One way to define love is "sustained, compassionate attention". These words came from John Muir Laws, a naturalist, educator, and artist who inspires stewardship of the land by sharing his practice of nature sketching. When I read these words, I began to see the importance of my own art practice in developing sustained, compassionate attention for myself.Read More
In the weeks since returning from Boulder, I've been spending more time with the idea of the Unique Self teaching of Marc Gafni and the Center for Integral Wisdom. For me it was deeply integrating to hear a story that finally enabled me to bring together both the parts of me I had discovered and cultivated during the last five years - namely, wordless presence, connection with the Oneness, and recognition of egoless identity - and the parts of myself I had "divorced" from - namely, the rules of classical training, the linear reductionist thinking of mechanical science, and the ignoring of subjective experience.
How refreshing to hear someone say, "You can't meditate your ego away. You can't meditate your story away." This was part of my experience as a meditation practitioner! I wanted to put certain chapters in the past, as "the way I used to be", believing that in order to become who I knew myself to be - both creative and spiritual - I needed to forget who I once was. No matter how many relationships I walked away from, no matter how many new practices I adopted, no matter how many new communities I joined, I could not completely ignore my prior experience and stories, and the curiosity I felt about bringing my new learning back to my old communities. I could not pretend they were not in me. Oh, I tried. But I never felt complete in my expression, or full in my generosity of sharing. It was as if there were problems I knew existed, in distant parts of the world, that I was deliberately ignoring for the sake of elevating myself beyond them, transcending them by trying not to pay attention to them anymore. I kept my eyes forward, visioning my ideal life over and over again. And still I felt there was a connection I was not making.
The image of my Unique Self "plugging in" to the infinite mesh of the One via a radically unique shape - not just a generic plug into a generic outlet, but a unique contour fitting in like a puzzle piece perfectly matching in every subtle turn of form - is supporting me to integrate all of my stories, all of my prior and current experiences, and to show up as me. I am now opening my vision to include all the parts of me I would rather hide and avoid, the parts I would rather not have you see, AND embracing my brilliance and light and infinite creativity at a level previously unrecognized....not as opposing sides of a coin, but as different and equally essential points on the same sphere of my wholeness.
So what makes YOU unique? What are the points that constitute the unique shape of your piece of the mighty jigsaw puzzle of all that is?
The invitation of our times is to hold this paradox: what you think you are is not who you really are, and exactly who you are is all you need to be.
When you show up as all of exactly who you are, you heal, transform, and create a world in the way that only you can.
The stories from the E-Squared Book Club are just too good not to share!
We discussed the results from Experiments 1 and 2 this week, and when we met at Quarry Park by the labyrinth, we did Experiment 3 together.
And can I just say "WHOA!".
Since I have the unique position of being with both in-person and phone groups, I just have to share what's happening with everyone.
Miracles BIG and small
One of the common observations from Experiment 1 was that our expectations were high. We each began to notice "small" miracles in our lives immediately after setting the intention. Examples (you be the judge of how "small" these seem):
- getting the bills paid with ease
- thinking of a movie and then having your husband call to say you're going to see that movie
- having your 4-year-old walk into your bedroom while you're sleeping, kiss you on the hand and say, "I love you mommy" before crawling into bed with you
- seeing a dolphin doing backstroke
- receiving an offer for a free piano
- being in a restaurant, having one of your kids meltdown, and looking over to see a grandmother at the next table, who lovingly sends you a verbal blessing.
Two different Book Clubbers described having thoughts that maybe what they were noticing during the experiment "wasn't big enough". Tammy described repeatedly asking for "something big", all the while receiving many small blessings and gifts during the 48 hours. During the final hour of the experiment, her "big" message came in the form of a scary near-miss incident while in the car. Her husband turned on to a one-way street headed in the wrong direction, with a car following behind him. They faced four lanes of oncoming traffic, and every single car stopped without a single collision.
Miracle? YES! Big? YES!
Tammy's takeaway: she's perfectly happy with the small gifts, thank you very much.
Experiment #2 seemed to get all of the Book Clubbers a little bit stuck on what color cars to start counting. Some described "sunset beige" as a color they couldn't picture. Others wondered whether it was OK to choose a different color than suggested in the book.
My read on this is - just choose something specific that is unusual for you and start looking for it. Decide you are going to start counting. Then let go.
I forgot about the fact that I was running Experiment #2 until my boyfriend casually mentioned that he had received an offer for a free piano. We were on a bike ride along the ocean. I gasped when he said this and said, "Hey! Are you doing the energy experiments? Cuz that's a blessing if I've ever heard one! That counts! You have to tell me things, because they're EVIDENCE!"
As soon as I said that, I turned the corner onto Kelly Avenue and began seeing beige-colored cars. Fourteen of them by the time I got to the end of the block. I stopped counting when I reached 35 beige-colored cars a couple of hours later that day. I was convinced.
My orange butterfly story showed me again about letting go of attachment and what it feels like for me to be plugged in to the FP.
The day of the experiment, I was a bit stressed. Driving through marathon traffic to get to the finish line, where I would be performing music at the after party. Runners were exhausted, volunteers were working to protect the race course, and I was driving a big ol' SUV full of equipment I needed to set up. It was like being in a video game.
By the time we started to play, my emotions were fried. But at one point in the performance, I remember getting to the point of truly having fun, letting go, and what I like to call "being inside the music". I was free. My eyes were completely closed, and I was facing a window. When I opened my eyes for a moment, I saw one orange butterfly, directly in the center of the window.
That was it. Message received. Hello FP!
(If you haven't read the book, "FP" is what Pam Grout, the author, uses to refer to the Field of Infinite Potential.)
On the phone, Danielle had an "aha" moment about finding the balance point between conscious awareness of an intention and letting go of attachment to outcomes. I think we are all learning about what this balance feels like energetically as we do these experiments. This is for you, Danielle:
Dancing Magic Wands
We ended our meeting at Quarry Park with Experiment #3. I brought two coat hangers and two drinking straws and we went at it.
I learned that the "handle" on the magic wands needs to be free of any kinks. My hangers were a little stubborn at first, but with some fiddling we got them to work really well.
Tammy was the magic wand queen. If you met her you would immediately feel her radiance. And when she stood in the sun for the second part of the experiment, focusing her mind on her love for October sunshine and circles of women, those wands went "Boing!" and flung so far outward I couldn't believe it. Magical!
When I held the wands while doing the first part of the experiment (imagining a vivid and unpleasant memory from my past), I felt my body crumple and almost lost my balance as my weight shifted backward. The wands started bouncing inward.
When Shirley held the wands and did the same exercise, the wands crossed. Talk about dramatic energy movement! We received such a gift with this demonstration that I'm planning to repeat it at the next meeting for anyone who missed it!
What I love about these experiments is that there is no "right" or "wrong" result. It's all information. We are learning so much from each other, and I want to have a place for us to share this with anyone who wants to be involved.
So if you've been wanting to join the club but can't make it to our meetings (see the schedule here), please read the book anyway, and post your results in the comments! We want to hear your miracles, your blessings, your experimental findings as you explore the magic in your life with the eye of a scientific experiment.
Until next week...
- The E-Squared Book Club
P.S. Read about Week 1 here.
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.
"tiny but frightening requests, conceived out of nowhere but in this place beginning to lead everywhere. Requests to stop what you are doing right now, and to stop what you are becoming 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.
Come, take a drink with me. Be free.
Photo credits: University campus by Jules Silver, Butterfly by Harald Hoyer, both used under a Creative Commons license
Special thanks to my fellow life coach Amy Williams for sharing this with me. A very cool TEDx talk by a surgeon combining his passions for music and the brain: