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The Last Thing My Mother Taught Me

My mother died very recently and I’m having a remarkably different experience than I’ve had before, and I want to share part of it with you. I’m not going to focus on how I got here, partly because I’m not completely sure.

A lot of the spiritual growth work I do both personally and professionally is aspirational. We are trying to get somewhere new: be more of our true self, open our hearts, become more conscious, make a deeper connection to ourselves and the Universe. We focus a lot on how to accomplish that, what are the steps, the practices, the stages.

Sometimes one of the biggest obstacles is not the how, but the what.

I deal with concepts like enlightenment, forgiveness, love. But of course I have to admit I don’t know experientially what it would be like to reach enlightenment, to be completely forgiving, or love unconditionally. And it’s hard to pursue something when you are not even sure what it’s really going to be like.

With the big, mysterious spiritual goals it makes a huge difference if you can give yourself a taste of what it is you’re trying to move toward.

People who return from a near death experience and report having experienced divine energy often can live differently from that point forward, because they “know” something in a way they couldn’t have before.

So, what has been different for me? I don’t have a lot of unresolved business, and I don’t have the belief that her death was tragic or that a bad thing happened. I feel the powerful energetic effect of her absence, and I feel waves of emotion. But since I don’t have the thought that this isn’t acceptable (the way I felt when my father died so long ago), there isn’t pain, I don’t feel bad for myself, and there’s no sense of fear about what is happening or going to happen.

Sadness arises, but there’s no suffering. I think I would still call it grieving, but it makes me wonder if there’s a more accurate word for this.

In addition, since I don’t have the usual resistance to the experience, the natural opening of the heart space that comes with this kind of transition has made everybody’s support nothing but beautiful. I have been able to appreciate and enjoy their love and compassion in a full and unfettered way.

What’s truly amazing is that I can still visit the usual experience very easily. Jack, my mother’s partner of over 20 years, expected to have another decade with her. When I think of how his life and his future have been dramatically altered, I feel bad for him. I feel the heaviness, the sorrow. I feel my judgment that this shouldn’t have happened to him – he didn’t deserve this. When I switch my focus back to myself, it lifts. Labels and expectations are unbelievably powerful.

If I didn’t know better I would question whether I really loved my mother. Shouldn’t I be devastated? Luckily, I do know better.

I don’t feel like I lost something. I feel like something has profoundly changed. And without the struggle, I feel gratitude for her life and the freedom to remember her as her best self.

The F Word

A while ago I was listening to an interview with a top executive coach. He was asked what CEOs’ #1 obstacle was, and to my surprise, he identified their top issue as fraudulence.

But I shouldn’t have been surprised. Why would they be any different from the rest of us?

Most of them probably had the same experience every major step along the way: doubting themselves the first time they were made head of a department, wondering if they were ready when they were made VP.

You don’t think the initial few months of being the boss didn’t involve a lot of “acting like a CEO”?

Anytime you are moving out of your comfort zone, out of your area of mastery, you can pretty much expect to experience concerns about…

Being unprepared: “There is so much to know being a one-person business, I just don’t feel ready.”

Being untalented: “What if I can’t solve their problem? What if I can’t convince them to hire me? What if they realize I don’t know what I’m doing?”

Being unworthy: “Why would they hire me as opposed to 100 other people who do exactly what I do?”

Unearned status: “I feel like I didn’t pay my dues, and everyone can tell. It’s just a matter of time before somebody stands up in a meeting, points at me and says, “Get out! Who let you in here? You’re not fooling anyone! “

Even though some sense of fraudulence is to be expected, it feels bad. We are programmed to avoid pain; so we stall, pass up opportunities, try to beef up our resume and hope that this feeling goes away.

If, on the other hand, we treat it as an unsurprising and likely occurrence, then it can serve as a “come to consciousness” moment.

When you notice your old friend fraudulence, you take a step back and use it as a reminder to consult your highest truth.

For some, this will be their intuition; for others it will be their calm, rational center. In either case, since fear is already present, you will have to see past your discomfort to the answer.

Getting in touch with your “knowing” doesn’t always change how you feel – you can be scared out of your mind and still know that it’s the right step to take.

So if/when you get the All-Clear …

… something that might sound like, “In spite of my anxiety, I realize I’m ready enough;” or “As much as I dread rejection, I still know I am good at what I do.”

… then the question changes from “Is this a bad idea?” to “Am I willing to feel this way and move forward anyway?”

Bravery isn’t the same as fearlessness. Bravery is the ability to do what you need to in spite of fear.

Need a session with the Fraud Squad? Contact me here for assistance seeing past the discomfort to your Truth.


photo credit: oseillo via photopin cc

Sergeant Schultz: Spiritual Teacher

So here’s something I’ve been noticing a lot lately: the power of saying “I don’t know.”

When you are engaged in a process that takes you into the unknown, you will be confronted with many decision points.

Uncertainty can feel weak and mysterious. It’s difficult to stay with the discomfort of the unresolved tension.

So, typically, they have either gone into avoidance, because they don’t expect it to change; or they’ve forced an answer – and denied its inaccuracy – in order to allow them to continue forward.

It’s only in retrospect, when we examine how they arrived at their conclusions, that they are able to see how much assumption and interpretation played a role.

The strength of being willing to admit “I don’t know” is in its honesty and humility. It helps you acknowledge that not knowing is a valid stage in the process. It opens you up to, and paves the way for, a more authentic “knowing.”

“I don’t know” must be seen as a pathway to your truth – a jumping off point; not an obstacle.

The energy with which you make this statement is also critical. An attitude of “I don’t know – let’s see!” carries the energy of curious, interested, open.

While “I don’t know – and that’s a problem(*)!” stirs the discomfort, anxiety and doubt that got us in this mess in the first place.

[*in this category we would have also accepted “better be careful” or “and I probably never will.”]

It requires patience, acceptance and faith, and as usual there are no guarantees.

What you are really risking, however, is arriving at an authentic answer; a truth you probably never would have encountered through force and fear.

Do you remember Sgt. Schultz?

Life Hangs in the Balance

It is almost impossible to ignore that we use an “extreme /mega /to the max” mentality to sell ourselves almost everything these days. The adrenaline rush experience is compelling and attractive to us.

It’s also one of the primary ways we use to lose touch with our spirit and throw ourselves off course. We veer from one extreme to the other in a kind of addictive avoidance of our true self.

More and more I find myself advising people to seek balance; do what you have to do (or not do) to find your center.

If you know that exercise or meditation or journaling or scheduling fun time is a critical component of staying connected, then make sure you do it, and assume that if you are not doing it, there’s probably something that isn’t being dealt with.

What most people do, though, is treat it like a correction as opposed to a process. They want to take a pill or put a patch on it and walk away – problem solved!

That’s why I always describe it as dynamic balance.

It has to be maintained.

It is fluid and never-ending.

It requires three key elements:

1) Sensitivity

I’ve been asked more than once, “What good it is to be sensitive?” Well, here’s one reason: it is how we get information.  It is the ability to register that you are out of balance.

Most of the time there are lots of subtle hints before your life starts falling apart. If you look back you’ll probably notice the path leading up to the accident littered with clues. These are very valuable to record and watch for as they are liable to reappear next time.

2) Consciousness

This is the word I come back to more than any other in my line of work. It’s how we notice that there is valuable information available.

A lot of the time we “don’t want to know,” and we try the “As long as I don’t go to the doctor and tell him about the searing pain in my abdomen, then maybe I don’t have appendicitis” trick.

3) Willingness to adjust

Once you have the information and you’re able to perceive it, then you get to choose whether you’re going to do anything about it. If you’re not, you may have to go unconscious or desensitize.

What’s your key to maintaining balance?


Please share your thoughts in a comment below.

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc

The Tool of “Trouble” in Our Lives (Guest Post)

Last week I wrote this post about the relationship between risk and freedom.

As I was working on it I kept thinking of my friend, Ted Grace. Since he is both a spiritual seeker and has been a Risk Management professional for over 30 years, I have always thought he was in a unique position to see both sides of the real world/metaphysical world coin.

This week I welcome his thoughts on the subject. – Christopher

The Tool of “Trouble” in Our Lives, by Ted Grace

Risk is something we all live with; it’s part of the human condition. Not only does it constantly play in the background of our subconscious, but we are addicted also to initiating risk in our playtime.

Remember your first roller coaster ride, mountain climb and first time to drive a car?  The idea that we were doing something risky thrilled us when we were younger.

As we age, we become less risky and learn to perceive danger in various pursuits in life.

The problem for most of us is that we have a belief that life shouldn’t be risky, and as Christopher points out in his post last week, we feel we must eliminate any potential for danger before we can be truly free.

I find the issue of risk in our physical world similar to the idea of our shadow self in the spiritual world.

In our spiritual journeys, at some point, we are forced to become aware of and familiar with those parts of our soul, which we try to disown as “not me.” This is often described as our shadow self.

If our shadow self remains unconscious, it makes our spiritual journey even more perilous. If our shadow self remains both unconscious and unexplored, we invariably project our shadow stuff onto others (like our partners, parents, siblings, etc.)

We need to remember: our souls do not flourish just in the light, but also in the territory of grief, loss, anger, terror, depression, betrayal and all other so-called negative facets of human experience. Just ask anyone who has experienced a break up, lost someone to an early death or felt the pain of betrayal.

Risk operates very much like our shadow self. It’s the depiction of the negative side of the human experience and, like the shadow self, if you try to avoid it, it will consume enormous amounts of personal energy.

When individuals, societies or nations try to avoid facing risk in the physical world, we end up projecting it, agonizing about it and trading our independence to the world of anxiety and avoidance.

We in the U.S. experienced this as a nation after 9/11. We all wanted to be safer and reduce the risk of terrorism, so we allowed our leaders to pass the Patriot Act. But the price we paid for this perceived safety was to our individual freedoms (pat downs by TSA; aggressive, overstepping law enforcement actions, etc.).

Those of us who have in the past retreated from dealing with risk and/or our shadow self may find ourselves overwhelmed in the presence of risk; for risk is nothing if not coming face-to-face with the darker/shadow side of the human experience.

Malidoma Somé , a shaman from the Dagara Tribe of West Africa, frequently speaks of “trouble” as the tool of soul to draw us into the darkness for the purpose of being re-made by it.

Mike Meade alluded to the same tool when he said,

“When the times go dark, we have a chance to learn the world again.”

Our Soul wants us to be in the “drama” of life—which means risk, because it causes us to go inward to the resources of the soul. Being with the risk in your life is the first step toward using the tool of “trouble.”

.      .      .

Ted and I would love to hear what you think. Please share your thoughts in a comment below.

photo credit: boat from mikebaird via photopin cc and wikipedia