I’ve Got a Funny Feelin’

Whenever I hear the word “impossible,” I hear “I’m possible.” Yeah, I’m built that way.

Some people may claim it’s impossible to hug the wind, for instance. I say open your arms and let it hug you. In doing so, you will create a mutual embrace because your intention is to love it the best you can as it loves you back the way it knows how too.

We get so set in our ways, as if things have to be organized in a certain manner for them to be real or valid. We look at life, and our role in it, as somehow the outline of a cookie cutter form. Stamp it down once and call that form YOU. Never change it, bend it or make it different. Draw safely within the lines. Never dance offbeat or sing off tune.

Really?

We all need security. No doubt about it. But when we opt for security over serenity long-term, we’ve got ourselves a problem.

If you are lucky, your intuition will start to get louder, maybe in the form of a funny feeling in your stomach. Something’s gotta give, but you just don’t know what. Follow that gut feeling and see where it takes you. You might be rocked by a storm, wind and all, but eventually, you will find your equilibrium again. Behind that cloud you will discover the serenity you seek.

And remember all the while to open your arms to the wind that encases you. It’s giving you love.

Truly.

 

You Are Not Alone

Do you ever feel isolated, alone, not connected with anyone or anything?

Then look at your hands. See what they do.

They reach. They move. They write.  They create.

Do ever think you aren’t a part of something greater than yourself?

Then look at your feet. Watch what they do.

They dance. They walk. They dangle from your chair.

Do you ever sense no one understands?

Then look at yourself in the mirror. Gaze into your own eyes.

They see. They peer. They look back. Right at you.

Your eyes are the windows to your soul. And your soul is part of the Universe, a vast place that contains everything.

You are not alone although everyone feels alone sometimes. But the truth is we are all connected.

Every one of us. You are us. You are me. I am you.

Look to the stars, if you doubt it.

They will tell you the story. And if the sky is dark, the clouds covering every one of them, know that they are there just the same.

You may not see them. But they exist.

And so do you.

If you feel overwhelmed, not knowing what your purpose is, then take this moment to keep climbing toward the sky.

Sometimes the darkness reigns. But then, just when you think you will never emerge from it, the light will shine again. The sun will blind you with its brilliance. You may not believe it the moment you see the light, but it is there to guide you.

And you know what? The darkness is just as instructive.

Embrace it all with the knowledge that everything happens for a reason.

You happened for a reason. It’s your job to find out why.

You’ve got the time. But you’ve got to believe it. And when you live in that belief, you will take flight, making the climb effortless.

 

Step Back to Move Forward

A few months ago Kevin Cashman, a top coach for CEOs around the world, came out with a new book entitled The Pause Principle. I was thrilled to connect with such a brilliant mind who has single-handedly brought introspection and slow to C-suites around the globe.


While I didn’t get a chance to read his book, his message resonated with me so I decided to go straight to the source and ask Kevin a few questions about the importance of pause in our lives. Here’s what he said.

Power of Slow: Do you believe slow is actually faster? If yes, why?

Kevin Cashman: Slow may not technically be faster, but I believe it is more powerful. Our world today suffers from an epidemic of “hurry sickness.” Increasingly, we are going everywhere but being nowhere.  We are moving faster and faster, but for often without a clear purpose.  We trade speed for significance and performance for purpose, but at what costs?  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Busy?  The ants are busy.”  The question we need to ask is, “Busy for what purpose?”  The inspiration for writing The Pause Principle was to bring more authenticity and purpose to our leadership and our lives in order to balance our hyperactive, non-sustainable, busy-ness culture.

PoS: How can leaders benefit from pausing?

KC: Paradoxically, pause powers purposeful performance.  From observing, assessing, and coaching thousands of senior leaders around the globe for the last 30 years, one critical differentiating characteristic became apparent.  Those leaders who stepped back, who practiced intentional reflection, had better self-awareness, better listening and coaching skills, and tended to make better personal, interpersonal, and business breakthroughs.  In my work with senior leaders, I noticed that nearly all breakthroughs were preceded by some type of pause-through.  An assessment, some feedback, a new strategy, or a boundary-breaking innovation was all born after some type of pause.  Pause is the human mechanism for going deep to synthesize and emerging with insight and clarity.

PoS: In our speed-saturated culture, people expect things yesterday. What strategies can leaders stand by to offset our need for speed?

KC: Meet the demands of speed and action with about 80% of your time and energy.  Then consciously step back and embrace the most important, the most complex part of your job with about 20% of pauseful, deep reflective time and energy.  During this time, engage other colleagues collaboratively to break through with probing questions:  What do we see?  What might be possible if we did x, y, or z?  What if we did this or that?  What if we saw this through the customers’ eyes?  What if we considered the environmental and community impact?  Why are we doing this?  What might be possible if we saw our product and our organization with new eyes?  Demanding cultures do want results, and paradoxically, pause powers performance.  Pause powers results.  Use it to show how to transform the status quo and maybe, just maybe, your hyperactive, demanding culture will come to appreciate some new approaches to performance and innovation.  The Pause Principle is not about slowing down speed or demands; it is about consciously stepping back to find better ways to grow ourselves, others, and cultures of innovation.  Like an archer, the more forcefully we pull back the bow, the more dynamic and powerful the shot.  The purpose of pause is to step forward with greater impact, sustainability, resilience, creativity, and authenticity.

 

The Greatest Disappearing Act

Something happens when you have kids. The world sees you through different eyes. Or maybe we see ourselves with a specific pair of glasses that we willingly place upon our noses.

When my kids were little, I felt invisible. All eyes were on them as they were the cutest things ever. And I loved it. I fell comfortably into a role I enjoyed immensely. But then my kids started to grow up … and away from me. And suddenly I was left naked, standing in the middle of the room without that invisibility I had placed upon myself like a cloak.

I was no longer an apparition. And I had to take a good long look in the mirror to remember who I was.

Even if you don’t have children, you have certainly felt invisible before. Maybe you hid behind a job title, a role as brother, sister, friend. Perhaps you ran for cover by loading on more assignments in your civic life ~ all in the name of making meaning out of your days. But somewhere along the way you lost yourself. You spent a lot of time serving others’ needs. And it felt so right. For a while.

It isn’t easy to wake up out of a coma, especially if it’s been self-inflicted. We tend to numb ourselves with constant activity, never really wanting to stand in the buff while staring at that mirror for fear of what we will see.

But what really disappears when we finally decelerate is the frenzy that placed us far away from ourselves. We free up all that energy we expended trying to prove something to ourselves. We may not even know what we were trying to prove. That we were the best mothers ever? That we were okay if just baked enough cookies, said yes enough and smoothed ruffled feathers/egos/moods?

Today I am no longer invisible. I don’t know what the outside world sees, but that’s not important. For once in my life, I finally see myself.

 

 

Take a Stand

“You’ve gotta stand for something, Christine,” my oldest sister advised me when I was in my thirties. But I wasn’t ready yet to stick my neck out that far. I thought maybe I could make a difference by laying low, keeping cool and making friends…with everyone. But then one day I realized that good girls don’t shake the Earth like the ones that bend the rules. Smiling all the while.

Taking a stand takes a lot of courage — at the time I didn’t have the foundation to withstand that kind of pressure. Thankfully, the Universe was kind to me and didn’t give me more than I could handle. But lately something has shifted. It’s like a tsunami wave of challenges, one after the other. It is as if the world is saying, “Are you going to take that stand now?”

And so I am.

The challenges come in all different forms. Sometimes they are random books I pick up at the bookstore that literally shout at me as I read their pages. Other times they come in the form of messages such as “You must surround yourself with butterflies.” And I swear to you not thirty seconds later, someone walks by with a butterfly on her bag.

When we stand for something, we live with deep conviction. I had always shied away from living in that manner, worried that I would lose sight of the diversity of life, becoming too entrenched in a certain way of thinking.

But then I realized that holding convictions such as the goodness of life, the beauty of the human spirit and the power of words could only help serve the world better rather than tear it down or try to convert it to my way of thinking.

I am here to tell you that taking a stand is a worthwhile endeavor. I may fail miserably, but the only people who have never lost are the ones who never fought for anything anyway.

 

The Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion

The Wizard of Oz is the ultimate mind-body-spirit story. For those of you not familiar with this classic film, it features several characters in search of the one thing missing in their lives.

For Dorothy, the girl from Kansas, it is her home she is looking for.

For the Scarecrow, it is about finding his brains.

For the Tin Man, it is about moving from being mechanical to finding the heart he so longs for.

For the Lion, the King of the Animal World, it is about locating his courage.

Scarecrow = mind

Tin Man = body

Lion = Spirit

I have always been partial to the Lion who seemed so ashamed of his cowardice. I mean he was afraid of everything. It wasn’t until he embarked on a journey with his friends, battling demons, witches and scary flying monkeys, that he realized he had possessed the courage he yearned for all along.

Today we might think we are a lot like the Tin Man, the mechanical being that identifies more with machines than with man. We may have lost heart in our lives. Even oil won’t grease our engines because what we really need is something completely different. What we need is love.

Or perhaps you feel you have lost your mind, like the Scarecrow looking for his intellect. Our schools build our minds today more than ever. But how do we use those minds? To the betterment of ourselves and others?

Dorothy’s search for home lends a cohesiveness to the triad of mind-body-spirit seekers. She leads the way to the Wizard of Oz who is really a mere mortal behind the curtain. It’s all been a farce. The entire country has been ruled by a phony.

Once the characters find what they are looking for, they are set free. And Dorothy realizes, as she clicks her heels together, that there is no place like home.

Home is where the heart is.

Home is where your spirit, undergirded by your mind, lives.

It is a worthy journey to integrate all three. We cannot live with one without the other two.

Find your courage. It will help you return to your truest home. And that is yourself.

Finding Your Heartsong

One of the most gratifying experiences of my life has been watching children discover their own talents: a kind word, encouraging guidance and a beacon of light to illuminate their way are all they need. Then one day they come home from school with a picture they’ve drawn that they consider “not so bad after all”. Or they raise their voices in the bathroom, singing into the hairbrush and dreaming of that moment on stage.

We all carry a heartsong within us. Some of us have been lucky enough to have parents who told us we could do anything. And we believed them. Others might have experienced adversity and a belief system that told them who they were, what they should do and how to navigate life “safely”.

There’s no room for heartsongs in a safety net. Heartsongs live outside of such structures. They dwell within us and depending on how loud they are, they cry to get out – no matter what.

If you have a driven personality, you might have been confronted by your heartsong more than once. It comes out in those moments when you just know something is right, even if your environment is telling you just the opposite.

We are all products of our education, and yet our heartsong is not. It is the intrinsic part of ourselves with which we came into this world.

No matter your age, you can find that heartsong. And you can sing it with all your might. Find people who see it too. They will support you when the world is telling you that you are crazy. Believe me, my friends, you are not.

I believe in you. Heck, I’ll even provide the hairbrush.

Live Your Amazingness

Have you forgotten how incredible you are? Have you lost your sense of amazingness?

When we are born, we are convinced of it. We learn to crawl, walk, run. And then we keep running. Away from who we are.

Some of us realize, midway through the thick of life, that our innate goodness has been buried in the experiences we all share: disappointment, dashed hope, the collective of what our parents/schooling/society calls reality.

But what is real?

Our souls know what is real. The trouble is that the language of the soul starts in a whisper. If we never learn how to listen to it, it remains at that volume and so we barely hear it, if at all.

Until our bodies catch up and tell us something isn’t quite right. Our hearts ache. We don’t know why. So we take a pill and diagnose our condition in medical terms.

Even when we reach that state, we have the power to recapture our amazingness. Perhaps especially when our bodies start to hurt, we have the chance to reignite the magic with which we were born.

The solution to our human condition does not reside in our minds. It is housed in our spirits, the essence of ourselves that never vanishes even when our bones turn to dust.

You can live your amazingness by remembering you are more than the body you have. You are more than your job title, your marital status, or your role in this world.

The “you” of which I speak dances outside of time and space. You are eternal. And you can access it any time you want.

How?

By asking yourself where your soul is located within yourself. Then listen to what it says.

Take a moment today to reconnect with your own divinity. The world needs the real you that lies beneath the piles of history laid upon you.

Welcome.

The Power of Vulnerability

Last night I felt naked. Don’t worry. I wasn’t. I was amongst friends in a safe place. It was warm inside, cold outside. The lighting was friendly. The food was good. The atmosphere was lovely.

I attended my ‘graduation’ dinner for my intermediate French class. Because I sat next to the instructor, I spoke more French last evening than I did all semester! And there were moments when I felt as stripped down to my threadless self as the day I was born.

Speaking a foreign language can give you the sense you are a toddler again. You struggle to master a skill that everyone else around you seems to execute effortlessly. It can be frustrating to struggle that way. But it can bring you closer together to the people who struggle the same way you do.

Although the participants in this French class have known each other much longer than me, we quickly built a cohesive group. Our ages differ vastly, from folks in their 20s up to late 60s. Despite our clear differences, they lovingly welcomed me into their fold. I wondered about why they would be so willing to include me because that hasn’t been my experience in most social situations in Germany.

It became clear to me that the instructor, a French Canadian who still struggles with the German language one and a half decades later, has her share of integration challenges too. She feels just as bare speaking German as I do speaking French. And perhaps that is the key as to why it works so well.

As I hugged the last person goodbye last night, I could really feel the love.

And that loves comes from the willingness to be vulnerable, look foolish and engage in conversation anyway, mistakes and all. We share a common bond of walking around with our pants around our ankles (in a linguistic sense!) for the sheer love of learning French.

It’s inspiring to me how vulnerability can indeed make us so courageous, open and strong. In fact, it is evidence that we are capable of learning new things, no matter our age, heritage and beliefs.

Living vulnerably offers us the richness of life. It can be so sweet. I for one wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.

** For more on vulnerability, see this post.

The Edge of Things

Creatives tend to experience life on the fringe. We don’t bow to convention. We question societal norms. We shake things up. We dare to ask “Is this really true?”

My sister once called me a “loose cannon,” a phrase reserved for those who roll about in an unexpected manner. We dance to the beat of our own drums without permission. We do it because we know it is the expression of our inner most truth.

It can be scary to live that way, gazing at the cusp of life and saying “Why not?”

When I boarded a plane Germany-bound at the age of sixteen, my mother knew I had been born with gumption that would guide me to the end of that experience.

She was right.

So what if I didn’t know the language. So what if I didn’t know a single person who would greet me at the other end. So what if I struggled. Life offered me unimaginable lessons that brought me to where I am today.

It takes courage to live on the edge of things.

Oftentimes people will ask me if I’m not nervous entering a cocktail party not knowing a single soul.

“Oh, but I do. We are all connected,” I say. “Souls meet souls. We are all the same.”

Travel has taught me to open up to the possibility of connection, no matter where I am.

Hungry for life in all its forms, I have learned that fear is merely a reflection of the question “Why do it?” When you listen to your inner voice, it does not cloud your listening with such questions. It leads you to places that you need to go, even if the “Why” is left unanswered.

Not everyone is meant to live this way. But I am. With a clarity of vision that prompts me forward, I listen to my intuition that has never let me down.

If you are interested in knowing how to tap into your inner knowing, take time to ask yourself the singular question: “Why not?”

You will find the answer is “because I am meant to do this. I just know.”

It involves a solid trust and confidence that who you are is enough.

And you know what, my love?

You are.