Thursday, April 2, 2009

How does one choose between goals that are opposite?

Since my beautiful friend Diana says that she misses reading my blog, I'll write something and see how it goes. It's clear to me that I don't want to write about my own process. So I've been thinking that I could answer questions, according to my experience and beliefs.

My friend Kalli sent me six questions that I've been sitting on because I haven't felt like writing. So I'll start with her first question and see how it goes:

How does one choose between goals, when they are mutually exclusive? If one will benefit more than one person and the other will bring peace of mind only to the principal character? Does this person betray anybody, in the pursuit of happiness and whom?

Since we're all connected, at the deepest level, anything that is for your highest good is for the highest good of all. So in making a choice, you really only need to check your own heart, your own intuition, and see how you feel about it.

If you have a heavy feeling inside, that choice will not help anyone. It's not about sacrifice. It's not about the good of the many being more important than the individual. Communism tried that and it was hell. If people follow the path that brings them joy, then that path will bring joy to everyone. The ends are always consistent with the means. You cannot do something that makes you unhappy and have an end result that brings joy to anyone. You betray yourself when you don't pursue what gives you joy.

If you're confused, and don't know what to do, then don't do anything. When the time is right you will know what to do and it will be choiceless.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Time for a change

In the last couple of months, this blog has become a painful experience for me. But it seems that's how I learn. Something--a blog, a job, a relationship--becomes painful and then I realize it's time for a change.

When I started writing this blog, I thought of it as my personal journal. A few friends were reading it, but they were close friends and understood me, so that was fine. The last few months, however, other people have been reading my blog, and judging me to be many things: insecure, arrogant, etc. Of course I am these things at different times in my life. We all are. The difference is that I've been writing about my process for all to see, and it's clear to me that this doesn't serve anyone.

From my perspective, I've realized that I want to keep my personal issues, well...personal. I either want to be left alone to feel what's going on, or I want to talk to a close friend who will support me. Even though I'm not as private as other people, I do need a safe space to process. And a blog is a public space, not a safe space.

While I wrote a book about my personal journey, the events took place several years ago. Those events are no longer painful for me. I don't feel raw. But I do feel raw with this blog. The purpose of my book, and this blog, was to offer the lessons that I learned from my journey in the hope that it would support other people on their journey. My blog, as it is, doesn't seem to be doing that. Maybe my book is. I don't know.

If anyone who has read my book, has a question about something I wrote, or wants me to expand on that, I'm happy to do that. Or if you have any questions and would like my opinion, please let me know. Please know that I will only be offering my opinion based on my experiences. I will try to remember that as well.

I also realized that I need some interaction, and not just when someone is blasting me because they are triggered by something I wrote. I'm OK with people not liking me. That group keeps growing larger and larger, as I discuss what is true for me without thought of what is politically correct. But there's no point in writing, if people are only being triggered, and no one is getting any insight.

Really, I don't know what I will be writing or even if I should continue to write. If you have ideas let me know. I'm open to change and to endings. After all, that's what life is about.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No longer being motivated by fear

I woke up this morning thinking about my reaction to the TV interview and to comments that my friends made afterwards. As soon as I returned from the interview, one of my friends, with all her good intentions, told me in great detail what I had done wrong. And how bad I looked. Twenty years ago I would have been angry with her (yes, we go way back), because I would have thought she was trying to hurt my feelings. This time I knew that she was trying to help. But I still didn't want to hear what she had to say, even though she was making some very good points. I just wanted to rest. I wanted to be left alone. I was pushing myself hard enough and the last thing I needed was someone else pushing me. I only realized this in hindsight, which is why I wrote the last post on perfectionism.

What I realized this morning is that my friend thought she was motivating me, when in fact the opposite was happening. What I realized was that I am motivated differently than most people. Pushing doesn't motivate me. It makes me want to do the opposite or stop doing what I'm doing. Fear doesn't motivate me either. Again, it makes me do the opposite. When someone tells me that I don't have a choice but to do what they are asking, a red alarm goes off in my head. That is the signal that not only do I have another option, but that I better find it because I'm about to betray myself.

So if pushing and fear don't motivate me, what does? Joy and love and kindness and freedom. I work for a boss who is kind, fun, and appreciative. She has never shown any disappointment in me, even when I have been disappointed in my performance. She thanks me for doing my job. She tells me not to work hard when it's a beautiful day out. As a result I am willing to work weekends or drop whatever I am doing when she asks (which is rare.) I am happy working for her. The few times I've had to work with people who follow the theory X style of management--they believe that people are basically lazy and need to be pushed--I have been able to change roles or I have resigned.

When I followed my spiritual teacher, I was attracted by his smile and the love that radiated from him. I hadn't experienced that before, especially not from a man. Years later when his style had deteriorated to something that was more "tough love" I found that I no longer wanted to be around him. I have had plenty of tough love dished out to me over the last five decades. (Not from my mother, ever. Thanks, mom.) Hell, I have been the worst perpetrator of tough love towards myself, from the perfect woman. And frankly I am tired of her.

The same thing with my spiritual community. In the beginning it felt loving and was about celebration. Later on it deteriorated to something more controlling, to appropriate rules of behavior, to judgments about whether people were awake or not. Yuck! If I wanted judgements and controlling behavior I would have stayed in the mainstream.

But I am not in the mainstream and I am not "normal." I refuse to do anything out of fear or because someone is pushing me. I only move towards that which offers joy, love, and freedom. That has been my compass for more than a decade now, and it has never steered me wrong.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The pain of perfectionism.

I've always been a perfectionist. I remember crying because I got a 98 on an exam and not a 100. I thought I had to be a perfectionist so that I could get good grades and a scholarship to college and to graduate school. Then I started working and I had to be perfect at my job. So as a result I got good grades and moved up the corporate ladder. But I don't remember having much fun in my youth.

In the Understanding Men course, they talk about the ideal woman. We compare ourselves to the ideal woman. The ideal woman is in our head criticizing us. Do we look perfect? Are we doing everything right? There is no way for our true selves to show up when the ideal woman is around.

I thought I had relaxed my perfectionism and had silenced my ideal woman, but I was wrong. My ideal woman doesn't show up around household things; she doesn't care if she can cook or clean. You can pay people to do that. My ideal woman doesn't show up around work much either. After all, I have 25 years experience doing what I do and I got myself a job that I can practically do with my eyes closed. There haven't been any big failures there. So I thought the ideal woman had relaxed or gone away.

I was wrong. She showed up big time this week, after I had a TV interview in Sacramento. The interview was only seven minutes and it was my first time. I didn't think it would be a big deal. I thought I would do fine without much preparation. But I didn't do fine. I talked too much. I didn't give succinct answers to questions. I said things I shouldn't have. As if that wasn't bad enough, a good friend let me know that I didn't look good. I was slouched on the coach. My makeup was too light. My clothes weren't right. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. I forced myself to watch the interview. Double ouch.

So for the last couple of days I've been staying away from people. I don't need anyone telling me how poorly I did on the show. My ideal woman is doing a fine job of that. Finally I had to tell her to shut up. Another friend, who isn't a perfectionist, helped me relax today. It was my first interview and no one coached me. How could I expect to be perfect? I learned a LOT from all the things I did wrong. You better believe I won't do that again. And it was only Sacramento. It's not like I screwed up on Oprah. So the ego might be bit bruised, but in hind sight I can see how it all served.

So if anyone knows a good make up artist, clothes consultant, or TV coach, let me know. In the meantime I'm going to give myself a break. And I'm going to send the ideal woman on vacation, hopefully permanent.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The opportunity in an economic crisis

Yesterday I had a comment on my blog about my post on the stray cat, by a man who is angry that I care about a cat when the world is going through an economic crisis. He wished me dead. I deleted the comment as I don't want that energy on my blog, but it gave me food for thought. Does an economic crisis mean that we forget our humanity and turn life into a jungle, where we are all trying to survive at the cost of everyone else?

Trust me, I know what it's like to be enraged because you've worked hard all your life to support yourself and your family, and you suddenly find yourself without a job, without an income, with no savings, and not having a clue how you will survive. I know the deep terror that is underneath that rage--the terror of death. How can people around you have a normal life, when you don't know if you're going to make it? I know the loss of identity that comes with all of that too--the feeling of being a failure. Who are you, if you're not productive, if you can't support yourself?
Do you have any value as a human being?

I've been through this several times, as people who know me or who read my book are aware. It was even worse, because I was the only one going through it at the time. No one to commiserate with. No articles written about this. No one else experiencing the same fear that I was going through. I had two options: I could become a victim and hate and blame the whole world for my predicament, or I could take responsibility for my choices and make different ones. The first option leads to hell, the second to heaven.

By looking at my choices, I could see where the self-betrayals were. I had bought into the belief that I had to do a job I disliked to survive. I hadn't followed my passion, the things that gave me joy--like teaching or writing. Everyone said that an MBA was the degree to have so I jumped on that bandwagon and pursued a business career that I never really enjoyed. To make up for that, I bought a lot of stuff, which tied me to the high-paying job even more.

The loss of my job, in hindsight, was the best thing that happened to me. It allowed me to stop and see what I really wanted in my life. It led to downsizing which freed me up to accept lower paying jobs that I enjoyed. It led to tutoring math, editing books, and writing--which I love to do. More importantly, it led me to discover where true security lies.

True security does not lie in a job or a savings account. True security comes from within, from having a connection with God (the universe, whatever you want to call it), and from trusting that this connection will guide you, through the dark night of the soul, Home.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The death of a stray cat--freedom or security?

I can't stop crying. A cat died today. He was run over by a car. He wasn't one of my cats--he was a stray--but it doesn't seem to matter. He was a beautiful big gray tiger cat who hung out in the back yard. The back yard is huge, taking up almost an entire block, with lots of little cottages on the property. There are benches, and tables, and fountains and trees. It's a cat's paradise.

Since most of the tenants have cats, originally I thought he belonged to someone. He was well fed, but I later found out that neighbors would feed him or he would go into people's houses through the window and eat their cat's food. While the weather was good I wasn't worried about him. But lately it's been raining a lot and I would see him outdoors.

I couldn't let him in as Max, my alpha male cat, would have a fit. He seemed feral and wouldn't come in anyway, not if I was there. I thought of taking him to a shelter this past week but didn't know if it was the right thing. He made it through the winter and spring would soon be here. He looked like the kind of cat who preferred having his freedom than having security. Perhaps I was projecting my own preferences onto him. Yesterday when the rain really started pouring I looked for him with my cat carry case in hand. If I had found him I would have taken him in. But I got soaked and he was no where to be seen. He must have had his hiding place.

This past week I prayed to St. Francis of Assisi, who is the protector of animals, to take care of him, to end his suffering, to find him a home, or to help me figure out how I could help him. Perhaps this is how my prayer was answered. His suffering has ended and he is Home. But I can't stop crying. It can't just be about him. It's about the suffering of so many helpless beings, and my feeling unable to help.

Goodbye, tough guy. I am sorry that I didn't know how to help you. I still don't know if you would have preferred to be safe and warm in a cage in a shelter, or if you went out the way you wanted to--free.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Take a leap of faith, and the Universe supports you

My apologies for not writing in my blog for a while now. I was chastised a bit by a friend, who asked me why I wasn't writing. Couldn't I multi-task? Well, I've been juggling a lot of stuff, but she's right. This blog is important to me and I need to write.

The reason I haven't written is because my other priorities have taken precedence. My day job has been keeping me busy, which is not surprising. What is surprising is that I've been even busier with my book. Who knew that an unknown author who just self-published her first book would have interviews up the wazoo? Apparently happiness, in the face of failure and loss, is a hot topic these days. And that's what my book is about. Who knew that my book would be published at a time of economic crisis? I didn't. But I trusted my desire to write a book and the universe (God, whatever you want to call the higher power) took care of the rest.

Who knew that my book would get "editor's choice" and as a result a New York publicist would be available to promote my book? Who knew that the money to hire the publicist would show up within a day of my finding him? This publicist specializes in making unknown authors known. I didn't know any of this, and I didn't have to. I had faith, did my part, and everything fell into place.

This publicist is fantastic. Last week I had three radio interviews and one print interview. Two days ago I had an hour interview with Dr. Carole Lieberman ( I didn't know her but apparently she's pretty well known. Next week I'm being interviewed on TV for the first time.

If it sounds like I'm bragging, I'm not. I had nothing to do with this. I just followed my passion, had faith, ignored the naysayers, and kept the vision. And of course I took action: I wrote the book; I published it; I'm speaking; I'm doing my part. And the universe is doing its part. I am continuously amazed at how easy and fun this process is, and how quickly things are happening.

That's what happens when you follow your dream. It's not about just sitting in meditation and visualizing success; you have to take action. But you don't have to do everything yourself. You do what you can do, and the universe does the rest. You take a leap of faith, and the universe supports you in a magical way. I see this happening over and over, and it never ceases to amaze me.

You can do this too. If there is a deep desire that you have--a dream, even if it appears farfetched--take a leap of faith and go for it. If you are meant to do this, you will be supported beyond anything you have ever imagined.

My prayer is for everyone to experience their dreams coming true, as I am.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What kind of world would we have, if we all did exactly what we wanted to do?

Hypothetically, people worry about everyone being selfishly oriented. "If everyone did exactly what they want to do, what kind of world would this be?" And we say, a really, really good one. Because if everyone did what they wanted to do, everyone would feel free. And if you feel free, you feel empowered. And every negative emotion that exists—hear this—every negative emotion that exists is because there is some sense of loss of freedom somewhere in there.
Excerpted from an Abraham-Hicks workshop in Syracuse, NY on Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

I received this quote from Abraham-Hicks ( a few days ago. I couldn't have said it better myself, so I didn't try. This is how I've been living my life in the more recent years, and why I am happy.

But I find that I am misunderstood quite a bit. What if everyone did what they wanted to do? Most people think that the world would be chaos. But I'm not talking about letting psychopaths do what they want to do, and harming others. I am talking about people knowing what gives them joy and following their hearts, even if it doesn't make sense to others. I am talking about people committing to that which gives them joy.

I started living this way about 15 years ago. I left a job that I hated because I had an abusive boss. When I wasn't terrorized by him, I was bored. I had worked for him for five years because the salary and the perks were really good. Up to that point I had been motivated by fear of survival. But one day I woke up and realized that I wasn't willing to live that way anymore. I confronted this scary man, told him the truth about how I felt, and calmly discussed whether I could continue working for him. He was shocked and for the first time in my life, I felt empowered.

Having had my first taste of telling the truth and following my heart, above survival, I couldn't stop. I found that I didn't want to live in New York anymore. The idea of moving to Marin County in the San Francisco Bay area made me jump for joy. It didn't matter that I didn't know anyone there, that I didn't have work, and that I didn't know how to drive. I took a leap of faith and found myself happier than I had ever been in New York. I could go on and on, but you get the drift. That's how I've been living my life ever since.

I don't hurt anyone. Some people feel hurt because I am not meeting their expectations. But it's my life and I get to live it any way I want. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am serious about my commitments. I have a contract with a high-tech company and I fulfill my obligation to them, giving it my best effort. I meet my work deadlines. My colleagues know that they can depend on me. When I find that I don't want to meet my contract the way it is, I renegotiate it.

So by all means, honor your commitments. Just be diligent about what you are committing to. For me it's work, my book, speaking, and my blog. I have no problem saying no to requests that I don't want to fulfill.

So what happens when you follow your heart and do what you want to do? You wind up doing the work you're suppose to do. You wind up using your gifts and talents in a creative way that inspires others. You wind up having everything that is important to you--not to someone else, but to you. You become of service instead of being just another hamster on the treadmill, running for dear life and going no where. You become happy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spirituality: It's about being real, not being loving.

At least for me. In case I haven't made it clear in this blog, everything I write comes from my own experience and my own process. Sometimes it comes from being triggered by something someone said. Sometimes it comes from feeling so much gratitude and love that I can't contain myself. (That hasn't been the case lately. I wish it were.) I do not profess to being enlightened. Hello? This blog is called Not a Guru, for a reason. I am not a serene, loving person who is living in Oneness with All That Is. Do I need to repeat that?

So what am I? I am real. I tell the truth about what is going on with me. No, it's not the Truth, with a capital T. It's my relative truth. Because I have found that until I tell the relative truth--no matter how ugly it is--I cannot get to Truth. And I certainly can't get to Love. I can pretend to be loving, but people see through that. Real love is as different from pretend love, as nourishing food is different from vomit. The first feeds you and nourishes you. The second makes you sick.

So for me, the noble qualities that guide my life are truth and freedom, not love. I rarely see love showing up in its pure form, so I don't trust it. Love usually shows up in a conditional way that tries to control the other. There is no freedom in that, so please stay away from me if your love comes with conditions. I myself don't know that I'm capable of unconditional love--probably not--so I won't pretend to be loving.

What I promise is that I will tell the truth the way I see it, to the best of my ability. For me, this always leads to freedom. And freedom, for me, leads to happiness. You will notice that I keep saying "for me" as this may, or may not, be the case for you. If any of this rings true for you, you are welcome to it. If it doesn't, ignore it.

So I can tell you that I am happy, most of the time, because I am living my life the way I want to live it, instead of following someone else's rules--whether that someone else is society or an enlightened guru. Since I have started doing this, I have felt an enormous amount of freedom. True, people who I thought were my friends are leaving my life, but each time that happens all I experience is more freedom and more joy. And new people are coming into my life who seem to accept me--more than accept, like me--the way I am.

I dedicate this post to my good friend Kalli, who has always been real. She will be the first to say that she is not spiritual. She sometimes curses like a sailor and I would think twice before getting in her face. And yet I have found her to be one of most loving people I know. We had stopped talking for eight years, while I was on my "spiritual" path, because I couldn't handle her dark side. It seems that now that I am embracing my dark side, I can embrace her as well.

My prayer is that some day we can love ourselves and everyone else, regardless of our foibles. When we get to the point of unconditional love, I will accept that love is spiritual. Until then I will stick with truth and freedom.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Women no longer being silenced

It's been a little while since I wrote my last post. I wasn't in a writing mode. I was very angry. And that anger did not go away. It turned into immense rage. For days I felt this tremendous energy run through me. It was rage only when I tried to name it. When I didn't, it was just energy--my life force.

I stayed away from people as I didn't want to lash out at some poor, innocent soul. I didn't want to express my anger any more. At the same time I didn't want to suppress my anger and pretend that I was OK. So I felt the anger. When I asked myself what it was about, the answer came quickly. This was pent up anger from eons of being silenced as a woman.

It seems when men don't like what you're saying, they trivialize you. You're too emotional. Compared to what? Compared to a man who isn't in touch with his feelings. You're not being rational. Well, look where men and their rational behavior has gotten us. Or you're just some angry woman who is over the hill and upset because you are no longer getting attention from Neanderthal men who just want to have sex with you.

I've noticed sometimes, when I'm in a restaurant and speaking a little too loud, I get dirty looks from some men. In the past I have meekly toned down my exuberance, but not any more. I talk and laugh a little too loud, as I am happy and fairly self-confident. It seems that there is something scary about a happy, loud woman. I can only guess what that is. Too much power? Good girls should be seen and not heard.

Which tends to be the case when there are men and women in mixed company. I read that women talk about ten times more than men do. This may be true, as we connect by talking, but it's not true when there are men present. You could have ten women in a group who take turns talking. But throw in one man and he will monopolize the conversation, talking about stuff that doesn't interest the rest of us at all. And yet we stay quiet, look at the man, nodd our heads, and pretend we care. Why?

So I have realized from my processing this last week that I am angry because I am tired of being silenced by men. Let me rephrase that so that I don't sound like a victim. All anger, from my perspective, is self-betrayal. I am angry with myself, because I have chosen in the past to be a good little girl and keep quiet when a man disapproved. No more.

I intend to speak my mind, whether I have approval from men or not. I invite you to do the same.

Not coincidentally, I just received an invitation to be interviewed on the radio. I guess I needed to have that commitment from myself before I could start speaking.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The slings and arrows of projections

People's reactions to my blog never cease to amaze me. Sometimes I write something that I think is controversial, and no one reacts. Sometimes I write a post about something that seems innocuous--like women needing rest--and I get attacked. Some guy left an insulting comment on my last post. He called me a lazy hag and said that he wanted me to stay away from his women. A friend followed up with a comment calling him mean. While I appreciate and love my friends for defending me, they don't need to. I have chosen to write exactly what I think in my blog, which almost always is contrary to the way most of the sheep--oops, I meant Society--think. With this choice come attacks from people who are triggered because their way of life is threatened.

I'm not sure what's going on with the man who was so triggered by a column addressed to women. I can only think of one of two things: Either he's afraid his wife is going to stop working or he isn't willing to look at his own laziness. This has nothing to do with me, which I have to remind myself as these attacks are pretty new to me. My guess is that this is just the beginning, and I need to learn the lesson to not take things personally.

Of course since I can't take the negative stuff personally, I also need to not take the positive stuff personally. It's nice if people like what I write and agree with it, but to the extent that I need people's approval, I will be upset when I receive negative feedback. Better to just say what I think and let people do their dance around me, reacting as they will. If I'm pushing some buttons then I must be doing a good job.

I did go through a process of trying to figure out what to do with insulting comments. Do I delete them? Do I prescreen them? On the one hand, people are allowed to say what they want. But if they're not respectful then there is no opening for discussion. It's just some guy venting and taking his anger out on me. Maybe an enlightened guru would have compassion for him, see his suffering, and love this person. But I am not a guru, remember? So I have compassion for the women in his life, and wish them the strength to find themselves in the midst of his aggression. But if someone showed up in my house and was insulting, I would ask him to leave. So I think I'll delete his comment. This is not a post for people to spew their energetic vomit.

Setting boundaries continues to be the lesson for me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

For women: setting appropriate boundaries

Last week I attended the third Pax course on understanding men. It's nicknamed the Queen course and one of the subjects is boundaries. They explained the difference between men and women, in terms of how they consider their needs and how they set boundaries.

When men have a physical need (such as food, sleep, or going to the bathroom) they treat this need as critical and urgent. They need to eat right away; they fall asleep where ever they are. Women, on the other hand, take care of their physical needs at the last possible moment. This is true for me. I'm working on an excel spreadsheet from home, the bathroom is next door, and I keep working on the spreadsheet until I have to run to the bathroom before it's too late. When I was younger I used to work until 2 am in the morning ignoring my body's need for sleep. I used to work in the office all day without eating anything until dinner at 8 pm. Menopause ended that. My brain shuts down when I'm tired and I can't think. If I don't eat within a few hours of being hungry I get so shaky I can't type. Nature has a way of taking care of our needs when we insanely refuse to.

Of course there are other needs that aren't physical but support our emotional well being. Time out to hang out with our friends, puttering in the garden, taking a walk, playing with our cats. It varies according to the person, but these things help us relax and bring joy to our life. How do men treat these needs? As important. They are not willing to give up their football game easily. Nor should they. We women need to learn from them. How do we treat such needs? Oh, it's something that would be nice if we had it. Hello? These things fulfill our lives and we don't think they're important?

In the past when I've set boundaries I've been angry. I wondered why I couldn't set boundaries in a kind way. The answer came to me at this workshop. I wait too long to set a boundary. I don't do it early enough, when I need something. That's so true. I'm seeing how I don't consider my needs as important as other people's. And it's been reflected back at me as I seem to have been surrounded by people who consider their needs more important than mine. Like the male friend who showed up two hours late to our brunch without calling and letting me know, because something more important showed up. Someone needed his spiritual help, and I waited for hours starving and angry. Why didn't I just take myself to brunch? Or the girl friend who, when she visits me, constantly interrupts me when I'm on the computer trying to get my work done, while I give her the courtesy of quiet and space when she's on her computer checking emails. Somehow I've bought into some unspoken agreement that my needs don't matter as much as theirs.

Well, on Friday I started paying attention to my needs. I was exhausted and needed to take care of myself. And I did. I declined invitations, I said no to requests, and I ended the relationship with the male friend with all the important activities. He's been taking up psychological space without really showing up for me. True to form, as I was discussing my issues he interrupted our phone conversation and told me he would call right back. He called a couple of hours later because something important came up; he needed to support a "brother". That was the confirmation I needed that I was doing the right thing.

So dear sisters, please consider your needs as important. Start eating when you're hungry; go to the bathroom when you need to; get some sleep when you're tired. Men do. Set your boundaries to take care of yourself. And for God's sake, if there is something that gives you joy--writing, painting, knitting, gardening--please do it. These are the things that feed our soul and make us not mere women, but Queens of our realm.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The best way to get over our problems is to help someone else

I've been in a cranky mood lately. One of the reasons is that I didn't get to rest this weekend. I need at least a day to myself every week to be functional. Another reason is that the people around me seem to be constantly giving me advice that I haven't asked for--advice on being sexier or being calmer or god knows what else. Guys, I'm doing the best I can. Just everyone leave me alone! That's what I was thinking when I went to Wholefoods to buy some groceries.

Having picked up the couple of things I needed, I was walking back to my car. A tall African American man, in his early twenties, approached me and mumbled something. It was dark but I wasn't afraid. Once you've lived in New York and ridden the subways at 11 pm, it's hard to be afraid in a Wholefoods parking lot in Petaluma at 6 pm.

"I'm sorry. I didn't hear you," I said.
"Can you help me buy some food?" he asked.

I looked at him. His clothes were clean, his eyes were sharp, and his demeanor was respectful but not subservient. He kind of looked like a young Barack Obama. I liked him. I paused to think.
How could I really know that he was going to buy food?

"I'd be happy to do work for the money," he said.

I wasn't in a hurry to go home. "Let's go food shopping," I said.

"Really?" His face lit up.

So we grabbed a cart and went back to Whole Foods.

"Can I buy some raw food? I love salads and vegetables," he said.

"Of course." I watched as he took a small bag and started filling it up with greens. "Why don't you get a big bag of salad?" I said. Hell, salad wasn't expensive.

His face lit up some more as he put the greens in the bigger bag. He looked at the fruit and I nodded for him to go ahead. He picked up two apples. I was impressed by how careful he was to not spend too much. We went to the salad dressings and I watched as he carefully compared prices to save me money.

We passed by the fish counter. "Do you like fish?" I asked.
"I love it!" was his reply.
"Well, let's get some."
He asked the guy at the counter which was the fishiest fish. The sales guy pointed to the most inexpensive salmon. I was wondering how much he would want, when I heard him ask for half a pound. Ok, that was reasonable. Then the sales guy gave him a package of smoked fish, for free. I was surprised. Clearly the universe was supporting my friend.

"My name is M..." he finally introduced himself. I told him my name and asked him what had happened that he was having a hard time. He had been a bus boy and had lost his job. He was looking for another job to support himself. He really wanted to be a photographer and was saving money to get a camera.

I wanted to make sure that he would have enough staples to get him through. Down the aisles we went as we picked up eggs, crackers, pasta, pasta sauce, beans, etc. Did he want anything sweet? I asked him, knowing that I would be hitting the chocolate if I were in his shoes. No, was his reply. He had cut out sweets a while ago. Well, he sure was eating healthier than me.

By the time we were finished he had three big bags of groceries. That was the best $100 I've spent. I got ready to say good bye to him. "I want to walk you to your car," he said. Carrying the three bags he walked me to my car. He had a long way to go. He was going to take the bus to Marin City. I was concerned about how he could carry everything. He wasn't concerned. He was happy. He never imagined that he would be going home with so much.

"I really want to give something back to you," he said.
"No need," I replied. "Pay it forward. You can help someone else in the future. It wasn't that long ago when I had no income and would come to this same Whole Foods because they give out a lot of samples. Sometimes that would be lunch--cheese and crackers and fruit that were samples. But I can tell you this. Things change in the blink of an eye. And I know you're going to be OK."

He smiled and I hugged him good bye. I knew he was going to be OK. He was asking for help, but he wasn't being a victim. He was taking responsibility for his life, and he would be fine.

I came home feeling good. What problems was I having? I couldn't remember, nor did I want to. I was feeling too happy--happy that I had connected with this beautiful, young man and grateful that I was able to help him. Actually, he was the one who had given me a gift. After so many hurtful experiences from helping "friends" I didn't think that I would be willing to help anyone again. I certainly wasn't going to help someone out of obligation. But giving to M... came from my heart and was received well by him. I remembered what true generosity feels like. It feels like love.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Women are not meant to work the way men do

Sorry to be so politically incorrect. And I'm sorry if my Women's Lib sisters will hate me for this comment, as I was one of them in the 70s. I would have killed (Ok, maybe that's too strong) any one who tried to tell me that I couldn't do what a man did. That's why I was one of the few women who got my MBA back in 1975. I didn't like business; I just had a point to make. And I wanted to earn a lot of money.

Well, more than thirty years later I still don't like business. I like my job because I have the luxury of working for and with some incredible people, from home, with flexible hours, and can keep myself out of corporate politics. But as a rule I don't like working for corporations and I now understand why. It's because women aren't meant to work this way. We're not meant to run from one meeting to another, non-stop, and work on tight deadlines. I'm sorry but the Women's lib movement did us a disservice. Don't get me wrong. It was much better than the 50s, which turned women into dependent children whose main goal in life was to keep the house clean and the husband happy. Women's Lib got us into high paying professions and won us some independence, and for that I am grateful. But in the process it turned us into bad imitations of men.

I just learned that men have 16 times more testosterone than women. No surprise, right? Men have testes, so they have testosterone. But I didn't know that we use testosterone when we're in the corporate world, managing people, leading, working with tight deadlines, running from meeting to meeting. So where do women get their testosterone? From their adrenals. When a woman is working that way, she is running on adrenaline. Eventually her adrenals burn out.

All the women I know who are in their fifties and have worked in corporate America have adrenal fatigue. If we're still working for a corporation, we can't function the way the thirty year olds do. It's not just that we're not willing to work 24/7, though many of us aren't. It's that we cannot work that way without getting sick. I can work 30 hours a week at my job. If I work much longer for too long a period, I wind up spending several days in bed. I am forced to take care of myself and to say no. My energy is limited and I am very choosy about how and with whom I spend it. Right now Cisco, my book, and my blog are it. There's not much space for anything else.

To my sisters in their forties who are working in corporations, aren't you starting to get tired? Please start taking care of yourselves. Eat when you're hungry, not when you are starved. Men do. Get enough sleep and rest. Men do. If you can reduce your hours or can leave the corporate world altogether, do it. I bet there is something that you are passionate about doing, that you would rather do.

To my sisters in their twenties and thirties, do not buy into the success paradigm. Life is not about climbing the corporate ladder. Life is about creativity and following your heart's desire. For women, life is about going into that space of timelessness and bringing ecstasy back into our life and into the lives of those we care about. It's time we lived up to our potential.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Putting aside childish things

I almost missed President Obama's inaugural address. Thank God, my boss reminded me. I have a lot of work to do today, and had to force myself to take a break and turn on the TV. Once I started listening to his speech, however, I temporarily forgot about work. I was stopped. I started crying. His words spoke to me at a deep soul level. No other politician has spoken to me like this before, only spiritual teachers. Obama held satsang for me today. Satsang is the sanskrit word for a true meeting of a community--a meeting where spiritual teachers transmit freedom. For me Obama's speech was satsang.

He spoke about putting aside childish things. We have been teenagers too long. Especially us baby boomers, going after pleasure as if there was no price to pay for it. There is always a price. And the price has become too high. The price of not growing up is our survival as a species and as a planet. It is definitely time to put aside childish things.

On a global level, this means cleaning up our mess. We've polluted the planet and it's time to clean it up, just like a teenager with a smelly room needs to clean his room up. We need to stop the wars, just as kids need to stop fighting in the playground. We need to put aside the petty corporate politics.

I'm not political. I know that I can't go out and save the world. All I can do is put aside my childish things. I've been doing this for a while, but there is always more. A childish argument that I had with a girlfriend of thirty years has ended. I hadn't spoken to her in eight years, but we have connected again and the love is back. Actually it never left; I just wasn't paying attention to it. It's time to stop judging friends who think and act differently than I do. Thank God for our differences. How boring the world would be without them. People need our support and love, not our judgments.

It's time for me to show up in the world and take responsibility for my part. It's time to use the gifts I was given to help alleviate suffering. My book and this blog are about that. If my words help shed some light for someone else, I am happy. Even if they push people's buttons, at least they are serving as wake up calls. I can't be afraid to state what I think because it will upset people. It's time to be an adult.

Finally, it's time to put aside childish worries. Am I looking old? Do I still look good? Do people like me? Will I ever have a boyfriend? It's been forty years since I was a teenager. It's time to stop acting like one.

Obama is the first president who is younger than I am. I am getting old. In the middle ages I would be a toothless crone by now. It's time to support younger women with the lessons that I have learned from life, not compete with them for looks and men. It's time to offer wisdom and love, not petulance and fear. It is indeed time to put aside childish things.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Life is good

This blog is dedicated to one of my oldest friends (in terms of length of time, not age) who recently came back to my life. I wrote her an email yesterday, telling her about the small pleasures of my life. I ended the email with a simple statement: Life is good.

That statement touched her deeply because of its simplicity. She wrote: I loved the phrase you wrote, "LIFE IS GOOD". It has been a long time since I actually heard it. It sounded so good, I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I read it and reread it so many times, to make sure that it would not disappear. Her statement made me cry. I've been so happy for so long, I forget that it's actually rare. She asked me to write more about it, in simple terms. So here it goes.

While my blog tends to focus on issues I have, I want everyone to know that the issues are the exception. The basic ground of my life is happiness, and once in a while some issues arise which I address. I forget that for many people suffering seems to be the basic ground of their life, and happiness only arises once in a while.

So why am I happy? Let's take today. It's a holiday and I got to sleep in. I woke up in my comfortable bed with my two cats sleeping by my side. It's January, but here in California the sun is shining and it must be 70 degrees. I did the laundry outside--which is where the washer and dryer are--in the midst of a beautiful garden. For breakfast I had quinoa, which my upstairs neighbor cooked for me, with cranberries and pine nuts; I added cinnamon and some fruit. It was delicious.

After showering, with the tub still wet, I noticed that a fly was stuck in the water. It's wings were wet and it couldn't move. I took a piece of paper and put it near the fly. I watched as the fly walked on the paper. Then I took the paper outside in the sun with the fly on it. Its wings glistened in the sun. Pretty soon they were dry and the fly flew away. I felt happy to have saved this fly. It doesn't get more simple than that.

Then my cat Max came running in from the garden where he was playing. A dog barking had frightened him. His white paws were dirty and he looked at me with an attitude that said, "Yeah? What's your problem?" I had to laugh.

I got on my computer and had several emails from good friends, among them the one asking me to write about life being good. Gratitude bubbled up from my heart spontaneously, not because I was suppose to be grateful but because I was in awe of how beautiful my life is.

My life is abundant. In this moment I am healthy; I have enough money; I have a beautiful home; I have two healthy cats; I have friends who love me even if they don't always agree with me; I have a boss who actually cares if I am unhappy even if she can't wave a magic wand and make everything better immediately; I have the freedom to say and write what I think; I live in one of the most beautiful areas of the world. Life is good.

My prayer is that all beings experience life as being good. This is possible. But it involves taking responsibility for your life. It involves knowing what you want, eliminating what you do not want, and having the courage to follow your dreams.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Do NOT count your blessings

I woke up this morning feeling feisty, probably because I feel fully rested for the first time in weeks. (I went to bed at 6 pm.) There are many topics that I could write about today--because lessons are coming at me a mile a minute--but I'm going to write about the most contraversial one I can think of. This will not sound spiritual, but I don't care. With all the talk about gratitude going on, my advice to you is: Do NOT count your blessings.

What I am finding is that people are confusing gratitude with fear or obligation. I'm hearing people who don't like their jobs saying that they're grateful that they at least have a job, when so many people are losing theirs. Sorry, this isn't about gratitude; this statement is about survival. And survival is fear based. It's the human animal trying to survive at all costs, even at the cost of the human spirit.

I'm getting preached at by some ex-friends that I should be grateful to people who have helped me in the past. Here's another insight: the words "gratitude" and "should" do not belong together in a sentence. "Should" is about obligation; it's about debt. It's saying, I did you a favor and you owe me. Again this has nothing to do with gratitude.

Gratitude is a form of love, folks. It bubbles up from a heart that is so full, that it can't help but express itself. It bubbles up from joy; it bubbles up from the soul. It cannot be forced, as no form of love can be forced. Can you imagine saying to someone, "You should love me"? How do you tell a heart to love? In the same way, you cannot tell someone else that they should be grateful. And you cannot force yourself to be grateful out of fear that if you are not, you will lose what you have.

Fake gratitude is as yucky as fake spirituality. For God's sake, do not count your blessings. If there is something that is unacceptable in your relationship or at work, speak up. Say "no" to anything that does not serve you. Do not keep saying yes out of a false sense of loyalty to some outside force. Love yourself enough to let others know when something isn't working. But don't belabor what isn't working. Once you've said no, then ask yourself what it is you do want. Focus on the positive. Focus on creating a life of joy, not one of survival.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The difference between happiness and unhappiness: a change in perspective

I have spent the last couple of weeks feeling overwhelmed about work. This was exacerbated by my not feeling well. I didn't have the energy reserves to cope. And so I fantasized about not working and I wrote in my blog that I was unhappy at work. Which was true for me at the time, but is not true a couple of days later. So did anything external change since I wrote my last post? Nope. I still have the same amount of work. Except that I feel better physically and have more energy. And because I have more energy I have shifted from feeling like a victim to taking responsibility.

Today was the day that would have sent me over the edge, if I had continued on my old path of victimhood. I woke up at 6 am to go to the office in San Jose for a couple of meetings. One of the meetings was with my boss, and I thought it was important that we be face to face. At 8:30 am I was stuck in traffic still in Marin, wondering if I was going to be late. I received a phone call from my boss. The child of one of my coworkers was sick, and she wasn't going to make it in. Since she wasn't going to make it in, my boss decided to stay home as well, because her 17 year old dog was sick. "Lame excuse," she said. Not lame at all, I thought. Of all the stuff that my boss is dealing with, her dog's illness is probably the only thing that isn't lame. The political stuff at work is lame. And even my issues are lame. At least the drama part of them.

Well, I was happy to turn around and come home. There was a lot of work to be done and I could put my time to better use than driving five hours. I looked at all the meetings I had on my calendar, and all the deadlines I had agreed to, and I figured that I would just work over the long four-day weekend and get everything done. Then something awful happened. I spilled some water on my computer and my keys got stuck. I couldn't type with any spaces. Shit! I wasn't going to be able to work the rest of the day, and I was going to spend tomorrow driving to Cisco. That was the straw that woke the camel up. I thought, there is no way I can do everything that I promised. I need to ask people to move meetings back. I won't be able to produce some reports until a few weeks later. And a strange thing happened. I calmed down. And when I calmed down, I became much more effective.

I called Tech Support and they told me that the water probably created globby dust that was causing the keys to stick. They would open my computer up, take a Qtip and some alcohol, and clean it. Well, I figured I could give it a try myself and see if I could save myself the long drive. I took a toothpick and some alcohol and started cleaning the keys. Lots of cat hair came out. (Thank you, Max and Bradley!) And then my computer was working again! So no trip to San Jose tomorrow. Whew! What a relief!

But I could still change my meetings and deadlines, and get some space in my calendar and in my life. I emailed my colleagues--most of whom are very reasonable people--and next thing I knew several time consuming projects were moved over a couple of weeks and my calendar was cleared of meetings for tomorrow, so that I can focus on an analysis that is due. I will not be working this weekend, except for Monday which is a holiday. I feel that I can breathe again. I have regained my perspective.

I still need to discuss my workload with my boss, and I'm thinking some things need to come off my plate. But there is no drama attached to this now. There is an opening that wasn't there before, and a knowing that we'll work it out. No one out there was asking me to do the impossible. I was doing that to myself. But I knew that; we are in a prison of our own making. I just forgot...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Choosing truth, freedom, and happiness over security

Up to this point I've never written about any issues at work in my blog, for several reasons:
  • For the most part I have been very happy and haven't had any issues.
  • When I've had issues they've been minor and I could work them out.
  • My boss reads this column and I worry more about upsetting her than I worry about upsetting my other friends.

But recently I realized that in order to do what I consider to be my life's work, I have to be willing to talk about everything and not censor myself because I fear the consequences. It's not that I don't fear the consequences; I do. But I can't let fear stop me from telling the truth.

So after almost two years of working at my job and loving it, I sent an email to my boss on Friday and told her I was unhappy. She had opened the door for me to do that over a year ago, when she asked me to let her know if I ever was unhappy. This is something new for me. In the past I have told my boss I was unhappy only when I had made the decision to leave. By then it was usually too late to fix things. I have made no such decisions here. My fear is that she will think me an ungrateful, lazy employee and let me go. Still, I need to tell her the truth. I promised to do that.

I remember decades ago telling my boss at Columbia House that I was unhappy. He was a big burly man with a loud voice and everyone was afraid of him. I was afraid of him too. But my life had become so miserable at work that I was willing to leave even though I didn't have another job. His reaction surprised me. He looked at me and said, "Don't you know that no one is happy?" My response was that I knew that, but I was choosing not to participate any more. I was choosing to be happy regardless of what the rest of the world was doing. To my surprise he asked me what my issues were. He asked me what was going on with the other employees. He asked me to please stay. I never expected that. That night he invited all his employees out to drinks and the next day he visited all his direct reports and asked them how they were doing. People were wondering what got into him. Unfortunately, it didn't last.

Fifteen years later this situation is very different. My current boss is the opposite of that big, burly guy. (OK, the one thing they both have in common is that they are very tall.) She is sensitive and very much in touch with what is going on with her employees. But we haven't talked in a while, probably because she is extremely busy and dealing with stressful situations that would have me running out of the office pulling my hair and screaming, if I were in her shoes. I am in awe of what she is able to handle. I cannot do what she does.

I do not have her energy, her youth, or her willingness to deal with corporate insanity. I have loved my current job because:

  • It has been stress free.
  • It has allowed me to use the talents I have.
  • It has offered me the right amount of work for the hours that I am suppose to be working.
  • I have been able to meet everyone's demands easily and I have been appreciated for that.

In the last month-and-a-half, and especially since the forced two-week vacation, I am reminded of why I thought I could never work for a corporation:

  • There seems to be a corporate amnesia about the fact that we were forced to take vacation. All projects are due asap.
  • I have more work than I can handle in the time allotted.
  • I am asked to do some work that does not appeal and that I don't have the talent for.
  • I cannot meet everyone's demands and need to push back.
  • I can sense people's disappointment, impatience, and frustration with me.
  • I am stressed and exhausted--physically and emotionally--and do not have the time, energy, or space to work on my book.

I am not happy. I have no idea what the consequences of making this statement will be. But I have to make it because I choose truth, freedom, and happiness over security.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Setting intentions, not making resolutions

Happy New Year! It's that time of the year, when people make resolutions which they keep for about a month or so. Why is it so hard to keep resolutions? And what can we do instead that will be more rewarding?

Resolutions are boring. They're about fixing something that's broken. They come from a place of "should." I should: stop eating sugar; exercise regularly; call my mother more often... You get the gist of it. They're not something that we want to do, they're something that we feel obligated to do so that we can be a better person, a more attractive person, you fill in the blank. No wonder we can't stick with them.

So what if instead of resolutions, we set intentions for the new year? How much more empowering is that? Intentions are about us being co-creators with God. They're about checking into our hearts and discovering what gives us joy. And when we discover what gives us joy and go for it, then we are fulfilling our life's purpose. Then we are following our destiny.

So my main intention for the new year is to make my book a bestseller and to have it be read by all the people who could benefit from it. It's to start speaking about the issues that I am passionate about: being true to yourself, breaking free from the disempowering concensus, living a life of joy. It's about showing up in the world and offering my gifts of clarity to support others in their spiritual journey.

Oh, and my secondary intention is to have fun.

What are your intentions for 2009? What life do you intend to create for yourself?

There really is no time to waste, as the world desperately needs your true gifts in order to be saved.