Monday, January 26, 2009

Who Are You Responsible To?

I was really angry this weekend. Listening to the Sunday morning political pundits, the question of the day was whether the media is now being a little too harsh on Obama. This was regarding a question of why did Obama sign off a pardon for a pentagon nominee who just happens to be an ex-lobbyist, and this on the heel of him signing off an executive order to disallow lobbyists any positions in his administration just one day into his presidency.

I decided to step way back and look at the big picture of what was happening beyond what the facts were indicating. Obama won us over in part because he was/is different. He was not pulled or pushed by any one pundit, lobbyist, or even one way of thinking. He did not buy into the fear that had engulfed this country after 9/11 and rush us into war to make someone pay the price. He was beyond it all. Now, almost one week into his presidency, he is in a very different place. He is in charge and he is surrounded by his advisors. He has discovered by jumping in, how deep the waters truly are and he is relying on his supporters, and those with more experience to help him. However, the experience he is relying on is just what we did not vote for. We voted for change, and that implies a certain amount of risk taking and free thinking, qualities that he has demonstrated so far. If he relies too much on his advisors who have more experience, he is going to be an old politician very quickly.

This analysis begs the question, how often do we in our own lives sell out to those around us? How often do we give away our own power to others, because we think they know better, or we don’t think we are in the position to question their thinking or judgment? Every time we compromise ourselves and our values for whatever reason (lack of experience, lack of self-worth, fear, etc.) we lose out. We give away our sovereignty to someone else. Now, I am not suggesting that we should never listen to someone else or ask for advice. It is a very fine line, listening to opinions and suggestions and then acting from our own core values. Once that line gets twisted, we lose face and no one trusts our decisions including ourselves. So, the coaching nugget of the day once again: trust yourself!

Yes, we are in dire times, but dire times beg for new thinking and new solutions. Those can only come from new thinking. If we use Obama as a giant mirror reflecting to us what we need to see, then I would ask him to use his own judgment and remember why we voted for him. And I would ask myself to use my own judgment and remember who I am and how I got here. It is time to come out of our shells and let go of our security blankets and start living. This is not time for looking backwards and asking for help from those with credentials and experience in what used to work. This is precisely the moment where what used to work, isn’t working! It is time to re-invent ourselves on the outside by remembering who we are on the inside.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What’s So Darn Attractive About Obama?

I keep on asking myself that question. No, it’s not his good looks, his intelligence, his oratory skills, or any of that. I say that, because if he had not become president, we would have said it was because he is black, elite, and out of touch with average Americans. There is something elusive about him that makes us think that he can lead us out of the mess we’re in.

He has a sense of who he is and what he wants. No, he is not arrogant and pushy. He is not selling us anything. He is not fake or gaudy. He is truly confident. He is full, not empty. He is full of substance, not hot air. He doesn’t need anything, he has everything. The everything that he has is not measurable, or even tangible. He is everything we all want to be. But the beauty of it is, that he is offering that possibility to us. In fact, he is taking it out of the realm of possibility, deep into the realm of probability and firmly into reality. He is not going to do it for us, but he is making us believe that we can do it, and he is urging us to go where he has gone.

Now the question remains, how? How do we become full and complete? How do we fill ourselves with that which cannot be measured or evaluated? How do we become certain of who and what we are? How do we act from that certainty, and what do we do?

Now that we have elected someone who represents all that we can be, it is time to answer these questions. It is time to wake up from our deep slumber and find a way to be that which we so desperately seek.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Manifesting Closure

This post is related to the first post of the year in my blog “What Will You Leave Behind?”. Closure in a way, is truly leaving behind something that you don’t want to experience any more.

Have you ever had someone who just dropped out of your life and you wonder what happened? Perhaps, you were the person who dropped out of someone’s life and they are wondering what happened? Ever regret not saying the proper thank you or goodbye? These types of situations are what we in coaching terms call “incompletes”. "Incompletes" are the secret little bugs that alone don’t cause much damage, but when you get a few of them over time, they can eat away some big holes in your life and feeling of well being.

Closures are about coming to terms with endings so you can move forward. Often times, people are regretful and have feelings of guilt when a parent or a friend dies and they never got to tell them, “I love you”, “thank you for being in my life”, “I am sorry”, etc. Closures can happen in person, by mail, or even soul to soul after one party has passed on. The point is not to have the receiver say, “yeah, thanks, that was just what I wanted to hear”. It is about the giver acknowledging the ending and honoring the relationship to say what they have to say to complete the cycle. It is similar to forgiveness in nature, it is not for the sake of the other person that we ask for forgiveness but for ourselves. Without closure we go through life carrying heavy loads on our backs or chained to our ankles, not recognizing why we are tired and drained.

Grief and allowing yourself to grieve not just the loss of a person, but a job or a marriage, is all part of closure. Often people don’t think that they need to grieve the loss of a marriage, especially if it was a bad one. However, whenever a phase or a relationship ends, it is also an ending of an identity or a past-time. In addition to missing the person(s) involved, you are also missing you and how you participated in that relationship. It is not about good or bad, it is just an ending that needs to somehow be acknowledged. I strongly recommend people create rituals for their closures. Perhaps you can honor your ending by treating yourself to a vacation, taking a workshop, going out with your friends, staying home in your pajamas all day and writing in your journal, etc. It could be anything, just do something so you can mark this event and then move on.

I have witnessed and personally experienced many "incompletes" that have gotten in the way of progress in life. So in the spirit of living a more fulfilling life in 2009, let’s bring closure to those pesky "incompletes". And if you are still not convinced, here are ten things that closures allow you to have or experience.

Top Ten Things Closures Allow:

  • Moving on without feeling guilty, burdened, or empty
  • Acceptance
  • A break in the cycle of repeating similar scenarios
  • Forgiveness
  • Attracting new, more fulfilling relationships
  • Being more present
  • Seeing the good and the bad (being more objective) about the relationship
  • Completion
  • Letting go of an old way of being or an old identity
  • The opportunity to start fresh with the same person (if you both wish and understand that it is different now)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What I Learned From Yoga

In the middle of my yoga class I realized how even my practice of yoga has evolved in the same direction as the way I live my life. In the beginning, I just did the poses trying to do it right, not fall over or embarrass myself. As it progressed, I pushed myself with every class, trying to improve, do what I couldn’t do in the beginning. Later on, in an attempt to stay in the moment, I held on to every word my teacher said. “Move your sacrum towards the ceiling while keeping your tail bone towards the ground”, I would go into my body and imagine those instructions from the inside. I tried so hard to be the good student but also to be in the moment. As I practiced this and realized that I wasn’t getting any better or more flexible, I started the harsh dialogue with myself. I would push myself and insisted on doing the advanced poses, no modifications were necessary.

After I hurt myself and thought that maybe yoga isn’t it for me, I tried another way of showing up to my classes. I went with my teacher’s words to the same places they took me, in my shoulder blades, into my abdomen, feeling every muscle and bone and the desire to move or not to move, as the instructions demanded. This time however, I did not evaluate myself. This time I was the observer in my body. I noticed what I could do and what I couldn’t. I observed my own frustrations and amazingly enough, as soon as I became the observer, the frustrations melted away. It was as if I had a friend, or a gentle witness embedded in my own body and aware of every breath and every strain and every movement and every stillness. Then the poses didn’t last like an eternity, even my least favorite ones. I had a friend with me, one who knew exactly how I felt and allowed me to get comfortable or uncomfortable in that feeling. I was not alone anymore…

This didn’t last too long. Once I gave in to wherever it was I was at with my practice, I started noticing that my teacher was becoming frustrated with my lack of progress. In addition, I noticed that I relied too much on her instructions. Both these factors were feeding into each other. This disturbed me as I thought that she was more enlightened than me. I found myself trying to please her once again. I stopped trusting myself and being ok with where I was at. I was just following the instructions.

So I had to leave. I write this with great sadness, sadness for losing a loyal friend, one whom I relied on for a long time. But I use this opportunity as an example to let go of all that does not serve me anymore. There comes a time in every relationship where you outgrow each other. Perhaps that is when your connection does not allow for any more new growth or expansion. And for those who think that yoga is a kind of stretching exercise routine, they are right. It stretches you inside and out.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What Will You Leave Behind?

One day being lazy and trying to multi-task, I had many packages to carry, so I moved the ones in my hands to under my arms and elbows, squeezing them to my body as I picked up a few more with my newly freed hands. I did this over and over, until some of the packages dropped. I used some bad language, blamed the packages and continued picking up the ones I had dropped and moving the ones in my hands to the position close to my body. Finally, I succeeded to pick everything up and move them to a table in my kitchen, body: distorted and tense, mood: somewhat angry. This could have easily ended up differently, I could have dropped something so many times, that I would give up and make two trips to the table like any sane person would have. This is the image that comes to me as I try to write about what I want for the New Year. I can be like the version of me with the packages, with lots of goals and ambitions, holding on to some real tight and dropping others in the process. Are New Year’s resolutions or goals like that for you? Do you find yourself cramming new goals and finding yourself sometime in April thinking you dropped the ball on something else?

Sometimes, we need to let go of something to make room for something better or more relevant to our current situation. What is something that you are willing to let go of? It could be an old goal, an old belief, an old way of being, an outdated relationship,… We can’t change if we aren’t willing to let go of what doesn’t work anymore. That is a simple statement, but a difficult one to practice. We tend to hang on to what doesn’t work for many reasons: comfort, we don’t know any better, it is easy, fear of what will come next, what will happen to my loved ones, no one to blame, etc. Hanging on just delays our evolution and robs us of experiencing a new life.

In the spirit of transparency and sharing, I will share with you what I am letting go of this year. I am letting go of all suffering. I know this sounds sick, but I love to suffer. If it isn’t about me, I’ll make it be about me. It could be a political conflict thousands of miles, away, I’ll suffer with all the people in the area and make it be about me. I’ll suffer for my children and any unjust act or word against them. I can go on and on, I won’t. I choose to let go of suffering, the big package I have held on to most of my life. I do this letting go, without anger or hostility. I let go gracefully and lovingly. I walk away from all suffering peacefully and joyfully without looking back. Now, I invite you to leave something behind as you enter 2009 so you can experience a new version of yourself…