Thursday, July 09, 2015

Busting The Independence Myth

I was thinking about independence this morning, and reflecting on how hard it is for some of us to ask for, let alone accept it. I know I’m guilty of that myself, and while on one hand, I thoroughly enjoy the activity of figuring things out on my own, I sometimes let myself struggle too long and end up giving up, instead of asking for or accepting the specific help I need. I like the feeling of being independent, of doing it on my own, and as I was thinking about this with my morning coffee, I remembered the fallacy of that feeling.

The idea of independence is somewhat of a myth. NOTHING happens without the contribution of someone or something, other than, and outside from ourselves. We are rarely as self-sufficient as we think we are.

Let’s use the everyday bodily function of going to the washroom as an example. One of the first things we are proud of accomplishing all on our own as infants, we don’t actually do on our own. For starters, think of the number of people and systems that contributed to the manufacturing of the toilet and toilet paper you are using every time you go. And the reason you need to go in the first place, is due to the food and beverages you've consumed which also involved the efforts of various people and systems to make available. Even if you just drank tap water, there are a number of systems that have been put in place that make that possible. And don't forget all that was involved in building the room or structure that is providing you with the privacy to even attempt such monumental feat. An accomplishment – yes, all on your own… not by a long shot! I realize this is a pretty simple example, and I challenge you to review anything you think you’ve done on your own today or anytime in your life, and see if it’s absolutely true. Even breathing outdoors is possible only due to nature’s system of photosynthesis.

Why am I busting your bubble by writing this and sharing it with you?  (BTW – I’m busting my own bubble at the same time… see you’re not alone J ) When we get attached to the idea that we need to do it all on our own, we risk losing sight of all that supports our ability to do anything at all. And in loosing sight of that, we may forget to be grateful for and express appreciation to, all that does contribute to any of our successes – from the minutest of tying our shoes and learning how to ride a bike, to the bigger accomplishment of earning a degree, having a baby or building a business. We truly do not, nor can we, accomplish anything on our own. It saddens me to witness someone struggling to ask for help (frustrating when it’s me) because they think they need to do it on their own. It infuriates me when a loved one won’t reach out because they think they are the only one who can do it (embarrassing when that’s me), and it breaks my heart when someone can’t see that they're not all alone in this world. I've been of these, and will like be again; this is a reminder for me that I’m sharing in case it can be one for you too.  

Along with acknowledging all that contributes to anything we do, is the reality that we too, contribute to the success and empowerment of others. Most of the time, we are not even aware that we are doing so.

Independence is a myth – interdependent is what we naturally are. 

Next time you’re resistant to ask for help, digging in your heels and feeling like you need to do it all on your own, remember the fallacy in that idea… you can’t, it’s not possible, so let go of trying! Paying it forward is a natural part of our system - as humans and as a part of nature. And if it is a matter of wanting to control… great, then be IN control, by asking for the help you want, as you need it, allow it to come and be over the top grateful, that you got to choose, witness, acknowledge and give appreciation to, the source of at least ‘some’, of ALL (much of which you many never know) that contributed to your success… or failure. Did I just pop another myth bubble? Yes, we naturally contribute to each other’s failures too; we are not solely responsible for those either J.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Does One Grow Thicker Skin?

How do you grow thicker skin? As an emotionally sensitive person, I’m often told to grow thicker skin. Which confuses me because my doctor has never once suggested my skin is too thin. Yet non medical people keep judging my skin as too thin… is there a supplement I can take for that? An herbal remedy perhaps?  How does one go about growing thicker skin? And what makes people think I need to in the first place?

It’s because I’m highly empathic and emotionally sensitive. To the people who think I need ‘thicker skin’, it means I tend to over react to things that bother me. It means I cry too easily and take things too personally.

For the highly empathic person (aka empath), it means that we regularly experience emotional shifts as a result of external influences, at an amplified level. Contrary to popular belief, these emotional reactions have little to do with how we are ‘thinking’ in the moment, and everything to do with how we experience whatever has just shifted outside of us. That external influence might be someone or something that has just entered our immediate environment, it might be the weather or something someone has said to us. When people speak to us, it isn't just the words we hear; we also feel their tone and the emotion of the person speaking,  as well as the emotion of anything they are not saying.
When someone speaks to me as they are feeling joy, peace, calmness or excitement, that can be as contagious as a yawn for me. I’ll immediately feel that energy inside me so intensely that if I’m not already in a similar state myself, I immediately experience a shift in my mood that matches their energy, which I usually welcome and allow.

When someone speaks to me as they are feeling angry, frustrated, enraged or disappointed, while I hear their words, inside I experience the energy force of the emotion that person is exuding as they speak. As I experience this sensation inside me, it can feel intense or overwhelming. Since the feeling is usually uncomfortable, it isn’t welcomed and my response to it may be resistance, to move away, or to react verbally depending on the situation. It has an automatic effect on my own inner state, and requires a very conscious effort to combat.  

I often hear other coaches and self help experts argue that; “it’s not what they say that you are reacting to, but what you are ‘thinking’ about what they say”. 

While I fully agree that our thoughts effect our emotions, in respect to the experience I am describing, that is not what is going on. I’ve been self reflecting on how I experience my emotional nature for over 40 years, and I can say with certainty, that in many cases, my reaction is not connected to anything I am thinking at the time. It is linked to how I experience the impact of the outside energy, as it connects to, and enters me. I feel it internally, and once inside, the sensation is usually so strong that it causes an in-kind reaction - often tears. 

Here are a few personal examples that have helped me to better understand my own emotional nature, that really nailed it for me:  

A few years ago there was a fellow who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, Paul Potts. A video of him singing a song in another language, that I do not understand (may have been Italian), was circulating the web. Curious, I clicked on the link to watch and listened to it.  About half way through I feel this energy stir inside me and I start crying. I felt so moved, literally inside, that the tears just flowed. I couldn’t have been affected by the words, because I had no idea what was being said. I was affected by the emotion coming through his voice, as I saw many people in the audience were. The only thought I had before the tears was “wow”, which as I write, is not evoking any tears. Then I was pretty much thoughtless until the end when again all I could think was, “wow, that was beautiful!”

Second example is when my Honey and I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time. As we approached the lookout, I was glancing around. As we arrived at the point, I looked out and suddenly felt this wave of emotion inside me, and I started to weep. In that moment I was thoughtless and speechless; I was in awe. I can’t even say what I was in awe of, I mean the Grand Canyon is  beautiful and phenomenal but I can’t in all honesty say for sure what hit me. However, something did, and if I can’t identify what it is, then I really couldn’t have been thinking much to be causing such tears.

My next example is similar to the Grand Canyon. This time we are approaching Stonehenge in England. It’s raining and I'm wearing a hooded rain coat. I’m walking toward the magnificent stones and it starts… this wave like sensation inside, that seems to get ignited in my upper solar plexus, moves up through my heart area and that is when the tears start streaming. Again… no words, no thoughts, just awe.
A more general example is the numerous times with clients, and it can happen whether we are in person or while coaching over the phone,  I will suddenly experience a wave like sensation inside and tears swell up in my eyes. This usually happens in response to an emotion that has been building up, but not yet released, in them.

These are some of the more welcoming experiences that come with being empathically sensitive; however there are lots of not so welcomed ones too. When someone is angry with me, the same thing will happen; I get hit with the energy of the anger coming through them, not so much the words, and all thinking stops. Growing up, all my dad ever needed to do was say my name in that certain ‘tone’ and the tears would start. As it hits me, I experience an intense sensation inside of me. It’s not so easy to ‘not take other people personally’, when you feel their offending emotion inside your own physical body as if they were your own. If someone is frustrated with me, I feel it deep. Or if someone is just plain frustrated while speaking to me about their day… the only way I can explain it is like this; the energy of their frustration pierces through me and I experience it in a more intense way than other people listening to the same person would. So when I say to them “I get your frustration”, I really do ‘get’ their frustration.

So I do understand the tendency is to suggest I grow thicker skin; somehow the energy is getting through my skin and into by body, in a way that the people suggesting this aren’t experiencing themselves. And while it isn't  my 'thinking' that is causing my emotions in such situations, I need to use my ability to steer my thoughts to manage my reaction to how I experience emotions, my own and especially those of others. The first step was to realize that I wasn't wrong, weak or somehow broken because I cry so easily. It is such a relief to 'get' that, and it took a lot of years for that idea to  really sink in. When you really get that it is just how you personally experience your emotional nature, then you can also know there is something you can do WITH it, so that the effects are... more of what you want and less of what you don't.    

Friday, May 29, 2015

Letting Go

Boobs are sagging
Hair’s turning grey
Getting a new wrinkle every day… and Letting Go

Letting go of being in control, or trying to controlling what everyone thinks of me. In letting go I allow the mystery of the universe back into my life.

Knowing how the laws of the universe work, intellectually and experientially, empowered me to control (or think I was controlling) how others see me, who effects me and how, and better manage what I get in life. It also made me very aware that any stress and all effects of stress are of my own doing… and that I needed to be controlling that too. With knowledge comes power, for better or worse – it really is both a gift and curse.  

However in the years the lead up to this ingrained intellectual awareness, I followed the flow and mystery of life, as it brought me synchronistic opportunities, one after the other. Coincidences that made me pay attention and act. Signs and messages. While in the flow of life, uncertain of exactly how it operates, life graced me with what I desired. Always listening, it inspired my direction and told me what to work for, all the while leaving hints and signs along the way that would enable me to connect the dots and realize how it all worked. Once I figured it out on an intellectual level, then validated by so many other peoples insights and books, I became more acutely aware of my responsibility – of everything! My value for control took over to consciously use what I ‘knew’ to steer my life. That intellectual knowledge brought with it the ability to control my universe… albeit at a price. I somehow lost some of the magic that had come with not fully knowing, while still figuring it out.

Now, I want that magic back – all of it! I RELEASE CONTROL and fully surrender to flow. Listening for signals, feeling the signs and hearing the pull… I let go and flow.

Letting go,
My boobs are sagging
My hair’s turning grey
I see a new wrinkle every other day.
And I smile… fascinated by the change I see along the way.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Illusion of Attraction - Part ONE

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people ask, “Why didn’t it work? I did everything I was suppose to; I made myself think positively, envisioned the outcome I wanted, put it on my vision board, held the right emotions… I did everything the Law of Attraction told me to do. Why didn’t it work?” Next they start trying to figure out what they did wrong. Was it because they said “I need…” instead of “I want…” – yes that must be it!  Really??

 I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Law of Attraction ever since it was popularized by Rhonda Byrne’s movie “The Secret” in 2006.  While many of the ideas shared fit my own of how we can more consciously create our lives, there was always something in how it was being portrayed in the movie that didn’t completely resonate with me.  Recently it hit me, what if the missing puzzle piece is that there isn’t anything actually missing – maybe it’s the idea of the “Law of Attraction” that’s flawed. Yes, our thoughts, feelings and beliefs contribute greatly to our outcomes – but the idea that we are solely responsible for creating our realities is not a Law, but an Illusion!

Perhaps you’ve heard of the master illusionist David Copperfield? His genius is to create illusions, visual manifestations that appear real.  A few years ago I got to attend two of his performances in the same evening. The show includes his famous “Portal Illusion”, which can be viewed online on You Tube, where he appears to teleport himself and a woman from the audience to a beach in Hawaii.  Together they suddenly disappear and within seconds a livestream video shows the two of them suddenly appearing on a beach in Hawaii. To make the illusion more believable, before leaving Ottawa they ‘randomly’ pick a number of audience members to help create a picture to bring with them on their journey. In awe, the audience gasps in unison as the woman who now appears to be on a beach thousands of miles away, pulls the picture out from her pocket. Everyone is amazed and I hear a couple behind me asking each other – “Was that for real?” David leaves the woman on the beach and reappears in the Ottawa audience, just a few seats away from me.

 “The Secret” has served as a catalyst for thousands of people, awakening them from the illusion of being mere victims of their circumstances, to considering the possibility that their thoughts, feelings and beliefs alone, are responsible for creating what happens to them.  They started taking control and as a result became more aware of how their thoughts and feelings were affecting what they are attracting.   David Copperfield can make a car appear out of thin air or vanish before our eyes and reappear on a beach thousands of miles away – or so it seems.  Many of the people whose lives were significantly changed by following the ideas presented in “The Secret” started believing that through the proper use of the Law of Attraction they could create anything they wanted.  All they needed to do is to think the right thoughts and feel the right feelings and ‘poof’ it would appear.  We know that what David Copperfield does in his show is an illusion – not real.  What if the Law of Attraction is like that; sometimes it can appear that only our thoughts and feeling are creating our realities, but in reality there is much more involved! 

Back to David Copperfield’s show - take two.  For the second time I’m witnessing his amazing Portal Illusion, but wait… the woman he’s taking with him is the same woman from the first show, the one he left on the beach in Hawaii. Not only that, somehow the exact same members of the audience are  ‘randomly’ picked to create the picture they bring with them – which was pretty amazing  in itself when you see how these people were chosen!  And the picture ends up looking the same too. Now we’re starting to see some of what goes on behind the scenes contributing to the illusion and it looks like there are a lot of people in on the secret!  

Now, my intention isn’t to ‘out’ David Copperfield. During the show he himself assures us that he isn’t trying to convince us that what he is doing is real; he is creating illusions.  My intention is to invite you to question the probability that any of us could be even remotely capable of creating our reality on our own. David Copperfield, a master illusionist, requires a huge team, very specific conditions and supports to create the magic he presents in each show.  He could never pull off such magic all on his own.  Likewise, none of us are capable of manifesting anything on our own and no one thought or emotion is going to make or break our ability to achieve a goal. There is always so much more going on under the surface and in our environment that is contributing to and influencing the possibility of every success or failure we experience. The idea that we could control every outcome with our thoughts, beliefs and feelings is an illusion – believing that is all it takes would be a delusion.

Think of a goal you recently achieved or a time when something happening that you didn’t want to have happen – like catching a cold. Try to bring into your awareness every contributing factor that lead to that outcome.  Every thought, feeling, belief, choice, action, the people involved and the added influence of their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, choices and actions; items that were used and how they come to exist, the various synchronicities and coincidences and choices people made that contributed to such happenstance; the weather, the elements, cells, bacteria, planetary positioning … just try to acknowledge every single contributing factor and to figure out what exactly lead to the outcome.

Even Jesus acknowledged; “I can of my own self do nothing.” John 5:30

We are not creating our own reality, nor are we merely pawns of some greater force.  We are participants of a co-creative process, on this planet that we are part of, constantly supported and influenced by higher intelligences, each other, the elements, every aspect of nature and celestial influences.  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ending 2012 With Gratitude Ritual

It’s that time again - one year is coming to completion, making way for a new one to begin.  I like to complete each year with a closing ritual that includes taking time to review the past 12 months to remind myself of what I accomplished, what I didn't do or get to, and  go over what I learnt along the way. I invite you to join me in consciously completing and celebrating 2012 with the following exercise.

Get yourself comfortable with some paper, pen, and a yummy beverage, creating an ambient environment. I like lighting a bunch of candles and burning some incense, like frankincense or amber. Start by taking some time to review 2012 – grab your journal, agenda, vision board, list of goals, anything that will remind you of what happened over the past year as well as what you had intended to accomplish.  Then, write down the answer to the follow questions: 

What did I accomplish in 2012?
What did I work hardest at?
Which accomplishment surprised me most – either that I hadn’t planned on accomplishing or that exceeded my expectations?
What were my disappointments?
If the past year was a movie, would it have been an action movie, comedy, satire, drama, thriller, cartoon, musical or documentary? What title would I give it? What role did I play?
What goals or intentions did I set for myself in 2012 did I not complete? What happened?
What were my greatest challenges in 2012?
What is the greatest achievement that I’m most proud of in 2012?
What new learning and insights did 2012 leave me with?
What will I intentionally leave behind in 2012? (limiting beliefs, habits or ways of thinking) 
What will I consciously carry forward into 2013 and continue working towards?
Write a list of at least 50 things/people/events/experiences you are grateful for in 2012.

Once this part is finished – safely burn or shred the paper you wrote one while saying “thank you 2012 for the ride!”

 In completing this exercise ask yourself: Have I appropriately celebrated my accomplishments and wins over the past year? Have I thanked the people who supported me in 2012? If not, what will you do to celebrate and acknowledge all the work you've done, the impact you've made, as well as those who have contributed value to your life over the past year?  

Coaching Tip:  Reframing Failure

Far too often we can be hard on ourselves for not meeting our goals or intentions for the year. If you did not accomplish something on your list, it is only considered to be a failure if it is a goal you still want to achieve, one that is really important for you the keep working at, but you choose to let it go instead. The journey to completing any goal is exactly that - a journey. It is a journey which often includes travelling along winding roads, up hills (usually steep ones!), down hills, along peaks and valleys, through various weather conditions, climates and terrains and in the end, it takes the time it takes. If you didn't complete something on your list in 2012, ask yourself the following questions: 

What was important to me about this goal when I decided to take it on?  
What is most important to me now in relation to this goal?  
What have I learnt so far? What has changed?
If I continue working towards this goal, what will it require of me? Who will I need to be?  
If I decide to let it go now, what impact will that decision have on my life 5 or 10 years from now?
Having answered the above questions, now decide:  Do I want to continue working towards this goal in 2013 or it is it time to let it go?  

While it may be tempting to that ask the last question first, I recommend keeping it to the end. Getting yourself thinking along the lines of values and what is important to you will lead you to make a more congruent decision about how important it is to keep working at it or to let it go. 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Do You See Who I See?

How are you seeing yourself?  As we grow and evolve, we don’t always notice just how much we’ve grown and evolved and who we’ve become.  We’re too close to ourselves to see ourselves as others see us.

I recall one day when I was working at the bank (in my previous life), I was just starting out in my new management role and I noticed one of the tellers looking at me in what felt like a truly respectful way, like he was seeking my approval. I remember how it struck me as very odd that someone could be seeking ‘my’ approval. He was seeing me, very differently than how I was seeing myself in that moment.   

Yesterday I was chatting with friend/colleague, who was sharing her experience of being approached to coach a high level executive within a large corporation. As I heard her go on about feeling like doing so was out of her league, I thought… am I hearing this right? Is she actually doubting her ability to coach someone based on their position and how much they earn?  Sure enough, that was exactly what was going on. What amazed me was that this is the sort of client I thought she was already working with. As a colleague and friend, I would not have even imagined that she was anything less than fully capable and qualified to coach such a person – heck, in my opinion Donald Trump would benefit from working with her!  

Having her share this experience with me reminded me of how normal it can be to not fully acknowledge our own growth and evolution – and it’s not just me.   

If you’re now wondering – “hey, maybe I’m not seeing myself quite as accurately as whom I am”, here is a challenge for you that I often give my clients.  Send an email to 3-5 people asking them to answer the following questions, candidly and honestly:

In your opinion, what are my best qualities?
What do you assume about me that may or may not be true?
If you could change one thing about me, what would it be?

These questions are just suggestions – use them, edit them or come up with your own. The idea is to give yourself the opportunity to see yourself as others see you – you may be surprised by how you’re seen! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Re-Write Your History!

Re-Write Your History and Create the Future You Want!

Have you become a victim to your past? Decided you’re unlovable, unworthy or less than because of the meaning you’ve assigned to the experiences you’ve had?  Life happens, events occur – we see things, exchange words, experience feelings and then we use our interpretation of what we’ve experienced to assign meaning to it all. Have you ever noticed that a number of people can participate in the same event yet each person will have their own unique experience of it?  My honey and I can watch the same movie, seeing the same scenes and hearing the same words yet we don’t always re-act the same to it. He’ll laugh when I cry and usually one of us ends up enjoying the movie more than the other.  

This is exactly what we do in our lives – we assign meaning to the events we experience, based on how we’ve interpreted it at the time. The meaning then becomes our memory of the event, having a natural influence on the flow of our lives. Our past, which remains part of us, continues to influence how we participate in creating our lives moving forward. Every time a memory is triggered in a present moment, the emotional tone (energy) of the meaning we’ve previously assigned to it naturally influences how we are creating in that moment - it becomes part of the mix.

“The only meaning that anything has is the meaning we give it.”  A Course in Miracles

If the meaning you’ve given your past is not supporting you in creating the life you want now – change it! Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not always.  Not when the meaning  we’ve given the story is keeping us safe or powering us up by making us feel important, right or justified. This sort of empowerment is usually gained through a limiting power source – a source that takes from another in a depreciating way.

Power gets its juice from feeding off of another source of energy.  Limiting power like thoughts have a, “I’m better, smarter, more beautiful, more creative, more…. than they are” ring to them, lifting oneself up while putting someone else down. Or like “I’m not as good/smart/pretty/tall/thin/creative… as them”; putting oneself down while inflating another – possible putting them on a pedestal  for the sake of keeping oneself safe (and small).

True or real sourced power feeds off of the never ending abundant supply of potential and possibility that is freely available to all – and harms none! True power thoughts sound like “I can do this”, “I am enough”, “I am learning and growing” or “what is possible now?”  Notice how the focus is on the self – self acknowledging, self accepting and self motivating. When we don’t include the ‘other’ in our own meaning, we neither puff them up nor knock them down, the meaning you give is about YOU. Other people will assign their own meaning to a shared event and it will be about them.  As tempting as it is to take another person’s meaning personally – it serves us to remember that it isn’t.    

If reality is an illusion, what illusion do you want to create as your reality?

We can’t go back and change the ‘facts’ of the past; we need to accept the facts as they are. What we can do is go back and change the meaning or story that we’ve made up about our past. Doing so, changes the impact and influence the past is having on our lives in the present and going forward.

Let’s take the example of being laid off from a job due to restructuring; many of us have had this sort of experience at least once.  The feeling of being laid off doesn’t usually feel great – even when it’s what we’ve secretly (or not so secretly) been wishing for, actually being asked to leave the building or to being escorted off the premises can sting. Far too often after this sort of experience I’ve heard people make up stories like “I wasn’t appreciated, someone was out to get me, I must have something wrong – all these sort of ‘meanings’ can leave one feeling rejected –again, not a pleasant feeling. They can also leave a person feeling disempowered, which is NOT a resourceful state to be in when looking of  new employment or planning your next steps.

What we need to do in such a case is separated the facts from the fiction. This actually happened to me in 2003 – I was laid off from my banking job without cause. And even though I was able to COMPLETELY recognize how I had consciously participated in creating the experience, on the day it un-expectantly happened, it stung! I told myself a whole much of *BS* that I needed to later retract. The FACTS were that I was no longer employed. I had been told I was laid off without cause, meaning  I had not done anything wrong – it served me best to believe that.  It was not where I wanted to stay career wise and I had already been working towards a new career. Those were the facts.  The story that served me without belittling anyone else (or myself) is that I needed to be let go, so that I could focus on the career I really wanted for myself. That if this was happening now, it must be time! One door had closed forcing me to walk through the other door that had already been opened. When I attach that story to the experience of being laid off, it feels empowering and promising – a bit scary for sure, however in an exciting way.

Changing the meaning of a past event may not necessarily erase the one you had previously assigned to it.  When I recall hearing the words and being escorted out of the branch, a slight sting still remains. I now use that feeling as a trigger that reminds me of my power to “choose” the story I remember… guess which one I chose?

We humans do tend to be creatures of habit; choosing a more empowering meaning or reinforcing a new story can take time. Be kind to yourself as you work on retraining your mind to more regularly tap into potential and possibility while harming none, the source of true power, when assigning meaning to life’s events.

Re-write the meaning of your past and become the hero/heroine of your own life’s journey.