Becoming Inspired

What Will Change in You When You Make the Choice You Really Want?

I remember using the pros and cons method for choosing the college I went to. That gave me the understanding that I preferred a large, coed university with an international program. What it didn't do was help me understand how a college education could help me learn how to develop authentically as a person, and in that way, help me find a career path that genuinely interested me. 

That's where coaching could have been very useful in offering me different ways to make new, aware choices for learning, expanding my skills, and becoming the person I really am. The choice-making options that coaching offers include what Joshua Rothman  in "The Art of Decision-Making" describes as—

  • Maximizing values— understanding what's really important to you— and making choices based on those values

  • Diverse perspectives— seeing your situation from different angles— helping you see aspects you hadn't thought of in making a new decision

  • Old self into new self— when a choice point requires that you open into a completely new way of engaging with your life

  • Aspiring to new values— aspiring to a new direction that interests you, but you don't know why or whether it could be right for you

The following example shows how using values and perspectives helped lead a client of mine from aspiring to a new way of working to shifting into a new self— that is, opening into a completely new way of engaging with his desired work and his whole life.

Matt, a corporate manager in his early forties, turned to coaching because he felt stultified in his career. He aspired to creating his own business, but wasn't sure that he was the type who could do well working for himself. When he came for coaching, he first wrote out a list of his values, which included— family, financial freedom, environment, and living authentically. Then we did the coaching exercise, “Perspectives,” which helps people explore different choices or options by encouraging them to push the boundaries of what they feel is possible.

With Matt, I used “Perspectives” to explore his attitude towards “working outside the box.” The perspectives he chose to explore included “Critic” and “Dolphin.” As I guided him through each perspective, I encouraged him to stand in different places, close his eyes, breathe, feel the sensations in his body, and visualize his internal energy level, “environment,” and attraction to that perspective.

He felt the fear in his contracted body sensations of the "Critic" as he thought about working outside the familiar corporate container. The “Critic” reminded Matt that it would not be easy to have the same level of financial ease and daily structure outside the corporate environment. Matt felt a deep weight inside his chest, as if his heart were closing down.

Ultimately, however, Matt chose the the “Dolphin” perspective to help him find a way to work “outside the box.” He realized that his new “Dolphin” attitude gave him energy for taking action on his dream. It also supported the purposefulness of his commitment to his family and the environment. It felt good, both physically and emotionally — excellent intuitive reasons for going with his new choice!

Matt then learned about the steps he needed to take to start his own consulting business with pro-environment action groups, and began doing this kind of work on a part-time basis. As he stepped into his chosen way of working, he said he felt as if "a huge weight had released from his chest" and he was "coming back" to who he really was.

Synchronistically, the company he worked for was downsizing, and offered Matt the option of leaving his corporate position with a sizable severance pay. Because he was now emotionally and financially prepared to leave, Matt's career transition became a deeper, transformational change. He left a career whose purpose was defined by others— and became a person who worked and lived out his own, immeasurably more satisfying purpose,

What Makes Taking a BIG RISK for Change Worthwhile?

Making a change that will radically shift your life involves taking a risk that is a definite challenge to what is known and familiar to you. Such challenges can be external, involving changing professions, investing capital to create change, or moving to a different place. But at a transformational level, taking a BIG RISK involves changing from within yourself, too. What is a BIG RISK to one person will not necessarily be the same BIG RISK to someone else with a different personality, skills, and life experience.

The bigger the challenge is to a person, the bigger the risk will seem. My client Jessica was a parent considering whether to publish a book she'd written about a controversial subject she was passionate about— bullying in public schools. Her son had been bullied when he was younger, and this had seriously impacted his sense of well-being.

But for her, even thinking about publishing this book was like being in a nightmare of having to solo pilot and land a small plane in dangerous terrain without total confidence in her equipment or or her ability to fly. 

Jessica came for coaching because she felt stuck, almost paralyzed, with fear. She'd written her book, but was afraid to publish it because of possible harmful consequences to her and her family. So I started by having her define what the value was to her in taking on such a huge challenge. While privacy for herself and her family was important to her, with her son in college, she felt a renewed inner drive to publish and voice her concerns about bullying at school.

Coaching gave Jessica a safe, supportive place to talk freely about the meaning to her of putting her book out in public. In this way, I heard her compassion and empathy for those children who were bullied and whose lives at school became a horror. She began to feel compassion for herself in her struggles with her fear of creating this genuine transformative change. She also felt more supported and grounded in planning for a big leap forward.

It's important to remember that taking a BIG RISK to make a change that matters vitally to you is not about the absence of fear. It's about becoming aware that fear indicates the presence of a new and larger possibility in your life. One way to do this is by acknowledging what success really means to you. Taking on the challenge of making a change that emotionally engages you is what makes taking the risk worthwhile.

Jessica now saw the risk she was taking as "My BIG Adventure!" What will be your reward? I asked her. She replied, "The adventure itself, learning to fly freely by motivating others to stop bullies in schools!"

Next, Jessica planned smaller action steps she could take to accomplish her mission. Using the metaphor of trying to land a small plane safely in dangerous, unknown territory, she saw that she could prepare by having her equipment (her book) carefully inspected before flight time (by her editor and her friends reading over her manuscript). She could be trained in making emergency landings (learning how she could handle criticism of herself and her book); and very importantly, learn to not to be hijacked by fear. 

She recognized how vital it was to have understanding friends and professional/ emotional support people to help her through any challenges that would arise after her book's publication.

She checked out the terrain of who she wanted to read her book, and made a list of her allies in getting the book out with positive reviews from teachers, other educators, and parents she knew. She had in-person and online talks with these people and began to get contacts for interviews on the radio, newspapers, education journals, and online sources. Jessica felt excited, and increasingly confident of her vision to change public school culture by creating zero-tolerance for bullying.

At a deeper level, Jessica found her inner well of inspiration to create something bigger than herself of true value in the world— making a beneficial contribution to young, vulnerable people. In transforming her fear of taking her BIG RISK to go forward with her book publication, Jessica felt empowered to meet the challenge of getting to where she really wanted to go! 

"You shifted perspectives . . . You allowed your heart to open. You let the bird out of the cage. You are flying!"  — Pamela Hale, Flying Lessons

Go for the Hallowe'en Spirit to Create the Change You Really Want!

Do you feel stuck as a consequence of earlier choices you've made? Do you feel there's little possibility for change in your life?

If so, try asking yourself the following question from The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander—

What assumption am I making
That I'm not aware I'm making
That gives me what I see?

What is your current assumption about the possibility for positive change in your life?

In what way can you change this assumption so that creating positive change becomes possible?

When I grew up in the United States, Hallowe'en as a child was a wonderful time.  We could become all sorts of magical creatures— and go out on a dark night, knocking on spooky-looking doors and wondering whether there were witches or ghosts hiding behind tall shrubbery. Friends might be unrecognizable, and normally silent streets were alive with the sounds of swishing fabric, excited whispers, and eerie hoots and cries. A sheet became the flapping of a ghost, a stick covered in aluminum foil a wand, an old oak tree part of a haunted forest.

In other words, the Hallowe'en world we were in made it less possible to make verifiable assumptions about who was whom or what was what. That was a big part of the thrill of that holiday— being caught off guard and entering into the mysterious realm of unknown potential. So our world expanded from that of daily life— that is, what could be seen and what was expected— to a different place where possibilities were legion and being out of the box the norm.

I see Halloween as a vivid and spacious metaphor for the creative and often unsettling experience of making transitions to positive changes in our lives. As The Art of Possibility states, "The frames our minds create define— and confine— what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and the problems vanish, while new opportunities appear."

Consider the Hallowe'en spirit from a child's experience. My older great godson, Edgar, age 4, from Sweden, celebrated his first Hallowe'en at my California home this year.  He and his family had to leave earlier than the traditional date of October 31st, so we just changed the date. We didn't have other homes for him to go trick or treating, so we created a Hallowe'en world in the backyard with flapping ghosts, entangling spider webs, and special stations where he solved puzzles to collect his treats.

Fortunately, Edgar is the kind of person who says "Yes!" to almost every new choice for action that he encounters, and he wanted to do Hallowe'en as a pirate. And here's where the challenge lay—to be a full-fledged pirate, he needed a boat, he decided. A BIG pirate boat. As the organizer, I felt some dismay and possibly at a dead end. Would we have to find a kayak and haul it home? Would he demand black sails, as well? But it was unthinkable that we could refuse him his legitimate desire as a pirate to have the boat he required.

And then The Art of Possibility came through with another very appropriate question—What might I now invent, That I haven't yet invented, That would give me other      choices?

Finally, I recalled a cardboard box sitting in the garage. But it wasn't BIG. And I couldn't think how it would move with him in it. Fortunately, his father found some rope and taped it around the box. We pasted pirate pictures on it and presented it to Edgar with a flourish as his BIG BOAT. To my unmitigated relief, he was fully able to step into a fun, imaginative framework that allowed the rather small box to become a BIG BOAT. He sat in the box, which moved smoothly over the ground as the volunteer pirate crew pulled him wherever he ordered.

So what can we learn from this Hallowe'en experience about positive change-making?

1) Challenge your assumption that a new choice is not possible (it's going to be hard to find a BIG boat for a young pirate in a limited amount of time for a modest price)

2) Create a new framework that's more open to possibilities (I can make this work, somehow—borrow a kayak? or hmm, how about a cardboard box?)

3) Be ready to say "Yes" and try out a new possibility, even if it's not exactly the solution you imagined (thank you, Edgar, for being ready to accept on trial a box with a rope as your pirate ship)

4) Turn a new choice into a new lifestyle (yes, I can accept a cardboard box with a rope around it as my pirate ship, IF it includes a crew to pull me around wherever I want)

Whatever your challenge around creating a positive change in your life may be, learn to check out your assumption that's getting in your way. Then you can re-frame your situation into one with more spaciousness and potential to lead you toward the change you truly desire.

Creating Successful Change— Keeping the Spark Alive!

"What we think we want, what we think we strive for, is often not the goal at all— just what we hold on to in order to discover what is truly calling us.
— Mark Nepo, The One Life We're Given

Have you ever had an experience where a barrier or obstacle inside yourself suddenly fell away and the next direction in your life opened clearly to you? This invisible barrier can be a belief based on other people's opinions— an emotion long-held and frozen inside— or a goal that does not take into account changing conditions. As this barrier falls away, you can feel the spark of adventure and aliveness inside yourself that has guided you to this place through all obstacles.

In my work as a coach, I see this inner shift as the defining place clients reach who have gone through the chaotic middle zone of a transition, between an ending and a new beginning. This place of uncertainty and discomfort also can be a time of affirmation of what we love and the spark we carry within us that lights our way forward. This is a genuine foundation for career and other life changes that feel right for us because they're based on what is true for who we really are.

In my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I describe such a transformational journey of a client, Julia, "a single woman in her mid-30’s, who was very discouraged after a move across country to a big city for the sake of a new career in restaurant management. Her initial focus in coaching was on whether to change careers, and if so, how. However, it soon became clear that she had a desire she’d never before consciously claimed-- the warmth of home with a partner committed to creating family together. She’d certainly never put 'home' into the equation of how she wanted work to look and feel like in her life."

As Julia and I explored the joylessness of her life at that time and the profound sense of disconnection her restaurant work gave her from her friends, family, and overall sense of purpose, one thing became very clear to her— the importance of home and family. She became aware of her inner barrier— that her career goal had to be a high-level management position in a cutting-edge restaurant— and recognized it as a serious obstacle to her happiness. With this new awareness, she stopped trying to create career success in this way and found her inner spark. She realized then that she loved cooking and wanted to work in a way that combined this with her strong desire to help others.

"Synchronistically, she reconnected with a former boyfriend who now wanted to be her mate and build a life together. Her glow of delight at this new evolution of her life was palpable-- as was her new career plan to teach cooking for health and nutrition….

As she stayed connected with the 'spark' in her spirit that wanted to come fully alight, she answered her own biggest question: 'How will following my heart allow me to evolve a way to live and work that fully embodies all that I am and most desire?'"

Recently, I attended a reading by Mark Nepo— a remarkable poet, storyteller, and author, akin to the mystic poet Rumi— from his most recent book, The One Life We're Given— Finding the Wisdom That Waits in Your Heart. I was riveted by the quiet eloquence and deeply centered presence of this man whose calling to share heart-centered wisdom through his writing and speaking was born of some very difficult experiences in his life.

After surviving almost fatal thoracic surgery for cancer in his 30's, followed by divorce, Nepo discovered that the book he'd planned to write, and had had great ambitions for, was no longer relevant for who he was becoming. The books he actually wrote instead reflect a very different perspective on what success can be. Through his unplanned journey, he realized that living out hard experiences opened wide his heart and transformed the evolution of his life. His inner barriers fell away and revealed his own bright, authentic spark, guiding him to a successful career and new marriage.

"….What we think we want, what we think we strive for, is often not the goal at all— just what we hold on to in order to discover what is truly calling us. Often, when we think we're building one thing, we're building another, or we're the ones being built . . . When we think we're enduring one thing, we're often being undone by life into the birth of a gift we've been carrying for just this opening . . . The point is, we're challenged to follow our heart beyond our intentions in order to find our quiet destiny, the way a tulip . . . follows its urge to break ground, hardly imagining its life in blossom."
— Mark Nepo, The One Life We're Given

What obstacle have you encountered that opened you to your inner spark of aliveness?

What can you do to help keep this spark alive?

What has challenged you to make a successful change by transcending an inner barrier or obstacle?

Success with Soul-- Garcia Márquez & Risking the Fear of Rejection

This past weekend I was leafing through my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, in preparation for my book reading next Saturday, April 26th, at Know Knew Books in Los Altos, CA.  I’d been saddened last Friday to read of the death of Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, whose amazing novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, was a lightning flash in the realm of world literature when it was published in Latin America in 1967.  Its creative language of “magical realism” and unequivocal stance again the dictatorships of Latin America, or anywhere, made a powerful impact around the world.            

Suddenly, I opened to page 30 in my book, and there, in print, was one of the most incredible examples of the value of risking rejection to live out a dream that I’d ever heard about.  Did you know that:

“Gabriel García Márquez’ iconic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude . . . suffered fifty-six publishers’ rejections before it was finally published in 1967” and that “ultimately, it was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982”?

Is there anything you’ve deeply enough desired that you kept persevering towards even as you were rejected over and over again?  In Success with Soul, I note that:

“Being ready to risk rejection works best when you’re committed to going for something deeply important to you.  When you really want something enough, your energy soars and you feel inspired to go forward towards it.  In fact, it feels like an opportunity to dare to live out something vital from within yourself.  It feels like air you’ve always wanted to breathe.”

I invite you (and others you know who’d be interested) to join me this coming weekend for a free reading from my book, Success with Soul-- and discussion that connects aspects of my book with your own curiosity and desire for professional and personal change:

When:   Saturday, April 26th
Time:     2 - 3 PM
Where:  Know Knew Books
               366 State St., Los Altos, California

I look forward to seeing you there!

Envisioning the Gifts of Change -- The Path from Hobbiton

What is your quest or journey of change for 2013?

A surprising holiday experience for me was seeing the film, The Hobbit-- based on J.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world adventure of the same name.  I’d enjoyed the book when I read it in my teens, but hadn’t planned to see the film.  However, curiosity won out, and I went.  To my astonishment, I now saw the story of Bilbo Baggins, hobbit/halfling, not as just an adventure story, but as that of a person propelled, however reluctantly, on a quest not of his making, but which he made into his own.

In the first chapter of my forthcoming book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I allude to the inner awareness and prickles of sensation that you sense before you actually “make” a change in your life:

"How do you know when it’s time for a major career or other life change?  Sometimes you’re in a situation where a new opportunity presents itself, and you may intuitively be highly motivated to go for it.  Sometimes an incident happens that radically alters your life, and you have to decide how to face this change.  Or you may have a growing awareness of gnawing dissatisfaction and lack of interest in what you’ve been doing for years."

In The Hobbit, Bilbo is presented with the second situation when the wizard Gandolf and a troupe of dwarves seeking to regain their homeland invade and take over his comfortable underground house with its stores of good food.  Why is this happening to me, he exclaims to Gandalf.  Whereby Gandalf counters, “What happened to the Took in you?”  (The Tooks being part of Bilbo’s lineage and prone to sudden happenings that disrupt the lives of the not-so-prone-to-change inhabitants of Hobbiton.)

Bilbo has no response to this and goes to sleep, awakening to find the dwarves and Gandalf gone.  Suddenly, his Took-ish self mixed with Gandalf’s promptings to wake up to the wider vision within himself and outside Hobbiton come alive in Bilbo, who picks up his walking stick and runs after the dwarf contingent to join in their quest.  He has decided to face this change by trusting that he has a reason to be there, though he doesn’t know what it is or what has really propelled him forth.

“Lifting these bars and opening your vision to the universe of your possibilities is the first daring step you need to take to see clearly where your heart wants you to go.”
-- from Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance

If you, too, are feeling the inner promptings to set off on your journey or quest towards change in your career or your life, remember what Gandalf told Bilbo-- that you may never come back to the place where you began and if you do, you will be different from the way you were when you left.  The implication is that, if you lend yourself to the process of change, you will gain the boon of understanding what it is to be fully engaged in the emergence of your whole life.  You may grow in compassion and in the wisdom of what it is to be human, as Bilbo did in his nearly fatal encounter with the deranged and wretched being, Gollum.  You will know yourself and what you are capable of offering and receiving.

“Now I can’t hear a travel story, watch a film, or read a book without asking, ‘What was brought home?  Where is the gift?  Show me
jewels sewn into the lining of your coat.  Where is the boon?’”
-- Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

  Now consider:

What is your quest or journey of change for 2013?

What is an obstacle you’re facing in setting out on your journey?

What are your inner and outer resources for surmounting obstacles and engaging in change?

What is the gift you want to bring back from your journey?

Transitioning out of Limitation to the Big Leap Forward in Your Career and Life!

I’d like to share a personal experience and some insights on envisioning your work path from a larger perspective from my forthcoming e-book-- Successful Transitioning to Work You Love: Inspiration for Those on the Path to Heart-Centered Livelihood and a Life in Balance.

For myself and many people I’ve coached, seeing our professional future and the picture of our lives based only on our past experience, training, education, and family expectations was a logical point of view that limited our ability to make a fulfilling change.  Only when we began to envision a career and life as an integrated whole based on what truly motivated and inspired us in the present were we able to go forward and create satisfying, lasting change.   

I remember my first major career transition-- from a nonprofit program director to a somatic therapist.  When I was 38, I’d just finished working for seven years as the director of a successful non-profit educational program in San Francisco, and I was burned out.

I realized that the part of this work I really cared about was interviewing, supporting, and writing articles about the volunteers, finding out what motivated them to make this kind of commitment in their lives.  I loved hearing about their excitement in making a difference in the lives of young people, supporting literacy, helping teachers offer more to their students, and becoming an active part of their community.

But this was only twenty percent of my work week.  The rest was administrative tasks to support the project and the organization-- and I felt a lack of engagement, a lack of meaning in how I was spending most of my time on the job.

The shift happened at a slow-simmering pace, partly because-- as I realize now-- my original vision for myself was so small, and I had absolutely no support in creating this transition.  If only I’d had a life coach then to help me envision work and a life that felt authentic to me!  As it was, I was only capable of imagining going on to direct other programs at larger organizations-- not that I could radically alter my career path.

It was only after continuously experiencing a sinking sensation in my belly after each new interview that I realized I didn’t want to manage programs at all.  Then one day I saw the movie, Dirty Dancing, which just blew me away with the passion and enthusiasm of its performers! I felt my energy soar, lifted by that free-spirited dancing into another level altogether.

After that, I reconsidered my career direction again and realized I intended to do something radically different.  I was going to explore the possibility of becoming a somatic therapist.

Why somatic therapy?  Several years earlier, I’d tried different types of alternative healing to help with menstrual cramps and tension headaches that seemed intractable and were able to make several days a month a misery.  I finally met a somatic therapist who connected me to the power of touch by simply placing his hand on my belly with great presence.  I felt this tremendous energetic opening of golden light flowing from my body and a sense of being vibrantly alive.  The message I got instantaneously was, “Your life is too cramped and narrow.  You need to open to wider-- and wilder!-- possibilities.”

This was the beginning of my intuitive knowing that I wanted my primary work to be directly with people, allowing them to feel that kind of energetic opening for themselves and be inspired to make the life changes that mattered to them based on that energy.
For me, it was a gigantic leap into a career vision that I didn’t even believe was possible, because it was so entirely different from anything I’d ever done before.

Fortunately, I found a mentor who supported me in making this huge shift in my professional identity.  When I later decided to take yet a new leap into becoming acareer and life coach, I had the support this time of a coach who helped me navigate the transition into the “wider-- and wilder!-- possibilities” that came to infuse my whole life with richness and purpose!

If you’re interested in exploring your desire to take the leap into “wider and wilder” career and life changes, please join me for my upcoming teleclass-- “Successful Transitioning to Heart-Centered Livelihood and a Life in Balance”-- on June 6th and June 13th, 2012, 9 - 10:30 AM Pacific Time.  You’ll be receiving more information about this in a couple of weeks.  If you have any questions now, please contact me at

The High Cost of Ignoring Your Calling - Or, Why to Work and Live Authentically!

I had the most fantastic experience the other night listening to Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, at San Francisco Coaches!  I’d had a long day and felt I was pushing it to trek over on BART to Union Square for this meeting.  However, one minute spent in conversation with Gregg made my whole body light up with energy!  And hearing him speak for over an hour on the absolute need to listen to the call of your spirit to open your life simply charged the whole group of us.

Gregg was a journalist who got the call, but, as he writes in Callings, “Like most people, I will not follow a calling until the fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so.”  In his own case and those of others he has interviewed, he has noted that “the more we make a claim for our own vitality, the more we help others do the same.”  And what is vitality?  Vitality is our energy and passion to live fully, to discover our purpose, to awaken to the gifts we have to offer and not just get by -- on the job, in our relationships with others-- in the short amount of time we have on this planet.

Drawing from American Medical Association research findings that “the majority of heart attacks occur around nine o’clock on Monday mornings” (when many of us are going back to work after the weekend), Gregg noted that many people are, ”more precisely, going back to work [they] don’t like, work that doesn’t match [their] spirits, work that can literally break your heart.”

What fears have locked you into a corner-- loss of income, what others will think of you, no future security (rather less of this these days), no longer belonging to a certain group, losing prestige?  When is the cost of ignoring your own inner promptings for change too high?  How much do you have to suffer or stuff down in your body and spirit before you listen to your own true needs and take the first step towards liberating your self, your work, your life?  How much suffering are you causing others by not heeding your own call for professional and personal fulfillment?

I shared with Gregg the story of a man I met many years ago at a weekend retreat on “The Genius of Place” by my friend, Bob McGahey, in the Quaker-based community of Celo, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville.  Jim was new to the area and rather quiet, but when Bob talked about listening to the calling of one’s spirit and the land, he stepped forward, turned paper white, and fainted on the spot.

Afterwards, we found out that he had been a salesman for many years in Los Angeles, and over the past year had been having an insistent feeling inside that he was “dying” by living in LA.  He began exploring alternative places to live and work in the United States.  On a hunch, based on some reading he’d done, he came out to Asheville, saw an ad for Bob’s retreat, and felt that he was called to be there.  Shortly thereafter, he gave up his job and home in LA, and moved to Asheville to begin a new career and a very different way of living that expressed his true self.

This was a dramatic example of a response to Gregg’s question, “How do you know if a call is true for you?”  In this case, Jim had a whole-body response that resonated in his soul-- namely, “I was scared to death-- and I knew I had to try it.”  And he did, and it worked.

So if you’re feeling on the edge, uncomfortable in your career despite material advantages, or as if you’re just coasting through life, not living out the potential that wants to be expressed, just listen, truly listen within yourself.  You may well be feeling a calling to wake up and take the step that can make all the difference in your life now! 

         “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you,
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.”

--  Jelaluddin Rumi

Enriching Your Life-- Taking the Time to Engage with Others!

The other day, I was waiting for a subway after a meeting in San Francisco.  I was just starting to read an engrossing book on the impact of an inspiring public speaker on a particular society when a distinctly British voice asked me which train he needed to take.  I looked up from my reading and saw an elf-like man in his mid-70’s with a twinkle in his eyes looking intently at me.  I gave him the information and picked up my book again.  He sat beside me, silent, but I felt his alert, alive energy, turned to him again, and asked him where he was from.

The next twenty minutes was one of the most extraordinary happenings of my life!  My companion (that’s what he felt like, though we’d only just met) was a professional photographer, formerly an engineer, traveled everywhere, and was interested in about everything.  Nimbly thumbing through photos on his iPhone, he toured me through his self-designed studio in London, introduced me to San Francisco’s jazz community, and engaged me in conversation about the endless possibilities of life.

Later I realized I’d almost bypassed this incredible opportunity to enrich my life by connecting with a chance-met person every bit as compelling as the public speaker I’d been reading about.  Or was it chance?  What is it that brings certain people into our lives at certain times?  What is there for us to learn in connecting with them?  What might we have missed if we’d refused to engage? 

One person I remember vividly over the years for what he taught me was a young homeless man sitting by an ATM in San Francisco where I was looking over my two checking account balances.  I had just gotten a second bank account for business expenses, and had not much money in either account.  When this man demanded my attention by asking for some money, I looked at him and said, “Why are you asking me?  I don’t have much money.”

       Suddenly he really looked at me, his eyes overflowing with compassion and said, “It’s all right, it’s going to be all right.”  I felt the warmth of the connection between myself and this stranger who was no longer a stranger.  I laughed then, realizing that I had the luck of having two bank accounts, but he needed a handout and was comforting me.  He laughed, too, and I gave him five dollars and thanked him for being there for me.

As authors JIll Lebeau and Maureen Raytis say in their wonderful book, Feng Shui Your Miind, “Look for synchronicities.  Pay attention.  Each time a synchronicity occurs, relax, allow yourself to truly experience the awe, gratitude and excitement . . . Let the positive flow of energy in.”

These so-called chance encounters are often the exact synchronistic experiences you need to transform times of limitation into awakenings that can change the whole flow of your life!

Creating Spaciousness-- and Finding What You Really Want

During the last week of 2010, I attended a meditation retreat in the countryside of Colorado, much of the time in snowy quietude.  I hadn’t really wanted to travel at that time of the year, since I had things I wanted to do and friends I wanted to be with at home before the new year started.  However, I’d made a promise to myself that I would do this, so I went.

What I found was what I remembered from earlier times creating a similar space for being in a deeper way with myself-- parts of me opened up that had been cramped and lost to view during the year.  My mind felt clear, my energy brighter, and I felt at peace with who I was.  The sense of striving and complexity of my professional and personal lives eased and simplified.  I had a renewed perspective of myself as relaxed into wholeness.

How had I forgotten how vital it is to take time out to renew and remember my true nature?  When I returned, I was very conscious of the sheer amount of distractions and choices required every hour of my waking day.  When I was on retreat, there was only thing to do at a time-- wake, meditate, eat, listen to a teaching, walk, eat, meditate. listen to a teaching, stretch, walk, eat, connect with the group, and sleep.  I remember having the powerful realization during one meditation period that I was very happy, that I felt at ease in my body and filled in my spirit-- and ready for all the possibilities of living fully!

For those of you who have been grappling with the many aspects of creating career and life transitions, busy every minute of the day, dealing with uncertainties and complex choices, I strongly recommend creating a way to feel spaciousness in your lives.  While a vacation getaway is important during the year, you can fashion your own way of taking briefer but potent timeouts daily or weekly from the demands of everyday life.  

Here are some examples from clients of mine that allow them to feel peace within themselves and know what they truly want -- 1) a nature walk by water or by your favorite trees, breathing in the fresh air; 2) a relaxing bath with soothing music; 3) a weekly yoga class with a favorite teacher who helps you open into the spaciousness of your own body; 4) taking time to sit in a favorite place drinking tea from a beautiful cup and just letting your thoughts roll by.

As Tarthang Tulku-- the promoter of the Tibetan Buddhist body-energy exercises called Kum Nye-- wrote:  “We all have had moments or times when we felt particularly alive, when the world seemed fresh and promising, like a flower garden on a bright spring morning . .  . The air pulses with life.  Our bodies feel healthy and energetic, our minds clear and confident . . . Nothing is fixed, and we feel spacious and open.  We act with perfect ease and appropriateness.”

I invite you to plan ways to bring moments and times of spaciousness into your lives so that you will feel the clarity and energy to go forward towards what is really important to you, with work and in the rest of your life.  Just as grace notes in classical music offer a pause in the melody to renew your enjoyment of the whole piece, so creating spaciousness through timeouts for your body and spirit reinvigorates your power to enjoy the unfolding of your whole life.

Join in the Discussion!

  • How have you created spaciousness and timeouts in your life?
  • How has this supported you in finding what you really want for yourself?
  • What are your concerns about creating spaciousness and timeouts in your life?