Tag Archives: #authenticpower

Live with Purpose

There are multiple ways to unearth your purpose, so the real question is: why don’t you? And for those of you who do know your purpose, why don’t you marshal your energy to make it a daily reality? For those of you who feel you do make your purpose a daily reality, what else have you not yet dared so you can live it even more fully? Every time a choice point arrives, being grounded in your purpose means you have a compass to direct you toward a new facet of your passion, vocation, mission, and/or profession. When I work with coaching clients, I send them a purpose worksheet with this quote by Howard Thurman that sums up purpose:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.

My own journey to a purposeful life began when I signed up for a weekend workshop on breaking the chains of internal slave mentality that required me to write my purpose statement. These carefully chosen words, periodically changed over the years, are the foundation of my life by design.

To work with multicultural wisdom and balance and inspire people of color to embark on a creative, cooperative journey of love and healing for this and future generations.

With these words, I have an inner touchstone. My purpose is in the bio I send to clients, right alongside the technical and sectors skills I bring. It acknowledges that if I work with you or your organization, there is a warm heart pumping under my skin and my purpose is a core part of my skill set, along with my strategic mind and spirited energy.

Internal Compass
Living with purpose means continually committing to the circumstances for your best self to thrive despite barriers based on race, gender identity, and other oppressions. If you were trained to obey authority or only feel validated by external recognition, a purposeful life will shift slowly to being guided by your internal compass rather than that of others. You embrace your life as your responsibility. Your purpose states the direction your life will take regardless of changing causes and conditions, income streams and supervisors, or cities and relationships.

You can choose to have your life be an expression of what you love doing that benefits you and others. It is your choice. By default, you may elect to have someone else make the selection for you. That too is a decision. In other words, you are primarily driven by other people’s purpose or your own.

Why would you choose to abandon your purpose for another person’s? First, you have had limiting beliefs planted for many years, usually very early in life, that you were not allowed to have your own path. As children, we get that message clearly and it is reinforced in schools and work place hierarchies. If you consider race, immigration status, gender identity, and class, just to name a few, it can seem that your life is only a commodity for someone else’s benefit. Having a purpose disrupts that scarcity mentality.

Purpose means Change
I fought for my right to express an opinion and care about my values as a child and was consistently punished by authority figures. Even when adding the external validation of a MSW, I was suspended, demoted, and fired. Undaunted, although wounded, I chose self-employment so that I could more fully determine my work life trajectory. I slowly built a solid business working in the field of equity and providing trainings, consultation, and coaching. The original joy from a successful business partnership assisting organizations began slipping through my fingers with each client contact. While many made changes, the leaders were white and would decide at one point they had ‘done enough’. Rather than acknowledging their discomfort with what equity entailed, they would blame me for some action they twisted into a ‘fatal flaw’.

My purpose practice drove me to make a change. Several, in fact. I understood that my particular purpose was best served as a solo practitioner with a focus on coaching, writing, and working with organizations led by people of color. I also left a loveless relationship and flew cross country every six months for two years to complete my MFA in Creative Writing, returning me to my early and current passion for writing. I wanted my twins to see a vibrant parent who believed in her innate right to love and joy despite daily challenges as a greying woman of color.

When you are living your life committed to your purpose, life offers distinct and clear choices. With a purpose lens as a regular practice, you simplify and improve the quality of your life. You spend more and more time in expanded energy fields like peace, joy, and love.

This does not mean you eliminate doubt and failure. You do eliminate the constructs of self-blame and self-sabotage that ignore the current and historical inequities baked into most institutional structures regardless of who runs them. It means you understand the context of the culture of scarcity and competition and work to create a purpose that inspires abundance, courage, and discipline. Many people I work with are social justice change agents and have a difficult time tuning into their passion beyond this high level value. I encourage them to explore what they love first, as they will always integrate justice and equity no matter their path.

We often know what we don’t want and less about what we do want. Confirming our ‘no’ is frequently the door into confirming our ‘yes.’ It requires a willingness to explore and be curious. We all seem to accept the importance of loving, committed relationships, yet have unconsciously given up the possibility of a loving, committed relationship to our purpose and our gifts.

“All the elements are in place. But without the spark it is only a pile of dead sticks. So much depends on the spark.”       Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Once decided, your purpose is the spark that turns dead sticks into fire.

When we are stymied by the limitations of any situation or relationship, purpose is the red flag flapping in our hearts and minds, inviting us to re-think our perspective. Don’t ignore it. Time to get to a mountaintop or read some beautiful poetry or dance. It is possible to untangle the hardest knots, follow our calling, and be an example for others. This does not mean starting from scratch. It means lowering the volume on the commercials that try to convince us that a raise or a certificate of recognition or a few more vacation days will ease the discomfort in our souls. These ‘golden handcuffs’ tempt us to stay bound to external things that limit us from nurturing our gifts.

Life-long Practice
Your purpose is like your core muscles. My nephew told me once that we all have a six-pack – those muscles are there. The issues is whether you or anyone else can see them! When your purpose is exercised, your ‘why’ is abundantly clear to others. Living with purpose is a life-long practice and requires constant quiet effort with no finish line. I learned this when I began strength training, buddhist meditation, and a yoga practice. I was sure it would all get easier with my devotion. It only became easier when I stopped thinking about control and began focusing on growth and acceptance. One muscle, one breath, and one pose at a time.

If you have a hard time starting to develop your purpose statement, pull out pen and paper or open a document and answer these questions: When did I know I was truth? What moments in my life engaged me fully – body, mind, and spirit? What makes me come alive? What and who do I want to impact? What will be different if I fulfill my purpose?

Purpose is your anchor when difficult times require you to hold steady amid the storms of life. The bigger the ship, the bigger the anchor. We often grow our ship without growing our anchor. The more we do, the more often we need to return to the harbor, restocking supplies, repairing torn sails or heart wounds, and gathering the right crew for our journey out. I spent time at a spa with a friend who felt she was weak to need time to relax and replenish. I reminded her that she is sailing a big ship in hostile waters and her emotional and spiritual tank gets used up faster than a sailboat in a bay. Some people are prone to sail past harbors until they sink, and some never leave the harbor for fear they are not ready. Which is your tendency?

To uncork your full-hearted power, you have to be willing to be still so that the roiling water can settle and so you can look, despite your fear, at the bottom of your heart. This means throwing down the anchor when necessary, sometimes in a storm and sometimes in a port. The perfect time doesn’t exist – you must make the time to create slow, steady changes and expect to course correct often.

Too often we focus on the highs and lows of life. Your purpose anchors you to your middle notes where the melody stays strong regardless of circumstances – a life lived with purpose makes your heart sing and your soul soar no matter what winds or fires or disappointments arrive. Being driven by an internal compass rather than by external circumstances is a daily gift to yourself and to all you touch.

If you want to get started on your purpose, contact me for a 20 minute complimentary coaching session!

Making Confidence Authentic and Accessible

Confidence, and especially self-confidence, is something many of my friends and coaching clients consider more a mystery than a characteristic they draw on easily in their lives. To develop and maintain a strong, authentic confidence, the missing element is self-generated confidence.

Confidence is defined as a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers; a visceral belief that one will act well; a relation of trust or intimacy. This last aspect is easily overlooked and really important. For self-generated confidence, you must be your own best friend by trusting your inner voice and forgiving yourself when life takes your breath away.

Authentic, fullhearted confidence is the opposite of perfectionism or certainty.

What does self-generated confidence look like in action? I worked recently with a client who had a negative work incident and requested assistance to increase his confidence, which had been damaged. There were several steps we discussed that are core to cultivating a more resilient confidence that bends but does not break under duress. Self-generated confidence emerged as the missing element in his life, especially because externally generated confidence was out of his sphere of influence.

  1. Notice and document negative thoughts and their origins.

My client was able to tag some really juicy thoughts like: A thousand people standing behind me can do this job. If I was strong enough I wouldn’t need help. We are taught and we catch confidence-eroding thoughts from our family, our community, and society that become unconsciously embedded in our minds and hearts.

  1. Pay particular attention to how negative thoughts are tied to one’s societal power and a system of oppression.

In the case of my client, he was the only person of color on the management team in a company that was doing poorly. In letting him go, the CEO used as an excuse that my client hadn’t solved a number of problems that were very damaging to the company, even though my client had no authority or responsibility in the relevant areas. He had to debunk a seemingly positive, but really negative, disempowering thought: ‘If I was truly great they wouldn’t have been able to let me go.’  I gently pointed out that he was on the Titanic and no matter how well he had performed at his company, he was not going to get a seat on the lifeboat. He had neither the right skin color or positional power.

When understanding how internalized oppression works many years ago, I saw how I had bought into negative thoughts I received as a woman of color.  The most important lesson I learned was to identify these thoughts, many of which started with the words: “I should have…” That put an expectation on myself to know and anticipate white supremacy culture as well as live by it characteristics of ‘perfectionism’ and ‘one right way’.

  1. Develop antidote to negative thoughts.

The critical voice has to be quelled by strengthening your nurturing, wise voice. I always have my clients develop a vision of what they will be feeling, thinking, and doing that is different than in the present moment. It is an antidote exercise to cultivate self-generated confidence. It is not a fake, broad ‘you can do this’ affirmation. I encourage specificity and only what my clients can influence – themselves.

My client knew this nurturing voice as he used it with his son. This made it easier to start using this voice with himself. He also got to consciously ponder what attitudes he inherited from his family that he wanted to discard and which ones he wanted to pass on to his son. Breaking our patterns allows us to positively influence those we love.

In speaking with my client, I become conscious of how often I use my inner nurturing voice from years of practice. When I missed an overhead at tennis practice, I mentally noticed the two things I did right BEFORE thinking about how to correct what I did wrong. I reminded myself to hit the ball in front of me rather than saying what I most often hear from the women around me: I can’t believe I did that or how could I…fill in the blank. Given the strength and reinforcement of the critical voice around me, I self-correct constantly. My client told me recently how important it was to be rigorous for the effects to root. He now makes time every day for a self-counseling session where he uses his nurturing voice.

  1. Accept positive feedback from others when genuine.

‘Thank you’ is enough when given compliments. If it is genuine, take it in completely. Notice your patterns of deflecting or feeling you need to say something positive back. These behaviors are steeped in a dominant critical voice and in wanting to be liked. Your nurturing voice will also let you know when the praise is coming from someone else’s lack of confidence. ‘Thank you’ is even more appropriate then, rather than engaging in an inauthentic exchange of platitudes.

  1. Repeat steps over and over.

Self-generated confidence is a practice with valuable repercussions.  Apart from giving you the capacity to be in charge of your confidence level, it performs another core task. It allows you to weigh external evaluation against data from your own assessment. After any speech, presentation, or performance, I evaluate myself so that any other feedback is weighted based on my inner wise self. I focus on what I did well, especially given any challenging circumstances, and note 1-2 things I would do differently. I practice pride dipped in a warm coating of humility and joy.

Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, says: “Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval.”

Self-generated confidence is an essential, often neglected aspect of overall confidence worth cultivating. By increasing your ability to give generously and honestly to yourself and accept positive regard, you can then give it authentically to others. Wellness is contagious and is a gift that never goes out of style.

Familia de Agua

Blood and water, given and chosen.

We are born into a familia that can rarely give us all we require to grow into our full vibrant selves. If I had been told that, I would have saved myself years of resentment and grief, years of trying to squeeze blood from a stone. When I did awaken to this reality, I saw how my life has been filled with people who were my familia de aqua, people who came around when I required a lifeboat to take me to shore. We were born to be raised en comunidad, not in nuclear family silos that breed scarcity and competition. Many spiritual paths understand this and fight to teach this amid the “rugged individualism” of the US culture, seeing relations as a broad notion that signifies connection with all beings.

When I was very young, Gloria was the first person that brought water to my parched corazón. She was raised by my mom’s tía and should have been introduced to us as our aunt. My mom didn’t do that so I didn’t realize for years she was my relation, even if not by blood. She struggled under the harsh judgement of my parents, but her indomitable spirit and cariño seeded love in my heart and allowed me to play and feel delight as a little girl and now as a woman.

The next water woman to enter my life was Judy, a neighbor who gave me unconditional love in my early teens and for many years to come. Even as her own family struggled through challenges, her unwavering belief in my capacity to succeed and flourish stayed strong. Her twin Jill also bolstered my self confidence when we would all be together. Judy, pictured on the left, would even introduce me as her daughter to people who would give us a funny look. They wondered what she meant, since our closeness in age and difference in color tones did not match those words.

I met my buddhist teacher in my early forties and her commitment to my spiritual path set me on a course of fearless intimacy. Having been in a spiritual desert for many years, she guided me into the soto zen practice toward freedom with her  teachings on dismantling and transforming the enduring legacy of oppression. I eventually vowed to live by the buddhist precepts in a jukai ceremony. Ryūmon Sensei’s voice, teachings, and example light my path every day.

In my mid-forties, as I faced my mother’s impending death, I was directed to Tereza, a holistic curandera who welcomed my exhausted spirit. She infused me with fullhearted power to be at peace when the final breath escaped my mom’s mouth and to keep deepening my wisdom and bravery in the years to come. She still guides my journey and shares hers with me as we walk together as healers and peaceful warriors in a world that asks us to develop and bring forth all our gifts to honor our ancestors.

I longed for many years for my mom to be what I was told she would be for me, but once I released that delusion, I could take what she did offer and see her as a human being who did her best. While I could not heal her wounds, my comunidad supported me to heal mine. The practice of accepting what is beneficial and grieving what does not serve my spirit has been of inestimable value in all my relations.

Because of this, I understand and practice the essential and necessary act of stepping in with younger people when the present moment asks that of me. It is a blessing to offer to others what their parents and blood relatives cannot. Breaking through unhealthy patterns of isolation is a liberating opportunity to be in our authentic power and nurture that in others.

I have highlighted specific individuals, but there have also been groups who have encouraged and validated my path. As a writer, I can name many teachers and readers who share their creative wisdom and fierce determination so I can create my very best.

Familia de agua remind us that we are much more than we often believe due to the inequitable strictures of who matters more and less in this society.  It truly takes a village and I am always on the lookout for water kin. I also stay alert for when it is my moment to be familia de agua to the generation who will carry on a legacy of peace, justice, and joy. #52essays

 

 

Swiss Army Knife – A Minor Super Power

When I was in my early twenties, my dad bought me a Christmas gift that I still have — a Swiss Army knife. He almost never was the gift buyer. I doubt many young women can say their dad gifted them a knife that has been a beloved companion for 28 years. After 9/11, this compañera became a ‘threat’ and I stood several times at the security checkpoint with terror in my heart, realizing I had not left my knife at home. I resisted the new reality that I couldn’t fly with it in my purse and became an ace at locating an information desk and devising a way to mail it home. Sometimes I reluctantly put it in my carry-on and checked it if time allowed. Now they have those special hubs where you can mail stuff home for a hefty price.

Full of useful tiny tools, I have pulled out many splinters gently and cut wayward threads on pants, skirts, and shirts. Apples and cheese have felt the larger knife slice through them with precision and the little awl has poked needed holes in plastic and paper. My toothpick unwedges the green between my teeth and the regular and tiny screwdrivers loosen or tighten my screws, depending on what is needed. The nifty can opener and bottle openers have saved many an outdoor trip and even the cork screw has stepped in when the wine is ready to drink but the buyer has not come prepared. It took me a few years to realize I carried a small saw with me — more of a fascination to stare at than a tool I count on.

The toothpick and tweezers had been lost for a number of years, and I was delighted when I researched and ordered a order a packet of them online. One day the red plastic cover fell off of a side. I have glued it on a number of times but it keeps falling off. It has moved from my purse to my backpack to my keychain to my tennis bag.  Writing this inspired me to give my compañera a good cleaning, oiling, and sharpening.

The term “Swiss Army knife” was coined by American soldiers after World War II due to the difficulty they had in pronouncing “Offiziersmesser”, the German name. There now exist a plethora of knife options in all sizes, colors, and price points.

What is more interesting to me beyond the knife’s longevity and usefulness is the symbolism of the knife for my father and me. The father who was driven to buy it when for countless years and countless lists he drank his café and left the decision-making and purchasing to my mother. And who was I as a young woman that a Swiss Army knife seemed like a good gift to ask for?

I was living at the Catholic Worker in East Los Angeles and working on Skid Row when I opened the gift with a surprised smile on my face. I had become intrigued at fixing things in the hospitality house and a Swiss Army knife helped tasks go more smoothly in old buildings with constant small repairs.

The knife is a tool of survival and readiness, serving as a talisman of these qualities I leaned on for many years. I live in a world that pushes me to believe I have to focus on my survival and be ready to tend to my needs when others might not. It has morphed in the present moment to be a symbol of resilience and power, like a faithful guardian angel that has my back and celebrates my constant addition of knowledge, experience, and tools to support an abundant mindset. Because of this, I created a second generation tradition by gifting my twins each a Swiss Army knife in their late teens. It was like giving them a minor super power to encourage them on their journey towards authentic resilience, constant growth, and the delight of taking care of business with the flick of a tiny tool. #52essays2017