Shoot your Guru*

Last week I was working at a client site in Torrance and had a meeting after work in Santa Monica.  I plugged the address into the GPS App on my iPhone and away I went.  The route it was taking me seemed a little out-of-the-way, but I trusted that the directions were accurate and perhaps just taking a few different highways because it was rush hour.    Although it did seem odd to me that I was heading towards downtown when I needed to be going in the opposite direction and going west towards Santa Monica.

Imagine my annoyance when I reached the destination that was downtown near the Staple Center instead of in Santa Monica.  It took me almost 40 minutes to backtrack in the right direction and I was over an hour late for my appointment.

I realized how unconscious I’ve become around directions and following this little App on my phone.  I put all of my faith and trust and power in technology and completely ignored my internal GPS…my intuition…that was giving me the vibe that I needed to follow the route I thought I should, versus the one being given to me by the device.

In the circles I run in with yoga, transformational and  spiritual communities, there are many Gurus and teachers that people follow.  A Guru is considered someone of authority or a guide on one’s spiritual path. An “expert” with much knowledge to impart.  So often, we ignore our own internal GPS (that inner voice of truth) and give our power away to an external force or someone else.  Back in the 60’s and 70’s when the whole idea of having or following a Guru took off, it seemed like many people were taking their Guru’s word as gospel.  I still see this happening today.  We blindly follow and put our faith in another human being trusting and believing that  because they are a “spiritual teacher” that they know about what’s best for us better than we do.  I’ve been around some transformational and spiritual teachers who don’t practice what they preach and yet they are telling other people how to live their lives. Some have even been so reckless as to cost other people their lives because their egos got the best of them.

In this new Age of Aquarius, the day of the Guru is dead.  Each of us…has the power within us to be our own Guru.  We are all being called to awaken to ourselves. We may have guides, mentors and teachers along the way who come into our lives to offer us something and can help us awaken.  However, no one is the expert on your life except you.  Take what fits from what you are learning and leave the rest.

Ask Spirit the question you want to know.  Then tune in to the quiet, to you, to the infinite wisdom that is inside of you and listen.  When you connect with Spirit and yourself through quiet stillness and meditation, you our heart will open to gain the knowledge you seek and Spirit will respond with a quiet whisper.

Nothing is outside of you…it’s all within.

 

*Credit to Rick Springfield for the title of this piece.  It’s the title of an instumental song from his Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance CD.

 

 

 

Coming Home and Making Peace

I’ve been spending the last week in my hometown of Pittsburgh visiting my family.  With me in Los Angeles and my brother and his family in Minneapolis, we started a tradition over the last few years of all coming home during a week in July to spend time together as a family at my parents house.

Over the years, I’ve had many different impressions of Pittsburgh, this steel town where I was born and raised.  As a teenager and then young adult, I found myself becoming restless.  I knew that there was a whole new world beyond the steel city and I had a strong desire to discover those worlds. To see how other people lived and what their experiences of life were.   To meet people who were different then myself.  Almost everyone around me  growing up was white, Catholic and a Democrat.  There was not much diversity, people thought the same, didn’t seem to question anything…and I questioned everything and had an imagination and dreams of exploration and discovering  and learning new things.  Pittsburgh seemed like such a conventional city with conventional people and I was a pretty unconventional person who always felt a little weird amidst the normalcy.

I went away to college to Westminster College, which was about an hour away from home and had my first taste of being on my own.  Shortly after graduation, I took the first chance I could to get out of my hometown and moved to Washington, DC.  In my youthful arrogance, I had many judgements and opinions about Pittsburgh and deemed it a town with lack of culture and innovation.  I often dreaded coming back to visit and felt that if my parents didn’t live there, I probably would never return.

After three years in DC, I moved to Chicago and my first experience of Chicago was that it reminded me of a combination of New York and Pittsburgh.  It had the art and culture of New York and the down to earth, loyal and hard work ethic of Pittsburgh.  I fell in love with Chicago, moved there and stayed for 17 years.  Chicago became my adopted hometown and whenever anyone would ask me where I was from, I’d say Chicago.

When I moved to Los Angeles, it was Chicago I longed for, missed and desperately thought of returning to when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay.  My parents very generously offered the opportunity for me to move back with them so I could regroup and plan my next steps if I did indeed want to leave LA.  While I appreciated their generosity, the thought of moving back to Pittsburgh made me shudder.  I seriously thought that I would wither and die if I had to return and be in Pittsburgh for any long period of time.

But somehow this trip has been different. I’m not sure if Pittsburgh has just drastically changed in the years since I’ve been gone (and I’m sure it has…I’ve been away for twenty-three years), or if I’m just seeing with different eyes and a lot less arrogance, but Pittsburgh seems a whole lot cooler.  Perhaps it’s a little of both.

I have come to find a new appreciation of Pittsburgh…I appear to have made peace with my past.  We visited some haunts of my youth like Kennywood Park and The Pittsburgh Zoo and I remembered such fond memories of times there and I marveled at how grown up and hip areas of Pittsburgh have become.  The entire city seems to have undergone a brand refresh.  There are cultural events, cool loft spaces, and regentrified parts of town that are simply breathtaking.  It’s hard to imagine that this city with some beautiful rolling hills and stunning architecture was once a smelly, dirty industrial steel town with polluted waters and tall smoke stacks.  There are things happening here.

I still don’t imagine myself living back here, but I have become friends with my home town again.  I’m even proud of it.  Hell, I’m even proud to be from this town.  I learned a lot about how to be a caring, decent human being from growing up in the surroundings of this city.

I am a product of a twelve-year Catholic school education and a blue-collar family who worked hard so that my brother and I could get a good education, never go without, and have better advantages than the generation before us.  I am the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college, my brother is the first person in our immediate family to obtain a graduate degree.  We had dinner on the table every night and ate as a family.  We went to church on Sundays, had Sunday dinner with my grandparents. My mom was home to greet us when we came home from school and the entire family attended every theater and performance that I was involved with and every sporting activity that my brother was involved with growing up.

I learned loyalty, being and keeping your word and honoring your commitments. My parents, as an example of honoring their commitment to each other have been married for almost 47 years. I learned what really matters.  I learned kindness and being caring towards others. I learned to always extend the offer to help someone because it’s the right thing to do, not because you expect anything in return. I learned to treat people with respect. I learned from my parents that gender didn’t matter,  I was capable of doing anything if I put my mind to it and worked hard to achieve it.

I’m the dreamer in my family and my big dreams and desire for adventure and seeking new shores has often kept my parents up at night with concern.  But the unconventional way I choose to live my life has also enabled them to stretch out of their comfort zone to join me in my adventures.  My mom got on a plane by herself to help me get settled in my apartment when I first moved to LA and end up staying for over three weeks.  She loved it and  said if it wasn’t for me, she would have never done that.  And the conventional side of my family provides me with a haven when I become overwhelmed, need to rest and simply be surrounded by love.

I know that in spite of what may in my mind be my “weirdness” that I always have a home and I have a family who will give it to me straight and always have my back even if they don’t agree with my choices. I know that I am loved and that there are many different expressions of that love.

The more I become aligned with my authentic self, the less I resistance I have to where I came from.  And I’m finding that no matter where I go, no matter who I meet and no matter where I may fail or what I might accomplish…I will always be a girl from Pittsburgh.  And I’m completely fine with that.

 

Just a still town girl on a Saturday night, lookin’ for the fight of her life. In the real-time world no one sees her at all, they all say she’s crazy.
Locking rhythms to the beat of her heart, changing woman into life. She has danced into the danger zone, when a dancer becomes a dance. – Maniac from Flashdance (filmed in Pittsburgh).

Crack it Open

As I was sitting in meditation this morning,  my thoughts drifted to the week ahead and this experience of excitement washed over me.  Next week, I get to see my family, and spend an entire week with my nieces Emma (2 1/2) and Abby (5 months).  My thoughts drifted to Emma, her big blue eyes and blond hair, her smile, her laugh, and the incredible joy she (and her baby sister) bring to all of us.  As I had these thoughts, an experience of joy rose up from the base of my back (first chakra) all the way to my heart (fourth chakra) and I experienced my heart chakra open wide and these sensations of happiness, joy, and love pumped into my heart like blood pumping into a heart chamber.

I then remembered a time, a little over three years ago, sitting on the same green chaise lounge I was sitting on this morning, being overwhelmed with grief, sadness, my heart feeling as though it was broken.  My three-week old nephew Zachary had died, unexpectedly and suddenly, and my heart was heavy. It felt like it had been shattered into pieces as I grieved not only for myself, but for my family.  I remembered conversations with my family during that time and I wondered, will we ever feel any different then we do now?  It seemed impossible to think that in the midst of this brokenness and heaviness that I would ever be happy and free again. I remember even wondering, if there would be any more children coming into our family.  Two months after Zachary died, my sister-in law discovered she was pregnant and Emma was born the same year as Zachary.

Always searching for the greater meaning, lesson or opportunity  in situations, particularly in the challenging ones,  during that  time, I kept asking why.  Why did that happen?  What was the  purpose of Zachary’s short life?  The answer that came to me when I sat with that question was “To crack your heart open.”

“To crack your heart open” resonated with me.  I organized myself around not feeling pain and made choices to avoid risk. I simply couldn’t bring myself to give my heart to anything  or anyone coming off the heels of my nephew dying, losing my job and ending a relationship within months of each other.  And while my mind kept telling me that it was “safer this way,” I felt dead.   My experience of life was as though I was somehow sleep walking, and I was suffering because I knew I was allowing my fear to get the best of me.  I even went into the next dating relationship not being fully willing to surrender my heart. And, not surprisingly, during much of that relationship, my experience was, that a deep heart connection that I longed for, was missing.

When we experience loss…loss of a loved one, or the ending of a relationship or even the loss of work…our heart can feel as though it’s broken…and sometimes even shattered into pieces.  I know mine did during that time and has after a breakup.  I remember the pain and heart ache I felt after my first significant relationship ended many years ago.  The emotion was so intense, that for a long time after that, I didn’t want to fall in love, as I had made this association that love equaled pain and suffering and I did my best to avoid feeling that again.

The impact to those experiences  can be that we want to close our heart, to protect it. To do anything to not feel the intense emotions and possibility of pain that one might experience that is part of the human condition.  The mind thinks and comes to associate  something “negative” with the feeling, emotion  or  a sense  of “danger” and wants to avoid it.   The reptilian part of our brain is designed for those fight or flight moments of danger.  However, when we condition and organize ourselves to avoid the pain, we also rob ourselves and others of experiencing love and connection.

The first part of this year, I spent time taking an experiential transformational training program with a company in Orange county called WorldWorks, to reconnect to the vision that I had for my life that had me move to LA. Taking the time for this exploration profoundly altered the core of my being and how I experience life. How I best describe it when people ask how it was,  is “my heart cracked wide open.”  I  stopped spending time and energy trying to sew my heart back together and allowed it to expand with all the room the cracks had allowed for.

There is pureness that radiates from Emma, and from Abby too, at her tender age of 5 months on this planet.  They are both happy, joyful little girls who are pure love and each moment is fresh for them.  When I think of them or look at them, I experience the little miracles that they both are.  In those times of such intense sadness, I never imagined that I could love so fully and deeply as I do these two incredible little beings. I feel so blessed to be their Auntie and they teach me so much about love, play, what’s truly important and that being present for life’s precious moments is what “being successful” means.

My experience of life continues to get deeper as I allow my heart chakra to stay open and expand for all of it…happiness, sadness, joy, pain, fear, love. By allowing myself to be vulnerable, my compassion and connection to others has deepened and so has my ability to simply love people.  It shows up in how I be in business, with friends, with the people I love and even with complete strangers I meet. The conversations I’m having with people are new and fresh and life seems a little crisper.  When I simply be love, I feel alive and there is a ripple effect all around from that energy being extended towards others.   What I’m learning is the lesson that all of the great ascending masters came here to teach us…be love.

Consider this – What if those “painful” experiences are simply moments that pierce and “crack” our heart chakra open wider to allow our capacity to experience love expand?  To let our light out. To enable us to experience  joy and happiness. To allow us to have that joy, happiness and love to flow from us to others and to experience the deep human connection that we all long for.

Be Love…what do you have to lose?

 

 

A Hero or Heroine’s Journey

You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path. You are not on your own path. If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential.” Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey

I’ve shared quite publicly about the journey I’ve been on over the last few years.  While I’ve not  yet read A Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell, I will say that the above quote struck a chord.

At the age of four, I remember wanting everyone to feel included and accepted.  There was a little boy in my nursery school class, I don’t remember his name, but he was from Puerto Rico and he didn’t speak English.  My Mom said that I learned to communicate with him in Spanish from the Spanish I was learning from watching Sesame Street.  I also remember as early as age seven, arguing with my Dad at the dinner table about people of different religions and races not being any different then we were….This coming from someone who wasn’t exposed to many people, or experiences that were outside of the homogenous community and upbringing I found myself in.

Even as a little girl, I was convicted about certain things…things that I felt in my heart were true…at least for me.  But my environment and the external messages I was receiving were telling me other wise.  For a lot of my life, I fought against the current to stay true to those things…and some…I listened to those external messages over my own….but yet there was still a fight in side of me…something wanting to emerge.

Growing up I wanted to be a musical theater actress, but somehow that desire evolved into wanting to be a newscaster and that evolved into studying business, marketing and communications.  I remember at one point even thinking that I wanted to be a therapist, as I was fascinated by what made people tick and I wanted to help people.

I went to college, and each summer took some job in communications, marketing or advertising to learn my craft.  I moved to Washington, DC after college because there weren’t many jobs in Pittsburgh that were of interest, and I was ready to experience new things.  I had many friends from college living in DC, so I took a leap of faith and moved there.  I was excited at the thought of changing the world, and DC seemed like a great place to do that. I left three years later, disillusioned and moved to Chicago.  I landed an amazing position with a company creating their corporate volunteer program from idea into a successful award-winning program in two years.  It was exciting to create something from nothing and have other people become as excited to participate.  I didn’t realize at the time…but I had started my first movement.

I then  jumped on board with someone else’s movement to transform the types of teachers that were recruited into the Chicago Public School system and their recruitment process.  My boss was a fellow change agent and I always remember him saying “You have to be willing to get fired for what you are out to change.”

While being part of the cause was exciting in some ways…it was exhausting in others.  I learned that I didn’t so much like the constraints of working in a large government entity,  and I started to take improv classes at Second City because I needed a creative outlet.  It reawakened a passion in me and I found that I enjoyed the three+ hours a week I was spending in class and with my fellow improv classmates more than the 60+ hours a week I was spending in a government organization.  Eventually, I got off that path to pursue acting and singing for a while.

I still needed to pay the bills, so I took a part-time position at a health insurance company and helped them to be more strategic about how they utilized their website  to communicate to their audiences.  Who knew the benefits would come in so handy when I broke my arm a year later doing my first (and to date only) triathlon and needed to have surgery and also two years later when I needed a total replacement of the top of my arm bone.  This position eventually led to full-time and, while I wasn’t really excited at the thought of working there full-time, the economy had taken a down turn and I stayed out of fear.

I eventually left and started doing independent consulting work with a management consulting company as a marketing contractor and continued the acting  and cabaret singing thing for a while and also got into theater and film producing.  I eventually stopped acting all together, as I realized that I loved performing, but I hated auditioning.  I could never create anything empowering around it.  And I’m glad that I tried it, as I forever stopped “wondering” and made peace with my choice at the time to jump back into focusing on the corporate world.  Which looking back, I did because it was familiar.

Even though I had a corporate job, I was always seeking new outlets and avenues of expressions…transformational work, coaching, spiritual pursuits, guitar lessons, yoga teacher training.   I had this pattern of earning a paycheck doing what I knew in a corporate setting and finding passion and fulfillment outside of how I earned my money.  Except I had this longing to have how I earned a living be aligned with my passions, with what made me happy, with my heart, to be purposeful instead of something that I did on the side.

In December of 2013, my 18-month consulting project at yet another larger corporation was coming to an end and I was full of fear.  I didn’t have that next thing lined up, knew how much money was in my bank account, and in my heart of hearts did not want to keep doing the same thing, but didn’t quite know what that next thing was.

As I looked at my resume and job experiences, I have done some impressive things, but I started to see some interesting patterns.  I took several positions because they sounded like cool opportunities (and they were), early in my career, I was taking positions that were more aligned with giving back, making a difference, building a movement.  In all of my roles, I was the first one and set the stage for building something…the visionary in me loved that.  The companies kept getting larger and larger and more slow to navigate around inside of.  Some of the companies were conservative and slower to change and I was often the visionary change agent banging the drum, and that got tiring and unfulfilling after a while.  I  also found it hard sometimes to fully adapt to the cultures and felt like I had to check a side of myself at the door to “make it.”

These were all interesting discoveries. That I took into months of self exploration and experimenting with the kind of work that I wanted to do and didn’t want to do.  I started the year off by spending quite a bit of time doing some transformational work and getting more aligned with my vision and the experiences I wanted to have and where I add value.

I’ve been on a spiritual path (a heroine’s journey if you will) for quite a while now and there has been a calling forth of having my outsides and insides meet.  Meaning that I’ve gone deep and have been discovering the core essence of myself beyond the ego. And the more that my authentic self has emerged, the more having an outer life that reflects that authentic self has been called forth.  Relationships have ended, jobs have ended, and new people and opportunities are coming into my life.

Lately what’s been calling itself forth is the need to reinvent myself in the business realm to match the kinds of companies that I’m seeking to partner and align with.  It’s been humbling to discover that good and bad news.  The 21st century way of doing business is different from what we’ve known.  And again, I’m discovering that it’s in inside job.  To first be clear on who am I and where I add value and  then look at who are my customers and that are their  needs.  I’ve literally had to rebrand myself to reflect all of this.  The funny thing is that I have done that for years for my clients…it’s been a new discovery to see that I have also needed to become conscious  my “personal brand” and refresh it.

And I don’t think that I’m alone in what I’m discovering.  The challenges that larger corporations are facing with reorganizations and layoffs will not be changing any time soon….they need to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and compete in the market place.  At the same time, there are people longing for more meaningful work to serve a higher purpose and their security at their companies is no longer a foregone conclusion.  People have been downsized, and they are starting to explore what might be next.

I share all of this, as taking the journey back through my career and looking at what had me make the choices I made, what made me happy, what was fulfilling, what wasn’t so fulfilling, where do I add value etc.  Have all been a journey in and of itself to be able to actively create what I choose to do next vs taking something out of fear.  It’s not been easy, there have been many challenges along the way and much uncertainty.   But there has also been something empowering about all of it too.  I’m seeing that I’m a source of what I create next.  And it’s taken constantly letting go of my ego and my past accomplishments, being willing to be a constant student and learn new things and learning to trust other people.

What I have learned along  my heroine’s journey is that the desire that I had for people to feel included, accepted and known is still with me and the belief that at the end of the day, we are all connected and one, no matter how “different” we might look is still a belief that I have am passionate about.   And I still have the desire to either start a movement or join in on someone else’s to bang the drum and have others come along. What all of this  has made available, is to stand in this moment to see what I can create as a career path from this place.

It’s been a big leap and I still have moments of fearing that I will free fall and go splat on the pavement, but I am trusting that it is leading me somewhere and that my journey will inspire others to go on their own hero or heroine’s journey.

I encourage those on the path to look at your career past and find the patterns…it will free you up to start to dwell in that you might actually want to create.  Then ask yourself these simple questions.  What do I want now?  What makes me happy?  Where do I add value?  How can I serve?  Dwell in the questions, listen to your heart and see what answers start to emerge and what opportunities might start presenting themselves.

Leave me a comment below or drop me a line at nina@ninaoneil.com.  I’d love to hear what you are discovering on your own journey.

The ego is as you think of yourself. You in relation to all the commitments of your life, as you understand them. The self is the whole range of possibilities that you’ve never even thought of. And you’re stuck with your past when you’re stuck with the ego. Because if all you know about yourself is what you found out about yourself, well, that already happened. The self is a whole field of potentialities to come through.”  – Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey

Unfreeze Yourself

I saw the Disney movie Frozen a few weeks ago with my mom, while I was in Pittsburgh for the holidays. The themes of  fear and love in the movie  resonated with me.

The film is based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale the Snow Queen.  Spoiler alert to anyone who doesn’t know the plot.  The story is about Elsa, a princess with magical powers.  Elsa has the gift of being able to create cold and snow with her hands.  As children, Elsa and her sister Anna created this magical world of play and fun in the snow, inside of the castle where they live.  Until one night, their play almost kills Anna and their parents decide that they need to keep their daughter’s dangerous gift a secret.

Elsa separates herself from her family and lives in fear that her “curse” will hurt someone again.  She lives in fear of her gift.  And, as her fear grows stronger,  her self-expression and her ability to control her gift diminishes, because the more fearful she becomes, the more destruction her gift causes to others.  In the world of fear, her gift does become a curse to those around her. One day, Elsa becomes Queen of the kingdom and her secret is exposed.  Her fear rages and causes a winter storm to permanently fall upon the kingdom and she flees to the mountains to further spare her sister and the kingdom from the destruction she is capable of causing.

No longer held back from her secret,  in her solitude, Elsa celebrates her new-found freedom, unleashes her powers and creates a breathtaking snow palace.

Anna sets out to find her sister to bring her back and to help stop the winter storm raging on the kingdom.  In a fearful confrontation, Anna is accidentally struck in the heart by Elsa’s powers, causing her heart to start to freeze.  Anna is told that her heart will continue to freeze and she will die unless an act of true love can thaw her heart and save her.

Elsa is almost captured and killed, but a brave Anna throws herself between the assassin and her sister,  and she completely  freezes into solid ice.  This act of love has saved Elsa but cost Anna her life…until, that act of  sacrifice and love becomes the very thing that Anna needed to be saved and she thaws.  Cue the happy Disney ending.

We all have gifts and a purpose for being here and sometimes, our humanity has us be fearful of who we truly are and we hide ourselves and our gifts away.

I spent most of the last year fearing the unknown and became stuck in fearful thoughts and envisioning a future that was full of lack and scarcity. I foolishly kept trying to anticipate, analyze and think my way  towards my goals and felt like I was spinning my wheels and not seeing much movement.  I was not trusting in a universe or divine plan that had my greatest interests at heart and I was unwilling to surrender my fears or perspective on how things should look on behalf of perhaps something that might even be better than what I envisioned.

I was stuck in the picture in my head of how things should or needed to be vs simply embracing and accepting how they were.   My heart became closed and frozen, and it cost me my health, my self-expression, being open to new experiences, and being able to listen to where life might be leading me.  And it cost me being open to the moments of magic and miracles that can occur at the snap of a finger.

Just before the holidays, my consulting project ended and I didn’t have the next gig lined up.  This heightened my fear even more and couldn’t see the silver lining in any of it.  All I could think of was the fear and the worst case of scenario and the cycle of fear continued to run on a never-ending loop.

The ending of my contract provided a beautiful gift…the opportunity to spend two full weeks with my family. And it was just the act of love that my heart needed to unfreeze itself from the fear and to open up to receive and allow love to flow in.  Being in the space of love provided such a nurturing environment and allowed for room to just be.  My soul could rest and I was able to  let go of whatever fear was gripping me and release the emotions and thoughts that were holding me back.  It was an incredibly healing experience and it allowed me to both receive and give love.

I came back to Los Angeles, unfrozen and am starting the new year in a completely different space. I’ve resolved to live from my heart this year, to follow where it may lead me and to listen for the guidance of where to go next.  My heart is open to new possibilities, adventures and I’m in a state of love, gratitude and feel profoundly grateful for my life and the people in it.

While I have no idea what  2014 holds, I don’t feel the need to know…I’ll create it and trust that it’s all working out perfectly and any moment that I experience suffering, is an indicator that I’m not listening to my heart and all there is to do is let go and remain open.

We all have somewhere that we are frozen in fear and holding ourselves back.  Where can you, let go and allow an act of love to open your heart to unfreeze yourself?  Like Elsa, what magic can you unleash this year?

Let it Go Video Sequence – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk

Elsa the Snow Queen from Frozen

Elsa the Snow Queen from Frozen

Here’s to the Underdog

One of the key elements of a good inspiring story is the underdog.  Which by definition is one who is expected to lose, one who is at a disadvantage or in a position of inferiority.  Why is it that everyone loves to root for the underdog?

A co-worker of mine, coaches a boy’s soccer team in Pasadena. Team Haggis (as they named themselves) has had quite the season.  Every Monday the hot topic in the office has been how the Haggis boys did in their soccer game over the weekend. James has been coaching and attempting to inspire and motivate the boys all season; and each week there was some tale of adversity that kept victory at bay.  Injured players, missed goals, a game against the top team in the league, etc.

Even though I never personally attended a game, I found myself becoming a fan of these lovable losers. Week after week, these boys hit the field full of potential, only to be once again defeated.  They did win a few and finished the season out at 3-2-5 and ended up 10th out 12th place in the league.  Somehow, in spite of a dismal record, Haggis found themselves in the playoffs with a chance to win the whole enchilada.  James and I chuckled at the odds of having the record like that and ending up in the playoffs.  All teams were eligible, regardless of their season record.  The odds were certainly stacked against them and I must admit, I didn’t have very high hopes for the boys of team Haggis.

The Monday after the last game, I asked James how Haggis fared in their post season.  James’ face lit up with a smile and a chuckle as he shared that Haggis took the whole thing…they won the championship game and were now proceeding to a regional tournament game. This was nothing short of a miracle and certainly not a predictable outcome.  He was so proud as he shared that after months being defeated, these boys finally had mustered up the confidence to believe in themselves and they won the big game….in spite of the odds.

I found myself touched by this story, as it was a good reminder.  That in spite of what’s in front of us, be it obstacles or impossible circumstances, that anything is still possible.  When success looks like it’s alluding us and failure the likely outcome it’s easy to become defeated, to give up, to quit, to judge ourselves and to feel like a failure.  However, the key is to keep showing up, to keep playing, in spite of the defeat, the skinned knees and the bruised ego.  The miracle and victory, may be just around the corner, beyond where the eye can see or the mind can think.

Why is it that everyone loves to root for the underdog?  I think it’s because it gives us hope.  Hope that our own adversities can have a happy ending. That we’ll see better days. That a miracle can happen at any moment.

The Gift of Being Silent

One morning last week, I answered my phone and as I opened my mouth to say hello…nothing came out but a squeak, a whisper at best.  I had completely lost my voice.  In addition to no voice, my chest hurt when I breathed and I had a sore throat that made it hurt to swallow.  Bronchitis my doctor said.  Rest was his recommendation.  In order to salvage what little whisper of a voice I had, I chose to not fight it and to stop speaking.

Not speaking is not easy for me.  I make my living as a communications consultant, spend most of my days in meetings, stay connected to those in my life via the phone and I’m a teacher, teaching a weekly mediation class to coworkers.  However, I  sensed that there might be some learning opportunity here, and felt grateful for whomever invented texting, at least I could stay connected with people through that medium.

What I noticed immediately in not speaking was peace and stillness.  It was as though my soul took a deep sigh of relief and rested.  The worry, the fear, the negative self-talk, the mind chatter that had become so loud in the weeks prior…started to slowly become quiet and the tension began to leave my body.

The last few months for me, have been stressful.  I’ve been on an 18 month consulting project that is coming to an end in a few weeks.  Due to a California Law, my client is unable to extend my contract.  I’ve been searching for both full-time work and consulting work and as of this moment, another opportunity has not presented itself.  I was laid off from my previous company six months after I moved to LA and didn’t find consistent work for over a year, which had me deplete any savings I had.  I’ve been spending the last year rebuilding and am financially not in a position to be out of work for a long stretch.

My mind, my thoughts, my speaking has been focused on these fears and the memories of what my experience of living in LA had been like during that time.  I moved to LA over three years ago, with such lofty intentions when I imagined the life I would create here.  And, life has taken so many unexpected turns over the last few years, I’ve come to immensely fear the unknown and my mind often wanders down that dark road called imagining the worst case scenario.

Honestly, it’s been robbing my joy and it’s not surprising that the stress I’ve put myself through has resulted in bronchitis and loss of voice.  I looked at these ailments  holistically with my doctor. Lung problems  represent grief, and the fear of taking in life. Laryngitis represents being so mad you can’t speak or fear of speaking up.   Both were a spot on fit with my thoughts, fears, emotional states.  It is my belief that the body never lies and if you tune in, it will reveal many things to you.

Just prior to becoming sick, I started to allow myself to feel all of the anger, grief, sadness, and fear about my disappointments, resentments, expectations of myself and others about what I intended to create when I arrived in LA three years ago without apology or without judgement.  I started speaking them and acknowledging them to the people closest to me…some truth telling.  And I started observing the emotions wash over and through me and observing the thoughts and fear decrease.

And then the silence.  It’s as  though my body said, “Enough. Get it all out, but stop speaking it.  Let it rest.”

As I laid in bed resting I prayed to God and to my Angels to be with me, to shift my thoughts from that of fear to trust.  As I laid in bed resting, I remembered so many times in my life when I jumped without a net, without thinking or trying to control or know the outcome….and things turned out. A net appeared, a job appeared, money appeared, a person appeared.  I started remembering the long list of examples like the time I decided to move to Washington DC after college with no job. Or when I visited Chicago, liked it and decided I wanted to move there not having any network and knowing maybe three people. Or when I decided I wanted to leave the corporate world for a while to pursue singing and acting.  Things always turned out and I never believed for a moment that they wouldn’t, each time.  I was following my heart, what I felt authentically called to do each of those times and every other time I could think of as an example.

So why should this time be any different?

As I laid in bed resting, I could observe my thoughts, and my mind becoming more quiet.  And in the silence, I could listen.  Listen to my heart.  My heart and my soul keeps calling me towards something…to serve humanity.  To use my voice as a speaker, as a writer, as a teacher to contribute to others. To be a light, so others can see their light.  The manifestation of that fully realized… I don’t know what that might be or what it looks like.  There is something calling me forth and it had me leave a beautiful life in Chicago to move to LA.  It has me be here now, in this moment, searching for what’s next and praying that I find that next thing soon.  And I know, that no matter what it looks like, I can’t give up or deny what my heart is calling me to do.

As I laid in bed resting, I started rereading the Alchemist by Paul Coelho.  It’s about a shepherd boy who travels from his homeland in Spain through the desert in search of a treasure buried at the great Pyramids in Egypt. This is his personal legend, and he is destined to follow it.  He meets many obstacles along the way and also many people and gifts who help him on his journey.  This fictional story is a meditation on the power of our dreams and the importance of listening to and following our heart.

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.”  – The Alchemist

Not speaking took me to a meditative and contemplative space and allowed me to once again listen to what my heart desires.  And in connecting to my heart and my deepest desires, I observed myself surrendering my fears and considering that perhaps God and my Angels once again have my back.  That perhaps all  I need to do is keep taking inspired action, be open to receiving and trust that Spirit will do it’s part.

Don’t give into your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart. – The Alchemist

My voice and my energy are returning.  But my gift of being silent has left me being more mindful of what I choose to speak. Speaking my fears and from my mind, was only producing more fear.  So I will make it a practice this week, so speak from my heart.  And to listen more to my heart, for it’s my internal compass that will lead me in the direction of where to go next.

Our hearts desires our God’s desires for us.  We need only to tune in and listen to hear them.

In the silence…what does your heart say to you?  I’d love to hear.

A Year in the Life

Today is my LA anniversary.  Two years ago today, I hopped a plane from Chicago and moved to LA.  I look back on the last two years and while it’s all very vivid, it seems like a life time ago.  I like to honor and celebrate such occasions as a reflection of the growth and learning that has occurred and who I’ve evolved into as a result of such experiences. My life today looks incredibly different then last year.

Last year at this time, my parents came to visit in celebration of their 45th wedding anniversary and I was still reeling from having the most challenging year of my life.  I had moved to LA with such expectations and hopes and what I imagined life would be like and I was questioning if I belonged here, If I should go back to Chicago and how life had turned out so very differently then I had anticipated.  I was out of work (having been laid off earlier in the year), trying to start a new business with a course I had created and very much in a state of fear and survival without any idea of how to move beyond that state. 2011 was a year of much loss…loss of job, of income, of a baby nephew and of letting go…of what I had expected life would be like, of my life in Chicago, of many aspects of myself.

The last few years have marked the most important journey of my life…the journey into self.  I went deep into the abyss and having made the trip, I now see that to be the light, one must be willing to experience their own darkness.  And all of the loss was necessary to remove many distractions so that I could take the trip. Looking back, I am incredibly grateful for that time, for it has brought me to the moment of now, to a deep connection to self and Source and all that I am creating.

I experienced and confronted many fears, many deep, dark thoughts about myself, about my perspective on the world and how my life had “turned out”, my failures, my sadness, grief and loneliness. I went to some extremely uncomfortable places in a very transparent way, for I lost all sense  of trying to look good or perfect or having it all together.  Somehow any pretense just seemed inauthentic.  I wasn’t OK.  Life was not OK for me at all during that time.  It was dark and ugly and scary. Every day I woke up in fear and went to bed with the same experience.  And I had no idea how or if it would turn out.  I only knew that my bank account was dwindling, money was coming out but not much was going in and I couldn’t see a way out of this, not by myself anyway. And being someone who prided themselves in being in control and also being quite the know it all, not being able to envision a way out of my situation and being in such a place of uncertainty, freaked me out.

What I most learned over the last year is to let go, to understand that I’m not in control and to think I can control anything is delusional.  I learned patience and to trust and to connect with the Divine in ways that I never imagined.  My love for Spirit and the spiritual path is so strong and continues to expand every day.  I’ve learned that there is a Divine plan for all of our greater good, even if we can’t see it, that failure is part of the path to success.  I learned compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and love. I learned to love myself unconditionally and the deeper my love and devotion for Spirit grew, so did my love of self. Most of all, I learned that we can not truly love another until we learn to love ourselves.

My access to all of that was through the physical body.  I was working out at the gym six days a week and got really burnt out.  Something kept calling me to start doing yoga.  But I was seeking a spiritual connection through a yoga practice and I didn’t even know it that existed.  I then serendipitously discovered Kundalini Yoga last October. What spoke to me about Kundalini over other yoga disciplines is that it’s intention is to raise awareness through breathing and specific poses to raise consciousness and connect to the Divine.  The movements, breathing and meditation, activates the nervous system and serves as a way to quiet the mind and create a connection to self.

I coincidentally live near two of the best Kundalini Yoga studios here in LA and continued my practice on and off throughout the fall until I was sidelined by a car accident in January of this year.  That moment of impact ended up being a transformative experience.  I started going to a chiropractor who specializes in Network Spinal Analysis,  in which gentle precise touches to the spine cues the brain to create new patterns. I not only started healing, it unlocked the Kundalini energy that was lying dormant at the base of the spine and caused an intense spiritual awakening and elevation of consciousness.

What I was experiencing was so intense, I didn’t have the understanding or language to fully articulate what was happening.  I knew that things were shifting, that I was changing and seeing life in an entirely different way and it didn’t feel safe to share my experience with people.  I retreated inward and allowed myself to go deep into what I was experiencing, building a protective cocoon around myself and creating some distance between me and others.  The experience  seemed in many ways too precious to share and I also didn’t know who would be able to understand the experience. Resuming my yoga practice further awakened me, as I learned to tame my monkey mind.

Through my yoga practice, I connected even deeper to self and Spirit and this knowingness started to return.  Remembering who I was…beyond the ego.  I think we are all born knowing who we are and experiencing a connection to the Divine.  Our environment, culture, upbringing tells us otherwise and we stop trusting that inner compass.  One day during meditation, I heard that inner voice of wisdom whisper to me,  “Trust, the answer can be found within.”  It is in going deep inside ourselves that we can experience that wisdom and intuition and learn to distinguish the difference between the voice of ego and the voice of Spirit.

As I  listen more to that voice, to be guided by it and follow the fascination, it’s been leading me down some interesting paths.  I’ve learned to move away from situations that are a struggle or a challenge and doors that are closed (they are closed for a reason) and towards things that are in the flow of life.  When a situation becomes a struggle, that’s usually a good indication to me that it might be a good idea to move away from it, that perhaps it’s not for the greater good.  For example, after seeking work for over a year, a succession of events happened that quickly resulted in me landing the consulting project I have.  I’m so happy with my work situation.  The company is great, I work with intelligent, kind, collaborative people and every day, I get to add value and contribute by doing what I do best, creating relationships, solving problems, causing change and effectively managing communication to produce results.

That inner voice of guidance also led me to embark on a six month Kundalini Yoga Teacher training that I just started this weekend at one of my yoga studios.  A year ago, I had never even heard of Kundalini Yoga, but following the fascination of where I was being led took me on that journey.  As I sat in the course this weekend, with 40 other yogis it all became clear to me…this isn’t about being trained to teach yoga….this is the curriculum for my training as a spiritual teacher.  I will share more about the weekend, my journey through teacher training  and about the principles and history of Kundalini Yoga in future blogs.

Almost five years ago on my 40th birthday, I asked Spirit what would be possible if my life were bigger then me, if I was living in service to something.  That question led me on the journey to the here and now.  I was coming to LA for a global communications course every two months for about a year and each time, I felt this pull…something beckoning me here.  At first I ignored it and then the voice got louder.  During the last weekend of my course, I had the opportunity to speak to the group…all 250 of them…from different countries, different religions, different life experiences.  I opened my mouth and impacted each person in the room.  It was then I saw my life’s purpose…to inspire and empower others to awaken to who they are and why they are here through using my voice, as a channel for a message for change.

While I didn’t understand at the time what that all meant, I knew that I needed to move to Los Angeles because my teachers were here.  And five months later, I was living here.  And then the life I knew unraveled. And I discovered that when you are being called to something, whether, you choose it or not your life will radically disrupt itself to lead you down the path you are to follow.  I’ve also started meeting other people with similar awakenings and our experiences were quite similar.   When your destiny is calling you forward, the life you have known will often fall apart and you will experience much loss to wake you up, to have you answer the phone.  The longer you wait to pick up the phone and answer the call, the more disruption, the greater the loss and the higher the cost.  Until you surrender and let go, listen and enter into the Divine flow, allowing yourself to follow the fascination of where you are being led.  For you see, freedom isn’t free.  You must pay a price to enter into a state of freedom.

Each moment, each experience over the last year (and the previous few years) has led me to here, to this moment.  Having cleared much away, my work can now begin.  I’m now prepared to listen and at an elevated energetic frequency to be able to hear the teachings I’m learning in my studies, so that I may in turn teach others.

While I have vision and idea of where this will all lead, I don’t now how this will all unfold or how long it will take to get there.  And for the first time in my life, I’m not concerned about the uncertainty or feel this need to know.  I’m perfectly OK being in this moment and trusting that my inner compass and connection to the Divine will lead the way.  In the mean time, I’ll be right here right now happily living my life, being grateful for the gift of every breath and being in the wonderment of all of it.

Sat Nam.

(A Kundalini Yoga mantra that means Truth is my identity)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Car as a Metaphor for Relationships

I’m in the process of buying a new car.  I’ve lived most of my adult life without a car, having lived in cities where it’s fairly easy to get around on public transportation or by cab.   I only got a car about seven years ago when my Dad gave me my grandmother’s 1988 Grey Buick Century after she died. It was in decent condition and only had 35,000 miles at the time.  When I lived in Chicago, I drove the car about two to three days a week and rarely during the winter.  It was a nice convenience.
Los Angeles is a completely different story. This is very much a car culture and it’s virtually impossible to get around anywhere without a car.  The public transportation system is not entirely safe or convenient and cabs aren’t in abundance like in Chicago and certainly more expensive.  My Buick has seen better days and although it only has 51,000 miles it’s been in a few accidents, I’ve broken down on the freeway, I’ve had to replace the breaks, and have other repairs.  While it’s been nice not having a monthly car payment, the cost of the repairs is starting to add up and I no longer feel entirely safe in my car.

I’ve spent the last few months researching cars.  At first it was entirely overwhelming there are just so many options out there. I spent a lot of time in conversation with people about their cars learning what they liked and didn’t like. Listening to their recommendations.  And inquiring into my likes and dislikes, what features I wanted and the type of car I wanted and what would be a match for my lifestyle.  After much research I narrowed it down to four brands (Mini Cooper, Ford, Hyundai and Scion) and I test drove six cars.

At first I was sold on the Mini Cooper.  It was the first car I test drove and I think it’s a completely adorable car. My reasons for wanting the car were purely emotional with no thought into the practicality of the car and the longevity over time.  After further investigation, I learned more about the cost to service the car over time and other things that made me rethink that choice.

I have now narrowed my choices down to the Scion Fr-S and the Scion Tc.  Both great cars, made by Toyota, very similar in their features with may options being standard on both.  There are things I like and don’t like about each car. The Fr-S is a sportier car with 200 hpr, but doesn’t come with a moon roof and there is not a lot of room in the back seat. The Tc is a lower price point, but the Fr-S is definitely the cooler, younger sibling.  I could get the Tc next week and get a deal on a 2012 model.  I’d have to wait 2-4 months for the Fr-S, as there is a waiting list. The difference in monthly payments, a little over $100.

I keep weighing my options, wondering if I go the practical route and spend less money or get the sportier model, which at first glance was my first choice.  I lean in one direction and then the other, which has been frustrating for me, because by nature, while I do spend time discerning things, I can get to choice fairly quickly.  With this situation, I choose one, then the other, not choosing either. I’m so fearful that I’ll make the wrong decision or choose one and regret it and long for the other and then it will be too late to change things, that my mind is blocked from choosing anything. I’m afraid then that I’ll be locked into the “bad decision” I’ve made, as I’m making a commitment in the form of a 5 year car loan and then be stuck and full of regrets.  I have moments of thinking it’s easier to just keep the Buick but I know, for many reasons, it’s time to let it go and step into something new, even though it’s uncomfortable and risky and requires me to choose.

I was talking to my friend Bob today and as I was sharing this with him, I had this revelation.  Many of the conversations, fears and concerns I have about choosing a car, I have about committed relationships, and marriage. I have this innate fear that I will commit to someone, realize I’ve made horrible choice and regret it for the rest of my life.  Then I’ll be trapped in this stifling, dominating relationship, lose my sense of freedom and independence, wither on the vine and become this person I don’t know or like and end up resenting my partner for holding me back from pursuing my passions. I have really viewed committing myself to another or being married as a life sentence with no parole.

It’s no wonder I see no reason to be married or have been fully willing to commit myself to any man I’ve dated.  I’m always thinking that there might be someone better and that perhaps I’m missing out on something if I’m with the one I’m with.  I’ve even designed some of my relationships to be long distance, so that I get to experience the best of both worlds by having my freedom and my own life and sharing aspects of that life with someone else.

And quite honestly, I’ve also not really observed people, over time, in marriages who seem that happy or fulfilled.  And I can count about 10 couples I know that really seem happy in their marriage and who have really put in the work; and who not only love each other, but who actually like each other, treat each other respectfully and have a genuine partnership.

I got off the phone with Bob wondering where in the world did all of my thoughts, opinions, fears points of view about marriage, committed relationships and committing myself to a man come from.

I’ve been in love before, and  when I love, it’s so deeply and purely. And, while it can be exhilarating (like being behind the wheel of that Fr-S), it’s also been risky to be to open and vulnerable. It’s safer and easier, like keeping the Buick, to remain untethered and free, but am I in some way limiting myself?   And am I really free? Is there something available in fully opening my heart, surrendering and committing to someone and to something beyond myself? What might be possible in choosing partnership?  For myself? For my partner? For what we might create together?  And what about marriage?  Does it expand or contract a relationship?  Is it time to reinvent the idea of marriage?

Quite the interesting inquiry my car selection process has turned into.  None of which I need to solve or answer tonight…or tomorrow for that matter. But it has given me some things to think about.
The car, is a different story. I’ve given myself a week to choose.  I’ve made an appointment with the Scion dealer for next Thursday.

So, do I choose

This?
Scion Tc

Or this?
Scion Fr-S