(The Firewalk Transformation Seminar is a 6-hour seminar that culminates in participants walking barefoot over hot coals.) The answer to the question is easy: you walk for whatever reason compels you. For some, it is to overcome fears and limiting beliefs. For others, it is the metaphor of what is standing in the way of the life that they want. Some see it as pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and others see it as a spiritual journey. Regardless of why someone walks, the Firewalk Transformation is UNFORGETTABLE.
After previously discussing a foundation for communication in relationships, it’s time to go deeper into understanding physically intimate relationships. I love the work of David Deida and how he describes the role of masculine and feminine energies in relationships.
Listening is the most important component in communication. “Seek first to understand before being understood.” After 15 years of experience as an educator, psychotherapist, and everyday human being, I can share with you that this is easier said than done. Listening is an art and requires us to get out of our own way and our need to be right. That being said, there are tools we can learn that significantly increase our listening presence. Last month I laid out the seven feedback suggestions for creating an unwavering foundation for authentic communication. This month I am going to go into more detail about how to mirror and listen more effectively.
Authentic respectful communication is the cornerstone in all relationships. This includes family, friends, partners, lovers, people at work, etc. The more open and vulnerable we are in relationships, the deeper the connection, and the safer it is for the other to open up and share on a real and authentic level.
Maddie was my childhood chum, best friends forever. From children to adults, we shared our funniest moments, our darkest secrets, the angst of aging mothers, and stories about men. Enter Jack.
The Barbara Brennan School of Healing, Class of 1999, spoke these words - out loud and to each other - during our final, sacred ceremony. It was the evening before graduation, and we came together in joy and remembrance and deep gratitude for the journey we had completed and the one we were just beginning. These lovely words penetrated and awakened my very soul that day, and whenever I read or recall them I feel their incredible sweetness. To me they speak of longing.
“This little light of mine,
"What is the Meaning of Life?"
I remember a day in high school. when my teacher asked the proverbial question.
The teacher was hoping to stimulate thought and debate. After 45 minutes of discussions and disagreements we were no closer to the truth.
In April we celebrated Earth Day, an occasion that generates renewed focus on the great need to be mindful and loving stewards of this planet that sustains all life. Much of the focus translates into myriad initiatives to clean up our polluted environment, and those initiatives are noble, worthy and essential. There are countless programs and activities that need our attention and support, and we are called to step up and provide them.
Shamanism, where does it come from? What does it mean, and is it effective? All questions roused by the appearance this ancient form of healing is making in western culture. Archaeological evidence estimates shamanism to be about 30,000 years old or more.
For most of us, judging ourselves and others is so ingrained in our constitution that we are not even aware that we do it. It’s just a way of life.
We gossip about other people. We assign value to individuals before we even speak to them, determining if they are worthy of our time. We make assumptions about people by virtue of their skin color or the work that they do. We complain about our coworkers, colleagues, relatives, lovers and even friends! We are critical of the way people do things, what they think, how they talk, who they hang out with and what decisions they make in their lives.
The curious and interesting stages of growth experienced in the evolution of a loving committed relationship
(Illusionment, Disillusionment, Loving Reality) is well documented in the plethora of ‘happy ever after’ fairy tales and romantic comedies. Certainly a wonderful experience, and one which helps create the glue and the initial bonding that encourage a couple stay together as they navigate the more difficult and stormy aspects of relationship. The second stage, ‘Honeymoon is Over’ involves the recognition that my beloved does not quite live up to the fantasy projection that he/she should meet my
Isn’t it time that we move beyond religion and rules and belief into honest spirituality which is based on personal experience? Religion offers community which feels comforting and guidelines for behavior which build character. But true spirituality requires an adult’s presence to her own experience. Thinking about what an authority tells us is at best a jumping off point for us to assume our own authority.
When I walked into church on Sunday, the small congregation was singing, “Peace will fill the world when we finally understand that only from within can it spread throughout the land.” Peace isn’t an external matter that can be legislated and enforced. Peace is a way of being-–in harmony with ourselves, with others, and with the physical planet.
Unconditional love. Consistent and abundant support. Undying loyalty. Unwavering patience. These are all things that we as humans seek out on some level whether consciously or subconsciously. These are things that “feed” us and keep us strong and moving in a forward progression with our lives. When one of these is missing, we find that we become “lost,” feel very alone, depressed, and even stagnant- each to varying degrees. The good news is these are not a reality; we as human beings were meant to believe. The bad news is that we get so caught up with the everyday challenges we face that we forget that we are truly very abundant in all of the areas above.
Once upon a time people worried about dying from a heart attack. That was replaced by the “Big C” when cancer became the fear du jour. Since then, medicine and nutrition science have done much to help us prevent, fight and live through these afflictions. But we now have a new scare taking center stage that as of yet has no known cure: Alzheimer's Disease. If you ask people how they would least like to leave this world, the A-word is today's front runner. It is the most dreaded of all forms of dementia.
A Vision Quest for Optimum Health!
What is the SECRET to OBTAINING YOUR DESIRES, you ask? If you are asking any self-help or "road to success" writer, motivational speaker or empowerment guru, the answer will always include one vital process. Read ancient philosophical texts or religious writings, and the wisdom of getting what you desire would include that same ingredient: Build a clear VISION of the desired outcome or object. The use of visioning has, and has long been, a powerful tool for attracting information and the objects or state of mind and body you desire.
"Being comfortable stinks" she said, but "changing is hard." I smiled, nodded, and said, "Yes it can be but who we become as we traverse the gap is what really matters ". She gave me that funny "I think I know what you mean but I am not sure I understand" look. So I began to explain to her and slowly she began to understand. To understand that life is all about closing gaps. It sounds so simple. I must admit it does, but it is in the application where all the opportunity lies.
"Fortune favors the brave" and love is not for the faint of heart. Love is the timeless theme adorned in movies, song, and dance. Loving, losing love, and finding love shadows our lives. Most of us, if we are honest, desire love on the deepest level. We want to have someone with whom we can feel completely open, honest, and vulnerable. Yet through direct or indirect experience, we find a gap between our desire and our willingness to fulfill our desire. We share stories of how love has wronged us, how our heart was broken, or how we gave all and received less in return. So, in reaction to these experiences or perhaps in protection, we wrap ourselves with the belief that we don't need love, or that we can't find someone. Sometimes we just settle for something less than what we want and deserve to avoid potentially having nothing or no-one.
So much of personal growth is constructed around themes such as perseverance, determination, and self-belief. As important as these themes are there is also another important side, the side of letting go and moving on. Perhaps it is a career path, a relationship, a dream, or a goal you hold in esteem. It is a fine line between giving up and moving on. That line becomes even harder to see when we are emotionally tied to the situation. Learning to recognize when it is time to let go could be one of the most important and valuable lessons you learn.
Years ago I was in love with a very intelligent, very accomplished and very logical engineer who had everything figured out that needed to be figured out, as most engineers do. (He was also very attractive, I might add, but that’s a story for another time.) We often engaged in conversations about the meaning of life and some of its messier emotions, and I remember asking him, “Do you love yourself?” He paused to give my question thoughtful consideration, but not for long. In short order he answered definitively that he did not and, further, that he didn’t want to love himself. He viewed not loving himself as a necessary motivation for continual self improvement. Loving himself, he believed, was akin to rationalizing and embracing all of his worst qualities, and that would not be acceptable. No, he preferred to withhold self love as a means of whipping himself into shape. It was far better, he reasoned, to never be satisfied; that way he would never become lazy.
So I’m going about my life, happily expanding my business and spending quality time with friends and learning how to eat more healthfully and reading really good books, when all of a sudden I’m surrounded by people – friends, clients and, yes, even myself – who are dealing with “relationship issues.” It’s as if, all at once, the gods and goddesses of relationship have decided it’s time for us to heal those old wounds, already, and get on with the business of creating or deepening the relationships we really want.
My client sat before me, tense and expectant, having robotically reported the results of the journaling assignment I’d given her at the end of our previous coaching session. “So what next?” she demanded of me. “What else can I do?”
Ah, the seduction of doing…the lure of constant productivity. We have come to believe that our power to achieve results lies in nonstop action and a relentless drive to make forward progress. We plan and plot and push, exhorting ourselves to make things happen. We take action, any action, just to convince ourselves we’re getting somewhere. We don’t recognize that we’re robbing ourselves of power’s true power by defining it only as the “action” part of the creative cycle and leaving “stillness” to fend for itself - flaccid, limp and powerless.
The initial stage is falling in love and idealized romance in which we project onto our beloved our own images of hoped for perfection; in order to feel whole and complete with our significant other. As this begins to wear thin and we recognize the other as human, neither the Goddess nor Prince Charming, we will often attempt to ‘seduce’ the other into living the fantasy. When they (and I) continue to fall short, remaining a flawed human, the anger stage of relationship will often arise
One of the truly great blessings of adulthood is that Valentine’s Day is no longer a thinly veiled popularity contest, a day when everyone drops cheap cards and candy hearts for their intended into a big box, and then waits with bated breath to see how many of those hopeful offerings have their name on them. I can remember glancing furtively around me every Valentine’s Day during my elementary school years as the cards were handed out, hoping upon hope that I didn’t have the smallest pile.
We are all aware that the “Happy Ever After” endings to romantic comedies and fairy talestend to be filtered through rose colored glasses and are less than realistic approaches to long term loving, commitment and intimate relationship.
Neither, of course, are the tragedies of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘Tristan and Iseult’ what we hope for! The question remains; How do we navigate the ups and downs of the couple’s journey over the years? What are our expectations? Are they realistic, or skewed by either fairy tale or mud splattered lens?
We hate what we fear. It’s more comfortable to feel hate than fear because somehow it seems less vulnerable and being vulnerable is to be avoided at all costs, we’ve learned.
We don’t always say we hate, though. We’d rather say, “That’s illogical” (and, thus, not to be considered seriously) or “That’s immature” (and, so, unworthy of attention) or “That’s what they asked for” (and I can’t do anything about their poor choices). We separate ourselves from “them,” having already separated ourselves from what we fear inside ourselves–vulnerability, pain, sorrow, hopelessness.
“This is the first time I’ve decided to leave a job without having something else lined up,” my friend Tonya* confessed to our small women’s support group. We applauded her daring, self-affirming choice and offered words of encouragement to bolster her confidence in stepping into the unknown. She knew she was doing the right thing, but wasn’t at all comfortable with the prospect of not knowing what was next.
As I reflected on it later it occurred to me that, in our culture, we have trained ourselves to tolerate the wrong kind of discomfort. We have become like martyrs, enduring the endless drudgery of tedious jobs or the relentless demands of 70-hour-per-week careers. We convince ourselves that our choices are somehow noble – or we convince ourselves that we have no other choice – and busy ourselves with developing “coping mechanisms” to mitigate the negative effects of the psychic pain that, by now, has become chronic. We don’t acknowledge that this kind of pain is our soul’s way of letting us know we’re off course, because we don’t know what other course to take.
And that, paradoxically, is the point. In order to get back on course, we must be willing to not know how - to be lost, at least for a little while. And we’re not terribly good at feeling lost. We’d rather rush to figure things out so that fear doesn’t have a chance to step into the gap between the world we know today and the world we will come to know. But the world we’re longing for is created in the gap; if we think and act only from our known world, we’ll keep getting more of the same. We need to remind ourselves that beyond our daily routines and habits of thought lies an endless source of ideas and inspiration to lead us step by step into our brilliant future, if we will but take that first tender step into the unknown. That is the kind of pain – the squirmy discomfort of not knowing – that we must learn to sit with. And as we do, it begins to soften little by little. The willingness to not know invites a new knowing, the kind that can transform our lives.
I’ve come to understand that the pain we associate with not knowing is caused by the belief that we’re supposed to know; we’ve been taught how to plan our lives from here to retirement, so doing something as radical as leaving a job without having a tidy five-year forecast to make sense of it all seems to offer proof of our stupidity. But what if we could drop the belief that we should know what we’re going to be doing for the next five years? We might find that setting it aside ushers in a sense of freedom and possibility we’ve not experienced before. Will we have to deal with fear? Yes, we will. Is that something worth learning to do? Absolutely.
Tonya knows this, in her heart of hearts. She knows that the pain of staying in a job that suffocates her is far worse than the heart-fluttering bouts of panic that chastise her for making the choice to leave. She knows she can negotiate a new relationship with panic, but her soul’s desires are not negotiable. They are just waiting for her to peel away the filter of the known so she can see them with new eyes.
And so it can be for each of us. As we give ourselves a little distance from our known world – as we step into the gap of the unknown and let the initial waves of discomfort wash over us – we gain a new perspective. And from this place our soul’s desires can be seen for what they are: the beacon that is forever lighting our way back to our true selves. It turns out that being in the unknown doesn’t mean we are lost - it means we are willing to be found.
* Not her real name
It was 15 years ago and my life was different. Growing up I didn’t plan on being a drug addict. I came from a good family, parents who loved each other and their kids.
We all have one, at least one, but usually there are a few.” A moment that stands out from the rest”. It becomes the starting point of what is to come or the levee that keeps us from reaching the other side. It is a moment in which everything changes or in which time stands still. Our lives our marked with moments that define who we are and where we are going. Although this sounds very grandiose, it is never the less true - our destiny is forged in these defining moments.
It sounds simple doesn’t it? Just do it! Nike’s famed line, a battle cry for transformation. Yet if you have ever been stuck in neutral, saying, “just do it” is about effective as going to the casino to win enough money to make your monthly mortgage payment. There is truth and power in the phrase but not a solution. All to often we buy a book, get an inspiring email, or watch a movie about a secret and think; “now my life will change”. The truth of the matter is nothing ever will change until you change it. Today we will learn not only why we fail to change it but also how to effectively change. I must warn you. To do so takes courage, honesty, and faith. Are you ready?
"There is no try, there is do and do not do". I remember as a boy watching this strange but wise little green creature. I was struck even back then by how profound and insightful this statement was. Yoda was not only a great Jedi Knight but a heck of a coach. The "There is no try" quote is quite legendary. Yoda was correct; no matter how you slice it there is no try.
I opened the box of goodies I had ordered from Tama Kieves, ten each of the two CDs produced by Awakening Artistry that I have listened to again and again on my journey of living an awake and inspired life. They buoy my spirits and reconnect me with a sense of limitless possibility, and so I now happily recommended and sell them to others in my coaching and teaching work. We can never feel too supported or too inspired!
Muriel’s voice chirped briskly into the phone, confident and convincing and – maybe just a wee bit tight? “I had a rough month, but I’m okay now. I felt so frustrated that everything wasn’t working out but I forced myself up to my office loft every day to continue making progress on my brochure. It’s at the printer now and I’ll have copies ready by Thursday that I can start mailing out.”
Muriel is a coaching client of mine who lives on the west coast, and she had unwittingly raised a few red flags that waved frantically to me across the miles. Words like “frustrated” and “forced,” and her absolute refusal to tolerate frustration. She was demanding of herself that she be “okay.” Muriel had drifted from the brave new world of Creating Work She Loves into the seductive land of Making It All Make Sense.
There seems to be a lot of things to worry about these days. We’ve got an apparently looming recession, a continued crisis in the housing and home mortgage markets, global warming, the war in Iraq, lots of anti-American sentiment all across the globe, athletes using illegal drugs to gain competitive advantage, numerous unsolvable and chronic illnesses plaguing our population, a national obesity epidemic, mercury in our fish, high-fructose corn syrup in everything else, electromagnetic frequency overload doing God knows what to our brains and nervous systems…and, for the cosmetically-minded among us, we face harrowing conditions of sagging skin and crevice-like crow’s feet and yellow teeth and unwanted hair. Not to mention the stubborn cellulite that has taken up permanent residence on our thighs.
This column is dedicated to all seekers of meaningful, inspiring work
You’ve recognized, sagely if a bit belatedly, that the job you’re in fits you about as well as your favorite jeans from college (in other words – not at all). You’ve carved a little time and space into your busy schedule to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. You’ve read inspiring books about creating work you love and have devoured every article you can find on people who are living passionate, exuberant lives of meaning and purpose. You are inspired and hopeful. You are ready.
Darkness falls early now. With each passing day I find myself surprised anew at how quickly the sunlight fades this time of year. I never seem to get used to it, even after decades of repeated exposure to the changing seasons! I long for light even as my body instinctively welcomes the darkness, wanting nothing more than to slow down and rest. It seems, at first glance, to be an uncomfortable opposition of forces, this longing for light and darkness at the same time.
So much of spiritual attunement is being available. Attunement implies a sensitive attention and readiness. A spiritually attuned life is not one that is planned in advance. It is not one that knows the answers or even the questions. Attunement is a process, a way of being. If the “doing” aspect becomes too important, the attunement is lost. Whether it is doing good works or doing evil deeds or just doing the list of chores the job demands, it is the attitude and the attunement that count.
Working in a men’s prison, I reflect on the experience of being incarcerated. The men can’t walk too far in one direction, can’t stand in groups on the yard, can’t watch cable television or research the internet or choose their meals. What they can’t do outnumbers what they can do by about 1000 to 1.
So many of them say they are angry about being in prison but they admit they were angry before they entered prison. They say it frustrates them that they can’t work for pay but admit they didn’t show up for work when they lived “on the streets.” They say that when they are released they will be happy but confess they never have been happy.
With the first quarter of 2009 nearly at completion, we find ourselves faced with the recognition that our lives are changing. Each of us has experienced some degree of personal chaos perhaps in the form of career or relationship issues. Or does of sense of peace get unsettled by the media reminders that our financial structures are changing, our Earth’s eco-systems are injured and our global safety is seeking stability.
As humanity sails into the power-enriched storm of shift are we ready to brace the mighty wind of awakening that is calling to every soul on the planet? This single question brings forward the familiar call from our heart that compels us to keep moving forward regardless of the many outward expressions that seek to keep us stuck. That is, do we allow fear to provoke us into reactive decisions or do we use the winds of change to lift us to new perspectives?
The Art of Positive Thinking
There was a time in my life when the notion that our beliefs, thoughts and language create our reality seemed utterly preposterous, and I dismissed it out of hand. I was, after all, a rational thinker (or so I thought!), a scientifically-minded person who believed in a fixed reality “out there” that I could navigate and possibly manipulate to meet my goals through the sheer force of willpower, planned action and hard work.
I remember as a teen hearing this quote, "youth is wasted on the young". It sounded good at the time but to be honest, I didn't fully appreciate its message back then. It is easy to live for the moment without understanding the power of what we have in our hands. Whether or not we realize it when we are young, youth has the advantage of opportunity without the awareness of experience. When we are young, there are endless possibilities and while we may see the possibilities we don’t always know how to realize them. Quite the oxymoron. Having the ability "to" without the understanding of "how". The punch line or final irony is that by the time we figure it all out we are so ingrained in our ways that it becomes very difficult to change. Ergo the purpose of this article. To help you, the youth, to understand the "how" when you can still say as the Rolling Stones sung, “time is on my side".
Since 1999, I have worked with all types of individuals. From the business owner looking for the edge, to the couple trying to save their marriage, to the person who feels overwhelmed with her emotions and life. Although my clients come to me for many different reasons, there are common themes in each of their and each of our challenges
They are within all of us. Two core fears. No matter how different we are or how different we think we are these fears are the same. They drive the actions we take and the actions we won't take. They can either shape us or imprison us. They define our existence and its quality. The two core fears that affect us all are: we are not enough and if we are not enough then we won't get what we really need, love.
So I’m right in the middle of living an awake and inspired life when suddenly – or maybe not so suddenly, maybe it was ever-so-gradually and I was just too busy to notice - I’m not feeling awake or inspired. I’m feeling… dull and uninspired, to be very frank. And tired, and whiny, and cranky. And just a teensy bit hopeless. Despairing, even. Quite a long way from awake and inspired, now that I think about it. I was having a bona fide dark night of the soul, except it had dragged on for more than a few nights. I was too exhausted to do much more than sit back and watch the show.
“What about Michael?” the quiet voice inside my head kept asking, even though I ignored it repeatedly. It just seemed so unlikely that asking Michael could possibly lead to what I wanted. But there it was, that gentle yet insistent idea to send Michael an email. And so I did, and now I’ve got a great story to share with you – a story about the delightfully grace-filled world of trusting in what we long for and allowing our inner guidance to lead us there.
Fear… Abject despair…Anger, tilting toward rage… Then fear again – terror, really. Numbness, then another stream of anger and indignant righteousness. A virtual kaleidoscope of negative emotions triggered not because I am being held hostage at gunpoint, or because I’ve just been told I have a life-threatening illness. No, these feelings have emerged out of the seeming calm of my psyche as I sit safely in front of my computer, reading a few exceptionally well-written emails. These messages have been forwarded to me from caring and intelligent friends whom I love and hold dear.