The Inauguration: An Invitation to Take Risks, Have Compassion, and Get Loud.

Sometimes I wonder if mixing my personal life with my business costs me.

Some say it is risky. Maybe it is, but the cost is greater, both personally and professionally, to keep these two parts of me siloed.

President & Dr. Biden
by an amazing photographer

When thinking about the events of 2020, many shared that January 1st was a new beginning; a chance to press the “restart” button.

For me, that day is today.

Leadership is about inspiring, building people up, and mentorship. It starts with knowing what you believe. And that starts with listening to those around you, considering (like really, really considering) what they have to say, and then forming your own opinion, without attaching yourself to promoting, defending, or protecting it.

Leadership starts with being certain and open to receiving new information and maybe even changing your stance.

And while not linear, it is about bringing everyone else along for the ride of their lives, sometimes driving and sometimes letting others do the driving. Leaders build leaders.

We all benefit from strong leadership.

To be clear, my excitement today is not necessarily about policy reform (but, yes).

Kamala Harris, VP
more stunning photography

It is about inclusivity. Mood. Affect. Generosity. Leadership. All of it.

Obviously, I’m not the only one excited about a new Administration and Congress. From Lady Gaga – with reserved awe, to Jennifer Lopez – with the directive to “Get Loud,” to Garth Brooks – who invited us all to join in the singing of Amazing Grace and who then couldn’t contain his own excitement, breaking free from formality, running about, hugging everyone, we are watching hope in action. We are watching our fellow Americans, giddy with excitement.

We are witnessing pure joy and an eagerness to hit the ground running, all part of something much bigger than the sum of its parts. 

And look out for Amanda Gorman. That’s all I can say. Watch her here

I cannot help but have compassion for the outgoing administration.

Yup. I said it. More on that here. 

My ability to feel – really, really feel – compassion, is only here because I continue to approach those who activate me with lots of curiosity and kindness. Not all the time, but when I catch myself doing the opposite, I can change gears. What a difference it makes.

I am just so grateful and excited. 

For now, though, I’m signing off to go get loud.

Offering Compassion when it is Most Difficult to Do So

Inauguration, 2021
Live, via TV 🙂

While sitting in my PJs, dogs and kids nearby, watching Inauguration of 2021, I wept.

I wept with joy. I felt moved. I feel moved as I write this. But I also felt, and feel, compassion.

When I said something to my family the other night about former President Trump, they doubted me. One of them actually accused me of lying. I was taken aback, actually. But what I said was true. And, in the spirit of pushing my edge and sharing more of myself here, I’ll tell you, too. 

I cannot help but have compassion for those leaving the White House today.

What I know about myself, is that when I’m deep in it, living from the ugly parts of my personality (what we call “down the levels,”), I am blind to it. All my neural pathways are shut down and I’m pre-occupied with defending, protecting, and promoting my agenda. I am in total self-preservation mode. Maybe it should be called self-righteous mode. Truly, it is form of trauma; an impulsive fight, flight, or freeze. As an assertive type, I fight.

Until I did a crap ton of inner work, I had no idea this is what was happening. I really did think I was right and everyone else was wrong. Sometimes, I still go there. Some may say I go there more than I think I do. Hmmm…

So I understand the ugliness that is leaving DC today. I understand being blind to my own wreckage. The only difference is that I don’t have as many people under my influence as the outgoing administration does. But I can be equally as ugly. I’d like to think it doesn’t happen on the regular anymore; and I hope it doesn’t. 

But I am abundantly clear on this fact: If I was my worst self on a daily basis, rather than for moments at a time like now, I’d do some damage. I’d be diagnosed with a disorder. Despite my intentions, I’d be creating the opposite impact. I would not be drawing from nor giving to others, a whole lot of love.

So maybe this is an invitation of sorts. An invitation to notice the parts of yourself that might get ugly. An invitation to know that the ugliness is not who you are. An invitation to dig deep and to remember who you are. And to know, from every source of intelligence available to you, that your beautiful Essence is available to you right now.

Especially when you need it the most.

Bringing Out the Best in You.

Using the Flywheel to Attend to Ourselves & Others.

This is Us, circa summer 2008?

In 2008, I got up at the crack of dawn to have my 4 little ones ready to be at the polls at 7:00am and then off to start their days at school. They were 4, 6, 9, and 10. I wanted them to see the process, even though they wouldn’t understand it for years to come. And I knew we were electing our first Black president. It was important to me. 

Having said that, it occurred to me today, under the backdrop of the impeachment proceedings, that this president is the only president my younger two have really known and frankly, my older two, as well. Just at the time when they were coming into an awareness about government, leadership at the national level, or understanding what it means to live in a democracy, this administration took office. It has put some things about their perspective into context for me.  

Despite what you might think about, or how you might feel about, our current president, he is the identified leader of our country. But he is definitely not providing leadership. All too often, people in my practice are expressing a sense that they’ve lost their tether to anything they previously relied on for grounding. Young people are confused. Their parents are afraid. And others are just living in their “happy place,” immersed in work or Netflix or online cocktail hours. 

That loss of outer guidance has made some of us question our inner guidance, too. 

How do we support each other ~ especially those who look to us for direction ~ when it feels like we cannot depend on anything right now?

Here are a few places to start.

  1. Spend some time with your own thoughts and feelings. Check in with yourself. What is true for you? Without judgment or rationalization, get curious about your own response without changing it or even resisting it. Just notice it. 
  2. You don’t need to fix anything. Your job is not to change someone else’s response, but to be present to it. To witness someone who is struggling, with kindness and curiosity, is a gift to both of you.
  3. Check back in with yourself. Anything different? 
  4. Invite them back to talk again. Be an ear. But the only way you can be an ear, is to continue to practice being present to your own truth. Self-observing, so that you are aware of your own ongoing response, will allow you to listen to the other without the veil of your own emotions clouding what you hear. They don’t need you to hop on their bandwagon or even to dispute it or “correct” it. They need you to hear it. Acknowledge it. Be present to it. 

In Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how doing one simple thing, over and over, can have monumental impact on a company. He calls the process a “flywheel.” We can apply that same strategy when we attend to ourselves and others.

You don’t need to prove your value as a friend, colleague, or parent. You simply have to show up, know what’s your stuff, and listen, without attachment, to theirs.

Repeat. Again, and again. 

This is Us, circa summer 2020

Showing up for yourself and others in this way will absolutely have impact; and when even just one person shows up for another with presence, like throwing a stone into a pond, the whole world starts to change.

Why Massages and Mud Baths Aren’t Cutting It During this Pandemic and What to Do About It.

I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women today and heard something that stopped me in my tracks. Lisa Damour, Ph.D., and author of the book, Under Pressure: Confronting Anxiety & Stress in Girls, was talking about anxiety and she referred to “disciplined self-care.”

I need to say it again: “Disciplined Self Care.” It feels like it should be capitalized. 

I am slightly surprised that I am not triggered by this term. Self-care, as a term, has always triggered me. It has always felt like massages and mud baths. I know it isn’t, but that is where my brain goes. That’s for another blog.

Because of this bizarre brain trickery, I have had to reframe self care to fit my needs which include boundaries, community, freedom, and choice. I love a good mud bath, but I know I am taking care of myself when I thoughtfully weigh and measure what I say yes to, what words or behavior I’ll accept in my presence, and being able to operate from choice.

And “discipline?” I have a love/hate relationship with that word. I am drawn to it and also have all kinds of stories and judgment about how my form of discipline isn’t the right kind of discipline. And maybe I judged it in the same way I judged self-care. I’ve been shining a light on that shadow in my inner work.

But I digress (duh, don’t I always?).

Disciplined. Self. Care. 

Dr. Damour talked about the Quar and her research that led her to shift what is called for as a way of establishing positive, long term, coping skills for chronic stress. Chronic stress comes when we can’t get a break from the stressor. Self-care isn’t enough.

Chronic stress calls for Disciplined Self Care.

I love it.

She described the need to build physical and emotional care into our lives as a matter of discipline. No matter what. Disciplined self care, she said, would be the practice that helps us cope for the long haul.

If you’ve worked with me, you know I talk about shining a light on our truth which requires us to shine a light in some shadowy places and name what we find there. Often, we find an emotion that we have resisted. Our loved ones often know what’s going on, but we can’t see it. We are blind to what we don’t want to see. This is resistance. 

She talked about the same thing, but she also took it a step further. When we are working with chronic stress, Dr. Damour shared that by adopting Disciplined Self Care, we are building resilience. The Quar is ongoing, so the stress will come and go, but the windows of relief can open further. 

Disciplined Self Care:

  • A sleep routine;
  • a habit of eating regularly and nutritiously;
  • getting our bodies moving; and, 
  • “getting out of our own way on someone else’s behalf.”

This will do the job. 

So there is something to this. If you are feeling the impact of the Quar in ways that feel burdensome, or someone in your family (Your mom? Your siblings? Your kids? Your friends?) is salty or withdrawn or into their negative coping in some other way, suggest they take a walk with you. Make a delicious, healthy, meal. Go to bed at the same time every night. Reach out to a neighbor or someone else in a way that sshifts your focus to be in service of them.

Check in with yourself. Check in on your pals. No one is exempt from the impact of the Quar. It calls for Disciplined Self Care.

What does that look like for you? 

And if this doesn’t do the trick, reach out to me. Or someone else. Ask for help. You might be the one who needs to benefit from the service of another. Allow yourself that. 

That, too, is Disciplined. Self. Care. 

“My Grandmother Got Drunk,” and Other Thanksgiving Stories

You know you have a friend who knows and trusts you when you ask about Thanksgiving and they respond,

“My grandmother got drunk and fell down the stairs.” 

What keeps us from sharing the truth with people? Why, when most of us are asked, do we say, “It was great!” Or “I love Thanksgiving!” Even when that isn’t actually true?

Or maybe you say,

“It sucked. COVID sucks. I hate turkey.” 

It’s all paradox right? Some of us want to be with people who lift us up. Some of us want to be with people who can join us in our emotional realness. But all of us want to be with people who are real and neither of these perspectives offer the whole truth.

How do we get that?   

Presence.

When someone asks you about your holiday, do you immediately wonder, 

“What will they think if I tell them?” 

Or, in my case, I ask myself, 

“What do they actually want to know?” 

Curating my response has become a habit. I think about what they really want to know and then I give it to them. Because my quick mind can do some mental gymnastics pretty darn quickly and it always comes out in a way that they feel satisfied with my answer and I stop being caught up in whether I answered the question “the right way.”

But what if I didn’t do that?

What if I didn’t have the thought, “They aren’t really interested.” 

What if you didn’t think, “They’ll judge me!” 

What would be true then? 

I’ll tell you. 

Without the thought that they are just making conversation, I’d tell them the truth. I’d take a breath. I’d go within and wait for an answer to rise up. It might look like this: 

“You know, it was a really different year. I missed the high school football game and the energy of my extended family, but I really loved hanging out in my PJs, watching the parade, and smelling the turkey all day. Dinner was a loud shit show, but that’s how we are when we are together so I guess that it was like any other dinner that way.” 

When we layer a bunch of thoughts on top of the truth, we get confused as to what is actually true. When we jump out of the moment and into the future when (in our made up story) the person is judging us for our Thanksgiving, we fake it. We put a story on top of the truth so that it isn’t quite a lie, but it is a curated response. 

We aren’t in relationship with one another.

We are in relationship with each other’s stories. 

If we want to be living life wide awake, we need to start shedding the stories and get at the truth. Presence allows us to do that. A quick breath. A turning inward to check in.

An intelligent response comes from all three centers: our bellies, our open hearts, and our quiet minds.

Here is what happened. This is how it felt. This is what I think. The End.

Genuine, intelligent, real; a quality response to the question. 

So on Friday, when someone asks you how your Thanksgiving was, you might answer,

“My grandmother got drunk and fell down the stairs. We laughed away our fears when she stood up and joined us at the table. So I guess it was like any other family dinner that way.” 

Enjoy the holiday, however you spend it, and feel free to share how it went.

Really.

How Do I Know Whether I Need a Life Coach or a Therapist?

My practice has seen an onslaught of beautiful seekers looking for something, many not knowing exactly what. They aren’t happy, and while they may engage in conjecture about the reasons, they just haven’t been able to get out of their own way and move towards a goal. And sometimes, the goal is to have less anxiety. It is a coach-y/therapy-y issue, but which one?

This crossroads presents a choice to the seeker:

“Who can help me?”

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1.   Do you need to see someone?

  • No one actually needs a coach. Coaching is not about treatment. Coaching is about co-creating a relationship that involves helping you to access your own, inner resources that will support the change you want. Coaches help you move from “perfect as you are,” to “always room to grow.”
  • Therapists are uniquely qualified to treat mood disorders, personality disorders, and help those who struggle to function in the world. Therapy involves healing. People need therapists. Some therapists with additional training will cross over to the role of coach, too.
  • Because of this distinction, health insurance does not cover coaching in the United States. It might cover therapy, depending on your plan and whether or not the therapist accepts your insurance. So if cost is a factor, you might look for a therapist with whom you can use your health insurance.

2.   Do you have symptoms, resulting from trauma, that you are looking to get relief from?

  • If you have experienced a traumatic event and are having symptoms like flashbacks, too much or too little sleep, loss of executive functioning, memory issues, or other symptoms, your best bet is to start with your primary care physician, followed by a therapist. The therapist might enlist the help of a coach to help with strategies related to daily functioning, but the treatment of the emotional component related to the trauma is best evaluated by a trauma-informed therapist. 
  • Caveat: Coaches can be trauma-informed but make sure the coach is able to share specifically what qualifies them to identify themselves this way. In fact, the competencies of a credentialed coach fit the model for trauma-informed work nicely, but it is not a given that all coaches are actually trauma-informed. If this is important for the work you need to do, please ask them specifically about this. Frankly, this is true if you hire a therapist, as well.

3.   Do you have a goal you want to achieve and just can’t get out of your own way to achieve it? 

  • This is a great time to enlist a coach. Coaches are excellent at seeing your own, unique genius and helping you to access your inner world in order to clear the path towards creating a life you want. They are deep listeners, accountability partners, and have your agenda as their primary focus. What you want is what they want for you. It is an incredibly powerful relationship. 
  • Things you might want to seek help with in this category include executive functioning, business goals, career issues, or parenting help. 

4.   When in doubt, ask. I receive inquiry calls all the time where we have a discussion about what the person is looking for and whether or not I feel like I can help them. I am really clear about the way I work, what I pay attention to, and what circumstances might have me refer to a colleague. Oh, and there’s that…I have colleagues. I refer out. I want you to get what you want in this one, beautiful whack at life you have. If you sense that the professional on the other end of the phone is working from a place of scarcity, that’s a warning sign. There are enough clients out there for all of us. You don’t owe that person anything, other than a yay or nay.

Which brings me to the final point….

5.  If this is something you are considering, go to your own, inner resources. Sit quietly. Imagine yourself working with this person. Consult the guide, Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Therapist or Life Coach. And then leap. This is not your forever family. You are hiring someone to provide a service and can operate fully in choice. To do otherwise, would be to not take that first step towards a better you.

You are the best person to choose your helping professional. 

Life Coaching and Therapy are two distinct helping professions with different codes of ethics and different competencies. Is there overlap? You betcha’. Are there times to choose one over the other? Yup. Do your homework. Ultimately, you are hiring a human being. The connection you find there is often as important, if not more important, than the framework they use. Take a leap. Make the call to the person you are most drawn to. And then bring this question to them. See what they say!

Questions to Ask When Hiring a Therapist or Coach.

You are at a crossroads and have decided to hire someone to help you. But what do you want? There are so many options. No matter which route you go (and if this is a question, read my blog on How to Know Whether I Need a Life Coach or a Therapist!), you want to make sure this person is a good fit for YOU. And you want to make sure they meet some standard of care so your investment ensures you are getting what you pay for.

Read on for a few questions to help you during your inquiry call.

  1. What is your niche, and how do you think you are qualified to help me?
  • Coaches and therapists often specialize in a topic (executive functioning, disordered eating, business development, substance use, parenting, career, etc.) or a demographic (teens, lawyers, entrepreneurs, women, or in my case, Seekers of Something More!). These chosen niches of practice are sometimes about the professional’s specialty or preference, but sometimes, it is really about how they market themselves and their practice is more expansive. Ask about their experience with your particular challenge or diagnosis. Get curious about them. My experience is that most of us love to talk about our work!

2. What is my commitment to you?

  • Coaching takes time. But you should not be held to a contract that requires you to stick with something that isn’t working for you. Make sure that you are signing an agreement, an understanding, or an informed consent, and not a contract. Sometimes, the relationship is just not a good fit and you want to be careful that you don’t pay in advance for something that might not work for you. If you decide it isn’t a good fit, make sure you can part ways without a large financial obligation.

3. What are your policies around confidentiality and other ethics-related issues?

  • Both coaches and social workers are held to strict ethical guidelines around confidentiality. Therapists are bound by HIPAA which are the Federal regulations that protect your privacy. It is legal for anyone to call themselves a coach or a therapist; they are not protected titles in most states. Having said that, there are certain credentials available to both coaches and therapists by regulating organizations. Knowing these might help you to know who to hire. 
    • For coaches, the International Coach Federation is the organization that administers a third party exam to credential coaches. Many coaches are certified through their own educational programs, but coaching schools vary greatly so it is difficult to know what this means. If your coach has an ICF credential, they have passed an exam, both oral and written, and have agreed to abide by a universal set of ethics. They have met an objective set of requirements, independent of their coach training. Further, they are required to complete continuing education and stay current in the field to maintain this credential.
    • There are many, many types of therapists, many of whom have the ability to be granted a license to practice in a given state. Requirements for licensure vary from state to state, but they are rigorous in all states. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a wonderful resource for educating yourself about the different types of therapists. On the NAMI website, the myriad types of mental health practitioners and their accompanying state licenses are outlined. Again, in order to receive a license to practice, a therapist must reach a certain level of education, engage in a specific number of supervised practice hours, pass state exams, and agree to uphold ethical standards. In most states, you can go to the website for the state government to check the status of someone’s license. Obtaining professional licensure is not for the faint of heart, but does demonstrate the level of education and skill set of the practitioner.
  • To be clear, there are probably many wonderful helping professionals who are unlicensed and without credentials who can competently serve you and help you to meet your goals. But buyer, beware. If you are hiring a professional, hiring someone with a credential from a statewide, national, or international credentialing organization, indicates the person has undergone a rigorous process and meets a particular set of competencies and ethical guidelines.

Finally, after having this conversation with the potential coach or therapist, ask yourself a few questions, too. 

  • How will this relationship support me to show up and do the work that is called for?
  • How honest can I be with this person?
  • Even thought I don’t know this person well, what 2% of them do I already know, like, and trust?

Want to talk more about hiring someone to help you? Reach out to me by making an appointment for a complimentary inquiry call, here

Creativity as a Practice, Might Save You from the Quar.

Twenty years ago, if you asked me if I was creative, I would have dismissed you with a joke, moved on, and found it entertaining that you had asked me such a thing. No part of me identified as a creative. Sure, I went through a gift basket stage and a collage stage, and when I look back on those times, I wonder if I was trying to access a sense of creativity without really knowing it. I know that I found those things to be soothing to my psyche. 

Today I see creativity everywhere, right down to how I define creativity. I am an “outside the box” thinker. While I want my outer-limits to be defined, I want total freedom to frolic within them as I choose. And I hate a plan. I like to make things up as I go. I am a thinker, for sure, and I love to imagine possibility. For me, creativity and freedom seem intimately linked. 

The Quar has taught me something. People who have a creative practice – handiwork, ideas, interior design, music, or stretching into something uncharted – are doing ok. 

People who come to me exhausted, unfocused, and stuck, are not accessing their creative genius in any way.

I’m no Sandy Cheeks, but it feels like this is more than coincidence.

As is the case with the ‘Rona, we are often powerless over the removal of the thing causing stress (ie: the stressor), but we can control how we manage it.

Bottom line, stress is caused by not acknowledging our emotional response to the thing to which we are responding (sounds like a riddle, huh?). 

For me, this looks like, “It is what it is!” Or “Everything happens for a reason!” The perspective can be helpful, but backfires if I don’t also acknowledge those feelings of frustration or fear or loneliness that accompany my experience of the ‘Rona.  

It is a global human experience to resist difficult emotions. We push them into the darkness of our bodies, where we can no longer see them, but where they continue to live. We don’t want them, so we will them away. But they aren’t actually away, and when under stress, those emotions leak into our conversations, our minds, and our hearts. Our families see them, even if we don’t.

Have you yelled at your kids or husband lately? Leakage. 

Been critical of people on Facebook about how they are managing their beliefs about the ‘Rona? Leakage. 

Reacted to a boss in ways that you wouldn’t have before? Leakage. 

These reactions to seemingly unrelated things, are triggers that show us that we have pushed something into the darkness that is wanting to be seen and dealt with.

What is the best way to do this?

Have an ongoing practice of stress-reduction that help to mitigate the emotions in the first place. 

Because stress lives in your mind, heart, and body, your practice will work best if it comes from those centers, as well. You have intelligence in each of these centers and when you access it, your decision-making, processing, coping, and overall well-being, will always come from your highest intelligence. It will come from the wisdom of your life experience and learning, from your intuition, and from your most authentic emotions. What could be wiser than that? Creativity accesses all three Centers of Intelligence.

Creativity Accesses All Three Centers of Intelligence.

Here are some examples:

Music: I work with someone who made a choice to take some time off from work last fall and when the ‘Rona struck, was completely depleted by the prospect of not going back to work on his timeline. He wasn’t all that social to begin with, but he found himself withdrawing from his family and sitting in front of the computer, playing games or endlessly looking at fantasy jobs. When he took out his guitar, something he hadn’t gone near in months, something opened up for him. He started to spend more time outside and found time to play with his two young children. He actually enjoyed playing with them. He recently found himself planning a backyard obstacle course in the snow and spending time on his computer creating programs. He credits the guitar as the thing that opened this up for him. 

Don’t play an instrument? Take one up. But know that even listening to music, particularly classical music, lowers the heart rate and pours oxytocin into the brain. Simply put, music, however it is accessed, will support a reduction in stress hormones and an increased sense of resilience.

Interior Design: I’ve painted a bedroom and a bathroom during the Quar. I’m about to start on a large family room. The family has had beautiful conversations about what we want, from colors, to design, and how much time is realistic, given my work schedule. Whether you are planning something with your family, or doing it solo, your neural pathways are opening themselves up to possibility as you choose paint colors, imagine the room the way you want it, and engage in the physical labor of repairing walls and painting a new room. 

Visual Art: I walked into my daughter’s room last week and found paper plates covered with paint and canvases with butterflies, flowers, and smiles. She isn’t a lover of the hybrid schooling and misses her friends. She wouldn’t describe herself as an artist, but she is stretching into something intuitively as a way of getting her emotions unstuck. Thinking outside of the box is second nature to a visual artist. They are discovering and stretching their brains and hearts with logic and skill and beauty. And yes, they are moving their bodies as they sculpt, paint, or sketch. 

I could keep going, but you get the idea. I have clients who dance, sew masks, engage in storytelling and writing projects, and who walk without a plan, a phone, or a map and let their natural intelligence guide them. All of these use the mind, heart, and body. 

Tired thinking about this? You aren’t adding something to your plate. You are excavating exhaustion and stress from your body. Creativity is a practice and it just might save you. 

How my “little” Yin practice has become a prescription for Joy.

I’ve been taking some Yin classes with my (high school!) friend, Ellen (@friendlyyogabeans/@ohyesIwouldgirl), and am noticing that this way of accessing the intelligence of my body….is the same way I am dipping my toe into the intelligence of my heart.

Ellen is the only person I’ve ever taken Yin from. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was early in the Quar and I saw “yoga” and “Ellen Olson-Brown” and had to do it. Plus, she’s fun and funny and the timing worked.

What she says about the body during class is so powerful and I can’t help but compare it to the inner work I am being called to do in my heart right now, too.

Enneagram 7s (that’s me!) are thinkers, which we support with our intuition, but we can forget that our hearts exist. Our hearts are where our deepest longings live. It is where we are in touch with our emotion ~ our pain and our joy. We need all three centers of intelligence to be whole … and I have spent many, many years using about 2/3 of my intelligence.

Ellen says things like, “push yourself until you feel that tug, that edge, and then relax around it.”

My inner work calls me to push myself towards my heart in this same way.

I place some attention on my heart, notice what is there, and relax into it. The edge, for me, is just allowing it to be there. Nothing to do about it, nothing to judge. Just notice it.

And she says things like, “Sometimes the body tells us we feel pain, but it isn’t really pain, so allow it to be there for a bit, and notice what happens; it might shift, but it isn’t used to holding this edge like this and wants you to know.”

Yup. My heart sometimes tells me, “Hells, no. Don’t go there. That’s a danger zone. If you go in, you’ll never come out. You will be feeling for the rest of eternity and there is no way you can handle all that feeling. That’s for other folks.”

But what I do, is try it out for a moment. I put on a recording of a meditation that pushes me a bit, and I allow it to be there. Sometimes, I pull away, like I was touching a hot flame. Boy, I had no idea that was a lifelong habit. I have spent my life being afraid that if I feel too deeply, it won’t ever end. But sometimes I get willing and I allow it. I trust it.

And I hear Ellen saying, “We don’t want to release the tension in our muscles because we are afraid our bodies can’t handle it. But try it and see. Just give those muscles a chance.”

And so it is with my heart. It’s not so much that I don’t like to feel. I love to feel. But I want total control over when and how and how much and when it will all be over. So I just don’t go there, because that is awfully complicated for someone who moves about the world as fast as me. I really don’t have time. Emotion isn’t efficient. It doesn’t make sense (hear me escape to the logic of the 7?).

But when I do, when I allow it, with a recorded meditation, or not, I am teaching my heart that it recovers. It actually opens up. It reveals (literally 100% of the time) something really powerful and true that I’ve kept locked away. It might be a painful truth, and it often is, but it is a truth that frees me up. Something is learned, revealed, explored, or brought out of the shadows. 

Whatever it was, was always there. I put all my energy into avoiding it, resisting it, and being efficient, which exhausted me. Now, my exhaustion is a clue that I need to check in with my heart. I am not tired because of the world, I am tired because I resist allowing the world to impact my heart. Instead, I think my way through it. I make it logical. I reframe it. I look on the bright side. This is all a part of being a Type 7. But this isn’t true. There is pain in the world and we can hold that, too.

So where I was once afraid in my body, my Yin classes offer small, corrective experiences to teach my body what is possible in there. Those muscles don’t have to be tense. Relaxation is possible and healing for all those parts of my physical self. 

And by the way, Ellen always gives us permission to come out of the position if we don’t want to stay there …. Nothing is ever prescriptive, it is always a choice. 

Just like in my heart. If I offer it the opportunity to learn that when I “go there,” I can always come out. I can always decide that it feels like too much today and I can choose to come back to it tomorrow. I have choices here that I had no idea I’d have (and sometimes I hear myself getting stuck thinking I have none again).

Because I offer myself  these corrective experiences to learn that I can handle the heart center, that I can allow for what is there to be seen by the rest of me, each time it gets better. It gets easier to access and I see more. And I feel whole when I do.

That is true freedom. Wholeness is freedom. Welcoming it all is freedom. Seeing truth is freedom. Being able to freely feel pain, allows me to freely feel joy. Real joy. Not the fake, sugary, optimistic joy. But real, wholehearted joy. And like with Yin, if I don’t go to that edge and feel that “tug” of the pain, I don’t get the release into the joy, either.

When you think, “That’s just the way I am,” know that it is not true.

I had a funny experience today as I coached with a team on Zoom. I share this with permission from that group.

We were discussing the possible return to the workplace and what they had learned about their time working from home.

C shared that she stocks up her fridge to give her an excuse to get out of the house and go to the grocery store. She leaves the house to buy food, for the sole purpose of giving it away. She just wants to be seen by people and she wants to do something for others who will then see her as valuable. Without this activity, she said she feels “bad.”

This is what she “needs” because she is “just that way.”

Her words made my ears perk up.

“Say more,” I said.

She went on to describe that in addition to the grocery store outings, she has worked like a dog lately, even with her toddler. She speaks to her supervisor almost daily and has been out and about, doing whatever parts of her job that she can. She stays active and solves problems as a way of dealing with quarantine and her unmet need for validation.

Competency is her Enneagram type’s way of dealing with life. And then there’s the going to the grocery store so that she can give away food.

Self-Deceit is what separates her Enneagram type from reality. If she can feed her ego by being a really fantastic worker and being of service to her friends and neighbors, then she can deny (for now) the feeling, conscious or not, that she is inadequate.

She was doing what her type does. She identifies with Enneagram type 3w2.

With that, T showed us his stocked pantry closet. Multiple boxes and canisters of many items. No fewer than 10 containers of instant coffee (not shown). He shared that he feels anxious if he doesn’t know he has what he “needs.” He, too, says that he is “just that way.”

Last March, the last meeting I had before I no longer consulted on-site in organizations, was with this man. He was telling me to take all of my money out of the bank; we needed to have cash on hand because we’d lose everything if “Coronavirus really took off.” He had a very clear plan, as if he’d been thinking about this forever. 

Because he had. 

He has been concerned about security and safety his whole life. He really wants to know what’s real, so he sugar-coats nothing. He assumes you want the same. He really wants others to meet him where he is; to respond to him with the same level of emotion that he is putting out there. This is his type’s way of dealing with difficulty. His emotional realness was really pushing my positive outlook’s buttons that day. 

He was very clear on what had to be done and was sharing his “facts” with everyone in the office; even those of us who didn’t want to hear it. 

Angst is what separates his Enneagram type from dealing with reality. If he can feel anxious about something happening in the future, he doesn’t actually have to deal with the present. 

He was doing what his type does. he identifies with Enneagram Type 6.

And then there is me. I am no fan of grocery shopping. But I want what I want when I want it. I want to be happy and I don’t want to feel the pain of not having what I think I need.  I want people around me to be happy, too. If they are happy, I am happy. 

One complaint can throw my whole mood off. My desire is not really altruistic; it is all about me. 

Because my type demands “happiness” as a way to feel safe, I can easily assume everyone else has an intolerance for anything less than “wicked happy,” too, right?

As I shopped in March, I told myself that I had to buy everything they want or need,  and with that, “We’ll all be GREAT!” 

Positive outlook is my type’s way of dealing with difficulty. 

All of my fridges and freezers were STOCKED. Before you go yelling at me, I already know. And don’t forget that I had 7 people quarantined with me. Yes, I am a walking COVID meme. 

Gluttony is what separates my Enneagram type (read: me) from reality. If I have enough love, food, furniture, or office supplies, I can deny the pandemic.

I do what my type does. I identify as an Enneagram Type 7w6. 

So all this time, I’ve had trouble describing why your Enneagram type and the tool of the Enneagram is helpful to have.

It isn’t about WHAT is happening.

It is about WHY it is happening.

In our coaching group today, we had lots of laughs, but we also unpacked how our Enneagram type predicts the issues that will come up for us and cause us to suffer. It also predicts the things that motivate us and bring us closer to Presence. As a spiritual tool, it give us something to pray about, to meditate on, and a North Star to set intentions around. 

More than anything, it identifies the lens that, when not present, exhausts us, upsets us, and keeps us afraid.

Once we see that, we can make choices about our next steps. Until we see that, we are walking around the world, unconscious, telling people

“That’s just the way I am.”