Friday, November 26, 2010

There's no Place like Home

“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right. “ -Maya Angelou

I was reading through some of Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s works recently and one piece in particular got me thinking about the definition of the word home.  Born in Vietnam in 1926, Hanh grew up under French colonial rule.  Banned from his country for his non-violent, nonpartisan stance during the U.S., he has spent the last 40 years in exile in France.  In Together We Are One Hanh shares that “I have arrived, I am home” is the embodiment of his practice, and also expresses his understanding of the teaching of the Buddha.

“It was because I did not have a country of my own that I had an opportunity to find my true home.  Our true home is the present moment, whatever is happening right here and right now.  Our true home is the place where we no longer seek, no longer wish, no longer regret.  Our true home is not the past; it is not the object of our regrets, our yearnings, our longing or remorse.   [When} we stop trying to find our home in space, time, territory, nationality, culture or race, we find happiness.”

Have you ever felt, at some point in your life that you don’t fit in? And that if you could only find that safe place to call home, things would be better?

I was born and raised in Canada by parents of Indian descent and have always equally acknowledged the influence of both cultures on my identity. I experienced racism as a child, which first made me conscious of the way that some people saw me, that I wasn’t from there (Canada), when in my experience, it was the only place I had ever known (the India I knew at that point was what I saw in Bollywood films).

After graduating from University, I spent some time in India, where I thought I would finally be fully accepted and at home, because my family’s roots were there, and because I “looked” like everyone else. The opposite happened; people did not truly accept me as an Indian because I spoke Hindi with an accent, I carried myself differently, and did not always act according to the customs of the community. I wasn’t upset as much as I was fascinated with people’s reactions towards me.

For a long time, I struggled with the reconciliation of how the world saw me, and how I saw myself, as if I had to choose one culture to identify with.  Eventually I came to the realization that I was grateful for every influence that helped me to become who I am today, regardless of what people’s ideas of me were. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I would be a very different person if I had been raised somewhere else (India, or even the U.K as my family settled there first before moving to Canada) and am grateful to know the experience that I call my life as it is (warts and all).

For a few years in my life I was living and travelling abroad so much so that I remember thinking “home is wherever my bags are.”  Although the experience helped me to detach from my traditional idea of home as being where I was raised, and with the people in my family, I still felt a profound sense of homesickness, and longing for the known in my life, especially when things became challenging in my work overseas.  It's ultimately what brought me back to Canada.

I aspire to the inner sense of home that Hanh refers to, and hope that through meditation, personal reflection, and through Hanh’s readings, I will be able to find that place within myself. Home.

Where do you feel the most at home?
What would it feel like for you to embrace Hanh’s idea of home in the present moment in the here and now? To see home as a state of mind rather than a physical place, or with specific people?

“Every one of us needs a home. The world needs a home. There are so many young people who are homeless. They may have a building to live in, but they are homeless in their hearts. That is why the most important practice of our time is to give each person a home.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Opportunity in Silence


"He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words."
- Elbert Hubbard

I was sitting in a local coffee shop a few days ago reading a book and I saw an older couple enter and order lunch.  They took a seat at the window, positioned so that they would both be looking out at the street. My first thought was “Uh oh, that’s a marriage in trouble. Why on earth would a couple sit facing outward, away from each other, rather than inward (towards each other) unless they had nothing to say to each other?” I continued to observe them as they sat for sometime in silence.  The husband got up to get their meal when it was ready and the wife proceeded to pour them both a cup of tea. Wordlessly, looking out the window, they ate their lunch. Tea was refilled, empty plates were put aside, and again, barely a word was spoken between the two.  By now, my mind was fabricating a variety of scenarios about the kind of life the two must lead; loveless, the absence of joy, emptiness.  And then I saw them look at each other as they rose to leave.  The husband smiled at his wife and lovingly helped her to put on her jacket.  He put his hand on the small of her back as they walked out of the coffee shop and towards their car. 

That’s when I caught myself.  I realized that I had been comparing their muted interaction as a couple to the animated and vocal way my husband and I interact ( a relatively young relationship compared to the older couple), and had unconsciously attached positive value to discussion versus silence because it was not something I regularly practiced in my relationship.  Only a month earlier, a meditation course I attended emphasized the importance of silence in helping to create space in our lives, to developing some detachment in our experience through reflection.  The course concluded with an entire day of silence, encouraging students to remain in a state of contemplation. I found the act very powerful, experiencing a full gamut of emotions throughout the day that had been tucked away; peace, sadness, fear, confusion, joy, contentment, happiness, and gratitude.  At the end of it I felt spiritually rejuvenated and had more energy than if I had gone to the gym for a workout. 

This past Remembrance Day had me thinking about the many different meanings and possibilities of silence.  When the day came, I was on the road with a friend heading towards Manitoulin Island, and passed several ceremonies in progress.  Ironically enough, I had been battling a sinus infection and was experiencing my own type of silence because of plugged ears.   The inherent meaning behind silence observed on this day is respect for those who made (and continue to make) our freedom possible.  The Royal British Legion came up with an interesting way to commemorate Remembrance Day this year  to support their annual Poppy Appeal.  They released a single into the UK charts titled 2 Minute Silence. The single is literally recorded silence. The video features the likes of Mark Ronson, Bob Hoskins, and Corporal Simon Brown, who was shot in the face by a sniper in Iraq. All of the proceeds from the single will go towards furthering the Royal British Legion’s work in supporting serving and ex-Service personnel and their families.


It was Viktor Frankl who said that “We have the power to determine what any experience means to us.”  The truth is that I had no idea whether or not that couple was truly a happy, maybe they weren’t even a couple, but  they reminded me about the downside of judgement and jumping to conclusions; the missed opportunity to learn.  

Silence can be powerful or debilitating; it just depends on our willingness to embrace it.

When was the last time you consciously observed silence?  Where in your life do you have an opportunity to practice the act of silence?  Where has silence served you in your life?

"Silence between friends says that one's presence is enough." — Dr. Jack Hyles

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Finding your Voice in a Noisy World


“When you engage in work that taps your talent and fuels your passion – that rises out of a great need in the world that you feel drawn by conscience to meet – therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul’s code.”
- Stephen R. Covey in “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness

Coming back to blogging after a two-year hiatus has been harder than I thought it would be.  I put my dream of being a life coach on the back-burner in 2008 to pursue what I saw as a challenging opportunity that would allow me to grow exponentially.  

So when the stars aligned recently and set the stage for me to once again pursue my dreams of becoming a successful life coach, I wasn’t ready.  Somewhere along the journey of the last two years, in the noise and craziness that my life had become, I had lost my sense of self belief in my ability to coach.  I couldn’t write. I did not have what it takes to coach.  I was rusty.  I was out of practice.  The taunts of my inner gremlins (Co-Active Coaching term for  the voices of our inner critics) were deafening.  



I asked myself what it would take to find that passion, that belief that I used to have for the power of the coaching process and most importantly, my ability to channel this gift. I needed to rebuild myself and reconnect with my passion. I spent the next few months doing things I loved; spending time with my new husband, taking meditation classes, enjoying the learning that came with being a Masters student, resuming a half-finished crocheting project (meant for two friends as a Christmas gift in 2008), cooking, painting the house, reading and re-reading books that had inspired me in the past, and traveling and visiting friends.

And yet,  when I sat down to write, or contemplated the impending coaching sessions I had booked with clients, I continued to be overcome with feelings of fear and self doubt.  I felt that no matter what I did to empower myself, I could not overcome my feelings of being a fraud.

And then I had an epiphany.  The morning before my first scheduled coaching session since rebuilding my life coaching practice, I was watching a season two episode of the HBO show In Treatment, a show that centres around Gabriel Byrne, a therapist and his practice. At this point in the series, Byrne, facing a malpractice law suit, is a disillusioned therapist questioning his abilities and whether or not he is actually making a difference in the lives of his patients.  His therapist Gina (actor Dianne Wiest), challenges him to work with his patients in the next week as if he believed he was helping them.  The change in his interactions with his clients in the proceeding episodes was evident, much improved.  

It hit me like a ton of bricks: I had to work as if I believed I had something to contribute, that I could help people, or it wouldn’t work.  No amount of external encouragement or studying could give me what I was denying myself.  Once I embraced my ability and gifts as a life coach with a passion to serve, this realization created a mental shift in perspective that has made all the difference in how I treat my soul’s calling. The excuses have vanished, the coaching has begun, and I see inspiration to write everywhere I look.

Inspiration truly does come from the strangest places.

Where in your life are your gremlins holding you back?
What would it mean to you to give yourself the gift of self-belief?

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who am I not to be? My playing small does not serve the world.” - Marianne Williamson

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

“Wisdom tells me I am nothing, love tells me I am everything, between the two my life flows."-Nisargadatta Maharaj

This quote sits on top of my desk and I use it to anchor me in awareness and appreciation.  Awareness because I have probably only scratched the surface of life’s meaning and this helps me to stay humble and to stay open to receiving life's lessons.  And appreciation because in love, everything just is. 

While we all dance back and forth between the continuum of experiencing a huge sense of self to questioning the value of our existence or ability to contribute, the reality is that just because our perception of our own worth and value may fluctuate, our actual pool of potential and possibility stays constant. The only thing that really changes in relation to our perceptions is our ability to access this potential and possibility. Can you recall difficult and emotional conversations you have had where you communicated from that place of balance that exists between self confidence and an overbearing ego?
Those conversations where, rather than reacting to what was being said specifically (an ego response) you chose to respond from a place of your own personal integrity? The ICA (www.icoachacademy.com) class notes for PT105: Responding vs. Reacting define reaction as coming “from somewhere in the past, and is powerless…because the response is sometimes devoid of ‘a worthy action’…and can often perpetuate a problem or enlarge a complaint, and can even tear down a relationship rather than build it up.” The class notes go on to describe responding as “an act of freedom and consequently has power within it. Response creates an opportunity and is in alignment with your commitments…involves the ability to respond with a sense of duty and trustworthiness.”
The strongest example of a time I made a transition from reacting to responding was while I worked as a Katimavik Project Leader, a youth service learning program for Canadian youth aged 17 to 21(www.katimavik.org).  Living with and managing three different groups of 11 youth from across Canada over 7 months was certainly an adventure and a learning experience.  

One of the most humbling experiences was the realization that when confronted with disorder or rule-breaking behaviour by the participants, I tended to react like an old school authoritarian; from anger, a deep sense of offence, and  a sheer place of ego that rarely resulted in forward movement; essentially, I was reacting like my father! Something I promised myself I would never do! I committed early on to giving myself time between learning about the particular misdeed and having the discussion with the participant and determining the consequence of the behaviour (as long as it was not life-threatening or time sensitive). I did this because I wanted to allow myself to process the initial ego-based anger that I was experiencing, and to move to a response that would generate learning for the participant, an understanding of consequences, and hopefully a change in behaviour. It worked much better for all parties involved. I had a good laugh when months later, after the program was complete, participants  told me that my process of “we’ll talk about it in the morning” actually freaked them out more than getting an instant reaction to what had happened. If only they knew how much worse the alternative would have been!

Is there anything happening in your life right now that you would rather respond to than react to? 
How would the altered response affect the outcome? What is preventing you from doing so?

Drop me a line at leena@elationstatecoaching.com if you want to share the experience! I love to hear from readers!

Originally posted on March 12, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Let the Beauty We Love BE What we Do

Nothing happens without a reason. Nothing.

This has been a profound week for me in my coaching journey. Like many budding coaches, I’ve been struggling with self-doubt as I coach my clients; wondering if I’m supporting them enough, challenging them enough, or am I even coaching material…I knew there was something at the root of these insecurities and two experiences in ICA (www.icoachacademy.com) this week helped me to discover just what I needed to reconcile within myself. The first “aha” moment came earlier in the week.   

I attended a class that explored Business coaching (a class I don’t usually choose since I am leaning towards the Life Coach niche) and it turned out that all of the other students (3 more in total) on the call were fellow non-profit professional who were transitioning into coaching as their next career. I thought I was the only one crossing over from this sector into coaching and it was great to be in a space where your peers are so intimately connected with the challenges of your journey.The second “aha” moment came last night. ICA students are given opportunities to practice their craft on many of our calls, and out of sheer anxiety (the idea of 20 or so people listening to you coach is nerve-wracking) I have always avoided volunteering to coach.
So last night, I finally pushed past the fear and heard myself pipe up “I’ll coach tonight!” I ended up coaching a fellow student on managing her insecurities in moving from her career in non-profit leadership to coaching.  I have to say it was an awesome coaching experience-she was an open and reflective client and I stayed completely present and curious (did not listen to those inner gremlins telling me I was going to mess this up). The universe had given me an opportunity to support this client, orient her to the successes in her life experience that made her an ideal coach, and to come face to face with my own fears. As she released herself from her insecurities, I could feel myself doing the same. We both completed the session feeling blessed to be where we were, and I got some great feedback from my client, instructor and peers. 

Talk about magic.  I know I’m in the right place, and most importantly, I know that I will continue to learn and grow in my lifestyle choice of servitude.

Originally posted on March 8, 2008 at 10:00 am

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” ~Marian Wright Edelman~

Having had the honour of working with volunteers for almost 10 years, and having been an active volunteer for more than half my life, serving community is one of my core values. Your local community benefits, and more importantly, there are infinite opportunities for personal growth that can materialize in volunteer experiences. 

The “Caring Canadians, Involved Canadians: 2004 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating(CSGVP) (http://www.givingandvolunteering.ca/pdf/CSGVP_Highlights_2004_en.pdf) states that 12 million Canadians volunteered (45% of the population aged 15 and older) and their contributions totalled 2 billion hours or the equivalent to 1 million full time jobs.  Although these figures demonstrate the impact of volunteering in our communities, I believe the value is actually higher.  

Putting a monetary value on the work of volunteers is tricky. Linda Graff (http://www.canadawhocares.ca/index.html), one of the world’s most highly acclaimed volunteer management experts, illustrates this dilemma with the following example: 

“If I sit at the bedside of a dying child, giving comfort to the child and respite to the parents, surely attaching a fictitious wage to my hours, does not, in any meaningful way, capture the value of my work.” 
Volunteers build community. While working as a volunteer coordinator for a parent-infant support program, people would ask me if it bothered me when volunteers signed up because they wanted the experience to get a job or to gain community hours. I never cared why people showed up, as long as they did. We offered training, and had the checks and balances in place to ensure all volunteers were screened because we were working with vulnerable members of our community, but I never judged people’s motives, and firmly believed in the potential for transformation that existed for each volunteer.  The expression of sheer gratitude and relief on the face of a mother (who hasn’t slept in 2 days because her three month old is colicky) when she finally gets to take a nap because you are there to watch her little one would melt the most apathetic heart. 

A few years ago, I was going through a pretty hard chapter of my life, discovering who I was after surviving divorce and depression, and I know that volunteering played a huge role in helping me to heal. I saw that I could still make a contribution by supporting others in my community and I learned to re-connect with my own value again through volunteering, and the opportunities that subsequently came out of the ripple effect. After participating as a student in a 40 hour family to family education program with my local Schizophrenia Society, I volunteered to facilitate the same program for the next two years with the intention of offering support, facilitating the sharing of knowledge, and to learn. I was honoured to support family members as they shared their experiences with a mentally ill family member. I continue to volunteer in the mental health field today, serving on the Board of Directors for the Family Association for Mental Health Everywhere (www.fameforfamiles.com

Out of this volunteer experience was born the opportunity to teach part-time at Sheridan College, in their Community Worker-Outreach and Development Program. So I know first hand the capacity for transformation and growth that is possible when you truly give yourself to volunteering and claim a piece of community development as your own.  

According to the CSGVP, the top three reasons that Canadians volunteer are:  
  • To make a contribution to the community
  • To use one’s skills and experiences
  • Being affected by the cause supported by the organization  
Which of these is your reason for getting involved?  Where in your community can you find an opportunity to serve today? 
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~Margaret Mead~ 

(Originally posted March 18, 2008 at 9:58 pm)

How to Catch a Tumbleweed

                                     (captured Tumbleweed, Desiderata, doing some "light" reading)




If you're a close friend of mine and you're reading this, then you know all about my obsession with tumbleweed and my appointed mission to come home with one when I return from my trip to the mid-west of Canada (there's an empty space on our office wall waiting for a tumbleweed).No easy task, especially at this time of year, when prime tumbleweed roaming season is from August to November, if that.So I knew my best chance of finding one was during my drive from Regina to Saskatoon today. I set out at noon and drove along Highway 11 North. 

I literally went back and forth with my eyes-glancing one second at the road ahead of me, to ensure I didn't kill anyone with my erratic driving, and then another second, searching along the vast fenceline that followed the Highway, for a glimpse of tumbleweed. The weather was beautiful today too-I was in a t-shirt and a scarf-YEAH! There were patches along the highway that had no snow, puddles, or a thick layer of snow. I thought I saw one along one section of the fence so I pulled the car over and got out. Armed in my cream eskimo-like boots (I had been forewarned to wear boots and to beware of the ditches), I set out through a section of snow, thinking it couldn't be deeper than my ankles-haha, I ended up in snow up to my knees. Not the tumbleweed for me. I also saw a few "dead/flattened" tumbleweeds along this section. My gut said to keep moving-the tumbleweed for me was still out there somewhere.

I got back in the car and started driving again-I came across a town called Chamberlain and I HAD to stop because there was this cute wrought-iron piece that I had to take a picture of. And what happened was what I have come to call the Waterfalls and Walmart effect (That's a story from New Brunswick that I will have to tell you another day). I stopped because something engaged me-I have some pictures of the piece that I'll post later- and what did I see when I turned around after taking the picture? A TUMBLEWEED!!! I could barely contain the rush of excitement I was feeling! It was nestled amongst some shrubs, and must have taken shelter there-how else to explain the fact that it hadn't been crushed by snow and the harsh elements? I walked back to the car, holding it with both hands, marvelling at my good fortune, when I looked up and saw a truck driver looking on as I put it in the trunk.

Hmm.....some things are honestly beyond explanation. If nothing else, I have furthered the mandate of my "Where do tumbleweed go in the Winter" facebook group-I have created more affection for the tumbleweed here in Saskatchewan. Seen as a nuisance by locals I have talked to, they now see the tumbleweed through more loving eyes. I even had someone in Regina take my address and promise to send me a tumbleweed next time she saw one because she was so taken by my obsession with tumbleweeds.God, I love being Canadian. 

Check out the Tumbleweed in a Box guys:http://www.tumbleweedinabox.com/

(Archived from a Facebook note, March 11, 2007)

The More You Do, the MORE You Do

Take a moment to think about someone you know whose life is a constant hum of activity.  These are the same people who manage to work a full day, go to the gym every other day, spend time with friends and family, and use the remaining hours in the day to tackle that demanding MBA program. And they still make time to meet you for brunch, support a fundraiser you’re doing and attend your child’s birthday party. Maybe you see yourself in this description?  Over the last few months, fuelled by a renewed sense of determination to complete my Certified Professional Coach Certification (www.icoachacademy.com), I have plunged myself into a schedule that initially made me shudder. For example, this week alone, I will have spent 12 hours on coaching work, whether attending class, working on assignments, coaching clients, or being coached. For someone who really values her alone time as a space for contemplation and rejuvenation, embracing this schedule was not easy. I had made schedules like this in the past and since the program is largely self driven, I ultimately failed in honouring the commitment. I needed to understand how I could move forward successfully this time.

I know that at any given moment, we are always committed to something; whether consciously or sub-consciously, and when you honestly look at your feelings about commitments in your life, you can better understand the results you are having in that area of your life. 
 So one night, I sat down and explored my feelings and thoughts about my course completion schedule.  Some of my limiting beliefs that came to light included: “It’s too much work! I can’t do this. Look at all of the time I am losing, time that I could put to chilling, relaxing, and spending time with friends and family. I can’t do this. Other people could do this, but not me.”  The learning for me here was that I did not think I was capable of or worth this achievement. With a little time spent to reframe my perspective in a way that serves me, I found a new way to look at the same schedule: “Wow! Look at all of the things I am committing to learning over the next few months! Look at all of the opportunities I have to learn from my clients/instructors/fellow coaches/ coach!! And most importantly, look at how close I am coming to achieving my goal!”  This new perspective is rooted in my passion and enthusiasm for coaching and to serve the universe as a coach. The other perspective was rooted in insecurities and false perceptions I held about my capabilities.

Until I took the time to look at how my perspective was the biggest barrier to moving forward, I was unable to make a strong commitment. And now that I am moving full steam ahead, I find that I joyfully honour my schedule and progressing on multiple goals has become as natural as breathing.  

What are you really committed to in your life that is moving you forward?
Holding you back?

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” ~Lucille Ball

Originally posted February 6, 2008

Walmarts & Waterfalls

Or: Lesson Number One in Learning how to trust the Universe. Any procrastinators out there? That's exactly when insipiration for these notes hit me-when I have something pressing that I should be doing. The internet at my hotel leaves much to be desired so I find myself at a Java Express (love them) and taking advantage of the wireless internet so that I can do work in an hour, rather than three hours back at the hotel.So I talked about the Walmarts (I know that just the mention of this store makes some people gag-so my apologies for that, but hopefully u can get past that and see through to the wee parable in this note) and Waterfalls effect in my last note and I thought that now is the perfect time to write about that special experience that I had mentally catalogued almost two years ago. Of course my diary knows about it, but that's really about it (may have mentioned it in passing to another person...hmmm, can't remember). Anyhow, the point of this is that I will always count this experience as one of the turning points in my life.

I had recently been laid off (read freed from the workplace from HELL. I am dead serious-I worked for a woman who clearly had no soul and was out for blood from anyone who showed signs of soulfulness. I may be biased, but I'm entitled, this is MY note). It was early July and I had the whole summer ahead of me-somewhat paid at that. I had been wanting to do a road trip out to the East Coast for two years (mostly to see if Jadoo, my 89 VW Jetta, could make it). So one Saturday, soon after I was laid off, at 1pm, I decided that I was going to do it.
By 4pm that very day I was ready to go (packed, renewed my expired CAA, fed Jadoo all of the necessary fluids) and set off. Trois-Pistoles was actually my initial destination-I wanted to re-visit the place where I did the Summer Language Bursary Program ( a french immersion program) back in 1996. To prevent this note from becoming a novel, allow me to fast forward to some point after I decided that Halifax was my end destination and that I was going to visit my buddy Charmee there! So I am somewhere past Florenceville, New Brunswick (the french fry capital of the world, in case you were wondering), a place with a really beautiful covered bridge, when I realized that I would be needing oil pretty soon.I am partial to a particular synthetic oil that I can only get at Walmart so needed to find one soon (I know, I didn't plan THAT well). I actually got quite anxious about it, but decided to keep going, and trusted that I would find what I needed. Being a lover of waterfalls, I saw a sign on the Highway that indicated there was a waterfall nearby. I took the exit and set off to find it. I got lost at one point and stopped at a shop to get directions to the waterfall. With the directions in hand, I headed out again. And what did I find just a stone's throw from the waterfall? A Walmart. I could not believe my luck.


So I guess you can figure out the moral of this story. Leap and the net will appear-I first heard that from Dini Petty at an International Women's Day event a few years back (she wasn't the original source though) and thought it was such a brave perspective. More importantly I followed my heart's desire that day and it lead me to what I needed. I felt the same experience when I found my tumbleweed a few days ago. So for all of our anxiety about and our efforts to affect the outcome of a situation, sometimes we just need to let go and trust in life a little more. Since then, circumstance has thrown a few more of these lessons my way, and I willingly accept them and work at trusting the path that is unfolding for me. I've had too many good things happen, almost effortlessly, for this not to be one of my personal truths.Is it one of yours? Any challenges to this? Let's debate!It's late, I can't put off my expenses anymore. Peace Out. Until the next note....this is totally addictive.
(archived from a Facebook note, March 14, 2007)