The time in between

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As I wrote this blog my eye caught this card that a dear colleague gave to me on the last day at my previous job and the beginning of my new journey.

The time in between is sometimes challenging.  You’ve taken the courageous step to resign and start your own business. The first few months are still fine. You manage to live on the savings, but then the growing of the new business takes longer than you anticipated. You realise that this is the time in between. This is the uncertain time that you feared and nearly prohibited you from taking the leap of faith.    You become more aware of the competitive environment you are entering. You are confronted with the your own familiar critical thoughts of ‘Did you really think you could do this?’, ‘Why will someone pay for your services if they can contract other more capable people?’. This is the moment when your true colours are tested.

Are you willing to sit with the discomfort and uncertainty for a bit longer and keep on trusting that your inner voice will guide you on your unbeaten path? Or are you going to let the voice of fear of ‘what if’ overwhelm you and turn back to the familiar road even though you know that path is not good for your soul.

You realise that all the reading and mental preparation you’ve done are now put to the test. You remember practising being comfortable with uncomfortableness. That the secret is to stay calm in these in between times, not try to frantically find something to do, not to start looking anxiously around but to sit with it. To use this time to become aware of your emotions, thoughts, body sensations and to learn from it. In the sitting I’m reminded of the beautiful poem of Mary Oliver,

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice –

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognised as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do –

determined to save

the only life you could save.

After reading the poem again I realise I am not ready to turn back and to give up. I know that I need to go deeper.  I need to simplify my life and leave behind the critical voices that don’t serve me anymore. I need to let go of the ‘false securities’ that I’m clinging to. This is a journey that I feel called to follow. It is one that I need to live before I can guide others on it. We all have our own unique journeys that we are called to follow. Are you on your journey?

Acceptance

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Acceptance, as a noun, can be defined in different ways. For the purpose of this blog I’m interested in the definition of acceptance as a ‘process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable.’  We are constantly encouraged to improve, excel and exceed expectation. These messages from the media, our loved ones, friends and ourselves can be encouraging and motivate us to achieve our goals. But the downside is that one can internalise these messages and easily fall into the trap of thinking, ‘I am not…. good, thin, rich, fit, beautiful, smart, successful, etc.… enough’. This type of thinking can have detrimental effects and lead to a un-acceptance or even an estrangement of yourself. Robert Holden wisely indicated that ‘no amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.’

In my personal life, as well as my coaching work, I experience and see that acceptance is easier said than done. We would rather criticize than accept ourselves. After some thinking and working on accepting myself more, I want to share with you what I think acceptance stands for:

A –  Aware. The first step is to become aware of the voice of self-criticism, the judge within as Byron Brown refers to in his book ‘Soul without shame’. According to him self-judgement is based on the ‘accumulation of all the knowledge you believe you need to be successful, safe, supported, recognized and loved in this world’. Luckily this is only a part of who you are. You are not the inner-judge. You are not your thoughts or mind. You also have an inner-guide. As you focus more on your inner-guide or inner-voice you become more aware of your soul nature, your potential and how the inner-judge can limit you.

C – Compassion. Show compassion and kindness for yourself. Research indicates that humans function best when we feel loved. We can cultivate a loving relationship with ourselves by cultivating a desire to be compassionate towards ourselves. So that when we fail we treat ourselves with warmth and understanding rather than criticism. These compassionate and soothing thoughts calms the inner-critic voice.

C – Curiosity. Start to become curious about you. Explore the amazing different parts there is to you. Be curious about what is actually going on inside you? What are you thinking, feeling and experiencing through your body?

E – Enough. Embrace the fact that you are already enough just as you are. We live in a world that either focuses on scarcity or abundance. Media that always tells us what we have or who we are is not enough, we need to strive for more.

P – Practice. Accepting our circumstances and us is not something you do once. It is a daily practice. The more you practice acceptance, the more you will become aware of other possibilities to be. It is important to remain patient with yourself through the process of acceptance.

T – Trust. Start trusting yourself and the truth of who you are.

A – Allow. You have to allow yourself or give yourself permission so to speak to approve and appreciate who you are just as you are, right now. Not when you are 3 kg lighter or when you’ve finished another degree or when you have a management job or live in a fancy house or drive the fastest car.

N – Non-judgement. Acceptance can only happen if we become less judgemental with ourselves and stop believing the self-judgement. The act of judging underlies the need for everything to be in a certain way. When you become more non-judgemental you stop running away from yourself and start walking towards yourself.

C – Centredness. In order to accept oneself it is important to be able to centre your attention and connect to your inner truth. When we constantly focus our attention on others and their approval or acknowledgements of us, we become uncentred and sometimes compromise ourselves. But when we practice the ability to centre our attention we cultivate our capacity to be without doing. We slowly stop needing the affirmation of others to feel good about ourselves.

E – Embrace. Embrace your uniqueness and stop comparing yourself to others.

By proclaiming that we must start to accept others, our circumstances and ourselves more, I am not advocating that we must not want to change. Change is important but as Bryant McGill said ‘Acceptance is the road to all change’

Why do we travel?

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We travel to… 

  • Learn more about different cultures. In learning about other cultures we learn more about our own culture. We begin to understand how our culture shaped who we are and how we view the world.
  • See the wonders of the world. When we look at the amazing wonders of the world, we stand in awe of its beauty. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Though we travel the world over to find the beauty, we must carry it within us or we find it not’.
  • Experience different ways of living in this world. In doing that you comprehend that there is no ‘right’ or one-way of living. What is most important is that you are living and present in your life.
  • Create distance from expectations of others. To be anonymous. Just to realise that our expectations of ourselves are sometimes harsher than the labels of others. We can be anonymous to our own thoughts. We can choose to cling on to these expectations or we can let them go.
  • Enrich our life. Someone once said that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. That is so true!
  • Cross boundaries.  Crossing a physical boundary such as the border of a country is a freeing experience and can ‘facilitate’ the broadening of the mind process. However, the most difficult borders to cross are the ones we created in our mind.
  • Search for answers to our questions. After asking advice from various people. You acquire different answers (some contradictory) and sometimes even more questions. You realise that the answer is not out there it is within you. As Lawrence Durrel said, ‘Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection’.
  • Live our dreams and create memories. When traveling we take beautiful photos. Sometimes when we look at the pictures we discover that we were more focused on the picture than the memory itself. We begin to understand the importance of being in the memory and life. ‘We travel not to escape life, but for us not to escape life’ Anonymous
  • Explore and push our limits. Andre Gide described it best when he said, ‘ Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore’

Traveling does:

…free the mind.

…enrich the spirit.

…stimulate creativity.

…create memories; some happy and some frustrated.

…challenge one on various levels (physical, intellectual, and emotional).

…create perspective.

…cultivate gratitude and compassion.

…foster appreciation for your own country.

…make one long for home.

I experienced that the more I travel and explore, the more I learn and become curious about myself. However, it is not always possible to travel forever. This made me wonder how can we integrate travel in our daily lives without getting on a plane or car. I have some suggestions, but that is a blog for another time. Do you possibly have any suggestions?

Pope Francis and the Golden Gate Bridge

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Last week Pope Francis was in the USA for a six-day multi-city tour. During his visit he emphasised, among other things, the importance of love, inclusivity, and equality. The reaction of the people was very interesting. Tens of thousands of people flocked together to get a glimpse of the pope. No matter what their religious beliefs or background was, it seemed as if everyone wanted to be close to him and be a part of the event. It felt to me as if the people craved for something. It was as if there was a hunger for what he spoke about. His message touched their hearts, it made them feel heard and part of a group. In one of his speeches he said,

“Building a nation calls us to recognise that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility,”

As humans we have a fundamental need to relate to others and feel that we belong to a group. Research indicates that this need is as strong as the need for food. According to the neuroscientist, David Rock, people feel threatened if they feel they can’t relate to others. The brain will then activate either a ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ response. On the other hand if people feel they are part of a group they show more empathy and trust towards those in the group.

The new psychology of leadership indicates that one of the principles of a good leader is to be perceived as ‘being one of us’. Leaders are perceived as part of the group when they present qualities and values that are important to the group. When Pope Francis visited inmates, lunched with the homeless and proclaimed relating to others he managed to create that feeling of inclusivity. This reminded me of the 1995 Rugby World Cup when Nelson Mandela wore the green-and-gold Springbok jersey and cap at the Final in South Africa. With that gesture he was perceived as ‘one of us’ and unified the nation. If we reach out and relate to others we enhance empathy and equality.

Studies indicate that when we foster more social contact we increase the relatedness between different groups. In connecting with others we are building bridges. The photo that I took last week of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (see top of blog) symbolises for me the message of Pope Francis, that in order to build a nation we need to relate to others. When we relate to others we connect. I want to encourage you to reach out and connect with others. As Isaac Newton said:

” We build too many walls and not enough bridges”.