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
It's easy for any of us to be defeated by our problems. Whether they are big or small doesn't matter. They're our problems and because of that, they can seem tailor-designed to knock us down.
Someone recently asked me how to overcome their problems. Regardless of specifics, when faced with difficulty, having the attitude to work toward a solution or win victory, is the first step to creating forward momentum.
I praised this person for having the desire to find a way through their challenges.
The Buddhist philosophy I practice has taught me that struggles are actually precious treasures to appreciate. We can actually use them as stepping stones to deeper happiness, solid inner strength and an awakening to our inherent wisdom. All this personal expansion leads to experiencing a rich, more fulfilled life.
The conversation with the person who asked for my help reminded me that I need to repeatedly polish my attitude and actions toward the challenges in my life.
I've learned that developing a determined spirit to win over difficulties is powerful. No matter what the problem is, having that spirit to keep fighting is itself the key to victory. It’s when we lose hope, or stop believing in our vast potential to achieve or transform anything, that problems get the better of us.
There are many things we can do to deal with our problems. But without the mindset toward winning ultimate victory, the results may prove less than satisfactory.
In other words, we can take plenty of action, but if we still hold doubt in our hearts about ourselves or our desired positive outcome, we diminish our results.
You Get Stronger Through Challenging A Problem
If we first work on strengthening the attitude behind our actions, we stand a greater chance of overcoming the problem or reaching a goal. Actions we take are only part of the solution or winning strategy.
Equally as valuable is the inner strength we forge by enduring the problem state.
As long as we resolve never to give up on ourselves, every problem actually can serve as a springboard toward improving ourselves and our quality of life. Building a strong inner intent ultimately manifests in taking wise action. This is the basis for creating a happier environment, and advancing our personal growth.
Plus, the added perk of solving our problem.
Be Like Einstein; Stay Longer
There’s an Einstein quote I love that goes, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."
Problems can function as beneficial to our lives because they push us into the proverbial corner until we learn to strengthen our belief in the unlimited potential within ourselves and humanity.
Problems can force us to work harder to mine that golden potential. Perhaps if we didn't experience our difficulties, we'd never make the kind of effort necessary to uncover our full abilities.
The fact is that we all have problems. Our capacity to overcome these is infinite. And by winning over them, we give others incredible hope to do the same.
Let's continue seeking ways to overcome our problems. In that sense, we are already winning.
By the way, my photo essay, How To Use Difficulties To Inspire Appreciation & Creativity, touches on this same point. I hope it encourages you and others reading this!
Thank you for showing your love of my content with a LIKE or by sharing this blog with others. Leave your comment or ask a question below.
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
BIG PLAN A
I’ve had surprising challenges since I set out to achieve personal goals. I made bold decisions to leave a career I’d outgrown, sell my home, move out-of-state to be in place as caregiver for my aging parent, then use my new situation to apply myself toward my lifelong dreams of working from home as a creator.
CHANGE CAN BE AWKWARD
I’ve learned through this process that just because I’m doing something for a good reason (help my mother and relieve other family members) doesn’t mean it will be easy or even appreciated by others. Big changes bring out big obstacles.
People need time to adjust to significant transitions. Sometimes the initial shift brings out uncomfortable aspects within a relationship or from within a person. People just flat-out respond differently (including me) when facing new challenges. I’m learning to check my expectations at the door, lower my judgment, strive to listen to opposing perspectives, and work on the only person I have control over; me.
EXPECT NOTHING TO BE EASY
I’ve also learned that going after my dreams doesn’t mean they will be handed to me on a silver platter. It’s been my experience that thinking the hardest part is over is almost always wrong. Something more difficult or unexpected often presents itself. It is best to prepare myself to expect nothing to be easy, and to forge a life-state ready for impending problems.
I’ve found that being true to myself and going all out for my dreams means I may face resistance in the form of judgment from others whose values differ from my own, or who have an outdated version of me in their psyche. That means I must embolden myself to withstand countering views, to stand my ground and persist on paving my new pathway without support or understanding.
Again, expect nothing.
DISCOVERING YOUR ABILITY TO CREATE PLAN B
Reflecting on myself through this period of troubles, I’ve found my weaknesses as well as strengths I didn’t realize were in me. On the plus side, I’ve discovered that despite the fact my best laid plans were completely skewed from the start, I have qualities that enable me to push through and create Plan B.
Let me share a bit of my story to make my point. My plan was to sell my home, and use the profits to cover 6-months to a year's expenses for my out-of-state move while building my online business as a blogger, podcast host and course creator. This plan and timeline were both utterly botched by an inexperienced realtor, an unforeseen hurricane, and unexpected family health emergencies.
My home was under contract to close when I moved to Kentucky from Florida last July. But the buyer strung me and my realtor along a series of peculiar delays. In hindsight, I now know these delays should’ve been avoided by my realtor quickly cancelling that buyer’s contract early on, to immediately put my lovely home back on market. Instead, that buyer failed to win loan approval after three months’ delay, just in time for a hurricane of historic power (Irma) to strike near my home, causing a housing slow-down (but, fortunately no damage to my home).
After the hurricane passed, I stressed to my realtor my urgency to sell my home, as I had not anticipated moving out of state before my home sale. She had a melt-down during our phone conversation, and instead vindictively sabotaged my home sale. Though I attempted giving her time and the benefit of doubt, due to no showings in 6 months, I finally found a second realtor.
My new realtor showed the home 11 times in less than 2 months during the slowest (holidays) season, and in February, I finally sold my home after an 8-month delay. (Whew!)
FINDING THE VALUE WITHIN YOUR STRUGGLES
This is only a partial view of the story, as I simultaneously dealt with additional unanticipated challenges as a new caregiver, a bizarre botching of my investment funds from my previous job's Human Resources department, and with other family issues that slowed down my focus on establishing my online business.
But, I also had a variety of mystic protection and benefits.
I was eligible for disaster relief due to the hurricane, even though my home suffered zero damage! This allowed me nearly 6 months of freedom from one credit card and my mortgage payments! Thanks to my diligent juggling with living off my credit cards while waiting for my home sale, I achieved my goal to keep my credit score unscathed (currently 836!). Having struggled for many years to transform my credit score from horrible to stellar, and keep it there, was a true personal victory.
Due to the delay, I managed to grow my IRA to more than I anticipated, and finally got my funds transferred to my account. I had a wonderful local group of capable men volunteer (in 20° snowy weather!) to move my belongings from an expensive pod to an affordable, more convenient storage unit!
YOUR TRUE VICTORY IS WITHIN YOUR PROBLEMS
I’m grateful for these wonderful benefits, but find my struggles exponentially more valuable. Through adversity, I began to forge tenacity, resourcefulness, flexibility, appreciation, develop patience, tap into my inherent wisdom, and fuel my sense of empathy for others facing unforeseen challenge.
I also learned that my tendencies to doubt myself, complain about my hardships, or be inflexible and narrow-minded do not add value nor provide solutions, relief or comfort to me or anyone around me.
Having to experience a failed Plan A, move on to Plan B, while juggling all the complications that entails, is an infinitely more valuable chapter in my life than having had everything go smoothly from the start.
CHALLENGING WORKOUTS BUILD STRENGTH
Difficulties are like climbing mountains.
The higher the altitude gets, the more the climber has to develop and expand in survival capacity. Just walking down a straight, flat road doesn’t test or build one’s abilities in comparison to climbing a mountain.
But after climbing a mountain, a walk down the road feels like a vacation.
What I’ve learned is that Plan B is about my behavior as a human being.
How do I become the most capable, compassionate, wise, person?
How do I fulfill my greatest potential?
Setting goals that seem impossible to achieve, getting my plans crushed and having to devise a new way through--being forced to find innovative ways to get through a challenge--is what dreams are made of. Responding to each surprising obstacle with the determination to win victory no matter what is crucial to my becoming the best I can be.
The developments I make through struggles in one aspect of my life interconnect and apply toward other aspects of my life. Through my 8-month journey, I forged discipline to write, compose and network, bringing me a sudden burst of freelance work, creative projects, and personal connections. I'm also becoming a better writer, social media manager, and have expanded my content to podcasts and affiliate marketing. These are in sync with what I envision as my lifelong dream path to manifest my full potential as an artist for peace.
Plan B is about my behavior as a human being. It’s about how to respond to the difficulties in front of me. It’s about how I create a better me out of the situation. Creating value out of any situation is transformational for me and those around me.
Plan B, from this moment forward, is about brilliant transformation.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about my perspective on struggles as a means to make improvement. Please share your comments below.
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By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I spent the past month carving 1 to 4 hours out of my freelance schedule four days weekly to teach a young woman to drive. Her personal experience of being in car accidents delayed her interest in learning to drive until her early 20s. I knew teaching her to drive would be a special challenge because of the psychological pressure she endured.
I did my best to guide her from the nervous, apprehensive state she had at the start, to become the competent, safe driver she is now. Watching her face her fears head-on, practice to overcome her weaknesses and master each new skill gave me a sense of personal satisfaction. She is a youth who represents the potential in all of us.
She is part of the generation whose task will be to lead our society out of the darkness we older humans have created. Doing whatever we can to find opportunities to raise a capable youth to feel empowered by her own abilities is a source of hope and strength.
Encouraging this young woman to acknowledge her self-slandering remarks as she tackled a completely new world, and deliberately let go of her doubts, while dealing with her fears from past experiences, was a constant in our driving lessons.
It was good to see her gradually leave the scaffolding of fear and doubt behind as she began embracing her competency as a driver. An emerging self-reliance, along with a rising sense of independence and courage have begun to grow in her.
This is only the beginning of her capacity as a powerful, strong, independent young woman who will do her part to contribute to a better world. A single, young person feeling good about herself has the ultimate power to impact others in profound and lasting ways.
Looking for opportunities to offer whatever we can to raise capable youth is the responsibility of my generation. It is time we help young people overcome their internal obstacles, as this is the key for their victory over inevitable difficulties in life. Each person winning over their inner struggle is a force for good, harmony and peace in a world that desperately needs mending.
None of this was easy for me; I gave up critical time from my business, as my workflow and productivity were severely interrupted. The daily sessions were mentally stressful for this 54-year old.
I racked my brain every step of the way to find adequate words to guide my unseasoned driving student toward a grasp of handling a vehicle for the first time in multiple scenarios. Giving up my daily routine toward helping someone else was a sacrifice. Now I must pay for it by working fast and twice as hard to catch up on lost business and productivity.
But the process taught me that each person, including myself, has something that can help another person. My personal relationship with this young woman developed based on her trust that I care about her. That trust, plus my years as a teacher made me the right person, with the right strategy, to encourage her.
This reminded me of my duty, as someone whose youthfulness is now in my rearview mirror, to find more chances to raise capable youth for our future. Now that we have another safe, capable driver on the road, I’m looking outside my box to encourage the next young person toward their limitless potential. Our world is in need of mentors. Young people are ready to lead. Let’s roll forward on that.
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 let me know your thoughts below!
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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.