“I am always doing that which I can not, in order that I may learn how to do it.” – Van Gogh
Most people I know don’t actually like being beginners.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I have heard clients and friends say something like, “I’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar (or speak another language, or sail, or run a marathon.)” And I always ask, have you tried? Have you taken lessons? Read a book?
The truth is there is a huge difference between wanting something and fantasizing about it.
When we want something we should feel compelled to take some action to achieve it. When we fantasize we may think it is something I want, but it is really just a day dream, or a lie to feel more interesting.
If you really want something don’t wait to find time, make time.
“Inspiration tends to evaporate, leaving no trace of future conduct, unless it is translated into action.” – William James
I’ll most likely come back to this theme again and again.
We all have moments of inspiration. Times when we see a path forward that inspires us to be at our best. If we do not act on them they are nothing more than passing dreams.
Yes, as coach I am well trained with little tricks and tools to help clients make the translation, but at the end of the day, no one can make your dreams reality except you.
I believe there are 3 steps we can all take to keep our actions informed by our inspiration, even when the energy of excitement wears off.
- Write it down. Its easy to forget or let the thoughts of inspiration shift over time. If we get it down on paper we can turn back to it when we forget. Going back to it is also a great way to weed out the real inspiration from the foolish ideas we all occasionally have. When we write something down we are also taking it from our minds and creating a representation of it in the physical world, a starting place to plan and implement our dream.
- Talk it through with people who will support you and hold you accountable. When we keep our plans to ourself, we have no one but ourselves to rely on. Bringing others into to our lives and our plans helps in many ways. We have someone we can can discuss it with. On our own it can be difficult to weed out the good ideas from the bad. We may be easily distracted and need others to hold us accountable to our commitments. When we trust others to guide us, support us, and hold us accountable we find unexpected help from all sorts of places. Expand your circle of support and your world will grow.
- Take action every day, even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes. Even planning is an action, up to a point. When you feel the gift of inspiration, if you feel a responsibility to follow through, you need to commit to some level of daily action. Write, plan, and discus, then take clear and focused action, daily, until you accomplish your goal.
Learn more about turning your thoughts and inspiration into the actions you have to take to live a life you dream about.
As soon as you can say what you think, and not what some other person has thought for you, you are on your way to being a remarkable man. – J.M. Barrie
When I can help a client or friend break the pattern of reactive behavior and thought and really express themselves authentically in their actions and behavior I know I have participated in something amazing.
The 1st 20 years of life or so we spend learning. Lessons from the family, community, culture, and faith we are born into are repeated and built upon until, by the time we graduate and enter the adult life we have taken in lessons that shape our world view, our interactions with others, and beliefs about the world at large that form our views of right and wrong, worthy and unworthy. When we enter the work force and find role models or mentors who have the kinds of life we want it is easy to just absorb their views into our own. It becomes much more difficult if we are constantly absorbing messages from the media or closed social circles.
If we are luck, someone along the way taught us to think about what we were learning. If we are really lucky we have had some real world experience that calls us to question our fundamental beliefs, to accept, discard, or form new ways of seeing things.
While “ignorance is bliss” it does not shape the character.
Knowing who you are, what you want, and being clear about what you think can be difficult when arriving at adulthood with so many years of programing. It takes work and a watchful eye on our behavior and thinking, especially when it is judgmental or critical of others.
It doesn’t mean we throw all of that out or need to rebel to become remarkable men and women.
It does mean we need to be clear and honest about our beliefs, especially to ourselves. Being able to separate my own view from the cultural one, claiming my values rather than accepting norms, and then aligning them with my actions with real integrity takes work and sacrifice. Sometimes it creates conflict with people who expect certain things or who knew me in the past when I was swimming in someone else stream.
Thinking is the process of trying to align thought and physical reality – realities about ourselves, our circumstances, our relationships, as well as the world, culture, and political environment we live in.
It is hard work and a challenging prospect if you are trying to do it alone.
There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic. – Anais Nin
“We want what we want when we want it” a friend use to say.
Whether that is some form of great truth or illumination or a piece of pie and a coffee is really irrelevant.
Most things take time. They are hard and fraught with lessons.
In our current culture it seems to be the same for most of us with most of the things we pursue. We want to experience the glory of the big game without the decades of daily practice.
Success comes when we dedicate ourselves to our dreams and goals. Day in and out, suffering more losses than wins, until one day it all comes together. It is work. It can be difficult. We may want to give up or be distracted by something easier.
Wanting it to be easy and being unwilling to put in the work is the 1st trap.
The second is beating the crap out of ourselves when we don’t progress as quickly as we thought we could, or as quickly as the person next to us.
Whatever you set out to do, know it is not always going to be easy. You may need to pick yourself up, you may need to rest a while, but if you are dedicated and committed you move on to the next piece, and over time, with work and reflection, it all comes together.
This article was originally posted about 3 years ago to an earlier version of this blog.
Brian Lahrer conducts a captivating interview with Jeanne Bishop, author of Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with my Sister’s Killer, on the process of forgiveness that began her healing after the death of her sister in the Boston Marathon Bombings.
The violent death of a loved one is one of the most difficult losses we can experience. Though I have not experienced this first hand I have been able to provide support and strength to others who have.
While the incident itself is tragic, the courage of Ms. Bishop to both confront and forgive the surviving Tsarnaev brother is inspiring.
The process of reconciliation with someone who has harmed us is often a difficult task. Its not uncommon for many of us to hold onto hatred and resentment of someone for decades. Rarely is the cause of the harm as heinous as this kind of violent loss, though certainly there are harms which can be more direct and violent.
In the story, Ms. Bishop speaks about the meetings she had with the bomber and how she came to find forgiveness. While the whole story is engaging, she makes 2 points that I think are valuable even to those who are holding onto hatred of another for less.
First she says that holding onto her hatred or resentment of this man would be like “swallowing poison and hoping the other person would die.” A bit cliche and easy to say on the surface, but the analogy is a powerful one.
Investing our emotional and mental energy into distain, hatred and reliving a situation over and over is exhausting. Let me rephrase that…
Often when we are wronged, whether slightly or violently, it can be a healthy reaction to be angry, hurt or betrayed. Expressing that is part of the process of grieving, and can be healthy in overcoming a sense of victimhood.
When we bottle the emotional response up, or let the emotional response drive and define us, we can get into trouble.
When we are a victim of someone else actions, odds are that other person is not thinking of how they wronged you, but left unchecked the emotional response can spend years hijacking our lives. Prolonged anger and sadness can impact our relationships, our own direction, morals and beliefs, and even impact how our nervous system and other bodily functions work.
This state, if prolonged, actual does effect our bodies like a poison. We can hold onto it for years, and whether conscious of the resentment, or buried in our sub-conscious for years, the impact of leaving it unresolved can cause problems (physically and mentally) and ruin our own lives with its impact on relationships and career.
The second point Ms. Bishop makes was a new one for me, but once she said it, I was really blown away by the implications.
When asked if she wanted the man who killed her sister to be put to death she said, “He may deserve to die, but I don’t deserve to kill him.”
What that says about her sense of self-worth, about her understanding of her own pain and the desire not to inflict more suffering in the world was is beautiful.
It’s not a “hippy-dippy,” spiritual form of finding forgiveness. It speak directly to her understanding of the pain of the loss of her sister, of the acts of the terrorist and their impact on him, and most clearly if she sought “an eye for an eye,” she would be prolonging a chain a violence and hurt that has impacted far to many lives and brought far too much sorrow.
All in all the interview raises some good questions to own the answers too – no judgement, just clarity….
Is any act ever unforgivable?
Being a victim isn’t something we choose in the moment of the act, but is it our choice how long we hold onto the title?
So, who are you unwilling to forgive?
Do you deserve to carry the weight of perpetuating violence, even if its justified?
The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution. – Bertrand Russell
This is one of the key benefits to using a coach, counselor, or having a friend or mentor that is skilled in these kinds of conversations.
Often when we try to approach a problem in our lives, particularly if we are too close to it or it is emotionally charged, we can struggle to find a view on the issue that is open enough to allow a solution.
Bertrand speaks of an isolated thinker. It is rare for someone to find the kind of time and solitude these days to really contemplate a difficult problem and find a resolutions, but it is possible for someone really dedicated to it. I have countless friends, clients and colleagues who I know have had problems and questions they have been trying to workout for years.
On the other hand, having another person, or network of people, with experience working through these kind problems can vastly expedite the process.
Having an outside view from an informed perspective, engaging in purposeful and meaning conversation on the problem, along with personal reflection an thought, can tease open our problems in a way that allows us to see them differently.
With new perspectives we can restate our knotted problems in new ways, which could allow for easier access to resolution.
Retreats and workshops help too…
By what strange law of mind is it that an idea long overlooked, and trodden under foot as a useless stone, suddenly sparkles out in new light, as a discovered diamond?” – Harriet Beecher Stowe
I’m not an avid journal keeper, more an occasional one, but there are real benefits to keeping some occasional record of our thought lives.
Like the quote above I have often gone back through earlier writing and found ideas laid out in short notes that I long ignored, but which I have found became central to my way of thinking years later. Even better are the epiphanies that are later revealed to have been connected in some way to ideas or beliefs I had previously discounted.
As we age our minds need to grow, our opinions and tastes mature, the tendencies of our nature reveal themselves through our actions, and world we live in and the people we are connected to change.
Oh, yeah, and our memory can get distorted and fuzzy.
When I work with clients I strongly encourage journaling. It is part of the coaching process. Our minds change as we process new information and engage in new forms of committed action. When we have some kind of record it is easier to see the changes we are going through.
Try to start some form journaling, recording your day, your memories, the thoughts that excited or troubled you. Write down your intentions and how you want to deal with difficult situations differently. Create a plan to follow through. Its helpful and proven instrument to effect change in your life.
Learn more, reach out for a free consultation.
What else is love but understanding and rejoicing in the fact that another person lives, acts, and experiences otherwise than we do…? – Friedrich Nietzsche
The key word here is otherwise.
And to be clear, I’m not just talking about romantic love, though that is included in the larger subject, one which I will tackle in a longer piece in the future. We are talking about every kind of love – familial love, the love for humankind many religions ask us to have, love of friends, of the love as kindness we extend to strangers…
What is being asked here is for an understanding of love as the love of diversity.
It is much easier to love those who have the same values and beliefs we have. People who look and act like we do are familiar, we find less conflict, its easier to understand their motives and choices.
Real conflict in any type of relationship usually arises over our different points of view, different priorities and perspectives.
What’s important to understand here is that love is choice, it is an action, it is not something passive that comes out of nowhere and hits us in the head like a sack of bricks – something our culture has claimed it is for a long time now.
Yes, infatuation and sexual attraction can lead to love, open the door for love, but it is not love it self.
Love is something we choose to give, a trusting and warm embrace, not because someone has done something for us or shares our beliefs, but because, as the man states above, we want to rejoice in something other than ourselves, to connect to the world and our fellow humans, to celebrate life itself and all its possibilities.
In many ways love is faith, a hope that by accepting some fundamental connection to something bigger, greater, and other than our own self interest, we will find freedom and relief from our fears and anxieties.
In this case, love is not always easy.
Love is an action as much as it can be a feeling. Love is a verb. It is something we do or don’t do. There is a reason the poets and prophets that inspire us often have such longevity in our cultural awareness, and it is this, they tell us love is a gift and that it can overcome.
Its a choice and always a practice.
Not much in the way of major posts this week, other than an outline of some of the workshops I am offering and pitching to yoga studios, retreat centers and the like. Please contact me if you know of anywhere local to you that might be interested in any of these programs.
I’m getting pretty constant with Daily Refections posting & am pretty happy with the ones I got up this week.
I had a great 2 day visit from Cambridge based friend and bhakti yogi Tom Lena. If your a fan of kirtan, he does a great set and has performed at multiple festivals.
I also had a great last night at my store, Oil & Vinegar (in Montclair, NJ), for our 1 year customer appreciation party. We gave away some amazing gifts and had some fantastic food we were able to top off with $250 25 year old balsamic. Grateful to my kick-ass staff for doing a fantastic job pulling it all together!
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. – Carl Jung
This idea, which has become fairly common, isn’t meant to let others off the hook when they harm us, but rather in exploring what creates that irritation we can create a greater mastery of our own lives, our thoughts and feelings.
At work I once had a superior who, with uncanny timing, would come into my office and start a discussion on some relatively unimportant project every time I was up against a deadline. It frustrated the hell out of me. Here I am at 4:30 trying to focus on some difficult problem I needed to solve before I went home for the night and he wanted to discuss something that could wait 4 or 5 days. He would sit there for half an hour no matter how impatient I looked or how often i turned back to my work. A couple times I even blew up at him. It troubled me and I would hold onto that frustration for days.
As I came to the kind of self-examination we find in the work and conversations we have with a coach, counselor, or even our closest friend, I realized something that was tremendously freeing. I could never change his behavior. I only had control over how I was, and who I was, in those situations. When I reacted I was allowing myself to be hijacked. The frustration that arose in me created more of a distraction from my work than simply putting my work aside for 30 minutes and having the conversation that was being forced on me. As I grew in that understanding we eventually developed a good relationship, rather than the adversarial one we had previously.
But the real gift was that I developed the self-respect to simply say to him when he came in, “Hey, I’m on a deadline. Is this something we can talk about tomorrow.”
And yeah, I was so caught up in my over emotional reaction to his imposition, that I hadn’t even considered my inner desire to be seen as a good worker who did what his employer wanted was preventing me from simply asking for a reprieve.
I learned a lot about myself in that situation. I was afraid to say no. I did not have confidence in myself or my position to say “hold on a minute, I’m busy.” I learned that I allow stress in my life to get in the way of creating meaningful relationships with the people I work with. And those opened pathways to countless other little awakenings in the years since that have freed me from other misconceptions.
Today find those moments for yourself – where charged reaction to someone else is over taking your ability to manage your stress and frustration.
“Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” – Rabbi Abraham Heschel
It is easy to do what is easy. I’m guilty of this myself. After a long day working I can let myself off the hook for not getting to the gym as I planned, getting together with a friend, or doing the dishes after dinner. At the time it seems like a reprieve. “I earned a break” I tell myself.
Once in while that is healthy and good, unless it happens too often. When I let my discipline slip doubt about my ability to follow through on my commitments creeps in, and even though I know better I can find myself wondering what happened to my commitment to my goals, to the people in my life, the quality of life my home reflects.
Lack of discipline is the #1 mistake I see with clients who feel lost or unfocused.
Many of us seem believe that commitment and drive are intentions, ideas and attitudes we hold. But commitment and dedication to our goals requires clear and directed action day after day, in the physical world.
If you are not doing what you say you are going to do, you probably not who you think you are.
The images we create for ourselves and others about who we are tend to be the types of things we build our self-esteem from.
I had a friend who presented herself as an artist. It was her innermost belief about herself and how she wanted to be seen by others. Talking one day it seemed she was really struggling. She was frustrated with herself and it was impacting her relationships, her commitment to her paying job, and probably a dozen other things. As we spoke it became clear that over the last 3 or 4 years she had slowly abandoned her craft. Other things moved in – her day job, a relationship. She was making choices in her free time that were more distractions than obligations.
How can you be an artist if you are not creating art, at least on a semi-regular basis?
We need to give up the fantasies about who we think we are and either accept the change or commit to real action.
She needed to accept that he had been an artist and move on to being whatever she was now, or commit to regularly spending time at her passion and craft.
Doing the things we think we should be doing makes a huge difference in how much respect we have for ourselves.
I’m not saying we should all be abandoning our other responsibilities to follow our dreams.
Spending 10, 20, 30 minutes 3 or 4 days a week doing what you feel called at your core to do, easily becomes a daily practice and can grow into something else over time. Those small, even occasional, periods of practice add up. More importantly you are doing what you feel called to do. My friend is more an artist painting 15 minutes a day for a year than she was not having done it at all in 3 or 4. And over time that steady practice has grown into spontaneous creative acts. She feels more complete in who she is, because she is physically following through on the actions required to be the person she imagined herself to be.
Below are brief descriptions of the workshops I am currently offering through various yoga and retreat centers, or that can be tailored toward a specific group or organization. I can also offer these programs one-to-one or as a personal or small group retreat. Dates for open workshops or workshops at centers offering open enrollment can be found here, along with other programs I might be assisting or apprenticing on.
Please contact me if you want to discuss pricing or have any other questions.
I currently am offering the following workshops, full descriptions of the programs are below in the same order:
- Based on my certification as a Master Integral Coach*
- Intro to Integral Living – Practical Applications of Ken Wilbur’s Integral Theory
- Working With Myth & Metaphor
- Four Elements/Four Directions
- The Hero’s Journey
- Living A Heroic Life – Everyday Super Powers
- Life RPG
- Yoga & Meditation
- Yogic Magic – Exploring the Sindhis as Archetypical States
- 3 Gunas – Building the Energy You Need
- Meditation Workshop
Intro to Integral Living- Practical Applications of Ken Wilbur’s Integral Theory
Integral Theory is philosopher Ken Wilbur’s attempt to create a theory of the evolution of consciousness and all that encompasses – logical, rational, emotional, sexual and spiritual. In the Intro program we take a close look at 3 of Wilbur’s main concepts through practices and practical application.
- Quadrants – 4 ways we see and relate to the world as individuals.
- Levels of Consciousness – How consciousness evolves from the mythic and magic to the scientific, wholistic and post-rational.
- Lines of Development – similar to the idea of multiple intelligences, these areas of life and our capabilities in them impact our whole person. Lines include cognitively, emotionally, interpersonally, morally, spiritually, and physically.
These tools provide a structure for how we might better relate to others and more accurately identify our own spot on the map as we move forward in our own personal development. As a Certified Master Integral Coach I have trained in and have extensive experience in the practical applications of these concepts.
I prefer to offer this workshop in two parts, the 1st covering Quadrants and Levels and then a 2nd focused on the various Lines of Development, but they can be adjusted to fit your need. Length is dependent on the number of participants, but usually within 3-5 hours per session.
I offer this as a free program based on my knowledge of Integral from the perspective of a certified Master Integral Coach*.
Working With Metaphor & Myth
Four Elements/Four Directions
Though they vary in specifics, many cultures throughout the world, and throughout history, have turned to nature as a means of exploring our inner world, correlating the directions with stages of life, times of year, elemental properties, and archetypical images.
I offer 2 versions of this program, which are similar in design, but differ in the specific presentation.
These work best if done in 4 separate sessions, though I do have a format for a 1 weekend program.
4 Elements is focused on the classical elements of Earth, Wind, Fire & Water. In it we explore each element and its properties and draw correlations with our personal state of being. For example, where Fire speaks to our energy and motivation when it is contained, when it is left unattended it can turn to anger and rage. We also will explore the benefits of balancing these energies – if we hold too much to the qualities of Water and do nothing to stoke our Fire, the quality of the Fire becomes smokey and it becomes difficult to get things done. I developed this program from personal exploration of the 4 Elements in connection with alchemical, tantric and Vedic Samkhya philosophy, and correlations with the 4 Directions teachings I have studied.
The 4 Directions teaching looks at the cardinal points as we experience them here in the Northern Hemisphere as a map for our development from birth to death. Each direction speaks to a phase of life, the lessons we learn there, and the types of energy we foster within them. For example, North is the direction of adulthood, it is winter, the direction of the King and the Eagle. We learn lessons of responsibility to our communities, of making hard choices, and finding and giving our gifts to the world. I developed this program after studying the system under Sparrow Hart at Circles of Air and Stone, and personalized it with my training as a coach, further reading from both eastern and western traditions, and my own experience and practices.
Hero’s Journey (The Call, Allies & Guides, Primal Forces, The Decent, The Return)
Based on Joseph Campbell’s writing on the Hero’s Journey we use a series of practices, rituals and, exercises to explore our own journey through life.
Campbell believed that through time and distance there was commonality in the mythological stories we tell about setting out to accomplish great things. He presented a sort of Jungian collective unconscious model which opens the door for each of us to look at our own journey in light of the tales of successful adventure humanity has been telling itself throughout history.
I break the program into 5 sessions, they can be done over a weekend or over 5 weeks:
The Call – Explores the desire to step out into something greater, when our life feels too small, or there is a great task we feel compelled to accomplish, disengaging from daily life to make space for our personal story of adventure, and looking at the thoughts, beliefs and habits that hold us back from stepping out onto the road of destiny.
Allies & Guides – Focuses on finding those teachers, both within ourselves and out in the world, that provide support and add wisdom to our endeavors. Using visualization and group work we find new ways of relating to the people we come in contact with and the spirits and god (or gods) we look to for guidance.
Primal Forces – There are forces at work in the world around us that are bigger than our individual selves. Nature, institutions, governments, family dynamics, can overwhelm us unless we are prepared to harness them and act from our deepest sense of purpose. This session focuses on ways we relate to and live within the larger chaos of the world. It can blur us out or drive us to deeper passion and purpose.
The Decent – Going within, facing our fears and failures, can be the most difficult part of the journey. Everything until now has been preparing you to face your biggest obstacles. During this session we use some visualization techniques and group and individual exercises to overcome some of those challenges.
The Return – Having made our journey, we circle around to the place we began. Have we changed? If so, how do we make those changes stick? How do we incorporate the lessons we learned into our daily lives and relationships? In this session we work specifically on creating a plan for returning to your life with new vision and purpose.
Living a Heroic Life – Discovering Your Super Power
What do we mean when we talk about heroes? Our culture is ripe with modern tales of super heroes. Real life versions are much harder to come by. In the fantasy of movies and comics we find inspiration the stories of driven protectors, magic, cunning, and strength to fight evil and overcome challenges.
But we ourselves are called, everyday, to meet our own versions of villainous and apocalyptic catastrophe. It may not be the end of the world, or even a life or death situation, but the challenges we face and power it takes to stay true to our principals, to act with integrity, and stay committed to our goals is no small feat.
In this 2-4 hour workshop we explore themes of personal commitment, strength and teamwork through popular super hero archetypes, and discuss practical ways to turn that inspiration into making real world change.
Whether or not you think life is a game, sometimes it can be fun to live like we are playing one. This workshop was designed to introduce one of the most popular tools in video and role playing games as a method of driving action and achieving success in real world situations, tracking our goals, progress and even loot as we kick ass in everyday life.
We look at common aspects of fantasy gaming like character sheets, inventory, farming, and guilds and how we can apply those in real life as a means of tracking our progress and keeping ourselves accountable.
I offer a short 2 hour introduction to this concept as well as a longer weekend length workshop. I have a basic website specifically on coaching using this method at www.rpgcoaching.com.
Yoga & Meditation
Yogic Magic – Exploring the Sindhis as Archetypical States
The Eight primary siddhis in Hindu mythology are magical capabilities gained by the greatest yogis. They include the ability to change ones size and body mass, gain anything one desires, and possessing absolute control of the world around us. While changing one’s body size or weight might be useful from a literal perspective, as allegory for the power of the mind and the spirit, they are infinitely more useful.
Using yoga, meditation, guided visualization and powerful group exercises we will explore the 8 primary siddhis as way to expand our way of seeing the world. When we shift our thinking and see things from different perspectives, when we can find within ourselves what we have sought so long without, our relationship to the world its problems changes.
I offer this program as either a 3 day workshop or in 6 or 8 two hour sessions over 6 or 8 weeks.
3 Gunas – Building The Energy You Need
In this program I offer an in depth look at the gunas as taught by the Samkhya school of philosophy.
Sattva – the quality of harmony, balance and creativity.
Rajas – the quality of passion and action.
Tamas – the quality of imbalance and destruction.
Through the workshop we explore ways of observing these qualities in our daily lives and introduce practices that help us generate and connect to them when needed.
I can present this program in 1 3-4 hour workshop or in 3 sessions.
Over the last 20 years I have explored a wide range of meditation and visualization techniques both on my own and with teachers from diverse traditions.
I can offer classes or workshops from an hour to 3 day in length across a range of themes, though I usually tend toward seasonal changes, and environmental and personal awareness.
*Master Integral Coach and Integral Coaching are registered trademarks of Integral Coaching Canada.