Soul Encounter with Burnley (Rocky) Jones

Every now and then someone walks into a room, makes eye contact, a door to your heart opens and they walk right in. That’s exactly what happened to me the morning of June 19, 2013 when I met Rocky Jones.  It was a two way exchange, a soul encounter. I can count my in person exchanges with him on one hand, literally – three days of Art of Hosting training, two dinners – one with others and one in my home –  what was to be the beginning of a next phase of important and difficult work in the world and now is a sum total of something that cannot be readily explained in words.

Burnley (Rocky) Jones

Burnley (Rocky) Jones

Carolann Wright-Parks, a friend and colleague near and dear to my heart, had persuaded Rocky to attend the first half day of an Art of Hosting training for African Nova Scotian facilitators on behalf of the Ujamaa board, to show support.

Even then, given his health, Rocky knew his time was precious. He gave thought and care to how best to devote his time, telling us fishing had a strong call on him.  He came for the morning, participated in our opening circle, heard my good friend from MInnesota, Dave Ellis do a teach on World View (inspired by the work we are doing with Jerry Nagel of Meadowlark) and was inspired enough to clear his calendar for the next three days to participate.

His presence in my heart grew deeper roots the next morning when, as a group we were checking in to the day and this 71 year old man, a man who has seen and experienced much in his day, who shifted the shape of the world for so many in the province of NS and beyond, a legend in his own time, sat there in full humility marvelling at how much he does not yet know, how much he has to learn.  He knew, like so many of us when we encounter the wisdom of ancient futurism alive in the Art of Hosting that here was something that when we practice it could shift the shape of how we show up together and just possibly could shift the shape of our most entrenched problems.

And he knew about entrenched problems having encountered them since the time he was twelve, as he describes in this TedTalk on Breaking Down Social Barriers.  In our three days I watched him in his passion, curiosity and marvel as we shared frameworks for understanding he had never seen before and as he shared the history of African Nova Scotians making these frameworks come alive in his experience and the experience of the whole group.

I watched his incredulity at dinner one night in deep conversation with Roshanda Cummings a young woman from San Francisco who was on our hosting team about engaging youth, about how as a young Black woman, at times, she feels abandoned by her elders.  He listened deeply, asking questions, trying to understand her experience and what he could learn that could help him invite youth in a way that they could find meaning and be supported in their journey too.

When the Art of Hosting was over, I couldn’t wait for the next conversation we would be in, and the next, and the next – looking forward to learning from and with this man and to working with him. He reached out to me with a sense of urgency, wanting to find a time before I was on vacation and traveling again, thankfully, or it never would have happened.

At dinner in my home, we shared stories of journey, talked about the sense of soul connection.  He said to me, “When I walked into that room, you really stood out.” I paused for the briefest of moments and responded, “Well, I was the only white person in the room.”  We both laughed because we both knew that wasn’t what he meant.  Soul journeyers feeling the immediacy of connection.

He also said to me as we talked about a book he was in the process of writing with others, capturing the stories of his journey, “There isn’t enough time.”  As I imagined the work of the coming months, I told him, “There is always enough time.”

Turns out, he was right.  I have no doubt he was sensing his path.  And now he continues his work energetically in the spiritual realm.  And his work on the physical realm will be continued by many who have been deeply inspired by him, his authenticity, integrity, impact and ongoing sense of journey.

I grieve deeply for a man I met for a few brief seconds of life, who impacted me deeply.  I can only imagine the depth of grief of those who’ve known him longer and also the sense of celebration of a full life, a life worth living.  I celebrate knowing him and I will carry him in my heart and soul journey in my own continuing exploration of race and racism and of changing the conversations to ones of community, healing, belonging and acceptance.

The ancestors live on in us. Rocky lives on in many.

 

Your Emotions are Your Guidance System

This week has taken me to some deep places in my journey yet again.  Depth invites exploration – if we want it to, of course. In a conversation a few days ago,  a good friend who is near and dear to my heart asked me how I was.  I said, “I’m discombobulated and my emotions are near the surface.”

“My emotions are near the surface.”  What an interesting turn of phrase.  What I meant is that sadness, sorrow, angst, tears were all near the surface and tears would spill easily and effortlessly with the slightest provocation – sorrow or joy.

In a later email to my friend, I dug a little deeper to discover what was stirring in my soul that caused these emotions to be so near the surface.  In that exploration, I identified and released things that had been swirling around  and in me about decisions and choices I have no idea if I will even need to make.   I began to settle into a place of not knowing and not needing to know in this moment, trusting clarity will arise in due course.  No need for decisions or choices today.

a moment of reflection

A moment of reflection

I surrendered back into peace, joy and delight.  As I awoke in this state today, I had a little realization, an aha moment.  My emotions are near the surface.  They are just different emotions than yesterday or the day before.  Which got me to wondering.  Do I even think of joy, delight, peace as emotions?  Seems I do.  But not in the same way as I think of sorrow, sadness, anger and grief as emotions.  Without being conscious of it, I’ve been making value judgments about my emotional experiences - just like I tell people we do in the coaching and teaching work I do.

Yup.  Here I am, doing it too.  Sorrow, sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety – bad.  To have those emotions near the surface is bad.  Like they need to be contained.  We don’t really know what to do with them but many of us have learned that trying to contain them, while it might work in the short term, just doesn’t work in the longer term.

How many times people apologize for their tears, one on one, in circle, in some meeting or gathering, and how many times I say, “I look forward to the time we no longer feel the need to apologize for our tears.”  I have, for the most part, stopped apologizing for mine.  So it is always delicious to discover what all is still alive in me as I explore my own emotional state.

Today, my emotions are near the surface. Instead of a tear sliding down the side of my face, a smile might break out for no reason in particular, when I’m by myself, with my son, directed at a stranger or, as it turns out, the two Mormon missionaries who just rang my doorbell.

The strange thing is, just like we don’t necessarily know what to do with the emotions we judge as bad or negative, many of us also don’t know what to do with joy, love, peace, delight.  We can be pretty good if it’s episodic.  If there is a reason – like we have to have a reason.  We’re not so good at knowing what to do with prolonged bouts of happiness, joy or delight – but what a beautiful challenge to embrace.

If we are used to chaos and negativity in our lives, it just feels different to shift into a new normal – of peacefulness.  A new pattern.  A new way of being in the world. Shifting the shape of our experience. Quite delightful to cultivate actually.  And this state of being does grow on a person.  Thankfully.

What I’ve been learning in the course of my life’s journey is that our emotions – the full range of them – offer us guidance.  I used to think they made me weak – at least the ones I judged as bad.  I use to think being vulnerable was the opportunity for someone to attack me.  Now I know differently.  There is strength and power in vulnerability when it comes from authentic open hearted space.  And it takes courage to step into vulnerability.

My emotions are my guidance system.  They tell me how close or far away I am from my centre, from my soul essence. They are a clue to what I’m thinking, whether I’m present or living in the past or future.  If I inquire into my emotional state I can find myself.  And I can change my state of well being by paying attention to my thoughts, discovering what I’m holding onto that doesn’t serve me.

I like finding myself in a place of peace and joy but it’s okay if I find myself somewhere else too.  My preference now, through the journey of life, is to find my way back to a steady state of feeling good.

So today, my emotions are close to the surface.  I wonder what beautiful mischief might ensue?

I’ve Arrived – At Least in This Moment

I’ve arrived.  I didn’t know this was where I was going but, now that I’m here, I can clearly see that this is where I was headed.  Feels good to have arrived.  In this moment anyway.  In the next moment, it might be different. That will be okay too because there will always be a next moment and I get that I get to create or co-create the next moment and the next.

By moment, I mean a period of time, linear time as we know it – maybe just a minute, maybe days, weeks, months or even years.  When it is a tortuous moment that goes on for awhile it doesn’t seem like this moment, it seems like an eternity.  I’ve had a few of those too. Looking back now over the course of my life, I see them for what they are – moments, in time, moments that reflect my journey and shape my life, my outlook, my wisdom and my experience.

Now, though, I seem to be in a moment of amazing open heartedness.  I’m just back from a run in my neighbourhood that takes me to a waterfront park and boardwalk and back again.  Every time I smile, nod or say hello to someone I pass, I crack open just a touch more.  And, so do they.  The moment might pass for them, but more and more I am finding this moment in my life lingering.

I like the feel of this moment.  The joy.  Delight.  Ease.  Beauty.  Love.  Flow.  Noticing my emotional state.  Noticing my reactions. Noticing where or what next to focus on in my own healing journey.  Not in the tortuous way I used to notice it.  Now it is just a noticing.  An observation.  A clue to what to pay attention to.   “Oh, look at that response.  Maybe there is something there to take a look at, a hook to release, an attachment to let go of.”  Surfacing.  Surrendering.  Swift, powerful movement arising all around me, in me, through me.

It is visible to me.  It is continuously reflected back to me because it is visible to others and I am open to receiving in whole new ways.  Some people comment.  Some just notice.  Some come closer.  Some rejoice with me.  In the people close to me, I see how much they love me and I feel how much I love them.  Feeds gratitude, appreciation and joy over and over again.

I have always believed in the Law of Attraction.  I have also understood that I have attracted even the things, people, situations I have not liked (and sometimes detested)  into my life.  Wanting to understand deeply the why of that was one of those moments of determination that led to many moments of revelation over a very long, tortuous moment in my life.

I tried to make the Law of Attraction work and at times I probably gave up – almost anyway – on being able to force it work in ways that work for me.  There are times it practically pounded me on the head while I was looking in other directions, focused on the how of things instead of the surrendering into things where truly miraculous “hows” could then show up in ways I could never have imagined.

Through the continuing journey I am learning how to allow, embrace, surrender and step into it.  Coming from a place of love, joy and delight.  Which is very different than coming at it from a place of desperation.  My favourite Law of Attraction material at the moment is Abraham-Hicks.  I have been infusing myself with their teachings.  One of the things they say is that whenever we want something, that something is actually two things – what we want and the lack of what we want.  Usually we are focused on the lack and not on what we want and we are desperately, pleadingly trying to convince ourselves, through stress and agony, we are focused on what we want.  Focusing on the lack brings, surprise, surprise, more lack.

They also say a belief is simply a thought we think over and over again.  So, I’m becoming aware of my repetitive thoughts so I can shift them and shift the shape of my life more and more to what I want.  Since really embracing this,  I am seeing and, more importantly, feeling the results.  In this moment, I’ve arrived.  I like this place.  I’m not exactly sure where I am headed next but now I know I’ll recognize it when I arrive and I know it will be even better than the place I am in in this moment – as hard as that may be for some to believe – I am aware that life, if I allow it, will only get better and better, no matter how good it is right now.

While I’m in this moment that I’ve arrived in, I’m taking some time to celebrate.  To notice flow.  To appreciate deep relationships.  To see how well cared for and nourished I am.  And maybe tomorrow, when I’m out for my run or grocery shopping or wherever my day may take me, maybe you and I will find each other, smile, nod, say hello, embrace if we actually know each other, say I love you if we are in deep relationship – and both our worlds will crack open just that much more and we will know that we have arrived – in this new moment, for the moment.

Corridor of the Dying or Something Else?

It is such a small leap for me I don’t know why it never occurred to me before.

I went to visit my mother this weekend.  She has had dementia for more years than we know and she has been in long term care for almost three.  Awhile ago I wrote about only understanding her journey from a soul perspective.  This is becoming more true for me as she gets nearer to her transition.

During this visit, I sat on her bed with her, maintaining physical touch the whole time I was there.  When she looked at me and we held eye contact, she smiled and even laughed.  So did I.  Sometimes with my tears also flowing.  The rest of the time, I watched her lift her head to look very intently at things I could not see all around her room.  It is clear to me that spirit in gathering although less clear to me when she will finally decide to let go of her physical body, but likely soon.   We, her family, are becoming more ready as we walk this path her.

To get to the dementia ward in what everyone in the town calls “the Home”, you enter the front door of the building, walk a short corridor past the administration offices and enter through an electronically locked door into the main residential part of the building.  You then have to walk down a long corridor to get to the dementia ward, behind yet another locked door.

As you enter the residential part of the building, you come upon people – old people and in some cases, really old people – sitting in wheel chairs or chairs – just sitting there for the most part, most nodding off.  Those are the ones well enough to be sitting up.  As you go down the corridor, bedrooms are on either side and in most of them someone is lying on a bed, oblivious to the rest of the world.  Sleeping, snoring, unaware. And, as good as this place is – and I do believe it is one of the best, it smells of old people waiting to die, sometimes less so, sometimes more so.  It is a hard corridor to walk with regularity, know the shape of these people’s lives have shifted so dramatically.

I have always thought of these people as waiting to die.  We all know the only way people come out of long term care is in a coffin.  This is where some of our population go to die – when their loved ones can no longer take care of them and, believe me, that is not an easy decision.

For some reason, with this visit with my mom, I had a little revelation and I don’t know why it never occurred to me before, but I’m glad it has now because it expands my awareness of what else just might be going on in these corridors.

My spiritual journey over the last dozen years or so has shown me pathways to altered consciousness, to spirit journeying, to spirit guides, angels and other entities.  I am aware that it is possible to “travel” in dream states – sleeping and waking – and that much good and healing work can happen in these states of altered awareness and consciousness.

As I sat with my mother and observed her looking at that which she could see and I couldn’t, I all of a sudden became aware that her physical body might be old and weak and her brain injured, as they say at the Home, but her spirit or soul is strong.  I began to wonder just where, how far and how often she may have been journeying while her physical body slept and that thought took me to all those sleeping bodies throughout the whole facility and a curiosity about where some of those souls might be journeying to while their physical bodies sleep.  I’m sure some of them may well be wrestling with their own demons, so to speak, but whose to say that most of them aren’t off doing much needed soul work in ordinary and non-ordinary reality.

Then I could feel a bubble of light surrounding this Home. The notion that these beautiful souls might be making contributions to the world that most of us cannot see or understand made my own spirit more joyful.  And now I hold my mother’s journey with an added degree of lightness and joy which I have no doubt she feels.  She is journeying well and will continue to do so, I have no doubt.  She is a great teacher for me.  And I love her and she know that.

Relationship With Self: Base Point for All Other Relationships

The most important relationship to focus on, understand and heal is the one with self.  As you develop mastery in that pursuit, all other relationships automatically achieve a greater level of understanding and you put yourself in a place of conscious, intentional choice around each one.

This is a really difficult concept to grasp.  We live in a relational world.  We are always interacting with others and some people have a tremendous impact on our lives – good and bad. The Law of Attraction says we are consistently attracting to ourselves that which we focus on and tells us that we could actually attract anything we truly desire whenever we desire it.  Many of us have tried…. and failed.  I know I have.  But I have been successful too and the learning is that it doesn’t have to be hit and miss.  It could just as easily be consistently good as it has at times been consistently bad.

But in such an intertwined world how are we to know exactly how much power and impact we have as an individual?  Can’t our individual ability to attract be canceled out or muted by other people we live with, work with or are close to?  Or would we perhaps cancel out what someone else is trying to attract?  This is the question I have lived – and lived into -  for years now and even as I write this I see how either/or this scenario is.  Either I get what I want or someone else gets what they want but we both can’t get what we want unless we want the same thing.  What if it is actually different than this kind of scenario and many possibilities exist all at the same time?

I distinctly remember a few years ago feeling completely out of control and overwhelmed.  There seemed to be so many external circumstances (aka people for the most part) who impinged on my well being, my sense of self, my own competence and my clarity.  They created stress in my life, drained me of energy and fed habitual thought patterns in my own mind that I knew were not serving me and had the potential to make me gravely ill.

And I knew that I had attracted to me, and even created, even embraced, some of these circumstances.  What I had more difficulty grasping was how much of these difficult relationships and circumstances was me and how much was external to me or someone else.  And why?  Why did I attract such undesirable circumstances and relationships to myself because I would certainly never consciously have invited some of these things into my life.

Intellectually I grasped these concepts.  Living into them was a totally different story.

Then came the point, I also distinctly remember, when I knew I had to turn away from all the external stimuli and blame and turn inwards, turn off the vitriolic self talk,  to find the answers I was seeking.  Thus began an intense, deep, concept shattering phase of growth which began as an internal battle with loads of resistance and gradually shifted into a surrendering which now allows a beautiful, simpler unfolding of self and story which I embrace as part of my ongoing evolution or journey into open-heartedness.  And I couldn’t have done it without the support of a couple of different coaches I worked with over that period of time, dear friends and amazing healers.  The discovery and eventual joy in my journey was amplified because I learned to call on and lean into the support that was and is readily available to me.

I couldn’t change the people around me.  I tried.  I hoped.  I prayed.  I rationalized and bargained, “Yes, I know I’ve attracted this and contribute to it, but…..”  When I was out of options, out of hope and feeling myself slip away into a haze of oblivion I finally turned to the only relationship that I actually have the power to influence, shift and change: the relationship with self.  Sure I wanted to…. but did I have to go so deep?  Did I have to fundamentally change my views of myself and my life?  Did I have to let go of my sense of having been wronged and even harmed by others?   Couldn’t I just skate across the surface or go just under the surface?  Couldn’t I still hold onto some version of being right?  Did I have to fundamentally examine everything about me, take it all apart in order to invite the kind of dramatic change into my life I knew I was needing?  Damn.  Resistance.  Strong enough that it  required pushing through at times.

I learned, thanks to the lovely Sarita Chawla, that my emotions were the doorway into understanding what was really going on with me and I learned that when I  dissociated from my emotional state I was putting up strong barriers to the learning that was available to me.

As I broke down walls and reclaimed more and more of the essence of who I am, I began to stand stronger in the world.  I learned about healthy boundaries and I learned about allowing myself to show up more fully in the world and in my relationships.  I became clearer and clearer on what I wanted, what I didn’t want and what needed to shift in me in order for the dynamics of my relationships and my world to shift.

As I came to understand the relationship I had with myself better, I found ways to stand in my strength and my power and grew clarity about “my stuff” – what was mine and what wasn’t – and all the relationships around me began to also shift.  I found strength to walk paths I had cowered on before and I found the capacity to change the conversation.  I began to choose with who and how I wanted to be in relationship and more and more layers of protective coating began to fall away so I could show up in – and attract – more and more joy, delight, beauty and graciousness until I have come to the understanding that THIS is the baseline way of being.  Now I know that when my emotional state is anything other than joy, delight, beauty or love it is a signal to inquire into what’s going on, resolve within myself whatever needs tending to and reaching out, time and time again, for the assistance I need when I need it – because it is readily available and because we amplify possibility and healing when we do so.

I have learned more and more of the truth that it all begins and ends with my relationship with self.  When that it grounded, solid and resilient, so too is my capacity to show up in all the other relationships in my life – including the most challenging ones, the most beautiful ones and everything else in between.

Meeting the Stranger Within

You know the stranger within before it is a stranger, when you are very young, before you learn concepts of right and wrong, good and evil.  Before you build the constructs around yourself that become essential to your survival – shaping your life so that you fit in, to make people happy – particularly your parents and other figures in your life you look up to or depend upon for survival at a young age.

As a baby, toddler and child, you learn it is not safe to expose this inner being, that somehow it is a threat – usually to others around you.  You begin to hide it and so begins the journey of the stranger.  You seek it out less often and then you forget where you hid it or how to unbury it, for a long, long time.

This being has shifted into a stranger and you come to believe this stranger within lurks in the shadows.  Because you believe this, you are afraid, deeply afraid, of what you might find if you seek it out. After all, others were afraid of it so so should you be.  You spend much of your life trying to thwart the stranger, running from your fear instead of facing it.  In so doing you create more shadow obscuring the stranger within even more.

Every now and then, the stranger finds an opening and bubbles to the surface.  You glimpse it but it is so unlike what you are expecting, you don’t recognize it.  Maybe you have been inspired or encouraged by it and now want to find it, but it is elusive.  You find it hard to believe that this stranger you have glimpsed lives in the shadows so you begin to look everywhere for it but where it actually lives.

You look to others to validate you and your experiences.  You compare yourself to others.  You, on occasion, take false joy in your journey because you can measure your progress and success – externally.  But deep inside the stranger is rumbling, calling to you, sometimes gently, sometimes with a strength and persistence that rattles your cage.  It is trying to guide you but you cannot hear it, cannot feel it except for the deep tremble you interpret as fear.

You believe the stranger is the one that causes your actions to be incongruent with who you fundamentally believe you are – which just proves to you that what lies at the core must be in shadow and is not to be trusted.

These things happen in your life, conspire even, to force you on a journey to discover the stranger, or as Anais Nin puts it: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” It becomes time to intentionally shift the shape of who you are and how you show up in your own life.

As you take those first tentative steps to know the stranger, you step into the shadow and you discover that maybe, just maybe the stranger does not live in the shadow.  That this stranger you have feared is at the core of all your failings, all your struggles, all our misguided actions, maybe that stranger is an illusion conjured up by the shadow you have both created and feared to keep you from the exploration of the real stranger – intended to keep you and the stranger safe but instead causing you countless struggles and detours along the way.

Stepping into the shadows is a necessary step to passing through the shadows to where the stranger actually resides – at your core, not in the dark but in a light that is ready to shine brilliantly as you brush away the shadow you no longer need, need to fear or need to build.

Some of the fear and the tremble that shows up is in the knowing that to allow this stranger to walk with power and strength in your life may require changes in your life and your lifestyle, changes in your relationships and changes in you.  What you need to let go of to allow your full essence to come into being.  These are often not easy shifts to make because they involve other people and they involve you, your notions of who you are, who you think you are and who you are capable and deserving of becoming.

The real stranger is no stranger at all.  It is the incredibly gifted, talented, beautiful, authentic soul residing inside of each of us, including and especially you, waiting for the opportunities, the growth, the courage, the love and the joy to burst out in full bloom.

This is what the step into the darkness will expose – that it is actually a step into the light, a journey to the core to the stranger remembered, not as a stranger but as a gift, a friend, an essential self.  What is the courage you need to meet the stranger within?

The Gift of Shadow

I have been intrigued by the notion of shadow ever since I came across Debbie Ford‘s book, The Secret of the Shadow, years ago as I began the more conscious part of my journey.  The idea that it is everywhere, in everyone of us and in our group dynamics was a revelation at the time.  The fact that there are real gifts in it when we develop enough courage to dive in was illuminating.

Shadow is not a bad thing.  It just is.  It exists. Where there is light there is also shadow.  We can really live into the light when we are ready to acknowledge shadow.

For some reason, we have made that acknowledgment really difficult in the world we live and operate in today.  We have made it “bad” through our fear of facing it, surfacing it or acknowledging it and so we try to pretend, individually and collectively, that it isn’t there.  We tiptoe around it, we dance around it, we grow frustrated by it and still it often remains a challenge to name.  We think it only exists in some places, but it actually can and does show up in all kinds of places and even in the groups and organizations that are doing amazing and, do I dare say, enlightened work.

My good friend Christina Baldwin, author of The Circle Way and Calling the Circle, and, along with her partner Ann Linnea, keeper and steward of circle practice for over twenty years (long before it became more fashionable as an effective and powerful meeting practice) defines shadow as: “the things that cannot be said or, if they are said, are said at great peril to the speaker”.

This great peril is often that the speaker is ostracized.  As the speaker is shut down, so are others who will not now venture to name the unspoken things and then any avenues for the naming of shadow are also shut down.   Unproductive group patterns and dynamics become entrenched in the group and members of the group pretend to each other that all is well.  And yet in this scenario, it means that people no longer feel invited to show up as full human beings.  They feel the need to leave a part of themselves parked at the door and this is often the part that would most wonderfully, fully and impactfully engage them in the work ahead.

Anytime things cannot be spoken, they surface in actions and interactions in a group.  They show up as frustration with process or lack of progress and as blame: “if only that one person (or that group) would get their act together, we’d all be fine.”  The impact of shadow shows up in lack of engagement by some members of the group and by side conversations that happen outside of meetings that do not serve the health and well being of the group.

It is not unusual that someone who has been perceived as the problem can leave the group and yet the actual problem persists.  It is now acted out by someone else.  The longer the patterns persist, the harder they are to surface and to break.

Aside from fear of being ostracized, the other reason people do not name shadow is because they are afraid of hurting other people in the group.  They do not have language or process around how to do this well and it is a skill that can be developed.

One of the tenets of Circle Practice is understanding there is a centre to the circle – or the work or the group – and if we focus on the centre it enables us to transcend two way debate,  personal attack and interpersonal dynamics and speak to the underlying patterns – that are often showing up in very overt ways.  To be able to name tension in a group or situation is one very simple way of relieving the tension.  “Yes, we’ve noticed and are aware that it is here.  How will we choose to move through it now?”

The simple act of naming can, quite remarkably,  diffuse a lot of tension and shadow.  How would the shape of our world shift, the shape of our meetings and the shape of our relationships shift if we could honour the fact that shadow exists, it shows up – instead of pretending it’s not there?   If we understand this, it frees us up to look for the gifts inherent in shadow and use those gifts to build our effectiveness, connection and cohesion as a group and as community.

Shadow is not something we deal with once and it is gone.  It will show up again.  But if we stay tuned to it, name it when it is present and work through it, more light will shine into our lives and the work we do.

Resentment, Anger and Grudges as Soul Journey Teachers

“If I destroy you, I destroy myself. If I honour you, I honour myself.” Nunbatz Men MAYAN

This is a daily meditation offering from White Bison.  The message: if I secretly hold a grudge or resentment against someone, I will be a slave to that person until I let them go so let me remember to look at my brothers and sisters in a sacred way.

This is a hard lesson to really accept and learn when we so want it to be about the other person! Yet when we hold that grudge, the person we hold it against actually has power over us.  To be even more direct, we have given our power away to them.  Nothing can be resolved unless they do something, healing cannot take place unless they do something.

What a sad and wretched way to live if this is what we choose – completely at the mercy of another’s journey.  What if they never change?  What if they never offer us what it is we think we need of them?  Or, even worse, what if they do and then we discover that that isn’t really the magic cure we’ve been waiting for? It’s not nearly as satisfying as we were sure it would be?

Healing of the soul is not an outer journey dependent on someone else.  It is an inner journey that only we can navigate.  Fortunately, there are many helpers, guides and teachers who show up along the way – but only when we are ready and can either perceive others as teachers or invite them as such.  It is easier to understand coaches and mentors as teachers, less easy to understand those we hold a grudge (or worse) against as a teacher although they often catapult our learning once we open to it.

When we feel wronged, and particularly when we feel deeply wronged, it is hard to step into the path of inquiry that asks: why have I invited this into my life?  This is not to make us wrong, make us a victim or cause us to take responsibility for another person’s actions.  This is solely to help us understand our own soul’s journey and the lessons we need to learn.

When I have felt marginalized in my life, I learned to ask the question: Why am I inviting marginalization (or marginalizing myself)?  How does that serve me in the place that I am in now? In a place of marginalization, I hide from stepping into my own power and purpose in life and, for some strange reason, this feels “safer”.

When I have felt voiceless in relation to other people I wondered what was my journey to reclaiming my voice?  I recognized my own feelings of judgment arising – about others and about myself – and learned to step into it, initially with great trepidation I might add, inquire into it, ease up on it.  Voicing my fears, issues and concerns in the light of showing up in ways I do not aspire to (as judgmental) began to bring me back to reclaiming my voice – a step toward also reclaiming my power – as a being of compassion, strength and love with important work to do in the world.

Jerry Granelli in my ALIA module  Leader as Shambhala Warrior said: if you resent one moment of your life, that is aggression.  Wow.  Just one moment of resentment is aggression.  Powerful.  It resonated strongly with my journey and learning to find the gifts in life decisions I’d made that I’d come to regret.  In truly finding the gift, the regret left, creating space for more compassion, strength, love and great joy – qualities that Byron Brown describes as inherent soul qualities in his book: Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within – a book that literally changed my life.

Letting go of regret and resentment can be a daily exercise, a daily reminder that this is a journey and, when we do step into it, it is a shape shifting journey.  We get to make a choice about it every day.  We only come to understand it as a choice as we journey, as we learn, as we sink into the soul’s journey by inquiring – with curiosity – into resentment, anger and grudges as they show up in our life.

Life has an interesting way of bringing to us that which we most need to learn from at any given time. My experience is that by learning to embrace it, it is usually a gentler journey – and I’ve learned that the hard way – from all the choices I made that brought me into deeply intense learning experiences that I wouldn’t necessarily have “chosen” for myself but which I now see that my “soul’s journey” chose for me to create the conditions necessary for me to step more fully into the gifts, power and talents that serve me and serve my work in the world.

These soul journey teachers do not appear to be friends when they show up.  If we make them enemies as much as the others they show up about, we wither and die – literally and figuratively, spiritually and physically.  This is motivation enough to take the difficult first steps of seeing them for their enormous potential as teachers.  The more intense the experience, the greater the return in the soul’s journey.

Because at some point I embraced this journey – which was better than the alternative internal toxicity I found myself living in a few years ago, every day and most minutes in a day, I now find myself in a place of deep appreciation, gratitude and joy for my journey and the ALL the people in it who have contributed in some way.  Waking up feeling joyful does not get old!

What’s Breaking Your Heart Open?

What’s breaking your heart open?  Powerful question and powerful to notice how one little word in this question can completely change the tone of it from “what is breaking your heart?” to “what is breaking it open?”

Meg Wheatley opened the ALIA module “Leader as Shambhala Warrior”, that she co-hosted with Jim Gimian and Gerry Granelli at the beginning of this month, with this question and it was the question I woke up with this morning.  Some people answered with what is breaking their heart.  Sometimes the response stops there because that is as far as we have come in our understanding of the circumstance we are sitting in.  Sometimes it is so fresh we have not yet been able to move on to the next phase.

Meg was really suggesting that what breaks our heart can also break it open and in this place of open heartedness, even when that is about sorrow, we have a greater capacity to act and act with strength and compassion.  Her heart is broken about what is happening with the devastation in the gulf as a result of the oil spill and she speaks about this in in this blog posting in YES! An Antidote to Urgency.

In answering the question, I focused on what happens when our heart breaks open.  It is this question that most resonates with my journey over the last few years – learning to live into my experience – including and maybe especially my emotional experience, rather than walking through it as if I was going through the motions of some else’s story.   I think I tried to just walk through the motions for so long because I was afraid of being overwhelmed by sadness, despair, loneliness and hopelessness.  I tried to hold those things at bay and it did nothing to keep life from periodically crashing down around me.

What a difference it makes to notice and acknowledge my experience as I’m in it.  Contrary to my fear, it is actually freeing and liberating!  This morning I’m noticing how much I’m missing my seven year old son as we begin establishing the rhythm of a separated family.  It breaks my heart that he can’t be with me all the time and it breaks my heart open knowing how much I love him, how much he loves me and how much he is loved by others including his father and his father’s family.  This is a rhythm and a pattern we will all grow into, served by love.

Over the last five years, an expanded  story of my life has been pieced together as information has been unexpectedly  revealed to me about my journey, essentially since birth.  As I have absorbed all the information, it breaks my heart open to now know how loved, supported and guided I have been from the time I was an infant – even in my darkest days.

All those moments when I reach beyond the physical world and feel my connection with spirit or non-ordinary reality, it breaks my heart open to know there is so much more than our physical bodies and the things we can touch and see.  We are supported and loved in ways often beyond our knowing.

When I watch my older children grow into their own life paths and step into the next phase of their lives with both the maturity and immaturity of their age, it breaks my heart open to know that they have strong foundations and love in their lives.

And as I recount all the things that break my heart open, they all come back to love in one way or another – feeling it, accessing it, living it, speaking it.  Letting people I care deeply about know that I love them – in how I show up for them and in speaking it aloud from time to time.

My heart is breaking open, more fully and completely every day – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It has shifted the shape of me, my life and my business.  Thank you Meg for the question.  It lives on in me and in my journey.

Giving Birth to Freedom

Giving birth.  I have been thinking about this a lot this past year.  I have given birth to a new company: Shape Shift Strategies Inc.  I am giving birth to a new book: Healing Across the Ages; Releasing the Hold of Family Secrets.

Most importantly, 2009 marked the year I gave birth to the second half of my life.  This birth had a nine year gestation period and it is only now I realize its correspondence to the last decade.  How lovely that 2010 is  marked with this newness for me.

As I’ve been reflecting on the quiet and alone time I have had this holiday season, what has registered for me is also the birth of a new feeling of freedom – and that brings great joy.

It is the freedom that comes from being really good with my own company – not feeling martyred in being alone or feeling sorry for myself, but truly settling into being with myself.  It doesn’t have to be happy alone time – it can also be time to just sit with what arises in me, especially as I consider the journey, and the people who have influenced it, over the last three years or so.

The freedom of not wanting, and not being lost in the wanting, of what isn’t.  The freedom of accepting people, situations and relationships for who and what they are.

The freedom of accepting myself for who I am,  for the essential soul qualities I have been unearthing and sinking into and for the talents I have been allowing to flower so I can do what is mine to do in this world, in this lifetime – boldly bring my healing gifts to the shifting shape of the world and the regeneration of its people.

2010 is the beginning of a new era.  It is for me for sure.  I sense it is for others too and for the world.  I believe we are at a pivotal time in the evolution of the human race, where we really know that the old ways of walking through life and tackling big issues do not work any more.  We are more ready to wake up than we have ever been and it is for the waking up process that I have been preparing.

I am only in this place of freedom thanks to a decade long awakening journey that I’m sure is not completed yet but is now on a new plateau, a new level of vibration.  It is thanks to people in my life – good people, friends, colleagues, coaches, and some challenging relational experiences over the last decade – including the challenging relationship I’ve had with myself, that I am able to be in and recognize the birth of this freedom.  These have all been great gifts to me and, at the beginning of this most important decade, I sit in a place of deep gratitude and appreciation for all those people and all those experiences.

The best is truly yet to come and, my intuition is, that it will look very different than what we’ve seen and what we can imagine.  I have never been more ready!  Happy New Year, happy new decade and Happy Birthday to all that is good in this world.