Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Analyze This

My scientific education taught me to value the so-called power of analysis.  The corporate world taught me the concept of analysis paralysis, when the data didn’t provide a compelling reason to move in any specific direction.  Of course, in that world, the decision was made by certain people who had their own agendas and the analysis was either misunderstood or ignored to prove a point or another.  Today in medicine most physicians will agree that in certain treatments, it is hard to predict what will happen with any given patient.  There is an expected outcome based on past data from lots of people and then there is what might happen in the now with a specific patient.  Even a dermatologist treating acne will give you the data and let you know that you might fall into the two to five percent of the population that the medication would be ineffective in.  Yet, as patients we hear what we want which is, “give me the pill that will fix this problem” and we walk out either hoping that we don’t fall into the small percentage that the drug didn’t work in or we didn’t even hear the doctor, because we were too obsessed with getting fixed.

ACIM (Chapter 11, V. The “Dynamics” of the Ego, v. 13, P. 205) states: “The appreciation of wholeness comes only through acceptance, for to analyze means to break down or to separate out.  The attempt to understand totality by breaking it down is clearly the characteristically contradictory approach of the ego to everything.  The ego believes that power, understanding and truth lie in separation, and to establish this belief it must attack.  Unaware that the belief cannot be established, and obsessed with the conviction that separation is salvation, the ego attacks everything it perceives by breaking it into small disconnected parts, without meaningful relationships and therefore without meaning.” 

I am using the example of medicine or science to demonstrate the separation that ACIM talks about.  The same concept can be applied to all areas of our lives.  Our need to understand and over-simplify by breaking down into pieces has gotten us to become overly myopic and we’re missing the big picture, hence the need for holistic therapies, yoga, spiritual coaching, etc.  And then there are so many who are disinterested in understanding their disease or dysfunction or even take responsibility for healing.  They put their trust in the doctors, the drugs, the whole system to fix them so they can go about their business as usual.  This lack of curiosity feeds into so many things including the consciousness of separation.
I have had to learn the hard way to change my attitude towards getting things “fixed”.   I have been so myopic that all I ever did was put out fires and fix what seemed to have been broken.  That was the mode I operated on and I was quite good at it.  It all changed when I couldn’t put out all the fires or when nothing was ever solved by my putting out the fires.  In fact, it seemed that for every small fire I put out, there would be bigger ones coming at me or worse yet, no one appreciated the fires I had put out.  In other words, I had to change my attitude and realize that what I was doing and the way I was going about my business no longer served me, if it ever had.  I had to step back and look at the big picture.  That is what the term “spiritual” means to me.  It is about seeing what is from the biggest perspective possible and with all of the connections to everything else.  Unfortunately or fortunately life is not one small incident disconnected and disjointed standing all alone, it is indefinable in every sense of the word.  It includes everything.  If I hear the news before I step out of the house, and if that news happens to be about some massive oil spill in the gulf of Mexico, I can know for sure that I will have a headache, feel sad, be impatient, etc.  So, how can I say that an event that does not affect me directly cannot make me feel sick.  Now, if I go to the doctor demanding that she fix this headache I’ve had for a week now without her knowing about the times that my head ache comes and what I was doing when it happened, etc. she might not know what is causing my pain.  She might order a whole bunch of diagnostic tests, pain killers, etc.  Does that sound like a sound approach to treatment?

What happens when we see ourselves as connected, is the failure of the need to blame.  It also places the responsibility for whatever it is we are looking for, on us.  We are no longer looking for a quick fix, a pill, a partner, a job, etc. to fix the problem.  In fact, when we do it consistently, it takes away the need to look at the situation as a problem.  The spiritual in spiritual life coaching is about the practice of observing ourselves as connected to all of life and from that perspective making any changes that we would like to experience.
Questions to ponder:
1)    What or when do you see yourself as separate from all that is?
2)    What do you try to do when you feel separate?
3)    When have you felt connected with all that is? What was that like?

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Box In The Basement

My husband was looking through an old box from the basement for something his uncle had given him when he graduated from high school. I heard him chuckling and calling my name and insisting that I have to see “this”. “This” was an old photograph of me and a bunch of letters I had written to him back then. I don’t know how to explain this encounter I had with the old or should I say, young me. She looked so fresh, young and na├»ve. She was pretty and new. I hadn’t thought about her at all. In fact, I had forgotten her. She reminded me of the look of our new kitchen when we first built our house. Today, the cabinets are dinged and a little chipped, worn out, and yet every scratch mark or ding reminds me of an event or a meal prepared. Similar to my kitchen cabinets, my face today reminds me of all the events it has encountered or survived. The battle marks are reminders of a life well lived through many firsts, accomplishments, disappointments, fears, hopes, lessons, and hardships. Perhaps the face of the past, is prettier to look at, but like a raw fruit, it merely represents the potential of a ripe one and ask anyone who has had an unripe pear, it does not taste good. Yet the fear of going past our prime or turning brown as in the case of the pear, keeps us fighting to stay or look young. Reading the letters I had written back then, I realized that the person who wrote them all those years ago, is still amazingly close to who I am today with the exception of a sense of wonderment at what tomorrow has to bring. The only real difference between us is the fact that I have lost that sense of wonder. After all, I know who I married, how many kids I had, where I lived, what I did, etc. The big surprise gifts of life have already been opened, and the surprises at this point of our lives tend to either be the not-so-good ones or the ones that involve our younger loved ones, in other words, it is seeing life through their younger eyes. So, what if the surprise party is over? The after party can be even more interesting if we are willing to let go of what we think a party should be like.

In the same box were some pictures of the two of us together. Amazingly, even though he looked younger too, I think he looks better now than he did back then. I realized that, men tend to be that way. They age more gracefully as it is said. But then perhaps it has nothing to do with aging and the physiology of it all that shows up as the lines and sagging stuff that jiggles at times. What if men look more interesting with age, because they become more interesting as men? Growing up is valued in men. And what about women? Do we just get older and all that is left is the outer shell that no longer looks like it used to? Interestingly enough, character actors in Hollywood, like Meryl Streep still make movies. It’s the sexy, pretty women of 10 years ago well known for primarily their outer gifts, who are cast aside despite multiple plastic surgeries to retain their youthful look. That tells me that there is a market even in Hollywood for interesting women of a certain age. And if that is the case in the entertainment business, then it is certainly possible for the rest of the world.

So, my question to me and all of us women who are getting older is “what do you value the most about yourself?” And if your answer is anything other than a specific body part, then the next question is “how often do you embrace what you value?” How we show up is a consequence of what we believe to be true. If we look at ourselves as has beens, then the world will see us the same way. As always is the case, it involves inner work. In order to change mass consciousness, we have to change ourselves. If we value the journey and accept the bruises and tolls it has taken on our physical selves, yet see ourselves as better, more self-expressed, self-fulfilled and even lovelier than we used to be, then the world will receive us the same way. Are we ready for the after party not expecting it to be like the party? Are we ready to embrace this moment and the person that we are right now without all the “should haves”, “would haves”, and “only ifs”? I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Getting Unstuck

In my spiritual life coaching work, I typically meet people who are stuck.  They are stuck in their jobs or relationships, or just generally feel a sense of not moving as fast as they’d like to.  During conversations, it becomes clear that they are blaming the situation on an outside factor.  The outside factor is a bad boss, a lousy work place, a terrible partner, the economy, lack of education or opportunities, etc.  So, the attention is always on some problem out there.  My job is to shift the focus from the client’s outside to the client’s inside.  This shift inevitably pushes deeply held belief systems to change.  And that’s when the real work begins.

In the introduction to Chapter 24 of A Course In Miracles, it says: "To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold.  Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.  No belief is neutral.  Every one has the power to dictate each decision you make.  For a decision is a conclusion based on everything that you believe."  In other words, the decision to stay at a job you hate, leave a marriage you worked so hard to save,  and even the decision to just go with the flow of whatever is happening or not happening, is based on your beliefs.
If you focus on the outside event and make decisions at the effect level, you may temporarily get rid of the current problem, but chances are they are going to show up again in a different form.  In fact, I believe that we are all blessed with opportunities that keep on coming until we finally wake up and make the necessary changes.  So, take the example of staying at a job you hate because of whatever reason you think is real (e.g., the economy, what if the job I want does not exist, I’ve tried and haven’t been able to find another job, etc.), if you don’t take this as an opportunity to change, you will have other chances.  You might find out that your new neighbors who just moved in are really loud, have late night loud parties every weekend,  and happen to have a dog that barks non-stop early in the morning.  This opportunity provides for you to feel the feeling of being stuck, because you seem to choose to experience it.  If you still choose to ignore the flashing neon signs, you might even find an illness or incurable health problem that echoes the feeling of being stuck, and on and on are the opportunities.
Being stuck is a symptom of hitting the wall built by your own beliefs.  You have several choices, you can get up, forget about the wall or pretend it isn’t there and run into it again and again, you can stay away from the wall and close your eyes and suffer quietly, or you can first scream at the wall and declare that you are going to bring it down and call your spiritual life coach for an appointment to change the belief that is holding you back.  I strongly recommend the last choice!  When you learn how to dismantle the beliefs that get you stuck, you are bound to live a conscious life making conscious choices and inevitably creating what you consciously want instead of putting up with what you don’t.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Top Ten Reasons Why It’s Great to Be A Mother

Beyond the obvious or those discussed or advertised over and over again, there are reasons why mothers universally find the experience of motherhood like no other. Those are the reasons we might write about in our private diaries or talk about over coffee with a close friend. This coming Sunday (May 9th) is Mother’s Day in the U.S. and as a mother I’d like to wish a very happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there in the trenches of motherhood! I also wanted to share my top ten list of why motherhood has enhanced my experience of life. I hope you have your own list to remind you of this wonderful opportunity and gift of experience. You might get cards or gifts of appreciation this Sunday, but ultimately, we all need to honor ourselves for our own choices and being a mom is a choice.
Here we go:
1. Nothing, absolutely nothing can facilitate the practice of selflessness as effectively as being a mother
2. Facing the responsibility of being a role model every day pushes me to be a better person
3. I don’t need a mirror anymore, my kids reflect back to me (the good and the bad!)
4. Witnessing my children’s accomplishments, joy, and self-expression
5. Witnessing my children’s failures, pains and disappointments pushes me to practice detachment, discernment and compassion
6. Experiencing the extremes of being the worlds’ best mom and the worst in a matter of minutes helps in the practice of detachment
7. Awareness of my own limitations
8. When someone else observes the same amazing thing I see in my child and tells me about it
9. Nothing, absolutely nothing is as effective in getting me to not give up as remembering that my children are counting on me
10. I learn to take criticism on a regular basis and smile knowing that one day my children will too!

Enjoy your very special weekend and if you are so inclined, leave a few of your own reasons here on this post!