Our Thoughts

Check in as we periodically update this page to share our opinion, advice, and thoughts on navigating life and discovering greater clarity. 

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12.6.18 Changing the Blueprint By Pier Pagano

Your parents were your first blueprint. Their influences and experiences created your life patterns-and every belief, thought and feeling you have about men, women, communication, love, sex, marriage and relationships.

Unless you now examine your life through a clear and honest lens, you’ll continue to attract people, places, events and experiences that mirror your original blueprint. 

You are not your parents. 
I’m sure they taught you valuable lessons. Some are worth keeping. Those that aren’t are still worth revisiting, reviewing and discarding. The past only predicts the future if you let it. 
You can choose at any time to fill your internal closet with new experiences. 

It’s quite freeing to step out of the life you were born into if it doesn’t fit who you are now.

A young friend told me that she sees her disappointments as blessings. She is very wise. 

In my own life, every setback or sadness moves me forward in some way. Although not always immediately obvious, I learn something that strengthens me. 

Good comes out of knowledge no matter how it is experienced. 

It may not always be comfortable, and can be confusing. 
The Universe is definitely not benevolent. 

If you shift your gaze to see the bigger picture, you will be open to more understanding of yourself and others. 

Maybe your childhood was rougher than some of your friends. Perhaps you were neglected or abused verbally or physically. Reflect for a minute. 

As an adult, does your blueprint make you more aware of people who suffer similar experiences? Or less? Does it frighten you or embolden you? 

Are you kinder to others because of your experiences? Or are you angry because you didn’t receive the unconditional love you deserved? 

Who are you now? 

Maybe your childhood was the opposite. Your early life was filled with joy, love and respect. Your parents were supportive in every way, celebrating every milestone and achievement. 

How does that affect you as an adult? Do you cheer on others when they enjoy success? Or does it make you feel competitive and/or envious? Do you feel “less than” or “greater than?” 

Do you have good ego strength and self esteem? Or do you feel you’ll never measure up to the blueprint your parents gave you? 
Who are you now?

Sit in the garden you created where you feel supported and safe. Find your shadow self and ask her to sit next to you. Remind her that you are here for her and will always be. 
Ask your sacred self to join you when you are ready. 
When you are all together, hold each other and take a deep breath. Say out loud: “We will always support each other. We can shift any negativity to positivity if we are honest with ourselves.” 

Exercise:

Make a list of the qualities you like about yourself. Look at the traits you view as negative and find a way to move them into a more positive place in your assessment of yourself.

For example: it’s ok to be insistent (and even bossy) if you need to stand up for yourself or others. So if that’s on your list, think of how you can use it in a good way. If it’s a pattern you’d like to break, think of a different approach in a tense situation. Maybe your choice of words or tone of voice, even body language needs to be adjusted. People don’t hear you when you’re angry or shouting. 

Give thanks to your parents for teaching you lessons no matter how you learned them. 
Remind yourself of how you make a difference with your thoughts and deeds. 

Be kind. Even a tiny complement to the tired woman ringing up your groceries at 8 pm on Friday night is a lovely way to make her feel good, even for a moment. She may even look up and smile when you tell her that her brows are perfect or you love her nail polish. Try it.

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11.23.18 Spiritual ByPassing by Pier Pagno

Spiritual bypassing was coined by psychologist John Welwood. He describes it as “the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.”

Further describing this modern phenomenon, Robert Augustus Masters defines spiritual bypassing as “exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, over-emphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development, debilitating judgement about one’s negative shadow side, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being.”

Whew! I want to address this confusing (but true) condition because I have encountered it quite often in my clients. At first I thought it was an random resistant person exhibiting an unwillingness to move forward, despite a fervent, desperate and unrelenting quest for spiritual enlightenment.
I have changed my mind.

The search mode paradigm is not new.

It’s not comfortable to admit when change is not only needed, but urgent. That already implies that it’s going to be work. It’s easier to hide behind a mask of exaggerated and detached self love with a helping of emotional numbing. Whichever God you have given your allegiance to, you must not invite unpleasant scrutiny nor judgement. This assessment of your worth can only lead to more self loathing.
Once you accept that no one can judge you like you can judge yourself, you’ve made the first move to climb out of your self created hell.
Simply said, take it down to take lowest common denominator. You alone are in control of your soul. Your spiritual journey is to resolve painful feelings, unresolved wounds and developmental needs. Solution oriented. Finding problems in solutions is counterintuitive and destructive. 

Exercise:

Look at your friends. You may have a few relationships that have run their course. You’ve grown apart and have avoided acknowledging that this friendship is no longer fun.
Time to examine honestly what will work for you in your new definition of friendship. You’re certainly not the person you were in high school, maybe college and so on. When you let go of the unnecessary encumbrances that you are holding on to, you open the door to new and more satisfying relationships. 
Try it.

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11.4.18 Healing The Wounded Child By Pier Pagano

Never underestimate the power of yourself. The best thing about becoming a leader is that you can pick your own tribe.

Look at the decisions that were made for you as a child. Now examine the choices you have made in your friendships-the people you hold the closest.

It’s possible that without even realizing it, you’ve mirrored the relationships you saw between your parents and others in your life. No matter what sort of home you grew up in, your choices were affected by that environment, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

You could experience poor self-esteem from exposure to a blueprint that includes abandonment, addiction, negligence, fear, detachment or other physical/mental abuse. Just as easily, you may feel inadequate for other reasons that have nothing to do with you.

But at this moment, you hold all the power. 

Whatever your past was, it brought you here because you want a positive change.You have the ability right now to move forward with the people you personally choose. This is a magnificent opportunity to invite likeminded people into your life. You can examine, embrace or reject everything you were exposed to as a child. The old patterns you’ve been following no longer own you if you let them go.

You deserve love and affection. When you are ready to accept and love yourself, you’ll attract it back from others. 

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that will change your life.

As a child, when I told someone I loved them, what I really meant was, “Do you love me?” As an adult, I’ve realized that you can’t love someone else until you love yourself.

Clean out your internal closet.

Let go of people who make you feel small, or unimportant. 

Accept and understand that people treat you the way you let them. 

Tell yourself:
I am exceptional

I am a superstar.

These are not arrogant words. 

They are powerful statements of self love and acceptance of who you are. 

Believe them. 

Let them be the message you telegraph to the world. 

Loving yourself is the first step to loving others. 

It invites other exceptional superstars to see you. 

Perfection is overrated and not the slightest bit satisfying or achievable. 

Be comfortable with yourself and the people you attract will love you because of it. Not in spite of it. 

There are people who love you unconditionally. 

Your tribe. 

When you are happy inside, your tribe of the people who deserve your love and acceptance will give it back to you with no agenda. 

Start by loving every single part of you. 

You need all of you. 

You are the only you. 

You are worth loving.

Besides, everyone else is already taken (thank you, Oscar Wilde).

It’s the best advice you can give yourself. 

Your past only defines you if you let it hold you back from your present and your future. 

It’s not necessary to always be serious for people to take you seriously. Call on your inner child daily to join you for a game of HQ, a walk in the park or a funny romcom. 

Mine loves to binge watch Judge Judy. Why not?

Remind yourself that it’s perfectly wonderful to be silly sometimes. 

The Universe is so much more fun when you are in a committed relationship with yourself.

I’ll leave you with some good advice from writer Madeline L’Engle: “A good laugh heals a lot of hurts. “

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10.19.18 Upward and Onward (Part Two) By Pier Pagano

Hi again.

I am thinking more about the Me Too Movement and realize that I have more to say.

Like a coin, there are two sides.

The other side of horrible behavior is just as important to talk about.

In this blog I want to acknowledge all the men who have helped me. Men who acted with kindness.

Men who genuinely wanted to assist in some way just because they were in a position to do so. Men with no nefarious agenda or unspoken expectations.

Spoiler alert: I don’t think it’s as rare as it may seem.

If you are one of these men, I’m talking to you.

You may not have even realized how much it meant to a young girl who didn’t know how to do anything but run toward a dream without a net. You were selfless and you gave me hope. You offered me a chance to move forward. What may have meant little or nothing to you changed my life and my understanding of the world.

Let me belatedly thank you without mentioning names.

First, thank you to the famous shoe designer. I knocked on your showroom door and you opened it. Without an introduction, without knowing anything about me, you loaned me your exquisite shoes for my first fashion show. You didn’t ask me to sign for them or leave a deposit (I had nothing but chutzpah at that point for even asking). Because of you, my tiny little show got seen by a buyer from Bergdorf Goodman and suddenly I had a career and a regular paycheck.

Thank you to the photographer who borrowed a coat from my collection for an up and coming musician’s video that went viral. The publicity and resulting sales paid my back rent and kept me current for over a year. 

My restauranteur friend who invited me to have dinner with him daily. You knew I was struggling, and never mentioned it. I’m so grateful to you. Thank you. I still remember the delicious pasta and our late night conversations.

The incredibly generous friend who offered to pay my son’s school fees when you saw how stressed I was during my divorce. I slept well knowing that I had a solid back-up plan (which I thankfully didn’t have to use-but it was there).

Huge.

There are so many men I should thank. I’m sorry I can’t mention everyone, but please believe me when I say that you’re all important and wonderful. Your kindnesses taught me that not all men see women as objects. You treated me like a person who had talent and value and it shaped me forever.

This list of men who chose to believe in me is just as long as the list of the men who chose to use and abuse me.

As an adult, I see these opposite experiences as lessons that taught me how to use my toolbox effectively to move forward with love for myself and others. I look back on the journey no longer feeling powerless, but empowered. These life changing events helped me to grow beyond my fears.

I am grateful that whatever comes into my life now can be embraced with love or rejected without shame or guilt.

What if we change the paradigm and act from our hearts without agendas and expectations of ourselves and others?

When we move with kindness in thought and deed, it inspires everyone around us, enhancing quality of our lives.

Pass it on.

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10.2.2018 Upward and Onward- By Pier Pagano

With the Me Too movement so prominent in the headlines, it’s hard to ignore what came before, especially if you’re of a certain age. 

Until very recently, women were expected to smile politely as we scooted as quickly as possible past men who made uncomfortable jokes or suggestive remarks in the workplace or on the street. Some of us have encountered the lascivious wink of a friend’s father or a creepy relative’s too long hug. 

Uninvited. Unwanted. Ugh. 

I still vividly remember the old man in the bodega down the street who told me I had “bedroom eyes.” I was 7 years old. I actually thought it was a compliment and repeated it proudly to my father when I got home. He didn’t look up from his paper, but later I heard him tell my mother to buy her own cigarettes from now on. Somehow it felt like it was my fault, like I had elicited that attention. My mother was mad at me for days. 

Whatever it was that I did, it was clearly my fault. I had asked for it. 

A lifelong pattern of personal shame began. I never talked about it again. Not when my uncle tried to stick his tongue in my mouth the summer we stayed with them, or the times my dad let his friend babysit me. I just accepted what I came to believe as true. Something I did allowed them to take advantage of me. My fault. 

My friends in the music business, the garment district and the banking world have all shared personal horror stories about men behaving badly, in their family or at work. We all had them, but could do nothing about it if we wanted to keep our jobs or a peaceful home. We just took it in and tried to shake it off, hoping not to get noticed, or worse, let go or told to go. We were young, vulnerable and scared. We didn’t have the tools to stand up for ourselves.

Thankfully, the world has changed. Something good has come out of this horror. Women have found a collective voice and are not going to be silent any longer. Because of our experiences, my generation taught our children not to victimize or be victimized. We gave them a platform to be authentic and to be heard. And they’re talking. Sadly, this newfound freedom comes with another side. For every story that should be told, there is one that should be examined more closely. We need to be honest, listen carefully and support each other fully. It’s not possible to know what really happened in a situation unless all the evidence is presented. Jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of personal attention doesn’t further our message. It’s not the same as genuine support and desire to stop the objectionable, even criminal, behavior. We need to come together, standing in our truth firmly. To be effective with love and understanding takes all of us to move forward with dignity. 

Resolution is possible. 

I am not the same person I was at 20; not the same person I was at 30. It took an huge epiphany and a lot of work and desire to change my life. I examined my internal closet and discarded behavior and friends who no longer served my need to free myself from the pain of my past. I do not want to be judged by who I was then because it brought me to who I am now. I’ve made amends and forgiven myself and those who hurt me.


Every human is capable and deserving of love and understanding. Whatever experiences we have along the journey bring us forward if we look at them with clarity instead of judgement. Forgive the past and embrace the future. It’s the most wonderful gift you can give yourself. 

“The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” 

Oscar Wilde

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9.18.18 Nature vs Nurture - By Pier Pagano

I just saw the very interesting documentary, Three Identical Strangers. I suggest that you see it if you are fascinated by the great debate of nature vs nurture. It made me think deeply about my own childhood and choices. 

Nature or Nurture. 

Which one plays the more important role in a child’s development? Are we the product of genetics or biological influences? Or are we a combination of both?

Of course, one can accurately say that the argument won’t be resolved anytime soon. However, I have my own opinion and thoughts about this ancient quandary. 

I believe that all humans are born with an inner toolbox that needs to be discovered and utilized during their lifetime. The tools in this unique box are sharpened and dulled by the experiences a person invites, encounters or is subjected to. Undoubtedly, we will be hurt or strengthened in the process of learning how to use them properly. 

Our parents have their own toolboxes. When they came together and created your life, they used combined experiences and knowledge of the world to teach you the things they had learned along different and separate paths. While they each travelled alone, something they shared drew them together. 


Everything you’ve learned from the moment you were born until the time you left home directly or indirectly was influenced by their choices and the lessons they themselves had learned from their own parents, and then the world. 

Some lessons are painful, some are wonderful. Each one is a teaching tool for the recipient who then uses or discards it depending upon the experience it brought. 

Who you were born may not be who you are now or who you will be tomorrow. You are constantly evolving and changing as you gather more information and open yourself to new observations and encounters. 

I believe that you are nurtured by what you give out and take in. The person you are born is an empty slate, a book waiting to be written. You are the creator of your life. 

Life is a wonderful gift and not to be wasted. Invite love into your heart for yourself and it will flow out into the world, bringing you inner peace and happiness. 

It’s in our nature as humans to love and be loved. We need to nurture ourselves and everyone who touches us, no matter how briefly. Open yourself up to infinite possibilities and watch as the bread you throw out on the water returns as strawberry shortcake.

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9.5.18 A Better Place - By Pier Pagano

Have you ever heard the phrase he or she is in a better place?

I’ve always wondered exactly why people say that and what it means. 

Spending your life waiting for it to start seems like a waste of a perfectly good time to me. 

First of all, what’s wrong with this place? 

It was good enough for spiritual leader Baba Ram Das. He even named his 1971 book Be Here Now. It has sold over two million copies to date, so clearly plenty of people agree with him. I’m pretty sure he enjoyed his own personal journey on the path. He chronicled a life full of yoga, singing and making love while simultaneously working out his karma. Sounds divine. 

I agree with him. Being here now is absolutely essential to enjoy your time on this earth. 

I believe that happiness happens wherever you are if you open the door to let it in. 

You don’t need a lot of material things to define your success. All you need to live your best life is your authentic self. 

How? 

Step in, step up, be present. Say this sentence out loud. 

I am my own creation

How does it make you feel when you speak those words? Does it excite you or tether you? Is it frightening or freeing?

You create your reality with the choices you make. You write pages in your book, adding dimension to your life with every decision. One of the best things about being human is that you have control over everything you do or say. In fact, you can change direction anytime you want. 

Meditation is a marvelous practice to show you how to be here now. Focusing your mind leads to a calm, clear state. It helps with visualization and concentration both personally and professionally. 

No longer considered new age quackery, blue chip companies all over the world regularly hold wellness seminars as a means of maintaining health. Corporations are eagerly embracing the benefits of meditation, seeing it increase productivity, make a more positive work environment and generally improve happiness. Potential is maximized and profits go up. Everyone wins!

When you meditate, you open your mind and body to be receptive. Setting aside as little as eight minutes a day has been proven to be beneficial. 

Try this: 

Sit or lie comfortably. Close your eyes and breathe naturally. Focus your attention on the breath and how your body moves as you inhale and exhale. Let your thoughts wander as your mind drifts. Don’t pay attention to your thoughts or judge them, just be aware of each one as you feel it come through. 

If you do this daily, you’ll begin to see a pattern in the ways your thoughts and feelings move. Over time and with practice, an inner balance develops. You’ll soon realize that the “better place” has been here inside you all along. Choose to be here now. Create and start to live your own fantastic journey.

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8.26.18 The Ego Mind - By Pier Pagano

Let us consider solely for the purpose of this blog- the Vulcan Mind Meld. 

It is described as “a telepathic link between two individuals, allowing an intimate exchange of thoughts, thus in essence enabling the participants to become one mind, sharing consciousness. “ 

(www.memory-alpha.wikia.com)

I present this to you as an absurd illustration of a utopian world where connection is admired, revered and accepted. 

Since we don’t have this capability for instant connection with each other...who are you? 

The person that you show to the world separates you from everyone else, but does not define your soul. It is an appointed self image: your ego. 

Your higher self relies on the image that you present, whether it’s a mask or a realistic manifestation of who you actually are. The choice is yours. 

The ego wants to distinguish itself and proclaim importance. It can be aggressive in its self protection because secretly it fears rejection. 

Letting go of your ego and not letting it guide you depends on your willingness to listen to your intuition and not block out self-love and kindness. An out of control ego can be damaging both to yourself and others. It thrives on doubt and separation rather than acceptance and empathy. 

If you do the work to know your true self, the ego won’t feel the need to justify or be defensive, because you will be connected with love and compassion to who you really are. When you are open to the truth, you see where you are disconnected from your higher self, and can take the necessary steps to change your approach.

Looks for these unhealthy signs in your behavior:

*Are you a frequent complainer? 

*Do you argue or fight with other people? 

*Are you defensive when someone criticizes you? 

*Do you apologize?

*Are you self-critical and use derogatory terms when you’re speaking about yourself?

*Are you very impatient?

*Do you judge others? 

When you look inward, can you honestly admit that your ego is out of control? Happiness comes from within and spreads outward. You need to check and redirect your mind. 

Meditation is a beautiful way to connect with yourself. Take a walk through a quiet park and listen to your inner thoughts, letting the destructive words filter out and disappear. It shifts your focus when you allow yourself to view the world differently. As you drift, new scenarios and possibilities become clearer and nearer. Some of the decisions you’ve made in the past may no longer hold any relevance as your ego lets go of its need to control your thoughts and actions. Your higher self is right there, patiently waiting to guide you lovingly to happiness and peace. 

I do not believe that the ego mind is a bad thing. It is there to protect you. It just needs taming to move back, let you assess situations from a more compassionate perspective and make choices from your heart. 

When we can view others as an extension of ourselves, we can treat them the way we would like to be treated. All humans share the same fears and needs. We connect to each other in an organic way when we are first connected to ourselves. 

No need for the Vulcan Mind Meld if we choose hearts over minds in our interactions with others. Besides, it sounds a little painful, don’t you think?

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8.14.18 The Restless Brain and the Monkey Mind - By Pier Pagano

The monkey mind is a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled;” restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.” (Wikipedia)

The psychological metaphor “mind-monkey” has been adopted in many religions and writings in Chinese and Japanese literature since it was coined in 384-417 CE, and has found a relatable place In modern usage. 

My dear friend and colleague Annette Barrett often reminds me to quiet my “monkey mind.” It’s true that I get consumed with anxious thoughts, both random and real. I find it hard not to overthink pretty much everything. 

For example, in a typical day, I wonder if I locked my front door (or even closed it), if I am late (I have never been late), if my 22 year old son is okay (he thrives perfectly well without my annoying advice) or if I should have been so opinionated when talking with a client (probably should have chosen kinder words). 

Ugh. The obsession begins.

The monkey is back in my head, incessantly chattering and hopping about! Should I, could I, why didn’t I? Did I?

Are you nodding your head, feeling a symbiotic familiarity? I know I’m not alone. The world we live in is full of sand traps and rabbit holes. 

How do we keep anxious thoughts from taking over? 

I have some ideas that may help you.  

Your mind is making a list of:

Fears (real and imaginary)

Things you need to do

Hurtful words people have said to you

Present worries and judgments

“What if” worst place scenarios

Over and over you recreate these moments and pictures, negatively impacting your choices. This repeated and stressful behavior hampers your ability to concentrate and positively interact with others. 

Stop, Hamster Wheel of Pain and Shame!

First of all, you’ve got this. Quieting your monkey mind is completely doable. You’re going to handle this. You are in control of your thoughts. They don’t control you. Have a conversation with your monkey mind. Why is it restless and nagging? Maybe there is something you need to do. Schedule a time and write it down in your calendar. Once you’ve taken care of it, you can cross it off the list. No more worrying. 

Are you anxious about a future project or event? Go to the worst place and allow yourself to imagine what could possibly happen. Now come up with a plan for that unlikely scenario. Done. 

Angry about something that happened a long time ago, or even in the recent past? Do you feel resentful? Let your monkey mind talk to you. Listen carefully and design a plan for dealing with your past so that it is no longer a trigger. It helps a lot to write your thoughts in a journal. 

I have also recently discovered that voicing those consuming thoughts to a trusted friend or therapist diffuses the impact and allows you to drop any heaviness and shame that you’ve been needlessly carrying around. I was surprised how easily the hurts I’d been holding since childhood flew out of my mind when I finally spoke about them. 

Give yourself time to heal. Don’t take on too much at once. Set aside a specific amount of time daily to listen to your monkey mind. You are acknowledging the importance of understanding your fears and releasing them. 

Meditation is a wonderful way to calm your monkey mind. Stillness is practiced in Buddhism as a way to center and breathe. Your thoughts will be easier to control when your mind is quiet. If your monkey mind wants to fight with you and starts to argue with what’s going on, let it go by rejecting the beliefs that it’s trying to force on you. I’ve written about cognitive dissonance in a previous blog. That is exactly what is happening when you are at war with yourself. It’s uncomfortable and balance needs to be restored. You are able to tame your mind by not reacting. Observe non-judgmentally, acknowledge and let it subside. Breathe deeply and let it go. 

I’m getting to know my monkey mind pretty well. We become closer with every conversation. We agree that some things are more important than others, and that everything will get done as it should and when it should. 

And now that we have scheduled a short daily session, the voice is not so loud nor urgent. In fact, I think sometimes we actually laugh at each other!

 

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8.4.18 TIME IS THE ESSENCE - By Pier Pagano

We have all heard the phrase 

time is of the essence. It is a term used in contract law in many Commonwealth counties as well as the United States. According to Wiktionary, it means “the need for timely completion.” 

For the purpose of your wellness, I’m choosing to advise the importance of personal timely completion to avoid suffering the consequences of missing out on an amazing life. 

Why am I talking to you about this? 

Because I believe that time is not just OF the essence, it actually IS the essence. And the penalty of missed opportunities to move forward in life is more severe than any law. Every day that we wake up is a new page in our journal. The choices we make speak to our character and our self worth. It’s up to us to use our limited time on earth to nurture ourselves and others. 

Life Essence Council believes in the power of you. You are the creator. Since there’s only today and you can’t count on tomorrow, why waste any time holding onto anger, regret, or other destructive feelings? 

In simple words, time is your most valuable gift. Relationships require nurturing and attention, love and compassion. Once you’ve embraced and accepted yourself, you’re free to be open and accepting of others. There is nothing more satisfying or empowering than love. 

Think of something that annoys you about yourself. 

I’ll begin: I’m bossy. I’m so bossy. Sometimes I wish I’d just keep my thoughts in my head. If I were giving myself advice, I would say this: How would you feel if someone told you how to do a task differently than the way you’ve always approached it?Would your answer lie in the way they said it to you? Are you more or less open, depending on the way it’s verbalized? 

Recently, while making a salad for my friend Tina, I started to cut an avocado the way I always have, turning it lengthwise and cutting a third off the end. Watching me, she asked, “Can I show you an easier way to do that?” 

She sliced down the center (pit came right out) and into four even pieces. That day I learned something besides how to efficiently cut an avocado. One can still give advice, but by verbalizing it in a helpful way the delivery changes from bossy to informative. Much better. 

I’m going to try it her way next time. 

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7.20.18 Is Life Still Precious? - By Pier Pagano

I’m thinking about suicide. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in America.
Recently, there has been a plethora of media coverage of famous people who have killed themselves.

Someone I loved took his own life a few months ago. Three great job offers had recently come to him after a long period of no work. He decided to take the one in Abu Dhabi as the head of a custom suit factory. It came with a huge salary, staff of fifty workers and a spacious apartment, including a car and driver. My friend had finally gotten the break he deserved.

He called me, excited, voice trembling. He told me twice in our conversation that it was overwhelming. I thought he meant that the opportunity was so unbelievably incredible. It haunts me daily to wonder if he meant that it was just all too much.
I was the last person he spoke to. Was I not listening to what he wasn’t saying?

Cognitive dissonance is holding two distinct thoughts that are in conflict with each other. The inconsistency is in having thoughts that are in direct disagreement, like an oxymoron (clearly confusing). 
Changing either thoughts or behaviors will affect outcome, but we may or not be motivated to restore consistency even though it’s physically uncomfortable to continue. We may also have difficulty identifying whether or not it is within our control to change.

My friend truly wanted the job.  Why wouldn’t he? It was everything he’d ever dreamed of. At the same time, the thought of having fifty people to manage, plus a brand new lifestyle with staff and personal driver etc. must have seemed...overwhelming. Too overwhelming. His mind was at war with itself.

The world has become a very difficult place, especially for youth. They graduate from college owing tens of thousands of dollars and can’t get any work, let alone in their chosen field. 
So they end up back in the childhood home disillusioned, in debt, frustrated and angry. Even a menial job requires a resume with some college experience and significant social media presence. The more subscribers, likes, and retweets you have, the more valuable you are.

When did this become the message we revere?

It’s no wonder that people are disappointed with their lives.
Whatever happened to the American Dream-a satisfying job which rewarded loyalty and hard work with fair pay and the ability to thrive-even prosper? 
This used to be a given, a fixed outcome. You contributed to society and were compensated. You had a house, a family, a dog. Food on the table. Conversation and comfort. Summers at the beach. 
You enjoyed your life. 

Things have changed.
Society is pervasive in its aggressive stance. Life is not benevolent. People who have achieved great success are not immune to the slings and arrows of unfulfilled expectation.
Just this year we lost Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Verne Troyer. A few years ago comedian Robin Williams succumbed to suicide. Many others have chosen to exit. People who we thought had everything in life felt they had nothing to live for.

How do we put one foot in front of the other and walk forward? How do we wake up with joy instead of dread? Why don’t we ask for help? Are we afraid no one cares? Why are we so sure that we can’t or won’t live up to other people’s judgements? Why does it matter so much?

Everyone needs to feel they have a purpose, a value in the world. We must speak openly and honestly with each other.  We need to put our feelings into words and our words into journals.  Art. Music. Poetry  Dance. Athletics. Whatever brings you back to your authentic self, the lowest common denominator that binds us all. 
We are not that different from each other. 
Let’s choose to be solution oriented and share ourselves and our stories. 
We need to connect and be present with our fellow humans.  

Speak your truth with family or friends, join a likeminded group, get into an online chat, volunteer at the local ASPCA (animals are non judgmental and very healing). 
If you can sing or play an instrument, visit a nursing home and perform for the people who live there. Serve food on Sunday at a local soup kitchen. 
It feels good to give pleasure to other people and helps you to put your own life into perspective. 

If you don’t want to reach out, but you need someone to listen to you, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255. They’re always there. 

You are not alone.

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7.12.18 Is It Necessary To Forget To Forgive? - Pier Pagano

When a relationship terminates, how do you experience the sadness that inevitably ensues? Do you revisit it over and over, replaying the final scene in your mind with alternate endings, better outcomes? Do you envision what you would have, could have, should have said or done? Do you cry? Are you angry? You’ll probably experience all of these things at some point or some of these things at all points. Processing pain is difficult at best, deeply debilitating at worst. 

Does it matter if you are the bearer or recipient of the bad news? 

Are you able to forget the hurt? Can you forgive yourself or your partner, friend, family member? Is it necessary or even possible to move forward without holding anger or sadness?

Yes. 

You can heal. 

Examine the choices you made that brought you here. Own the responsibility of your contribution to this outcome, even if it’s difficult to admit to yourself. 

Maybe you didn’t pay attention to signs that were there because addressing confrontation seemed too painful. 

Maybe you thought they would disappear on their own if you ignored them. 

Maybe you used anger or hard words to provoke another person to act because you couldn’t. 

Now you’re battling emotions that you weren’t expecting to feel. 

Letting go of the anger and acknowledging that you contributed either purposely or unconsciously begins the path to forgiveness and healing. 

If you hold space for everyone (including yourself) who had a role in changing the dynamics in a relationship, clarity and acceptance begin. Once you step back, you see the situation more objectively, re-examine aspects that previously seemed unforgivable, and look at the lessons it brought you. It shifts your focus positively to accept your past and embrace a more satisfying future.  

To continue your old blueprint is to continue to repeat it. You can only move forward when you see experience as a learning tool.

“Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future”. - Oscar Wilde

 

 

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6.30.18  What I Need - Pier Pagano

We are filled with the wants and needs of others- family, friends, co-workers, bosses. But what about our needs? Are we sacrificing or burying them under a stronger desire not to let people down?

I am thinking right now of an old Lucinda Williams song called Passionate Kisses. 

Was she pondering this quandary when she wrote, “Is it too much to ask? Am I going overboard to want that touch? 

I shouted out to the night, give me what I deserve cause it’s my right.“

It may seem counterintuitive to put yourself first, but it’s the healthiest choice you can make. If you’re good with the world, you’re there for yourself and those around you. If you’re not open and honest with yourself, how can you expect others to be open and honest with you? 

In any relationship, there’s a line of respect that needs to be honored so that discussions and conversations aren’t avoided. Find a common language that you can comfortably share to talk about both trivial and important matters. All the choices we make offer lessons; some of them painful, all of them learning tools. You can’t always control how or when they come, but you can certainly choose your response. 

Who you are now is no longer who you were at birth. Years of interaction with others has enabled you to develop a guidebook of behaviors and expectations. Life is full of understanding and forgiveness. Growth is most satisfying when it is approached with love. 

Children learn behaviors from their parents. They often yell or act out when they don’t feel heard. They feel invisible. Before babies can speak, they communicate primitively with howls, screams, and tears. They kick and punch at the air, determined to get our attention for their simple needs of food or comfort. As adults, we often continue this behavior on the inside because it’s not polite or acceptable to act like a baby in public. That doesn’t mean that we are ok with what is happening around us, so we shut down and build a nest of imploding resentment in our bodies until we finally explode. 

I truly believe that words are better out than in. I look for clarity in my daily life long before situations fester verbally into anger or hate. When you love someone, you don’t want to cause them pain. Have that difficult conversation now before you throw away a salvageable situation. You don’t know what resentments the other person is storing either. A calm clear-out is needed from time to time in any relationship to assess what is no longer working. Be vocal about what you need and be prepared to listen to others’ needs too. It will move you forward no matter what happens. Maybe you’ll decide that the relationship is no longer working for one or both of you. Maybe you can make some changes that will improve communication. 

Maybe you just need to listen and hear each other. 

Sometimes even people who are close to you don’t see something that seems obvious to you. Your need to be independent sounds to them like you don’t want anyone to mess with your mojo, when you could actually use the help they could easily give you. Maybe they know you’re struggling and would love to offer, but don’t want to offend you. Because you’re close, they are respectfully waiting for you to ask for what you need. You don’t ask for what you need because you’ve decided that you can do this all by yourself. Meanwhile, a struggle for you would be nothing for them. It’s an unnecessary cycle of debilitating emotions. 

You may not realize how much other people like to give to people they love. When you are honest in a relationship, there is a quiet satisfaction in the generosity it inspires that doesn’t feel at all predatory. Why not look at this situation from that angle? It may be a relief to be in a position to offer help, especially if you’ve ever needed it yourself. 

Don’t be so quick to decide an outcome. You don’t know the inner workings of another person’s brain (thank you, Judge Judy) and the best way to find out what is going on is to ask and be ready to listen.

 

 

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6.17.18 Moving Forward With Forgiveness.  A Father’s Day Reflection. - Pier Pagano

 

You don’t need an excuse. 

You need a purpose. 

You can choose to forgive. 

That doesn’t mean what happened to you was ok. 

It means that you are no longer a prisoner. 

That’s a choice you can make, and must make, if you want to move on. 

 

When I was in my twenties, long after I left home, I invited my father to accompany me to a friend’s wedding. At the reception, he dumped me mid-sentence to beeline toward an attractive stranger. At the end of the cocktail hour, she sought me out to say how lucky I was to have grown up with such a marvelous father. In fact, she wished her own childhood had been half as magical. I had to hold myself back from agreeing with her. I too would have loved to have lived in that fairytale. It was one of my dad’s favorite stories to tell a woman he was pursuing. 

My father was addicted to women. He wasn’t picky. Neighbor, tour guide, secretary, salesperson- all fell under his charm. The only requirements were young, female, and insecure. Extra points if you weren’t American. Like an alcoholic bartender, his profession as a college professor served his needs perfectly. He had a way of making a woman feel like she was the only person in the room. That is, until they saw him for the Svengali he was. Once their teeth were fixed, their wardrobe enhanced, and their scholastic education furthered, they packed up their new cars and drove away forever.

Having spent fifteen years navigating the dysfunctional intrusion of a stepmother and step-siblings, I felt unimportant and invisible. My father always preferred to focus solely on the woman he was with, which meant excluding everyone else. 

I searched for attention elsewhere, often finding myself in the company of other men who didn’t see me as valuable either. That became the blueprint for all my relationships. 

If I could travel back in time to my fifteen year old self, I’d tell her never to waste a minute letting anyone’s words impact who she could be. 

I eventually learned that lesson through a lot of painful and dangerous experiences. Stopping the repetitive pattern that had been branded into my brain took years of self-examination until I understood and accepted that no one could give me what I already possessed. My inner toolbox was there the whole time, waiting for me to open it. If I wanted to change my life, I needed to redefine and reclaim my approach to myself and everyone else. 

To love yourself, you have to commit to a thorough examination of who you are and how you got there. This takes time, introspection and honesty; sometimes unpleasant, sometimes brutal. Moving forward is not easy, but to live your best life it’s the only path you can choose.The rewards are amazing. 

Breathe. Clear your mind. Be still. 

Look inside, without judgement, at your stack of nagging thoughts, personal failures and inadequacies. 

Why do you have looping fears of never feeling happy or fulfilled?

You’re ready. 

Open your journal. 

Write down the excuses you give yourself for not making satisfying decisions. 

 

It’s very likely that you are repeating your past by subconsciously hearing words that someone else used to describe you. When parents, siblings, or teachers told you you would never be able to do something because you were too slow, not clever enough, etc., did you add it to your mental list of negativity without questioning if it were true? 

Times have changed. 

You can make your own choices when you know who you are. You can evaluate yourself with accuracy. All those judgements that were given to you must be revisited and owned truthfully. You need all of you, even the parts that make you wince. Approach yourself with love and ask those parts to forgive you for abandoning them. Embrace your whole self. What you consider a flaw someone is admiring right now. 

Once you begin to love yourself, the rest falls into place naturally. It may take you aback to see how life seamlessly changes when you forgive yourself and others. Your world is going to get a lot bigger, brighter and fun. 

Kindness is the small but powerful shift you can make to open your possibilities.We are all doing our best with the tools we were given. When we forgive, our toolbox shifts old negativity into new positivity. You no longer hold anger. Your past experiences were the teaching tool for your bright future.

 

 

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6.6.18 What fulfills Us? - Pier Pagano 

Constant selfie taking? The number of likes on social media? A never ending acquisition of shiny objects? 

Modern life has created a new kind of self-loathing. A judgmental spiral down the rabbit hole of contempt and negativity has overtaken the traditional kind of discriminations of race, sexual preference, and education. The new generation no longer judges others on these platforms. They’ve turned the sword on themselves. 

Unfortunately, “be yourself, everyone else is already taken” is a hollow victory when you don’t like yourself. We have ceased to look objectively inward. 

How can we learn to stop the shaming, the replaying of embarrassing moments, awkward conversations and interactions? What happened to our sense of humor? Why not acknowledge mistakes with a laugh rather than a critique?

The trend to live life with authenticity is riddled with self-criticism. Something called negative bias has permeated the dictionary as “an instinct in all of us that makes negative experiences seem much more significant than they are.” 

In other words, our minds are weighed down with recurring thoughts and insecurities. Our small transgressions are magnified and dissected. Our bodies sag from the weight of self-hatred and irrational fears based on imagined flaws and shortcomings. 

There have never been more autoimmune and other chronic illnesses, believed by many to be an evolutionary toll. Our brains have learned to pay attention to instant stimulation (like Instagram validation) as a pseudo reward. It’s destructive to your entire being to hold onto the negativity that judgment brings. We need to replace it with compassion and kindness for ourselves. That will spread to others, reinforcing our own positivity, teaching us that change leads to growth. We are filled with, and fulfilled by, love.

Notice how you feel when you stay in an uncomfortable moment. Instead of berating yourself, take a breath. Let it go. Those few seconds do not define you. 

Learn to meditate. Volunteer at an animal or homeless shelter. Make an effort to get out of your head and treat yourself with the same respect you give others. It turns into a habit that’s healthier and a lot more fun. 

 

 

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5.22.18 Holding Space - Pier Pagano

According to Wikipedia, holding space for another person is incredibly profound. When you hold space for someone, you bring your entire presence to them. You walk along with them without judgment, sharing their journey to an unknown destination. Yet you're completely willing to end up wherever they need to go.

I’m going to talk about this phrase because it’s one that people use in conversation with me almost daily. I’ve never completely understood it, so I’m taking Joseph Campbell’s approach to uncovering meaning in myth and mysticism. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty!

As I’m an intuitive counselor, I’d like to say that listening to others empathetically is always easy for me, but it’s not. Sometimes I want to jump in with an interrupting thought when it seems to me that they’re missing an obvious connection. 

That’s not very nice, I know. 

I’m the first to preach that we don’t listen to each other. People have a need to talk. My job as a fellow human is to listen without judgement and then make suggestions that they can see as possibilities. 

So I want to look at the idea of holding space, because it sounds to me like an exercise in patience. You must shut out all distractions and tune in to whatever another person needs or wants to share with you. What if it’s uninteresting? Uncomfortable? You’ve made the commitment to hold space here. How are you going to do it? 

You have to take yourself out of it and completely pay attention. 

We are programmed by the blueprint of other people’s judgements throughout our lives. Starting from birth, we are told what to eat, think and do by our parents. As we grow up, we choose new influencers who teach us lessons that are either identical or opposite to the ones we have already stored in our toolbox. 

As an adult, you have the option and opportunity to shift your perspective and review your past as a gift, rather than with resentment. This move allows you to accept the past as a series of lessons that can guide you into a future that you’ve designed for yourself. If you choose instead to shove your past into your mind’s basement, you miss the chance to love every part of you. Every single part of us is necessary, and deserves recognition and respect. 

Like Hillary Clinton said, it takes a village. You don’t always see the possibilities because you are blocked by old patterns that you collected during your life. Maybe you don’t even remember why you made a particular choice. Maybe that choice was made for you, not by you. You may not realize how many old patterns you’re living and reliving. Since they no longer serve you, it’s time to identify and reject those behaviors and choices that have bound you and held you back. 

This is when you need a friend or colleague to hold space for you, to be patient as you lovingly dissect your past and embrace your future. Nothing you’ve experienced is without a reason, even if it doesn’t seem so at the time. When you revisit those moments, you will see how they’ve brought you to the place you are now. 

It’s not always easy to grow, but it’s necessary if you want to achieve your best life. Since that requires help, be grateful when someone offers to hold space for you. And maybe hold space for others when their behavior annoys you, or upsets you. Take a deep breath and commend them on their desire to move forward and have empathy for their struggle. Listen with your heart.

 

 

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5.9.18 Write it Down! - Pier Pagano

Journaling has become very trendy in our modern world, eclipsing the old school diary-a silent, faithful friend who securely recorded your locked away teenage thoughts each night before bed. 

These days there are beautifully embellished books of every shape and size available in bookstores and home goods shops worldwide. It’s a comfortable way for everyone and anyone to spill their guts onto a non-judgmental blank page. You can even draw or paint your thoughts and dreams, express goals and wishes, and reveal anything you desire to share with me, myself and I.  

What a lovely way to empower yourself to lose inhibition! 

Free of judgement, you can let your pen steer you anywhere your mind wants to go. Imagination can be a lot of fun. 

If you’re stressed about a situation, just writing it down can relieve tension and help you to let it go. 

Emotional eaters and drinkers often use their pages to vent rather than reach for contraband. Artists doodle in the corners. Many aspiring writers begin novels. 

Writing your own story with a different ending can help you move forward toward resolving a real problem you’re struggling with. 

For example:

My young son had a beloved hamster who lived way past his expected expiration date. It may have been the vitamins we gave him-he was rather robust and more than occasionally mistaken for a guinea pig. However, all of us are mortal, and eventually even he met his Maker. 

Gabriel was devastated. His tears lasted for weeks. I purchased a spiral notebook and encouraged him to write his feelings in it, promising that he would feel much better. That did not happen. 

I then advised him to draw some pictures to accompany his thoughts, hoping that might calm him. 

When he showed me his notebook, I was amazed. He had written a story called Hamsterdam about a charming place where our pet hamsters go when they leave us. Accompanied by his cute amateurish drawings, I decided to send it out to publishers. It was rejected by ten, but the eleventh gave it a thumbs up.  

By Gabriel’s decision, the money from all sales was donated to Green Chimneys, a non profit organization whose mission is “Helping our young people to maximize their potential by providing residential, educational, clinical and recreational services, in a safe and supportive environment that nurtures connections with their families, the community, animals and nature.”

Soon afterward, news stations and newspapers reached out to interview the eight year old boy who wrote a book on a child’s first loss. Who knew. 

He was invited to speak at Gifted and Talented schools about grief management. His  little book changed sadness into a positive message for himself and others. It became a cathartic experience that helped children to move forward from the terrible first loss of a loved one. 

When you reach into your inner toolbox for solutions, you find the Universe rewards you with gifts you can never imagine. 

 

 

 Love, by Ukrainian artist Alexander Milov, is an expression of conflict between a man and a woman and the internal struggle in human nature in general. When the sun goes down the child-shaped sculptures glow, representing hope in times of darkness. Photo by  Gerome Viavant

Love, by Ukrainian artist Alexander Milov, is an expression of conflict between a man and a woman and the internal struggle in human nature in general. When the sun goes down the child-shaped sculptures glow, representing hope in times of darkness. Photo by Gerome Viavant

4.30.18  Waking Up With Your True Self - Pier Pagano

I am thinking today about parents and their impact on us. 

We all have them. Some of us become parents. Even if we don’t give birth to a kid or two, we may have a animal we adore. Or a niece, nephew, student, etc. There is at least one dear friend we watch out for in a parental way. Friends parent us as well- necessary maybe, welcome perhaps, and intrusive sometimes! 

We are born to nurture. We connect with people in different ways, depending on our needs and theirs. That’s how humans form bonds with other humans. 

Your parents were your first relationship; thereafter the blueprint for every relationship you will ever have going forward. From the moment you were born, you began to consciously or unconsciously reject or embrace their beliefs. The result of that early education is mixed and often confusing. As we learn later, each of these experiences is a teaching tool. 

For example: if you had a parent who bullied you, you’re either going to continue this and bully others; or move as far away as possible from that sort of negative interaction. 

If so, you may have learned as a child to be silent because you were scarred by the shouting and name calling. You wanted everyone around you to be ok, even if the yelling had nothing to do with you. Blocking out the noise felt better than engaging in confrontation. You hid your feelings. 

As an adult, you’re now conflicted. You left that toxic environment, but continued to invite some people into your life who undermine you or are unsupportive. 

Guess what! 

You’ve recreated an uncomfortable home just like the one you left, because something untenable about it feels familiar. That something is the discomfort you thought you were leaving behind. 

Until you honestly look inward, you’ll be dragging your past around for the rest of your life. As an adult, you can create your future untethered by choices others may have placed on you as a child. 

I recently let go of a twenty year friendship with someone I truly love. We shared many wonderful experiences over the years, but his previously playful bantering had turned dark. His nasty remarks, often made in front of mutual friends, left us all uncomfortable. I felt ashamed and confused. He seemed to be constantly angry with me and I didn’t understand why. We met for coffee and I addressed the elephant in the room. I was calm but direct, explaining how painful it was to be the target of his cutting jokes. 

He rolled his eyes dismissively. “You’re too sensitive. Get over it. We’ve always had this relationship.”

I expected to be sad, but it was actually a relief to move on. 

He chose not to acknowledge my request that he stop. 

I chose to let him go. 

Does this resonate with you?

 

 

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4.22.18 FOMO vs JOMO - Pier Pagano

There comes a day when your Fear Of Missing Out is replaced by Joy Of Missing Out. 

The long nights of chilling with throngs of other FOMO crazed strangers in the club loses its luster. Waking up with glitter on your pillow and a wicked hangover suddenly doesn’t seem like so much fun anymore. You find yourself inexplicably wanting less and more at the same time. 

What changed? You did. 

It used to be something you looked forward to all week; counting down the days until Friday when you would whip out of work and catch up on everything you missed during those miserable hours that inched ever so slowly toward the wild red carpet of the weekend. 

The revolving door of people you hung out with and swore pinky love allegiance to under the spell of the DJ’s pulsing music and a few vodka tonics started to look faceless, nameless, pointless. 

Going to work straight from the club Monday morning doesnt seem like a good idea lately. You’re tired and worn out. You begin to wonder what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. You start waking up with panicked thoughts of the future. 

Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose?

Don’t be scared. 

It’s just inevitable human evolution. There’s a unexpected chasm between what nurtures us and what destroys us. It’s pretty uncomfortable, but necessary if you’re ready to make the giant leap into adulthood. 

Here are my thoughts on this conundrum:

Instead of losing yourself to fear, you can find yourself in joy. Your choices shift and align themselves according to your priorities. When you look into your internal toolbox and pull out ways to move forward, you identify and isolate what pulled you into the teeming crowd in the first place. 

Are you ok with yourself? 

Probably not since you’ve been looking for external ways to fix internal issues. You will quickly discover that sleight of hand and camouflage are not satisfying solutions. Self love is a personal and introspective journey. 

So...how do you connect with yourself and start to accept the parts of you that you’ve been shunning? You welcome those parts to come out of the basement and join you. Your energy is best spent tossing old judgements to the side and learning who you are. When you lose the mask you’ve been wearing, you connect to your true self. You can love every single part, especially the parts that you or others have been judging so harshly. It’s a reward, a gift that keeps on giving-to yourself and everyone around you. 

Inspiring. 

Your purpose becomes clearer and clearer as your inner voice becomes louder than the voices you have held in your head for so long. Break the old patterns and embrace yourself from the inside out!

 

 

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4.10.18 Empowering and Shifting Old Perceptions to Move Forward- Pier Pagano

Psychologist Rollo May defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

In order to move forward from your past, you need to face it and take accountability for what has happened along the way. This acceptance will help you learn from all of your experiences and allow you to break any stuck and negative cycles. You can then make clear decisions about exactly what you want to invite into your life. The blueprint you have created along the way may no longer serve you now. It’s time for your old interpretations to be revisited. 

Where you were once powerless, you are now in control of your choices and your opportunity to use the past as a tool to create your future is all you need to move forward. The power you feel when you let go of stagnant and hurtful memories is life changing. 

No longer do you need to hide or blame yourself and others for what has happened to bring you to this point. The pain and sadness you held onto then helps you to understand the empathy you now embrace, and shifts your negativity into positivity. You are free of judgements when you look differently at the reasons you stored these moments in your life. The anger and resentment are replaced by gratitude for the lessons life gave you. Moving yourself forward by making a conscious decision to accept and release those feelings affects negativity and strips any words of their power. 

It’s a gift to discover and love yourself. 

I remember my stepmother telling me many times that she never worried about me. As a child, I assumed it was because she didn’t care. After all, she had a daughter the same age as me and her attention was there. As an adult I see that it was because I was independent and could be trusted to handle situations when her attention was needed elsewhere. 

I see how being strong has served me well in my life. 

I feel good about what made me once feel bad.

Look for your own memories and replace them with your new interpretations.

 

 

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3.27.18 How do you find yourself when you don't know who you're looking for? -Pier Pagano

I've been thinking about this conundrum a lot lately. 

It's not always comfortable to examine the things we unconsciously do. Like breathing, we have been conditioned both from birth and experiences- pleasant and unpleasant-to make choices. Your true self is already inside you from the moment you are born and is yearning for freedom from the restrictions you've placed on it. Nature and nurture share our daily development. So we need to take a deep breath in and learn how to release it out into the world as positive energy.  

So how do you stop judging yourself? 

You learn how to love every part of you because when you accept all of you, there is no good or bad. You are able to compassionately see others as individuals trying to navigate life, just as you are.You accept that if you don't love yourself, you can't love others. 

Once you activate your natural free will, you'll begin to move forward comfortably within yourself and that essence is what you will send into the world. It's really just a matter of shifting your NEED for acceptance to actual acceptance. 

When I was sixteen, I had the privilege of studying drama with Stella Adler in New York. I went through many auditions to get into her small class and I felt confident about my future. However, it was nothing like I'd envisioned. Every day my stomach churned at the thought of entering the room because she seemed to single me out just to ridicule me. Everything I did was wrong. She hated me. So at the end of the year, when students were either asked to return or to leave, I knew which list I'd be on. 

I came into her tiny office, already frightened by what was about to be unleashed on me. And then the unthinkable happened. Stella asked me to come back. I'd already decided to leave New York and the minute she spoke those words, my disbelief was obvious. I'll never forget what she said, although it took many years to grasp the valuable lesson she was trying to give me. "If I had told you that you were important, would that make you important? What if next time I told you that you were insignificant? Would that make you insignificant? Only you know the truth about who you are. Don't look to others to define you. Look inside yourself because that's where the truth lives."

I wish I could say that I had an epiphany at that moment, but I didn't. It took many years for me to learn that I already knew who I was and I just needed to believe it and embrace it. 

A few years ago, I was early for a doctor appointment and stopped into a small cafe nearby. As I was waiting for my food, a mother and daughter took the table across from me. I could feel them staring and whispering and it made me self conscious. I quickly jumped to my own conclusions about them. I wondered why the daughter ordered a big club sandwich with a plate of french fries since she was so overweight. I looked dismissively into the mother's eyes as the waiter set their food down. She gave me a huge smile. "Sorry to intrude, but my daughter and I were just saying how much you look like (she named a very attractive television actress)."

I immediately felt ashamed. 

We started chatting. Lisa told me they were on their way to see a specialist in the same office as my doctor. Susan had recently been diagnosed with stage three bladder cancer. None of the medications were helping, and she had already experienced a weight gain of eighty pounds. Susan was concerned about her two young children. Yet she was positive and looking for resolution within her circumstances. I enjoyed our conversation very much. When I left, they both hugged me and wished me well. 

I thought about why I had chosen criticism over empathy. What was it that made me so judgmental and defensive? 

I already knew the things that bother me about others are things that bother me about myself. Was it my own fear of being judged? Yes. My first response was to judge them. Was it fear of being overweight? Yes. I've been thin my whole life, but I still heard my stepmother's words about how it was only a matter of time before my body mutinied on me. I lived in fear of that prophesy for a long time. 

How could I be open to loving myself? I had to start by accepting my own humanness. I needed to acknowledge the qualities I liked about myself and the ones I didn't. Since every part of us is vital and necessary at some time, it is impossible not to welcome them all.

Here are some exercises to help you love yourself. 

Write down five things you like about yourself. Now write down next to it five things about yourself that you don't. 

Look at the list and ask yourself why. 

Evaluate whether these qualities have hurt or helped you. I'm going to tell you that the answer is both. 

For example, maybe you are impatient. Not always the path to choose in every situation, but sometimes it's absolutely necessary to use your impatience to move forward in a stagnant circumstance.

 

 

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3.22.18 How do you navigate changing relationships with those you love? -Pier Pagano 

According to the I Ching, conflict is the driving force of change and how you approach it determines your success. 

During a time of obstruction, the only real blockage is an unwillingness to change. You can’t hide between the pages of self-help books seeking self enlightenment when the real danger is in not moving forward. 

There is always difficulty when diverging energies come together. Sometimes it’s like a brutal typhoon, punishing your mind and spirit with unrelenting winds. You feel frozen and unbalanced. Blocked. 

To achieve success, you must carefully navigate your journey through the rough weather to a safe and comfortable place. 

When an important relationship changes, pull yourself inward and examine your situation. Sometimes the wisest course of action is to retreat and be still. When you slow down and shift your perspective, other strategies and possibilities become clear. Some things can only be learned through mistakes. 

If you want to grow, move out of your head into your heart. Be open to your inner voice to guide you. When you temper emotion with logic, you are able to stay balanced and walk straight ahead. Your goals are recognized and honored with compassion by yourself and those around you. 

You’re not the same person you were when you were born. Along the way you have imprinted your blueprint with many choices. Some have been made for you and others by you. 

These decisions created your personal path, and along any path lurks both danger and opportunity. Compassionate understanding of yourself and others is the growth you need to move forward in positivity and love. 

In order to invite change, examine those experiences and expectations. Maybe they are no longer valid and don’t serve who you are right now. 

Change is necessary to maintain relationships of all kinds. In any struggle, there is a need for reexamination of core foundational beliefs while still keeping identity and authenticity. 

Organize your successes and failures. Find a stable place between the need to be your authentic self and the need to conform to others’ expectations. This struggle can unbalance a previously comfortable relationship, and unless you accept that reason and foresight are necessary to succeed; control and emotions override the possibility of a positive outcome. 

Once you have surrendered to the need for discipline and organization in your actions, your ability for growth in a new direction is certain. What once worked in the past is left behind as new approaches and actions are required to ensure innovation. 

“We are not trapped or locked up in these bones. No, no. We are free to change. And love changes us. And if we can love one another, we can break open the sky.”

Walter Mosley, Blue Light

 

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3.17.18  What threatens you? These are the things that threaten me. - Pier Pagano

Stale alcohol breath in my face, unkempt facial hair, yelling, being called a liar, mean words, people touching me suddenly.

It goes so far back that until a few years ago I had never thought about why I felt panic whenever I encountered any of the things on my list. 

Without questioning, I accepted my negative reactions as part of me. I didn't think about why I felt a tightening in my heart and body. 

I decided to review the list, to confront it, understand it and finally let it go. 

I no longer needed to hold on to the list to be safe. Somewhere along my path, the list had been blueprinted in my mind to identify what was frightening and unsafe. It was what I needed to avoid and dodge the things that hurt me. I required protection because I was a child. 

Now that I'm an adult, I make my own choices. No one can ever tell me who I am, because I recognize myself. 

I have let the list go. 

Maybe you share this with me. 

Maybe there are things that you may not realize hold you prisoner. 

Do you feel frustrated, harbor anger, experience insecurity in social situations, know loneliness and fear rejection?

Could you be happier, relieved of anxiety, accept love, feel joy, view excitement as positive?

Make your own list.

Review it. 

What can you let go of?

What no longer serves you?

Remind yourself of your current behavior when you feel threatened. Can you describe what makes you panic? Is your reaction from the person you are now, or is it a familiar pattern left over from a life you let go of long ago? Do you really need to hold onto it?

One by one, release the shackles you have put on yourself. You are free to walk away from the list because you are safe within yourself. Breathe in deeply and exhale. You are your own blueprint. 

"To love yourself is the beginning of a lifelong relationship." - Oscar Wilde

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3.10.18 People have a need to talk and we need to listen. -Pier Pagano

A while ago I wrote a blog about talking to each other (2/12/18: Can We Talk?).

Now I’m starting to wonder if we can listen to each other. 

When a family member, friend or co-worker is experiencing a stressful time, are we 100% available to reassure them that they are not alone? Or are we too busy managing or avoiding our own problems?

There are so many things that cause tension and strain for us. And they’re universal. 

Basic ones, such as getting along with people at home or at work consume us daily. 

Money pressures. How to make more, spend less, pay bills, save for the future.

We constantly work on all sorts of daily relationships. Some can be resolved by discussing them with friends, family, partners, or even the people involved. Others are more serious and require a lot of introspection and counseling to just move forward. There is no such thing as closure when someone you love is gravely injured or dies. Whenever your world changes in an unexpected way, sadness is rampant and often accompanied by hopelessness. 

Today a woman with whom I have a professional relationship cancelled our appointment. Although I didn’t ask her why, Susan shared the reason with me. 

One of her clients (she is a hair stylist) had a 9 year old daughter who just passed away. There was a shiva she needed to attend that conflicted with our arrangement. 

Lisa had been suffering from cancer most of her short life. Susan had shaved the girl’s head when she started to lose her hair. She told me that she had never met a more lovely family nor positive child. Lisa knew that her illness was terminal, yet she made the most of every day. Her mother told Susan that Lisa’s little sister wanted to shave her head too because “cancer was so much fun.”

She had no concept that her sister’s illness was terminal and death was imminent. Even though she had cancer, Lisa never let cancer have her. 

It reminded me of my own recent and unexpected loss of a close friend, and I instantly felt the connection between us all.

I often think about the last time I saw Charlie alive. Now I am constantly trying to replace his funeral memory with the memory of the last time we met for coffee, when he was full of hope and plans. Maybe I wasn’t listening to what he wasn’t saying because I wanted so much to believe what he said. 

We need to be available to listen to the people who come to us in pain. Even if we don’t quite know what to say, we can offer comfort just by listening. If someone you know needs compassion, open your arms and your heart. Small gestures are so meaningful at a time when a friend is hurting. Anything you do is a gift when others feel isolated and alone. Even if they don’t want to share their raw feelings, an offer of your time or an invite to an event may be welcome. 

We tend to stay away from people who’ve suffered a loss or are hurting because we don’t know what to say. We don’t know what to do. The I Ching says “All life is interconnected. Everyone is one.”

Let’s remember the healing power of reaching out to each other. Let’s listen without judgement. Let’s hear with our hearts and offer love without speaking.

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03.05.18 Does the weather affect your mood? - Pier Pagano

I’m thinking today about the weather. It’s been raining for days and there’s a penetrating chill that invades every layer of clothing and shivers its way into my body. 

Always a bit difficult to get out of bed when the world outside is so dark and gloomy.

And now March is here, coming in like a lion-and we cross our fingers in the hope that it will follow tradition and go out like a lamb. Meanwhile, how can we possibly shift ourselves into a sunnier mindset when the wind outside is whistling and the trees are shaking?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is real. Even if you’re not clinically affected by it, your mood is still challenged by the “wintertime blues.” Unfortunately, we can’t all skip away to a desert island to hide from the snow and freezing climes.

By the way, are you suddenly having the same virtual dream as I am? The one where you’re holding a frothy drink penetrated by a tiny pink umbrella, lying on an luxurious Egyptian cotton beach towel, surrounded by crystal clear turquoise waters and a bunch of coconut laden trees, a perfect warm sun smiling down at you as tiny waves lap at your pedicured toes...oh, that WOULD be so nice about now, wouldn’t it! 

And just as suddenly, the freezing rain beating on your window pulls you back into your tiny cubicle and your blinking laptop.

Sigh. 

Can we shift the way we are looking at this for a minute or two? 

Indulge me. Please. 

I’d like you to think about the recent cases of extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy. Post-Katrina New Orleans. More recently, Puerto Rico. Do you remember how those traumatic times brought out our community spirit and altruism? We all saw, heard and read the news about countless acts of kindness performed during these disasters. Many strangers and neighbors went out of their way to give whenever and whatever they could without thinking of themselves. 

It was a major outpouring of love. 

The newspapers reported the thousands of volunteers, the generous donations and the selfless way people came from everywhere to work together. It made us all proud to be part of the rebuilding process. 

Maybe all we need to feel better when our mood drops is to put our energies somewhere positive and useful. 

I’ve got a few ideas. 

Volunteer at the local soup kitchen on the weekend. Ask an older neighbor if you can carry groceries back from the store for them. Babysit your cousin’s children so she can have a needed night out with her husband. Foster a dog or a kitten. Bake brownies for your doorman. Go through your closet and take some clothes to Goodwill or a charity in your town. 

There are so many little things you could do to make someone smile. Change their day. Maybe even their life. 

And guess what, when you do, it will make you smile. It feels good. 

Try it.

 
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02.23.18  "Yes, But Theory" - Pier Pagano

We all do this. I never thought about it much until I started listening to clients tell me (quite convincingly in every case) the absolutely logical reason why they can't change an uncomfortable situation. For example, "Yes, I would have asked for a raise, but I was worried my boss would think I'm too pushy. Maybe I should wait till next year." Or, "Yes, it's true that I'm not really happy in my relationship, but I'm sure it will get better once things settle down."
So what does that mean? It means we are afraid. So we settle, and hope for the best. I have some thoughts on how to shift yourself slightly to look at your situation differently.

Make a clear decision and believe it. Since you're not going to be able change someone else, your only option is to restructure your own actions to achieve a more satisfying result. "I will ask for a raise." Now believe it. There will be no other outcome once you've committed to being in control of your own life.

The hardest part is the first time you choose to define the results you want from your life.
After that, it gets easier. Even by making subtle changes, the degree of satisfaction you feel reminds you that opportunities are often mislabeled in your mind as challenges.

Old patterns repeat themselves because they are comfortable. But are they really? Are you honestly happy with the life you're leading at this moment- or would you like to be happier? More fulfilled? Start with a realistic assessment and acknowledgement of your situation. Figure out what is working and what is not. Then take action by being open to changing your approach.

People treat you the way you let them. So if you're feeling bullied at work, speak up. You don't need a loud voice to be heard. I have a client who told me she lowers her voice and speaks very slowly and calmly when she is feeling the most frustrated. People can't hear you when you're shouting. They close their minds to whatever you're trying to express.

No one can tell you who you are. If you choose not to take action because you're afraid of the consequences, think about it this way. What if you get rejected, turned down, told no? Hasn't that happened before? Oh it has? So the pain of the rejection made you say this can never happen again so I will avoid it with my "yes, but" choice and therefore be spared pain. What if you make a different decision to let that pain change the way you respond?

Sometimes failure is success if you look at it differently. When I was in high school I worked as a server in a family restaurant. I was terrible because I couldn't seem to pay attention to the bell ping when my orders were ready in the kitchen. Consequently, I got fired regularly. I worked briefly at three places before I faced the obvious fact that being a server was not for me, but I had rent to pay and needed to find a solution. Since I spent most of my free time in the local library, I decided to apply for a job there. I learned the Dewey Decimal System and loved every minute stacking books on the shelves. I was able to combine my need for a paycheck with a job that suited me and led to a lifelong love of books and writing.

Trust your beliefs and choose you. So how do you shift your YES, BUT pattern? You let go of what has been holding you hostage and consciously decide that it is no longer serving you. Maybe it was necessary long ago, but has no place in your current life now. Raise your standards and expectations of yourself. The very next time you're in a situation where you feel powerless, make the decision to discover a new way to experience it. If you're feeling weak and have no energy, join a gym, take a class, hire a trainer. If you're bored in your relationship, plan a special night out for the two of you-or a night in! Have a conversation and actually listen. Make an effort to be present. If your work environment is uncomfortable, ask yourself what it is about your job that makes you feel that way. Is it a co-worker who often interrupts you with time-wasting chatter when you're on a deadline? Think about how you would want someone to approach you if the shoe was on the other foot and speak with them that way.

Simple.
I once owned a small women's health club. I began to hear complaints about one of the members who never washed her gym clothes. After a while, the smell was affecting people in the classes she took. I had no idea how to approach her, but I knew it had to be done. So I asked my father (a college professor) if he had any ideas how to do this diplomatically. He asked me what she did professionally. I told him she was a psychiatrist. He laughed and said, "Just ask her what she would do in that situation and then do that." The next day I caught her as she was leaving the club and posed the question he suggested.
"Just tell her," she said. So I said, "I am." For a second she looked startled, then thanked me and it was never a problem again.

 
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02.19.18 Is It So Wrong To Be Human? - Pier Pagano

Is it so wrong to be human?
How do we accept ourselves, imperfections and all?
Good question.

In order to love ourselves, we have to first look at the traits we see as bad.
Sometimes it’s necessary to choose not to be the perfect person that we would prefer to consider ourselves.
Really.

That decent, kind, good, 24/7 kind of human.
No such thing.

Why?
BECAUSE WE’RE HUMAN!

Try this:
Make a list of six words that people might say about you that wouldn’t bother you at all.
Now make a list of six words that you would not like someone to use to describe you.

Why don’t you like these words? Are they true or untrue?
Who said them? Is this is some long ago judgement made on you by mom, dad, teacher, friend, or lover?
Have you ever been the person they’re describing?
If not, these words will have no hold over you and you can discard them easily.
If so, you need to own that trait; in yourself first, and then in others. It’s
empowering to embrace every part of you. Denial is not progress if you want to be comfortable within yourself. Every trait you acknowledge is a teaching tool. When you choose to live that belief, you heal and move closer to knowing who you are. It’s not easy, but is worth the work.
Congratulations.
You have now taken the first step toward accepting that you are human.

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02.15.18 Who Are You? -Pier Pagano

Who are you?

Did you become the person you thought you’d be when you grew up? Are you who you were born to be?
Is it too late to change! Should you just accept that you are here now?

You have many potentialities when you’re born. As you grow up, you fill a closet with costumes that you’ve chosen to fit “you.”

But you don’t choose all your potentialities. Society chooses some for you. Since you live in a world with other people, you have to make some enforced choices based on what is “right” and “wrong.” Of course you want people to like you, right? And sometimes that comes at a cost.
That means that some of the desires you had at birth are repressed. Squelched. Where do they go?
That’s your shadow side, the other person you might have been in different circumstances.

Still, your shadow is a part of you. It scares you out of looking at what you’re repressing, banishing it into the dark basement like a monster. It’s a big part of why some people don’t like you. Your friends know it and like you anyway. They have their own monsters hiding in their basements.
But you need to visit the shadow in the basement because there are parts of you that are ready to be recognized and accepted. Society thinks it knows you, but until you know your shadow even you don’t know who you are. Oscar Wilde said to love yourself is the beginning of a lifelong relationship. Start taking apart your inner home. Don’t expect perfection. That’s the best part of being a human. You make mistakes and every time it helps you to accept yourself and others. You may even find it funny or learn a lesson in compassion toward yourself or someone else.

Disappointment has a way of deflating us, compromising our already shaky vision of who we or someone else should be. Don’t choose to be a victim of an experience that clouds your worldview. It opens your mind to delight in having the experience even if it’s not quite what you’d envisioned or hoped it would be. Every door you open leads to another opportunity.
You don’t grow anything but mold in a void. Stepping outside and interacting with others is part of the journey to understand who you are.

 

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02.12.18 Can We Talk?  -Pier Pagano

Can we talk?

No, seriously, CAN we- or is it a lost art? I read every day about energy vampires, drainers, friends who suck all the air out of the room, etc. etc. What I don't see anymore is conversations without cell phones, FaceTime or visual aids of some sort.

Are we over-scheduled, overworked, over everything? Did we forget how much fun it is to share experiences with each other in that moment that will never be again? Must we continually update and document the minutiae of everyday life? Who actually cares about the foods we are eating or the places we are meeting? (Maybe your mother.) When was the last time you listened to a friend with genuine concern? Was it more recently than the last time you posted perfectly curated pictures with hashtags?
Back to the not so long ago days, people ate together at a table, looked into each other's eyes and had a give and take flow of words. Maybe even animated, or heated. Perhaps we felt free to speak without offending someone or being trolled or recorded. We could be honest, authentic, real. No one needed to grab center stage and post a photo. It was fun to be there. Sometimes I see photos on the internet of an event I've attended where people look like they're having the best time ever. I only saw people snapping photos on camera phones of people who came alive the moment the camera appeared. The minute the camera stopped, the party did too.

Did George Bernard Shaw see the future when he said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place"?

Put down your phone and ask a friend or a stranger a question and listen to their answer. It could change your life.

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02.10.18 You Are What You Wear       -Pier Pagano

You are what you wear.

I’ve spent a lot of time in other people’s closets. I’ll explain.
I started my career as a clothing designer and became a wardrobe stylist after selling my business and having a child.
It was a great way to work and be a single mom in his early years. Luckily, I was blessed with an extremely quiet and sweet baby whom my clients dubbed The Handbag because he slept through everything.
Flash forward; the boy is now grown and after many years of closet diving, I needed a change.
The unifying theme among my clients is that the most necessary cleaning out is in their internal closet-the one where memories and experiences are stored, hidden or displayed.
We use our wardrobe to camouflage our fears and our victories. Our hurts, slights, proud moments. Our youth or age. Reflections of who we were and can’t let go of. Who we want to be. Who we see ourselves as. But possibly not who we are now.
We need to re-examine and discard that which no longer serves us. Relearn how to be open and let in the happiness we crave. Accept all of ourselves.
Here’s an exercise to open yourself up to knowing who you are.
Look in your closet and make three piles of clothing.
Who you were then.
Who you thought you were.
Who you are now.
Examine each pile and write down the first word that describes the way you feel when you see those clothes.

These may be some of your words:
Happy, comfortable, sexy, confident, beautiful, underdressed, overdressed.
Think about if any of those describe you now.
When you find one that no longer describes you, take those clothes and put them in a box for charity.
You have started to shed your layers and your armor.

 
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02.09.18 Beginnings -Pier Pagano

In 1982, I was working as an independent clothing designer in New York, going after work to the only full service health club in Manhattan at the time. I complained so often to my business manager about the pervasive nightclub atmosphere there that he jokingly suggested I open my own and choose the people I wanted .

I thought about it for a day before deciding that a small women only conditioning center was actually a great idea.

One of his clients had an unrented floor in a building on West 14th Street that I could use. I immediately ran an ad in New York Magazine with my home number asking women to call and tell me what they wanted. I got many responses, most of them valid and interesting. After changing my number and hiring a contractor, Sevens Conditioning Center for Women became a reality.

The Amazon Salon (painted with all sorts of fantastic and mythological creatures by artist Octavia Zeferlino), featured every new piece of workout equipment available including anti-gravity boots; a separate eucalyptus sauna; treatments with reflexologist Laura Norman (then young, now famous); our Jamaican tarot card reader and muffin baker Brenda; nutritionist Andie; body massage with Christine; hair by Riah; mani/pedi with Ann; and hourly classes taught by professional dancers from Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, and other equally notable dance companies. We had a small boutique area with my workout wear designs, featuring paintings and jewelry that our artist and artisan members brought in on consignment.

My manager had figured out how many members we needed to keep it going. I interviewed everyone who joined and closed the membership at that number. I wanted it to be a place where everyone could work out comfortably and undisturbed. We were the first gym to use Pirelli floors to cushion our knees. Our lockers didn’t have locks. We didn’t need them. We all respected each other’s space. Interestingly, in the two years it was open, no one left. It was a fun sisterhood, a peaceful haven for women who shared a desire to enjoy their gym experience.

Member Annie Flanders told me she conceived the idea for Details Magazine in our sauna. Years later when I was in grad school, my mentor professor Lindsey remembered me from her days as a member of Sevens.

Sadly, like all things, change comes. The owner of the building had an huge offer he couldn’t refuse from Crunch Gym and an ever bigger one from the telephone company to take over our floor. They were competing for the space, and although he offered me a chance to relocate, I was actually ready to move on.

Looking back at that time, I realized that it was a visionary step toward what we are doing today. The Life Essence Council Collective has come together in this time when everyone needs happiness and positivity. The everyday stresses of modern life are taking a toll on us all, and LECC is moving forward with solutions to help us embrace ourselves and each other.