29 July, 2010

July: The Lazy River

Like a bright red juicy strawberry, July is dripping with sweetness and a sense of indulgence. With the fruits and vegetables swollen and nearly dropping off the vine by themselves, we kick back and give in to the seductive "don't lift a finger" mentality that is July. It's the siesta of the year, when everyone finds a shady tree to lounge under and contemplate our navels a spell. Making our way through July is like tubing down a river - you don't have much control (there's really no way to steer), you might not have a sense of where you'll come ashore or how you'll get back upriver, so you just rest your head and watch the world float by. Thoughts don't dally long in our heads and worries can't seem to get a foothold in this sweaty and swollen month. As the cicadas and kids call out to us, we lose focus, laugh at our inability to get things done, and eventually throw up our hands and say, "Oh well, it'll get done tomorrow, I guess..." And it does, or not. But July doesn't really care, now does it? Because it's all about those fat juicy moments filled with nothing that fill us up and make us rub our bellies and delight as the sweet juice drips off our chins. What are you going do, eh? Flow baby, flow.

22 July, 2010

Just Like She Said

I thought it was all my imagination – that feeling that we are on a cusp of huge change or are approaching a tipping point as a society. But it seems I’m not alone. At least there are thirteen grandmothers out there that would be nodding their heads in agreement as I write this.

For a while now, I’ve been fascinated by the Mayan prophecy of 2012. I love how it reminds me of the larger cycle of our evolution. It invites me to relinquish control (as if!), let go and have trust and faith in the natural order of things. The whole notion offers me tremendous hope - a far cry from the doom and end-of-the-world feelings that it has generated in others.

For those of you not familiar with it, the Mayan prophecy foretells of the approach of a signification date (Dec 21, 2012) – one that will signify we have completed a full cycle in our evolution and will begin another. In my mind, it offers a larger framework in which to make sense of all the crumbling – literally and figuratively – in the economy, our environment, our health and the organizations and institutions we have come to rely upon and view as indestructible. In the larger cycle of life, this is the death and destruction that makes space for something new to be born. It was this fascination with the Mayan prophecy and an incredible PBS special on the topic, that led me to the grandmothers.

So here’s the deal. In mid-October of 2004, thirteen indigenous grandmothers “from all four directions” of the world gathered in New Mexico to share their visions, prophesies and healing to inspire others to more consciously partake in the unfolding of our world. “So what?” you might think. Well, it’s really the story of how this group of grandmothers found their way into being a council that grabbed me the most. Apparently, this gathering of wise women from all over the world has been a long time in the making.

Here are some excerpts from the book Grandmothers Counsel the World that explain how and why this is all coming about:

• “The council, which had been spoken of in prophecy and seen in visions since time immemorial, finally emerged in the aftermath of 9/11. The Grandmothers’ participation in the council had been foretold to each of them in different ways. When they were very young, a few of the Grandmothers had been told by their Grandmothers that this was their destiny. All of the Grandmothers had been invited long ago, in a time before time as we know it, to meet at the time of the Great Turning to become a force for peace in the world. Prophecy revealed to each on that they must now share even their most secret and sacred ways with the very people who have been their oppressors, as the survival of humanity, if not the entire planet, is at stake.”

• “All of the Grandmothers who accepted said they knew deep within that they were meant to participate, even if at first they might have felt unworthy…they knew they were being called to action.”

• “The Grandmothers first learned that thirteen was the correct number of council members when tears welled up in Yupik Grandmother Rita Pitka Blumenstein’s eyes as she introduced herself on the first day of the gathering. She handed out thirteen stones and thirteen eagle feathers to each of the Grandmothers, a gift she had been holding and waiting to give for a very long time. The thirteen stones and thirteen eagle feathers had been given to Rita when she was nine years old by her great-grandmother, who told her to give them to the women of the Council of Grandmothers when they all finally met, a council Rita would someday be a part of.”

• “The return of the Grandmother has been foretold for hundreds of years. A vision of the Grandmothers Council has been seen by many peoples, indigenous and nonindigenous alike. The Grandmothers are gathering because, according to the prophesies of many religious traditions, the end of the world as we know it is near. The Grandmothers tell us that balance as a way of living is returning, balance in all relations, including with our Mother Earth. A thousand years of peace is being ushered in for those who will make the necessary changes in their hearts.”

The bottom line is this:

• “The Grandmother of all creation, the One who is the maker of life, the One whom we have forgotten, is calling us. She is not angry with us, but She is sad that we have forgotten who She is. She’s is coming back into our consciousness through prophecy and visions. She is bringing a profound nurturing, a depth of compassion, and a kind of love we not longer remember, but which was strong in ancient times. This pure female energy will awaken men as well as women, through a story we will already know in our hearts once we hear it.”

Imagine that!? Happy sigh. I don’t know about you, but it looks like being a Grandmother is totally where it’s at these days. Want to learn more about the specifics of their vision and prophecies? Read the book. Or just watch the world change. Whatever works for you.

14 July, 2010

Ditch the Soggy Bread

I hear it again and again from women I work with… “I make a comment or suggest an idea and nothing happens. Then a man suggests the same idea five minutes later and everyone says, ‘good idea!” We could go down a road of looking how society diminishes or makes invisible women’s voices. But I have a juicier place to look: how YOU are creating that dynamic.

I’d invite you to listen to your own language with a keen ear for the next week. See if you can hear how you publically disqualify your own ideas or thoughts. You might be amazed at how frequently you are your own worst enemy when it comes to taking yourself seriously. And practically speaking, if you don’t…why should we?

I’ve come to appreciate how women – myself included – have been encultured to create kind of a verbal “soggy sandwich”, so that the substance in the middle gets lost or watered down to mush. Here’s how it typically looks: we start a sentence with a disqualifier such as “This might be a crazy idea…” or “You’ll probably think I’m off the wall for suggesting this…” or “I’m sure I’m the only one who feels this way, but…” Then we share our insightful thought or bright idea. Finally, we finish it off with a straggly ending, often tapering it off to the point of just muttering: “…told you it was out there…” or “…but that’s just my two cents…”

The impact of this is that people stop listening before you’ve even began sharing your thoughts. If you think about it, why would they after that stellar beginning, eh? And if you did successfully hook someone with what was undoubtedly a sound idea or valid point, your straggling ending loosens their tenuous hold on it like a slippery noodle. They literally can’t recall what you’ve said amidst all those other soggy words.

Do we do this ALL the time? Not at all. Nor am I suggesting we do. But, I would wage a bet that you do this more often than you realize. Test it out. Enlist the support of a trusted colleague or friend to track your comments over the course of a week and see what you can learn. Then laugh it off and move along. In my experience, once you realize what you’re doing to detract from your own impact, you will catch yourself as it happens and will correct it. Eventually you will catch yourself before it happens, and voila! You’re there!

I feel passionately about this because we are at a time in our history where women – what they think, experience and have to say – are being called forth more and more to center stage. There is a window of opportunity for women to advance themselves – and the world. But this will require us to take ourselves seriously and to get our voices out there – crisply and cleanly, no holds barred. As Maddie Dychtwald writes in her new book Influence, “This is moment historians will look back on, pointing their fingers and tracing the era on timelines for students of the future: See it there! See the rise of the woman at the dawn of the twenty-first century! …The lightning’s moving closer; the storm is about to break….but this moment won’t last forever.”

08 July, 2010

Seeing Is Believing

I have this sign on my fence – strategically placed so that I see it multiple times a day. I see it when I pull into my driveway. I see it out the window when I’m coaching clients. It’s that important. In many ways, it represents the belief on which my business – no, really my life – is based.

Sure it’s a bit rusty and dented, but you would be, too, if you were a cheap piece of metal from the Christmas Tree shop asked to endure the rugged Maine winters, only to be knocked off your cheap nail time and time again when an overly-zealous child slams the adjoining gate a bit hard. But I still see it.

That sign has stood the test of time and so has my belief.

Magic is amazing when it just appears before you – manifesting seemingly out of no where and delighting us with feelings of serendipity and mystery. But calling in magic. Drawing it down to you like the moon pulls the tides? That takes moxie. And guts and courage, sweat and faith. And, if you’re lucky, a hearty tribe of like-minded people that believe in you.

This week has been filled with examples of that sign. And that is worthy of pause and celebration. This week, I’ve witnessed women taking sharp intakes of breath and finally walking over the threshold of their dreams they’ve brought to reality. I’ve shared in the excitement as women have handed in their resignation letters, reinvented their marriages and said YES to themselves for the first time ever. Without guilt or looking back. All of them have referenced magic.

They are believers. And I am honored to call them my clients. Here’s to having moxie.

01 July, 2010

Of COURSE It's Terrifying!

The potency of anticipation is so often underrated. It can be quite a sticky-wicket to set realistic expectations. Especially when you’re scared. Or full of doubt. I mean, you make a BOLD decision, you finally COMMIT to something that’s important to you, you take that FIRST step toward your dreams, you LEAVE the fleecy blanket of comfort for the open tundra of the unknown and what….you thought it would be…Easy? Comfortable? The same as before? Uh, yeah. Think again.

It’s all about that sharp intake of breath in anticipation – like the moment before you plunge into an icy cold ocean on a warm day. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s all about that moment.

It’s easy to fall prey to the seductive lure of the irrational expectations, isn’t it? Especially when we’re about to embark on a whole new chapter or we’re poised to take a leap of faith into the unknown abyss. It’s a way we psych ourselves up for actually taking that leap or making that change. Perhaps that’s why the phrase, “ignorance is bliss” was created. It’s all part of the hokey-pokey of navigating change.

If I sound like I’m making light this dance we do with change, I kind of am. And I’m guilty of it, too. It’s just that sometimes we’re so adorable as humans, it’s kind of endearing to witness ourselves dipping our toes in and out and in and out of the icy water. Or running up to the edge of a cliff and then screeching to a halt. What we’re really talking about is a rite of passage. And feeling it in our bones. Deep down, we know the person on the other side of the leap isn’t going to be the same person anymore. So of course it's terrifying. Whatever happens as a result, you will ultimately land on the other side of the sharp intake of breath. You might still be holding your breath, but you’re on your way to an exhale. So that feeling – call it terror, fear, or exhilaration - it’s kind of part of the package. In that context, there’s really no escaping it.

Giving birth? Yeah, it hurts. Getting a tattoo? Yeah, that hurts, too. Falling over on your bike when you’re using clipless pedals on your bike for the first time? Hurts. Disappointing someone you love or feeling guilty because you put yourself – just this once – at the top of your priority list? Ouch. Leaping out of a plane and potentially going splat on the ground? Yup. Uber hurt.

But I think hurt and fear get a bit of a bad rap in our culture. We brace for it, we cringe in anticipation and contract all our face muscles as we avert our eyes. Like getting a tetanus shot at the doctor’s office. It’s only natural, right? A human response to avoid pain. But what if we turned into it instead? Anticipated that sharp intake, so when it came time, it was more of a friend than a foe? What if we named that feeling without shame, but with honor? Reverence, even.

Would that rob us of an essential ingredient of transition? Would it still constitute a rite of passage if we didn’t feel the terror or grip of fear that taking such a risk can elicit? I’m not sure. This is my fervent wish, though: I hope we can move to a place of pride in those intake moments. As when a baby crowns or the icy water engulf us in a polar plunge, I hope we can one day exhale and say, “Ah, this is to be expected…”