Thinking of Packing It In? (Don’t!)

Have you ever been tempted to pack up shop and quit?  You know how it goes.  Your client calls to cancel at the last minute.  Again.  Oh, there’s a good reason.  That’s not the issue.  It’s just that there are issues that come up frequently when people are working their way through difficulties.  Parents, peers and professionals- all of these roles require support from a mind- from a perspective, that exceeds what one person can offer. Sometimes there are breakdowns along the way. These episodes can have clients skipping everything from coaching to a needed legal consultation to a chemotherapy appointment. When breakdowns become frequent in number, they become the default. You’re still carrying some clients on your census that have missed more of their sessions than they’ve attended? At some point, the process just stops working because the client is anxious, avoidant, depressed or wholly disengaged.

Maybe the trouble isn’t a person?  For some of you, the trouble is a circumstance.  You’re waiting for one or more pieces to a solution. There’s a challenge in the area of business, education, health or finances.  You’ve got enough clients to pay the rent, but not enough to pay yourself a living wage.  Your Spanish, French or other language is good enough to talk and even to translate a document, but it’s not good enough to let you deliver your professional service in your second language.  You’re eating healthier, but the A1C just isn’t coming down.  And neither is the weight.  Your business and personal budgets are maxed out.  You’re giving and you’re able to put some in savings.  But investing?  A six month cushion for emergencies?  It’s not there yet. 

In every one of these situations, there’s a human tendency to look for the easy button.  C’mon, you’ve seen the commercial with the big, red button.  Figuring out how to do things in one step or a few steps is a fallacy.  So is figuring out how to do things using one approach.  We always want the end result.  The short cut, right?  This innate desire shows up in our storytelling. A genie and three wishes… A fairy godmother, some glass slippers and a handsome prince… In the real world, maybe it’s a coaching package and six steps… A treatment plan with a qualified clinician… Or six sessions with a CPA to get your commercial taxes unknotted… I’ll tell you a secret:  know why all of these systems, services and short cuts often work?  It’s because the people who use them work their asses off.  That’s it.  That’s the secret to success in business, coaching and life. Coaches would say that such a person “is playing full out”. In other words, they’re not holding anything back. They’re as engaged, disciplined, committed and active as it is possible to be.

It’s worthwhile to look for the right tool, system, principle or approach.  It’s worthwhile to pay a coach or a consultant or other professional to support you through the process.  But the key ingredient is work.  And most of the places where my clients and I get stuck, if we’re just brutally honest, is getting stopped at some point when engaging the work.  Why?  Work is uncomfortable.  It’s costly.  And it’s unpredictable.  You can’t KNOW that after five sessions, you’re going to be all set.  Or that after two more months of working on your healthy food plan, financial wellness plan or spiritual maturity plan that you’ll have gotten to your intended destination. At some point, you have to sign on the dotted line of your own commitment and promise to pursue the journey whether it’s six steps, sixty steps or six million steps. 

So- don’t pack it in!  As one sojourner to another on this mortal plane, trust in the combination of diligence, discernment, engagement and vision you’re consistently engaging to move you forward.  You’re going to get there.  And when you do, you’ll look back at today and be glad that you stuck with your promises to yourself.  Go ahead and pour on that labor. Your sweat equity will accrue over time. Your choice to be diligent to the point of being uncomfortable matters. It’s significant. It means that you’re more invested in the change you want to see than you are in maintaining the present. Honestly, you’re going to be uncomfortable to some extent in any case. It’s a choice between the discomfort of limiting present circumstances or the discomfort of investing in the vision. Staying in the present scene can bring depression, disengagement, disappointment and dysfunction. Or- choose the discomfort of facing the future and its costs- generally a combination of courage, integrity, perseverance and skill, Because that’s how you get to real results. 

If you’d like to consult with a compassionate coach who can help you keep that vision in view and enhance the results of your labor and engagement, reach out! We’ll be happy to support you as you journey forward.

Bubbles Galore- Continued: Bubble Metaphysics

We made contact with three key concepts in our blog post entitled “A Bobble in the Bubble: Stasis”:  1) our physicality dwells in the present, but our internal faculties aren’t really bound by time, 2) the stories that we tell ourselves about the past, present and future are always being rewritten and 3) what matters is how we FEEL about the stories of our lives.  These stories are like successive bubbles on a timeline that we indwell. 

A bubble is singular.  Specifically, it’s a singular confluence of events operating within time.  Once it pops, it’s gone. Its impacts live on in memory.  How we DID feel, DO feel and WILL feel about any particular time in our lives changes.  New information comes in, new edits are added to the storyline and a new version of the story is posted to the webpage of our lives. 

Bubbles in our timelines form successively, one after the other.  They last as long as things continue to remain the same.  Whatever is going on has a tendency to perpetuate itself.  A bubble has elements that operate together:  these are the circumstances that make up a particular point on the timeline. 

These elements are the moments that make up every day: the system lasts until there’s a disruption of some sort.  I get laid off.  My partner leaves me or divorces me.  I win the lottery.  Or invent machinery for Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  Change occurs that’s real and that’s impactful enough to disrupt things. 

The consciousness is engaged in a new way due to the change.  The scene has played out and is about to shift.  For bigger disruptions, the scenes of the current act close and a new scene begins.  That’s the transition from one bubble to another.   

Soap bubbles have a surface tension that keeps them intact.  They do fine as long as they are floating and free.  When one lands on a hard surface, it dents itself.  It’s surface tension is disrupted and it will eventually pop.  Our personal bubbles are like that.  They arise because of a system of elements that work together to create a norm.  It’s a balance of conditions that work for some time.

These elements operate or remain in motion as a system so long as there is available energy to expend that exceeds the force of a disruption.  When something “pushes” on the bubble’s surface, it might get added into the mix.  More sizable shifts usually herald real change and there’s a “pop” followed by movement. 

The waters of our lives foment until a new bubble forms.  It has its own system of ideas, norms and its own story to tell.  The new interval has a size, a perspective on the world and a working synergy of being and doing that are unique.  Think of this bubble as the eye of your conscious mind.  It’s experiencing life as an embodied being.

You’re floating on the whole of self, connected to all of who you were, who you are and who you may become.  But your consciousness can only contain awareness of a portion of that.  It’s the story of creation.  A sacred tale that the self speaks out over and over again. 

The bubble is bounded.  Really, the self is too, right?  The question is not one of scale, but of distinction.  None of us would say that the self is all of mankind or all of the living beings.  In the same way that a drop of water contains all of the properties of the ocean, each of us contains all of the properties of every human.  But you wouldn’t mix up the drop and the ocean. 

The surface tension of water where it meets the air is formed because water droplets like sticking together more with other water molecules than they do air molecules.  Soap molecules sandwich a thin layer of water between themselves and a film is formed.  The thin film surrounds a bit of air and voila!  A bubble! 

Without soap, bubbles form gas molecules and leave water due to more favorable conditions such as falling atmospheric pressure.  They are basically globules of one substance inside of another one, such as air in water or a soap film. 

Three things determine how long a bubble lasts: surface tension of the soap or water barrier, and pressure both inside and outside of the bubble. In the same way, there are conditions that determine how long any of our personal bubbles last. 

The self, through its focus, engagement and energy, pushes OUT on the environment.  The ambient environment pushes IN on the self.  The distinction in conditions operating inside and outside of a personal bubble is the metaphysical pressure differential.  

What about the barrier between the self and its surroundings?  The boundary, or the surface of the bubble, is double walled.  In many plant cells, there is a secondary cell wall that provides additional protection, rigidity and strength.  While bubbles and cells are physically diverse in their properties, it’s true that imposing order on the world by means of a particular system of beliefs gives us personal strength (like the plant cell) and that we have a separation of being from our surroundings (like the bubble). 

The outer barrier, where the outer world is touching the inner world, is the immediate context of the self.  The inner barrier, where belief orders the world, is the construct.  Stuff is coming at us from all over, but it gets bent a bit, like a light ray, as it passes through the place where consciousness separates us from the whole.  It gets bent again, like a light ray, where consciousness applies an organizing dynamic.

The self takes these raw materials and spins them into a coherent narrative, adding ray to ray of illumination as it builds a story letter by letter and line by line.  The self then files these written pieces and their supporting artifacts away, much as a librarian files books, periodicals and other resources. 

The particular luminescence of each conscious being changes with every addition, small or large, to the whole narrative to date.  The story of our lives is the story of felt experience.  It’s ongoing whether we are consciously aware and engaged or wholly reactive.

From inside the bubble, the force of energy that is pressing outward on the surrounding area is variable.  Some energy is consumed in maintaining the self and even more is consumed in maintaining the status quo or the present equilibrium. 

Physical, psychic or spiritual damage, injury and trauma mandate that greater energy is required in order for the self to accomplish the same basic work of its ordinary being, believing and doing.  Repairs, rest and other restorative efforts are needed in order to increase the amount of energy that can be directed to learning, making new connections and managing change.

The outward flow of energy passes back through the first wall of the self’s body of beliefs to date.  This energy has an alignment that vibrates sympathetically with the existing construct.  Alignment is an interesting term that comes from the French “a ligne” or in a line. 

Think about physical or electromagnetic waves having a normal line that is discernible.  It’s a line describing the motion and agreement of the energy that is being propagated through water, air or another medium.  This disturbance of the medium in the form of waves is the transfer of energy. 

Waves can even pass through a vacuum, which is not a medium in the strictest sense of the word.  Space, however, is not synonymous with vacuum.  Outer space, for example, contains radiation, a low density of particles, magnetic waves and other items.

Intergalactic Medium has also been proposed to exist. Expected amounts and locations of normal matter have not been found in space.  Using computer models, Warm-hot-intergalactic-medium has been evaluated and is believed by cosmologists to exist as plasma between galaxies. 

Energy can transfer or flow in the physical world in every kind of environment.  Existential energy also flows in the self, as well as between it and the surrounding context.  Examining physical contexts, properties and systems can give us real insight into the metaphysical as a whole and as it pertains to the self.

Existential energy is the ability of the self to do work: our being, believing and acting all consume a portion of this commodity.  For the self and its outward flow of existential energy, lack of alignment with one’s own beliefs means that more “push” is needed to get some energy out into the world. A backlash into the bubble or an energetic dousing of shame and anxiety accompany efforts to act in ways that violate the conscience. 

For example, if I believe that lying is wrong, but cheat on my income taxes, I’ve created a crisis situation.  I’m not aligned with a key belief.  I can change my action or my belief in order to resolve the discord.  If I fail to deal with the matter effectively, there’s a pool of trapped energy that feels uncomfortable.  In psychic and spiritual terms, I’ve got a gut ache.  There’s a disruption to the outward flow of my energy. 

Physically, I may feel anxious, angry or seek to distance myself from the situation through diminishing its significance, denial of its having occurred, or distraction from the circumstance.  It takes energy to engage in and sustain these negative dynamics, which is why we still feel the impacts of some of our past decisions to the current day. 

Either the beliefs or the actions must change in order to return to alignment.  The work of continuing to impact, influence and order the outer world consistently depends on this energetic agreement.  A process of recovery, restitution or restoration is needed.  Otherwise, the dissonance will continue to drain energy reserves. 

Sometimes, it’s our beliefs that need to change.  Maybe I struggle with perfectionism.  Or I just don’t believe that things will work out on my current job, even though I’ve had good evaluations so far.  Or I can still hear some voice from the past, telling me things that I KNOW aren’t true.  But they still FEEL as if they’re true.  Consciously regulating the content of our beliefs is crucial to having a workable system (or bubble) at any given moment. 

Orientation is another feature of this transference between the self and the larger world:  it consists of the attitude or posture of the self with respect to the whole system of its beliefs, a metaphysical point of reference or horizon. 

Planes also have attitude or a position with respect to the physical horizon.  Pitch attitude is the angle formed between the plane’s longitudinal axis and the line of the horizon.  Bank attitude is the line formed by the plane’s lateral axis and the line of the horizon.  These are changeable, but impact how conditions play out and how decisions are made by the pilot. 

The following five emotional orientations or attitudes, if held by pilots, interfere with sound decision making:  antiauthority, impulsivity, invulnerability, macho and resignation.  These traits tend to compromise decision making and may result in a number of behavior traps that are accident inducing: peer pressure, continuance of visual flight rules into instrument conditions, loss of situational or positional awareness etc. 

Pilots manage five “P” factors in flight:  the plan, the plane, the passengers, the pilot and the programming.  With so much more than just flying the plane to consider, how they approach the work on a given day is a crucial factor to everyone’s safety.  Attitude affects outcome in every circumstance!

Within the bubble, the orientation of energy or the attitude, determines how much useful work any of us can accomplish.  When conditions are ideal; when the self is rested, open and free of existential energy that has pooled and become trapped due to an inability to be expressed, released or resolved, we are in an optimal state.  Some describe this as “flow”. 

Energetic hot spots, when they occur, are like bruises or puddles under the surface that have become cut off from the main flow.  They require energy to address and resolve and may feel intensely painful, weighty and imbued with negatively charged psychic energy. Headaches, gut distress, skin breakouts and other indicators of the presence of negative stress are sometimes experienced through these negative felt impacts. 

Absent such blockages, one’s felt competence, energy and enthusiasm are almost boundless.  Health markers are generally better and there is an enhanced felt quality of life.  Ideally, none of us want to have these areas as part of our story.  The fact is that the presence of some energy blocks is a universal part of the human story, deeply integrated with our own dual nature and our concept of perfection. Wrestling with these is part of the work of maturity, of vision and revision and of the sacred act of writing out our own tale.

Resonance is the third dynamic within the meta-mechanics of the bubble. Besides orientation or attitude and alignment, resonance factors into how the self experiences its own energy and on how directly, effectively and intensely the self is able to act on itself or its surroundings. In terms of sound, resonance is defined as being qualitatively deep and full. Sound waves are reflecting back from a surface and therefore the sound is prolonged or reinforced. Neighboring objects can also vibrate in sympathy to the wave that is creating the sound.

There’s an element of applied force to resonance. In the case of sound waves, they’re bouncing back off of a surface and creating a longer sound. When kids are swinging, there’s a rhythm or a frequency to the arc of the swing as it moves. If someone pushes the child in the swing, the arc of the swing goes higher. The key is the push, which is a force, applied at the right time- cooperating with the movement of the swing without disrupting it. The right time to apply this force is at the highest point of the arc, when the swing it JUST about to go the other way and the force is added onto the forward motion.

Resonance is like that in the bubble system too. We can consciously leverage our circumstances and beliefs in order to catalyze our energy and have a bigger desired impact on the world. In positive terms, it’s choosing to be mindful of or grateful for the moments we’re living in, the love that we experience and feel and the connections that we enjoy with our bodies, our psyches, our spirits and our surroundings. In negative terms, it’s choosing to dwell on or be reactive to these same elements. There’s a “push factor” within all of us- we can add to the positive or negative elements of the stories of our lives at will.

If you need a little help gaining conscious mastery in your mindfulness skills and increasing your impact on the world around you, call us! One of our caring, compassionate coaches will support you on the next steps in your journey.

Success, Happiness and Chickens

“Daddy was tossing chickens…it was SO silly!” said my dear young friend. Now, the mental picture of her dad tossing chickens like feathery bowling balls popped up in my brain. She finds physical humor to be more relatable than other forms, so this conversational thread has persisted. Now, no chickens were actually harmed in the telling of these tossing tales. It turns out that the aforementioned fowl were going airborne in the virtual world. Still, the initial image startled me. My mind’s eye pictured her very studious and serious looking father carefully positioning each chicken as he got ready to toss it down some sort of a chicken-lane that was demarcated by white lines on pristine green grass. (I’ve never successfully gotten the name of the computer game in question, so who knows what the GUI in question resembles…)

Tossing chickens may be hilarious, heinous or merely a hindrance to the fulfilling of more important tasks, but it does give one pause… Someone had to write the game’s premise, storyline, rules and character roles. The visual interface needed to be created and then some company had to buy the rights and release the game. How much effort and energy went into tossing chickens in cyberspace? Now, frying chickens in a skillet, keeping chickens for their eggs, even breeding chickens to hold down the fly population in the barnyard are all understandable, relatable chicken initiatives. Why create an animation sequence as the basis for a game? My guess is that somebody had a good laugh at the thought of humans tossing chickens and took the idea further than most of us might have.

Chicken tossing is a disruption of the mundane. As a game, it’s a metaphor for engaging in the design of a tool for enjoyable disengagement. What kind of a personality is required to design such a game? Technically saavy and with a bent towards physical and visual comedy? Moreover, what kind of person plays such a game? Someone will produce a peer reviewed study, perhaps, on the psychographics of chicken tossing gamers… It’s possible to be very serious, focused and intense about not-so-serious things. Maybe that’s a good reminder for all of us. We need a little bit of mental junk food from time to time. Now, my young friend’s dad is the most serious and sober of people in how he lives out his daily life. Hard working, focused, skilled, strategic and at the top of his career. Does he do the chicken toss to amuse my young friend? Or maybe it’s his version of an antidote to the very straight edges of the rest of his routines.

“Daddy keeps on tossing the chickens…and they go ‘buck! buck!’, hee hee hee…”. Okay, this is more informative. Now we have noisy, fluttery virtual chickens being lobbed in cyberspace. She finds it hysterical. I was curious enough to look this up. Shockingly, there is a game based on real rubber chickens that is played outdoors and a very old computer game with chickens invading from outer space. Hmm. It seems that the game in question is likely to be a cannon based tossing game for cell phones. I guess that the point is that the value in any given engagement of our energy, faculties and focus is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

Design a chicken tossing game? Sure. Play one? Why not… Life is often considered a game to be played. Views on questions of winning or losing and concomitant definitions vary. Whether the game is random and incidental or very organized and with defined roles and rules is also a matter of perspective. Energetic budgets aren’t open-ended, though. Humans require rhythms of engagement and recovery. A life of significance needn’t be one of endless hardship and drudgery. Neither need it be one of distractions taken one after the other until dissipation and ennui are all that’s left.

There are two views of how to engage life well: “be happy” and “be successful”. They show up as a couple, sometimes and may be dysfunctional in their dynamic of connection. “Happiness is success” or “Success is essential; happiness is optional”. There are studies about how to be happy. Whole branches of disciplines such as coaching, economics, faith, family systems, politics and psychology are taken up with the pursuit of happiness. In the end, though, happiness isn’t a discipline. It isn’t a destination or even a destiny. Happiness is the journey that I’m on and how I feel about that journey. Simple as that! If I’m unhappy- it’s a being thing as much as it is a doing thing that needs to shift.

Something as simple as tossing chickens in an online game made my young friend happy and the memory of it has made both of us laugh since then. Something as complex as deciding to marry a partner or starting a business is only the beginning of a journey. And while there’s an end in view, happiness is found in the steps along the way- both in the prospect of gaining the goal and in the fact of enjoying the steps taken today. This is where happiness and success are functioning as an optimal couple. Life is centered in the present and there are plans that are being engaged for future goals.

If you need a little help getting your happy factor and your success factor to collaborate to produce your version of the ideal life, call us! One of our coaches will be happy to help!

A Bobble in the Bubble: Stasis

Dawn is a glorious time to be awake!  The sky heralds the soon arrival of the visible sun with splashes of color and light from a palette of singular beauty.  Twilight- the time of day when there is visible light in the sky, but the sun is below the horizon, occurs slightly less or more than an hour before sunrise.  There is some variation based on location and season, as well as who is doing the measuring! 

For example, the Talmud is read by many to say that seventy two minutes is the timeframe for this light to be visible prior to sunrise.  Civil twilight is based on the sun being six degrees below the horizon.  Nautical twilight ranges from six to twelve degrees below the horizon for the visible sun’s location (so you’d see the outlines of large objects in this instance).  Astronomical twilight ranges from twelve to eighteen degrees below the horizon for the sun’s position and light here is so faint that it’s illuminance is meaningless.

It’s easier to move around in dawn’s light or civil twilight than in the relative darkness of nautical or astronomical twilight.  Earth’s rotation brings the image of the sun from the east every morning, an existential rhythm that has inspired art, faith, industry and every form of production in living memory.  The simple presence of light so deeply regulated our activities that life’s work happened between sunrise and sunset.  It wasn’t practical or even possible for millennia to engage in field work, craftsmanship or business in the absence of light by which to travel, see the lands or care for crops, flocks and workspaces. 

Dawn calls us to prepare for the sunrise in some manner, the ritual of honoring the return of daylight has dominated our engaged imagination through the centuries.  Art, faith, focus and the routines of our individual and collective lives are still shaped by it.  Old sundials fire the mind with curiosity about these long forgotten times and the customs of the peoples who lived without many of our modern conveniences.  Temples that referenced sunlight during the summer or winter solstice such as Machu Picchu built in the fifteenth century by the Incas and located high in the Andes weren’t uncommon. 

India’s Konark and Modhera sun temples were built in the thirteen and eleventh centuries, respectively and keep company with many others.  Egypt’s fifth dynasty produced a number of sun temples beginning in the twenty fifth century BC (or BCE),  Karnak was an Egypian temple complex in use for between seventeen and twenty centuries (2000 to 1700 BC and 300 to 35 BC approximate range) whose principal deities were Amun (later Amun-Ra, as he became fused with the sun god Ra), his consort mother-goddess Mut and moon-god son Khonsu. 

The disposition to worship or to celebrate light in some form is an intrinsic part of the human experience.  In faith today, it might be considered more a matter of spirit than of astronomy, but the impulse is enduring.  Even in an era of abundant light through all the hours of the day and night, we still prefer to start our days early and end them within a couple of hours of sunset insofar as work norms for school, employment and government. 

In circles where personal work is a topic of discussion, inner light comes up as a common thread.  We all want to see our way forward clearly and we all aspire to possess that spark of divine light that can be kindled to full flame through focus and through flow.  We aren’t so different from our human ancestors, even if the world and all of our opinions about it seem much changed.  We’re less likely to bow before the sunrise, but we try to salute the sacred light in ourselves and in others. 

We define it differently.  Whether the guiding light is God, Christ, the Higher Self, Wisdom or something altogether different, we need a star to steer our ships by, and landmarks to measure our progress by.  Our maps of the spiritual night sky and topography may vary, but forward motion requires some comparative points that allow us to measure direction, speed, distance and elapsed time. 

What happens when we have no points of reference?  Our motion may be circuitous, lateral or regressive.  Essentially, we’ve wasted our resources of time, motivation, focus and energy.  Disappointing, certainly.  It’s important to maintain momentum in order to maintain movement: it’s equally important, however, to be able to see where you are going and measure your forward progress.  

Otherwise, you may find, with Solomon that: “The sun rises and the sun sets… and hurries back to where it rises.  The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.  All streams flow into the sea, yet the seas is never full.” (Eccl 1:5-7a NIV)  This is the price of living without consciously accounting for the light.  There might be a lot of motion, even a great many achievements, but the questions of intention, motivation and significance are missing from the scene. 

If you’ve lost momentum, motion or even movement due to a lack of meaningful clarity and insight, you might be tempted to just drift along.  Your outer life is moving along with its rhythms and routines, but somehow your inner life is unable to move along with it.  Ever gotten the sense that you’re well and truly STUCK?  You feel frozen, unable to progress towards your goals.  You’re experiencing inner STASIS and you’re not going anywhere!  What happened?  We live outside of the constraints of time.  But when our focus goes off to engage with other stories, it means that the PRESENT is on HOLD. 

You know how this goes sometimes- you call in to your doctor’s office to make an appointment.  You’re just about to finalize the date and time, and the receptionist says- “please hold”.  And there you are, stuck!  You’re not getting that appointment until she gets back on the line.  Did she have to deal with a patient?  Did somebody stop by the desk with some juicy gossip about those two lab techs that are dating?  Did she spill coffee on her laptop? 

We may never know, because her FOCUS is elsewhere and WE are here in the moment, stuck.  When your attention is elsewhere than the ideal center of focus for the current context, it’s behaving exactly like that receptionist!  Your wandering, distracted and anxious mind has divided its faculties and your perceptive and reflective acuity are going to suffer.  Can you even tell where you’re going and how much, if any, progress you’re making towards your vision through the achieving of your goals?

So, what is the mechanism that makes up focus and how is it divided? Well, through our FOCUS, we travel to the PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE and places of DISTRACTION.  Although we experience our physicality as bounded by the present, our BEING can be said to exist in these other spaces of the past, present, future and places of distraction.  The more fragmented our focus due to fatigue, anxiety or inadequate self-regulation, the worse our performance will become.  And, let’s be honest, performance matters!  An embodied life is the only whole life than any of us has, so what we do is tied to where we expend the majority of our focus, energy and time. 

What if I said that my goal is to lose twenty pounds between now and the end of the year?  It’s a relevant goal!  It’s specific and it’s measurable and it’s time bounded.  Now- what if- in order to fulfill that goal, I began reading all of the recipes online I could find that matched with my diet?  Good start, right?  Okay, now- what if I went out, bought the groceries, cooked some meals ahead for the week and packaged them up?  Great!  Now, what if I start obsessing over the fact that I can’t eat bread, drink beer or pile up the dinner plate with my favorite casserole?  I get stuck on that loop and start getting frustrated. 

See what I’m doing?  The story has somehow changed from “let’s lose some weight and I can really DO this” to “drat, this sucks…”.  Before you know it, my motivation begins to ebb, my attention is less on that goal and more on the costs to be paid along the way and I’m now in the danger zone!  I can either take steps to recover my focus and engagement… OR I can drift along on the current of my distraction until I’ve forgotten why I ever wanted to do this project in the first place.  The year ends with the goal still undone and I’m now less likely to reengage the goal because I don’t want to risk failing again. 

In terms of our energetic output- the places that we choose to engage and focus as opposed to the ones we don’t-there’s ALWAYS some kind of a storyline.  We’re always reworking our stories in light of the information on hand.  Back to the receptionist with too many things going on simultaneously, how does that divided focus affect the patient waiting on the line?  Well, it depends on the story that comes up when the receptionist comes back on line. You’ll be at least a little sympathetic if she was attending to another patient.   Or if she spilled coffee on her laptop. 

But if she had a mini gossip session?  Or FORGOT about you while you were on hold?  Yeah, then the sympathy might be a little lower. Of course, you’re only going to know if you get the information and you’ll react or respond based on that narrative.  Our focus acts on the tension between these stories from the past, the present and the future and any incoming information that changes them.

You’ll get off the phone with the doctor’s office with one kind of impression if the receptionist told you what happened and apologized for the delay.  It’s likely to be favorable.  Or at least neutral.  But you’ll get off the phone with the doctor’s office with a very different view if you were taken off “hold” and hear laughter and joking in the background.  Plus no apology.  Plus her finishing her chat with the office tech about that hot couple of lab techs. 

Even if you’ve always thought that this doctor’s office was just fine until today, now you’re irritated.  Suddenly, you remember that they billed you twice for that copay… yeah, that sucked.  You’re reworking your narrative about the doctor’s office in your PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE based on the information in hand and how you feel about it.  Your internal FACULTIES are able to move to other points along the timeline, even though the physical you is always HERE, in the present.  When our focus is elsewhere, we’re stuck. 

Okay- let’s look at what happens when we’re in STASIS because our focus is specifically aimed at the past:  BUBBLES- we live in one place at a time.  One set of circumstances, relationships, beliefs and emotions.  One point on the Time Line.  Our present BUBBLE.  Think about how many intervals you’ve lived through: who your family was in your earliest years… school…  first date… first job… first car… These can be very special memories.  Mostly good.  Some bad, too!  All of these events were transitions.  They helped to change something significant about how you did life every day.  You may have popped the old BUBBLE and moved to a new one. 

Even though a circumstantial BUBBLE pops, its influence and impacts live on.  Its influence and impacts live on in MEMORY.  You remember how things happened, including some key details about the places, people and other pieces of those distant times.  ts influence and impacts live on in VISION.  You remember how you FELT about how things happened.  What you DID think about how it would affect you in the future. 

Now, that STORY may have shifted.  New information changes how we FEEL about old memories.  A BUBBLE happened.  Once.  THAT bubble NEVER came your way again.  BECAUSE- a BUBBLE is a singular confluence of elements operating within time.  When they POP, we sometimes resist acknowledging it. Pieces degrade.  Deteriorate.  Rot.  But we’re still living in an Old Narrative. A shroud. 

Sometimes the bubble wasn’t wholly popped.  It was wounded.  Leaking emotion.  Leeching energy from the process of sustaining the new bubble.  The new bubble has formed.  It’s inevitable.  But we’re dragging bits of the old one along for the ride.  Some of these narratives are about powerful regrets.  Stories whose impacts are still active, resonating and vibrating in the present time.  Long after the transition has happened.  Because we didn’t fully process the transition.

The new bubble is life giving.  Life sustaining.  But it can be infected by attachments to pieces of the old one.  Time- unfolds only WITHIN the current bubble.  Our internal FACULTIES unfold BOTH INSIDE of the BUBBLE…  and OUTSIDE of the BUBBLE.  So- they OPERATE in TIME.  And NOT-TIME.  (Because our BEING can be said to exist in the PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE.)

It’s our Spiritual, Intuitive and Imaginative faculties that operate throughout all of the INTERVALS that we experience. The BUBBLES?  They STILL exist in the view of these internal faculties. 

Because we still feel the impacts of what we HAVE experienced, And IMAGINE how we felt. 

Because we feel the impacts of what we DO experience.  And INTUIT how we feel. 

Because we expect to feel the impacts of what we WILL experience.  And ENVISION how we will feel. 

The THREE NARRATIVES are always operating… Collaboratively…  Interrelating…  Interpreting… Themselves… In light of the information on hand.

AND in light of how we INTUIT that we DO FEEL about the information ON HAND.

AND in light of how we IMAGINE that we FELT about it in the past.

AND in light of how we ENVISION that we WILL FEEL about it in the future.

Okay- we’ve established that our INTERNAL FACULTIES interact with the PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE.

We rework the stories that we tell ourselves about these BUBBLES or INTERVALS whenever we have new INFORMATION ON HAND.

We get STUCK- go into STASIS in the PRESENT TIME when our FOCUS is directed elsewhere.  STASIS is most likely to occur when the ELSEWHERE is at some point in our past.

These intervals that we experience through our internal faculties are NOT-TIME. They are psychic or energetic manifestations of things that we have experienced, and the meanings that we have made, do make and will continue to make out of them.  Our narratives write themselves out of our reactions, unless we mediate them through a response.

We can only DWELL in ONE BUBBLE at a time…

BUT, we may be haunted or inspired by the energetic and psychic echoes of OTHER bubbles.  We’re still ENGAGED with, PREOCCUPIED by and ATTACHD to the WRONG bubble.

It exists, but only in Not-Time.  It’s only accessible through our internal faculties.  Regaining your freedom from stasis is a critical first step in shifting your life towards the rhythms and routines that support your goals and your vision of the ideal life.  A skilled coach can show you how.  Call us, we’re here to help! 

A Foggy, Froggy (Soggy) Metaphor

Sometimes when you look at your life, you see what you EXPECT to see, instead of what actually is. There’s a filter in place, and to the extent that your life conforms to your expectations (or at least SEEMS to), it’s not something you give a lot of thought. You’re a frog on a comfortable lily pad: plenty of flies are passing by for your needs and you just stay put. It’s not perfect, but it will do, for now. Maybe you spend time in your foggy, froggy brain dreaming of better lily pads, bigger ponds and a larger assortment of flies…

If it would only rain a little more, water levels would rise, along with the hatching of more flies! If the weather would only turn cooler, conditions would be ideal for more lilies to grow, along with the blooming of their flowers! If the fish would only hatch their eggs, their offspring would enhance the pond’s nutrient levels and the liy plants would become taller, larger and more luxurious! A frog’s paradise, all wrapped up in external conditions based on “if…only!”.

You’re a visionary frog! The trouble is that nothing that is outlined in your vision depends upon you. No effort, energy, or engagement needed. That’s what separates a fairy tale from a vision. A vision has the possibility of coming true and it’s based almost wholly in the engagement of your own faculties. A fantasy, on the other hand, is a wish. Often, it’s a misappropriation of your time and attention. Because, after all, there’s no harm in wishing… That is true. There’s no harm in wishing. But there’s not much benefit in it, either. Unless you act in competent ways on a consistent basis to execute behaviors that will bring the image in your mind’s eye to fruition. In short, it’s only a wish until you act to bring it to an embodied state.

Maybe instead of dreaming your froggy days away, you’re more of a frog-of-action? You don’t content yourself with sitting on your leaf lined posterior, but you’re always looking for a chance to leap. No time for mindful froggy reflection, you’re ready to hop right on it! And you do! From lily pad to lily pad, from pond to pond, and from swarm to swarm of yummy flies- you’re always looking for the next best spot! You leap first and then leap again. Eventually, you land somewhere acceptable. As soon as you feel restless or see a shadow pass over the water, (could be a hawk!) you’re off! “Keep moving!” is your motto. “Keep changing, keep hopping, keep looking… the best spot is out there somewhere!”. You work your poor froggy fanny right off with not much to show for it, other than some legs tired of always leaping and a vague sense that you’re missing out on something, (so you’d better keep on…!). You’re a frantic froggy whose frenetic efforts fail to bring you the success you seek.

Maybe instead of wishfully dreaming the days away OR frantically working and doing the days away, you’re a frightened froggy? You’ve seen other frogs get EATEN and you just don’t think that you want to risk that. So, you stay completely OUT of the pond, and OFF of the lily pads. You sit on the bank, under cover of some weedy grasses. Not too many flies come your way, but nobody bothers you much here, either. When you’re a little extra hungry, lonely or scared, you feel angry.

After all, WHY do frogs get eaten? There ought to be a law! Creatures should be kind to frogs for holding the insect population down. Besides, other animals could just as well eat flies. Or grass. Or something. So you’re a fearful, fretful froggy. Too overwhelmed to even THINK about hopping, lilies or pads. Those frogs out on the lily pads are foolish! They should take more care, like you do. They’d live longer, for sure!

There are other froggies out on their lily pads. There are fragmented froggies who have difficulty concentrating on one fly catching strategy at a time. There are funny froggies who are always seeing who can croak the loudest and puff out their throat the biggest. There are fanciful froggies who are dreaming up chocolate dipped flies or sketching out the latest stats on lily propagation under a variety of growth conditions. There are furious froggies who carry their aggrieved selves with angry croaks, hops and vocalizations. There are romantic froggies in search of Mr. Macho Frog or Miss Femme Frog Fatale. In short, there’s every flavor of frog imaginable exercising every conceivable focus of energy and engagement imaginable!

But- the only actualized froggies are the ones who effectively combine being and doing! They set the intention for a course of action that they wish to execute in service of a goal. They mindfully consider all of the possible obstacles and outcomes of their proposed course of action. They execute their intention and it’s sometimes an iterative, messy process. (You don’t always hit the lily pad on the first leap!) They then use their curiosity to sit with the outcome and see how they could do it better.

These froggies then engage in the habits that will support the achievement of their goals. AND they develop a pattern of ways of doing and being that enhance the likelihood that the outcome that they have in mind will happen. These froggies aren’t doers, dreamers, drifters or drudges. They don’t just do things to check them off of the list. They don’t just dream about the items on the list. They design their life, plan it out, execute it, improve it and perfect it. Be an integrated froggy (or human). You’ll get the best results for your efforts and the felt quality of your life will be fantastic!


My very dear young friend has a fantastic shirt printed on the front with the oversized face of a white tiger and studded with sparkly beads.  “Rrrrrrraaaarrrrrrgh!!!” She sports this fashion forward garment on the regular and is sure to provide an accompanying vocal stream.  After all, tigers are growly, powerful, awesome predators!  Beautiful, fierce and mysterious, they are the perfect symbol of power. 

Revered by Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, South Korea and Vietnam, these beasts are royal.  India’s national animal is the Royal Bengal Tiger, or panthera tigris tigris, a truly kingly beast.  Tigers have the largest brains of all of the big cats and while lions are physically heavier, on average, the upper range of potential size for males makes tigers the largest big cat.  They hunt at night and are a bit slower than lions, though about equal with respect to their force of strike.  Though they hunt alone, they produce larger litters and mature more quickly than the other four related species. 

Emulating the sounds that a tiger makes while wearing that tiger print t-shirt gives my young friend a boost; she feels quite powerful, possibly even regal!  We’ve played audio files of the growly roars that tigers produce and compared them to those of lions.  While lions are certainly louder, the otherworldly, guttural sounds of tigers make for some scary listening. 

Ever noticed that humans also tend to get a bit growly, hostile and loud when they want to assert their dominance or emphasize a point?  Whether complaining, crying, screaming or shouting, we use our own tactics of dissuasion for those who insult us, instruct us without having been asked or intrude into our space.  Feeling anxious, angry or attacked makes us take up more room physically, psychically and vocally.  We project a presence that we believe is likely to deter others from taking advantage of us.

Creatures have all kinds of reactions to discourage perceived threats.  Vocalizations, scent or ink production, posturing and physical changes in color or size are all ways that they communicate “I’m able to defend myself… stay away!”.  Roars are seen in big cats, elephants, gorillas, howler monkeys, red deer and some bovids.  Scent is used as a deterrent by skunks, striped polecats, and stink badgers.  Vultures will vomit to gain an advantage, stupefying the threat with odor, messiness and acid.  Possums poop out a deterrent while playing dead when under attack.  The sea hare exudes a slimy purple ink to dissuade predators and it has been noted to cause anxious behaviors in lobsters.  Squids, octopi and cuttlefish all squirt ink to confuse predators.  Pufferfish increase in size and many animals have either protective coloration or are actually able to change colors. 

The range of human behaviors in response to perceived threats is almost equally broad, and is based as much in behaviors as in biology.  Norms of clothing divided by roles, gender, function and class separate us with respect to behaviors.  I’d hesitate to ask someone in a suit and tie or skirt and jacket to help me move something heavy.  I might also conclude that someone dressed in such apparel is acting in a formal role for work or socially.  Many people dress up when appearing before a court or attending services in a faith community. 

In addition to style points for ourselves and those around us, we also have defensive mechanisms when requesting a favor or assistance in the form of language.  “Please”, “thank you”, “would you mind…?”, “may I…?” and similar forms punctuate our interactions and are designed to position us favorably.  Or at least to communicate that we are not a threat and therefore are not potential objects of hostility, irritation or violence. 

Money, or at least the perception of wealth, is another discriminator that serves as a defense for many people.  Possession of an income that exceeds monthly liabilities, property that is adequate to shelter the household and a profession that secures the stability of the family unit are all indicators of stability, security, prosperity and order.  Working systems are less likely to break down and therefore, households that have a baseline of cooperative collaboration are far more likely to endure and even to thrive.

Clothing, language and money are shields of a sort; so, too are standards that accord to an acceptable degree with the social and political norms in force.  Peacocks and other birds have feathery displays and dances designed to attract a mate.  Other creatures use color, movement and vocalizations in the same manner. These standards are often codified for certain roles and distilled into a set of norms that include dress, special forms of expression and ritualized routines. 

Think about flight attendants preparing for departure, military personnel at a comrade’s funeral, police officers on parade- these are all instances where norms are rigidly formal and there is more moral force behind decisions to comply or complain and disrupt the setting.  Often, settings where there is heightened risk of harm or loss have more comprehensive requirements for normal conduct by the actors on the scene. 

Students might argue with a peer but be disinclined to do so with a parent, policeman, principal or teacher.  Employees might disagree vocally with their colleagues but be hesitant to do so with a board member, boss or director.  Norms are designed to guide conduct in such a way as to prevent us from being targets of aggression, judgement or ostracism. 

Sometimes, we run into a disconnection between the norms in force in a given context and the agency that we wish to exercise.  Mom wants to take the evening off for a girls’ night out and would like dad to take over the evening dinner, homework and parenting routines.  Gaining cooperation is harder if her partner holds a belief that such tasks are “women’s work” or that they “aren’t difficult” and that “good mothers don’t take time off”. 

Mom in that case faces a choice of accepting the status quo or of expending the energy needed to engage and shift the perspective of her partner.  The roles could certainly be reversed!  Dads need time off, too!  Or older siblings… or grandparents…  The point is, when norms are at odds with felt experience, there is some work to do.  And- it’s likely that some defensive or even some aggressive posturing and communication will be deployed on one or both sides.  Unless we cultivate the habit of awareness of our own values and those of others, we may not even understand what is behind the conflict.

Norms, in and of themselves, aren’t morally good or bad.  A quiet, ordered home isn’t better than a noisy, boisterous one.  Traditional divisions of labor in the home aren’t better than half-half or rotating arrangements.  Who stays home, who earns the money, who lives with whom… these are matters of personal preference and perspective.  In even the most closely aligned relationships and in even the best designed institutions and organizations, awareness of the need to work together for the common good in ways that are equitable and sustainable are critical. 

Disagreement will come.  Discord, too.  Allowing these differences of felt perspective to become too entrenched, however, is detrimental to the whole space and all of its occupants.  Recognizing the rising anxiety and its accompanying defense mechanisms before they get away from us buffers our reaction just enough… so that we can use our curiosity and awareness of ourselves, others and our respective values to find common ground. 

Common ground isn’t agreement with respect to values.  Or perspective.  It’s agreement with respect to workable outcomes.  It’s perfectly fine for one partner to be more conservative and the other more liberal.  It’s understandable that some children prefer books, quiet and study while others crave crowds, constant activity and collaboration.  It’s been said that it takes all kinds to make the world go around, and so it does.  Let’s use our insight, intelligence and intuition in such a way that the world goes around in an equitable, peaceful and sustainable manner. That’s a pretty good definition of success. (Rrrrraaaawwwh!)

Notes From Sunday: One

Let’s take a look at what life can look like when we don’t reach our destination: when we don’t reach our full potential, in very real ways, parts of who we are decompensate.  One of the most famous of biblical figures is the person of Moses.  He was born under a death sentence, according to Exodus 1:22.  Pharaoh first ordered the midwives Shiprah and Puah to kill all Hebrew newborn males and when that failed, he gave the order to the general populace.  Moses was hidden for some months by his mother, Jochabed, and was placed into a basket and set afloat on the Nile. 

Adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, who took him home out of pity, he grew up exposed to both his birth family and the royal household.  As an adult, he committed murder: when an Egyptian was beating another slave, he killed the abuser.  Subsequently, he ran away for forty years because his deed became known to others.  The impetus for his speedy departure was as follows: a Hebrew slave was oppressing his fellow and when Moses challenged him, he replied “who made you a ruler and a judge over us?  Will you kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”.  He was afraid of Pharaoh’s wrath and he fled, leaving behind everything that he knew.

Having survived sex selective infanticide/ genocide, cross-cultural adoption and the prospect of Pharaoh’s justice, Moses spent years away from all that he’d known.  Married, working and with children, he was just “doing life” in the context that was available to him.  The narrative next shows us a disruption to the norm, but at God’s hand.  A bush in the desert was burning, but wasn’t being consumed by the fire.  Attracted by the unusual sight, our hero comes aside and receives a divine commission to rescue his people from slavery.  This time, however, he’d have a new set of tools and the backing of a divine mandate and divine support. 

This wasn’t enough, initially; Moses argued that he wasn’t a skilled speaker.  (Surely there was someone more suited to the task?) How was he going to get the attention of Pharaoh and require that his fellow slaves be released?  God answered Moses by sending him proofs of His support and by sending his brother to meet him in order to go forward together on assignment.  Now- God had warned that it wasn’t going to be a quick or easy resolution.  Apparently, Egypt’s ruler wasn’t of a progressive mindset in any sense of the word. 

So began a cycle of Moses announcing his assignment to a resistant Pharaoh and the exchange of problems, promises of freedom, solutions, deceit and more problems.  The bosses of the building program also busted any attempts to unionize by increasing production and decreasing supplies.  They also beat people who failed when they’d been set up to fail in order to pressure Moses from below.  Egypt had their own troubles.  God held up His side by weighing in with a series of catastrophes:  water turning to blood, hordes of frogs, lice, flies, sickness in livestock, boils, hail, locusts and darkness.  Finally, perhaps ironically, He warns that all firstborn of humans and animals will die if Pharaoh won’t relent. 

There was a method to the madness from God’s perspective:  Hapi was the god of the Nile and water turned to blood, Heket was the frog-headed goddess of fertility and frogs overbred, Geh was god of earth/ dust which became lice, Kepri was creator over the sun, skies and rebirth where flies swarmed, Hathor was the cow-headed goddess of livestock… and they became ill, Isis was the goddess of medicine when ashes became boils… (no magicians could even stand before Pharaoh due to ceremonial impurity from boils-), Nut was goddess of the sky which rained hail and fire, Seth was god of storms and disorder and locusts destroyed any crops that the hail left, Ra was god of the sun which vanished during three days of darkness. 

In summary- God might even have outdone the Bad Bosses of Egypt’s building program and He had one very terrible and ironic Bad Thing left:  Pharaoh was to either let his slaves go or lots of animals and people would die, at least all of those first born.  Sons, based on what I can find… In order to avoid death of all firstborn that night among the Hebrews, God required the sacrifice of a lamb and the application of its blood to the sides and top of the door. Anyone who did not perform the Passover as instructed would be visited by the Death Angel. The plagues are thought to have been visitations of divine wrath that were perhaps carried out by a band of angels at God’s command. There is no single Destroyer or Angel of Death in scripture.

So after a lot of difficulties, Moses gets the people gathered together and they escape Egypt, where they were abused, enslaved and overworked.  While Egypt suffered plagues and the slaves suffered from Pharaoh’s wrath, God took the time to explain things during the events leading up to and immediately after the flight from Egypt.  To wit, the Hebrews escaped most of the impacts of the plagues (no darkness, loss of livestock, loss of firstborn etc…).  But- they’d been traumatized by their circumstances and hadn’t really recovered.  Even seeing miracles and gaining their freedom left them unable to enjoy things.  They grumbled.  A lot.

They’d gotten into it with Moses and with God over the hardships that had accompanied their preparations to leave Egypt, the threat of harm and death during their escape from Egypt when they were chased, and they’d even had a massive orgy and festival of idolatry when Moses was off communing with God and getting the ten commandments issued on their stone tablets. Moses broke the first set of tablets, melted the golden calf in fire, ground it to powder, sprinkled it on water and had the Israelites drink it before departing to get the second set of stone tablets with God’s commandments.

In fact, when the narrative unfolds in Numbers 11, they’ve already taxed the patience of their leadership and even of God.  By this point, they’ve decided that God is trying to kill them in the desert.  They’d seen some badass demonstrations of divine power, but it didn’t stick.  Which just goes to show that mindset…matters!  I mean it REALLY matters when it comes to fulfilling all of your potential.  They eventually carried on to the point that they had to turn away from the new land promised to them and would remain tiresomely stuck in the muck (well, okay, in the desert) for some time. 

And to make matters clear- they weren’t going to get to the Promised Land.  Everyone aged twenty and over at the time that they declined to go INTO the land and fulfill their destiny was under a sentence of death.  (Well, a life sentence.  They’d die off in the desert and generation two would go in.)  Everyone died off with the exception of a couple of people who’d been Pro Team New Digs: Caleb and Joshua. 

Even Moses lost out for failing to follow directions because anger, anxiety and stress overwhelmed his better judgement and God wasn’t doing excuses post-miraculous deliverance. This event was later in the timeline than the event involving grumbling over manna and meat, but it’s worth noting because habits, once set, have consequences that continue to accumulate. Mindful habits such as curiosity, resiliency and competent self-management have one set of outcomes. Mindless habits such as being highly reactive, black and white thinking, grumbling, and pessimism have a different set.

So in the circumstance of Numbers 11, the grumblers kept on grumbling.  Here- they were tired of the food on hand.  Egypt had fish, onions, melons, garlic and stuff.  They were stuck eating manna.  You could bake it into bread, boil it into porridge and do other stuff with it.  Divine C-rations, but sure, it’s limited.  One core group of grumblers started grouching and the whole group took up the lament.  More than 600,000 men and their families comprised the people hanging out outside of their tents and wailing for meat.  Somebody was SICK of it.  (Well, God and Moses both, apparently.) 

God decided to serve up a new menu of meat for a month, but He wasn’t happy with the whining.  People gathered a ton (literally) of quail per person blown in from the seashore.  Dried them.  Cooked them.  Chowed down.  And some died.  Is wanting meat wrong?  Nah.  It’s not an endorsement of veganism.  It’s more the case that after all of the energy and effort invested in leaving Egypt, they seemed never to have fully left.  Sure, they packed up, got payment for their prior labor from the Egyptians by “borrowing”  a bunch of stuff to worship God before departure, performed the first ritual of Passover so that the Death Angel wouldn’t come to their families and walked on out. 

They’d crossed the Red Sea and moved on, accompanied by a visible sign of the divine presence in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  The difficulty was in their inner self.  Call it worldview.  Call it mindset.  Call it a trauma bond.  Call it a lack of spiritual regeneration.  Somehow, they didn’t get hold of their change in circumstances and leverage it. The lack of change in their ways of thinking and being lead to a corresponding lack of change in their ways of doing things. THAT lead to trouble engaging with their new environment that lasted through multiple of them testing the patience and goodness of those guiding them.

What about us?  Well, I’m not in the desert and there’s a lot of privilege and provision in my life.  Occasionally, I lose my cool when stress is crazy.  Not as often as I used to.  Not as badly as I used to.  Those close to me say I’m not the same person that I was a few years ago.  I know from experience that mindset matters.  Grumbling is human, but left unchecked, these habits of complaining and grumbling can become weeping and wailing.  Life has its challenges.  But our responses are up to us.  Let’s make some inroads into our own resilience by increasing the capacity for mindful self-regulation.  Whatever the Promised Land is for each one of us, let’s leverage the wisdom we’ve gleaned from our experiences to date and get there sooner, rather than later (or not at all). 

Orange Cat

Orange cat ran into my room.
She said “I’ll take my old straw broom-“.
“I’ll sweep the stars down from the Sky.”
“And put them in a jar close by.”

“You cannot reach the stars” said I.
“A broom can’t sweep them from the Sky”.
“They will not fit into a jar.”
“They are too big and hot, by far!”

“Then I will catch them in a net!”
“And place them in the Sea, so wet!”
Orange Cat stood on each soft paw,
flexing every single claw.

“You cannot place them in the Sea.”
“Nor empty jar, nor cup of tea…”
“Stars belong in outer space.”
“Where planets run in rings and race…”

“Comets zip-zoom around for years.”
“Asteroids and other spheres,
“Travel far in paths called orbits.”
“All shapes, sizes and all courses…”

Orange cat said “it’s time to eat!”
“Stars for me would be a treat!”
“You cannot eat stars from the sky.”
“You cannot catch them as they pass by.”

“I’ll sweep them all into a net!”
“I’ll dunk them in the Sea, so wet.”
“My old straw broom is very strong.”
“With bristles that are very long.”

“The Sea will cool the stars for me.”
“I’ll eat them with a cup of tea.”
“No one can tell me not to try.”
“To get those stars down from the sky.”

“The taste of them will be so sweet.”
“I’ll dry them on my old white sheet.”
“I’ll salt them with a little shake.”
“And what a lovely snack they’ll make.”

Orange cat ran out of the house.
Grabbed her friend, the Old Gray Mouse,
And climbed up high towards the sun.
On an old ladder, “Oh, what fun!”

“I cannot wait to gather stars!”
“I’ll catch them all in my glass jars.”
I knew that Orange Cat would fail.
She’d become mad, and swish her tail.

The stars would not fall from the sky.
She could not sweep them, nor could I.
Old Gray Mouse tried hard to help.
But he fell down, and gave a yelp.

“We must try another way.”
I heard my friend, the Orange Cat say.
“A rocket ship is what we need!”
“To lift us up and give us speed!”

“Then the stars will not escape.”
“And I can eat those YUMMY shapes!”
Orange Cat ran into the shed.
She grabbed her tools, and off she sped.

She built all through the afternoon.
“My space ship will be finished, soon!”
At four o’clock, she stopped for tea.
And drew a map of Land and Sea.

She grabbed her net and Old Gray Mouse.
And got into her Space Ship House.
It looked just like an old tin can.
It was time to execute her plan.

She pushed a button, round and red.
Then off to outer space she sped!
The flames were bright behind her ship.
She was off on her star catching trip!

Old Gray Mouse was SO excited,
to see the engines all ignited!
He took a look at all the stars.
The rocket soon cleared planet Mars.

Orange Cat began to count.
Soon she reached a Large amount!
The stars in space were big and hot.
They never stayed in just one spot.

The planets ran around each star.
Some paths were close, and some were far.
Comets also flew past the ship.
The computers all said “bleep” and “blip”!

Soon the system gave its report.
“No stars will fit the net, abort!”
“You cannot go deep space star fishing!”
“No matter how hard you keep wishing.”

“Meow!”, Orange Cat said to the ship.
“This plan was wrong, a wasted trip!”
“I must consider another way.”
“To snack before the end of day.”

Old Gray Mouse was silent, still.
He thought and thought and thought… UNTIL!
“Why don’t we make a tasty treat?”
“Something salty and something sweet?”

Orange Cat sniffed and gave a sigh.
“We had fun flying up so high!”
“We built a rocket, away we flew.”
“We learned some things we never knew!”

“Stars are big, and hot and far away!”
“We’ll come back again another day!”
With that, the two friends turned around.
And flew their space ship to the ground.

Orange Cat put away her ship.
She was home from her Star Catching Trip.
Old Gray Mouse then asked his question:
“What, dear friend, is your suggestion?”

“We should have a snack with tea, quite late.”
“Perhaps out back, by the garden gate…”
Orange Cat put on a tall Chef’s Hat.
She grabbed an apron, knife and mat.

She cut and diced. She mixed and stirred.
Ovens heated and machines all whirred.
Soon enough, she set the timer.
She fixed a metal tray and liner.

She placed some dough upon the tray.
Each one was shaped a certain way.
Old Gray Mouse set up the table.
He was fast, neat and very able.

Orange Cat served the treats she made.
The last rays of the sun did fade.
Old Gray Mouse bit into his treat.
Star shaped, salty and also sweet.

                      The End

Blue to Gray

Speaking with a counselor acquaintance of mine recently, it seems that my impression of the compounding of existing impacts of Covid-19 isn’t far off of the mark.  The world has gone gray and the landscape of the space where we expend most of our energy looks less like a series of wind sprints and more like a marathon.  A sense of being tapped out for optimism, energy and agency can drive us from dysfunction to disengagement to despair.  

Outrage that has erupted in the news cycles, on social media and in professional and personal spaces is our survival instinct working on overdrive against a threat whose impacts are both direct and oblique.  There’s no single villain to blame, no single demographic or interest group to fault, no single dynamic whose mastery would liberate us from the complexities and complications that follow onto shifts in how we do life mandated by Covid-19. 

Trump, Pelosi, Fauci, the Proud Boys and Antifa may make convenient targets, as do corporate interests, government’s scale driven inability to respond rather than react and the sad reality that there’s no “fix” for this.  When the world is blue, we can connect with the source of our pain and feel the feels.  Our emotions have a rationale or at least a causal object.  When the world goes gray, however, there’s a lack of clarity around cause and cure. 

Managing complexity is considered a higher order skill in every sphere, and at every level.  We’re metaphorically dealing with a car crash as it happens to us personally.  We’re functioning while the highway is congested by traffic that cannot flow past the scene of the accident.  Cars are running into the rear of the line of cars already destroyed.  The scene is being experienced, investigated, narrated and quantified simultaneously.  Consequences of each impact are compounding the fallout of prior impacts.  Individually, collectively and systemically, we’re in pain, vulnerable and working on partial solutions in the hopes of countering some of the damage. 

Consider any demographic as the center of a wheel and its supports as the spokes and the scope and depth of damage is more apparent.  Students are served by their parents, peers and teachers, all of whom must operate to fulfill their respective roles without using the normal channels of interaction.  The youngest students, those with special needs and those who are economically disadvantaged are suffering.  The elderly and infirm are served by family, friends and providers, all of whom must operate at a literal distance.  The virtual space is a lifeline as a channel for the flow of information, economic activity and connection, but it lacks the elements of touch and the other physical senses beyond vision.  It also lacks the element of the freedom to move about at will. 

With all of these compounding dynamics and no certainty of a timetable with respect to a solution in the form of a safe vaccine or an economic and cultural reset in the form of the freedom to gather and to pursue our activities of choice at will, there’s a bottling up of very powerful emotions driven by anger, anxiety, depression, rage and sorrow.  The key to conserving the greatest possible degree of functionality for each of us and for all of us in our felt experience of daily life lies as much in the management of our emotions, expectations and energies as in the finding of a vaccine or the successful remediation of impacts in other spheres. 

More people are being dragged by circumstances and they are in turn dragging themselves and others into patterns of behavior that are toxic.  Not knowing what is happening next or when things will improve can be triggering.  Domestic violence, drinking and every form of acting out is on the rise.  Collectively, we’re more angry and we are more violent that we were six months ago, before the fresh hell of Covid-19 turned into some sort of stale purgatory that we couldn’t figure out a way out of.  We all want to think about the days ahead with hopefulness and with optimism.  But- what if the mess that we are in sticks around and the world doesn’t come to rights in short order?  It’s a scary question and one that we may not want to address.  After all, why waste time and energy focusing on what could continue to go wrong instead of on what might go right? 

We can’t wait for the good old days to come back.  They’re gone.  Somehow, we need to come to grips with that.  Whether a vaccine is found soon and the economy recovers and the school year ahead is eventually its ordinary self isn’t the point.  There are layers of impact to work out and the present landscape of our life labs is where we are faced with carrying out this essential, important and ultimately inescapable work. 

As people and organizations, we are faced with a monumental challenge:  we must figure out how to wrestle with our roles under the weight of heavier stress and with the complication of resources that are simply more difficult to access.  Emotional intelligence is the coin of this new realm and the habit of engaging our curiosity about our own experience and that of others is the way that we can see things clearly. 

The world may indeed have gone gray, but we can figure out how to focus so that we can see clearly and engage effectively as we work our way forward. It’s done just a moment at a time by mindfully refocusing our consciousness on the present moment. Neither our horror for the unknown nor our hopes for better outcomes can be permitted to distract us from the work. Doing the work that has presented itself now, irrespective of the fact that we didn’t choose the current context is the most liberating choice that we can make. And the one that will give us the best possible outcomes.

If you need support engaging consciously and mindfully with aspects of your career, family or other concerns, reach out. We’re here to help.

Bubbles of Being: Perspectives, Prejudice and Possibilities

The world that we live in is divided up into spheres of experience, impact, influence and perspective.  Collectively, these embodied narratives play out in billions of moments that make up our lifetimes.  We often narrate the lives of others as well, supposing that we understand what it means to actually be that other person.  Then, we allude to this construct as if it were true.  What that other person should or ought to feel, do or be- we think that we know! 

In the world of people whose perspective is constrained, muted or strangled to silence, many harms arise from these substitutions.  They’re a form of projection of the self and its perspective onto other people.  In essence, this substitution of my supposed understanding of their felt perspective for that of others is inauthentic.  It’s enmeshing.  It connotes a lack of self-differentiation and its impact is to make objects of others. 

People on the Autism spectrum experience many of these impacts.  As do people who are deaf.  Blind.  From a different culture, demographic or language.  Other gender.  Other worldview.  Somehow, we aren’t as curious about the experiences of those who are different as we might be.  It takes engagement, energy, skill and time to develop even a partial understanding of how others experience their world. 

We can only connect to others to the extent that we can experience life in the way that they do.  By listening.  By learning.  By leaning into differences through seeing people as more than the sum of their parts.  Because let’s be honest- some choices are disagreeable, even intolerable in our eyes.  There are constructs that help to mediate some of these differences of opinion and perspective.  These provide legal and social governance that can be shaped over the course of time to reflect changes in the mindsets, values or vision of the constituencies. 

Our error lies in arrogating some of the prerogatives of governance to the unjust detriment of others.  Prejudice, broken down, means to pre-judge.  We are facing people who believe that behaviors can be regulated by means of social and physical force.  And so they can.  To a degree.  But if we step back and consider the truth that the perspectives of others are not our own, we find a compelling reason to restrain ourselves.  We simply don’t know what we’re doing to such an extent that we can confidently judge the factors that drove another person to commit a particular act. 

We need to listen more and “teach them a lesson” less.  We need to look around for tools that build connection, collaboration and common understanding.  We need to moderate our perspective more and privilege it less.  All of that needed work is best accomplished through a robust rhythm of mindful practices that enhance self-awareness and that foster powerful, comprehensive self-regulation. 

Curiosity is a gateway to discovery that can change the course of each of our lives.  Creating space in your day for listening allows you to engage with yourself and with others in ways that are supportive and authentic, but that still align with your values.  You don’t have to agree with everything that comes into your space whether it arises from the self or the sacred soul of another person.  Beings can be prompted by sensing faculties in their bodies, souls and spirits.  The conclusions that you reach after engaging openly and with mindful curiosity are uniquely your own.

The idea behind this kind of openness and curiosity is that listening is done less with an outcome in mind and more with a discovery mindset.  It’s less about results and more about the process.  In order to engage in curious, open inquiry with your colleagues, kids, parents, partners and other stakeholders, it’s necessary to think in terms of “what if?”.

 Remember when your sixth or seventh grade teacher explained that reading requires suspending belief?  You’re not judging whether or not that novel, passage or story is true.  You’re entering into the world inhabited by the characters in the tale.  All of them are described by the author using either a first, second or third person (“I”, “you” or “they” perspective. 

Think about the awkwardness of a tale written from the perspective of “you”- it’s not often seen in fiction!  You do find it in technical and “how-to” manuals and it’s noteworthy that instructions and directives are being given in those cases.  The manual is kind of bossing people around and if they want the promised results, it’s worth it to comply with the instructions! 

But- there are relatively few people in the world that any of us should be bossing around in the form of telling them how they feel, what they think or what they ought to do.  Even the youngest of children bristle at having labels slapped onto their motives and behaviors that parents or teacher impose.  Which is what doing life in the second person is, an imposition. 

So- how much do democrats bristle at being labeled by republicans?  How much do Muslims bristle at being labeled by Christians or Buddhists?  How many employees leave positions because the “you” that is described and directed by their bosses is inaccurate or unsustainable?  “You” is generally inaccurate at best.  It’s arrogant, accusatory and abusive.  Because it inserts “I” into the life of another person by means of its prejudices, pronouncements and punishments for simple disagreement.  Be careful with “you”. 

It’s better to take the time to get to know others through their own perspectives.  “I” is self-described, self-differentiated and self-directed.  Even if you’re directing after the discovery process, using “I” as the reference for perspective is better.  It maintains the lines of delineation between perspectives and identities.  Parents can still parent, but they don’t have to judge.  For example, compare:  “you need to pick up your room or you won’t be able to use the wifi”…  “that room needs to be picked up before the wifi is available…”.  Same directive, just a little less weighty and forceful. 

Or compare these two directives: “you need to stop playing on your phone and get to work…  you’re too noisy and you’re distracting others…”.  Okay, true enough.  But what if, instead, it was said this way… “it’s time to work with focus…  noise is distracting…”.  It’s’ worth experimenting in allcontexts and roles to see where implementing open listening and more neutral language can make the “ask” of the self and others to regulate well, collaborate well and co-dwell well.  Leaving “you” behind often leaves behind a lot of baggage in the form of arguing, disparaging and disrespecting the perspectives and agency of others.  Simply listening more and leaning into connection more can provide a richer, more meaningful dynamic in the home, school or workplace. 

So- “you do you…” and “I’ll do me…” doesn’t mean that anything goes, anytime or anywhere.  It does mean, though, that curiosity and the suspension of belief that we practice when engaging our own narratives and the narratives of others can foster interaction that is deeply respectful, safe and sustainable.  That, in turn, will enhance the quality and degree of engagement that we experience in all of our roles and all of our shared spaces. 

Moving to observe the bubbles that others live in from their first person description will give better insight and better overall quality and quantity of information.  Ordering the inner and outer world is what we all do.  It’s work that we all share.  Insisting that others do so in accordance with our perspective and values is despotic.  Instead, find ways to feel the world that others inhabit.  It’s enlightening, liberating and ultimately the gateway to real understanding and wisdom.