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Archive for the ‘Old Story – New Story’ 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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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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