Archive for the ‘Embodiment’ Category

Adjusting Expectations

July 23, 2010

This was to be my summer.  I had spent several years meticulously re-habbing several nagging injuries.  I had gained strength and set ambitious goals for climbing, biking and mountaineering.  Then one little moment changed that.  I was on a climb in Squamish when I pulled and twisted in an awkward movement.  At that moment my summer, and my plans, were changed.

The injury isn’t severe, but enough so that I was in bed for a week and now slowly nursing myself back to health.  At first I was really bummed.  What about all my goals?  I had worked so hard…blah, blah, blah.  I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and rather depressed.  Then it hit me.  The source of my suffering lay in my expectations.  If I had different expectations then I would have a different experience.

So, I have adjusted my expectations.  I have set more modest goals and I am choosing to see this as an opportunity to become more at home in my body, to learn to listen to the signs/symptoms of what it is telling me.  I am still disappointed by what I won’t be doing this summer, but the sting of those disappointments is greatly reduced.  And I am welcoming the opportunity to achieve some of my other goals…like learning to slow down and enjoy relaxing in the hammock and reading a good book!

This reminds me of a quote that I have on my wall….

This is the way to your inner most home:

Close your eyes

And surrender.

~ Jalalludin Rumi

Questions: What expectations (explicit or implicit) do you have that are creating suffering for you?  What/who is the source of those expectations?  Are those expectations serving you?  What do they produce?

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Look how much we have lost

May 18, 2010

We have just returned from leading a 10 day Leadership Journey to Ecuador (http://www.ascentinstitute.com/news/tlj.html).

Christina and John chatting in Puanchir's home (c)2010 Scott Stout

At one point during our journey we were sleeping under mosquito nets on the uneven dirt floor of the village shaman’s house, deep in the Amazonian rainforest.  In the morning, I was chatting with our Ecuadorian guide Christina when she said something that landed with a profound impact: “Look how little they have; look how much we have lost.”

Puanchir, Ishpingo village, Achuar Territory, Ecuador (c)2010 John M. McConnell

To put that statement in context: we are in the home of Puanchir, a man whose entire collection of belongings adds up to less than any one of us has brought with us for a two day visit.  He began his life as a warrior, fighting to protect his family from nearby marauding tribes.  He was present when the first missionaries arrived, bringing with them medicine, education, religion, and the radical change of moving from scattered home sites into small villages.  He went on to become the village healer, learning the traditional ways of using plants and ancient ceremonies to heal mind, body and spirit.  His village is on a dirt airstrip where light planes occasionally come and go, but he has never left the rainforest, nor seen the ocean, a town, or even a mountain.

Despite these drastic changes (all in one lifetime!) he remains fiercely committed to preserving the traditional ways, yet open to the knowledge and benefits of what the developed world offers.

Puanchir generously offered to share his home and to do a ceremonial healing for us, and he welcomed our support for his own physical ailments (he is in his 70’s but doesn’t know his exact age as there were no calendars during the first 1/2 of his life).  He has had essentially no “western” health care in his lifetime.

Puanchir does spend every single day with his family.  His life is sustainable and in harmony with his surroundings.  He works when he needs to and he naps/relaxes whenever he chooses.  He is so attuned to his body and the natural rhythms of life around him that he can sense animals and insects without seeing them.  He can hit a banana at 10 meters with the dart from a 10′ long blowgun.  He is committed to preserving the natural environment, not as an abstract idea but rather because he knows that a healthy environment is essential to a sustainable future. For everything and everyone.

He knows the legacy he is leaving for his family and village.  We witnessed him coaching the young men from the village with a balance of his fierce commitment to preserving the traditional knowledge and a patient and loving presence.  Most importantly, and despite the fact that at his age he lives with constant pain, the biggest gift that Puanchir gave us was his laughter.  We couldn’t help but join the giggling whenever he started to chuckle.  Some forms of human communication are universal and need no translation.

No one, least of all me, would suggest that we abandon our modern homes and move into thatched huts.  Yet I do long to experience and be much of what Puanchir has in his life.  Deep daily connection with family and community.  Knowing clearly his purpose in life.  Peace with who he is and who he isn’t.  Freedom from the damaging myth that we are independent — he knows we are all one.  Understanding that he already has enough.

***More posts re: our Journey to Ecuador coming soon.***

For more pictures of our journey visit: http://homepage.mac.com/jmac999/JourneyEcuador/index.html

Leadership Journey to Ecuador 2010, Ishpingo, Ecuador. (c)2010 Virginia Rhoads

Human DOING

December 10, 2009

[Post by John McConnell]

I have been going full tilt now for several months.  Really fully engaged in my work, my play, my family, my life.  It feels really good.

Yesterday I was scrambling to pull together the final details for our first newsletter, while packing for a trip to California, while attending to few client needs, while planning my holiday gift buying, while…. you get the picture.  Sound familiar?

On the one hand I love it.  I am so plugged in right now.  Generating, learning, sharing, doing, checking things off the list….  On the other hand, I think I lost the OFF switch.  As I boarded the plane I pulled out my laptop thinking “if I can just get one more thing done…”  And then I stopped.  And I FELT IT.  That state of being where I am no longer BEING, but rather stuck in the DOING mode.  I am a HUMAN DOING!

So what did I do?  I finished that one thing.  I kept pushing, even though some part of me was saying, “whoa, its time to slow down for bit.”  And I’m doing it right now.  Posting this blog as my last action before going into a 3-day training to continue my own personal and professional development.  I am choosing that.  Given what I am committed to right now it feels right to me.

That said, I know I am close to the point where I will lose the ability to CHOOSE.  I’ll be stuck in GO/GO/GO mode.  Historically I know that I’ll do that until something makes me stop.  Usually for me that involves getting hurt or sick.  So, I take a moment to breathe.  Stretch my shoulders.  Soften my eyes and brow.

Doing is so seductive.  Yet whatever I get done there will be another thing to do.  Fortunately, the training I am going into will help me slow down.  I am committed to slow down.  Do a Sudoku, take a nap, take a walk, take a bath.  Call my wife and tell her I love her.  It is time for me to bring my BEING self back to life.

How about you? Are you choosing your pace of doing or is it choosing you?  What are the unintended consequences your current pace?  How are you balancing the doing with the being?  What action or inaction might you do for a few minutes or a day to slow down, recharge, renew?  What little actions can you take in the midst of the doing?  My favorite on-the-fly techniques are: pause and take a deep breath; soften my eyes/brow; smile; think about something or someone I love; remind myself that I really do have all the time I need.

By the way, the project I was working so hard to push forward is our announcement of our new website and our latest offerings.  You can check it out here: http://www.ascentinstitute.com/news/ascent-news-2009-dec.html

We invite you to join us!

Astronauts

December 5, 2009

[Post by John Kanengieter]

“So this Russian Cosmonaut, and an Italian and American astronauts go into a bar…..”   Sounds like the start of a bad joke, right?

I’m writing this while on a flight home to Wyoming from Houston where I just spent 2 days in quarantine at NASA’s Johnson Space Center with an International Space Station crew.  I enjoy working with leadership teams in high-risk environments. The four of us engaged in an intensive team development and leadership session.  I laughed, commenting that living with them sounded much like the start of a bad bar joke as they were representing the afore mentioned countries.  It was a great experience and we all gained from working with each other on the dynamics of creating great teams.

One of the aspects we talked about was leadership practices while under stress. We discussed how they tend to react and communicate under stress and crisis.  I observed them as they prepared for an emergency crisis simulation that they would be put through by NASA later in the day.  I reminded them of the importance of calming oneself by slowing down and creating a stillness in the mind.

At the Ascent Institute, we work to teach this as a ‘leadership practice’.  It’s important to consistently practice this skill-whether you call it meditation, sitting, deep relaxation, etc- so that when your body and emotions hit the stress redline you can focus on what’s important and not react and be controlled by fear and aggression. Leaders especially need this focus and centeredness as they move through adversity.

…..

Now..…I mentioned I’m writing this on a plane.  Just an hour ago an alarm sounded and the pilot mentioned that we were diverting to another airport in Cheyenne in order to land as quickly as possible and get this checked out.  Apparently a sensor went off indicating that the door could open and lose pressure and that’s evidently not a good thing on a plane.  It didn’t help that two passengers near the front said they heard a bump just prior to the alarm.

While making the quick descent I noticed our small cabin went quiet and I started to see some white knuckles.  I felt my own breath quicken.  It was at this moment that I was reminded of the words that I spoke to my astronaut friends.  I shut my eyes, started focusing on my breathing and noticed my anxiousness literally flying out of my body.  We landed, smart guys fixed the light, and we’re now on our way.  By the time you read this I’ll have already been home in front of my fireplace, enjoying the stillness of the Wyoming winter.

Take a minute and create your own moment of stillness. Refocus on what you want to accomplish today. Be thankful for this wonderful life that you have.  Let whatever stresses you presently are feeling be put into perspective.  Try to do this on a daily basis and watch what happens!

Happy flights!

Johnny K

Johnny K back in his office in Lander, WY.

Reflections from the Rainforest

December 4, 2009

[Post by Virginia Rhoads]

I recently co-lead a journey deep into the Amazonian rainforest.  We immersed ourselves into this living, breathing corner of the planet and had the rare opportunity to interact with an indigenous tribe.  Here is an excerpt from a journal entry I made after my first encounter with the jungle and the Achuar tribe……

Stillness… deep stillness… inner quiet allows me to hear so many sounds, chirps, burps, creaks, shrieks, bellows, whirrs, flutters, mutters, snaps, cracks…. Leaves falling down and these are leaves the size of the top of a coffee table… always falling and falling yet there is no deep layer of rotten things… only growing and growing… so much growing… the vines from above and draping down all around me… and the earth below my feet reaches up to itself above my head…

The depth and the darkness of the Achuars’ eyes, and the light therein… always just a split second away from great laughter and mirth… such a presence… only the present to be in, observing, being, and such laughter… all us sacred… the Directions are already called and have been in our service and we in theirs since time before time and will be so long after we have departed… regardless of what has been and what is to come…

Nature has timed her downfalls perfectly… for all of us… for our initial entrance into the forest and the first tippy canoe ride up river… for the long afternoon of resting and yoga to the sounds of rain unlike any of us have ever seen or heard or been cleansed by… the cacophony of sounds and sights, and the uncanny birds who flaunt their calls and their wings and their flight for our joyful witnessing… all we are to do is to keep the channel open and keep breathing… in and out and in and out… to keep paving, without pavements, the way to begin to hold it all and at the same time feeling so full in our eyes and ears that we also are aware of how thirsty we all are for all of this to integrate into our bodies our skins our lungs…

The pre-dawn rituals… such a sacred space that begins all of their days at a time when most of us would still have called night, is their morning… good morning begins at 3am and well, why wouldn’t it… a fire that is every day sacred … and they are we and we are they… what you see, is you… what I see, is me…

The heartache in listening to Achuar being spoken and the call and response and the beauty and strength and power in the exchange… a dance of beingness… a dance of power and deep connection to the sacred that is the everyday…

Listening to the Call… opening myself up to hearing this Call, to being this Call without blame or shame or embarrassment or wishing or begrudging or anything other than just allowing it to build and flow and then to receive it and to keep expanding to hold it all and at the same time to rejoice and share and marvel at the opportunity right here right now… all there is to do is to be Life, to engage and listen and then step in and step into and keep breathing and embracing and speaking …

Virginia in Amazon rainforest.

Declaration in Action

November 2, 2009

Arriving at the rock climbing gym a few days ago I found myself wondering what role fear would play in my climbing on this night.  Fear is a relevant and necessary part of climbing for all climbers.  At times it takes center stage and limits my ability to climb at my best.  Other times I am able to center myself such that the fear is simply in the background helping me stay alert to risks, neither limiting my abilities nor my enjoyment of the experience.

As I walked into the gym on this particular evening a crystal clear thought popped into my head.  “Tonight, I will climb without fear.”  This simple commitment set the stage for my evening of climbing.  At the beginning of each climb I repeated this mantra in my mind.

From this commitment I noticed that I moved more gracefully, breathed more freely, and remained relaxed in the midst of the efforting.

At one particular junction I was faced with a move that felt a little dicey.  A fall from here would be a bit scary and the holds felt tentative and difficult.  Typically at a spot like this my attention would go to my fear (“this hold doesn’t feel too good…a fall from here could be bad…I could just stop and rest on the rope…”).  Instead, the commitment “I will climb without fear” rang in my mind and I returned my attention to making the move.  Absent the hesitation and “monkey mind” that happen when I focus on my fears I moved decisively upward, easily making the move.

After I lowered off the climb both my climbing partner and I noticed that I had climbed with unusual grace and power.  The big grin on my face said it.

A simple declaration.  A powerful result.

Question: What simple declaration will call forth your best self and focus your attention on what you are committed to?  This could be a larger commitment like “I am a commitment to being an extraordinary leader.”  It could be very concrete: “I am a commitment to doubling my gross income.”  Or it could be something simple like “I am a commitment to having fun and laughing today.”

Banks Lake DWS

Deep water soloing (climbing over water), Banks Lake, WA.

Never stop learning

August 11, 2009

Learning is life.  Aliveness.  We are either learning, growing, evolving….or contracting, decaying, withering.  I’m not talking about learning a new tidbit while watching TV.  I am talking about stepping into discomfort, doing something you aren’t (yet) good, developing some new perspective or capacity.  All for the pure joy of feeling alive and thriving.  Draw a picture, learn an instrument, walk in your back yard and pay attention to the birds that live there, pick up a few words of your neighbors primary language, research something interesting on the web, learn to juggle.  It doesn’t matter what it is so long as you are learning.

When I was a kid one of my idols was Ringo Starr of the Beatles.  I wanted to play drums like I wanted to breathe.  I just had to.  For my 8th birthday my parents bought me a real snare drum.  They hired a college kid to give me lessons.  And guess what?  I discovered I have no natural sense of rhythm (something my wife will attest to when we hit the dance floor to this day!)  Learning felt painful, I wasn’t going to be the next Ringo Starr.  So I quit.  As I quit many other things that didn’t come easily or naturally.  Learning can be hard, scary, embarrassing or just plain boring at times.

But here is the thing.  All the research into brain development says that learning is critical for our health, joy, vitality, and overall well being.  Not long ago it was thought that the brain stops developing once we reach adulthood.  Now we know that simply is not true.  Our brains and bodies, our hands and our feet, they are all just longing to develop new neural pathways.  The process of learning keeps us young and vital.  And in order to learn we must develop our commitment and ability to step into the discomfort of doing something we aren’t already good at.

Learning is life.  Aliveness.  Just do it.

Questions:  What have you always wanted to learn?  What skill, language, idea or arena of knowledge have you thought would be fun or interesting?  For the sake of what would you continue to learn and grow?  How would you assess your ability to step into discomfort for the sake of learning something new?

I AM a blogger…now

July 27, 2009

I have been thinking about blogging for awhile now.  I kept thinking, “I would like to write a blog.”  And, “I should really write a blog.”  And then there was “I’m really going to try and blog.”

But the fact is, I had never written a real blog, so it was just an idea.  It wasn’t who I AM.  The words in my head were a combination of “wish-ing” and “should-ing.”

While trying to get myself to write today, I had an epiphany.  My story of who I AM in this world includes “not a blogger.”  And that story creates my reality.  And I can change that.

Then I remembered why I want to blog.  To be known, to share who I am and what I am up to.  To inspire, to listen, to learn, to move and be moved.  That sounds fun.  Less like work…more like play.

So, now I AM a blogger.  Expect to hear from me.  From the heart.  Sharing what I’m learning and experiencing.

My Question: Who are YOU?  What is your story about who you are and who you aren’t?  Is that story serving you?  If not, what story would you write about yourself?  If you “want to run more” consider changing your story from “I am someone who struggles to stay in shape” to “I AM a runner.”