Saturday, September 21, 2019

Autumnal Equinox and the Purposeful Pause

Recently at work, things have been wild, untamed. We've rearranged our care delivery model in all areas of the organization, we've reorganized our staff (including losing more than I'd like to count to early retirement and severance packages), and even faced the potential for a strike. We have been in GO mode for over a year, and I can tell you: We. Are. Tired.

I found myself meditating on the meaning and purpose of the Autumn Equinox preparing my key offerings. During this time of year, the Ancients held many of their annual meetings. Aligning this with the notion of three harvest, the third of which is at the end of October, I was left puzzled by the hosting of a large gathering in the middle of all that work. I mean, there was so much to do! How could they just stop? And then it hit me: sometimes, in order to finish strong, you have to stop and take a breath.  Sometimes, we need to pause for a moment in order to move on with deeper, renewed purpose.

Those of you who've heard me talk about leadership have likely heard me discuss this idea of the Purposeful Pause--a "purposeful" moment in which we stop, breathe, and find our centers amidst the stress and difficulties of our daily lives. During the hectic time of the second harvest, when everything is coming to fruition all at the same time and we're trying to get everything out of the fields before it turns and is no longer viable, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Burnout is real, and not just now. Burnout comes when anyone pushes themselves beyond when they need rest, whether mental, physical, or spiritual. It seems even the Ancients knew this great truth.

During this second harvest, may the blessings of plenty be with you, and may you find time to take a purposeful pause and reflect on the gifts around you. Sit a moment. Drink some water. Wash your face. Find your center. And get back to it from a place of strength.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Words for the Hunter's Moon

On this night, we honor the Hunter’s Moon, the sage that guides us to prepare and mark sacred that which we hunt. Though not a hunter myself, I have a healthy appreciation for the work and dedication it takes to engage in hunting. I am from a hunting place (adjacent to a hunting place anyway), and I understand the gravity of the taking of another being’s life for sustenance. But, what lesson does this hold for the non-hunter? How can we gather the magic of this moon and make it relevant to our lives?

The art of hunting is not specific to obtaining food, though there is sometimes a surrendering of life as we’ve known it. Hunting differs from searching in the sacrality and purposefulness of the journey. When we seek, we question, we solve a puzzle, we comparison shop. When we hunt, we deeply invest in that which is our prey. Searching is completed when we have obtained something, whether that be knowledge, a price we are willing to pay, or our keys. The act of hunting meets most of our need in and of itself. The need to hunt suggests there is a hunger, a strong desire for something. It suggests all our paths up to this moment have led us to where we are. Hunting begins when we feel the first pang of unrest. This unrest continues to grow until the determination to find what we seek jars us out of complacency and into preparatory action. It is in this moment that the hunt truly begins.

On this Full Moon night, we call out to you,
Sacred and Shining Moon,
Bright face of the starry night sky
Illuminating our paths through the unknown, and
Guiding us on our journeys.
Meet us in this place, Sacred Moon,
Show us the path to what we seek
And let the hunt begin.
Sacred Moon, we honor you!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Destruction of Hidden Anger

For the past several weeks, I've been working through the Daily Om class on Overcoming Self-Sabotage. This week, I completed Lesson 9: The Destruction of Hidden Rage....or I would like to say I have. Several of these short lessons (a reading and a meditation of approx. 9 minutes) have resonated with me and aided me in quieting some of my emotional cycles surrounding self-esteem and self-compassion, two things I often lack. I even confronted myself as a child and found the root of some pretty toxic thought patterns. But today, the author asked me to confront my rage. So far, I have cleaned the dining room, made breakfast, helped William in the kitchen, organized the assortment of chips from Costco, and cleaned my desk. While these are all noble tasks, they are clear evidence of my desire to avoid admitting it: I have suppressed my anger.

The author alludes to our Shadow Self, which contains all the painful feelings and suppressed parts of ourselves, and how this Shadow arises in sudden and damaging ways when unmanaged, "like a beach ball we've been trying to keep submerged underwater where no one will see it." We get tired trying to hold it under, and eventually, it pops up out of the water and smacks us in the face. Yeah, I feel that.

She discusses how easy it is to justify the behaviors we use to mask or to escape from our anger by comparing ourselves to others and noting that "at least we aren't as bad as them!" (ouch) We eat, we drink, we shop, binge-watch, we zone out, we deny, we blame. (more ouch) Is our rage really worth the cost we pay to keep it hidden? Does the behavior we exhibit trying to suppress our rage really preserve our relationships? Are we doing as much "good" as we think by burying these emotions? (even more ouch)

The discussion on fear earlier was easier to engage, because fear is an easier emotion for others to accept in us. When we admit we are afraid, others appreciate the moment of vulnerability, offer us encouragement and kindness, and congratulate us when we have faced our fear and accomplished our goal. When we admit we are angry, we are often met with judgment, tone-policing, defensiveness, and even combativeness. Fear brings us together. Anger further isolates us and tears us apart.

My task is to create a list of the people I am mad at. Then, I must write them each a letter to tell them why and burn them all to set my anger free. This actually sounds like a GREAT idea. It will help me to be a more patient, loving, and calm person, free from the chains that weigh me down.  So, I admit I have suppressed my anger. I admit that I practice harmful avoidance techniques. I admit that I have important work to do, and I write these words as my first step in this healing process. I will unearth and let go of my hidden rage.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Lego Minion's First Day of High School

For the past several days, I've been watching the back-to-school photos roll through my Facebook timeline. Many of my friends have children registering for kindergarten, a couple new middle-schoolers, and, like my youngest son, new high school freshman.

I took him to school for orientation myself this morning. He's at the age where I don't even put the van in park, just stopping long enough for him to gather his things and be on his way. It wasn't that long ago that I had to walk him into the building an hand him off directly to an adult. It seems like only yesterday that I worried about him running away while no one was looking, and here we are, getting dropped off at the curb.

He really has grown into capabilities far beyond what they projected for him when he was first diagnosed with autism. They told me he may not speak at all, nothing beyond movie quotes or sound bites from his favorite TV shows. They told me he may always be behind his peers academically, being so far behind socially that he was rendered incapable of catching up. They told me he would live with me forever (which may still be true, though it seems less likely), because he would never be able to function as an adult. They were so, so wrong.

Not only has he continued to exceed the limitations they put on him, he has THRIVED well beyond them in ways never expected. For example, his knack for visualizing things in space has led him to take electives in 3-D drawing and video production. So much for the idea he would never be able to hold a "real" job!

Still, the one area where it shows how much he still has to do, how much room he still has to grow, lies in his social relationships with others--typical for folks on the spectrum. Today, after he got out of the van, he walked toward a group of four students waiting outside. No one else was there yet. Just the five of them. The other four were all comparing their schedules to see if they shared any classes. Timmy walked toward them then veered left, walking around them in a circle. After a hesitation, he walked over to the edge of their circle and waited. I drove away hoping they would be kind to him, my weird kid who wants nothing more than to belong.

As the school fell out of view, I realized I think I can relate to how he may be feeling. I remember being a weird kid trying to fit into groups of my peers, to be included, to be part of the team, even friends. I remember what it felt like to walk up to people I didn't know or didn't know well with that hopeful grin hiding my fear of rejection. I remember how it hurt when I didn't make the right move, say the right thing, or know the inside jokes they shared, when I didn't understand why they were laughing. Timmy must be feeling something similar, though I am sure I will never understand the scale of it.

Timmy is special. Not in the way the education system labels him, but in the way he inspires those who take the time to get to know him. Timmy is one of those shining lights that leaves you more confident and sure things will be alright after you've spent time with him. His perspective is full of optimism, he expresses joy often in everything he does, and above all, he tells you the truth about how he feels when you know how to ask him. He softens the world by being a part of it.

Good luck, Timmy. May you be blessed with friendship, joy, honest laughter, and much, much success.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Anamnesis: The Art of Remembering

This weekend, I had the privilege of presenting at the fourth Mountain Ancestors Symposium. My session was a deep dive into the parts of a Rite of Passage and how we as the community can do a better job of interacting with them when our members experience life-changing events, planned and unplanned. Overall, it went very well, and I am so proud of our grove for the work we have done to offer such an event to the community!

While researching my topic, I happened upon this little gem: Plato's concept of "Anamnesis." Though modernity uses this term to refer to remembering the passion of the Christ, the roots of this term lie in Platonic Philosophy and loosely translates to "unforgetting." (Originally coined by Socrates, Plato further developed the concept in his Meno and Phaedo dialogues, if you'd like to review the source material.)

The truths of the universe are constant. The universe IS, and as a thing that IS, there is nothing about itself that is unknown to itself, though there is plenty unknown, or forgotten, by us in the course of our being born and living a human life. We may remember these Universal Truths, the Bones of what the Universe IS. Often, we have an "Aha!" moment of deep knowing that causes a myriad of other knowledge to fall into place around it.

We each have within us a core part of who we are, the "bones" of our being. No matter what happens to us or what changes we undergo, this part of who we are will always be there. The Threshold Moment in a Rite of Passage is a moment in our lives where the bones of who we are are exposed to the bones of the universe. From here, the process of anamnesis overcomes our spirits, and we truly become one with everything--all that was, all that is, and all that will be.

When we return from these journeys, like a Hero returning from an epic adventure, it is our duty to jog the memories of those around us that they, too, can unforget the truths of the universe, one story at a time.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Leadership Lesson 5: Stop, Challenge, Choose

Leadership Expectation: Show Up Positive

Difficult, high-stress situations arise often in our fast-paced, changing world. As leaders, expectations for emotional control are also high and can lead to the suppression of our own feelings, increasing our anxiety and level of burnout. As stress levels rise and the pressure for quick decisions grows, the Stop, Challenge, Choose method can aid us in keeping our emotions under control, achieving better outcomes, and having more mature interactions with our teams and coworkers.

Stop, Challenge, Choose is a method for engaging in more strategic thinking using rational thought. Strategic thinking is a decision-making tool that relies on objectivity as a means to seeing a situation from a more creative perspective. Rational thought, or the ability to consider relevant variables and arrive at a sound conclusion, diversifies our interpretations of events (because we stop relying on what we’ve always done before) and guides us to make better choices. Objectively understanding our surroundings helps us find the best way to solve a problem.

When presented with a difficult situation:

  • Stop. Before we respond to an event, situation, or question, it is useful to pause and reflect for a moment—especially when we are stressed or irritated (or afraid, or angry). Take a deep breath and find your center, the place at your core where you are most at peace with yourself. 
  • Challenge. Our immediate thoughts are not always the best ones, particularly when a situation triggers a memory that had a negative outcome in the past. Take note of your immediate response, weigh the validity of your emotions, and reexamine the facts in a more objective way. In other words: we must not let how we feel about a situation (or a person!) guide our decision-making.
  • Choose. Select the best response based on your objective interpretation of the facts. Choosing logic over emotion is usually the best course of action in both professional and personal settings—especially when tensions are high! 

Through this work we can add depth to our relationships and leverage our learning for more positive, successful outcomes.

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you are going to die tomorrow.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Tip #5: Stop before you react. Challenge immediate negative assumptions. Choose the best response. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Amor Fati: Love Thy Fate

Friedrich Nietzsche said, "My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it--all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity."

When I first heard this, it didn't make a lot of sense beyond the superficial. Rev. William, currently studying Stoicism, has a challenge coin with Amor Fati inscribed on it that he carries in his pocket from time to time. The notion of accepting my "fate," fate being "whatever life happens to throw at you," is a concept with which I am familiar. But, I think Nietzsche is saying much more than that.

Human greatness is the ability to not only accept our fate but to live beyond the longing for things to be different, no matter how much hindsight we may gain. Any change in our past will ultimately change where we are currently, and desiring a future other than what is in front of us will lead us to miss where we are headed. It is the ability to completely embrace the now of our lives, complete with the mistakes of our past actions and the potential consequences (or new mistakes!) ahead of us.

Idealism is not a basis for a life path. There are no ideal journeys. "Ideal" is only the beginning, the outline, of our planning. The rest is made up of finding ways to mitigate the risk of the more likely and less ideal circumstances we WILL encounter. For us to truly attain greatness, we must not only endure what is necessary, we must THRIVE in the face of it. Necessity drives us to kindle the Needfire that is only called upon to answer the greatest of our questions. It is in the face of necessity that we put the bow drill to work to create the spark of inspiration that we may build a blazing fire of becoming in the face of adversity.

Amor Fati. Desire nothing to be different in your past. Desire nothing to be other than it is right now. Desire nothing to be different moving forward. The world around us will continue to evolve, to ebb and to flow, carrying us with it through the vicissitudes of life. Focus on what is necessary and the rest will tend to itself.