highly sensitive person with OCD tendencies, I have many things that make me feel anxious. I start a cascade of inner questions to myself:
As a new business owner, the stress can seem relentless and unending. But by getting all my worries in focus in front of me, I can begin to break things down into a clear plan with my critical priorities mapped out.
I'm learning that having all my fears written down allows me a chance to face each one and brainstorm a solution for it. Next, I brainstorm ideas for a contingency plan in case my first solution doesn't work or something else happens to derail it. Sometimes this process enlightens me to a need to re-prioritize or shift my plans to accommodate additional issues and/or time.
Keeping my daily plan and inner intent in line with these priorities allows my mind to find ease, knowing I’m actively addressing everything necessary for reaching my goals. One of the most powerful anecdotes to any fear is taking concrete action. Taking action based on a plan through which I've faced my fears puts me back in the driver's seat of my life and my business success.
How To Get Back Up After A Failure
But, yes, sometimes I flat-out fail to reach goals. Or, I get out of rhythm with my priorities. Sometimes, I start spiraling into a downward stress mode where insomnia rears its head. I get run-down, and out of whack.
Yes, other personal, family or health issues distract my focus or throw me for a loop. I’m human.
When any of this happens--and things will happen--I get back to self-care basics. I refresh my determination. I refresh my determination again. And again. I go back to review my fears and center myself on my values.
As an entrepreneur, and hell, as a human being, I’m learning that it’s not a straight line to happiness and success. Rather, it’s a dramatic, magnificent drama with these crazy, off-the-beaten-path excursions, unexpected adventures, and hurdles that appear from out of nowhere. It’s heavy storms and strong gales of unforeseen problems that completely drench and knock me down into the sloppy mud.
That’s the story.
That’s the part of life that creates the dynamic arch of climactic engagement. It’s also the fuel for catalytic flow to unleash new, fresh, robust, colorful creative juice that leads to a view of an amazing, vast vista.
That new vista is a vision of your joyful fulfillment and the start of a new chapter for previously unimaginable victories.
But, this up-and-down, twisty, turning story cannot emerge without dealing head-on with fear, or without hitting plateaus of illusive limitations that cause you to rear back or stop dead in your tracks.
These obstacles force you to take three steps back, like the lion prepares an attack on his prey, to regroup. Assess. Take care of your inner world. Do whatever you need to refresh yourself and rebuild your inner fortitude.
Then, you may lunge forward, with all your might. That momentum gained from ripping out each fear by their roots will propel you forward in a way that you’ve not experienced until this moment.
Fear makes you face your problems to break through your self-imposed limitations so you may unleash your massive, unlimited, creative, beautiful human potential.
Fear makes you better yourself, both for your own happiness and for others in your life.
I’m learning that for every negative emotion, problem or experience, there is a positive. A way to convert whatever it is into value, inner strength and a source for deeper personal growth and wider progress.
It all goes back to nurturing creativity and inspiration, based on self-care. When we truly do the things that are beneficial for ourselves, we spur positive health, creative energy and the inner qualities we need to improve ourselves and for others.
How Dealing With Your Fear Buoys Your Success
That’s why I’m becoming grateful for my bouts with fear.
After wholeheartedly, directly wrestling with my fear, I find that interaction miraculously morphs into a kind of bearhug, leading me to a moment of gratitude.
This shift is an amazing metamorphosis that allows me a more informed view of my true self and my situation. I feel a burst of powerful confidence, with the strength to go after my goals with clear action.
This mood change propels the reach of my actions. The energy behind my actions grows more confident, joyful, compassionate, deliberate and resilient.
This personal development process reveals how dealing with fear buoys powerful action toward success and growth.
When you see fear as a part of your necessary growth process, it has the potential to be your friend. Fear becomes your guiding voice of wisdom to do the things you must do for a richer, happier life.
So let’s embrace our fears. Addressing our fear is the way to successful, enlightened living.
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I struggle with my anxieties and fears. Everyone does in some way, right? But I’m managing to breakthrough to new levels of courage through developing a better understanding of my fears.
It’s important to recognize that being afraid is a normal experience and a positive indication that we‘re challenging ourselves beyond the norm. Whenever we explore new territory or challenge ourselves to do something bigger or different, it can bring out our fear. When we feel fear, it’s important to acknowledge that we are pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone and appreciate our courage in doing so.
That’s something I tend to forget when I’m going through intense fear.
But I want to stop and acknowledge my bravery in continuing to deal with something that challenges my fears. Taking a moment to assess and acknowledge being courageous is in itself a way to relieve stress. Stress coping mechanisms can decrease fear and improve confidence. So take a moment to pat yourself on the back for continuing through a difficult moment!
I’m learning that fear is also an indicator of inner wisdom. I’ve learned to listen to my fear and try to address what wisdom it’s leading me to reveal. Fear is a normal function in human life that's intrinsically set up to protect our lives. It‘s up to us to do the inner work to figure out what fear wants to protect us against.
I find that once I work through the things I’m concerned about, I’m better able to pull up the wisdom to find solutions or ways to take action and move forward.
This is what fear wants me to do;
Take a look at the issues causing concern and use my problem-solving skills to open up a new vista.
When I do that, fear has no need to function in my life, and departs.
All of us have this inner wisdom. I think fear is a powerful catalyst for tapping into our inner strengths.
I often turn to historical figures for their wisdom and encourage-ment. I especially like Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote;
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
This means that we must use fear to develop TRUST in our own ability to handle anything in our lives. Experiencing fear shows GROWTH of our potential and expansion into new levels of our LIMITLESS capacity.
Sometimes this kind of growth comes through tragedy or misfortune. When I faced a personal loss in my family, I faced some of my darkest fears. But the inner growth I had to go through during that time was exponentially greater than other chapters in my life. Having gone through such a difficult internal challenge has made me stronger, more compassionate, and able to perceive life through a broader scope of rich meaning and gratitude.
I’m learning to look at fear as an incredibly positive barometer of my self-development! Each time in my life I‘ve felt most fearful was a period in which I was pushing myself to become a better human being, develop new skills, or challenge myself to more advanced levels of accomplishment.
Let’s aim to be grateful for our courage and for continually challenging our fears.
What lessons or inspiration do your fears teach you? Join the conversation with a comment below.
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by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
Change Requires Taking A Leap Of Faith
A chat with a close friend this week was so enlightening and helpful I want to share it. This friend has been by my side through thick and thin for the past 18 months.
She was there as I resigned my music ed position, sold my Florida home, and moved back to my home state (Kentucky) to be in place as Mom’s caregiver. (My two sisters helped Mom through our father’s battle with cancer. He passed away 5 years ago. I determined to help with Mom as needed.)
I took a major leap of faith to make this huge transition into launching a second career as a 50+ single woman. I’m pursuing my lifelong dream to be a professional writer, composer, and online product and course creator.
It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had numerous unexpected obstacles. People have disappointed me. I’ve made mistakes. Some things failed entirely.
When Your Closest Friends Are Fear And Doubt
During my journey for the past year and a half, my closest companions were my overwhelming self-doubt and fear. My tendency toward insomnia escalated dramatically from my nightly battle against anxiety.
The switch from a steady teaching job to being a caregiver and entrepreneur raised my deepest doubts. This constantly interfered with my sleep patterns and stunted my wisdom to make decisive, appropriate business decisions. I often felt paralyzed with fear of failure.
I’ve discussed my fears repeatedly with the friend mentioned above. As I’ve wrestled my negative feelings head-on, I’ve pulled out all the stops for the solution to win over them. I’m gratefully making tremendous progress with overcoming insomnia, and with winning over my angst.
Fear Reveals Your Courage
I’d like to share some of the things that are working for me, as they may be useful to you. First I want to point out how my friend illuminated things for me; She said that the fact I’ve battled so strongly with fear is an indication of my courage. I wouldn’t even have my courage, without my fear.
That pierced my heart with hope as it made me realize how much I’ve been challenging myself to grow beyond my comfort zone! If I had stayed in my secure job, in my comfy home, and didn’t choose to tackle the responsibility of being my parent’s caregiver or go after my dream as an online entrepreneur and creator, that fear would not appear in my life.
Your Fear Proves Your Growth
If I’d remained where I was 2 years ago, I’d be “safe.” But I wouldn’t be developing my potential or expanding my happiness.
It’s important to remember that when we tackle new adventures, learn new things, or face unexpected difficulties, we are in the fantastic position to transform our lives.
While constant devouring entrepreneurial, self-improvement, and Buddhist literature, I came across the idea that fear is completely natural when launching something new or facing unexpected challenge.
Fear is an indicator of growth. It means we’re going in the right direction, we’re demanding more of our limitless potential.
Find Your Best Self Through The Mirror of Fresh Perspective
Another thing that encouraged the hell out of me, was my friend’s tone of confidence when she mentioned that whatever I do from now will be successful because I’m so capable. We don’t often have the fortune to hear anyone, including ourselves, showering praise for our innate capability.
People don’t tend to mention how inevitable our success will be because of our unique abilities. If anyone does mention it, we often don’t hear it.
Instead, we typically ingrain oodles of negativity from the voices of others. Those old tapes get stuck in our minds, replaying over and over, while the positive encouragement so often gets lost amid that noise.
Hearing my friend’s voice of confidence in me stopped me in my tracks. It made me look at the mirror of my mind with fresh perspective.
The idea of recognizing and trusting in my capacity (talent, wisdom, experience, skill, compassionate energy) nearly shocked me with the reality that I tend to constantly negate my potential.
This led me to immediately ask myself,
“What if I believed in myself as much as my friend believes in me?”
Pretend You Are Amazing
This leads me to concentrate fully on envisioning my life through the lens of self-belief. Even if I have to pretend I’m someone else who believes in me.
I’m not condoning selfishness or ego. Rather, I’m referring to envisioning myself through the perspective of my best qualities.
Defining your qualities may bring up a self-depreciating attitude. But, sometimes what we think are our worst qualities are seen as admirable from someone else’s perspective!
Every tendency of your life has both a negative and positive aspect. Keep pretending that you are amazing, imagining that each trait you possess is functioning in the most positive way.
I’ve learned that if I look for the good in myself and others, I will find it. Even if I feel I must dig deeper to see something positive, it is through that burst of concentrated effort that I uncover value.
The act of searching for that positive value is the process that delivers actual proof and enables progress. In other words, the effort made to win over negativity is the very thing that leads to victory and developing inner strength. The more I use that muscle, the easier it gets, too.
Use Your Gratitude As Fuel For Action
My friend served as a catalyst for my awareness of my courage and capability. This inspires me to do my best to repay my gratitude to people like my dear friend, who encourages my faith, personal development, and success in life and business.
Writing a list in my daily journal of what I appreciate in my life helps remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing. Appreciation is a strong weapon against fear and doubt, too.
When I think of my friend and others who have believed in me, encouraged and supported me in my life, it fuels my determined action. This helps me create momentum to power through fear and doubt.
Focus On The Positive Boosts Drive
Imagining my greatest potential, acknowledging my innate courage, and taking action to repay my debt of gratitude to others are things I now use as focal points going forward. Focusing on the positive, and taking action from that place redirects me away from my negativity.
What we think about becomes our reality. Buddhism teaches the law of cause and effect; What I think or do creates the kind of life I have. My mentor, Buddhist leader and peace activist, Daisaku Ikeda explains, “The reality of your future self is forged by your current action, in your behavior now.”
Defeat Fear With Constant Action
In the past, I’ve allowed my anxiety and self-slander to stunt my progress, or stop me from achieving my goals. Now, I’m actively experiencing how my inner voice determines my external progress. Training myself to think proactively and positively is working.
I take more energetic action, get more accomplished, appreciate myself more, have better moods, and sleep better as a result.
I’ve learned to replace fear with action that is based on positive mindset. I aim to focus on the positive and envision the best outcome as I take action.
But, sometimes I still have to battle my inner demons. Even if I feel doubtful or have anxiety, I find that setting clear daily goals and taking decisive action helps me win over my negative self-talk.
I find that the less time I allow myself to think about my insecurities, and the more I do toward my daily goals, the stronger my inner voice of confidence becomes.
Use Prayer To Transform Your Anxiety
Here’s what’s working for me in my battle against mental angst:
As an SGI Buddhist, I start and end my day with prayer. My mornings start with an hour of Buddhist chanting, during which I set a determination for the day’s success and productivity.
I also use that time to send waves of prayer to others in my life, from family to friends, and you, my online audience.
I resolve to be effective and to fulfill my potential through my daily actions. In the evenings, I do a short 4-minute prayer to reflect and appreciate the day’s progress and life lessons.
The health and positive mental effects of my daily Buddhist practice are profound. Chanting gives me hope, boosts my compassion, and restores my energy. It’s an amazing tool I’ve used for 32 years. If you’d like to learn more about SGI Buddhism, please click here.
Build Your Positivity Fortress
Besides my incredibly supportive friends, and my participation in SGI-USA activities, I immerse myself in positivity.
From listening to upbeat podcasts, blogs, and my favorite music, to reading books on positive mindset, to my SGI-USA Buddhist publications, I devour all things about positive-thinking.
The more I delve into this kind of content, the easier it is for me to shift my focus to it. This dramatically diminishes or replaces my negative self-talk.
Developing a daily routine while vigilantly training my brain to see my best self has been helping me achieve more as I continue forging my new adventurous path. I plan to keep moving forward toward my dreams as I challenge myself to fulfill my potential.
I hope giving you an inside peak into my journey is helpful to you, too. Please let me know in the comments below if it is, or if you have any questions or other topics you’d like me to explore more deeply!
I sincerely pray this content inspires YourCreativeChord!
I’d love to hear from you. It means a lot to me that my content is helpful and empowers you. Please take a moment to join the conversation below to let me know if this blog is helpful or if you have questions or suggestions!
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COMING SOON: Watch this space for new ebooks, products and courses for nurturing creativity and inspiration!
In my INSPIRATION blogs, you’ll find ways to overcome obstacles, reach goals, and experience more joy in the moment with spiritual awareness and inner transformation.