Last spring I heard a woman named Cynthia Jurs speak. She said a lot of interesting and important things during her talk, but what stood out to me most was the way 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 in between where we are and where we want to go. She said it’s that ‘in between’ space that allows new things to come into being. From that space we can learn to recognize our gifts, and once we’ve recognized them, we can offer those gifts out into our communities, our workplaces, and our families. She reminded us that it is from our gifts – those gifts that are unique to our own being — that we can affect our life situation in the deepest way and contribute to the healing of the world. She reminded us that due to the nature of “in between” space, we all have a different version of what’s true for us, but that we can still support each other despite being on differing paths. Continue reading “The Space Between”
Part of my day job is calling people to schedule coaching appointments. Usually people are polite and respectful, and even sometimes downright kind hearted and pleasant to talk to. Which is good news, since I’m calling them to put them on my own coaching calendar, so we’ll be talking again. It’s helpful to start the relationship off on a positive note.
But today I called a gentleman who wasn’t any of those things. Quite the opposite, really, he was quite mean and disrespectful. I asked if he wanted to set up a call, and he responded with sentences that tended to start with “you people” and “do you even realize” and so on, punctuated by sarcastic chuckling. In short, he made it personal and he wanted me to acknowledge that I was in the wrong. I was the enemy, and he was going to let me know it. Usually I am good at being able to internalize the fact that everyone is dealing with a plethora of issues that I do not know about and that are quite probably very challenging, resulting in unfriendly behavior; and hey, maybe this man was just having a tough day, or week, or year. His energy is absolutely the product of our broken culture, and at the end of the day, he needs love, too. But today when he was essentially scolding me for not being able to meet his expectations, all I could hear was “you aren’t good enough” and “this is why it’s doing me a disservice.” I felt like the bad child who doesn’t measure up, and I found myself apologizing and trying to hold back tears. Which is really interesting, as 1. I did nothing “wrong” and 2. I was quite kind, professional and offered what I had to give. He just didn’t find it acceptable. When on the call, I knew intellectually that his issues and his anger were not about me at all, but in the moment his energy triggered a response that I couldn’t control. I had to hang up the phone. Continue reading “The Other: Crumbs of Despair”
Productivity doesn’t equal worth. Right? Deep down, I know this statement it absolutely true. At the core, each living being on earth is of infinitely more value than can be measured or quantified. Each person, or creature, or plant, or river is so much more than whatever is accomplished or produced in a lifetime. Yet we have a hard time accepting this. We see our land-base as a commodity more often than we see it as a partner in life. We tend to use water and air and soil for our own gain with little thought beyond what our actions might mean for someone across the world or a child born three generations from now. Often we mean well and even start to change our ways, but then life gets hard and it’s easier not to. We slip back into believing that more is better and that getting ahead and making the grade is what’s important. We start to see high productivity as the ideal and we lose faith in believing that it really isn’t when we are trying to tell the truth and the people who have the power to create change don’t believe. Or don’t want to.
I say I am trying to be ok with mediocrity. In another blog post recently, I wrote,
I’ve recognized that if I’m going to stay in my day job and thrive as a human being, mediocrity is my new goal for success. It’s hard to let old tendencies of wanting to be a top performer or make good grades or always receive glowing reviews go. But I’ve realized that, at least in my current life and work situation, being a top performer isn’t what matters to living the life that I want to live.
January. A time to take stock of what’s working and what’s not. Resolving to do better this year. Worrying that nothing will change. Again. Losing those 30 pounds… for real this time. Giving up all foods that contain white sugar and flour. Going gluten free. Joining the gym. Taking up yoga. Quitting smoking. Quitting drinking. Quitting gambling. Quitting failing. January in the western world is full of anticipation and anxiety as we look for a fresh start – as we look for something that will keep us moving into the life that we want.
How might we take the start of another calendar year to surrender into a version of life that is simply… enough? What it would be like to be satisfied – really satisfied – with exactly where we are, regardless of what our external life situation might look like? How can we use our everyday actions to illustrate a way of being in the world that promotes joy instead of suffering? How can we make January about what is, instead of what isn’t?
I wonder how to accept the present – to really, truly accept it and be in it. I wonder how to discern the direction my life needs to take to best serve my family and the larger collective. I wonder how to be in the world as one of the privileged, and how to accept that for what it is. I wonder how best to use the abundance that I have to help others see their own. I wonder how to use ideas that don’t work as stepping stones toward those that do. Continue reading “Little Bits of Good”
Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking writes:
Research] points to an alternative approach: a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.
In a society that promotes “the pursuit of happiness,” “looking on the bright side,” and “noticing the silver lining,” this idea might seem a bit off the mark at first glance. But what if Mr. Burkeman has a point? Perhaps when we let our experiences – all of them – be what they are without always trying to find the positive, we are more apt to finally see the joy that sometimes lurks just outside of our sightlines.
What do you think? Can we overdo positive thinking? What’s the best balance for you?
There has been a lot going on lately. So many people I encounter say this, or allude to it, regardless of their life situation – poor, wealthy, middle class; student, teacher, parent; volunteer or employee; retiree or entry level worker. The pace of life is fast, quickening even as these words are typed. It would seem that all people are busy, constantly.
Yet steeped in the busyness, systems are changing, albeit slowly. A lot of energy is being projected into helping the population interact in a different, more positive and healthy way, and a project of that scale takes time and effort. Even those who do not recognize or believe that anything is different put a lot of time and effort into completing their usual tasks and going about their daily routines. Work hours are long, jobs feel tedious, values are tested, traffic is bad, cities are congested and the kids have music lessons, sports, church activities, tutoring sessions, and homework. All of which they need help with, or a ride to. The driveway has to be shoveled and the dishes washed. Things take longer than anticipated and many times don’t go quite as planned. So, regardless of state of being or level of awareness, people are generally busy and have too much to do.
How can we find a sense of balance amidst the energy that needs to be put out? How do we maintain our equilibrium when putting forth the energy that must back the tasks that need to be accomplished, the ideas that need to be thought of and implemented, and the hours of work that are necessary to move this planet into a way of existing that is sustainable and life giving for all? How can we take the ashes of failure and see an opportunity to know beauty in a completely different way?
For positive change to occur, we will all need to contribute and use our unique gifts to serve the collective. We will need to step outside of our individual needs and into our neighbors’. We will need to figure out how to operate cooperatively after so many years of competition. We will need to let go of needing more. Even the Joneses can’t sustain their pace forever. We will need to accept sadness and allow joy to radiate from places of darkness. The road into the light, while welcoming and full of joy, is not without rocks, bumps and the occasional uphill stretch.
It sounds daunting, and maybe it is. But I think we can find our balance amidst the rocks, the uphill stretches and the energy needed to sustain momentum by remembering what is driving us to do the work in the first place. We can remember the vision of an earth that is defined by beauty, equality and peace. We can remember that this vision will not look the same to everyone, and that it doesn’t have to. As we project the energy of love and joy into the space that surrounds every action and thought we will get where we are called to be, even if the road looks different than we thought it would. And we can use the empty space that exists around the work doing and being whatever it is that makes life real for us.
So take your life situation for what it is -a situation – instead of a sentence or definition; busy or not, and let it be a way for your Being, your true self, to experience all that is worth experiencing. Walk through a grove of aspen trees, stand in a ray of sunlight in the middle of the city, marvel at the way your physical body helps you carry out the mission of your soul. Focus. Spend time loving the present. Take some time off if serves you. Enjoy silence. Be loud when being loud helps. Dance with your baby, talk to your neighbor, let the snow or rain melt into your skin and see the art in the world. Look past the to-do list to what is.
Find your balance, and honor it.
Life evolves and is a living organism that can recreate itself. But this will not be an easy transition, because our world is so out of balance. Our civilization has been running on empty for too long, our way of life too unsustainable. If we continue our future is too bleak, the inner emptiness too desolate. In pursuit of a few material pleasures we will have lost what is most precious and most …meaningful in our existence. We will have to confront our fears and our weaknesses, find courage that we did not know we had. Nor do we know how long this transition may take. We may be just creating the seeds for a future that will blossom in a hundred years or more. But with grace, commitment and care, with a heart open to grief and to love, life can once again regenerate—together we can create a way of life that is truly sustainable. The light of the sacred will rekindle, and once again the soul of the world will sing the song of creation: the hidden mystery within all of life.