Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The End of Drama

Why is it that we crave drama so much? Watching the latest news from Iran and the bloody images of people beaten and shot on the streets playing over and over on TV, on the internet and the social media networks is addictive. At first, I am shocked, then I am angry, then I want someone to pay for it, then I want to somehow to participate in it, then… What is this drama all about?

As an Iranian-American, I feel seduced to turn on the news to see what’s happened since the last time I tuned in. I am hoping that tyranny has been defeated, and yet, there is nothing new being reported. I see the same images over and over again, perhaps more details about Neda, they are making her into a symbol, they are trying to make it be even more dramatic by telling us that she was just a teenager, no, now she was 27 and engaged to be married, on and on they go. What is this all about and why am I so drawn to it?

I understand that the news agencies have to do their job, I understand that this is a really exciting event, I even understand that some people are really trying to help out the people in Iran by telling their story and keeping their story alive. What I do not understand and try not to buy into is the manipulation, the hype, the drama. And the reason I don’t want to buy into it is not because I think I am morally superior. It is because it is diverting from the bigger picture of what is indeed happening in the world. Getting sucked into the drama of death, martyrdom, revolution, and sacrifice distracts me from seeing what is happening from the highest point imaginable.

The world is changing, old structures are falling apart, people are empowered and this is just the beginning. From this vantage point, it is amazing and quite beautiful. From this vantage point, free from having to take any one side, feeling self-righteous, or demanding justice I can finally imagine what the new earth is that I am living on. I am free to see the potentials of a new world where we can connect almost instantaneously with each other, we can speak in the same language, and we can engage in productive and meaningful conversations regardless of our age, race, education, nationality, profession, religion, or wealth. From this vantage point, I can see that people do eventually wake up and speak their truth and their voice will be heard. From this sacred place, I decide to turn off the TV and trust the smile that is beginning to form on my face despite the tears in my eyes. I walk away from the drama feeling whole and blessed to be alive at this time in history.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Point of Separation

What is all of this negative self-talk we engage in everyday? It is prevalent like a disease and most of us coaches, see it in action in various forms in the people who come to us. It comes in the form of self-doubt, judgment, lack of self-confidence, etc. All of these characterizations are labels that are hard to deal with because they feel like sentences or diagnoses. I decided to step back and take it in and see if I can break it down into pieces we can handle. Here is what I came up with and this applies to any thought about another that enters our minds:

1) Understanding/Evaluation – This is our brain doing its job, trying to figure out whatever it is we are interested in. For example: John seems angry today, maybe it is his job that makes him angry, or maybe there is trouble at home. His wife hasn’t been happy lately either.

2) Point of Separation – This is when we try to separate ourselves from what we have observed or see ourselves as different from whatever it is we have just evaluated. Same example above: At least I am happy at my job, my wife is much happier than John’s, or my life is worse than John’s. End result is: I am different from John (better or worse).

3) Emotional Reaction – This comes as a result of 1 & 2 and it is what starts a whole chain reaction of potential gossip, feelings of self-righteousness, condemnation, ridicule, etc. Same example: Thank God, I am not alone in being miserable, I am glad I am not John, or I feel bad for John. These thoughts are the beginnings of an inevitable chain reaction.

Since I am a firm believer in going at a problem at its source, I’d like to see if we can prevent step 3 by proper handling of step 1. Once John has been observed to be angry, we have choices to make: we ask him what’s wrong, we forget about it, or we make up stuff. Forgetting about it may not work especially if we really care about John, have to deal with him, or are the curious type. Making up stuff is step 2 or point of separation pulling us toward it. In other words, the need to be different from John drives us to make up stuff. Asking him what’s wrong is the opposite of point of separation, it is the point of connection. When we go to someone and ask them what is wrong, we are reaching out to them, we are saying to John, “I see and feel your anger and would like to know if I’ve made an accurate observation”. Of course, things don’t just end here. If John for example decides not to confide in us, we have choices again: we can then jump on to step 2 and continue, or we can believe that John does not want to share with or connect with us, so we can choose to let it be and stop the chain reaction.

The point of separation unfortunately, is the deep chasm that we tend to find ourselves in even when we don’t really consciously intend to. It is this deep cellular programming that goes on in humans. It’s what tells us that we are this identity, body, job, place we live in, etc. And of course, all of these things are different than what others are experiencing, hence the conclusion is that we are different.

The point of separation is the source of all the negative chain reactions in history and what we witness today in the news 24/7. What’s amazing is that when people realize that they are not that different, then there is this deep understanding and calm that seeps in right before they deny it and unconsciously continue on with the chain reaction.

Once we realize that we do have a choice in what we think and ultimately what we believe, we can indeed put an end to the chain reaction. We can start at the source, by being aware and alert in our thinking, noticing when the mind’s job is done and we feel this tug to jump into believing that we are different and separate. This is where self-mastery begins. It is the ability and conscious practice of being alert, attentive and responsible for our thoughts. Try it (simple but not easy) and be prepared to see how your world will change, because it will.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Where Do You Play It Small?

I see it everywhere and it shows up in many conversations. People don’t want much more than what they have. They typically want or expect a small improvement in their work/life conditions. They want to be appreciated for a job well-done, they expect a raise or a promotion for outstanding performance and achieving their goals, they expect a better quality of life, a nicer house, a better vacation, etc. After all, it is only fair that things should get better. This type of living is what has been going on in most developed nations. The economic crisis has changed and shifted this a bit. Those who are closer to retirement, feel cheated watching their retirement disappear in the stock market. They feel like the rug was pulled from under them.

The recent presidential election in Iran also reminds me of those who believed in a new leader, believed in change, believed in their ability to make a difference and having that proverbial rug pulled from under them. Those supporters of Mousavi did not vote for a regime change, they voted for things to be just a little bit better. And somehow, it just seems unfair especially when you want what seems so little and yet you can’t reach it. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

Most of the people who come to me are in a similar place in their lives. They want a little bit more and find themselves lost. I like to ask the question: “what do you want?” a few times during each session. The answer sometimes changes throughout our time. As they think about what it is that they really want, they start feeling bold and ask for what might have seemed like a lot in the beginning of the session. That is the only sign for me as the coach, that things are going in the “right” direction and that I am doing my job. Coaching is really all about giving permission to people to truly clarify and verbalize what exactly it is that they want. This might seem silly, but it is astonishing that so many of us don’t feel like we can actually get what we really want. There is that small thing that we tell ourselves or we have been told that we want (the promotion, the raise, the bigger house, etc.) and by repeating it in our own heads, believe as being the goal. Typically, this goal is in someone else’s hands and so we give our power away once again by thinking and believing that someone out there can give us our little dream. Then there is what we tell our coaches we want in the safe and intimate space of coaching, that sometimes surprises even ourselves. Our true desires are not up to someone else to give, they are ours to seek and obtain. Coaching is about declaring our true secret desires that go against most belief systems we have bought into.

Once we are clear on what we want and realize that it is ours to have, our life will change. We are now able to see the bigger picture, the promotion that we so badly wanted, seems so insignificant and petty in comparison to our heart’s true desires. The vacation in some tropical island in a grand resort seems small in comparison to living life on our own terms. Life feels bigger than our smaller needs. Those are the moments from which major decisions and transitions are made. Unfortunately, for most of us, this only happens after an involuntary transition (loss of a job, loss of a loved one, health crisis, etc.) brings us to the doorsteps of a therapist or a life coach. Regardless of how it happens or why it happens, transitions are opportunities to live a bigger life than the one we have been used to living. Transitions are opportunities to fall into the warm arms of our own core values and then stand back on our own feet full of our own authentic selves and ready to live an ever expanding and uncompromising life.

These words are not coming from an optimist blind to reality. Rather, they come from a familiar place to anyone who resonates with them. Thoughts of failure, betrayal, or loss can leave you bitter and lonely. My job as a coach is to provide the opportunity to redefine what you think to be true and what stands in the way of believing in yourself. So, the next time you ask for what you think is fair and are not given it, the next time you are handed a raw deal, the next time your heart is broken and you feel lost, think again and find what thought or thoughts are nailing you on your cross and what thoughts would free you once again. And please don’t worry about “reality” and the “real world”. We’ve all found out recently, that the so-called “real world” can come crashing down at any moment. So, create your own reality, go for it, don’t give away your own power, and stop playing it small.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Too Busy to Live

Have you ever been around people who are so busy, constantly interrupted, and have no moment to spare? In fact, when and if they do tell you about themselves, it is just about a bunch of stuff they’re doing or have to do and at the end of the conversation, you feel exhausted just listening to them or feel like you should just leave so they can continue with the million things they have to do. I used to be one of those people and looking back, I feel bad for anyone who tried to get a conversation going that wasn’t part of my agenda or to-do list. I had no time for diversion, because if I fell off task, there would be hell to pay. Or so I thought. I couldn’t imagine a life with unstructured time. I was always catching my breath, running to or from something, never still. I was too busy to live. I took yoga classes, only because I could fit it in, yet my mind would be racing through all the stretches and poses, hoping for the class to be over so I could go on to the next thing. I remember always being concerned with the “bottom line”, what is the point of this conversation, this engagement, this meeting, etc. If there was no “business” reason, it must have been futile. Or so I thought.

Sadly, I still hear those voices in my head. They show up differently, they show up when I am writing at times. They ask me, “why are you wasting your time writing this stuff?” “Who is going to read this and what would be the point of it?” And sometimes, they get really rude and say,” big deal if someone does read it, how is this important or what are you hoping to accomplish?” I used to try to come up with answers to those questions, justifications. It was a constant battle and the writer in me seemed to lose, because those voices had much more business savvy and were better at stripping off the fluff and getting to the bottom line. I don’t justify my writing anymore.

Once I stopped justifying, I realized that I don’t write to get anything. If no one ever read anything that I wrote and if I had an unlimited bank account, I’d still be writing. Not too many might read what I write, but if I don’t write it, then I can be sure that no one will have read it! I write to share, to express, to experience my “I am-ness” , to feel alive. I write to gain clarity. I write to learn from my own experiences. I write because I have the time, I do care, I have no agendas, I have no-where I need to go, no one needs my attention right now, I am fully present in this moment. Writing provides me with the opportunity to be fully present. In this present moment, the possibilities are endless and yet I choose to spend them like this. I choose to select these words and put them in this specific order and send them out into the ethers of the internet. If by chance someone does read them and finds them meaningful in one way or the other, then that is the bonus! Readership is the bonus, not the reason to write. This I have learned and would not trade the path to get here with anything else that might have been. When I get to this spot and feel what I am feeling right now, those voices disappear as if they never existed at all.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What's Your Footprint?

Last week, we took our little dog, Charlie for a walk around our neighborhood. Out of the nearby woods came out a deer (not unusual for where we live) and upon noticing Charlie, he came closer and closer. The two of them must have been a foot away from each other. The deer was examining Charlie without any fear towards us or him. This was such a surreal scene that a car driving by stopped to see what was going on. I still can’t get that picture out of my mind, the deer and Charlie eyeing each other with gentleness and respect, or so I’d like to think! Later on my husband and I were still wondering what that was all about. I’d like to think of it as Charlie being Charlie and attracting the same kind of attention from the deer. Charlie has a way with all beings, everyone seems to really like him and think of him as super sweet and innocent. If you looked up the word, non-threatening, there’d be a picture of Charlie. I think of this sweetness and innocence as Charlie’s footprint on life. It’s something that he is, without expectation, awareness, conditioning, or effort.

Often we think of what we leave behind in terms of the work we do, our children, our accomplishments, etc. What is something that is so you, that you wouldn’t even consciously be aware of that you experience and express consistently? What is it that someone who is close to you would miss about you after you were gone? What is that intimate something that only those intimately known to you would describe about you? What is your footprint? If you are not sure, how would you find out?

When we become aware of our footprint, we recognize our true SELF. It is those moments that we spend experiencing and expressing our true SELF that is when we are in our bliss. We are in our zone and those around us like us the most.

The inspiration behind this post came from a new song by my all time favorite band, Depeche Mode. Enjoy the lyrics and I hope it makes you think about what your footprint might be.

Little Soul
From: Sounds of the Universe by Depeche Mode

My little light
Is going to shine
Shine out so bright
And illuminate your mind
My little soul will leave a footprint
This little voice
Is going to sing
I have no choice
It will infinitely ring
My little soul will leave a footprint
I’m channeling the universe
That’s focusing itself
Inside of me
A singularity
My little words
Are going to sting
Haven’t you heard
The pain and joy they bring
My little soul will leave a footprint
I’m channeling the universe
That’s focusing itself
Inside of me
A singularity
Your little eyes
They’re going to see
I can’t disguise
The beauty inside me
My little soul will leave a footprint

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Forgive For You

I understand forgiveness when it comes to forgiving someone for a wrong they did to you. However, the concept of forgiveness as a tool for self-mastery used to be at best elusive. After years of studying the Course in Miracles, I think I finally get it. Forgiveness is truly done to free yourself. When you are mad at someone or feel betrayed, hurt, stepped on in any shape or form, you are taking that part of yourself that was hurt and locking it away or giving it to your anger or hurt. Condemning the wrong act, condemns that part of you that feels wronged. Pretty soon as life goes on, when you keep on condemning without forgiveness, you have truly locked away pieces of yourself. Many people don’t think they are holding on to the past or old stuff, until they are asked to forgive whatever it was that was done to them. At that point, they get a little defensive, they think that you are asking them to make it be okay. In other words, the main reason most of us find it hard to forgive, is because we think we are being asked to condone what happened. The Course asks us to forgive and ask for forgiveness. So every time you feel hurt or wronged, forgive the sinner, the sin and yourself for feeling the way you do. If you keep on practicing forgiveness, especially over the small stuff, it gets easier for the bigger issues. In other words, when you forgive the guy who cut you off in traffic, you can forgive whomever you blame for the loss of your parent.

When you forgive someone for hurting you and forgive yourself for feeling hurt, you are freeing yourself to experience life. You are allowing more of you in your experiences. In fact, if you look at it in this way, it is not a deep matter. It is something you do to keep your motor running at full capacity. Think of it as changing the oil in your car, taking yourself for routine checkups, getting a haircut, etc. We do these things, so we are well-maintained. When we do these things routinely, when something big happens, we don’t fall apart. We do these things to feel joy and happiness in the ordinariness of our lives. So, the next time, you feel hurt, angry and want justice, remember to forgive. Forgive for you. Forgive, despite the pain. If you are in pain, then be the space for the pain (as Eckhart Tolle has written in The New Earth) and forgive from that place. Practicing forgiveness will help make you more aware of what is happening and that in itself will help you make choices instead of being victimized by your own reactions.

Life comes at us. We get bombarded by insensitive people, impossible situations, and ridiculous expectations. How can we handle ourselves if we don’t use the most effective and accessible tool called forgiveness. It’s an easy tool to carry with you wherever you go. When you forgive the assaults you experience, you are in a sense declaring that you are bigger than the situations you are in. That feeling is liberating. When you realize that you are acting out a part, and that none of it is real, then you can easily forgive and move on. You can choose how to act, how to be and inevitably, become the conscious creator of your life.