Are you holding your sadness as a treasured possession?

 

5-of-cups-legacy-of-the-divine2Every now and then a question shows up that captures attention as if it was lit up in flashing lights. This happened to me the other morning as I pulled my usual three tarot cards from the Legacy of the Divine deck (my favourite) to help me imagine what the story of my day could be like. One of the cards I pulled was the 5 of cups. Not necessarily a favourite, I decided to open the interpretation book to see what jumped out at me.

Why do you sometimes cradle your sadness like treasured possessions? Are you afraid that the power of your heart will shatter it and force you to leave the safety of the shadowy misery you cling to?

Sadness as a treasured possession? Shadowy misery? Crap! And wham! Both at the same time.

A while ago I wrote about what is real and what is illusion. And I’ve written about my passive aggressive relationship with the law of attraction. And about limiting beliefs.

The journey of life has a way of dishing up illusion so we imagine we are in a different place than we are. It also has a way of waking us up to reality. Like these questions.

I feel the tremulousness of these moments in my life. Partner I love deeply who lives in another country. Re-imagining our work and our businesses. Feeling the pull of life, co-parenting, scheduling. Desiring ease and not always experiencing it. Am I cradling sadness as a treasured possession? Is it part of how I define my story? It is not what I want to hear, to believe is true in this moment but there it is right in front of me.

Am I clinging to shadowy misery? Am I allowing this to define and shape the story of my life in this present moment?

What to do about it?

  1. Allow the recognition of the response evoked by the questions. Yes, there is truth there. Still. After many years of journey.
  2. Invoke compassion for myself. It is a journey. It is not right or wrong or too long. No self-recrimination, just awareness.
  3. Journal to surface and release the patterns so deeply entrenched in my being that sometimes I fear they will never be fully released and most times now I can recognize as part of the unfolding journey – the journey to openheartedness.
  4. Meditate on the vibration I am aspiring to, to let it permeate my physical and soul essence to continue to attract my dreams.
  5. Take concrete steps, even if small, to show – myself, creator, the universe – that the dream I hold is the direction in which I am moving.

I share this because I know I am not the only one cradling sadness and clinging to shadowy misery. If this resonates, know you are not alone and follow the steps.

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Intuitive Knowings

Gold Lake 033

A pathway in Gold Lake Colorado

In 2009, I found myself standing on the side of a mountain at Gold Lake Colorado, drawn inexplicably to this place as if by a magnet. I was there to meet myself. And, I was there to meet the ancestors. Ancestors I had an inkling of but did not yet know intimately. I was there to walk on a land that resonated with every single footstep I took, taking me back to a vision in a drumming circle nine years beforehand. A vision where I “flew” over a land on the back of a lion, arriving at a huge bonfire, to join the ancestors who were dancing, chanting and singing around the fire in wild celebration, permeating joy through every cell of my being.

Kathy Sacred Tattoo DesignNine years later, walking the pathways of Gold Lake, the lion reappears instantly and every footstep reverberates in the beat of the drum only I can hear, growing louder in my soul with each passing day, on a land I had seen in a vision that I did not know existed until I was there.

I was called there through an invitation to an Art of Hosting training, hosted by good friends. I had no role and no need to be a participant in a training having become a skilled practitioner in my own right. And yet, time after time, I could not resist opening that invitation and staring at it longingly. The appeal made no logical sense. Eventually I understood I just needed to go. In making the commitment, one of my friends on the hosting team invited me to stay longer to do a vision quest on the land with her. That was how I ended up on the side of the mountain, in time out of time, visiting with ancestors and other guides not visible to physical sight, being told how much love I am capable of, embracing parts of me I did not know – the stranger in me – with the journey to openheartedness becoming more apparent, conscious and intentional.

This is a dramatic story and example of intuitive knowing. More of that story is shared in Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. Not every intuitive knowing is so dramatic. They happen in everyday occurrences and in subtle ways. Recently my twelve year old son and I were crossing the street on a cross walk at an intersection. A vehicle pulled up on the inside lane to make a right hand turn on a red light just as we were reaching the vehicle. I had my hand out to hold back my son even before the car started moving. Involuntarily, I said, “Whoa.” The driver’s window was open, the driver was startled to see us there. But I knew, I sensed, this driver was going to make the turn without seeing us.

How many times are you driving in traffic that you can sense the intention of a driver near you – that they want to change lanes or make a turn, even before they indicate their intention, if they do so? Or you need to pay a bill, have forgotten the due date and just before or on the due date, it is so on your mind you know you have to check? Or, if you didn’t, later you wish you had?

How about when you sense what is going on with someone even if you haven’t been in touch with them in awhile? Those times when you just know you need to pick up the phone, reach out in an email or go visit? Or maybe you have received messages from a loved one who has passed on? Some people know this with certainty and others hold it with caution, as if afraid to hope it could be true.

We have been trained out of trusting our intuitive knowing in favour of rational, logical ways of knowing. Yet when we open ourselves to what we intuitively know, we also open ourselves up to a more expansive experience and tap into the subtle realms – to see what cannot be seen with physical sight, to feel the energies all around us, to converse with beings and entities that are readily available, wanting to support us but limited in the ways they can do so when we do not see them or acknowledge their existence.

This is not something that is restricted to special, gifted people, which was a belief I carried for a very long time. This is a part of the natural continuum of life that is available to each and every one of us. We need to stop questioning ourselves, allow ourselves to believe what we experience is also real, suspend logic and judgment, bring curiosity and compassion and be in co-discovery with others willing to be in the exploration because it amplifies the experience and gives us someone else who can “verify” our own experience.

Trusting your intuitive knowing offers beautiful expansiveness and access to far greater wisdom and knowledge than is available simply in the physical realm.

Sit By the River or Engage

“If you sit by the river long enough you can watch the bodies of your enemies float by.”  – The Art of War

Mississipi river

Mississippi River in Minnesota

This is an expression, that comes from the Art of War is offered often by my good friend and partner Jerry Nagel, particularly when conflict surfaces. It is a provocative and intriguing statement that I have been viewing as invitation.  An invitation to pause.  An invitation to host self. An invitation to sense whether to engage a conversation or situation with someone else or let it be.

Not every conversation is worthy of engaging.  Not every conversation will produce results or take you to a clearer place. Not every conversation will do what you think or hope it will do. Coming from an Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter perspective, you might wonder if that is almost a sacrilegious thing to say; but perhaps part of the discernment is in whether ultimately the conversation will matter – and to whom?

To truly invite a conversation that might be powerful, it is helpful to discern your own desire and motivation in wanting the conversation.  This is part of the inquiry in the pause, in hosting self.  What is the reason for the conversation? Are you really wanting a conversation or do you just want to make your point or download on the other person and not care about or hear their point of view?

This is where a second bit of advice is useful:  “Feedback should be given from the part of you that wants to grow and learn to the part of them that wants to grow and learn.”  I’m not sure where it is from but I heard it in an Open Space session that Juanita Brown initiated on World Café at a Gathering we both attended in October 2013.  It gave me pause and invited me to reflect about some situations requiring my discernment – whether to invite a conversation or not – or a few conversations.

When you ask yourself if you want to give feedback from the part of you that wants to learn and grow – an openhearted space, it becomes pretty clear.  If you are willing to be in conversation, if you can do it without attachment to how the other person takes it in, you might be ready to invite the conversation.  If you are only wanting to download and don’t want to hear the other person’s perspective then it might not be wise to engage the conversation – because it is not a conversation you are wanting, only an opportunity to express yourself, your frustration or your hurt.  An opportunity to blame someone or point out where they are not hosting themselves – from your perspective of course – because how do you know they are not hosting themselves in whatever way they relate to that practice of presence?  It is your assumption, your lens, your perspective, your worldviewyour judgment and it might not be true. And, in all likelihood, it is not true in their experience of themselves – as hard you might find that to believe.

And it is also quite likely the other person’s actions have nothing to do with you and more to do with them, what they need, what they hope for.  You just happen to seem to be in the way.  Sitting by the river will help you discern that.  If it has nothing to do with you, and the other person is either intentionally or unintentionally trying to cause harm, eventually it will catch up to them and they will, metaphorically of course, float down the river. We see or feel lack of alignment in others, even when it is not clear, even when we cannot put a name to things.  Simply waiting may reveal far more than engaging – in some situations, since we are our own worst enemies and motivation and intention eventually reveal themselves.

Sometimes when you are being challenged it has nothing to do with you. By hosting yourself you might be able to sort that out.  If you engage something in a defensive or challenging way you are more likely to fuel the situation than turn it into a powerful, openhearted conversation. And you can ask yourself questions like: What is the point of engaging?  Will it be a learning field?  Is there an ongoing relationship that needs to be tended to? Can it be left alone?

When you do engage, engage the conversation, not the person. Invite the conversation with as much clarity as you can and bring the level of fierceness and openhearted vulnerability to it that will make it powerful.   Sometimes that is a light touch and sometimes it is very fierce and it can be more fierce when it comes from a place of clarity, compassion, curiosity and openheartedness.

Taking Whole: Building Authenticity With the Johari Window

Good leaders are often recognized for their qualities of genuineness and authenticity.

Authenticity is the quality of being real or true. The public perception of an authentic person is the same or very close to the “real” person – who they are in private or with those close to them. In the language of our Worldview Intelligence work we call this “taking whole“.

People who are authentic are comfortable with who they are, what they discover about themselves, their worldview and what shaped it, and they have a willingness to continually grow who they are. They know a lot about themselves and they are comfortable expressing who they are to others. They are also able to embody chaordic leadership or chaordic confidence which is growing increasingly important in today’s complex times and when we seek engagement of multiple voices to address the questions and issues at hand.

The Johari Window is a framework that allows us to practice better understanding of self and thus provides a means for any individual to evolve their own authenticity. The Johari Window was developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham and was first used in 1955. It is as effective today in developing a broader self understanding as it was then.

The dimensions of the Johari Window are representative of an individual’s whole personality or psyche. The dimensions are: what I know and what I don’t know, what others know and don’t know. They are illustrated in the following matrix:

johari window

What is known to us that we show other people is Open. These are aspects of ourselves that we are consciously aware of and willing to freely share with others, thus these aspects are also known to others.

The second aspect is what we know about ourselves that we keep Hidden from other people. There will probably always be things we do not disclose to other people. Disclosure in and of itself is not the issue. The question is why are you not disclosing and how much energy is contained in keeping these things hidden from other people?

It is impossible to be truly authentic if we fear other people knowing certain things about ourselves. We have all made decisions, choices or taken action in our lives that we regretted, are embarrassed about or just wish we hadn’t done. It is part of human nature, part of the growth process. Sometimes we don’t want other people to know because we are afraid they will think less of us – possibly because we think less of ourselves. It could be because we have identified ourselves with what we perceive to be a failure instead of recognizing that failure is an action from which we can receive feedback, as discussed in The Wisdom of Failure article.

Sometimes we keep things hidden because we feel like an imposter, or maybe we feel shame about something we did or something that happened to us. Other people tell us what a great job we are doing and yet we feel like we do not deserver the praise or accolades. We keep our fears and uncertainties to ourselves.

When we keep things hidden because of our fears, this takes energy. As long as it takes energy, it detracts from our ability to be truly authentic. If we don’t disclose things about ourselves, simply because they don’t seem relevant anymore, then this doesn’t have the same quality as those things we are afraid to disclose. It does not consume the same energy. In the right circumstances or for the right reasons, we may disclose these things about ourselves and feel perfectly comfortable doing so.

It is not whether things are hidden or not that is problematic, it is the amount of energy they consume in staying hidden and whether fear of disclosure is the motivator for keeping them hidden. Once I began to learn the story of my birth mother, after finding out later in life that I had been adopted, I understood fear was a big motivator in her life.  She was afraid of being found out so she kept many of her stories hidden, not to see the light of day until after she died. She did not disclose her past, that she was married or that she had children and she lived every day in a new constructed life in fear of being found out. So much so, she never told her own adopted daughter when her birthday was.  “Fear and worry are the interest paid on trouble that never comes. They shut the door on what more is possible – love, forgiveness, ease and the rewriting of stories of our lives that could instead be lived with grace and empowerment.” – Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, p 208

A third aspect is Blind. This is what we don’t see or know about ourselves, but others see. This includes what we imagine to be true of ourselves that others don’t see. For instance, we may imagine ourselves to be a great leader, but if you ask people around us, they may not see evidence of this.

The blind category may include things we genuinely don’t see about ourselves and there may be things we are somewhat aware of but don’t acknowledge or don’t want to see. Just before my first divorce, I was going through a very difficult time in my life and was very unhappy. I covered it up by being very busy. I didn’t know how unhappy I was, I was afraid to see it. Some of the people around me were aware of it, however they were unable to broach it with me because I was not ready to hear it. Later, when I was ready, I was shocked to hear how many people could see so clearly what I could not or would not see for myself.

Asking others for feedback is a sure way to shrink our blind aspect. We can do this informally by asking friends, family members or work colleagues we trust. We can do it formally in our work or learning environments through the use of feedback mechanisms like 360s.

The final aspect is Unknown. This is what we don’t know about ourselves and what others also don’t know about us. Because it is unknown, it is impossible to know exactly how big it is but we do tend to shrink it over time, especially if we are consciously on the path of growth and self awareness.

This information resides in our unconscious. Sometimes it is revealed to us by something that happens, sparked by events or situations, outcomes from choices. It could arrive with a new Aha! It could be uncovered through work we do on any of the other three aspects. By revealing a bit of ourselves to others, we open up a discussion that may provoke some other information to come to light. By taking in what other people are willing to share about what they see, we may also trigger some learnings in the unknown quadrant.

One other way to discover the unknown is through the mirror principle. The mirror principle is a tough concept for most of us to understand when we first hear it. It basically says that whenever we have a strong reaction to someone – positive or negative – it is because they are mirroring something back to us about us. We are like them in some way. This is fine for most people when the reflection is positive. It is much more challenging when we consider the reflection to be negative. The mirror principle gives us some of the most valuable information about ourselves if we are open to receiving it.

One area of my life that had been completely unknown to me and many around me for decades, is my gift to see spirit and work with energy, which I write about in Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. Although I have always believed in energy, spirit, reincarnation and the existence of other life forms, I always thought only very talented and gifted people could access that information, not everyday people like me. When I was first told of my gifts and even when I first experienced them I rejected the information as not being plausible. As I grew to accept and be more curious about these gifts it began to shrink the Unknown aspect of the Johari window and invited me into a deeper exploration of things I did not know about myself. As I began to speak and write about this aspect of who I am, it shrunk this window more and grew the Open window.

The four aspects of the Johari Window are fluid. They are not generally of the exact same size and shape. The more authentic you are, the larger the Open aspect and the more likely you are to continually find ways to expand it. Generally this is done through a process of disclosure and feedback, curiosity and learning. Not only do you become more authentic as you expand your Open aspect, you release energy that can then be used to your benefit and you create more peace and contentment for yourself. It is worth the risk to learn to be more open.

designing a loved life

Exposing Self: A Risk in the Journey to Openheartedness

One of the beautiful things about having written and published Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, is the exchange I get to have with readers deep in their own journey. This post is a result of a question from a reader.

question marks on coloured paperThe Question 

I have a whole other career inside of me that I have not exposed fully in this lifetime. Words of love and wisdom on how to get over the fear of revealing I am love? I have been abused, hurt, rejected, prejudged, all of the above…and through it all my intent is always how can I help…what can I do? I have found balance with my intent…now spirit is really telling me to move on and work though this fear.

The Response

The question you pose is a question of journey. It is the biggest question we hold as we begin to know we are on the path to allowing ourselves to be revealed. How do we give the best of ourselves without giving ourselves away, without opening the invitation to be judged, to be attacked? This is where the outer journey meets the inner journey. What is the work we need to do in and for ourselves, how do we host ourselves, in order to shine brightly in the world?

tree of abundanceHow do you learn to love yourself, not judge yourself? To be compassionate for yourself and your journey – not in a way that lets you off the hook for what you need to do but in a way that allows you to more fully explore all that needs to be explored?

Hold these questions for yourself from a place of curiosity, compassion and love. Notice the responses in you to these questions: where am I judging myself? Where I am hurting myself? What parts of me am I rejecting? What am I seeking from someone else that I have not yet found, or found in a lasting way?

What you encounter in the outer world often activates something in your inner world – your own voice of judgment or our own inner critic.

Your emotions are your guidance system. Learn to access and understand them to discover what the message is they are trying to transmit to you, how they are trying to guide you. Ask yourself: what am I experiencing in this moment? Where is it activated in my body? What is it trying to tell me/help me learn? What is it that is really bothering me? What am I really reacting to? Be in an inquiry to go deeper.

Here is some writing over on the Shape Shift Blog on what I’ve been learning that might also be helpful about your emotions as your guidance system.

And, take little risks at first, not big ones that feel like they are exposing you. You don’t need to jump in all at once – you can do it bit by bit. Start with people you feel safer with. Begin a dialog to get to deeper understanding. Seek wise counsel in the ways it wants to show up. Sometimes that might be through a friend, sometimes through a coach, sometimes through writing or experience that shows up in just the right moment. Nurture a reflective practice so you may be in some regular observance of your own experience.

designing a loved lifeYou are love, not fear. Go quiet and listen to the whispers within. Fear is ego. It is wanting to keep you safe. You can acknowledge it, thank it and explore the ways of moving into your courage, strength and power that allows you to show more and more of who you truly are.

And, we never get it perfect. We are always in our learning. Love to you in this exploration and in your openhearted journey.