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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why are we not getting it? 

Today, someone dear to me sent me ‘The Invitation’ http://www.oriahmountaindreamer.com/. I had been familiar with its text, yet its power continues to pull me in. “It’s what I seek”, this person wrote me. And my answer is ‘it’s not what you seek, it’s what you be’. This beautiful poem is about authenticity, integrity; it’s about being real. Many books have been written about it, as I’m sure many more will be written in the future. Why are we not getting it?

There are many reasons, I think. One is that there are so many ways (philosophies, religions) to get to 'being' that it becomes overwhelming. Ultimately, my position is that we each have our own way. OSHO talked about the Taoist way of life as there being no specific Way. (read ‘TAO, its history and teachings’ by OSHO). We each have our own life. We can’t follow anybody else’s path, not even Buddha’s or Jesus’, because we are not them. We are our own person and we each have to find our own way to live our ‘greatest life’.

For me, this realization often stops me in my tracks. My coaching background was all focused on assisting people with following their path. And although I may have my own process that seems to work (mostly!) for me, I can’t tell people ‘this is how you should do it’, because they’re not me and their process can be very different (oh boy, can it!). Instead, my philosophy is to say or show as an example: ‘this is what has worked for me. Take it or leave it, it’s up to you’. Sometimes this can be very difficult and painful, to watch others struggle along. And yet, I know it’s theirs to struggle, and I remind myself of how irritated and resistant I can be when others try to tell me what or how to do things! But, show me and I may pay attention and maybe, just maybe, it might work for me…

A second reason of why it is difficult for us to be consistent in our authenticity, is that it takes courage to be real. As Oriah writes in her poem, she wants to know if you, the reader, could disappoint someone else to be true to yourself… We learn from our earliest childhood not to hurt others. This is especially true for women. Boys learn not to hit girls, but in certain societies it is perfectly okay for them to pummel others. I’m not a boy, so I can’t speak much to their experience; instead I’ll focus on how it was for me. As a child I learned not to physically hurt someone else and growing up, I was taught to become more aware of the effect our actions have on the feelings of others.

I remember some of those silly quizzes you find in magazines, that ask simple multiple choice questions to see if you are a good friend or not. (‘Ask your friend’, would give you the most direct answer!). ‘What would you tell your friend if she wore something that really didn’t look good on her?’ Telling her that something looked ‘okay’ would be one of those little white lies we tell everyday (there’s a subject for another blog entry). And those 'lies' are supposedly okay, because you'd prevent hurting another... (I don't agree, but again, some other entry!)

The question becomes much more loaded when the effects become bigger. What do you say when your partner asks you if you are happy? Now, there’s one that can rock the boat…And yet, is there any time in your life when you feel less alive than those times when you are discovering something truly new? Yes, in this specific instance it can mean the beginning of some serious conversations with your sweetheart. But this same aliveness also opens up when you are physically traveling to a place you have never been before… It takes courage to see each moment of your day (or each person, for that matter) as new and different, even if it looks the same at first glance. That is being alive, being real.

Other reasons that could prevent us from staying real, are the ‘unwritten rules’ in our society. Oriah asks if you would ‘dare risking looking like a fool’ to live your dream and if you can ‘live with failure’ if it doesn’t work out as you hoped for or expected… And what about the add-on ‘fear of success’, which can stop us just as much. What if you went for it and oh, my Gosh, you’re awesome… then there would be the expectation to continue that success…

To realize that there is a natural cycle to things we only have to look at nature. In the spring, things grow. In summer, they bloom and bear fruit. In fall, all plants and trees start to pull their energy back, and in winter, nature rests. Simplistically stated, but basically the process. And the next spring it starts all over again. Some years, certain plants don’t bloom. Do you think nature pulls back and starts worrying, pulling out the plants ‘because they ain’t no good’? No, of course not! Either the plant is just retrieving and rebuilding its nutrients, so it will be able to bloom the next year, or the plant will decay and give its energy to the soil to nourish other plants…

But somehow, somewhere, in our culture we decided that if you are going to do something, it a) better makes sense and you better have good reasons to defend your choices, and b) you better succeed at it, because otherwise ‘I told you so’! To make this even more confusing, you’d better be really good at it, but don’t be the best, because you’ll make others look bad if you are!

How silly is that! And how confusing do we make it for ourselves, let alone our children? Recently, I read an article about Generation X (I am an early X-er), (‘Vexed’ in January’s issue of More Magazine). It makes me sad, how we are creating a society in which a whole generation has so much potential and opportunity, yet we’re not often living it…

We live in a time where our values are changing, however slowly, from achievement (the Baby Boomers) to authenticity (some future generation, I hope). Many people searching for meaning, a purpose to their lives. Many people change careers, often choosing something that may not pay as much, but which offers them more personal fulfillment. Yet, we are still asking the other what they do, or where they live as an identifier, instead of accepting the other as how they show up.

And so my conclusion of this whole monologue: we all know who we are, however deeply hidden this may be. In order for us to allow ourselves to truly be, and express it, we will need to have the courage to listen to ourselves and then act on it. Only then will we truly experience ourselves and the beautiful depth of our life.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Dancing in my living room (how I almost live out loud) 

So, you know you are great, right? Yep, me too… I’ve read lots of self-help books and done many seminars (I even taught some classes on the subject, myself). Still, I catch myself every now and again, not quite living as loudly as I could…

You may have read my blog posts from the past few years. When I started writing them, I was married, lived in a beautiful home with 10 acres of land around it, was building my coaching business from home, while simultaneously taking care of my two young daughters. At the time, I was struggling with how to fully express myself, knowing I had so many qualities that I wasn’t showing anyone. Worse, restraining and restricting myself cost me so much energy that I barely had any left for enjoying my family or any other part of my life.

As things go when you are in a relationship with someone, if one is not performing or feeling well, it has its effect on the other person. My husband at the time and I both realized that we were keeping ourselves too small and that it was time for both of us to play a bigger game. Separately.

We divorced, and as far as that process went, it was as amicably as it possibly could. (I hear from others how hard and difficult theirs was and I feel so very blessed that we were able to dissolve our marriage without the usual hate and resentment.)

Soon after moving out I realized that my coaching business wouldn’t allow the financial stability that I would need to raise my family, so I went out and found a job. Working for a vocational college allowed me to coach many people towards a new career, which was a real gift. It was great to use my coaching background and skills on a daily basis! Within a few months I was promoted to manage the team and I later received a ‘Recognition of Excellence Award’ for my performance.

In the meantime, I had met a wonderful man via the internet. We met in person, fell in love and we were married within 10 months! As you can imagine, life was going very well and I felt very alive during all this time!

Now fast forward to my current situation. I am very happily married to this wonderful man. We recently consolidated households, but for that to happen I left my work at the vocational college. And I now again find myself at home, taking care of my sick daughter (it’s just the flu) and not able to concentrate on what I consider my work: developing my vibrant women- website, while looking for paid employment at the same time. Again, I find myself dancing in my living room, instead of out in the street. And the problem is not my dancing (of course!), but the fact that there is nobody to see it! That is the real issue: how do others know, be it employers, friends or family, that you have all these wonderful gifts, know your stuff and can accomplish amazing things, if there is no obvious way for you to express them?

There is some interesting research that shows how we get attached to what we are comfortable with, whether or not it is good for us. Have you ever seen an elephant tied to a stake and wondered why the owner uses some measly rope to keep it restrained? The elephant is certainly powerful enough to just pull itself loose and disappear. However, as a young elephant, that rope is indeed strong enough to hold it and it gives the elephant its boundaries to how far it can roam. When this elephant grows up, it doesn’t even occur to it to test these boundaries, for indeed: it has kept him restrained for so long, why would it be different now?

This is a powerful parable. I recently heard in a workshop designed for vocational education by Joe Pace, that when people create change in their lives, the new situation soon feels so uncomfortable that we, without noticing, revert back to our old situation, however uncomfortable that was to begin with. Because we think we can’t handle the newness of the changed environment or behavior, we tend to change back to what we knew ‘for sure’.

So, what do you think I am learning, here? By moving to a new city, without the comfort of my job, I am reverting back to taking care of my family, building my business from home. And I am noticing some familiar circumstances which correspond with another time in my life: one in which I know I wasn’t living my purpose as loudly as I could. As I get closer to finding my new employment and creating the internet platform that http://www.vibrantwomen.com/ will be, I find myself stretching the boundaries of my comfort zone again. It takes courage to go out to do and be the me I really want to be. But here’s the kicker: I have done it before, so I know I can do it again! But this time, not everything has to change to allow me to be bold. A wonderful friend and coaching colleague (Mooniek Seebregts, http://www.freeandaware.com/) challenges me: Live Shamelessly every day… I dare you to take her advice!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My Resolution to Live Gracefully 

Happy New 2007!

This has been the most incredible way I have ever enjoyed the New Year's celebration! My husband and I chose to join a tantra workshop as our honeymoon (belated), in Costa Rica over the holidays. What a beautiful country! We stayed at a gorgeous resort with our group of 26 people, all couples. In addition to intensive workshop sessions, we enjoyed excursions such as a canopy tour, white water rafting and the Tabacon Hot Springs. Paradise! (see www.ecstaticliving.com for more info)

Yet, even in the midst of all this beauty, there were moments that my inner state did not match my environment. In general, I would count myself as a person with a positive attitude and as someone who socializes with relative ease. However, this week showed me a very different side of myself. Suddenly, I had difficulty communicating with others, especially outside of the workshop: imagine sitting at a dinner table with several other couples, trying to have a conversation and noticing a strange difficulty in telling a story or sharing an experience! You probably recognize those painful silences when someone telling a joke is missing the punchline... Yep, those silences I became very familiar with!

This difficulty in communication showed up as the culmination of my internal chaos. For me, these past few months have been a growth process, in which I have been getting clarity on my direction in life again. However, all of this shifted for me around the New Year: in addition to a very powerful 'letting go' excercise we individually set new goals for the coming year. But the most extraordinary process happened for me in a circle of sharing afterwards.

As soon as I started talking about my experiences with the group, my tears started flowing. Usually I don't cry very often and especially not in public. But allowing others to see my hurts, confusion and loneliness really opened up space for me to show up. I shared how there were times that I felt so incredibly connected to everyone in the group and there were other times where I felt incredibly lonely and separate from everyone. Saying all this was a deeply painful purging for me.

Afterwards, people came up to me to tell me how much it all had resonated with them. 'I recognize myself in your experience', was what I heard several times. For the rest of the week after the purging I felt much more at ease, with both myself and the group. And I realized what a powerful learning experience this had been.

I learned that:
1) Acknowledging What Is opened up space and energy to be myself.
2) By being myself (and not having to pretend I was feeling differently), others felt the freedom to be themselves as well.
3) Everyone had their own issues, even if I thought their life was perfect.
4) Other's issues mirrored ones that I have had in other times of my life, which gave me an incredible amount of compassion for them.
5) And I realized how great it is to grow together!

Writing this blog has been a continuous challenge for me. What to share or not to share; showing my deepest thoughts, fears, and challenges to the world. And what I find each time I do, is that living becomes a bit easier, a bit more intentional and the hard moments a bit easier to accept. I would call that my process of graceful living.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Vulnerability is a process... 

I realized something new, yesterday. Old beliefs go very deep…
My husband and I are about to celebrate our one year anniversary. It has been a great year for our relationship. We started off living in two separate households, 3 hours driving apart. Then, a little over three months ago, I gave up my job to move my family of two young girls to merge with his household of two teenage boys. As you can imagine, quite a few changes took place.

Amazingly, the ‘merger’ is going very well. What gives me most difficulty is not having a job. The position I left, was one of great responsibility, which I enjoyed very much. I was very fortunate to be part of a strong team: people supporting each other’s growth and success within the company, for the company’s growth. At work, I was always busy, answering people’s questions, initiating new projects, following up on others, checking in with my team on a regular basis… I felt effective and useful each day.

Today, I am at home. Oh, I have plenty to do: there is a household to organize, laundry to be folded, dinners prepared… Additionally, I am looking for a position that is the right fit and I am working on my own project: a website for women to highlight themselves and connect with other women. And yet, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. With all that I’m doing, I don’t feel nearly as effective and useful as I did a few months ago. Mostly, because currently I don’t receive a paycheck. My husband is the sole financial provider for our family’s needs. And that is hard for me. Not just because there is less money to do what we want and need; to me, it also makes me feel more dependent than I would like to be. Of course, when we got married, we promised to be there for each other for richer or poorer. We were richer, then, so that was easy!

He is an amazing man, my husband. He supports me fully and prefers for me to wait until the right position comes along. (Funny, how I can be patient with others, yet not nearly as patient with myself!) And yesterday he taught me something about love. It is something I thought I knew and had grown through and owned, but apparently there is always a new layer to an even deeper intimacy to be discovered!

Lately, about once a week I have a moment (which can last from an hour to a day) in which I have a very difficult time with being unemployed. Yesterday, that moment came when I discussed my plan for my website with my husband. He asked me some questions about market research that I had not taken into consideration. The questions touched the deep fear in me that my ‘inspired idea’, as I like to call it, would not be of interest to anyone but myself… And that snowballed into my feeling of not being effective and useful, not being able to contribute financially, etc. I broke down crying, with my legs pulled up to my chin, rolling myself up in a little ball of desperation.

And I told him, finally, how incredibly lost I felt, without anything to hold onto. For so long I had held these deep thoughts inside. Thoughts about not adding value to the relationship. Worries, that he would finally see the really weak side of me. And I realized that, even after being married for a year, I still had this deep belief that if he really found out who I am, he would stop loving me. This has been why I had been covering up my fears, by making sure that everything around me that I could control, was in tiptop shape.

My husband had no idea! He hadn’t known how desperate I felt and how lost I was in this new situation. He held me and told me that he loved me, even this side of me that I felt was needy and icky. Guess what, he loves feeling strong, when I have my moments of total vulnerability. And what’s more, he also has moments, where he shares his deep vulnerability with me.

Our discovery opened up a new space for us to be and accept each other. In addition, we can help each other accept ourselves. Who knew, that instead of coming to haunt me, that old, deep icky belief of ‘he will stop loving you if he really knows who you are’, actually is making our love even more open and deeper.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A Rant on Living 

Yesterday I had dinner with a group of women. One woman mentioned she had been working for the same company for almost 30 years and would be retiring soon. Another woman, retired, mentioned that now this woman would have the time to do the things she'd always wanted to do. It made me I recount a story about the father of my coach. He retired full-honors (with golden handshake, etc) and for the next two years this once powerful man was a shadow of himself. He had lost his identity, after not being employed anymore.

There is a period between having official employment and not having it, being it 'retirement', 'laid-off' or 'unemployment' or even as a beginning 'entrepreneur', where you can easily lose yourself. In our society, the first thing we ask when we meet a new person is 'So what do you do?' In one of his books, Isaac Asimov used the following scentence as start of many stories: 'How do you justify your existence?' Nowadays, this is what we really mean, when asking about what the other person does for a living.

We are so identified with what we do, with our achievements. We write our lists on a daily basis, so that at the end of the day we can cross things off, showing that 'Yes, I am worthy of life, because these are the things that I have accomplished today!' In the meantime, we feel anxious and overwhelmed. We become identified with what we do, and forget who we are being in the meantime.

We forget that there is tremendous courage in just being here, living. Some days it may be so hard to get up in the morning, to pick yourself up by scraping the last bit of strength from the bottom of yourself, to start a new day. And bit by bit, realizing you are able to get through another day successfully, you realize it is not your accomplishments that make you who you are. It's your courage for living. You don't have to prove you are worthy of being here. The fact that you are here is proof enough. And recognizing your own courage makes you recognize the courage of others, too. And if you are worthy of life just by being here, then others are worthy, too. By looking at your life through loving eyes, you get the strenght to love others. And that is what really takes courage.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Thoughts on Intimacy 

Yesterday evening I met 5 perfect strangers for dinner. We sat around the table, three men and three women. Somewhat uncomfortable, as usual when you meet a group of people you’ve never met before. But we all came through and had a really fun, entertaining evening. Discussions from fears to dreams, interests in sports and others flowed with fun banter and laughter.

Then one woman remarked that talking about fears probably wasn’t the most comfortable conversation for the men present! She jokingly wondered if it was too confrontational for them. I then made the suggestion that if you really want to stump the conversation, to change the topic to ‘intimacy’. Oooooh! Giggles and other behavior to hide embarrassment. ‘Oh, I would need at least three drinks for that!’, ‘Maybe after we’ve been hanging at the bar for the rest of the evening’, etc.

Very interesting! When I mentioned the word ‘intimacy’, what they all thought about was sex! For me, intimacy is so much more. Sex is easy. You take off your clothes and roll around a bit; that’s sex. (okay, so there’s more to it and it’s also be much more fun than I just wrote) But intimacy, that’s what happens after you take off your clothes. My mentor, Tom Stone says: “And then what do you take off? And then what?”

Intimacy is sharing the courage to become really vulnerable with another. To be willing to be disappointed, when the other doesn’t show up the way you would like. And still accept him/her. To truly see and to be seen by the other. An incredibly powerful experience.

In the same conversation, I shared I do Human Design readings. Human Design offers people a way to know their life purpose and what strategy to follow to bring their life in line with it. Very powerful stuff based on a very scientific foundation. My dinner companions were very interested in learning more, making jokes that I then please not tell other people all their deep dark secrets and weaknesses…

Again so interesting! Why would we immediately be afraid that once the other person truly knows us, they would not like us? Worse, leave us? The cool thing about Human Design is that it shows you how you are, from a very neutral standpoint. It’s just who you are, not good or bad. It just is.

And if we can accept ourselves as who/ what we really are, we can reach that place in our relationships where we allow ourselves to be courageously vulnerable and acknowledge the other for who he/she truly is. In other words, true intimacy.

By the way, if you’re interested to learn more about this kind of intimacy, my colleague Ellie Pope and I will be hosting some R&D calls on this subject in the week of January 17th. We’d love to have you join us and hear your input/ feedback on some thoughts we’d like to share! Email me at marije@vibrantwomen.com and I’ll send you details on the times/dates.

‘See ya’!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Transformation 

Hmm... I was recently 'reprimanded' for not blogging regularly (you know who you are), so here goes... In the name of vulnerability, which is my reason for blogging, let me tell you about some transformations that are currently taking place in my life. (by the way, there is a direct correlation between not posting regularly and being vulnerable in the public eye!)

Today is the 10th anniversary of my marriage. Last week I made the decision to separate. Not because my husband and I argue, as a matter of fact we communicate very well. Neither because of abuse or alcoholism or other relationships. That is what has made it so tough to make this decision.

The real reason is that we've been keeping ourselves small, in order not to outgrow the relationship. Both of us have let opportunities for growth go by, in the name of our marriage or our children. As a coach, that hurts me deeply. My destiny, cause and calling (read Lance Secretan's book 'Inspire' to get clear on your own purpose or contact me for coaching :}
is to inspire and empower women to recognize and live their worthiness through honoring and appreciating others by modeling, teaching, speaking, writing (= coaching). Overall, this is working well in my life, but I realized I've been ready to play a bigger game for a long time now. And not doing that is not being true to myself. Authenicity and integrity are both very important to me, so now is the time (Isn't NOW the only time?). The decision is made and my amazing husband agrees that however painful this is, somehow it feels right.

Now, where the hell do we go from here?! I've never been in such a long-term relationship before, so breaking up is a whole new experience. I know I'm good at strategizing and logistics, so I know it will work out. The Universe is always conspiring in my favor, so I am trusting in my knowing. I will keep you updated (however regular that may be!)

To close, I'm offering this quote from Marianne Williamson:

'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our Darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you NOT to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; but in everyone.
As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.'

Deep love,
marije

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