They all showed up

all six of them for my 10th birthday, sweaty and red faced from playing tag.  Barone’s pizza grease dripping from our faces. Wild and happy. He came stumbling up the driveway, the undigested pizza in my stomach threatened to show itself. I stood and smiled. He tripped past me up the porch stairs, threw the door open, struggled not to fall while his shoes came off. The hot garbage stench as his foot released from 12 hours in railroad boots punched me in the nose. He was slurring and screaming, wanting to know what the hell all these kids were doing in his house. Running to my room i cried, for barely a minute, taking a deep breath before returning outside to play again, telling them my dad was sick, not to worry. He wouldn’t make it for the singing.

Fear and truth

As leaders we have been brainwashed into thinking that acknowledging or showing fear is a weakness.  The pack will smell your weakness and expose it.  Naturally, because of this, when fear comes up most of move away, sometimes all out run away. We all know that feeling, whether your mouth goes dry, your hands get clammy, you get a knot in your stomach, our brain is registering fear and we move into fight or flight, it is how we are built. If our instinct is to run away, to avoid, we are often missing a big opportunity. To learn something about ourselves and to potentially dissipate that fear by meeting it head on.  Pema Chodron says that “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”   Our fear, whether it is a big presentation coming up a work, having to give someone difficult feedback or that spider in the corner, is telling us something we need to pay attention to. As leaders showing vulnerability, admitting to fear and overcoming it is way more inspiring and impactful than pretending it doesn’t exist. Next time that feeling creeps in, stop, take a breath and sit with it, even for a minute. Examine it, lean into it – is it real or perceived?   What is the worst case scenario, play it out and you may notice the closer you get the farther away it feels.  Experiment with sharing that fear with others, showing your human side.  By opening and sharing people can sense your authenticity and trust increases.

Open to life as it is, not as you pretend it to be.

Do your shoes fit?

It is January 6th, the true first day of the new year for me. For three years I contemplated quitting my job, dreaming of working for myself, doing the work that I was confident would really make a difference in peoples lives and in the success of organizations. The constant lists of pro’s and con’s, the time spent shopping my ideas around, looking for validation some days and rejection others. My wife patiently rode the roller coaster with me, cloaking her fear when she knew I needed reinforcement that it was a real possibility. Fear and desire. If I strip away all the peripheral emotions and feelings that motivate my behavior I can sum it up with these two beauties. As time passed I realized I was looking for someone to make the decision for me, to tell me it was all going to be ok, that I would find clients who wanted real change and would pay for it so I could avoid putting our young family in the position of going into foreclosure and eating ramen noodles. I trudged through my job, day after day waiting for the answer. If you have read this blog before you already know how this ends, or in a way, begins. I left my job and started my own Company, today, is my official first day self employed. This however, is not the point.

I began to reflect on how I arrived at my decision and why I was waiting for others to make it for me. I found it was a habit of needing validation and recognition. Of not trusting my intuition. In a way we all do this – we look for someone or something to tell us what to do – our bosses at work, tv ads tell us what to watch, commercials tell us what to buy, magazines tell us what to wear and what to listen to. We even base our New Year resolutions off of what we ought to do rather than what we truly want/need to do. I realize I am generalizing a bit, but think about it…do you really want to lose weight or are you doing it to fit in? Do you really want to stop eating sugar or does it seem like something you should do? Are you really motivated to stop drinking starbuck’s everyday and instead make your own coffee? The answer may be yes. But what if the real change we wanted to make was a little deeper, a bit more vulnerable? What stops us from making those changes could be we don’t want to say them out loud, and so we say all the other peripheral things and we allow the perception or judgement of others to influence our livelihood. Or maybe we really do need and want to lose weight, but we don’t take the time to dig deep to understand what led us to being overweight to begin with. What emotions drive our behavior?

As my teach Lama Surya Das says, “no one can tell you if your shoes fit”. No one can tell you what will make you happy, what you need to change or what you are afraid of. Dig deep inside and trust yourself, make a decision and don’t look for recognition or validation, know it in your heart. Feel scared, embarrassed and excited. And commit to yourself.

My new year resolution is to admit that I want recognition and I want to have the answer in order for others to think I am smart and competent. Admitting those things will help me to work on shutting up once in a while, not having the answer, not trying to prove what I know and trusting myself. This will allow me to be kinder, less competitive, less defensive and a better listener. I may even learn something. The work is looking into where those habits come from.

Take a minute, look at your new year resolution, is it the change you really want or need? Are you expecting someone to tell you if your shoes fit?

Step back to step in and look at things as they are.

with love.

www.spark-shift.com

Unrooted

If you are like me, you have spent most of your life seeking security and safety. I studied in school to get good grades, to gain recognition from my teachers and the security that I could go to college. I studied in college to ensure some learning so I could get a good job. I got a job to pay my bills so i could eat and sleep and have a level of recognition and success in order to get the next job that would bring a little more money…and so on. As i reflected on my path in life I realized that most everything I did was a means to the next thing – all of those achievements were meant to make me feel safe and secure, either emotionally or physically. A+B=C except that then I wanted D and so the journey continued and continued, Z wasn’t ever the real goal – because once I was in the habit of seeking and achieving I didn’t know where to stop.

And so here I am, having spent 36 years under the illusion that I was escaping the uncertainty of my childhood for a certainty of adulthood, but as the saying goes, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. I ended up with the good fortune of having an excellent career, working for two very successful companies only to find myself still looking for that sense of security, that validation that everything was going to be ok. By working long enough hours and hard enough i assumed my boss, my company, someone on the outside of me would make me feel safe and secure. Fear crept in, and even though I had a beautiful house, a healthy family and enough money to pay my bills and enjoy life, I felt unsafe. I was in fear. In fear of not getting recognition, of not doing a perfect enough job – I felt shackled and indebted to the company I worked for. I had created the illusion in my mind that my job was the only way for me to create a foundation, to be sure things would be ok – so I lived in fear. And then one day, I realized that it was me, I was the problem.

Only I could make myself feel safe. The critical realization was that the feeling will never be static, that to feel safe i had to accept feeling afraid, feeling groundless, that one is not the absence of the other. I teach it everyday, but I never fully realized it for myself.

The buddha taught that when we can understand that there is no final answer, no stopping place, no sense of certainty, that when we let go of our sparring emotions and accept the ambiguity and uncertainty of life, we have attained fearlessness. Letting things come and go just as they are – good or bad.

So, I have let go of the illusion that my corporate job brings me security and I have stepped into the groundlessness of beginning my own company, one day at a time. I have entitled myself to the idea that doing what I love with the intent to empower others I will be ok. I now get to spend 80% of my time using my strengths versus about 20%. And just maybe my leap will help others uncover their own source of happiness and freedom. If nothing else, I can look my son in the eye one day and encourage him to go for it, to follow his dreams and I can say I did it and the world didn’t end. I will take it one day at a time. After all, I can always get another job – but I may not have the courage to take the leap again…

What is your leap?

“The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, and to all people, experiencing everything totally without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.”
—DILGO KHYENTSE RINPOCHE (taken from an excerpt from Pema Chodron’s -The Places that Scare You)

Check me out – http://www.spark-shift.com

CRAVE – Series 1 October 27th!

Join us and learn to uncover the habits that are getting in the way of the life you want. You will learn how and why we do the things we do, how are brains hold us back and how we can change them. You will learn simple techniques to cultivate greater self awareness and make the shifts in your life that will last.

October 27th
Subculture – 45 Bleeker Street
2pm – 5pm
Tickets below or at the door

http://sparkshift-efbevent.eventbrite.com

Just this

How often do we do just this, just this very thing we are doing right now, just this moment, for the sake of that thing only. For me, not often enough. I have the habit of doing whatever it is I am doing for the sake of something else, or anticipating the next thing. I ate breakfast this morning barely taking a moment to put my spoon down, eating so fast you might have guessed someone was about to take it away. I ate breakfast purely to get to the next moment, which happened to be leaving for work, as quickly as I could. There was no moment for me, I was already in the next place.

I, maybe like you, love to go on vacation. I especially love the anticipation of it. We spend time planning and crafting the perfect getaway, detailing where the best places to eat and sleep are, finding the quintessential experiences. And then I slug through the next month or two until said vacation arrives, spending much of my time talking about the upcoming vacation, pushing through the moments of life that are getting in the way of me and this vacation. And the day comes, and we wake up and it is vacation! and i am so worried about relaxing quickly enough to really enjoy the vacation, and what if it goes by too fast? I agonize over what to order for breakfast, because if I order the wrong meal I have wasted this special vacation meal that I won’t get again. You get the picture, maybe you are in the picture.

This is the ultimate cause of suffering. Nothing is ever just what it is, we are constantly anticipating what is next. This last vacation was somewhat of a staycation, we didn’t venture far. And for the first time, maybe ever, I was just in each moment, most of the time. I let myself be at the museum with my son staring at dinosaur bones, trying to feel what he was feeling, see what he was seeing, being no where else. I enjoyed our walks and meals just for what they were. And it was a beautiful thing. Time stood still at moments and I was totally relaxed. I realized it is because I wasn’t throwing moments away, I was in each one, a full participant.

If you have read this blog before you know that I am a practicing buddhist, and even being mindful of breathing and being in the moment my habit of anticipation takes over. I am working on being more present, more mindful in what i do. This morning I took a shower and didn’t plan for my day. I just felt the water streaming down my back and enjoyed the sensation of scrubbing shampoo into my head. I just showered. What in your life are you rushing through? When was the last time you ate a meal and only ate? Didn’t read, talk, think about what was next, but just chewed and swallowed and enjoyed? What is your habit that takes you out of the moment?

We practice so that each moment of our life becomes real life. When we eat, we just eat, when we walk, just walk, when we love, really love, breathing into each moment. That is really all there is, a collection of moments, and if we let them pass us by life will end one day and we forgot to live.

with love.

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