Devotion: Bringing the essence of every fiber of your being into this moment, presencing your energy into that which fuels the Divine Spark. In this place, I experience a nestled completeness among it all – a totality of being Grace. This is my current experience of Devotion.
Devotion has always been a challenging practice for me. Frankly as a child, I hated the idea of it. Devotion got me nowhere and nothing. Being at choice about who or what I was devoted to, well, there was no choice. Catholicism, my experience of it anyway, dictated devotion. I was supposed to be devoted to my parents, teachers, to my education, to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit; however none of this nourished my little soul.
I was told to love, honor and obey as part of a practice of devotion. I’ve never found I could love, honor or obey what or who I couldn’t trust. Not really. I couldn’t be devoted to what rang as an untruth.
I was told to trust. I learned how to warp my thinking so that I could trust even though I didn’t. I got sick, depressed, and suicidal because I taught myself not to listen or to trust my own knowing; only to trust others, regardless of their lack of honesty, integrity and lack of accountability. Listen to all grownups was the message.
When I married – the first time, though I wanted to experience devotion to my husband, that didn’t work either. In my second marriage, I was getting the hang of the practice of being devoted. I was getting out of my own way and wasn’t so fearful of letting go of fear, anger, control and manipulation. I practiced being vulnerable. It took time and attention to be present to all the ways I interfered with such a deep practice of love and then open to new ways. I feel I made progress, though, inevitably the marriage dissolved.
Only through the devotion to my children did I begin to receive the lessons taught through a practice of devotion. What is the quality of being devotion? It’s an expression of love, commitment, presencing. My whole being becomes one with this thing or being. Every waking breath serves to express the grace found in the practice of devotion.
As I’m writing, a thought arises: The practice of devotion led to the demise of my role as the primary caregiver of my children. My devotion led me to give custody of my children to their father, in service to their highest good. It was my devotion to my own truth that led me to find right livelihood and a home on the far reaches of the continent. It has been my devotion that continually leads me to be diligent and vigilant in the practice of releasing any and all unnecessary practices – actions and thinking, so I am free of all excess baggage that once I thought to be me.
I’m devoted to my clients, students and to my writing practice. It’s much the same experience as with my children. There is a thirst that is quenched, a meeting of hearts; a harmony and communion that is beyond words.
Currently I sit on my couch and come to explore a devotional practice to Oneness, Universal Source of all that is. I’m at the beginning just as I was as a young child. This time I get to choose for myself to what and to whom I bring devotion.
I believe that I lost my soul through my initial attempts at being devoted to the Church, parents, education and husbands. Because of my failings, the interpretations were that I was a sinner, that God ignored me and that I was a bad person, a bad student, and a bad daughter. Well, I understand now that devotion – true devotion — has no promises or guarantees attached. You don’t be devoted to get something in return. There’s no wining or failing.
Perhaps all of this was just rites of initiation – To experience what felt wrong and distrustful, then to undergo a process of unlearning in order to come back to the very knowing I had as a child.
I now experience the practice of devotion as a practice of being my essential self in relation to Self. It’s mindfully discovering aspects of self which are not aligned with my WHOLE, COMPLETE SELF. It’s being devoured and consumed in the Oneness, the totality of the experience.
Devoted to truth and trusting; that I can discern what is true for me better than anyone else. My devotion is to the fullest expression of my essential self through whatever I’m engaged in now. This practice of devotion is a practice of refining the facets of self that define me in all my forms. It has become a practice of only looking inward to find right-relationship with my Self, in relation to all aspects of the world.
As is inevitable, I come to this practice that is in complete juxtaposition to the practice I was taught as a child. Though saddened to have embarked on such a long and arduous journey that has it appear as if I was lost, alone and inadequate to cope with life, I am grateful for my arrival here, to this moment, as I found my way, and I found my Self.
Today is the Day!
This is the day I’ve been waiting for all of my life. Actually, it’s the day I’ve been preparing for all of my life. I thought it would be different – bands playing and a lot of whoop-ti-do. But, no; it’s just me and Gracie on the mountain, overlooking Crow Valley, clouds rolling by with the sun peeking through on occasion.
It sounds like a normal, run of the mill day, but something dramatic has shifted: I’m happy!
I used to think happy was a vacuous, mindless, blissful state. I’ve realized how much effort it takes to be happy – I mean what it actually requires is a huge amount of mindfulness.
I realize too that happy and peaceful are constants in my life. Over this lifetime, I’ve actually been creating unhappiness in so many ways – it’s ridiculous. Through imagining the future, where I hope my life will be happy and fulfilled, or remembering either when things were good or not so good; the inevitable belief underlying all my daydreaming is that something is lacking in my life.
Thinking about what I had in the past but I don’t have now, or waiting with intolerance for what has yet to arrive – well, of course I’d be frustrated, disappointed, suffering and barely surviving – not to mention full of worry and anxiety! This moment couldn’t possibly be fulfilling – could it?
I check off the items on my to-do list and wonder what value is being served by any of it. I’m finishing the re-design of my websites and wonder what’s the point! Is it really going to make a difference in the number of people who call for coaching, who buy my books or invite me to be a keynote speaker? I have no doubt that it will contribute little to my financial well-being. So why bother?
On the other hand, financial well-being aside, my life is great! And, the creative process of the website, logo, tagline and content has been a process of refining the essence of my work – the essence of me. I’ve come to define my sweet-spot in my work and resonate more clearly with the quality of the experience available when I’m in that sweet-spot. I’m now allowing myself to pick and choose my clients and students much more carefully. I have no idea whether there will be a future; and, A Course in Miracles, Oneness and other spiritual writings all say the same thing: Do what you love, let go of the attachment to the outcome, don’t worry, be happy! So, more often than not, now I’m not worrying and I’m happy!
Most of you, over the past year or so, who have been reading my blogs, know that there’s been a lot of deep work that goes into experiencing the simplicity of life in this moment. Excavating and removing lifetimes of patterns of beliefs and assumption, and all of the emotions and behaviors associated with those beliefs – well it’s damn hard work. I don’t blame people who are busy distracting themselves from personal and spiritual evolution. I say “GO FOR IT! Cause, when Spirit is ready, she will find you; and that will be the end of that! Once Spirit’s got you in her grips – well, you can’t run but you can’t hide!
I’m as creative as ever, I’m as productive as ever, and though I’d like my financial well-being to catch up with all the other ways I’m in well-being, well, it’s just a big fat be-with, and it’s a great area within which to let go, let God and continue leaping in faith. An interesting fact: Money influences our happiness by only 10%. We don’t know how little it contributes to our happiness until we have that money and find it’s not really making all that much of a difference.
This may sound depressing to many of you – because it appears as though, no matter how hard I try I just can’t get ahead. In our current paradigm, I would totally agree. However, as the paradigm shifts, the reality I once lived in is no longer the one I reside in now. I had no choice but to surrender my grip on what was, in order to embrace what is – now – in this moment. I had to let go of a belief that something was lacking in me, in my life, in the world at large. This has made room for the cultivating of awareness of a reality where nothing is lacking – in me, it or the world. In such a practice, I find peace and happiness regardless of my circumstances. And, like the Hokey-Pokey – that’s what it’s all about!
What to Do When There is Nothing to Do!
A client of mine in Toronto, Frank, is challenged in this moment with an interesting dilemma. His project is stalled due to a number of factors outside his area of responsibility. He’s in a “wait and see” place, and what he’s finding is that he’s experiencing a lack of motivation, a sense of inadequacy and he’s questioning his competence.
“Something must be wrong with me or the way I’m doing my job.” Frank says, as he’s struggling to find what’s missing in order to get some momentum going for his project. “On the one hand, I know there’s nothing for me to do but to wait for decision makers to take the next step. On the other hand, though, I keep wondering if there’s something I can do, or something I’m not doing that’s precipitating the stall. I feel unmotivated and I don’t know what to do about that.”
What Frank is calling unmotivated stems from thoughts and beliefs that arise in this period of incubation for the project. In our coaching session he and I discussed the life cycle of essentially every living thing on the planet, including relationships, corporations and projects. By viewing his project within a natural and normal cycle of being, Frank was able to draw from a reality that allowed him to take his proper place in the unfolding of his project. At the same time, he couldn’t stop himself from asking “Am I doing something wrong? What’s mine to do here? Is there something I can do to hurry this incubation period along?”
Frank’s questions are good ones. First things first, though. One of Frank’s fears is that people are going to find out or decide that he is inadequate. So, in circumstances such as the one he currently is finding himself, the first thought that comes to mind is How am I being inadequate that is contributing to the stall out this project?
Frank’s boss has acknowledged him for his leadership role in bringing the project to this level of completion. He’s been clear with him that he’s done everything he can and now it’s time to wait for others to do their part in order to bring about the next level of the cycle of the project. So, by all indications, there are no inadequacies on the part of Frank. This is one choice-point Frank finds himself at: Can he let go of his fear of inadequacy and allow himself to experience the full capacity of his competence? This is an important step in him defining himself as a leader.
The second question: What’s mine to do?, is the next step. At first, Frank could find nothing to do while waiting for others to do what’s theirs to do; however with a little prodding he was able to come up with a list of five tasks that would be valuable to consider.
- Make a list of all the smaller projects and tasks that have not been attended to while he’s been focused on the larger project and take actions towards completing them
- Take time with individual members of his team, connect with them, perhaps provide some mentoring and supervision – something he’s unable to do when caught up in the momentum of the project
- Meet with others in his company to talk about these types of dilemmas, perhaps brainstorming what’s possible to move projects like this along, as well as openly exploring what he may be missing, as well as provide support for each other when things are not going as planned
- Find projects outside the workplace that provide fulfillment when fulfillment isn’t forthcoming in his work
- Realize that he is more than the fulfillment of his project, and that he needs to explore other meaningful ways to bring fulfillment into his life.
For Frank, and so many of us, this last item is really important. We’ve forgotten that we are not our projects. We are not our degrees, certifications, job titles, our bank accounts, our successes or our failures. We are beings engaged with the life experiences we currently find ourselves in. We are here to be curious, to explore and experiment with what we know and what we haven’t yet discovered about ourselves. Fulfillment comes from courageously stepping into that adventure – for Frank, the adventure is exploring who he is in the midst of nothing to do. That’s it!
Frank’s final question: Is there something I can do to hurry this incubation period along, is also important to consider. Frank is conscientious enough to ensure that he’s doing everything he can do to keep the project moving, as best he can. He is now in the dilemma of being with patience and understanding that some things take the time they take; you can’t pull on a seedling to help move it along to becoming a tree.
This period of time is growing Frank. He too is incubating, and something is happening within him, just like his project, that, when its time, will automatically generate the beginning of the next phase of the cycle of life. This just may be the very thing required for the project to begin to get some traction. Everything is interrelated. Frank is growing the project, the project is growing Frank, and a greater cycle of growth is being generated that is way beyond our imagination. There’s more to all of this than meets the eye!
In the Pursuit of Mei-Li
Mei-Li has a Ph.D. and works for one of the biggest communication companies in the world. Originally from China, she has been in Silicon Valley, California for the majority of her adult life. Married with two children Mei-Li is very happy. However, she has been facing a very challenging dilemma for many years: Though she is happy, successful and fulfilled in her life as it is, she’s concerned that she should do more – be more.
Mei-Li observes her boss focusing most of his attention on getting ahead; she sees other women at her level of management working for the next promotion, the next level of leadership and responsibility. “I don’t want an increase in responsibility; I don’t want to work that hard; I don’t like talking with people that much that I want to move to the next level of management. But, should I want to? Is there something wrong with me that I don’t want to do that? I’m afraid there’s something very wrong with me.”
As Mei-Li shares with me over many coaching sessions, her consistency of feelings and truths about what’s true for her has me coach her to see the dilemma she is currently constrained by. On the one hand, Mei-Li loves her job and the team she manages. She has the free time she needs to be available to her children and to her husband in a way that fits best with her sense of the quality relationship she wants. She isn’t stressed and unnerved by unmet deadlines. She’s actually one of the 10% of the workforce that actually is fulfilled in her career.
On the other hand, Mei-Li’s culture married with our Western culture attempts to move people into work that isn’t their’s to do. Mei-Li watches people spend more time being people pleasers than effective employees of this company and she finds this frustrating and confusing. “People aren’t getting their work done while they are schmoosing for a promotion. Should I be doing that? The fact is, I don’t like schmoosing; I don’t like going to cocktail parties, playing golf or any of those other social things that you are supposed to do if you want to get ahead. I’m a pretty reclusive person who enjoys my life the way it is. But, I feel like I should be doing more.”
Many of us face this dilemma of being more – doing more; at the same time actually finding fulfillment in what we are doing right now. But, aren’t we supposed to want more money and power? Aren’t we supposed to want the bigger office, more contact with the more influential people of the world? Aren’t we supposed to want more?
My sense is, and I shared this with Mei-Li in our session, that what people want is to get to a place where there is fulfillment in their work and personal life – that there is balance with health and happiness. I believe that most people want what Mei-Li has. She already has it. Though the current within the corporate structure drags many people in its undertow toward some fantasy life that is wrought with a lot of what they don’t want to do and perhaps aren’t really cut out to be with, there are few who willingly choose health and fulfillment with what they have, what they do and how they be.
Mei-Li laughs as she begins to see a bigger picture – one that allows her free choice to choose for herself what’s hers to do. She laughs to hear that what people are struggling for is what she already has. She laughs as she realizes that she is presently free to choose to be happy in the life she has created and if in the future she feels inspired to grow her career toward greater degrees of leadership and responsibility, she can do that.
Mei-Li isn’t out of the current, and as long as she is in the corporate environment there will always be that field of influence. The degree to which she can stay aligned with her commitment to well-being and fulfillment in her career, the stronger her dedication and the less pull this will have on her.
Christopher, who I spoke of a few weeks ago, shared with me that if he could do anything he would work with inner city kids, teaching them math and computer skills. Then, the litany of “Why I Can’t Leave My Job and Give Up Everything I Worked For” began. There was no stopping him; the who would pay the mortgage, who would take care of my parents, I’d have to give up my addiction to Siamese cats; on and on, fully engaged in the undertow of a make believe reality, for too many, is actually real.
Mei-Li has found an eddy for now where she is out of the stream of influence by others. She is finding herself – the one she believes she has to continually pursue. It takes strength and courage to step out of the normal way of being for the sake of what we are all striving for – well-being and fulfillment in our careers. Kind of crazy when you think about it! Perhaps the pursuit of Mei-Li has come to a happy ending; right here where she has been, but now enjoying it to a much larger degree!
Yoda says “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” Wow! Think about what that would look like in the business world: Letting go of winning, power, promotions and bonuses; letting go of being right and other people being wrong; letting go of complaining, blaming and shaming; letting go of stress and worry and all of the underlying reasons for the stress and worry. What would you have left?
Christopher is a Senior Director for a corporation in Atlanta. He’s been with the company just over two years and is extremely loyal and committed to the company’s mission, to the degree that he had a physical and emotional breakdown after giving his all to the project that will inevitably make or break the company. Now, a couple of months later, he currently faces a similar dilemma – this time consciously, and this time he realizes it’s not just his body that’s on the line; it’s his soul that could be taken.
“What options do you have, Christopher?” I asked him after his complaining how things are exactly as they were those many months ago. Matter of factly, Christopher responds with “There are no options!” “Really?” I ask. “There are no options?” “Yes, there are no options,” He said: “except to revert to the old me that yelled and hollered to get people to do what they are supposed to do. That means setting myself up for another emotional and physical breakdown, and that’s not an option!”
“There are other options,” I countered. “Let’s look at them.” What I was attempting was to get Christopher to see that one of his options is to leave the company and go somewhere that may be more in line with maybe a more workable situation for him. He didn’t see leaving as an option, nor did he see letting go of everything he feared to lose as an option, either. Christopher’s perspective offered no option. He’s in a stalemate.
Yoda also said: “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” What does that mean in Christopher’s situation? By having the deepest commitment and the most serious mind, it’s easier to fully align with that which you are truly committed to. In Christopher’s case, is it the success of the company orhis own personal success and the maintaining of his reputation (He fears that if he leaves the company his reputation will be tarnished.) that’s at stake? One other thing he is committed to is keeping himself healthy – it’s not an option to sell himself to the devil again. Yet, through my eyes, it looks very much like this is happening. When someone as brilliant as Christopher has no options, he’s a dead duck. He’s given his soul away if he gives himself no options.
We’ve been trained to see the world a certain way, and it’s essential to our survival in many families, communities and business environment, so we think, to maintain that perspective, no matter what. Our minds can’t make sense of our reality if it no longer looks the way it’s supposed to. Much like Christopher, we are then faced with no options and no way to move forward, except to do what we’ve done in the past and we know that’s not going to work.
If we don’t want to lose what we are afraid of losing, our egoic self will bend and twist reality in such a way that we experience stuckness. We can feel lost in the midst of bright lights and lots of people. It’s not uncommon for people to experience mental and emotional exhaustion and breakdowns, inevitably losing more than they were bargaining for. Aren’t we a curious species?
The dilemma Christopher faces is because he has a great deal at stake. On the one hand he has his position, his credibility and all that he’s invested in this company. On the other hand his physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is deteriorating. Attempting to hang on to what he’s got will most likely mean he’ll lose everything.
Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose
Where Christopher sees no option, I see he has no options too, but from a different perspective. Unless he opens himself up to the possibilities he currently doesn’t want to see, he will lose everything. My job as his coach is to gently guide him towards what now appears to be too frightening to accept. Inevitably, he will have to choose to shift his paradigm and experience a reality that he doesn’t yet believe exists.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose
For some this process is a walk in the park; yet for others it can be experienced as a shattering. There’s nothing wrong with a shattering. A shattering is the same as a paradigm shift, it’s just way more painful in every way, you, I’m sure, have imagined. And, generally, it takes a great deal more time to recover from.
What’s right in front of Christopher is right in front of each and every one of us: the opportunity to discover what’s worth losing and what’s not. It all goes away, sooner or later. In this moment, though, it’s just a matter of choosing to choose to choose to be accountable and responsible for the consequence of the choices we make. I hate that part as much as most people do. I want it all good and all easy. When it’s not, I don’t want to look at options I don’t want to take. I’ve learned though that my life isn’t worth living if fear is the only conductor on this train. I’m listening to Yoda and other spiritual teachers in order to create a life worth living. Christopher will make a similar choice, I have no doubt.
Not losing is a no-win game.