Listen to my podcast on Self-Confidence with Sheena Yap Chan

Sheena Yap Chan is creating a valuable resource for women everywhere, with her podcast The Tao of Self-Confidence.She recently interviewed me, and I hadn't thought about the topic of confidence for quite some time. It had never occurred to me that I lacked self-confidence, because I had always been a high achiever. But in the interview, I realize that my source of confidence has shifted from outer accomplishments to an invisible inner source.

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Surrender and Loving It 'Til You Know What It Is

137_3724 I am in a large group of women artists who have driven up to the ridge of a mountain range and then down a very windy road to a secluded artists retreat program in northern California. All I want to do is stare at the dreamy landscape, watching how the golden green hills go back and back and back, disappearing finally into a fog bank which hovers just above the sea in the distance. I want to watch as the wind blows, the fog clears, and the misty outlines of the hilltops begin to glisten in the midday sunlight. I want to sit and sketch it, and fill in the colors I am seeing, and try to capture the dreaminess, the haziness of it all, the lack of precise outlines which gives it that quality of mystery that makes me want to keep staring.

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But we have a schedule. There are ranchers and herders moving us along in this schedule, ensuring that we are on time. I help myself to a large lunch - two servings each of lentil soup and kale salad with some fruit on the side. My idea of a perfect meal. But my stomach feels slightly full after all that, and I am ready to rest and digest.

Having forgotten the schedule momentarily, I’m jarred when it is announced that we now need to move into another room for a “movement activity”.

I take my time walking there, hoping those extra few seconds will give my digestive system time to bring the food down a little more.

By the time I join, the circle has been formed and all the women are bouncing lightly on their bare or socked feet. This being one of only 14% of artist residency programs in the country who have a fully spring loaded dance floor, shoes are not allowed.

Ann Swanberg is the leader. I had experienced her work once before in a large church, where she presented her improvisational approach to life in a humorous show. We kept bouncing - this was Ann’s method for keeping us out of our thinking minds and in some other realm governed by the moving, breathing body - and we did a whole host of games designed to get us to drop our personalities by acting silly and free.

What I noticed is that my recent experiences with becoming present were done in the stillness and silent meditative movement of the Breema Center. Somehow in that setting, where I was truly not a personality and there was absolutely no imperative to show up as entertaining in any way, I could feel my own bodily presence. In this setting where everyone was asked to do something silly, there was slight pressure to be “silly enough”. As if stillness would not have been accepted there. But I don’t know because I just flowed with the energy of the room.

One of the more silent and inward-turning exercises of the day did capture my attention. She called it “The Infinity Box” or “Loving It ‘Til You Know What It Is”. The instructions went something like this: Reaching into an imaginary box from which anything is possible, allowing the “Body First” to lead the improvisation, follow the shape your hands spontaneously take as you reach in. As they emerge from the imaginary box, just be with them. Don’t change them or manipulate them into what you think they might be. Just breathe with the shape, feel it.

"Love it ’til you know what it is."

It was fascinating to watch the different shapes my hands took on when I allowed them to. Fingers apart and curved, palms facing up. Fingers together, joined at the thumbs and index fingers. Palms cupped, joined together, facing up. And then waiting. Breathing. Feeling. An answer or image always emerged. But sometimes I had to stay with it longer than expected. The final one I ran out of time on. So I sketched it, and it is permanently imprinted in my bodily memory. I am still wondering what it is.

It reminded me of painting. How the creative practice for me is staying with something long enough to find out what it is. Not to give up. Not to decide in advance that something’s “never going to work”. So often when I have mustered the courage or audacity or love to stay with it, to keep going, to keep loving it, something else so beautiful and magical emerges right on top of it all.

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Chris Zydel sent out her newsletter yesterday too, and I happened to read all the way to the bottom. The article was about "Surrender". How surrender is not giving up or weakness or defeat. But rather a form of full presence. That in order to fully participate, there is surrender involved. As I write this, it occurs to me that the four “No…” principles from Breema touch on what kinds of surrender are involved - No Judgment, No Force, No Extra, No Hurry No Pause. Well that’s a lot to give up in order to get to presence! How often are we drowning in judgment, doing more than is needed, rushing around, or not acting because we feel stuck in hesitation.

Surrender is the sweetness of letting life lead. Of loving whatever life gives you until you know what it is. I am attempting to apply it to my body, my relationships, my work decisions, all of which I apply a certain amount of control, changing, and fixing to. I don’t really know the state of full surrender into acceptance. I am pointing towards it sometimes, but I haven’t sunk to the depths of that pool to say, “Huh. So this is it. I’d like to know how this feels. Really.”

Here’s what Chris had to say about surrender:

When a sunflower turns its face to follow the sun, that is surrender. When a seed planted in a rich soil breaks free of its encasement and pushes its way up to the light of day, that is surrender. When a wild mustang gallops wildly and joyfully across a meadow, that is surrender. When a baby tries to grasp a beam of light, laughing delightedly, that is surrender. When you look at a sunset and feel the peace of simply breathing in and out, that is surrender. When you enjoy a delicious meal, letting the flavors tickle your tongue, that is surrender. When you feel drowsy and begin to fall asleep, that is surrender.

In all these experiences you, or the horse or the sunflower are completely giving into what's right there in front of you. You are simply being in the present moment with what you feel drawn to do.

So in other words, surrender is something that happens daily, hourly, minute by minute in our lives. It's so very common and down-to-earth. It's in the most intimate fabric of our existence. And includes everything from the mundane to the ecstatic.

And tomorrow, with the start of the final Energy Gardeners' Club of the year, I am ready to apply the principle of Surrender. Making things happen is not about controlling in order to get what you want. Making is allowing.

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E-Squared Book Club: Week 5

This week we discussed Experiments #6 (The Superhero Principle) and #7 (The Jenny Craig Principle). Both principles relate to the ability of our thoughts to impact physical matter in the material world. First we discussed the results of the seed experiment. As you may recall, Tammy gifted us with sunflower seeds from her studio garden, along with a little bag of soil. It was such a beautiful gift! I went home and planted my seeds that night.

As I tossed them into the soil playfully, I said, "Isn't it AMAZING that this one row of seeds is already growing faster than the other row?? I'm AMAZED!". At that point, of course, they were "just" dry seeds going into soil, sitting on my kitchen table. Nothing had happened yet. Except my thought and feeling of ALREADY being amazed at their growth.

Two days later, I was truly amazed to see sprouts beginning to show. I literally thought nothing about these seeds other than the feeling of amazement that they were already growing faster.

Nov 3 seeds

I added a few drops of water to the carton every couple of days, and regardless of what I saw with my eyes, I commented, "Isn't it AMAZING that this row of seeds is growing so much faster than the other row! I am AMAZED!". I didn't say, "I can't believe it!", or "I can't explain it!". I just held the amazement.

Nov 5 seeds Nov 6 seeds Nov 7 seeds

 

And they continue to grow and amaze me, every single day!

A couple of notes on this experiment for me: I have absolutely NO expectation about me and growing things. I'm not exactly a "green thumb" and haven't had a major draw to grow plants before. I think because of this, I was able to be truly open and playful. I had nothing to prove and everything would be a surprise for me coming from these seeds.

Tammy planted her seeds one day after mine and they had not sprouted at the time of our meeting yesterday. She had placed them with loving care in a special spot at her studio, and every day as she watered them, she waved her hand over them to transmit loving and encouraging energy to the seeds. She talked to them, using the energy of her words to support their growth.

Why were our results different?

We talked about the difference in energy between "wanting" something to happen and "believing" it is already happening. When you send an energy of "want", the result remains in the future. You receive what you asked for, which is continuous wanting. When you believe that something IS, and carry that energy regardless of the "results" you can see with your eyes right now, you support the essence of life that wants to thrive, grow, and come into being.

We demonstrated this with the Push Together-Pull Apart experiment, which I learned from my life coaching mentor, Martha Beck. It goes like this (and is discussed in Martha's latest book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World):

1. Have a partner stand with their arms bent, hands in front of their body, with palms facing in (as if they are about to clap).

2. Tell them not to let you push their hands together, as you press on the tops of their hands as hard as you can. Fill your thoughts with effort, pushing, and domination as you do this.

3. Now, do the same thing, except this time hold in your mind thoughts of joy and love, or a time in your life when you felt utterly at peace. Don't think about the other person, just hold these thoughts and allow them to spread throughout your entire being. Now just put your palms on the backs of your partner's hands and move your own hands together.

Shirley and I play with the energy of struggle versus oneness.

Experiment #7 was about our food being the carrier of our thoughts' energy into our bodies. Since I don't own a scale, I did this experiment by measuring how I feel in my body when I take the time to taste my food completely. If I'm talking while I eat, this is more difficult to practice. This is when I often lose track of what I'm feeling, and just keep putting food in my mouth until the plate is clean.

For those of you who would like to lose a few pounds, I'm curious what your results are after trying Pam's advice. Notice any negative thoughts you have toward your own body. Let them go and replace them with thoughts that praise your body for the way it already is. Take a moment to bring your thoughts into a state of peace, love, and joy, before you eat your food. And see what happens!

At Quarry Park, the sun continued to shine on us, and it was an unseasonably warm day.

We are open to possibilities!

Shirley in the sun Tammy open arms

Later in the afternoon, we all attended a monthly gathering of Art and Inspiration hosted by Amy Sullivan. Tammy painted a "butterfly brain" image inspired by the E-Squared Book Club.

Tammy painting

Shirley made a collage of cats and flowers and castles and circles.

Shirley collage

And I played with my new acrylic gel mediums. FUN! Art and Inspiration paintingI drew the "Joy" card from the Soul Coaching deck. Its message was to remember that my soul's purpose is simple - to experience joy. And to share this and its healing qualities with the world.

It has been my joy to create this book club and to experience the discoveries together in a circle.

Next week, we discuss the last two chapters, Experiments #8 and #9. In our final week, we will design our own experiments for the holiday season and end of year.

To listen to a brief (17-minute) recording from the phone meeting, click here.

As always, please feel free to share your stories in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

E-Squared Book Club: Week 4

Shirley plays with magic wands as Tammy witnesses. 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:

  • identifying problems
  • formulating goals
  • making judgments
  • 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! :)

Tammy presents

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!

E-Squared Book Club: Week 2

Richard Bach quote 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:

Open and Let Go 10.17.13

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.

Shirley, bathed in light at Quarry Park

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.

You are not alone...the power of women gathering at TEDxSandHillRdWomen

Last Saturday I attended a program called TEDxSandHillRdWomen in Menlo Park, California. You may already be familiar with the TED talks series. This was one of 130 events of its kind around the world on the same day, gathering women together to hear "ideas worth sharing." I had an intuition about attending, and synchronicity brought me the opportunity to take the place of a friend's friend who could not attend at the last minute. All kinds of insecurities ran through my mind in the hours and days approaching the event. I was not a speaker, "only" an attendee. Yet all of the connotations in my mind about "Sand Hill Road" - the home of venture capitalists and attorneys for all of Silicon Valley, the allure of which had once drawn me into the role of venture capitalist, and eventually drew me to live in this zip code when I first chose to move to California - now haunted me. I wondered what I would wear. I no longer even own any high heeled shoes or suits, and I didn't feel like dressing up to "be like" what my mind believed a "Sand Hill Rd woman" should look like. I watched my mind mull over this question, knowing from my higher awareness that it didn't matter at all what I wore, but also curiously observing as my thoughts popped up anyway.

A few days before, a friend heard me describe this and said, "The question you should be asking is, what do YOU want out of this?"

I immediately replied, "I want to be comfortable as myself. I want to show up as myself."

She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she nodded. "And I'm looking at you right now. I see you, right in front of me now. Are you comfortable?"

We were sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor of my home, getting ready to sing and make music together. I had met with this woman every two weeks for the last two years. I was totally comfortable.

And now, nearly a week after attending the amazing TEDx event, I can say that I felt totally comfortable there as well. I was surprised in the most delightful of ways at everything - the diversity of women there, the inspiring speakers offering so many different perspectives, the serendipitous interactions I experienced throughout every moment of the day - and most of all, I was delighted to experience myself as me, fully inhabiting my body and my mind and my spirit exactly where I am today.

I felt the sense of "home" that one feels when we are surrounded by people who make us feel that we are not alone, that we are seen and accepted for exactly who we are, that we share more in common - our fears, our grief, our insecurities, our hopes, our ambitions, our courage - than we are different or separate from one another.

I felt this in every cell of my body. And I wore no makeup. I wore comfortable shoes. I wore jeans. I wore beautiful colors and fabrics in which I physically felt at ease. I was confident in a way that is different from the ways I have "dressed up" to "perform" for others in the past. And I was seen by so many women for who I am. I was able to see into the hearts and the lives of these women and feel the confidence that I am absolutely not alone in my human journey, in my deep desire to speak about the values I hold in my heart, the issues in this world that I know are important, and how we must all transform - no matter where we are today - in order to sustain and support life on this earth.

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From the women onstage I learned that I am not alone in my challenges, my thinking, or my passion to make a difference based on what I have experienced in my life. I also learned that as women, we have a tendency to criticize each other when we see another women step up into her own power. That we as women also tend to shut down and hide when we feel there is the slightest possibility of dissent or resistance (or even silence) in response to our ideas. That we as women must learn how to support one another as we each take the risk of bringing our ideas into the world.

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It is no longer a question of building résumés, or putting women into positions of leadership and decision-making where men currently dominate, or getting equal access. It is a question of supporting life itself on this planet. This is vital not only to women, but to everyone who inhabits the earth. It is a question of bringing the truth in women's hearts - what we know so deeply to be true - into our way of life, creating communities that are based on our real values. Not the ones we have imitated in order to be accepted. Not the ones we have gradually adopted in order to fit in. Not the ones we have been trained by advertising and media to believe. Not the ones we have reluctantly accepted as “just the way it is”. [singlepic id=493 w=320 h=240 float=center] In summary, I heard the voices of extraordinary women - a serial entrepreneur who has built billion-dollar businesses, a venture capitalist, a founder of an environmental alliance, a global fundraiser/author/activist, a redheaded Chinese-speaking songwriting banjo player....the list goes on, and these titles do little to describe the power of the heart and mind that each of them conveyed in their own totally unique way. How they have each followed their own path and have taken action on their intuition's whispers in service of a more heartfelt world, a greater depth of connection, with life.

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My point in all of this is to share my passion that the future of our earth depends on women and girls adding our voices to the conversation of life. We women are in a position to bring balance to the conversation, to influence everyone - men and women - in our families, communities, and workplaces, by expressing ourselves more authentically, more truthfully, by honoring who we truly are, in every moment.

What that means - to be "authentic" and to be "truthful" - is the heart of each woman's own journey. To discover this by way of living. To ask. To know that she is not alone.