Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Manifest Self-Trust

Recently I had a medical concern that could have been something very serious. I ended up having a relatively easy procedure done and it was determined that it wasn’t serious, i.e., I didn’t have cancer. It was a very scary month for me and going through it provided me a great deal of compassion for those of us who are not as fortunate and end up having serious diagnoses. The other gift of this episode for me was the realization of how much I still need to learn about trusting myself. I consider myself a fairly intelligent and informed person with a good dose of self confidence, yet when a nurse from my doctor’s office tells me that I have to have a procedure done, I buckle in. First, is the realization that something could be seriously wrong with me and I could die. Next, is the rage at the injustice of it all. Then, some self-sympathy mixed in with a whole lot of fear. And finally, for me it was the rage at the doctor who couldn’t have picked up the phone herself to tell me this. This bothered me the most. This lack of compassion was unacceptable from a physician who has been my primary care giver for the past 6 years. How often do we give our whole trust to people who frankly don’t deserve it. But today, I’d like to address the trust in ourselves.

In the place where I had my procedure done, there were many women like myself. Some with huge envelopes with past X-rays and diagnoses, or better put, with their sentences in hand. Some with heads down and sheepishly waiting for their name to be called. We are so vulnerable when we are sick and we’ll do anything to get better. Anything that is, but to trust ourselves. We give away our trust to the nurses, technicians, doctors and anyone who is an “expert”. It is as if we are saying, “take me and fix me, make me better, please…”. And what is interesting is to observe that nurse, technician, and doctor. They are just doing their job. If being friendly is part of the job, then they are friendly. If making sure the machine is working properly and that you are situated on the bed the right way, they are doing their job. I wonder how many of them actually look at the patient and see a whole human being, scared out of their wits and begging to be healed. Perhaps they are too busy to look at the patient that way, perhaps they are too professional and good at their jobs to be interrupted by such thoughts. Or perhaps, because no one asks, they don’t offer that kind of compassion.

Trust is one of those concepts that we all have had an experience with when it comes to another person. For example we all know what it is to trust or not to trust someone. However, the trust I am speaking of here, is trusting ourselves and what we are going through. When I was waiting in the waiting room with my gown on, petrified and annoyed that no one cared, I sat with those emotions. I did not run away from them, I did not resist them or talk myself out of them. I faced them and accepted their presence full-heartedly. I even asked my fear, what it was all about. I realized after this dialogue, that I wasn’t afraid of death, or pain. I was afraid of having to go through the whole process of waiting and trusting the doctors with their solutions. What if they were wrong? What if their solutions were not the best? So I kept on breathing and allowing myself to feel these feelings. There was a great sense of peace at the end of my processing. I felt relieved that I had trusted and honored myself. From that place of stillness I was able to speak to my caregivers. And amazingly, they were able to hear me. In my case, I actually told all of the care givers what I was feeling and how scared I was. I also told them I did not appreciate waiting for two hours past my appointment time to finally see the doctor. To my surprise, they all welcomed my concerns and addressed all of them. By trusting myself and not second guessing my own emotions, I was able to create a relationship where we both felt as equals. Sure, I was the one on the bed with the hospital gown and they were the ones providing the care, but they saw me as a person, a whole person. When we don’t speak our truth, we are depriving others of getting to know us and to treat us as whole beings.

After that, the procedure and what followed was like a breeze. In fact, even getting the results a week later was not as important as one would imagine. My great sense of accomplishment came from facing my own fears and loving them. I also learned that it is ok to be vulnerable and afraid, just trust and honor that vulnerability and fear. Going further, share those feelings with those around you. If they love you, it won’t change their view of you and it will help them understand what you are going through. If they are your care providers, they will see you in a different way, as a whole being emotions and all. If they are a person going through something similar, they’ll realize that it is ok and normal to be afraid and if they feel the same way, they won’t be embarrassed. So all and all, I learned a great deal from my medical scare!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Manifesting The Right Balance

When I was in the corporate world, I had a theory that the way people approach work can be thought of as two extremes on a continuum. On one end we have the ones who are the doers/movers/builders and on the other end are the ones who are “done upon”, or the go with the flowers/whatever my boss tells me/just here to collect my pay checkers. And most people are somewhere in between. Later on, on my path to enlightenment I realized that I had touched upon the classical male to female continuum or action to inaction. As I was always closer to the male part of this continuum in my personality, I didn’t realize that I was out of balance. I had never learned how to be receptive or more female.

In my training to become a coach, I learned about “doing” and “being” goals. I taught my clients how to make sure they were addressing their well-being and not just checking actions off of their “to do” list. Because I was so extremely on the male side of this continuum, I still didn’t get it. Once the title of “goal” was given to something, it meant action to me. For example, if I had “be more compassionate” as a goal, then I’d look for opportunities to “do” compassion. I had to volunteer, or go out of my way to talk to someone I really didn’t want to, etc. This way, I thought I was being more compassionate. It took me a long time and much agony to understand what being receptive is all about. I read many books including the Eckhart Tolle books to learn how to be in the “now” and in the moment and just be. It wasn’t easy.

It was only when I started losing my interest in the activities that I usually liked, that I was able to chill out. I remember, feeling very frustrated that I had stopped enjoying everything I loved to do that I realized how attached I had become to those activities. In a sense, those activities were my identity. Looking back, being ripped off of those “things”, was the best thing that happened to me for my inner development.

Today, I look at the people around me differently. Whether they are coaching clients, family members, or friends, I can safely say that whenever they are in some kind of emotional pain, it is because the balance of “being” and “doing” has tilted in one direction. And that direction is usually the one they are more comfortable with. For example, for myself, I know that whenever I am upset, it is because I am doing too much or worrying that I am not doing enough. So in other words, it is the doing piece that is driving me nuts. On the other hand, peace, real peace is when there is a balance between our male and female tendencies or our action and inaction modes. From that balance comes effortless action that is for the good of all. Action that is really a reaction based in anger, compulsion, judgment or fear is ego based action and is bound to hurt the person reacting and those in his or her way.

Based on my own personal journey, I have summarized the steps involved in obtaining peace that comes from getting the balance right:
1) Determine whether you are predominantly action/male or inaction/female driven
2) Make an inventory of the events in your life that were significantly negative or positive and determine if you were actively participating or just let it happen to you
3) Stretch yourself when you can on the small stuff, i.e., if you are always doing stuff, stop and smell the roses; if you never plan anything for the weekend, pick a Saturday and plan 5 significant activities and then do them
4) What did that feel like? Do it more and monitor your feelings. Ask your loved ones, how they see you. Have you changed?
5) If you successfully accomplished steps 1-4, then congratulations, you are on your path to a more balanced existence! If not, call a life coach to help facilitate and support you in this huge endeavor.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Manifesting Audacity in Living

As a life coach I have noticed that most of the time in a session is spent around clarifying what it is the client wants. I have also noticed that when I summarize what I have heard, and say it back to them, they get a little uncomfortable. Usually it goes something like this: “Well, I’d like that, but I know I can’t because …” So before they even attempt to accomplish their desire, they already come up with reasons why they cannot, how it is impossible, or how it is dependent on other circumstances that will never happen. I finally realized that most of us have become experts at rationalizing ourselves out of what we really want. Chronic rationalization out of our dreams leads to developing a lack of clarity and purpose. Eventually this can lead to living but never feeling alive. The life that we want, the results we seek seem to be unattainable due to years of solid, experience based “proof” that “it ain’t gonna happen”.

When we observe this from a wider perspective and outside the realms of coaching, it points to a wide-spread epidemic that threatens us all. Somewhere, somehow we lost the boldness required to live a fulfilling and deeply satisfying life. Maybe it happened after our hopes and dreams were crushed by an unforeseen event or unfaithful partner, years of being told we were no good by an ignorant parent or sibling, extreme poverty or health crisis that did not support bold living. It could have been a combination of all of these or other factors that bring us to a place where we feel like we’ll never get to where we want to be. And what is truly sad is that people have stopped even dreaming big because they believe that they will never attain their dreams, so why bother. It is one thing to dream big “knowing” that you will not get there, but to not even dream because you never have, or you were not allowed to, or you learned early on that it is a waste of time, is disheartening.

Most children have vivid imaginations, they pretend and role play at an early age. They are born with an inherent gift of seeing “outside the box”. This together with a certain amount of fearlessness brings them joy and makes them fulfilled beings for the most part. I am afraid that as adults, most of us have lost our imagination and our ability to dream. We think it is a waste of time and unproductive. As most learning experts would agree, nothing could be farther from the truth. Creativity and imagination are essential to learning. And as a life coach, I say, “imagination is essential to living a fulfilling life”. So, even if we’ve learned that it is unproductive and trained to believe that it will not get us anywhere, I say, “dare to imagine”. “Dare to dream big and then feel it. Feel the grandness and joy that your dream brings you.” And that is the first and sometimes most uneasy step in achieving what we want.

Many are alive, but few are living life audaciously. We see the athletes who push themselves to obtain that medal or win that tournament. We see those who go against the odds to get to where no one else has gone before them. We hear stories, like the illegal immigrant turned into a world renowned brain surgeon and we think that these people have what we do not. But the truth is that we are all born with that audacity. Perhaps it did not get cultivated or nurtured, but it is in us, in all of us. We have to stop looking at others who are in the spotlight for their accomplishments as if they are preferred or born with gifts that make them special. It is time to look within for our own gifts and personal courage that will help lift us up to live an audaciously fulfilling life. It is time to allow that long ignored, gift of imagination to soar and fill us with hope and desire to accomplish and become who we always wanted to be. Actualizing the dream is actually less challenging than dreaming it. So, let’s be daring and dream big for ourselves, our families, our communities, our countries, and for the world!