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.