Synchronicity

Re-negotiating Time-- Creating Refuge for Change

We do not gauge the value of the seasons by how quickly they progress from one to the next.
Every season brings forth its bounty in its own time, and our life is richer when we can take time to savor the fruit of each.   — from Sabbath by Wayne Muller

My clients who have made significant changes in their careers and lives have learned the value of taking periodic refuge in a timeless place of not-knowing, where the big questions arise— What is the meaning of my existence? What is my purpose? What am I offering to the world? This is a vital part of the process of making conscious changes as we discover what is meaningful to us and how we want to live. Time may seem to stand still or move very slowly. It may feel as if you're treading water. What will it take to know what I really want to move toward next? Finally, however, we acknowledge the need to allow time for timelessness to guide us towards the next opening in our lives.

Transitions that lead to deeply satisfying changes come from making time to watch cloud patterns shifting in the sky, from moving with no fixed direction— and letting our thoughts, feelings, and dreams drift up naturally into our consciousness. The experience of slowing down, internally and externally, is not only helpful, but absolutely necessary to reach a safe place, a refuge, to gain confidence in our own authentic choices and directions in life.

From this refuge arises the question, "What is it that wants to unfold in my life now?"

Last year I had surgery for a potentially life-threatening condition where part of my right lung was removed. The large organ protected by my ribs that makes the breath of life possible was disarranged. My life, too, felt disarranged.

As I came out of surgery and for many weeks afterwards, I felt as if time had slowed down, as if I were drifting and without the defined goals that had characterized the way I worked and led my life before the diagnosis and the surgery. Even as my body continued to heal, I felt the structure of my life was loose and permeable, like trying to walk without gravity.

Sometimes I just followed the movement of my gradually expanding breathing, and that was enough. Talking with my life coach, Ian White, I said, "I feel as if my life is moving along without any direction from me, as if something inside were re-negotiating my relationship with time. I don't know where I'm going, and I don't know what I need to be doing."

In subsequent coaching sessions with Ian, I identified two aspects to this re-negotiating and slowing down of time as my body healed and my life re-integrated—

"Drifting" — A timeless space where you feel undefined by what you're doing, without a focus on the future. In slowing down, you create refuge for yourself, a safe place where you can wander and meditate without goals or direction. You can explore uncertainty and the loosening of old attachments. Support from a trusted other is helpful in holding this very open, unstructured space.

"Allowing"— Emerges from the process of "drifting." It also has a slow tempo, but is more intentional and leads effortlessly to intuitive knowing of what you want. Your hand is off the tiller, and you relax with wherever the current is taking you. As you allow change to happen, you open to new possibilities without pushing and striving. You're in the flow, consciously attuned to signs and synchronicities.

Eventually, I began working and engaging in my whole life again. In allowing myself more time for working out, hiking/biking in nature, and getting together with friends and family (in person, not just the internet or phone), I found I was putting my energy where it really mattered to me. My coaching, too, gained in depth and fearlessness.

I saw more clearly that following my passion and making conscious choices based on the energy of that passion affirmed for me my authentic path as a whole person. Living in this way has meaning and purpose for me, and is spiritually nurturing.

In her warm, engaging book, My Grandfather's Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., shares stories about heart-opening encounters she's had with people on the edge of some of life's deepest mysteries. One story is about a young doctor who's always been aware of the suffering of others. Feeling this way was such a strain on her that she takes a timeout from her busy life to be in a spiritual retreat for doctors facilitated by Remen. During a walk there, the woman picks up a pine cone that's split in half, and feels it is a sign. She shares it with the group and says that's how her heart feels. She doesn't know why people come to her with their suffering, wanting healing from her when her heart feels so broken.

Later, allowing herself time to walk a meditational labyrinth, she recognizes the split pine cone in her upturned hands as a sign that her wounded heart can be transformed into an open heart. "Suddenly she understood why others had come to her for refuge since her childhood. The suffering she was able to feel had made her trustworthy." It is literally in her own hands, to accept the gift she was born with and allow her larger dream as a healer to unfold.

What is it that wants to unfold in your life now?

Transitions-- the Art of Spontaneous Presence

Sometimes we are presented with words or an intuitive hit or a light on the path that seems exactly the right clue you need to answer a pressing question in your life. Reading the latest blog post, "Transition," of environmentalist, poet, and Buddhist practitioner Gary Horvitz, I found another perspective on questions that come up for so many people I've coached who are in the process of making important career and other life changes— also known as a transitional time, or simply, a "transition."

"What is a transition?"

"I think I'm in one now— what do I do?"

"How does the disorientation and confusion of my transition lead to the change
I want to make?"

Notice in the part of Gary's post below what he has to say about the "being" part of a transition that comes from a deep, inner place where "poetry arises," too. I'm guessing that Gary probably wrote a lot of poetry during this period of internal not-knowing, gradually finding words to bring together tantalizing wisps of intuition, feelings, and uncertainty. As his path gradually clarified for him, he decided to live in Thailand for a time and try cultivating in himself what Buddhism calls "spontaneous presence," or appreciating life fully, in the moment.

Living in this more unsettled and unknown way, Gary found that transitions arise naturally, are as much about being as doing, and have moments of feeling timeless and boundless. Therefore, they are "generative," energizing, and the stuff from which quality changes in our lives can arise if we approach this part of our journey with curiosity and awareness.

As Gary writes—

"I'll just step right out on a limb here and say that poetry arises out of transition. Or at least that's where mine seems to come from. It is that instant, or a succession of instants, in which the mind and body become free for an instant, in which I sense being without moorings, my attention drifting into the larger picture, the larger questions and uncertainties of the moment.

There isn't merely a single one of those instants that beckons for resolution, that nags like a thorn in the side, even in sleep. It's the ongoing state. Oh, a sense of being uncoupled may be a persistent sensation of being in the world as it is unfolding today. But no, I mean there isn't a simple short term resolution that settles the question of how to be in this world.

If I looked closely, I could find a measure of transition in every day, in every encounter, in every waking moment. But that's not exactly what I am sensing now. I am referring to something inside that realizes the more essential uncertainty of life, that revels and yearns for the vitality and unceasing generative nature of it and also for a more settled sense of having made my choices, arriving at some clarity about my intentions and mission even in that context of uncertainty."

NOW . . .

Consider a major change that you've made that was really important to you. What did you experience in the way of drifting, uncertainty, feelings or not-knowing before coming to clarity and the readiness to make that change?

What new understanding do you have about transitions from Gary's experience
that you can apply to your own?

Creating Transformative Change Through Authentic Conversation

What is conversation, and how can it be a way of creating transformative change in your life? At its most basic level, it's a two-way path, a respectful give-and-take requiring that both participants feel free to express what they're noticing and experiencing.

A recent post by my colleague Linda Graham, MFT, introduced me to Sherry Turkle's book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, in which Turkle explores the qualities of dedicated, person-to-person conversation that enrich people's work and lives. Such talks include the right not to say everything perfectly, to stumble at times, to hesitate as a new thought comes through, perhaps stimulated by something the other person has just said. Moments of shared quiet and reflected feelings are also very much part of a rich conversational flow that may seem at times to meander, but is actually diving deep into what is productive and necessary for authentic change to happen.

Authentic conversation is valuable in the moment it's happening, and also in the ripples it extends into the lives of those in the conversation— and beyond. Consider the fascinating ways in which Japanese artistic techniques influenced European and American artists and art from the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries (as I learned at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco's recent exhibit, Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and Other Western Artists).

This global conversation came about, in large part, through the freedom to exchange new ideas and artwork among merchants, artists, and writers traveling to, and from, a Japan newly opened to trade and cultural exchanges with the West. As with all generative conversations, transformation happened because the participating artists— notably, the Impressionists and Whistler— began interacting in bold new ways with color, diagonal lines, and the Japanese angles of view with which they were now in contact. From this came the daring leaps of imagination that created radically different types of painting masterpieces never before seen in the Western world.

The coaching conversation, too, is an opportunity for connection that expands people's visions and ability to move forward in new ways.  In partnering with a coach, a person engages in a new way of speaking with someone that frees their their hearts and imaginations to explore new ways of perceiving situations they couldn't see before.  That, in turn, can lead to unexpected possibilities and desired changes.

Below, for example, is a coaching conversation I had with Frances, a retired professor in her mid-60's who was considering a new career, moving out of the home she'd shared with her beloved husband, and coping with a broken foot.  It was a transformative experience for my client in that she achieved an attitudinal shift that was very helpful to her in handling the significant changes she was going through.

Frances) I'd like to explore today what it would be like to live in internal peace.

Eve) What would it be like to live in "internal peace"?

F) (Pause) The more I don't "do," the more I improve my search for internal peace. Living without my husband, being by myself consciously in the dining room where we spent so much time together. I can no longer run from myself. Not being able to move well physically can be a blessing. I'm forced to learn more deeply about myself.

E) I'm feeling so much presence in your dining room now. What is it that you feel about the dining room and your husband as you make plans to move from the house?

F) In the dining room, he and I would share intellectual things together. He read Shakespeare to me. Though I've run from the dining room for the past years since my husband died, now that I'm spending time here, I'm having some of my best memories of our time together. (Pause)

E) A room of love and connection. Now that you're not running from this, what's important about being here for you?

F) (Pause) For one thing, the dining room is the warmest room in the house. During this cold month while my foot heals from the surgery, I've come here to be warm.

E) You've been attracted here by the warmth. What is it to feel the warmth in this room?

F) I can be silent and focused on my body without being physically and mentally uncomfortable. I'm totally me here. I feel I can enjoy being there because I'm physically warm. Warmth plus soothing means peaceful. I have here a sacred sanctuary. There's beauty here in this place, and love that my husband gave this to me. Nobody can take this from me. (Pause)

E) What can you visualize now about how to carry the peace and beauty with you, wherever you go?

F) I can see the river outside coming through the valley. This is the image I want to take with me. The river sold me on this house when my husband bought it. I love it. (Pause)

E) What is it that you love about the river?

F) (Pause) A sense of flowing and movement. Transformation. Water moves on, and is never the same, impermanent. The river goes by but stays. Letting go is not giving up. I need to meditate, allow these thoughts to come and go. Making sense and not making sense. Just being. Instead of dashing around all the time.

E) You're not dashing now.

F) (Laughs) That's right, and I'm at peace with that for now.

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!

The Change Crucible -- Taking the Time It Takes

I’m more and more attuned now to the alchemical quality of creating rewarding changes.  As in the alchemists’ hermetically sealed crucible, transitioning successfully from one stage of your life into another requires time apart from daily living-- combined with the initial fire of desire, awareness, and consistent intention-- for the elements of your personal journey to gestate and re-emerge transformed. 

            What I often notice at first with coaching clients wanting to make career or other life changes is a natural wish to make as quick a leap as possible from an unsatisfying place to the start of a new job, a new relationship, a new plan for the future.  Once we begin exploring what they’re really wanting from their lives, however, they begin to notice that their initial goals seem limited-- a way of getting from here to there without noticing the context of their whole lives.

            To find this wholeness requires giving yourself to the process of feeling the inner heat of transformation in the alchemists’ sealed vessel-- or, what William Bridges, author of Transitions, calls taking time out from our daily life to empty out and go into what is calling you from within.

             As he states, this “neutral zone” is a difficult state to tolerate in our western society because in general we don’t value emptiness, non-productivity, and alone time.  And yet, transitions that lead to deeply satisfying changes require this alone time to watch clouds drift and do nothing much but be with our inevitable discomfort and fear that we don’t even know which way to go.  Finally, however, with time and support for this unexpected experiencing, you develop a new connection with what matters in your inner self.  This is what leads to new directions in your life that are inspiring and productive.

            From a poem I really like, “In Impossible Darkness,” by “spoken-word artist” Kim Rosen, you can feel this powerful theme of alchemical “melting” away from everyday life just before the transformative new beginning: 

. . . Do you remember
what happens
inside a cocoon?
You liquefy.

There in the thick black
of your self-spun womb,
void as the moon before waxing,

you melt . . .

conceiving
in impossible darkness
the sheer
inevitability
of wings.

            Are you feeling challenged by a sense of discomfort and confusion as you go through a career or personal transition?  If you’d like validation that this is a normal process that’s worth the time to explore for making rewarding changes in your life, please join me for my upcoming free tele-class, “Career & Life Transitions-- Am I in One?  What Do I Do Now?” on Wednesday, October 6th, at 9 AM Pacific Time.  For further information and to register, please go to http://www.kailaslifecoaching.com/?id=presentations.

Creating Transitions -- Who’s in Charge?

Since I’m planning a tele-class on what transitions are about, I was looking again at William Bridges’ defining book, Transitions.  What really struck me in re-reading the first chapter that he calls “The Need for Change” is the organicity of transitions.  As he says, they happen naturally in all living creatures:  “Throughout nature, growth involves periodic accelerations and transformations.  Things go slowly for a time and nothing seems to change-- until suddenly the eggshell cracks, the branch blossoms . . . the hibernation begins.  With us . . . the functions of transition times are the same.  They are key times in the natural process of self-renewal. 

            I’m imagining this re-framing of transitions as “key times in the natural process of self-renewal.”  As in the somatic trauma theory of Peter Levine, PhD (author, Waking the Tiger), animals have the inner survival mechanisms to allow sudden and slow-moving changes of all kinds to happen without permanent distress.  Humans, on the other hand, with our more complex brain and upbringing processes, unconsciously learn to resist and question the process of change-- or transitions-- making it harder in our bodies and minds to accept that these can be a “natural” part of our own “self-renewal.” 

            On a different tack, in this week’s New Yorker magazine (9/13/10), an article called “Power Lines” explores the mystique behind a major inspirational documentary, The Secret.  Three years ago, Oprah Winfrey introduced Rhonda Byrne, creator and producer of The Secret, and some of her colleagues on her show by saying, “My guests today believe that once you discover the Secret, you can immediately start creating the life you want . . . They say you can have it all, and in fact, you already hold the power to make that happen.” 

            As a career and life coach, I’ve guided people into feeling this power to move successfully through their transitions-- from feeling stuck in some work or personal situation, to exploring the place of not-knowing and going deep into their own selves, to moving forward into a new, more rewarding direction.  They were empowered to create a new reality for themselves through learning to focus on what really mattered to them.  And yet, this new reality was born of both their desire to take charge in their own change process-- AND their acceptance of the natural movement of the change process within themselves.  By learning to connect to that universal flow, they accepted their role as co-creators of change and did not have to work so hard to reach their desired outcome.  

            It’s clear that a transitional period in your life can feel easier and more acceptable if it’s experienced as part of a natural flow towards self-actualization-- or being fully who you are.  Unlike the redwood tree in my backyard that sends its roots as far as it can, we humans often struggle to accept our instinctive desire to grow and manifest deeper and fuller aspects of ourselves.  We acclimate to others’ expectations of ourselves in order to be accepted as part of a family or a work team.  And yet, to stay fulfilled, resourced and balanced, we need to stay mindful of the powerful need and movement within ourselves to unfold into our full potential. 

            For those of you who are interested in exploring this aspect of transitions as a natural time of self-actualization, I invite you to join me for my upcoming free tele-class, “Career & Life Transitions-- Am I in One?  What Do I Do Now?”  For further information and to register, please go to:  http://www.kailaslifecoaching.com/?id=presentations

                 Join in the Discussion! 

  • What is an ending that you feel coming up in your career/life now?  How do endings make you feel? 
  • What is a transition you’ve gone through that had a lot of impact in your life?  What has opened up for you because of it?

Bringing It All Back Home-- A Traveler’s Perspective

Since my return from my trip to Europe recently, I’ve been thinking about what it is to be a traveler.  Not a tourist out to see only certain sights, but someone open to new discoveries, new interactions, new ways of being.  Open to change-- and to being changed.  The essence, in fact, of someone who’s doing coaching or considering it!

            Right now, I’m really enjoying the book, Travels with Odysseus by Michael Goldberg.  Using the classic Greek explorer, Odysseus, as a man whose voyage home after the Trojan Wars becomes fraught with unplanned detours and unusual encounters with guides and provocateurs, Goldberg looks at what it means to be a “traveler”:

           “Since ancient times, The Odyssey has been known as the journey that each one of us . . . must take to return Home, to who we really are and what we are supposed to become.”

             When we really travel and engage our deeper self with our outer experiences, we begin to learn what really matters in our lives.  We find guidance in others we meet along the way who connect us to our heart’s longings.  This, in turn, leads us to how we wish to live and what is meaningful for us to do in our time here on the planet.  Again, this is the essence of the coaching experience.

             In my upcoming, 2-part tele-class, “Coaching 101-- How to Make Career & Life Changes That Matter!”, I’ll be helping people experience what it’s like to create professional and personal changes they truly desire through the “engaged traveling” process of coaching.  If you’re interested, please click on this link-- http://www.kailaslifecoaching.com/?id=classes_presentations#current.  If you have any questions, please contact me at eve@kailaslifecoaching.com.

                       PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES--

          What does does it take to be an “engaged traveler” in your life?

       • What new perspectives or changes have opened for you by taking a new path in your life?