How to Develop Authenticity

Jeff Brown spoke recently at the Surrender Summit on the topic, The Power of Authenticity.  Jeff is an author, expert in personal transformation and a lifetime seeker of his own authenticity.  He does not only talk about authenticity; he pursues it relentlessly and tirelessly in his own life and work. Jeff experienced adverse childhood experiences but has explored his inner landscape mainly through writing to  enable him to take his place in the world and to pursue his unfolding life purpose.  He maintains that writing is therapeutic and a tool for developing authenticity. 

To this end, Jeff has created his online writing course to make his personal lessons and insights available to anyone.  The course,  Writing Your Way Home: Answering the Soul’s Call, is available as a six-week audio course that incorporates inspiration and encouragement along with practical writing and publishing tips.  Jeff describes this course and its intent to help the participant find their “deepest and truest expression” in his short video where he encourages others to undertake the “transformative journey” of writing.

In his book, Love it Forward, he recounts how he had a turning point in his life when he stopped to give some money to a homeless person in the street.  He realised that this was a token action so he found out the contact details of the homeless person involved and arranged to send payments to him each week.  This felt more authentic and heartfelt

In an earlier book, Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation, he explored the traumas and successes of his life in search of his inner authenticity – what he describes as alignment with his “soul purpose”.   He was able to set aside external achievements such as becoming a criminal lawyer and move towards his life calling as a writer.  He established the Soulshaping Institute: A Center for Authentic Transformation to assist others to make this personal journey to authenticity – to identify and pursue their life purpose.

Ways to develop authenticity

In Love it Forward, Jeff provides a series of quotes and insights into what authenticity means in daily life.  His book is a call to authenticity through overcoming any “emotional debris” and setting out on the path to our “soul purpose”.  His written words identify ways to be authentic in our actions and interactions:

  • Learn to live in the present moment – not the future or the past
  • Have the courage to break the hold of our “comfort zone” which prevents us from realising our true potential – we tend to avoid new beginnings for fear of the pain of endings
  • Avoid connecting with people who diminish us, distract us from our path, or try to dissuade us from realizing our potential
  • Savour life, love, breathing, being-in-relationship, and the ability to see, talk, walk and run
  • Acknowledge that giving in service to others is reciprocal – they are giving in return by accepting our generosity and enabling us to honour our life purpose (it is not a one-way street)
  • Accept that chaos precedes clarity and that without confusion there is no movement forward beyond the present understanding
  • Recognize that when we actualize our gifts to serve others in need, we are paying-it-forward and backward (to the people before us who have not had the skills or opportunity to serve others or those who come behind who can walk in our footsteps).
  • Don’t take things personally – create a mental boundary between ourselves and the behaviour of others (it is not about us)
  • Let love blossom as we age – open our heart to everything and everyone (we will no longer have time for avoidance or envy).
  • Express gratitude for our mentors and elders who have helped us realize our potential and our calling
  • Acknowledge that sometimes people have to experience and express victimhood to be able to move to well-being
  • Develop a self-care plan that acknowledges our intrinsic value and worth
  • Measure our success not in terms of externalities but inner victories over unresolved traumas and our “inner critic”
  • Treat negative self-talk as a culturally-induced, false story
  • Maintain a vision of our purpose and its realisation so that we actualize it “when the time is right”
  • Value the success of others (avoid envy of other’s  achievements).

Reflection

Jeff reinforces the fact that personal transformation cannot be rushed and that the journey to authenticity is paved with setbacks (lows), as well as joy (highs).  There is excitement and exhilaration in the journey of unfolding and realizing our uniqueness and potential.                                                                                                       

Meditation and other practices can enable us to grow in mindfulness, be fully present and have the courage and resilience to embark on our own journey to authenticity.

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Image by Ke Hugo from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group, and the resources to support the blog.

Managing Conflict

Recently the First Person Plural: EI and Beyond podcast featured Professor George Hohlrieser (Lausanne, Switzerland) discussing, How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict.  The podcast series involving collaboration between Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence), his son Hanuman Goleman and Emotional Intelligence (EI) coach Elizabeth Solomon, is designed to raise listeners’ awareness through stories provided on interview by inspiring people.   The hope is that listeners can grow in mindfulness and resilience in living proactively within the systems that surround them – within their personal, social, natural and global systems.

George works with multiple Fortune 500 companies as a clinical and organisational consultant.  He recounts during the podcast the story of how he became an accidental hostage negotiator while working for the police.  He has continued working in hostage negotiation (sometimes at considerable personal risk), as well as working with people who are suicidal.  George is an internationally renowned speaker and best-selling author.  His widely acclaimed book, Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance, is undergoing revision and updating and will be published on 30 November 2022.  In the book, he recounts compelling stories of real hostage situations and draws out the psychological principles that enable hostage negotiators to be successful.

Conflict management principles

During the podcast, George explained some of the principles that underpin his approach to conflict resolution and how they can apply to leaders who are attempting to influence others and develop high performance teams:

  • Don’t be a hostage: people can be a hostage to others – their children, parents, teachers, bosses, clients, suppliers or employees.  A hostage thinks they are powerless and the pandemic generated feelings of helplessness in a lot of people.  Not thinking like a hostage involves, among other things, thinking clearly about a desired outcome and establishing a positive mindset about that outcome.   It also involves establishing a secure personal base, not being hostage to your own emotions.
  • Become a secure base: manage your own fight/flight/freeze response so that you are not caught up in what Daniel Goleman describes as the “amygdala hijack”.  Develop calmness so that you “see opportunities not threats”.  George mentioned that in his leadership development programs he does not use the traditional Harvard case studies but tells participants that the case study is “you” – building self-awareness, developing insight and courage and tapping into personal intuition and creativity.  Being calm and secure builds trust – an essential element for conflict resolution and management.
  • Tell it like it is: George argues that you should not “sugar coat” the unsatisfactory situation, e.g. poor performance or inappropriate behaviour.  He gives the example of telling someone that “you are too aggressive with clients – that needs to change”.    
  • Address the conflict directly: George uses the analogy, “put the fish on the table” – drawing from his experience working with fishermen in Sicily who were scaling and cleaning fish on a table, removing the bloody, smelly bits and preparing the fish for the “great fish dinner a the end of the day”  The analogy means addressing the conflict not ignoring it (“not putting the fish under the table”), dealing up front with the messiness of the issues and looking forward to a positive resolution.
  • The person is not the problem: George maintains that you should not “write off” the person(s) involved, e.g. “they are just argumentative, nasty or thoughtless”.  He argues that there is a real problem underlying a conflict situation, e.g. the person may feel slighted or disrespected; they may feel taken for granted when passed over for a promotion or project; or they could be experiencing distress in a home situation.  He illustrated this principle by telling the story about a father involved in a hostage situation – it was not that he was a “naturally violent person” but that he had been prevented from seeing his child (locked out by unreasonable access rules).  The core problem in this situation was the inability of the father to see his child and the solution lay in finding a way for the father to gain access to his child.
  • Identify the “pain point”: George argued that you make little progress in managing conflict if you focus on “selling points” versus “pain points”.  This requires active listening, not trying to persuade.  The pain point is often related to a loss – past, present, future or anticipated.  He mentioned Warren Bennis’ idea of “hidden grief” – that leaders are often blind to their own underlying sense of grief and can be grieving over things that happened many years earlier.  George illustrated this point by recounting the stories of two CEO’s who committed suicide out of a sense of grief over some situation – economic or workplace related.
  • Be caring: listen for understanding and be willing to be empathetic.  Express the desire for their wellbeing and demonstrate a caring attitude.  George suggests that this creates a bond even with people you might consider your “enemy”.  Bonding helps to dissolve conflict.
  • Be daring: learning a new skill such as conflict management takes you outside your “comfort zone”. Be willing to dare yourself as any new talent you desire to develop requires daring on your part – facing the fear, acknowledging the challenge and preparing yourself.  Daring your employees by presenting them with challenging work or projects, develops and motivates them.
  • Ask questions: George suggests that asking questions empowers the other person, even in a situation where a person is suicidal.  Curiosity can communicate care and concern.  Questioning can help to explore the “pain point(s)” and to work towards a solution that they can accept.
  • Provide choice: avoid a “command and control” approach as this damages bonding and trust.  The command and control approach does not motivate – it disempowers and disables people.  It can lead to compliance, but not sustainable change. Provide choice wherever possible so that the person feels a sense of agency in relation to the underlying issue.

Reflection

George’s approach to conflict resolution has been developed through his experiences as a hostage negotiator and working with people who have suicidal intentions.  He has also refined his approach through working with organisational leaders around the world to help them implement the fundamental conflict management principles he has developed.  He emphasises that conflict management involves both caring and daring – it challenges us to move outside our comfort zone to achieve a resolution.   It requires us to avoid relying on positional power and instead employ the personal power associated with integrity, humility and compassion.

His approach requires us to grow in mindfulness so that we gain the necessary self-awareness and insight into our inner landscape to operate from a calm and secure place.  Mindfulness helps us to achieve the emotional regulation involved in dealing with conflictual situations and working to de-escalate the emotional tension involved.  Reflection on our own resentment(s) can assist us to achieve calm, caring and daring.

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Image by iqbal nuril anwar from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group, and the resources to support the blog.

From Inward to Outward: Creating and Realizing a New Order

In a number of forums, Ginny Whitelaw, author of Resonate: Zen and the Way of Making a Difference, expressed concern about society today and the global (dis)order.  She attributes much of what is happening to an “extractive mindset” – extracting earth’s resources, taking for oneself at others’ expense, wasting needlessly, endangering the planet with pollution and failing to restore the endless damage that is occurring through relentless consumption.  She suggests that underpinning this extraction mindset is acquisitiveness – greed driving the need to have more (money, food, status, power, influence, and/or land).  Businesses extract resources from developing countries and do not replenish them while, at the same time, exploiting cheap local labour.  There is an increasing desire for larger houses (with more in-built facilities) and cars with more room and power.  People have lost the art of “knowing what enough is”.   Facebook and other social media feed off and reinforce these acquisitive desires by rewarding the number of followers/likes you have and making you feel bad if you are not an “influencer’. 

In her presentation as part of the Masters Series of EVO Sports Collective, Ginny addressed these issues and spoke of them as the “crucial work of our time”.  She argued that these destructive trends have arisen because we have “dual consciousness” – separating mind from body and ourselves from others.  Associated with this is the disconnection from nature and the failure to understand and appreciate our connectedness to everything and everyone.   

Seeing ourselves as separate from nature and others, and viewing our mind as separate from our body (contrary to the experience of trauma), leads to a dualistic mindset that contributes to the disassociation and destruction of the current social order.  Ginny argues that we need to “feel the earth and sense the waves” to restore our balance through renewing our relationship with nature.  This sense of oneness with nature is cogently and emotively expressed by Lulu & Mischka in the video of their mantra meditation, Stillness in Motion.

A way forward to creating and realising a new social order

In her EVO presentation, Ginny argued that the adoption of non-dual consciousness and Perma-leadership represent the way forward to a sustainable social order.   Connection with nature and its healing power can be one way to develop a non-dual consciousness and contribute to self-care in these uncertain and challenging times.  Mindfulness practices such as loving-kindness meditation and reflection on our emotions (e.g. resentment) can build the sense of connectedness with others and heighten our empathy and compassion.

Ginny reinforces the view that effective leadership and change works from the inside out – from changing our energetic pattern to impact the world around us from a different “place of connection”.   She refers to Kevin Cashman’s book, Leadership from the Inside Out, as a point of reference.  Kevin, drawing on neuroscience research and the characteristics of high performing teams,  points to the need for leaders to strengthen their awareness, be authentic, enhance their courage, build character, develop agility and make a contribution through service of others in pursuit of a life purpose that demonstrates their authenticity.

Ginny suggests that we need to “re-think, re-look and re-invent” to create the future we want – one that optimises outcomes for everyone, rather than maximises wealth for a few.  To do this we have to become re-connected to nature, to our bodies and to others so that we can operate from a stable place, being grounded, and sure of who we are.  People of like minds can create a “tipping point” – the Pandemic of Love, initiated by Shelly Tygielski, is an example of this.  Ginny encourages us to “insert ourselves in what is going on” – just as Shelly Tygielski did from a rich lode of inner work and exploration of her inner landscape.  As we develop new energetic levels through inner integration and alignment, we are able to act on the world in an authentic way and make a contribution that aligns with our life purpose.  Ginny is a great believer in resonance as demonstrated in her Resonate book and the exercises she provides within it to help us centre our energy.

Perma-leadership as a way to engage

Ginny explains that the concept of Perma-leadership is based on the principles of permaculture –   caring for people, the planet and the future.  It develops from a deep mind-body connection and profound connection to others where, in line with indigenous wisdom, we recognise ourself in the other and the other in ourself (no separateness or duality).  Perma-leadership is an iterative process  involving both feed-forward and feedback – where an earlier step is repeated in the light of new insight.  Ginny illustrates the stages in the cycle (from both individual and collective viewpoints) in a Forbes article titled, What Globalization Taught Leaders and What They Need to Learn Now.

The four steps in the iterative Perma-leadership cycle are:

  1. Connect and Remember – initially it may involve remembering something in nature that one loves and reconnecting with it, e.g. by becoming lost in its beauty, sounds or touch.  This oneness with nature can build into oneness with others – feeling connected to others, not separate from them.  Mind-body connection and connection to others deepen over time and provides the impetus for turning practice into action.  Practices such as hara (lower abdomen) breathing and the music of chakras breathing can help to achieve this immersion and sense of connectedness.  The latter process involving the chakras can be enhanced by employing three levels of activity for each chakra – (1) as you tone the sound for the chakra envisage the sound and breath reaching into the chakra, (2) expand the sound and breath out to the whole world and (3) tap into the depth of emotion experienced within the chakra (as illustrated in Ginny’s EVO Masters Series presentation at 1.20 – note access to this series and other resources are free for people who register with the EVO Sports Collective).
  2. Shift and Reimagine – here the focus is on a challenge, project or purpose that one wants to act on in a different way from what has been happening to date.  It involves shifting our perspective on the endeavour and re-imagining it in the light of the permaculture principles mentioned above – caring for people, the planet and the future.  It means working from a deep sense of connectedness and shifting our perspective and action to align with a desired future rather a depleted past.  It may involve exploring “the ripple effect of your life” and choosing to change the effect you have.
  3. Energize and Inspire – this may involve developing a self-care plan incorporating wellness strategies to enhance our energy and using the resultant energy to show up for community care.  We can seek inspiration from people like Shelly and energize ourselves by completing her online course, The Power of Showing Up (which I am pursuing at the moment).  Part of this process is overcoming the self-messages such as “I am not good enough, know enough or skilled enough”.  If we pursue our purpose with energy and authenticity we will create resonance in others and inspire them to participate and contribute from their own centredness (just as Shelly did with the Pandemic of Love).
  4. Create and Realize – this involves converting intention into action and manifests “attuned human beings, listening, adapting” to realize the future in the present.  This requires having the insight to perceive present opportunities for personal contribution and building personal resilience and concerted action one step at a time in line with Permaculture Principles.   The cyclic action involved in Perma-leadership also resonates with the principles of action learning

Reflection

Ginny throws out a challenge to us to create and realize a new order, one intervention at a time – within our resources and in line with present opportunities.  As we grow in mindfulness through mindful breathing and other mindfulness practices, we can gain the necessary insight, courage and resilience to make a contribution to realizing a better world within our local community and/or on a broader scale (through inspiring others and creating a “tipping point”).

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group, and the resources to support the blog.

Undertaking a Life Review

In a previous post I discussed the life review process when it occurs during a near-death experience or when a person is dying.  While millions of people have reported near-death experiences (NDE’s), not everyone has the privilege of having this experience.  If we wait till we are dying, we may find that we are overwhelmed with regrets, rather than experiencing the joy of having created positive ripple effects in our life, especially in our latter years.

It is possible to undertake a life review at any point in our life and to benefit ourselves and others we interact with as a result.  The life review process, even self-initiated, can be a forbidding task.  People find that early in life (especially as teenagers) we tend to be more reckless and less sensitive to the needs of others.  Jeff Janssen, in his video podcast interview with Kirsty Salisbury offers two questions which may be too daunting as a starting point:

  1. Which events/situations would you look forward to seeing and feeling again?
  2. Which events/situations do you dread seeing and feeling again?

We can build towards a situation where the events/situations we look forward to re-visiting (in all their visual and emotional elements) dominate our life review towards the end of our life.  This can be achieved by beginning on the path to a complete life review – taken in your own time and own way.

Chunking to manage the life review task

You might adopt a process of chunking up the life review task – breaking it into manageable chunks.  Shelly Tygielski, in her online course on the Power of Showing Up,  decided to focus on self-care in her life review after receiving a diagnosis which indicated that she would go blind without radical medical treatment – which subsequently failed.   She adopted the process of chunking up the self-care life review by looking at the different spheres in her life, e.g. work, home, social and community.  Community was included because she believes strongly that self-care is ultimately for enabling one to participate in a unique way in community care.  The result of such a review could be a comprehensive self-care plan that serves our needs and, at the same, time contribute to the wellbeing of others that we interact with daily.

Using role reversal to access others’ perspectives.

Jeff also adopts another approach to a life review by using a role reversal process.  He suggests for example, that if he was in his son’s place, how would he view his father?; or if he was in his wife’s place, how would she view him as a spouse?  We can ask similar questions in relation to our colleagues, family members or clients/customers.  This can be enlightening in terms of the ripple effect of our words, omissions and actions and can identify ways to ensure that we are choosing to create positive rather than negative ripples.  

Life purpose review

Consistently we are told that pursuing a life purpose beyond ourself adds meaning to our lives and is foundational to achieving happiness, joy and self-fulfilment.  In a life review, we can explore how we are pursuing a life purpose that engages us in community care.  We can ask ourselves two basic questions:

  1. What is my unique combination of experience (including trauma), skills, knowledge and abilities?
  2. How can I better use these to advance community care in my immediate environment and/or the wider community?

If we answer these questions honestly and pursue the insights gained we can begin to generate more positive ripple effects in the lives of others (and our own life).

Questions from lessons learned through near-death experiences

In the summary of his book, 10 Life-Changing Lessons from Heaven (based on reported NDE’s), Jeff provides a series of questions around each chapter that addressing a separate lesson or recommended way of living our life.  Even without reading the book, you can use the questions as a form of life review (of course, if you read the book, you will gain so much more meaning, insight and “how to” information).  You could for example explore these sample questions or others provided by Jeff:

  • How have your fears held you back and limited you?;
  • Where in your life do you need to summon the courage to jump?
  • Can you think of any situations where the Ripple Effect of your actions have had a negative effect on others? What was this effect and how far did the ripple effect extend?
  • Which individuals or groups might you not fully understand or accept?

Reflection

There are many approaches we can use to begin on the path to a life review.  Undertaking a life review is a massive task and can be managed through chunking up the task by choosing a manageable focus and starting point (e.g. self-care plan, role reversal reflection, life purpose review, or specific lessons from NDE’s or from death and dying).

We can engage in self-pity and get lost in the adversity caused by our past words and/or actions, or offer ourselves self-compassion and forgiveness and move forward with a life review process that engenders a commitment to creating positive ripples in our life and that of others in the community.

As we engage in mindfulness practices, we can grow in mindfulness in every aspect of our daily life, gain self-awareness and insight into our impact on others and have the courage to change for the better.

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Image by Public Co from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group, and the resources to support the blog.

Reframing Menopause: Making Sense of the Transition

Maria Shriver, creator of the Radically Reframing Aging Summit, identified aspects of our life that need reframing such as the aging narrative, retirement, life transitions and death and dying.  She also mentioned explicitly the negative narrative around menopause and the need to reframe it as “a different stage of life” leading to blossoming, rather than decline.  This theme of post-menopausal empowerment is taken up in Susan Willson’s book, Making Sense of Menopause: Harnessing the Power and Potency of Your Wisdom Years. In a podcastinterview with Tami Simon, Susan spoke energetically and insightfully about the disempowerment of the current narrative about menopause.

Salient messages in Making Sense of Menopause

In her interview, Susan covered many aspects of menopause including the physical, psychological and cultural dimensions.  Some of the key messages introduced in her interview podcast and detailed in her book are identified below.

  • The negative narrative – the prevailing narrative around menopause focuses on what can be lost, e.g. looks, sexual drive and physical prowess.  This narrative can be disempowering so that some women view menopause as a period of decline rather than the transition to a new phase of life that can be enriching, rewarding and a source of creativity and shared wisdom.   She sees her role as helping women to change the narrative and to see menopause in a new lights that leads to proactive action and empowerment.
  • Physical changes – Susan stresses that the body is forever working in the best interests of the individual, by integrating its functions, accessing its intelligence and continuously adapting to its environment.  She argues that women need to understand what the body is trying to achieve and to work with it rather than against it.  She suggests that women can move beyond the symptomatic level and their conditioning arising through being “marinated” in the pharmaceutical solution to everything.  Susan explains too that part of the hormonal changes occurring in menopause actually “trigger the creative centers of the brain”.
  • The sharing of wisdom – Susan argues that what is needed is a new narrative about menopause that recognises it as a time for “thriving” and for women to access their creativity and wisdom.  She identifies the post-menopausal wise woman as someone who has worked on their “inner landscape” so that she “really knows who she is” and is comfortable enough in herself to own her self-identity without being dependent on the opinions of others.  The wise woman too, in her view, who takes the “long view” – being present in the moment but not captured by it, and being able to see beyond limiting ideologies, narrow worldviews and short-term time horizons.  The long view includes consciousness of community and a desire to make a contribution drawing on a woman’s innate gifts and wisdom accumulated through life experiences. 
  • Role models of the wise woman – Susan suggested that there are increasing examples of the post-menopausal wise women, some of whom will be presenting at the Radically Reframing Aging Summit. She also mentioned Hazel McCallion as a model of a wise women – a woman who became a Mayor in Ontario in her 60’s and retired at 95, after focusing on building community and the welfare of people she served.   Another example that comes to mind is Edith Eger who at 92 wrote The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life– a  reflection on lessons learned in her time in Auschwitz and, subsequently, as a world-renowned and highly accredited trauma counsellor.
  • Need for ritual – Susan maintains that there is a need for ritual “to bring menopause to a conscious place”.  In the podcast and her book, she describes her own ritual for menopause as a point of transition to a new and fulfilling phase in her life.  She makes the point that in Western Society, unlike many other cultures, we do not have established rituals to celebrate rites of passage such as puberty and menopause.  Susan strongly suggests that women can use their creativity to design their own ”cloning ceremony” that celebrates their post-menopausal transition to a “Wise Woman”.   She explains that such a ritual has four key elements – acknowledging what has been left behind, acknowledging the gifts brought forward, a commitment to a new phase of life through engaging creativity and sharing wisdom and a number of witnesses drawn from friends or the broader community (that makes the commitment public).   She suggests that women need to overcome the reticence experienced in the West to talk about life transitions affecting them and engage friends and family in conversation about what is happening for them.
  • Lifestyle choices – Susan suggests that women need to develop a ritual around eating, sleeping and exercising.  This establishes a “body rhythm” and enables the body to provide the necessary amount of energy when required.  She notes that many women live on adrenaline pushing themselves to the limit and causing their body to be in a continuous state of fight or flight – which runs down energy and causes the adrenals to continuously make adjustments to manage blood sugar levels.
  • Intimate relationships – Susan notes that while some women report that their sex drive diminishes with menopause, other women report that their post-menopausal stage represents “the best years ever in terms of sex”.  She contends that a key factor in these differences is a woman’s sense of connection with their partner – a feeling of connection enhanced through communication about present moment feelings and bodily disposition, as well as about shared future goals.

Susan provides further ideas and resources to help women navigate the menopausal life transition through her website, Making Sense of Menopause – where she provides further podcast interviews she has been involved in (or will be in the future) and also her blog posts.   

Reflection

Menopause, like other life transitions, impact women on multiple levels – physical, psychological, cultural and emotional levels.  Susan and Maria both strongly support the idea of changing the narrative about menopause from one of loss and depletion to one of women gaining empowerment.   They stress the gift of menopause lies in greater access to creativity and wisdom for women and the positive energy and sense of achievement that comes from creatively sharing their wisdom with others in the form of teaching, managing, writing, performing, painting, counselling or any other endeavour that utilises their knowledge, skills and life experience.

As women grow in mindfulness and self-awareness, they are better able to make the transition to post-menopausal life.  They develop a deeper sense of who they are, what they are capable of, and how they can contribute to the quality of life for other people. 

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Image by silviarita from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group, and the resources to support the blog.

Overcoming Conditioning: The Road to Sobriety

Veronica Valli and Chip Somers, psychotherapists and sobriety coaches, provide a video podcast which focuses on, “How to stop drinking without feeling like you are missing out”.   Both have recovered from extended substance abuse and share their knowledge, skills and life stories to help others experience recovery.  Throughout the video they explore the false beliefs that lead us to maintain our level of alcohol drinking and that serve to entrench our habituated behaviour.  They explore the outside influences that reinforce our false beliefs and unhelpful/unhealthy habits.  Veronica and Chip offer a way forward for anyone who wants to overcome their conditioning and achieve sobriety – a road to recovery that they have used to help many hundreds of people recover and achieve a truly successful life.  They also offer a Soberful podcast with more than 150 episodes incorporating success stories to help people sustain their efforts to achieve sobriety. 

The power of false beliefs

Chip and Veronica point out that underpinning our habituated drinking behaviour is a set of false beliefs that influence our thoughts and emotions on a daily (even hourly) basis.  These false beliefs relate to the nature of the rewards offered by alcohol drinking and the fear of exclusion through living a boring life if not drinking.  The fundamental false belief is that alcohol is the passport to a promised land – the land of fun, excitement, relaxation, a sense of connection and belonging, sex and romance.  The power of this belief is fuelled by our conviction that this is the desired land – the place we want to be.  Associated with that is the fear that if we stop, or even reduce, our alcohol drinking we will be seen as boring and be excluded from the desired land of personal fulfillment.

External influences reinforcing false beliefs

Television advertising with its ability to create colourful and exciting scenarios portray a culture where drinking is the road to inclusion and fun.  The images portrayed in advertisements entice us to sit back and relax with a drink or to party on with others who are having a good time.  Some ads even focus on the pain of exclusion for those who are not part of the drinking set.  Wine and beer advertising through social media, text messages and email is continuous and unrelenting, promising the ”good life” if you participate and partake.  Newspapers offer special advertisements that encourage you to sign up for weekly/monthly shipments of alcohol at special discounted prices. If you happen to join a wine club, they are very ready to make you “one-off offers” that are “specially designed for you” – and they can make this very targeted by tracking your frequent purchases.  A culture of drinking permeates our society and it is very difficult to break the hold of this cultural entanglement.

The road to sobriety

Both Veronica and Chip stress that the road to sobriety can be a long journey where the early stages can be quite difficult as we try to break the hold of our false beliefs and the influence of family, friends and peer group that can hold us back – sometimes with the disarming comment, “Oh come on, don’t be a bore!”   

One of the primary ways that Chip highlights to begin the road to recovery is a “reality check” or what is often called “a cost/benefit analysis”.  Chip insists that we face the reality of the costs of drinking alcohol for us personally and don’t downplay or overlook the negative impact on family, friends, work output, social relationships, health and wellbeing and overall productivity.  Facing the reality of our lack of sobriety can be painful and entails a thorough reassessment of the reward value that we consciously or unconsciously ascribe to drinking alcohol.   

Veronica focused on the need for social support to reinforce our efforts to achieve recovery.  She maintains that social support is necessary to reduce the likelihood of falling back into old habits or the stop/start pattern that can develop when we go it alone.  To this end, Veronica offers a Soberful Facebook group and a paid online Soberful Life Program with monthly workshops, support meetings, training videos, and podcast discussions – all facilitated by professional experts and established authors in the field of sobriety.   

In her latest book, Soberful: Uncover a Sustainable, Fulfilling Life Free of Alcohol,Veronica offers other ways to begin the journey to recovery and sustain a life of sobriety.  She highlights the emotional skills needed to sustain our recovery efforts and identifies effective strategies to manage the difficult emotions that we often try to avoid or numb through alcohol.  She discusses in detail what she describes as the Five Pillars of Sustainable Sobriety which she identifies as movement, connection balance, process and growth (this is also offered as a free Masterclass). 

Reflection

The road to sobriety is very much an individual journey and both Chip and Veronica have travelled this road over many years in their earlier lives.  They have experienced the challenges, the setbacks, pressures and the big and small victories.  Veronica found that journalling and meditation (undertaken over more than 20 years) have helped her to sustain her sobriety and Chip highlighted the positive influence of “expressing gratitude for what he has” as a sustaining force.

One of the ways to recovery involves a process of reflection on what “messaging” we give ourselves on a particular occasion when we chose to drink alcohol.   We can review, for example, whether our behaviour was motivated by a reward mindset – just one or two drinks to reward ourselves for overcoming a difficult situation, achieving a successful outcome, celebrating an anniversary or birthday.  Bringing awareness to our personal messaging helps us to identify the specific motivators that underlie our habituated behaviours. 

As we grow in mindfulness through reflection, listening to podcasts, participating in workshops/programs or meditating, we can grow in self-awareness and identify the drivers behind our habits, including the habit of drinking alcohol, and develop the necessary emotional regulation to enable us to achieve a desired state of sobriety.

I have personal experience of the damaging effects of alcohol through my experience of an alcoholic father who lacked any support mechanism for his post-traumatic stress syndrome resulting from three and a half years as a prisoner-of-war in Changi.  After a marriage breakup and a successful remarriage, he became a model of sobriety, giving up drinking alcohol completely, and keeping fit by walking for an hour every day.

This family history has motivated me to avoid alcoholism.  However, I still feel the pressures, internal and external, to have a regular glass of wine (a variable regularity governed, to some degree, by my life circumstances at the time – such as the recent death of my brother Pat Passfield).  My strategy to move towards my desired level of sobriety is to reflect on what motivates my behaviour in particular circumstances and to do a reality check covering the real cost of the occasional drink (e.g. on health and relationships). 

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Image by pen_ash from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group, and the resources to support the blog.

Clear the Clutter, Make Room for Love in Your Life

I woke up this morning with this blog title in my head but I am not sure where it came from.  I have not been reading about clutter lately– maybe, it is an unconscious realisation that the time has come to attack my home office clutter again.  My wife and I made a concerted effort to clear clutter in my home office a few months ago in one of our recreational breaks.  We achieved clearing some paper clutter, re-organising books and bookshelves, and rearranging some furniture.  It created a sense of space and some degree of control.  One of the drivers for the change was Zoom meetings and conferences – the need to replace the creamy blank wall behind me with something a bit more engaging.

Behind me, I now have a tidy bookcase with some books thematically arranged (not alphabetically, that would be going too far!).  So, I have groupings of books on mindfulness and self-development; action learning and action research; and manager & organisational development.  These are three core areas I work in.  One of the immediate benefits for me is that I can now readily find book references when I am writing my blog or preparing a manager development session.

I suspect that part of the reason for thinking about this topic again is that with the pandemic challenges and restrictions we will not be going overseas or interstate this year.  This means that our Christmas break will provide some time to clean up, renovate and generally tidy up the house.

Clutter takes up space physically and mentally

Many of us lead busy lives with little time for cleaning up behind us as we rush through the commitments of each day.  Clutter not only takes up physical space but it is also ever-present, sapping our energy.  We waste time trying to find things that should be ready to hand (I have been as guilty of this as anyone). 

I have recently created some  piles of “stuff to file” in a fit of clearing clutter.  One of my difficulties is throwing away papers/articles that “I might need later”.  The reality is that I rarely get to use any of them and, besides,  I often have electronic copies or links to their location online – I really do not need the hard copies.  However, there is also an emotional attachment to some papers or articles – they are mementos of conquests, achievements, struggles, written work, or moments of joy.  Sorting out “need” from emotional attachment can be very difficult.  In the meantime, the piles of stuff (not only papers) create an energy drag because they always appear on my mental to-do list (I don’t record them on my written to-do list – I might have to do something about them if I did!).

Make room for love in your life

Clutter experts tell us that clearing clutter enables us to “reclaim our life”, and can make a “huge difference to our happiness and productivity”.  Clutter represents stored energy.  Clearing clutter can improve our lifestyle and help us to restore our priorities, such as making room and time for those we love.  

Marie Kondo argues that it is all a matter of mindset and the development of the habit of tidying once a major clean-up is undertaken.  She also suggests that you should clear things up by theme (e.g. books, clothes) rather than by rooms or locations within the house.  However, we may not have time  to clear our clutter on a large scale or the commitment to undertake the level of disciplined rigour that Marie suggests.  To me, making progress in clearing clutter does provide, as Marie suggests, a sense of achievement and motivation to develop and sustain the habit of tidying up.  Marie’s philosophy is that big wins early on, provide the fuel for sustaining the effort of clutter clearing.

Reflection

The title of this post and subsequent discussion suggest that there is an opportunity cost to clutter.  One aspect of that cost is losing time and energy for those we love.  Clutter, too, can be one of the blockages to finding stillness and silence in our life and the opportunity to grow in mindfulness. Christine Jackman, in her book Turning Down the Noise: The Quiet Power of Silence in a Busy World, maintains that our busyness and cluttered lives stop us from really listening to those we love and hearing the important stories in our daily life, e.g. stories from partners and children.  She argues that listening for understanding “is as simple as pausing in silence and opening our hearts”.

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Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group and the resources to support the blog.

Strategies for Couples to Cope While Working at Home during Quarantine

In a previous post I discussed Rick Hanson’s ideas about the intrapersonal and interpersonal challenges facing couples working from home during the quarantine conditions brought on by the Coronavirus.  In his podcast, Coping with Quarantine, Rick also explored strategies for couples to cope with these challenges.  His suggested strategies focused strongly on connection, contribution, control (inner and outer) and compassion.

Strategies for couples to cope with the challenges of working together at home during social isolation

  • Connection with others: the fundamental principle underpinning physical distancing is avoidance rather than contact and connection.  However, this does not prevent us from connecting with each other as a couple, with our family and friends or with colleagues.  All of the remote communication strategies are available to us – online video calls, telephone, social media and email.  There can be a tendency to let the physical distancing principles impact the rest of our behaviour.  However, now is the time to reconnect with others who are also feeling socially isolated.  As a couple, connection can take the form of increased hugs, considerateness, words of love and appreciation and thoughtful touch – all of which builds the relationship. It also involves avoiding the temptation to escalate an argument or conflict to prove you are right or to assuage your pride.  Fundamental to connection with your partner is listening for understanding, not interrupting but being open and vulnerable to the thoughts and feelings of your partner.  As Rick points out, listening provides you with the time to deeply connect with the other person and enables them to experience calm and clarity.  He reiterates Dan Siegel’s view that deep listening enables the communicator to “feel felt by the other person”.
  • Connection to nature:  we are connected to nature on multiple levels and it is possible through mindfulness practices, including mantra meditation, to experience this connection at a deep level.  When we experience our deep connection to nature, we can feel inspired, energised, positive and calm.  The very act of breathing and walking in nature regenerates our physical systems, clears our mind and helps us to reduce the power of our negative emotions.  Nature has its own healing capacity which we can tap into in multiple ways – if only we would stop long enough to let it happen.  
  • Contribution: there are so many people in need as a result of the pandemic.  There are also endless ways to contribute and help others, to draw on our creativity and resourcefulness.  For example, despite the lockdown in the Northern Territory in Australia, Arnhem Land artists are offering a series of free online concerts to lift people’s spirits and reinforce their connection to the land and the resilience of nature.  Thirty of Australia’s top singing stars have also collaborated to provide an online concert from their homes, Music From The Home Front, that is dedicated to people who are in the frontline of the fight against the Coronavirus.  Another exemplar of contribution in adversity is Nkosi Johnson who was born with HIV in South Africa and died at the age of 12.  In his short life, he dedicated himself to fighting, locally and globally, for the rights of HIV affected people in South Africa and beyond.  Nkosi is quoted as saying, “Do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place you are”.
  • Controlling yourself and your environment: in times of crisis it is important to develop a sense of control over our difficult emotions and our immediate environment.  There is a growing pool of advice on managing anxiety and achieving mental and emotional balance during these times of uncertainty and social isolation.  In times of uncertainty we can achieve a sense of agency by controlling aspects of our immediate environment – whether that be tidying or renewing our garden, removing clutter from our workspace, developing new skills or getting our finances and accounts in order.
  • Compassionate thoughts and action: in the section above on contribution, I stressed the importance of finding ways to help and to take compassionate action.  However, action is not always possible because of our personal circumstances, including being confined to home as a high-risk person.  This is particularly where loving kindness meditation can be used to experience compassion towards others who are suffering and/or experiencing grief.  Everyday there are stories of individuals and families experiencing heart-breaking situations brought on by the Coronavirus.  We can keep these people in our thoughts and prayers and feel with them.

Reflection

Creating connection, making a contribution, achieving self-control and control over our immediate environment and offering compassion and loving kindness are ways forward for individuals and couples restricted to working from home.  Meditation, reflection and mindfulness practices will help us to grow in mindfulness and to develop the necessary self-awareness, awareness of others, self-regulation and presence of mind and body to bring these positive aspects into our lives as individuals and couples.

Chris James captures the essence of connection to nature in the songlet Tall Trees on his Enchant album:

Tall trees

Warm fire

Strong wind

Deep water

I feel it in my body

I feel it in my soul

Image by Andreas Danang Aprillianto from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group and the resources to support the blog.

Challenges for Couple Relationships During Quarantine and Working from Home

Rick Hanson, in one of his Being Well Podcasts, spoke of Coping with Quarantine.   His focus in this discussion was on the intrapersonal and interpersonal challenges of physical distancing and restrictions on movement.   In the podcast, he identified the challenges and highlighted the fact that the pandemic and associated quarantine conditions have contributed to an increased divorce rate in China since the pandemic outbreak.  Rick spoke of the interpersonal challenges brought on by the confinement conditions and the mental and emotional pressures experienced by couples working from home.

Challenges of social isolation for couples working from home

The unusual conditions for a couple working from home in the context of other social constrictions creates increase emotional pressure for individuals in a relationship as well as for the relationship itself.  Rick describes some of these challenges as follows:

  • Heightened emotional activation: both individuals in a relationship who are working from home will be experiencing heightened emotions in the form of anxiety, fear and frustration as a result of the Coronavirus and associated restrictions on location and movement.   Couples typically experience daily aggravations with some of the comments and actions of their partner.  These aggravations can be intensified in the situation of limited physical space in the home environment and restrictions on movement.  The home environment can become a place of continuous annoyance, conflict and anger rather than a haven of peace and contentment.  Married couples in this situation can experience suffocation and/or staleness and need to draw on considerable internal resources to increase their tolerance and maintain their relationship.
  • Loss of social support: physical distancing can separate us from people we usually associate with and from whom we draw support and reinforcement.  Normally, we gain validation and confirmation of our competence and self-worth through these external relationships.  The change to a working from home environment means that we have lost the daily “water cooler chat” and with it the exchange of information, including sharing of our thoughts and feelings.  The loss of various forms of social reinforcement can cause us to challenge our self-concept and self-worth – difficult feelings compounded by feeling inadequate working from a home environment where we lack the personal capability for remote communications or the working space and technology to take advantage of the positive aspects of remote working.
  • Loss of structure: it is surprising how many people report in the current situation that they “don’t know what day it is”.  This is due, in part, to a loss of structure in their day.  The loss of regular, repetitive activities results in a loss of anchors to our days that serve to remind us what day it is.  We no longer get dressed for work, take the train or car at set times, play our social tennis on Monday nights, watch the footy together on Friday nights, visit our extended bayside family or the local market on weekends or undertake any other activity that serves to structure our day or week.  Rick suggests that these structures normally “prop us up” and their absence can leave a sense of “groundlessness”. 
  • Loss of familiar role:  in the work environment, we can feel competent and in control.  When forced to work from home in a more complex and difficult environment, we can feel overwhelmed by all the challenges and be ill at ease for much of the time.  For some people, this can be temporary as they develop the skills to master their circumstances; for others, being able to adapt becomes a real issue and aggravates the feelings of frustration and reduced self-esteem.  The intense sense of ill-ease and associated stress can debilitate people and hinder them from seeing a way forward and acquiring the necessary skills to capitalise on the current situation and personal conditions.
  • Loss of freedoms: with the restrictions on movement and need for social isolation, people can experience a loss of the fundamental right to “freedom of association”.  Along with this, may be the experience of a lack of privacy where both partners are working from home, especially where for many years one partner went to work every day for an extended period.   Introverts may experience a loss of access to their “cave” where they would normally retreat to recover from extroverted activity, including interactions with their partner.   One or both partners in a relationship may feel that their other partner is constantly “under their feet” – a complaint frequently voiced by people where one partner usually works from home and the other partner has recently retired from their job in the city or away from the home.

Reflection

Quarantine as a result of the Coronavirus and enforced working from home conditions can place increased stress on couples and their relationship.  The current environment also offers an opportunity to develop our inner resources through meditations (including mantra meditations), mindfulness practices and reflection on our resultant emotions and responses.  As we grow in mindfulness, we can develop a deeper understanding of what we are experiencing, keep issues and aggravations in perspective, develop tolerance, build our skills and draw on our innate resourcefulness and resilience.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group and the resources to support the blog.

Mindfulness and the Art of Forgiveness

In a previous post, I highlighted the need for compassion and forgiveness to sustain a second marriage.  However, forgiveness is a need in all facets of our relationships because we can experience a grievance or hurt wherever we are – at work, at home or in our daily activity outside these spheres.  Dr. Fred Luskin, an international expert in forgiveness, explains that there are three main aspects of a grievance, wherever or whenever it is experienced:

  • Exaggerating the personal offense we experience
  • Blaming someone else for our negative feelings
  • Developing a grievance story.

In his book, Forgive for Love: The Missing Ingredient for Healthy and Lasting Relationships, Fred draws on research to demonstrate that forgiveness leads to a sense of peace as well as physical and emotional welfare.  In contrast, maintaining a grudge, grievance or anger results in illness, a loss of personal power (you become controlled by your emotions) and an inability to focus on the task at hand.  The very words we use – such as “consumed by envy” – evoke the destructive power of grievances and sustained anger.

Developing the art of forgiveness through mindfulness

Fred points out that, contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not about the other person by whom you feel aggrieved, it is about yourself – your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and consequent behaviour.  He contends that the focus in forgiveness is self-awareness and self-regulation, not reconciliation.  Some of the mindfulness practices that can help you develop the art of forgiveness include:

  • Mindful breathing: Fred offers a specific, brief practice here.  He suggests that you take three deep breaths.  When inhaling, you focus on the movement of your stomach as it fills with air.  As you exhale, you concentrate on your stomach softening (and the sense of release).  On your third deep breath, Fred suggests that you bring your focus to something or someone you love or a thing of beauty – filling your mind with something positive which can serve to displace negative thoughts and emotions.
  • Naming your feelings:  Fred suggests that through reflection you seek to identify the catalyst for your grievance and name the feelings that you experienced.  He argues that your past experiences may have influenced your feelings, but you experience them in the present and you are responsible for them (not the person you blame for those feelings).  Once you name your feelings, you can take ownership of them and effectively tame them (you control them, they don’t control you).  You can also identify how you have exaggerated the personal offense that you have experienced and what expectations or assumptions underlie that sense of being offended.  Fred maintains that we each carry around in our head what he calls “unenforceable rules”.
  • Choosing your channel: Fred proposes that we learn to replace the “grievance channel” (where we repeat our “grievance story” to ourselves and others) with more positive channels such as those focused on gratitude, love and beauty (especially the beauty of nature).  In his book, he offers multiple suggestions on how to switch “channels” throughout the day.  If we achieve this switch on a regular basis, we naturally develop our “forgiveness channel” because appreciation, a sense of beauty and feelings of love displace negative feelings of hurt, anger and resentment.  The art of forgiveness can be further developed by reading about, or listening to, stories of courageous acts of forgiveness by others.

Fred suggests that we need to become aware of the space in our minds that we are allocating to our grievance – how much of our time and energy are being consumed by accommodating and entertaining our grievances.

Reflection

To develop the art of forgiveness, we need to be conscious of the thoughts and emotions we are cultivating through the stories in our head – we become what we focus on, the choice is ours to be bitter or appreciative.  As we grow in mindfulness, we can become more self-aware of our “unenforceable rules” in the form of unrealistic expectations or unfounded assumptions, more readily name our feelings and learn to achieve self-regulation by consciously choosing to entertain positive thoughts and feelings of love and appreciation.

In reflecting on what unenforceable rules we carry in our head, I am reminded of an observation by Michelle De Kretser in her book, The Life to Come, when talking about Pippa’s reflections about her family friend Rashida (a Muslim born in India):

There was a whisper in Pippa’s brain, like a subdued, left-hand accompaniment to her thoughts, and this whisper was of the opinion that Rashida should be grateful that white people overlooked the double handicap of her religion and race.  [p. 221, emphasis added]

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Image by Pixource from Pixabay

By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)

Disclosure: If you purchase a product through this site, I may earn a commission which will help to pay for the site, the associated Meetup group and the resources to support the blog.