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Questions. What are questions? How do we relate to questions?

We might believe that the act of being present, open, loving, receptive and clear is easy. Or, if not easy, we might believe that being with another person is an improvisational skill that can be called upon at a moment’s notice. With authentic heart connections, neither of these beliefs is true. In my experience, we all have debris covering our hearts that prevents the nakedness required to connect deeply, authentically, and without barriers.

What is ripe and alive for me today is questions: the art of asking, receiving, and navigating questions. Recently I assisted in the development of new mentors at a meditation teacher training. The relationship skills being developed are that of support – like a spiritual friend. One of our areas of focus was the practice of fostering connection with another person.

In the training process, we staged simulated conversations (for practice, but naturally drawing on real feelings) for viewing, supporting and critiquing, in service of mentor development. The safe training container allowed for vulnerability to shine, along with a naked presence to strengths and areas of growth. So from where does my curiosity about questions arise?

As we progressed each day with each participant, more often than not the questions posed by the developing “mentor” to their student were self-relevant, meaning the questions attended to something of importance and meaning for the questioner, rather than being of service to the recipient. Time and again, questions arose from the following:

  • a need to know – holding urgency and anxiety.
  • a need to fix – as if given enough information an answer to the problem would arise.
  • a need to understand – the more I resonate with this situation, the more I can be here.
  • a need to connect – the idea that our thoughts are the best connector between people.
  • a need to feel in control – fear of intimacy held at bay by controlling how close I get.

In work, in family life, in everyday regular occurrences, and of course with money, we relate to others with questions. It seems, though, our practice of asking questions is limited. It seems that we are tethered very closely to habitual patterns – see above – that likely arose from our childhood days. I hold the same habits and it looks something like this.

When a question is posed to me, I do not automatically answer the question. Instead, I look underneath the question, resting in the space between the other and me, sensing what else might be going on and what is “really” being asked. While this way of relating to questions requires more energy and bandwidth, it is the result of childhood patterning where just the answer to a question was unsatisfactory. More often than not, something else was being asked and it became beneficial to my health, happiness and well being to answer what was underneath the question versus the “face value” question. On the flip side, my questions to others are very intentional, and somewhat limited. I do not ask a lot of questions. I typically try to figure things out for myself. Again, this is not a suggested or preferred way of being; it is my childhood patterning I carry into adulthood.

In this space of curiosity about questions, in the training environment and beyond, I am seeing the various ways that we relate to questions. I notice that when I receive many questions, particularly pointed questions that desire a specific answer, I tend to freeze. As my mind works, there is rarely one “right” answer. So my mind begins to sort and make connections and figure out the most likely or the best answer. At the same time, I am looking underneath for the clues and context as to what is really being asked.

A superior practice is when I rest in the openness of the situation, with my heart wide and my mind curious. The responses – statements, questions, joy, resonance – arise from something other than a habit. Relating to another with generous questions is a very different experience.

We all have our preferences and this message is an invitation to get curious about your way with questions. How do you relate to questions?

In this training, I asked one mentor in training “who is being served by the questions you ask?” She responded with immediate recognition of serving herself and the desire to “buy time” when she struggled with relating from a different place. This simple question dove straight to her pattern where uncertainty and fear resided.

There are simple questions with direct clear answers. How many stamps do you want? What time does the movie end? Do you want lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise with your burger? A small part of life happens on this level; but maybe we are comfortable staying here?

As an evolving species, we are called to develop a better relationship with questions. In the world of money, elegant beautiful precise questions are imperative. We must hold multiple perspectives in most situations, in order to arrive at an answer that serves what is next. And always, questions are meant to serve the other, our clients.

My body receives a very clear signal when I am being questioned for the benefit of the questioner. Depending on my day and present state of mind, sometimes I manage the questions with skill and finesse. Sometimes, however, I feel the tension in my bones where my jaw tightens and patience thins. Rest assured my response is common. When we pummel others with question after question, it feels like an automatic rifle to the gut.

By now you might be wondering, can questions come from another place other than the head? Yes, I’m glad you wondered. When we connect and relate from the heart – there is a deep somatic reality to heart connection – the questions that arise are very open, spacious, kind, curious. They feel very different than the ways of questioning above. We know by heart that the best way to connect with another is through the heart.

The art of relating with questions through the heart lives in a doctorate program. Seriously. Few of us are well equipped in this area of relating. Let’s wonder and wander as a placeholder for exploration and gain new and valuable muscle for the benefit of connection, and the benefit of others. This is generosity in motion.

Practicing heart questions,

 

5-Minute Try It: Straws and Other Plastic

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PURPOSE: To gain awareness of our planet, and in particular marine life that struggles with human plastic use.

PREPARATION: Ask yourself, am I open to learning and seeing a new perspective? If so, watch my rant with an open heart and mind. Then, begin your own practice following these steps.

Minute one: Arrange your posture as described in Belly-Heart-Spine 5 Minute Try-It (click here for audio file.)

Minute two: Centering your body, reflect on this wonder question: hmmm, I wonder how my use of plastic serves me? Hmm, I wonder how my use of plastic serves others?

Minute three: Allow answers to arise. Return to centering, reflect on this wonder question: hmmm, I wonder how my use of plastic harms me? Hmm, I wonder how my use of plastic harms others?

Minute four: Allow answers to arise. What sensations (movement, pressure, temperature) arise in your body offering new information about the use of plastic? Allow new insights to arise.

Minute five: Reflect on this wonder question: hmmm, I wonder what new behavior around plastic would better serve others, the world and me.

Complete your practice by integrating your new insights and committing to a new relationship with plastic.

A Hot Mess or Just Part of the Ride?

Each month a topic for Somatic Finance arises from current reality. The current state of affairs and my mind present relevant authentic topics and articles to share. Truth be revealed, there is a part of me who would like a clean, structured, annual writing chart that dictates monthly topics. I would write the 3rd day of each month for 1 hour at precisely 9:00 and the flow of publishing would glide to your inbox at the optimum moment you are ready, willing and able to enjoy. Then the alarm goes off….

So what is current reality in this moment?

Last month’s topic of balance, has given way to not much balance at all. I offer ‘hot mess or part of the ride’ as a name for this period in time. Let me paint a picture for you.

I am sitting in my dining room typing on my laptop. Prior to sitting, I spent at least ½ hour clearing stuff off of the table and sorting, just enough, to make the space workable. A few moments ago I turned my head left and spotted a large bolt of black construction protection paper for floors. (We completed a complicated bathroom renovation last fall and surprise frozen/broken water pipes in the winter.) The floor protection paper was for that work. I say to myself, this could be worse; I could have missed this for another year.

My life is jam-packed with concerns, obligations, desires, passions, wants, needs … and so is yours. Some of us are skilled at being on the ride. Some of us tilt – out of balance – and become a hot mess. I am on the verge of a hot mess and offer the aspects of these moments, months, and movements that brought me here.

It isn’t enough to say that my parents are declining and need care. I must share that they are doing their life the way they want and though some of us are reacting with distress, burden and fear, it is what is happening. My three siblings and I hold different experiences and views on the matter. So while we give our time and energy to our parents, we also unearth all of the childhood debris that has been hidden for over 50 years. I am beautifully – yes I claim skill here – seeing the strategies I employed to navigate early childhood and cleaning up that debris, in the face of others who may or may not have such skill. It is a chess game in a house of rotating and moving mirrors.

It isn’t enough to say that I am a managing partner of a financial services business – a profession mired in confusion, fear and uncertainty. I must share that operating an evolving business, within a field of old-school thinking and controlling rules made necessary by unethical leaders, requires supercharged resiliency.  I must share that the demands of running an organization, training individuals in our work, completing tasks to satisfy internal operations and external client services, requires a montage of capacities. I must share that the complexities of the human experience are magnified tenfold when money is part of the equation. Every aspect of life is touched by money.

It isn’t enough to say that I am writing a book for the world, about Somatic Finance, to alleviate money suffering. I must share that writing is a complex, nuanced journey, especially for a person, me, who is learning to claim her authorship. I must share that I already engage a full-time position as a financial planner, a full-time position as a business owner, a full-time position as a master integral coach, a full-time position as a volunteer, mother, daughter, sister, spouse, friend, student, teacher, partner, gardener (oh how I love gardening.)

It isn’t enough to say that I am deeply concerned about life on earth, this planet and the capacity for world leaders to make decisions that include the welfare of all beings. This message is not built to withstand a political debate. But, like all of you, I am steeped in our hurting world – learning new moves and taking fearless steps as best as I am able.

I’ll pause here to take a breath. Please breathe with me as you wonder into your own hot mess or the ride of your life.

And yet here I am so concerned about others’ needs, wants and desires that the fire in my belly has grown from frustration to rage and my back aches. Fortunately I am not frothing at the mouth scurrying like a Tasmanian devil. But I am very close. My body, my best friend, supports this truth, and me, always. I am engaging practices to support my growth. My developmental practices are showing me my current way of being so that I may develop new muscles to abide – heartfully – on the ride … this ride of life.

How are you in this present time, this present moment?
How are the messages to “be here now” and power of positive thinking working for you?
How do the hundreds of online courses to shapeshift your mind, heart and soul meet you when all hell is breaking loose?

No answers are offered. I am wondering with you, and I notice a tiny smile followed by a bubble giggle. Writing, revealing, offering – authentic expression – allows the crack to open further and light to shine in.

Be fully in your hot mess or on the ride.
I’m on mine.

Riding hot and messy,

 

 

5-Minute Try It: Balance

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PURPOSE: To strengthen our physical body balance (gross realm), and to strengthen our energetic response balance (subtle realm).

PREPARATION: Make sure balance on two feet is solid! If not, practice here.

Minute one: Locate your balance on two feet. If you are secure, raise your right leg. Intend to balance for up to two minutes on your left leg.

Minute two: For the next two minutes, balance on your left leg.

Minute three: Balance. Be with the new sensations in your balancing leg.

Minute four: Switch to your other leg. Raise your left leg and balance on your right for two minutes.

Minute five: Balance. Be with the new sensations in your balancing leg.

Complete your practice by noticing when you have both feet on the ground how stable and centered you feel.

Rebalance… portfolios, postures, practices, professions… life!

In the financial profession, rebalancing portfolios is a common practice for managing investments. Portfolio rebalancing is a discipline to align an investment policy with its guiding values (e.g. risk tolerance, asset classes, timelines), in order to meet objectives. From a practical investment management perspective, this action is very important. From the perspective of what gives life meaning and purpose, it may mean very little.

When sitting for a long period of time, for example in meditation, a balanced posture enables one to stay relaxed in the seat. Slightly moving forward, back, and side-to-side, will produce a “sweet-spot” – a centered, balanced, vertical alignment which allows ease, relaxation, and the ability to stay.

For decades we’ve heard adages about attending to work/life balance. How about the proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? (And yes, it is a proverb, not a movie quote, dating from at least 1659…) Or the term workaholic, for someone who spends too much time at the office, neglecting family and friends. Balancing time between two important variables of life is a familiar conundrum.

As we age, or if we have a mobility-hindering accident, balance becomes more prominent for our well-being. Each visit to my parent’s home, as they tenderly and slowly weaken in body and mind, I witness the decline in their ability to stand and walk. Indeed, their physical balance is at risk each time they move. It is both heartbreaking and sobering. And I am paying attention.

Three months ago, I began a new balancing practice for my body (see this month’s 5 Minute Try-It) that I engage in the morning and evening while brushing my teeth. For the two-minute timer on my electric toothbrush, I balance on one foot; mornings, the left, evenings, the right. In my bare feet, focused attention is required. My balance has improved. I feel the tiny muscles in my legs working. These are the muscles that are generally forgotten, but are the ones that keep us upright.

Striking a balance.
Staying in balance.
Returning to balance.
Find a happy balance.
Balance work and play.
Balance everything out.
Out of balance.
Maintain balance.
Balance between…

What do you notice, as you peruse these common phrases?
What thoughts come to mind?
Are any body impulses registering?

These word-polarities demonstrate an outdated view. Our everyday phrases indicate either/or, rather than “both, and.” One, or the other. This, or that. One or the other end of the spectrum.

I seek a common ground, a middle, a landing. In my reality, balance spirals. A continuum moving up and down, left and right, front and back – in every direction.  In the simplest of examples, when my mother falls, where exactly did she lose her balance?

I sense a flow of energy and life, where our bodies move through space, with other bodies, objects, and natural surroundings. We name this flow “balance,” to give our minds something for reference. As Laura Divine, co-founder of Integral Coaching of Canada, quoted below in Be Moved, in this never-ending developmental journey, we find a fresh balance of the whole. The whole is more than two parts.

In this present-day modern world, “either-or” thinking, reacting, planning and sensing is sub-par. Expect inferior results, with one or the other. In all aspects of life, including money of course, we are called to grow our awareness and our actions. What was perfectly agreeable yesterday, given certain circumstances and choices, is not workable today. We stay awake each moment to all of the parts, to gain access to the direction of wholeness. Growing physical balance, like in the simple practice I am engaging, enables us to access this whole.

Where in your life are you called to explore balance in a fresh way?

Spiraling in Balance,

 

 

5-Minute Try It: Play

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PURPOSE: To practice and gain mastery of PLAY in the flow of presencing, connect and play.

PREPARATION: Gain clarity about your motivation to engage this practice. Why does mastering Play (Presence/Connect/Play) matter to you?

Minute one: Presence your body and mind with a body scan.

Minute two: Connect to the intimacy of this moment.

Minute three: Move directly from connection to playing with the energy and vitality of this moment without expectation of something happening. Allow spontaneous action to arise with curiosity.

Minute four:  Be in this moment and the next by giving energy with an open heart, spacious belly and bright mind. What lights you up? What makes you smile?

Minute five: Stay awake to what matters deeply to you as you stay present, connect deeply and play with a fresh response.

Complete your practice by recognizing the essence of play is how we engage life – with openness, light-heartedness, meaning and energy. Presence, connect and play is an essential practice for current events and for our ability to navigate them well.

5-Minute Try It: Clean Up and Fill Up

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PURPOSE: Sometimes we benefit from a simple clean up and fill up. Clean up is a way of letting go – of whatever is ready to leave your experience (e.g. literal dirt, or a feeling, thought, or belief). Fill up is a way of receiving whatever nourishes you now and going forward (body oil, vibrant energy, warmth, positivity, love).

PREPARATION: This practice can be experienced anywhere, as long as you have imagination. For ease, try the shower for the benefit of direct water flow supporting the practice. So to prepare, get naked!

Minute one: Allow water to wash over your head and feel the sensation of water running all over your body. Appreciate the flow of water.

Minute two: Imagine an opening at the top of your head with a channel moving down all the way through your body into the floor. Allow water to cleanse you from the top of your head to the toes on your feet. Feel the flow of clearing and cleansing.

Minute three: When complete, rotate your head clockwise and counterclockwise to signal the cleaning is finished. Prepare for filling up.

Minute four:  Again, imagine that the water flow is directed to the opening and channel in your body. Feel and experience light, joy… patience… (whatever you want to receive) filling up your body beginning at your feet and completing at the top of your head.

Minute five: When you feel sufficient, again rotate your head clockwise and counterclockwise to signal the filling up is complete.

Complete your practice by luxuriating in your nourishment of cleaning up and filling up. Allow this practice to support you and recognize the support from water, a precious element from nature.