Doing Deep Work

extRO0HUQC2

“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking to compensate for a self love deficit. “ ~ Eartha Kitt

316008_244661295674109_1529311426_n

1395928_578114555557123_438738339_n

A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. It is usually undertaken by young males entering adulthood. Individual indigenous cultures have their own names for their rites of passage. “Vision quest” is an English umbrella term, and may not always be accurate or used by the cultures in question.

Among Native American cultures who have this type of rite, it usually consists of a series of ceremonies led by Elders. The process includes a complete fast for four days and nights, alone at a sacred site in nature which is chosen by the Elders for this purpose. Some communities have used the same sites for many generations. During this time, the young person prays and cries out to the spirits that they may have a vision, one that will help them find their purpose in life, their role in community, and how they may best serve the People.

971597_219492514870220_157265630_n

I am not a young male entering adulthood. And a vision quest is not what I will pursue. Yet, I am acutely aware of deeper trials that I need to and am choosing to resolve for myself.

“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.” “And the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’” ~ Author unknown

Love Yourself More

There is more meaningful work for this warrior. It is time.

A Lion, a Tiger, and a Bear

980x

“Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes.” ~ Frederich Nietzsche

Humans aren’t the only ones who have best friends. Many animals benefit from forming strong, platonic relationships because friendships and social bonds actually serve as a survival mechanism.

Case in point: Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Georgia, USA. Considering how animals of different species don’t always get along, there are exceptions. For 15 years, three brothers, an American black bear, an African lion and a Bengal tiger have lived together, in the same quarters. Not separated since cubs, they have always been a source of love and comfort to each other.

2734531507_87e5305118_m

So… some (at least to me) interesting facts about friends and friendships:

A Harvard Medical School Nurses Health Study found that not having close confidants or friends was as detrimental to your health as being overweight or smoking.

A University of Oxford study indicated that each individual is only capable of maintaining a certain number of friendships at any given time. It found that the human limit for simultaneous friendships is around 150. However, those who maintain hundreds of friendships may do so at the expense of their closest relationships – those we turn to when we really need them.

Our friends truly bring out the best in us. In 2013, UCal – San Diego research found that people look more attractive in a group than they do individually. A simple reason to be with friends, right? (After publishing this post I’m off to hang with friends.) 🙂

And according to MSN researchers, in a lifetime one makes 396 friends – only 36 last – and only one in six are considered to be close friends.

9245182723_1e46eefefb_m

How much time do you set aside to cultivate friendships? Are casual friendships as important to you as close friends? How do you nurture your closest friendships?

Friendships are relationships and they often go through testing times. There will always be ups and downs. Sometimes friends will let you down and sometimes you will let them down.

I miss my closest friends. They don’t live nearby. Acknowledging this, I am reminded of what brought us together in the first place and what will keep us as close as Leo, Shere Khan and Baloo (the lion, the tiger, and the bear):

  1. Make friendship a priority. When you do you empower yourself to say no to less important things in your life and elevate the value of friends in your life. It is always friendships that transcend the daily routine of life.
  2. Be honest. This is essential if you want to improve/keep your friendships – even when it may hurt. Your friends will respect you more, if they know that they can count on you to tell the truth.
  3. Take a road trip. Together! A simple getaway can bring a new level of connection to a friendship. Time away from the day-to-day will help you feel more relaxed, and the anticipation of the trip and memories afterwards – will give the experience additional meaning and value.

Chicas

Patience Patients

277768582_f9590ae212_m

It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting. ~ Elizabeth Taylor

“The years.” How significant those two words. They reference a manner in which we score time. They are also an expanse that provides us space to assess and test ourselves.

This past Fall I took my mother on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise. We spent time in Rome both prior to and following beautiful seaborne excursions. While she is still amply able-bodied and of sharp mind, I wanted to share more time and experiences with her.

I also wanted to test my own patience.

flawless-patience

As do most children, I love my mother. She is responsible for countless aspects of my grounding, my growth and my character. She also tests my patience. 🙂

Patience is the ability to tolerate waiting, delay or frustration without becoming agitated or upset. It is also the ability to control our emotions or impulses and proceed calmly when faced with challenges. It comes from the Latin word pati which means to suffer, to endure, to bear. Needless to say, patience does not come easily for many of us.

In today’s world of instant everything, technology, and a readily available universe, we can obtain, experience, and consume practically anything we want – almost immediately. Some wonder, do we even need to be patient anymore?

Time with my mother helped me to better understand and appreciate how we wait alongside and accept others. As a grown man, I needed to reassure myself that I possessed and embraced this capacity. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In the spirit of this quote, planning and measured growth take time and taking time takes patience.

he-waits

Eknath Easwaran, a spiritual teacher and author once said, “Patience can’t be acquired overnight. It is just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it.” It makes sense then that the more we can remain patient, the easier it gets. It’s a muscle we build over the years; a muscle I am still developing.

To those who acknowledge patience as a virtue, these three considerations may be worth your time and practice:

  1. Accept the reality of your humanity. You are going to need time, effort and energy to change and grow. There will be natural resistance to altering long-standing habitual ways of acting, reacting and believing. Simply give it time.
  2. Plan a day to make patience your goal for the entire day. Take your time and think about everything you do. At day’s end, reflect on all the ways you made conscious choices, got along better with others and actually understood what took place.
  3. Be patient with yourself. Keep this kindness reminder in mind when it comes to life. Things don’t always go as planned. You will do things you know you ought not have done. Don’t beat yourself up. Or give up.

Consider being a benefactor of patience.

21205255336_cb51b9d1c5_m

Friendships & Relationships

                    Lauren Calcote & Dustin Simon

Lauren Calcote & Dustin Simon

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ~ John Lennon

This past weekend, I was honored to bear witness to the binding of two lives. Their love for each other and their incredible zest for life is priceless. And for we who shared in their celebration, it was an equally memorable blessing.

In the bliss of their day, I reflected on three simple considerations:

  1. Value the people who are there. Sometimes we get so caught up looking for romantic love that we forget to appreciate the friends and family who are always there, offering their support. At least I did. You might be thinking that friendships aren’t the same as romantic affection, and I understand. But we don’t attract romantic love into our lives by focusing on what’s missing. We attract potential partners by radiating love. Take inventory of all the people who care. There are likely more than you realize.
  2. Have a sense of humor, some fun, and a bit of distraction in your life. You can’t spend all your free time “working” on your relationship – don’t make it a hobby. Discuss what you like to do, where you’d like to go, and how you’d both like to have fun. Then go do it. 🙂
  3. Listen and respond. This seems so simple, yet the act of listening with undivided attention is one of the things that sustains friendships and relationships. Just be with the one you love. Ask questions. Show genuine interest. When people fail to respond to each other’s bids for emotional connection, the results can be disastrous. Explore the value in positive exchanges.

My two cents, unsolicited.

Extraordinary Places

                Deborah "Atianne" Wilson

Deborah “Atianne” Wilson

“Your wealth is a measure of your service to others.” ~ Jewish Proverb

Significant in the coaching profession and in life is the word “shift.” I’ll refrain from defining shift as we each have our own meaning for it. We’ve all experienced shifts – directly or indirectly, voluntarily or involuntarily. My friend, Deborah, having faced abuse, abandonment, rejection, divorce, dis-ease, infertility and financial fears was invited to shift from a place of depression, physical pain and ego misunderstandings to extraordinary places of peace, empowerment, joy, authenticity and love.

Deborah “Atianne” Wilson is known as The Intuitive and Spiritual Wealth Coach. Everything that has shifted, healed and transformed in Deborah’s life has come from the fundamental knowledge that it all matters – we all matter. I know Deborah personally and she is not a ‘woo-woo’ person. She is a grounded woman with uniquely gifted intuitive abilities and thoughtful perspectives. She shared some of her story and her wisdom on this week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show (podcast here).

I invited Deborah to talk about her new book: It’s OK to be Spiritual and Wealthy: 19 Essential Keys for Living a Joyful, Prosperous & Abundant Life… something to which I believe we all aspire. During the show Deborah spoke about important life lessons including: practicing true forgiveness (challenging for many people); the value of expressing and living our life of freedom; divine connection (though not necessarily in a religious sense) and; giving and being in service to others from a joyful place in our hearts.

If the concepts of prosperity, joy, serving others, inner work, and personal responsibility resonate with you, consider listening to the podcast. If you are interested in learning more about Deborah, here’s a link to her website.

Why Compassion Matters

“Compassionate action involves working with ourselves as much as working with others.” ~ Pema Chodron

Eight years ago this month, I was in Sydney, Australia, to commence my formal coach training. It was an intensive program with 17 others from across the globe. There were countless practicum and significant Personal Foundation work. Yet eight years later, the discovery that remains most meaningful from those days was work we did to identify and begin to reorient around our core values.

Having chosen five values, we were also tasked with selecting which was our key value. My mind agreed with all five, yet it was my heart that made clear my key value: compassionate action. Not just compassion which dictionary.com defines as “(A) feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” While compassion alone is noble, the need for me was/is to do something with my compassion and that found me adding the word action. Thus, an adjective evolved into a verb.

To act in compassion toward others, one must first be compassionate with yourself. With Latin roots meaning co-suffering, compassion can only be integrated if we are willing to understand the other completely; to look at the other with a different perspective. A perspective that whatever the other does, the person acts with a positive intention about her/himself.

In compassionate action, we bring awareness to the truth of the present moment while holding a vision of our heart’s deepest wish to be loving to all. And for me, this means all sentient beings. The more we accept this the more we are able to see opportunities to grow ourselves and help others.

At this time of year, one which many see as a giving season, consider what action(s) you can take to alleviate the suffering of another, to reduce their pain. The following video shares 40 possible ways. There are many more. Be creative. Act. And in doing so, align with what really matters.

Atypical for Eric

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Those who regularly follow this blog know that I frequently post about things virtuous, one’s character, and living your values. I like to believe that what is shared helps people to consider more closely, who they are and how they choose to align with what really matters. What I don’t often post about are equally important yet much more abstract subjects.

Like time. And love.

Both are tricky concepts; topics that are part qualitative, subjective, and open to individual interpretation – rather than easy to grasp and apply. Typically, I leave the abstract to philosophers, debaters, and those who like to express their strongly held opinions.

But when I came across the images that accompany this post, I couldn’t ignore their respective messages. Thus, my choosing to share the following short story which relates to the photos. The story is neither new nor original; it’s been circulating the Internet for a while.

Once upon a time, there was an island where all the feelings lived: Happiness, Sadness, Knowledge, and all the others, including Love. One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink, so all constructed boats and left. Except for Love.

Love was the only one who stayed. Love wanted to hold out until the last possible moment. When the island had almost sunk, Love decided to ask for help. Richness was passing by Love in a grand boat.

Love said, “Richness, can you take me with you?” Richness answered, “No, I can’t. There is a lot of gold and silver in my boat. There is no place here for you.” Love decided to ask Vanity who was also passing by in a beautiful vessel. “Vanity, please help me!” “I can’t help you, Love. You are all wet and might damage my boat,” Vanity answered.

Sadness was close by so Love asked, “Sadness, let me go with you.” “Oh…Love, I am so sad that I need to be by myself!” Happiness passed by Love, too, but she was so happy that she did not even hear when Love called her.

Suddenly, there was a voice. “Come, Love, I will take you.” It was an elder. So blessed and overjoyed, Love even forgot to ask the elder where they were going. When they arrived at dry land, the elder went his own way.

Realizing how much was owed the elder, Love asked Knowledge, another elder, “Who helped me?” “It was Time,” Knowledge answered. “Time?” asked Love. “But why did Time help me?” Knowledge smiled with deep wisdom and answered, “Because only Time is capable of understanding how valuable Love is.”

My hope for you is that while you may appreciate the story, take to heart the wisdom in the words that accompany each of the images.

Flourishing

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has been studying positive emotions long before it was vogue. Her data reveals that negative emotions, like fear, can close down our ability to function, while positive emotions open us up to possibility, and an increased ability to move forward. Dr. Fredrickson prefers the term “Positivity” to “Happiness”, and stresses the importance and possibility of not just being happy, but flourishing. How would you like to flourish?

Dr. Fredrickson came up with a top 10 list of positive emotions, in order of most frequent to least. As you review this list, ask yourself, When did I last fully experience this emotion?

Joy
Joy happens in an instant, a perfect moment captured when all is just exactly as it should be.

Gratitude
Gratitude is a moment of realizing someone has gone out of their way for you, or simply feeling overwhelmed with your heart opening, after being moved in some way.

Serenity
Serenity is like a mellow, relaxed, or sustained version of joy.

Interest
Interest is a heightened state that calls your attention to something new that inspires fascination and curiosity.

Hope
Unlike other emotions that arise out of comfort and safety, hope springs out of dire circumstances, as a beacon of light.

Pride
Ever done something really well that took a little time and effort? Maybe reached a goal you never thought attainable?

Amusement
Think of amusement as those delightful surprises that make you laugh; those unexpected moments that interrupt your focus and crack you up.

Inspiration
Inspiration is a moment that touches your heart and nearly takes your breath away – or takes in your breath, as the word literally translates.

Awe
Awe happens when you come across goodness on a grand scale, and you feel overwhelmed by greatness.

Love
Guess what? The #1 most frequent positive emotion is here at the bottom. Love encompasses all of the above. When we experience love, our bodies are flooded with the “feel good” hormones that reduce stress and even lengthen our lives.

How often are you experiencing these emotions? Regularly, occasionally or hardly any at all?

Here’s a simple exercise. Grab some sticky notes. Write each of these ten positive emotions on a separate sticky note. For the next ten days, peel off one at a time and take that word with you wherever you go as your daily “flourishing mission.” Take in the essence of each word and try to bring it out in others. (Hat tip to Kari Henley at the Women and Family Life Center).

In a world where negativity abounds, why not try an intentional shift and focus on some positive emotions? You may well thank yourself for what it yields.

Visiting Vulnerability

“The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.”

~ Paulo Coelho

It was early 2003; a quiet Italian restaurant in downtown San Diego. I was having dinner with a friend who I hadn’t seen in three months. Being a weeknight, the environment was pleasantly conducive to privacy and conversation. After some time and at Jeff’s prodding, I shared emotional details of my recent past. It was when I was telling him about how they’d stopped my heart from beating for more than two hours during a 7.5 hours surgery that I lost my composure.

I didn’t expect to show that weakness, especially in the presence of someone I viewed as a rock. After all, Jeff was, on the surface, a solid being who epitomized confidence and having his act together. Maybe it was my being so exposed, maybe it was the red wine, but where the conversation then went was even more unexpected. In a much longer story, shorter, my friend opened up and shared how he was actually a very fragile being.

And there we were. Two accomplished professionals in the corporate world, being weak.

What nobody told us is that there is actually a deep inner strength in vulnerability. This may sound contradictory at first – but vulnerability is actually a strength in disguise. You know why? Because to be vulnerable you have to be honest, you have to be the real you. And we were certainly being real.

Being vulnerable isn’t just about how you present or project. It’s about revealing what you withhold or keep hidden from other people. We all do this to some extent. I bet you’ve never said to a friend, “I just love that I’m insecure.” There’s the risk that if we reveal our authentic selves, we’re likely to be misunderstood, labeled or rejected. The fear of rejection can be so powerful that some will never let their guard down.

Sometimes it may feel safer to hide our inner feelings in favor of an inauthentic, more confident exterior, but the truth is, people respect vulnerability so much more than a false presence. Playing pretend doesn’t ever make you feel good on the inside; it only leaves you feeling like a fraud. And who likes frauds?

Perhaps it’s through writing, perhaps it’s through getting older, but ultimately I’ve realized that I’m still a pretty hard person to get to know. I’m guarded and I don’t break easily, no matter how close I am to people. Maybe you can relate to this. I know that most are still kept at a distance that is comfortable, a distance that won’t leave me exposed.

When you’re vulnerable, your heart is wide open. You put your trust in somebody in the form of giving the most precious thing you have – your heart. When we’re vulnerable we leave ourselves available to be hurt and people hurt people. So I guess somewhere along the way, I made the decision that vulnerability wasn’t for me. I told myself that to be vulnerable would mean to give up my strength and I didn’t want to surrender that.

So, if you go back to my very first blog post, I’ll again call myself a cave man. I mean, isn’t that where this need to be not vulnerable belongs?

How comfortable are you with putting it all out there? Being emotionally butt-naked?

vul4

A Letter to a Friend

“A strong friendship doesn’t need daily conversation, doesn’t always need togetherness, as long as the relationship lives in the heart, true friends will never part.” ~ Unknown

Life whispers its meaning to us in the silence of the surrendered, open heart. It is there where I realize how much I value some friends. I find this silence compelling.

Sometimes it’s hard to come straight out and tell our friends how much we love and appreciate them. We might feel awkward expressing deep feelings, even to our nearest and dearest, because it’s not a common practice. We might get choked up and embarrassed in the process, or we might feel we will embarrass them.

Still, we all have those moments when we realize how fortunate we are to have the friend we have, and we may long to express our gratitude. Moreover, it may of tremendous benefit to our friends to be at the receiving end of our appreciation. At times like these, writing (yes, writing!) a letter can help us say what we want to say without feeling self-conscious. Additionally, a letter gives your friend the space to really take in your expression of love and the gift of being able to return to it time and time again.

As you sit down to write to your friend, take a moment to consider the qualities you most value in your friendship. It might be the fact that you always laugh when you talk or that you feel safe enough to confess your worst problems and always leave feeling better about everything. It might be the new ideas and experiences you’ve been exposed to throughout the course of your friendship. Whatever it is, really take the time to express to your friend their unique impact on your life. You don’t have to use big words or fancy metaphors; all you need to do is write from your heart and your friend will feel the love in your heart.

Letters, which used to be somewhat common, are now rare. A handwritten letter makes a wonderful gift to be treasured always. You might simply send it or hand deliver it out of the blue. Whatever you choose, your letter will no doubt be received and treasured with a grateful heart.

So, Gary and Jeff, while you don’t read this blog, I miss you. Know that my letter to you will soon be on its way.

And for those who read this blog, to whom is your letter going?