Painting as a Doorway Inside Your Business

First you have to understand. I hate art projects.  While I love looking at and admiring art, when someone says we are going to be doing art, my blood runs cold.

I panic and look for an escape route. Maybe I could run screaming from the room! Maybe I could go get a root canal!

This terror comes from a long stream of shame-filled art experiences in school and other venues.  Not to mention while I slowly own the fact that I am creative, I am realistic and know that drawing something in a literal sense, is not a gift I possess.

This is why the mere mention of an art jam during the opening of my first Wealthy Thought Leader Gold Retreat made my stress level rise as I searched for a way to run for the hills.

I am so glad I did not trigger the escape hatch and I’m going to tell you why.

Visceral Learning is the Process

First of all, you cannot open the door to a tender space unless it is safe.  All the credit for making the art jam a safe place where epiphanies could emerge goes to Daniella Rubinovitz for her incredible process and presence and Andrea J Lee and her amazing team for the vision and environment to make it happen.

When the process started I found myself in a familiar place feeling stressed and tentative about doing something that has nothing but bad and shameful memories attached to it.  Also familiar was my full-on commitment to show up fully and surrender knowing that I am safe in the hands of someone I trust deeply.

That’s a pretty emotionally vulnerable place to be.

With specific direction from Daniella on what to paint and the restrictions of using only two colors and white at any given time, I was off and running.

At first I felt self-conscious but that quickly melted away as I was able to sink into the emotion of what was put forth in the directions and magic started to occur.  Since this is definitely not my natural way of operating (refer back to the root canal references if you missed that part!), I did have to think my way into experimentation.  Exploring my way around using all parts of my hands – front, back, fingernails, long side strokes.  Asking myself, “Did I try my non dominant hand? Oh, I didn’t let’s try that and see what happens.” And so forth. Once I got going I was able to not only feel into the process but feel into what it has truly been like in my business the last 6 years.  The light moments, the dark moments, the struggles, the pain points, the celebrations, and more.

I was reminded once again of the power of learning experientially in ways that push me way outside of my comfort zone.  I’ve had some many examples of this from working with Debbie Ford to climbing trees, to the wisdom of horses just to name a few. Yet each time I experience a new way to access parts of me that typically stay hidden, I am renewed.  I break through with a giant leap forward. [Read more…]

Stay Loose and Open Up

I had the huge privilege of attending Pema Chodron’s retreat and teachings at Omega Institute on “The Marks of Our Existence” recently.  The workshop centered on what she called the 4 Facts of Life:  impermanence, egolessness, suffering, and peace.   It wasOpen and Expand a weekend of profound depth coupled with practical simplicity (and a few side-splitting laughs) offered up by one of Buddhism’s most recognizable and venerated teachers.

There is so much I am taking away from this experience. One gift in particular revolves around the concept of constriction. Pema taught that whenever we might feel fear, judgment, displeasure, anger, hatred, or some other “negative” emotion about something we constrict.  Not only are our minds constricted and fixated on our opinion of a situation, but our bodies follow suit.  We experience tightness in our muscles, our chest, our stomachs, our breathing shortens, we work up a sweat, and so forth.  We clench our jaws, our fists, and occasionally lash out verbally or physically in our frustration or pain; the intensity of which is determined by the situation and how tightly we hold our views.

  • Don’t just take my word for this, test it out for yourself.  Bring to mind something or someone that is irritating you right now and notice what happens in your body and mind.
  • Do you feel constriction in your thoughts? Your body?
  • Does the world and its possibilities seem smaller?  (Something like:  “You’re wrong, I’m right, things shouldn’t be this way”?)

In times like these, Pema taught us a simple (not necessarily easy!) and very practical approach to navigating these murky waters.  That is, when you feel constricted, tight, and fixated on something, open up and expand.

In my translation, that means you ask yourself:

  • “How can I stay loose in this situation?
  • How can I stay loose with these feelings or sensations I am having?”

From here you can open up or expand into more possibility, greater peace of mind, and equanimity.

Some ways you can do this practice in the heat of the moment are to:

  • physically move
  • open your stance
  • spread your arms wide
  • go for a walk
  • smile
  • breathe more deeply
  • gaze at an image that expands your view (nature, spiritual icon, a beautiful object, flowing water, etc.).
  • anything else that makes you open wide …

From this space you can stay loose in your experience thereby opening your possibilities, your heart, your ability to respond to what lies before you.

Again, don’t take my word for it… try it.  [Read more…]

How to Transform Your Business

Transformation is a big word: sometimes scary, often mysterious. It gets bantered around so much as to almost become meaningless (which is a shame).

So, what does it really mean?

First, let’s take a look at it from an inner awareness perspective as I share a personal story.

You see, I felt much the same way more than a decade ago when I first attended Debbie Ford’s Shadow Process Weekend.  Following that weekend, the most powerful weekend of my life, I understood what transformation meant but could not verbalize it very well.  A year as I started to study personally with Debbie, she explained that transformation is simply a shift in perspective.  For instance, if you look around a room while you are sitting in a chair, things look one way.  If you stand up, the perspective is a little different.  If you lie on the floor, the view is even more different.  You see things in a way you hadn’t before. You may even notice things you never noticed before.  If you don’t believe me, try this exercise right now in a familiar room in your house.

You might say, big deal, now I can see those cobwebs in the corner of my ceiling.  How does that relate to my business?  How can that help me realize my dreams and goals?

Well, perspective is everything. It can be the difference between:

  • A great day and a lousy day
  • Meeting your business goals and struggling financially
  • An extraordinary life with a growing business and the status quo.

My favorite example to illustrate the concept of transformation comes from one small experience I had while attending my second Shadow Process Weekend at Omega Institute in New York.

Personal TransformationThe Vignette of the Bullfrog

It was just about dawn on Saturday morning and I was sitting at my favorite space on the campus, The Yearning Pond, doing my homework and journaling.  A beautiful June morning, the birds were singing, the beautiful sanctuary was within view, and the sounds of the waterfall within the pond added even more serenity to the moment.  Then, I noticed a noise: the kind of annoying, repetitive noise that irritates you to your very core like nails on a chalkboard or the kid behind you in the movie theater kicking your seat.

Boy was I irritated.  Here I am in this beautiful sacred space doing deep inner work trying to experience personal transformation and someone somewhere is making this annoying noise.  After a few minutes, I gave up on my journaling and introspection and left the bench I was sitting on in a huff, off in search of the source of this racket.

I walked toward the source of the noise that seemed to be emanating from the sanctuary.  I’m thinking to myself, in a profoundly negative mindset, what kind of sanctuary is this if there is racket at 6am in the morning?  What kind of spiritual space is this?

I got to the top of the hill where the sanctuary sits, removed my shoes, and proceeded along the wooden walkway toward the entrance when, as I passed the lily pond, I heard it.  The noise wasn’t a racket after all!  It was several beautiful bullfrogs sitting on the flowering lily pads calling to one another.    In an instant, a shift and a transformation occurred.  My irritation and negativity melted away as I gleefully enjoyed watching and listening to these cool creatures.  I felt pure joy as if I were a kid again.  I even got some very satisfying photographs of my bullfrog friends who allowed me to experience firsthand exactly what Debbie was teaching.

Nice Story, But Where’s the Practical Application for My Business?

The point of the whole story is that it only takes a moment for transformation to occur.  You feel a shift within your body and your consciousness.  That shift leads to tangible, external results. [Read more…]

The Mantra for 2013: Simplify

At the start of each new year, I find that a theme foSimplify Your Life and Businessr my life and business organically emerges with some conscious intention.  It becomes a guiding force for the year as I make decisions both big and small.  It’s amazing the power this can have on your world.  Last year’s Shed – Sift – Savor trifecta turned my world around.  In fact I have chosen to keep that theme embedded in this year’s choice to simplify.

So what does it meant to simplify?  Frankly, I know at least a few close friends and family that would laugh at the idea that I am simplifying because they consider me “complex” or “difficult”.  They would say, “How could juicing, eating organic, or cooking from scratch simplify your life?” Or “How does launching a new product, traveling to a conference,  or offering a new service make things simpler?”

It actually does because my choices stem from the fact that I am very clear and intentional about what I desire and the choices I make. Sometimes these choices require a bit more effort than status quo. Yet, it serves me because I yearn to get to the root of the experience and the very fundamental nature of why I’m on the planet, why I’m in business, what I most want to experience, and how I most want to feel.  It’s not “right” or “wrong”, it just IS.  I believe you get to choose what you most desire as well, whatever that might look like.

There’s a lot of insight to be found in the definition of the words we toss around so freely.

Let’s look at the definition of simplify:

To make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier: to simplify a problem.

I would add that my desire to simplify stems from a desire to be radical (but not in the way you might think!).  You see I consider simplifying a radical act:

Relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.

My desire is to get to the core of the things that matter.  That pure state where the complex gets simple and the focus is on the true nature of things.  From this Zen-like intention, I find life and business gets a lot easier.  The struggle melts away (or at least dissipates more quickly!).  Desired outcomes manifest more naturally. Enjoying the journey becomes a natural byproduct.

So what does all this mean in terms of day-to-day life in business?

What this looks like from an inner awareness perspective

Simplicity starts from within. You need to give yourself permission for things to have a sense of ease, flow, and “right” nature about them.   This ends the suffering (in fact the Buddhists spell this out in the Noble Eightfold Path).  Regardless of your beliefs, my bet is that you can already notice how much closer you are to your true nature when you allow yourself to be authentic, cut yourself a break, and reduce inevitable complexities into their own little baby steps.

This isn’t rocket science but it is a radical shift in the way most of us go about living and operating in our businesses.

  • Are you willing to rest in and honor simplicity (even when it feels uncomfortable and you just want to fill in that space)?
  • Will you allow it to be safe to be more Zen-like in how you operate in your business?
  • Can you trust that by making choices from a place of simplicity, trust, kindness, and compassion that your desired outcomes will flow?

What this means in terms of practical action: [Read more…]

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