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Archive for the ‘decision making’ Category

What can you learn from your clutter and unfinished business?

For one of my clients,  (I’ll call him Sam) it was profound what several boxes of books sitting in his office brought to light. These books had found their way to him through someone’s estate. For whatever reason, the original owner, never having found a suitable home for the books, felt that Sam was the right person to inherit something she could not let go.

This is what we do. We can’t let go of something, so we try to find someone to whom we can give it. Then we can feel good about placing the stuff somewhere “useful.” Often, though, we are just passing our burden along to another. The recipient co-creates the misery by being unable to say no to the offering, or desperate plea, however it is perceived.

Sam, in turn, felt that the library should take these books, but the librarian didn’t want them. There was a bit of a standoff, which the librarian won. Sam was left with the boxes of books and the decision of what to do with them, where to donate them, etc. Like many busy professionals, he procrastinated and the energetic presence of the books in his environment created ongoing anxiety and served as a reminder of his frustration with the librarian.

Sam put it so eloquently, “This is just a story that didn’t end the way I wanted it to and I dragged it out. The fact is, it ended, and I just need to treat it as such and move on. We have a tendency to stop living if our whole self isn’t moving forward. “

Think about it. All the items in boxes, in storage, on shelves gathering dust, waiting for repair, waiting to be used, to find new homes that are piling up day after day because we can’t come to grips with the fact that their time has passed. Whatever and whomever they are associated with (whether another person or an old you), is gone; is an old story.

What if each of these items represents some way that we stopped living along the way; some way in which a piece of us got left behind and hasn’t yet caught up, leaving us feeling less than whole?

As Sam and I dove deeper, he discovered a tape he’s been running in his head since he was very young. It was a kind of rule of thumb he’d followed all these years. I won’t tell you his, but I will make up something similar for illustration: Don’t rock the boat and keep everyone smiling.

This is what we call a fundamental choice. It is a decision we make when we are very young that becomes a rule we follow in life without ever questioning its current validity.  Once I uncover these with a client, we can look at it with an adult perspective and fashion a new, more useful fundamental choice for the client to carry forward (and in many ways, the new choice is what carries the client forward).

Other things revealed in exploring clutter, incomplete projects, etc. are basic beliefs that have to do with what you think of yourself and your place in the world; beliefs and rules that impact every aspect of your life. These are generally unconscious but running the show. Also revealed might be old identities and self-images that no longer serve you.

copyright(c)2011 Kathy J Loh All Rights Reserved

When you awaken to the energetic drag encapsulated in these seemingly innocuous boxes of old stuff, you stand a fighting chance of becoming free.

Becoming free releases the bits and pieces of you held hostage in the old story to come and join you in the here and now where you can be whole and create a new story that speaks to who you are now and who you are becoming. A new story begs new beliefs, new choices, new identities and images, new perspectives. It’s not that you have to make up all of these from scratch (unless that’s your preference).  You are already here and you can already vision what’s next. The story you are writing is your choice. You are already on your way. You just need to lovingly and rigorously invite the outdated you to catch up.

Suggested activity:

Make a list of all of the things you own that you want to get rid of, but have not. Don’t worry about the reason for not releasing them yet, just make the list. Make sure to include items of clothing in your closets and drawers.

Add to the list all incomplete projects

Add to the list the people in your life with whom you have a wobbly relationship; not sure you are still friends, stay in touch with half-heartedly.

Add anything else that fits in similar categories for you.

After you have your list, take a broad general overview of it and ask yourself : What 2 or 3 main themes are revealed in this list? An example might be: college related, scarcity related (might need it some day), old relationships/lovers related.

Then write a brief story that is the OLD story associated with these things. Just a paragraph or two will do. This is not a literary work of art. An example might be:  High School and College Athlete that weighed 20 lbs less. Spent all his spare time training. Proud of his letterman jacket. Found his identity in being an athlete.

Then, ask yourself, what parts of me are being borrowed or held hostage by that old story? Write down those parts of you. Perhaps it is the lover or maybe it is the artist or the adventurer.  In our example, it might be the part that is disciplined and can stick to a program or is passionate or active.

Now, ask yourself, how might these parts of me serve me, if I release the old stuff and bring them into the now, to help me be whole and create a new story? Write down your findings and continue to contemplate this question for another week, preferably on a daily or ongoing basis. Notice what is showing up each day that gives you more information about this question.

At the end of the week, return to your original list and ask yourself, would I rather leave parts of me living in the past and attached to this stuff, or would I rather get rid of the stuff, complete the projects, release them and bringing ALL of me forward into my new story?

The choice is yours. I can’t say there is a right or wrong. There is definitely a difference.

Feel free to comment or email me with your discoveries!

Oh – and Sam? The boxes of books were gone from his office the very next day.

PS – “Sam” gave me permission to use his quote and use him as an example in this post.

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If this calls to you and you’d like some help with this, consider my 3 month intensive or 6 month immersion one-one coaching program. Find out more about it here: CLICK

If you are interested in an even deeper dive, consider a year long transformational journey by enrolling in my Sacred Life Walkabout. CLICK HERE

Copyright © January 2014, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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“It’s not that we fear the unknown. You cannot fear something that you do not know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known.” Anthony de Mello

Today marks one year since I moved into my place in the Sierra foothills. What a difference a year makes. I’ve traveled the four seasons here and landed back at Winter and snow again. For the most part, as long as my power stays on (I’m on a well, so it is a big deal), I am enchanted by the snow; its beauty and sublime quiet.

But, before I landed here, I had to make the decision to leave dear friends and a place I knew well that was fairly temperate, beautiful and convenient. Looking back, I find it amazing that I suffered with enough anxiety to upset my gallbladder and my sleep for two weeks before and after making the decision. What you will read below, in italics, is what I wrote a year ago November, but never published. On this first anniversary of living in my new home, it makes sense to take a look back and check in on how it feels to have made the leap. I’ll comment more on this at the end.

copyright(c)dec2013 Kathy J Loh

November 2012

I’m facing a challenge and I don’t need to give you the details, because you will likely recognize the dynamics no matter the particles. The questions are similar when we face decisions about career change, whether or not to have a child, moving, buying, selling, marriage, divorce.

When there is a challenge, I know I am at my edge, my personal frontier of movement. I enjoy traveling the frontiers of my thinking, but in physical reality, where everything is a commitment of form and solidity, I am slow to move.

Indecision is a pathway to decision and it is a detour. It depends on how you work with it.

In our multi-dimensional personality, many voices participate. Some truth is spoken by each as well as lies. I am bedeviled by the Trickster. I want to know before knowing is possible. I want “beyond the edge” to be fairly predictable and it is not.

While the heart loves and works its magic, the mind begins to question in response to the threatened body. I would be at the mercy of my mind’s paralyzing spin if I was unable to discern the energies behind the words I think. What is their source? To what are they responding?

When my heart feels sadness for leaving something, someone, or some way of being, behind, my mind wants to solve the emotional dilemma by telling me I didn’t like that thing, that person, that behavior anyway. It uses its “make wrong” technology to lighten a heavy heart. But, all it does is darken my spirit and fog my vision.

Let me simply grieve. Let me feel deeply the impact of my attachments.

Most of us really don’t change or make changes in our lives until it becomes too painful not to. I certainly hold a lot of compassion around that. We put our dreams on hold indefinitely, thinking there is always tomorrow. I hold a lot of compassion around that too.

The frontier, out beyond our edges, is vast and full of infinite possibility. It is where our dreams await us. We have, in our imaginations and desires, seeded that frontier with all we need to call us forward. What is left is for us to have the courage to leave our outgrown self-images, our old identities and old beliefs behind. We need the courage to face and be with the emotional impact of the chaos that is created by stepping over the edge; that line in the sand drawn by fear. The consciousness of the You that lives in that future already has different beliefs and identities. It has already discovered new ways. You know that, because you’ve seen it in your visions and felt it in your bones even if your personality/ego of today is blind and resistant.

First we dream and dreaming is not enough. It’s time to have the courage and take some form of action.

And so, using my free will, I enter what my current ego self perceives as “the chaos,” wave at the gatekeepers as I step beyond my edge of comfort and current knowledge.

And that is where I left off when I filed the notes away on my computer saving them for a possible blog post that, until now, never again saw the light of the computer screen.

The dilemma was, of course, whether or not to move. More than that, it was whether or not to give myself that long-cherished dream of being what one acquaintance called, a “mountain angel,” living among tall trees on a good chunk of property.

So, how did I fare after I waved to the gatekeepers and made the leap? I was blissfully happy my first several months here. I remember telling everyone that I have never been happier in my life. I don’t know what it was, but I was lifted beyond my expectations. Maybe it was the snow, the elevation, the newness, the proximity of Tahoe and the Sierra Buttes. Maybe it was my local friends and one in particular who keeps me active with snow shoeing and hiking.

Mostly, I suspect that exhilaration is what we feel when we step out into the unknown, because that frontier is the territory of heart and soul and it has been calling for a long time. When we respond to that call, we are received with “welcome home.”

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What calls to you? If you have a tough decision to make, if you have been putting off your cherished dream(s), you will benefit from coaching with me and certainly a one-year walkabout would get you over that edge and well on your way. Everyone needs support. Let’s talk about how I can be that for you. Email me at kathyloh@coachkathy.com and we can set up a time for that conversation.  Don’t wait another moment. Moments add up to years.

Copyright © December 2013, Kathy J Loh, all rights reserved, including images

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I was in conversation with a couple of friends the other day and one of them said she knew she was at a crossroads in her life, but she felt like she was sitting in a folding chair at that crossroads, not ready to choose a direction, not to mention a final destination.* I am reminded of the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken, and that he made a choice, presuming he could return and try the other path one day, but as he discovered, every choice point leads us to another and there really is no return. If you have ever gone back to your hometown, you know this. Nothing stays the same waiting for our return.

copyright (c) May 2013, Kathy J Loh

Many of us Baby Boomers, as we are called, are at a crossroads after having experienced others over the years; college or not, marriage or live together, children or not, divorce or stay, relocate , this job or that.  Now we find ourselves at a shared crossroads that has been called the Encore Years or our Third Act.

Many of us were young idealists during the Vietnam War era. We thought anyone over 30 was not to be trusted. We were wise beyond our years and more naïve than we knew. We’d only been on the planet for 15 to 25 years (well, this time around), but we felt so grown up. (“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”**) This was our beginning and the road we thought we were on was marked by the sign post Change the World.

But, (screeching halt, right hand turn), we hit a crossroads as we reached our 30s, that “untrustworthy” age, and we began to chase after the American dream of another sort, homes, money, families, symbols of safety, security and comfort. Maybe you didn’t and that’s OK, but most of us did. Our idealism was funneled into joining certain political parties, contributing time and/or money to non-profits, following a guru, taking weekend personal growth workshops or haunting the self-help aisles of bookstores.

As we approach our retirement years, our children creating their own families, we find our time and mental space is freed up. We are feeling new (or abandoned) desires emerging or re-emerging. What got left behind? What went underground or became a hobby? Was it the artist, the researcher, the adventurer, the tree hugger, the idealist philosopher?  We have become the elders and some say that many of us only incarnated for the work we are up to now in our later years – to co-create a new paradigm, participate in the Big Shift.

Elders? Yes! I’m not talking about shuffling off to a retirement home and watching TV in your studio apartment all day. I’m talking about wise mentors, guides, creators. I’m not talking about pontificating at a family gathering as everyone rolls their eyes: there goes grandpa again. I’m talking about wise elders with a resonance of being that is grounded, present, trustworthy as well as actions that are in complete alignment with your soul’s calling. That calling may be difficult to hear beneath the cynical or hopeless chatter of a weary ego that has decided long ago that anything outside its comfort zone is unattainable. It takes willingness and courage to stop, pull out that folding chair and sit a spell, be quiet, listen deeply with great patience and curiosity.

For many, the crossroads is the result of being downsized, failing health, empty nesting, retiring from a long-time career, divorce, widowhood. For others it is the simple question that won’t leave them in peace: “Is this all there is?” A sense of urgency can accompany it, especially if you are 60 and older. It’s a completely different question from the one of our youth, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” It’s more like: “ I’m grown up and closer to my end, but I might very well have a good number of years yet to live and contribute.  What still wants to happen for me to know I’ve lived a good and meaningful life and can die with few or no regrets?”

And that is the crossroads you may come to face; the one where you can choose to continue the rest of your days in a comfort zone of the familiar or embark on an adventure into unknown territory, uncertain of the outcome, becoming more familiar with an unfamiliar you.  When I say an adventure, I am not saying that you must change everything in your life. Your life may look exactly the same in form and situation, but how you perceive it, whom you are as you are living it, even how you perceive the life you have lived so far, will be different and everyone will notice.

So, I suggest that when you find yourself at a crossroads, you take your time and pull out that folding chair. There is much to be done in the sitting. I think we all too often are propelled onto a path to avoid the discomfort of being present to our inner world and our soul’s requests.  It’s so much easier and so much more familiar to just get busy doing something again. Instead, take time to be still, to review and celebrate. Heck yes, celebrate! Get out of that chair sometimes and dance around with joy for the life you have lived so far and who you had to be to live it. No one gets this far without a bruised and battered heart and that heart, broken so wide open, is raring to dance.

This is the work that my clients do with me on my year-long Walkabouts.  We stand, we sit, we dance at the crossroads together.  We take a look back and see what needs your attention.  We recontextualize your past. You set down the burdens carried to this point and make a commitment to travel lightly. We laugh, we cry, we celebrate and a new story of your life emerges. This is the truer story that can carry the more real and soulful you forward, whereas the old story might have weighed you down.

You’ll spend some time sitting in the folding chair, or a granite boulder, or on a meditation cushion, listening, contemplating, becoming deeply intimate with you, the beating of your heart, the power of your breath, the stirrings of your soul, your radiant essence, your wild nature. This sitting becomes something that gets woven into your journey of transformation. It is a time of ambiguity, of not knowing and getting more comfortable with that. It is a time where you begin to surprise yourself and discover the sheer pleasure of being a beginner again as you vision and fashion what and how you want to use your wisdom and gifts in the years ahead.

Bring your folding chair along as you embark in your chosen direction. There will be other times you will want to sit a spell while traveling further and further onto the frontiers of your thinking, your emotions, expanding your energy and your world, exploring beyond the familiar and comfortable box that has so neatly contained you all these years. This internal and external exploration begins to weave a tapestry and that tapestry is the very fabric of the new you who now engages in their world in a profoundly new way. Not so oddly enough, that means the world engages with you in a profoundly new and magical way as well.

I call my path the Wisdom Path. What path calls to you?

Discover your unique path on a year long Walkabout with me. I invite you to contact me at kathyloh@coachkathy.com   We’ll set up a phone conversation where I will answer your questions and we can explore whether or not this is the right step for you at this time, as well as whether or not we make good companion explorers.  I am only accepting 6 Walkabout clients in 2014, so it this calls to you, contact me soon.

* The metaphor of a folding chair at the crossroads was attributed by my friend to Stephen Cope, but I have been unable to locate an exact quote.

** From the song My Back Pages written by Bob Dylan, made popular by The Byrds.

Copyright © Dec 2, 2013, Kathy J Loh All Rights Reserved

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Today, I set down shame:

  • for designing my life to be mostly free of such over-rated complaints as overwhelm and too busy,
  • for creating a work week in which I get to find plenty of time for other people and being outdoors with Nature
  • for doing work that feels so much like play that at the end of a day with a Walkabout client I think “I’ve been goofing off, I need to do some work.”

Today, I celebrate how resilient and creative I am and that I am not “getting away with something.” I CREATED this.

I celebrate with intense gratitude, the beings and aspects of Nature (seen, unseen) that have been with me, loving and guiding me, every step of the way.

My life is not perfect. There’s a lot about it that is really messy and…

copyright(c) Aug 2011 Kathy J Loh, all rights reserved - flower

It is Beautiful!

What will you set down today?  (Boldly declare it in the comments/reply section below and see what happens!)

copyright (c) May 2013, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved including photo.

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Responsibility – how does that word sit with you? Does it cause you to feel expanded or contracted? I’ve decided that responsibility is an O word. What does that mean? What is the O? For some, it is a ring of fire. For others it is a wormhole to higher consciousness. What the heck am I talking about?

Think of O as a looking glass, a lens. Heck, think of it as a hula hoop if that serves.  Depending on how you view it and the way you relate to it, responsibility is (and here come the O-words) obligation, onerous, one-way, one-right-way, or it can be, for you, opportunity, options, optimization.

I’ve written about responsibility before and how we can re-resonate the word for ourselves by seeing it as our ability to respond. That works for a while. Then, something, someone comes along and we are triggered by the word, falling back again into the resonance of obligation. We feel imprisoned, victimized. We get blamed and we blame. We look forward to some illusive day of liberation equating it with “no more responsibility” and get that all mixed up with freedom.

What is the pivotal point? How can we infuse this word, responsibility, with light, love and power and beauty? (I realize that there are other cultures that will not get what the problem is at all and that’s wonderful. If you don’t have a problem with the word, carry on. You have better things to do with your time than read this.)

Emerald Lake Copyright (C) Oct 2011 Kathy J Loh All Rights Reserved

Emerald Lake, Cananda

 

In order to take responsibility for my life, my feelings and my actions, I have to recognize that I am my own authority. I am the author of my life. I create my reality. I am the cause of my effect. OK, so stuff happens, but I am at choice regarding my reaction to and action around my circumstances.

As I pondered being my own authority, I flashed back on the many ways I’ve handed my authority over to others: parents, teachers, leaders, lovers, books. Yes, books. For the longest time, if it was in print, it must be so. Go figure…

I was an eager student in search of straight A’s, in search of perfection, in search of safety, belonging, security and knowing I was loved. If I could just get the formula right, just solve the problem of me, not life, me, then I could live “happily ever after.” That’s how it works, right? Happily Ever After!

It was only last year that I truly let myself and all of my multidimensional being off the hook for straight As. I’d inadvertently eaten a gluten meal and ruined my perfect record. Like so many are fond of saying, “I’m harder on myself than anyone else is on me.” I had every opportunity to be that way with myself again, but chose differently and experienced a profound shift. Take note those of you who resonate with being hard on yourself – it’s not something to boast about, this preemptive criticizing of one’s self. It’s downright self-destructive.

Where was I? Oh yes, responsibility and authority. You know when you get a kind of aha! that’s gentle and yet profound; the kind that feels like a ping on the temple that shakes something loose in the brain? That’s what I got this past weekend at a Lucid Living workshop on the Beauty of Belonging. There is no one right answer, no one right way to live. There are a multitude of possibilities from which to choose and I am the chooser. As the one who chooses, I am my own authority. What?!! No one right choice, just the one I choose out of a sea of possibility? How the heck do we get into heaven if we haven’t found that one key for that one gate?

It all fell away in an instance. My search for the key died right then and there. But here’s the important part. It didn’t fall away because I got that there’s not one right way. It fell away because I am meeting my own needs and I am not looking to have them met out there.

I’ve spent my life being my own rebellious authority from the obligation and opposition side of the O lens of responsibility. I’ve defined who I am to myself in resistance to, comparison with and belonging among.

I’m a freedom junkie as are many of you. We hunger for freedom and I hear it in my clients all the time. I’ve written about freedom from and freedom to in other articles and posts and I have given it as an inquiry to clients,  and now, for me,  it is landing at a deeper level.

As long as I was defining myself in resistance to, I was looking to be free from. As long as I was looking to become free from, I was wearing responsibility like a noose. I was looking to be free of obligations while living in a world (that I fabricated) of obligation. Sounds suspect doesn’t it?

We can never be free as long as we are trying to be free from, because the resonance of that is one of blame, defensiveness, denial and resistance.  As we all know, what we resist, persists.  Besides, what is a rebel without a cause?

On the opportunity and options side of the responsibility lens, the resonance of freedom is not to be free from, but free to. I am free to choose, free to create, free to say yes and free to say no, free to love what I love. I am free to, because I am responsible.

What happens when we stand at that cross-roads of the choice to accept or shun responsibility can be daunting. If I am no longer in resistance to or trying to get myself free from, then I am no longer defined by my resistance. If I am no longer who I have known myself to be then who am I and what do I want, REALLY? Sit with that question for yourself a moment. How free are you to even look for the answer to that question? How much of your answer is shaped by the fact that you’ve stuffed it for so long it’s downright painful to even begin the excavation process? If you know the answer and you are not creating that for yourself, what is the responsibility you are unwilling to take?

When we know what it is we really want; when we hear our soul’s calling and take full responsibility for our lives, our reality shifts. That shift will create some manner of chaos big or small, because chaos is a necessary precursor to change. For me, this time, it will be small, because I’ve been through the big ones and I’ve done it the painful way: in resistance, getting myself out from under.

This time, I know it will be gentler and kinder, because I am gentler and kinder to myself and I have done the work internally coming to know that I belong in this world exactly as I am, in fact, more so as I am. I’ve met the enemies of the judge, trickster, debt collector and dark lover within. I’ve been mean and critical to myself. I’ve played all kinds of mind games. I’ve made myself pay for anything I could have possibly done that was wrong and I’ve tarried far too long in suffering and struggling.

I’ve learned the hard way (which is something my mom once told me is the way I seem to do it). Well, mom, Happy Mother’s Day – I’m not doing it the hard way anymore. And guess what? I’ve totally forgiven myself for all of that and include all I’ve been and done in the wholeness of my journey.

It’s a huge leap of faith, this courage of my convictions, this full on authoring of my own life without ghostwriters, this resonance of responsibility as opportunity and free to. It’s not my familiar home.  And yet, as I say that, I suspect, for the soul and the heart, it is the more familiar and truer home.

So, choose your O-words for responsibility. You already do and now, I invite you to do so consciously and lovingly.

Note 1: A huge hug of gratitude to Lucid Living (Leza Danly and Jeanine Mancusi and all my Lucid Living tribe) for guiding and loving me through the maze.

Note 2: Today would have been the 30th anniversary of my marriage which died, officially,  over 6 years ago. It seems more than appropriate that today, on this date, I would be writing about authoring my own life. Healing takes time. Healing is becoming whole. It’s worth the journey, every step of the way.

Note 3: this is my 99th blog post. Next one, #100, will be a celebration in more ways than one!

Copyright© May 2012, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved.

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From the farthest reaches of a dark passageway, at the end of which I could see the reflection of heat and flame, came a giant turning lathe.  It was not menacing. In fact it was benevolent. (I don’t even know for sure what a lathe is, but I knew it to be one). The lathe was a bit larger than me and as it approached, I heard a booming voice ask, “What do you want?”

So many pictures ran through my mind: musician, photographer, writer.  I want to live in the country, have a solid coaching career, be an artist. I want romance, love, adventure, health, to be inspired, to make a difference. I had to make a choice and I could not do it.

The lathe paused, though it kept turning in preparation, and the voice inquired again, “What do you want?”

I grew anxious. I was unable to move. I knew that whatever I picked, the lathe would create for me or even of me. Though there was a sense of urgency in making the choice, I was not in need of Superman’s intervention or rescue. The voice and the lathe were not threatening. They were patient and generous. They wanted very much to give me what I want.

I awoke in the midst of my indecision. I experienced this dream in a half-awake, half-asleep 6 am state. I laughed as my now-awake mind quipped “Is there a combo platter?” I often go to humor to release my anxiety.

Beetle, copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

Lost? (K J Loh)

Now that I am in this bigger house with plenty of room for my various activities, I am still facing the fact that there is not enough time to do everything I want to do; at least, not to the degree to which I want to do them.  As I wrote in the prior post, I am in the midst of reviewing my interests and activities (and the stuff that supports those activities that have come out of the boxes).

I’m a Gemini. I have no lack of ideas (three boxes full of little notes with ideas on them) and no lack of interests. Sometimes, I am content with simply being present to now, enjoying what I enjoy and at other times I want to really dive deep and achieve mastery at something, some one thing. I’m probably what Barbara Sher calls a “scanner.”

But the lathe and voice were not interested in combo-platters or scanning.

“Wood turning lathes never make mistakes, only kindling!”

I found that quote when I looked up “lathe” on the web. No wonder I was anxious in the dream. Picking one thing makes kindling of the rest. Aaack!

My dream-interpreting friends will advise me to become the lathe, become the voice and get their perspective. The voice loves me. The voice wants me to have what I want. The lathe loves me. It is ready to create for me whatever I ask. They are the parts of me that feel a deep desire for something. The me that faces them is the confused one. She who is feeling lost.

What I am coming to realize is that, while form matters to some degree, the deep desire, the longing in my heart is more about function. The forms of composing/playing music, photography, writing are all forms of creative expression; intimacy with words, sounds, nature, connecting with self and other. What I notice when I review my personalized combo-platter, is that the underlying function or essence of every option is intimacy.

I sat in meditation with this and discovered how lost I’d gotten along the way. As far back as I can remember (and I have memories from when I was 3), I have looked to others to know what I “should” do in life. I have followed the bread crumbs of acknowledgment, rewards and high marks. Gifted children have many talents. Not all of them speak to their heart’s desire, while too many of them speak to well-meaning parents, teachers and counselors. I had many ways I could make others happy and get their love and approval.

My own way went into hiding, deep in the recesses of my heart. For whatever reason, I felt a need to protect my desires (and me) from shame and humiliation. As a result, I’ve been a lot of things to a lot of people and mostly lost to me. People don’t know me as well as they think because so much of what I love to do, I do in solitude and in the hours that are not taken by the activities deemed as productive, useful and helpful. And, as this dream shows, even I don’t know me as well as I think I do.

The intimacy I crave has been (until now) doomed by the very behavior that was meant to preserve it.

Awakening to being lost isn’t such a bad thing. As these words unfold before me, I recognize it to be a story shared by many.

Being lost is uncomfortable. It is edgy and vulnerable. At my age, it is fodder for the “wasted-your-life” vortex. It’s also an opportunity. I intend to stay lost for as long as it takes. The voice and the lathe will wait. I know it’s about intimacy, yes, and I know it’s about Love (with a capital L).

I have been declaring my willingness to be changed by Love. I am standing still and listening. I am sitting with an open heart. I am playing with the sounds that come out of my throat. I am seeing the world up close and personal through the camera lens. I let words unfold in speech and on the paper and let myself be surprised by them. I am not able to identify myself as this or that.

I am co-creating with Love and I am not declaring the outcome. Is feeling lost uncomfortable? You bet it’s uncomfortable, agonizingly, joyfully, mysteriously, intimately uncomfortable.

Postscript: As I reviewed this prior to posting, I was struck by this: What I love about these activities and about intimacy is actually that same feeling of being lost – the taste of the infinite and timeless. Perhaps lost is where soul is found.

copyright (c) September 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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“You carry all the ingredients to turn your existence into joy. Mix them, mix them!” – Hafiz

What do three friends, a book, a dozen squabbling woodpeckers, three caterpillars, Neale Donald Waslch and Joni Mitchell have to do with each other? Anything and everything and they have all conspired to lift me to a new level of awareness. They have at once been the container and the ingredients of a personal insight. Do you have a few minutes? Here’s the story and a little music too…

There are some big changes afoot for me, big decisions to be made and I will be writing about them; revealing more as the weeks go by.

Decision making is not my strong suit, or has not been thus far. What I notice is that I will receive an incredible opportunity, get very excited and then begin the downward spiral of analysis paralysis. The rabbit that takes me down that hole is my fear of making a mistake, of being sorry I made the choice I made, finding out there was something better, feeling trapped.

Well, at least I thought that was my fear. And it is. At least it is the trunk of the tree of that fear. I got a clear insight that it was not the true fear when the first friend, Pemma, asked me “So, what if you do make a really big mistake?” I started to laugh. I didn’t know why in the moment, but I knew that the answer was simply, then I walk away and do something else. For a shining moment, my fear of making a mistake, even a really big one, had vanished, poof!

Later, my friend Joette, sent me an email and asked what the root of my fear was. I set it aside for further musing. Sometimes the mere invocation of a question allows an answer to reveal itself down the road.

Fighting Woodpeckers

Acorn Woodpeckers (K J Loh)

I stepped outside to photograph the dozen or so Acorn Woodpeckers squabbling over territory. Woodpeckers are symbolic of mental activity (red caps) and these completely mirrored my inner experience of the discord between my body, mind, spirit and heart, not to mention my higher and lesser selves. My mind was in a distortion spin cycle. Several of the woodpeckers were drumming loudly and furiously on trees and posts. Their drumming encouraged me to invite new rhythms into my life.

That afternoon, I was scanning the book The Trance of Scarcity to gather some abundance momentum, muster up some courage for risk-taking, and remind me that living small creates smaller living. Author Victoria Castle tells a story of a trip to Yosemite. She writes of wanting to take in all the grandeur and beauty on her day of departure. She tries to breathe it in, but can’t seem to hold it, to keep it. As she walks back to her cabin disappointed, she hears something rumbling deep inside.” She stops to listen and hears,

“How about if you let us absorb you?”

She then allows the majesty of Yosemite to absorb her and that is how she “knew the oneness [she] had longed for.”

Reading these words, I knew that I would not lose what I was leaving behind, if I allowed it to absorb me. I don’t have to try to pack it all into my memory or find some way to take it with me or recreate it. I can be absorbed by it and know that, in our oneness, these days, these places, these experiences, these people are always with me as I am with them.

Later, my friend Alicia held a beautiful space of mindfulness in our conversation and I got in touch with how my wounded ego uses drama to scare me; the drama and pain of good-byes. I also discovered how I make up that I need to suffer mightily in letting go to prove my love for something or someone.  It can’t look like it was too easy. Alicia reminded me to express and receive gratitude for these people, places and times and release the drama and story about goodbyes that create suffering.

Neale Donald Walsch’s message for the day read:

On this day of your life, dear friend, I believe God wants you to know…

…that when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, it

is not beneficial to go out and build more tunnel.

Cocoon/chrysalis copyright (c) April 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

Dissolved (K J Loh)

I thought of the third caterpillar that had crawled across my driveway, up the front wall of my house and attached itself a fair distance from two others, to begin its metamorphosis. When we have been through the chaos of transformation, why would we want to create more darkness for ourselves? Why would we not wholly embrace the emergence as a winged creature feeding on the nectar of life? The only answer I can come up with is fear.

I return to Joette’s question, what is the root? What is the threat my wounded ego holds over me regarding mistakes? The answer came through:

If you make a mistake I will never forgive you. I will shame you and berate you for your stupidity. I will punish you mightily.

I used to do that to myself, but it’s hardly how I am with myself now. It’s more an old habit than a current reality. It’s a flinch with no punch to back it up.  I think this is why I could see it. The root is no longer submerged in my unconscious. I am aware of my self-talk and have changed it to be more nurturing than critical.

I made a pact with myself that enabled me to move forward with my decision making process. I will love, respect and forgive myself if it turns out that I want to make a different choice in the future. I will not punish, berate or shame myself. I will make another choice and move on. I will look for the gratitude for all that the apparently mistaken choice has taught me.

You see, it’s not the mistake that feels so bad; it’s not the coulda-shoulda-woulda’s, themselves. It’s how mean we are to ourselves that scares us.

For me, this insight was an invitation to release the delusion that mistakes have to inflict painful consequences; that learning is painful and if you don’t feel enough pain, you haven’t learned much.

I awakened the next day at peace and the woodpeckers had stopped squabbling. Only the original family remained.

When we contract, we pull in our energy, our world gets small, our thinking becomes circular or numbed by habit. We become an energy vortex, sucking things in an inward spiral. We feel the pain of separateness. There is never enough of anything and at the same time we refuse and are even blind to all that is offered to us.

When we expand, our energy grows; alchemy and synthesis are available to us. The world becomes a friendlier place; even enchanting. Our thinking evolves and there is always enough. We are open and we receive. We know we are not separate.

The important thing to remember is that contracting and defending in order to create a sense of safety actually results in less safety.  It’s dangerous territory when you live with a sense of “me against the world.”

And Joni Mitchell? Where does she come in? As a post that came across my Facebook feed, it was yet another wink. Both sides now – child and adult – before and after – caterpillar and butterfly.

The aspect of me that thinks there is such a thing as a mistake or a failure thinks there is something to know about life. Something to learn that will be the ultimate key for success and happiness.

What is there to know? Hindsight is not 20/20. It’s a story.

“It’s life’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know life at all.”

And I have to say, in this moment, that feels darn good – a huge sigh of relief! The beauty of not knowing and not having to know leaves lots of room for play, exploration, adventure.

A caterpillar undergoes total dissolution in the chrysalis/cocoon. It becomes fully absorbed by its new form.

The chrysalis on my wall will be abandoned in 7 to 10 days.

I’m celebrating immersion and emergence!

What is the sound of butterfly wings clapping?

Butterfly Copyright(c)April2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

photo: K J Loh

Note: for more information about the symbolic meanings of butterflies and woodpeckers, see Ted Andrew’s Animal Speak.

copyright(c)April 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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