Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It Wants To Come Out


Sunday was a very special day. My 10 year old daughter contracted what could have been food poisoning or a bad case of stomach virus. Needless to say, the end result was the same. In the depths of her agony, she kept on demanding that I make “it” go away. Holding her and rubbing her back as she was crying, I was trying to distract her. I couldn’t tell her to think of the beach on a sunny day, or some other serene image because she wasn’t ready to hear that, so, I asked her: “what do you think the pain is trying to tell you”? In her rage and anger at her clueless mother, she shouted, “it wants to come out”! I applauded her understanding of the message and encouraged her to help it come out. Well, the rest is history and you can imagine what followed.

Her words stayed with me: it wants to come out. Where else do we need to let “it” come out? And what might our “it” be? It is the last week of the year and in preparation for 2010 I was thinking about where in my life have I kept “it” locked in? What have I turned my back on? What might I have neglected or denied? Following that, if I keep on locking it in, what will happen? Will it get my attention in another way? Will I implode?

I remember the scenes from movies where someone is dying and at their death bed they declare that they wish they had done x, y, or z. Are x, y, or z my “its”? Is there something I wish I had done or done differently? There always is, isn’t there? No point in regrets, but what about now? What can I do differently today? Perhaps the infamous “it” is just some old, stale way of thinking that needs to come out to be put to rest. Perhaps the “it” is not something that needs to be flushed away, but something that needs to be seen and heard. What if the “it” was your voice, your true voice that got muddled under all of your so-called responsibilities and duties, and now it is just a little nagging sound that you ignore among other naggings you hear daily? What if you ignored it for so long, that now you can’t tell if it is your own voice or someone else’s?

Everyone has at least a few “its” hidden away discreetly. No one can hide them for too long. They tend to get bigger and louder when they finally see an opening. Or they might find the wrong opening. If only we could first recognize them, get acquainted with them and then gently ask them what they want. We will hear it, if we get quiet enough. From that quiet place, having heard our own voice we can do what needs to be done. Happy recognizing to you and yours!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Live Like an Artist


I heard somewhere that when you are an artist, you look at everything differently. For me, it is all about capturing that moment of surprise or delight on paper. Even though it is not an exact representation of the experience, it is an expression stemming from that experience. It is like rewinding the moment you fell in love with someone over and over again, except it is all new. So, yes, you look at everything differently. You walk through life aware that at any moment you could fall in love with the brightest shade of green you’ve ever seen, and as a result everything in your life will have more depth and meaning.

It’s about going deeper and deeper into the experience of life with fresh eyes and an open heart. It’s about being like a child, innocent and without expectations, deeply curious, and fearless to a fault. The only difference is that as an adult you know the bad, you’ve played out the same scenarios enough times to have lost your curiosity, and you’ve been burned, so you know what to be afraid of. My wish for all of us for the New Year and beyond is to be like a child even though we think we know better, to experience life like an artist, prepared to fall in love over and over again. I hope we can still be curious and courageous without worries about consequences. I hope we can unfasten the security latch and go a little crazy.

Happy New Year! Thanks for your support, insights and sharing. Keep on creating, your masterpiece is still waiting for you!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Evolution Hurts


I experienced what I’d like to think of as a small miracle this weekend. We had an ice storm and there was black ice on the steps which I did not know about. Upon going down the steps like I would normally, I slipped and would have landed on the steps with at best a terrible bruise on my back where it had hit the edge of the sharp stone steps. However, I miraculously stopped mid-slip without any effort of my own. It was as if someone gently held me so I wouldn’t tumble down. In that moment, I realized how much pain I had escaped, not to mention the delay in my over scheduled day. I went about my business amazed and grateful for whatever stopped me from falling and feeling the pain. But it isn’t always like that.

What has been showing up in my own personal life, in my clients’ lives, and with my friends recently is the fact that living a conscious life hurts. This was the point I was trying to make in last week’s post. What some people may have imagined about spiritual evolution as being this journey to happy land where the “law of attraction” just brings all of the goodies we deserve and we are immune from feeling pain or getting angry is shattered into a million pieces when we embark on a real-life journey of consciousness expansion. Perhaps no one would go through it if they knew how painful the journey can be. I deliberately use the word, painful, because if I wrote “challenging”, it would imply a certain level of difficulty and then I’d be sending you into your head. Consciousness expansion is not an intellectual activity, it does not involve mental analysis, it involves feeling some of the most intense feelings that many of us have consciously or subconsciously chosen to avoid.

The resistance comes in many forms: “but I don’t want to feel angry”, “I am tired”, “I just want to be happy, peaceful, etc.”, “why can’t I be happy?”, and on and on it goes. We all want to be happy and we have learned to avoid the opposite of happy which can be depressed, sad, or angry. How does the avoidance manifest? Based on what is going on in our lives and our personalities, it could be: super-busy schedules (do anything and everything to not be aware of what we are avoiding), a numbness in our demeanor, alcohol, drugs, partying, taking it out on someone else, obsessive behavior like over-cleaning, etc. So, we all have coping mechanisms. We all know how to not look at the truth that is staring us down. We do this in our personal lives and we have collectively done this when it comes to our jobs, our government and its policies, and our planet. We have collectively looked away and found something else to focus on in order to avoid feeling the pain. In fact, we live extremely convenient lives. We don’t have to leave our homes or our cars anymore. Everything is available with a phone call or through the internet. All of this convenience has added to a sense of entitlement which makes feeling any kind of pain intolerable (no pun intended). I do not want to go into the why, but I do want to validate the how and the now.

The pain however, is what comes before the change, and sometimes right after. The pain is the validation that something is happening. The now is about the inconvenience of pain. The now is about the truth without any sugar coating. I always tell my clients-to-be, “this is not going to be fun and it might be kind of rough, are you sure you want to do this?” The answer is a resounding yes, until they hit the brick wall. This pain is especially uncomfortable, because when we are expanding and learning and practicing and it all is working so well, we think we have graduated. No more pain in my life. So, when it hurts, it feels like a failure, it undermines what we have learned and questions the whole journey and we feel like we are back at the first step. I am writing this somewhat unusual post, because I sense a strong need to let those who are experiencing pain and doubt as to why they have chosen to “grow” that this is a normal part of the experience. Please don’t run away, beat yourself up, or worse yet, give up. You will get through this and it will be quick if you don’t avoid the pain or the darkness. You will not crumble or die, you will get through it, but only in getting through it do you really experience it fully and find your own answers. The answers to some of our difficult questions are not somewhere in some book or with some guru. The answers are inside each and every one of us. The answers urge and cheer us on to get through the pain. The answers bring the joy and peace we have been looking for. Evolution hurts, that’s why we call it “growing pains”. As much as we’d like to freeze certain moments in time for eternity, life beckons us to grow and evolve and with that comes the inconvenience of pain.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Extreme Transitions


A shaman once explained that when you choose to heal, you accept that you die on different levels, and just when you think you are done, you die again. At first I found this explanation a bit morbid. But I realized that no one who is going through a major transition, is really afraid of death. They are however, afraid of dying. In fact, we all are afraid of dying. Sometimes it is the unknown, a lack of understanding of what it might be like. Sometimes like watching a loved one die, it is the fear of pain, the waiting, the hopelessness, the loss. These are all emotions we go through when we are going through a major life transition. So maybe, it is like dying over and over again. How do we get through it?

Transitions are the moments in between what once was and what is yet to be. If we are awake enough and aware enough, we might be excited about the future because we think we are done with the past. So, we want to rush into it. No one, likes to be waiting in the waiting room of change. It feels like nothing is happening there. Worse, yet, you are alone because everyone else is either where you used to be or where you want to be, unless you have joined some kind of support group or better yet, have a close friend who is going through a similar transition. Even then, there is a tremendous sense of loss, because you have lost your identity. Take divorce for example, until the divorce is final, who are you? You used to be someone’s wife, you had a certain last name and now, you are still not divorced, so you are technically married, but … I hear so often the words: “I just want it to be over with”, like removing a band aid. I don’t know of anyone who would rather have the band aid be pulled off ever so slowly lingering every moment of the sensation of the hairs being pulled off of their skin. And yet, we don’t seem to have the choice, time becomes our enemy and we feel sentenced to our waiting room. Is there a wisdom to any of this?

To the one in the waiting room, there is no wisdom. We have heard and even repeated the concept of being in the moment or being present. But being in the moment, in this case is excruciatingly painful. Being aware of being in limbo does not make it any better. In fact, it makes it worse. Because in that present moment without hope for the future, it is gray , lifeless and lonely. So, once again, what’s the wisdom, what’s the gift of this situation?

When we are in between two worlds, or dying we have the opportunity to consciously experience the transition. We can feel the past and its hold on us, its unfulfilled promises, its hopes, its good times, its bad times, etc. We can feel this and feel into the unknown, the future, what might be, a new experience, new people, etc. And we can feel this now moment that is empty, an empty, lonely place to self-observe, accept, make peace with, say goodbye to, grieve, surrender, and rest. Does it feel good? No, it doesn’t. At least, it doesn’t have the sugary feel good high that we are so accustomed to and enjoy. It feels like the end is here, the end of something that you were so familiar with, and endings are sad. Yes, the optimist in me is nagging me to write, “but with every ending there is a new beginning”. True but this statement is not helpful for the one who is experiencing the ending on bloodied hands and knees. The ending needs its own place of honor. We honor those who pass on and the same way we need to honor the part of us that died in our extreme transition. Waiting rooms of life are opportunities to respect the gravity of the moment. We can remember the good times and that may make it feel lighter, but let’s release judgment and the need to make it better by hanging on to the good times. Let’s let go of these polarities of good vs. bad. Let’s just let it all be, like a quiet moment in a funeral service. It’s ok to be quiet, it’s ok to feel hopeless, it’s ok to feel lonely, it’s ok to feel angry, it’s ok to feel whatever it is you are feeling. It’s our desire to feel what we are not feeling that grips us and squeezes us painfully in an attempt to drag us into the past or push us into the future.

So, if you are in the waiting room of life going through your extreme life transition especially at this time of celebration of the upcoming holidays, don’t fight it. Don’t avoid it, don’t deny it, and don’t make it be what it isn’t. Honor your journey and where it has brought you. When you feel what is, even if it feels like dying, feel into it, so you can once again fully engage in what is yet to be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Anyone Listening Out There?


I was a little skeptical of my husband’s claim that people just don’t listen anymore. As a coach, it’s what I do with clients and hanging out with other coaches, we listen to each other when we talk. So, this statement from him got me thinking and looking around. I didn’t have to look too hard. This past weekend we were at a dinner party where I realized that he did have a valid point. It was a small gathering of friends and I noticed that some people just loved to bust into conversations which is fine, but then they didn’t ask what the others were talking about and made assumptions as to where the conversation was going and they talked and talked and gave their opinions and made their suggestions and on and on it went. I also realized that I am teaching our daughter who is 10 to stop doing that at home, but decided that perhaps I’ve been too hard on her as some of the adults I know don’t know any better. How come no one listens anymore?

Is it because we are so stressed and running in so many different directions that when we finally relax with friends and family, we just let loose and unburden ourselves and empty our thoughts to anyone who might care to listen? Is it that we have had to stay quiet and keep our opinions to ourselves, perhaps for fear of losing a job, in a dysfunctional marriage where neither partner has a meaningful conversation with each other anymore, hanging out with young children all day without adult companionship, etc.? Is it that we think that it isn’t cool to be a little quiet at a party and you have to mingle and have something to say even if you really don’t? Somehow, being quiet became uncool and unacceptable which is in contradiction to what most people I meet are looking for in their lives.

This kind of behavior also reminds me of what I’ve noticed about TV. It seems that every second of TV time has to be filled with loud and obnoxious noise and so-called entertainment, so much so that it is hard to tell the commercials from the program. Even after all the noise, there is the news clip running down below our screen just in case we find the noise boring and need more visual distraction. I used to love watching a football game from time to time and now with all the commentaries and noises and loud giant robots smashing into each other, it has taken away from the game and just made it noisy entertainment. No wonder our kids are always telling us they are bored. When you turn off all of that noise, the silence can be deafening if you’ve never heard it before.

Perhaps it is all of this noise and distraction that we fill our lives with that does not allow for true self-expression or communication. Or perhaps, we are being trained that in order to be successful or liked, we have to jump in front of an audience and make the loudest noise possible regardless of whether they care to hear us or not. Technology has made it possible to stay in touch with each other regardless of time or distance, but it has minimized the concept of etiquette or real meaningful communication. I find myself in conversations that get started, but go nowhere, because it is easy to lose the train of thought and start a new one. Frankly, I am confused at what friendship even means these days. Technology has helped reduce our attention span to sound bites less than 140 characters and so we are very direct and to the point in our tweets, but have forgotten to call each other just to hear each other’s voices. The convenience is great, but it cannot replace the old fashioned “hello, how are you?” Followed by a real pause with ears that listen to what the person is really saying and eyes that see what the person is not saying and the space to allow for those much needed quiet moments.

Being quiet may be uncool, but it is what we all either unconsciously, secretly or openly crave. It is in those quiet moments that we find that creative idea, notice the birds or the clouds or…, realize what is really going on with our friend, recognize what we need or want in our own life, and eventually find real joy. When we are filled with that inner joy can we then fully participate in the noise out there and our participation is then received and appreciated. If we are empty we have nothing to give, so let’s take the quiet time to fill up, everyone around us will be glad we did.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful For the Good, the Bad and the Ugly


So often at this time of the year we are asked to give thanks for what we have, our blessings, etc. It is a great exercise in wading in positive feelings of gratitude. However, what happens to what we might not be too happy about? Our so-called mistakes, or short-comings often get neglected by choice. It is as if we don’t want to mix the good with the bad. We are saving the bad for another time. For some, it comes out when they repeat an unwanted pattern and then they proceed to beat themselves over it. Others choose to be reminded of the bad by others (relationships, an incident on the TV or a movie, etc.). Some spend their lives avoiding any such thoughts, or so they think until something happens that pushes it all to the surface.

I am a firm believer in two things: there is no such thing as good or bad; and if you are afraid of something, it’s better to stalk it and face it until it no longer spooks you. Gratitude is an emotion that encompasses this. If you are grateful for the lesson you have learned from your mistake, then you must in a sense be grateful for having made the mistake for if you hadn’t, you might not have learned the lesson. If you feel into this statement, you will notice that the word mistake no longer has power over you and you have faced something dark or negative and nothing bad happened. Life is indeed like opening up a box of chocolates and biting into all of them. There are some you are going to love and some you wish you could spit out. You learned which ones you like and which ones you won’t try again. Being grateful only for the good is like taking out all of the chocolates you like and pretend the ones you don’t like aren’t in the box. Life is a rainbow of colors and flavors and our job is to experience as much of it as we can. For only in the experience are we going to know what we like and what we don’t.

Even in the depths of grief, there is the sweet memory of the one we lost and the love we feel for them still. And unfortunately, at times, it is in losing them that we recognize how much they meant to us. That in itself is the gift of loss. So, in the spirit of this beautiful American Holiday, I would like to ask you to look back into your life and think about your blessings, your talents, and your so-called mistakes, short-comings, or losses. Imagine a basket that contains your entire life experience up until now and imagine all of the events, people, and decisions like small fruits or flowers in this basket. Some are fresh and delicious, and some are not. But they are all there, and you wouldn’t be here in this exact place and in this precise form, if it weren’t for all the fruit and flowers in that basket. Your basket is uniquely yours, you have filled it with its content, it represents all of your choices and experiences. Now, that you have a fresh inventory of the basket, breathe it all in, give thanks and honor all of its content. You are indeed an amazing creator. Keep on creating, don’t close the door on the creations that have caused you pain, for there is wisdom in that pain. I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It Can Be a Matter of Conscious Choice


It can be, because it doesn’t seem like it is all the time. Sometimes it feels like it is not up to us. What am I talking about? I am talking about conscious choice. I’ve written about Charlie, our little dog in the past. He is a little black pug who is so not an alpha dog. Charlie would never have survived in his pack, he would have been the first to have been consumed by the alpha pack leader. He would have been a hindrance to the pack because he would wander off in the woods if he thought he saw a pretty leaf he could chase. He would slow them down. Charlie has a friend he plays with every day, another pug who is female and full of life and energy. She is the one who determines how many circles they run, which direction they go, and who gets to get on top! Charlie doesn’t mind being led. I don’t think Charlie understands how he shows up in life. He just is. His playing with his friend reminds me of how we as humans interact with each other. I wonder how many are truly consciously aware of how we show up, furthermore, if we choose to be or do we?

Recently, I met someone who was very demanding. He was not interested in asking if it was convenient for me, or if I was even interested in what he was talking about. I soon realized that if I continue being nice and make it convenient for him, I would be very unhappy. So, I became more demanding too and explained how I wanted it to be. I didn’t hear back from him again. Making the conscious choice to show up assertive may cost you a friendship, but if you have to let someone rule over you to be their friend, that may not be a friendship at all. On the other hand, you may consciously choose to allow the other person to make certain decisions if those are important to them and not to you. For example, I have a good friend who makes all of our lunch decisions (where to meet and when). I am ok with that, I don’t care where we go, so I let her take charge of that. However, if the place she suggests is inconvenient or I’d rather go somewhere else, I will speak up. I am also certain that she doesn’t mind making all of those decisions. I have a choice and I am aware of the dynamics of our relationship.

The same holds true in our most intimate relationships. If you feel like you are the one who makes all the decisions because your partner won’t, you have to consciously decide if this is the role you want to play. I hear so many complaints from women who feel like they do all the “work” in the relationship. Yet, I never hear if they actually have allowed their partner to do some of the “work”. Yes, I use the word allow, because it is about allowing. When you want things done your way and at your speed, you are not interested in the work getting done, you are interested in having your way. That need to control translates as not allowing. So, our partners avoid helping out and let us do it ourselves because they know that whatever they do will not be good enough.

This past weekend, my husband and I went out to a concert and a babysitter took care of the kids. She was the perfect baby sitter. The kids and the dog were well taken care of. Once she left and I looked down, I noticed that there were leaves all over the floors and the rugs. I guess the kids and/or her must have taken the dog out and tracked the leaves all back into the house. I felt a tinge of annoyance, and then I remembered how glad I was to have had a night out alone with my husband and a great babysitter who didn’t mind staying over until well into midnight. Allowing is about accepting all that is, just the way that it is, even if it isn’t quite the way you’d like it to be. That night I consciously chose to be grateful and content. I consciously chose to put my attention on what truly mattered. I would have had nice clean floors if we hadn’t gone out that night, but I would have also missed out on a great date! We spend so much time on things that truly don’t matter to us and we have done it so many times that we don’t even notice it when we do it. All of the years of practice at giving our attention to things we don’t really care about has dulled our awareness and robbed us of recognizing our own personal choices. We give away our power in a hundred different ways each day and then we wonder why we aren’t happy. To make matters worse, we try to control our environment to bring a sense of order and/or balance back again and all that does is make it worse.

So, the next time you feel helpless, exhausted, or angry about a situation that involves someone else, ask yourself what really matters and how you have co-created the situation? Once you know and are clear on what really matters in that situation, then you can do or be as needed. However, you have to take responsibility for the consequences of your action or words. People may or may not be happy with an empowered version of you and that is the chance you are taking. Make the conscious choice and watch what happens…

Monday, November 9, 2009

Does The Truth Have a Chance?


Since last week’s post, I’ve been pre-occupied with the truth. I’ve been catching myself looking for it everywhere and noticing that somehow it has lost its clout. No one seems to be interested in it. I am also reminded of that great line from the movie, A Few Good Men, when the Jack Nicholson character says: “you can’t handle the truth”. It makes me wonder if we really can’t handle the truth. Or is it simply that the truth is not as interesting or shocking as the stuff we make up or is made up for us.

Last night I watched the CBS News (60 Minutes) interview of Andre Agassi by Katie Couric and I watched the truth try to make an appearance despite being shoved into drama, turned into gossip, and nailed by gotcha journalism. I didn’t expect this from 60 Minutes and especially when the guy they were interviewing had already confessed everything, but I am learning that there is little difference these days between any of the so-called news shows on TV. For those of you who missed the show, Agassi has written a new book (to be out today), an auto-biography called Open. In it he confesses to a lot of things including taking crystal meth, wearing a hair weave, and hating tennis. Mind you, Andre Agassi is a retired and respected tennis player who is married to another retired and famous tennis player and is an active philanthropist. Between the two of them, they live a very comfortable life. Writing this book is not going to make or break his lifestyle. With the camera up close, it was clear that his reason for writing this book was to be open and honest about himself and a step in his atonement for his mistakes of the past. He could have let it all be, no one would have known or cared about any of this. His image would have been untarnished and he would have remained a great tennis star. Instead, he chose to come clean, to speak the truth. To me, this was wonderfully refreshing, especially coming from the guy who made “image is everything” a famous line. Instead, Katie Couric kept on asking him things like how many times did he take crystal meth, for how long, how does he feel about what others are saying about him, etc. This was a moment where we could have found out more about what speaking his truth means for him, if he could go back in time, what would he change if anything, what are his hopes for his children, etc. I could think of a dozen questions that would have honored his speaking his truth and left us inspired or compassionate and curious towards people living lives so different than ours.

This interview got me thinking again about our lack of interest in the truth and our lack of patience and even tolerance for those who are being truthful. We would rather not believe them. As Katie Couric said, some of us might have thought that he was just being whiny or trying to sell his book. Any twisted, negative rationale is ok, but the truth. I hope I am wrong, and I hope that people can see and feel beyond what was demonstrated on TV and continues to be demonstrated 24/7. I hope that truth becomes fashionable again, because it is pretty potent, but if we keep on avoiding it we are just feeding into the illusion we are living in. I can’t imagine that this is what we choose. I hope that we can indeed handle the truth. I am certain that Mr. Agassi feels like a huge burden has been lifted. He doesn’t have to be anyone’s tennis star or fulfill anyone else’s dream. In fact, he has liberated himself from that pedestal. He is free to be himself if he chooses so. I wish him all the best.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Does Truth Have To Do With It?


He has been officially separated from his wife and even lives in another state. He comes into town every weekend to visit the kids and spends the weekends on the driveway or in the garage (where he is allowed to be). The kids don’t want to be around him, they blame him for everything. He doesn’t know that we know about it. He still pretends that he is commuting back and forth and that the house is theirs and everything is ok. I don’t say anything one way or the other, I don’t want to intrude and I don’t want to be drawn into the drama. I go along with his stories even though I have heard the ugly version from his wife. This is a story of someone I casually know and spending the weekend listening to him tell his story to others, I realized how much he still might believe it to be true.

He made me think about the stories I exchange with others. Once we repeat the same story over and over, we believe it too. It’s what politicians do best, it is what churches and other religious institutions have done for centuries, it is what corporations do (except their disgruntled employees know otherwise, and spread their own stories. But the corporations are more powerful and can spread their stories more efficiently and can reach a wider audience), it’s what families and cultures do, and on and on it goes. In fact, when we get together with people, it provides the perfect opportunity to exchange our stories. He tells his story, we tell ours, or someone else’s whose story we like, and pretty soon by the end of the gathering we leave more convinced that our story is indeed true, especially if others bought into it and we even have some fresh stories that we can spread around.

In my neighborhood, the common story is about H1N1 vaccinations. Having two school aged kids, I admit, I get sucked right into it. We all share our knowledge about the latest whether it be which pediatrician is giving them out to which towns have been inoculated to conspiracy theories, etc. We are all concerned about our children’s health and probably our own too. We are frustrated with the fact that there is no clear communication about where and when we can get vaccinated. We are unclear about how serious this threat is. In summary, we don’t have enough information. And because it might be a matter of life and death (especially when we listen to the nightly news and hear about the town next to ours who had the latest fatality, etc.), we go into fear mode. This is the perfect environment for creating drama to feed into our fears. The feeding keeps the fear alive and strong, it makes us be right, so it feeds into our self-righteousness, we keep on talking and obsessing about it, we attract those who might not have been afraid, and it keeps on getting bigger and bigger. At this point, we are willing to lie, cheat and steal to get the vaccine, which I am afraid I am seeing happen in my neighborhood.

So, what happened to the truth? And does it matter? At this stage in the game, you have chaos and fear together hand in hand with extremely strong convictions and delusions about matters of life and death of young children! This is an extremely dangerous concoction that could easily get out of control. I know with my neighbors, that no one at this stage is really interested in the truth. They just want the vaccine. Going back to my friend with his delusions about his life and marriage, I wonder how interested he is in the truth. Once you live inside the stories that you have created, you have no reason to be interested in what may be considered as neutral and disarming. From my perspective, accepting a failed marriage and visiting the kids at the court appointed times is a lot easier to handle than travelling back and forth every weekend, sitting in a cold rental car, waiting for kids who don’t want to see you, and lying to everyone you meet. On the other hand, his choice of lifestyle is more exciting, complicated, exhausting, and sure to draw sympathy from whomever might know the truth. He also gets to avoid the pain that he might feel if he accepted his role in the dissolution of their marriage. And as a bonus, there is the possibility that she might feel sorry for him one day and let him come inside and his story would be true after all.

Whether we are living inside our human-made stories in our personal lives, or out there in mass consciousness which is fed by us, the media, and all of our friends and families, we are separated from the truth. We believe what we want to believe, and we have done it enough times that we believe that it is the truth. We spend our lives proving our stories to be true and because everyone else is doing it too, we have no reason to stop. The only time we stop is when we are tired of the drama, we are in search of the truth, or our story got so out of hand that we got called on it. So, the next time you find yourself convinced of something that does not bring you peace of mind/heart/soul and body, ask yourself if it is true. Is it true that you have to do whatever it is you are doing, is it true that the government is out to get you, is it true that your life is going to end if you leave your job, your family, your (fill in the blank), is it true that she/he hates you, etc. Is it really true?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Patience


This is part 5 of a five part series on tools for going through life transitions.

The last tool when going through a major life transition is patience. Often times, we just want to zoom through our changes and get to the end. The attitude of having to get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow can dissolve the power from the other tools like self-acceptance. You cannot be accepting of you and what is when you are in a rush to get to the end. A difficult transition requires lots of patience and gentleness. When you have altered your course in life, you are traveling on unknown roads. It may be scary or unfamiliar and patience helps you on your journey.

When you lose someone you’ve loved deeply, you may feel lost without them, buried in grief, patience is the only tool that can help you get through the darkest nights. Sometimes, we want to numb ourselves by keeping company, or doing stuff and when our friends are not available or we run out of things to do, we may find loneliness as a prison that we tried so hard to get away from. But loneliness is temporary and it will pass. In the middle of a transition, it could be your companion if you choose to look at it that way. Patience with yourself and this in-between phase is critical. It truly makes the time go by easier. You might find your creativity blossoming in those quiet and lonely moments, if you are accepting of it. If you fight it, get impatient and try to force things to happen, creativity will stay away until you are done playing your game. When you do get impatient, remember you changed your life, or something has changed, by definition, the old ways/rules do not apply anymore. Change is just what it means, different. Different is what we say we want, but we are not prepared to deal with the unfamiliarity that comes with it. Our brain cannot come up with new solutions, it only knows what it has known from the past. I have written about trust in past posts (September 08 and July 09), and this is where self-trust becomes crucial. Along with self-trust will come new solutions from new places foreign to your head.

Creativity is a gift that is waiting for you to stop doing, stop rushing into the future, stop numbing yourself and denying what is. Creativity is waiting for you to get silent, truly silent. Creativity will creep up on you when you are present. You’ll find yourself creating in a way that you may have had a long time ago, perhaps even back when you were a child. You will find yourself filled with a peaceful sense of being and from that place even making a simple meal for yourself will be a joyful event. You may decide to rearrange your furniture, or buy new drapes, or paint your bedroom a different color. You may decide to take dance lessons or go on that long awaited adventurous trip you never took, or simply clean out the attic. Whatever it is you do, is coming not from compulsion or duty, but from joy. You will be filled with an inner sense of joy and peace that is inexplicable. Nothing in your outer world has changed and if you think about it, your joy seems senseless, yet more real than any feeling you may have ever felt. When you practice patience in your journey, especially through the difficult times, you will be gifted with these precious moments consistently. So, step back and see the big picture, observe yourself in it, accept what is, honor everyone you’ve ever encountered, and be patient. These five tools are the essential tools in living a big life. If you fall off the wagon, and notice that you have not been using one of the tools, then go back and pick it up. It takes lots of practice! I wish you unspeakable peace and joy on your journey…

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Honor


This is part 4 of a series on tools for going through major life transitions.

Tool #4 in going through life transitions is the ability and practice of honoring everyone, especially those who may have hurt us. Honor is similar to self-acceptance and self-respect but it is done for the other. It is also something that you can practice doing regularly throughout the day. It takes away the need for righteousness or the need to be right. In fact, it is almost like pouring cold water on that live wire that is sizzling with self-righteousness. It fine tunes and focuses the image you see in your big picture. When you can honor people who drive you crazy or even characters in the news who are portrayed as truly evil, you are able to see more clearly and into farther distances. You can disentangle from the pangs of judgment that you may have experienced when you first encountered someone who did something you consider wrong. It feels like when the Novocain sets in and you begin to feel nothing. It allows you to expand your consciousness so you can feel grander than your human story.

Honor is about accepting others for where they are at, no matter what. You don’t have to condone or agree with their actions or words, but you can still honor them for their experience and the role they play in your journey. I personally have learned more from the difficult people in my life than from those I’ve had agreeable relationships with. It is as if the tension in the relationship is a lesson ready to be unwrapped. So often we get stuck in our own opinions, our way of being brought up and our view of the world that we need to be shaken up a bit. The horror in the news provides that shake up, the opening of the eyes, the soul, and the heart to understanding a bigger world. Once we allow the other to be as they are (by the simple practice of honoring), we have stretched our reality and this makes everything easier. We are now free to expand and move into a new place and a new experience.

Tool #4 or honor can also make self-love or self-acceptance easier. If you are having difficulty with self-acceptance, then honoring others will loosen things up and you will find that now you can use tool #3 more easily. Also, if you are wondering how to use honor, it is very simple. Just practice saying it out loud or in your own head when someone makes you mad. Start with the easy ones, not some serial killer in the news or an abusive parent. Start with the rude person you encountered at the grocery store. If it feels fake, keep on saying it until it does not. Then you can use it with people who have hurt you in a deeper way. Try it at least for a week consistently and decide for yourself if you sense a change or a shift.

Stay tuned for tool #5 in next week’s post!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Self-Acceptance


This is part 3 of a series on tools for going through major life transitions.

Now that you are in the midst of a huge transition, you’ve realized that you need to see the big picture and learned to observe yourself, what’s next? The answer is self-acceptance. A result of self-observation might be regrets, realization of having made a few mistakes, noticing repeated patterns or choices, etc. This is why the next tool is self-acceptance which includes: self-forgiveness and self-love. Yes, you may have made a few mistakes, but you cannot change the past, only your experience of the present moment. If we are judgmental of our self, then we are not accepting our self and cannot move forward. Guilt and shame are shackles that bind us to our past and will ensure that we don’t move forward and create joyful experiences throughout our transition. This may sound simple, but imagine a woman who has left a dysfunctional marriage with no job and has to provide for her children who blame her for the dissolution of their family. In order for her to experience success and joy, she has to accept her decision as hard as it may have been and allow her children to go through their own experiences without any guilt. As a mother, this is not an easy task. Self-acceptance comes when one takes responsibility for one’s own life and only that. Yes, she is a mother, but she is not responsible for her children’s feelings or opinions. Her acceptance of her own decisions and self-responsibility is the greatest teaching to her children who only learn by example.

This tool is a very powerful tool that is not easy to use. It takes lots of practice and it will undo many beliefs that no longer serve you. It will uncover the past and stuff that have lingered on for too long. It will give you the opportunity to choose what you really want and move forward in your journey, but only if you are ready and willing to boldly accept you and all that you are and all that you have done. This is where self-love comes in handy. Once again, the topic sounds benign, but we are mostly amateurs at it. We have been trained to love others, but not our self. We only venture to love our self, if someone else deems it deserving. If our loved ones say that we are a great mother, friend, brother, employee, etc. then we might consider our self deserving of love, but here too, only deserving of their love. Unconditional self-love is the result of true self-acceptance and very necessary to move through challenging transitions. However, if you cannot love yourself unconditionally, how can you truly love another unconditionally? If you cannot forgive yourself for mistakes, how can you forgive someone else? And if you cannot accept you, in the shape you are in right now (whatever weight you may have, whoever you may have hurt, whatever job you may have, however messy your home may be, etc.), you are not in the present moment. If you are experiencing regrets about the past or fantasizing about the future, you cannot move through change simply because you are not here to experience it. It is a denial of what is. This denial will only prolong the inevitable and that’s the reason why transitions seem so difficult.

In summary, if you are going through earth shattering change, you may want to take a look at the big picture, observe you in it, and then jump right in and love and honor yourself and the journey you’re on. Self-acceptance is an essential tool when going through transitions. For tool #4, stay tuned until next week’s post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Observation


The next essential tool or tool #2 for going through life transitions is the ability and practice of observing yourself. This goes hand in hand with the first tool, seeing the big picture. Once you are aware of the big picture, you can then observe yourself even when you are participating in life. In fact, it is crucial to do it as you go through your day. What you may not have been able to decipher, you can now recognize easily. Separation from your ego and your personality allows you to see it more clearly. You will be able to see your fears, reactions, compulsions, judgments, expectations, beliefs, etc. This in turn allows you to work through them. Take fear for example, once you realize which fear gets in the way of moving forward, you can go deeper into it and figure out what it is made of, how it shows up in different scenarios, how you have coped with it (or not) in the past, etc. And last, but not least, what might the fear be teaching you? These are all questions you can work with your coach to help you move through the fear and make some life empowering choices.

Observations can also reveal our judgments and beliefs. No matter who we think we are, we can’t help but to judge ourselves, others, circumstances, etc. Perhaps the word judge is not accurate, because it is more like evaluations. We are always evaluating things, comparing them, mostly done in order to understand. But once our ego gets activated, the evaluation becomes more like a ranking system that we use to judge. And unfortunately, the judgments only imprison the judge, not the object of the judgment. Once you cast an opinion on something, you hold that thing within the constraints of that opinion. Any other event or object that is similar to that first event or object, will follow the same fate, and so on, and so on. No one can feel free when they’ve slammed the judgment doors shut. Every time we think, “I should have”, “I could have”, etc., it is a judgment on what is. Observation, allows you the space to catch yourself casting judgment. The moment you become the observer in your own story, you have given yourself the power to choose. Once you know that what you were thinking was a judgment, you can choose to think and eventually believe something else. This is also the first step in changing belief systems.

Observations also reveal expectations. We want things to turn out a certain way. Expectations like judgments imprison the person who is doing the expecting. When you expect, you are saying “no” to what is not within the domain of your expectation. In other words, you are closing the door on all other possibilities. It is a self-limiting practice that we have learned to do early on in life. We have been trained to respond a certain way from the moment our parents and teachers taught us how to speak or behave, and since then we’ve been practicing this way of being. You do something and then you expect something for it. This all works well until you don’t get the reward you were expecting for your behavior. And even as adults we then behave like children having a tantrum when it all comes crumbling down. Observations allow you to see what it is that you are expecting and the space to choose to dismantle this learned behavior. Eventually, you will get to a place where you will only do that which brings you joy. The action is driven by the intent to experience joy, not to get some reward. As simple as it sounds, you’ll be astounded at how often you do things because you are expected to do them. And this type of re-wiring of your SELF is not easy! Observing yourself helps you zoom out of your story and see the big picture. These two tools go hand in hand when going through transitions or even just when you want to have a bigger and more fulfilling life experience. They allow you to choose how to be in every moment of every day instead of reacting to what you think is happening.

If you are going through a major transition and are still interested, stay tuned for tool #3 in next week’s post.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

See The Big Picture

She was in her 50s, recently divorced, moved to a new town, and working at a new job wondering about the purpose of her life. She talked for a long time and then paused, looked at me and asked, “is it too late to try to figure out what I am supposed to be doing?” She was yet another person going through major life transition(s) and stuck in those lonely moments wondering what it is all about. I realized that people whose lives are not intersecting with those transitions, just keep on going mostly not driven or even curious about the “whys” of life. I don’t think that some of us are deeper or more serious, I just think that some of us hit the bumps real hard, fall, and then in our recuperation phase, we have the opportunity to ask those deeper questions. It is as if transitions provide the opportunity to be curious about life. When everything is going as planned, when nothing goes wrong, no one questions anything. We are too busy involved in our stories, enjoying the regular routines and non-events. Months turn into years and we may look back perhaps well into our later years and wonder where it all went. Then perhaps an illness, retirement, etc. will get us quiet enough to listen, but that too might quickly be disrupted with the loud noises of the lives of our younger loved ones and we quickly put aside our foolish sentimentality and rush to join them where they’re at, and so it goes, another life spent lost in the mundane stories that run into each other.

Most of us are enamored with the Hollywood type of happy endings. If our life is not predictable and does not fit into the patterns that are accepted by mass consciousness, we panic, we judge and we do all that we can to forcefully squeeze into a life that fits everyone else’s expectations. Then, when we are still not happy, we start blaming everyone else and the cycle continues until the next bump or transition. Transitions get a bad rap, because they are usually seen as something outside of our control. They are perceived as something that happened to us, and in our attempt to understand, we start labeling and judging and make the event the bad thing and us the victim of the bad thing. This is when we start to neurotically recreate a more predictable and acceptable life if we can. If the transition is extremely difficult (e.g., a divorce or death) then we seek outside help and support. Soon after the pain numbs down, we go about the re-building of a new house following old instructions for an old house, until this new/old house comes crumbling down with the next transition.

She was ending our conversation by admitting that she felt lonely at times and it would be nice if she had someone in her life. She was giving up on the whole life purpose thing and looking dreamily into the horizon imagining the new guy she’d build a new life with. Transitions are opportunities for real change, and even though, we claim we want change, our tendency is to re-create an old story. After all, old stories are familiar and we know how to play the same role even if the other characters are being played out by new actors. Since most people like to have a multi-step guide to whatever it is they are looking for, I have come up with my own guide that I hope you find useful. I’ll go into step one or tool one in this post.

The first tool that helps when making big changes is the ability and practice of seeing the big picture. In my sessions, I invite the client to join me on the outside of their story and take a peek in. It is so much easier and lighter to look at even the most difficult transitions from that perspective. It is also easier to make decisions. The key is to be able to masterfully zoom in and zoom out of your story. This also gives a better understanding and appreciation for what is going on. The tricky part however is that when we zoom in, we get stuck. So, I like to work with clients on how to get them unstuck when they dive in deep into their creations. Transitions are the pauses that we have created to provide us with the opportunity to go deeper, to understand ourselves, our choices, and then be able to consciously make changes that empower us towards living a more fulfilling and deliberate life. So the next time something supposedly goes terribly wrong, take a deep breath and zoom out so you are able to see the whole picture and then decide what if anything needs to be done. You will feel more empowered, liberated and purposeful.

Stay tuned in for the second tool for living masterfully through change in next week’s post.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Celebrate Now

This morning I had chocolate cake for breakfast. No, it wasn’t a reward for something, I was not celebrating anything, I wasn’t even happy about anything. I just wanted to eat cake and do something a little out of the ordinary. Instead of my usual health conscious whole grain bread with skim milk, I decided to do what felt good and had nothing nutritional to add except for what some refer to as empty calories. It did feel good, not because of the chocolate, but because I broke the rule, I broke the monotony, the usual, the norm. I also did it because I am practicing something new I’d like to share. What I am practicing is living the feelings I intend to experience. Most of us have been taught either consciously or subconsciously that you work towards obtaining what you want, i.e., you go to school, you get educated, you get a job, you get married, you have kids, you buy a house, and then, (are you ready?) you are happy! Well, this way of living hasn’t exactly been the experience for many of us. Waiting and working towards happiness which is to be obtained at a later date, is a carrot we might never get to.

This is the same belief that tells us that if we had that job, that woman or man at our side, that house, a million dollars, etc. we’d be happy. In a sense, it is what makes happiness unattainable and something outside and out there to be had if we do x, y, and z, or worse yet, if we were just lucky. In my coaching sessions, I know that even if the client’s goal before they walked in was to have a new job, by the end of the session, they admit that it is the feeling that the new job brings that is what they ultimately want. None of what we want is just material, the material part is connected to an emotion that we are seeking. So, what I am practicing is cutting to the chase, and getting to the emotion. In other words, I am celebrating now instead of later. Take this morning for example, I did not want to feel like I was stuck in a Monday morning rut or the blues, so I thought “what would I be eating if I wasn’t in a rut?” “What would I be eating if today was a very special day and I was celebrating something important?” I took that further: “what would I be wearing if I was going to a meeting I wanted to go to, what would I say and how would I act if I had everything I wanted”, etc. It is a very liberating exercise and guarantees immediate joy! The best surprise is that at the end of the day, you might just feel as if you have everything you’ve ever wanted. The gratitude that you will feel about the ordinary, will leave you feeling extraordinary.

The realization that the material and content driven existence that we think is so real is actually not in charge of our experience of happiness is priceless and this exercise offered me that. Another invaluable gift of this practice is the gift of me at my best to every circumstance I am in. When you show up feeling like you are not fulfilled or you’d rather be somewhere else, you show up inadequate and incomplete. You are sure to be received in the same manner and that will undoubtedly add to your negative feelings, etc. However, when you show up celebrating life because you feel successful, accomplished, and at peace, you will be received as such. So, the next time you feel like you are bored, or wish you had a better life, think again, think about what life you’d rather have and what feelings you’d have living that life and start feeling it. You’ll be amazed at how magical and expansive you’ll feel. And you didn’t have to work hard, rob a bank, win the lottery, or get a promotion to get there. You just had to shift your thoughts, put them in the back seat, and start feeling what you really want to feel. It’s that simple.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What Does Intelligence Have to Do With It?

Watching my dog resist the veterinarian’s efforts to open his mouth and try to bite him when he was insisting, reminded me of the article I had read somewhere about dog intelligence. The author claimed that the smarter the dogs, the easier they are to train and the less stubborn. Our pug, is a bit stubborn and now that he has been hurt, he will not easily trust the veterinarian. I guess that makes him not too smart. Does that also mean that stubborn people are not being smart? I don’t know about that generalization, but I do know that hanging on to old wounds and not being open to change does end up hurting us, so in that sense, it is not intelligent behavior.

Taking this concept further, it seems not only emotionally important to forgive and move on when we have been wronged, but also intelligent behavior. I hear so many people complain about how they’re never going to forget or forgive someone. In some manner they justify their lack of forgiveness as a form of self-defense or lesson for the future because they are compelled to never make the same mistake again. In this way by looking at it as self-preservation, they justify their anger and withholding of their forgiveness. This so called “lesson” ends up being more of a grudge, an emotional and mental block in their experience of life. Inevitably something will happen, someone will mistreat them, and the story comes back, the lesson is alive and they usually choose to repeat the same old understanding, further proving that they are “right”. This type of deepening of a belief is what I think of as hard-wiring and that is what most of us coaches work with clients on undoing. And depending on how old and how deep the wiring is, the more challenging is the dismantling of the belief.

What’s interesting is that most people do not consider themselves as being stupid or want to act unintelligently in their lives. This fear or the belief (I do not want to be stupid) is what pushes them to hold on to those grievances (I’ll never let anyone do that to me again) in the first place. So, the emotional grievance is really the emotional response to something that has happened. The more emotionally sensitized we are, the more we try to not feel the pain again, and this drives us to respond to the belief that we want to be smart by acting in ways that may not get us there. In other words, it has nothing to do with the brain or our intelligence, but the degree and depth to which we “feel”. Our brain uses our emotional experience to come up with a solution that can be rationalized. And our brain can rationalize anything!

I am not suggesting that in order to act intelligently, we have to stop feeling. It does mean though that once we recognize that our feelings have gotten us to believe in whatever it is we are believing, we can choose to think about it in any way we want. The choice is ours. For example, if I was cheated on, I can ignore or deny the depth of my feelings of betrayal and choose not to trust again thinking I did some wrong by trusting in the first place. Or I can first recognize and heal my emotional wounds and then choose to believe that the past is just that, and not everyone is going to cheat on me just because someone did. This is not that easy, and that is why we go to coaches and facilitators to help us release the past and move forward in life.

I have to remember this conversation the next time I take my pug in to the veterinarian. I have to remember that he is not stubborn or stupid, he just needs to heal his emotional wounds and choose to believe that the veterinarian is just trying to help him out! Yikes! I am sure glad I don’t have dogs as clients…

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Practicing Nonduality

The Institute for Noetic Sciences claims that “an especially mystifying aspect of consciousness is the elusive notion of nonduality, whose philosophical roots can be found in ancient Eastern cosmologies. It has been defined in many ways but basically refers to a state of being (emphasis on being) in which there is no sense of separation between the viewer and what is being viewed—a difficult concept to understand intellectually”1 and an even more difficult concept to live and experience.

Take my heroes of the day, the people who work in any kind of retail position dealing with the hustle and bustle of selling stuff and who manage to keep on smiling and being gracious to the all consuming public. Ever notice how everyone is in a rush to get out of the store, not paying attention to the people providing service, not making any eye-contact and even when they say “thank you”, it is as if it is a robotic appreciation to some unknown being out there in the ethers. We are so focused on getting what we want as quickly as possible and rushing out to get back to another scenario or perhaps to home, where we can finally feel safe! Whatever our stories or reasons might be, we are not connecting or engaging with “the other” or the viewer is not even connecting with “what is being viewed”. This at best is avoiding duality. I know I am prone to being this way. However, when I do set my intention to notice the salesperson or the check-out person at the grocery store, connect in some manner with them, I have extraordinary experiences. It is as if the whole outside craziness is not real. I connect in a nonduality manner or in a new consciousness manner with those I am least likely to connect with and the world of duality collapses on to itself!

Perhaps my retail heroes do the same thing. Perhaps they connect to whomever they can, they set their intention to be present and whoever recognizes their connection, is the beneficiary of experiencing a moment of nonduality. In this sense, it is almost as if working in a place like that would be a tremendous opportunity to practice nonduality. I am not recommending anyone to go out there and look for retail jobs to experience new consciousness, but I am sure that we all face plenty of situations where we feel the world of duality pulling at us, where we find ourselves taking sides, getting judgmental, etc. and we can use those opportunities to expand into the peace that is ours to experience. Connecting with others in a way that denies our separation brings us peace in the most non-peaceful places. So, my wish for you is to give it a try. Be the peace, be the grace, be the space for whatever it is that is happening, and the magic is yours to experience.

1 iShift #38, September 2009: The Nondual Brain, Intuitive Soldiers?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Life's Intermissions

I’ve never cared for intermissions. Whether I like the program or not, I either wanted it to go on or to end without that obligatory break. I am sure that the players or dancers, etc. need the break and because of that, I have learned to put up with it while I stand up and let people go by who want to use the restrooms or have a drink, etc. For me, it is as if we just stop in the middle and wait before we continue.

Last week, I had one of life’s longest intermissions. Charlie, our dog decided to suddenly jump out of the shopping cart in the pet store and crash land on his face. After surgery to repair his broken jaw, he was put on a morphine patch for pain. Well, what we didn’t know was that he is one of the extremely rare cases where the morphine instead of having a calming effect, has a stimulatory effect on. Needless to say, he was running around the house at full speed and trying to bite and chew anything in site. He was out of control and scaring the kids and us. Sitting on the couch in my family room in my pajamas holding my dog so he wouldn’t run into circles and chew on the furniture, I realized how I couldn’t do much. Oh, I forgot to mention, my cable, electric power, internet and phone were out for 12 hours too! So, I really couldn’t do anything, but breathe and try to calm the dog and myself while I waited impatiently for the Vet to call me on my cell phone with further instructions on how to handle Charlie.

That day, once I relaxed and surrendered to the fact that I couldn’t do anything about the situation, but to stay put and be patient, I kept on asking myself if there was any wisdom in it, anything I could learn, etc. I found myself in the theater again at intermission, looking at my watch, hoping it would go by quicker. It felt like being put in “time out”, when you hadn’t even done anything to qualify for it. Circumstances had placed me in “time out” indefinitely and for no apparent reason. I was too exhausted to figure it out, so I just took little naps with Charlie and it reminded me of the days after bringing your baby home from the hospital.

Once Charlie was better and I could go back to work, etc. I realized that I was not the same person as before. It was as if the intermission ended and a new show or story began. I still don’t know what that was all about, but I do know that I have a different outlook on everything. I am not on automatic, just doing my routine. I am more conscious of everything. I am more aware of time, my routines, gratitude for having electricity and internet, friends to call, gratitude for my capacity to be patient, etc. Nothing “important” happened in those 12 hours, but something extraordinary shifted and I feel like a new person. Holding my dog like a baby and rocking him so he could calm down, reminded me of the capacity we all have to love, nurture and be compassionate. My inability to multi-task, gifted me with the opportunity to bask in this new awareness. We are capable of so much gentleness and yet we live extremely harsh lives. My long intermission reminded me to remember to be gentle. These times we live in, require a lot of tender loving care and it begins at home. When we cram every second with a hundred things to do, when we blindly go through our days with chores and lists addicted to our high level of productivity, we are out of control and think otherwise. We are slaves to “doing” and when there is nothing to do, we spend that time thinking about what else needs to be done. Sometimes life extends an opportunity to be present and fully awake, an intermission to our movie, a break to realize that you are not the movie. I think I will be looking forward to intermissions and the gifts they contain. I will be present and aware of who I am instead of giving in to the addiction of doing stuff all the time. Thanks Charlie!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's All About Balance

I’ve been observing life and some of its glorious moments in terms of balance. Life seeks out equilibrium and so do we. I’ve been watching the balance of things: talking vs. listening, doing vs. being, working vs. resting, etc. I think that we also tend to think that we can force the balance to happen. I am reminded of the over-worked executive who goes on an island vacation, telling himself, “relax, come on, just relax”! The process of balance is about allowing it to happen, not demanding that it happen. What helps is the awareness that you may not be there yet. In other words, if you notice that you are out of balance, remain the observer of the imbalance, and soon you will get there. I experienced this in a personal example of preparing for a tele-class last week.

My colleague, Cindy and I were preparing to deliver a tele-class on making the transition back to school easier for parents and students. We both are creative beings who happen to be conscientious professionals, so every time one of us was being creative and off task, the other one would pull us back in. There was a constant battle between creativity and trust vs. organization and being prepared. Finally, we gave up and decided to let it evolve organically. I was incredibly fearful, for many reasons, one which was, I didn’t really know Cindy too well, so I wasn’t sure how she would react. In a tele-class, you can’t see each other, so I was missing the visual cues too. I had this sinking feeling that the whole thing would be a disaster and our coaching organization would never ask us to teach again! I was observing my concerns and yet, something inside me was daring me to do it. “Go for it”, I kept on hearing. And so we did…

The more we discussed the topic of our class, the more lost we felt. I felt like I had all of these ideas and no real structure. We decided to interview kids so we could better understand their concerns. The process of interviewing the kids in itself was eye opening. Sitting down and treating them like adults and asking them questions, created an environment in which they felt safe and listened to. From those interviews, we emerged ecstatic with the information, humbled by the experience, and more confused than ever!

I’d hear this voice that kept on saying, just let it go (yes, it was Cindy most of the time!). Let go of control, let go of structure and the need to organize. It was terrifying, because it is not something I have experienced before. I have put dinner parties together at the last minute without any plans. I have gone through days, or vacations without plans. But I have never done anything professional without a solid iron-clad and fool proof plan. This was the first.

I had read somewhere that out of chaos comes clarity. What they neglected to mention is that there is that in between phase, where fear is your only companion prior to clarity creeping in. Well, once I got over the fear, I settled into what I wanted the whole experience to feel like. I allowed the feeling of how I wanted to feel during the class, take over me. From that place, I decided how I would like to leave the audience and slowly, it all came together. I can’t say what specific thing made it work so effortlessly. I do know that I had to let go of a lot of old beliefs. I gave up the belief that you have to be overly prepared for a major presentation. I gave up the belief that it would be embarrassing if I failed. I gave up the belief that you have to have visual cues. And there are a lot more beliefs I let go of that I won’t go into here. I basically emptied my cup of beliefs and settled into the experience. Letting go of these old beliefs also helped the balance take shape.

What came together was amazing. Even Cindy was impressed with the results. The whole class took form and it was better than anything I could have pre-planned. In fact, I had a whole day to just bask in the glory of effortlessly creating something out of chaos. And in all honesty, at that point, it didn’t matter how the class would be received. I knew that together we had birthed a succinct and clear message, with plenty of opportunities for going in any direction the audience wanted to take it to. I had loved the process without being married to the outcome. It was fantastic! It was all about balance and getting out of the way. I think I will confidently practice this process for everything else in my life and trust that it will work out when and how it does.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Does Your Life Make Sense?

We were having one of those familiar chats that I crave with my husband, the person who probably knows me better than most. Out of whatever it was he was reading, he looked at me and explained how he saw me. I was sure he was wrong, but he wasn’t. He knew the story of my life and in a few sentences he blurted out that he thinks I left the “good life” because I was tired of pushing and being pushed. The image in front of me was the image of walking through Times Square right around 8 PM on a weekend, making it back home and instead of proclaiming victory in finding your way back home or making it in one piece, saying I’m done and I won’t be doing that again. He continued, “you just did too much, you tried too hard”. In some ways he is right. But if the push and pull made sense, if the “good life” made sense, I would still be doing it, regardless of how tired I was, or how hard it seemed to be.

Tama J. Kieves, Harvard educated lawyer turned author, speaker and career coach says it beautifully, “you can’t plan an inspired life”. She explains why she left the “good life”, “I left the good life for the only life. There is only one life and that’s the life in which we listen to our Spirit. Anything else is the blocking of life”.

The life that we strive to achieve is not achievable, because it is not a prize after winning a contest. It is not an endurance competition. We are so misguided about what life is, that we couldn’t possibly know how to live it. We have been so concerned about making it, having enough money, buying that dream house, paying for our children’s education, etc. that we have forgotten why we are alive. There are brief moments where we allow ourselves to truly enjoy life, maybe on that special vacation or meeting up with special friends. But then we look at that as just a break in the reality of life. We laugh at people who claim that life is not meant to be enjoyed all the time. You are supposed to work hard for a living. You are supposed to learn from your mistakes and make right where you have done wrong. There is this inherent system of reward and punishment built into our consciousness that drains all the joy out of living.

Going back to the conversation with my husband who preciously clings on to his “good life”, I agreed with his assessment. However, I added that I had to choose a life that made sense to me. It helps that I cannot lie and integrity and accountability are part of my genomic makeup. There comes a point in everyone’s life where you have to decide if you want to honor who you are, and embrace the values that you hold dear, or pretend that everything is ok and go about doing what you and everyone else you know is still doing. I chose to listen to me. And the funny thing is, I have never let myself down! And what’s even funnier is that we still doubt ourselves, we’d rather listen to the voices out there (the experts, our parents, our highly successful friends, the TV, etc.) than to the inner voice that has not failed us once. The challenge though, is to hear the voice. If we have spent our entire life, ignoring our inner voice, we can’t hear it anymore. It’s like the conversation of the loud people at the table next to you in a restaurant. If you are having a conversation of your own, you don’t hear their words. If you are alone or bored, you might listen to them and even if they are not too loud, you’ll hear what they are saying clearly. My wish for you is to really work on sharpening your ears so you can hear your own inner voice. It will take practice, because if you have spent a lot of time telling yourself to “shut up”, you won’t hear it because it has listened to you and has shut up. So, get really quiet and listen and you’ll know what to do if anything at all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Falling Apart Is The First Step

She was touching her hair and straightening out strands of hair that did not need to be straightened and feeling the back of her ears to make sure that they were tucked in properly. When she wasn’t doing that, she was nervously recounting the details of some non-event that she thought I needed to know. She was skin and bones and looked like a teenager, but not in a healthy way. I don’t think she stopped long enough to notice that it was lunch time or to notice that she was hungry and maybe should eat something. Her nervous laugh made me uncomfortable, I didn’t know whether I should laugh along or just hope that it would end. She clearly was not interested in reading or in allowing me to read my book. I don’t think she could focus long enough to be able to read. I put my book aside and decided to engage in this one-way conversation at the pool, one mom talking to another. She was going through a terrible divorce and the situation at home was unbearable. Yet, she was holding it all together. I felt that she might burst into tears at any moment, but she didn’t. She had no idea that I was a coach, and I would have said something if the right opportunity came along. It just never did. She was proud of the fact that she was holding it all together, this was her strength. Something was telling me that she needed to fall apart, but this just wasn’t the time or the place. In fact, I don’t think that it was ever the right time or the place for that sort of sordid and out of control behavior. So, I listened reminding myself that true compassion is not imposing my ways on anyone else. She needed to be “strong” just a bit longer.

Too many are afraid of falling apart, even in the privacy of their own bedrooms or bathrooms that they will do anything to avoid it. They keep on going, they keep themselves super busy, they talk and talk rationalizing away, and then something will happen, or someone will say something, and they will melt down. For me when I was in that stage of existence, it was anything that reminded me of my recently passed away dad. Now days when I look back, I like to think that it was his way of facilitating my melt down so that I could start again fresh, and with a brand new sense of being. When we allow ourselves to fall apart, we surrender to what is and from that cleared space, brand new life can sprout if you are willing to look at things differently. This is one of the many reasons I love being a coach, I get to be there when things fall apart and then witness the new beginnings and the fresh starts. It is lovely to be witness to such growth. But the growth comes after the destruction and that is what I have learned to appreciate. The closer you are to falling apart, the closer you are to rebuilding your life. If we all knew this to be true, we might actually look forward to the next melt down and all the wisdom and opportunities it brings with it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Are Your Credentials?

When I was asked to write about spiritual art, I wrote about everything else, but spiritual art. Since I am the queen of self-examination, I’ve been wondering why I haven’t written on the topic. I realized that I have felt inadequate and unqualified to write about a topic like spiritual art. After all, people before me like the famous painter, Wassily Kandinsky have written books on it and who am I to think that I have something to say about it. To make matters worse, I was never formally trained as an artist besides the few art classes that I had taken here and there. When I go to galleries and see the bios of the artists showing their art, I am amazed at their fabulous credentials and years of formal training, etc. In my mind, they are the ones who have permission to write about such things. Hence, I have chosen to procrastinate and avoid writing about it.

Recently, I met an Israeli artist who was incredibly talented and passionate about his art. He told me that he has been painting since he was 3 years old! And in the madness of our conversation, he mentioned his training in London which he seemed to dismiss. He was full of creative energy and knew with every cell in his body that painting is what he had to do. He did what he had to do in his art to get the message out. He used water color, gouache, ink, acrylics, anything that gave the texture and colors he wanted to express in his art. He didn’t consider himself an expert in any particular medium, but the ability to express what he saw and felt in a creative way. And I realized that I was so mesmerized by what I saw in front of me that the credentials of their creator were inconsequential.

This is the same principle in action when people hire people they know for certain jobs. They may not know where this person went to school or their prior work experience, but they know that they can do the job. The resume becomes protocol and part of the paper work required by the administrators. There are plenty of examples of recognizing that you can experience life without following any specific path, acceptance from others or validation. Then why is it that there are so many people, who are afraid to first, do what they love to do, and second, proclaim their passion?

We get stuck in our beliefs about what is important and of course, when we are even somewhat ready to let go, there is the 3-D world out there that supports our original beliefs to the point that we give up. But what we forget as we go about our lives playing our little roles and doing what we have been formally trained to do, is that the 3-D world or “reality” as some refer to it, is made up of our collective consciousness. If we believe that we are not qualified to do something, it feeds into the collective consciousness that believes that too. So, if we stop believing these self-limiting thoughts, we have a chance at changing it out there too. Every change has to start somewhere, why not have it be in your mind? We’ve all heard the saying: change your thoughts and change your life. Well, there is much truth in that and I am first to admit that I had forgotten.

So, I am going to take a few deep breaths and sit down in front of my laptop and start speaking my truth forgetting about my resume…

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where Are You From?

We walked into his store shopping for some Native American jewelry. He was friendly, engaging and spoke with a hint of an accent. I asked him if he was from around here, and he said, “no, it is a long story”. He shook his head as if he were saying no, over and over again. He kept on uttering something along the lines of: you wouldn’t be interested, my story is too long, it might bore you, etc. He was helpful and kind and I felt that there was more to this man. After we purchased a pair of earrings, and on our way out, he asked me if I spoke Arabic. And that’s when he told me that he was Palestinian born in North Carolina, and a few other facts about his colorful journey to the present, a ski resort town in Colorado. Once he told me an abbreviated version of his stops along life, the light in his eyes died down again and he went back to doing what he was doing before we arrived at his shop. I walked away fully aware of the fact that I will not forget that man for a long time. I was imagining his life, his story, and trying to figure out how a Palestinian man ends up selling Native American Jewelry in a ski resort in Colorado.

Later on that night, strolling along the booths in an art festival in the same town, I was drawn to a specific booth. The paintings were beautiful and full of life and vibrant colors. One was more intoxicating than the other. I had to share my thoughts with the artist, an olive-skinned, disheveled and very artistic looking man. He was glad that I liked his paintings and asked me where I was from. He was an Israeli travelling the US on the art show circuits. He was incredibly excited and passionate about his art and enjoyed describing to me the process he goes through in his creative moments. His paintings were abstract and represented different aerial views of towns in Israel. He was proud of where he was from and at the end of our conversation he explained how the streets are so alive in Israel and this tiny town in the mountains is too quiet for his taste. I smiled and moved along. I will not forget him or his art.

I have already forgotten most of the people I met on our vacation, but those two men with such colorful stories and from such distant places will retain my attention for a while. The greatest contrast between the two for me was that the jewelry store guy felt like he didn’t belong here, but had to stay and make it work. He had nowhere to go back to and yet, he didn’t feel like he was home. The artist felt like he was a stranger too, but he had a home and was looking forward to going back to it. He had a place he belonged to.

I believe that we are all travelers in life, but some of us have the choice of being from somewhere we can go back to, knowing that it will be there pretty much the way we left it. Some of us can never go back or if we do, we go back to something that is not at all how we left it. The people, the buildings, the energy is all different. Those of us who cannot go back, find ourselves on wobbly ground. We can’t count on the past, it has been destroyed. We are unhappy with the instability we are facing today and we are completely uncertain of the future. This is true for anyone who is going through a major life transition. So, what’s one to do?

These are the opportunities that force us to go inside and look within for comfort, strength, hope, and courage. When everything on the outside collapses, as it does from time to time, it is important to be able to access our inner-self for whatever it is we need. However, most of us are completely unprepared to do this. Our lives have consisted of being educated, learning skills, working jobs, having families, and buying and consuming stuff. Most of us have not cultivated our inner-self except for perhaps going to our place of worship once a week or on weddings or funerals. And even that, is done not with a conscious choice to tap inside and listen to our inner voice, but rather to fulfill some obligation or duty at best. Transitions or change are the perfect opportunities for developing and strengthening our inner-self. So, the next time your outer world starts to collapse, remind yourself that this is a gift, a gift from you to you, a gift of unimaginable strength and trust to live a more meaningful and satisfying life. And then, make sure you have the support to strengthen your inner-self so you can move into this wondrous place. Finally, please remember that you can’t go back to how it was, because it has changed. Perhaps, now it is time for you to change.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

None of The Above

Have you ever had a problem you’ve had to solve and found yourself with a list of possible answers that did not satisfy you? This is the place we find ourselves when we think and think ourselves into circles around the problem. It can be exhausting and worse yet, it can bring about a sense of defeat. I hear my clients saying, “I give up” or “I am stuck”, or “it’s just the way it is”. They feel hopeless and defeated. I believe that this type of resignation comes after we have mentally exhausted all of our resources. The left hemisphere of our brain has done a heck of a job overworking and over-analyzing the situation with no satisfying answer. In other words, none of the choices: (a) through (d) is acceptable. The answer is (e), or none of the above.

This is the perfect opportunity to invite our right brain or our creative side to take over. When we do this, we actually step outside the tight circle that we had drawn around our self and the problem with our left brain thinking. The creative solution comes unexpectedly and might be so “out there” that at first we might not even recognize it. For example, I worked with a client who was stuck on something and couldn’t see anything beyond the limitations her brain was telling her were real and formidable. Once she got out of her own way, or out of her head, she realized that she was much bigger than this problem and in fact, at one point she realized that the problem wasn’t hers at all. In other words, the problem had changed or she could see it in a different light. At that point she realized that what she thought was her problem, was not it at all. She now could see the real problem and had an array of solutions at her feet. All of this was possible by unplugging her analytical, rational brain so she could come up with more creative solutions.

What happens at this point, is that the client goes home all excited, energized, and empowered to solve their problem and the “real world” comes crashing in. The next session is the tough one for the coach, because the client is now angry and disappointed that it did not work. Now, the client is questioning the method and its validity. What has happened is that the client has trusted their own creative solution, but the 3-D world around them is still operating under the old constraints of left brain thinking. The people around them are still analyzing and rationalizing everything to death. The client is questioning his/her own experience. He/she starts falling back in his/her own ways and pretty soon that glimmer of hope has died. Frustrated the client is mad at the world and at the coach!

So what is the alternative? Do we want to give up and force one of the answers (a) through (d) even though we know in our hearts that they are not the right answers for us. Do we want to pretend that our world is limited to four options or do we want to live in a bigger place where the potentials are limitless? Yes, it takes courage to take a chance on a new way of thinking and living, but the alternative is not a viable option for me. No, it is not easy and we all fall off the wagon from time to time. It takes practice, discipline, and trust to live the big life. And if you’ve had even moments of living creatively, outside the box, broken all the rules, and free to experience all of life’s potentials, you can’t go back. So, I invite you to choose option (e) or none of the above when you think that your options are limited. And then find the right coach to help you explore all of your other potential creative solutions.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Coaching and New Consciousness

One of the reasons I love painting with watercolor is the lack of control you experience while painting. Once the paper is wet and the paint introduced, anything can happen. Sometimes you facilitate the rendezvous of two different colors into each other. This is the most fun, and the most frustrating part of painting with watercolor, you have little control over the end result. I find that I do my best work when I have no expectation and truly play with the medium and the paints. Things happen that are beyond my imagination and it grows and expands in ways that I couldn’t have planned for. However, for me to have this grand experience, I have to be willing to be present, playful, and drop all of my expectations.

I find living life in the new consciousness and coaching to be similar to painting with watercolor in that way. New consciousness is about living a life that flows, a life without harsh edges. Old consciousness is all about those darned edges. In fact, we have all been trained to sharpen our tools so we can be masters of creating sharp edges. In so many ways, it has been fun, cutting and being cut! But now for those of us who are tired of that game, it is time to move on. This is easy to say, but what does it mean? Everything that we have known and most of what we have experienced has been made up of old consciousness. So, how do we operate in a medium that we don’t “know” anything about. There- in lies the answer. “Knowing” in old consciousness has been about the head, the brain. “Knowing” in new consciousness is about something much deeper that goes beyond the mind. For example, I know in my head that blue and red make purple, but what happens when I allow turquoise blue that is somewhat dry, to touch the alizarin crimson that is runny and wet? It is definitely not purple! Now, if I just trusted that piece of information that I have learned and re-learned from some book or class somewhere, I might not have experimented with those two colors in those two states. Or worse yet, I would expect purple to emerge (the purple that I have seen in the back of a crayon box somewhere) and be sadly disappointed at the messy color on the expensive paper! Similarly, in coaching, anything can happen, and clients are usually amazed at the outcomes they obtain especially if they’ve been open and willing to let go of their harsh beliefs.

Life in the new consciousness asks us to let go of our hard earned knowledge and be prepared to travel the road without our luggage full of expectations. Life in the new consciousness asks us to walk a bit barefoot on the grass and feel the blades against the soles of our feet and breathe the vibrant green in between our toes into our feet and up our calves. Life in the new consciousness asks us to stay a while, take a break, smooth out those edges, let our colors run into each other, and be willing to be amazed.