Body Talk

I realized that I was “too big” in the first grade. On the first day of school, many years ago in a small rural school, the teacher weighed all the first graders, including me. I remember her voice so clearly. “Seventy-five pounds!” she exclaimed. “Seventy-five pounds! She weighs seventy-five pounds and the average weight for a first-grader is fifty pounds!”

Immediately, I scrunched down because I understood that I was too big. The “too big” message continued to come to me through elementary school since I was a head taller than most of the children in my class. And I continued to try to be smaller.

Of course, I know now that at five ft three inches I am not tall, in fact, some people seem to think of me as short. I know that I was larger than an average child and that I am no longer a larger than average person. Or I thought I knew until I was a student in a recent seminar about making effective presentations. The principal suggestions for improvement encouraged me to extend my arms, take up more room, and raise my voice. I watched the several video segments of my practice presentations. They were right! I looked like I was trying to stay small!

Suddenly, I realized my mind knows that I am five ft three. My body is still learning.

Often we make assessments of ourselves, personally and professionally, and make commitments for change and growth without paying attention to all the information available to us. Information comes from our bodies and our emotions as well as our intellect. Learning to pause and observe ourselves is a most valuable aspect of the coaching process. We have lots of practice at thinking, trying to figure out answers in our heads, looking for the logic of a situation. This is valuable, but not enough. Increasing awareness of the messages from our physical and emotional components and integrating those with our thinking can bring us to moments of profound insight.

A vision for conversation

To share conversational space for reflection, for looking at our fears and our dreams, for moving forward even when the path is not so clear. A beautiful vision!

We can learn more about how to move in this direction from Margaret Wheatley’s book, Turning To One Another; simple conversations to restore hope to the future. She welcomes us to this book with these words.

“I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation….Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.”

I am reminded of how this works in coaching. As I coach leaders in business and non-profit organizations, I listen for them to talk about what really matters to them. I listen. I invite them to listen, truly listen to others. I invite them to listen to themselves. What do they want? What do they believe is possible? What do they see as choices? What constrains them? What’s missing?

We find and express our human selves in relationships, in community, in our work, in conversation with others. How are you finding this in your life? What questions are on your mind today? I hope you are having conversations with friends, family, and colleagues that are creative and meaningful.

Letter to a Lost Daughter

Dear Cathy,
Today is your birthday and I had hoped to see you. I don’t have a way to call you, and although I think you may have tried to call me during the last week, we did not connect. I have checked my phone messages and heard the line go dead on the recording. I think it is you. And I feel such pain that I have not been there for you. I don’t always feel so bad that I have not been what you needed and where you needed me, but tonight you are heavy in my heart. I love you and miss you and even though I hardly know you, you are my child, my loved one, my little girl. I want to tell you about your family, about your brothers and their wives and children. Recently I was sorting through old pictures and giving them to Alan and Robert and William. There you were, right in the middle of them, your little face so bright and perky, your firm, sweet body. Your hair was short and wispy in some of the pictures, and lifted in a pony tail in others. Your nose in profile, your feet and legs, your clear eyes shining. I love them all. Yet they are like a distant dream. Now you are thirty-eight years old. A different person. Still, that little girl must be in there somewhere. There is a little girl in me. I know there must be in you.

Tonight, Cathy, I send you an invocation. I call on all those who have gone before us, your grandmommy and granddaddy, your granny. Let them find you and touch you so you will not feel so alone. Know that their blood is in your blood, their strength is your strength, their energy can be your energy. I call on those who are in your community, your world now, those who give you meals and shelter, those who notice you are troubled and confused and want to help, those who are concerned for you because you are in that crowd of lost people, and those who are concerned for you simply because you exist. I call on our Heavenly Father and our Holy Mother. They know who we are and where we are. They are waiting for us to be in this moment of love with them. Stand still one moment, Cathy. Stand still and listen. Let their love voices come into your awareness. Their voices are warm and quiet. They are loving you. I am loving you. I am being in this moment with you. Can you hear them? Can you feel me? I am here for you and wait for your call. Love, Mom

A different point of view

My partner, George, and I have recently moved into a house that requires us to share office space. This was quite a struggle for me since I have been accustomed to a spacious private office for the last 20 years.

We talked and juggled our books and computers and art and favorite chairs. Both of us were more committed to avoiding conflict than taking a straight look at what was most important to each of us in creating inviting space. Finally we grew tired of the “being careful” dance, and we took the big step of talking honestly about what we really wanted. And we tackled our shared office space with new eyes! We totally reversed where each of us had desks and chairs and book cases. and now both of us will happily hang art and I’ll bring in a couple of green plants! The room looks so much larger and each of has a view that suits us.

This sounds so simple, such a basic, easy task to accomplish! However, it didn’t get simple until we got to the real questions, individually and collectively. At first it was “How do I avoid conflict”? Later it became, “How do we work together?” Once we had the right question, the answers were fun to figure out together.

I’m hearing the birds

I have lived in the midst of a construction zone for more than a year. My home is in an upscale coastal neighborhood which touches a beautiful stretch of beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Until 18 months ago, there were a half dozen of us who are year round residents, and when I looked out of my windows, i saw four heavily treed lots and a few very attractive homes. Usually those were dark and still, with occasional weekend visits from their owners. The summers were a bit busier, but even then I could hear and see the migrating birds and happy chirpers in the trees.

And then the neighborhood change began. Lots were cleared, bulldozers grunted and pile drivers pounded, saws screamed. Massive trucks delivered building materials and stone. As many as 25 trucks in a day crowded the streets, muddied and mauled the shoulders. Strangers who played loud music and hauled big cases of tools and supplies and tossed cigarette butts.

For months I have felt annoyed, angry, frustrated, and bereft, overcome with a sense of loss of privacy and place. My neighborhood is gone. My home is no more.

Finally, however, the early mornings are still. Today I heard the sound of birds. It is different. I’ll not have the quiet of a few years ago, and I’ll have to move if I’m intent on discovering that quiet again. But perhaps if I wait a while, I will come to love the new sounds of families on vacation. Meanwhile, I am hearing the birds.

The Persistence of the Mental Illness Stigma

Dating God

stigmatizing-mental-illness There is an excellent guest op-ed piece in today’s  New York Times  written by two high-school women who articulately express the their experience of the travails of chronic depression, its isolating quality, and the stigma that remains attached to the reality. I was moved by their desire to unveil some of the solitary, and thereby confounding, dimension of such illness through their practice of journalism, only to be prevented by their school’s administrators. The argument against publishing such interviews with peers was “concern” for the students, yet this road constructed with seeming best intentions actually led to the reiterating hell of isolation and reinforcement of social stigma that needs to be lifted.

These young women deserve a lot of credit and I’m proud of the New York Times for publishing their piece. I have a number of friends — some in religious life, some not — who suffer from illnesses…

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Thank You, Ken Wilber!

Recently a debate has bubbled up in more than one LinkIn group discussion about whether a Coach needs a coach in order to be truly excellent in the field of Coaching.

As I read the very strong opinions expressed on both sides of this debate, it is obvious that folks are writing and expressing views from very different definitions of what it means to be a coach. Moreover they are writing from very different world views. The ‘reality’ expressed reflects the observer each is.

This makes me lean back to Ken Wilber and his extraordinary gift for expressing the factors which define us as the observer we are of our reality. I encourage you to visit Wilber’s publications on Amazon and Google and choose anyone. “A Short History of Everything” got me started more than a dozen years ago, and a recent second or third look at Wilber’s writing reminded me of how helpful his writing style is to me. It’s not easy for me to comprehend broad philosophical and spiritual concepts, and his practice of asking a question and framing an answer helps me focus and absorb his thinking. Thank you, Ken Wilber!

For me, Coaching is about learning. Over the years I’ve been a Coach I have continued to learn with those I coach. And perhaps the greatest lessons for me continue to be, Be Open. Trust the Process. Listen. Live in Gratitude.

Talking It Over

“I was totally blindsided. Why didn’t anyone talk to me about this? Why is a written memo the first indication that I’m upsetting people with some of the things I’m doing? I’m so hurt and angry!”

These were the words I heard today from a woman who had just come out of a meeting with her boss. Her emotions were so strong and so painful that it was difficult for her to find words adequate to express them. She repeated over and over, “Why didn’t anybody talk to me?”

In truth her boss may have made an tentative attempt to talk with my friend, but clearly there was never a time when she had created a time and space for talking it over. And perhaps there were times when my friend may have ignored or misinterpreted subtle hints that some of her actions were problematic. She thought she was being helpful, others saw her as butting in. She thought that it was OK for some of her personal files and books to be on her desk, others saw her as inconsiderate of space.

‘Talking it over’ is so much easier if we do it sooner rather than later. Issues can grow from minor annoyances to huge barriers so quickly. Trust is eroded when we don’t deal with differences, when we avoid conflict. We may waste huge amounts of psychic energy as the conversation that needs to happen grows in our minds without our giving words to our feelings and expressing our concerns. “Let’s talk it over” is so easy to say. It’s such a simple way to begin a conversation that needs to happen.