Engagement

It’s nearly the end of the month again, and I’ve not written about Engagement, my May word (see 12 Words).

The month has been full-on, a good month for exploring and practicing Engagement. I’ve been too busy living Engagement to write about it. 🙂

I started, as I always do, with the dictionary definition of Engagement. That didn’t inspire me to any particularly useful insights.

Then, I googled it, and most of the hits led me to a 2003 book by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, called The Power of Full Engagement.

That was productive but distracting, because it is a very good book (ground-breaking at the time of its release), full of strategies and rituals about how managing energy, rather than time, is the key to full engagement. There are lots of practical and creative ideas about how to manage energy at all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I did a quick read/scan of the book and picked up all kinds of useful strategies for myself and my clients, as I work with them on a foundation of super self-care.

But I still didn’t have a sense of what Engagement really means to me.

So I did a lot of journaling about it, and I set the intention to live my life engaged.

Then I went into my life with the commitment to live it “fully engaged.”

That’s when I bumped into a couple of significant differences in the way that I think about Engagement, and the way Loehr and Schwartz describe it.

The central premise of the book is its subtitle: “Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.” I fundamentally agree with this premise, except, for me, it is more about “cultivating” energy (on all levels), not so much about managing it.

Another premise of the book is that you either fully engage or strategically disengage.

In practicing Engagement, I came to the understanding that, for me, Engagement is a state of being that transcends what is going on with me. So, I am “being engaged” fully with life, whether I am in action or at rest. There is a way to be in “downtime” fully engaged.

Engagement is a full “Yes!” to life.

It’s easy to say a full “Yes!” to the aspects of life that I love: relationships, nature, my art, learning, my work, and many other aspects of my life. And, that is really useful to realize, because being deliberately intentional about coming to those cherished things fully present and engaged yields even more richness and depth than if I am just going through the motions. There is something about showing up fully engaged that has my intuition and inner connection tuned in, accessible, and flowing.

In being fully engaged, I am open, aware, and receptive to the fullness of the experience. I’m available to the gifts and the learning, and the creativity that is inspired from within.

But what is Engagement with things that we don’t love so much?

I had some health challenges this month, and that turned out to be a blessing. It gave me an opportunity to explore what it is to be fully engaged with that reality and those challenges, vs being detached or just tolerating the conditions, wishing I could get to the other side of them more quickly.

I discovered that, for me, Engagement in the stuff I don’t love so much is exactly the same as it is with the stuff that I do love.

The first step to being able to be fully engaged is to be present in what is, and I dare say, accepting of what is, rather than fighting it or wishing it were different. When I do the latter, I’m not available to the whole experience. A part of me is walled off when I’m using energy to wish things were different, or fighting reality.

It’s a challenge, and a commitment, to learn how to embrace what is, without judgement. Let’s just say it doesn’t yet come naturally to me!

But that is what allows me to come to life with awareness, openness, and receptivity, which is essential to Engagement.

Then, next, I consciously choose to be all in, fully engaged, with whatever is my life in the moment, and to trust that what is emerging from that is my right path. It’s kind of an “OK, here I am, and I’m going to fully embrace this experience, say ‘Yes!’ to this, and see what is here for me”.

When I practiced that, as best I could, with the health challenges, I discovered all kinds of layers to the experience that I might have missed otherwise: the deepened ability to tune into my body and receive its wisdom, the love of people who cared about me, the sensitivity and caring of my health care professionals. If I had been detached rather than engaged in that experience, I might have skated right over the fullness of those dimensions of the experience.

I decided that I want to say a whole-hearted “Yes!” to all of my life, like I am a willing and eager dance partner with whatever is showing up for me in my life. This is full Engagement, for me.

What is Engagement for you?

My 12 Words for 2018

There are a lot of people who find value in having a word (or words) to guide them throughout the year. They see it as a guiding light, or an intention, or a mantra to help them stay focused on what matters.

They discover their word by remaining open and listening to their inner guidance. It is something that comes to them, rather than something that they figure out.

In November, when I opened to the possibility of a word or words for 2018, twelve words flowed out from within. This has never happened to me, so I paid attention to it.

What came to me about this was that these words are qualities of being that I would like to embody. They are how I want to be in the world, the spirit or energy that I want to bring through my presence, or how I want to “show up,” during the next phase of my life.

As I explored this possibility, I felt as if a gift had been bestowed upon me. What a fun thing to explore in 2018!

Throughout November and December, my understanding of this idea deepened.

These are the questions I would hold as I explored each word:

  • What is it, for me?
  • How do I embody the energy of it?
  • How do I live it, in the world?
  • How will I keep it alive, in my life?

It was certainly convenient that there were 12 words, one for each month of the year.

The words changed during December. Four words “left” and four new ones came in.

They spread themselves into the months, and their order changed three times before January.

Here are the words and how they have now settled into the months (subject to change, of course):

  • January: Curiosity
  • February: Vitality
  • March: Eagerness
  • April: Receptivity
  • May: Engagement
  • June: Expansion
  • July: Flow
  • August: Intention
  • September: Generosity
  • October: Renewal
  • November: Whole-heartedness
  • December: Love

I’m really excited about this idea. It feels like a delightful adventure.

What is your word (or words) for 2018?

Choosing Who We Want to Be (In a Tough Circumstance, Over Which We Have No Control)

harper picnic blanket

Harper and I had a bit of a traumatic thing happen to us on our evening walk a few days ago.

I was walking him on the road that we walk at least twice a day, almost every day of the year, when two loose seventy-pound dogs charged us and attacked him. I don’t know how long it lasted; time felt suspended to me. Some seconds, or a couple of minutes perhaps.

I yelled at the dogs. I implored the people responsible for the dogs, who were standing in their driveway, to call the dogs off. They stood by and did nothing.

I finally must have summoned up enough Alpha Dog energy to scare the dogs, and they backed off, but not before they sank their teeth into Harper in a few places.

Before I go any further, Harper is going to be fine, which is a miracle. He got away with a deep puncture wound and some soft tissue damage. He has very thick fur, and that helped him. He couldn’t get up or walk the next morning, but the vet’s check-up revealed nothing more serious, and he just needed an antibiotic and some pain meds. He’s already on the mend, albeit a bit skittish about going out.

As I process the event, it has been the gift of a big learning for me.

I thought: What do I do with this? My dog was attacked, and could have been killed. I could have been injured. The people responsible did nothing to control the dogs or to help us.

There are so many times in our lives when something happens to us that we have no control over, and that doesn’t feel fair or right. Countless people have experienced much tougher things than I did the other night.

At first I was scared and furious. My friends were asking me what I was going to do; would I report the incident? Or speak to the people responsible for the dogs?

Then I meditated. A lot. Meditation is my go-to for honoring the fear and anger, but eventually being able to let them go. I want to respect my emotions; they are part of my humanity. But if I remain in outrage or anger, those people and those dogs have hijacked everything that matters to me. Then I am saying “no” to life, rather than “yes”.

I asked myself what matters now. Here’s what matters:
●    That I love Harper through this.
●    That I do as much as I can to keep him safe.
●    That I restore my peace of mind.

It was pretty clear immediately that I couldn’t do those things from a mind that was addled with fear and judgement and outrage.

So I kept meditating, and I asked myself my governing question: Who do I want to be, here?

Viktor Frankl said: “Man’s last freedom is to choose his attitude and his way.” He was writing in the 1940’s, about his experience of living in a concentration camp.

I get to choose who I want to be here.

I get to choose who I want to be in any circumstance, even (or maybe, especially) in those situations that I wouldn’t choose or wouldn’t want or that seem unfair.

I choose to be peaceful. I choose to be grateful. I want to be loving and clear.

When I find myself drifting off of that “home base,” I’ll meditate, as a first step to restoring my inner peace. I’ll focus my attention on what I can genuinely appreciate. Then, love and clarity are more possible.

This might be a lot more difficult if Harper had been more seriously injured, but the principles are the same. I’ve been given an invitation to continue to release my fear, frustration, and outrage, and to return to my inner feeling of well-being, from which I can be loving and clear.

I’m not going to speak to the people with the dogs. In my clarity of mind, I can see that they don’t feel responsible for the dogs, and they have absolutely no interest in controlling them. If they had, they would have called the dogs off.

I’ll speak to my friends in the neighborhood to let them know that there are some unstable dogs around, so they can be alert.

I’ll carry pepper spray, to protect myself and Harper in the case of further incidents.

And, I’ll change our walking route, to avoid contact with those people and those dogs.

At first, I didn’t know what to do, but when I had restored my peace of mind, I knew what was right, for me. I remembered to ask myself: What matters now? Who do I want to be? The answers to those questions were my guides.

What matters now?
Who do you want to be?

Water Under the Bridge

bridge zubiri

I haven’t written on the blog for ages. I made a commitment to myself a year or so ago that I would only share my words when I am inspired to share, rather than writing just because I haven’t written in a while.

My commitment is to be open and receptive, and what comes will come in its own timing. I wish for all of us that we live our lives in the flow, rather than pushing against it.

Speaking of flow, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since I last wrote.

Cinn and Hamilton

Our dog Cinny passed away, after 12 years of fun, frolic, and feistiness with us. We feel so blessed that she was such a big part of our lives for so long. This picture is of Cinn with one of her favorite toys, Hamilton. Be free, sweet Cinnamon; we miss you every single day.

mandala rose

I created and led an experiential workshop called Bringing the Sacred into Everyday Life. Eight of us gathered to spend five mornings together, creating altars, walking the labyrinth, drawing mandalas, communing with nature, and painting blessing flags. It was a rich week of fun, deep sharing, and profound learning.

2016 pilgimage

I have begun another virtual pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain. I feel called to be a pilgrim when I find myself in Not Knowing Land, in various aspects of my life. I have done two other virtual pilgrimages in the last five years, one on the Camino (the same route), and one to Ireland.

Being on a pilgrimage helps me remember that it is OK to Not Know, that sometimes Not Knowing is the most powerful place to be, and that all we really need to know is our next step.

At its essence, a pilgrimage is an inner journey, so it is not necessary that we actually set foot out our doors (although a real pilgrimage walk is a very powerful and luminous experience; ask anyone who’s done it).

I believe that our lives are pilgrimages, when lived consciously and with intention.

When I look back at the last few months, what I see is my commitment to pay attention to that which is precious in my life.

What is the water that has passed under your bridge, in the last 3 months?

What is precious to you?

What do you want to pay attention to?

From Whence Does Your Inner Guidance Come

rock

I’ve been accused of having a vivid imagination.

I found this rock on my road today. It looked to me like a secret map.

I wouldn’t use this rock to try to find my way through life, but it did make me think of something that I strongly believe: our inner guidance is everywhere. Or, to put it another way, our inner wisdom is always broadcasting to us. It’s just that we aren’t listening, most of the time, so we don’t pick up on it.

I know this because I am always forgetting to tune into my inner wisdom. And then, when I do tune in, I can always sense or feel that core essence in me. I know it is there, and I know that it’s broadcasting.

I know something else: if the signal isn’t clear, it isn’t the signal. It’s that I am not quite in a receptive place to hear it.

What does it mean, for me, to be “not receptive”? Most often it is that I’m rushing around, and my rhythm isn’t conducive to listening within. Or I really want to “get an answer,” and my anxiety about “getting a fix” is blocking the signal. Or — this is a big one — I have assumptions and expectations about what I think the answer should be, or what it should look like, ie, I’m not a blank slate.

I could get my inner guidance from this rock, if I were in a receptive enough state, because the rock would only be serving as a focal point for my inner listening.

I could find a quiet place, stop, hold the rock, breathe into a slower rhythm, and open myself to listening and sensing my inner guidance. And I would feel the wisdom that was meant for me in that moment. That is what I mean by our inner wisdom always broadcasting.  I just have to want to hear it more than I want my own agenda in the moment. I need to surrender to not knowing, and listen.

And then I will “hear” (sense, feel, see) just what I need in that moment. Important caveat: Just what I need in that moment, not necessarily what I think I need.

So, I’m going to quit writing this blog post and sit with the rock. 🙂 From whence does your inner guidance come?

Scattering Seeds

milkweed pod

Today I was out scattering seeds on my land.

I gathered these seeds in the prairie. I’m sending them off with wishes that some of them take root next Spring, in the abundance of sun and rain that will be available to them then.

I marvel at how each variety of seed looks so different. The varieties of texture and size and color are incredible.

Each seed, however tiny, has in it the intelligence to guide it to full fruition. It knows what it is to be and it has a pathway to get there.

Like the seed, we have intelligence deep within us, to guide us along our way.

For years, I doubted this, because I couldn’t reliably access it. I’d receive intuition and inspiration occasionally, but, honestly, it seemed a bit arbitrary and capricious. Kind of like a friend that you couldn’t count on to be there for you. My guidance seemed to come and go at its whim.

Our inner essence knows what we need to know, in order to grow and to create, and to thrive. Our bit is to learn how to tune into that intelligence within. I’m guessing that this is something that the seed doesn’t have to give much thought to, but we humans have a lot of distractions to cope with.

My inner wisdom seems to move at an altogether different rhythm and pace than I do. So, first, I need to entrain to its rhythm by meditating or doing some slow breathing.

My inner intelligence seems to share what it wants me to hear, rather than what I want to know. I need to be open and receptive to whatever might arise from within, rather than what I think it should tell me.

And, I need to be sincere in my invitation and intention. It helps me to surrender to the wisdom, and to allow to come whatever is meant to come into my awareness in that moment. Being curious helps me be open and sincere.

So I just tune in and ask, with a sincere heart: What do I need to know, right now?

It could not be simpler, but I find that it isn’t always easy to shed all of what I bring to the process, so that I can be an open, clear receptive field of listening. I want to be like the land, open and receptive to the fertile seeds taking root.

Take a moment to breathe deeply. What does your inner wisdom want you to know right now?

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