Making A Tough Decision

August 30, 2012

Recently I was faced with a decision that I felt quite unprepared for and also unwilling to make. For seven years I have been facilitating a men’s support group at what was once the Centre for Integrated Healing and is now Inspire Health. It has brought me great joy, inspiration and meaning and I had no intention of stopping, yet here I was walking away from my most recent group with this disturbing whisper, “is it time you let this go?” My initial response was to suppress and deny any such idea. I put it down to the mild dissatisfaction with the way the last group had unfolded; they had diverted an opportunity to explore something I felt would be meaningful to a much lighter discussion but my commitment is to allowing them to direct their group not me. I walked on assuming that was that. However the whisper became a murmur and continued to nag at me; finally in order to check in with what the possible meaning could be I consulted a rune, normally a helpful arbiter that assisted me in seeing that this was about me and my inner journey. However this time I was surprised, even shocked at the specific nature of the response: “Separation –  a time of separating patterns, old skins shed, outmoded relationship discarded, a peeling away is called for.” I realized I had a decision to make.

It was interesting to reflect that I had contemplated this possibility back in March when the Medical Director had decided that my segment on decision-making no longer fitted with her new two-day Life Program. I had felt disturbed by not only the arbitrary way the decision had been made but how it seemed to undermine the concept of empowerment that I had spent eleven years addressing. I wondered if I was still aligned with the goals and objectives of the organization and whether it may be time to leave altogether. However I was persuaded by my friend Dr. Hal Gunn who is the CEO that I should stay because of my longevity with my support group. Frankly I felt relieved at his perspective and dropped any thought of exiting. Now four months later this decision was up for consideration.

Over the next week, I noticed myself shifting backwards and forwards. Yes I should go, no I should stay. One moment I felt convinced the rune was right and Inspire Health was “the outmoded relationship” that needed to go, then I was filled with misgivings about abandoning this group of eight courageous souls that I had grown to love and respect. It was only when I arrived at the tranquil oasis of my home on Cortes Island that I realized I was trapped in “the battle ground of thoughts and feelings” and I needed the affirmation of my DecisionClarity process.

The first step begins with the examination of the reasons to leave. As I dug into the issue a number of concerns revealed themselves: the nagging voice that asked me whether it was time to leave, the angst from the last group, my concern that the group would fragment as a number were planning travel, a sense that I did not feel like revitalizing the group with new members, a knowledge that Inspire Health were interested in an MD facilitating the support group because it would be funded by MSP and in fact one of the doctors was attending the next meeting as a guest. Logic seemed clearly on the side of leaving but my feelings were in clear disagreement, it would not feel good to abandon ship, I know there would be some disappointed members, and I would miss the heart opening monthly meetings, it took little of my time and I was good at facilitating. It was only when I began seeking guidance on my decision that I realized I had not explored my fears. Fear has an insidious way of undermining one’s convictions. It tends to be covert and has more power when kept in the shadow. I realized I had two fears: first that this was not my soul’s intention, I was just trying to make my life easier and secondly that I had significant self worth attached to this role, it gave me meaning and I was fearful of losing it. Finally the complexity of the decision was clear and I was ready to ask for guidance. I committed to a series of activities designed to activate my intuitive faculties. This is much easier on Cortes than perhaps anywhere else; I am surrounded by so much beauty; I resolved to walk in beauty affirming let there be light, meditate in the sanctuary at Hollyhock; ride my bike then do an evening contemplation listening to sacred music.  Then I would draw another rune.

The Original Logo

That night before I went to bed I summarized the response I had received. There had been an interesting memory of walking up to the door of Inspire health about a year ago and observing that the heart had gone and the words, ‘”Oh, the heart has gone from the Centre” cycling through my head. I had some attachment to the previous logo because I had been the architect of the design. Since then my journey had taken me from marketing volunteer, board member, chairman, acting COO for six months, writer of healing journey stories, teacher of decision-making and facilitator of the men’s support group. Now only the men’s group remained and I was considering letting that go. I realized what an amazing passage this was, after fourteen years I may separate myself entirely from Inspire Health. I also realized that this would require a completion process both for me and the group. I also had an amazing dream that involved leaving a protected village, crossing a creek bed and uncertain ground. Then watching a torrent of water and debris wash down the creek and leave a firm rock foundation to walk on. The dream seemed to clearly indicate it was time to move on but there would be some emotional turmoil.

I completed step three as I went to bed and surrendered the decision to the deeper self, “I release and I surrender to my highest good”. The next morning I put on some sacred music and began the check in for the answer. As I took the final five deep breaths to complete the process, I felt a sense of calm and clarity followed by a tickle on the chest that brought to mind the words, ‘I have something to get off my chest.” Interestingly I have had this occasional chest and cough irritation that I have put down to allergies but have often wondered if there was something I needed to let go of. It was a timely soul reminder and contributed to my clarity. For some reason it is time to let go of my attachment to the group and move on. To affirm my decision I drew a rune and got Wholeness, “the path you must follow not from ulterior motives but from the core of your individuality.” What an amazing affirmation! I thanked the Divine Presence for the support and giving me such a great tool to work with. It was time to move on.

Post Script: When I made the decision I had one misgiving; my friend Philip, from whom I had assumed responsibility for the group, told me it had been five years; this was completely expunged when on checking my files I found that  almost exactly seven years has transpired. A much more satisfactory number for completion.

Reflections on the Archetype of the Wise One

August 29, 2012

I just returned from the fourth weekend workshop in the series, “Archetypes of Spiritual Guidance”. The title was the archetype of The Wise One. Atum began by suggesting that wisdom was in the realm of the feminine; he quoted that “Sophia resides in your depth but you notice her everywhere.” This very much coincides with my own perspective on that nature of intuitive wisdom. He spent some time describing aspects of Sophia: the mediator, offers access to the divine, light in the unconscious, God present amongst us, the wisdom of being able to hold opposites. I have never named this aspect of my inner self in this way. I tend to think of it as an aspect of Soul without giving it personality. The first practice we did was active imagination around accessing a personal image of Sophia. I have learned over the years to let go of “doing it right” and I now trust that my journey will take me where it needs to go not necessarily where Atum may be leading.

He guided us into a meditation to explore the depths of our unconscious and in the darkness to find our Sophia figure and then to draw what has come to us. To my surprise and some excitement I found myself reviewing a recent dream that had been very powerful. In the dream I am in the company of James Hollis, the renowned Jungiam analyst and depth psychologist. During our conversation he morphs into a gracious, serene, beautiful feminine figure then returns to his original form. To my fascination when he assumes his male persona he has become younger. He repeats the transformation two or three times and each time he becomes more youthful. At first I had thought the feminine figure represents feelings and the dream was about the value of getting in touch with feelings but now I realized it was so much more. I knew beyond a doubt that the feminine figure represented my Sophia – Goddess of Wisdom. I knew that my drawing would attempt to represent this dream. I wish I had the talent to actually draw the feminine figure but I am afraid that is beyond me but I could capture the essence of the dream.

I described my impressions of the Sophia figure: gracious, timeless, wise, serene, empathetic, beautiful, patient and calm. I identified what the Hollis represented in my psyche: Jungian, working with the unconscious, exploring complexes, finding meaning and owning feelings. When this part of who I am explores and identifies more closely with the Sophia aspect of my unconscious the result is a transformation – more youthful, more vital, serenity and radiance. What an amazing gift this dream is and for it to occur about two weeks before the workshop is magical. A continuing part of practice with this archetype is to develop a dialogue: in what areas of my life do I need your wisdom, what is the prayer that arises from the heart to heart connection, ask how I can serve her and what blessing she offers me.

I felt that even if I got nothing else from the weekend, this more than justified my attendance but in fact it was only the beginning. Next we did an exercise around looking at eight aspects of wisdom: the heart, relating to the world, nature of mind, relationships, connection to the deeper self, relationship to body, instincts and sensuality, vocation or purpose and financial. Having drawn a circle and created the eight compass points then we developed a “Wisdom Council” of those living and dead, symbolic or real that we could call upon for guidance. I found this a very affirming exercise as I have been very gifted to be surrounded by a group of friends who play various supporting roles in my life. It includes three therapists, a Dr. of TCM, a bodyworker/counselor, two coaches, and in addition I added Atum my teacher, James Hollis also my teacher although less directly and the late Rev. Marvin Anderson whose wisdom from the pulpit at the Unity Church in the late nineties still lives on. It was delightful to see these support figures in the context of my wisdom council.

The primary teaching by Atum during the weekend was what he referred to as the Path to Wisdom but which I personally defined as The Journey Of The Soul as to me it was not only the path to wisdom, it represented our life’s work and the very reason we had come here. It was a concise, beautifully summarized and presented list of the aspects of self exploration that we may fulfill on our life’s journey if we stay conscious and committed.

1) To live an individuated life. This requires doing our shadow work, finding the gold and recognizing projections placed onto us.

2) Learning to live and hold the opposites. This is the first step to wholeness.

3) Moving from the self to the Self and establishing the dialogue necessary to achieve this and the practice of discernment.

4) Acceptance of life in its mystery and its limitations.

5) Understanding and practicing forgiveness. I have learned that forgiveness is much more about the self than the other; does not mean condoning the behavior but rather forgiving the person.

6) Understanding and letting go of shame; we have the challenge of accepting ourselves as human as opposed to the projection of an ideal.

7) To practice compassion so it arises naturally.

8) We begin to detach from our own drama and become the witness to the experience. This enables us to see life from an overview perspective and view the larger context.

9) Harvest meaning from our lives.

10) Finding our place of service from the perspective of wisdom.

11) We have a responsibility for joy and living our joy not hiding it.

12) Learning to live with ambiguity, uncertainty and not knowing – Life Is A Mystery.

He reminded us of the shadow side of the Wise One. Don’t become “the one who knows”, love wholeheartedly in the face of imperfection, don’t pontificate and be careful of the projection as the one who knows. I believe that we must be so careful as Spiritual Coaches and teachers that we encourage personal discernment rather than provide answers.

He quoted many wise people through the weekend. A couple of my favourites: “Life offers the opportunity to pick up pearls and throw away pebbles and to pick up pebbles and throw away pearls.” Then of course Woody Allen who said, “God is everywhere except for two particular towns in new Jersey.”

Perils and Pitfalls of Google Adwords

August 27, 2012

It all started so innocently, I own a vacation property on Cortes Island that I occasionally rent out for some additional income. Rentals were few and far between this year and a friend of mine suggested that I run some Google Adwords as she had been told it increases your profile on Google. I checked into it and it seemed like a cool idea. I could associate my ad with key words like “Cortes Island” and “Hollyhock” so when prospective vacationers googled Cortes my ad would show up. Foolproof. It was seductively easy to create the ad that linked directly to my site and I chose to set a maximum of $10 a day. For $140 I could test it out for a couple of weeks and one rental would pay for it.

Now I made a huge mistake, ignoring Don Miguel Ruiz’s sage advice in the Four Agreements that one should ever make assumptions, I made not one but four. First I assumed that Google would provide me with regular weekly reports the way Facebook did. Secondly I assumed that they would only run my ad in association with the words I had selected. Thirdly I assumed they may tell me when they charge my credit card. Finally I made the huge error I assumed that when I heard nothing that no-one was clicking on my ad so I was not spending any money.

Summer finally arrived in Vancouver and one of the gifts of not renting was spending close to a month on Cortes. Frankly Adwords never crossed my mind once and the first sign of disruption in the sweet order of my life was that on arrival back in Vancouver I encountered a piece of glossy ad mail from Google. From one perspective it is a miracle that I opened it as most of this type of mail is assigned immediately to recycling however I think I was intrigued by the pleasing design but one glance at the contents and my positive frame of mind was shattered. It proved to be a glossy report of my ad’s performance and how well it had been doing. I had spent $128.00. Although alarmed, the full enormity of the disaster did not sink in until I realized this was referred to as my Q2 report. To my absolute stunned amazement I had spent $128 in 13 days, and had received absolutely no contacts. NOT ONE!. It gets worse, far worse. I rushed upstairs to check my account to find that I had spent $642. Every day I had reached the maximum of $10. My stomach sank almost as deep as the Titanic. How could this be?

At first I felt incredibly judgmental of my own stupidity. How could I have let it go this far?  Then after sharing with a couple of friends they confirmed that it could easily have happened to them too. One said, ” they are an electronics company, how could they not send electronic updates?” and followed this with, “they do it on purpose, imagine how many people get caught just like you did.” I decided I needed to share my frustration with Google; this was a less than satisfactory experience; I think I got connected with a robot that was programmed to be nice to me while offering nothing except a credit for $100 –  yes you guessed it – more Adwords! I questioned why my most of my clicks seemed unconnected from the key words I had chosen, I am told that I opted in to what was referred to the Google Advertising Network. So unknownst to me my ad runs on the Google weather channel and equally undesirable places. So BE WARNED, read the small print because I had absolutely no idea I had opted in to something that had absolutely no value to me but a ton of revenue for Google. To be fair had I not been overconfident I should have picked this up; it was an example of hubris being punished. Finally I was offered this platitude, “please understand that Adwords is created solely for our advertisers and at the end of the day it is your satisfaction that concerns us the most”. Of course, if you believe that please contact me, I have a very nice bridge I would like to sell you.

At least I can express and share my experience and hopefully will help someone avoid the perils and pitfalls and extreme waste of money. I would love to hear if anyone else has suffered the same way.

Final note: Imagine my surprise when after approximately 70 days without any electronic communication with Google telling me how my ad is performing – during which I was charged the maximum per day for 64 of those days, imagine my surprise when I get two e-mails in the same day. The first expressing concern because I have not been running my ads and the second a report telling me how well they had performed. Coincidence? Decide for yourself

The Olympics – The Cradle of the Best and The Worst

August 22, 2012

The London 2012 Olympics has come and gone; the drama, the passion, the joy of victory and the agony of defeat have dissipated; so what remains? For me there are a number of abiding memories; of course who can forget Usain Bolt’s celebration or Jessica Ennis’s relief however my two most poignant moments concerned two less famous Olympians. Between them they represent much more than the medals they won or the performances they gave rather they represent the epitome of the opposites that haunt every aspect of the human condition. One is a hero in my mind while the other a villain. One is an example of the amazing spirit of good sportsmanship and the other the exact opposite. Both are Americans and also represent the dichotomy that makes that great country so confusing to outsiders: incorporating the best of the best and the worst of the worse.

The two athletes in question are Galen Rupp and Abbey Wombat. Galen won a silver medal in the 10,000 meters coming second to his training partner Mo Ferrah, the British long distance runner winning before an ecstatic home crowd. The joint celebration of these two athletes was such a joy to witness, Rupp seemed to revel in his friend’s victory and Olympian sportsmanship does not get any better. Abbey Wombat was playing for the American soccer team against the Canadians and won an unconvincing victory due primarily to one of the bizarest calls in soccer history. The ref awarded an indirect free kick in the penalty area for the goalie holding the ball too long. Never in all my years as a fan of the beautiful game have I witnessed such a thing. (neither had any other commentator that I checked). In properly officiated games when the goalkeeper is deliberately delaying the game, the ref gives a yellow card and tells him to get on with it. The consequence of this first bad call was a free kick blasted at the Canadian wall of players and a second atrocious refereeing decision, a penalty awarded for what was clearly ball to hand. At this point, I found myself engaging in conspiracy theories (like NBC being the major beneficiary of a USA vs Japan final), however I had no idea of the outrageous lack of sportsmanship by Abbey Wombat who tweeted triumphantly that she was standing in the ref’s ear counting the seconds that elapsed while Erin McCleod the Canadian goal keeper held the ball and helped influence the outcome. How sad to not only be so unsporting but then to brag about it.

On this journey we call life, I have learned that one of the great soul challenges is learning to hold the opposites that we encounter: good/bad, light/dark, joy/sadness, life/death, sickness/health, and the United States of America. Many of my dearest and closest friends including my spiritual teacher are Americans; they are some of the most conscious, caring and enlightened people I have ever met yet their country manifests the opposites to a degree I don’t believe exists elsewhere. For example their insane gun control, attitudes to health care and same sex relationships represent conflicts that are not issues in any other developed country. It is as though part of the US has never grown up; unfortunately at times it behaves like a willful, spoilt child given far too much power and dangerous weapons at too young an age. After I had drafted my blog I tuned into PBS (another of those bests) and watched Leonard Cohen live in London. I realized he summarized this paradox in his song Democracy over 20 years ago.

It’s coming to America first, the cradle of the best and of the worst. It’s here they got the range and the machinery for change and it’s here they got the spiritual thirst. It’s here the family’s broken and it’s here the lonely say that the heart has got to open in a fundamental way: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.