Saturday, July 28, 2012

Are We There Yet?

An emerald green hummingbird darts from the feeder to a high branch in the swamp maple, head cocking to the left and right, compulsively preening while surveying his surroundings. Confident in his appearance and that the coast is clear, he swoops back down to the feeder with lightning speed, an aerial flourish his gift or his pleasure, I'll never know which. 

Ablaze with passionate red intensity, a scarlet tanager in full breeding plumage lights up the leafy green backdrop of that same swamp maple. Love is grand, indeed.

In the garden's colorful obstacle course, a young rabbit charges, stops, turns and retreats over and over again, chasing - or being chased by - an invisible, cotton-tailed playmate. 

Enter the russet-colored doe, her proud and zaftig form full from Spring's lush bounty. In her reddish gold coat, she emerges from the deep green of the forest like a fiery Irish maiden. Unhurried and alone, she blazes her trail through fern and birch and pine. A hush falls over the world, and all its creatures watch in reverence as she passes. 

Above, the clouds that hang over the Barndoor Hills cannot be pinned down, arranging and rearranging themselves in a never ending interplay of light and form. Like a painting that each moment remakes itself anew, this sky-borne display is scored by a symphony of birdsong: robin, wood thrush, blue jay, sparrow. 

People ask me why I rarely go away on vacation. These are just a few of the reasons. I am fortunate enough to live in a place that I almost never want to leave. With my husband and our two feline "kids", I inhabit a world that endlessly captures my attention and imagination, offers respite and relief, and beckons us again and again to stop, look and listen to what lies just beyond the doors and windows. 

While I remember well the bustle and excitement of planning and packing to go someplace new, it has been a while since I've done it. It seems that contentedness, particularly of the soul variety, is not so easy to come by these days. So I don't want to disrupt mine. 

I'd rather refill my coffee cup, return to the back porch where my book awaits and the new day is filmy with early light and humidity. The sweet smells of fern and clover infuse the air, and I can smile at the airplanes that occasionally pass overhead, imagining the crowded seats, the tired parents and cranky children, the rush to the next gate, the inevitable question, "Are we there yet?"

I am. I'm here. And I'm not going anywhere. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lemming Fever

Have you ever worked with or for anyone who has inspired your inner lemming?

Someone you would willingly follow off a cliff into the As Yet Unknown, because they have ignited in you a passion so fierce and utterly compelling, that not knowing the terror and ecstasy of that 8 second free fall seems worse than the potential of a single, terminal “splat”?

When I contract a sustained case of "Lemming Fever" (as I describe the above condition), I know I am in the presence of a great leader. There are many qualities that can describe great leaders, but there are several in particular that resonate with me.

The great leaders I’ve met inspire me to believe in them, but also, without my even being aware of it, they inspire me to believe in myself. They recognize in me attributes and potential that I may not see, tease them out, buff them to a brilliant shine and reward them. The magic here is that I come to believe that we can achieve the goal; I become invested because I believe in both the leader's vision and what I can contribute to it. 

The best leaders help me see and understand my role in the ecosystem, and how it relates to the greater good and benefit of all. 

When the human mirrors around them reflect changes that must begin with and/or be sustained by them, they respond with humility and integrity of action. 

Great leaders deflect credit and heap it upon those around them. And they mean it. They live by "we" versus "me".

They don’t need to tell me what they want or believe or are committed to doing, because they’re too busy showing me.

In addition to finding interesting ways to engage and challenge the matter between my ears, they understand what matters to my heart and find ways to encourage that, too.

Great leaders challenge the status quo and encourage others to do the same. They make time to explain the “why” behind the “what” for every person at every level, and model how each of us – whether individual, group or organization – is either moving forward or sliding backward.  

In my estimation, great leaders avoid rhetoric and “buzz” words, favoring plain talk that helps constituents answer those perennial, existential questions such as: Who am I to you? Where do I fit? Does what I do matter and if so, how? Do you see me? Hear me? Do you care?

Even today, when long-term loyalty between employers and employees is in decline, great leaders can still engender such sentiments. At the very least, they can earn respect and credibility by acknowledging that employees know their jobs best, and by talking openly and honestly with (not at) employees about issues and decisions that affect the organization.

Great leaders are willing to fail on occasion, and are not exempt from the rules that apply to "the masses". No one is held to higher standards than those to which they hold themselves. They push through their limitations and places of discomfort to grow and evolve, even if they look imperfect doing it. They show up and own up every time it counts. 

I think humility and humanity are central to great leadership. Every great leader I've met has a killer sense of humor and refuses to take himself or herself too seriously. They cultivate an environment where laughter is an essential nutrient, and the ability to laugh at oneself is a core competency. 

I believe great leaders are passionate about great leadership. They don’t want to “manage” people, they want to inspire, groom and mentor other great leaders. They don’t want people to “follow” them, they want people to take ownership of the vision and carry it forward of their own volition – with the necessary direction, resources and support – but fueled by personal passion, not a mandate or a model for action.

I don’t know how much cliff jumping is in my future, and I’m not selling my parachute on eBay any time soon. But this week, during time spent with several leaders from my past and present, I’ve felt the flush and tingle of Lemming Fever stirring in my veins. And it feels something like hope.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tell Me a Story

"Tell me a story." 

As a child, I loved stories. And not just the kind that existed between the beautifully illustrated covers of a dog-eared book, though there were plenty of those: Ramona and Beezus, the Madeline L'Engle series, Where the Red Fern Grows, Rikki Tikki Tavi and the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales... the list goes on and on. 

I also craved "real, live" stories that were told in person, orally, so that I could feel the reciprocity between teller and listener. I wanted my relatives to tell me stories about my parents and their siblings. I wanted stories from my teachers about what life was really like for the peoples who populated our history books. I tuned into stories told between my parents across the dinner table, in hopes that I might catch some insight into what it felt like to be a grown up living in a grown up world.

There is still nothing quite like a good story, really. Even the rather mundane ones can be illuminating, if I'm listening well. 

There is a revelation that happens between storyteller and listener. It occurs in the lilt of the voice, the selection of which words to stress and which to downplay, the use of pauses and breath. It unfolds in the metaphors and imitations that can bring the story to life, the cadence and rhythm and tone that carry the story's emotions. It emerges in physicality that can enliven and punctuate the narrative with different layers of expression. 

Stories have always been one way in which I make sense of the world and my place in it. The story, the storyteller and the listener all have a distinct and important role to play in the experience of story, and it is my view that once told to another, a story can never be exactly what it was before; something of it becomes overlaid with the experiences, attitudes and ideas of the listener so that when retold, it will have subtle new shadings of meaning and nuance. 

Job interviews are like stories. Of course, we're all telling stories about ourselves all the time, but the interview seems like it might be one of those odd, microcosmic situations that's charged with a bit more poignancy and oomph. 

I don't know that I've heard many people speak of interviews in this way, but for me, it's true. During an interview, one person tells another who they are - where they come from, what they're good at (or not), what is of interest to them, how they are likely to behave in a variety of scenarios. They tell this story from their own perspective, from the perspective of what they've heard or gleaned from others, and perhaps based on more concrete evidence, as well.

When I say, "Tell me about yourself" to a candidate, I think I'm really saying, "Tell me a story. Your story." Secretly, I'm hoping that I won't get a facts-and-data report; I want a compelling glimpse of what our collective story might read like if we end up spending 10 hours a day together.

I'm consciously and unconsciously registering the responses in the same way I listen to any story: Where is the pause, the breath, the lilt? Where is the leaning in and the pulling away across the table? Does the candidate paint pictures in the abstract, with broad, bold strokes? Or are they finely detailed with color and clarity? Where is the quieter tone that draws me in closer, the impassioned exclamation that makes me sit up and take notice? What character does the candidate play in the story of his or her life: unsung or decorated hero, persecuted martyr, humble teacher, spirited cheerleader, tortoise, hare, innovator, risk taker, conformist? 

This is on my mind because I've recently conducted a number of interviews. And the process never gets old for me. I approach each one with the optimism and anticipation of my 5-, 7-, 12-, 42 year old self who can't wait to hear a good story. 

These days, I'm also thinking about my story, and what it might sound like to someone else when it's my turn to tell it. Will it put them to sleep, or keep them intrigued enough to want to hear what comes next? If each stage of my life and career is a chapter, what is the title of each, and how can I color and texturize these periods in ways that my resume alone might not allow? 

How to do I want my story to end? Whether at the close of an interview or at The End, what is the arc of my story moving toward? In my personal epilogue, what are the stories that I might want told about me and how I lived, loved, chose, behaved? 

We're all storytellers, writing the stories of our lives line by line, day by day.

What's yours? 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Deer Mother

In a mid-summer night's dream, I pull into the driveway and get out of my car. On the way to the house, I pause to look up at the night sky. It is very dark and I see a constellation, a tight cluster of stars, that form a small, thick cross. 

Toward the house, I hear rustling by the front door but can’t see what it is. It sounds large, and I feel a tightness in my belly. Something approaches me and I stand very still.

It is a very large, antlered animal – almost like a cross between a deer and an elk. It is not terribly tall, but it is broad and solid. I gasp. Its antlers are large and very ornate; they are not very thick and there are many of them, woven together like the branches of a tree. The animal's back is dark and covered with many small white spots that seem almost to glow, like a magical sky full of stars. It is beautiful and breathtaking. 

The animal brushes gently against me. Holding my breath and still not really moving, I hold out my left hand, and it sniffs me. It allows me to pet its muzzle. I am filled with awe and know this is very special. I do not feel afraid, but I am not sure what is happening or why. Suddenly, down by my knees, I see another face. There is another, smaller animal - a baby - looking up at me. Its face is beautiful and open and sweet, and it sniffs and nuzzles my right hand as I hold it out. My stomach is fluttering with excitement, and my heart feels full of joy.

In Siberian Evenki mythology, Khelgen is the Cosmic Elk. She is associated with the Big Dipper and travels with her calf, who represents the Little Dipper. During the day, Kheglen and her calf disappear into the heavenly taiga and return at night, when the movement of the constellations recapitulates a great hunt. She is associated with the cycles of life, her great antlered rack connected with the World Tree, or Tree of Life. Kheglen was revered by the reindeer herders of Siberia, whose culture dates back thousands of years. Today, these people find their way of life, and their reindeer, in danger of being wiped out by overdevelopment and significant shifts in the global economy. 

This poem is in honor of Khelgen and her calf.

For Kheglen
(Honoring a Dream)

The Earth moves
as she moves,
her gait heavy
with intention and the fullness
of this moment.

Between each step,
a pause,
pregnant with the wisdom
and stories
she bears across
her star-strewn back
and in her crown
of antlers,

branches grown from the World Tree
beneath which all Life

and ends, begins again.

Across the divide
of life and death
she has journeyed with her progeny,
the smaller constellation
reborn in her mother's
shining image.
and brand new to me,
the eye of my heart
takes her in more easily
than can my thinking vision.

Yet her breath is on my hand,
her broad belly brushes my arm.

She is here.
She is real.
I am witness
to these goddesses and star-painted

And in the full night sky above,
a constellation
of the Cross beams bright
as if to say,
By whatever names you call Me,
I am here.

7.18.2012/honoring a dream

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tending the Goats

I am asked, in a dream, to tend a friend's goats. Her request requires that I choose between an old commitment and a new one; to face my fears and risk failure in trying something new; to put the needs of others before my own sense of ease and security. 

In exploring aspects of the dream through a poem, I find myself reconnected with the path of nature, with the excitement and joy that new challenges can bring, and the importance of remaining open to life's larger lessons.

Tending the Goats/Honoring a Dream

I am coming!
I am coming!
I found the key,
beautiful girls,
and I am coming.

Through sunlit woods
and down the well-marked path
to your door
I will travel,
silver pails swinging.

I will offer food and drink
in return for your
sure-footed company,
will delight in your curious gaze
as you learn to recognize me
and I learn to recognize myself
in you.

I had other plans today
but I chose you
or you chose me,
or perhaps we are choosing
each other.

I have never done this before
but having chosen, at last,
I am ready to work,
ready to learn.
I left my fear along the path,
somewhere between
the leaves crunching underfoot
and the breeze stirring
in the pines.

Teach me to climb and trust
the earth beneath me.
Teach me to climb and seek
the sky above.
Teach me to be agile
when the landscape changes without warning,
to trust my heart
and the warmth of your lips on my open palm.

Oh, hard-headed beauties,
you wear your confidence like a cloak,
wield your independence like a shield.
But you play like rambunctious children
and it feels so good to laugh.

My arms will be tired tonight,
but my heart will be full.

Standing before your door
which has not yet swung open to greet me,
I catch myself, day dreaming
our afternoon together
before remembering that I am still holding
the key.

July 17, 2012

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Check Your Sources

I'm at my alma mater with three strong, capable women. One is an attorney with a fierce intellect. Another is a fiery marketing professional and my colleague. The third is an earthy recruiter for the accounting field who spends much of her time telecommuting from the wilds of Alaska. My role is more fluid, and I'm not yet sure what it is.

In the middle of a conversation with some other folks, an alarm goes off. It gets progressively louder, sending us racing into the large adjacent room to see what gives. No fire, no unwanted guests, no water main breaks. The alarm continues to sound, so we decide it's best for all involved to leave the premises until someone arrives to turn it off or otherwise determine the source of the problem.

Only we can't leave. We're locked in. Even the building's two maintenance men can't help. 

To escape the noise of the alarm, my friends and I climb a staircase to the second floor. I bring up the rear.

We congregate in a large room with high ceilings and beautiful architectural flourishes, including floor to ceiling arched windows that overlook the campus. Oddly - and conveniently - enough, there are four single beds lined up side by side in front of the windows. I glance at the clock - it's around 1:40 a.m. I worry about the hour and, deciding it's too late to call my husband, sit cross-legged on one of the beds to send a text that I will not be home tonight.

As I begin to type, my phone becomes putty in my hands. It expands, contracts, twists back and forth like a piece of licorice. A disturbing text comes across the screen, sending my stomach into knots. It is misspelled, rendering it open to multiple interpretations. I question if it's truly meant for me and if it is, what it could portend. I think, "I've been hacked!", but of course, this does not explain the shape-shifting phone in my hand. 

What is going on here?!

Since this is a dream, there could be multiple explanations, but my sense is that it goes something like this: 

I am in an institution of higher learning, so I know to look for a lesson or two. The alarm disrupts our environment, which creates some confusion and anxiety, but also mobilizes us into action: Stop what you've been doing and move to higher ground.  

Leading the way are three women I respect and admire for very different reasons, and who bring distinct skills and wisdom to this situation; I can hold their examples out in front of me and learn from them. 

There is a role for each of us to play, as evidenced by the four beds, but we will need to align our energies effectively and collaborate if we are to be successful. 

Though I worry that it's so late and that my evening is not going at all as I had planned, it appears that the decision has been made for me: for the time being, I must stay where I am. Opportunity is close at hand, as suggested by the large arched windows. In the daylight, we'll have a higher and broader perspective on our environment and options. And the new day is not so far away.

My shape-shifting phone seems to tell me to look inward for answers to the questions I have carried with me to this place. Messages from external sources may get twisted or misinterpreted. 

For now, it is enough to lay my head on the pillow, just inches from the window through which dreams may travel to provide clarity, if I am meant to receive it at this time, from a source that can always be trusted to give me the straight scoop. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Risk the Ocean

In a recent dream, the actress Diane Lane swims alone in a large body of water; it may be the ocean or a very large lake. Land is not visible. I do not sense that she is in trouble; in fact, I sense that she has chosen to leave a nearby boat to get into the water.

The water looks cold and dark; the surface is choppy.

A man in a motorized boat approaches. At first it appears he may help her, but it soon becomes clear he is after her. He points the boat at her and slowly moves in, almost like she is prey. 

I think she senses this. Somehow, she manages to pull herself up onto the bow and clings to the windshield, behind which he sits.

There is an intense exchange between them. She seems almost crazy in her intensity. She tells him he does not want to be near her, the implication seeming to be that she is dangerous and unpredictable.  I cannot see her face, because now, like her, I am facing the man, but I sense that as she speaks, her eyes are wide and a bit wild; she wants him to understand that she will not be easy prey. She acts like a woman on the edge; there is something courageous in meeting head-on this man who might do her harm.

He remains seated, relaxed, behind the windshield and steering wheel. Only his eyes meet her intensity. “Oh yes, I do want to be near you,” he says, I cannot predict his intentions, but I am anxious for her.

My vantage point in the dream allows me to do a quick visual scan of the boat to see if there is room for him to pull her all the way aboard and hurt her.  There is relatively little surface space, but what there is of it is white and pristine.

There is a charge between them that is not entirely defined. I wake without knowing what becomes of either of them. 

The evening after the dream, I tell my husband about it over dinnerHe asks what Diane Lane represents for me. He says maybe the water represents the Unknown. 

Early the next morning, I turn on the TV and out of habit, plug in a channel. “A Perfect Storm” is on and is well underway. In the second scene I see, there is Diane Lane. Her character, Christina, is going off on Bob Brown, owner of the doomed boat that carries her beloved, Bobby. She is real and raw, ferocious and impassioned; she has to be pulled off him. She's dreamed this storm and knows how dangerous it is, how dangerous Bob Brown may be. I am struck by Christina's similarity to the Diane Lane of my dream. 

Later, after the Andrea Gale has been hit by the wave that will sink it, Bobby says to the Captain, “We made the right call, Captain. We had to try, right?” That's right, I think. We have to try, even when the stakes are high and the outcome is uncertain.

The Captain drowns. Bobby makes it to the surface of the water, where he talks to Christina through space and time. He tells her has always loved and will always love her. He tells her there are no goodbyes, only love.

At the end of the film, Christina recounts a recurring dream in which Bobby is coming toward her. She asks him where he’s been but he won’t say. He tells her that he’s always loved her, that he’ll love her forever; that there are no goodbyes, only love. And then he’s gone. "But he’s always happy when he goes," Christina says, "so I know that wherever he is, he’s okay. Absolutely okay." 

Later that morning, I ask the cards what I will need on the next leg of my journey. I draw The Moon. A woman, alone in the sea, under the light of the moon. To her right is a sailboat without a sail. She has stepped into the Unknown. She must trust her inner voice, her intuition. She must pay close attention to her dreams. If she does, everything will be okay.

Very early the next day, I log into Etsy and on the home page is a quote from the day's featured shop owner, A. Lawlar: "Take a risk on your talents and place a bet on yourself: you and your future are worth it." Intrigued, I click to the full interview with her, in which she is asked:

What would be the title of your memoir?
 She answers: Risk The Ocean

My dream. The movie. The Moon card. The Etsy interview. These all weave together to offer me the following guidance:

Trust in your intuition, your dreams and love. Whatever is risked by entering the Unknown, these things will never let you down. 

You May Say I'm a Dreamer

When I hand things over to something larger and wiser than myself, sometimes, I am astounded at what gets handed back.

I recently wrote about entering into relationship with the Unknown, with What Is. My dreams have been sending me all sorts of reminders about this commitment, in all manner of metaphor. Most notably, there has been a series of unfamiliar and transitory locations (hotels, conference halls, rental houses and cottages) and water (bathtubs, pools, lakes, the ocean). 

Yes, the Universe seems to be saying - you're on a journey whose final destination is not clear. Soon you may be immersed in change; at times, you may need to navigate choppy waters in unknown territory. At times, the best course of action may be to flip onto your back and let the currents carry you to calmer seas

In my dreams, I've been called to meet the many faces of Fear as it appears in my life; to clarify what is and is no longer important to me; to acknowledge the deeply entrenched habits, traits and unresolved "stuff" that will continue to trip me up, unless I deal with them.  The variety of images through which these patterns make themselves known seems infinitely creative, and have I learned that if I am not getting a message, it will continue to shape shift until it arrives in a visual package that I can recognize, open and appreciate. 

My mentor, Susan Morgan, is helping me learn to work with my dreams, to develop what she calls dream "literacy." 

I love that term, because that's how it feels. I am gradually learning a new language rich with imagery and metaphor; I am challenged to look beyond the simple, surface interpretations of things and am being invited to explore my own deep associations - as well as more universal associations - with the images and stories that emerge in my dreams. 

I feel more connected to my intuition and inner knowing, and that I am supported in my quest by something much greater than myself: Something mysterious, benevolent and generous; something that is willing to provide guidance and insight, if I am willing to engage with it in relationship. 

Piece by piece, my dreams and I are weaving the story of my life. Old wounds that have gone untended are rising up to say, "Here. This still hurts." And I must ask how I can acknowledge, honor and integrate them into the broader tapestry of my story. Repeated dreams of masks and theatrical events invite me to question what illusions I may be carrying, what I may be hiding behind, what is a performance versus an authentic living of my life. 

This past weekend, my mentor said, with great passion, "The greatest gift each of us can give the Universe is our authentic Self." 

And in the work-a-day world, I am sometimes challenged to do this. Whether the challenges are internal or external or both is something to which I am trying to bring greater awareness. But carrying that mandate, to live an authentic life, is work worth attending to. My dreams are quick - and getting quicker - to tell me when I'm succeeding and when I'm not, and to elucidate those things that may be getting in my way. 

The idea for this blog came to me in a near-dreaming state. Perhaps it serves only to give me a means for putting into words the questions and revelations that are surfacing for me at this time in my life. And that is fine. That is good. Because it focuses and attunes me to those aspects of myself and my life in a way that I would not otherwise be.  And that feels like one way of honoring the guidance that comes sometimes during the deep night and sometimes, during a brief day dream. I have learned that honoring my dreams with action is an important part of the process; it's a "thank you" to the Universe and helps keep the lines of communication open. 

So as I try to walk the path of the Unknown with mindfulness and integrity, I am grateful to know that as long as I am paying attention to my dreams, I will not - cannot - get lost. My inner GPS is linked in to a wisdom far greater than my own, which is both a relief and a blessing. 

"You may say I'm a dreamer..."

And you'd be right. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Do We Practice What We Post?

I feel pretty fortunate that most of my Facebook friends are of a good-natured ilk. The majority of posts to which I'm privvy are positive, with little foul language or mean-spirited musings.

In fact, on any given day, I can usually scroll through a proliferation of virtual Post-It notes offering encouragement, enlightenment and self-help tips on loving myself, the benefits of meditation and connecting more deeply with my spirituality.

I value these easily digestible nuggets of nutrition for my soul. It's not so rare that I take one or several with me through my day as a personal mantra. And it's nice to be reminded that there are people out there who are thinking about, struggling with, questioning the same types of things that I am.

But I am questioning if that's enough. Enough to spark and sustain the real changes that are required of each of us, all of us, if we truly want to make the world a better place.

A friend recently pondered whether all of these bite-size gems of wisdom aren't actually ego parading around as enlightenment. Another friend, in an essay about how the women's spirituality movement is currently at a threshold, posits that the movement has become, in essence, an outgrowth or alternative form of individual therapy; she suggests that until we turn our attention from ourselves and to the greater healing that must occur within our culture and upon the earth, we can never truly attain individual healing.

These ideas speak to me deeply.

As I sit here typing a blog that may never be read, or that may be read by one or more people I do not and may never know, I ask myself what I am doing to bring the precepts of "enlightenment" into my daily life -- not solely for my own benefit, but in service to, and for the benefit of, others. And by others, I do not just mean other people, but the myriad sentient beings with whom we share our planet, and the planet itself.

I take small steps. I am trying to remove unwanted bugs from the house and deposit them outside, instead of crushing or vaccuuming them up. I am making an effort to purchase cleaning and cosmetics products that are environmentally safe and cruelty-free. I eat an almost exclusively vegetarian diet. I contribute financially and otherwise to local and global organizations that support social justice issues. I am attempting to be more prayerful, and to cultivate gratitude and tolerance on a daily basis.

And I do these things without ever really getting my hands dirty.

This is not to say that all attempts to be a better global citizen requires the dirtying of hands. But there is something to be said for going out into the world to practice what I preach, or that I would have preached to me - whether in the form of Facebook posts, or consciousness-expanding workshops, or the latest book on how to look/feel/do/be better.

I can pass on what I learn on my own journey to betterment by changing my profile picture to a bright pink bumper sticker with my Lesson for the Day; I can also volunteer my time and listen to someone else's story for a change, see where our stories connect, diverge, and connect again.

I can feel better about myself by counting the "likes" beneath my latest favorite quote from a revered spiritual leader; I can also cultivate integrity by speaking out against things I know are wrong and in doing so, risk being disliked.

This could go on for quite some time; my larger point is that in the time it takes me to search and post quotes and mantras that belong to others and which may somehow telegraph the state of my own evolution, I can take meaningful action in the world around me, putting these pearls of wisdom into daily practice, connecting me in deeper, more personal ways to the people and world around me.

So I try to gut check my intentions and motives before posting such items:

Am I sharing an inspiring thought for inspiration's sake in hopes that it may cause someone to have a change in perspective today? 'Cause that's not a bad thing, and sometimes, I need reminders for myself.

Is there something I want the post to say about me, and if so, does it speak as clearly and as loudly as my actions out in the real world? 

Am I showing you what I'm telling you? And if not, why not? Can I do more to bring my online inspiration into my daily life and interactions? 

Is there anything standing in the way of my moving from passive participation in a movement toward change, to a more active participation? If so, what can I do to remove the obstacle(s)?

The Choice Controls the Chooser

"The choice controls the chooser." 

A friend recently shared this, his grandfather's favorite quote, and I immediately wrote it down.

In an earlier post, I revisited the fear that has, in large part, kept me glued to the same lily pad for many years. Shortly thereafter, I received a not-so-subtle nudge from the Universe that this is, it seems, the time for something of a quantum leap.

And in the time since then, something has shifted. A sort of stillness has begun to settle, slowly, into the recesses of my being. It didn't start that way; it began with a flurry of activity that spurred seemingly endless questions and a frantic search for answers that would make leaping easier, less frightening, more secure. 

Ah, security. That glittering, gleaming illusion at whose altar I have knelt for so long. In this moment, I can still feel its lure, its pull. I can acknowledge the temptation to move toward it, and can also recognize that, like a mirage, the closer I draw to it, it will recede that much farther away.

What's this got to do with the opening quote? I am choosing to enter into a relationship with the unknown, with Not Knowing. With What Is. 

This is, for me, a big deal. Of course, there are those far wiser than I who know that this is the true nature of things. That we humans, despite our superior intelligence, don't know much of anything at all. That What Is is all there is. But for most of my life, my mind has often worked overtime to keep me believing otherwise.

And now, replacing my typical desire to manipulate circumstances in hopes of controlling the outcome in a way that will feel more comfortable to me, is my attempt to be more aware of my choices; to listen to what my body says and knows; to remember my dreams and explore their deep wisdom; to engage in prayer and meditation that helps still the "monkey mind" that can disconnect me from this moment, which is all I've really got.

Last weekend, I received a tee shirt that says, "Be Here Now." Two nights later, without having seen or heard about the tee shirt, my husband quoted those same three words, which I've never heard him say before - at least not that I can remember. A sign? A reminder? I'll take 'em. I can't have too many of either.

Now, I'm not saying that the choices to embrace uncertainty, to let go of fear, or to "Be Here Now" are easy or comfortable or don't require an awful lot of time and attention. They do. But it's time and attention that can actually make a difference in how I feel, how I live and experience my life. It's the difference between giving weight, substance, time and attention to the illusions of "knowing" and "security", and giving those things instead to What Is. 

The idea of security - at least "security" as I have come to define it in my own life - eats Fear for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It grazes all day long on "Musts" and "Shoulds" and requires that its handlers live in cramped little boxes that limit their imagination, movement and options. 

When I give up the idea that I can create, control or am somehow entitled to security, a whole world opens up. It's a world that does not depend on my doing the same things the same ways because it's what is required to have security. In other words, when I give up the idea that I must or can have security, I also give up the fear that I might lose it.

It's a choice. And some days I choose better than others. Some days I'm just faking it 'til I make it. But if my friend's grandfather is right and "the choice controls the chooser", then today, I choose to relinquish my fear and embrace What Is. 

Turbulence on the Lagoon

The waters on the surface of the lagoon have been turbulent with change for some time now. My stable little lily pad has been buffeted about by the wind, whose true direction is not always clear. 

Over time, I've been learning about my options for navigating these choppy, unpredictable waters.

I can stay exactly where I am and do nothing. This option may leave me feeling more like a victim of change than a beneficiary, but it really depends on the situation and what I want to get out of it. Sometimes, steering clear of the drama and staying focused on what I can control is a good strategy; it may not work best as a sole strategy, though, particularly if the change is significant.

I can ride the waves of change to a potentially unknown shore, seeking to understand what it means, why it's happening and where I fit, adapting myself accordingly. Long-term survival of any kind generally requires adaptability, and if I can get okay with the "not knowing" piece, there's power in being a participant -- of partaking in the change based on my own goals, needs and desires - rather than having it imposed upon me. 

I can take cover until the storm blows over. This may work well as a short-term strategy, but my gut tells me that while this "storm" may subside periodically, it may never truly end. The amount and frequency of change in our world is ramping up, with no signs of abatement. It's probably a good idea to seek shelter when the lightening is striking or the hail is flying, but I want a vantage point that allows me to observe the activity from a safe distance. Eventually, the intensity will pass and when I emerge, I'd like to have some idea of how the landscape may have changed and whether or how my well-being will depend upon my ability to navigate the new terrain. 

I can recede to the depths beneath the surface where, if I go deep enough, I can enjoy some semblance of stillness until the turbulence above subsides. Significant turbulence is a visceral experience that tends to engage most, if not all of the senses. If prolonged, it can be draining - physically, psychically, emotionally - even for die-hard adventure seekers. Retreating to the depths, to a place of stillness, can be both restorative and a means by which to glean hidden wisdom, such as that which dreams or meditation can bring. It's also a great time to explore whether or how change is occuring within myself at deeper levels than can be seen on the surface. 

I can engage with others "in the neighborhood." While my little lily pad can be a place of solitude and peace, the lagoon is a thriving community. In times of turbulence, I can reach out to my fellow dwellers to share my thoughts on what's happening and to get theirs, in hopes of broadening my perspective, expanding my options, creating alliances, gaining support and of course, reinforcing that I am not, ever, truly alone. 

Finally, I can practice some or all of these tactics in combination, depending on the nature of the circumstances and changes around me.  

Regardless of the tactic(s), I'm finding it's a good idea to check in with myself regularly to see how I'm feeling about the change (fearful, excited, hopeful, resistant, indifferent, etc.) and whether I have opportunity to better understand potential outcomes, my own desires, and how I can participate in the change. I also know that black and white thinking is probably not my ally in adaptability, so staying attuned to multiple options, to living "in the grey" is important, too. And if I get stuck, I can ask for help.