Learning to Stay

There is a heart throbbing quality to being alive, pain, joy, laughter, tears, they pull us every direction. Some we grasp onto for dear life, others we push away with every ounce of our strength. We see and we search outside of ourselves for meaning, when all along it was right here. All we need is right here. right now. nothing more, nothing less. Love and pain flow together tangled and beautiful.

My birthday doesn’t always elicit open self reflection, I usually crawl into myself, feeling my joy and pain in my own private world, no one the wiser.  Yesterday, my 39th birthday, was a day I felt incredible gratitude.  Tears leaking down my face throughout the day, not sobbing, just slowing flowing like a stream.  My amazing wife knowing that what I needed was an afternoon off full of sensory deprivation tanks, a glass of wine over lunch and a quiet family dinner. I am in awe of my life, of the grace bestowed upon me to be surrounded by incredibly authentic and loving friends and family.  The relationships in my life have forever left the superficial, how’s the weather, how’s work blah blah platitudes and entered into the depths of fully sharing a human experience, maybe Facebook aside.  The humanness of holding gratitude and grief together – of allowing for both, of holding space for whatever is, love, heart wrenching loss, pee your pants laughter, madness at the state of our world, the bliss of the perfect bite of a homegrown tomato, or general apathy. The real shit. Open and exposed. Everyday.

Space held for how grateful I am to be a part of my beautiful family, Amanda and Henry are my world, and space to miss my boys, Jack and Finn.  Two years ago on my birthday, which was also mothers day that year, we announced to the world Henry was going to be a big brother.  Amanda 18 weeks pregnant, healthy and happy.  We were terrified of twins, and as those memories pop in, little twinges of guilt accompany them.  As the next month passed by and we knew the boys were at risk, we leaned in, toward them, fully believing we could will them to stay put, hang out another 10 weeks.  While Amanda lay on strict bed rest our friends surrounded us with love and support, regular visits, food deliveries, book deliveries, everything in their power.  We named our sons, Jackson Vincent and Finnean Mathew, we connected to them, we talked to them, watched them move in amanda’s belly, Jackson the feisty one who never sat still and Finny the low key buddha baby.  We wanted to know them.  As the next month passed and each day deteriorated, we continued to believe in the possibility that they would make it.  Almost a month to the day of my birthday later, they were born.  And even as they were being born, there was this crazy irrational hope that maybe they would survive, be the miracle babies you sometimes here about. Their tiny bodies and breath connected to our hearts, they were never separate, holding them and loving them and whispering prayers and chants to them until their last breaths.  They are never separate.  I would give anything for them to have been toddling around our dinner table last night, and every night.  Accepting losing them as part of our life, a part of our beings is both pure pain and pure joy, we hold both together.

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I am in my 40th year.  I lost many loved ones to sickness, cancer, addiction, and unknown causes.  I am still here.  I am a mother of 3 boys, a wife, a friend, a sister, an entrepreneur, a daughter, an aspiring bodhisattva, a human. I love my flaws and my strengths.  I recognize life moves forward, as long as I allow it to.  Allowing for what will be one day at a time.  Compassion, anger, fear, love, gratitude, acceptance.  One day at a time. Learning to stay. I am grateful.  Just being.

Ultimately, what happens in our life is

Ultimately, what happens in our life is a result of our character. A willingness to uncover our innate goodness despite our stories. #awareness

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? W

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Want to stick to it? #habit #mindfulness #resolutions http://bit.ly/1C3p1vj

Emerging from 8 days of silence and slow

Emerging from 8 days of silence and slowly plugging back in. #meditation #mindfulness #habit http://ow.ly/HaRCp

“By practicing meditation we can play a

“By practicing meditation we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life” – Britta Holzen Author of a study that will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Harvard-affiliated researchers.
It seems like common sense that by practicing meditation we can alter our brains, decrease stress and cultivate greater awareness. This is one example of many scientific studies that proves it. Most of us are not capable of jumping into something so quickly and intensely and sticking to it. 27 minutes a day for 8 weeks sounds great, but in reality if you are trying to develop a new habit you should start small and build. I suggest 1 minute a day, twice a day and slowly build. Join us Jan 25th for our workshop on habit change and learn more. http://bit.ly/1fMM9Wz
#meditation # mindfulness # leadership # change # habit

Cracked Wide Open

Truth, vulnerability, love, loss, envy, fear.  We play the highlight reel, even with those closest to us, rarely talking about what is really going on in our lives, our hearts and minds.  We grin and bare it, keep our tragedies and sad stories to ourselves, quietly suffering, quietly overcoming.  Living in deceptive collusion.  And we are alone roiling in our pain.  We share our successes, and our love, and our happy moments forgetting that without suffering there is no happiness – we are all human, none of us immune.  And one day you whisper, you leak, you share, and find you are not alone.  Here’s to love and pain and heartbreak and vulnerability – we are not alone, you are not alone.  You are just like me, and I just like you.  Maybe not in this, but in some suffering.

All hospital rooms are not created equal. This room left us feeling dirtier just for being there. Left wanting for assurance that everything was going to be ok. The white board across from the bed below the clock was mostly erased remnants of the previous patient’s doctor and nurses names. Scratched and cracked, mostly blank, it gave me the eery feeling that no one was taking care of us. We moved across the hall, the cleanliness was luxurious. No longer under observance in the Maternity ward we were back in labor and delivery. Liz, Betsy and Jodie had just left, a small smile still on your face from the laughter. J arrived from Chicago and the mediocre indian food delivery was a feast. All was quiet – the nurse loved us and moved us to the biggest room. We all had room to rest, your chromatic bed with extra blankets just out of the warmer, me in the chair next to you, J across the room, curled into a tight ball, snoring lightly. I yearned for the filth and neglect of the maternity ward. There was no going back, we were in it for the long haul, 90 more days or 1 more hour.

As I drifted I heard the soft closing of the bathroom door – your constant urge to pee, the easier part of this pregnancy.

Too much time had passed, even at 3:30 in the morning, it felt too long, you couldn’t still be peeing. Peering through the door, your were quivering, white faced. I knew it was time. I woke J, told her to get the doctor.

They arrived in a flurry, prepping the room and you for birth. I sat by your side, holding your hand, prepared to be the best partner I could through the births. Trying to match your strength and support when Henry was born. I am good under pressure, this is my strength, and yet I couldn’t shake the fear that I would let you down.

And then all of a sudden you were pushing. You were so brave and so strong. the words “push push push… push, breathe” came out as the tears rolled down my cheeks. Your strangle grip on my hand gave me strength, this was for you, for Jack, this was our family and our path. There was no going back. After about 10 minutes of pushing, there he was, head crowning, he came out peacefully. There was no screaming, no Apgar, his eyes were closed. The rush of the NICU team hurrying him to the warmer, cleaning him off, checking his vitals. and there it was, his first, ever so slight, breath. his beating heart visible through his delicate skin. 4:48am – Jackson Vincent was alive. I carefully cradled him, taking him from the doctor. we held him, and in an instant loved him so deeply – weeping. taking in each tiny detail of his perfect face and body.  So tiny, yet so heartbreakingly beautiful.

Our perfect moment abruptly interrupted by the attending physician. The contractions had stopped, your cervix stopped dilating, there was hope for Finn. A fleeting moment of hope. But Jack’s placenta hadn’t delivered and was torn. If it didn’t deliver in the next hour you would be induced. The Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor confirmed that their was no decision to be made, if the placenta didn’t come out you would die.

We drank up every second we had with Jack, snuggling, kissing and loving every little bit of him. His short life so peaceful and so full of love, until his last breath in our arms. Your mom held him so gentle and firm, so protective, no longer breathing forever alive. and we waited. no placenta. Finn was still kicking and moving when they started the epideral and pitocin. Tears streaming, no turning back. Your life on the line, your body refusing to budge – refusing to let go of the beautiful life moving about. Your eyes empty, your body strong – your soul exposed. 4 hours later – the contractions finally started, our worst nightmare coming true. How do you push when all you want to do is hold – knowing that each painful contraction and push means coming closer to losing our sweet Finnie boy.

But you did it, you did what you were told, i held your hand and coached you again… to push, push push…almost there, push…and there he was -10:06am Finnean Mathew, bigger than Jackson, rounder, more muscular. Sweet love, mouth open, tiny little breaths. Deep love and adoration, It was over and yet it had just begun.

“Sometimes I feel like I never been nothing but tired.. Sometimes I lay down, no more can I do, then I go on again, because you asked me to. Some days i look down, afraid i will fall. and though the sun shines, I see nothing at all. and I hear your sweet voice, oh, oh, come and then go, come and then go. telling me softly, you love me so. The peaceful valley just over the mountain. I may never get there in this lifetime, but sooner or later, it’s there I will go. Sooner or later, it’s there I will go.” Patty Griffin – Just over the mountain, MLK’s song

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.

Jewel in the Poop

I love buddhism, I really do – discovering it and learning to meditate saved my life, more than once. The problem is it gets a bad name- some people, who aren’t very familiar or show some interest, assume that it’s not for them because they can’t do it, they can’t sit still for hours or clear their minds. They perceive the practice to be for a special few who are able to experience flowers and sunshine – they think that when buddhists meditate their minds spontaneously clear of all thoughts, TA DA! Rainbows appear!! The term “the jewel in the lotus” gives the impression that meditators are somehow surrounded by fields of lotus flowers and hit the jewel lottery jackpot, all blissed out. It is an image problem, a PR problem, a communication problem in general. The other perception seems to be that it is all doom and gloom, suffering, and lots of long talks about dying and emptiness. It sets the wrong expectation on both ends of the spectrum.

For me, the cultivation of self awareness and awareness in general is much more akin to trudging through a sewer and tripping over a boot only to have my face smash into the poop, as I put my hands down into the gook to push myself up I happen upon a diamond ring that fell through the sewer grates. And lucky for me, now that I have taken my head out of the proverbial crap I can see that the ladder to get out isn’t far.

Ok, maybe that is a little dramatic, and even misses the point a little…after all, the point of practicing is to uncover your own jewelry in all that poop, not someone else’s. It isn’t all fun and games, and it isn’t all doom and gloom.

The beauty of Buddhism is the idea that your perfect buddha like self already exists, it is not outside of you, someone else can’t find it for you – you have to work through your stuff, cultivate awareness and hopefully get a glimpse of reality, just as it is. Not all rosy and pretendland, but imperfect and real, and the “jewel” is learning to see what is really going on – in your head and outside of it. To let things/people/time/money etc…come and go, just as they are – for we all know we can’t change other people, and we can’t make bad things that happen unhappen. We also can’t make the good things that happen last forever. Ebbing and flowing, the way life does – watching the waves wash over you and there you are, still standing – or at least getting back up.

Obviously, there is much more to the study and practice of buddhism and to the cultivation of uncovering the person you want to be (and already are) – for just this moment, in my mind, it is about uncovering the jewel in the poop, and maybe being lucky enough to take a shower after.

“No one can save us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

~Buddha

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

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