What took me so long?...

Did you ever do anything, and then wonder why it took you so long? I’ve lived near the Rocky Mountains for almost 20 years; I’ve wanted to go camping—real camping—for most of that time. This weekend I finally did it! Now that I’ve done it, I realized doing it the first time wasn’t such a big deal, and doing it again will be much easier! I’m over the first-time hurdle! It did take a few things to fall in place. I needed someone to go with. I could go camping with just my dogs, but going with a friend who also wanted to go was a real help in organizing and also feeling safe. Resources. There is all the camping gear you need. Another friend gave me her old camping cooking stuff (pots, dishes, etc.) plus a water container and lantern. This was a huge help; guess I didn’t even know where to start before that. After that, I picked up a very warm sleeping bag and tent on sale for really cheap. Watching for sales and bargains is key if your income is limited like mine. Learn from others. I got online to find camping packing lists to figure out all the stuff we needed to have on hand. Why reinvent the wheel when you can learn from others? My experience did have to have a convergence of several things. These are likely things you need to do what thing you’ve wanted to do for so long. Vision: Picture yourself doing it. Desire: Want it enough to put in the effort, including planning and putting together what you need. Resources: Get creative. Watch sales, borrow, think about how to re-purpose what you have. Time: Take time. You will need to carve out time to...

Messy part 2

In the last article, I discussed something we all know: life is messy. We sometimes don’t want to face people or problems we can’t relate to, and we are likely to RUN Forrest RUN! This time I want to write about internal messy. Yea, sometimes we want to run from that also! We all have stuff, baggage, issues, shit, whatever you want to call it. It’s the ugly part of our human experience, brought on by personal failures, warped views of reality, skewed perceptions, hurts from others, the dark side of our cultures, and a lot of other factors. It’s so easy to go through life and just coast…to not really deal with our “stuff.” It seems we tend to grow and transcend in two ways: Experiencing profound, unconditional love Suffering–facing and working through our pain (facing it head on and dealing with it!) It is the later we address here. It takes much courage to engage in deep self-evaluation. We might be afraid of what we will find. Or we are tempted to run away from the pain. Who likes pain? Given the choice between an ice cream and a root canal, healthy people will usually choose the ice cream, unless of course they have a lot of tooth pain and are desperate to get help. I was talking with someone recently who discussed his experience with addiction and dysfunction. He moved to get away from his pain, but of course, the pain came with him. He tried avoiding his issues, going around them and getting in front of him, but he finally realize he had to go THROUGH them. It’s what I heard Father Richard Rohr describes as: Construction – how you develop our life, only to realize some of it wasn’t working...

Messy part 1

How comfortable are you with “messy?” I’m not referring to your desk or house, but rather people, life and society. I attended a worship service on Sunday that was full of “messy” people. Some clearly had mental illness. Others were homeless. Still others dressed funny. And (OMG!) some were gay. Most of us were raised to think with clear distinctions and a sense of who is acceptable and part of our “IN” group and who is “OUT.” (We usually define acceptable and “in” the same.) We divide people by race, economics, social status, religion, sexual orientation, and a million other categories. The in/out, us/them mentality is surely a fitting descriptor of our fallen world. We can learn from the great mystics and spiritual leaders of history. Jesus, Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama (and so many others) were transformed from the inside out and filled with compassionate love; they let go of judgment and were freed TO LOVE. In fact, they were very comfortable with “messy” on a very regular basis. How could Mother Theresa have served the poor like she did if she was constantly grossed out? We may not like tattoos, people of irregular size, other religions, or folks who do things we consider vile and outside the norm. However, life is messy. People are messy. And what seems to matter is our response. After the church service I attended with “messy” people, I ate lunch downstairs where even more “messy” showed up. They were homeless, coming on Sundays to eat a weekly meal they can always count on. I was surrounded by people who smelled bad, engaged in strange conversations, and even held their pets while they ate. A lady at my table had her less-than-sterile, “Homeless, please help” sign laying right...

Identity & Cultural Bridges...

Dr. MelindaJoy Mingo was a guest on the Get Control Of Your Life podcast. It’s #25 on the topic of identity. (Click here if you missed it!) We recorded the podcast around a time that I asked MJ a dreaded question, one that is a ‘bit tiring’ to women of color. After being taken aback and laughing, she had a gracious response. Then she wrote this article: My friend Deb asked me the ultimate question that most Black women will understand…”Is that your real hair?”  My unspoken thought was “Here we go again with the ‘hair thing’ and  did she just reach over and touch my hair without asking for my permission!’ Now I must tell you that Deb and I have been friends for years but…,the ‘hair question’ – well, it touched a nerve. Yes, the proverbial question about Black hair. While it is a bit funny that a simple question can ignite such intense emotions, I learned a lot about myself from my response, and what God was teaching me. (not Deb) I was polite after I swallowed hard and said “Girl, if I was going to wear extensions, weaves, braids, wigs, clip ons, snap ons, sew ons, etc., it would look better than this mess! This IS my hair.” My friend looked at me with all the sincerity and innocence of a little lamb and said, “Should I not have asked you that question?” As I think back over my intense response,  I realize that it wasn’t really the question of hair. If I am honest, it is a deeper issue of my journey in the area of embracing my identity and coming to a place of valuing who I really am – not the perception that I want people to have about...

Listening part 2

Most of us come out of the womb knowing how to hear. But we don’t come out knowing how to listen; THAT is a learned skill. Listening is getting harder everyday. With all the noise of our world, it’s tempting to shut down and tune out. Learning when and where to do that is essential, but so is essential listening; Unless you live as a hermit in a cabin in the woods by yourself, your likely interact with people everyday. And interaction, relationships, business and the core of it all—communication, is dependent on listening. While I’m not usually big on lists, I do want to share ten principles to consider for improving your listening skills. Even if you don’t care about the topic, listen because you care about the person. Think about how you feel when you talk with someone you know is not listening to you. Do you feel devalued? Caring for another person is good motivation to give anyone a listen. Consider where to have conversations. Today’s pubs and restaurants are very noisy places. Trendy establishments are decorated with lots of hard surfaces (like concrete and steel) that do not absorb noise. If you need to have a deep conversation, carefully pick where you go. Think about places that will facilitate good conversation. Deal with the noise in your own head. Besides dealing with noisy environments, we have as much chatter inside us. We may be thinking about all the stuff we have to get done, whatever current challenge we’re dealing with, or some other life issue. And when we focus on ourselves, we leave no room for listening to others. Concentrate on not letting your mind wander with all the busyness of your own life. Seek first to understand before being...

Fruitfulness

This is the sixth and final article in a series on growth force principles identified by German biochemist, Frederic Vester who found six principles that lie at the heart of all living and growing things. By applying these principles to our lives, we can increase the health and potential for growth in all that we do. The final growth force principle is fruitfulness. “Be fruitful and multiply,” is a well-known passage from the book of Genesis. We can assume its intent was deeper and more profound than just keeping humanity going! We pack our days with a lot of activities. But sometimes we confuse a manic schedule with making a difference—being fruitful. And the only way to know the difference is to stop, breathe, think and evaluate! Bible teacher Joyce Meyer once talked about the difference between being busy and being fruitful. “Did you ever stop to think that just being busy – running around in circles all day but not accomplishing anything – is the same as wasting your time? It’s frustrating to expend so much energy and time and not have any fruit from your effort!” The fruitfulness principle (found throughout nature) says that every aspect of our lives should produce discernible results in line with its intended purpose. This, of course, assumes we know our intended purpose! In nature, fruitfulness is obvious. Either a fruit tree bears fruit, or it’s ornamental! An organism is alive as long as it continues to function the way it was designed, with appropriate outcomes. But when an organism is no longer ‘fruitful,’ it dies and makes way for others. Vineyards are a great example. Each vine must produce grapes. So if a vine fails to produce grapes (of expected quality and quantity) its issues must...

Symbiosis

The fifth growth force found in nature that we are exploring in this series is symbiosis. Each growth force, when applied to our life can increase the potential for health and growth. Symbiosis describes what happens when two different organisms, living in close proximity, share in a mutually beneficial relationship. For example, when a tree ages and its roots loose the capacity to gather nutrients from the soil, a certain fungus grows on the roots that helps transfer nutrients to the tree. In return (since the fungus cannot produce chlorophyll itself), the tree then transfers carbohydrates and oxygen to help the fungus grow. The tree and the fungus experience symbiosis that helps sustain both. Another example highlights how two great things combined can produce a whole new thing. Remember the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ad that imagined the way chocolate and peanut butter “accidentally” came together? Both chocolate and peanut butter were individual favorites, but the combination created was fantastic! The same principle works with food courts. You might think putting multiple food outlets in one small space would create so much competition that no one would survive. But in reality, the draw of multiple options attracts more people to the space, and all the food vendors thrive better than they would on their own. Symbiosis seems to be at the heart of the universe. And it’s equally powerful with people as it is in nature and marketing. Symbiosis takes place when people or groups engage in mutually beneficial relationships. Cooperation is a key component of symbiosis. Whether its birds who benefit from aerodynamic flight formations or societies that are healthy, it is clear the world is based on cooperation AND competition. Perhaps we have put the em-PHA-sis on the wrong SYL-la-ble. As Tom...

Sustainability

At the end of the last century, German biochemist, Frederic Vester identified six growth force principles found in nature we can apply to our lives and work to increase health and growth. This article looks at the fourth growth force of sustainability. You can read about the first three here: Interdependence, Multiplication, and Transforming Energy. The principle of sustainability challenges us to consider how what we’re doing will produce the resources we’ll need for the next lifecycle. In nature we observe how the leaves of a tree fall and become part of the nutrient base for the next growth season. And farmers rely on crop rotation, knowing that what one crop takes out, another replaces. This also applies to ourselves and the way we personally approach our time and energy. We’re in this for the long haul; life is a marathon, not a sprint. A synonym for sustainability could be recycling. Recycling embodies the idea of reusing resources for the future even though the resource may look different in the next cycle. For example, investing in education could be a critical piece in building your future. Creating and nurturing friendships will give you the support system you need now and in the future. Developing new interests will help you develop new brain pathways and continue to expose you to new and exciting ideas. Saving and investing for retirement will ensure you will be able to meet your needs in old age. As you make decisions about the future, here are some questions you may want to consider: What am I doing (or not doing) today that is building the future? What resources do I need to increase the potential for the next cycle? How is the lifestyle I’m creating today going to sustain me for...

Disappointments

What do you do when life does not work out the way you hoped it would? Do you feel defeated and let it destroy you? Do you get bitter or better? I recently applied for a teaching position that I thought was perfect. While I realized it would not be a complete dream job, it was one I thought was the best ticket for my future. It would offer a guaranteed salary with perks until I was ready to retire, which I could then do with dignity. I thought about the position for several years, then planned actively for it for a year. I spent hours preparing the cover letter and resume, and even did two mock interviews in preparation. I was invited to an initial interview, but not a second. Suddenly the goal I’d sought for so long was over. Just like that, it was over. In some ways I was crushed. I was extremely qualified and could not believe I was out. While I suspect all sorts of things about the process, I had to work through the disappointment and decide how to move forward. Perhaps you can think of times you have had high expectations and put your eggs into a particular basket, only to have the opportunity ripped away. When stuff happens, you have to realize that you have response choices. How do you turn the disappointment into something that does not crush you? How do you deal with the emotions? While emotional responses—such as shock, anger, surprise, sadness and disappointment—may be valid, they don’t have to dictate how you go forward. Own your emotions, realizing they are real and valid. Sometimes it’s helpful to examine your emotions and analyze what is behind them. For example, you might be really...

Transforming Energy

This is the third in a series exploring how the growth force principles found in nature—that perpetuate life and health—can be applied to our lives to increase healthy growth. You can find the first two articles here: Interdependence and Multiplication Energy transformation is the principle that calls us to recognize both positive and negative energy that is already flowing in a system, and utilize both for a productive outcome. In fact, sometimes the energy, which we might be tempted to label as ‘negative,’ can become a positive energy force if utilized well. Just ask a surfer about utilizing existing energy. The force of the waves surfers use for their favorite sport can be very destructive. When resisted by retaining walls, the pounding surf can destroy all but the strongest barriers we erect. Yet surfers are able to utilize that same energy for propelling them through the water for hours of entertainment. In another sport, boxing, opponents see force as something to be resisted and blocked. But in jujitsu, rather than blocking energy coming at you, you utilize that energy and turn it to an advantage. The martial arts economize energy by recognizing and valuing the energy, already at play, to accomplish a specific purpose. We can use this same principle in our lives. Perceived negative energy can come in the form of a disgruntled employee, a downturn in the economy, loss of a key client, or increased competition. At first glance we may be temped to resist these developments. We may tell the employee to shape up, batten down the hatches to ride out a bad economy, panic when we loose a client or redouble our efforts against increased competition. Energy transformation encourages us to see each situation as a gift and take advantage...