(Not So) Great Expectations

Standard

It has been quite a while since I have been inspired to write, but I think the universe has offered a number of recent experiences that all point to a defined topic for this current post.

We as humans tend to measure our personal worth, societal acceptance, and ultimately our happiness and/or success via the mind’s idea of intended outcomes – what I will term here as our “Expectations”.

Expectations, if you take a moment to ponder further, actually creep into every facet of our lives – from the mundane social interactions of, ”If I hold a door for you, I expect a “Thank You” in return”, up to the more practical (and many times aspirational) applications such as if you work with dedication, intellectualism and integrity, you will be rewarded with a promotion.

Almost every single choice that precedes an interaction with any type of person, every single day of our lives (stranger, familial, friendly or professional) is guided in our minds by an expectation. I have learned through a recent and very poignant experience that Expectation is closely linked to fear, which is driven by our ego. Essentially, Expectation is a roadblock to our higher self, which ultimately blocks us from what we all, as souls, aspire to be part of again – a state of being that encompasses nothing other then universally connected unconditional love.

The experience was a personal one that involved my husband who is self-employed with a business he started when we were in college. One of the over-arching original goals of his budding (and seemingly very successful) company was to build a business empire and finally sell it so that we as a family could have a nice retirement fund and set our children up for future financial security. For 15 years his numbers were on an upward trajectory and the original expectation of building to sell was coming into view. But then in year 16 & 17 the company over-extended itself into a new product category which distorted cash-flow and left the business on the brink of bankruptcy. To make matters worse, my husband had an accident during this time which rendered him incapacitated, so I had to step in as acting CEO to hold the place together – it was then I saw how bad things really were. How could he have let this come to pass? Why wasn’t he more on top of the numbers? Half of our current livelihood and the entirety of our future retirement were slowly fading away – what were we going to do?

As acting CEO, I sprang into action and pulled every resource (both personal and professional) together to get things back on track – but I couldn’t stay in this role forever. I needed to ensure that my husband could take the reigns back and do what needed to be done to right the ship. He needed to become the leader that his company needed to transform it back into an investor friendly target. So I took him to dinner and spoke to him, not as his wife but as his business partner, and asked him some very direct and difficult questions about his future vision for the company.

Upon his blank look and stuttered reply of “I don’t know”, I realized that what we envisioned for the end-game of the company was no longer.

This was a man who, in his mind, dreamt of retiring young, but upon execution, did not have the full set of leadership capabilities, nor the internal inspiration to see it through. In reality, my husband wanted to be back in the younger days of his “garage business” where everything was new and he was just riding the wave of success for fun. Now, sustainability of the company had become real work, and it was work outside of what he deemed his comfort zone. His heart, his love of the business (as he would be required to build it to sell) was gone. You just can’t change that in a person.

It was in this moment I realized that I had placed my own expectations on how I believed the situation (i.e. the ultimate success of the business) should have played out. The strategy, execution and decision making seemed so clear to me in almost every aspect of his business, why couldn’t he see the same things?

And then it hit me…

He is not me, and his business is not my journey. It is his journey, and no one can own that, nor experience that, but him. In the end, I shouldn’t have any expectations (even as his wife) because we each need to create our own stories by learning in the moment, each step of the way. By imparting my expectations, I was taking that experience, that power of the personal journey, away from him. Through this expectation mindset, I was also denying the focus I should be saving for my own personal journey. If I loved my husband in a truly unconditional manner, I would not have such expectations except for one… that whatever his choice, he would be happy. In the end, isn’t that all we want for our fellow souls?

After this revelation and subsequent letting go of expectations, I felt physically lighter and mentally more freed. I explicitly shared this transformation with my husband and let him know that I am here for him whenever he reaches out for my support in anything business related, but that I would no longer chime in on what he should or shouldn’t be doing because I was no longer attached to the outcomes (outcomes being translated into expectations). If my husband’s business was on its way to shutting down, then so be it. Without expectations of what the future SHOULD hold, this new view was forcing me to live in the here and now – to live in the very moment. This new thought process was very liberating as it takes away so much worry as well (and if you ask my husband, I am an expert at worry lol).

I started seeing how expectations create so much negativity in each of our lives – this negativity literally self-sabotages our pre-ordained happiness! From friends who hold grudges against other friends for not following through on the expectation of a returned phone call, families that are town apart through the non-lived-up-to expectations of obligatory holiday visits, employees who are enraged at the dashed expectation of a desired promotion, to the expectation of a “spirit token” when you donate to a homeless person on the street – these expectations keep us bound in a tit-for-tat world, where abundant giving is tempered by a need for a return on your “investment”.

No, this is not the type of world we can live in if we want to bring about the kind of peace and inner joy that is so desperately needed to support true happiness. The stress that is placed on us not only through the expectations that we place on others, but on our constant navigation of how to fulfill the incoming expectations from everyone around us, is a detriment to the goal of unconditional love.

I challenge you to review the relationships and interactions in your life to see where you can start letting go of expectations – start with something simple like not expecting a hand wave of thanks if you let someone merge in front of you on the highway, and then work your way up to the bigger expectations that truly keep us bound in fear and negativity (expectations around close relationships, money, achievement, even your health.)

When you live in the moment, and that moment is filled with absolutely no expectations, that moment can then be filled with love – and love, in the end, is the only true great equalizer.

Advertisements

Choose Your Perception, Choose Your Happiness

Standard

Everyone has heard the age old saying of “Perception is reality” but how can an individual predict which perception is at play in order to accept their current reality? In my eyes, perception is an ever-changing, fluid state of mind, so in essence, there is no one reality, just a billion co-existing ones that every second are changing due to new experiences. Sounds a bit amorphous and hard to manage, no? It does not have to be 🙂

We do have control over our own personal perceptions, and there is a very real opportunity to choose how you translate those perceptions that can lay the ground work for a positive path through life vs. a negative one. Who doesn’t want to shape their life with an aura of joy and positivity? Perception can be framed in two ways:

1) Through a lens of hearsay, need for control and fear

2) Through personal experience, letting go of control and conviction

Whether it be a person or an overall experience, I find that the majority of individuals pre-determine their personal views through other people’s experiences. For example, a new employee joins your department and from a number of colleagues you hear that he/she is an elitist who has a hot temper. The initial instinct as a human being is to pay attention to the warnings and steer clear of this new employee if you can. But, if you truly examine the situation, you have not personally witnessed any temperamental behavior and you haven’t worked closely enough with the new employee to get a sense of the elitism label. Your colleagues may very well have had interactions with the new colleague that left them feeling uncomfortable, but do their experiences predestine your own future interactions toward a negative outcome as well? The answer is a resounding NO!  You have the power and the opportunity to choose your own experiences and then gather up those experiences into a framework of positive perception via choice #2 noted above.

In regards to your perceptions of people – always see them as an individual with a soul that has the same hopes, dreams, fears and failures that we each have. Give them the benefit of the doubt and create your own experiences with a clean slate (i.e. leave the hearsay behind). Try to empathize with their experiences and how those have shaped who THEY are – better understanding of their perceptions helps give more compassion to your perceptions.

In regards to your perceptions of experiences – know that we (along with all the data points that make up our lives) are connected in ways that we as humans cannot fully comprehend. Each experience, particularly the difficult ones, provide the best growth. When even the most terrible of experiences happen to us, having that conviction that the experience has a purpose, that the pain is not in vain and that the universe is providing what we need at that exact moment in time (more resiliency, more compassion, more gratitude, more humbleness) shifts what could end up being a very self-defeating, hopeless and overwhelming negative perception towards the situation over to a grateful, hopeful and joyous one. By choosing to shape your perceptions through a lens of positivity by utilizing framework #2, you ultimately are choosing happiness.

The universe is always conspiring in your favor as long as your are open to and trusting in it!

I always share this personal story of how by choosing to frame your perceptions through the lens of personal experience, letting go of control and conviction (based on the assumption that the universe is always looking out for you), it can bring a sense of peace, joy, and hope into every experience you encounter, especially the most trying/painful experiences…

When I was much younger, my boyfriend was an entrepreneur who had started and grown a very successful creative business. The buzz around his venture was non-stop and became so wide-spread that a very prominent creative mogul took notice and proposed a partnership purchase which would include 3 year contract, an excessive salary, a signing bonus, relocation costs c0vered for a cross-country move and above all, working directly with the creative mogul whom my boyfriend practically worshiped growing up. It was everything my boyfriend could have hoped for at such a young age; money, success, validation, industry excitement, and a big name for his budding business. Partnership negotiations started off amicably, but after 5 months (and the on-boarding of lawyers to deal with the legalese), things seemed to stall. My boyfriend had put his life on hold to close this deal (including moving into my 12 x 12 room after he graduated and could no longer live off of campus housing). He had turned down other purchasing offers and other jobs to focus on his dream, but by the 6 month mark, he received the fateful call that would change not only the path of his business, but how he viewed every experience in his life. On an average fall afternoon, his phone rang and I remember seeing his face go white when the voice from the other end said, “We are pulling out of negotiations, it’s become too complicated with lawyers being involved.”

I thought he was going to throw up all over the place – that is how shocked and upset he was that his dream had been shattered within seconds.

I remember comforting him after the call and looking him straight in the eye and saying, “I know you are not going to believe this right now, but everything happens for a reason. We may not know right now, or 2 weeks from now, or even 2 years from now, but there IS a reason. You have to trust in that.” Of course in his emotional state he pretty much said that my advice was complete bullshit. But then something amazing happened….

Six months later my boyfriend read on a news feed that the company that was about to purchase a portion of his business, that we were going to up-root our lives for, had just gone bankrupt! The universe truly was looking out for us – sometimes we just cannot see it clearly at that very moment in time. My boyfriend would have lost half of his business, we would have been stuck out on the opposite coast very far from our family and his dream still would have been destroyed. But the universe didn’t let that happen… that terrible experience that supposedly shattered my boyfriend’s hope, was actually a very important data point that ultimately saved his business. I am happy to say that my boyfriend (now husband) has been successfully running his business (100% owned by him) for 15 years! He also has never again been broken by a negative experience because now his conviction is so strong in the belief that the universe provides what you need, when you need it (even if we don’t understand or agree with the timing.)

Unfortunately, most experiences are not always this clear cut, nor this grandiose… but that is the beauty of it – from the smallest of day-to-day interactions up to the most pressing humanitarian crisis, you have the power to choose how you perceive each of those experiences. By choosing your perception, you set YOUR reality and in the end, you grow and solidify your personal happiness. Choose your perception, choose your happiness – the universe depends on it! 🙂

Courageous Communication

Standard

The theme of communication has been coming up a lot lately in the majority of conversations I have been having in every facet of my life, so I figured that may be the universe telling me that I should get this down in writing 🙂

I have a very clear vision of what communication should feel like (yes, I said feel like!) and how powerful/positive it can be when delivered in a mindful fashion. The more I witness interactions among individuals, along with friends, family and colleagues coming to me for advice on how to deal with difficult situations, I see that lack of communication seems to be a common thread amongst the discord, insecurity, hurt, shame,  & fear. Whenever I have a person start to complain about their friend, their significant other, their boss or their work colleague, the first thing I ask them is, “Have you tried to sit down and talk with the person to let them know how you really feel?” Many times their eyes go wide and they reply with something along the lines of  “No way, I’ll get fired!” or “Why bother, he/she won’t change.” I then challenge them by saying – “If you are upset about this situation/relationship, complaining never solves anything! As long as you stay silent, you are 50% the problem when instead you could be 50% of the solution. You have to give the other half a chance to change, and right now you have condemned them before even giving them that chance.”

This is where I then start talking about “Courageous Communication”.

Courageous Communication is not a one size fits all approach. Instead it is tailored to the individual you are trying to reach. The ultimate goal is to reach that person at their most basic human level – that of their soul, the part that connects us all. I don;t actually say this exact sentiment to people I offer communication advice too, but the underlying essence of my instructions always align with this singular goal.  So how do you set yourself up for Courageous Communication? My baseline rules are below:

  1. Time is of the essence. Don’t let hurt feelings fester – getting in your head and stewing over it will only make the resolution that much harder to get to.
  2. Realize that perception is reality and your perception is probably very different from the person on the other end of this conversation. You have to let go of right or wrong, because with varying perceptions, technically there is no absolute.
  3. Set the communication stage with empathy &  compassion. Even those really challenging individuals have doubts, insecurities, fears and failures. When you can view the other person through a lens of empathy & compassion, it softens the edges on everything which will in turn make the overall communications more effective.
  4.  Leave “everyone else” out of your conversation. This conversation is between you and the other individual alone. Don’t use terms like “Everyone thinks this about you” or ” So-and-so also feels this way”. This type of talk sets you up for a potential blow-out because it makes the other person feel like you are ganging up on them. Only focus on how the interactions are making YOU feel, but you also have to be careful about making the conversation entirely about you, because in the end there are two people in this conversation.
  5. Always go in giving the other person the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t assume that the person actually realizes how deeply their words/actions/in-actions are affecting you – they honestly may have no clue!
  6.  Set the stage for a mutual coming together of the minds – leave your ego out of it. Many times we go into a difficult conversation with the idea that “I am right and I am going to win”. But in reality, you may have to do some changing yourself. If you go in with the mindful intent of realizing that you also are responsible for the outcome or solution, the defensive barrier of both sides can be significantly reduced allowing for a more meaningful conversation. I usually say something like “I want to know what I can be better at for you so that we can work through this together.”
  7. Choose the appropriate method of communication. Face-to-face is NOT always the best option. Some individuals become VERY defensive and agitated when difficult conversation topics are broached – especially if it has to do with them! Also, sometimes it takes time for people to digest the information and allow for a thoughtful response – which is why for those people, I strongly suggest writing a letter.  I had a boss who clearly stated he wanted people to speak with him face-to-face about any issues, but I witnessed first hand how conversations were very uncomfortable, difficult and often un-resolved due to his upfront defensiveness.  I had a personal grievance which many others had also complained of, but which no one was ever willing to speak to him about.  So instead of going to his office in person, I wrote him a compassionate letter about how his actions, which I believed he wasn’t even aware of (because I knew how wonderful of a person he was), really hurt and belittled me. I didn’t hear from him for 24 hours and honestly, I thought I may be fired. But then he called me into his office the 2nd day and told me how grateful he was for the letter and how sorry he was for his actions – he had no idea of his actions and how they so deeply affected me. From that day forward he made a concerted effort to change, and everyone in the office (including my boss) benefited.
  8. Always offer 2 to 3 very specific examples of when, what & how the other person’s words/actions  affected you. If you go in with very vague terminology (i.e You make me feel like a failure  or I don’t think you like me”), this doesn’t allow for tangible actions to come forth and support a solution. In the example above with my boss, I pointed out 2 different times he used hurtful body-language – they were recent enough for him to remember so he could easily attach a cause & effect moment to it. Understanding that cause and effect is the first step towards being able to recognize & change.
  9.  Let go of control & fear. I truly believe that if you go into a difficult communication meeting with an honest open heart, and a mindful self-awareness of the humaneness within us all, the end result will turn out in your favor. Even if the other person doesn’t come around to your views, you at least know that you have tried everything to help the situation. At that point you can let go of the worry and the unknown and in the worst case scenario, take action for change from your end without any regrets.

These guidelines of engagement for Courageous Communication don’t only pertain to difficult interactions! I find that many of us get caught up in life and pass over opportunities to share with those around us wonderfully positive feedback because it may seem too awkward or out of place. Can you imagine the type of world we could create if each of us told someone in our life how wonderfully awesome they were whenever we felt like saying it?

I make it a regular practice to write a detailed thank you notes to my boss/colleague/friends at totally random times letting them know how important they are to me (tones vary depending on the relationship). But the bottom line is that I listen to my gut and if I feel some praise coming on, I don’t hold it back because “I don’t have enough time” or the person my be embarrassed by it. These are the interactions that link us together and create wonderful ripple effects that we may not even have the opportunity to witness.

I hope that you find time to implement courageous communication in your life – I believe in my heart of hearts that this type of interaction could heal so many wounds, build so many bridges and empower so many souls. May your communication journey be one of conviction, compassion AND courage!

What is My True Purpose?

Standard

I came across a Q & A post on a message board the other day and the most recent post was a question that each of us usually ask of ourselves (some more then others). The core of the inquiry was “What is my true purpose in life and since I currently feel like I don’t have one, how do I find it?”.

This question literally hurt my heart when I read it… because it saddens me so much that a beautiful unique soul could ever think that they don’t have a purpose! I felt compelled to respond to the poster because I knew exactley what she was feeling. Below was my response and I hope that it strengthens your uniqueness which God wants each and every one of us to celebrate….

 

“I was where you are 10 years ago AND I was married to a man who was living his dream, that made my self deprecation even worse! But I can tell you that when you search too hard or try to label one aspect of yourself for a myopic “purpose”, that supposed purpose will always elude you. Also, I find that we use limiting human concepts and terms to define ” purpose “. I personally always thought that an outward visible career path or grandiose event that I orchestrated could/ would define my purpose. But after a number of painful experiences along with day to day human interactions, I realized that purpose is sometimes a more “quiet” revelation. I started to pay closer attention to the common everyday interactions and started to view every single action with purpose…a smile to a stranger, a kind compliment to the cash register girl, an extra dollar in a tip.

We are all connected and even seemingly minute efforts could set in action major shifts that we never even see the outcome of. You are here, by the grace of our Cosmic Creator, and that in itself is purpose. I hope you can recognize that the love you teach your daughter and which is quietly visible to those around you will reach farther then you could ever imagine and that is a beautiful purpose in itself. If you hope for additional avenues of purpose, examine each of your simplest of interactions and see how each makes you feel. I found out that by being a good listener and an honest intentioned communicator that one of my souls main purposes is to give courage and clarity when people seem to need it most, and this purpose shows itself in every facet of my life (not just work or family or friends…with strangers too!).

Take heart, your purpose is clear, you just need to quiet your mind and listen with your heart 🙂 Best wishes on your journey!”

Celebrate Your “Commonplace Occurrences”

Standard

Today was the Catholic observance of the “Feast of the Epiphany”. The definition of an Epiphany is two-fold…

1) an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.
2) a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
It has been a while since I have written a post. Given today’s significance, I knew it would be the right day to sit down and write.
There is a story that I have been sharing with select individuals since 2008. I continually refer to this experience as a “zen moment”. I also refer to it as my personal “epiphany” where something so commonplace opened my eyes to a completely new perspective on life and my place in it. Interestingly enough, it seems as if these experiences are a rare occurrence in each of our lives. But now I know, they occur every day, every hour, even every minute – but many of us choose to oversee these epiphanies hidden within such “commonplace occurrences”. I hope that this story brings a new way to recognize, to learn from and then to celebrate your own “Commonplace Occurrences”.
It was the fall of 2008 and I was an active political supporter of a particular underdog candidate. That candidate’s bumper sticker was the first and only bumper sticker ever to be placed on a car that I owned. I supported this candidate wholeheartedly because he believed in telling the truth even when the truth was painful, even when telling that truth was to his own detriment. He told the truth in the most humble of fashions. I respect that kind of courage and integrity.
I was driving on the main artery highway heading out of the city. There was a alot of traffic and on top of that, alot of construction at various points on the highway. In the left hand lane, a big orange sign made it very clear that the lane would be closed due to construction and therefor, everyone must merge into the middle lane. The sign had given plenty of warning and the orange cones coming into view made it even more prevalent that motorists should take heed and not wait any longer in merging right.
The majority of the drivers paid attention to the signs and pulled into the middle lane, and while it slowed traffic down a little, people were generally being accommodating with allowing people to squeeze in. But there are always a few drivers who feel that instead of merging with traffic in an organized safe fashion, they feel that this is somehow their opportunity to skip ahead of all the other drivers, merge at he very last minute possible in order to somehow get the the front of the pack, which in the end, causes traffic to come to a standstill.
As I had already moved over to the middle lane, I witnessed a number of these opportunistic drivers speed by me and try to merge into the tight line of cars ahead of me at the very last minute. After the third car drove by, I saw a fourth car who at this point, really should have already merged a while back. It was a silver sedan driven by a man in his mid 40’s. He was speeding up the left lane fast, with his sense of entitlement to be at the front of the line. Maybe that is what set me off. I don’t know why it took three other cars for me to take action, but I felt it. I felt it start in the pit of my stomach – that warm tightness that slowly moves up into your chest, up along your neck and then all the way towards the tips of the ears… leaving my ears flaming red with heat, and underneath that heat, the need to teach this guy a lesson.
So I did it. I pulled slightly to the left in order to straddle the middle lane and the now diminishing left lane so that the speeding silver sedan couldn’t get by.
This man realized what I was doing and became furious. He tailed me, kept beeping his horn, and shook his fist at me as I stole a glance out of the corner of my eye in the rear view mirror. I am sure he was screaming profanities even though I couldn’t hear him. I just sat there and pretended like I didn’t even see him.
How was I feeling at this moment in time? I felt righteous, I felt smug, I felt in control. At this moment I was actually smirking at how this 40 year old man was having a mini-mental breakdown just because I had interrupted his entitled joy-ride to the front of the traffic line. But this smirking was not to last.
Within a minute or so the lane completely became blocked off by cones so we were all relegated to the center lane again. At this point in time, the man who I had so painstakingly blocked for the last mile pulled into the far right lane and sped up in order to get right beside my car. He proceeded to roll down his window and in response, I rolled down mine. My open window invited from this man a slew of obscenities screamed with such fervor that I honestly didn’t even know what to say in return. The only words that I could get out were in regards to his childish attitude. He ended his rant by screaming, “I shouldn’t have expected anything less from a “Candidate X” supporter!”. With a flip of the middle finger and the closing of his window, he sped off ahead of the pack.
This is where something changed.
Those feelings of action driven heat, control and grandiose righteousness disappeared and in their place, all that was left was a heavy and sickly feeling weighted in the pit of my stomach. Something about those last words cut me to the core and I could feel something new emanating throughout my being…shame.
This feeling of shame was not as strong, nor immediate as those initial feelings of anger and righteousness. But shame is more powerful (and in the end more lethal) because it lingers. And that is exactly what happened. This feeling of shame tinged by hurt permeated every fiber of my being. I could not stop thinking about how the whole nasty interaction went down. I replayed the man’s angry rant over and over in my head trying to figure out where things went wrong. I couldn’t concentrate at work. I had trouble sleeping that night. My body was exhausted from the tension of this stressful introspection. This feeling continued for 2 full days. Can you believe it? A less than 5 minute interaction literally overtook (negatively) 2 days of my life. So much emotional effort wasted on such a petty interaction. My soul was paying the price for a poorly thought out”teaching lesson.”
And that is when it hit me. Did I ever really teach that guy his lesson at all?
When I dissected the play by play of my initial reaction to the entitled speedster, I realized that at its core, what I really wanted to do was to not necessarily teach him a lesson, but to ultimately change his behavior so that would not reproduce his actions again in the future. But, did I ever achieve that core goal? I realized too long after the fact that no, I didn’t change his behavior and in reality, I probably just reinforced it by my selfish actions. Me choosing to pull in front of him that day actually did not support what my ultimate goal was at all. My choice to cut him off fed my selfish desire to take control and in a way “make him suffer” . But the irony here is that I was the one who ended up suffering for two days. The recipient of my suffering actions probably became more set in his ways because he didn’t want to feel as if HE had lost control. Honestly, he probably just drove further down the highway in order to cut the next long line of cars off at the front of a “merge right” sign. No, I definitely was not the victor, nor the successful teacher of this anger-filled interaction.
And this is where I had my epiphany…
I saw my immediate reactions to this man’s actions in a number of other daily occurrences that happen throughout the year. I started thinking about how angry I get when I am behind a customer at a retail store who is nastily yelling at the store clerk and how that customer could care less that they are not only being an entitled brat but they are holding up the entire line in the process. I get the same heated feeling and that same initial gut reaction to use the same level of nastiness in order to “teach them a lesson”.
Or even at work when I witness an over-bearing boss that is trying to put an employee in their place. Or maybe even a parent who is yelling at their kid in the middle of a grocery store. All these interactions have one thing in common – the ultimate goal is to change the perpetrators behavior for the better. But usually, our initial reactions, which are driven by instinct and selfishness, achieve the complete opposite of that goal. That was where my lesson lay hidden.
That two days of introspective exhaustion I realize now was my soul, my intuition, telling me that I made the wrong choice. My choice did NOT better myself or the other person. So much energy wasted because I didn’t take a second to stop, step back, take a breath and remind myself what the true goal of a difficult interaction was. Now I know, and now, that is what I do.
Whenever I start to feel that well of heat and anger in the pit of my stomach, I  take a deep breath and look at the person  who is evoking that reaction. I say to myself, “What behavior am I hoping to change in that person.”  Then I ask, “Will my initial gut reaction actually achieve that change.”. In most instances, the answer is no. But if you can stop yourself from jumping to the initial instinct, you are one step ahead of the game in saving yourself 2 days of  wasted energy that could be saved and put to so much better use! I also think this mindful observance can be directly linked to the ripple effect of creating world peace. It is a small pebble in a large pond, but could imagine if everyone just stopped to think before actually lashing out in response to something that makes you angry? I like to think that it would create a much more connected and calmer world.
Epiphanies don’t have to be surrounded by fireworks and fanfare. Many times they are presented to us through the most simple of interactions, the most common place occurrences. My wish for you, and every other soul out there, is that you easily recognize and celebrate yours.

Angel in Training

Standard

I am not even sure how she found my blog.

But there it was, staring back at me from my gmail account – “onethousandsingledays likes your post “Man in the Rain“”. It was one of the very first posts I made. It was the very first night it posted. I had made a conscious decision not to promote this blog because I am not sure if it is yet the right time to do so, especially since I am still trying to find my voice. So given my views on intuition and Serendipity, I figured this could be no accident.  I proceeded to click on the “Like” link and explore onethousandsingledays.

I read through three of her recent posts and that was all I needed. I think I realized it after I finished her first post.

She is one of them.

She is an “Angel in Training“.

“What is an Angel in Training” you ask? Angels in Training are those individuals among us that experience unimaginable pain and suffering  (physical, mental  or both) during their lives and somehow continue on, moving through their day to day, with the hope that one day, they will be set free, and will ultimately know the meaning of their suffering. Not only will they know the meaning of their suffering, they will understand it and see that suffering as a translatable hope to others who may not be as strong as they are. What is funny about Angels in Training is that they ironically do not see the strength in themselves.

Just like any training course, only the best are chosen. God only brings in the strongest to participate in this soul rendering event. Being strong does not guarantee you make it to the end though. Many unfortunately do not make it. They were broken beyond repair and they lost that last sliver of hope which was necessary to keep them moving forward. Some will be in training for only a few seconds while for others, it could cover their entire lifetime. Hope is truly your best ally throughout this training course, even if that hope is smaller then a speck of sand – that tiny virtue holds power that we as humans just cannot comprehend.

With each successive experience of indescribable hurt, the soul gets an additional layer peeled away until the most sensitive raw nerve endings are exposed. This is where the angelic metamorphosis begins. When their soul is whittled down to its rawest form, they unknowingly tap into the connected soul of the universe. While in the middle of this metamorphosis, they don’t realize the transformation occurring because all their focus is on the seemingly unending pain that brought them to this place to begin with.

It isn’t until they start moving towards the finish line that they look over their shoulder and see that the hurt is no longer right at their heels. Hurt has begun to slow and as they catch their breath to continue moving forward, they realize that they have been changed. I am not talking about some simple to describe “oh, you’ll get over it” change, I am talking about a “I have connected with God and the Universe and see things and feel things in a totally different way then the people around me do” kind of change.

Heart-wrenching suffering brings you face to face with God – sometimes through anger, sometimes through despair, sometimes through shame. But whichever way the suffering plays out, the end result for an Angel in Training is the same. An Angel in Training becomes the human yet divinely connected Angel that walk among us and act as a beacon of light for the suffering among us who can’t see that finish line. His or her experience(s) bring out levels of extreme compassion and overwhelming gratitude. Their intuition radar gets super-charged and they can actually sense the silent sufferers around them. Not only can trainees sense them, they feel the overwhelming need to share their own experience, their own strength and ultimately their own hope to say, “I know, I was there (maybe I am still there), but you can make it and I promise you, your suffering is not empty, you are not empty.”

How am I able to pick out these “Angels in Training”?

I was one of the others… the hopeless girl caught in the throws of a severe depression who just couldn’t make it to the finish line. I would be sobbing in a heap on the ground in my disheveled bedroom or curled over the steering wheel of my car clutching my hands together in prayer, begging God to make all the suffering end. I would go about my day to day tasks as if in a fog because none of it seemed to matter anymore. I would barely sleep because I couldn’t keep the awful thoughts out of my head.  I thought I was worthless to everyone around me, including to God himself.

I was lost. I was alone. I was empty.

I had the support of family and friends, but it wasn’t the same.  No one around me had ever truly experienced being broken from the inside out. Luckily, I ran into my own personal Angel at just the right time. He HAD been there and he was able to say “you WILL be ok and you will be better for it”. He was the one who picked me up and helped get me to that finish line. He also helped me see the greater meaning of that experience – and that experience has changed me forever.  I always say that my depression was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it was also the best thing that ever happened to me. And this is why I keep an eye out for and take a special interest in “Angels in Training.”

OneThousandSingleDays, I hope you have come to realize that your journey of suffering has not been in vain, and even though you are still in the middle of that painful journey, your almost at the finish line. You will be that hope for others.  Your training has been a long and arduous, but remember, God only picks the strongest for this course. You are almost there. You are one of them… You are an Angel in Training.

The Man in the Rain

Standard

Yesterday morning I totally had a run in with my intuition, and it was how I danced around with the choice for action that got me thinking…

There was a Nor-easter that came through our section of the country that brought cold downpours of rain (which at times turned into sleet and snow) accompanied by gusty and chilly winds. Bottom line: It was awful. Even for myself, who was only out in the rain for about3 minutes to get in and out of my car for work, soaked the entire lower half of my pants.

And that is where it happened – I was in my car, on my way to work (running 10 minutes late as usual) driving down the same road I have for a number of years – but this morning there seemed to be a small backup that was slowing the overall traffic patterns. I was a bit annoyed because I couldn’t see far enough ahead to determine what was causing the holdup, but once cars started pulling into the opposite lane to get around whatever was in the road I ended up getting a clearer view.

I felt a pang of shame at my annoyance when I realized it was an elderly man with his walker slowly shuffling down the street in the pouring sleet with no umbrella, no rain boots, no protective rain jacket and no gloves. He had to walk in the street because snow that had accumulated the night before had not yet been cleared away on some of the main sidewalks. He was walking in very short steps and you could see he was soaking wet. All the cars just kept pulling around him and for a split second I thought to myself, I should stop and help this poor man. But, given my routine and my habits, I quickly pushed that thought out of my head and just like the others, pulled around him just far enough so as not to splash him from the slush mounds that were now accumulating in the streets.

As I took the next turn I started quickly putting data points together – “If an elderly man is walking in the rain with his walker, he must not be traveling too far right?” and “He is coming to a hill, what if he slips and falls, he could get really hurt.” and then, “He must be freezing and soaked to the bone.” Then the thoughts turned back to me with “If he probably isn’t going to far, if I stopped, how late for work could I be?” and then I thought, “Everyone is thinking like me and just wants to get to work.” Something about that last thought did it – I turned around, pulled back onto the street, pulled right in front of the gentleman, put on my hazards and jumped out of the car to ask him if I could drive him to his destination.

He seemed very grateful and more then willing – he had such a hard time walking without the walker. His short little unsteady steps made me even more worried for him as it must have taken him forever to even get to the very spot he was at now! I folded his walker and placed it in the trunk, then held onto his arm and escorted him into the drivers side of the car and asked him where he needed to go. All he needed was to go to the bank which was less then 2 blocks away. His name was John and he had to be in his late 60’s but looked much older then that due to the ravaging effects of alcoholism, which I could see from his hand tremors (and which he later confirmed when he said he needed a drink to calm them). I let him know that we could stay in the warm car and go through the bank drive through so that he didn’t have to get out. I then asked where he lived so that I could drive him back afterwards.

While idling in my car, waiting for the next available drive through teller, John started giving me a brief history of his family… where they were from, how many years he had been living in our town (40 years), how he and his older sister did not get along, how his younger brother died at age 24 by being beat to death by a supposed friend. With him sitting right next to me I was able to take in more of his physical details; the worn out baseball cap, his over grown and unkempt yellowing  beard, the black new balance sneakers that were soaked and the pair of jeans that had the beginning of holes in both knees. He also had that odor, an odor I had smelled a few times before when I had volunteered at homeless shelters or an isolated elderly person’s home.

John was definitely a beaten down and worn out man, his speech was hard to follow but he was very engaging nonetheless. After 15 minutes of waiting and a successful $100 withdrawal, we were back on the road to get John to his place of residence which was about a half mile away. We pulled up to the back of his apartment complex, I re-assembled his walker, assisted John out of the car and guided him to the entrance of his building. I had only known John for 20 minutes, but I felt personally responsible for this human being at this point in time – like a parent watching their child off on the school bus just to make sure they ride away safely to their routine day.

As I drove away and smelled the still overwhelming odor of John in my car, I became introspective about the entire incident and how it played out.  I was almost just like all those other cars, like those people in those cars, who needed to get to work and just didn’t listen to their intuition enough to move to action. Why was I the first and only one? How would this whole situation have played out differently if each of us paused to feel those tugs at our soul? Can you imagine the kinds of wonderful connections that could be made and potential problems solved  if everyone was quickly moved to action by their own intuition?

And then I thought about the humaneness of the situation – about how John is a soul who has been suffering and as of that morning, was by himself, in the cold, with no one to drive him less then 1 mile to get a bank withdrawal. This made me sad about the state of our community and how neighborhoods are not always made up of neighbors anymore. Being connected is about choice. When will our values support those choices and make them seem like second nature to us? This is my hope for the future.

I did end up being 1/2 hour late for work and had to call to reschedule my first meeting of the day, but in the end I know I was supposed to be there at that point in time for John. I feel like the universe gave me this incident as a training exercise to see that if you

1) pay attention to that “feeling”
2) if you can quickly add up  the disparate data points
3) try to see the humaneness in every situation

then a move to action, to make that situation better, will always be the next step.