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Even I do not like to go to the bank.

It occurred to me that the prevalence of online banking and electronic money flow could be a result of the prolonged arduous banking experience people want to avoid. Institutions recognize this distasteful experience as they desperately try to change history and tradition to current reality and something disguised as appealing. Can you see the “café” at Capital One?

Today I opened a business checking account for Somatic Finance® and it took almost an hour. Arriving at the empty bank and being told to sit in the reception area was my first twitch. A limp weird attempt at a handshake from the bank personnel about to help me was my second twitch. My third twitch was sitting at the desk and struggling to hear the questions delivered fast clip and without eye contact.

My demeanor became crusty. I could feel niggles, knots and my contracted energy swirling inside with the already suffocating energy of the cubicle. There were several more twitches before I chose to try something different. Rationally, I knew this person was simply doing her job and the best she could. She had nothing to do with the forms, the requirements, the disclosures, the CYA papers, the popping Merrill Edge advertisements, or the second-grade writing for the two choices of checking accounts. She had nothing to do with the lack of integrity I have always felt when I enter into a bank and they try to sell me on the newest deal – if I change something about my present banking situation.

Once when I was with my young son at the bank helping him open an account, I abruptly and blatantly responded to the clerk – “No, I am not interested in your new system. I do not trust that it is beneficial to me or to my son at all. I believe it is designed to make more money for the bank. Therefore, I would like to remain with my current choice.” My son was completely mortified. He asked why I was so upset. I did not have a great answer. I behaved like a jerk.

Presencing the truth that this clerk really was doing her job and trying to help, I connected with her long, perfectly manicured nails. Complimenting their beautiful color and her ability to type skillfully on the keyboard with long nails, play-energy opened up the space, and I was able to breathe a bit easier. (Notice that I practiced this month’s 5 Minute Try-It: Play, from Presence, Connect, Play? So fun and easy!)

In the softer space I saw all that I am offering now, in this writing. Isn’t it remarkable how immediately disdain arises? My body was pissed off before it walked in the heavy glass door. Way too many embodied memories of being in this place, or others like it, brought tension to the surface – the “bottom line” truth that I do not trust large financial institutions. I do not believe, for one nano-moment, that my interests are at the forefront of their policies or the resulting offers to their clientele.

And, I am guessing, that you do not believe they have your interests at heart either.
You may be hoping for some inspiring conclusion, a remedy to in-person banking, or a swift way to avoid the experience altogether. I have none of those. This inspiration is even a surprise to me. What is alive, though, is my curiosity. I wonder…

What is happening here?
How can any money experience be tuned with truth – even if I am the only presence bringing it?
What’s the larger story?
What wants to be revealed for the betterment of all?
How can my energy be generative to the situation?
How can my presence catalyze others for generative output?
What is it within me, closer to home, that is ready to be released, as it relates to banking institutions?

As I ask and feel into the last question, my breath deepens. My back tingles. My belly rounds out and full. My eyes close. My fingers pause. And a single thought appears.

On behalf of humanity, we matter too.

Constructive rest arises. How interesting. I remember I promised more about constructive rest last month. Constructive rest is. My tip for now is to release any specific or general ideas about what rest is, how rest arrives and the way it takes shape. I’m now resting with ease as the words come forth. My spine is lengthened, my chin is slightly down, my eyes are lower as they view the screen, and my breath flows with ease. And you are here with me, resting.

My rest is pulsing between no movement and slight movement, constructively. Energy is rising in my core, a flow from my lower belly to the top of my head. My motivation is writing in the present moment to honor my statement that I would offer more about constructive rest and constructive action. Perhaps, my action is to answer the beliefs that financial people don’t care. When in reality, many, way too many to count, are fiercely stomping on behalf of humanity in response to systems that no longer work, if they ever worked.

To meet whatever is arising, we practice constructive rest, and abide there – embodied – while life takes shape in the money world. Rest then reveals constructive action.

Rest with me now.

Resting and Responding,

5-Minute Try It: Connect

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PURPOSE: To practice and gain mastery of connection in the flow of presencing, connect and play. Connection is the immediacy of attention.

PREPARATION: Now. This is it!

Minute one: Begin with presencing for as long as you feel.

Minute two: Connect with what is arising right now. Give attention without judgment, evaluation, or desire.

Minute three: Repeat.

Minute four:  Repeat.

Minute five: Repeat.

Complete your practice by recognizing connection is this moment of giving attention. Simple and profound.

Fear. Big fear. Subtle Fear. All Here.

Last week I attended the Financial Planning Association annual retreat. It is an intimate conference of 400-ish thought leaders who have been gathering at this advanced program for more than 30 years. When I reflected on the topic to share in this written conversation with you, fear was what came to mind, surprisingly. Here’s why it came up and why I choose to talk about it.

In each education session I attended, fear – subtle or blatant – was the sustaining factor. The content of the session was meant to address that implicit fear in a practical way. Because of my work in Somatic Finance® and my conviction in the importance of body intelligence, I am hyper-aware of when body wisdom is absent. I am also hyper-aware that when emotions, particularly fear, are present in the experience, the worst answer to meet the fear, is a “practical solution.”

I write about this phenomenon in my forthcoming book explicitly and in detail. As I state frequently, fear is the underbelly of money. Please quote me on that if you like. While I am certain that most of the speakers were not aware of the fear-thread woven in their presentations, the truth is, in our financial world, and even within the most grown-up and conscious places of financial planning, fear continues to hold constant presence that we are called to face skillfully.

Fear of not having enough money to retire.
Fear of not having enough as a retiree to sustain lifestyle.
Fear of rising health care costs while aging.
Fear of economic forces that impact our investment plans.
Fear of confusion in the tax laws.
Fear of losing control.
Fear of technology.
Fear of what money can buy.
Fear of family dynamics and effective estate plans.
Fear of negative fiscal policies.
Fear of decisions. Change. Life.

With each of the above fear matters, nothing new will emerge with the same cognitive right-brain exploration, discovery and action. In other words, as Einstein says, you can’t solve the problem in the same plane it was created. Many of the retreat sessions offered food for thought and deeper conversation, interesting tools to employ, or beautiful questions to ask, related to important topics. Many of the sessions inspired right action for professionals to serve their clients well. But none of the sessions invited anyone into the unique and deepest inquiry of what is this fear? Can we as humans explore the foundations of fear, as instruments for optimal service for human growth, well-being and peace of mind?

Dick Wagner, a beloved recently-deceased pioneer in our profession stated, “Money is the singular most powerful secular force on the planet.” This is a gorgeous statement to sit with for months. As I reflect again on this statement and include the essence of fear, I believe fear is the singular most powerful energetic force on the planet, just behind Love. But when it comes to money, fear is more prevalent.

The way for us to do money well, to relate authentically with the energy of money, to weave our purest values, our precious life aspirations, and our unique genius offerings into a meaningful life tapestry, is for body intelligence to be welcomed.  Fear can only be thoroughly attended to through the physical and subtle body. We attend to the tension, pain and fatigue we hold in the body through practices; myriad practices that allow us to reveal what is hidden, to observe contracted energy, and move toward new possibilities.

Any exterior solution will be momentarily satisfying. But the fear will remain and arise again at another future moment – about this I am certain – beckoning attention for a deeper resolution and experience. As humans we will always experience fear. It is our human nature. How we experience fear is our choice and our invitation.

Yesterday, I was practicing squats in my circuit training. Still fatigued from the workout a couple of days earlier, these four timed exercises – do as many as you can in 24 minutes – were burning my butt, literally. The instructor of the class provided me suggestions on how to dip lower in my squat. Anger surfaced and I was dismissive with a “give me a break” attitude and complaints about tender muscles from her workout two days earlier.

This morning I shared with her my learnings from that exchange. Generally I am not rude to this amazing fitness instructor. In reflecting on what happened, I realized that I hold shear terror in my body when I squat to the floor! My squats have improved significantly since I began weight training, and anxiety has diminished over time along with new ability to squat lower. But, upon deeply asking my body where the anger reaction came from, I realized that I feel quivers, doubt and uncertainty, stemming from the need to be able to move if I am under attack! I am scared for my survival!

My sharing may seem far-fetched. It seems strange to me sometimes too. But when I tune into my body intelligence, there is no doubt. When I integrate my insights from this exploration, with the experiences I am having with my aging parents and their declining mobility, the revelation of this response makes interesting and profound sense to me.

Do you resist fear?
Do you allow fear to inform you?
Do you welcome fear with open arms?

Fear is undeniable energy – arising in the form of fighting, fleeing, fainting or freezing. Two of these forms mobilize the body (fight & flee); two of these forms immobilize the body (freeze & faint.) All four responses are signals from the primitive brain, the beloved amygdala, informing us that survival is in jeopardy.  We are called to utilize fear in constructive action (fight & flee) or constructive rest (freeze & faint.) The body is the vessel for the effective utilization of fear. Stay tuned for more about constructive action and constructive rest, next time.

Until then, connect to your fear. Feel the sensations that course inside your body. Notice pressure, temperature and movement. Give descriptions to those sensations. Relating this way to the fear energy in your body is like giving a glass of cold water to a thirsty, parched-lipped traveler.

Connecting education, knowledge, wisdom, and body… with you,

 

 

5-Minute Try It: Presence


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PURPOSE: Continuing the flow of Presence Connect Play from Kathlyn Hendricks, we dive deeper into Presence.  Presence is where we live life when we are fully engaged. Full engagement allows optimal joy, love and meaning to flourish.

PREPARATION:  Remember the purpose of Presence Connect Play offered from last month. Bring your “hands practice” to this month’s offering.  Recognize that there is no “end point” to presencing; presence is an always and forever practice. Presence allows us to authentically connect.

Minute one: Locate your body and begin with a body scan from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Imagine a light breeze moving through your body – gently and completely. Once your scan reaches your soles, ground deeply in the earth visualizing roots shooting to the center of the earth.

Minute two: Bring the scan back up your body with the same gentle breeze to the top of your head. Intensify the felt sense of your body-skin and the interior of your body. Become familiar with your body envelope.

Minute three: Using your body-skin as the boundary, notice all sensations, in particular, pressure, temperature and movement. What lights up in your body?

Minute four: Give attention to the sensations you notice, be present with what is happening. This practice strengthens body awareness and the capacity to Presence, to “know” what sensations are communicating to us.

Minute five: Float this question: What is my body offering me right now through sensations as I presence what is?

Complete your practice by honoring presence as an essential practice to be here, embodied, with what is – as presence.

Efficiency, Effectiveness, Excuses

Friends, I am on the other side of an experience and I want to share what I learned. Undoubtedly you have had one of these experiences yourself, but perhaps you haven’t had time to delve into the intricacies and refreshing learnings, after the task is finally checked off your list. Let’s explore together using my recent example.

With the popularization of credit cards, mileage rewards, and the plethora of shenanigans to “get a deal,” I recently switched my United Airlines Mileage Visa card for a Southwest Mileage Visa card, with the same banking company (Chase in case you wonder.)  Due to frequent travel visiting my aging parents on a more convenient airline, I found that I have not been traveling on United for quite some time. In my desire to “get a deal,” I called to cancel my United card. The request, consuming an inordinate amount of time to get a real person on the line, was met with a lengthy dissuasion speech. I was told that surrendering the card with its 19 years of credit would eliminate all of my rewards miles and my excellent credit. Eventually I ended up keeping the card. (It is in my file cabinet not being used.) I negotiated a no-annual-fee for this non-using card.

This month, I received my United/Chase billing statement and saw a $60 annual fee. I was annoyed, and in a rare free moment, I got on the phone to remedy the charge. I had been on the phone for over an hour when the situation was finally all said and done. It had taken me several attempts through a crap-shit-frustrating load of select-1, -2, -3, -4 or -5, to link up with a real human being. After answering all of the security questions to prove that I am indeed who I say I am, I was able to recount my issue.

I’ll bypass the final remedy in my sharing with you because it is not of interest. Nor is the scolding I gave to the customer service representative when I said I did not want the new no-annual-fee card which was coming in the mail; she said I had to have the card; I said if it is stolen from my mail or home it is another issue to deal with; she said well fraudulent activities are covered; I said well my time, energy and attention to deal with the potential fraud is NOT covered, just like this call dealing with my current fee charge is not covered. She apologized.

In my frustration, I paused and began to share what was really happening for me. I said I do not want an apology. What I want is presence; intelligent presence. If I had spoken to you within 15 minutes of my trying to reach you, I would not be so angry. But since I had to go through many calls and navigate an impersonal electronic system, being cut off and toggled between the bank and the airline, my demeanor is ugly. I know you do not deserve my reaction. People do not want to be treated this way. But, I do wish you a good day.

In efficiency, we sacrifice effectiveness. Then, the excuses arise. In our monotonous world of finance, we have many obstacles to give attention to rather than address money matters. When we as a society have little interest in dealing with money, we delegate actions to artificial intelligence to complete transactions. It is true that for some routine tasks, these mechanisms work. And we forget about our unpleasant interactions because, you know, the task finally gets handled and life is too short. But when and where does the pendulum swing, or at least inch, the other way?

This year’s Somatic Finance theme of dignity came forward when I said to the customer service representative, “People do not want to be treated this way.”  I would not want my parents, my clients, my friends, my colleagues or anyone, to be treated this way. Punching buttons through limited menu choices that do not address a nuanced situation, or repeating yourself to a robot with no option to reach a live human, does not inspire dignity or presence. It is dehumanizing. Well, of course it is; in those instances we are talking to automated metal and wires. I would rather speak to dirt, leaves and rocks than to a heartless, impenetrable network of technology.

Being able to receive attention for attending to a situation lands us in a place of dignity. Our culture is wrapped up in being efficient, shrugging off a problem with apologies, and losing the essence of effectiveness. Do we recognize that effectiveness is the ultimate objective? Follow me here.

Effectiveness is not perfection. Effectiveness is taking all of the matters into consideration – efficiency, perfection, attention, care, skill – and allowing the outcome to be the optimum result for that UNIQUE situation. The optimum result is being effective for what is happening in that moment. When we are attending to money, finances, handling of “rewards and too good to be true” deals, we must hold in the heart and ground of the situation – what deeply matters – in that moment – to us as humans. All humans want dignity, especially when money is involved.  Holding this torch for all of us and gathered from my internal dignified strength, my dignity inspired me to speak up and share with the customer service representative my point: People do not want to be treated this way.

We don’t. She doesn’t. Her boss doesn’t.

These are the nano moves to nurture a dignified culture. Because as we begin to embody our own dignity, we see where it is missing, and we begin to cultivate the space for it to exist for others.

May we be awake to real connection with real interactions when the situation calls for it.
May we benefit from technology to quickly complete a task when the situation calls for it.
May we be wise to recognize the difference, and apply presence when a human needs attention.

Softening the edges of my dignity meter,

5-Minute Try It: Presence. Connect. Play.

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PURPOSE:  Life begins with presence, the ability to be completely here with whatever is arising. This month we begin a series of practices that align with a vibrant way of orienting to life developed by Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D. We experience a taste of Presence. Connect. Play.- with our hands to become familiar with the practice. In the following weeks, we will unpack each aspect of this practice and bring it all together at the end.

PREPARATION:  Get willing to open and move through the world in a more joyful engaging way.

Minute one: Bring your non-dominant hand in front of you and begin to saturate it with attention. Notice the sensations that arise in your hand as you give curious attention to your hand.

Minute two: Engage your other hand by bringing it up closer to your first hand. Compare and contrast the felt sense of each hand. Allow your hands to move from presence to connecting.

Minute three: Notice how the feelings in your hands shift as they connect and relate to each other. Continue to connect your hands until there is a natural spontaneous arising to play.

Minute four: Allow your hands to move together and “play”. See what arises in spontaneous movement and connection. Notice how your attention retains presence as connection and play continue to spiral deeper.

Minute five: Deepen your practice using your hands with presencing, connecting and playing so that you retain the basic flow of this natural practice.

Complete your practice by presencing your hands, connecting your hands, and committing to engage in this activity for a month to build a basic muscle of presencing, connecting and playing.

 

They can’t take that away from me~

George and Ira Gershwin’s 1937 jazz song introduced by Fred Astaire in the film Shall We Dance welcomes us into this month’s exploration. While I am not intimately familiar with the movie, in this context, what can’t they take away from me? My dignity. Your dignity. Their dignity.

Dignity abides in the interiors of our whole body vessel. We access our dignity by paying attention to the spine and the back line of our body from the back of the neck to the lower sacrum. Try it right now.

You might notice that your spine naturally elongates, your chest opens and your lower body roots closer to the ground. Our body – embodies – dignity, a natural truth of our human existence. As we continue to explore and gain practice in our own dignity this year, let’s look at the ways dignity can be falsely stripped from us in times of vulnerability.

In our birth family, it is common for our dignity to be tampered with, as parents and perhaps siblings address situations where their own sense of dignity is being challenged. Often power, force, and unconscious patterns are used to protect a sense of self-respect in desperation, fear or confusion. Most of us have encountered those moments with family members where we were told to “shut-up,” or perhaps physically shoved or spanked, or verbally abused, or even subtle shaming. The possibilities of disrespect in family life are endless, unfortunately. It is in the family situation where we may have our first occurrences of disrespect. As the youngest of four children, I was often on the disrespectful receiving end of slams from my parents and siblings. My parents did the best they could and the lack of care for each other trickled down the line.

Recently, I was in a heated discussion with my sister, five years older than me. The argument was intense and I stayed present in my spine, noticing the tension of the moment as well as the history of being the youngest and doing what she instructed – without regard for my needs or desires as an adolescent. But as an adult, I stood my ground, so to speak. I spoke my truth. I did not waver. My body held me in my dignity. My respect was not “taken away from me” – respect can never be taken away when we abide in our truth. The outcome offered us a new experience of connection and support, which would not have been available had I repeated an old undignified pattern.

In school we have another place where dignity gets taunted, by unskillful teachers and classmates. The scenes look like bullying from our peers and perhaps humiliation from teachers.  If our dignity is trampled in grade school, the probability is high for junior high and high school to be equally as difficult. Like parents, teachers are doing their best and our social groups are navigating the complexities of growing up in a challenging world. School is a breeding ground for competition. In present day, new systems such as group learning have been introduced as superior ways of learning and growing together. I imagine that this shift has supported dignity. But in my day, academics were a race. I never fell in love with learning, despite my longing to be engaged. It was not until my career began that I found stimulating and inviting ways to grow and thrive, holding my dignity. In grade school through my undergrad, I was often scared. At those times I outsourced my dignity to teachers, friends, sorority sisters, and classmates, those to whom I wanted to connect and gain acceptance. When I outsourced dignity, I lost a healthy sense of self and my ground of being.

Money is another breeding ground for humiliation and decreased confidence. Yet, my sense is that our ability to attend to money dignity is different from other devaluing experiences of dignity. As we develop and grow up as adults, we are invited to reflect on and address childhood wounds, and much of what we experience in family and childhood are common areas for exploration and healing in multiple therapeutic settings. However, money morphs into a different twist. Our society doesn’t know how to attend to money dignity. It’s very elusive. Financial professionals have tried to address these issues with money psychology, behavioral finance, money therapy and more, but just tending to the hurt does not build dignity.

Money dignity requires four components that spiral together and build on each other. First, we face the limiting money beliefs and stories that have held us hostage. Second, we gain knowledge about finances to navigate the modern world in which we live. Third, we gain access and tend to the felt sense in our bodies that hold the money stories, financial knowledge and intuitive wisdom. Fourth, as all of those muscles are strengthened, our dignity begins to shape, and eventually soar. We slowly, carefully, and intentionally build the essence of our inherent dignity—abiding along our backline—connecting our belly and heart. Just recognizing the history of how we developed limiting money habits is not enough to build dignity. Just knowing how to make financial decisions is not enough to build dignity.  The way dignity is built and sustained is through gaining insight, understanding and healing, then taking action as a doorway to the true essence of our dignity, which is always held in the body.

Once embodied, they can’t take that way from me, or you, or anyone—and that’s the perfection of body wisdom.

Practicing embodied dignity,