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My sister and nephew used to live in Italy and I had the pleasure of visiting them for several weeks at a time in my late 20s. Positioned just a few miles from the center of Pisa and only a five minute walk to the Italian Mediterranean coast, they lived in a huge and comfortable house in Livorno. But the first time I went, it took me about four full days to totally mentally disconnect from my cell phone, my voicemail, the internet and cable TV. I literally had to detox from the mechanics of my very modern life and fall helplessly into a pattern of living that seemed unusually slow. I thought the situation was disquieting, but I realized that I was approaching a quiet way of life that my soul desperately longed for.

When the plumber came to the house one day, he checked the pipes in a leisurely way and my sister had told me very specifically not to let him leave until the leak had been fixed. I thought it was funny she was so adamant about it, but when he turned to me and said “domani, domani” I knew he meant tomorrow or the next day and I had to block him from leaving. He laughed and found another way out, lighting a cigarette and gliding without a care in the world down my sister’s driveway. Though he did come back two days later, I realized that the leak was not so bad that it couldn’t wait and all was really OK.

That sort of attitude reminded me of my college years in many ways. Yes, I am old enough to say that the internet didn’t exist when I was in college. We did not have e-mail and absurdly cheap long distance plans. I didn’t even have a TV most of the time I was in college, and when I did it was basically furniture and a place to put my books. Like Italy, days and nights were for reading, walking, eating and being with friends. I profoundly enjoyed this sort of slow living which, in many repects, was not slow at all. It was colorful and rich, brimming with new conversations, experiences and people. You floated along in life with a wondrous sense that anything could happen at any moment. And life was meant to unfold and be discovered rather than worked to death and made into something else.

Now that I am a mother, I want to instill this sense of slow living into my son’s reality. Though Mom and Dad are crazy busy, there are several hours in the day that can be devoted to being with my son in a fun, conscious and totally random way. “So… what do you want to do?” I ask my little guy. Sometimes it is “park” or “store” or “walk in the woods” or just “play trains” and that’s what we do. Now I am understanding how life can be free again. How the wonder and randomness of life can be reignited at any moment through creativity, play and just setting the intention to have more joy in one’s life.

This is why I absolutely love the ladies at www.slowfamilyliving.com. They not only understand the deep need to live presently, but they’ve made a movement out of empowering families and individuals to take regular stock of the emotional life they’ve created. Just slow down. Be, you know, more European and student-y about it all. Know that this, right now, is your life happening right before your eyes. Savor it.

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Last night we were going to kick off Valentine’s weekend at an expensive downtown restaurant. But as the afternoon unfolded, I couldn’t help but have an uneasy feeling about it. Did I really want to get dressed up, fight the traffic, lay out $100 for a heavy meal and then get home tired and stuffed? It just didn’t appeal to me. So instead, I went with my instincts and decided to cancel the reservation.

A new farmer’s market just opened right down the street, so I checked it out for the first time. I picked up a fresh baguette, artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, brie, dill havarti, strawberries, blackberries, assorted nuts, dried salami, chocolate rugalah and a nice bottle of orange seltzer. I laid out a beautiful picnic in the living room and filled it with candles. My husband had given me a CD called Bossa Nova for Lovers, and on it went.

When he came to the door, I told him I canceled the dinner reservation. When he asked me if I felt OK, I said “Yes!” and ushered him into the house. He loved it. And so did I. The whole dinner picnic felt luxurious, simple and abundant. Then he did about the most generous thing a man could do… he actually watched Somewhere in Time with me. One of my all time favorite movies. I’ve got to hand it to him. He sat through the whole thing, God love him.

loacards1living_the_simple_lifeSo this morning (the real Valentine’s Day) I awoke to several sweet gifts including a beautiful new journal, Law of Attraction cards by Esther and Jerry HicksA Writer’s Toolbox and Living the Simple Life by Elaine St. James. These were extremely thoughtful presents and I’m really going to enjoy them. Oh, and don’t forget the roses and truffles. What a beautiful way to start my day. I felt deeply rested and knew that our young son was having the time of his life at his grandparent’s.

And tonight, we had an actual dress-up date. We went to see the amazing performance troupe, Circus Oz. The acrobats, musicians, aerialists, etc. were stunning. It was inventive, funny, energetic and mesmerizing. And, of course, I love those Aussie accents! We left the theater in such a good frame of mind. Tomorrow, we will pick up our son and give him his very own valentine surprise… lollipops, trains, a frog and too many kisses to count.

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At one point or another many of us come to a crossroads in our professional and personal lives. We sit back, sigh deeply and ask ourselves “is this all there is?” For Renee Trudeau, the deep inner calling of her life became louder and louder until one day she decided to leave a successful corporate career and change the direction of her life forever. What happened next not only took her own family in an entirely new direction, but her powerful message of motherhood and self-care has changed the lives of thousands of women worldwide. Now, Renee is exploring the world of everyday spirituality. And somewhere in the process of being a student, she has become the teacher.

 

CL: You left behind a lucrative and very stable career in order to pursue your passions. Can you tell me about that decision, what you decided to do and how leaving the corporate environment changed your life?

RT: Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following An Authentic Life says “Generally people won’t pursue their calling until the fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so. But, it’s amazing how high our threshold is for this type of pain.” I knew after a stable, 14-year career in the marketing communications field that there was another way I was meant to use my gifts and talents.

I had coached professionals (for free) for years on how to develop and leverage their personal brand and I had a strong desire to help others express their potential. So, after much soul searching—more on this journey in my book– I launched Career Strategists in 2000, based on my strong belief that we are truly meant to integrate “who we are” with “what we do” in the world. Yes, like all that make the leap to self-employment, I had a lot of fear come up. But I knew that the life I desired (one where I was the master of, not the slave to my life) was more important than the fear. Ultimately, I had no choice but to take this leap.

I believe we all receive these taps on the shoulder throughout our life. The question is, next time you receive a tap, will you shrug the feeling off, or say yes (to your life)?

CL: How did the concept of personal renewal groups and your book, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal, initially come about and what has been the response?

themothersguide_cover_000RT: After having my son at age 37, I was shocked to realize how profound the transition to parenthood is. I believe having a child, literally changes you on a cellular level. Who you are will never be the same. And, at the same time, it really rocks you to your core and challenges you to get clear on why you’re here, what is your path and what does the life you truly desire—look like? (My video talks more about this.)

After searching for resources and books that support mothers in nurturing their essence while taking care of their kids, I found nothing and was ultimately guided to start a Personal Renewal Group (self renewal circle for women) in 2003. Five years and countless groups later, after repeated requests from my Personal Renewal Group members, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal was born. Now thousands of women around the US/Canada and beyond are leading these groups, which are based on the Guide, and supporting women in nurturing their emotional well-being. The response has been phenomenal (many therapists, coaches, doulas and women’s empowerment advocates are being called to lead groups.) Everyone seems to immediately get how important and needed a life coaching program like this, is. The book will be published in Korea later this year. It seems that the messages that came through me are resonating on a universal level.

CL: When people come to a crossroads in life, they are often told to pursue their passions and the money will follow. Do you believe that’s true?

RT: Yes! After working now for more than 20 years in this arena (I started helping family/friends with career strategy when I was eighteen) and having supported thousands in both big and small career and life transitions, I absolutely believe it is our job, our responsibility, to give birth to the best that is within us. And when we do this from a place of truth and authenticity, we will prosper.

I also work with clients a lot on marrying their passion with their brilliance (what you innately “do best”). This is where the magic happens! When we leverage our innate God-given talents, we’re in flow. We’re doing what we were put on the earth to do. And, when this happens, we can’t help but prosper financially. Interestingly, for most of my clients, the hard work isn’t around manifesting, it’s around “receiving” (believing that you’re worthy to be paid for these gifts).

CL: We all know how important it is to take good physical care of oneself in order to be effective in life. What else do you advise people to do to take care of themselves? What is your definition of self-care?

RT: Self-care is the practice of self-nourishment and self-nurturing. It’s essential to feeling whole and to being human. Cancer survivor/activist Audrey Lorde says “Self care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation.” Taking time to fill our cups first before helping others is essential to our well-being and to optimal living.

Start by cultivating an awareness of how you talk to, treat, think about and care for yourself—physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have found the practice of self-care is a portal for many of us to our deeper selves. Loving ourselves and treating ourselves as if you would treat a small child, requires a deep honoring of spirit, of our essence (you can learn more about the transformative power of self-care in The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal). Begin with baby steps, be gentle with yourself and know that developing a self-care practice takes time and being around others who believe this is essential, too.

CL: What are you reading right now? What are some books that you can recommend for people interested in personal/spiritual growth?

RT: Life coaches Jennifer Louden and Cheryl Richardson are two of the original self-care advocates/pioneers and all of their books are wonderful and highly recommended, particularly if you’re just getting started on your self-care journey. In terms of physical self-care, I am reading Quantum Wellness by Kathy Freston and The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup—both are very holistic and integrative in their approach to physical/emotional/spiritual well-being. I am also reading (I’m a multiple books at one time reader) Practicing The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Soul Signs by Diane Eichenbaum, Conversations with God (again) by Neal Donald Walsch, This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women and Open Heart, Open Mind by Father Thomas Keating (who will be in Austin Feb. 21-22).

CL: I understand you are working on a new project. Can you tell us about that?

RT: Since last summer, I have been researching and exploring the theme of “everyday spirituality”—the idea that the sacred is present and accessible everyday, through simple daily rituals and activities like walking in nature, playing with our kids and artistic expression, etc.

I think most Americans are overwhelmed, overworked and overscheduled. They are craving meaning in their lives, but when they hear the term “spiritual practice,” they think forget it, who has time to go on a ten day silent retreat or go sit on a mountaintop! I’ve got kids to get to soccer and bosses to appease! I believe strongly that there are many avenues for nourishment on the“spiritual practice” continuum and that each of us just needs to get quiet and hear what spiritual renewal looks like to us.

I was raised in a very interesting family (my latest blog posting on Spirituality talks about this)—I have a brother named Shiva and a sister named after St. Theresa. Questions around spiritual renewal and fulfillment have been sitting with me for a long, long time. I believe this is the direction my work will be taking me over the next 5-7 years.

Upcoming Events:

Renee Trudeau is holding a Career Mojo workshop on 2/26/09 as well as a women’s self renewal retreat on 3/24/09. Current Living readers can enjoy a special early bird rate for the women’s retreat through April 10th!! But register early because these workshops fill up fast. Please go to www.reneetrudeau.com for more info.

benjamin-robenalt2I have to admit that I stole that headline from my good friend, Sonya Feher who writes an amazing blog called mamaTRUE: Parenting as Practice. I had the great privilege of being pregnant at the same time as Sonya and our first and only sons are one month apart. She has dedicated herself to exploring the power of motherhood as a spiritual practice which can help us reclaim what was wiped away and lost in our own childhoods.

For me, being the mother to an innocent, pure and precious being has given me a profound mission in life, and produced a deep awakening in my soul. Where my creative ambitions were once dilluted and dulled by the mind chatter of my relentless ego, I can now see a clear path for myself and how my husband and I are choosing to raise our son. We want to preserve and protect his true nature, his inherent and deep knowing that all is well, that joy is a birthright and that there exists an army of guides available to him for support and love whenever he needs it. He will never be alone, because we are all connected– and he is connected to all things.

I am lucky that his father is a deeply peaceful, playful and compassionate man who values creativity, exploration, fun and simple pleasures. What we want for Ben is not something that society, the media or the world at large necessarily models or overtly teaches. Certainly there are values that institutions feel obligated to instill: teamwork, sacrifice, loyalty, respect, honor, responsibility, dedication, honesty, etc. I believe these values are overall quite good– but they can be tricky. Instead of mottos and mission statements and oaths, I want Ben to use his intuition, instincts and faith (and we modeled for him) to help guide him in the direction of compassion and truth. I want his to be a very joyful life experience based on a commitment to being the most authentic person he can be. I want him to be true to himself, and to let love flow freely in and out of his heart.

I hope that one day he knows that he saved my soul. He inspired me to look deeply within to try to be the best possible role model in this physical existence. As a parent, my job is not to control my child. My job is guide him, and allow him to remind me of how beautiful a sense of wonder and joy can be every single day. My job is to lovingly point him in the direction of his true purpose– whatever that is.

Once, all I wanted for Ben was to be happy, healthy, go to a prestigous college or university and get married (to someone I really, really like!) Yes, that’s normal. But two years ago when I first gazed into his big, blue, crystal clear eyes a bigger, newer dream was born. I want my son is to know that he is a child of a vast, wondrous and beautiful universe. I want him to know everyday that he is literally a miracle. I want him to feel, deeply feel, that anything in life is possible and that the music of the world was made for him, and for all people. My hope is that he knows how perfectly amazing it is to just be exactly who he is… right now. I want him to listen to his own higher self, his own personal guidance and not direct his life based on other people’s opinions or fear. I want Ben to love himself and feel the love that we all have for him.

And you know what? I want that for all children. We are the guardians of their pristine and loving spirits, and each and every adult needs to take that responsibility extremely seriously. A child’s natural state is to be loving, curious, creative, receptive and joyful. This is what I strive for now. Let the natural tempo of a child’s imagination and energy help slow us down, remember what’s important and encourage us to contact the deep divine voices that are guiding us back to our true selves each and every day. Live with the open, forgiving, and loving heart of a child, and life can be very, very good.

I’m relatively new to the world of oracle cards and what they are designed to bring to a personal development/meditation/self-awareness practice. The only cards I really ever had any experience with were tarot or regular playing cards when I would get a psyhic reading once a year.

2375_c1But after I read “Ask Your Guides” by Sonia Choquette I discovered the accompanying oracle cards and I was intrigued. The card meanings were gentle, clear and above all extremely relevant. I was incredibly impressed with the overwhelmingly pure insight that Choquette provided in the guidebook that came with the deck and thought “how can something that looks like a Valentine’s Day gift include such simple and sustaining advice?” This is amazing! Whether I am pulling one card or doing a simple spread, I always find crystal clear guidance from my spirit guides, particularly if my own mind chatter or physical exhaustion is preventing me from hearing these messages through meditation.

I then discovered Doreen Virtue’s decks which at first seemed a little too “out there” for me. But I was guided to get both the “Messages from Your Angels” and the “Ascended Masters” decks from my extremely gifted neighbor and from a medium, respectively. 3047_c1What I’ve experienced is that all of the decks synchronize so perfectly when I ask a specific question. I am able to go from deck to deck seamlessly and find information, guidance and insight which is inspired by great spiritual masters who have passed or highly beings or streams of thought– the angels– who can provide positive perspective which I sometimes have difficulty grasping through my personal ego lens at given moment. If anything, the cards have the ability to efficiently direct me back to my true still small voice inside that resides separate and apart from the ego that wishes to direct me through hesitation, fear and worry. The “Ascended Masters deck “includes gorgeous paintings of 44 male and female cross-cultural deities, such as Ganesha, Merlin, Saint-Germain, Apollo, Pallas Athena, White Buffalo Calf Woman, Jesus, Moses, Yogananda, Green Man, and Kuthumi. The enclosed guidebook gives expanded explanations of each card’s meaning, and a brief history of each ascended master. As with each of Doreen’s oracle-card decks, the messages for each card are positive, accurate, and life-affirming.”

104_c11Cards are tools only– they have no inherent power other than being the microphone for Source Energy to communicate simple human truths in order to keep you in the current of universal truths that can positively impact our experience on the physical plane. In my experience, there is no separation from “out there” or “in here.” It’s a beautiful thing to be plugged into universal intelligence and positive personal development tools like these are uplifting and energizing to the seeker.

“Life can be so sweet on the sunny side of the street.” You said it, Louis.

I’m in this Mastermind group focusing on prosperity and abundance, and Mind Mapping is a very big part of how we come into vibrational alignment with what it is we want to manifest.

Created by Tony Buzan, Mind Mapping is a great way to creatively and instinctively come up with solutions, eliminate mental blocks, break apart negative and limiting beliefs, and develop amazing clarity about what it is you really want.

All you need is a sketchbook, colored markers or crayons (lots of colors are better), and a desire to achieve clarity about any situation that is demanding your attention: relationships, finances, health, absorbing and learning complex information and more.

Here is a cool video about Mind Mapping:

For all the talk on the necessity of eliminating negative thoughts and negative thought patterns, I think there is a lot of merit to being exceptionally gentle with yourself when easing into this more fluid state of being. I believe that you must make a conscious effort to be masterful with your thoughts instead of simply being at the mercy of them and living by default. It’s a wonderful state to be in when you choose to live purposefully. That said, how do you go from “this feels all wrong” to “I am at peace with what is.” How does that happen? Is it a thought away, or is it many steps? I am a word addict, and I tend to take things very much to heart. But when I go from 0 to 60 on the happiness scale when something is obviously going very much awry, it seems forced and unnatural.

So I think the answer is simple: be kind to yourself. Let yourself be a human being and experience the depths of despair, the other side of passion, the trials of grief, the fury of anger. For when we allow ourselves to live fully in those moments, we can guide our consciousness back to the core of these feelings and make important observations… “This is my karma speaking. This is my pain attacking (or being attacked) by your pain. This is the core of my separation from God. This is my uniquely human state… and it is done.” You have to be in the throes of your full emotions in order to release it once and for all. These occasions for bad feelings are gifts– they are the starting pistol to an emotional sprint that, once complete, will have served a very important purpose. So if you’re angry, be angry– but aware of what that anger or fear or panic or hostility really is. It’s a sticky web that keeps us apart from who we really are. And that’s OK. We’re here to grow, to expand, to create. Without this conflict in ourselves, there would be very little opportunity to embrace what we ultimately came here to do– move forever in the direction of truth and spirit. It’s when we emphatically and chronically repeat these episodes without any aknowledgement of its real purpose that we become stuck in destructive patterns and remain asleep to life’s potential. So I say, be gentle. Go from angry to frustrated. Then from frustrated to annoyed. Then from annoyed to confused. Then from confused to present. Then from present to acceptance. And do all of this without judgement of yourself and what you are capable (or not capable) of doing. Just do what you can, and positive thoughts powerfully multiply until transformation is upon you.

I loved the movie Once and was incredibly pleased that Glen Hansard (of popular Irish rock band The Frames) and Markéta Irglová won Academy Awards for their song “Falling Slowly.” I think this montage is a beautiful representation of two like souls coming together to co-create from the heart. Enjoy!

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