How conscious do you want to be?

The other day I came across the most gorgeous graphics. They came by way of Integral Life, and in particular, the work of Beena Sharma and Susanne Cook-Greuter. Their article and work is titled  The Stages of Leadership Maturity. 

As fate would have it, the same day I came across this work, I was scheduled to present a lecture on “QUANTUM LEADERSHIP” at Case Western Reserve University. My presentation opened with the following quote:

“Becoming a leader is the same as becoming a fully integrated human being.” – Ken Wilber

The deeper I move into my own “work” both personally and professionally, I see  how true this is– and it reaffirms, once and perhaps for all, why I do the work I do.

We cannot improve community/public health or have flourishing enterprises UNTIL we help individuals become leaders of their own lives.  How? Through education of the behaviors that comprise what many, including myself and my colleagues, call “21st century leadership skills”.

These “soft skills” are actually quite potent and necessary. Behaviors such as  cooperation, kindness, contemplative practices, mental and emotional awareness and regulation, among many others practices are necessary proficiencies for all of us because they support our becoming integrated human beings.  

All of these “coincidences” reminded me of a little chart I put together a few years ago as a way to describe the stages of awareness (consciousness) relative to health and well-being. (LINKED HERE) [NOTE: this table was very much inspired by the work of David Hawkins’ MAP OF CONSCIOUSNESS]

Without having a gauge for “where we are”, it is difficult, in this third-dimensional space of ours, to know where we can still go, and that there is more…that there is hope….that there is peace.

How conscious do you want to be?  It is your choice. It is your work. Everything you need is actually right here and now.

The People Who Grind Us and the People Who Shine Us

I’ve been contemplating this for a little while– specifically, the people who have, whether intentionally or unintentionally “grinded” me; meaning that they caused me to reassess, re-think, and re-evaluate, whether personally or professionally, some aspect of my life.

The “grinders” are not easy people. They’re not supposed to be. Their sole (soul) purpose is to show you where you have work to do because you have not fully integrated your own trueness. That’s it.

Getting into any kind of ego battle with a grinder is not only ridiculous, it is wasteful of your energy and creativity.   “Grinders” are learning too by the way,  and you, in fact, are a “grinder” to them/for them! (in Buddhist teachings, the “grinder” is only yourself– there is no “other”).

Ultimately, the “grinders” are a gift because they represent the fullest vision and version of something you yourself find intolerable, and in doing so, provide an incredible opportunity to  consciously change.

And the “shiners”?……they are represented in everyone and everything, actually. Anyone who makes you shine, lights you up, awakens some aspect of yourself, is a shiner– and that includes the grinders……especially the grinders! 

When Life Gives You Lemons

The old adage goes something like this: if life gives you lemons, make lemonade (or add vodka!).  Both approaches are optimistic and speak to the human capacity to rise above adversity, even celebrate it!

Still, when life’s sour episodes flood our hearts, they are often a wake-up call to do something different, something more, and perhaps, something else.

To choose to grow through something that is inherently painful, even tragic, seems paradoxical. But to “dress it up” or “drink-it away” without realizing its full potential is tragic, too.

So yes…..make a lemonade, make a lemon cake, make cocktails, and then, when this is all said and done, take the seeds, plant them, and see what happens next.

Practice Seeing the Good


This suggestion, to practice seeing the good, is a simple, powerful, and life-changing one.

While at first, this may feel fake, stupid, or even disingenuous, there are solid and scientifically-backed reasons why implementing such a practice will improve your life, work, and health.

Intentionally changing our neurocircuitry and neurochemistry requires attention, followed by action. With every thought, emotion, and action we create, or don’t, we are literally creating “code” in our body. Consequently, this creates a vibrational sequence (we now know that everything in the universe is energy) that either promotes or hinders our health and well-being, and that of those closest to us (see the work by Fowler & Christakis on connection and the power of networks).

When we practice seeing the good, we are affirming life as it truly is. When we affirm and accept, we create less resistance– in fact, we are yielding to what is…and when we yield to what is, we are free (yes, free!) to chose, move, create from a place of clarity and conviction, not one of fear and anger.

When we begin to see through the lens of gratitude, arguments become obsolete (you are only arguing with yourself, anyway); competition becomes a repugnant option; and you see, quite clearly, that supporting and enhancing your own trueness is what makes true progress occur; not destroying the other, but consciously creating the new you.

It seems paradoxical that something as gentle as gratitude, could be so powerful.  Like any other contemplative practice, it has the potential to transform the way we live and work…but only if we practice it.

Asking Better Questions

Being bilingual has informed me in ways I’m still discovering.

Having a vast range of words to describe the color of the ocean, for example, has shaped the way I see the ocean, and life.

Ultimately, we are, each of us, an expression of what we think we are and what we are capable of in this world. The quality of our lives, which is shaped by the words we use and the thoughts we entertain, time and time again, do steer our course.

But, what happens when we question this? When we challenge even our own long-standing language and notions, when we, like Rilke invites us to practice “living in the questions.

Learning a new language, albeit French, Mandarin, or love and appreciation, will change you through sheer expansion of awareness. To me, that is the most incredible and fun part of being a human being; that just by getting a little “software upgrade”, we are immediately improved.

The Practice of the Better

Contrast is one of our greatest teachers, and yet, we often miss the point.

When we choose to criticize, judge, or demean that which we find stupid, ridiculous or intolerable, we are, essentially, locking ourselves into a painful dynamic; one of divisiveness and self-righteousness.

In my experience, no one has ever helped me or changed my mind by telling me (or shouting) their “thoughts”. Being locked into a rigid dichotomy that blocks the creative and joyful insights that are available to us all, is painful. However, it is a type of suffering that can be healed within each of us.

Through practicing presence, self-awareness, and discernment we can easily see that there’s not only an alternative to criticism, but a much better use of our God-given talents and energy.

Criticism stems from fear– fear of “what” is up to you…but it’s deeply rooted in separation and desperation. Anytime we feel that “fear” rise within us, it’s a knock on the door of our mind, and an invitation to either enter into battle, or to yield, and instead, practice the better.

The better what? The better way. The peaceful way. The sane way. The way that places YOU at the helm and realm of possibility and of leading by example.

You have a better idea? Don’t tell us. Show us. Forget about tearing down the other— that’s easy.

Criticism is unmanifested creativity. Go create the better.

Vocational Arousal

This provocative term, vocational arousal, came by way of the joyful and visionary Barbara Marx Hubbard. She, in conversation with Steve Farrell, were discussing the obvious (and necessary) shift in our collective consciousness, and what this means for humans as we now them…us.

Vocational arousal describes an internal yearning or calling to our highest work; to our specific “duty” while on Earth.  While this “calling” used to be experienced by the few, specifically those in spiritual vocations, artists, healers, nurses, physicians, and teachers in particular, this arousal is being expressed, en masse, by more and more people on the planet.

In my own work, I use the term soul-work to describe this calling–this yearning deep within each of us that is often at odds with the duties and responsibilities of one’s person-hood….or so we think.

To this end, several of my colleagues at Soul Publishing Group and I are sharing our own stories of vocational arousal. These narratives, many of them decades in their unfolding, describe the journey of shifting from conventional thinking, to one of a higher consciousness and state of being. Many describe the sheer panic, the struggle, the ridicule, the second-guessing that accompanies any journey that is guided by the soul, our higher-calling.  The courage and grit of these stories are a true testament to the power of the human spirit.

To be true to who you are is the single greatest gift you can share with others. Then, when we unite with others who are similarly inclined, the synergy and creativity that unfolds is beyond what any one single individual could ever do, or even imagine.  Of course, we can “sense” these things– deep within, but our human minds are actually limited when it comes to fully grasping the magnitude and effects of the consciousness of connection and what this means for life and work as we know it today.

What is calling you? What is your soul-work?

Unmasking the “isms”

PHOTO CREDIT: NASA.GOV

On this momentous day (solar eclipse 2017), as I join so many others around our country and the world doing the deeper work required for mutual understanding and personal peace, I wanted to tend to the obvious; the “isms”.

The isms are co-constructed ideas. These “beliefs”, which continue to plague us and cause such suffering have landed squarely on our collective laps.

Clearly, it is up to each of us to “re-construct” new ways of thinking and being. Our health and the health of our world is at stake. That is how important this is.

We cannot, nor will we ever achieve understanding and peace through the use of force or fear. Sadly, we have a long and painful history of doing just this. Are you going to do more of the same? Or, are you willing to try something new to help reduce your own suffering and aggression?

As with all beliefs, these “isms” can be abandoned or changed at any time. Which are you ready to re-think and re-construct?

Consumerism– belief that the purchase and/or consumption of a product can reduce your innate sense of inadequacy.

Patriotism/nationalism – belief that your country is the best in the world and/or the only one that matters.

Ageism– belief that people outside your age group are somehow incompetent and/or unproductive.

Sexism– belief that individuals, who don’t have the same gender as you, are not as competent, and those who have multiple genders, somehow flawed, pathological, or confused.

Racism– belief that individuals from a race different than yours, are less human than you.

Terrorism (interpersonal, domestic, national and global) – belief that the annihilation, control, or destruction of anyone/anything that espouses views different than yours, is the only way to ensure peace, progress, and the good of all.

Unmasking your own “isms”:

  1. OBSERVE: Become aware of the ways you either contribute to or are triggered by the beliefs and behaviors of others;
  2. SELF-CARE: If/when triggered, separate yourself (by yourself, for yourself) to explore your own beliefs and do not seize this exploration until you understand your “why”;
  3. INTEGRATION: We do not help anyone or anything by “destroying” it/them, but by changing the dynamic, which requires a change in OUR beliefs and behaviors (not “theirs”).
  4. PRACTICE: Allow all that you “resist” to teach you about the fullness of humanity in order to practice personal peace.

This is deep and ongoing work—all of this. It is soul-work, and it is everyone’s “work”.

Adapting

Adaptation is a bit of a paradox.

While it is wise to adapt, it also feels like we’re surrendering, or somehow “giving up”.

Yes. It is both, and.

It is only in surrendering (our ego) that we allow the grace of life to enter our being.  To surrender to life, however, is no easy task.

In our Workbook of Human Superpowers we define adaptability this way: openness to changing conditions

Adaptability, then, is not necessarily something we do, but is more of an orientation, and openness, to whatever comes our way. If we desire happiness and personal peace, it is our task to adapt; constantly.

Control is the opposite, of course. However, control is something we all must do and try– until we learn, for ourselves, the futility of our effort.

Life is a constant flow of favorable and unfavorable events and circumstances. If we can be mindful (aware) of this, it becomes easier (slightly) to “go with the flow” and to adapt to what life is asking of us.

The Negativity Bias

This is a real thing. Simply put, the negativity bias is a conditioned response from your brain.

We all have a negativity bias, by the way. It is our “shark music” (Kristie’s term), and that part of us that exists to alert us of real, or perceived danger. It represents one input (just one) of many and often competing inputs and possible responses to our environment. When we operate from this space, it is common to distort a person or situation. It is the kind of primitive mentality that justifies hatred and prejudice. In its most benign forms, it is a form of fixed-mindedness that can imprison even the most rational among us. Carried to its extreme, only death of the “other” will suffice.

How do you know if you’re operating from this mentality? Fear and its usual companions, restlessness, anger, hate, or aggressiveness, are often the clue. Understanding what these emotions are telling us about ourselves, requires some intentional (and uncomfortable) tuning-in and listening to our own soundtrack.

Do you wish to master your mind, or do you wish to remain its servant? This is a choice only you can make. By becoming better aware of your own scary and negative soundtrack, you not only decrease the incidence of projection (assigning your fears and aggressions unto others), but you create space for a new choice and voice; one that will enable you to neutralize your negativity bias, and replace it with a conscious and thoughtful response instead.