Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering with Elizabeth Lesser

This past Monday morning. Running late. Had a late night working. Cabbing it, yet, again. Damn! How I committed to taking subways or walking. Damn! How I committed to going to sleep earlier and not working on Sunday nights. Ahhh, will try, again. Whatever.

In my 11 block cab ride (yes, 11 blocks) I manage some major mental, emotional, and cosmetic kung-fu. Realities wrestling for attention, I do up the bronzer (present), I run through my to-do lists (future), I tell myself to stop judging myself for the cab and the sleep (past-future-past-present), I energize myself with silent pep talks of my dreams coming true, regardless of the aforementioned broken commitments (future), I replay some conversations I had from last night (past), and I realize my mind is everywhere but in the back seat of the taxi, in my body (present, again). And then I arrive.

Flurry, flurry, scurry, scurry, up the elevator, kiss, kiss, hello, hello, how was your weekend?

And... I'm on.

Time to work. Thankfully, I have a cool job. And my job for that hour was to interview one of the women I most admire, Elizabeth Lesser. Elizabeth is Co-Founder of the Omega Institute (go, go, go there!)

The moment I hear her voice, I feel myself settle. I feel a softening in my chest, a melting in my shoulders, a lightness in my face. We reflect on many things. Here are a few that supplied me with my zen fix for the week, that got me back. Thanks, Elizabeth.

1. In the Sufi tradition, the word for "spirituality" actually means "remembering." On a higher level, higher than the one that most of us operate on daily (or in the back seat of a cab), we are completely complete, need nothing, know everything, perfect, as-is. The key is to remember that. Living, experiencing, learning - is really remembering what we already know.

2. It's work. It takes time. Relationships need YOU there. After remembering that it's all remembering, Elizabeth reminded me of what I know of relationships. That they need time, are messy, and need you there, physically. In order to work through the complexities and create intimacy with your partner, friend, or child - it's important to create plenty of space for things to be worked out and through, for bumps to be smoothed, for growth to be had. Back and forth, back and forth, integration - requires people to be invested, time, body, heart, soul, in space, together.

3. At the speed of trees. Wired with our schedules action packed, there may be no road back to slow. Who knows if this is good or bad. But what we do know is that as beings on earth, our bodies best respond to the rhythm of nature. To the waves in the ocean, the shift of the seasons, the cycles of the moon. Mother nature doesn't rush or force...soooo, remember that. Go be with some trees, feel the snow on your face, smell the air, hear the wind.

To get some of your own zen fix on with the wise words of Elizabeth, I encourage you to watch her latest Ted Talk. Enjoy.

Much love,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Damn, it's been 10 days!

I was about to go to sleep. And decided to check in to my blog to see how long it's been. Damn it's been 10 days! I've gone back and forth with commitments about this blog. "I'll wake up every morning at 7am and write something." "I'll focus these blog posts so they're more strategic and delivering against my objective of..." "I'll figure out the objective of this blog."

While my intentions are great... my attention is limited.

Not just mine, but everyone's! Our attention is FINITE! The possibilities are infinite. You get to choose where you put your attention to create whatever you want.

So I accept that in the creation of my desired reality...sometimes, some other things just don't get the love. Sorry's been 10 days!

Thank you for reading, for supporting, and being patient as what I really want for this blog continues to inch closer to its actualization... in tandem with my own.

Much love,

Friday, January 14, 2011

For Penis People, Too

In the book, The Heroine's Journey, Maureen Murdoch describes women's process to rediscovering and owning their Feminine. I'm not talking wearing mascara here, I'm talking being hard-core in touch with what makes females different from those with a penis.

The book is a bit much for me at times, but usually when that happens, I know there's some wisdom. One of the biggest take-away's I got from this book was language to describe the intangible process of growth - and the uncertainty, discomfort, and all-that-jazz that comes with it.

Sometimes, the most profound or liberating experience is not the experience itself, but discovering the words to that experience. This means what our subconscious knows, pops to the forefront into our conscious in a rational way, in a code we can understand. It's "AHA! That's what was going on." Having language for something not only helps one integrate one's own stuff, but it also makes it easier for us to empathize with others, relate, and help them unlock the truth of their journey as well.

The language that clicked for me when reading Murdoch's books is: Hold the tension.

Hold the tension means you are courageously standing in a state of in-between. You are on your way towards something new and better but meanwhile, may be in the dark, shivering, chilled to the bone.

Hold the tension means you trust that beyond the point where you can see, there is growth and greatness.

Hold the tension means that you don't just "get over it" or "ignore" your current reality, you let it massage you until a new you is released.

Hold the tension is not passive in the least - it's active acceptance of the NOW.

Hold the tension is that annoying state that people often describe as "you gotta be uncomfortable to grow."

Holding the tension is also about patience and healing without judging. Right now I have a cold. I can't sleep. Sure, it sucks. Sure, I'm doing what I can, but I'm also relinquishing to my body to do what it's got to do. I'm not judging or bitching (fine, maybe just a few grumbles to myself)

While holding the tension can feel a bit tortuous, it's for your long term good. It's like the discomfort of doing a detox cleanse, or navigating the terrain of a budding relationship, or not eating that chocolate cake despite every cell in your body saying "I want you."

Therefore, Hold the tension applies to transformational growth in addition to the mundane.

Hold the tension is a brave surrender to "everything will be okay." Even though right now things feel uncertain, uncomfortable, painful, or whatever.

Here's the final kicker - whether you want to do it or not, holding the tension is something you can't avoid. Sure you might be in denial, avoiding, regressing to old patterns or whatever for now - but whether you want to or not - experiences will most likely continue to surface demanding this state from you, demanding you to be a better you.

Here's to all you courageous people!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You Freak, You

My favorite quote in the world is: "If you find your piece in the puzzle, you enable 10,000 others to find theirs."

This quote says several things to me.

1. You are unique.
2. You have a unique role.
3. Your playing your unique role enables others to play theirs.
4. We need you. You need us. We need each other.
5. You bes' be clear that you're special and that specialness is a responsibility.

For the past five year I've been honored with the opportunity to put several thousand through various workshops I teach. Through my experience with others and my own journey, I can attest that most of us do the below:

1. Judge that what makes us special isn't that special.
2. Forget what makes us special.
3. Do what we think the world thinks is special.

F that, people! Who are you to say that what makes you special isn't worth it? It's worth it to at least 10,000 others. Promise. You just might not see the ripples but they're there.

Just look at Ted Williams, the homeless man with a golden voice. Clearly he has a unique gift. But I don't think he ever imagined the impact that his great radio voice would have on opening the hearts and minds of millions. At best, he probably just thought he'd play some damn good music and give people a nice ride into work.

Don't judge your gift. The juicy mystery of how it will flourish for others is to be revealed if it isn't clear. Until then, just do what you do best.

I like to ask people: What are you freakishly good at? What just comes to you, naturally, without trying or learning so hard? What's your God-Given gift? It may be your ability to make someone laugh, or feel included, or elevated. It maybe remembering trivia or collecting stamps. It may be just looking pretty. Or maybe playing football. Or maybe creating multi-million dollar businesses. Whatever it is...

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." -Howard Thurman


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Play thang

Play'as are you playing enough? It's good for you. Like sleep, sex, food. You should do it. You're wired for it. And need it as an adult. It's not just for kids. Here's a rather unplayful excerpt on play. Part of my research while at UPenn.

Play is a fun dance into sometimes uncertain terrain. It’s an opportunity for us to practice towards some version of perfection (Burghardt, 2005). The opportunity to be wrong doesn’t come easy in our society. We are a results oriented, productive batch that favors being right instead of wrong (Mueller & Dweck, 1998), hard work instead of play (Brown, 2009). However, we know from studies on positive organizations that cultivating a culture where making mistakes is acceptable has proven to positively impact an organization’s productivity (Caza, Edmonson, Lee, & Thomke, 2003). It is our culture’s fear of being wrong or unpolished that currently hampers our economic leadership, innovation, education, and personal growth (Bronson & Merryman, 2010). That's right. Read that last sentence again, carefully.

What is play? One woman's play is another's ... I don't know. Here are some guiding principles I like: Burghardt's 5 Criteria of Play below. Lots of people and academics have opinions - but there's no consensus and not enough research on what it means to play.

Play is done for its own sake
Not serious or of immediate use.

Play is intrinsically motivated (you want it)
Directed towards stimulants that don’t contribute to survival.
Rewarding or reinforcing.

It's Fun (hello!)
Pleasurable and joyful.
Can be solitary or social.
Social play is contagious.
Occurs in a relaxed field free from stress and other behavioral requirements.

Play is not serious
Disappears under stress.
Characteristics that set it apart from serious performance.

It's messy for mastery
May involve self handicapping or role reversal.
May be exaggerated in intensity or duration from normal experience.
May be awkward or unpolished.
Involves mastery.
Differs from stereotyped behavior.

I challenge you get some (play) tonight.


Brown, S. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York: Penguin Group.

Burghardt, G. (1998). The evolutionary origins of play revisited. In M. Bekoff & J. Byers (eds.), Animal play: Evolutionary, comparative, and ecological perspectives (pp. 3– 26). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Caza, A., Edmondson, A., Lee, F., & Thomke, S. (2003). New Knowledge creation in organizations. In Cameron, K. S., Dutton, J. E., & Quinn, R.E. (Eds.), Positive Organizational Scholarship (pp.194-206). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for Intelligence Can Undermine Children's Motivation and Performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 33-52.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

In the U.S. our DNA rings with freedom. We think, freedom = choice. The more choice, the better. But that’s not true. Of course, some choice is better than no choice. But MORE choice leads to paralysis and disappointment according to Barry Schwartz, author of, The Paradox of Choice. I experienced some of the pain Barry describes when apartment hunting. But my belief system conquered in the end. Here's a synopsis of his research-based theory, followed by a TED video of him demonstrating it beautifully, and then my two cents:

The more choice you have, the higher your expectations. (I want high ceilings, lots of light, easy walk to subway, new appliances, etc).

The higher your expectations, the more you pay attention to what’s “missing” in a particular option. (Oh, this place doesn't have enough closets. That one there is a walk-up.)

Because nothing is perfect, you’re inevitably stuck choosing something that clearly doesn’t meet all your expectations. (Well, the lobby sucks and looks like a dungeon, but pretty much everything else is amazing).

You choose. And yet, you remorse. You think about what you’re missing and lost out on by making the choice you did. (Shoot...if I would have kept on looking could I have found a better deal or should I have gone downtown and suck up living in a closet?)

You’re not satisfied. Because the opportunity cost subtracts away from the total benefit. (Not really true for me...keep reading and I'll tell you why).

And worse, you blame yourself. Because YOU made the choice. (I experienced this for like 10 minutes).

More choice make us feel like there’s always something better. (Of course there are better options - there always are. But a)they are not perfect, also. b)if you don't make a choice, you got nutin'. Given my timing of having to move in by December 15th and my budget - I made the best choice at that time).

Barry's work...and I told him depressing. Why? Because given the state of our economy, culture, and access to information - more choice is what's being created. Here's some additional personal perspective that is true for me and saves me from being a complete victim to the paradox of choice.

1. In a certain dimension of reality, there are no mistakes or bad decisions (because we learn from both) and that helps us grow.

2. I believe that we are exactly where we need to be doing exactly what needs to be done. Even if that means messing up.

3. You don't control everything and have no way of knowing everything - once you know that, you're free.

4. Okay, say your choice sucks. Just choose again. That's what experience offers. I know you want a short cut to the best choice. But sometimes, it's not available.

5. The best way to shortcut, however, is to know what you really, really want. To be crystal clear on what's most important to you. Barry advises sitting in a dark room, alone, and thinking hard about that. Once you know what you want exactly, you'll not be taunted by the possibilities.

I trusted that I would find a great apartment and I did. It has high ceilings, exposed brick, and outdoor space. Sure, it's not perfect, but I'm happy.