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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.

 

 

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.

Authentic Relationships

Where is that book, “How to Have a Perfect Relationship?”  There must be some instructions, a handbook, a formula…  I tried for years to re-create the myths of my youth, but I simply couldn’t get that “Leave It To Beaver,” myth of the 1950’s to come out right for me!

Outside The Box

What if there are no maps for successful relationship?  Or no two maps alike?  What happens when we break the mold, question tradition, toss out the shoulds? Why not let the past be history and create a brand new vision of a shared life — a life of purpose and contribution to one another and to the world. This vision of relationship may or may not look familiar.  It is unique to each of us, and as fluid and open to inspiration, growth and change as we are.  It is outside the box, possibly different from what we always imagined, and it is courageously creative!

The crafting of this kind of consciously designed, shared life calls first for self-knowledge:  What do I believe in?  What values serve as my compass?  What am I passionate about?  What must I accomplish in this lifetime in order to have few or no regrets?  What’s fun?  What scares me?  What are my strengths and weaknesses?  What brings me aliveness and joy?  What supports me in being the best I can be?  From the basis of this individual self-awareness, a life together can be designed, or re-designed, to reflect the mutual respect, support and celebration of one another’s full self-expression in the relationship, the family, and in the world.

Fertile Soil

I’m constantly in awe of how brave my clients are.  Just a glimmer of the possibility that it’s okay, even imperative, to create truly authentic relationship touches into a deep knowing, a longing, that once awakened, can and does, accomplish anything.  It really is possible, and thrilling, to step outside of the box of the known and create, or re-create a relationship that is dynamic, fun, and sustaining, and that provides the fertile soil for an ever-deepening union and fully expressed lives.

This challenging and important relationship work is beautifully affirmed by a wedding ceremony, commitment or re-commitment ceremony, that reflects a shared vision and an intentional, designed life.  Brave new relationships in this uncertain world are greatly strengthened when held in the love and support of family, friends and community.

Be Still and Know…

On New Year’s Day I gave myself the gift of a day of silence.  By this I mean a day of not speaking; which, for me, is a big departure from my usual day where I work and maintain many relationships on the telephone. I talk a lot!

It took some effort to protect this day as there were events and invitations that were hard to miss.  Once I had the inspiration, though, I was a little surprised at how deeply I longed for it; to start off the New Year in silence. I wanted the relief of it, the space and time to simply befriend myself and rest in the quiet.

There were people around me at various times throughout the day so I carried an index card that said, “I’m observing a day of silence — Happy New Year” to show those who might notice my silence.  I confess that I wrote “a grande extra hot cappuccino, please” on the back for my trip to Starbucks!  Last week I again saw the lovely young woman who waited on me that day and she shared that my day of silence had inspired her, too.

The Sactuary Within

Now I want more.  A day, a week or an hour a day, some time designated as my Sabbath; time to visit the sanctuary inside my own skin, my own heart.  Giving myself that day of silence has me look more deeply at the benefit of experiencing connectedness.  It really is possible to step out of the fray, no matter what the fray is, and connect with the place within myself where I can just listen and hear that ancient memory that knows that I am all right, that I have always been all right, and that I will always be all right.

Most religious traditions or spiritual practices include some form of listening for succor, guidance or answered prayer.  Over 25 years ago I made the decision to live my life by allowing myself to be led by a power greater than my own best thinking. This came as a result of getting my PhD from the School of Hard Knocks!  I already had a kinetic awareness of what my energy wanted to move toward, or away from, and I had come to trust my heart’s desires (vs. acting out of fear, avoidance, addictions, etc.)

I realized that the very guidance that I was seeking was right here within me and I was probably not going to get a booming voice or a burning bush!  That still small voice comes to me as a thought, an idea, followed by a movement of energy, sometimes subtle, sometimes a resounding “Yes” or “Not that!”

The Wisdom Within

Over the years of my Life Coaching practice I have learned to recognize that expansion or contraction in my client’s voices, what their heart really wants to say yes or no to, and to help them learn to hear their own wisdom.  One exercise that helps tune into this energy is to think of something that you really, unequivocally love.  Close your eyes and slowly say “I love _________,” (that thing) at least ten times, really feeling your love for this person or thing.  Then stop, keep your eyes closed and spend a moment feeling the truth of this statement in your body.  Now, with your eyes still closed, slowly say the exact opposite at least ten times, i.e., “I hate ____________,” (that same thing you really love).  Now stop, and with your eyes still closed, experience the feeling in your body when you are telling yourself a lie.   That’s it!

I have come to identify that expansion, that movement of energy toward something; that feeling of juiciness, relief or excitement; my true heart’s desire, as Divine Guidance.  In my own 62 years, and in the lives of hundreds of clients I have coached over the past fifteen years, I see over and over that steps taken with this awareness inevitably become a path that is in itself fulfilling as it moves toward visions and goals.  This is how the journey or the process comes home to a sense of deep satisfaction in the moment, the now.  Every step or misstep, problem or solution, becomes another opportunity to remember to return to the inspiration within us, our visceral connection with something greater than ourselves.  Whatever name we call It, it is a connection that we can trust; an ever present sense of purpose.

The Confidence Within

I just started to write these are hard, scary times, and I experienced a big “No!”  I don’t want to say that; there is more than enough of that news in every quarter.  What I really want to say is that no matter what, there is always inspiration, grace and guidance within us, available every moment.  In that moment, we can know peace, andwe can take action in trust and confidence.  The trick is to learn to listen, to create some time out of the fray, and “be still and know…”

Antidotes for Anxiety

We are standing on shaky ground… It appears that the foundational structures that we have believed and trusted in are crumbling before our very eyes.  It remains to be seen what history will reveal about this time, but right now the collective feelings of shock, insecurity and fear are palpable in every one I talk to, everywhere I go.

The following four antidotes for anxiety have helped many of my clients navigate particularly stressful times in their lives.  It is my hope that these simple tools will help relieve your anxiety and promote positive and productive responses to this difficult time.

Be Present

When you feel threatened, it is natural to want to do something, anything, to get out of the feeling – and right away!  Many a misstep has arisen from not being able to tolerate the discomfort of anxiety or fear.  It is important to pause before reacting and distinguish what you are feeling.  Name the feeling, “fear (or whatever) is here,” and be willing to make a space for it, not to resist it, no matter how scary and uncomfortable it may be.

Feelings are usually connected to thoughts, but are a distinct visceral experience (i.e., we feel them). The adrenaline rush that accompanies a fight or flight response is a good example.  Pausing to notice that you are feeling as if your life is threatened makes it possible to observe the feeling, rather that being consumed by it.  That alone will help lower your anxiety response.

In fact, you will find that when you lean in toward a feeling, it will most often dissolve.  Only then you can notice that even though something scared you, your life is probably not at stake in this moment. You can look around, take a breath, take stock…  “What information do I need?”  “Where can I get it?”  “What help do I need?”  “Where can I get it?”  The trick is to first be present to your self and to sort out your emotional response from the facts.  Then you will be able to respond to the actual events at hand with thoughtful, measured action.

Take Action

Action is one of the most powerful antidotes for anxiety, but not re-action or a rush to solution which actually feeds fear. If you don’t know what to do first, or next, you need more information or more help.  That’s your next step. One small, intelligent step will reinforce your momentum and feeling of empowerment.  Depending upon how overwhelming the big picture might feel I often have clients pull their focus back to one day at a time, or one hour; sometimes just the next 15 minutes.  You can manage just about anything for 15 minutes and that will break through the paralysis of fear and build your confidence, one next right step at a time.

Accepting that you may not know what is going to happen, how exactly this is going to work out, is very challenging for most people. Being fully present in the moment and trusting that the step you are taking now will provide information, learning and guidance for the next right step, and the next, requires faith that a power greater than your self is managing the outcome.  Trusting the process is a potent antidote for anxiety; it raises you up spiritually and leads to enlightening and enlightened results.

Self-Care

The inclination to let your personal self-care habits and practices slide during times of stress, especially financial stress, is not unusual.  However, the antidote for anxiety is to step up whatever activities are self-care to you: exercise, meditation, movies, reading, massage, being with friends, adequate rest, healthy food – whatever it is that supports your body, mind and spirit.  Being good to your self is to your mind what endorphins are to your body.  Besides, your unconscious actually needs time like this to work behind the scenes.  Make spaces for those flashes of inspiration.

Also, resist the (understandable) temptation to “hunker down,” turn inward or isolate.  Events that threaten your sense of security often stimulate unresolved emotions from the past.  It is also a prime time for those self-saboteur voices to strike up the “Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Chorus.”  If you find yourself stuck in panic or obsessively worrying, it is important to reach out for help to sort it out.

In any event, finding an objective person to help you see problems from a different perspective, to strategize outside of the box, and to support you in planning and taking action, will reduce your anxiety and expand your solutions.  It is also useful to get help with learning how to communicate about problematic or frightening issues with family and friends, while still managing your stress, and theirs.  Seeking assistance is a sound, strategic action.  Bottom line… self care is getting the help you need.

Gratitude

As elementary as it seems, in shaky times, it is easy to stop noticing what is going right.  No matter what, you can look around you right now and find something that evokes your gratitude. Keeping a Gratitude Journal (the practice of recording five things that you are grateful for everyday), when done over time, will change the lens through which you see your world.  Simple things such as a smile from a stranger, a good meal or an opportunity to be kind or helpful work just as well as more obvious blessings.

Gratitude is magnetic and will attract more good to you.  Gratitude is a high vibration and when you join with it, you experience your self as more than your circumstances and conditions.  Gratitude will help you have a sound night’s sleep and a new sense of possibilities upon awakening It is awesome (in the true sense of the word) how quickly and completely gratitude antidotes anxiety, one moment at a time.