Building Connection

Creative Use of Coaching Structure for Successful Change


How can the creative use of coaching structures help you develop the professional and personal changes you really want?  

Life coaching is fundamentally a dynamic conversational structure— a co-creation between the coach and client to bring forth the new ideas, images, and perspectives that will best serve the client in creating transformative career and life changes.  From the beginning, I, as the coach, set up a special structure for effective change-making by creating a safe "container" to hold myself and my clients to help them go farther and deeper in exploring new possibilities and directions.

This "container" is the invisible structure that holds the energy and flow of the coaching conversation—while the coaching conversation itself is the structure that's heard and felt, and moves the client forward.  As I set the foundation for safety and trust into the coaching "container," clients feel supported and able to participate fully in the coaching exploration about what they really want to achieve.  

Using powerful, stimulating questions and imagery, I expand the conversation to help clients develop the big picture of what they really want, which can sometimes feel scary as well as exciting.  When they are clear about their new choices and direction, the coach can then re-shape the structure of the conversation to help them focus on choosing actions and timelines to manifest their dreams and goals.

Brian, a retired teacher, was struggling to complete the book he was writing based on The Remembrances of Times Past by Marcel Proust.  Brian had recently had a birthday and commented that he felt old, but that this next year for him was supposed to be one of "energy and change." Sensing that he was feeling discouraged about aging and the lack of progress with his book, I re-phrased this as "a year of energy and transformation." Then I asked him, "What's in the cocoon that wants to come out?"

"Good question!" exclaimed Brian, and his face brightened. Then he described the image that came to him of a chick pecking its way out of an egg shell, emerging cautiously but gaining energy by moving. "The egg is transformed into a chicken with its own distinctive internal structure," he said.  "By its own efforts, it's hatched from the limited external structure of the egg shell.  It's free to move and make sounds!" With his energy opened by a resonant image, Brian felt ready to re-focus and create a plan for moving on and completing his book— which he did shortly thereafter!

In this case, the structure of the our coaching conversation expanded with a powerful question that both acknowledged Brian's feelings of stuckness and concern with his book and his life— and offered "cocoon" as an image of potentiality for transformative change. As Brian connected with this image, he was able to take it further and create a new opening to go forward with his book.

The structure of our conversation then shifted to a more straightforward planning mode with action steps, a timetable, and a method of accountability.

What I've found is that using creative structuring as an integral part of coaching conversations supports people in getting out of stuckness and into successful outcomes.  This can help you—

  • Transform unsatisfying ways of working into heart-centered livelihood that feels successful and purposeful to you

  • Create more time and energy (life balance) for living with fulfillment and purpose

  • Shift gears into retirement in ways that feel deeply satisfying to you

  • Create more effortless, personalized, and authentic marketing outreach for solopreneurs

  • Learn how to have more effective coaching conversations with clients (mentor coaching)

What is the structure you need to create the career and life-balance changes that matter to you? 

Change-Making at Solstice— How the Light Gets In

Now, on the shortest day of the year, with even northern California cold enough to wear hats, scarves, and gloves, I'm reflecting on the seeming polarities like light and dark, love and fear, that have swung us back and forth over our political and personal landscapes this past year. For me, the experience has been like standing on rock cliffs, being battered and splintered by an ongoing series of huge waves under the low-hanging clouds of a storm.

One such wave was the result of the presidential election in the United States. For myself and the majority of the electorate there is now the fear of having a president, a Congress, and a Supreme Court that will actively work against what we hold dear for our society— a healthy environment, health care access for all, up-to-date public education, and fundamental equal rights for all— so that we may have work and build lives in connection with our authentic desires, our relationships, and our world.

At such times, it seems that there are only the polarities of storm or calm, vitriol or caring, hate or love, dark or light. When people are able to stand steady in the heart of the storm, grounded in awareness of the connectedness of life, there are ways to bring oppositional forces into calm and wholeness. And it is in this place of wholeness and connection that positive change can emerge.

Recently, for example, I heard the story about the brilliant poet, songwriter, and singer, Leonard Cohen, who just died this year, and how he quelled a riot at the 1970 Isle of Wight rock concert in England. I was there, too, one of 600,000 in the passionate, free-flowing audience, many of whom were upset about political, economic, and social injustices of that time, including the Vietnam War. However, since the concert went on day and night, I seemed to have slept through Cohen's 4 AM performance on the last night of the festival that followed a literally blazing Jimi Hendrix set.

This was what I missed. Apparently, on that dark, rainy night, the audience was cold and restive and trashed the stage. Cohen, awoken at 2 AM after Hendrix played, was only bothered because the organizers couldn't locate a piano and organ for his musicians. "I'll come out when you find them," he said, and did, two hours later. As film reviewer Mike Springer wrote, "Perhaps the most moving moment [was] at the beginning, when Cohen [brought] the massive crowd together by asking a favor: 'Can I ask each of you to light a match, so I can see where you all are?'" In this way, he gathered that huge group of disparate, upset people in a cold, damp, inhospitable place into one whole, and soothed them into listening with his calm and deeply centered presence.

Fast forward to 2008, to Leonard Cohen's concert in London at a time of world-wide economic depression. I was very moved by what he said before performing his famous song, "Anthem," to the people in his audience. Again, he brought them together by speaking to their feelings of fear, anger, and upset with lovingkindness— "Thank you so much, friends. We're so privileged to gather in moments like this when so much of the world is plunged in darkness and chaos."

And then he sang:

"So ring the bells
that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in."

In our lives, it's not so imperative to seek perfection as to embrace our wholeness.  This includes our stormy encounters, as well as the thin band of light we see on the horizon. When we put our attention on this light, we can see it radiating outward, reflected on the waves of the sea, reaching and opening our hearts.

So try this— when you find yourself in a difficult work situation, relationship, or political landscape, focus on whatever you can that is beautiful or inspiring in the midst of that challenge. Find that crack where the light gets in, whether it's a compassionate glance from a colleague, a memory of a loving moment, or a song that opens your heart. In this way, allow the change you long to make begin from within.

As poet and inspirational speaker, Mark Nepo, wrote in his book, The One Life We're Given: "When we can keep breaking through what has hardened and keep what is alive soft, the cracks turned into openings fill us with an undying light."

In this season's darkest days, may we celebrate the beauty of the light and love within us as we move forward into the challenges and changes of the new year.

“Got Your Back, Joe!”— Success with Authenticity and Community

I recently read the most gripping book, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown— the story of all the players and creators of the eight-oar crewing team from the University of Washington that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. At first, the author draws you in through the personal stories of the athletes, most of whom had to deal with financially and emotionally impoverished backgrounds to attend the university and then to be selected to crew for the boat destined for the Olympics.

At the same time, I also read Yes, Chef— the memoir of a brilliant, young chef, Marcus Samuelsson, who’s Ethiopian-born, raised in Sweden, and now a citizen of the US, living and working in Harlem in New York City.

What’s the connection? For me, a vital one is the counterpoint of Samuelsson with the highlighted crew member, Joe Rantz, in The Boys in the Boat. Both had natural talent for their winning directions, and both had to learn under extremely challenging circumstances that flair, ambition, and even intensive practice can only take you so far.

To take the big leap towards your vision of success, you have to acknowledge and accept the communities that still nourish you— where you were born, who raised you, who mentored or coached you, who your lasting partners are, who you can love and trust absolutely (who’s “got your back”). To live out your dream, to go for the gold, you must anchor yourself— your skills and your genius— in the community that has grown around you or that you’ve designed for yourself.

As George Yeoman Pocock, master crew shell (boat) maker and spiritual guide to Joe Rantz and his crew team, shared with Rantz:

“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them . . . ‘Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined….’” (from The Boys in the Boat)

Rantz, however, had such a hard-scrabble life— abandoned twice by his father after his mother died and from childhood having to work for his living— it was remarkable that he made it to college, hanging on financially by a hair during the Great Depression days. As for Samuelsson, he almost died of TB as a child in Ethiopia before being adopted by a working-class couple in Sweden. Both gained from that experience a hard-work ethic and reliance on themselves. Seeking and acknowledging the need for community support in meeting incredibly challenging goals was, understandably, a tough proposition for both.

“The psychology is complex . . . Rowers must subsume their often fierce sense of independence and self-reliance, [while] at the same time they must hold true to their individuality, their unique capabilities as oarsmen or oarswomen or, for that matter, as human beings.” (from The Boys in the Boat)

As Marcus Samuelsson found out, where he could be his most authentic self as a multicultural person of color, where he could best bring all his gifts as a master chef, was far from rural Sweden where he grew up— at his own restaurant, Red Rooster, in Harlem-- the famous and infamous ghetto and cultural nexus of African Americans in New York City. This is where he, his partners, his staff, his old friends, his new friends from Harlem, his family from Sweden and Ethiopia, and all his new and old customers could gather, eat, celebrate, and be at home.

“Food memories give people something to talk about— our food, our culture, our journey . . . The restaurant [Red Rooster] had to be a place that honored and mirrored the mystique of the renaissance but showed the new Harlem— inclusive of both old and new. The menu had to tell the story of all of Harlem’s residents— Latin, Southern, Caribbean, Jewish, Italian. When I cook, I see faces: When I make meatballs, I see my grandmother and her smile….” (from Yes, Chef)

Success like this goes beyond even the biggest imagining of Marcus Samuelsson. To create a place that sings and delights the palate and brings people, past and present, together from around the world into community— that is more than a goal— that is the gold!

As Joe Rantz discovered, in the best boat possible, with the right group of crewmates— the ones he could relate to and do his best with— he found both the support and the power of community— the joyful vehicle for the ultimate success of his and their dreams.

“That’s the deepest challenge. Even after the right mixture is found, each man or woman in the boat must recognize his or her place in the fabric of the crew, accept it, and accept the others as they are. The intense bonding and the sense of exhilaration that results from it are what many oarsmen row for, far more than for trophies or accolades.” (from The Boys in the Boat)

Awakening Your Heart-- Transforming the Nature of Your Work and Your Life

When I was thirty-three and in the middle of a spiritual transition that deeply affected the way I began to look at my work life and my relationships, I woke up from a dream with the words, “My heart, which is alive and awake and aware,” resonating in my body.  At the time, I knew little consciously in the way of spirit, but I felt that I had a new foundation on which to grow the new direction of my life-- whatever the shape of that would be.

As I wrote in my book, Success with Soul: “Dreams with impact don’t have to be elaborate, technicolor affairs in order to bring home how you need to re-connect with your passion, energy,  and inner direction.”  They arrive like a gift.  If they capture your attention, be with them.  Even if your mind doesn’t understand them, your heart will open to them and invest your life with a greater knowing of what it is to be alive and aware.

It took a few years for my dream to gestate, but eventually I redesigned my career path so thatthe work I did was based on the aliveness and awareness of my heart.  As a somatic therapist, and then a life coach, the nature of my work was firmly rooted in the process of helping people transform their relationship to their careers and their whole lives by paying attention to whatever awakened their hearts and stimulated their energy.

Now it’s early spring in northern California.  Some winter rain has finally penetrated the drought of the past year, and the fragrance of the plum tree blossoms wafts through the moistened air.  It’s a time when I remember the coming of the English spring in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beautiful book of heart awakenings, The Secret Garden, when the dead-looking rose vines come alive, and the green thrusting leaves of daffodils and snowdrops poke up above the gradually warming earth.

The re-emergence of life is what Mary, the unhappy ten-year-old orphan in The Secret Garden (whose life is transformed by digging in the earth in the company of a life-affirming local Yorkshire lad), celebrates as “the Magic.”  “The Magic” is what brings things to life-- whether they are the neglected garden of this story or the neglected children.

“The Magic” is being touched by a growing desire to change and the compassionate attention of others directed towards us as we change.  To paraphrase therapist Brené Brown, spirituality is awareness of the inextricable connection among all living things , which “is grounded in love and compassion.”

“The Magic” is what touches the life flow at our core that animates and vitalizes us.

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 every activity we undertake-- in the short amount of time we have on this planet.

Let this Valentine’s Day be a special one for you!  Ask yourself, “How will I awaken my heart today?”  Remember that fifty years ago today, The Beatles first began to play--  “All you need is love”--  to touch your awakening heart.

Living out Your Authenticity and Aliveness: Interview with Suzanne Ness, Certified Life Coach and Creator, MobileCoach app

In my ebook, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I put a lot of focus on the rewards of learning to work and live from your own center, from being, in fact, the person you really are.  In the chapter on authenticity, I say:  “Think of people you know whom you enjoy being around because they love being who they are and doing what they do.  Because they work, relate, and engage with full aliveness, with every cell of their body.  Because they shine with the joy of living and working with purpose.”

That’s why I’m introducing you now to my colleague and friend, Suzanne Ness, certified coach, speaker, corporate trainer, business owner, and online adjunct professor of management from Chicago, Illinois.  Suzanne and I went through the certification program at the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) in 2007, supporting each other then through now in the different phases of our career development.  I can always be sure with Suzanne that she will be excited about new coaching techniques, new plans, and anything I’d like to try out with her.  She is a real ally in all matters of growing, evolving, andt transforming from what is to what is even better!               

So Suzanne and I decided we wanted to share with those of you on our respective email lists our most recent projects.  I’m sharing with you news of Suzanne’s MobileCoach app-- (itunes) while she shares with her email group some information about my ebook.

And now, here’s Suzanne, in her own words:

Hello!  This is such a special opportunity to “meet” all of you who have been attracted to the work of my colleague, Eve Siegel.  Eve and I really enjoy supporting each other as we expand our professional coaching by creating new learning tools and experiences to share with people wanting to create positive, heart-centered career and life changes.

As for me, I love what I do in every area of my life.  I’ve created a way of living that allows me choice and freedom with my time, a way to be flexible and available for my children when necessary, and a chance to do work that inspires me and others to pursue learning, personal growth, and transformation.

I think my greatest gift is my passion for learning and helping others get excited about what is possible in their lives.  I’m good at creating a safe place where people feel empowered to try new things, take chances, and work through the challenges of making changes that are the most meaningful.  As the saying goes in coaching, “no one engages a coach in order to stay the same or to stay in the same place.”  I partner with my clients to help them stand in the “discomfort zone” long enough to allow change to happen.

I have great curiosity and drive for adventure.  I eagerly try new things, take chances, and encourage my clients to do the same.  I am driven by a desire to learn all I can and to help others notice and recognize their own authentic self and the greatness that exists inside everyone.  I often say that I get to witness miracles every day-- when people reach goals they didn’t think possible, or begin embracing something or someone in a new way, it changes everything for them and that is awesome to watch.

I came up with the idea of MobileCoach while I was training for my first half-marathon run.  I had some clients then who would check in for our scheduled calls, but only seemed to need 20 minutes with me, though they had scheduled and paid for an hour.  I realized that it was the accountability that mattered to them, and that there were people who would benefit from a self-guided tool that allowed them more freedom and flexibility to work through.  I was also using a daily training tool to help me train for the half-marathon.  I put the two ideas together, and MobileCoach was born!

MobileCoach is a 28-day guided tool for setting goals and making meaningful change.  Each “day” offers a different activity, exercise, or inquiry designed to help move a client forward.  It includes video, inspirational quotes, and even downloadable worksheets and articles, all designed to support someone through a change process.  As with all products, it is constantly evolving and improving.

This app has helped people make difficult choices such as getting medical tests done or starting a new hobby or business venture.  It is not a replacement for coaching; it is an enhancement or start for someone who is ready to begin making meaningful changes.  The tools and exercises were created out of my own experience as a coach and through my process of growing and stretching myself.  Right now it is only available through iTunes.  However, I am in the process of making it available for Android within the next year.

In the meantime, here are 3 of my favorite tips for creating a more fulfilling (or authentic, creative) way to work and live:

1) Identify what you love to do.  Then begin creating your life around what you want, based on what you love to do.  Surround yourself with things that represent what it is you love.

2) Find an activity that stretches you- for me it is running.  I was never a runner, but for the last 4 years, I’ve been running in events that keep me focused, require discipline, and scare me just a little…

3) Reach out and make meaningful connections with other human beings, be it friends, family, an intimate partner, or colleagues.  Share your dreams with them and have them partner with you in pursuing a life you love-- and encourage them to do the same.

You can contact Suzanne at suzanne@livingforwardllc.comor 815-608-0252
(web)          (itunes)

Beyond Jane Austen-- It Takes a Community to Create an Ebook!

Have you ever written a book?  Or thought about writing one?  I know when I had something I wanted to share I assumed that writing an article about something was a quicker, more useful way to communicate my ideas and thoughts to others.

Just over a year ago, however, I realized that I had enough professional material about life coaching to organize into a book, and I felt the energy inside me to go forward with this plan.  When I began actually outlining what I wanted to say in my book last February, it quickly became clear to me that I was not going to be Jane Austen writing and seeking publication in private ways.  I would be writing and self-publishing an ebook that would require a lot of input and guidance from people both known and unknown to me to make a showing in the world.

From the start, my book was a communal venture, based on the interactions between me and my clients during our coaching and body-energy experiencing sessions and teleclasses.  Requesting permission to draw from some of their responses and discoveries was a special way of affirming and coalescing what they had found of value in coaching together for their professional and personal transitions.

During the five months I was actually writing, my companions in community were friends who were also writing books, and my own coach.  With them, I began to understand that writing a book was moving me onto a larger platform in my professional development.  Now I had a larger message and a bigger vision to share!

As I moved into completion of my draft, I realized I needed permission from various authors I’d quoted.  I also wanted to find people whose opinions of writing I valued to read over my book and give me feedback.  Thirdly, I had to find authors and practitioners whose ability and integrity I appreciated to write testimonials.  The process of connecting with these authors, colleagues, friends, and family members was inspiring!-- and broadened the parameters of my “book community.”  What I tapped into was a wealth of generosity, insight, and support that brightened the transition from writing into the next step of creating a professional product.

The next people to enter my community have been professionals in the new worlds of editing, book design, formatting, and “platforming” to ebook distribution sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.  Here began another round of learning how to collaborate with and finally, turn over, my ebook “baby” to others who could midwife its debut into the world.

For example, the image on the cover of my book was a collaborative effort between me and my book designer, Mark.  Imagine trying to find one image to convey the words in my book title-- “success,” “soul,” “loving your livelihood,” and/or “living in balance.”  Where would you even begin?  What I found was that the first step was like asking a powerful question in coaching-- what was it I most wanted to express about the message of my book?  In the end, I followed my instinct and went with “The Wave” as an image of energy, empowerment, and forward motion-- while Mark’s skill made it radiant for the cover.

As I now begin the next big transition into spreading the word about my book, I’m reflecting on the power and support of my evolving community that unfurled organically as my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, gradually took form.  In this next part of the journey, I’m looking forward to spreading my arms wide to the ever-growing community that will open as my book moves out of my hands and takes flight!

What Is It to Succeed with Work and Your Life?

This past weekend I saw an incredible play at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, Chinglish-- David Hwang’s mind-bending play about cross-cultural miscommunication-- and I couldn’t stop talking about it for hours afterwards! Since I’ve been writing an ebook this year about transitions to work you love that expresses your own authenticity, I particularly resonated with aspects of Chinglish that moved in this direction.

We first meet Daniel-- the American protagonist and owner of a small family sign-making business-- as he is acquiring a personal translator to help him in his business negotiations with local Chinese politicians and government bureaucrats. What the audience gradually learns is that Daniel desperately needs a contract with the Chinese in order to support his business and, thereby, redeem his self-esteem, which was mangled from a disastrous ending to his former career.

In the chapter in my book called “Defining Success in Your Own Terms,” I note that:

Often, a successful career or other life transition depends on your choosing a perspective to live with that gives light and meaning to your new direction. You may possibly not get the job you most wanted, but staying open to the possibilities of another one that you do get can bring unexpected rewards, such as new learning and new directions you might not have dreamed of. Or you may meet someone who helps change your life.”

This is what Daniel experiences as he moves out of both linguistic and cultural ignorance in China to the new understanding that what he knows and expects is heard and understood entirely differently by the local government officials he needs to convince to buy his services. He moves in “new directions” he would never have dreamed of by allowing himself to be guided by an initially hostile woman, Xi Yan, the Vice Minister for Culture. For reasons only gradually explained, she becomes an ally, helping him redefine success for himself.   In the process, he becomes a person with far more understanding of the bewildering wonderland of cross-cultural and woman-man miscommunications.

I wonder what Daniel would say if I asked him (as I do the readers of my book), What did you need to change in your attitude or perspective to feel successful in your work and your life as a whole?” I suspect he might say “letting myself stay open to possibilities in the face of complete misunderstanding of my words, my intentions, and my culturally shaped expectations.” For it was only in this way that his shame could transform into unexpected redemption for his work, and for his whole life.

When have you made a change in your attitude or perspective so that you felt successful in your work and your life as a whole?

         Some Action Steps for You!

1) If you’re planning to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, get tickets for Chinglish at Berkeley Repertory Theater-- until October 22nd!

2) If you, or people you know, are interested in finding work you love with a life in balance, keep reading my blog posts this fall for previews from my forthcoming book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance.

Learning from Japan-- When Is It Time to Ask for Help?

Around this first anniversary of the devastating triad of natural and man-made tragedies in Japan, I’d like to share my blog post of about a year ago with a great story from a small Japanese town in the affected area north of Tokyo.  The messages from its mayor are universal, timeless, and vital to our evolution as beings on this planet.

Almost a year ago, there was a very moving UTube video [“SOS from Minamisoma mayor”] of the mayor of Minamisoma-- a small town near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, devastated by the March earthquake, tsunami, and threat of nuclear meltdown-- desperately but with dignity asking for help for his town’s citizens who still remained.  These people (only a third of the original population, those who weren’t killed, missing, or evacuated) were trying to support each other under the dedicated leadership of their mayor, Mr. Sakurai.  However, they couldn’t get help from outside the town, as delivery trucks with food and gas refused to come within 18 miles of the city because of potential radiation hazard.  People were starving, and without heat or even gas to leave the town.

Feeling unheard and unsupported by the Japanese government, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, and the local media, Mr. Sakurai agreed to talk in a video for UTube.  Later, Mr. Sakurai said he “credited the large-scale response to his video with helping those who remained in the stricken city to carry on.  ‘Suddenly, the world was extending its hand to us . . . We’ve learned that we are not alone.’”  Food and other relief supplies were then being delivered to the town by non-profit agencies, helping its people to begin to live their lives again.

People making career changes also need to consider, ”When is it time to ask for help?”  How do you know when you cannot do what you need to do by yourself?  How stuck or desperate do you have to feel before you reach out for the help you need?

Career and life coaches in the United States often work with people who struggle with our national ethos that taking care of all your problems yourself is the only acceptable route.  When they finally start working with a coach, they realize that finding the right kind of help for dealing with problems and making changes is a tremendous relief. They receive affirmation for their dreams and plans, plus appropriate support for moving forward into new areas of their lives. They also learn that asking for help before getting completely burnt out or stuck makes their lives much easier.

Mayor Sakurai was forced to give his speech on the video at “the darkest moment in the disaster.”  He and his townspeople reached out to the world-- and people all over responded.  As Mayor Sakurai and his town discovered, “We’ve learned that we are not alone.”  The lesson is, none of us need to be alone in our search for support in reaching our goals.

In fact, asking for help is really a mutually enriching experience.  When you ask for help, you allow others who help you live fulfilled by giving them the opportunity to share something they have of value with you.  At the end of his speech, Mayor Sakurai concludes, “Helping each other is what makes us human beings.”

What Will Inspire You to Get Out of Bed & Do What You Really Want to Do?

Now that the high of New Year’s greetings with friends and colleagues is passing, and you can still see the pristine, snowy ground of a new beginning, what did you say you really wanted to do?  And by when?  Have you gotten out of bed yet and begun . . . any part of this?

I’m thinking of Hildegarde von Bingen-- the renowned 12th-century mystic,  artist, writer, composer, healer, and spiritual leader, living on the Rhine River in Germany-- who had her own call to action at age 42, thirty-four years after she began living in a convent and several years after she became its head prioress.  Though active and successful in her religious community, she was often ill and laid up in bed, unable to speak or act. 

    What kept Hildegarde in bed-- and what did she really want to do?  During her illnesses, she experienced amazing visions that she longed to express, but felt powerless to do so.  She was literally silenced by the patriarchy of the church; and had no support to live out her true purpose, which was to express her deepest spiritual visions.  Finally, it seems, she got sick of being sick and silenced.  “Beaten down by many kinds of illnesses, I put my hand to writing.  Once I did this . . . I received the strength to rise up from my sick bed, and under that power I continued to carry out the work....”

As a somatic therapist, I’ve often witnessed the way your body-- with symptoms severe enough to keep you lying low-- can force you to realize that you’re not doing what matters to you or not speaking with your true voice.  Then you have the choice, as Hildegarde did, of lying in bed and giving up your power-- or heeding the symptoms as your wake-up call to take action on your own path to fulfillment. 

Even more importantly, as Gregg Levoy notes in his book, Callings-- “When we sleep, we do not sleep alone.  Some of the great myths-- Sleeping Beauty, for example-- speak about the truth that when we sleep, all around us also sleep.”  So only when we awaken, can we support others and the whole world in their awakening.  The simple act of getting out of bed and beginning to do what we know is important for us to do, consciously and compassionately, will have a very positive impact on our whole society.

Getting in touch with her own inner well of courage, Hildegarde sawher symptoms for the wake-up call they were and got out of bed to write with her true voice.  It was then, in mid-life, that she went forward to live out her destiny as a creative and powerful political and spiritual force in her own time-- and to leave an incredible legacy of music, art, and writing whose beauty and power we still feel now.

  So I’m curious--

- Is there anything keeping you in bed, not letting you live out the call of your spirit
and what you really want to be doing now?

- If so, what would inspire you to get out of bed and into your real, authentic life?

- How loud does your wake-up call need to be?

- What kind of support do you need to wake up and begin to do what is really
important to you, now?

Everything’s Connected-- Looking Outside the Well!

Below is a rerun of a blog post of mine from a year ago that I'd like to share again on the topic of connection.  Have you got the outlook of the toad?  Know anyone locked into a limited and unproductive outlook like the frog?  Enjoy this story!

One spring evening when I was a freshman in college hanging out on campus, I met a stranger from another country who told me there were four phrases that were indispensable for getting you through life. Occasionally several of them float through my mind, but one is always there-- “Everything’s connected.”

It’s a universal spiritual principle that all of life is connected-- and you can easily notice it in the realm of the physical world of the planet, as well. For one thing, all of the living and non-living aspects of the world are connected in our dependence on the earth and the air and the sun for our existence. For another, when we come together to work in a common cause or to celebrate, we can feel the energy that connects us all. And yet, so many of us cut off our awareness of this connection, often because it seems easier simply to see things from a smaller perspective.

There’s a story about a frog at the bottom of a well always looking up at the small circle of sky at the top of the well. A toad at the top of the well urges the frog to come up outside the well and see thTe grandeur and the bounty of the world. But the frog refuses, not wishing to change her mind about what she already knows is there.

The people I see for coaching usually come with a particular goal-- for example, a career change. I ask them to write down three goals, which surprises them when there was only one thing they wanted to change. Often, they find their other goals have more to do with increasing their sense of well-being, having more quality time with their families, or committing to completing a creative project. They’re often amazed that these different change areas are really connected-- that if they’re looking for work they love, they might as well also make sure they’re building in time to play with their children each evening or swim daily or write a chapter a week in their new book.

Everything’s really connected! Just climb up out of your well and see all the possibilities around you. Create your dance that touches everything you want to do and become! Feel the all the possibilities that weave into your expanded reality.