Welcome to our new and growing resource for healing through grief. There are three primary blog sections:
Grief and Loss is where you'll find articles and reflections on grief. Posts are a mix of personal experiences, reflection, and help for grievers. I work with you, through loss, to return to a place of joy.
SoulCollage® is one of the helpful modalities I use in grief and trauma work. You'll find more information about SoulCollage® here, including our workshops and retreats.
Presence and Mindfulness are also tools in the healing journey through grief as well as lifelong practices of a spiritually-centered life.
Let me hear from you, your questions, your experience, either here or on the blog pages. You can write to me privately also at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For my friends, family, and colleagues, I know you will understand why I am compelled to write this. For those who do not know me, I invite you to bear with me in this exploration, perhaps suspending assumptions and beliefs about me, until you come to the end of this article. Some of you will be shocked, I'm sure, some dismayed. I expect eye-rolls, hand-over-mouth "oh no!", and even some knowing laughter - yet it is the whole range of emotion that is exactly the point about what I am about to disclose and I invite you to reflect on it and write back to me if it affects you deeply.
]You see, I have made friends with Donald Trump. Not just good friends, but actually very close friends. And once I did that, I found that I immediately stood straighter and taller, I was grounded, and I could move through my day and my interactions with others unapologetically. I feel this is one of the most productive and spiritually honest things I have done in my life, and that is what compels me to share with it you.
"I Am Donald Trump." I spoke these words yesterday at a microphone in a hotel ballroom full of 200 spiritually-minded individuals working in the personal transformation industry, and I believe I heard the air being sucked out of the room. At least one person gasped. I'm certain many people felt I had lost all my rational filters. And later, privately, several people actually thanked me.
So what am I talking about? I should clarify, I have actually never met The Donald Trump, never written to him, never corresponded in any way. He has no idea who I am. The Donald Trump that I reconciled with in a personal way is far more intimate than Donald Trump, presidential candidate. It is the name I have given to my Shadow. Shadow is that part of us that, if we even acknowledge its existence, we hope that no one will see it in us. It is integral to our soul, and it is the companion of the attributes that we are pleased to show off to others. We all have Shadow, and we all usually try to hide it. Some of us have Shadow parts that are more visible, and we all have one thing in common: if we do not embrace our Shadow, we cannot live a whole and integrated spiritual life.
I finally embraced the aspect of my soul that holds the belief that big hairy audacious projects are the risks and accomplishments that make life worth living. I embraced my bravado that is willing to say "I can do it" to the most impossible-sounding jobs that others say are personally reckless. I believe in making things better, and sharing with others the vision of the potential of a system that works, even in what I see as the wreckage of the legacy of ill-formed good intentions of past leaders. I have spoken out, stuck my neck out, and made some amazing things happen in my professional life. In the course of that time I have spoken to thousands of people in webcasts, in person, on live Tv after long international flights and a string of sleepless nights. Not long ago if one Googled my name, pages and pages of references would appear. I was very proud of my contribution to the successful execution of the largest cash transaction for a public traded company in US History, and of the hundreds of well-received speeches, projects and articles attributed to me.
I have fans, and I have enemies. In the course of life, I had relationships that were in tatters and generated a lot of unpleasant accusations and gossip. I have been called a tramp, a liar, a cheat and a thief, and in the eyes of those who made those claims those labels were justified. I have had indiscretions and said things that hurt other people. I have most certainly done an inadequate job of apology. What has not ever been quite so visible to others are the times I was the victim of an attempted abduction, sexually assaulted (lost count of those actually) and been the target of sexual harassment (also countless). These events have made me stronger - maybe even made me more determined than ever to succeed, perhaps to a fault. I have made mistakes, and just as I've had huge success, I've had equally huge failures. I've learned to even embrace failure - I learn and move on. Some people think that is awfully audacious of me.
At one point an entire company website was anonymously dedicated to the personal and professional destruction of myself and my colleagues and the dotcom company we led because employees and former employees did not like the direction we were taking. Just as I've created hundreds of jobs and helped launch careers, I have also had to lead a promising company through bankruptcy and an asset sale. I confess that, when faced with laying off hundreds of people, I considered a business deal with a client that would have been hugely lucrative but completely against my ethics, in order to ensure a revenue stream that would keep the business going and save jobs for many families. There, I said it, I did that.
The thought of being accused of deception, betrayal, and manipulation generates a visceral reaction in my solar plexus, but that is, in fact, a fair accusation. I expect that I will be called to do it again in the future. I have held space for individuals in the midst of crisis, knowing that they will receive very difficult news, unable to share that with them myself. I have kept secrets (and am extraordinarily good at that.) I have shared partial truths, have withheld information, and conveyed select information in order to direct the paths of others in a certain direction.
I find that anger is a very effective tool and am not afraid to express it in the face of injustice, perceived or real, in the cause of a mission in which I believe deeply. I have not been afraid to defend myself very vocally when I perceive I am unjustly accused or misunderstood. When I believed the cause justified it, I have absolutely used anger to virtually slam the direction of a project quickly in a direction I saw it needed to go, with great success for the project, and at the cost sometimes of wounding others. I've done that sometimes with the speed of a knee jerk reaction - and it has not always gone well. I always, always, knew that the buck stopped with me and if I made a mistake I owned it perhaps more than others believed I did. The good news is, I'm a fast learner, and I rarely make the same big mistake twice.
Yep - that's me. I own that. So, what's great about this? What I mean when I declare that "I am friends with Donald Trump," is that I own this part of me that people love to hate when it is so public. It is what makes me who I am today - a coach for humans are as imperfect as I am but who may be very uncomfortable with that. A coach for people who feel that the "hand brake" is on in life, and don't know why. A coach for people who are experiencing loss - either the result of their own action or the result of others. It makes me able to hold sacred space for transformation and healing. There is nothing anyone could say to me that is a surprise, and I am the last person to make a judgment on another person's life and behavior. It helps me "see" others and to help them through their own challenges.
The flip side of this shadow is learning to speak the truth in love in a way that is constructive and timely. These two things are like the warp and woof of the fabric of my being. Keeping them in balance is my personal work. Just like the real Donald.
My own shadow also enables me to see the lives of others who live out these same traits on the public stage in a way that is scrutinized, under the most intense microscope of public opinion, and at a level unprecedented in history. Instead of pointing the figure and accusing them, I can see myself and my most imperfect nature. I wince, and I remember my own story. How grateful I am for divine grace and the healing that is held for all of us there.
Yes, I stand tall, and I own all of my imperfect self. As I stood to say the prayer of confession on Yom Kippur a few days ago, and struck my left chest with my right fist, I felt acutely vulnerable, aware of just how HUMAN we all are, and how grateful I am for a gracious G-d:
"We have transgressed, we have acted perfidiously, we have robbed, we have slandered. We have acted perversely and wickedly, we have willfully sinned, we have done violence, we have imputed falsely. We have given evil counsel, we have lied, we have scoffed, we have rebelled, we have provoked, we have been disobedient, we have committed iniquity, we have wantonly transgressed, we have oppressed, we have been obstinate. We have committed evil, we have acted perniciously, we have acted abominably, we have gone astray, we have led others astray. We have strayed from Your good precepts and ordinances, and it has not profited us. Indeed, You are just in all that has come upon us, for You have acted truthfully, and it is we who have acted wickedly." (for more on this Yom Kippur and deathbed prayer see http://www.chabad.org/…/je…/The-Viduy-Confession-Prayers.htm)
It is a corporate prayer - one that recognizes that when one fails, we all fail. We are mutually and corporately responsible. And I wonder now, about the wisdom of that prayer, if it is not just to get us to confess and repent, to bring us into relationship to the Divine, but to bring us into a healed relationship with ourselves and one another: to integrate that this is who we are as humans to one degree or another, to strive to do better, to bring our good nature and our shadow into balance, and to offer timely and constructive criticism in love. When we own our shadow, there can be no inner shame trigger to send us into reactive behaviors that are destructive to ourselves and others; we can simply recognize that this is who we all are at one time or another, and resolve to do better. It is a process of a lifetime.
When we finally integrate our shadow, whatever that might be, we will finally be able to live up to the Divine Purpose that is established for us, move forward, and the world will heal. We will raise up a generation that is integrated, not ashamed, fearful, and violent to one another and the planet. May it be soon.
We hear a lot about “Presence” these days. Depending on who we listen to, presence is knowing who you are, where you fit in the world, and being “in” the moment. Presence is being fully attuned to the person or situation around you without distraction. It is more than just showing up and being conscious. It is acknowledging the unique energy that you bring with you into every encounter, being fully aware of your energy and how it feels, and being able to harass that energy intentionally for the purpose of interchange with the environment or with another individual or group. Sounds amazing, right?
The difficulty with “presence” is that people don’t know where to start! How can I tell if I’m “present?” How can I practice “presence?” It seems so nebulous it is easy to discount and back burner the concept for a retreat or the next corporate offisite.
I invite you to consider that the beginning practice of presence in a powerful way is as simple as making a very conscious effort to smile as much as you possibly can.
In wisdom literature, presence is interestingly often connected with “face” in various ways. In numerous examples, when one’s face is turned toward another, the energy between the parties flows; when the face is turned away, it is very close to being absent all together. From this, I think we can infer there is great power in the expression of the face.
Some examples from the Bible (and there are many more:)
“Cain was very angry and his face fell” (Gen 4.5)
But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ (Gen 43.3)
So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” (Gen 40.7)
And [G-d] said, “My presence (face) will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exod 33.14)
In our English language many idioms using the word “face” describe an emotional state (see table below).
According to social scientists, our physical bodily expressions (call it non-verbal signals) convey how we’re feeling. If we hunch over and make ourselves small, we are “hiding”, in a position of disempowerment, perhaps feeling sad, anxious, or depressed. A person who is feeling confident, passionate, expansive, optimistic, assertive - they will have an open body, take up a lot of space. Body language is perhaps underrated in terms of its importance in communication. Others can see it, we can feel it. I think most of us understand that this is true.
What is most fascinating to me is the idea that we actually can change our mood on the basis of our body’s posture and position. The wisdom literature hints at this - so much is revealed by the face. It is our presence. And we are in complete control of what shows up on our face.
Dr. Amy Cuddy gave a great TedTalk on this subject. She makes the point that our body language does not only reflect how we feel, it reflects who we are. We can change our beliefs about ourself through small changes in our physiology: opening up our shoulders, lifting our heads, straightening our back and… smiling! Try smiling - even when you don’t feel like it. You’ll find it is harder to stay “small” and your connection to others will open up as your presence is seen… and felt.
I think this is such an important step that I made a SoulCollage® card to help me remember the importantce of a smile. It isn't just an outward expression of how I feel, it changes my outlook, my disposition, the way I communicate, and who I believe that I am.
I’d love to hear how this works for you. Leave a comment!
SoulCollage® is a creative and satisfying collage process. You make your own deck of cards - each collage card representing one aspect of your personality or Soul. Use the cards intuitively to answer life's questions and participate in self-discovery. Joyfully deepen your understanding of the relationships between your personality parts, you and your family/community/world, and you and your dreams, symbols, and Spirit. The book, SoulCollage® Evolving, by the birthmother of SoulCollage®, Seena Frost, tells how to make and use the SoulCollage® cards individually and in groups.
I facilitate SoulCollage® locally in the Gig Harbor, Washington area with several introductory workshops available in coming months. I invite you to consider coming to one of them and learn what this fun and creative process holds for you! We collage images borrowed from various sources for our personal use only. SoulCollage® cards are not to be sold, traded, or bartered; they are to be reproduced only for the personal use of the maker of the card. SoulCollage® cards may be shared as examples to illustrate the SoulCollage® process, but it is a principle of SoulCollage® that cards are not for sale, trade, or barter. (SoulCollage® principles)
I've enjoyed making my own cards, and find that it brings me back into touch with parts of myself, some of which have been silent for so long I nearly forgot them. For the first few weeks, I was compelled to make cards (cutting, combining, and pasting images) and often had no idea what they meant to me. As you will discover in class, SoulCollage® cards have a Neter, a central voice, and we find that voice (it's really our inner voice speaking to us) by the prompt: "I am one who..." To give you some ideas, I'm sharing a few of my dozens of cards here to give you some idea of how they emerge. These images, for me, are deeply personal reminders of the importance of perspective-taking, the power of community, how much "what comes out of the mouth" matters to relationships, and the beauty of the created world. These images speak deeply to me, just as I'm sure yours will for you.
You can connect to SoulCollage® workshops and find one near you through http://www.soulcollage.com/workshops.
I did not just wake up one day and decide to pursue my personal passion to full-time coach and help others connect to their inner wisdom. It took a crisis to help me make an "exodus" so to speak.
I was a technology director in a global financial services company in Seattle. In May that year, my sister was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, in November I unexpectedly lost my job in a management restructure, and one day later my mother died after a 12 year battle with Alzheimer's Disease.
Yes, I was grieving. I felt incapacitated by it. It was a lot to handle.
I had had family crises before, and I figured this would be no different. I would take some time off from business as usual, then get "back to work," find my next technology gig, and keep on going.
It did not work.
A month went by, then two, then six. I was embarrassed, then ashamed of my inability to overcome my emotions. A concerned colleague kept calling and I found myself unable to even bring myself to meet her for coffee. It was like I had fallen though a missing plank in the pier, was in deep water, with no ladder. I felt like I was just drifting, treading water, flowing with the current, unable to get back to shore. After a while, that become the problem - my inner skeptic was delighted to hold my own inaction and sense of emotional paralysis in front of me daily as proof of what SHE would call my "personal incompetence."
It was a pivotal period. I came to recognize the conspiracy of my inner wisdom and the Divine, inviting me to transform, to allow something completely new to arise from my being in terms of focus and vocation. It was amazing to say "yes" to that invitation. I'd invite you to ask yourself if that is what is happening for you.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some suggestions for giving yourself the permission to hear the message that grief may hold for you.