Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Adopting the Nature of a Tree for Success

"Leaves are falling down like embers

in colors red and gold

they set us on fire..."
~Rowland Salley

Autumn leaves arouse my senses. The vibrant, bold colors catch my eyes, and the rustling, shuffling of leaves swooshing and crackling as I walk over them perks my ears. I take notice – a message is here for me – what does it mean?

I consider the life of a tree and contemplate the metaphor of falling leaves:

-Is there anything I need to let go of?
-Why should I shed?
-What do I need to release?

I know I’m on the right track, because right now I feel overwhelmed – maybe doing too much, having too much, wanting too much, hanging on to out-dated ideas, concepts, desires, and ways of being.

Sometimes I cling, like those last, straggling leaves that refuse to fall, hanging on for dear life, and more willing to bear the brutal winter chill than release and move into a new phase of existence. But is it the tree that hangs on, or the leaves? Maybe they are both clutching, neither recognizing that the leaves, in their new form, still hold value, fertilizing and nourishing the tree in new and different ways.

“When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.” Sufi Teaching

I breathe in the ideas of shedding, releasing, and letting go. I haven’t done anything with them yet, because I too am still clutching, even though I know it goes against the natural order of things. However,  I’m thinking about these ideas and after all, isn't simple awareness often curative? Shedding, releasing, and letting go, are all concrete concepts, and with them, I can begin to do “my work”.

Pondering the nature of the tree and its leaves further, I recognize that letting go, shedding, and releasing, all serve me. Just as the tree benefits from the fallen leaves that turn to mulch, I too am nourished by the experiences I let go of, the material things I release, the stale, habitual thought patterns I shed; they help to fertilize me, becoming the mulch of my life. I have learned from them all, used them all, and now in releasing them, they continue to serve, and as I move forward, I incorporate their wisdom into my being.

Unlike the leaves that hang on, continuing to drain energy from their tree, by letting go, I reclaim my energy. As I release, I open myself to going inward and to bringing clarity that re-organizes, re-prioritizes, and re-negotiates.

The shedding around me signals a shift, a transformation. Sometimes I am forced to let go, as if a gale-force wind blew all my leaves off. Other times, things gently fall away on their own.

This phenomenon is seasonal, cyclical – I just don’t notice it until I see the fallen leaves scattered on the ground. Perhaps I could embrace this experience more often, recognizing the “fall” needed this month, or week, or day; asking, “what needs to drop away?”.

At this point I am still exploring, not sure of what needs to be released, but I am willing to look, write, reflect and assess; to see which doors open easily and which seem to close. Over the last several months Karen and I have been writing about success, and I suspect that embracing the nature of the tree and its leaves will only enhance mine. I intend to take the time necessary to identify what I need let go of, shed and release.

Practice Engaging Your Inner Wisdom:
What is calling you to be released? Can you be literal in this application and clear out a cabinet, or a closet? Can you go through and shed one thing from each room? Perhaps these actions will loosen up any internal elements like thoughts, ideas, or concepts that you need to release. What about your behaviors, actions and intentions? Are there any that you are clinging to that need to move on, so that you can move forward? Do you have too much on your plate, too much stuff, a bad relationship, an addiction? Take time over the next several weeks to check in with yourself – write, paint, draw, meditate – engage in whatever practice will help you embrace the natural cycle of letting go, thereby making room for and feeding your new potential.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Who do you think you are? Identity and Success

"To remember who you are, you need to forget who they told you to be."
The media is constantly bombarding us with images of how we should look and what we should believe and who we should aspire to emulate.  You know what I say to all of that hype?  I say, "Phooey!"

Look at the women along the left side of this post.  What do you see?  What is most obvious to me is the variety - we are not the same.  Many things influence who we are and who we are changes as we age and learn from new experiences, both ours and by watching those of others.

However, before we can consider any outside opinion, we must come to accept who we are without all of that external pressure.  When we look inside ourselves, there is no denying who we are, yet we seem to be more able to let others decide who or what we should be.  We have some strange desire to please everyone else at our own expense, to forgo those things which make us truly happy so that we can make others happy.  There are many problems with this approach to living our lives.  For one thing, we rarely succeed in making others happy, especially in the long run.  For another, when does it stop?  Who do we have to appease?  How many people do we need to satisfy?  What do we do to ourselves in the process?

The quote at the top of this post struck me, because of its honesty and directness.  Too often, we let others decide who we are or what we should be doing, especially as it pertains to the idea of success.  What we often forget in the process is that we determine who we are and what successes we will have.  It is our choice.  That is not to say that others cannot influence our choices, but those influences should come from inspiring support, not disapproval of who we are at our core or by them trying to force us into the image they have of us.

Who we are affects the successes we have in life.  Therefore, how we define, or allow others to define, who we are affects those potential successes as well.
I speak from experience on this subject.  Once I finished college, I jumped right into "AAHH!  I have to get a job!" mode, even though at my core, I knew I did not want to work that traditional 9-5 cycle.  That is not to say that I did not have successes within that framework; I had several.  The problem is that they rarely mattered to me.  Of course, some mattered.  For instance, I was very happy to know that I was helping to protect the environment in much of the work I did.  I enjoyed helping others and working in teams.  But, there was something deep inside of me, a constant dull tugging or a grip that refused to let go of whatever it was holding onto, that I could never quite bring myself to let go of or ignore.

A few years ago, I paused and reflected on that grip and what it was holding onto and I realized that what it held was me, the me I truly am, the dream the natural instinct I've had since I was a very small child.  "I want to be... no... I am a writer."  I embraced it completely at that point and began to let go of what everyone else thought I should be, of the society-level images of who I should be as a woman, wife and mother.  I began my retransformation back into who I knew I was.  Through that process, I came to understand myself and, perhaps most importantly, to accept who I am and recognize that I do not need to defend that to anyone.  I needed only to build on it.

As I have gone through that process, it has been a struggle; of that there is no doubt.  But, it was totally worth it!  Because, today I am a writer.  I am a published author.  I am an editor.  I am an entrepreneur, in charge of my own company, skills, successes, and myself.  Of course, it doesn't hurt to meet someone for a second time, a few months after your brief first encounter and have them say, "I remember you.  You wrote a book."  With that one sentence, I realized that who I am influences others' impressions of me, instead of allowing others' impressions of me to determine who I am.

The only thing I had to do to achieve this was to be honest with myself... oh, and believe what I saw and then work really hard to be successful with it.  That is a challenge I would take a hundred times.

Practice Engaging Your Inner Wisdom:  Take some time for yourself, maybe five or ten minutes to begin the process (and remember, this is a process; you may have to do this several times), and ask yourself this question.  Am I being true to myself?

If you are, how can you build on that experience?  How well does your external representation of you reflect your true internal self?  How does knowing and embracing that true self affect what you're doing to be successful?

If you are not being true to yourself, what do you see when you look inside?  How can you get past all the layers of crap that's a result of external influence and just look at who you are?  Spend a few minutes every day working to re-engage with that true inner self.  What can you do to accept your inner identity?  How will that affect what you're doing to be successful?