Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Playing It Small

Our nine year old daughter is playing softball these days and plays really well in practice in our back yard with my husband. However, we noticed at team practice and at the games, she is very timid in throwing the ball. I asked her what’s going on and she replied, “I don’t want to hurt the catcher or embarrass her if she can’t catch”. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but her response sat with me for a long time. I tried explaining to her that it wasn’t up to her to decide if the catcher could catch the ball, I even explained how in one particular play that the catcher was the team’s best player, so she could catch the ball and that her throwing a short ball, actually cost the team. But, it all went to deaf ears. Finally, I decided to go into her realm of “feelings”. I asked her how she thinks the catcher would feel if she knew that my daughter thought she couldn’t catch the ball? That somehow resonated with her. She realized that by assuming that the catcher couldn’t catch the ball, she was insulting her.

This incident reminds me of all the times in life we play it small to not hurt someone, to not seem arrogant, and then we wonder why we get stepped on or treated with disrespect when we just wanted to help someone out. I think it has to do with our misunderstanding of what compassion is all about. Somehow in those moments when we are playing it small, we justify it in our own minds thinking that we are being compassionate. In reality we are not. Compassion is not assuming that someone can’t do something. That’s arrogance. When we assume that someone is not capable of doing something, we are being judgmental and arrogant in our assumption. And people pick that up. No one wants to be thought of as weak or incapable, so when we treat them that way, they resent us.

Our business in life as don Miguel Ruiz points out in his book: The Four Agreements, is to always do our best, no more, no less. Now, if we do our best and not make any assumptions, we are already living out 2 of the 4 agreements he writes about. So, the next time you feel like playing it small, ask yourself: Am I making any assumptions? Am I being/doing my best? If you are satisfied with your answers, then go on and play the best and biggest game of your life. When you play it big, you just might inspire someone else to do the same.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Being Present

I’ve always had difficulty with the concept of being in the present, not because I like to be in the past or the future, but because I don’t know where to put the past, if I am fully immersed in the present. Do I forget about the past? Do I ignore my concern about the future? So, when I meditated, I just focused on breathing and avoided thinking about the past or the future. I thought that was what it was all about. Today, I have a better understanding of what it means to be fully present. Being fully present and in the moment is bringing your whole self into this moment. Your whole self consists of your past and your potential future. Accepting, and embracing your past without any judgment helps and makes this state that much more easily attainable.

It was Memorial Day here in the U.S. and we had the privilege to get together with a few friends from our graduate school days, who we hadn’t seen in a long time. Memorial Day was put in place to remember casualties of war and over time has become a tradition to get together with family and friends over barbecues enjoying the last Monday in the month of May. In our celebration we talked about how much our kids had grown since the last time we had met, we exchanged notes on events from the past before we had kids, etc. In this little gathering, there were also people we had not met before, friends of our friends. So it wasn’t just a time to reminisce, it was time to be present. It was a very special evening, because we were exchanging notes on our transitions, new friends and old. We were openly talking about our presumptions about life from the perspective of being in our twenties and then our thirties, and so on. Reviewing life together and being able to smile about it, even though, some of it was not pleasant. We talked about losing parents, taking care of elderly parents, changing jobs, changing careers, vacations, new hobbies, etc. It was wonderful to look back , not examine, just look back from the perspective of the present. Our boys, teenagers, with their newly developed deep voices in the background playing, talking, etc. reminding us of the time and place we were in. Our own bodies, older, rounder, shorter, yet more comfortable and wiser than what we used to be, not battling time, just flowing with it into the present. My experience can be summed up in what Eckhart Tolle said: “Your entire life journey ultimately consists of the step you are taking at this moment. There is always only this one step, and so you give it your fullest attention.”

Last weekend, was special not just because it was great to be with old friends, it was so, also because we were fully attentive and in the present, yet aware of the past. This is yet another gift of spending time with old friends, the gift of bringing the past into the present and expanding ourselves together even further. I am so thrilled that I finally have a deeper understanding of the concept of being present and know what to do with the past and all the potentials that are yet to come. I think my meditation practice will go a little smoother now…

Monday, May 18, 2009

On Scarcity

As the mother of a 9 year old girl, I hear about who is friends with whom and who is mean to whom on a daily basis. I decided to take one of these conversations seriously. I asked my daughter what would happen if her best friend, “Sally” decided to be friends with another girl, “Hannah”. How would this affect her? She thought about it and with the saddest face replied, “then she wouldn’t be friends with me anymore”.

It starts so early in life. We learn that there is a certain amount of love/friendship in the world or in this case, in Hannah’s heart. If Hannah gives a lot of it to Sally, then there isn’t enough left for someone else. In this context, perhaps it sounds childish. But trust me when I say that the same thinking and conditioning prevents us from being happy in our relationships as adults. We learn early on to measure love and we continue evaluating this un-measurable commodity throughout our lives. The belief in scarcity might show up differently, yet it still has power over our satisfaction in our relationships. What sabotages so many romantic relationships or marriages is this belief that one person gave more than the other. From the observer’s perspective as a coach, it is interesting to note that someone is always keeping track of the score. In that sense it is a game. Unfortunately, it is a game that no one wins or at least no one feels like they won.

Let’s examine this a little further. Let’s imagine a scenario of a romantic relationship between me and “Peter”. I like Peter. He likes me too. It is time to take the relationship to the next step. Do I declare my love for Peter? Do I wait for him to tell me about his feelings first? What if I say I love him and he doesn’t respond the way I want him to? On and on this maze weaves itself and me into a corner I won’t be able to get out of. Why do I ask myself these questions? Because I am afraid that Peter may not love me. Because I am afraid that I love Peter more than he loves me. There is always this measuring and evaluating of love that goes on. It starts as children, perhaps in sibling rivalry (mommy loves my brother more than she loves me) and it continues into adulthood.

What if we didn’t believe in a finite amount of love? If I thought that I have access to an unlimited source of love for me to have when I want it and for me to offer freely to the world, how then would I behave in a relationship? If there was never the fear of loss, of giving away something precious that you might run out of, how would you show up?

Unfortunately, in a relationship, there are at least two people involved. So, even if you believed that love is not measurable, and acted in that way, your partner may not. He or she might blame you, judge you, question you, etc. That means that if you are lucky enough to have met someone who believes that he/she contains an infinite amount of love, but if you do not believe it, you will sabotage your relationship and throw it out no matter what he/she says or does.

I don’t believe that there is a scarcity of love in life. I do believe however, that our belief in scarcity creates a fear of love and being loved. We forget that it is not the love that we receive, but the love that we give that brings us joy. If we are always measuring how much we gave and how much we received, we can become good scorekeepers and terrible lovers. My wish for us all is to recognize love, know that it is free, know that it will never run out, and then feel it so strongly, that we show up in every moment of every day, from that secure footing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Self-Responsibility: Key To Making It Through Tough Times

I’ve had this conversation before. This time I want to address self-responsibility in the context of these dire economic times. If you have become a one-income family, or you are afraid of losing your job as a result of the economic down turn, then you may want to read these tips to help re-enforce your relationship with your partner and your family.

So many times we take responsibility where we don’t need to, or the opposite, we expect others to take responsibility of our well-being. I am not referring to financial responsibility. I am discussing personal responsibility for whatever our needs may be. It could be so subtle, that we don’t even realize it. It could be an assumption we made the day we got married, e.g., he’ll be a good provider, he’ll take care of me, she’ll make a good mother and take care of our children, I will take care of our family, etc. What these assumptions do, is set up an invisible agreement between two people where one person has given their power to the other.

This type of agreement happens all the time, it is just that these uncertain times are adding to the pressures of any marriage. The person who gave away their power, is powerless and puts the responsibility on the shoulders of the other person. The other person who took on the responsibility may have done so unconsciously, but they feel the weight of their partner on them and on their marriage. The weight of these expectations can crush a marriage. You can imagine the consequences of these types of invisible agreements.

So, if you are in one of these situations, you may want to do the following:
1) Recognize if you are the person taking the responsibility of your partner or giving away your self-responsibility.
2) Find a moment to be alone and in your mind and heart release this invisible agreement and acknowledge your part and take back your own power or release your partner from the responsibility of taking care of you.
3) Feel what it feels like to be only responsible for you and no one else.
4) Make time to have a conversation with your partner and tell him/her what you do not expect him/her to do/be. An example is given below:
I do not expect you to:
a) Take care of me/us
b) Not be stressed
c) Not be afraid
d) Have all the answers

Best wishes on your road to true self-responsibility!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Life's Little Tensions

Spring is in full bloom where I live and everywhere I look, there are blossoms and new leafs on the trees. Everything is green, and not the green of Summer, but the fresh, lime green of early Spring. The birds are tweeting and chirping on every branch and the earth is cluttered with all kinds of new life. It doesn’t seem that there is a concern that this too shall pass, and Summer will be here fast and furious to claim its domain.

My favorite author, Paulo Coelho had mentioned on his blog that war has always been around and tensions that end up in one winning over the other exist in nature as well. That is one way of looking at the change of seasons. In May, Spring is at its glory, but in a few weeks, it will give in to Summer. Our lives are full of these tensions, transitions, and disagreements over who is in charge, and eventually someone wins and someone gives in. And when you look back at those events, you remember the battle, the wounds, the stories, and sometimes the ending. Sometimes, the ending does not matter, because you were so involved in the battle. Sometimes, the ending changes its meaning. At the time, you may have thought that you were defeated. Later on, you might see the event differently, or your definitions of defeat and victory may have changed. But do you think like this, in the midst of the battle? If you did know what you know years later, would you fight the same way?

The battles I have learned to enjoy these days start with me bumping into one or two of my huge belief systems. I say bump, because it is indeed a bump like the kind you experience in the dark with the edge of the bed. Sometimes it is sharp and painful and throws you off guard. Sometimes it is just a harmless bump. The collision always reminds me of how small I am in comparison to the belief. Just like the bumping into the bed at night, there is no way, the bed is going to move, I have to adjust my path. The beliefs are there, held tightly by mass consciousness which is a heck of a lot bigger than me in size and strength. These are the battles that my clients fight in the sacred space of spiritual coaching.

These battles are at times sham or simulated battles, just going through the motions with a witness (the coach) and sometimes they feel just as real as if it were a real battle being fought out there in mass consciousness. The magic of spiritual coaching is that with the witness by your side, you can see the results. You can taste the ending and then choose how or if you want to fight the battle out there. You can experience victory or loss and then decide what to do. Sometimes even when the client is sure about what they want, after going through the experience of what needs to happen in order to get there, and they taste the flavor of being there, they choose a different outcome. Many times, they find themselves in a completely different place than where they thought they were going. Most times, they give up the battle and sit in the safe space that we have created together to accept who they are, what they’ve done, and where they want to be. And those moments for me, the coach, the witness, are like a vibrant May day full of life and possibilities.