Contemplating Joy

Byron Brown, in Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within, asserts that compassion, strength, love and joy are essential soul qualities.  He says that ego – or our internal judge or critic – would have us believe this is not true, that we are in constant search of these qualities and that usually they are unattainable, maybe because we believe we are not worthy.

A constant search for these qualities would always have them in the future and, while we may have fleeting glimpses of them, they are elusive.  We are thus, by default, relegated to a life of strife and striving, doomed to be ruled by the internal judge or critic who, when we are not doing well admonishes us that we can do better and when we do well, first congratulates us and then says, “How long do you think you can keep that up?”.  Stepping out of this habitual, ingrained pattern in our thoughts and in our life takes conscious, intentional effort but when it happens we experience moments of freedom – even joyful freedom.

Of the essential soul qualities, it is joy I am contemplating most frequently at the moment.  Joy because, as the shape of my world has shifted, I feel joyful – often.  I wake up in the morning feeling joyful, go to bed at night feeling joyful.  I don’t necessarily feel joyful every moment of every day but at least I’ve become aware of my emotional journey and am living into it – rather than walking through it as if it was happening to someone else – or, maybe, happening to just a shadow of myself rather than the multi-coloured range which has become more available to me over the last couple of years.

Joy feels freeing and expansive.  It is fed by gratitude and appreciation. It is fed by noting it and sinking deeper into it – surrendering to it, letting it seep into all my pores, breathing it in with every breath and back out into the world so other people can also feel the expression of joy – even if they do not know what it is they are experiencing.

And as I notice joy and joyfulness in my life, in any given moment, every now and then I also notice the little voice that says — yeah, sure it’s summer now, but what about the fall?  How do you know you are actually going to keep your business busy enough to sustain yourself in the fall?  You should be worried about that now!

Hmmm, you should be worried about that now.  Sounds like the voice of my internal judge wanting to be heard – in fairness to it, it does want to keep me safe and financially sustainable, but it has a limited range of options with which to do that and they all include struggle, worry and fear – emotions I am very familiar with – as I am also familiar with how constricting and how limiting they can be, shutting down the capacity of the soul to be in full expression – which includes full manifestation that comes from a place of trust.

Most of us have learned that life is full of struggle and if you want to get ahead you have to work hard, really hard – and even then there are no guarantees.  We have learned that life is not handed to us on a silver platter, we have to work in order to live and adversity makes us stronger – you know that phrase – that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Okay, so there may be some truth in that but I declared awhile ago (a bit more than a year ago in fact) that I was welcoming ease into my life.  I’ve had varying degrees of success with that over the last year and a bit – it takes intentionality and really paying attention  in any given moment, and, for now, it seems to be more and more a characteristic of how I am living my life and what is showing up in it.  It doesn’t mean there aren’t difficult things or moments that show up. My father’s diagnosis of prostate cancer is a good example, the uncertainty of this story as it unfolds over the next 6 months to a year and the impact on me as his main source of support in his health care.  Or my mother’s journey with dementia in a long term care ward.  Or entering yet another new phase of my life as both of my older children prepare to depart to different provinces in the fall for University.  But it does mean I entertain these stories, events in my life, with a different kind of graciousness which invites ease into how to hold them them.  And it doesn’t mean I can’t feel joy or be in a state of joyfulness as I experience the ebb and flow of my life and the ebb and flow of the lives of people I care about.

I am welcoming ease, welcoming joy and welcoming the full array of what all needs to show up in my life, saying no to worry and to fear, yes to presence and to calm.  I am aware that fear, worry, frustration are waiting in the wings some days, some moments, but I am no longer expecting them and no longer inviting them – consciously or unconsciously.  Every moment will take care of itself.  And, if I believe that, it is a far more playful and fun way to show up in the world, a world of joy and joyfulness.

If it is true that the other shoe will drop, why can’t it look and feel like the first one rather than the one we allude to: the heavy handed, heavy-hearted counterpart to joy, love, compassion and strength?

Can We Be Done Now?

Last week, round about session 3 of my ALIA Module: Leader as Shambhala Warrior, as we were going back into creative process yet again, I recall sitting there thinking: “Can we be done yet?  I’ve had enough.  I’m ready to move on to the “real” work of the module.”

Immediately I chuckled at my own thought and the awareness that came with it.  Just a few weeks before, a colleague and I had been in that same question with a client about the status of the long term shift process we were in.  We told the client, we have reached the point where some of the people will begin to say: ” We have our document, can we be done now? Can I get back to real work now?.”

This raises two things.  The first is our concept of “real work” as something that does not happen in a conference, training or retreat.  If it’s not real, is it imaginary?  Un-real?  If it’s not real, why do we do it?  I love challenging this notion when it arises – this is real work too.  For myself, when I’m in retreats, I now think of  the outside world that does come knocking and “real” work happens in both places and many others in between.

The second thing is that when we encounter in ourselves or others this question of “Can we be done now?” it’s a pretty good indicator we’re in the groan zone.  The groan zone is a place that feels a bit murky because we lack some clarity in the moment about where we are and where we’re going – or how we are going to make use of what we’ve been learning or experiencing.  We may be tired or challenged and just want to get beyond it — or usually get back to wherever we were before we started.  And this is the opportunity in the groan zone.  Stick with it just that much longer and the opportunity for emergence and for clarity is primed.

What happened when I was in the groan zone last week around the creative process?  Well, we were being led, through exceptional leadership displayed by Jerry Granelli, to become a “blues band”, writing our own lyrics and actually singing them out loud while other people witnessed us – or really, while we witnessed each other.  I don’t sing. I don’t know musical form.  I can’t carry a tune.  I don’t write music lyrics.  The day we were asked to just hum the blues form, I felt a visceral reaction along with my sharp intake of breath… and then, I did it!  I told Jerry, he had butted me up against my fear.  He laughed, in a gentle and wonderful way.  I told him the good news was that in previous years, that would have been my terror I butted up against.

Last week, we had marvelous and thought provoking teachings from Meg Wheatley and Jim Gimian and I will write more about that in future blogs.  We knew though, as we were at “band practice” at 9:30 one night, that this band experience was bonding us into a community as we supported each other in writing our lyrics and setting them to the blues form and that this was the thing we would most easily and fondly remember as a collective.

In all my years of attending ALIA’s Shambhala Summer Institute this one stands out in my memory for the bond created within my module.

I traveled through the groan zone, pushed the edge of my learning, wrote my lyrics and sang them… sang them first actually (not because I volunteered though), finding a place of greater ease, peace and playfulness within myself and understanding the groan zone at a whole new level.

Thanks Jerry, Meg and Jim and my band mates!  Be warned – you now just mind hear me singing in places other than to my young children – like on the street when I’m out walking and “shape shifting, shape shifting in a soulful way…”.

The Mind Cannot Take You Where the Heart Wants to Go

The mind cannot take you where the heart wants to go.

I wrote this statement at the bottom of a random piece of paper that has been floating around my desk for some time now.  I do not remember how it came into my awareness but it has caused me to pause and reflect every time I happen upon it.

This simple statement is why so many dreams go unrealized.  Our dreams reside in the heart and beyond any logic.  The mind seeks safety through logic and analysis.  In so doing, it has the potential to paralyze the dream – and often does.  It shuts down vision, beauty, aspirations and possibilities while looking for the right way or the right time to do things or waiting to have enough – information, money, time, experience.

In waiting for the logical evolution of things, there is no right time.  And yet, right time and right timing emerge through heart space and consciousness if only we pay attention to what is whispering in our awareness.  It requires a different kind of listening born out of quieting the mind, stilling the body and surrendering to the inspiration of the visions and dreams that call out to us, reminding us what is ours to do in the world right now.  It takes courage and fierceness, even gentle fierceness will do.

We do need both the heart and the mind in order to realize our dreams and our potential and to contribute to others doing the same.  We have however, tended to lead with our minds and, with the shifting shape of the world, it is time to lean into leading with our hearts – in our relationships, our work and our lives.  This is how we will contribute to the healing of the world we live in and the regeneration of its people – us included.  The more we live our inspiration, the more we gather and feed the energetic field that is also shifting the shape of the world.

The mind cannot take us where the heart wants to go. We need to grow our wisdom, capacity and faith to lean into the calling and movement of the heart.  Once the heart choices are clear, the mind becomes a tool to move mountains to achieve what it originally thought not possible.

As we lean into and lead with our heart choices, the shape of our personal world will shift and so will the shape of the world we work and live in.  I see it now.  I experience it now.  Many of my friends experience it now.  If we stay true to where the heart wants to go and connect with others who are doing the same, it is only a matter of time before this movement is more real, tangible, recognizable and palpable in more and more places.  It is not about not doing hard core work, transformational work, difficult work, systems work.  But it is about leading it with heart and noticing how much more powerful all of our work and our relationships become and how much more able we are to create the shift we want and need to see for our future, the future of our children and their children’s children.

Social Media Changing Social Norms

Had a fascinating conversation with a small group of people at #PodCampHfx last Sunday about the role of social media in shifting the shape of the world.  I was particularly interested in its influence along the chaordic path – that place between chaos and order we seem to be navigating more and more frequently in the world right now.

The Chaordic Path

The Chaordic Field

I wanted to understand more the influence of social media on the chaordic path and  what the opportunity is to influence it more strategically or with greater intentionality.  I also shared the stepping stones of the Chaordic Path: need, purpose, principles, people, concept, limiting beliefs, structure and processes, and practice.

Social media facilitates networks or webs of people in making interconnected relationships more visible.  Partly because of this it is also driving greater transparency in today’s world.  Buzz spreads rapidly through Facebook or Twitter and it is a lot harder to hide information, indiscretions, faux pas’ or worse.  Even with privacy settings, you cannot control what someone else posts.

There was a time that technology was isolating for people.  It was easier to sit at home emailing people half way around the world than it was to go knock on the door of the next door neighbour.  The rise of social technology though is enabling people to connect and reconnect with each other in ways that also generates in person contact.  Friends in a city will find each other through social technology – on the web and in person.  There are examples of how Twitter friends, who may or may not have actually met each other,  arrive at conferences and then set up the opportunity to meet face-to-face.

What was most interesting in our chat at #podcampHFX was how often the word community popped up.  I have noticed that people are yearning for community and sense of connection and social media seems to have created pathways to community in surprising ways.  And the most intriguing thought: social media is transforming our social norms, changing the parameters of acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour, doing this broadly and maybe more swiftly than any other social norm shift in the history of civilized society.

I’m still reflecting on how social media is shifting the shape of our world and contributing to the regeneration of community.

Giving Birth to Freedom

Giving birth.  I have been thinking about this a lot this past year.  I have given birth to a new company: Shape Shift Strategies Inc.  I am giving birth to a new book: Healing Across the Ages; Releasing the Hold of Family Secrets.

Most importantly, 2009 marked the year I gave birth to the second half of my life.  This birth had a nine year gestation period and it is only now I realize its correspondence to the last decade.  How lovely that 2010 is  marked with this newness for me.

As I’ve been reflecting on the quiet and alone time I have had this holiday season, what has registered for me is also the birth of a new feeling of freedom – and that brings great joy.

It is the freedom that comes from being really good with my own company – not feeling martyred in being alone or feeling sorry for myself, but truly settling into being with myself.  It doesn’t have to be happy alone time – it can also be time to just sit with what arises in me, especially as I consider the journey, and the people who have influenced it, over the last three years or so.

The freedom of not wanting, and not being lost in the wanting, of what isn’t.  The freedom of accepting people, situations and relationships for who and what they are.

The freedom of accepting myself for who I am,  for the essential soul qualities I have been unearthing and sinking into and for the talents I have been allowing to flower so I can do what is mine to do in this world, in this lifetime – boldly bring my healing gifts to the shifting shape of the world and the regeneration of its people.

2010 is the beginning of a new era.  It is for me for sure.  I sense it is for others too and for the world.  I believe we are at a pivotal time in the evolution of the human race, where we really know that the old ways of walking through life and tackling big issues do not work any more.  We are more ready to wake up than we have ever been and it is for the waking up process that I have been preparing.

I am only in this place of freedom thanks to a decade long awakening journey that I’m sure is not completed yet but is now on a new plateau, a new level of vibration.  It is thanks to people in my life – good people, friends, colleagues, coaches, and some challenging relational experiences over the last decade – including the challenging relationship I’ve had with myself, that I am able to be in and recognize the birth of this freedom.  These have all been great gifts to me and, at the beginning of this most important decade, I sit in a place of deep gratitude and appreciation for all those people and all those experiences.

The best is truly yet to come and, my intuition is, that it will look very different than what we’ve seen and what we can imagine.  I have never been more ready!  Happy New Year, happy new decade and Happy Birthday to all that is good in this world.

Training together for clarity, love and courage in 2010

This New Year’s Eve posting has been evoked by my friend Chris Corrigan.  He said: “Let’s let this next decade be one where we train together in clarity and love. The fierce love of courage and maturity that it takes to bring peace in the world, in our collective and individual realms.”

The shape of the world is shifting and never more so than right now.  We all bear witness to it.  Some of us focus on the doom, gloom and fear of it.  Some of us focus on the hope inspired by passionate, creative people of all ages who are awake or waking up to the notion that we are all connected and that what I do as an individual, no matter how small or localized, really does make a difference.

If we inspire one other person by the way we live our life, by our optimism, by our hope, by our actions, that will have been enough.  But the hidden, still yet to be fully discovered story in all of this is what Paul Hawkins speaks of in Blessed Unrest.

We are part of a movement that is greater and deeper than we know or can know.  This movement is flying under the radar of the media and mass culture so far.  It is a shared understanding arising spontaneously – everywhere and across all boundaries all at the same time.  It is a civil rights movement, a human rights movement, a democracy movement, a social and environmental movement.  It is marked by kinship, community and symbiosis. It has no center and no one spokesperson. It is humanity’s immune response and it continues to grow.

As it grows it is beginning to see itself more.  People from around the world are beginning to connect in both the obvious and the strangest places – Copenhagen, list serves, FaceBook – in person and through social media.  There is a heightened sense of it coming out of Copenhagen as more and more people become aware of the need to take responsibility and act – rather than let our fate wait in political speak and negotiations.

I think the characteristics of this movement are exactly what Chris said – The fierce love of courage and maturity that it takes to bring peace in the world, in our collective and individual realms.

We all need to be warriors in this training ground of clarity, love and courage.  This is my call to action for 2010.  I’ll be there.  Will you?

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