Going Beyond Words

NOTE:   Originally, I wrote this for my Fusion Advisors blog that has a business tone and perspective.   Then I realized that the diverse readers of my personal blog might enjoy it as well, since we all have many aspects to our lives.

Beyond WordsAs children, our mothers had a tone in their voice – one which we understood when she called our name.  Good or bad, we knew what she meant – no explanation needed.

In much of our life, we take this sense – to know beyond what we see and hear – for granted.  It just happens.  We feel the connection with another person behind their smile.  We effortlessly change lanes when we sense a car coming over before it does.  When a friend tells us that everything is fine, we know whether they’re telling us the truth or not.

Intuitively, we know this sense is part of our life – one of the many things that makes us uniquely human.  And yet, somewhere along the way, we learn differently.  Sensing morphs into thinking and analyzing.

∞ ∞ ∞

imagesI learned a long time ago, that when I’m presented with a choice between 2 options, I need to look carefully.  More often than not, situations and choices are not as simple as they first appear.  The options function as a clue to see that there’s more than what meets the eye.

What would it look like to consciously re-integrate our sense to go beyond the words into our trained abilities to think, analyze and draw conclusions?

First, it’s relevant.  The fast pace of information, technology and the media increasingly captures the attention of our physical senses.  And, in the business world, we’ve expertly honed our data gathering and decision making skills to support thoughtful, analytical conclusions.

Re-integrating our intuitive sense to go beyond these mechanisms would enliven our ability to relate to others, to get to the root of what’s going on, behind the words.  In fact, researchers at MIT recently released a study about the effectiveness of teams.  Their conclusion was that women engage their intuitive sense to identify issues behind the words.  As a result, teams with more women are more effective getting the job done.

Second, it’s practical.  For example, many of my friends take great pride in having a “sense of direction” only to discover that when their phone and GPS aren’t working, they have to scramble to reboot the connection to their internal guide.

Third, it’s effective - though, as I learned first hand, a bit uncomfortable at first.  We all have stories about who, what when, how – I’ll share one of mine.

In my first, full-fledged healthcare-technology entrepreneurial position, I was VP of Sales and Customer support – the place where the rubber meets the road in young companies – no customers, no revenue, no business.  On this particular day, the CEO joined me for an important prospect visit to a large health insurance company.

After the meeting was done and we were walking to the car, the CEO gave his assessment “That was a great meeting!  We’ll have a new customer soon.”  I started to laugh – I thought he was joking, “You’ve got to be kidding, that was terrible!”  With barely a breath, came his intense reply that started something like “That’s crazy..they said this and that… the right people were in the room….”

Somewhere in the midst of his litany, I realized I had not verbalized the cues I picked up behind the words.  So, I explained why I drew my conclusion. “We didn’t have their attention – they were polite, but not all that interested.  Their body language and side glances across the table were not encouraging.”  And then I concluded  “We did our best with all of this, but they weren’t buying, don’t quite know why, but they weren’t.”

Two perspectives.  Two sources of information.  Two different conclusions.  We could’ve argued all day about who was right and he could’ve pulled the CEO trump card.  But we were curious about what would happen next and what we could learn.  So, we created an experiment.  With a detailed plan on what we would do for next-steps and follow-up, we’d track the prospect’s responses and what happened.  Though our plan and actions were intense, the result was not –  there was no response.  None.

UnknownAlthough this prospect didn’t become a client, many did because of that day.  We, as a company, learned how to have a conversation about the dynamics within situations.  We developed a rapport with each other to discuss both the facts and what we sensed behind the words.   We didn’t always agree, but we got better at understanding what was really going on, the problems that needed to be solved, and how to work well with the people who made decisions about our technology.

The result of integrating our mindful and intuitive approaches?  We had great track-record of closing business after the verbal “yes”.  And, once a customer came on, they stayed.

∞ ∞ ∞

It makes sense to use all of our senses – the factual, the actions, the words and all that’s behind them.  Yes, it takes practice; along with a sense of curiosity and adventure to get through the sticky, uncomfortable spots, but that’s how we learn, everything.

Thanks for reading!

Kathleen

If you’re curious and want to learn more, here’s a few sources that are a good start.

If you’re interested strengthening the channel to your intuitive senses, there’s a number of ways to get started.

  • A meditation, contemplation, prayer practice is a great way to quiet the mind and begin developing a relationship with your inner senses.  It’s easy to start.  In a quiet moment, pay attention to your breath.  In and out.  Over time, let it expand beyond a few breaths, into minutes.
  • If you already have an exercise routine, consider switching the news and talk channels on your iPod to music that puts you in touch with your movement.  Then, watch your breath, feel the muscles and bones in your body move as you do.
  • One of my favorites is to re-acquaint myself with the non-mindful books on my bookshelves.  They draw my attention to the world I know by feeling and sensing.  Sometimes, it’s a fun book – on cats; other times Rumi.  Sometimes it’s an art book or a nature book; other times it’s a contemplative author.  If books aren’t your thing, go to the web.  There are fabulous websites to tickle our inner senses.

∞ ∞ ∞

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Heart’s Desire

IMG_0314As each new day begins, irrespective of what happened, or didn’t happen yesterday, the day holds its promise for the known and unknown.  Now, with a new year, these possibilities explode into calls for action in “New Year’s Resolutions.”

For me, the idea of “Resolutions” didn’t settle as easily as in the past.  It seemed that I didn’t need new actions or resolve; rather what I needed most was to be centered, grounded in myself where all my calls to action (which I am good at making by the way) were connected into a greater whole – a whole that honored all that I am capable of bringing into my life and the world.

******

Many years ago in a meditation group, I did an exercise called “My Heart’s Desire”.  It’s purpose and gift was to quiet our chatty minds filled with opinions and “should’s” so we could listen to the deeper knowing of wholeness within our heart.   Since then, the exercise has been a staple in my inner life and in my teaching.  And in a New Year’s conversation with friends, they asked me to share it.  So here, we go.

Heart's Desire - blankIt’s easy to begin.  Sit comfortably in a quiet space.  Get a pen, pencil, and paper; or your favorite technology.  At the top of the blank space write “My Heart’s Desires”.  Then along the left hand margin, write the numbers from “1” to “13”.

Next, ask yourself, “What are my heart’s desires?”

Listen.  Let the answers be simple, a part of you – the desires in everyday moments.  For example, good health for yourself, child, parent, friend.  A better job, one that inspires you.  An accomplishment in your current career.  Loving relationship.  Exercise.  Peace.  Laughter.  More time with good friends.  Travel.  To contribute to the world, making it a better place to live.

Heart's Desire - listWrite everything that comes.  Big and small.  Ordinary and extraordinary.  You might think that this is too simple, that the desires have to have an importance about them.  But the truth is, my truth is, our heart knows the incredible gift it is to be human – to move about the world, to feel, to live, to create, to share, and to be.

When you’re done, take a deep breath, two, even three.  Then, look at the list.  Marvel at what you see.  All of this is you.

The yoga practice teaches “Beginner’s Mind” and reminds us to look at ourselves and what we are doing as if it were the first time when we are awash in novelty and curiosity.  Here, breathe in the awe of you – the  depth and breadth of your life – your interests and desires.  Feel the uniqueness of you as if you were just getting to know yourself.

*****

Heart's Desire - list - 2Now, the fun begins.  Look at the list you’ve written, read # 1 and #2.  Breathe them in and pick one.   Circle it, put a star, a check by it – whatever works for you.

Next, look at #3 and #4.  Pick one.  Keep going through the list, pairing your desires and choosing one from the pair.

The key is to smile, breathe, and listen to your heart.  Don’t think too much; and if questions or comments arise like “how am I going to do this?” or “this is crazy!”, thank your mind for sharing and chose what you want.  After all, it’s just a piece of paper – if you don’t like it when you’re done, you can tear it up and start over.

When you’re done, breathe and smile.  Congratulate yourself!

*****

Heart's Desire - list - 3We’re not done quite yet.  There’s another round.

Look at the desires you’ve just chosen, pair the first two up and chose one.  Again, continue down the list – pairing the next two and choosing.

By now, you know the pattern.  After this round, you will do the same for each round.  The number of rounds will depend on the length of your initial list.   Eventually, you will get to the final 3, final 2, and the final one.

******

Heart's Desire - list - 4Here you discover you – the magic and connection of your wholeness.

(1)  Desires are connected.  In fact, often, they are part of each other.  For example, if your list had “Happy family life”, “Fulfilling career” and “Love”, you might have found that you chose “Love”.  Love connects families in good times and bad.  “Loving” our career choice imbues the feeling of being fulfilled.

Look through your list, where are the connections for you?

(2)  In a world that seems to be filled with competing roles and desires, prompting us to  talk about “balance” in our life, here, with Heart’s Desires, we see that all our roles are a part of us and our full life – daughter, sister, friend, team member, parent, volunteer.  Perhaps a quest for a formula of “balance” becomes an understanding of a “flow” between dynamic choices.

What might this mean for you?  Would you make choices differently or perhaps find peace in the choices you are making?

(3)  The kinetic energy that began with the list and choices transforms into a sense of peace that comes through the process of listening, honoring, and feeling ourselves connected to ourselves – who we are, what we do, what we want, and how we feel.  It’s a peace born of honoring the wholeness of our being.

Notice how you are feeling.  Remember in the daily bustle, you can revisit your Heart’s Desires or create a new one to return to your center.

*****

LOOKING INTO THE CREEK

The way the soul is with the senses and the intellect                                                                        is like a creek.

When desire weeds grow thick,                                                                                        intelligence can’t flow,

and, soul creatures stay hidden.

But sometimes the reasonable clarity
runs so strong

it sweeps the clogged stream open.
No longer weeping

and frustrated, your being grows as powerful
as your wantings were before

more so. Laughing

and satisfied, the masterful flow lets
creatures of the soul appear.

You look down,
and it’s lucid dreaming.

The gates made of light
swing open.

You see in.

Coleman Barks, Rumi, The Book of Love, p 100

I wish you a wonderful, joyful, blessed New Year!

Thanks you for reading.

Kathleen

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Not Knowing

Mud settle picFrom the moment we’re born, we have a built-in protection system to survive and a passion to thrive.  So, we’re curious.  We want to know.  And we begin, learning, knowing more.

I’ve been on the “Knowing” trail all my life, thank goodness.  It got me through school; it  was key my career; it helped me be a better parent and friend.   As life brought new situations I didn’t understand, I used my “knowing” skills to learn, more so I could move through it.

∞ ∞ ∞

What do we do when “knowing” is not enough?  When we can’t change an unwanted situation?  This is where I found myself when my mother was dying, my marriage was ending, my companion cat, lost.  But it’s not just the “big” times in life, it’s the every day moments when life feels in charge –  like being stuck in traffic, computer crashing before a deadline, not getting the expected call back.

Often, our first reaction is to “do” something, anything; after all, action is a great elixir for feeling in control.  We find ways to fix situations, solve conundrums, understand them, distract ourselves from them, sometimes, we just shut down.

∞ ∞ ∞

wheel_2_lgAn essence of the Buddhist tradition is the “Wheel of Life.”  It portrays the nature of our cyclical experience: life and death – birth is followed by death, death is followed by birth; feeling good and feeling miserable – one moment all seems to be going well, we’re happy and the next moment we’re upset about something.  Their teachings help us open awareness to see the patterns and discover for ourselves, our path to peace.

Now, I’ve “known” this for many years.  At times, I’m aware enough to see the pattern and have the presence to fall into a broader, more loving perspective.  I remember, “All is well”, “This too shall pass”, “I honor the wisdom I cannot see”, I look to find the hurt behind the anger and open my heart to loving both.

Other times, I get lost.  Life draws me in:  I see things going on in the world I don’t like or don’t understand.  Or something happens to me that seems so foreboding, unfair, crazy, inconsiderate that it lights my inner fireworks.  Kaboom, I’m spinning on the wheel, diving into my mind and emotions to get the support and justification I need to feel better.

The past few weeks, in life’s flow, I’ve found myself spinning on the wheel.  I’ve done everything I know to quiet my inner reaction to life.  I got busy taking care of things; I went to the movies, I repeated affirmations and dropped into meditations.   But none of it worked, for long.

∞ ∞ ∞

DarknessVulnerable.  A challenging place to be.  Not only that, in the midst of life’s commotion, the more I did, the more tools I used, my feeling of vulnerability intensified.  I thought all of this would help me steer clear of the wheel and its inner tsunami, or at least calm it for awhile. It didn’t.  I got more.

Finally, one moment, in one day, vulnerability exploded into despair.  I collapsed and cried “I don’t know.  I’ve done my best, all that I knew how to do, I can’t do anymore.  I don’t know.”

∞ ∞ ∞

images-1Spiritual wisdoms teach us the concept of surrendering to Life that exists beyond us.  Here, they tell us, we come into tune with sacredness – the love and grace that is Life’s essence.

But, surrender is counterintuitive to our human minds.  Our human selves like succeeding and winning.  It’s built-into our way of life – school, work, hobbies, and even self-help programs.  Yet, experience reminds us that we don’t always hit our targets, win the game, stay in relationships; and that somehow in coming through the hardest of hard times, we find our inner strength and a deeper ability to love.

My cry, “I don’t know”, was an explosion of deep surrender.   There was no place to go, nothing to do.  Never before have I experienced this inner quiet – a place of deep, deep peace.  A place without words.  A place of feeling connected to Life – not as I know it, as it is.

∞ ∞ ∞

My mind has no idea what this means or where I go from here.  I will say I feel more present to life, grounded, centered.  And, I know that I am not alone – not because my mind tells me so, but because I feel it to be true.  In this moment, that is enough.  I’ve begun again.

START CLOSE IN

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

River Flow, David Whyte

Thanks for reading,

Kathleen

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Stepping into Integration

imagesIn a world that pulls us in many directions, it is often challenging to find and connect to our inner self – our essence.   And as we do, it seems equally challenging to trust that we, much less the world, will like what we find.

When I began writing this blog, I wanted to share my journey of connecting me to me and the world.  It was a big step.  On one hand, my journey was intimate and contemplative; and on the other hand, writing about it asked me to somehow put my inner, organic meanderings into words.

But this is only part of my story….

Throughout my life, I’ve had my career, family, friends, community involvement, hobbies, and interests.  I was happy to have some overlap, but for the most part, there wasn’t much.  Business was business; and my personal adventures were separate.   That is, until a new idea popped into my mind.

In the midst of turning around a fledging, young clinical database company, it dawned on me that I wanted to live an integrated life.  My immediate question was “What does that mean?”  Over time, a familiar symbol popped into my mind’s eye to give me a visual cue.  It was an infinity sign.

two dotsThe infinity sign starts with 2 separate dots – like the way I had been thinking about my life – this belongs here, and that belongs there.  But rather than connecting the dots with a straight line, the infinity sign flows in movement along different paths, crisscrossing in the center.

dots & infinity

So, I thought “Perhaps an integrated life has something to do with remembering ‘here’ and ‘there’ were part of a larger oneness; and discovering what that meant for me.”

This was how life called me to her, asking me to be curious about my thoughts, beliefs, and my life.  At first I dove into me – reading, journaling, meditating, finding communities where I could learn and experience life in new ways.  My life as seen from the perspective of my daily routines looked much the same.

Over time, life’s expansion beckoned again asking that I begin to integrate my inner and outer worlds.  For example, I knew what compassion felt like in my quiet space at home and with people close to me; but what did compassion look and feel like at work?  Where life whirled in nanoseconds, things needed to be done, decisions made, and process followed.

I did what I did before:  I went searching for answers to my questions.  But rather than uncovering discreet, actionable answers, I found perspectives, opinions, experiences, and frameworks that could serve as a guide.  The rest was up to me to discover for myself.

Fusion Advisors2Along the way, I created Fusion Advisors as a container to share and put into action what I found.  The visual representation for Fusion Advisors is a mandala – infinity signs connected and flowing from the center.  As the ancient wisdom of  “As above, so below” reminds us, the mandala is us, as individuals; it is us, as organizations; it is us, as community.  In each situation, we see our aspects more clearly and we decide how we want to flow with and between them.

My work, like my life, draws from many sources – traditional and non-traditional; personal contemplation and organizational leadership; science and the arts; and my experience along the way.  Whether I’m writing, consulting, facilitating or teaching, the work is part of a greater ecosystem of integration, particularly in organizational thought leadership.

∞ ∞ ∞

Now you know the rest of the story.  I’m grateful that it finally dawned on me to share the ever-evolving integration of my personal awareness journey into the the world of thought, structures, beliefs, and organizations.   Like all artists, it is a portfolio of work bringing concepts alive; and it is a way of life for me to connect life to itself – forever learning and integrating.

Thanks for reading,

Kathleen

If you are interested in the Fusion Advisors blog posts, check them out here, where you can also sign up for notifications.  (www.fusionadvisorsblog.com).

Kathleen

 

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Five Fascinating Facts about Roald Dahl

Kathleen:

September 13, 2014…. Willie Wonka and Matilda… staples in our home when my daughter was young. Now today, a new understanding. It is always fascinating to have a looking glass into the wonders of life and our stories. This struck my fancy and it might yours too.

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

Roald Dahl was born on this day in 1916, so we’ve taken the opportunity to raise a glass of burgundy (apparently one of Dahl’s favourite drinks – see below) to the man who gave us Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryThe TwitsMatilda, The BFG, and so many more classic books.

1. Roald Dahl didn’t do particularly well at school. One of his teachers wrote in his school report: ‘I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.’ While he was at school, Dahl undertook what has to be one of the schoolchild’s dream jobs: he was an occasional taste-tester for Cadbury’s chocolate. This surely played a part in his later creation of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Dahl12. In 1971, a real Willy Wonka wrote to Roald Dahl. He was a postman from Nebraska, and was probably…

View original 258 more words

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Yesterday

Over the past month, I’ve been creating my next blog.  Today, my intention was to publish it, but I stopped when I read my daughter’s Facebook post.

“I drive next to the Pentagon every morning on my way into work and watch the officers raise the American flags as planes land over the Potomac at Reagan. It’s a gentle reminder to let go of fear, prejudice and hate. Only courage, perseverance and love prevail in the end.”

Today is September 11.  Today reminds me of the incredible things we do to each other – human-to-human.  Today reminds me of the great strength, courage, and compassion we bring to each other – human-to-human.  My daughter’s post reminded me that we have a choice…. I have a choice.   And I began to sing softly……..Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

IMG_0869Thanks for reading,

Kathleen

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Listening Within

IMG_0687 - Version 2An early July afternoon, needing a respite from a complex, wayward project, I headed out for a walk.  I longed to hear the birds sing, feel the breeze tickle my cheeks, and sweat – a perfect combination for releasing pent up energy.  

After a few minutes, I accelerated my pace, felt my feet moving with the ground, and watched my breath deepen.  But rather than relaxing into the movement, my mind returned to the project and its conundrums.  The chatter was overwhelming – noisy and intense as a Sunday morning political talk show with every opinion clamoring for center stage.

Fortunately, a collection of crows caught my attention and in the midst of their cawing, my mind became quiet.  First one breath.  Then, a second.  In this space, a soft voice spoke lovingly.  “Listen to your heart.  It carries your wisdom.”  

My mind could not wait to join in the conversation “What does that mean? “ she pleaded “Of course, I’m listening – there’s a lot going on here!”  The soft voice, still soft, spoke again.   “With all the chatter going on, how can you be listening?  Just wondering.”  

“Hmmm…..”, my mind went thinking as the soft voice continued.  “Yes, we’ve learned a lot through our experiences and we’ve created many conclusions about life, what we want, what we need, how to get through challenging situations.  No wonder there’s so much sorting out to be done.  BUT……..” 

Knowledge Speaks quoteSilence jolted my mind from its distractions, listening, now, and curious about what was coming next.  “…….your chatter is all your voices trying to figure out what to do next based on what they know and have learned.  It’s good, but it’s only a start.  

“You see, every next moment, irrespective of the past, is unknown so the mind doesn’t really know.  It’s our hearts that connect with the infinite wisdoms.  Our hearts call us to love, again… to trust without reason…. to feel connected to the world beyond what our physical eyes can see.  Listen to your heart.  It carries your wisdom.”  

******

There’s always an interplay between our minds and our hearts – what we learn from the world and what we know deep within our being.  The interesting thing is that we often miss the interplay.  In the hustle-bustle of every day life, our attention goes to the physical – what we see, hear, and do; and it’s easy to miss the quiet voices of our inner knowing.  

Standing on a street corner, do you hear the wind?  And when you do hear it, what does it say?  Do you trust its message?   For the wind is like this moment.  As soon as it appears, it is gone again, allowing the next breeze, the next moment to have a life all its own – the same or different.

****

Since that July afternoon many years ago, I have practiced quieting my mind.  In the listening, I am both student and teacher.  I have learned that my mind loves the world.  It builds my capacity through experience.  It figures out life’s puzzles – what worked, why or  why not.  My mind is curious – to read more, learn more, go to new places, jobs, homes. In its conversation with my heart, it shares what it is like to be living fully human through every moment and every experience.  

In every moment, my heart embraces my being with infinite love and trust.  Her deepest wisdoms are not answers, definitive and discreet. In fact, I’ve never heard her speak to a completion or a conclusion.  Rather she opens the doorway to possibilities – to be curious, courageous, to love every moment and to remember to live across life’s full and exciting range.  Along the way, she coaxes my mind and emotions to love more, to trust more, to fear less, to honor the world as myself.  

Willing to wait picSometimes the interplay makes sense.  Other times, it doesn’t make any sense at all.  It’s here that my heart reminds me to be patient:  understanding and clarity will come in its own way.  She’s right.  My mind has kept track.  In time, I find unexpected gifts:  a greater love than the one I lost, a new start, forgiveness, an appreciation for life’s simple pleasures.   

Now you know.  This is the process within my life and my writing.  I listen to my mind, emotions, my body and heart.  I explore what I have learned and what I don’t know.   And I remember, like the wind, every new moment brings the newness of the unknown.  It is a grand adventure.  

Thanks for reading!

Kathleen

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