Tag Archives: authenticity

Starting Something New: The Courage to Cultivate Authenticity

Starting Something New: The Courage to Cultivate Authenticity

Lately, I’ve been very aware that I am in a period of recapitulation. I’ve been in this place before, but mostly I just reeled against myself in resistance because I couldn’t stand the uncertainty that comes with the territory.

To recapitulate something is to summarize and restate again the main points. In terms of growth and development, it’s a period of introspective evolution — an expansion of consciousness, if you will.

I admit at times, it’s damn uncomfortable. It’s also very sweet and this time around I’m savoring the sweetness of it and being ok with letting things inside of me germinate at pace slower than to my liking. It’s actually kind of peaceful.

As most everything in life needs a period of “rest” after it’s been worked (soil after it’s been tilled, dough after its been kneaded, our bodies after a good work-out and our souls after a challenging period), all of this comes on the coattails of three very challenging years.

In 2011, I walked off a cliff and started a music festival–a blues music festival to be more precise. I also publish a magazine. In this latest issue, I wrote about my experience starting this Festival, which was a totally harrowing experience, and one I wouldn’t change for the world. The journey of the last three years inoculated me against everyday fears that frequently plague all of us. It shined a light in the dark corners where these fears hide and exposed them for the frauds they really are. Where I was once blinded by darkness I can now see, and I am fortified with some truths that I might never have known any other way.

As I look at my blog, I’m realizing the extent of my neglect has been almost a year. So it’s time…time for me to share with you what’s been keeping my attention. Here I share with you my story of starting something new and how that helped me to cultivate authenticity. Starting Something New: The Birth of Tall City Blues Fest

Little Bee

Little Bee

bee_paperbackTold in the alternating voices of two very different women, Chris Cleave skillfully unveils a story of both tragedy and triumph in a way that only a master storyteller can. The plot is engaging all the way through and realistically reveals the nature of human foibles illustrating the inter-connectedness of of all of our lives, even when it’s not seemingly apparent. The story is both thought-provoking and endearing.

Click here to preview this book.

My Most Ecstatic, Realized Self

My Most Ecstatic, Realized Self

I was recently presented with the idea that Life is here to serve us; we’re not here to serve it. I think I’ve spent most of my Life living this idea backwards. Having this notion is like now having a new pair of glasses to see Life in a totally different shade…now I wonder how I can fully experience my most ecstatic, realized self by allowing (not expecting) Life to serve me!

Intentional Life Legacies

Intentional Life Legacies

I spend a great deal of time thinking about the impact of my life. I once had the very powerful experience of writing my own funeral eulogy as a coaching exercise and it was unforgettable. At first blush that may sound morose, but the point is to project what you would want people to say and feel about you, how you impacted their lives when you still had clay feet; and to let this be a governing light by which you can live your life now.

I’ve also heard it put another way, which is to write a 200-year life plan. Again, at first glance, this seems ridiculous; the vast majority of us don’t live to be 100, let alone 200 years old! But that is precisely the point—the impact of our lives reaches well beyond the limitation of our physical existence.

While it’s impossible to always live our lives congruently with our own long-term projection of ourselves, that doesn’t mean the projection (or plan) isn’t worth having. And having a plan certainly doesn’t alleviate our lives of friction and conflict. Actually, I’d suggest having a planned legacy might create more collisions, because when we’re working toward (or on) that which is part of our soul work, the obstacles are a necessary and essential part of the process. If it weren’t for the obstacles, we would have no milestones—nothing over which to triumphantly prevail!

I read this recently in an issue of Backpacker Magazine:

We make choices, and nearly all of us start out incubating some grand, youthful ambition. We want to write novels when we grow up, or scale unclimbed peaks. But then we do grow up and we become practical. We choose [paths] that are easier, more conventional. We limit our adventures to what fits in the vacation schedule. (Bill Donahue)

WTH? Personally, I can’t stand the idea of getting to the end of my life (whenever that may be), looking back and living with the realization that I didn’t do anything that mattered, that I didn’t make a difference in the people’s lives that intersected with mine, that I didn’t live my life authentically to the best of my ability, that I didn’t stretch myself beyond what I thought were my limits; that I lived a wasted life, squandered my gifts, skills, abilities and opportunities, and that the only legacy I might leave behind is bitter resentment and bad memories for all the things I could have done better or differently and instead chose only actions in service of myself and my own immediate gratification. Yuk!

This is not to say that I have the expectation I won’t ever violate these ideas in the course of my life, and it’s certainly not to say that I am above situational regrets or having to fight on the battleground of my own frailties and weaknesses; BUT it IS to say that somehow in the grand sum total of my life as I lived it, I want the fact that I had one to have made a difference! And the only way I know how to do that is to have spent some time purposefully contemplating what I want the end to look like, so that I have a guide for the middle.

Living a life guided by an intentional legacy is not an easy life , in fact, it may be harder. But it’s fuller and purposeful. And if my choices are to pay the day-to-day price of a purposeful life now or to live a careless, unguided one—well everything comes with a price and I’d rather pay the price daily than the balloon payment at the end!

Sovereignty from Circumstances

Sovereignty from Circumstances

“The impact and meaning of a catastrophe are not in the event itself. The ability to tolerate it is a function not of what happens but our relationship to ourselves and our own minds. In that simple realization is absolute freedom.” (excerpted from Lost and Found by Geneen Roth)

This quote hit me squarely between the eyes. It was so powerful for me, I sat straight up from my slouching posture as I was reading and thought “OMG! That makes complete and total sense!” And it comes at a time when I am right in the middle of what my mind is defining as a catastrophe, yet I am observing myself be able to address each day with poise, posture, dignity and more and more often, freedom from the circumstances, while still working thru the circumstances. It is an interesting observation to realize that we are sovereign from our circumstances.

It reminded me of once at a conference about 6 years ago, I heard a guy that was giving a talk say “Rules afford us freedom”. Now this guy was loonier than a fruit-cake, had already sported hugely oversized green-lensed glasses to illustrate a point about perception (meaning that when you’re lenses are green, everything you see is green…to you); he paraded all 500 or so of us in the room thru some sort goofy game that was a cross between limbo and duck-duck-goose and bounced all around the room booming with high energy, as if he was performing on a stage. Well, I guess he was performing since he was a keynote speaker, but he acted more like he was performing for our entertainment, than our education.

So by now, you might have picked up on my judgements as a broadcast of where I was in my life those 6 years ago. If it wasn’t apparent, I was judgmental (obviously!), self-righteous, jealous, arrogant, intolerant and living in my head (it would be more accurate to say that I lived as if I was only a head)!

This gentleman was simply living out loud, living authentically, demonstrating an enthusiasm for his life and a passion for his work–precisely what he was trying to teach us to do!

So what does he have to do with dealing with a catastrophe? I suppose not much other than the paradoxical nature of both. The ideas that rules afford us freedom and that catastrophes have nothing to do with the catastrophe itself and everything to do with what’s going on inside of us; well this just flys in the face of all modern thought. But that doesn’t make it any less true!

I am learning that the physical forms and beings of this world are tools that help us relate to our own spiritual nature. We have relation-ships with people, material things, our bodies, experiences; and from these things we extract some meaning about ourselves. They give our lives context, as opposed to the alternative of floating around in the ether of spiritual space.

So, if it is true that we are spiritual beings, meaning that we are so much more than the things we can see, feel, touch, and interact with; then it would also stand true that there is more to life than only that which we can perceive or believe to be true. That maybe, just maybe, these things that seem counter-intuitive really do have some merit and when we can surrender ourselves to their essence, we just might be amazed at how much liberty they can afford us to live our lives from the inside out–from that core place of sovereignty and authenticity within us all. After all, we don’t have to believe it to be true for it to work!

Don’t Let the Noise of Others’ Drown Out Your Inner Voice

Don’t Let the Noise of Others’ Drown Out Your Inner Voice

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like this, “If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”

Since then…I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many day’s in a row, I know I need to change something.

Your time is limited…Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition…Everything else is secondary.

-from Steve Jobs at the June 12, 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address

Funky Feelings, Faulty Sockets & Voila!

Funky Feelings, Faulty Sockets & Voila!

So I spent 21 days in a funk and if there is anything good I can say about a funk, it is the coming out of it. The brightness of feeling alive and connected again stands out sharply against the dark backdrop of feeling like a blob of existence. I didn’t plan for 21 days (do we ever plan for a funk?); to be truthful I didn’t even realize it was only 21 days. I would have bet money on 45 days and felt sure that I was being conservative.

Getting out of the funk wasn’t easy. Somehow, I was under the grand illusion that I had moved thru other funks, traumas, tragedies and catastrophes much easier than I was working thru this one. This only served to whip me further into the gridlock. I also relentlessly dug the trench deeper by obsessively wondering when it was going to be over. What I finally learned is that I had to take action–in particular, self-care action. Oh how this was elusive! The whole time I was in the funk, I thought I was taking care of my self by resting (read, sleeping) alot, mindlessly escaping into TV and solitaire. It is clear to me now that was a cleverly disguised form of admission into the funk and it was easy to get away with it because it “looked” so normal. Normal just means alot of people are doing it; it doesn’t mean it’s sane!

A vital component of recovery from the funk was relating to other real people. We all have people in our lives who could fit in the “not-real” category, as in you’re supposed to be close, but you never really feel like you know them. So I purposely got with the REAL people in my life and shared the REALity of what had been going on in my world. Sharing with others has a way of diffusing the potency of the funky feelings. It also pastes next steps vividly on billboards!

I had to inventory my funk! Repeatedly playing the circumstances over and over in my head wasn’t working. And neither was trying to answer my own questions with the same mind that created them. So I had to sit down and take stock. This exercise helped me to get clear on WHY I was feeling so bad. It was laughable when I finally saw it for what it was. My character liabilities were in full swing with my full participation, but not my permission! I was bathing in woe (self-pity), obsessing over not meeting others expectations and what they were thinking of me (pride), feeling entitled to better than what I got (entitlement), stubbornly unhappy with what I had (ungrateful), fervently wishing the circumstances could be different (resistance) and waiting to be struck wonderful again (unwillingness).

After having a good laugh at myself, I once again felt worthy of good and this started the re-connection. It was a little like plugging into a faulty socket; the juice is intermittent at first, but with a little concerted effort and attention, it eventually starts working the way it was designed–to be of maximum service when plugged in-to. Funny, how that is reciprocal!

Voila! Now we were getting somewhere!

Willingness Helps Steer Clear of Black Hole

Willingness Helps Steer Clear of Black Hole

Again, I’ve had a lapse in writing and I can tell it in my mind and body. I have that messy feeling that comes with the territory. In part, this is because it’s been so long since I’ve spent much time writing and this, in turn, is because I’ve been completely consumed (and am still recovering) from a HU-MON-GOUS first annual event that I produced recently—that’s my day job.

I vacillate between being energized and deeply exhausted, creatively inspired and being blocked. In reading about Resistance in Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, I am learning just how elusively cunning Resistance really is. I’ve heard invisible thoughts saying things like,

‘Nobody cares about what you have to say.’

‘Everything that’s worth saying, somebody’s already said it.’

‘Writing is a waste of time. You’ve got way bigger priorities right now.’

‘It’s been so long now since you’ve posted anything, you’ve lost all your momentum.’

Even as I write this, what I’m writing feels stupid.

And here’s a real whopper, ‘If you were really going to write, you’d have already started; so apparently it’s not THAT important to you really.’

So F YOU, Resistance! I’m writing, even if it’s crappy. And I do have other priorities right now, but that doesn’t mean writing ISN’T a priority! Writing is always nourishingly therapeutic for me and if I’m not willing to take action on things that replenish me, how can I expect to have any surplus for anyone else? If I don’t do the things necessary and essential for me to feel full and vibrant (as opposed to depleted), I am destined for the black hole of self-serving, self-absorbed, self-righteous, self-pity and self-loathing. Yuk! No thanks, I’ll pass! And ‘passing’ requires effort against the grain of Resistance.

Meltdown’s Make Butterflies

Meltdown’s Make Butterflies

So I had a meltdown on Tuesday. I’ll spare you details except this one tiny, ugly part that might be worth sharing. And not because I want to tell you this, but because I have the nudge that sharing at this level of vulnerability honors the authenticity in me; and I know that when I am authentic, that is what opens the way for you to relate; and because, really, to not share this one tiny, ugly detail, well it would most likely just make the rest of this blog post something similar to Charlie Brown “teacher-speak”—“WaaRah, WaaRah, Waa….”.

Soooo, the ugly little detail…….I threw up months and months of suppressed anxiety, worry and stress….literally. My body convulsed and heaved all thru the night on Wednesday puking up the poison of my stabled headless horsemen; you know those ones: terror, bewilderment, frustration and despair.

Once I reached the end of my rope and gave into the long overdue and necessary “becoming a glob”, my metamorphosis began in that same instant, even though that’s only clear to me in hindsight. I had the warning signs of its commencing, but I didn’t know how to interpret them. So as my body was wringing itself clean of emotional poisons it could no longer stand, I was completely powerless to stop it. It had my full participation, but certainly not my permission! And yet, the cleansing could not have taken place any other way. Apparently, I’m hard-headed!

One thing I can say that was vitally important to my meltdown, cleansing and metamorphosis was being surrounded by safe people around whom it was ok to behave badly….to use foul language, to be unreasonable, to beat myself up, to play the victim, make ridiculous requests, be rude and otherwise just act plain insane; and they would still love me anyway.

Somewhere along the route of this lifetime, I learned that people chose to love and support me based on what I brought to the table and how I acted. Bring alot to the table; let’s get it on! Behave badly; see ya! Is it really a wonder(ment) that our ‘problems’ are of our own making? And aren’t our ‘problems’ really our greatest opportunities? A dear friend of mine says “God gives us brilliant opportunities disguised as impossible situations.” Of course they feel impossible when we’re right in the middle of them, only to be clear as crystal later.

Aren’t we all living to “tell the tale”, so to speak….to move thru the experience, infuse it into our soul, harness the lesson as another treasure in our chests and be poised and ready to share the essence of our authentic lives to relate to another, or another to us? Relating and Relationships….isn’t this the space of life where the fruit is the sweetest? And aren’t meltdown’s how we learn to become butterfly’s?