… A samurai comes to visit a wise man and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” And the roshi looks him in the face and says: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?” The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won’t stop, he keeps saying, “A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?” Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he’s just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, “That’s hell.”…
We went from “don’t work hard, work smart” to an era where smart people are also working very hard. Which means you work hard AND smart and you STILL can’t get ahead. When my clients want to increase their productivity I tell them their amygdala is already working over time. If they load on anything else, including new high intensity concepts, they will not work smarter, they will work dumber. Because there is a cap to how much we can work until we have burnt too many brain cycles. Reducing stress seems counter intuitive but it is the only way to get to the next level in your business. Promise.
I watched Russell Brand’s movie about his recovery from addiction last night.
His big argument was to not put addicts on methadone, not to make them dependent on yet another drug. That a spiritual awakening and support uncovering someone’s underlying wounds was the only answer.
He may have made things too simplistic for some but he did claim his idealism. That it is not about just keeping someone alive but granting them a full life worth living.
I feel much the same way. I know a handful fantastic therapist, and then I have seen a bunch that are hugely invested in keeping people lost so that they will still be in business.
Just listening but not supporting someone in moving on perpetuates the problem. You feel better because you got to spill your guts, so you can go yet another round in the same habitual, pathological orbit. Whatever your issue is…
That’s why when I coach, I won’t listen to your problem unless you have an intention to do something about it. And THAT I will support you in till the end of time.
Today is the last day of the laziest summer of my life.
Although I did things, obviously, much of it was spent in leisurely conversation over lenghty meals. Or puttering about without much results of productivity.
I did my work and had my clients at a leisurely pace and when there was a free moment, I used it to do nothing.
On this last day on the plane from the Middle East to Jordan, it sparked the thinking about how honored workaholism is. It is a disease like any other extreme form of –ism, but in our Western culture, it is celebrated.
Leisure seems to be relegated to the idle rich or the idle poor, both regarded with a certain amount of judgement. The latin word scola stems from the Greek word leisure, which points to what it originally meant. It meant than in leisure you are also learning. Our greatest inventions or works of art did not come through a productivity laden pressure coocker, but from deep thinking in an environment comparatively free of stress.
We can’t be truly creative in the adrenaline driven world of hyper activity. True creativity is sourced from a free thinking, all around free place and we are not free when we are stressed.
This is the idea that this summer drove home – that the thinking I did may very well have led to better results because I was calm and present enough to make the right choices and proper calls at the perfect moments.
I’m spending the summer with my in-laws in their compound in Amman, Jordan. Due to the close quarters, there is much time for communion, conversations and insights following them. A couple of times during our stay, my father-in-law has told me he was impressed with my mothering. That I was patient and handled the chaos of three kids admirably; patiently, logically and without losing my cool.
Those were true compliments as it’s something I care very much about – how I handle my children but more importantly, how I handle myself around my children.
Then – an interesting thought popped up upon him saying this, which was the comparison to all the things I could be doing with and for my children. That somehow I was failing, even if just a little bit.
That made me question, whose side am I really on? When and why did we start playing on the other side of the playing field? When did we begin to stack up evidence to prove our own flaws and failings? We need to stop that. We need to align ourselves with our own team, the one that has our back.
Our limitations are our limitations but they are not carved in stone. This is why we work on ourselves. This is why we break up old patterns and habits. This is why we never give up on our own and other’s fundamental good natures.
So – get back state side on your team, back in the QB position and fight for the things about you that are fabulous and winning…!
THE ART OF PRAYER AND PAUSE
Friends, coaching clients/fellow colleagues on this path of conquering your mind and creating your life –
I have been in the Middle East for one week now.
Seems like a month. So many impressions, a complete cultural shift. Again.
This week was about setting up a routine here and talking to you.
That was it.
And today it is the weekend.
Friday and Saturday are the weekend here.
The workweek starts on Sundays.
As the call to pray rings out five times a day, so beautifully over the city, it reminds me – every time (and in my case irrespective of belief systems followed) to pause and reflect.
Think about how many times you may have chosen too quickly in life; your mate, your education, your work, your place to live – and when you saw that it was not the right path for you, the amount of clean up was immense (divorce, going back to school for an entire new vocation, etc.)
Hearing the call to prayer while here in Jordan is having me pause for a moment, all five times of the day starting early, early in the morning, and remember to think thoroughly and deeply about what I want to do and how I want to conduct myself. Not even for my whole life, but just for this day. Since life is only days going by, each one counts.
On a general level, this shows us all that we are almost never fully present. Right now, I am thoroughly enjoying the reminder I get five times a day to stop and reflect, perhaps meditate or check in with myself that I am conducting my day in accordance with my values and how I want to run my life. After the summer, when I am no longer here to enjoy these lovely reminders, I will have to set the alarm to the same five times – just to remember to come back to the present moment – just to remember that every thought, word and action is governed by the law of cause and effect. That I will reap what I sow. I want the harvest to be good so I want to remember to sow good seeds. And for those of you who are having a bad harvest right now, it can all be reversed, I promise. Start now. Set your alarm.
It is Monday.
How many of you thought about setting yourself up with sacred space?
To start the day off right – and the week.
In my life, as long as I can remember, I have been fortunate to do this intuitively. There was always a ritual before I started my work; my environment around me (uncluttered), myself (clean and meditated), my nourishment (food, water), comfort (a good chair, natural light/good lighting, noise level adjusted or eliminated)…
Sounds like a lot of work, but I couldn’t produce good work unless I had that foundation. Each person has their own ritual (to invent) to create sacred space.
Here is what (god/guru) Joseph Campbell says about it:
“[Sacred space] is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”
There is a wonderful book by photographer Jill Clementz, wife of late writer Kurt Vonnegut, called “The Writer’s Desk”. In it, she captures the rituals of famous writers – their ways of setting up sacred space to start their work. Check it out. It will inspire you.
“Far from a mystical idea, this is something that many artists and writers have put into practice by way of their peculiar workspace rituals.”
Also check out:
“Odd Type Writers: From Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors”, by C.B Johnson
You don’t have to be a quirky writer to create sacred space.
Just a quirky human with something to say.
“DON’T GO THERE” – AND WHY NOT TO…
“In yoga philosophy, much like in the 10 commandments in Christianity, there are “do’s” (yamas), and “don’ts” (niyamas) to adhere to in yoga as well.
Often it is much easier to do something than refrain from something. I’ve gotten bent out a shape more than once by hearing the phrase, “Happiness is a choice.” In the moment, I want to say, “it is not a (expletive) choice! Because when you are unhappy you are (expletive) unhappy! So don’t come telling me it’s a choice, alright?” (Nice amount of aggression, there, wasn’t it…? 🙂
The things that are upsetting usually have some inconvenient truth to them. In this case, it is being faced with an addiction. Mostly our addictive thinking that also leads to addictive actions such as over eating, spending or drinking….
It’s the seemingly unavoidable urge to obsess about the one negative thing that hit us in a day. One hundred positive things happened too – but we don’t see them for that one hurtful remark or bad review. “Tapas” in the “niyamas” refers to “heat” – both physical and spiritual, as in turning up the heat on ourselves and burning away our inpurities. We practice yoga asana practice to train our bodies, and spiritual disciplines to train our minds. Some every day phrases that relate to disciplining our thoughts (and therefore whether to think happy or unhappy thoughts) are:
“Don’t go there.”
“There is no cheese in that tunnel.”
“Stop while you are ahead.”
“Your mind is a dark neighborhood.”
We can start by changing our minds about small nuisances. Here is an example. A lot of my family and friends just went skiing because it is the last chance to do so for the year. My mind started to chatter; “I didn’t take my kids skiing. Should I have? Will they be all upset when they hear others went and they didn’t? The young ones won’t know but the 5-year old? He has never gone. What kind of parent am I? He should have been in ski school by age 3!!” Can you hear it? That’s the dark tunnel as referred to above. The only choice I could make to take me back to a happy place was to take my mind somewhere else, to a happy and more open spot. By choice.
“We didn’t ski, but we went to tons of museums during the break. And they saw things they had never seen before. And the older one went biking with his dad – super special daddy-son time. And being in a new place, there were tons of new playgrounds to explore and friends to meet. Plus, we already have plans to go skiing next year, so all is well. There is nothing wrong here.”
Without trying to sweep things under the carpet, or justifying, or telling ourselves things are good when they really aren’t, this is simply a way of taking the facts and highlighting those that create happiness. The facts mind you
– not whatever we’d like to hear ourselves say to make ourselves feel better.
I would so like your take on this. You have probably already noticed that there are some very predictable places your mind goes when you get upset or anxious…what are they? Do you know? I love when I can spot one, and then the next one, and the next one, like, “I know you little bugger, come here and I will squash you (although I wouldn’t – but metaphorically speaking -) like a bug!”
Private and Executive Coach
END OF WEEK WRAP: On Overwhelm
Last week, I spoke about how to prioritize the pile of stuff/your to-do list that seems never ending. This week I want to talk about overwhelm. The kind that leaves you stuck in your tracks, paralyzed, procrastinating, a blind avoiding of doing anything at all…
It’s been a month since my move to Sweden and only yesterday did I make the phone call to BVC (Barnavårdscentralen – the agency for pediatric care). For a whole month I have felt like “bad mommy”, not dealing with this right as I got here. Not that my children would have been denied acute care should they have needed it, but f’gadssake, they need a pediatrician! If I had waited any longer, they’d be in high school by the time they got weighed and measured again…
Why did I wait? I only just got it to it because I felt overwhelmed by other things that needed to be done. So what then is overwhelm?
A feeling of being overwhelmed is a sign that you are being a self-inflicted taskmaster – of yourself. There is all kinds of help at your disposal; trading tasks with a friend, delegating, cooking a great meal to share with your mom if she makes the calls for you. …
As you begin to loosen up around what you need to get done people show up to help, creative ideas flood your mind of how to solve the next task and the best things of all – everything feels lighter. The natural unfolding of things, where you are dealing with the things in the present and dealing with the people around youbeing present – that is when the “to do’s” of your life fold into your journey and eventually reads like the story of your great life…
I’d rather live my life that way, then go “check-check-check…” on my to do list – wouldn’t you…?
Beginning of Week Kick Off (In Lieu of End of Week last week):Heuristics – The Task/Time/Problem Solver:
Having landed my family and myself in a new life, I am viewing a pile of to do’s that are not “knock/out/able”.. .
Not in a day, week, month or even a year. And the tasks are ALL important – from keeping up with my US and international business matters, to finding my kids a new pediatrician…
Today, this week, and for a foreseeable time ahead, I am applying heuristics with new zest. Heuristics are rules you use to solve problems. A guideline you follow – and when you do, insurmountable tasks fall in line…
Here are a few I have learnt – and a few I thought I came up with myself:
1) Start with the most difficult things when you are most fresh.
That for most people is first thing in the morning.
If you wait (procrastinate) till the afternoon when you already have burnt your cycles for the day, they will take twice the time to complete.
2) Make piles of similar tasks and complete them all at the same time; calls, emails, scheduling. Research shows that it takes 20 minutes to reset when you start a new task, so if you jump from task to task in a rapid manner, you will never fully land in deep concentration in any…
3) Look critically at what you DON’T have to do. If you can be spared but it has to be done, give it to someone else. If it doesn’t have to be done, get rid of it immediately. It’s amazing how much we think has to be done that really doesn’t. Clearing breathing paths and stopping a blood let is about the only two things that you have to do. The rest is on a scale of somewhat important to not at all…
Do share your best heuristics…(and let me know if you do not want me to share it as my inclination will be to…)..