Hello Natalie, My Name is Natalie

Camino De SantiagoIn 1988 the members of The Proclaimers stated their love for a women by saying they would walk 500 miles for her. Well I did walked 500 miles just not in the name of love for some else.  

On May 19th 2014 I started my 2 month journey in Ireland. After many beer and whiskey filled days with my loved ones (which I do remember), it was time for us to part ways. As my mom boarded her plane back to Arizona I boarded one to Paris, and that’s where my story begins. From Paris I took train after train after train and finally ended up in a town called Saint Jean Pied De Port, which is right on the border of France and Spain. Now this, this is where my journey began.

 The next day was beautiful. The sky was that type of blue that lights up the world, creating an artwork of colors in a world that looked like a landscape painting. The grass seemed greener, the air fresher, and the donkeys cuter. This was the day that I took my first steps on the Camino De Santiago. A 500 mile journey from France, across the border to Spain and almost entirely through Spain. And yes, I walked the whole thing.

That first day was what most people call a female dog, but at the end of the day, I got reassuring words.  “Don’t worry,” they said. “It’ll get easier,” they said. Don’t be fooled, it didn’t get easier until the day I finished. After the first few weeks the physical pain goes away, but that’s when the mental pain begins. When you are forced to walk day after day for 7 to 10 hours at a time, it is amazing the thing you think about. I thought about all of the pain I’ve ever been caused, the death of my dog, the hurtful relationships, the beautiful baby my sister created, the way I felt when I first fell in love and Robert Pattinson of course, but none of this even compared to what else was going on in my head. I had to forgive, I had remember, I had to feel the things I had forced myself to ignore for years. Things came up I had forgotten about. Things came up that I purposefully didn’t remember. I was forced into the depths of my subconscious as I walked over mountains, through the woods, down stones that could have possibly led to my death, through beautiful wheat and flower fields, through some people’s vineyards (oops) and through towns of every type.

But it wasn’t what I saw, what I thought about, what I felt, it was who I met that changed my life forever. I met Luca from Italy, Jack from Norway, Alex from Germany, and I even met a girl who lives just ten minutes away in Tempe Arizona, but it wasn’t these people either. I met a being named God on my trip through this foreign world I had found myself in. And no I don’t mean I had a near death experience and found myself staring up at a tall, dark haired causation man who had hands big enough to hold the world. I met the God inside myself. The God in the world, the god in the trees, in the grass, in the animals, and in every other pilgrim that I walked by. He was there when I cried myself to sleep, reassuring me I could make it to the end. He was there when I got lost in the woods on the top of the mountain on an extremely rainy day (that’s a long story) but somehow ran into other lost pilgrims. He was there in the eyes of the people I met the whole way showing me the true affection others could have for one another. He walked me not only through Spain but he walked me through my subconscious. He tamed me when I was mad, soothed me when I was sad, and praised me when I conquered. Most importantly though, he introduced me to someone I had been waiting my whole life to meet. He introduced me to myself. He showed me who I am, what I can really do, or be, or say. He introduced me to my soul mate, the one person  I was walking this whole thing for, the one person I should love more than anyone else, and that was myself. Hello Natalie, nice to finally meet you.

When Things Don’t Go As Planned…

July 2013
My grandson Noah

“I just don’t understand why this has happened?” I said in a tearful voice.  “This is the first time in my life that I truly do not know what to do.”

The soft and wise voice on the other end of the phone replied, “Chris, God is so interested in you right now, he has made the circumstances of your life such that all that is left to do is trust him.  This is not between you and your daughter…this is between you and God.”

That was a conversation I recently had with Sue, a women who came to me in a phone call whom I now call “my angel from God.”   Sue is 30 years my senior and 3 years ago found herself facing the same challenge I am today.  A good friend referred her my way and she happened to return my phone call at the exact moment I needed her…when I was at an all time low.

For the last 2 months I have been pretty silent on the writing and speaking front.  I have always said that God gives me my material through my life experiences and lately, he sure has been delivering!  As many of you may already know, my oldest daughter suffers from addiction.  After her second time in rehab in February, her and my grandson moved to Arizona to live with me.  Shortly after the move, my daughter found herself back in rehab…and I found myself alone taking care of a 6 month old full-time.  It has been 2 months now and my daughter will not be home for some time, if ever.  So here I find myself, having found independence and running the business of my dreams and all of a sudden the plans changed.   For the first time in a long time I looked into my future and it did not seem as if it is going to go as I planned.  I planned to be a grandmother…not a mother again.  What about my business?  What do I do when I need to travel?  What about a social life…not to mention dating anyone?

I would love to tell you that when I was faced with the situation of having to raise my grandson alone that I was ecstatic and looking forward to the opportunity…but the truth is, I was angry.  My anger existed on many levels; anger at my daughter for the choices she was making and the messes she left behind that I always seemed to (choose) have to clean up;  anger at losing my independence and now not being able to do what I wanted when I wanted (after all, I raised my kids already 20 years ago…I paid my dues!); and mostly,  I was angry at God…really angry!  What about me?  What about my plan?  Why do I always seem to find myself taking care of other people’s needs and never my own?

The last 2 years have not been a joy ride for me, to say the least.  Three words sum up how I feel I have been treated in the last two years… used, cheated and lied to by the people in my life I called friends, family or significant others.  I have always believed that the people in our lives mirror back to us lessons we need to learn to move forward, and knowing full well that the pain increases each time until we get the lesson, I knew I was near the end due to the extreme amount of pain I have felt in the last 2 months.  So,  I finally asked myself, “What is really going on here?”  “What is the lesson I am to learn?”  “What do I need to let go of to finally heal?”

A friend recently told me that anger is a sign that we have been silent for too long.  Having lived my life always aiming to make everyone else happy, I could relate to keeping silent for too long.  Years of not speaking up if I disagreed with someone; years of allowing others to walk all over me because of a fear of being alone; years of not telling someone how I really felt because I was afraid of what they would think of me and that I would hurt their feelings…never mind my feelings.  I was starting to get it.

Am I healed yet?  Not quite.  Is the anger gone?  Not totally.  But here is what I have learned so far:

  • Your external circumstances do not dictate your happiness.  It is only from a different internal perspective that you find true happiness.  You must first be happy and then your external circumstances will follow.
  • Life does not happen to you…it happens for you.  If you find your life is in turmoil at the moment, know that God is so interested in you that he decided to stir things up in order to wake you up!
  • In any given circumstance, you always have the choice to change your thought.  If the thought you are thinking does not feel good, change it to one that does.
  • The true power of life lies in the unknown.  “Needing to know” is a result of fear.  Uncertainty is one of the only constants we have in life.  Learn to have faith and trust that powers beyond you are working behind the scenes to orchestrate the perfect outcome for everyone involved.
  • Trust God.  This one is easier said than done.  I have never quite understood exactly how  you “let go and let God.”  I guess it is the controlling part of me that has a hard time with it.  But trusting that he has my back and truly believing that he is working miracles in my life as we speak, even though I may not be able to see them yet, gives me hope in times when I feel hopeless.
  • Never give up.  Keep moving forward and take one day at a time.  You cannot live your whole life at once.  Stay in today and do not allow yourself to constantly think of the future or re-live the past.  You only have today and this moment.  Make it a good one…and the one YOU want!

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’”

~Mary Anne Radmacher 

Chuggin’ ahead,

Chris

For your FREE copy of Chris Sopa’s 7 Steps to Changing Any Behavior click on the photo below.

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Chris Sopa is founder and owner of Chris Sopa International, Inc. You can learn more about her at www.ChrisSopa.com. Find her at Facebook.com/ChrisSopaInternational, Twitter @ChrisSopa, LinkedIn, and .

Life’s “10 Commandments”

1.  Prayer is not a “spare wheel” that you pull out when in trouble, but it is a “steering wheel” that directs the right path throughout the journey.

2.  So why is a car’s windshield so large and the rear view mirror so small?  Because our past is not as important as our future.  So look ahead, and move on.

3.  Friendship is like a book;  it takes a few minutes to burn, but it takes years to write.

4.  All things in life are temporary.  If going well, enjoy it, they will not last forever.  If going wrong, don’t worry, they can’t last long either.

5.  Old friends are like gold.  New friends are like diamonds.  If you get a diamond, don’t forget the gold because to hold a diamond, you always need a base of gold.

6.  Often when we lose hope and think this is the end, God smiles from above and says, “Sweetheart, it’s just a bend…not the end!”

7.  When God solves your problems, you have faith in His abilities;  when God doesn’t solve your problems, He has faith in your abilities.

8.  A blind person asked St. Anthony, “Can there be anything worse than losing your eye sight?”  He replied, “Yes, losing your vision!”

9.  When you pray for others, God listens to you and blesses them.  When you are safe and happy, remember that someone has prayed for you.

10.  Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.

~Annonymous

For your FREE copy of Chris Sopa’s 7 Steps to Changing Any Behavior click on the photo below.

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Chris Sopa is founder and owner of Chris Sopa International, Inc. You can learn more about her at www.ChrisSopa.com. Find her at Facebook.com/ChrisSopaInternational, Twitter @ChrisSopa, LinkedIn, and .

Believe in Yourself


A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings.  Always believe in yourself.

When you were born, you believed in yourself.  You knew your purpose.  You trusted the Divine.

Then it happened…you began to believe in the illusion around you.  What other people thought and believed became your truth because you wanted to belong and be a part of something.  The fear of being alone drives more self-limiting behaviors than any other fear.  You began to move from your heart guiding you to your mind guiding you.  The mind is a beautiful tool, if used correctly.  We began to individualize our minds and then believed we were separate from everything and everyone around us.  We felt alone…the one feeling we were trying to avoid.

Whatever your beliefs might be, know this…the human mind is simply the place where we individualize God.  What if your life was about letting go of your self-created limiting beliefs and instead letting God be God as YOU?

Our world is transforming.  What is “breaking down” is not the world, but the consciousness that created it.  We did that…now it is our turn to balance what has been done.  The confidence you have in yourself does not come from anything external; it comes from that silent place within that is YOU.  You can do and be anything you wish…your only job is to define those wishes, find that peaceful place within and allow the brilliant tapestry to unfold.  On the surface it may look broken, not how you imagined, and maybe even frightening.  The path you ended up on may not be the one you imagined.  Know that everything in the Universe happens for the highest good.  Souls do sacrifice their time here so others can learn what they need to learn and fulfill their purpose.  When a tragedy occurs, instead of focusing on the horrible aspects of it, step back and look deeper.  See people coming together, helping each other and letting compassion win.  We must believe we scripted what we did in our lives for a reason, knowing we could handle all that has occurred and will occur.

Life is not so much about living…it is about allowing life to come through as YOU.

Stop focusing on what may or may not happen to the foundation on which you find yourself standing.  Look forward, take a breath and believe in yourself.  You are so special God chose you to be here at this time.  He is living through you to experience life AS you.  The answers are there…you just have to silence your mind enough to hear them.

We love you just as you are.  No strings attached…promise.

When you come to the edge of the light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen:  there will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”  ~Patrick Overton

Believing in you,

Chris

Chris Sopa is founder and owner of Chris Sopa International, Inc. You can learn more about her at www.ChrisSopa.com. Find her at Facebook.com/ChrisSopaInternational, Twitter @ChrisSopa, LinkedIn, and .

A Power Greater Than You…

* This blog is dedicated to my daughter and anyone who suffers from an addiction, as well as the loved ones that are standing by watching, loving and encouraging them to wholeness again.**

The 12 steps are a group of principles, spiritual in nature, that are to be practiced as a way of life for those suffering from addiction. The idea is to help expel the obsessive behavior (drinking, drugs, or any addiction) so the person can feel and become happy and whole again. These principles are so powerful they can be used to overcome not only addiction, but limiting beliefs and harmful thoughts and behaviors in the non-addict as well.

Reference:  Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (1981), Alcoholics Anonymous World Service, Inc.

Step #2:  Come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
~Albert Einstein

As most of you who are regular readers know, I am working my way through the 12 steps in honor of my daughter who is a recovering addict. In order to better understand her and the process, I decided to do the 12 steps myself and as I did, write a blog about my experience with each one.

Step #2, to me, is all about believing in miracles. We all have had moments in our lives where we are faced with something so big or so terrible that we have no choice but to surrender. Surrender to whom? Surrender to that power that you know exists but cannot define, see or touch. We all feel that power. We all know there is something that exists that is greater than we are. Some call that power God; others may call it the Universe. All that matters is that you feel that something else is with you watching out for you…willing to take on what you feel you cannot do yourself.

My lesson during this step was not so much believing in my higher Power, but trusting my higher Power. I have had enough spiritual experiences in my lifetime that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are not alone in this journey through life. My struggle exists with feeling worthy enough that my Power knows I exist. It sounds kind of silly when I say it out loud to myself, now that I think about it…but true none-the-less. Letting go and letting God was never something that I really could understand. We recovering control freaks think we can control and handle anything that comes our way…usually a side effect of having to deal with a lot of life situations on our own. Once I was able to realize that I really do not have control and stopped fighting it, I began to see more clearly and really feel that Power in my life. I, for the first time, felt as if God had my back. When I looked back at my life challenges, I realized I was never alone to begin with…he was there the whole time. I am reminded of the poem “Footprints,” which is a perfect metaphor for Step #2. It is through our most challenging times that God does not leave us…he carries us. Michael, a facilitator in one of the Nar-Anon meetings I attend has us say a prayer at the end of every meeting. It is very simple yet powerful: “Your will God, not mine. Your time God, not mine.” I slowly came to realize that it is not about MY will, it is about God’s will for me and my life. And let me tell you, when you finally realize that, it is a huge relief!

It does not matter if your beliefs match mine. What matters is that you know your own beliefs and they need to work for you. They must be yours. It does not matter what anyone else in your world believes…only what you believe. Your beliefs are the blueprint from which you live your life and make your choices.

I will share with you several questions I pondered and answered as I worked through this step:

  • What higher Power do I believe in?
  • Do I trust my higher Power? If not, why not?
  • Do I feel worthy of help from my higher Power?
  • Do I have an open mind? Am I willing to change my beliefs if my current ones are not working for me?
  • If my higher Power “has my back,” why do I sometimes not get what I pray for?
  • Do I believe that my higher Power believes in me?
  • Am I able to receive?
  • What is my bottom? Do I have to hit bottom in order to have faith in my higher Power?

Your relationship with your higher Power starts and ends with your relationship with yourself. God is in you, works through you and IS you. He is expressing himself through you.

Ernest Holmes, the author of The Science of Mind, says the following about treatment and your own personal role in it which I think is a perfect summation for Step #2:

Treatment is not willing things to happen; it is to provide within ourselves an avenue through which they may happen. Treatment opens up avenues of thought, expands the consciousness, and lets reality through; it clarifies the mentality, removes doubt and fear, in the realization of the presence of Spirit (your higher Power), and is necessary while we are confronted by obstructions or obstacles. We already live in a Perfect Universe, but it needs to be seen mentally before it can become a part of our experience. Every problem is primarily mental, and the answer to all problems will be found in Spiritual realization…(your own personal relationship with your higher Power).

God-Speed,
Chris

Chris Sopa is founder and owner of Chris Sopa International, Inc. You can learn more about her at www.ChrisSopa.com. Find her at Facebook.com/ChrisSopaInternational, Twitter @ChrisSopa, LinkedIn, and .

“I Am Right; You Are Wrong”

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty,
only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Being and nonbeing produce each other.
The difficult is born in the easy.
Long is defined by short, the high by the low.
Before and after go along with each other.

So the sage lives openly with apparent duality
and paradoxical unity.
The sage can act without effort
and teach without words.
Nurturing things without possessing them,
he works, but not for rewards;
he competes, but not for results.

When the work is done, it is forgotten.
That is why it lasts forever.

~2nd verse of the Tao

I can’t stand it anymore!  Between the Presidential debates and all of the childish commercials I see around this election, not to mention the anger in the world around us in religion, economics and education…I am DONE!

I was reading an article in the paper this morning about a group of parents in San Diego who are pondering legal action against a school system for offering yoga to the students.  Their belief is that offering yoga is indoctrinating the young in Eastern religion.  The last time I checked, yoga had amazing health benefits such as connecting the mind and body to boost healing, reduce stress, tone muscles and help the mind to focus inward making the person clearer and centered.  Being an ex-President of a Board of Education, I understand why the schools system would offer such a thing as yoga when you observe the stress our youth are under in today’s world.

What concerns me most is the extreme stance I am watching in our world around being “right.”  The “I’m right and you’re wrong” philosophy has reached new heights in every corner of our society.  Everyone has a Divine right to their opinion as well as a Divine right to live their life according to whatever beliefs they choose.  We were given free will for a reason…that reason being to choose the life we want to live.  Look around…are you living in heaven or are you living in hell?

In everything in life there is duality.  Duality is what makes things whole.  There can be no light without darkness; no right without wrong; no male without female; no fat without skinny.  Both have to exist to make something whole.

In order to change the world, I have a few suggestions of things that you can practice on a daily basis to allow duality to exist while at the same time seeing the wholeness and unity in what is presented to you.

  1. Drop judgment – There is a big difference between judging and observing.  Judging includes making an assumption; observing includes stating a fact.
  2. Drop should – I tell my audiences to stop “shoulding” on themselves all of the time.  Instead of saying, “this should be this way…” allow things to just be.
  3. Release attachment to outcome – Define what you want and allow the Heavens to determine the “how.”  Detach from how you think it would be best for that thing you want to show up in your life and trust that God knows what he is doing and knows what is best for you.
  4. Stop trying – As Nike puts it so well, JUST DO IT!  There is no try, as wise Yoda says, there is only DO or DON’T DO.
  5. Choose to NOT defend yourself – The next time you are faced with a situation where you have the urge to “be right” and defend yourself or your beliefs, STOP.  Go within and remember that each person has a right to their own opinion and a right to find their own path upon which to learn their lessons.

Remember, you are God’s hands, feet and voice in this world.  Do him proud.

Allowing,

Chris

Chris Sopa is founder and owner of Chris Sopa International, Inc. You can learn more about her at www.ChrisSopa.com. Find her at Facebook.com/ChrisSopaInternational, Twitter @ChrisSopa, LinkedIn, and .

Purchase your copy of Chris Sopa’s new book, “Choosing the Life You Were Born to Live:  How Changing Your Thoughts will Change Your Life” published by Balboa Press.

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Haboob!

Oh, God, help me! And I walked faster, my thoughts pursuing me, and I began to run, my frozen shoes squealing like mice, but running didn’t help the thoughts to the left and right and behind me. But as I ran, The Arm, that good left arm, took hold of the situation and spoke soothingly: ease up, Kid, it’s loneliness, you’re all alone in the world; your father, your mother, your faith, they can’t help you, nobody helps anybody, you only help yourself, and that’s why I’m here, because we are inseparable, and we’ll take care of everything.” 
John Fante

Running doesn’t help.  Sleeping, drugs or alcohol only create an illusion to make it go away for a little while.  No matter where you go or what you do, you can never get away from it. You are always there.  How many times have you said, “I just need to get away!” and you do…only to find out when you get to that “get away” place, nothing has changed but the scenery.

I don’t know about you, but lately my life has felt as if I am in the middle of a huge haboob (the word us Arizonians use for a dust storm)!  When I look in the mirror I see the same ole’ (notice I said “ole” and not “old!”) Chris but something has changed.  I look around my life and feel as if I am standing in a place where a haboob just moved through and wiped out everything in its path.  People that were in my life are gone or have changed drastically (or is it “I” that have changed?), what I used to do for my business to make money does not seem to be working anymore, my oldest child is choosing a path for her life, that although I know it is her choice, is very hard and painful for a parent to watch, and I have felt more alone lately than I ever have in my life.  What used to work no longer works and when I try to make the old work, things seem to just get worse.

So, I made a decision.  I remembered recently a conversation I had with a friend who said to me that when your life seems to be falling down around you all that means is that the finger of God has come down to touch your life…not even us humans can make that big of a mess!  In order for change to occur and new, beautiful things to enter our lives, “the old” has to go.  But we hang on for dear life…hanging onto that pole as the haboob winds toss us around screaming, “NO!  I won’t let go!”

Nothing of heavenly importance can be figured out with the human mind.  There is no logic to heaven.  If your life seems in chaos right now, rejoice!  That is a sure sign that God’s hand is in it, sweeping away the old (since you wouldn’t do it yourself because you were holding on so tight) so he can bring in the paradise and dreams you came here to experience.

So what was my decision?  To finally let go of the pole I was holding onto so tight and allow the haboob winds to take me in their arms.  Yes, there is a risk to just whipping around in the uncontrolled wind, but let me ask you this?  Trying to completely control the situation…how is that working for you?  I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s not anymore.  I choose to let God’s winds take me…take me home…take me to the next chapter in my life…wherever.  I choose to let God have my back.

Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way.  But I have noticed during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints.  I don’t understand why when I needed you the most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you.  During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
~Author Unknown, “Footprints

Blowing in the wind,

Chris

Chris Sopa is founder and owner of Chris Sopa International, Inc. You can learn more about her at www.ChrisSopa.com. Find her at Facebook.com/ChrisSopaInternational, Twitter @ChrisSopa, LinkedIn, and .