Author Archives: Nancy

Time is a Betrayal

A couple of mornings ago I wrote down that sentence to think about; “Time is a betrayal.” At the time I wrote it I was thinking specifically of “later” as a way of deluding myself into believing that “not right now” isn’t a cop out. I find that it usually is just that.

I’m not speaking here of time in terms of “I have an appointment at 10:00 a.m. and I need to plan to make it on time.” I’m thinking more about the things that I long for that seem to fall out of priority in the ongoing-ness of daily life. For me, those things are writing, spiritual study, music, stillness or quiet time, walking… What are the things that inspire you, that make your heart sing? Do they somehow fall into the vortex of “too busy?”

Is there really a shortage of time, or is this very prevalent notion just a cover for something else? I bet we all have had the experience of finally getting to the gym, or whatever that thing is that we haven’t been able to make time for, and being surprised to find that everything else somehow gets done, and perhaps even more easily and efficiently. Or have you ever given yourself over to a creative project that has been languishing at the bottom of the to do list and found that time suddenly disappears all together?

What if time really is just a construct of our mind, a setup that we act out in daily life as if it is an unalterable reality? There are so many references to time in the nomenclature; late, too late, early, always, forever, sometime, never and on and on. It is kind of amazing to think how completely how we see or use the concept of time influences practically every thought and certainly most actions – the very warp and weave of our lives. It bears looking into, no?’

In my study and practice of A Course in Miracles I have come to understand that I have a split mind. One side of my mind is adamantly attached to my identity as Nancy Slocum, a separate and distinct individual trying to do her best in a difficult world. The other side of my split mind holds the memory of Oneness, my home in the un-separated state of Love, or God. Whatever our chosen path or the name we have given to this memory, once it has awakened within us it recollects the experience of eternity, or timelessness, and it feels like the truth.

I have learned that, with a great deal of practice, I can sometimes view myself bustling about in the world, while I watch from that place of timelessness. I shake my head and wonder about the disparity between what I perceive and act out in my life, vs. what I know from a direct experience of something greater than myself.

I have seen that Nancy Slocum likes to feel important and seeming overly busy shores up that perception. It also becomes clear that certain things that scare me, or that I don’t want to take responsibility for, are quickly relegated to “later.” In fact, most things that seem to be hard to do, or to face, easily fall victim to “not enough time.”

Moreover, I see how resistant I am to actually giving myself what I say I want. Clearly, I am threatened by the things that are for me, that actually bring me home to that memory of all encompassing love, outside of time and space.  It would appear that I’m determined to maintain my version of my separated self at almost any cost, peace and freedom be damned! And that’s why those things are squeezed out by time. That’s where it becomes a betrayal of my Self.

Even “now” is a concept of time but paradoxically, it seems the only one that can jump the confines of it. Right here, right now is the only place that I can have the experience of timelessness, the direct knowing of limitlessness, of oneness with eternal love.

I hereby take a stand for me and for you, if you so desire, to claim one hour a day from the saboteur of time. One hour to be present only in this moment. One hour to relish tasting what has seemed to be forbidden fruit, plucked away by time. One hour of freedom and adventure into Self. And we’ll see what happens. I expect to be amazed.

 

 

 

 

The Doorway to Peace

Ego mistakenly flies in through an open window,

and frantically crashes into walls and glass.

Peace sits calmly on a rafter, fluffed and cooing,

curiously observing this new place.

Her peace knows no conditions.

When the barn door opens Peace takes flight,

while Ego lies on the floor, dazed and exhausted.

The key to the doorway of Peace is acceptance of what is, right here, right now.  It is a portal through which we return to our true Self, a part of something much greater than our circumstances or conditions.  Peace, like Love, is just “there;” the field of Rumi’s poem, the ocean of which we are a drop.  We do not find peace, or create it.  We simply become present to it, there the whole time, a poem, a birdsong, a breath.

 

 

My Dream Of Me

I am in an unfamiliar place, floating in time and space, giving myself day after day of being home alone. I thought of mom earlier and remembered how much she liked being on her own, and how jealously she guarded her independence and her space. It used to hurt my feelings when I visited.  Now I’m noticing how I’m gradually becoming more and more like her, wearing my old, worn, comfy clothes and wanting to be alone without any intrusions.

Many years ago I spent a fascinating and valuable weekend in the Landmark Forum.  One thing I learned is that most people tend to fall into one of four universal “rackets” (a persistent complaint plus a fixed way of being). Our racket becomes the lens through which we interpret and experience our world.   The four rackets are (1) Being right/making someone or something wrong, (2) Dominating/avoiding domination, (3) Justifying myself/invalidating others, and (4) Winning/avoiding losing.

Dominating/avoiding domination is the one that had played out in my life.  For as long as I can remember, I have gone to great and often painful lengths to not be controlled by anyone or anything.  I have invited people into my life and then resisted their being there.  I have defended against imagined demands or manipulations. I even resisted things I wanted to do if they had morphed into “shoulds” and I felt dominated by them.   

I was chagrined to realize that the other side of the coin (my side) of resisting domination is being dominating. Not a pretty picture. My stories of me have certainly always ended with me being the conqueror. That “other,” the oppressor/perpetrator, was necessary for me to be the heroine of my avoiding domination drama.  I have required a victimizer from whom to defend my kingdom.  I even defeat myself if I am requiring anything of myself.  The dominator and myself are one.

Thankfully, A Course in Miracles has taught me that I am not my story.  This “racket” that I lived for a long time is an archetype born of my illusion that I ever could have separated from Oneness, or God, or Love, or whatever name one gives to what cannot be named.  If I exist as a separated self, then it is at the expense of Oneness (which can only be One), so I must have killed it off.  For that imagined “sin”, there must be a vengeful God, a power struggle, a slayer and a slain for me to exist. What a relief to know that it is all made up!  I have been at home in God the whole time.  

A Course in Miracles has taught me that I have the power to choose between two completely different thought systems, one that is the illusory dream that I am separated from Love (the ego thought system), and one that is the Reality that I never could have separated from Oneness (the Holy Spirit’s thought system).  The ego thought system will have me anytime I’m not being vigilant and allow myself to drift aimlessly into the illusory world.  I can throw myself into the briar patch at will!  But why?  There’s no amount of suffering or penance that I need to go through to be forgiven, to be worthy of love.  Nothing happened!

There’s nothing wrong with liking my solitude, wanting stillness and quiet.  But this story of my kingdom of me feels crimped and miserly, a fairy tale about an crabby, old witch in her run down cottage in the woods. This all-about-me-ness became a prison of my own making.  It is only when I’ve forgotten that I have a choice that I think I need to be walled-up in my citadel of defensiveness, protecting my illusory separated self.  But, no matter, I can simply choose again.

This abundance of solitude, time, and stillness provides me the opportunity to learn to watch my mind, to notice if I’m awake and choosing, or dreaming and believing my dream is real. The only reality is this holy moment, moment by moment, of experiencing the love that I never left, love that extends, and is creative, limitless and eternal.  This peace, the peace of God, is always available, never changing. A moment in my right mind.  All I need do is gently watch without judgment, and ask Holy Spirit for help when I’ve temporarily nodded-off into another dream of me. 

Transforming Defensiveness Into Love

I was working with a couple yesterday who I will call Ted and Lea for the purposes of this article.  Ted genuinely wanted to find a way to face angry criticism from Lea without reacting to what feels to him like a personal attack.  He wants to be there for her, to respect and care about her feelings, even when they are ostensibly about him. A tall order to be sure and one that requires more than a mere behavioral change to pull off successfully.

In a recent class at the Foundation for a Course in Miracles (facim.org) my teacher, Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, said that “You cannot judge someone when you understand them.”  Ted would be wise to beware of interpreting Lea’s motives, for he is seeing through his own filters that are most likely seeking to justify the reaction that he is already experiencing.  However, if Ted simply notices his reaction to Lea’s criticism as his reaction, rather than imagining that he knows what is really going on with her, he has a better chance of staying open and feeling compassion for her. 

A Course in Miracles says that “Every loving thought is true.  Everything else is an appeal for healing and help regardless of the form it takes.”
(T-12.I.3:4&5).  This means that every thought that does not come from a loving place is a call for help, which includes Ted’s defensiveness as well as Lea’s complaint.  If you look deeply into every thought that is not from love, you will find that it comes from some form of fear. The thought that gave rise to Lea’s attack or Ted’s defensiveness in the first place is actually a thought of fear masquerading as anger, blame or whatever.

If loving thoughts are the only true thoughts, it follows that every other thought is false. A Course in Miracles goes on to say that “…if you see attack as the call for help that it is, the unreality of fear must dawn on you.  For fear is a call for love, in unconscious recognition of what has been denied.”    (T.I.8:12 & 13). Love has been denied.         

When Ted reacts to Lea’s upset with defensiveness, he is reinforcing both of their fears that seem to have temporarily obscured love.  They have forgotten who they really are, beings of love, and have become caught up in the painful attack/defense cycle. They are digging ever more deeply into their fears in a vain attempt to find love there.

If Ted can learn to simply notice, without judgment of any kind, that his own fear has gotten triggered, he can then manage his reactions instead of being swept away by them.  This pause in the action creates the possibility of making a different choice.  It would be a good time to ask a power greater than his own self to “Please help me see this differently.”

Just in the asking, Ted has made a decision for love instead of for fear and he will be able to respond to Lea with kindness. That kindness could look like just listening, offering understanding, asking how to help — whatever would be responding to her call for love rather than to her upset.

There’s an old saying that only one person gets to go crazy at a time and whoever gets there first has dibs! When either Lea or Ted chooses love instead of fear, they both have the opportunity to see the unreality of their fears as they dissolve in the face of love. A potential descent into the attack/defense cycle has not only been averted, but translated to love, the only thing that was ever true. 

And better yet, Ted and Lea’s relationship has now become an opportunity to practice transforming fear into love.  This practice will eventually generalize to disarming fears in all areas of their lives. “The veil that you have drawn across the face of love has disappeared.” (A Course in Miracles, T.I.9:11).

Who wouldn’t want that?!

Eternal Art

I turned the pages of DWELL Magazine to a photograph of a chair.  It was the simplest of chairs and I wondered why it took my breath away.  I thought of Joe Zawinul’s song, Country Preacher (performed by Cannonball Adderley – check it out on utube!).  It occurs to me that in both cases, I am moved by what is NOT there. The ultra modern chair seemingly impossibly suspended in the empty space that is not the chair; the space between the notes in Zawinul’s music, the silent beats that transcend the melody.  Perhaps what is truly inspiring is to encounter something beautiful that takes one beyond the form to the content, to that which contains it, and us, and is inherently limitless, all-encompassing and eternal.

Do By Not Doing

When I first started my Coaching practice 15+ years ago, I joked with friends about naming my business Wu Wei Coaching. Wu Wei is a Taoist term that means “do by not doing.”  Of course that was a too obscure and potentially misleading a name for any business, let alone one that helps people get into action to get what they want!   However, after all these years of working with others (and myself!), I have come to an even deeper appreciation of the profound wisdom of Wu Wei, as I consciously practice it in my own life.

Don’t get me wrong, Coaching is about designing and taking steps to produce the results that you want, and I am a powerful proponent of  being in action, both for the information and wisdom it produces, as well as for the momentum and progress. The concept of Wu Wei does not mean that we abandon goals and structure and focus. What it shines the light upon is not the action itself, but the place within us from which it originates, our frame of mind or perspective that precedes direction and movement.

Being Here Now

The concept “do by not doing” calls upon us to participate fully in creating what is not yet wholly known, what does not yet exist.  It is not about making something happen, deciding what should happen, and exactly how it will happen. It is not about driving oneself toward a pre-determined end, or worse, mercilessly beating ourselves up for not being able to wrestle our goal to the ground.  Rather, it is about identifying our vision and goals, and then bringing our full presence into the moment at hand, and releasing the results to “this or something better.”  Only right here, right now can we focus in on what’s the next right thing, or actually take the next step. Wu Wei means being here now, moving with grace and ease from this to this, moment by moment, trusting that a power greater than ourselves will handle the outcome and quite likely deliver up far more than we ever imagined!

It is powerful and reality-based  to move from a place of not knowing exactly how the work of art that is our lives will unfold or exactly how it will look. It is standing still, inside of our own skin, our own being, and listening for that inspiration and guidance that can only be heard, by our Self, in this moment.  Ralph Waldo Emerson says it so beautifully,

There is a guidance for each of us and by lowly listening,

                        we shall hear the right word.  Certainly there is a right for

                        you that needs no choice on your part. 

                        Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and

                        wisdom which flows into your life.

                        Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to

                        perfect contentment.

Part of Something Greater

Standing poised before the canvas of our own lives, having the courage to take the next step, paint the next stroke, speak the next word, open the next door into the unknown, opens us to our partnership with the Divine. Giving our trust and our whole heart to what is calling to us in this moment is the act of creation.  The moment we find ourselves managing outcomes (the future), or driven by anxiety, worry and fear, we have lapsed back into re-creating the past, what is already known, including more anxiety, worry and fear!  When our thoughts (memory and imagination) take us out of the present, we have lost touch with both the peace and the exhilaration of knowing (experiencing) our Self as a part of something greater. It is in the present moment alone that we experience and claim our inspiration and consciously participate in an act of creation far more vast than the intentions and plans of one woman, one man.

As described in The Empty Vessel: A Journal of Daoist Philosophy and Practice (Winter 2008), Taoism is an ancient Chinese philosophy, a way dedicated to deep reflection and learning from Nature.  “It is a belief in life, a belief in the glorious procession of each unfolding moment.”  Wu Wei, or “do by not doing,” means trusting the process of life.  That is, identifying our heart’s desires, having our roadmap, and then turning the destination over to whatevr arises in each holy moment.  “What do I want or need right now?”  “What is here to do right now?” “What does my energy want to move toward right now?”  It is a movement as natural as a flower unfolding itself to the sun. No hurry, no fear, for the Divine energy of creation encompasses and surpasses our wildest dreams.  We encounter Emerson’s place of “truth and perfect contentment” when we are being life rather than doing life, when we are present to our Self, to creation Itself, as it is unfolding, moment by moment, right here, right now.

Do What You Love…

Forbidden Fruit

What delights and inspires you?  What coaxes out and nurtures your inner life?  What activities fire-up your enthusiasm and self-expression?  What within you is struggling to be born?  Often, what our soul’s thirst for the most, becomes the “forbidden fruit” in our lives.  This is especially true for women because we usually have the needs and well being of others entrusted to our care, and our own private passions are relegated to stolen moments, there to wither on the vine of life’s demands.

Many clients come to coaching to recover an almost forgotten sense of purpose and vitality in their lives.  They are often surprised to find that what seems forgotten, those personal and deep sources that thrill and inspire, flame up brightly under the slightest breath of attention.  What did you most love doing as a child?  What would you begin tomorrow if only you had time or money for it?  What is it costing you in your life to not do it?  Where does the river of energy that is your creativity flow?  What is its source?  What’s one small step you will take to honor this divine urge within you? Who will support you in doing so?

Create Your Life

Imagine that you are an artist (you are!), and you are standing before an easel upon which is a blank canvas enclosed within a beautiful frame.  Perhaps your frame is gilded and ornate, or streamlined chrome, or simple polished wood.  Your particular canvas may be for watercolor, or oil, or chalk, or another medium all together — a musical instrument, a journal or word processor, a loom, a quilt, a story, a song.  Imagine that within the structure of this frame (or blank pages, or musical score, or pattern) you can begin expressing your unique creativity.  You can create your work of art, whatever it may be.  The expression of your creativity, purely for the joy of it, will transfer naturally to the  work of art that is your life, fully realized and expressed.

The framework for the expression of your creativity is two-fold: one, committed time and attention that honors the expression of what is within you, and, two, support from others in a safe and nurturing environment. Given just about any amount of committed time and attention, those wilting buds of our soul’s longing will bloom into acts of inspired creation.  Support is key, for it is a wild ride through the land of many tentacles of competing priorities, and beliefs about what’s acceptable or important.  It is well worth the trip, though, for it is in the process itself that we tap into the link between our creativity and spirituality, our life’s purpose, and our personal empowerment to be active agents in the creation of a well-balanced, fully expressed life.   In her book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron says that “creativity flourishes in a place of safety and acceptance”, and that “we are meant to midwife dreams for one another.”

The Beauty We Love

Many rewards – self knowledge, confidence, spiritual connection, and creative play in like-minded community – await all those who will take the  concrete steps to claim and create what they love.  As the great 12th century poet, Rumi, said, “Let the beauty we love be what we do.”

Know Freedom

What does it mean to have freedom?  Is it freedom from, or freedom to, or simply a way to be?   Many clients come to coaching because they are feeling stuck or restricted in some area of their lives.  Often the loosening of the knot comes with a new perspective, with looking at the bigger picture, and stepping into that stream of energy that flows naturally from a sense of passion and purpose greater than ourselves.

We all want to be free from pain, from fears, from problems and limitations of all kinds.  I was first introduced to a 12 Step program in Oakland, California, over two decades ago. I promptly misinterpreted the first step: “We admitted we were powerless over ____________ and our lives had become unmanageable.”  I thought it meant that if I admitted that I was powerless over certain things in my life, and I worked the12 steps, that life would become manageable.

Over time, I realized that life wasn’t going stop dishing up the unpredictable challenges, tragedies and joys that come and go in everyone’s lives.  It was a spiritual awakening accessed through the 12 Step programs that began to make it possible for me to find serenity and peace in the midst of life’s inherent unmanageability. Freedom came with a lot of letting go — of old ideas, beliefs and attitudes.

What You Resist Persists

Getting free from something tends to focus a lot of energy on the problem, and you’ve probably heard the old adage, “What you resist persists.”  If you want a change, rather than looking at what seems to be in the way, it is often more helpful to edge it out. Looking at what we are really committed to in our lives, and even more important, why we are committed to it, and then taking one small step in that direction immediately moves energy away from what we no longer want.

What does it look like, feel like, to have the thing that you want to be free to create, or have, or be?  What values do you hold that are satisfied in this vision?  What purpose does it fulfill in your life?  Is it so compelling that you are, no- kidding, committed to it? W.H. Murray, from the Scottish Himalayan Expedition, wrote “…that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred…”

Most highly spiritually evolved beings seem to have a serene, peaceful countenance and many are downright jolly.  They do not appear to be beset by worries and pressures, or burdened by the every day concerns of the world.  And yet they are in the world, the same world as you and me.  What do they know or have that we ordinary mortals have not yet accessed?

This line of inquiry brings to mind one of my favorite quotes, unfortunately of unknown origin: “No matter how anxious you may be, you will not save yourself.”  In other words, no amount of worry or fretting will calm our fears or solve our problems.  Running solely on our own power will land us right back where we started, here, shouldering the weight of the world.

A Sacred Intention

Do you have an intention for your life?  Does it feel sacred to you?  Does it show up in your every day pursuits and encounters? What if having freedom means being in the flow of our sacred intention, and therefore less thrown off by the appearance of obstacles or attachments in the world? A sense of peace and freedom that cannot be shaken comes from knowing why we are here, and that we are a part of something far greater than this unmanageable world.

Know Peace

In my coaching practice I frequently help my clients define the criteria that they want to apply to the myriad of moment-by-moment choices we all make in our daily lives.  What to do next, where to expend our limited resources of time, attention, energy, money?  More often than not, with some deep inquiry, one of the most improtant criteria that comes up is, “What will give me the most peace?”

Conscious Choices

Peace and freedom are often put together in the same sentence.  Once we define what we want (be it peace, or another priority that we identify) and then honor it with our action, we become free to move forward without second-guessing or “should-ing” ourselves.  We simply do what we do because it’s the next right thing in this moment.  We chose it!  Defining criteria and making conscious choices that are in alignment with our heart’s deepest desire releases both feet from the starting blocks.  This is not to say that we won’t have feelings about what we’re not choosing; only that right now, we’re choosing the one thing that most moves us toward what we value and want most.

There is peace and freedom in conscious choice making, especially in the moment-by-moment mundane minutiae of our lives.  There’s an old saying that ”What you think about most becomes your God.”  Imagine standing in the middle of your busy day, confronting your “To Do” list, an internal rant of “shoulds,” “havent’s” “nevers,” and “others manage to,” etc., etc., crowding your mind.  This is the hamster wheel, the speeding train, the overwhelm that most of us experience in trying to keep up with modern life.

Now, imagine standing in that same place having defined your criteria for choosing the next right thing, e.g., “What choice will give me the most peace right now?” Take a couple of deep breaths, sink within yourself, and be prepared to be surprised by what might rise to the top of your list, often something that wasn’t even on it!  Also surprising is how what seemed so crucial can suddenly fall off the bottom of the list and not even be missed.  Can you imagine some examples of this in your life?  I sometimes look at my day and see no time whatsoever for going for a walk. I stop and apply my criteria, I slow down, go anyway, and, magically, everything else that was truly necessary gets accomplished.

The Vast Spaciousness of Now

By now, reading this, you might be experiencing some “yeah, buts,” or “someone else’s life might allow for this luxury, but not mine!”  There is a great gift that dawns like the morning sun when we begin to make these conscious choices based upon what’s really important to us.  We begin to loosen our grip on the reins of life, to find out that it is actually safe to let go of some control.  We let go a little, for a moment, in the moment, and settle into right here, right now.  In the vast spaciousness of NOW, we come into conscious contact with our true self as part of a power much greater than our individual existence.

Once connected with this ever-present power we can trust that the big picture is being handled by a divine intelligence and power that far exceeds our own.  We can release regrets about the past and fears about the future.  We can stop beating ourselves up or scaring ourselves with our imagination. We can accept what is, as it is, and let go of the suffering created by being in an argument with reality.  As the great spiritual teacher, Byron Katie, says, “Who am I to know better than God?”

In this moment, now, all of life actually happens.  The rest is in our head! We’re either thinking about the past or the future, or we’re experiencing life right here, right now. A question that brings us into the moment, “What would give me the most peace right now?” is access to the infinite wisdom of which we are a part, the deep well of knowing that is our true Self.  It provides the step off the hamster wheel, the way out of overwhelm.  We can simply do the next right thing, turn the outcome over to that power greater than our self, and know a calm and centered quiet in the midst of it all.

Transformation is a Round Trip

Nothing’s wrong! You are in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, perfectly poised for your next step in your journey toward your full self-expression, success, and fulfillment. The basic premise of Life Coaching is that the client is creative, resourceful and whole.  We already know and have within us all that we need to manifest our full potential.  The desire for movement, for transformation and change, does not mean that something is wrong.  It simply means that life is calling us to more, more of what we desire, more of what we have to contribute.  Coaching is about identifying a vision, creating goals and going into action.  When we accept ourselves and where we are now with compassion and gratitude, it becomes possible to tune into our own internal guide, that lift of energy within us that heralds our unique path.

The Keys To The Kingdom

In my own experience, and in my Life Coaching practice with clients, I have found that personal transformation is not an arrival at a destination where we have accomplished something so magnificent that we are forevermore freed from guilt, fear and our other human conundrums.  The good news is that we are freed from feeling stuck in the very moment that we stop judging ourselves and making ourselves or our predicament wrong.  When we come to appreciate who we are, where we are, and what we want, all at the same time. We find the keys to the kingdom, so to speak, in our own pocket!

Sometimes clients come to coaching thinking that they have to fix themselves somehow in order to create the change that they want.  One of my jobs as a coach is to help bring forth and reflect back to my clients how awesome they are, exactly as they are.  It is often a helpful exercise to keep a nightly list of self-acknowledgements, of the things that we can actually give ourselves credit for today.  We’re doing better than we think we are!  It is painful to feel stuck, frustrated, or in chaos, but it does not mean that we’re somehow defective, nor is it the sum total of our existence.  It also helps to broaden perspective to keep a nightly gratitude list of the things we appreciate in our life that can go unnoticed like, “I’m grateful for this cozy bed that I’m about to crawl into!”

A Springboard For Change

Transformation and change are not about turning over a new leaf or pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, but rather about coming home to our higher self that is perfect, whole and complete, right on time, and already is and has all that we seek. From the vantage point of acceptance of what is, past and present circumstances and conditions become a springboard for change, rather than a quagmire of doubt and fear.  Then we actually have solid ground beneath our feet from which to take the next step, and the next…effortlessly.