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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stirring the Pot

This morning I made oatmeal for breakfast, different from my daily eggs routine. I needed a new warmth - comfortable and laced with sweet. As I stirred the oats, I anticipated the sticking sensation, the heft and cling to the wooden spoon. Refreshing.

Quickly the oats boiled, puffed and worked their magic in the pot, while I stirred, eagerly awaiting the addition of the brown sugar. Turning off the burner and putting the matching lid on the pot, I then reached up for the brown sugar canister - one of the finest staples in the kitchen. With spoon in hand, I dove into the canister, pulling out several scoops while planting them into my ceramic bowl. I left the chunks, chunky.

Once the hot oatmeal hit the bottom of the brown sugared bowl, I stirred. Stirring, I saw the swirls of sugar color my oatmeal. With measured doses of milk, again I transformed both the consistency and the color of my breakfast. Creamy white mixed in with the earthy brown. Too much stirring and the swirls dissolved - just enough and the diverse blend of ingredients held their own, like thick threads in fabric.

My bowl was clean before I even sat down. Warm in my hands, I cupped it against my body while dipping and swirling the oatmeal onto spoon and into my expecting taste buds.

It's that time of year when my soul reaches for nourishment. Depth and enlightenment in new possibilities. I stir the pot. Again ready for the next dose. The thick oats, purifying milk and earthy brown sugar. Let it fall into place.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Breakthrough Blockbuster

Those of us who grip the steering wheel of life like we're on a collision course may have re-considered the seatbelt or breaks once we saw the movie, CRASH.

Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock and others keep us on edge during the violent pace when the scenes of 36 hours of their characters' lives weave into pure impact with others. This blockbuster's blend of corporate stress, cultural tensions and a little girl's faith in her daddy's angel shift us from reality to divine as we ponder the bigger picture of how we are all connected, even when we wish not to be.

Unmercifully my tears broke forth as I observed a scene wrought with fatality, seconds before key characters realized their fate. The gracefully crafted scene of daddy and daughter brings the violent, angst-ridden language of previous scenes to their knees. In this moment all of us viewers understand IMPACT.

From that scene forward,IMPACT is utterly all we can see as the rest of the movie unfolds. How the actions, the attitudes, the words of each character led to distressing results.

Yesterday, while I was with a wonderful person, I witnessed IMPACT of his thinking and actions while awareness came crashing down on him. In his case, as in the case of the blockbuster movie, the essence of life came to a standstill. Presence. In the now. All he could see was facial expressions. Proof of the impact he made on others. His daily treadmill of life, a common collision-course for gunning the gas and shifting into another gear dissolved.

As I watched, I witnessed his reactions to the impact he made on others. It started with contorted pain. His lip muscles working to hold back twitches, to slow his breathing and to deny the response his anger and awareness couldn't help but create.
And then frozen. He was speechless, focused and transported elsewhere.

Suddenly the pain relaxed and his eyes glazed over, his breath caught and held. Divine intervention flowed through him. He saw himself for what he had done, owned it, and with new breath, resolved to make things right. Once he crashed, took responsibility and allowed divine intervention, he found peace. Just as in the breakthrough blockbuster movie.

Sure, it would be better to never crash at all, but we're human.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

At a loss for words

Live and in color - breathing shallowly, red-faced, and beginning to sweat, my mind races while I search for something to say. Looking for a sign, a clue, something for my mind to pick up on.

No, I'm not on stage right now. But feeling at a loss for words on stage has happened to me. There, I could at least respond to something else in the moment. Nor am I feeling this way in front of a group giving a presentation. Yet again, this has happened there, too. In front of a group I would ask for a cup of water, see how much time is left - something to momentarily divert focus, giving my mind a chance to connect to a congruent thought worth expressing.

Right now, in the "fight" mode of "fight or flight", I scan the surroundings, insisting my mind lose it's hold on the inner workings of my brain where it's stuck in the emotional, not the thinking side.

"What have you accomplished?", the question repeated in my head, as I momentarily looked at my interested companion slowly manipulating the coffee cup on the table.

I have noticed some people are better at being at a loss for words than I am. They shrug it off, letting the moment pass without incident. It seems there is no drama. Their hands don't shake, their skin tone remains the same and they stay even-keeled and non-plussed.

Perhaps they remark with simple responses such as, "Oh I don't think in terms of accomplishments," or "Who has really accomplished anything these days?", diverting the focus and redirecting conversation. Even suggesting a vulnerable response like, "Oh, nothing to write home about" while grinning, shifts the mood from serious to light-hearted.

But during the times when I wasn't prepared to respond with proof of my value, yet cared to, I, the literalist, couldn't identify anything worthy of note. Especially this particular day, when just starting out in an interpersonal skills business, looking across the table at a gentleman who thrives on statistics, analysis, systems and results. He wasn't going to be a client, and he surely wasn't going to refer me to those who needed me, for he didn't value what I had to offer. And at that point, neither did I.

Fortunately I have traveled down the road of understanding for quite some time now, while embarking on the journey of personal value. What a difference that makes when sharing one's message. Not only am I brief and articulate with the value, I no longer am suffering for the "inspiration" in the moment.

I now realize, when I don't know my value, I wait to hear it from others. And when they're at a loss for sharing it, I have nothing more to add.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why didn't I?

James had just started the second reading when I heard..."You do not have, because you do not ask God."

He may have even noticed I sat up a bit more, leaning forward to listen, yet in the back of my mind came the plea, "Merri, you could have more business, you could do more in helping others feel good about how they communicate, if you'd only ask."

I am a communication coach - helping individuals both in presenting to groups as well as in communicating effectively one on one. Business this summer has been pretty dismal, and while I have continually adjusted my focus to the most pressing market need, there is one thing I haven't done. Turned to God for support. I coach others in business and sales to learn to ask - and this has been my own stumbling block. Quite the contradiction.

For several months we have been attending this church, very pleased with the weekly lessons, the depth of focus and the ease the minister and others have been relating to us. In our previous church back in Toledo, one of the biggest treats was prayer time. All who felt moved to contribute their concern or joy did so. At least it appeared that way from the intensity of participation. And I often shared my struggles, experiencing great relief afterwards.

Yet for some reason I have been stumbling in the Boulevard Presbyterian Church with offering my prayers aloud, especially those about business, which has been the foremost struggle in my mind. I've been restricting my participation purely from selfishness - feeling embarrassed instead of getting out of my own way, asking for prayer support and getting over it.

As the passage states, I haven't asked God, therefore I haven't received. Must I ask in public? Couldn't I simply ask from the silence of my own home, or car or head?These responses seem logical. Especially since there are another 7 days that must pass before I have the chance to ask aloud during the service. Yet it's from the humbling perspective, the one that forces me outside of my comfort zone that I will feel the relief.

I am reminded of what my spirit experiences when I am truly living up to the test: butterflies from either anxiety or excitement. Without the butterflies I am not taking the test. So now I have seven days to practice - from home and with those whom I am meeting. Ask, and you shall receive.

James 4:2 You do not have, because you do not ask God.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Embracing Beliefs

Tareek Saab, the author of Gut Check, says when he embraced his beliefs he "became more ethical, truthful, helpful, courteous, likeable, responsible and rational."
Before that, he was materialistic, driven, on the way up in the corporate environment, focused and haughty.

His turning point came as a result of a combination of events: sitting in a philosophy class and hearing the difference between happiness and pleasure, living in the corporate world and suddenly identifying with being "dead" vs. being "alive", and feeling the pull of his Catholic upbringing. To add meaning to his life meant to become the type of husband and father his family would be proud of, BEFORE he even met the woman of his dreams.

What does it take to embrace beliefs?

My contention is, we must have something worth living for. When that happens, we then embrace our beliefs as a way to overcome the barriers that hold us back from our purpose.

Paying attention to what truly resonates in us is key. My pastor Steve Smith told me several years ago, "Merri, pay attention to what makes you cry." From that directive I began seeing what is valuable to me. Although many people cry from sorrow, from pain as well as from discomfort, I have begun learning that what most often makes me cry is when someone is in need and others don't recognize it.

And maybe I was the other person. Or maybe I could have done something to inform others on how to be of assistance.

Embracing my belief in the power of the divine, the power of community, the power of compassion overcoming pain all helps me break down the barriers of resistance. Many days I forget the divine element, thinking I am solely responsible for my own success. That keeps me from allowing others - community - to show up. Yet it even more limits the big picture - the divine intervention.

Embracing my beliefs in total helps me to become patient, focused, calm. What a relief from daily activity to have these results! And when embracing my beliefs, I work harder, driven by focus and resolve.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Directions I've taken

While finishing the book, Gut Check, I started playing the movies of my own life, rating them against my ultimate destination - loving without condition.

For a great number of years I took the path of Escape. This path is one I chose from obvious lack of courage. When confronted, when challenged, when given the chance to stand up and be recognized, my Escape route gave me temporary safety. My childhood years, teen years, and even my early adult years I took the path of least resistance.

Tarek Saab, author of Gut Check, quoted Chesterton by saying, "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."

When on the Escape route, I must have been dead.

Although I didn't articulate it that way, I came to the point when living made more sense. The voice within constantly revealed itself, and because it had stayed within that unopened spigot for years, what came out was full of rust.

The new path I took was lined with Aggression. From escape to aggression - pretty natural, especially when considering our human instinct when challenged: fight or flight. I was crying out in defense of self when nobody understood me. I was crying out in judgment of others, when they just didn't get the truth of their impact. While I was crying out, few listened.

Fortunately, or maybe I should say, God-willing, I have survived each of those two deep-rutted directions. Breaking down their barriers, so to speak, while defining a new direction. Some call it balance. Others higher ground. For me, the direction is one of Calm.

And not because of being safe or free or isolated from challenge. The calm comes from stepping away from the emotional plea to fight or flee. It comes from giving up the control of emotion. From relaxing into the moment. From seeking understanding.

This direction has huge benefits to me. It keeps me from having to know all the answers, from assuming the need to be viewed a certain way, from responding to emotional triggers.

And when I consider my ultimate goal - loving unconditionally - you well may see there is only one direction, one path which can lead there. When I'm experiencing calm, I feel complete. Within that frame of mind I love unconditionally. Within the other frames of mind my emotions are too charged with guilt, fear, concern, anger, frustration that loving unconditionally is a thing of the past.

So now I contemplate, how do I keep this direction going?
Send your ideas...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Reflections from my research

I go with my gut when selecting books to read, so the one I'm now reading didn't come as a surprise. In selecting it, I assumed much of the content would contribute to my coaching effectiveness. While reading Tarek Saab's book, Gut Check, a book about Saab's transformative years as a young adult, I began reflecting on what I want to be known for:

I want to be present to those around me.
Currently, this happens sometimes. When I am enjoying, learning from, and engaged in someone's company, this is effortless. Otherwise, I must manage my desire to control where the conversation is going. When I focus on seeing myself in the eyes of others, this gets easier.

I want to be respectful of individuals. There is spirit and purpose which seeks to be identified within each of us. Unfortunately, the world distracts our focus from this in ourselves, motivating us to be distracted in seeing this in others.

I want to be accessible to those who need me and to those I need. Although I am an introvert, by contrast, I need others. And I know people need me. It's my goal to get out there in ways for accessibility to work.

If you would, reflect on what you want to be known for. Then, please, share.