It was a foggy, misty morning, but just before 10 o'clock, the sun began to shine.
We gathered to discuss Experiment #5 - the Dear Abby Principle. This states that we each have unlimited access to a constant source of inner guidance from the FP.
Pam talks mostly about the distinction between our conscious mind (logical, rational brain) and inner guidance. Too often we get the two confused, and we use our conscious thoughts as guidance. Oops!
The conscious mind has these important functions:
comparing current experience to past experience
interpreting results and building models
However, it's not the source of guidance when you "don't know" what to do, or when you want to take a step toward a vision you want to create.
I'm curious: what forms has YOUR inner guidance come in?
For me, it's been learning to listen to my own body. My "temple of truth", as I call it. I used to use my mind to drive my body like it was my workhorse. Now I am more tender, more astute at listening, and take the time to honor what my body is communicating at all times. I am learning.
Others in the group described their inner guidance as "intuition", "gut reaction", "knowingness", a feeling, a sound or word, an image that appears.
No matter what your inner guidance looks, sounds, or feels like, it's about your relationship with it. Getting to know it so you can begin to trust it.
Shirley shared the results of Experiment #3. She asked for a piano to appear in her life. It was offered immediately and sincerely. She observed for over a week before she became clear that all she had to do was ACCEPT the offer. To SHOW UP and take the steps of receiving. WOW. That was a big one! It's always available, and sometimes it's right in front of us, but we have to be willing to walk toward it. Thank you, Shirley!
Tammy got a crystal clear answer to her question, "Should I get a new door, or repair the old one?". Now it's a matter of walking toward that answer.
We also tried the magic wands again (yes, we LOVE them! We'll even try them with strangers who wander into the clearing and wonder what we're doing there.). Tammy brought another question to the wands, one where the answer she had received was not quite lining up with the feelings she was getting in her body. The wands gave her crystal clarity.
Finally, we were gifted with the raw materials for our next Experiment #6! We each received a packet of sunflower seeds and some soil from Tammy's garden. I planted my seeds last night, and it's just amazing how much faster one row is already growing compared to the other! :)
I wanted to share the recording of the evening phone meeting. It is one hour and fifteen minutes, unedited. There is some great discussion and sharing from Danielle as we talk about letting go of the "how", how to get clear on an intention, and practicing. Here is the link. Enjoy!
Next week, we talk about the next TWO chapters - Experiments #6 (the great seed race) and #7 (what happens when you infuse your food with love?).
You can join the E-Squared Book Club anytime until November 20th. And if you've been reading the book, please share your stories in the comments!
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There was a time when I believed - when I was totally convinced - that I could not take a day off.
Maybe it was the example of my parents, whom I saw work tirelessly every single day, never letting go of the responsibilities of their jobs, and never taking a day off unless they were absolutely required to (and by that I mean, being so sick they had to be admitted to the hospital).
Or maybe it was medical school, where I learned by working alongside residents and fellows who would regularly show up to work sick, because they "couldn't take a day off". On one rotation, I recall the vascular surgery fellow being so rundown from flu-like symptoms that he had to dash out of the operating room to throw up in the scrub sink during a procedure he was performing. I watched wide-eyed and took everything in, my mind drawing the conclusion that "people with important jobs can never take a day off".
I became determined to find work that would enable me to take a day off, and still be considered important.
The problem was, I really had no idea what was truly important to me. I had many concepts that had been implanted by messages from my family, from images in movies and advertisements, and from the culture in which I was living. "What's important" was a moving target, a reaction to whatever "everyone else" appeared to be doing.
Meanwhile, in my heart I knew that I wanted to make a difference in this world, to care about something genuinely, and to share my story somehow in this life.
But the only way I knew - based on what I had seen, learned, and been taught - was to put my head down and work.
I worked hard at everything I did. I didn't take many days off. When I did, I remember feeling an odd combination of freedom and loss.
"Who am I without my email inbox full of requests and my voicemail full of messages?"
"Who am I when I am not answering to anyone else?"
"What would I choose to do if I had an entire day with no obligations, no one telling me where to be or what I had to do?"
Questions like these would pop up in the few instances I let myself off the hook and took a break. The questions themselves brought up feelings of fear and confusion, because no one had ever asked them of me before. I had never dared take the time to find out what the questions might reveal, if I invited them into my life.
So I pushed them away, filling my time with work instead.
It was easier than grappling with the questions.
And yet I know now, looking back, that the times when I felt the courage - the imperative - to take time away from my routine and give myself a change of place, a change of pace, and a piece of open space to allow these questions to surface, have been food for transformation in my life. Had I not followed the instinct to "Just do it", I would not have been given the chance to watch my true story unfold, and so many of my genuine desires come into reality.
These days I am often approached by people for advice on career transition, achieving happiness or fulfillment, healing from chronic medical diagnoses, and how to get "unstuck" in life.
I listen, and I am always deeply humbled by the courage required to put our struggles into words and share them with another person.
I know that, being another human being, I never have the answers for another human being. To say that I do would only feed that part of our minds with an insatiable appetite for certainty and control - the same part that tells us we can never take a day off.
The coaching or healing or help or support I provide - whichever word you choose to describe the energy of being in the presence of divine acceptance of what is - is a practice of opening space, of giving permission to ask the questions that come up (no matter how much fear accompanies them), and celebrating the miracle of the unique journey we each take in this life.
So, can you really take a day off?
I don't know the answer for you.
But if the question interests you, why not try it and see where the answer takes you?
Have you ever sought someone's advice, and then realized halfway into the conversation that you really didn't want them to tell you what to do?
Or have you ever followed someone's advice, which never quite felt right to you, but they were in a position of authority or had done it themselves before, and you didn't know how to get out of it?
Have you ever wished you had more trust in yourself, and didn't need to rely so much on advice from other people?
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It's been ten years now since I've set foot in a traditional academic institution. Yesterday I stood inside the walls of a venerable one right here in my own backyard.
And it struck me that there is A LOT of "advising" going on at the formative stages of a lot of smart people's lives. A lot of people who are very curious, very bright, very capable, and very imaginative. But who just don't know. So they ask. They seek advice.
And what do they get? Well, what typically surrounds them in these places of academic prestige are a lot of people who got there by playing a certain game. They navigated a particular system, they overcame their own particular obstacles, and they achieved a certain status. Usually if they are in a position of enough authority to merit students' seeking their opinions, they've hung on to this status over a period of years. They've done the work of making all the right people happy in all the right places. They consulted the rule books, they found out what was expected of them, and they met those expectations.
They have seen the world through one particular lens.
This is perfect advising for someone who wants to experience life through that particular lens, and to find out what hoop is to be jumped through next. If you're asking, "How high must I jump?" and "Where is the next hurdle?", these advisors are perfectly prepared to tell you the answer.
But there's a different kind of questioning that occurs for all of us at some point in our lives. Perhaps even at several points in our lives.
Questions That Have No Right To Go Away
We come up against questions in our hearts, questions that ultimately ask us to test how much we trust ourselves, and invite us to grow into the next version of ourselves.
but frightening requests,
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.
Requests to stop what you are doing right now,
to stop what you
while you do it."
- from "Sometimes", by David Whyte
In these moments, some part of us actually knows the answer and knows what we must do.
The questions appear at the most inopportune times. We're "busy" doing something else. There's "not enough time". We're "supposed to" be focused on something we believe to be more important.
But the questions don't go away. They pull at us, beckoning us to pay attention to the part of us we'd rather be able to ignore.
It poses a dilemma. Should we go this way or that? Should we keep going as if everything is "normal" or actually stay with the question and listen to what it brings?
This is when we might seek advice from others.
And this is where knowing the difference between "advice" and "coaching" can save your life.
I've received a lot of advice in my lifetime. I can remember these pieces of advice quite vividly.
Some Advice I Once Received
For example, when I had made the decision in my heart that I would not be doing a residency after medical school, I started to do what all the career guides told me to do: informational interviews.
As I told people what I intended to do, I encountered a lot of advice. "Why don't you at least do an internship? Then you'll have more options, because at least you'll have a license."
These conversations never seemed that helpful to me, because I felt like my desires were being dismissed as naive, and that the risks I felt called to undertake were insurmountable (which I found insulting). As I continued to talk to more people, I heard more advice.
From one person: "Why don't you at least finish a residency in SOMEthing? You know, general internal medicine, something like that. Then at least you'll have the credibility of being able to practice something."
From another: "If you liked cardiology in medical school, why don't you at least get trained as a cardiologist? Then you'll have so many more contacts and you'll be able to get so much more done."
And another: "Well, why don't you at least practice for a few years, get some money and respect under your belt before you go off and do your little dream? Then at least you'll have experience."
And yet another: "Why don't you wait until you retire to do 'fun' things like following your heart and doing what you love? Then at least you'll have lived a full life before you go and throw it all away."
What I realized is that each of the people who gave me advice was only speaking from their own experiences and beliefs. None of them had actually done what I was going to do, for the reasons I was doing it. And none were actually helping me to listen to the voice of my heart, which was the one posing these questions.
I ended up listening to a lot of different advice and following no one's, instead creating my own opportunities through willingness and determination. I am forever thankful for my own intuition that guided me to follow something inside me, despite advice to the contrary.
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Fast forward ten years.
I've created many more opportunities by following my own intuition, and tapping that same willingness and determination, to move in the direction most aligned with my heart's greatest desire. Now that I have opened space in my life, space in my mind, space in my body, and space in my heart, to receive guidance, it just keeps flooding in. I don't ask people what to do. I don't tell people what to do.
I have since also lived the life of trying to gain fulfillment from seeing other people follow my advice. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I would always encounter an aspect of someone else that my experience could not comprehend, that my best knowledge could not penetrate. This was before I trained as a coach. I had no tools at the time to help other people access a deeper part of their own wisdom, to help them find the keys to their own locked doors. I was giving advice, where people were in great need of coaching. I just didn't know how to at the time.
Coaching Helps You Follow Your Own Advice...The Kind You've Ignored For Too Long In Favor Of Others'
The kind of reward I received from advice-giving pales in comparison to the nourishment that is provided by coaching. As a coach, I get to be free, gently observing the process of a person finally doing exactly what their hearts have always been telling them to do. I get to share in their moments of joy in discovering that the answers they sought outside for so long, in so many ways, were already inside them, waiting to be decoded.
In short, as a coach I get to watch people finally follow their own advice!
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There is nothing more beautiful in this world than to witness a person free themselves, and become enlivened by the light inside them, dancing to the music within them.
I recognize the feeling of a person's truest longing spoken out loud. I recognize the pain of staying silent and hidden for too many years. I recognize the joy of meeting yourself again, of looking yourself in the mirror with love and kindness.
This is not what comes from taking someone else's advice. This is true learning and growth. This is the drink of water I'd always been thirsty for, but never knew existed.
So the next time you ask someone for advice, listen to them very closely. And then ask yourself, "Does this feel more freeing? Or more constraining?" Any advice that does not bring you more alive in your heart is not advice for you to follow.
Follow your freedom. It is the voice of your divinity speaking to you.
It's been just over a year now since I stepped with clarity into the next phase of my life by leaving a business I came to California to create, back in 2004. I've told the story so many times that it may seem like "old news" to some of you, but for me, that one decision was a *huge* step. It cleared the way for so much magic that has emerged - through effort and spontaneous creativity, guided by intention and enabled by practice - over the past year.
Last week I went through the embodied steps of letting go - moving all the physical items out of the Cradle of Manifestation after acknowledging that a 1,800-square-foot facility no longer matched the life I am creating. In the process, I've come face-to-face with so many of my deeply held beliefs and default patterns.
I believed that being a "responsible" person - a piece of my identity I held tightly as a symbol of my worthiness to occupy space on this planet - meant putting other people's needs ahead of my own, no matter what the cost.
In my work, this was expressed as taking full responsibility for all outcomes associated with the people I was involved with - which translated into poor delegation, inability to trust other people's skills and ways of doing things, and the result of preferring to do everything on my own, so it would be perfect. Ultimately, I experienced exhaustion and burnout as the destination on this path.
After I crossed the hurdle of actually setting a boundary, saying "no more" to my own business (which, at the time, was the only path I felt drawn to), and risking the disappointment of other people (which, at the time, was my greatest and most paralyzing fear), the same belief expressed itself as a firm resolve in my mind to continue paying rent on my office space simply because I had signed a lease, and that was that. An agreement was an agreement, with no room for discussion. I was a person who kept my word. But living by those old rules under the new circumstance of starting a business from scratch in a new industry translated to prioritizing my landlords' needs over my own, which I did for an entire year. I dutifully and silently wrote each check and made sure it arrived before the first of every month. For an entire year.
I was silently proving to myself my own worth as a "responsible" person (daughter, girl), but in fact I was not honoring myself or my fledgling business fully.
It took me all those months to finally realize it. In the meantime, I learned and practiced other valuable skills - like making up a new offering each month, playing and experimenting without needing to be perfect, and learning to teach from a place of total peace. My default pattern gave me the gift of valuable practice in honing my craft, and discovering more of what I have to offer.
And now I realize that I do not need those particular four walls in order to be who I am or share what I have to give. In fact, I'm excited about the possibilities of teaching in retreat settings and other community spaces.
I'm writing this as I am going through one of those very courageous times - a time when I am sometimes confused, sometimes at peace, sometimes wanting to jump out of my skin, and sometimes wanting to just walk away from it all. And by being in it, staying with it more deeply than perhaps ever before in my life, I see that I never learned how to take things apart. I learned a lot and focused a lot of my attention on how to build things. How to start things. How to keep them going consistently and steadily.
But I never saw a graceful possibility for finishing things. It was always with regret or disappointment or reluctance that I saw the adults in my life let go, move on, or stop doing things. In my mind, I made it mean that these things - letting go, moving on, or stopping - were bad, or at least to be avoided at all costs.
What I'm choosing to teach myself through this experience is that loss doesn't have to be tragic. Loss can be embraced and walked through with the same energy of acceptance and welcoming as that with which we greet our gains. I'm asking and living the question, "What would it be like to walk through loss with the same welcoming smile, to approach it with the same intention of gaining familiarity, to extend it the hospitality we offer so willingly to what we consider the "good" things?" And by "good", I usually mean the things I wanted or believed were supposed to happen, of course.
I am walking through that loss right now, opening up space and freeing myself to serve and share more. But I notice that the opening only happens by being willing to learn. In other words, to do that whole "celebrate your failures", "be prepared to be surprised", "be curious about everything", improvisation thing. And you thought I had already learned this stuff so it should be easy now? Ha! My rational mind would like to avoid discomfort just as much as it always has. Parts of my brain will always be wired to avoid the unknown. The difference now is that I have a deeper awareness to guide me toward those things I once avoided, in spite of what my mind has to say. And I recognize the tiny moments where I get to practice letting go, taking things apart, moving on. I embrace them as gifts to get better at the things I never knew how to do before, and to grow into more of the person I can become.
These videos capture snapshots of the journey I took during the physical part of the process. I could think of these as the final gestures in a year of events I could not have planned, predicted, or even known to ask for. I simply held a vision of what my inner life would feel like, and practiced emptying space in my mind to allow that life to enter, moment by moment.
Or I could think of these as the first tiny expressions of a whole new way of relating to my stuff - the furniture, the obligations, the way my business needs to operate. After a year of practice, I am developing a whole new way of using my precious attention.
And so what once seemed unimaginable, or impossibly hard, I finally completed last week. I did the thing I thought I could not do.
And now I am resting. I am allowing myself to just sit with myself. To remember to breathe for myself and be thankful for every single sweet drink of fresh air I inhale.
Part 1 was shot just after the furniture consignment center came to pick up my piano, desk, credenza, chairs, and file cabinets - the pieces I once picked out by hand and then dreaded having to figure out how to move.
Part 2 was shot after clearing out my two-drawer lateral file cabinet, filled with all the pieces of paper I created during the five and half years of my school. After more than a year of not looking at these, it was amazing (and shocking) to see how much mental energy went into my planning and controlling and accounting for every single detail of every concert my students presented. What looked like a "tightly run ship" or "extremely organized" or "perfection" on the outside, I now recognize as the anatomy of a burnout for me.
Part 3 shows my progress of sorting things into "piles" on the end of day 1:
Part 4 was shot on the morning of day 2:
Part 5 shows the final empty space I left behind:
And finally, a shot of the pile I brought into my home...and am tackling a little bit each day:
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I don't know about you, but I'm finding that I'm easily hooked by the idea that I need expert advice in order to do something "right", and that I need a formula to follow in order to be successful.
With all of my inner work over the past year and a half, you'd think I'd be over it. You'd think I'd have found Nirvana, bliss, equanimity, access to Buddha nature.
Yeah, I thought so too.
What I'm really finding is that life keeps challenging me to keep a sense of humor as I learn to trust myself. I veer off the path (or am I merely on a twisty part of it?) and find myself enrolled in another program, following dutifully along like the great student I've always been. But then I look at the pile of assignments I've given myself, and I wonder, "What test am I studying for? Whose grade am I trying to earn here?"
Lately, life has been challenging me to keep stepping back into observer mode, as I charge forward with every opportunity life serves me. I step into my own power, and then my mind leads me back into the weeds, as if to test my own abilities and force me to validate what I say that I believe in.
It's all part of building confidence, becoming clear, and feeling real in this new incarnation I've been given.
That's what I tell myself as I sort through what feels like confusion.
Today I read a Self-Care card that said, "Peace" on one side, and "Embrace your confusion" on the other. I smiled, because it seemed perfect for me on this day to read that message.
I am confused. There, I said it. And I haven't been able to admit that to myself for awhile. I can tell I'm confused because I'm looking outside myself for answers. I'm asking other people for their advice, opinions, inputs, and when I hear the answers I don't know what to do. I don't know what I want to do.
Correction: I do know what I want to do, but I have not freed myself to just do that one thing in front of me right now - the very thing I know will take me one step closer to where I want to go. I am caught in a feeling of needing to do Something Else, or More, than what I'm doing right in this moment.
Breathing, hiking in nature, and reading the affirmation, "My full attention is always enough" have helped. But my "full" attention is too often spread diffusely across a list of Something Else or More to do, rather than just this one task in front of me right now. I know I need to say to myself, "Never mind whether or not it will sell, never mind if it's "too late" to start marketing it, never mind if I don't know what to call it yet."
"Just do the one thing in front of me right now."
Using that mantra, I finished a whole blog post from beginning to end in less than one hour. Including finding a photo, uploading a related video, and composing all the written words.
How did I do it? I didn't worry about anything else that I could be, or should be, doing. I just wrote the damn blog post. I didn't worry about whether it would fit, who would like it or even read it, or more importantly, who would get pissed off about my being totally honest. I didn't worry about the Rules that say what you should write about, and whether keywords would match search engine optimization for my site.
I just wrote from my heart about what I'm experiencing right now in my life. Not what I think I "should" be experiencing, not trying to be a "role model" for anything, not putting pressure on myself to be "put together" and perfect. But being all of me, who right now is a little confused, a little challenged, a little faced with conflicting messages, a full schedule, a juggling act of balancing personal, professional, and just plain fun in my life.
That's what life is for me right now. And if I'm really calling myself a life coach, it's only fair for me to talk about what's really happening in my life. Right now.