These Times: Remembering the Essential

These Times: Remembering the Essential

Do you remember when there were shootings in Paris?  You probably do, it wasn’t all that long ago, and the world watched as the city of light went into lockdown and mourning.  Do you remember when a high school in a Colorado town gasped in astonishment when one of their own kids turned on his peers?  You probably do, because the world watched as the school went into lockdown and the community into mourning.  Do you remember all of the other tragic, rage-filled violent events that filled in the years between then and what has once again happened, this time in Orlando?  You probably do, at least vaguely, unless you were directly affected, in which case, you probably think about it more than you want to.  It’s not easy to forget things that are so far outside of normal life that they just seem like movies or bad dreams.

But back to…

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Fire Starters

Fire Starters

Act in ways that make you feel what you want to feel. ~Danielle LaPorte

I started listening to The Fire Starter Sessions a few days ago.  I was already familiar with Ms. LaPorte’s take on aligning your actions with what she calls “core desired feelings,” but listening to these audio sessions has been a good reminder to actually take that advice.  I spend a lot of time as a wellness coach asking about what underlays a desire to lose weight or stop smoking or get in better shape.  In a corporate coaching world, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get people to pick up the telephone for appointments, much less talk about what they truly desire for themselves.  But sometimes we go there.  Sometimes people are willing to look deeply into what is driving them to want something different. And it’s always a feeling. Continue reading “Fire Starters”

Mornings of Wild Air and Fading Starlight

Mornings of Wild Air and Fading Starlight

This morning I woke up to the sun rising in the east into a pink haze of clouds over a lake of utter stillness.  The air was colder than usual, which isn’t saying much this year, after a fall of above average temperatures.  But I could see my breath and the grass by the lake was sparkling with frost, so that’s something. The water was like glass, the surface broken only by a tiny duck that had decided to stick around these parts for a little longer before heading south for the winter.  As the sun’s rays gathered strength, I looked into the western sky to see the sort of vibrant blue that only shows up once in awhile, usually when I’ve gone outside on days when I think I’d rather stay in.  There is something about pushing yourself to get out of your comfort zone (sometimes quite literally) that provides rewards that you otherwise wouldn’t receive, I suppose.  At any rate, instead of sitting sipping coffee and scrolling through emails and messages this morning, I stood on a frosty dock and watched a duck glide over misty waters as the sun crept higher into the sky.  Continue reading “Mornings of Wild Air and Fading Starlight”

On Being

On Being

When I was trained as a coach 8.5 years ago, one of the things that stuck with me the most was the emphasis on helping a person see who they are “being” – that is to say, helping each individual look past the surface doings into how he/she is showing up and how that way of being is effecting their choices.

I read an article by coach and writer Danielle van de Kemenade this morning, and her words resonated with me a lot:

The biggest impact I’ve been able to make in my clients’ lives is on their states of being rather than changed acts of doing. The coaching paradigm itself is perhaps the best way of exemplifying the belief in doing as a primary method to achieving a better way of being. After each session, I’ll ask my clients to come up with five things they’ll do between our sessions to start to move towards greater personal well-being.

Fundamental to all of the above seems to be this thought: I’ll be a better, happier, more fulfilled person through more (focused) doing. I do (or have done), therefore I am. And yet, lately my views on this have started to shift, subtly.

Perhaps one of humanity’s challenges this century won’t necessarily be to do more better and faster, but to refine our ways of being and to let our actions flow from this.

On one hand you might think, “Wait, that doesn’t quite jive with what we are trying to do with small steps.  Isn’t the goal to help people make tiny changes that will eventually lead to lasting health improvements and better well being?” Continue reading “On Being”

Subtle Acts of Healing

Subtle Acts of Healing

Buddhist teacher Cynthia Jurs spoke in my Space Between Stories class last weekend.  She spoke of acting from the subtle and how important it can be to stop and breathe in the midst of the chaos that seems to punctuate our world more than we want it to.  She spoke of focusing on the space that is between where we are and where we want to go.  She said it’s that space that allows new things to come into being and that it is important not to rush out of the unknown into a new story.  It’s important to rest in the space that’s in between.  From that space we can see and start to recognize our gifts, and we can offer those gifts out into our communities, our workplaces, our families and the earth itself.  She reminded us that it is from our gifts – those gifts that are unique to our own being — that we can affect the “powers that be” in the deepest way and contribute to the healing of the world.

Cynthia shared the story of how her life’s work came into being, and without telling the whole story, (You can read more about her work and its origins at Earth Treasure Vase: A Global Healing Project)  her vocation essentially took shape from living out of her deepest prayerful question: How can we bring healing and protection to the earth?  Of course, there have been no easy answers, and it took her awhile to embrace the mission put forth to her.  But by living in accordance with her deepest prayer, she has helped invite waves of healing and hope into the midsts of people all over the world. Continue reading “Subtle Acts of Healing”

Waiting for the Sacred

Waiting for the Sacred

It is three weeks into the month of December and across much of the continental United States it feels like winter has arrived in full. The solstice – the official turn of the season – was yesterday: the end and the beginning.  Those of a Christian faith continue to wait in hopeful expectation for the promise of light to arrive on Christmas as another season of advent progresses.  The sun continues to rise and set in an ancient rhythm. Undertones of anger and injustice remain alive and well in too many places.  Living creatures die at the hands of other living creatures, for reasons that are as wide ranging as the stars even as they mirror patterns that have repeated for generations.  Traffic moves across the globe, we continue to consume, and our footprints seem to go deeper by the day.  Yet I hold onto expectations and hope that something better will reveal itself in a way that can be recognized.

Professor Debra Dean Murphy writes,

“Waiting” works if you live in a world where you know that a little more patience generally would do you good. “Hopeful expectation” has a pleasant enough sound if your life is going reasonably well at the moment. 

[….]

What does “hopeful expectation” sound like, look like in places where justice has long been delayed, meaning, of course, that justice has been denied? 

Hope is not wishful thinking; it is risk and action and the courage to undertake both.

But ……  it is also vulnerability and a willingness to walk alongside those whose hopes have been crushed.

Continue reading “Waiting for the Sacred”

Listen

Look out the back door into the sunrise.

Listen.

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There is a faint, yet unwavering beat spreading horizontally over the landscape. It has a rhythm like the powwows of the Lakota people, of a drumming circle, of a collective chanting and funneling of energy into a medium that can be felt and heard by all. This pulse is coming from Gaia, from the core of the earth, from the Being that is represented in all life on the planet. It cannot be ignored. It can be pushed aside and is by many, but it is persistent. The authentic earth is speaking.

What do we hear? What are we going to do with this pulse that is reminding us of who we are? What are we going to be as the ancient rhythm settles into our veins and spreads outward through our choices?

Through our choices, by the actions we take and because of the way we walk on the earth, we are  part of the life that continues to unfold all around us. Nothing that is life – that has the capacity to love, that is the essence of something bigger than we can fully understand – can be contained by systems that are not peace centered and life giving. Though we have plenty of broken systems, we as a collective are an integral part of the unwavering beat – the pulse- and the energy that is propelling our world into something that we know is truth.  To something that is more beautiful than we can imagine on the good days.

This forward motion, this horizontal push into the newness of what has always been at the core, is not without challenge. Change is hard for humans, even when the change is full of light and promise. It can be easy to hold on to what we know, even when it doesn’t serve who we truly are. Even while we welcome change, we don’t know what our reality will look like in the days to come, and we have a hard time with the unknowing. We want something concrete; we want dates to look forward to. We want to plan, and we want to see changes and energy shifts manifest in ways that we can understand and see in our daily lives.

We will get these things, even when it feels like we are still waiting for a sign that Now we can truly live how we are meant to live.   Because while we question, while we still feel like we are waiting, while we strive to exist in a way that is authentic, the pulse is still there. It has always been there.   Many ears are still deaf to the realness of the beating, but it is getting louder with every intention to live as a part of the whole and to be as one with the heart of creation.

Look out the back door into the sunrise. You will see the pulse of the earth. You will feel the collective call to be a people of wholeness and of healing. You will remember that you are the true value, the energy and the answer.

Listen.

Remember.

Be part of the sunrise.

lakesunrise

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

–Alan Watts

 

Notes on Being Alive

Notes on Being Alive

Wake up. Notice how things grow. Don’t be afraid to see what you see, hear what you hear, think what you think, or feel what you feel.   Attend sunrises. ~Douglas Wood

What was your initial response to Mr. Woods’ suggestion? When I first read the little book that contains the above advice, Breathe the Wind, Drink the Rain: Notes on Being Alive, I thought, “Of course. Stay aware. Notice life as it happens. Be authentic. Pay attention to a new day coming into being. No problem.”

Well. As with most simple advice, it has proven more challenging than I anticipated. What follows are some suggestions and strategies that I find to be effective in my quest to experience life fully. Sometimes it works really well. Sometimes I fall of the wagon. But if I do these things consistently, I am reminded of the beauty that is possible when I can live in a way that supports noticing what matters.

First things first: Wake up. To me waking up is more than just the physical act of coming out of a sleep state. It means seeing past the illusions that are presented via media, advertising and an economic culture that is based on always getting the next best thing. So how do we avoid getting sucked into the propaganda?

  1. Tune into how you feel the next time an advertisement crosses your consciousness. Does it invite you feel joyful? Or does it invite you feel like you are somehow incomplete without whatever it is?
  2. If you feel a sense of “I am not enough” look at that feeling. Acknowledge its existence. Let it be there. Then let it go. You are complete, even without a new pair of heels or lash lengthening mascara or the latest smart phone or trim waistline.
  3. Start to notice the energy of the messages that are coming from the media. Notice the sense of lack that pervades so much of advertising and decide to stop paying your own energy into a system that is set up to make you feel like you are missing something. Limit screen time, avoid television and pay more attention to the trees under the billboards than the messages plastered along the roadways.

Next: Notice how things grow. We live in a time of instant gratification. We can get what we want whenever we want it as long as we are willing to pay the asking price. Sometimes I forget to embrace the process of growth and evolution.   In our fast paced lives, how do we slow down enough to notice life happening around us?

  1. Plant a seed. Maybe it’s in a community garden, maybe it’s in a pot in your windowsill, maybe it’s in your front yard. Give it some sun, water it and witness its growth. It will invite you to be patient and to trust the process of accepting whatever is happening in the present moment.
  2. Pay attention to your breath. Take a minute or two to push back from your screen right now to close your eyes, inhale deeply into your lower abdomen to the count of three and hold for a few seconds. Then exhale to the count of three and repeat. Focusing on our breath is an effective way to return to the state of mindful presence that allows us to notice what is happening when we skim the hectic surface off of our days.
  3. Commit to eating at least one meal or snack per day with no distractions. No internet, no phone, no newspaper, no planning the next section of your day in your head. Tune into the food on your plate and notice the way it tastes, how you feel as you to eat it, and how it satisfies your hunger. Notice how eating with full awareness invites you to make the choices that serve you and what your physical body needs best.

Moving on: Don’t be afraid to see what you see, hear what you hear, think what you think, or feel what you feel. So many times, I find myself interpreting what I see, hear, think or feel through someone else’s lens. When I can truly look at what’s going on through my own experience and my own lens, I am more able to act in a way that is consistent with what I value, regardless of what another might see, hear, think or feel.

  1. Identify something that you would describe as beautiful. Let yourself think about why that something is beautiful to you and about what has colored your perception. Is your idea of beauty consistent with what really matters to you?   Let your unique interpretation of beauty shine through.
  2. When you are feeling negative, sad, irritated or fearful, don’t try to mask those feelings. Let them bubble to the surface and then look at them without judgment. Sometimes we need to experience certain feelings fully in order to let them go.
  3. Speak up for what matters to you. Go against the grain if your entire being is screaming at you to do so. Be the one who doesn’t cross the road with the crowd. Let your life speak through the things you do and the things you don’t do. Be authentic to what matters.

And finally: Attend sunrises. For me, witnessing the start of a new day holds a power that is hard to describe. There is such potential in the breaking of a new dawn. As the rhythm of the earth moves my part of the world into a new day, when I take the time in the morning to witness that new start, I am more apt to acknowledge the good that can be found, even in the midst of challenge.

  1. Sleep well. Figure out an evening ritual you can do to help you unwind, set up your sleeping space to support you, and tell those you share space with about your plan.  Allow yourself time to rest.
  2. Splash some warm water on your face after you rise, stretch your body and walk go outside if conditions allow.
  3. Greet the sun as it does its own stretch into a new day, or bid it goodnight if early rising isn’t your thing. Express gratitude for the opportunity to breathe into a fresh start or for another day lived.

Mr. Wood goes onto include several more simple tips on how to be alive, but I’ll let you read the book and come up with your own interpretations for the rest.

Do you have some strategies that have proven useful as you work on staying present and living in a way that is consistent with what matters to you?  Be sure to share them in the comments so we can all benefit from your wisdom and experience!

A version of this post first appeared at Having Time.

Eternal

Eternal

When we are facing doubt and hopelessness…

We remember that hardship, suffering, day to day monotony and feeling trapped are impermanent. Even when we feel like our entire life is made up of nothing but strife and struggle, we can remember that what feels like our entire life is simply our ‘life situation’. Our soul – our true Being – is outside of what we tend to experience on the surface. We are good at forgetting that our Being has more power than the hardships that pepper the current human experience.

When we see and hear others discounting what we know to be truth…..

We remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and their own version of truth, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. Words have power – but in the end, words are just marking posts, a way for the human mind to try to convey what is felt in the in the soul.  Sometimes the language of the soul doesn’t translate when we try to speak it in words, no matter how eloquently or intelligently we communicate.  Being has more power than any speech, document or legality.

When it seems like nothing will ever change in our day to day human, bodily experience….

We remember that living in a body is but one part of our Being. We try to give thanks for the experience, regardless of what has already come to pass and regardless of any worry about what is still to come. We accept that whatever our life situation, it is essential – just as it is – for our soul to get what it needs.

I don’t know what it’s like to go to bed hungry after not eating for the third day in a row. I don’t know what it’s like to spend every minute of every day afraid that my community might be attacked by armed forces because there is a war going on all around me. I don’t know what it’s like to survive a physical assault and live with the raw fear that it might happen again. I don’t know what it’s like to wonder where my child is because someone decided to take her from me.

But though I haven’t experienced the deep suffering that so many other beings have, I can say that I do know what it’s like to wake up and feel nothing but sadness.  I know what it’s like to feel isolated and cut off from everything except the melancholy tale that my mind wants to tell over and over again.  I know what it’s like to feel trapped in a system that doesn’t give out free lunch.   I know what it’s like to have a voice that wants to be heard and not know how to use it in a way that others can understand.

And maybe most importantly, I know that the the souls that experience any hardship – regardless of scale or depth –  are wise, and strong.  Perhaps we experience such situations to help the universe know what it’s like to feel separated from others, to sit in despair and to want for something different.  That job has been done, and done again.  And again.

Yet in the midst of such despair and challenge, the thing that we are never cut off from is our Being: the part of us that is completely attuned to the rhythms of the earth and the pulse of creation.  The soul and breath of something greater than ourselves lives within us and remains steadfast at our core. That breath is a light that will not go out.

So when we wonder how things could ever possibly change, and when we have no idea how change might occur on the surface of our human experience, when we are impatient or facing challenge, and when we can’t see past the suffering the world has been though, we can remember that our Being is taking every experience we have in our physical body on the earth and is using it to help us manifest the reality that is ours, and ours alone, perfect in its own right.

At our core essence, there is no doubt, hopelessness or despair.  There is only light, love and the freedom to be.

Being

Being

Spend a half hour today, just being. How many of us do that? How many of us are terrified of doing that? How many of us crave doing that?  Try to think of the last time you spent even 15 minutes just being who you are, fully. Not watching TV, not scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, not looking for a new blog to read, not waiting for someone to come home, not planning the next day’s menu in your head, not worrying about paying the electric bill, not trying to live up to someone else’s standards. What would it be like to spend a full 30 minutes just being yourself? Living every minute of that chunk of time as a human, filled with as much light as a morning sky glowing with promise, immersed in the earth’s rhythms, and connected to your version of God and community, consistently intentional about what you are agreeing to and what you are supporting with your choices. What if we got to the point where we could live every half hour that way?

So many of us are living so quickly that it seems an impossible task, to take even 30 minutes to be fully immersed in what matters to us. But even if we do take that half hour to just be,  what are we doing the other 23.5 hours of the day when we are rushing around, scrambling to get “important things” done, working ourselves into a frenzy, only to crash at the end of day into a stupor, unable to do more than wish for the weekend to come faster? Making ends meet, doing the dishes, taking care of the kids, commuting, worrying about what might happen tomorrow, regretting what happened yesterday……..the list could go on for pages. It has to be possible to live every minute of life fully alive and full of intent to be authentic and present.  To simply be who we are — even when we ARE doing the dishes.  Perhaps especially then.

What can you do today to help you remember to be your authentic, light-filled self?