The Hardest Thing To Do

Devoting to a meditation practice reaps the highest rewards I’ve ever experienced. Sitting on a cushion, walking in the woods, gazing at the ocean ~ a practice comes in many forms, but time alone, emptying hamster-wheel aggravations, worries, conflicts…anything redundant and mindless…this quieting is luxuriously restorative.

Understanding that our outer world perfectly reflects our inner state is what we need to bring us back into the present moment and connect with stillness. Knowing all we have to do is let go and allow what will be, to be…without judgment or control is the hardest thing and the easiest thing to do. 

When I don’t meditate, I’m anxious, reactive, uncentered, and less trusting that everything will be just fine. I struggle, feel depleted, am problem-focused, and less empathetic. Miss Crankypants.

When I do sit in stillness, even for ten minutes, this is what happens:

* My natural rhythms of eating, sleeping, and being productive emerge and I feel energized.

* Making healthy choices (nutritionally, physically, and emotionally) becomes effortless.

* I see the world as resilient, miraculous, and peaceful.

* Incredibly talented, bright, and successful friends, creatives, innovators, optimists, and solution-creators enter my sphere. 

* I am increasingly recognized financially for my contribution and value I help create.

I don’t know who said this, but it’s so true: If you can’t find five minutes to meditate, then you need an hour.

How can I help you…begin to still your mind, shift you from struggle into ease?

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The Defense & Annihilation Of Paula Deen

I believe Paula Deen is scared to death. Not from diabetes. She’s scared to death of her SELF. That public self she launched into a multi-million dollar brand, that grew from passion into the beast that’s overtaken her other self: the private, real-life one.

Faced with a choice – to come clean, take responsibility for her health, to own the role her public self had in creating the disease she now suffers from like, unfortunately, so many Americans – faced with this choice is facing the annihilation of her ego.

And by ego I refer not just to the prideful one, but also the Freudian one, the one that drives us, the one that’s referred to compassionately in Buddhism as Monkey Mind. THAT self is threatened with complete destruction, the self she pieced together over the course of a lifetime, born of family expectations and societal validation and the trappings of money and fame and the kind of insecurity we vainly attempt to balm with status symbols and false paths and idols.

The self that when threatened clings oh, so desperately to the very illusion that’s crumbling beneath. Holding on to the identity she and we, yes – we, perpetuated by watching her show and buying her products – the TV personality, celebrity chef, virtual friend to millions of viewers…Lord knows when we’re threatened we hold on FOR DEAR LIFE.

To look herself in the mirror, indeed, to engage with that small, inner voice, the one that speaks late at night in forlorn moments when we feel alone, confused, helpless against the onslaught of life’s injustices, the one who says, “I KNOW what I really am,” is to risk losing everything, to begin the process of watching her entire construct crash to the ground.

That risk seems too great for her. It seems too great for many of us when we’re in the grip of denial, so instead she’s sandbagging against the flood, trying like hell to hold on.

We feel betrayed, duped! We are indignant and outraged! And rightly so, for with power comes responsibility and although we dole out our reprimands unevenly, we want accountability from our heros, dammit.

After our outrage – at her choices and their implications to those who look to her for guidance and leadership (because as superficial as celebrity is, we still revere our basketball players, movie stars, and top chefs as great leaders to be emulated) – after our outrage subsides, let’s take a moment and contemplate the denial we ourselves have participated in – when our marriage failed and we weren’t ready to admit it yet, when a loved one passed away too soon, when we were fired from a job because we couldn’t recognize it was time to move on, or…just like Paula, when illness struck and we turned a blind eye to our own culpability.

No one is free from the reach of denial…and denial is just a way to duck the sting of regret…

When we had a chance to say I love you but stewed in resentment instead. When we could’ve maintained an exercise program, but gave it up because it was too inconvenient. When we chose french fries over salad, for the third time this week.

Have your feelings about Paula Deen. Be mad. Feel disappointed.

And let it go.

Then allow compassion to rise up and replace blame. Forgive her and ourselves for not doing the best we could. For sometimes choosing to hold on to the illusion because letting go of who we think we are scares the bejesus out of us.

Who would we be without the illusion? Without the identity we cling so tightly to?

But that’s the very thing we should do. Forgive and let go, because it’s never too late to start over and discover who we really are. Not at any age or any stage.

Remember, the harder the attack, the stronger the grip. So, let go and let healing begin. Not just for her, but for all the ways we halt our life force from flowing. Forgive ourselves for what we did to cause harm to ourselves and others and…

Let love heal us.

Entrepreneurial Everest ~ Base Camp Mastermind

Numerous are metaphors instructing us to unite for outcomes both lofty and anchored ~

Many hands make light work.

Two heads are better than one.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Reaching oceanic depths and Himalayan heights only happens with linked arms, minds, and legs. Consider the top headlines from 2011 – Arab Spring, the Wisconsin public employee protests, Occupy Wall Street…collective uprisings that reveal discontent and not so dormant frustrations at the state of our present realities.

While I’m not carrying a placard or camping in Zuccotti Park, I am participating as an agent of change. I believe many of us are transforming the world as we contribute our talents, skills, and passions more fully along the spectrum of our potential. For some, that means consciously raising children to be kind, loving, and curious. For others, it’s sharing expertise as teachers, public safety officers, business owners, or blue collar workers.

For me, it’s writing…developing my voice…discovering what’s meaningful and essential and building that into lifelong, sustainable revenue streams. I’ve plunged head first into the creative class.

I believe that the more of us who come alive and come together collaboratively will allow a just society to bloom and prosper. The smaller the better, for now, so that we can truly see and hear each other…in order to understand what’s meaningful and essential to us, our families, and our communities – and what’s not acceptable anymore.

After decades of conveying what was not wholly mine (not necessarily a bad thing if the environment is wisely chosen) or either reflexively reacting to other perspectives or swallowing my own point of view, I’m learning to listen more deeply instead. What’s tricky is I’m formulating ideas of my own and giving voice to them – maybe my most courageous act so far. Yet, sometimes these two dynamics are at odds: curiosity for what lies within another versus what lies within me. I’m not always successful with navigational balance. Ah, the joys of toddling…

Yes, it’s all about listening…and gathering. Co-creating community. Organizing a like-minded alliance to support our individual efforts.

I had the good fortune recently to attend a few gatherings of changemakers: one, a Marianne Williamson-inspired spiritual powwow, another, a combination TED talk / dance party / professional women’s conference.  The most intimate happened around a Brooklyn dining room table, over a lovingly prepared meal. Four of us shared our growing ventures and their inherent challenges, and we gained valuable insight ~ in the spirit of those opening metaphors.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = Mini Mastermind.

What do you get when you mix a kick-ass red-carpet photographer, a heart-centered personal trainer, a radically optimistic writer, and a hands-on healer steeped in both spiritual and academic methodologies? A base camp of golden insight with a view of grand peaks. Care for a crampon? Here’s a few takeaways to grab an entrepreneurial foothold of your own:

1. Invest with your competitors occasionally. See how they’re doing what they’re doing. You’ll learn something new, keep an eye towards new ideas and trends, and most especially, you’ll feel better about YOUR work – because no one ROCKS it like you do!

2. When your guiding force is to help others, becoming a financially healthy business or organization allows you to continue providing value for your clients and customers. Charge what you’re worth. This may be the most responsible action we can take for the work we believe in. “Sustainability” is not just an overused mainstream ploy – it’s LIFE.

3. When we’re in tune with our deepest passions, we are a tidal wave of power, enthusiasm, and magnetism. This makes us irresistible to people, and our future prospects. This is soul-centered marketing, when we’re just being our fabulous selves!

4. Social media is your friend. It’s permission marketing at it’s most widespread, it can be fun, and…it’s free. Use it to promote your good work in the world, and to support those who are, too. Reciprocity rules!

5. Set daily, weekly, and longer term intentions. Do it out loud, preferably within a support network. Follow up with actionable steps and a timeline. Be very specific.

However you’re engaged with making the world a better place, know that millions are doing just the same, in diverse and convergent directions. In gratitude for the collective energy & wisdom, I’d love if you shared one of your mindful masteries below. I KNOW you’ve a gem or three in your pack.

See you at base camp!

Ask And It Is Given

Multi-passionate firestarter with Thoreauvian tendencies seeks poet / lumberjack for flight.

Must have passport, rhythm, & a signature dish.

 

A wise friend once taught me that asking for what you want is the surest way to get it.

Clarity married to intention. Add in a bit of the unconventional and some cheeky humor…and best ~ it’s tweet-able!

Psst. Pass it on 🙂     !

Ichi-go Ichi-e

Japanese Garden

I’m going to come clean with you today. Give you a peek into one of those drawers I usually keep bolted tight.

I do most things half-assed.

Yeah. That feels really good to admit.

Sure, I can rhapsodize about excellence and the well-designed life and having a Virgoan’s superior attention to detail. But I’d be kidding both of us. There’s so much more to my capabilities than I recognize and develop and a whole lot of potential that’s just growing hairy penicillin in the back of my medicine cabinet.. If I don’t reverse this, rigor mortis of my art and work may just set in.

When I was living in Roppongi, the ex-pat neighborhood of Tokyo, a few years back, I was part of the opening team of a new restaurant. I knew a lot about the business, and was expert in our company’s culture. What I didn’t realize was that the Japanese generally give a new venture ONE chance to prove itself. If we didn’t win our guests over during their first visit, they would never come again.

This brought a whole other level to our preparations, because once the novelty wore off, our best foot forward is what we’d be judged on. That’s pressure enough to change the game. In the more forgiving U.S., we’re all about innovation, tweaking, upgrading – it’s ongoing, but in Japan, more goes into the design process before the debut, to present the best possible product or service, than we probably do by the time we get down to our fifth version.

We live in a ‘good enough’ society. We settle. We get by. Sometimes that’s OK, and sometimes we suffer for it.

There’s an ancient proverb in Japan, derived from the grace and beauty of the tea ceremony:  Ichi-go Ichi-e. “One lifetime, one encounter.”  It means to bring full attention and complete sincerity to your actions, because each moment only exists once and must be fully realized and lived.

I was reminded of this last night, as I was dining with friends at Bizen in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The owner, Michael Marcus, is not just the sushi chef, but he’s also a potter who apprenticed in Bizen, Okayama Prefecture and creates all the dishware used in his restaurant. His unglazed pieces are fired for 12 days, just once a year, in a large kiln he’s built on his property nearby. Talk about getting it right the first time!

We connected over a shared love of trekking and all things Nippon. He gave us a tour through his private tatami rooms dedicated to chado (tea ceremony) and kaiseki (a seasonal, multi-course meal), and his stunning, hand-crafted collection of vases.

The care, dedication, and passion he brought to both his pottery and our dinner was without question. He won us over by giving his full attention and heart to our experience. I used to do this, too, when I was serving others. But now that I’m in the service of myself, I think it’s time my inner CEO call a board meeting.

My best work is lying fallow. There’s a reason, yes, and that I’ll explore in my next post, but for now, suffice it to say that I’m committing – with you as my witness – that Ichi-go ichi-e is my new mantra.

Because once I devote to giving it EVERYTHING ~ to being my own best critic before I step in front of the mic ~ to crafting the most exquisite container for my bouquet ~ then I will truly be alive.

Hold me to this, I ask of you. My life depends on it.

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