The Beauty in the Muck

Posted by on Mar 15, 2017 in Blog | Comments Off on The Beauty in the Muck

The phrase “both, and” has been coming up a lot in my consulting work and my personal life. It is easy to get stuck on one view of a person or a situations. But what if we could also see the beauty and possibility in what seems like a negative situation, or a challenging person? What if we could remain open to balance arising to shift a lopsided situation?

So these are some of the questions I’ve been asking in my professional and personal life: How do you both accept that somebody has treated you unfairly in the past AND leave the door open to see that they are making small changes in how they act? How can you both be sad about your health challenges AND be open to moment-to-moment joy? Can you be open to the fact that recent political decisions are indeed negative for many people AND may have surprising positive outcomes down the road?

It’s not that any of us would intentionally choose the ‘muck’ (e.g. negative circumstances), but if presented with them, we have a choice: act as if there is a “both and,” or act is if there is only an “either, or.” Recently as I’ve intentionally practiced this, I’ve found that it has given me a whole lot of breathing room to be open to surprising discoveries and unexpected change.

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Basking In Your Strengths

Posted by on Feb 18, 2017 in Blog, Strengths | Comments Off on Basking In Your Strengths

I have really enjoyed writing this blog over the past few weeks. Apparently, spending time being immersed in learning, using my creativity, and looking through an assortment of funny pictures makes me a happy person.

Who knew?

Well, apparently ME, had I taken the time to apply what I learned four years ago. I took something called the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, a test that measures which 5 of 24 universal strengths come most easily to you.

Four years ago I proceeded to take the test, admire the results, and then file it in the ‘where things go to die’ computer folder. (This isn’t actually what the folder is named, but I think I may have to change its name.)

Here’s the step I missed: Planning how to deliberately spend more time each day using these strengths. Dr. Martin Seligman, often called the father of Positive Psychology (and the originator of this test) recommends that you spend a half hour a day immersed in practicing your strengths. I recommend that you go further than that: bask in them. Wallow in them, even.

How simple that sounds. How infrequently we do this. And how powerful it can be when we do. Perhaps that is why I am loving blogging so much – because it allows me to use all five of my strengths:

  • Love of learning
  • Creativity
  • Spirituality/ sense of purpose
  • Appreciation of beauty and excellence
  • Humor

When I was feeling a bit down a few times during the past week, I thought I would see if using my strengths would help. I tried the following things: I read an article about something interesting, I meditated, and I took some pictures of nature. Sure enough, these were quick, easy, and action-oriented ways of getting out of a funk.

Want to take the test?

Go to the VIA Character Strengths Profile website to take a 120-question test to find your strengths. They offer three options for viewing them – one of them free.

So go take the test. Then let me know what your experience is like when you spend less time doing what is difficult, and more time doing what comes more easily.

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Giving Ourselves Permission

Posted by on Nov 27, 2016 in Blog, My Favorites | Comments Off on Giving Ourselves Permission

Giving Ourselves Permission

A while ago, I was at a small gathering of social change folks, and what I heard from many of them is that “I need to give myself permission to …” or “I wish I could …”

I joked that I was going to show up to our next meeting with permission slips for adults, so that they could give themselves explicit permission to do what they wanted and be who they were.

We contort ourselves in so many ways to fit into our community; our family; our church. We even hide parts of ourselves based on ideas we have in our mind about how we should be.  And so we bury our gifts; downplay our strengths; don’t make time for the one thing that makes us sing.

The worst part is that we don’t even know it. It is so instinctive and so fast that these parts of ourselves go underground instantaneously.

I’m not immune to needing permission. I thought I’d gotten to a point where I wasn’t contorting, but it turns out the roots of some of our core beliefs go deep.  I was raised in a family and community that idolized academic success; left-brained thinking; rational plans for the future. It was acceptable to get lost in your thoughts – but not to get lost in wonder about life and imagining what could be, and certainly not to follow a hunch and head off on a spiritual quest.  What I hadn’t noticed until recently was how often I try to fit the newly emerged parts of myself into old patterns.  I’ve been trying to design workshops that would be acceptable to academic left-brainers; not talking about some of the magic and miracles I’ve been lucky enough to experience; hearing part of my brain mutter “You can’t say THAT!!?!”.

So today I am giving myself permission to be my wild, crazy, disorganized, intuitive right-brained magical self.

What would you like to give yourself permission to do today?

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The Beauty of Bad Things

Posted by on Jul 15, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on The Beauty of Bad Things

Eo-scale_of_justiceI recently heard a fantastic answer to the often asked question, “Why do good things happen to bad people?”

The answer was that, “Well, bad things happen to ALL people.” That was such an astoundingly obvious, yet true, answer that it stopped me in my tracks. Implicit in the original question is the assumption that if we do good things, only good things should happen to us. Really? There is also an assumption that good things are positive forces in our lives, and bad things are negative forces. That isn’t the case for me, and I doubt that this is the case for many of us. Some of the most beautiful things in my life came about because of negative things happening. When I had a bout of depression when I was 25, and another when I was 26, I wouldn’t call that good, certainly. But resulting from that were many beautiful things: I returned to political and social activism, I started a meditation and spiritual practice, and I learned how to actively work towards being mentally healthy. I am so deeply and profoundly grateful to that unhappy period in my life for the gifts that it has bestowed upon me.

Implicit in the question is also the idea that bad things are supposed to happen to bad people. Putting aside the assumption that there are bad people, I don’t believe that this is true either. If people are hurting other people and causing pain, we should hope with all of our heart that more good things happen to them. How else will they see that there is another path? How else will they be filled with enough love to face the demons that are causing them pain? There is grace to be found in both good and in bad events, for all of us – good, bad, and somewhere in the middle.

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Tickling the Bear

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 in Blog, Metaphor, My Favorites | 1 comment

Tickling the Bear

One of the things I love about the style of coaching I’ve been trained in is that we use metaphors and other tools to get clients out of their left logical brain and into their right intuitive brain. I was being coached the other day, and was talking about being stuck. My coach asked me what that feeling felt like, and to my surprise, what popped out of my mouth was “It feels like a bear is sitting on my chest”.

Now, this seemed like a friendly bear, but it had no intention of moving and was even contemplating settling in to hibernate. So my coach and I discussed ways in which I could approach the bear so it was no longer sitting on me. Rolling the bear seemed too difficult, but something smaller – tickling it – seemed just right.

And this is how I discovered the perfect way forward: doing something playful and small to get unstuck. I don’t need to move the whole darn bear NOW. I simply need to get the bear to shift around a bit so I have more breathing room. And indeed, after the coaching session, I made a few small FUN actions towards my goal. It turns out, I didn’t need to have it figured out all at once after all.

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Taking a Big Leap: Four Unexpected Consequences

Posted by on Jul 5, 2013 in Asheville, Blog, Change | Comments Off on Taking a Big Leap: Four Unexpected Consequences

Taking a Big Leap: Four Unexpected Consequences

So.. in the next month I’m leaving my full time job, subletting my space in a shared house, and moving to Asheville for a few months. You know, just a few small changes. As it has been a while since I’ve changed so many things as once, a few things have surprised me. If you decide to also take the leap, you might find that these surprise you as well:

  • You won’t always be thrilled about what’s coming next. This might seem puzzling if you are sure that the change is a good one. If people ask you if you are excited, it is ok if your answer is along the lines of: “No, I’m stressed and burst into tears regularly. Can you give me a hug?” It will pass. It doesn’t mean you’ve made the wrong choice. It just means that big changes take time to digest, and you need to mourn the things you are letting go of before you move into creating new things. I’m very grateful that a fundamental part of my coach training was understanding the change cycle and what actions (or inactions – rest is important) are appropriate in each stage, otherwise I would have been a lot more flummoxed. Here is a brief summary of the change cycle that will help you understand what is going on a bit better:
  • Letting go of the old frees up space for the new. Once you move past the panic/crying stage of change, dreams and ideas just arrive as if they’d been waiting for you. It appears that my ideas were pacing outside my door peeking through the door cracks and jumping up and down, waiting for me to open the door. Just a few days ago, the last few pieces of a workshop I’ve wanted to do for years just fell into my head, landing with a giant “DUH!?!” sound.
  • It tells you who the people are who *get* you. And by this I don’t mean the people who love you, I mean the people who really understand who you are at your best and who you are capable of being. They will be the ones who say: “Well, of course that makes sense to me that you are upending everything in your life to move to Asheville because of an intuitive hunch, a Tarot Card reading, and because you want to be a wandering healer for a while. Wait.. WHY does that make sense to me?? But it does feel like the right choice for you. You should GO!”
  • If you take big leaps, you will inspire others. Even if you didn’t plan to motivate others, you’ll find people around you will start to make sudden out-of-the-blue announcements about crazy changes. We’re all interconnected, and as you trust yourself to make big changes, you’ll give other people permission to dust off their buried dreams as well. And this alone will make it all worthwhile.
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Wanting Vs. Allowing

Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on Wanting Vs. Allowing

Wanting Vs. Allowing

As I launch this website and blog, I was thinking that I should put it out to the universe that I wanted additional clients (and that the website should help make that happen).

If I am excited enough about something, I am really good at making it appear. So it’s a pretty good bet that if I did ask for more clients, they would begin to appear inexplicably in ways that would make for some pretty amazing stories.

But then I thought “NO – that’s not the approach I would like to take”. Instead I want to put it out to the universe that I am allowing the space for new clients, if that’s what would be most helpful to me now. It’s a small word difference, but an important one.

Wanting has a demanding energy, a needy energy. It is focused on scarcity and lack.

Allowing has an accepting energy, an energy that flows.  It leaves room for magic and for synchronicity – for the unexpected.

If I decide that my time should be filled with coaching clients, it closes off the possibility that what I really need for my business right now isn’t more coaching clients. It could be that I would be better off spending more time putting the finishing touches on this website, or strengthening potential partnerships for the consulting part of the business. Declaring that I WANT more clients feels too directive, and like there is a good chance it might not get me what is best for my business right now. So I am letting that go, and I am trusting that if I ask for what is best for me and the business right now, that is exactly what will appear.

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What Free Candy Can Tell You About the Universe

Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on What Free Candy Can Tell You About the Universe

CandyRecently I was at a tourist attraction with friends, and I happened to be feeling anxious about money. A particularly silly kind of anxious – our hotel had given me a voucher to the hotel restaurant because of mechanical troubles in the room, and I didn’t know if I would be able to use it before I left. Yes, I was feeling anxious about if I would be able to use FREE money.

Five minutes after arriving, my camera ran out of batteries, and I went to the small gift shop to buy overpriced replacements. While I was there, a Starburst candy bar caught my attention, but the $2 felt like too much, especially for an unhealthy snack. But wow did it ever look good. When I returned 10 minutes later to the gift shop with my friends, the cashier inexplicably asked if any of us could identify a quote hanging on the wall. Three of us did, and she told us “Congratulations – you get a free candy bar.” Mm, hm. Of course. Nothing weird about that at all.

Chatting to a friend a few minutes later while chewing on a Starburst, it suddenly hit me: What if it was as easy to create something big in the the world as it was to make a free candy bar appear? What if? There have been many amazing small things that have appeared in my universe, and this felt like a sign that perhaps I am ready to allow larger things to appear.

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