How to Play Nice With Erratic Energy (or “You’re Probably Not Having an Existential Crisis”)

erratic energyIt’s confession time.  My time to confess, that is.  I’ve spent the last week positively crawling out of my skin, energy wild and erratic.  This happens every so often, but this time was off the charts.  Nothing would settle me.  I tried going for a walk, grounding, eating a heavy meal, meditating, taking a nap, reading, watching Netflix.  I even tried cleaning my kitchen in a last-ditch effort to prove to myself that I could actually complete a task.  Result: half-cleaned kitchen.  I couldn’t find relief and I wracked my brain to try and figure out what was going on.  Hormones? Astrological tail-spin? Solar flares? Low blood-sugar? Existential crisis?  No, No, No, No and maybe….

The truth is that there was really nothing “wrong” and that’s what I want to convey to all of you.  The truth is that the unsettled feeling that we all get in the pit of our stomachs is sometimes just gas.  But other times, like today, its the feeling of standing on the precipice, of feeling the event horizon of something extraordinary.  That feeling doesn’t mean you have to “DO” anything.  You just have to “BE” and allow the giant tidal wave of amazing universal energy to wash over you.  This can be hard to do, trust me.  My mother used to tell me that I had an “Uber-A” personality.  Sitting still and letting stuff happen isn’t exactly my forte.  Nor, am I guessing, is it for any of you (we’re friends for a reason, after all).

And so the crawling, crazy, slightly manic feeling doesn’t need medicating or analyzing or fixing.  You have been the architect of your life the whole time and it’s been moving forward at a maddeningly beautiful pace (I can feel some of you start to object – so let me stop you and say that it absolutely HAS).  That feeling of not knowing what to do, and not knowing what’s next isn’t cause to chuck the whole thing in, its time to pause and look at this amazing feat and all of the things that you’ve created.  And in that space of reflection, you can find peace.

Big love,

heather

Shifting With Grace (Or, “Let’s not be such control freaks”)

roller-coaster

As spiritual beings, we abhor stagnation – our lives are all about shifting and learning and growing. Of course, on a entirely human level, we often crave control, stability, a sense of security and some degree of predictability. I mean, change is scary, right? What if you, *gasp*, DIED?!?  No wonder so many of us have a white-knuckle grip on our need for control.

It stands to reason, then, if you’re experiencing a bout of significant shifting and growing, you might feel off-kilter, scared or just plain stressed out.  These spiritual changes often come disguised as significant life events like losing a job, ending a relationship, moving or incurring unexpected large expenses.  These events aren’t the Universe knocking us down and taking our lunch money, but are designed to get our attention and move us toward a new path.  For some of us, we may get these “plot twists” every few years or so.  For others, we may get them every other month.  Of course, this can be overwhelming and exhausting if you’re viewing them as punishment.  However, it is important to remember that lessons or shifts are neutral from a Universal perspective.  That is, the Universe doesn’t assign “good” or “bad” connotation to lessons as they are simply the vehicle to our growth.  It is we humans who view things like losing a job or breaking up with a significant other as “bad” and winning the lottery as “good.”  The Universe doesn’t attach such labels.  

So if these things aren’t “good” or “bad” then why do we feel such stress when the unexpected happens?  This goes back to our human, ego-driven need to be stable, secure and ultimately have control over our immediate circumstances.  But, guess what… the need for control is an illusion and a human construct that does us more harm than good.  We fight wars out of our need for control.  We lose sleep over our need for control.  We fight with loved ones over our need for control.  Control is diametrically opposed to the Universal constants of growing and shifting.  

As difficult as it can sometimes be, when we find ourselves in the thick of it, we must take a step back and look at the larger picture.  When something ends, the Universe rushes in to fill the vacuum; allow this to happen.  Don’t hang on to the old, stagnant patterns.  Allow these things to flow.  Granted, this is easy when the flow feels more like a lazy river on a summer day, than an intense roller coaster ride.  But hey, roller coasters are fun, too. Remember, it’s all about perspective. So let go, and throw your hands up in the air; and if it gets a little intense, it’s ok to scream your head off.  Just remember, that no matter what, you’re always going forward. 

13 ways to be a compassionate leader

compassionate leadershipIn my “day job” I have the fortune of being able to lead people and influence the community.  I also have the privilege of  learning how to lead compassionately.  What is compassionate leadership?  For me, it is a way of leading people in a real and human way by making heart-felt and ethical decisions, which sometimes is the opposite of what they taught me in business school.  So, here’s how I do it.

How to be compassionate leader:

1. Listen to feed back

This is the most important thing you can do.  Listen to your people, listen to stakeholders, listen to your critics, listen to your fans, listen to EVERYTHING.  I’m not saying that you should take everything to heart, but have a measured idea of how you’re doing and where you stand.

2. Hire good people and let them do their jobs

This means that you must relinquish control of every little thing that happens in your domain.  You have people there to do a job, and you must let them do it.  Nothing undermines the progress of a good team like a control freak or a micromanager.

3. Be real

You’re human.  It does no one any good to pretend otherwise.  If you’re afraid you’ll look weak to your subordinates, then you need a reality check.  Trying to mask emotion or illness or stress is counterproductive and leads to overall burnout.  Be real and honest with your team.  They’ll thank you for your authenticity and this will lead to trust in your organization.

4. Don’t be afraid to make tough decisions

I hate firing people, but sometimes it must be done.  I hate walking away from losing situation because I think I can always win.  These things, whether an unproductive employee or the proverbial Kobayashi Maru, are facts of life and pursuing them is a drain on you, your team and your resources.  Know when to cut your losses.

5.  Don’t Lie and Don’t tolerate Liars on your team.

Period.

6. Lead with your Heart and not your Head

Instinctively, we know what’s right for our teams and what we need to accomplish a goal.  Sometimes this is counterintuitive to those higher on the food-chain or is contraindicated in your Ops plan.  If you know what’s right and what it takes to get to where you need to be, don’t be afraid to stick up for it.

7. Know when to say No

It is just as important to put the kabash on an idea as it is to boldly go forward with an innovative one.  So if it’s unrealistic, unethical or just plain unattainable based on current resources, know when you can tactfully say no.  Your team will thank you for sticking up for them and recognizing their workload.

8.  Say Thank You – Often

Everyone wants to be appreciated.  So recognize people for what they do and bring it back to what it means to the organization and the bigger picture.  People don’t just want to work for a pay check, they want to have what they do mean something.  Its up to you to make sure that bigger picture remains paramount and that your people feel a part of it.

9.  Have a Vision You’re Passionate About

You may be steering the ship, but your people are doing all the rowing.  You’ll get to your goal faster if they all are on board with your vision.  The easiest way to do that is to identify a vision that gets you excited.  Impassioned leaders make impassioned employees and accomplish amazing things.

10. Practice self-compassion

Hey, you’re not perfect.  And that’s ok.  Let go of the idea that you need to be and that you need to help accountable for every single bump in the road.  As much as we would all like to think we’re omnipotent, let’s be realistic: we’re not.  So don’t beat yourself if something goes sideways.  This self-flagellation leads to guilt and guilt demands punishment.  That’s no way to lead an organization.

11. Admit when you’re wrong

Sometimes you get it wrong.  Admit this when it happens and own up to your mistakes.  Don’t pass the buck, don’t dodge the issue and don’t ever carry on like you didn’t screw up.  Nothing will tear down the trust you’ve built faster than pretending to be saintly when everyone knows you totally fumbled.

12. Let go of Ego

Letting go of ego is probably the toughest thing you will try to do because normally leaders tend to be addicted to their egos.  In fact whole nations have risen and fallen on the whim of some leader’s ego (Er… North Korea… Rome, anyone?).  So, just like you need to be able to swallow your pride and admit when you’re wrong, you need to be able to let go of claiming all your victories for your own.  You may be in charge, but by no means did you do all the work.  Which leads us to….

13. Be humble, be gracious and ask  for help

You’re not an island.  And it is foolish and unrealistic to expect to be able to accomplish your goals without the help of others.  Don’t be squeamish about reaching out and building alliances with others.

8 Steps to Living Guilt-Free

One of the repetitive themes that seems to play out in my sessions with clients is their struggle with guilt and how to live guilt-free.  In some cases this is guilt associated with a major life event, but often this sense of guilt is rooted in the mundane.  Things like feeling guilty of blowing your diet or saying “no” to something.  Well, I’m here to tell you that this is a rather large waste of your precious energy.  Here’s how to break out of that guilt complex once and for all:

guilt trip1. Self-forgiveness

Really.  Understand that you are perfectly imperfect and that you are a human being.  You’ve also come programmed with years and years of patterns so if you lapse back into an old thought pattern or habit that is not desirable, don’t beat yourself up.  Recognize what’s happened and resolve to make a better choice next time.

2. Self Care

This may be counter-intuitive to some people, especially those who new to setting up healthy boundaries (more on that in a sec…).  But we tend to beat ourselves up and get into unhealthy mental spaces when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable.  The easiest and most effective way to recharge and gain a better perspective is to practice self-care.  Self-care doesn’t have to be an extravagant day at the spa (although I won’t stop you), it just needs to be something that you do for yourself and solely for yourself.  And don’t you dare associate guilt with this!  After all, how can you give to others if the well is dry?

3. Internal Inventory

What is an internal inventory, you ask?  It is where you sit down and do some soul-searching and decide what is in your life in a priority and what is not.  It is helpful to remember that we simply can not be everything to everyone at all times.  While we are infinitely powerful spiritual beings, we are not omnipotent: you can’t be in the boardroom and at soccer practice at the same time.  This is where we have to choose the things that we really do value and stick to it unabashedly and unapologetically.

4. Setting Healthy Boundaries

Ah, yes.  My favorite.  Many of us are so programmed to be care-givers and nurturers that our natural tendency is to say “yes” to everything.  Is this realistic?  Of course not!  How can you be PTA president, Team Mom, Neighborhood watch captain, Realtor of the year, etc. etc. etc. without sacrificing things that are the most important like your health and time with your family?  The answer is that you can’t.  Set realistic boundaries of what’s important to you and what matches your internal inventory.  For example, one of my clients was having a hard time sticking to a work schedule that allowed time for her family.  She would feel guilty about saying no to clients and go out of her way to accommodate them.  While we all want to allow more abundance in our lives, the reality is that the feeling of loss associated with lost time with family was more disconcerting than the guilt of rescheduling a client.  And in reality, most people are accommodating and understand when someone has family commitments.

5. Self-awareness

So you “mess up” and you’re feeling guilty.  First, see #1 on this list.  Then look at the feelings that come up when you begin to feel guilty about something. What triggered it?  Can you remember when you first felt guilt associated with the trigger?  Where in your body do you feel this?  By analyzing these feelings you can begin to see patterns and identify triggers.  Over time, you will be able to erase these patterns from your life.  How great is that?

6. Conscious living

This goes hand-in-hand with self awareness.  Be conscientious about what and who you allow into your life and what you spend your time and energy on.  If that person, event or thing doesn’t thrill you, bring you closer to your divine purpose, complement your lifestyle or strengthen your bonds with the people who are the most important to you, proceed with caution.  Don’t be afraid to say no or to go your own way. Employ self-awareness to this, too.  For example, does the thought of going to The Party of The Year thrill your socks off or make you cringe?  Answer honestly and proceed accordingly.

7. Gratitude

Ok, so everyone should be doing this.  You can not simultaneously feel guilt and gratitude at the same time.  It’s impossible.  Say for example you find yourself feeling bad for not going to the aforementioned Party of The Year.  Immediately begin to think about what you are grateful for in that situation. Like how you have time to dedicate to your writing or you can call your mom or snuggle on the couch with your special someone.  These are choices that can deeply connect you with others and they should be celebrated in favor of bemoaning your lack of party-animal-ness.

8. Be Brave

Taking these steps will be tough at first.  Saying no will take practice.  Not going on habitual guilt-trips is going to take some un-learning. But you can do it.  Start small and work your way to bigger things.  Once you get the hang of it, this will all be second-nature to you.  Take just the first step, be brave.  It’s worth it. I promise.

love and light,

–h

Love, anyway

love-anyway-shevon-johnsonFor those of you who read this column regularly, you know that I write and speak from a deeply personal place.  It is my sincerest wish that I can translate the lessons that I have been given in my life into a medium that can help you.  At least, that’s the plan.  I often make an example out myself unintentionally.  Recently, in my day job, I rescued a cat that had been stuck in a wood pile for several days.  The little creature repaid my kindness by nearly biting through my finger.  After ten days of guy-wrenching antibiotics, the lesson to the men on my team: Don’t be like me; wear thicker gloves.  (The cat’s doing fine, by the way, and has found a forever home… )

And other times, I’ll share here a particular struggle in which I find myself.  Lately, I’ve found myself in a Battle Royale with my own fear.  More specifically, with a deeply rooted fear of intimacy and of trust with another human being.  I’ve been standing on the precipice of something great and truly amazing – the chance for an exceptional life.  And yet, I can’t dive in.  I can’t accept what’s in front of me.  Of course, this relies on the participation of a partner and the trust that I will be loved and cared for unconditionally.  But therein lies the rub, I suppose.  I can’t accept that even on the outside chance this ends up hurting like hell, in the meantime, it will be extraordinary and well worth the gamble.  For you regular readers, you know that I preach that Fear is the opposite of Love.  In Fear there is no Love, and in Love there is no Fear.  Only the ones who have stood here on the edge before know that making this one particular leap is the most terrifying thing that you can ever do – that proverbial “Leap of Faith.”

Upon finding myself in this dilemma, I did what (I’m sure) everyone does: I came home, poured myself a glass of chianti and cried my eyes out.  I sobbed and begged for guidance: What do I DO?  What CAN I do?  Why the fuck am I so petrified?  As I sat there in a state of abject pain, The Voice broke through.  It’s message: “Love, anyway.”  Well, I have to say that that stopped me cold.  The Voice was right, of course (as always… it’s so smug sometimes…).  What else is there to do but love?  What other answer is there?  If I didn’t want to be scared anymore, isn’t the most obvious answer to just love what I was scared of?

I don’t have to tell you that this is easier said than done.  You probably also won’t be surprised that I haven’t made my leap of faith yet – gosh, I’m being so human.  But I’m getting closer.  And when I finally close my eyes and jump, I know that I will be safe.

Love, Fear and the Bible

Any tool is a weapon if you hold it right — Ani DiFranco

Something unexpectedly funny happened to me the other day – someone tried to save my soul. Right down to the bible-thumping and Jesus-praising, a well-meaning man tried to snatch me right out of the clutches of Lucifer and deliver me into the redemptive embrace of Jesus Christ.  So why on Earth did I find it so funny?  Because I never for one second believed that my mortal soul was in any kind of peril or, if it was, that Jesus was going to help me in anyway.  Cynical? Sacrilegious? Just plain crazy?  Sure. But read on.

There has never been a moment in my life where I have understood Salvation.  I just don’t buy it. There are many people who do, and I do not take issue with their, or any other, faith.  Faith and religion are beautiful and deep expressions of God and of Life and should be celebrated with the utmost reverence.  I do, however, take issue with folks who think that their own way is the One True Right Way and use that to spread fear and judgment while holding The Good Book.  And in the moment of my attempted soul-saving there were a lot of fear tactics and judgements placed on us “sinners” that were coming right out of the pages of that Book.  Didn’t we want to enter the Kingdom of God? Sure.  Didn’t we want everlasting life? Well, who doesn’t.  Did we really want to be thrown to the clutches of the Devil forever and ever?  Um, not really.

It may come as a surprise to my regular followers that I have read the Bible and spent a fair amount of time pretending to be a Christian (I thought that if I stuck with it long enough, I’d eventually get the whole Jesus thing).  There is a lot of great stuff in there.  The Ten Commandments are solid, so is that bit about forgiveness and the part about the Kingdom of God.  But there’s an awful lot in there that is not wonderful or enlightened and is even down right dangerous in the wrong hands.  I have had many a Bible-wielding, self-righteous, do-gooder flap at me about my work with Spirit citing everything from Leviticus to Revelations.  Charming, huh?  So let’s take a look here.  The first part of Leviticus reads like a complicated BBQ manual, and if taken out of context, we can snidely surmise that God likes a good cook-out.  Then we move on to the part about who we can and can’t have sex with (bummer, if God happened to also make you gay), which slaves you can and can’t have sex with (because that’s ok, you know) and pretty much out and out condemns Lycra (nice move, actually).  After that we get to some nice verses about not coveting our neighbor’s stuff and wives, and then we immediately get to the part about the evil of soothsayers (I see the pitchforks and torches coming now…).  From there Leviticus goes on to succinctly answer any lingering doubts about the cleanliness of pustules (what a relief).  This is a pretty eclectic little book in a much larger tome, which is equally eclectic and varied.  The Bible contradicts itself quite a bit, and much like anything else, can be hauled out to prove any and all conflicting points.  I wouldn’t have such a problem with that if it wasn’t used to also incite fear and condemnation, which seems to be the larger aim of the Book of Revelations, but I really don’t want to go into that here.

The point I’m trying to make is this: Fear is not Love.  Fear is the opposite of Love.  Anyone inciting or causing Fear is not coming from Love.  Anyone who uses something they call Holy to cause Fear in another is not coming from a place of Love.  No matter how good their intentions are (and believe me, there have been some who were genuinely afraid of me going to Hell), if what they are saying is not Loving it is not of the Light and it is not of God.  Anything coming from Source or God will be life-affirming, uplifting, invigorating and empowering.  It will never make you feel guilty, evil, depleted, or fearful.  It will never seek to manipulate you or tell you that Love is conditional.  Real Source energy will never deny you and will never seek to destroy you. This is why I don’t put much stock in what the Bible has to say.  It was written and rewritten many times over by men with agendas.  I know there is some fabulous stuff in there, but let’s look at this with our own discernment.  Really think, does this resonate with me?  Do I feel Fear or do I feel Love?

I am not in any way asking anyone to give up their religion or denounce their long-held beliefs.  I am only asking you to think about the energy that you are holding and spreading to the people and the world around you.  Are you spreading Fear or are you spreading Love?  Are you a vessel of Divine Love or something else?

Enlightenment Over Greek Food – How I learned to get out of my head

 


I’m not as smart as I think I am and from time to time I still need to be beaten over the head with the most simple of concepts.

The case in point here is the experience I had this weekend while attending the Landmark Forum. First I want to address the Forum itself. In a word, it’s amazing. You will have a love/hate relationship with it until 7 pm on the last day, but really, you need to go anyway. Thats how amazing the last three hours are. The preceding 36 hours are preamble, but necessary in order to get the punch line at the end.

I sat through the preamble throughly enjoying the human drama I was inflicting on my life under the auspices of coming clean about what a jerk I’ve been to the people in my life.  And really, I was a jerk to all of those people, especially my mom. But the drama was addicting and necessary to understand how unnecessary it all really is. Truly. And that was part of the joke. Hang on, I’m getting there.

Now, I read a lot. Incessantly, actually. Nearly every new age spirituality book tells me that the meaning if life is that there is no meaning of life. Either we are making it up, or we’re just energy expressing itself, or we are all just light and information.  Any way you slice it, there’s a whole lot of nothing around here. You would have thought I would have gotten that. But I didn’t. I intellectualized this information along with everything else. Just like I had intellectualized people, my diet and every New Year’s resolution I had ever made. This intellectualization diminished the impact that anything would have on me.  It was as if compartmentalizing things could render them safe and entirely mutable.

As we neared the last phase of the Forum, the “good part,” I was excited.  The ramp-up to that moment was exhilarating, and I was ready to find out why I had spent three days sitting in the world’s most uncomfortable chair.  And here it is: Life is empty and meaningless, and the fact that it’s empty and meaningless is empty and meaningless.  Huh?  I knew that. I had read it hundreds of times before – this world is an illusion, a figment, anything we make it.  So why did I just spend $500 and three days of my life just to get to this point?

To say I was annoyed was an understatement.  At the break I marched up to the Forum leader and proclaimed, “I don’t get it.”  I was near tears and feeling a burgeoning sense of futility.  The Forum leader just smiled knowingly and handed me off to another participant to assist me in sorting out my frustration.  So why was I so frustrated?  Because I was operating under the delusion that it was anticlimactic.  How arrogant of me.  And yet there I was standing firm in my place of know-it-all-ness.  As I poured out my frustrations to my new friends over gyros and hummus, one of them turned to me and said, “I get that you get it. But don’t you see that ‘anticlimactic’ is an illusion?”  I still don’t know what it was about that particular combination of words that was so magical, but I broke down laughing and crying all at the same time.   My arrogance was a blindspot for me, and I was viewing the world through that veil.  I had no idea what a presumptuous smarty pants I had been up until that point.  That was the joke, and it had set me free. In no way am I perfect, but I feel as though I am closer to leading a life free of juvenile constraints I’ve put on myself as a defense mechanism. And that was worth the cost of the Forum.