When the Shift Happens, You Will Make the Decision

When I was in high school one of my very good friends had an on-again-off-again boyfriend. You know the kind of relationship – together for awhile, break up for awhile and back together before too long. And then there came a time, when she broke it off and it was clear it was for good; there was no turning back. Something happened. Something shifted. A clear decision was made. I later found out that a boundary had been crossed from which there was no turning back. Even though I didn’t know that in the moment, I did know she was never going back to him.

Recently, I was visiting with a friend who has been in an extremely challenging work environment where she is not respected despite the incredible value she brings to that company. She has struggled for a few years trying various things to change the nature of the relationships she must work with. And then an insight showed up resulting in connecting the dots between this situation and others in her soul journey, a shift happened and a decision has been made with clarity that will change the nature of the relationships – likely her departure from the company.

In my own soul journey, it took several subsequent insights and awarenesses added together to create a more seismic shift in order for me to make a decision – finally – to end my second marriage. I tracked a three year journey to get to that point and another nine months before the final decisions were made. Sometimes it is hard to track the more subtle shifts that happen over time that lead to the ability to make different choices but that does not mean they are not present.

When we attempt to run away, we often run back. If not to the same situation or relationship, to another one that resembles it – the same pattern. For a long time I was frustrated with my journey and life choices. I felt stuck. In Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness I describe this journey. Several times I felt like I was at the edge of the abyss, on my tiptoes, leaning over, ready to leap … but then … stepped back. It felt so anti-climatic, almost cowardly. It was hard to hold myself in compassion and grace in those moments.

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Over and over again, I asked the question, why have I attracted these circumstances of my life to me. Many times new answers were revealed. “Because, at some level, I feel I deserve to be treated this way.” Boom. Unable to hold some previous decisions in life I had made with compassion, I felt I deserved to be punished. “Because, if I am really as powerful as many people tell me I am, and I keep shying away from that power or cloaking it, it has taken powerful circumstances in my life to force (invite) me to step into my power.” Boom. “Because I have been repeating patterns of my mother’s life – patterns I swore not to be circumscribed by and yet here I am.” And a subsequent revelation that I was repeating patterns of my birth mother’s life long before I ever knew she existed.

What I know, what I experience, what I witness in others so often, is that the decision is made when the shift happens. And we know it when it happens because it feels different. While we may be able to accelerate the journey, it is clear that the decision does not happen until the shift occurs – subtly or dramatically.

So, if you, like I have done, are being hard on yourself because you continue to stay in circumstances you know are not good for you, yearning for a different situation, stay with the journey, stay with the questions, hold the outcomes you are seeking steadily in your awareness.

One day you will feel the shift that marks the point of no return. You will wake up on that day and declare, like I did in one moment, “I am no longer afraid!” The next steps will be appear and you will walk that path with a clarity you did not previously possess. Until that moment – and after it – hold yourself and your journey with compassion and grace – because you deserve it, because it is needed, because you are worthy.

The Rawness of the Great Re-Patterning

This morning I made it safely out of the shower. Why was this an accomplishment? Because the last two times I showered, upon exiting, I was hit with painful, debilitating back spasms. They stopped me in my tracks and caused me to call out in pain. What did I do to cause this? Nothing different than I do any other time I get out of the shower.

When I went to see my chiropractor, Dr. Anne Desneiges at Innerwaves in Halifax, she offered that my back spasms were less physically and more energetically created. I told her the last time this happened was almost a year ago and she began to ask me about significant grief causing events that may have happened in the spring at any point in my life. It occurred to me that my birth mother left in the spring. It was an event I was too young to remember but it was grief filled and traumatic for my birth family and it caused the re-patterning of my life. There are many other spring events I could point to as well, but this stood out.

The muscle spasms originated in my back and were like a band that circled almost the whole way around my body – like a contraction when giving birth, especially the latter stages when the contractions are prolonged and breathtaking. My partner, Jerry Nagel, and I are symbolically in a birthing process with our main body of work, Worldview Intelligence. It has been gestated and incubated over a few years of intense practical and profound application and we have just hired Marc Lewis at 3 o’clock Marketing to create a look, logo, brand and website that will elevate this work into its next level of visibility.

Then I came across Lee Harris’ April video where he talks about the rawness of re-patterning in this current moment. He says it is a time of many mini dark nights of the soul and it cannot be avoided. As is true on the individual level, it is also a fiery time on the world stage as we all can see. This great re-patterning is cranking through all of us, especially the empaths among us.

This kind of levelling up hurts as emotions like grief, sadness and anger that have been abandoned come up for release. Seems it hurts physically as well as emotionally. I have seen and heard of other friends experiencing physical pain. And I am aware of friends displaying monumental acts of courage as they work to re-pattern relationships in their life that have been harmful.

It is clear that re-patterning is at work on the world stage as we look at the impacts of politics in the US, Brexit, the emergence of gay concentration camps in Chechnya and so much more. It is impossible to avoid if you watch the news or follow social media. It can be a relief to know that this kind of re-patterning is a natural and essential part of evolution – even if it doesn’t feel evolutionary in this moment.

So, what to do? Harris talked about daily practice and repetition. What lights you up? What are the practices or routines you have that put you in your center, especially when those around you are also off their centers? Do these things regularly even if just for minutes at a time. I would add, be self compassionate. This is all part of the natural rhythms of energy and life. And Harris has a reminder of us that I have often felt to be true – there is so much higher energy available to us with an abundance of guidance. It is not either/or, these are not distinctly separate things. Lower and higher energy and vibrations exist on a continuum. We can move ourselves up the continuum at any time simply by putting our attention and focus there.

If this kind of re-patterning is happening, maybe the best thing we can do is surrender into it and allow ourselves to level up.

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Doing the Work While Looking Away

There is such pressure to do everything full on and perfectly – including or especially the spiritual journey – that it induces guilt and even shame in people whose experience is more spotty. Like, most of us. It is the rare person who has an epiphany, an enlightened moment, the moment when everything makes sense now and forever, our life, habits and patterns forever changed. Some strive for it so ardently you can hear the strains of it as they talk about their spirituality, their practices, their connection to spirit. It has a ring of falsity to it and yet it arises from the pressure of perfection.

bandaged heartFor most of us the spiritual journey is more like fits and starts. The moment of clarity arrives through some deep spiritual experience – in a meditation, on a retreat, in the presence of great spiritual teachers – or in a mundane moment of living – doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, having a shower (since there is no one way that these moments arrive and no right way) – or in the moment of great life transformations like marriage, divorce, having a child, being with a loved one as they die. Gradually, over time, the epiphany or moment of enlightenment becomes a bit obscured and then more so by attending to life, relationships, work, demands on our time and attention.

And then, something brings our attention back to the moments of epiphany – days, weeks, months, maybe even years later. We are reminded that this is our path. Instead of turning to embrace it, we often give ourselves a hard time – the itty-bitty-shitty committee that sits on our shoulder – for having strayed away from “the path”, for letting ourselves be overwhelmed by life. We give ourselves grief because we don’t light candles every day, or meditate or have some daily ritual that would ensure our spiritual purity. We forget to allow ourselves some grace and compassion in the journey of life.

In a conversation with a friend and colleague who I coach, she said she feels like she is looking away from the work she needs to do. It is a thought that carries weight and heaviness – not just for her but for everyone of us who has had this experience. It occurred to me as I listened that we may also be doing the work while looking away. This does not need to be mutually exclusive. There may be many reasons why we look away.

We might look away because we are distracted. Life has a way of bringing us many distractions as we live into work, relationships, health, dreams. We might look away because it is too intense right now and we need a buffer. We might look away because our body, mind, heart and spirit needs time to absorb what we are learning and experiencing. Absorbing is also part of the work. Allowing is part of the work. Self compassion is part of the work. Finding our way – even or especially in fits and starts is part of the work. Remembering is part of the work.

It is not a straight line between the first steps or awareness and the next or last steps. It is a winding journey that brings us to many experiences. This is part of the reason I wrote my memoir, Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. It details the fits and starts of my own life journey – the moments of epiphany, the moments of losing my way, the experiences of being drawn back to the journey of openheartedness – because it illuminates the journey of an ordinary person fortunate to have extraordinary experiences that keep reminding me I am human and I am a soul at the same time. It keeps reminding me to focus on the soul journey and not the human tragedy version of the same story.

It is easy to lose our way. It is also easy to find our way back – if we allow that this is all a natural part of the journey of life. And we can still be doing the work – or the work is finding its own way in us – even when we are looking away.

Give Yourself Permission to Feel

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Emotions are your guidance system. They tell you when your boundaries have been violated. This could involve a violation of your values, your way of life, your sense of integrity or your sense of what is appropriate. Even things that are happening on local, national and international scales can result in a sense of personal violation.

Right now many people are expressing many conflicting emotions and, even still, it may be hard to acknowledge and speak the depth of them. Sometimes we want to diminish our emotions so we will speak of anger but not rage, of disappointment but not betrayal. We might need to expand our emotional vocabulary.

In these days and the times leading up to these days, many people have felt, do feel, betrayed – by people, by systems, by government, by institutions, more – and have lacked the language and the means to express it. If we do not know how to language it, it can be hard to discover how to move past it. Sometimes it is not through language that we find the place of healing, it is in other forms of expression – tears, wailing, howling at the moon.

Sense into your emotions. Let them rage if that is what is needed now. Find language or other means to express it and look for healthy outlets – exercise, activism, hugging loved ones, joining a circle or support group, or whatever it is that allows you to channel your emotional experience in ways where you can stay in your own integrity.

Give yourself permission to feel, even if that feels scary. The only way to is through.

Today, Finally, I Cried

This is the first morning in weeks I woke up alone in my house. As I sat with my coffee, taking in more of the stories, today, finally, I cried.

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It is just over 3 weeks since the US election. The world has fundamentally changed. Yet, for me, much is the same in my life and work. No on the ground ripple – not yet. I have watched my news feed spiral almost out of control with stories of anxiety, grief, fear. I have read so many stories of people who have felt the fall out, have experienced first hand the overtness of anger and violence that once simmered under the surface and now is being expressed in checkouts at grocery stores, shouted slurs on the street, hateful words painted on people’s houses and cars. Divides that are tearing families apart.

I have read the stories of people whose wounds have been opened wider, being re-wounded by the level of public discourse that has misogyny, sexism, racism running more visibly and publicly than it has in some time. More of the undercurrents we do not always see.

I witness the spillover of fragmentation, polarization and fear across international boundaries from Brexit, the US election, France, Turkey and even here in Canada where it felt like we escaped from the brink of this in our own election to new disruptions surfacing with various provincial or party elections.

I am heartsick that women do not support the emancipation of women and do not support women’s rights. I am aghast at levels of misogyny so deeply entrenched in society that some women will subjugate themselves to it without conscious awareness. That people see others of a different colour, nationality or background as somehow less than. That there are white men who believe that they are somehow entitled because of the colour of their skin and their gender.

I am heartsick for the stand off at Standing Rock, the difference between how that situation and white resistance is handled. I am heartsick for an earth that is bleeding and hurting and for people who do not want to see what is right in front of their eyes.

I am heartsick for those who pine for a way of life that no longer exists, that is remembered in an idealized memory, who want the world to go back to a way that it was or a way that they wished it had been but maybe never really existed.

Not being able to predict the future – ever, but certainly not now in some of the most unpredictable times I have witnessed in my life time, I do experience fear and anxiety about the world stage, about what will happen next. I hold the grief of my own experience and of all of the stories I read.

teardrops-flowerI have also read the stories of so much courage. People standing up, holding the space for others who are under attack, coming to the support of people through words and deeds, rising to their openhearted humanity.

I noticed for awhile that the positive focus, the positive, aspirational things I usually post got lost in advocating for and against politicians and political stances. I need to continue to be aware and definitely stay woke and gradually I have noticed a resumption for me of more inspiring stories, a focus on the future I want to move towards.

I do not know that I can influence the course of world events. But I can do what is within my power to do. Last week, my partner, son and I took part in a community dinner in Halifax, sharing Thanksgiving with newcomer families who have been refugees. We met a lovely Syrian family who live near us and it was a heartwarming experience. Four hundred people in all showed up for the dinner hosted by Engage Nova Scotia.

The Worldview Intelligence work my partner and I do is focused on creating exploratory space between people with differing worldviews – from slight differences to vast differences. And even though sometimes we wonder how to bridge the vastest differences, we just keep putting one foot in front of the other and bringing this work where it wants to go. And it is important work in the world right now.

I hold my family close and focus on the issues and joys that we need to deal with – report cards, weddings, careers, Christmas.

I hope if I am called to courage in a public space to support someone I may or may not know that I will find it within me to rise to that challenge. I hope nations find it within themselves to rise to the courage that is needed now. I hope that the seeds of disturbance have answering seeds of courage and renewal with more of us determined to find more ways forward that embrace the diversity of the fullness of humanity.

And in holding all my own conflicting feelings, in holding so much of the grief that is spilling over in the world right now, in a quiet moment all by myself this morning, with my coffee, today, finally, I cried.

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When the Human Story is Tragic – What Then?

The human tragedy story can be so overwhelming that it obliterates the soul journey story that is also present and far more powerful. Discovering it through my mother’s journey with dementia makes my own spirit more joyful.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-23-34-amOn Sunday, September 18, 2016 I had the distinct honour of attending the Gift of the Hit book launch and, invited by Peter Davison, reading an excerpt from my Chapter in the book. The video is 5 minutes. There is the version that Peter Davison recorded and edited here and the one my son took, which is less steady, here. My voice stays remarkably strong as I relay the minute we left my mother behind in long term care, her confusion, what it was like to walk the corridors to get to her room, the tragedy of rapid deterioration and the soul story that began to fully show up when I reached her consciousness in a meditative state.

Back to School – Markers of Life Journey

“Whoever you’ve been and wherever you’ve been, it never leaves you,” Bruce Springsteen said, expanding upon this thought with the most Springsteen-esque metaphor possible: “I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can’t ever get out. The important thing is, who’s got their hands on the wheel at any given moment?”

Vanity Fair, Oct 2016 interview with Bruce Springsteen on his soon to be released book, Born to Run

It is back to school day here in Nova Scotia where I live. My social media feed is full of back to school pictures and, yes, there is one of my son, taken by his father, who is now a fourteen year old Grade 9 student.

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I was out for a walk this afternoon at the time the buses were arriving home with their precious cargo, parents waiting at the bus stop or, if the school was close enough, walking their kids home from school.

I reminiscenced about those first days of school, as a mother of young children heading out into the world in their first real way – on the bus. My oldest child, who is now 25, had a spring practice run at going to school, an orientation day. He got on the wrong bus coming home. I waited and waited. It was before my cell phone days and his brother, who was a year and a half younger, was napping at the time. I was torn – not knowing if the bus was about to arrive or if I drove off to find him would I miss him and how would that be and do I wake my napping child or not. How far from the house could I reasonably venture. And not having had any experience as a parent of a school aged child. I finally tracked him down by calling the school. I don’t remember if I had to go pick him up at school. I’m sure I did. I do remember the emotions and uncertainty I experienced.

One kid off to school in 1996, one in 1997 and one in 2007. Precious memories, all of them. And, I am not nostalgic for those days, I do not wish to have them back. Not how small my kids were or what stage in life I was at. Lots of journey between now and then – for me and for each of my still precious children (with a couple more added thanks to engagements). I’m proud of each and every one of them and how they engage the world now from their current vantage points.

Springsteen’s quote really comes alive for me as I reflect on these many stages and phases of life. All those selves – my 1996, ’97, 2007 selves – they are all in the car with me. But none of those selves are driving in this time. They are all a part of who I am and who I am today is part of who I will be tomorrow. I might need a bigger car.