Cats

What I know now

I have been asked by folks when I was going to start blogging again. Curiosity catThe last post was in September 2015 following a fantastic trip to Quebec with Landmark Education. The focus of that weeklong course was about wondering more and knowing/being certain less. I have been cultivating the practice of wonder for several months. So what do I know now? I have come to recognize that there is a creative energy that accompanies wonder resulting in a rise in imagination and a rolling out of unforeseen possibilities. Following that course in Canada, I went to another Landmark course for two weeks in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. That course was focused on an inquiry into the creation of freedom – like what is freedom, what keeps us from being free. I began this year with the awareness that freedom for me was going to entail saying NO to many of the projects I have been involved with for the past year. Freedom was about having the time to reflect, wonder, and imagine where my life is heading. I was acutely aware of how much time I was spending on projects that no longer felt fulfilling. By saying no, I have been able to start saying yes to new projects, having time to myself without the hustle and bustle of getting to appointments, sitting through meetings, and taking notes.

We are now entering the sixth month of 2016 and many hours have been freed up since my Just Say No campaign began. It has been a bit overwhelming to savor my solitude – to be at one with my thoughts and thanks-no-thanksideas. I learned during the course in Hawaii that freedom is dependent upon a willingness to look at life as it is – to be in wonder about the nature of life, of time, and our relationships to others. The late social psychoanalyst Erich Fromm wrote in his 1941 bestselling book Escape from Freedom that human beings look for ways to avoid or escape their existential freedoms. The sense of freedom he writes about is due to the fight for individualism and self-determination that began in Western culture during the Renaissance. This sense of freedom often leaves us feeling untethered, afraid, isolated, and can lead to destruction. Some of the ways we “escape” or avoid freedom is by being involved in destructive relationships, substance abuse, and being overcommitted to work, projects, and volunteering. In other words we avoid being alone with our thoughts, with ourselves by being overextended with our time. Fromm noted that the escaping of freedom tends to encourage a climate of authoritarianism. In essence we become non-thinking, non-wondering, and not being aware and the tendency towards mass or group think rises in tandem with the climate of authoritarianism. The “group think” can take over as we saw in Nazi Germany and the rise of fascism in Europe and as we can witness currently in the polarization of our political parties in America. I am wondering about so many things right now. My next few posts will be devoted to wonder, freedom, and the nuanced relationship between being an individual and a community member.

“Life Is A Balancing Act”

Always-to-your-bestOk I will admit it – I often enjoy working with alternative tools for self-awareness, development, and growth – like Tarot Cards, spiritual intuitive readings, and astrological chartings. One of my favorite tools is a deck of cards by New York Times best-selling author Don Miguel Ruiz, which is based on his best selling book The Four Agreements. The cards offer meditations on each of Ruiz’s four agreements which are: 1) Be impeccable with your word; 2) Don’t take anything personally; 3) Don’t make assumptions; and 4) Always do your best. I was reflecting on the focus of today’s post and decided to pull a card for guidance. I pulled Always Do Your Best and the meditation states: “you are alive, so take your life and enjoy it. You were born with the right to be happy, to love, and to share your love. Just to be – to take a risk and enjoy your life – is all that matters”.

In the wake of grief, I have worked diligently at becoming reacquainted with happiness, to enjoy life, and to feel alive. I have done my best to be where I am today – living fully, doing the inner work required of someone in grief, and taking a chance on life again. Today’s card made me think that “just to be” takes practice and awareness. I equate “to be” with being right here in the moment – in the present. I have learned through my many years of involvement with Landmark Education (www.landmarkworldwide.com) that I frequently live in the past, which I then tend to drag into the future. I have learned that living from this vantage point pretty much guarantees a future that looks like my past. I don’t know about you, but there are many aspects of my past that I don’t care to repeat … EVER. I prefer to see the future as a blank slate filled with a bunch of NOTHING – and from this space of NOTHING – anything and everything is possible. But I get ahead of myself … first I need to be here now – in the moment.

The False Mirror - R. MagritteThe ability to be in the moment takes practice and a commitment to this practice. I believe being in the now is dependent upon the creation of an anchoring phrase – a phrase that we come back to when we are flooded with feelings that are laced with anxiety and fear. My anchoring phrase is “I am committed to living an empowered life and empowering those whose lives I touch”. I feel fully alive when I support others to live an empowered life – a life that provides them with opportunities to be of service to our poor old world, to fall in love, to laugh, or to be in awe of the mystery of life. I feel alive when I learn, live, love, and laugh. Yes there are significant problems in the world. I am not living in a bubble of ignorance. However, I cannot let those problems drag me down into a space of feeling insignificant, powerless, and disempowered.

Author and Executive Coach Eric Allenbaugh notes that “every choice moves us closer to or farther away from something. Ask yourself: Where are your choices taking you? What do your behaviors demonstrate that you are saying yes or no to in life?” My commitment to the world and myself is that my choices are in alignment with my anchoring phrase. I ask myself “Is this choice going to take me closer to living an empowered life or return me to living in toxicthe “sewage” of life? Sometimes I can get back into alignment rather quickly and avoid the sewage – i.e., numbing out or being in the grip of negative and disempowered thinking. Other times I muck about in the sewage for quite a long time and stop keeping my word to others and myself. In the sewage, I am reacting to something I don’t want to confront and often act cavalier and rebellious. No doubt there is wisdom to be gained in the sewage … primarily “LET’S GET OUT OF HERE! THIS IS TOXIC!!”

Where are your choices taking you in your life? A word of caution: if you find yourself heading to a place that has a bad smell and you feel disempowered, you may be stepping into the sewage. When I finally wake up to the bad smell and feelings, I follow a 6 step practice that brings me back to the now: 1) I stop, 2) I breathe, 3) I look around, 4) I reflect and become curious with what I am feeling, what my body is sensing, and what is my mood, 5) I remember and repeat my anchoring phrase, and 6) I decide if I need to take action.

amazonSometimes this practice is second nature. Oftentimes I may find myself logging onto Amazon to see what I can buy or I head to the refrigerator to find something to eat in order to numb out – and there I am in the sewage! I, like you, am a work in progress. Cheers – we are on the right path. My advice: Be it our right foot or our left, let’s watch out where we step!

Namaste,

Kathleen

Gratitude

Rod-McKuenThe poet of the sixties, Rod McKuen wrote this short poem: “where do they go the friends who come into our lives like green leaves and leave like melting snow?” I think of this poem today as I remember the sunrise that I saw this morning. I was up early enough to see it because a good friend who lives 80 miles north and had a meeting close to me spent the night and needed to be on the road for her early morning meeting. Because we are participating in an an empowering program about life and relationships, she and I sat this morning with freshly brewed coffee and looked out at the ocean together and discussed men, life, and dating. sunrise from table copyAnd there like a magnificent expression of love from nature came this incredible majestic pink sunrise – a gift for both of us. We were in awe as we fell into silence and were at one with the sunrise.  Because I was up early with my friend, I was given this gift to start my day. How wonderful is that? Pretty darn wonderful I would say. It has helped me think of this season of Thanksgiving and recall my friends and family. It is through friends that I have healed and that I can take such pleasure again in the richness of a sunrise. This is the season to not only count our blessings but also the time of year to prepare for the darkness of winter. The ancient cultures experienced the darkening of winter as a time for retreat and contemplation. In the darkness they prepared for the eventual return of light. In our modern world we follow similar rhythms in our busy lives: gathering for holidays with friends and family or retreating into nature or homes for quiet self reflection. Our modern psyches require an acknowledgement of the changing seasons and the shortening of days just as our ancestors did.

life-tulipsWhen I think back to the first Thanksgiving after Roy¹s death, I recognize that grief can be experienced like a season – a winter of the soul. Now that I have emerged from the season of grief, I notice the sunrises, the sadness of friends, the complexities of the world, the joy of my cats, and the awakening sensuality of my life. I am alive, aware and resilient. I often remind myself how is incredible it is to have more and more moments of feeling alive and engaged with the world after such a long season of withdrawal. I find my unfolding relationship to life to be like the new friend McKuen describes.. With luster and the green of new possibility. The grief has melted away … Leaving me moist and fertile for what life has to offer, always aware of the tenuousness of life. I am blessed … And for that I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving. Count your blessings … They are there – even in the winter season of grief.

All Shall Be Well

Since Roy’s death almost 3 years ago, I have cultivated an inner strength through writing, dialoguing, meditating and re-discovering what I love to do. My marriage to Roy was the source of my strength. Now I stand on the shoulders of our marriage and draw from the insights and breakthroughs that I am discovering as I move on with my life as a single woman. I derive enormous strength from the words of the Middle Ages mystic Julian of Norwich “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.  I hope all is well with you!

Julian of Norwich