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…

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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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Expanding

VaseLast week, a friend and I were talking about blogging and she asked how long I had been writing.  My immediate response was “Not too long…”   Then, the question dove into my memory database, searching:  “times I was writing”.

The results?  Holy smokes –  I’ve been writing all my life.  Of course, that got me wondering.  How did that happen and I didn’t even see it?

Over the next couple of days, I realized that life is always expanding – whether we ask it to or not.  For example, today expands into tomorrow – no need to do anything here.  My shoe collection expands too, how many times have I gone to buy one pair of shoes and I’ve come home with two?  And looking at my career path, at each step, I became restless in  jobs that had been perfectly suited to what I had wanted.

Okay.  But I was still curious about my writing.  How did it evolve and expand – particularly since I didn’t set out to be a “writer”?

DSC_0456It began simply.  Reading, writing and arithmetic were the essentials in grade school.  By high school, writing was second nature:  biology lab reports, history analyses, English term papers.  Even in college, writing further expanded through math proofs, economic research papers, and even a technical writing class

So when I started my career, the ability to write was a given – assumed standard in a college grad’s tool kit.  What happened?  Writing expanded, of course.  This time, there were specific technology formats and language for proposals, documentation, status reports.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that over time, my writing shifted.  In addition to focusing on the facts of “What?” the technology would do, my writing delved into the broader question of  “Why?”  Why now?  Why change?  Even the all important question “How?”  grew  beyond “How” the technology worked, to the deeper question of “How” the technology would impact sustainability and growth for the company and its customers.

Writing was a tool I used to do other things.  Frankly, the only time I thought about it was when I was updating my resume.  Communication – check!  Writing – check, check!  Published writing – check, check, check!

Now, I can see that this was just the beginning.  My writing was like a seed, seemingly contained to a purpose, yet ready to burst forth and sprout into something new.

The catalyst came in the late ’90’s when intense, unexpected challenges came into my job, marriage and home.  As life changed around me, closing doors and opening others, my writing changed too.  It sprouted inward.

Mary pic b&wRather than writing for others, I wrote for myself.  Through a simple pen and blank pages in my journals, a space opened that welcomed every thought and feeling looking for expression.  Words could be broken and fractured.  I could “not know”, ask questions, feeling that somehow, the next words would answer back.

In this freedom, writing invited me to be curious as new disciplines and perspectives – like spirituality, metaphysics, psychology – crossed my path.  And, at every step, writing drew me deeper and revealed how my understanding was evolving into my experiences and beliefs.

In fact, the thesis for my Masters of Divinity degree in spiritual peacemaking was “Be Peace”.  Here, for the first time, I formally wrote about my journey of understanding and integration.  It was a natural step and would harken a new beginning – a practice of contemplation and reflection through words, in real-time.

But I still wasn’t ready to share.   The world was the world, my career was my career, and writing was my refuge.  Fortunately, my inner-writer had a different plan and step-by-step, she coaxed me forward.  I remember vividly the goose-bumps that rolled through the first time I hit the “Post” button for my blog.

Rilke quoteI often wish I could say that writing this blog has gotten easier.  It hasn’t.  Yes, I am more practiced and the words draw themselves from a deeper well.  And yet, the inspirations and ideas are always expanding, asking me to take them deeper to bring them to my fullest expression of mind, body, spirit and emotions.

The truth is, I love the process; and no matter where I begin, I’m always amazed at where the words take me.  Yes, I am a writer… always expanding.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned                                                             so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”                                                                            Joseph Campbell

Thanks for reading!

Kathleen

 

 

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Settling in to the Range…

DSC_0353 - Version 2One of the many gifts of writing this blog is that it asks me to be aware – of how I feel, what I think, and what’s going on around me.  The truth is, when all is going well – when I get what I expected or wanted or better – I breeze right through, with nary a thought.

For example, a Friday morning early in March was moving along quite routinely.  Dog and cat fed, coffee made, I snuggled into my studio to write.  About mid-morning, the doorbell rang unexpectedly, prompting Dakota and me to jump – me out of my chair and him up on his feet from a deep sleep.

I could say we raced down the stairs, but that would not be true.  There was no race, he always gets there first and there is only one question:  “Who rang the doorbell?”  With my thoughts still in the studio, and my hand opening the door, Dakota rushed outside.

I have no idea how long I stood motionless, blinking my eyes wondering “Is this a dream?”  There stood my daughter, smiling like a Cheshire cat.  “Surprise!!  Happy Birthday Mom!”  Totally unexpected.  Fully wanted.  Easy.  Breezy.  Perfect.

IMG_0289 - Version 2Like days flowing into nights, life has a natural cadence of new beginnings and endings.   So, too, it was for the weekend – Friday quickly flowed through Saturday and directly into Sunday – when it was time for  my daughter to return home.   Expected, yes.  Wanted?  Not so much.

Standing at the entrance of airport security, the joy of being together sang through our voices; and the sadness of her leaving seeped through our quiet tears.  We got in lots of hugs and all the words that could be spoken –  “Loved every minute of it…”See you soon…Love you.”

The part of life I’ve deemed to be “unwanted”, even when it’s expected, takes my breath away.  And I wonder, what do I do with all of it?  Sadness, anxiety, worry, frustration… the emotions I’ve banished to the shadows…hoping to avoid their hold.

hidden_water_messagesMasaru Emoto, in his book The Hidden Messages in Water, shares an experiment in which families put rice in 3 different jars.  Every day they say “I love you” to the 1st jar.  To the 2nd, they say “You fool.” To the 3rd?  They ignore it, saying nothing.    Then, they watch the rice to see what happens.

My initial thought was that the rice given the energy of “I love you” would thrive.  The one given the negative energy would rot.  And the ignored rice would just hang out.  But that is not what happened.  Time and time again, the ignored rice rotted first.

Emoto’s conclusion?  “To give your positive or negative attention to something is a way of giving energy.  The most damaging form of behavior is withholding your attention.”  This is true for rice and for ourselves and our feelings.

It takes great courage to create an inner circle, that embraces the full range of our emotions. It takes practice to honor our wanted and unwanted experiences.   And it takes time to acknowledge all of our feelings, not as rivals, but as unique part of our wholeness.

Laughing is as natural as crying.  Wondering how a project will turn out or when we’ll see a loved one again create a tension between worry and knowing that all is well.  And the intensity between frustration and curiosity when we want something to work moves us forward to new possibilities.

DSC_0085 - Version 2What’s my conclusion?  It’s a gift to say “Yes” to the full range of my emotional being.  In doing so, I become intimate with life, like a drop of water in the river – passing over every rock, rushing through the rapids, taking an extra moment in a quiet pool – each, only once – in a fleeting moment – on my journey.

On the way home from the airport on Sunday evening, I breathed deeply.  My emotions reminded me that I know deep within my being what it is like to be a mom.  I know how it feels to love and let go.  And I know life’s deep beckoning, calling me and my daughter forward to life’s wholeness.

The expected and unexpected.  The wanted and unwanted.  The range of thought and emotions.  These are the gifts of life.

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize that is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”  Lao-Tsu.

Thank you for reading,

Kathleen

 

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