Categories
Coaching Relationship

Righteousness: Guiding Light or Deadly Intoxicant?

John Owens

Righteousness: Guiding Light or Deadly Intoxicant?

Recently I got into an argument with a loved one. I felt I was due an apology. I pleaded my case, and did not get the response I was looking for. Suddenly, I was feeling a familiar sense of aggrandizement and entitlement. How dare this person defy me, when I was so clearly wronged, and my good principles and ethics were trodden on?

The argument, taking place on the way home from Minneapolis, ended in icy silence and entrenched positions. I was holding a judgment of righteous indignation. If you had asked me, I would have told you that God, or any reasonable person, would take my side. Powerful stuff, eh?

That night I suffered the worst case of nerve pain in my feet that I have ever had. I have an undiagnosed nerve disease that randomly causes stabbing pains in my feet. I can go for months symptom free, and then it will strike. Usually it is intense to the point of breathing through it and bearing with it until it passes. But this night it struck with a force so strong my body actually recoiled in convulsions, again and again. I remember thinking that this would not be good for my back. Sure enough, I have been dealing with back spasms ever since…nine days of debilitating pain and exhaustion. I feel alternately humbled, frustrated, depressed, angry (at God) and hopeless. I need to make a difference every day, and this painful experience has shrunk my world to just trying to get myself healed…it feels like the head of a pin is my world now.

Is there a connection between my righteousness and the pain I have experienced for well over a week? I am tempted to say ‘YES,’ because I have been examining my sense and behavior of righteousness for several months now, and I have become aware of the impact my righteousness has on not just me, but my community.

So what is this feeling that so many of us carry, this sense of righteousness? It’s been around for a long time. Webster defines righteousness as the quality of being morally right or justifiable. Wikipedia says righteousness is an important theological concept in western religions. It is an attribute that implies that a person’s actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been “judged” or “reckoned” as leading a life that is pleasing to God.

Ah, so if my behavior is justified by, and pleasing to God, then whoever is on the other side of that is “wrong” or “sinful” or just plain “whacko”? ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, and God’s on my side.’ There, if ever there be a case for ego inflation, is the Mother of all egotistical positions.

Something is definitely askew with my (our) thinking around righteousness. If I need to justify my actions or position, this is a perfect indicator that I am not living from my heart, that I am not in connection with the object of my justification [see Anatomy of Peace, Arbinger Inst.]. I find it hard to believe I’m quoting a devout Christian here, but in the words of Andrew Womack, there “…is confusion about how we become right in the sight of God. It is commonly thought that our actions are the determining factor in God’s judgment of our righteousness. That’s not true. There is a relationship between our actions and our right standing with God, but right relationship with God produces actions, not the other way around. That is to say, we are not made righteous by what we do.”

So true, or heartfelt, righteousness comes from us first being in right relationship. Then what follows in action can be righteous. My mistake and my downfall has been to judge my actions to be right as a way of justifying my opposition.

How seducing and intoxicating is this feeling of righteousness? My own experience has been one of towering ego, standing far above the ‘others’ who are not only “in the wrong,” but are, simply, “wrong”. I found this in an article by Roger Lockard, that sums it up nicely: …The sense of righteousness is endlessly versatile. It can become fuel for a rapacious crusade, or a comforting wrap into which we snuggle for affirmation and reassurance. This emotional fix is endlessly enticing, insidiously corrupting, and charged with such compelling authority that we can become willing to die—or kill—in its thrall. At this point you may conjure images of terrorists piloting planes into skyscrapers or blowing up buses—rabid fanatics bent on vengeance. Or the Timothy McVeighs and Theodore Kaczynskis: alienated, forlorn figures stewing grimly in righteous vitriol. As with addiction in general, people prefer to think of the problem as involving others—not themselves. But in the case of righteousness, such a belief is almost always mistaken. Most of us, whether we be timid or bold, liberal, conservative, or (especially) some version of radical, are prone to imbibing heady infusions of the stuff. Viewing ourselves as “good,” in fact we become grievously toxic, literally intoxicated. In this poisonous state of mind we are able to write off others—often literally billions of others—without hesitation or remorse, because they are “bad.” It’s on the news every day: people addicted to righteousness are wreaking havoc, at home and abroad. And as I view this madness, I feel myself swell up with—what? You guessed it—righteous indignation! As usual, addiction becomes a closed system, feeding on itself.

There are two paths of ‘righteousness’ I have described here. One is ‘grievously toxic’ and intoxicating by inflating our sense of self and rightness of action. The other path is one of humility and compassion, born of being in right relationship with one’s Higher Power, community, and humanity. Actions taken from this state of being in right relationship with all of creation—even if not in agreement with their behavior—is no longer “all about me”, but “All about Us”. You and I get to choose our ‘path of righteousness.’

One final note: having written this piece, my back spasms have eased considerably, at least 50% in the last hour and a half. Read into that what you will. For me, this has been catharsis.

Category wise Blogs
Categories
Coaching Journal

FIRE, FIRE!

John Owens

FIRE, FIRE!

Some annoying things can mask powerful and destructive forces. Only by opening them up to the light can we heal them and use these forces for good and constructive purposes. I know this from my own personal experience, but recently I was able to witness this in a new way.

Here’s the story: for many months we’d been having a problem with a circuit breaker tripping out for several outlets in our kitchen. It’s been mildly annoying, as we have had to move small appliances around to make use of the few remaining outlets that were still working in our kitchen. Every time I would reset that circuit (we got to the point of naming it “Old #12”), it might stay on for a week, or trip off before I could walk out the utility room door. Random, vexing, mysterious is how I would call the situation. We had need recently for an electrician for a small remodeling project we were doing elsewhere in the house, and hired our neighbor Gerry—who is also the Fire Chief for Northfield—to help us on the electrical work. Of course, I added in the task of fixing Old #12.

Our electrician opened the breaker box and tightened the connections to the circuit breaker #12. They weren’t particularly loose, but it was a good place to start, and the circuit stayed on after the workers left. Several days later it tripped again. Ugh! Now what?

I called the electrician back, and a week or so later he got back to me, and we started the search for the hidden cause in earnest. He replaced the breaker with a new one. He disconnected all the downstream boxes from the line. It still tripped, so we knew the problem had to be in the wiring from the breaker box to the first outlet. Out came the drywall saw, and he started opening up my kitchen wall above the box. I cringed at the thought of all the time it would take to repair and repaint, but like ripping a scab off an infected wound, it had to happen.

There was a moment of electric silence as he shined his flashlight into the opening he’d made, and we saw and smelled the charred wires and wood where there had been–at least– a smoldering fire. We experienced that moment with heavy silence and the unfolding realization that a bullet had been dodged. A wire staple holding the wires had been fastened directly into the Romex wire feeding the box. From time to time it made a dead short across the wires, which tripped to breaker when the amps got high enough. We were very uncomfortably close to having had our house burn.

Gerry, our electrician/fire chief said, “I don’t like to use the ‘f-word’, but in this case I will: you had a Fire. If you had put a bigger breaker in, there is no telling what could have happened with more heat.” Gerry got our problem permanently fixed (most of it: there’s a gaping hole in our kitchen wall now). There is a feeling of “there but for the grace of God, go I” that remains for me, evoked each time I look at the ripped opening exposing the black, toxic-smelling evidence beneath the glossy surface of painted wall.

What is it that attracts my attention to this particular point? Could this be a metaphor illuminating the dark workings of shadow that hide unseen deep in my psyche, that which creates danger and threat to life and well-being? Is it an essence that shows itself in a persistent and annoying outward behavior, like the random tripping of the breaker, that is the symptom of something fundamentally in need of healing? By revealing that which lies beneath the surface and exposing it to the light, permanent healing may take place. So it goes, too, with us humans: our annoying, dysfunctional behavior can be the IMG_20140405_123526_797symptom of a repressed, hidden source of power that lies within. Bringing it out into the light, owning it, can let us heal the wound and use that power for goodness. And for awhile, there remain some jagged and sensitive edges that time and caring will close and heal.

Category wise Blogs
Categories
Coaching

My Sister Left Me

John Owens

My Sister Left Me

We all make assumptions that we act on. Some assumptions we hold by agreements we make with others. Some assumptions are implicit in our cultural expectations, like how I should behave as a parent or husband, or as a person of my age group. Still other assumptions we just ‘make up,’ as if out of thin air, like my assumption that if driving somewhere out of town with my wife, I will be behind the steering wheel. We quite possibly have to make assumptions about others and the world in order to function efficiently. Imagine what it would be like to live for even one day in this busy world without making up any assumptions about others and oneself. But we often get a rude awakening when those assumptions turn out to be untrue, and nothing more than our wishful thinking.

I’d like to share with you a story that is an example of my own awakening when my assumptions were challenged by circumstances as a youngster in my first days of kindergarten. This came to me a few days back as a recovered memory (something that happens to me frequently as I get older). These memories often have a present-day message for me hidden in them, and this one is no exception.

I was just starting kindergarten at Clara E. Coleman School in New Jersey. Back then there were no buses, and everyone walked to the elementary school located in their part of town. My sister, Stephanie, would wait for me by the exit doors at school to take me home. I relished the time with her. She is almost five years older than I, so she knew all about school, and what to expect, and I looked up to her wisdom and caring for me. She also provided security for me, as the school lay beyond my usual range of exploration in the neighborhood. Out beyond busy Prospect Street, I knew no one, did not have any friends, and did not normally go, at least on foot and especially not alone.

Our arrangement of walking together worked well for a week or so, until one day I left my class and started walking toward home. I’d gone as far as the first street on the edge of school grounds when it hit me that my sister was not with me. Suddenly, I felt alone. Very alone, in that moment. Feeling abandoned and vulnerable, I just started to cry. The uniformed crossing lady at the corner saw me standing there, alone, all tears and sobs, and approached me. “What’s the matter?” she asked me.

“My sister didn’t come to walk me home. She left me,” I said.

“Well, do you know your way home from school?,” she queried.

There was a moment for me of transformation of consciousness, a moment when the assumption I held that I could not make it home without Stephanie lifted. I was struck by the fact that I had the resource to get home on my own; I knew the way, even where to take the short cuts to get back home, and all along the route there were Safety Patrol kids who would make crossing busy suburban Jersey streets safe.

My assumption about dependency in this situation was exploded. I was truly empowered with my own inner resource and knowledge. I wiped my tears and runny nose, set my sights down the long street, and with a much lighter step, made my way home on my own. This was a big accomplishment for me, as much for the physical feat of finding my way as for the emotional and spiritual feat of learning that I have the inner resource to find my path in life as well.

So, here’s an invitation to you the next time one of your made-up assumptions is exploded by Reality, because this is the Universe calling you forth to BE. You may be feeling frustrated, abandoned, or like a trap door just opened under your feet: Trust that the universe supports us when we are in need and open to listening. Stay with that feeling of falling, the chaos, the not knowing. Just stay in the discomfort for a moment or two breathing, and then ask yourself what is real and true for you in this moment? Be open to the answer that calls you forth, the one that empowers you, that connects you to other humans or to nature or to the cosmos. Your exploded assumption, like a big balloon that has just burst, may give you a shock, but it also reveals a piece of the world that was previously hidden behind that big, puffy, colorful made-up bit of fantasy that you have been carrying around, letting it get in front of your face to block clear vision.

Category wise Blogs
Categories
Coaching Journal

What I See Is Me

John Owens

What I See Is Me

I have been turning this thought over for months now, never quite getting to the point of writing about it, because I’m not sure I know how to get this across clearly to my readers: What I see is Me. I am hoping that this blog will help me to be clearer about a growing awareness in me, and let me share some thoughts that point in a fascinating and resonant direction. It might be a bit messy. Please forgive me my struggle to put these words artfully and with clarity.

Eastern mysticism talks about Maya, the Veil of Illusion. The idea of maya is that the ego-attached mind creates an illusory world that we live in, believing all the time that what our mind has created is real, when it is not. We see a coiled rope, and think mistakenly that it is a snake. Our mind, great gift that it is, most of the time, is filtering and interpreting our reality, instead of being open and presencing reality.

Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud have written about the psychological phenomenon of projection. The parts of us that we have not been able to embrace (both ‘good’ and ‘bad’), are projected, or made real, in our view of others. “The pot calling the kettle black” is a classic turn of phrase that captures the essence of projection. Our intolerance of traits we see in others is all too often an intolerance of ones that we ourselves possess, but deny or repress their existence in ourselves. This is the Shadow part of ourselves, and I recommend Debbie Ford’s book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers for further reading if you are interested in this rich subject.

Many other thinkers, both modern and ancient, have pointed toward the same or similar realization that our perception is what creates ‘reality’. For me, the five words of the title, which came to me as epiphany three months ago, have taken a high and abstract concept down to a visceral level for me, one that has ever-expanding repercussions and possibilities for my concept of self and creation.

I need to be personal here, though my life experience tells me that my story is by no means unique. Possibly, it is universal at some level. Anyway, here’s the point: from an early age I have sensed and felt, and eventually come to believe, in my separateness in the world. I viewed my life as if through glass: things happened around me, and occasionally through me and certainly to me, but I was like a dot painted on a balloon: there, but not really a connected part of the whole. Maybe I just made it all up. Could everything be made up, including myself? Is it possible that what happens in the world around me could be my own creation, or not a part of me at all? I remember messing with my friends’ minds in high school by asking them for proof that the world exists independently of them. What proof do we have that anything existed before we were born? What if everything we know and assume to be true is just a part of what we make up from the moment of our birth? People, things, everything we come in contact with…could it simply be something that our mind creates, and has no existence outside of us? Believe me, this really messed with my friends’ minds; no one had an answer for me. Neither did I; I hadn’t a clue. It bothered me, too. How do I know that we are not just dreaming our lives, and believing that the dream has a reality independent of ourselves?

My short answer is: I don’t really know if “life is but a dream.” All of our perceptions could be simply made up, a dream that we each believe in, like the world in the movie The Matrix, where we might wake up one day and find out that reality has nothing to do with what we have been experiencing. Our bodies could be simply a thing we believe exists and has experiences, but maybe it really isn’t ‘there’? When I think about this, I realize I simply have no absolute proof that this alternate explanation of Reality is not true. All I really know is that I do exist, as I am conscious of my existence. Not that “I think, therefore I am.” To me, it is that “I experience a world, and therefore I am.”

There’s more. If what I see is Me, my creation, then my experience tells me that there are at least two different universes. One exists when my consciousness is “below the line,” when I feel hurt, or small, disconnected from others. The universe appears to be cold and exclusive, life stacked against me or simply indifferent. If there is a web of life, from below the line I judge that I am not a part of it. From this perspective what I see is me: my inflated ego, pumped up with its victimhood, or, at times, my grandiosity, a sense that the universe was created to serve me personally (so chop chop, hop to it!).

When I am “above the line,” my state of being is in connection with others and Nature, and my heart is at peace, reality appears very differently to me. At times I have an awareness that what I perceive truly is Me, that the connection I feel with everything outside of my skin is as alive and a part of me as what is inside my skin. At such moments my body feels electrified, and my heart opens in a way that I feel a sense of joyful tears resting in my chest. I experience a sense of sacredness around me. Words I speak from this place have a very different impact on others, for what is spoken, what happens, comes from a place of authenticity. What I see is Me. Not the small ‘me’ of the inflated ego when I am below the line, but the real Me that is made from the same energy as all creation. Everything that happens here I can see happening within an ecosystem of interdependence. I feel the presence of the Divine.

I invite you to take a look from time to time, considering that ‘What I see is me’. Take in all that you see, feel, and sense as being a part of yourself. What changes? And if what you see on the outside is truly you, who are you being in this moment? What is there inside you?

Category wise Blogs
Categories
Coaching Self-Mastery

On Carrying Curses

John Owens

On Carrying Curses

This day being Halloween, what could be a better time for a blog post on curses?

Have you ever felt like your life was cursed? Don’t reject this idea too quickly. While you may never see anyone boiling toads and eye of newt in a big black pot with whispered incantations to bring bad luck to somebody, often our self-doubts can lead to negative beliefs that hobble us. My definition of a curse is that it is a belief held by the self that one is somehow destined for a significant and repeated failure. When you think of curses in that way, could that apply to you? It certainly has applied to me for many years, and after decades of working on my “problem,” I have learned some secrets of dispelling curses that we carry to our great detriment.

For many years, I carried a belief that there was ‘something wrong with me’, and that because of it, ‘I would be abandoned’ by those I loved. Never mind where I picked that assumption up; it is just not important to resolving the problem. Over time the assumption became a judgment, and finally a self-belief. Now I was stuck with a belief that made people leave me in hurtful ways, and it sapped my confidence.

For many years, I carried a belief that there was ‘something wrong with me’, and that because of it, ‘I would be abandoned’ by those I loved. Never mind where I picked that assumption up; it is just not important to resolving the problem. Over time the assumption became a judgment, and finally a self-belief. Now I was stuck with a belief that made people leave me in hurtful ways, and it sapped my confidence.

Of course, one’s belief in the curse is a crucial part of what makes it “true.” Voodoo does not work on those who don’t believe in it somehow. I think part of the curse’s effectiveness is that we are unwitting participants in co-creating the reality, the same way, generally, that our attachment to misery and victimization helps to ensure that we will be miserable and victimized. It’s like “The Law of Attraction” in reverse. With time, wearing the curse can actually shape and change our bodies. I have seen curses lifted from people while doing deep process work, and along with the curse goes years of bent posture, wrinkles and lines, and deadness of eyes. It is as if a part of one’s passion and aliveness was stored away from availability by the curse.

I also carry the image of a curse being sort of sown on to us. It can be removed, but the stitching has to be removed first, bit by bit. It all starts with awareness of the belief that gives life to the curse. It is important to see clearly how the curse shapes one’s life and thought. There must also be a desire and commitment to lifting the curse from one’s life. Beliefs are rarely given up in total just by deciding. Making a commitment to lift the curse requires an affirmation for oneself that will fill the void once the curse is lifted.

I am also a big believer in a ritual burning or burying (or drowning, or other disintegration) as necessary to inform the whole being that the curse has been removed and is gone for good. Curses have different ways of staying attached to us. For me, I buried part of my curse, and still some remained. Part of the curse was sewn onto me. I found it helpful to tear some cloth and then bury that to remove the last traces.

Do you carry a curse you are ready to get rid of? Get some help in doing so. Human connection is a great antidote to curses that separate us from our fellow humans and ourselves. Therapy can help, as can working with a certified life coach who has experience with this sort of process.

Halloween may be over now, but if goblins and alien creatures are messing with your life, today is a great time to chase them away for good!

Category wise Blogs
Categories
Coaching Journal

On Self-Love

John Owens

On Self-Love

I know well that I am not the only one in the world that has carried some elements of self-hatred or non-acceptance of parts of oneself. For a long, long time I felt a core distress that something was “wrong” with me, and that I’d be abandoned. This belief was like a curse that hung like an evil talisman on my neck through life. It was not visible every day of the week. Sometimes I’d go for weeks, or a month or more feeling pretty whole, without the reminder that I carried that cursed, self-limiting belief that something wrong / abandonment was my fate in life.

The curse followed me like a vulture on a battlefield of ‘life’. As I acted out my resentments and isolation, unconsciously pushing people from me with my woundedness, the vulture would remind me, “See? This is what you get for your life: loneliness and broken heartedness. This is your doom.” I did things that hurt myself and others. And then I felt sorry for myself that my life was so bad. I was not conscious of it in this way, but I was unknowingly committed to living the life of a victim.

Fast forward now through years of personal growth work, emotional recovery work, community building. I did many good things for myself and others. I got clear about what my curse was, and I became conscious of how it showed up in my life. I developed to the point that I was aware I had a choice to either act out my victim beliefs, or act from a place of power and possibility. Still, the belief, like that vulture, followed me faithfully, often silently, and would then appear whenever things got hard, or messy or lonely.

As a life coach, I do my best to model what I want for my clients. I keep stretching, deepening my learning, expanding my range. I have my own coach to help me as part of being consistent with what I want for both my clients (and potential clients) and for myself. It was my coach who asked me some probing (and uncomfortable) questions that helped me realize that my identification with brokenness and isolation were no longer hanging from my neck. Out of habit, and for an occasional excuse to play small, I was (figuratively) carrying my old curse in my pocket. Occasionally, I got taken in by it, buying into its suffocating belief. But the truth is I no longer have a need for that part of me that allows me to feel I am a victim and excuses me to play small with my life.

One rainy night, I was with some close friends. I retrieved a few shards of pottery that I use to line the bottom of planters from the garage. I went out into my back yard with my friends, avoiding the garden where I give loving attention and frequently dig things up. I dug a hole in the ground, and named the shards as my self-limiting beliefs one by one. I jiggled them in my hands, feeling the jagged edges and clatter they made against each other. It felt appropriate that these hard, sharp and toneless pieces find a permanent home in Mother Earth on this dark and rainy night. Mother Earth gives and receives unconditionally. I had carried these pieces with me long enough. I buried them, and they, the curse, is gone, broken.

A week later I received the gift of recovering parts of myself: my exuberance and my eccentricity. I welcomed that back into the fabric of all that I am and all that I do, including my leadership and coaching work. It has been liberating for me, and those who know me see a delightful difference. With that wonderful sense of wholeness that I feel each day, I wrote these words that I share with you now. Each time I read or think of them the gravitational pull to lose myself becomes ever weaker, and the celebration of my purpose for being in this time and place soars, paradoxically, a little higher and a little closer to Earth.

In celebration of my wholeness, I wrote these words that follow. It’s a powerful antidote to the old messages that held me down for so long.

I love who I am. I love my heart. I love my range, my voice, my humor. I love my brilliant mind. I love the music that plays boogie-woogie in my soul. I love the natural world that I attract, and that attracts me. I love the work I do in the world to lead toward wholeness, love, peace, Namaste.

Category wise Blogs
Categories
Coaching Self-Mastery

Self-Management

John Owens

On Self-Management

I’ve written extensively on the Ten Natural Laws (see my earlier blogs). Each of these laws relates to an insight that can give a more meaningful and fulfilled life by aligning your thoughts and actions with what is inherently authentic and real about us as humans and about how the world works. It is easy enough to read and understand in your intellect what each of these laws means and how they work at a high level. But to put our learning and insights to practice is often the most difficult and elusive of things we ever attempt to do. I know this because it is true for me. My old habits seem sometimes to have a life and intention of their own, and continue to assert themselves independently of our decisions, commitments and vows. What is with that? Why is this piece of self-management so hard for so many of us?

One reason that getting started in a new direction is so difficult is that our responses have gone down the old pathway so many times that it becomes a highway, a default selection for our brain. Even if it no longer serves us, the brain desires efficiency, and holds to its habits. Quitting that habit, even for a long time, does not close off that neural pathway. I remember years ago I quit smoking for three years, and in response to feeling sorry for myself, got my habit back in less than two days.

A second reason for difficulty in self-management is what many coaches call the Saboteur, or the Gremlin. This is that part of us that works (very hard, often!) to maintain the status quo. The Saboteur hates any change, even if it is fulfilling. This will show up with some messages that tend to keep us small, safe, and ultimately miserable. Phrases like: “Who do you think you are?”, or “You can’t do that”, “I don’t have the time”, or “They will hate me for that” are some examples of how our saboteur can get our attention and prevent us from doing the things that will bring meaning and joy to our lives. The Saboteur seemingly works to keep us safe and secure, but life without risks is not a life worth living.

Often there is a payoff for not changing that blocks our way even when a part of us desperately wants to. Most of us have our small pleasures, be they reading the paper, surfing the web, eating sweets or shopping, and what life (real life, fulfillment) calls us to be means we have to give up all or part of those pleasures of dependencies. Often we wait, un-self-managed until the pain of continuing far outweighs the pleasure in continuing. My father being told he’d have to quit his three-pack-a-day cigarette habit or lose his legs comes to mind.

Changing a habit or style usually means going off in an unknown direction. There’s discomfort in that, be it feeling incompetent, or not feeling we are not up to the task (Saboteur’s territory!), or we just don’t know what’s going to happen. We start feeling that fear or discomfort of not seeing the entire path, and the temptation to return to our small world of little pleasures and what is known and comfortable looks mighty tempting.

What can we do that works to self-manage? Here’s a few suggestions that I use to get me going. Try them out and see what works for you:

  • Schedule it on your calendar. If you don’t use any sort of calendar (except in your head), that may be a good place to start. Writing down your intentions and assigning them a specific time (and place) helps to focus and work with your whole brain.
  • Reward yourself! Set something to honor your completing all or part of your desired action. Be careful of using food for a reward, but giving yourself permission to splurge in a small or even large way can act as an incentive. I like to reward myself with a new music CD or a massage.
  • Get conscious of what it will take. Taking on something new almost always means that there are things that we have to say “No” to and leave behind, in order to make room for the new “Yes”. List those things. Write them down on paper. Then take the new step:
  • Take a vow. Do it publicly or privately as you see fit. Making decisions and promises are actions that comes from our heads. That frequently is not enough to move us through the discomfort of the unknown or hard feelings of embarrassment. So step it up to a level of commitment. Mentally (or for real) draw a line in front of you. Feel the change from stepping out of the land of decision and into the land of commitment, a place from your heart. Recite what things you are saying “NO” to and what you say “YES” to in making this change.
  • Celebrate your success! I have brought this up often in my blogs. As a culture, we just don’t celebrate using our large muscles in motion enough. Dancing, drumming, cycling, doing a victory lap around the back yard and consciously feeling good about yourself start to wear a new groove in your noggin, one that will serve you well for life.
  • Hire a life coach to help you in being clear in your commitments and as a source for accountability in following through. Click here to find out more about how coaching can help you get your life moving from frustration to fulfillment.
Category wise Blogs
Categories
Coaching Emotional Intelligence Self-Mastery

On Resistance

John Owens

On Resistance

A few months ago, I had decided that it would be in my best interests as a professional life coach to facilitate a tele-class on the subject of committing our hearts to be open and at peace. The topic is near and dear to me as an area that I have been exploring and growing in for a long time. Doing an hour-long class was neither a technical nor intellectual challenge for me. I frequently use internet phone bridges to make conference calls. I had plenty of resource material at hand to write a script for what I wanted to say and how I would involve my audience. But I hadn’t done a tele-class before, and I had not stepped out of my comfort zone to expose myself as a coach into a larger circle of people.

I stalled. I set a date for the call, and then cancelled it. Not just once, but several times. Every time I vowed to spend time to write my script, I found other things that I “had” to do first. I was resisting, and I knew it. I also felt powerless to will myself into doing what I had committed to accomplishing.

We all commonly have feelings that we resist. It could come in the form of a nagging resistance to fear of an unwanted situation. Or you might resist feeling sad about a loss. You may even feel resistance toward anger, trying to avoid that uncomfortable and unpredictable emotional state.

When it comes to the realm of human behavior, I find the question of “Why is that?” much less useful than the question, “What do you get out of behaving that way?” ‘Why’ is about looking for causes and justification. Often that inquiry does not point us in a useful direction. ‘What do you get?’ points to the benefit we receive from a behavior like resistance to feelings. Understanding the benefits and the impacts of resistance on ourselves and others is a useful way toward arriving at a commitment to change an equation that is not working well for us and those we care about.

So what was it that I got out of my procrastination? I was so badly stalled that I found someone to coach me on just this one topic. Through my coaching sessions it soon became apparent that staying stuck did two things for me: 1. If I didn’t do the tele-class, I could stay small and maintain my status quo. Even though I “knew” on another level that I wanted to do this tele-class, my inertia was winning out. 2. If I facilitated the class in this more public sphere, I would need to face an old and deeply held belief that I’d be judged harshly leading a group. I was resisting feeling the fear and the threatening sensation of a potentially hostile crowd.

What were the impacts of my resistance? I was stuck, and not moving ahead in a direction that would surely benefit me professionally. I was not giving my gifts of communication, open-heartedness, truth-telling and community building. I was cheating myself and others. Still, this was not enough to get me in gear and moving. I needed to do one more thing: stop resisting, and see what was really there behind the wall of my resistance. I dropped the resistance I was exerting, and let in the fear and discomfort. It felt hard for a moment, like a plunge into a pool of cold water. And then came the shift. I didn’t so much feel the cold fear. I felt some invigoration and aliveness. After a few minutes of experiencing the fear it was no longer overwhelming; it had transformed into something more open and freeing: Possibility.

From that moment on, I was able to move forward on my plans, and facilitated the class. I am ready to do another one, eager to go forward. All because I faced my resistance and let in what was on the other side of it.

When you are feeling resistant to something, the following are tips for moving through it. Consider hiring a certified professional coach who has experience with helping people with moving through resistance to facilitate and assist you in this process:

  • Notice first that you are feeling the resistance. Feel where the energy of resistance resides in your body. Notice if it has a shape or color or texture, like tightness or spikey or abrasive.
  • Breathe in whatever way your body wants to, and notice your breath. Let your body assume the posture that expresses your sensation. It’s okay to slump down or crawl under a desk for a while, if that’s where your body wants to go. The idea is to fully experience what is going on, not just rehearse it in your head.
  • After feeling the resistance in this way, invite it in. Open the door to it and actually welcome this part of you. Know that you can go back to resisting if you need to, that this is your choice to welcome whatever is there into your conscious space. Keep breathing!
  • Sit or stand with the feeling. Usually in a short while it will transform to another sensation. Notice what that is, and be curious about that.
  • You may need to repeat the above steps several times to get the shift. Don’t give up on yourself or the process. You can come back to it later if you find your resistance comes back strongly.
  • When the shift in sensation happens, there is often a new thought or belief that comes with it. Notice that, and write it down. Take time to breathe in the new message and anchor it in your body. Touch that part where the new energy lives. Notice its characteristics. Remind yourself that this is part of you, and you can access it at any time.
  • When the shift in sensation happens, there is often a new thought or belief that comes with it. Notice that, and write it down. Take time to breathe in the new message and anchor it in your body. Touch that part where the new energy lives. Notice its characteristics. Remind yourself that this is part of you, and you can access it at any time.
  • From this new state of being, a new commitment to action can be made. Choose some resonant action that comes to mind.
  • Follow through on you actions, and celebrate your success!
Category wise Blogs
Categories
Coaching Self-Mastery

On Environment

John Owens

On Environment

Does your environment—the places you work, play, sleep, and relate to others—nourish, sustain and inspire you? Sometimes we may feel unhappy and out-of-sorts, not aware to the fact that our environment is the cause of our discontent. I worked for many years in a factory, actually a food processing plant. For decades that environment nourished me with close relationships, good camaraderie, and a space for me to be creative and part of functional work teams. There were other elements that did not nourish me, like the noise and the rigidity of the work hours, yet it was a place where I was happy and supported by a great boss who encouraged me to take risks and pursue the things that interested me. Over time, it changed. My boss retired, and I was reassigned under someone much younger than me who did not care about me. Work rules got much stricter, paperwork and documentation (stuff I do not care for much) increased tenfold. Trust and communication were going down the tubes companywide. I was moved from an office with a window to ever-shrinking cubes that were subjected to piped-in white noise. Like the frog in the pot of cool water that is on a burner, I barely noticed over the stretch of years that the environment I was in was killing me. I knew I was not happy. What I did not realize was that I would never be able to enjoy a sustaining environment with the changes that had taken place. One night I had a dream that told me that if I stayed there I was going to get cancer. I woke up with a start, and resolved to plan my exit. I would not die a slow death of being eaten alive by cancer or suffocated by an airless workplace.

That realization brought me to coaching, which I love immensely. My environment, where I do a lot of my work, is filled with inspiring photos and drawings, and images of people who I adore and who love me. I love the technology that I use; it works for me with little or no frustration. It’s a little messy, usually, and I enjoy the clutter until it is too much, and I put things back into order. My work as a coach inspires me to love people deeply, and to continue to heal my own old wounds in order that I can be of greater service to others. I am nourished by the place, in my home, of my own creation, and I am not confined to an office chair to do my work. The difference between now and just over a year ago is like the difference between a night blizzard and a warm spring dawn. This environment nourishes, inspires and sustains me!

So here is a question for you: Does your environment (work, home, or another) nurture, sustain and inspire you? Do you feel you are your authentic self, your body relaxed and heart open where you are? Are you stimulated to be engaged in relationship, intelligent discourse, or physical activity? Do you feel alive, vibrant, and empowered?

If not, what is missing? What values that you hold in your heart are not being honored or expressed? What is it that does not let you breathe deeply, and exhale deliciously? What is absent that could nourish you to toe-curling fulfillment? Write down what comes to you, without editing anything. Let yourself really want that perfect environment for yourself, so that you can express it for yourself.

And when you feel complete in stating your wants, ask yourself: What needs to happen for me to have this environment for myself? What actions can I take today to bring some piece of what nourishes, sustains, and inspires me into my life today? Perhaps it’s a walk in the woods, or getting your hands into soil to garden, or maybe an art museum.

What might you do to bring more of that into your life in the next few months? And what can you do to co-create and maintain your ideal environment over the next few years? There are parts of our environment that may not be changeable in the short run, but all of us are able to get up and move to a place or be in circumstances that feed us deeply.

Now put those ideas into action. Let yourself come alive. The world needs you to be fully alive, vibrant, nourished and inspired. The world needs your passion, and your gifts and your purpose. If you want an ally to help you in creating that nourishing environment, rediscovering your passion and articulating your purpose, a life coach may be just the thing for you.

Category wise Blogs
Categories
Coaching Self-Mastery

Ten Natural Laws, #3: Inner Peace

John Owens

Ten Natural Laws, #3: Achieve Inner Peace by Resonating With Your Core Values Daily

Can you remember a time in your life when everything was going perfectly? When you felt fully alive, peaceful, and resonating with all that is? Take a moment to put yourself there again. Breathe into it and notice whatever it is you are experiencing. What is that like for you?

When your daily activities reflect your core values, you experience inner peace. It doesn’t take effort so much as mindfulness to align your core values, actions and thoughts into a single wholeness of being. Suddenly the internal voices that we all have, advising us about what we should or shouldn’t be, or should or shouldn’t do, quiet down so that we can hear and feel how who we are being and our life purpose have become one. For most, if not all of us, this is a powerful and often profoundly joyful experience.

I’ll share one such experience I had a that illustrates this alignment of actions and values. I had just decided that I would take my first coaching classes, and I was about to make the call to register. I had been searching for a way that would work for me in helping others transform their lives and live purposefully. A friend had suggested I look into coaching as a possible way for me. I was to learn later how much that commitment would help me to live my values of caring for, and deeply respecting, others, and my value of creating sacred space to do courageous work. As I reached over to pick up the phone to register for the classes, I was astonished to see my hand shaking! The hair on my arms stood up with goose bumps. I stopped moving momentarily, and checked myself out. Yes, I felt fear, that good kind of fear I feel when entering into the unknown of much greater possibilities. I also felt my heart peaceful, singing. I realized suddenly that I was meeting my destiny. I completed my call, and have since felt many, many moments of deep fulfillment and joy in my coaching career.

We are all striving for that feeling of fulfillment that gives us deep inner peace and connection to self and others. What are you doing to make that a daily occurrence for yourself? Here’s a few tips to get you going:

  • Know your values. Being aware of what makes you tick goes a long way towards making the daily choices — both big and little — that will honor your values in thought and deed. Engaging a life coach can help greatly in finding your core values, and there are other ways (see blog #2 from last week for pointers).
  • Pick one of your values that you want to honor more of in your life. It need not be your most important value. Pick something that will be easy for you to take action on. The key is to get moving with success right away.
  • Plan, or set a firm intention, every day to do something to express that value. If you value ‘family,’ set aside some amount of time, even 15 minutes each day, to be fully present and connected to a family member. If you value ‘fun,’ do something that is fun for you, like dance with your partner or kids, play a game, or make funny faces with someone you’re close to. The possibilities are endless. What is important is to take action, and notice how you feel while you are doing it.
  • Celebrate your success. I can’t emphasize this enough. Too much in our culture we do something, check off the To Do List box, and just move on to the next thing as if nothing important happened. Reward yourself and others you take with you in honoring your values. A fist pump, a dance move, a song you sing are simple, immediate things that you can do to celebrate. Use your large muscles when you celebrate to help anchor the feeling of peace and joy in your body. Breathe, and notice what you feel. Lock in your joy, and you will find it increasingly easy to seek out the things that will help you feel that joy. This is training your brain to seek success and inner peace!
Category wise Blogs