Friday, March 30, 2012

What Do YOU Want to Be When You Grow Up?

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" we're always asking our children.  The response is almost always a concrete answer: a fireman, hockey player, doctor etc.  The idea is ingrained in us from an early age - we must have a title, a one word description to define us.  The subtle nuances of our being are buried below this label, only to be uncovered by those who take the time to know us beyond the singular title we have chosen to tell the world who we are.

As we get older, the question shifts from "What do you want to be when you grow up?" to "What do you do?"  Again we are being asked to describe ourselves in a minimal amount of words, to lump our whole being into a sound bite.  Most of us already have more than one title - husband/wife, mother/father, friend, sports fanatic.  Normally one definition of ourselves stands out as the most prominent, and for me it has always been my professional title.  Being a mom is the title that brings me the most pride, but I don't use that title to present myself to the world.  For almost 23 years my title has been a pilot.  It's not only my job but my identity.  A source of pride, insecurity, sometimes ego, and lately a source of confusion.

As I find myself delving deeper into the world of Reiki and alternative healing, a one word title doesn't seem to fit me anymore.  I have two very different jobs now, and the second one is difficult to describe in one word.  When I meet someone and they ask what I do, it's much easier to say that I'm a pilot than to try and explain my healing work.

But what if we began to think of the questions "What do you want to be when you grow up" or "What do you do," in a different way?  Instead of using those questions to explain a literal definition of ourselves, what if we described the underlying essence of who we really are?  Imagine asking a child what they want to be when they grow up and they respond with, "Happy."  Or "Creative."  Or "Free." Or "An inspiration to others."  Or the mother of all answers to this question -  "Me."

The next time someone asks, "What do you do," imagine their reaction if the answer was "I encourage others to uncover their authentic selves," or "I create spontaneous bliss wherever I go," or even "I honor myself and those around me by being true to myself."

The responses above would definitely catch some people by surprise.  In the absence of a self imposed title, they might begin to come up with their own titles to describe us, some of them not very flattering.  That's ok too.  I'm reminded of my favorite quote from this week - "What other people think of you is none of your business."  We all walk a different path.

So the next time someone asks me at a party, "What do you do," will I respond with, "I help others uncover the grace, courage and beauty within?"  Probably not.  Twenty three years of identity is a hard habit to break.  But I guarantee I will hesitate before I answer, and maybe in time, I just might surprise a few people. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taking Out My Trash

 Trash day in my neighborhood.  I loathe trash day.  As I walked two blocks with my son to school this morning, we passed a sofa, a dresser, an end table and a tv (all at different houses), all tossed onto the curb for the trash.  After I dropped my son at school I continued to walk.  Within 1/2 mile I passed two more sofas, another dresser and tv, a table, a chair and an antique bedroom set.  Apparently my neighbors haven't heard of Goodwill or the VVA (who by the way, pick up at the front door.)   I was disgusted because landfill space was being filled with perfectly usable furniture, and because there was probably a poor child in the neighborhood that could use the furniture instead.

My morning walk is normally a source of peace and clarity and a connection to nature, but I wasn't feeling any of that as I passed each trash pile.  Frustrated that I was becoming more upset with each step,  I made a conscious effort to change what I was feeling at that moment.

I have been reading Pema Chodron's book, "Taking the Leap."  In the book she discusses the Tibetan word shenpa, which means attachment, or our ability to get "hooked" or stuck. 

"The fundamental, most basic shenpa is to ego itself: attachment to our identity, the image of who we think we are.  When we experience our identity as being threatened, our self-absorption gets very strong, and shenpa automatically arises."

I began to examine my feelings about trash day and why it continues to hook me.  It's not the furniture itself, or the people putting it at the curb, but a judgment in my mind that it is wrong to throw away something useful.  On a normal day I would keep walking and continue to get more angry about the entire situation, feeding a story line that would lead into everything else that is "wrong" in the world.  Pema has taught me that instead of escalating my thought pattern, or worse yet wishing my uncomfortable feelings would just go away, it is much more beneficial to lean into them.  Take a few deep breaths, poke around the feeling a little bit, and then let it go.  Following this advice has helped me learn to let go of things much more quickly, and each time I practice it is easier to get "unhooked."

Pema also mentions that the average life span of a particular emotion is a minute and a half.
"After that, we have to revive the emotion to get it going again.  Our usual process is that we automatically do revive it by feeding it with an internal conversation about how another person is the source of our discomfort.  Maybe we strike out at them or at someone else - all because we don't want to go near the unpleasantness of what we're feeling."

I must admit I never expected curbside trash to be the catalyst for a personal growth experience.  This morning made me realize that I don't have to search out a teacher to further my evolution - the lessons are all around me every minute of every day.  I just have to be open enough to recognize the opportunity.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Backsliding the last few days.  Had the entire weekend free, or in other words free to catch up on all the stuff around the house I have been putting off during my non-free weekends.  So what did I do?  Sat around trying to win an Oscar for my performance of a slug.  I don't think my portrayal was very accurate, unless slugs have started spending ridiculous amounts of time on Facebook.

The only thing I did have the urge to do was write, but I couldn't figure out what to write about.  Journaling didn't appeal, and neither did blogging because I didn't have anything profound to say.  I settled for just scribbling down some random thoughts, a question and answer session with myself regarding emotions, desires, letting go, leaning in, etc.  The writing proved to be cathartic, and just what I needed, and yet afterward I felt like I had wasted my time.  I have so little time to devote to writing, and I felt guilty taking time to write about something no one would ever see but me.  Not that I have some huge following salivating over my every word, but the thought of helping just one person with my writing is what keeps me going, keeps me motivated, and keeps me stretching outside of my comfort zone.

All of these thoughts brought about my dilemma for this morning - what to do about the evolution of my blog.  Now that I've made the commitment to post once a week, I suddenly don't know what to write about.  When I first started blogging, I was writing about alternative therapies and new experiences, things that I really thought might benefit people.  Lately I've started to become more self centered with my writing, putting the focus back on me and my growth and transformation. That might not be as interesting for someone else to read, but I am starting to see it is exactly what I need to be doing right now.  And it reminds me of the message I have received over and over this week, from myself and several friends.  Get out of the way.  Let go.  Ride the current.  Let it lead me wherever it is I need to go without trying to direct it.  Instead of writing about what I think I "should" write about and trying to find a purpose, I need to focus on what I'm called to write about, even if the only beneficiary is me.

I have been reading Richard Bach's "Illusions" over the last few weeks.  The book explains that we can open any book, magazine, even a newspaper, and whatever page we open to will have a message for us.  Feeling a little adrift this morning, I decided to try it out.  I opened "Illusions", and to my surprise found myself staring at the the pages that describe the process I just mentioned.   The quote on the page was this - "You teach best what you most need to learn."  Interesting, especially since I had just given this same message to a friend last week.  Apparently, it was meant for both of us.

So where do I go from here?  I wish I could tell you, but I don't know myself.  For the first time in a long time, I think I'm finally at peace with that idea.  The only thing left for me to do now is take a deep breath, let go, give in, and get out of the way.  I'm willing to give it a try.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

All of Me

Spring Equinox.  A time to manifest positive intentions.  A time to set the course for a new year.  In that light, I'm not going to dwell on what has occurred since my last post in January.  I will just say that much has changed and all is well.  I have awakened from my winter hibernation, and my outlook and focus is one of renewal, authenticity, courage and growth.

I've spent the last week engaged in intense introspection, trying to decide who I really am and who I want to be.  Until now I have had two conflicting identities - the pilot me, and the Reiki/spiritual me.  I did my best to keep these two areas separate.  I didn't talk about Reiki at the airport, and I didn't want to talk about being a pilot in my Reiki community.

In an uncommon act of bravery last week, I decided to call myself a Reiki master and a Pilot in the same sentence for a bio I was writing.  At first I was proud of myself.  Then I felt stupid because being a pilot didn't seem relevant to what I was doing with the Reiki.  Then I went into a tailspin because I couldn't understand why this one small act was causing me so much consternation.  It was as if my two worlds were colliding, and I wasn't sure which one would survive the mash up.

The catalyst for all of this was a simple two paragraph bio, and it morphed into a week of soul searching with a tap root bigger than I ever imagined.  I started examining everything about myself- why I chose to become a pilot in the first place,  why I am afraid of being thought of as some sort of New Age hippie at work, why I have an intense desire to blend into the crowd and not be different, why I care so much about what others think of me.

After a week of navel gazing I did have some answers, and a new desire to be my authentic self - without labels, without fear, and without holding back.  This is me, like it or not, and I'm not hiding any more.  With that in mind, I'd like to share my new personal mission statement with you.

"By respecting and then sharing ALL of who I am, I create a community of transformation, love, and electric enthusiasm."

I would be honored if you would join me.