Life and death are related.

black rose

The recent passing away of my grandmother made me reflect on death. I realised that in reflecting on death I was simultaneously reflecting on life. Life and death are related. Contradictions and ambiguity are part of life. Death is as much part of the process of life as life itself.

Death might feel like one big loss or like a door that shuts in your face. However, if we can sit in the mystery and stay with the process it can open doors to new discoveries. Denise Ackerman beautifully writes that ‘holding the tensions of opposites in our lives can open doors to a new acceptance of things the way they are.’ Life is not just about focusing on the light or being positive all the time.

We experience death in all aspects of our lives. Whether it is the death of someone close, a relationship, a dream, a career, a business, it is important that we use death to pause and allow ourselves to mourn. In the mourning many questions may arise of which some can be answered and others not.

If we can accept that life is lived within this ambiguity of what we think we know and what we do not know, then it becomes easier to let that what is dead go. Part of the suffering lies in the not accepting and holding on. Before we can inhale we need to exhale. We need to put a period at the end of a sentence before we can start a new one.

The following wisdom of Augustine comforts me in times when I struggle with the questions of life:

Let us, you and I, lay aside all arrogance

Let neither of us pretend to have found the truth

Let us seek it as something unknown to both of us

Then we may seek it with love and sincerity

When neither of us has the rashness

Nor the presumption to believe that he already possesses it…

I do not pretend to understand.

Learning: Make time to mourn what is lost and grow in the ambiguity of life.

Healing questions: How can I learn to live with the ambiguity and questions of life?

Giving birth is a daily action in life and business

birth

The past few weeks I reflected on my birth as well as the concept of birth in general. Depending on the context of the word ‘birth’ in a sentence it can have different meanings. According to the dictionary birth can be defined as ‘ the start of life as a physical separate being’ or ‘the coming into existence of something; origin’. I realised that no matter what you are giving birth to; be it a human being, an idea, new company, creative expression or even a blog, there are certain elements that are involved in the ‘giving birth’ process that is relevant to all of them. The elements are: expectations, transition from dark into light and emotions.

To better explain I’m going to use my birth as an example and try to relate it to the birth of a new business.

  1. Expectations. A birth is the embodiment of numerous expectations.

I’m privileged that my mother and grandmother (96 years old) are both still alive. As part of the process on reflecting on my birth I enquired how they experienced my birth. It was so refreshing and liberating to get different perspectives on the same event. My grandmother told me that there are expectations from different sources (parents, family, community, God and ‘the self’) for the baby at birth. (I view her opinion as an expert on this field as she has given birth to five children including among them twin boys).

During our talk it became clear that we complicate our lives by trying to live up to all these expectations. Even though most of these expectations are meant well or even out of love. Others, and ourselves, exert pressure on ourselves because we see potential. Taking on unnecessary expectations in life, or at the start of a new business, burdens us. It can either inhibit us, because the pressure has become too much, or it can make us lose focus because we are trying to please everyone.

Learning: We all experience the same event differently based on our role in the situation and our expectations of it.

Healing question: How can I simplify my life and business by releasing unnecessary expectations?

  1. Transition from dark into light. A birth is the process of transition from darkness into the light.

Womb-time is playtime for the soul. There is no struggle for identity or acceptance by others. Usually the fetus has a safe, warm and nurturing environment wherein it can form and grow into a specific form (baby). Research indicates that the transition for the baby from the womb into the colder and a much lighter environment (the world) can be traumatic. It is, however, a critical transition phase that it needs to undergo in order to develop further on a physical and social level.

Thus, even though it may be a traumatic or scary moment for the mother and child it is also a meaningful moment. The same principle applies when you give birth to a new idea or a new business. It feels safe when we just play around with the idea in our head and design amazing business plans at our desk. But in order for the business to grow it needs to be born and become visible to the world.

Learning: Moments of transition can be traumatic AND meaningful.

Healing question: What area of my life or business needs to transition into the light so that it can grow?

  1. Emotions Numerous emotions are also birthed in the process of giving birth.

At birth and during the new-born period the baby starts to express different basic emotions depending on the circumstances. As a young child my nearby family and relatives told me that I was a colic baby and cried non-stop for the first three months of my life. They mentioned what a difficult and tiring period it was. I completely understand that now but my not-so well-developed emotional part of my brain interpreted it as crying is bad. People don’t like tiring or difficult peoples. From then on I struggled to cry, feel my emotions or even express them.

Thomas Keating writes in his book ‘Invitation to love’ that:

We may not remember the events of early childhood, but the emotions do. When events occur later in life that resemble those once felt to be harmful, dangerous or rejecting, the same feelings surface. We may not be fully aware of where the force of those feelings is coming from.’

Later in the book he continues to explain how even though we may have had the most well-intentioned parents or not experienced any serious trauma. We all have some wounds as a result of the emotional fragility experienced as a child.

I realised that my unhealthy thought pattern of ‘crying is bad’ that developed, as a child, does not serve me anymore. I’m not a child anymore and can develop healthy ways to feel and express emotions. Tears are healing and necessary. What is unhealthy is to avoid the emotion rather than allowing myself to feel it.

Starting your own business gives birth to numerous emotions: fear, anger, sadness, joy, excitement, etc. Studies showed that if we try to avoid emotions we repress it or project it onto others. This can have negative consequences on our health as well as our relationships at home and work.

Learning: By avoiding certain emotions I’m not allowing myself / my company to blossom.

Healing question: How can I allow myself to feel the different emotions that accompany life and/or the start of a new business?

Listening to the way my mother described my birth as well as the period after that it became clear how I was surrounded with love. There was a lot of care surrounding my birth. I know my family loved me in the best way they could.

I’m grateful for my birth and the life lessons that it brought forth.

Review of life

DSCN0553In the revelationary book ‘A year to live’, Stephen Levine writes about ‘how to live this year as if it were your last’. One of the techniques he recommends is to review your past and your life thus far. To see the achievements and disappointments through soft eyes and a forgiving heart. To reflect on the misfortunes, learn from them and be grateful for them. It is a process of looking back in order to move forward in a different and more present state.

It is interesting how you sometimes have a thought of something you need to do at the back of your mind but you keep on ignoring it. Until life brings something to your attention and you know you can’t ignore it anymore. This is how it was with the idea about looking back and writing about my life. It has been an idea that kept on surfacing in my mind. When I read about the life review technique in Stephen’s book I realised that 2016 is the year that I need to do it.

I’m turning 35 at the end of the year. I decided to use the blog space to write about my learnings. The lessons that life have taught me thus far. I know it is not always going to be easy to reflect on the shadow side of my life. Especially when one starts to examine the emotional attachment to it and the effect it has on my life at the moment. But I know this is something I need to do. I trust that it will be a gateway into something beyond my wildest expectations. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

When last did you do a well-being check?

DSCN1255

Well-being is a field that I’m very interested in. Not only overall well-being but also well-being in the workplace. There are different definitions and types of well-being. In this blog I want to focus on overall personal well-being. The Oxford dictionary defines well-being as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. Research shows that people with higher well-being have lower health-care costs, are more resilient, more productive, more involved in the successful development of their community and organizations they work at. It is, therefore, important to start focusing on well-being if we want to create flourishing societies.

Gallup and Healthways have developed a Well-being Index indicator to measure the well-being of different populations. They interviewed different people and then calculated the perception of their well-being through the following five interrelated elements that they believe make up well-being:

  1. Sense of purpose – like what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals.
  2. Social relationships– having supportive relationships and love in your life.
  3. Financial security– managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.
  4. Relationships to Community – liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in you community.
  5. Physical health – having good health and enough energy to get things done.

According to their 2014 global research report, Panama is the country with the highest well-being, whereas Afghanistan scored the lowest. The European countries lead in financial well-being. The United States overall well-being is ranked 23rd of the 145 countries that participated. South Africa’s well-being is ranked in the lowest 25% (number 109). I was a bit shocked to read that the global overall well-being is only 17%. It made me wonder how important is well-being to others? (If you are interested you can read the full report http://www.well-beingindex.com/2014-global-report.)

As part of my coach training this year I had to assess my overall well-being at the beginning of this year and again now (at the end of the year). It is time consuming and not always easy to do an overall well-being check with yourself. It brings to the fore aspects of your life that you rather want to push aside or ignore. But if there is one thing that I know, it is that avoidance does not solve anything. If we don’t take the time to review our overall well-being we may never notice our patterns of behaviours or the consequences of our choices on our self, relationships and community. I want to challenge you to do a well-being check on yourself. If you are up for the challenge here are some questions that will get you going:

  1. How clear is my sense of purpose?
  2. What support am I providing to my loved ones and how much support am I receiving from them?
  3. How effectively am I managing my financial resources?
  4. How active am I involved in the community to foster compassion, service to others and a feeling of safety?
  5. How well do I listen to what my body is telling me and respond accordingly?

‘To know the world, first know yourself. To change the world, first change yourself.’ Anonymous