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Entries from July 2009

What stuff do you need to be happy?

July 24th, 2009 · 10 Comments

A friend recently posed this question to me:  if I had to live on a deserted island for one year with no possibility of escape or rescue, what five things, other than basic survival things like food, water, and shelter would I want to have with me.

deserted-island1Here’s my list:

The Tao te Ching (unless there is electricity, then my Kindle, but that seems like cheating)
A watercolor kit with paint and brushes
A camera—I know, the electricity thing again, but we won’t be super-strict with the rules.

As I thought about this, I realized I could have fun and stay really absorbed.  And that alone is a happy thought.  I’d keep a journal, of course, and then write all the things I never get around to, teach myself to paint, and take lots of interesting pictures.  My island, as I imagine it, has interesting shells and rocks and birds and plants and driftwood for creative inspiration.

Through it all, I’d read the Tao to keep inspired.  Maybe I’d understand it better at the end of the year.

After doing this little exercise, these questions came to mind:

What possessions really add to our happiness?
What do we really need for entertainment, for inner growth, for self-expression?
What would we be willing to give up if resources were really limited?

What would you bring along with you?  And how would it be to be alone with yourself?  Post your answers in the comments section.

Tags: creativity · desire · happiness

Letter to a Friend About Truth and Turmoil

July 6th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Dear One,

I really enjoyed getting to know you better during our session and I was thrilled to be able to coach you.  I have seen a lot of potential in you and I’m glad you want to look deeply inside yourself.  I do quite a lot of work around “How to Work with People in Crisis” with coaches, lawyers, and mental health professionals.  In a sense, this is what you are challenged to do with your partner.

The first principle of working with those who are in crisis is to remain calm yourself.  And I am not talking about the calm of the actress who is showing exterior calm while flipping out or at war inside.  Our energy fields will give us away.  (Remember the heart’s electrical charge is MEASURABLE, with today’s equipment, up to 10 feet away from us.)  Clamping down our feelings is exhausting, and compromises our intelligence and creativity and our authentic power.  This is confirmed by science, as well as by our spiritual leaders, and all of the great healers and leaders who have shared their secrets with us.

I am talking about honest, authentic calm, the deep calm that knows that we will be allright, no matter what happens.  It is a calm that comes from unconditional love, for absolute acceptance of reality, and from getting in touch with the sometimes painful but always liberating truth that we are responsible for our own experience. This is why the focus of our coaching session was directed at the real truth of what is going on inside of you, rather than around your partner’s behavior.

As coaches, as leaders, as parents, as those interacting with people in crisis, it is up to us to set the tone of our interactions, rather than being pulled into the other’s upset.  This is a big challenge, particularly with a partner because they know where our buttons are, and they often don’t hesitate to push them.  They will exhibit behavior with us that they will not do elsewhere, for example, at their workplace.  Which fuels further judgments, recriminations and inner war (“Why can’t s/he be civil with me if s/he can keep it together at work.  S/he is disrespectful, a jerk, too angry.”)  On and on goes the inner dance.

If you can stay in your core of peace with your partner, you can do it with anyone, I suspect.  But you must first see the value in getting really honest with yourself about all of this.  This is an exploration of the “why” you want to interact from your core of peace and to be an authentically calm presence.

For those of us who have lived most of our lives in a lot of noise and turmoil (inner and outer), this is a huge identity shift.  It is scary and our minds will rebel, often very creatively.   I remember thinking “without my drama, without my stories, without my nostrils flaring and coming back with a quick, sassy (i.e., nasty) remark” I will be flat, weak, boring, plain vanilla, no personality.  For me, that was just another lie I told myself to stay in a dance of war, of turmoil, of victimhood.  Although I was frequently miserable there, It was a very familiar place, and I was comfortable there.

I have, in large part, now ended my personal inner war.  When inner conflict arises, which it does, I do the very same inner work I ask of my clients.  I do not believe that I am now weak or boring or flat, and my experience is that no one else thinks so either.  In fact, my personal experience is that I am much stronger, more powerful, and even more interesting now. And, I have freed up enough energy to power a small city.

So, all of this is a lead up to an assignment for you.  Ask yourself why.  Why do you want to end this war, end this dance, end this strife with your partner?  Write down all the reasons that come to you.  Do this over the course of the next week or so.  Let the reasons come to you.  If you think of reasons not to end it, write those down separately.  If you resist this exercise, then list all the reasons why you are resisting.

Then look at those reasons with an open mind and a heart devoted to the largest truth of who you are and what you really want for yourself.  Ask which reasons are steeped in truth and which are not.  Ask which reasons feel like love and which do not.  And then ask yourself this question:  whose responsibility is it get this truth and this love into your life?

Let me know how it goes.

Much love,

Tags: risk · Uncategorized

Having a hard time letting go of your painful past?

July 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

immaculeeI’ll never complain about anything again, I swear, after spending last weekend reading Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.  The author, Immaculee Ilibigiza, was just 22 years old when, in 1994, Rwanda suddenly descended into an unspeakably brutal genocide in which machete-wielding Hutus slaughtered nearly a million ethnic Tutsis.

The memoir recounts the brutal murders of Immaculee’s beloved parents and brothers, along with scores of her friends, neighbors and schoolmates.  She escaped her own death only by hiding in silence for three months in a local pastor’s three foot by four foot bathroom with seven other women, only to emerge starving and still in great danger.

This is a deeply moving love story, in which Immaculee transcends her fear and hatred of those who tore her life, her family, and her country apart.  Ultimately, she faces and forgives her family’s killers.  It is a remarkable and inspiring account of unconditional love under the most challenging circumstances imaginable.

And you think you have problems?

That it’s hard to forgive your ex?

That the economy is scary?

That you can’t let go of your dysfunctional childhood?

That life handed you a raw deal?

If you ever have whiney, victim-y thoughts, read this book.  If you hold onto your painful past for any reason, read this book.

You’ll get a new perspective in a flash, I promise.

Tags: compassion · fear · love