Archive for the ‘Visioning and Vision Quests’ Category

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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I can’t even remember if I was sitting at my computer desk or walking toward it when this happened.  What I do remember is hearing a very loud sound, looking out the window and seeing  a 100+ foot oak tree falling toward me. It hit the ground, branches bouncing around, and ultimately came to rest pressed into my window like an impetuous “please don’t leave me” lover’s embrace. The canopy was so wide it completely darkened a second window at the other end of the room.

The rest of the general story is fairly predictable. My landlords were quick to respond and the details that are generally left up to those who own property were in their hands; assessing damage, contacting tree services, etc. All around there was gratitude for the limited damage and the fact that no one was hurt.

This left me with the freedom to explore and play with it as a sign of some sort; to imbue the event with meaning, as is my nature.  I’m aware that some people prefer to see it as: a tree fell, end of story, move on. I can see it that way too. I choose not to. I choose to live in a more enchanting world. I have been deepening my relationship with Nature for a long time and animals in particular have become lively and important messengers for me. I go to stands of trees to find healing and comfort. We have “conversations.”

Old Vista with Oak (K Loh)

When the oak stood tall (K Loh)

Fallen Oak (K Loh)

Fallen Oak (K Loh)

The lease on another oak’s life is up as a result of the threat it poses by being so close to the house. It will be taken down because of its potential. I could not help but cry about that during my evening meditation; grieving the trees. At the same time, two pines, about 10 and 20 feet, are about to get a break as they no longer stand in the shade of the oaks.

I thought too of how the squirrels have been working so hard to collect their winter’s stash. I didn’t see them yesterday, but today I noticed they’ve already determined their new commuter route. They don’t pause for a moment to complain about the loss or the inconvenience (unless they do). They simply do what must be done and continue “squirreling away” for the cold months to come.

As I waited for the tree “morticians” to show up and improvise a requiem from chain saws and chippers, I wondered what happens when Cosmos decides that it has outgrown the form of an oak tree? Where does the energy go? What will be the new form? Chipper shred or something else? We see the tree, we see the chips and firewood, but there is something else we don’t see. Cosmos is always unfolding and moving and re-forming.

This week, the Tarot of the Spirit card upon which I’m meditating (as part of my class with Lightning Spiral Mystery School) is Seven of Wind – Many Tongues. There is change afoot. Articulation eludes us as we move into a new consciousness. Old structures need to give way as they, fashioned from an old perspective, no longer serve. It makes me ask: how can my mind, having created those structures as a mirror of itself, fathom a new one? What’s coming?

I am in that place between knowing and knowing anew. I have a sense, I have intuition, but I don’t yet have the words. The energy that was the oak tree and outgrew it is moving on and showing up in some new form, but I don’t know what. All I see is the fallen oak.

What comes with the fallen tree is the opening of a new vista. I can now see the previously hidden stands of redwoods and there is more sky which means more light, fuller sunsets, more moon and more stars.  The birds and squirrels will be farther from my view having moved to the trees further down the hill.

A friend and colleague drew an angel card for me, regarding this event. She drew Aspiration which indicated it was time to set my sights higher.  Now I have the vista and sky to do so and it may require the toppling of some structures.

This tree fell directly at me and if I crawled out my window, I could crawl directly down its branches to its main trunk and straight on down to the unearthed root ball. I can make up that a great groan of “done-ness” has arisen from its roots and shot straight up the trunk to me, entered into my field of awareness and left me with that same energy. All the things I am reticent to release, from beliefs to old stories to the stuff of clutter, are gathering, energetically, in me into a full surrender roar of enough!

It’s edgy business, this being done with no sense of what’s to come. There is no new structure already built and in place for me to inhabit and by which to live. I’ve purposefully invoked the unknown, the Mystery and here it is; a big gaping hole in the space where once a mighty oak stood; a hole where the light can now shine and from which the stars can be viewed.

I am setting my sights higher, wider, deeper,  broader. I’m setting my sights and getting insights; familiarizing myself with the lay of this new terrain and feeling incredible gratitude for the Beauty we call Nature. In these ways and so many others, I allow myself to be enchanted an  in-formed by a fallen oak.

Copyright (c) October 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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A wonderful comment from Shulamit on yesterday’s post, Vision Quest: Vision Story, took me on a little brainstorming venture.  The conundrum she presented is what to do when you are talking with clients or students about their visions, asking them what they want and getting the response, “I don’t know.”

There are a number of ways (and please feel free to post your own in comments) to respond to “I don’t know” such as:

  • If you did know, what would you know?
  • What don’t you know?
  • What do you know?
  • Is it that you don’t know or something more like you are afraid to know, what’s the point because you believe you can’t have it anyway, etc.
  • What is it to know?
  • How would you know that you know (or what has you sure you don’t know?)

That would be a conversation around knowing and not-knowing that might be fruitful if this person consistently responds with “I don’t know” regardless of the question and you know it’s not about stalemating you.

Where are you going? (Kathy Loh)

Where are you going? (Kathy Loh)

What draws my creative attention is the ways we might assist those who really want to know what they want and are just beginning to allow themselves to explore it.

Here are some ideas (again, please feel free to add yours to comments):

  • Make a list of all the things you know you don’t want and then restate them as what you do want.
  • Gather images from magazines, papers, websites that evoke a feeling of “I’d like to have that” or “I’d like to be that”  in you.
  • Gather quotes and lines from poems and songs that make you feel wonderful.
  • Remember one or more peak experiences vividly and savor it/them. What was it about that time?
  • Set the stage for full possibility by creating a scenario in which all material needs are met and then ask what you want.
  • Clear out what you think you should want: what is it politically, spiritually, socially correct for you to want? And now, what do you want?
  • Clear out what you think you have to do to make others happy: What do your parents, spouse, teachers, children want you to want? And now, what do you want?
  • Create a scenario of your perfect day and if it seems too limited, then create the perfect week. These will show you a lot about what you want.
  • Have an internal tea party with your inner cast of thousands. There are two gatherings I enjoy having: (1)child, adolescent, young adult, adult, higher self and gremlin (2) body, mind, spirit, heart. It’s fascinating to see what each has to say and to find the alchemy of their alignment.
  • Take time in nature to just be and to hear your own voice rather than the buzz of the world.
  • Create and do visualizations that help you step into what you want and unfold your vision.
  • Get out post-it notes, post-it flip charts and lots of colored pens. Write down, draw, make mind-maps and clouds of all that you love and put them on the wall. Let yourself steep in them for awhile and see what comes up as a picture for how they all come together. (see my earlier post:  Dawdling un-rule #4 from June 29, 2009)
  • Imagine you are lying on your death-bed and you are looking back over your life. What do you want to see as the life you lived and the person you were while living it?
  • What is the legacy you want to leave, whether as an individual or as a business – how will the world or a demographic be better because you followed your bliss?
  • Step outside yourself by asking a tree, God/Goddess/Angels, your pet, a flower, etc. to speak for you and see what it/they say.
  • Play with perspectives: choose 6 to 8 different objects in your space, randomly, and let each one somehow be a symbol of what you want. Play with the metaphors that come to mind.
  • Do some deep breathing and drop into your heart. What does your heart know that you want?
  • Ask some body part – I’ve often gotten great results asking, “What does your left big toe know about that?”
  • Get into the body, become a firmly rooted tree…feel the roots going into the ground and the branches stretching and reaching for the sky. What do you know now?
  • Play with the elements: If you were the wind (water, earth, fire) what would you want?
  • If all you get is images that don’t seem to make sense (elephant, sunflower, raft on the ocean) play with it as a message from your intuition. Be patient. It may take time to unfold the message.

This is just the beginning. From here, I would coach a client around why they want it and why they don’t want it. I’d also work with them regarding values and passions to see where they are honored and not. When we work with visions and the question “What do you want?”, we inevitably bump up against a big tangled mass of limiting beliefs, fundamental choices and unmet needs that begs for  unraveling.

Visioning is an iterative process.  Our visions are meant to evolve with us. So whether you write a vision story, vision statement or create a vision board, you will likely want to revisit it on a regular basis (suggesting here an annual vision retreat) so that it keeps pace with who you are becoming.

More on visioning is coming in future posts, including creating a vision story, group visioning and a bit on the ever-popular vision board.

For today, I  leave you with this inquiry:

Imagine you are taking your final breath and you are conscious enough to be able to see your entire life behind you.

What do you want to see (and know) you did; who do you want to see (and know) you were as a person?

What will have you say “I’ve lived a good life and I’m complete?”

Then look at your life today as feedback (without judgment, simply with curiosity) and ask:

How is my life in alignment with my answer to those questions above (and how not?)

Congratulate yourself for your success, for certainly you will find you are in some ways, or many, in alignment.

Then give yourself the gift of taking one small step toward creating, enhancing or rewriting that vision and one small step toward making it happen.

Happy Visioning!

PS If you want help creating, re-tooling or coaxing your vision, hop on over to my website (see sidebar) for contact info.  I’d be happy to talk with you about a short-term vision coaching arrangement.

Copyright(c) October 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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“Is the life I’m living the life that wants to live in me?” – Parker Palmer

(I’ve not been posting very regularly. That’s not new for me. I don’t subscribe to the “rule” that one must post to their blog at least four times a week. After a full morning of journaling, meditation and a hike, there’s not often time for me to write the kind of posts I like to write. And, this month something more is up for me.)

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the Tarot Pilgrimage I attended in January. It’s a day-long event with Pamela Eakins of Lightning Spiral Mystery School where we go through an intuitive process and draw one card for each month of the upcoming year. My card for October is a very special card called The Secret Card.

I’m also studying the Tarot seven cards this month. So, I asked Pamela for guidance in working with both of these at the same time. She advised me to create a vision quest for myself.

Then I met with friend and colleague, Robin Jones of Success Becomes You who is assisting me with my marketing plan development. His first assignment was to review the vision story I wrote for my original plan in early 2004.

OK – I get the message: Vision Quest!

Visioning and imagination are gifts of mine. It’s not hard for me to imagine a wide range of possibilities and fill in each and every one of them with a finely focused vision.  Where I have trouble making distinctions is between what I can see and what I really want.  After a day of working on a vision story, I will find myself crawling into bed with the thought, “Do I really want that? Wait…what about…?”

I pulled out my old vision story from 2004. It was delightful and tough to read. The people included in it have completely disappeared from my life. While I’ve grieved the loss, I also know that it was meant to be. I’ve achieved some of my goals and dropped others entirely.  I have changed and so has my focus.

What surprised me most was the wording; how small I was holding myself while supposedly “dreaming big.”

For example I wrote: “I have achieved a balance of working for enough income to support my lifestyle, which is comfortable and not extravagant and time to work on my own creative projects, some of which produce income and some of which do not have to produce anything other than satisfaction of self-expression.”

You might ask, “What’s wrong with that?” Here’s what I notice.

  • It implies work and living my life are separate entities to be put upon a scale so as to get equal attention.
  • It assumes work is less pleasurable than and something other than living.
  • It assumes there is no freedom in working.
  • It exposes a belief that I can only expect to make so much money as a payoff for this balance and puts an unspoken ceiling on the amount.
  • It also strives to protect my creative output from being work or anything other than self-expression.
  • It exposes my belief that my creative activities cannot support me on their own (starving artist with a day-job syndrome).

Bottom line: it says, “Don’t expect too much.”  It’s a hedge against disappointment and, I suspect, since we did this in a group workshop, a hedge against looking like a failure if I don’t achieve my goals or looking like an idiot for thinking I could achieve more; that I might have that much to offer.

A place to contemplate (Kathy Loh)

A place to contemplate (Kathy Loh)

Writing a vision story is a brave and vulnerable act. We are saying to ourselves and the world, out loud and in print what we really, really want from the bottom of our all too often scarred and hurting heart.

We are saying, “This is what I love to do, the passion that calls to me and the beauty, the love, the joy, the fulfillment I want to experience every day. Here’s the meaning, the inspiration, the laughter I want to bring to others and my life and I want to be paid for it. I get to have full faith that I will have a roof over my head and food on the table.  I dare to dream that doing what I love is not a sacrificial act upon the altar of food stamps and welfare.  I am declaring out loud that what means the most to me is valuable and that the pursuit of that life I’m dreaming is not only possible; it is a birthright. I dare to believe that following my bliss is my greatest legacy.”

In other words, we are saying:  I matter.

When I can say I matter, then I have to own responsibility for my impact.

When I own responsibility for my impact, I can stop reaching for control or a sense of false power with manipulation. I can stop blaming others and circumstances for my reality.

I get to start PLAYING.

This is huge …read it again.

I get to start PLAYING in the mystery, because everything now is just feedback. It’s not about me being worthy or unworthy, good or bad, better than less than.

When I become responsible for my impact and I am playing in the mystery and everything is just feedback, then I am ever more consciously creating my reality. I say consciously because we are creating our reality all the time and a lot of it unconsciously.

So here’s the jist of my vision story. It’s called evolution, because it changes as I grow. I don’t know what the end looks like. I only get this picture of doorway after doorway opening up and the hallway I’m traversing is in the midst of some huge galaxy in the middle of an ever expanding universe.

The balance I am looking for is mindfulness and checking in with myself now and now and now each step of the way.  What matters to me as I travel is whether or not I am in alignment with my bliss and how I am relating to my fellow travelers; am I honoring, loving and valuing myself and extending that same generosity and compassion to all living creatures?

That’s the starting point for my vision quest and my vision story.

What’s yours?

copyright(c) October 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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