Archive for the ‘overcoming fear’ Category

Ode to Serena and the Mastery of Power

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Serena+Williams+04

I’m a big tennis fan, and so Wimbledon on TV was a bonus during this time of recovering from foot surgery. Feeling rather powerless and in need of some inspiration, a second bonus was spotting the invisible battle going on while Serena was winning the singles championship at 33.

Watching the outer battle…I mean, wow. The woman is a national symbol of the potential for feminine power. I remember watching her play with her sister when they were teenagers, the only black feminine faces in a privileged white sport. Not only have they both risen through the ranks, Serena has navigated the politics of sports, become an international star, and now has maintained and surpassed herself. She has overcome injuries, illness, inevitable aging, incredible competition—and is dominant in the world of athletics. That’s power.

Still, in her final match I watched her battle the personal demons that have come out to haunt her on international television in the past. As she admitted in her interview, her biggest challenge is not physical, but mental. Despite all her achievement, training, hard work and success, mastering herself is the hardest work of all.

I have compassion for her in this struggle. Tennis was my sport, and my biggest enemy was myself. I could rip myself apart faster and more viciously than any critic could have managed. I never did master myself through the crucible of tennis.

Watching Serena reminded me of the Hindu story of Arjuna, Krishna and the chariot. Lord Krishna drives a chariot onto the battlefield and Arjuna is a passenger seated in the back. Arjuna represents the embodied individual soul and Krishna, the higher Self– going into the midst of a battle between the armies of our “lower nature” and our Divine nature, on the inner battlefield. The reins are the mind, the horses the senses. And the whole operation works depends on collaboration between them all. (https://chandrugidwani.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/the-significance-of-the-chariot-with-krishna-and-arjuna/)

I saw Serena’s real battle was to harness and channel the huge power she has amassed. It can be used, like all power, for destruction or for good. The bigger the power and the more fully we enter the bigger area, the more intense the tension gets. Looking through my lens it was not, “Will Serena beat Garbine Muguruza?” as much as it was “Will Serena let Arjuna keep the reins?”

Under pressure, we are all tempted to regress into the habit of allowing our ego or smaller self to grab those reins, triggered by whatever bugs us the most. When Serena’s serve goes sour, it must feel like her power is betraying and eluding her. Her ego must want to scream out obscenities and try to force the issue.

The maddening thing is, the opposite is required. The real battle is to create enough quiet to remain the neutral witness, to listen to higher instruction, to trust that magical flow is just outside our reach, possible once again if we relax and allow it. Letting go over forcing the chariot. Trust over fear.

It’s a mighty challenge for every one of us, collectively and individually. And at the top level of sports, we see the truth: that in a battlefield where every top player has already achieved top fitness, strategy and skill, it comes down to the inner stuff.

What we’re all after is Realization, or whatever you’d like to call it. Peace, happiness, joy, flow. We’ve all had it, and we’ve all lost it. Every one of us is on that battlefield and the skirmishes won’t stop, whether we’re playing on a tiny neighborhood court or in the halls of Washington.

Who’s driving your chariot, or piloting your plane? Are you even acquainted with that higher Self? You’ve met her in those moments where the magical flow just swept you along through difficulties you didn’t think you could master. That’s what I’d call your Arjuna, your Divine Self. You could just call it The Friend. I call it Big Pam, as opposed to Little One.

How can you allow the Friend to take the reins again? Well, I think the first step is always, Just STOP. When anger or panic or pushing or striving or forcing has got you by the throat, just STOP.

Now breathe. Just breathe right into the feeling, wherever it lives in your body. Give it a chance. Give it a little space, a little pat. It’s just your own private angry toddler. Surely you won’t let it drive. You know how that ends. DUI’s or worse.

Now ask. Ask your Self, your heart, for help driving this unruly vehicle. Ask, and it shall be given. Maybe you won’t win the match. But you will have practiced your power serve. You will be one step closer to what I see Serena mastering: authentic power.

Finally, thank your inner Self, your master charioteer. Serena thanks her Jehovah God, which used to annoy me. But now I get it. “It is His strength I rely on,” she confessed. You can call your charioteer Joe if you want, or Delilah. But when you have surrendered the reins and harvested the reward, give thanks and then try to keep doing that.

Your inner crowd will stand up and cheer.

 

Who is Piloting You Now?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

flyLast night I presented on the Flying Lessons system for navigating challenges, discussing this with a women’s consultants group in Tucson. As usual these days, we began our discussion by agreeing that these are complex and turbulent times, and that we’re piloting into uncharted territory. This makes the Flying Lessons principles all the more compelling, I think!

As serendipity would have it, I had been thumbing through one of my favorite resources, Love Poems from God, full of offerings from ancient mystics. I discovered that somehow I had forgotten about Kabir, a 15th century east Indian poet, religious reformer, artist and musician–as well as (translator/editor, Daniel Ladinsky reminded me) humorist.

Ladinisky points out that many sacred texts–including the Bible–were heavily edited. His goal in this book is to “un-edit” some poetry that is (in the case of Teresa of Avila, for example) sometimes bawdy, down to earth, and therefore practical spirituality. For then, I suspect, and certainly for now.

And wouldn’t you know that one of Kabir’s poems seemed to fit exactly the issue of piloting into uncharted territory without either crashing, falling asleep at the controls, or getting very lost.

You are sitting in a wagon being

drawn by a horse whose

reins you

hold.

Thee are two inside of you

who can steer.

Though most never hand the reins to Me

so they go from place to place the

best they can, though

rarely happy.

And rarely does their whole body laugh

feeling God’s poke

in the

ribs.

If you feel tired, dear,

my shoulder is soft.

I’d be glad to

steer a

while.

Reminds me of Flying Lesson #3, Take the Pilot’s Seat. The questions around this lesson include, “Assuming you are in the pilot’s seat, which part of you is in charge? The Big you, or the little one, the scared one?”

These are times that call for the biggest pilot we can summon, so I say we need all the help we can get. The “your pilot is God” image gets a little tricky, but it is true that our job now is to call on and embody all that is divine within us. Old strategies, old power structures, old flight plans…just aren’t working now.

So let’s take Kabir’s 600-year-old bet. What would happen if we decided to “Give Way to the Winds’ (lesson #7) and surrender the old fear-based tactics? When we hand over the reins, I’ll bet we’ll get there. Just maybe not in the way that old ego expected.

Which Road Will You Take?

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

roads

As I weep over the multi-layered tragedy in France, I am also aware of pain in other areas, both personal and institutional, all around us. The pain raises that age-old question once again, a question that is more dramatic than ever in this age where we are exposed to global events in the media in a very tangible way. What is our role when we see suffering, and how do we handle our feelings about it?

When I move away from the huge issues surrounding terrorism, religious intolerance and violent fundamentalism and concentrate on my own life, certain themes become clear. Some examples…

Clients always come to me with a story, and I come to myself with my own stories. All of us want these stories solved, and we usually approach them by trying to figure them out. When we get engaged on that level, we usually get caught in a loop, going round and round. I tell my clients and myself, “The answer does not lie within the story.”

My shamanic training taught me to be an ally for clients by looking at their story “through a different lens.” Instead of engaging with the drama, my job is to hold space for a larger possibility.

The story has brought the client to a crossroads, where there is a decision to be made. Do I take the same road I’ve always taken when issues like this come up, or do I take a road I’ve never taken?

I ask them to choose the road not taken, which is to engage not from the “smaller” self that becomes victim to every drama, but from the larger self which knows better. This self can look at things from a larger consciousness, from the soul level. From that level, there is a big, long journey visible.

And so the larger self can say about the current tragedy, “Of course you have these emotions about it.” And then that soul-self can add, “And what could be good about all this?

On a personal level, what could be good about a tragedy is that someone might respond to it by deciding to go down the road of truly seizing their life and going after their heart’s desire. Now there’s an exciting opportunity!

On an institutional level, when things fall apart, the good thing could be that the leadership sees old patterns that are not sustainable and embraces a larger vision that really serves their dream and also serves the planet. Hooray!

And on a global level, the good thing about a terrible tragedy is that it brings things to light that have not been recognized by the general populace, and they have the chance when they see what’s wrong, to stand for a new and brighter road to a different future.

The crossroads in all three situations present the choice between submitting to something that may feel like fate, or seizing our soul’s true destiny. I would like to hold the vision of that destiny, and to take a stand for that.

I do that through spiritual practice that reminds me of who I truly am and of my unity with unseen spiritual support. And I hold energetic space for change to flow through me and through others, who will make their own choices.

This is a tough discipline for sure. But that is what we are being asked to do, and why we may be on the planet at this time. So join me in responding to it all with–along with our natural grief and compassion–a larger and more powerful force that holds it all.

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Lobo #5

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

 

Lobo snake bite 

As protective and fierce as Lobo could appear, sometimes he was a big baby.

He must have heard Thunder speak to him like a great god who came ripping over the mountain growling and barking with a voice big enough to send him under the dining room table or huddled behind my office desk. Our Tucson monsoons are convincing for sure, but no amount of reassuring made them easy for him.

Jon made a big mistake when Lobo was a scared puppy who refused to venture into our swimming pool: he threw him in. From then on, Lobo would run along the edge barking at the water we’d splash up at him. He’d wade onto the first step and lie down there at the end of a long, hot walk in the desert. But no amount of cajoling would convince him to go deeper. He never blamed Jon; the trauma had been inflicted by the Great Pool God, who had sucked him in and pushed him under. For some reason the Pool God did not scare humans, but that was probably due to their stupidity.

Unfortunately, one fear Lobo had to learn from experience was his fear of rattlesnakes. One day when Jon was fortunately home, he heard a yelp unlike any he’d heard before. Lobo came inside foaming at the mouth, and hid under the dining room table. Jon could see two fresh pinpoints of blood on his nose. Clearly, Lobo had gotten overconfident.

After a couple of phone consults with neighbors who had various home remedies, Jon called the animal emergency hospital. “Don’t give him any antihistamine. Don’t give him anything; just get him here,” they counseled. $1800 and two vials of antivenom later, I picked him up the following morning. In this case, weighing 120 lbs. had been an advantage.

We decided that just in case he hadn’t gotten the message (after all, he still chased coyotes, mother cows and the neighborhood hawk), we’d give him snake training. We met the snake trainer out in Oracle, where he parked his truck full of penned rattlesnakes he had de-fanged himself. We’re talking the wild west here.

First, he put one of those evil Collars on Lobo, so that he could shock him if he didn’t pass every snake test: sight, sound, and smell. He put a wriggler down and took Lobo on a leash nearby. He turned around and ran; it was a pass.

Then he put a rattler in a burlap bag and annoyed it somehow, so that it rattled. Lobo got it. (Anything to avoid that Collar!)

Finally, he hid the bagged snake underneath Jon’s truck and called Lobo, unleashed, over toward the truck. Lobo leaped into the truck’s open window. An A+.

After that, on summer evening walks, we’d have Lobo lead, which he always did anyway. If he veered off the path, we followed him. In addition to being an amateur cattle herder, a rabbit population control officer and a coyote wrangler, Lobo was now a certified snake guide. When we’d find one in the yard, Jon would use our long snake tongs to hoist it into a big bucket, and he and Lobo would drive it a few miles away to vacant land and give it a new home.

And Lobo wore his snake nose tattoo proudly, probably figuring it was a badge of courage. We never had the heart to tell him that we saved his life, probably for the second time.