Transforming fear

Transforming Fear into Heart-centered Ways to Work and Live

Recently I spent a few days exploring some of the high desert terrain of the Mojave desert in southern California, enjoying the experience of being in space inhabited by massive stones and a surprising diversity of flowering plant life given the extreme limitation of water.

Being in the desert in springtime and seeing wildflowers emerging from spiny cacti or growing at the feet of enormous, ancient boulders made me think of my work in helping people move out of limitation and blossom into new ways to work and live. We humans have so many talents, skills, and creative abilities, it's such a loss that we spend the time we do feeling limited in what we do, how we love, and how we live our "wild, precious" lives— until we learn to wake up and feel our intuition guiding us in new directions.

What I've noticed is that when you try to limit change in your life— mostly out of fear— you hold back from your own intuition that tells you when you’ve outgrown a particular path and would do better to move on in a new direction. We get intuitive promptings every day about what we want to do and don't want to do. Many times we ignore them, because we're afraid they might tell us that we're tired of certain ways of living and working— and that we could risk losing what we've already got.

Ongoing stress, pain, and illness are common body signals that you're not in balance or that you're losing touch with what you're doing in your life. Emotional signals such as burnout and disengagement with your usual activities in your career or in other places in your life can also indicate that fear of a necessary change is present.

And when you ignore spiritual messages such as significant dreams, or a lack of spirit or purpose— you risk over time damage to your health, wholeness, connection with others, and pure sense of aliveness.

Because I know how important it is to become aware of our fear of change in our desire come alive and bloom fully and successfully, I'm now making my webinar— Facing and Transforming the Fear of Change (based on my book, Success with Soul— Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance)— available for purchase.

In this webinar, I describe why and how fear holds people captive from enjoying the work they do and the lives they lead. With special exercises, I help you connect with your awareness as the first step to transforming fear into the energy and focus you need to move forward— towards living and working authentically and well.

This 45-minute webinar is sponsored by Living Forward— a heart-centered coaching & training group in Chicago developed by my wonderful colleague, coach and trainer Suzanne Ness, MS, CPCC. For more information and to order, please click here.

"When you hold back, [your life] holds back . . . But when you commit, it comes on like blazes."    -- from Art and Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland

 

Facing and Transforming the Fear of Change— New Webinar, March 22, 2017

Most of you receiving this message know that I'm a certified life coach who works extensively with people who are creating heart-centered career and life-balance changes to live fully and well. To do this successfully, it's vital to understand not only what calls you forward, but also the ways in which fear holds you back from making the changes you need to work and live with fulfillment and satisfaction.

As Tara Brach, PhD— therapist, international meditation instructor, and author of Radical Acceptance— says, "When we live with fear, we spend our time and energy defending our life rather than living it fully."          

Are you spending too much of your time feeling stuck and just defending your life?  Learning to recognize your fear of change will help you clear your mind and your energy so you can develop the life you truly want to live. 

Fear of change is a way of staying small and limited in your outlook and your actions. Becoming aware of the impact of this fear, however, is the first step towards moving forward and creating transformative change from your heart.

If you're feeling stuck and want to make new changes that matter to you, I invite you to join me for my webinar, "Facing and Transforming the Fear of Change," on Wed., March 22, 2017, at 4 PM PDT/7 PM EDT.  This webinar is part of the series, "Being Human," sponsored by Living Forward, LLC.

For more information and to register for this webinar, please click here.

Are You Following Your Yellow Brick Road?

When my brother and I were children, we loved being read to by our father at bedtime, most memorably, from the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. The pure, imaginative escapism of journeys to a magic country that no one could see from the outside, where inanimate objects were alive, animals talked, and even children had the power to create transformative changes was the most wonderful experience!

So when I recently discovered the book, Finding Oz, by Evan Schwartz, I was intrigued to find that this master storyteller and creator of one of the most influential American childhood books— The Wizard of Oz— had cycled himself through six failed careers by the time he was forty, when he began to get traction as a published author of children's stories. Prior to that, he was a chicken breeder, a traveling actor/playwright, the sales publicist of an oil lubricants store, the owner of a variety store, a traveling salesman of fine china, and a newspaper writer/publisher.

Winding through the twenty-three years he devoted to these career paths in hopes of making a steady income to support his wife and their family, was his own "yellow brick road"— his passionate love of making up and telling stories, particularly to children.

On your own path to finding work and a life you love, what can you learn from L. Frank Baum's journey on his "yellow brick road"— his dream path straight from the land of Oz?

Notice what blocks your path— Usually what gets in the way of finding work you love and making other life changes is fear of losing what is familiar, risking financial loss, fear of judgement by others, and uncertainty about the shape of the future. Baum's ever-present challenge was "the fear of failure" about how to make a profitable living, especially as the stakes got higher with a wife and four boys to support.

As Schwartz writes about Baum a few years before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: "Frank was always in danger of becoming a slave to his fears, not unlike the famous traveling companions who enter the perilous land outside the Emerald City, where they press ahead in constant fright of both the known and unknown forces of the forest."

Recognize the golden road within yourself— What's interesting is the length of Baum's meandering career trail, and how long it took him to accept the gift of his true nature as a storyteller and author. In each of his undertakings, Baum— an optimist by nature— achieved some measure of success. However, his heart was not really in being a business owner, which he refused to accept until his journalism and final sales ventures collapsed financially.

His storytelling, he felt, had to come out the back door of the work he did for a living.  He believed the overriding message of his time and his culture, that real work was primarily buying and selling material objects or necessary services. Storytelling was fantasy and belonged only to childhood. (Note that The Wizard of Oz was one of the very few American children's books when it was published in 1900.)

Interestingly, however, all of his six careers before becoming a published author required that he create and tell stories.  This was his own golden road, the path of his authentic self.

In these occupations, his stories were for adults— about why people would live better, happier lives with his exotic chickens, adventurous plays, oil products for their new-fangled machines, products designed just for pleasure, and human interest tales. The environment he lived in did not make it easy for him to visualize a future as a well-paid author. For that, he needed the support of his spiritual allies.

Accept the support of allies to help make powerful changes— Who were the allies who most supported Baum's spirit through the long haul of his inner transformation?  First, his sons, who adored their father and his wonderful stories.

His second major ally— his formidable suffragette and Theosophist mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage— had initially been more of a wicked witch in his life. She'd felt that he'd gotten in the way of her daughter Maud's being able to finish her college degree at Cornell (true) and that he wouldn't be able to support her daughter financially (not true).

However, as her own spiritual life evolved under the influence of Theosophy, she became the closest person in his life to see that Baum's "right livelihood" must have its foundation in what was quintessentially himself— in telling and writing children's stories. It was also she who discovered the growing trend in magazines for story writing for youth and got Baum excited about this new professional possibility.

Inspired by her insight into his true self and her support for his new career direction, Baum, it seems, transformed Matilda in his Oz books into Glinda, the Good White Witch.

Know when it's time to take the leap— and take it!

When he was 40, Baum was diagnosed by his doctor with a weak heart that could no longer take the stress of being a traveling salesman. Plus, his children were unhappy with him away so often. At this point, Baum took the leap and made the decision "that there was a future for him in crafting tales for children," and began writing stories for which he was paid and published.

Two years later, in 1898, following the death of his mother-in-law and fearless ally, Mathilda, "suddenly, this one story moved right in and took possession," as he wrote his publisher. Later, he said in an interview, "It was pure inspiration. It came to me right out of the blue . . . I believe the magic key was given to me to open the doors to sympathy and understanding, joy, peace and happiness." He drew on what he knew— the bleakness of the Kansas countryside in the 1880's, tornados/cyclones, oil as a means of bringing machinery to life, farms, witches (the denigrated power of women that Mathilda had written about) and the human spirit, embodied in the girl adventurer, Dorothy.

And so the story of "a yellow brick road leading to a city of emeralds" was born. As Schwartz writes, "[The yellow brick road] would be the path where the spiritual adventure unfolds." The challenges that Dorothy and her companions meet on the yellow brick road were the challenges that Baum himself met on his journey towards right livelihood, which also led him to self-awareness, confidence, aliveness, and well-being.

What is the destination of your yellow brick road?

What are your particular challenges on your yellow brick road?

What do you need to meet and transform these challenges into successful outcomes?

Embracing and Transforming the Fear of Change

When you think of change, what images and feelings come to mind?  Do you think of bare branches of the plum tree in winter bursting into pink blossom at the first warmth of spring? Do you remember the feeling of pure excitement running through your whole body the day you moved on campus and began a new life as a university student-- or traveled overseas for the first time-- or when you got your first acting break replacing the star performer in a major play?

Or does the word “change” bring back the sweaty palms and pounding heart of your first deep-sea dive-- or your first day at a new school in a new town as a child-- or when you knew deep inside that you were no longer satisfied with a way of working you’d done mostof your adult life?

As Mark Gerzon, author, Coming into Our Own, says, “If it feels safe, it’s probably not the right path, but if it scares you, it probably is.”  Fear that the thought of change evokes in you isn’t a reason in itself to turn back from a change that calls you.  Fear is just as often sitting right by the door you need to enter (possibly disguised as a snarling demon!) to bring new energy and satisfaction into your life at this particular time.

Are you afraid of the crack in the shell of your life?  Or are you eagerly peering through this new opening to a life with more expansive and fulfilling possibilities?

Whatever your perspective on change, one sure thing is that it will keep happening and keep knocking at your door.  The question is, will you embrace it and see what it offers?  Or will you turn away, vulnerable and fearful, from from this calling, trying to keep yourself small and untouched?

Here’s a body-mind awareness exercise that can help you ground yourself and clear your mind when you are going through or contemplating change:

  • Sit or lie comfortably, close your eyes, and take several deep, full breaths in and out.  Visualize a change that’s happening or that you’d like to have happen in your work or any other part of your life.
  • Notice what happens to your breathing, whether it gets faster or almost shuts down as you take in the implications of making a really powerful change.  
  • Notice where there’s tension or opening in your belly, your chest, your throat, your neck, or behind your eyes.   
  • What are the messages from your body that feel connected to what is changing in your life?  What is the level of energy you’re feeling now?
  • What is the first step you plan to take towards meeting or making the new change in your life?  What is the support you need?

The urge towards change, which is natural and inevitable, can be surfed like a wave in a new way, to a new destination.  Change can also be mindfully observed and simply allowed to happen, as when turning leaves feel their hold on the tree loosen before floating down to their next incarnation on the earth.

Remember that embracing the process of change, including any fears that arise, can be the key first step in creating a happier, more rewarding way of working, living, and being.

Facing and Transforming the Fear of Change

When you think of change, what images and feeling come to mind?  Do you think of the fall foliage of maple trees turning bright orange and red?  Do you remember the feeling of pure excitement running through your whole body the day you moved on campus and began a new life as a university student-- or traveled overseas for the first time-- or when you got your first acting break replacing the star performer in a major play?

Or does the word “change” bring back the sweaty palms and pounding heart of your first deep-sea dive-- or your first day at a new school in a new town as a child-- or when you knew deep inside that you were no longer satisfied with a way of life you’d lived for many years?

Are you afraid of the crack in the shell of your life?  Or are you eagerly peering through this new opening to a life with more expansive and fulfilling possibilities?

Whatever your perspective on change, one sure thing is that it will keep happening and knocking at your door.  The question is, will you embrace it and see what it offers?  Or will you turn away, vulnerable and fearful, from from this calling, trying to keep yourself small and untouched?

The people I’ve worked with as a career and life coach contacted me because they’d felt for some time that they needed to make a change in their jobs and the way they lived. How did they know this?  Some said they’d had significant dreams, body signals (stress, pain, illness), and other signs (e.g., lack of interest, burnout at work), forcing them to realize that their existing life patterns no longer felt meaningful.

They resisted change, however, because of the equally strong counterforce of fear-- of loss (of a job, a relationship, status, family/societal approval, control); of failure (not reaching their dreams); and of the unknown.

Their resistance to the upwelling clamor for change within themselves came at a high cost, though. One woman I worked with in a software firm kept taking sick leaves and had occasional difficulty completing projects for which she was responsible. She was terrified of being fired, though she also longed to be, and the emotional stress was overwhelming. As we examined her situation, I asked her what it was she feared the most. “Not knowing what I want to be doing instead,” she responded.

It’s understandable that we cling to the known for its predictability, comforts, and societal approval. However, when the emotional pain of this clinging becomes too great, we have the opportunity — with the right kind of support — to choose to move past fear into our potential for living and working authentically and well.

The urge towards change, which is natural and inevitable, can be surfed like a wave in a new way, to a new destination.  Change can also be mindfully observed and simply allowed to happen, as when turning leaves feel their hold on the tree loosen, and they float down to their next incarnation on the earth.

Change can be our inspiration towards transforming ourselves and our lives into the happiness of living and working from our true nature.  For most of us, however, embracing change requires outer support and inner attentiveness to face the fears that inevitably arise and to allow its gifts to manifest for us.  As Brené Brown says in her book, The Gifts of ImperfectionWe don’t change, we don’t grow, and we don’t move forward without the work.  If we really want to live a joyful, connected, and meaningful life, we must talk about things that get in the way.

If you’re interested in exploring this topic in more depth, please join me in my upcoming Teleclass, “Success with Soul - - Transforming the Fear of Change” on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at 12 Noon Pacific Time.  To register, click here!

Risking Change-- Facing the Fear of Not-Knowing

One of the biggest obstacles people confront in making an important change in their lives is facing their own fear of not knowing what will happen when they take this step.  Will they drop into the void-- or make the leap from the cliff’s edge to the other side?  If they get to the other side, what will they have left behind and will they find their heart’s desire?

You may remember the moment when you absolutely knew you had to make a change in your job or the way you live.  You may have had significant dreams, body signals (stress, pain, illness), or other signs, such as burnout or lack of interest at work, shouting that your existing life patterns no longer feel meaningful.  What made you begin to pay attention to these subliminal messages?  When did you feel that the way you were working or living was too cramped, that you had to push your way out of the shell surrounding you into a bigger life?

As you know, resistance to an upwelling clamor for change within yourself can come at a high cost.  One woman I worked with in a software firm was struggling, after a difficult family crisis, to maintain the energy she’d formerly had for her job.  She had to take several sick leaves and had occasional difficulty completing projects for which she was responsible.

She was terrified of being fired, though she also longed to be, and the emotional stress was overwhelming.  As we explored her situation, I asked her what it was she feared the most.  “Not knowing what I want to be doing instead,” she responded.

Initially, she’d enjoyed her position, but now felt she was developing into a different kind of person.  Other interests of hers were wanting expression with a completely different way of working-- and a new partner for life.  However, she hesitated to leap out of her current career when she wasn’t clear about the direction she wanted to take next.

So I suggested that she take walks at her lunch break to exercise her body (which was also a goal of hers) and free her mind.  Her journaling after some of her walks reflected new openings into what was truly important to her-- collaborative work with others in some field involving personal growth and lifelong learning.  In the quote below, notice her attunement to her own call through the energy of nature, with the metaphors of the “path” and “the two egrets flying together” reflecting her desires for professional and personal change:

Later in the walk, I turned a corner and saw the road stretching out
ahead of me.  I am on the path to my future, I thought.  I wonder what
it will bring?  At that moment, I saw two egrets flying together far up ahead.

This was her first step on a journey of much inner reflection that stirred the waters of her desire into a path towards a more personally fulfilling way of working and living.  And yes, she succeeded, as you can read in my forthcoming book (information below).

It’s understandable that we cling to the known for its predictability, comforts, and societal approval.  However, when the emotional pain of this clinging becomes too great, we have the opportunity-- with the right kind of support-- to choose to move past fear of not knowing into our potential for living and working authentically and well.

For more depth in exploring the topic of facing the unknown in risking change, I invite you to read my forthcoming ebook, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance!, due out in January.  If you’re on my email list, you’ll be receiving information about how to order it.  If you’re interested in being on my email list, please contact me at eve@kailaslifecoaching.com.

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

Let the Beauty You Love Be What You Do!

“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened.  Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading.  Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

--Jelaluddin Rumi

I love this poem by the Sufi spiritual master, Rumi, for the beauty of his words and images-- and for the eloquence with which he expresses our movement from habitual acts to transformative action.  This is what I love, too, about doing life coaching, and watching the people I work with blossom with the joy of self-discovery as they create the changes that really matter to them in their careers and lives.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.”  The wake-up call-- it’s time to stop settling for less and go for “the beauty we love” in our lives.  What is it that we really want?  What is it that we are ready to put all our heart, energy, and passion into now?  How do we really want contribute to the world, to our families, to our personal dreams?What is the “beauty” that feeds our souls and frees us to forward to where we feel fulfilled?

We all have had the experience of “waking up empty and frightened” of losing what is important to ourselves, of not expressing our true selves in some way, of dying without having lived fulfilled.

The key thing is to not go back to the old habits, not just to “begin reading”-- but to step past our fears into a leap forward that may well feel radical.  “Take down a musical instrument” and follow the the unknown songs and sounds that emerge to new realms that free you to be yourself!

Creating a Path with Heart for Your Career & Life Transitions

Last week I gave a tele-class with this title for about a dozen people, most of whom were graduates from Stanford University, my alma mater.  One was a freelance writer wanting to open her life to include a satisfying intimate relationship.  Another was a mother who yearned to get back into the world of work as a professional with a world health organization.  In general, the participants were intelligent people seeking ways to expand the parameters of their lives and move into a greater sense of wholeness and fulfillment.

What I found with the people in this group-- as with many others I've worked with as a certified life coach and somatic therapist-- is that the willingness to bring forward your deepest desire is often the beginning of a spiritual awakening, a way of knowing your wholeness as a person and joy in living.

In this class, we walked the basic steps for creating a path with heart (or in other words, your dream) in your life, which are simple and often overlooked, because they are require going deep into yourself.  The first is Awareness, or bringing into clarity what it is that you truly want and what this means to you.  Here are some questions to evoke awareness-- What kind of change would you like to bring into your life?   What's the risk?  What's the gain?  What would bring more joy and fulfillment into your life?

Step two is Visioning, or allowing yourself to enter fully into the change you want to make through inner visualization or creating a picture of what you want through external manifestations such as collage or computer design.  Some questions to evoke Visioning are:  What are the colors of your dream?  What are you feeling & where are you sensing it in your body?  What are you really wanting?  What is the look of how to live fulfilled?  Because fear often arises when the door to change begins to open, it's important to feel supported by a good friend, a caring family member, or a life coach as you dare to envision a life or a career that is larger than you may have dared to dream ever before.

The third step is Intention, or claiming your dream and your direction for change.  This step is vital for making changes that matter.  An intention can be very simple.  For example, "My intention is to make three job-related calls today."  Or it can be more expansive-- "I intend to create a place of beauty in my kitchen to inspire me every day."  Or it can be one that may shake up your life as you know it-- "My intention is to spend a year painting in Italy."

Creating a path with heart to change your career or your life in some significant way asks that you first go inward and know what makes you feel alive and true to yourself.  Then you can take action that is right for you, and find the support you need to go forward into the realm of your heart's desire.