Endings, Beginnings, and the Full Moon

It was 8th January 2012, and the Full ‘Wolf’ Moon the day I last posted on this blog, writing, “… a movement in fourteen days from total darkness to full light. And so, for now, I am back, squeaky clean and clear enough at least to write this blog. 2012 has been a good year so far; may it continue in kind for everyone!” Well, for me, it did not!

And to tell you the story I have to go back in time.

After a thirty-year career in high-tech, I quit the corporate world and spent several years in a time of ‘undoing’ – mostly in near-solitude. During this time I discovered Mari Perron, first receiver of a book called ‘A Course Of Love’ which whispered insistently to me, “All that is required is your willingness to receive love from your Source and to be loved for who you are. Is this so much to ask?” Two turbulent years later, on Thanksgiving weekend, my new Practice landed fully formed. The name came first, CoCreating Clarity. Then like a powerful wind sweeping through me, came the structure and content of the entire website – a distillation and synthesis of my life’s experience, both personal and professional. People showed up, made new discoveries, got unstuck, took next steps with clarity, and wrote delightfully satisfying things about their experiences with me. Everything went very well for two years.

ACOL-CvrLg[1]At the start, experienced consultants educated me on marketing strategies and fee structures. I did what was expected of me, yet always feeling an inner swirl of something not quite in alignment. The powerful wind that had propelled me forward got fainter and fainter, fell to a gentle breeze and then seemed to leave. The inner disturbance grew, and I decided to drop all fees. I’ve already happily and willingly shared everything I know, I reasoned; every “tool” and “methodology” is on my website. It is the gift of all of me – myself and my Self – that I offer, joining with you, together making known the unknown, and cocreating the new. And just as is each one of us, I too am beyond priceless! I love what I do. It is clearly valuable to people. Surely they will come! Well … one did … a lovely chance encounter, and an intensely productive joining. She was the last client I saw.

The joy she brought lingered for a long time in my heart, and in the gift she left for me – the most beautiful orchid I’d ever seen! A strong, healthy plant with two long flower shoots that bloomed for months and months, needing only sunshine and three ice cubes weekly. Then … it too went dormant!

What followed was these last fifteen months of family crises, each one more shocking than the last – truly a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad time, as Alexander would say. Each day demanded intensive cocreating clarity with and for myself – facing painful truths, accepting my part in t61T6oqNHSVL[1]hem, and taking what little action I could. My survival prayer was “I am willing. Show me”; a prayer to which I was only rarely able to genuinely add “All is well. Thank you”. Today, while the family dramas continue, their hold on me has loosened. Disentangled, I am able to see what belongs to others and what belongs to me. I remain open and available, enfolding each and everyone in love, yet non-attached and no longer always reaching out in search of ways to help. And I am still standing. Exhausted – I know that I must rest; and yet buzzing!

Last weekend was a turning point – bittersweet, filled with joy and many tears. It was the Spring Full Moon, the Vernal Equinox, a Super Moon, a total Solar Eclipse, and it marked one year since the untimely and sudden death of my little sister. I love her dearly, cared for her in home hospice, was with her at the end, and miss her terribly still.  Last Sunday I also heard of the death of founding Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew – the pragmatic, visionary leader of Singapore through its formation in the 60s and 70s. And I felt his “meninggal dunia” as a painfully personal and significant loss. To this great man I owe my life-long curiosity and respect for people of all races, religions, backgrounds, and cultures. The egalitarian, meritocracy he insisted upon creating in the Singapore of my childhood has served me well my entire life.

And so I am left with a sense of something concluding. An ending? A punctuation mark? And a sense of being poised – centered on the razor-sharp edge of a past being put to rest and an unfolding present filling with budding choices. I am beginning to feel compelled to act – propelled – in a way that is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore. But what next? I haven’t the faintest idea!

All I know for sure is that I am ready. I know that happiness for me is joining in loving common 2015-03-29 09.29.15intention, cocreating clarity – listening, discovering,  choosing, acting – for the highest and happiest outcome for all concerned; which of course is everyone. The orchid is the national flower of Singapore. And best of all, the orchid my last ‘client’ brought to me, is blooming again – it has put out five new flower shoots filled with buds, with three  blossoms already open!

Suddenly I remember that she also shares my name!
And this is enough – more than enough – for now 🙂

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New Moon, Full Moon, and the Rune

It began a few days before Christmas with the death of a friend – sudden, in her sleep, with an inconclusive autopsy; and ended yesterday with the death of one close to a truly dear friend – expected, a gradual decline, and gentle release. These two losses book-ended for me a fourteen day rollercoaster of warmth and coldness, light and dark, courage and cowardice, sanity and madness – facing and fully experiencing lifelong issues so unrelated to these bookends, and yet intimately connected.

Sorry! To protect the innocent, there will be no juicy details in this blog post 🙂 … only my reflections on what I am facing, discovering, and wanting today to simply share with you.

January 2012 Full Moon
January 2012 Full Moon

It was the December New Moon the day it began.  Why I wondered is the darkness called ‘New’?  Why is ‘death’ not a word people like to use? We prefer ‘passed on’, or ‘left us’ …  Why do we shy away from darkness in myriad ways?  Some name it a ‘them, not us’, separate it, protect from it, and shun it.  Some blame it, put it out there on the evil other, and in self-righteousness indignation punish it.  Some can’t see it, refuse to see it, don’t want to see it, pretend it’s not there and do nothing.  Some see it, listen to it, analyze it, strive to understand it, and rush in to fix it.

No doubt there are many more responses to darkness. These are simply a few I recognize; the ones that were graphically shown me again these past two weeks. All of them designed to make the darkness go away. And not one of them worked. Not one made any sense. Not one brought me peace of mind. On the contrary, bouncing amongst the options I had was driving me crazy. Until I found a place to rest in misery. For one who has long felt so able to listen, see, understand, empathize and proceed with kindness – it must therefore be me. I am the dummy, so let me rest in seething anger at myself.  Not good! Though it was a way to stop the flailing!

Laguz
Viking Rune Laguz

At the midpoint of these two weeks on New Year’s Day with dear friends visiting, we selected Runes as we do each year from Harvard educated anthropologist Ralph H. Blum’s translations of these Viking artifacts. Mine for the year was Laguz – meaning Flow, Water, That Which Conducts. Its message was clear. “Laguz encourages you to immerse yourself in the experience of living without having to evaluate or understand … to the awakening of the intuitive or lunar side of your nature, the moon draws us toward union and merging … A Rune of the self, relating rightly to the Self.”

What a discovery for the New Year, a new option for this chronic ‘understander’ – simple and total immersion in the experience – no more, and no less. This is where I am resting. So much easier said than done in this world that demands instant action; I threw in an immersion in the bathtub yesterday for good measure 🙂 – every little helps!

It was the December New Moon the day it began, and today it is the January Full Moon – a movement in fourteen days from total darkness to full light. And so, for now, I am back, squeaky clean and clear enough at least to write this blog. 2012 has been a good year so far … may it continue in kind for everyone!

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Owl, Pooh, and Backson

A couple of nights ago, Colin and I watched the new animated movie “Winnie the Pooh”. It is beautifully hand drawn and painted … and it got me thinking … yes … again!

Everyone knows that owls are the wisest of all creatures, and Owl knows everything – at least, he thinks he does, even if his information (and his spelling!) often turns out to be not quite right. Although Owl can be a know-it-all, he does want to help his friends. But it’s his effort to help that often stirs up trouble in the Hundred Acre Wood.

“There’s a note found by Christopher Robin’s door”, says director Son Hall. “Pooh can’t make heads or tails of it, takes it to Owl, who interprets the words “GON OUT. BISY. BACKSON” to mean that Christopher Robin has been kidnapped by a fearsome creature called a ‘Backson’”

The declaration triggers an all-out search for the Backson, who only exists in Owl’s – and now everyone else’s imaginations. “Owl is one of those guys, God bless him, who doesn’t know how to say, ‘I don’t know’” says talk show host Craig Ferguson, who provides the voice of Owl. “So he makes things up, he improvises so that his friends won’t see how desperate he is – which is exactly like me.”

There’s a little of Owl in me … pretending I know, when I don’t.

Using long words and even longer sentences with frequent pauses is always a clue when I’m being Owl. Pooh offers an antidote in times like these. With “… his love of honey (make that chocolate for me!), his easy-going philosophy and his humble observations: ‘I am a bear of very little brain and long words bother me.’”, he reminds me that it’s okay not to know. And even better to know that I don’t know.

Pooh reminds me to stop for a moment, sit down on a rock if I can, get still, and take a few deep breaths. A mug of hot tea and a piece of chocolate always help. And that’s when I notice the imaginary Backson on an unchecked rampage in my mind – that “ferocious creature that enjoys torturing others and creating misfortune … who is responsible for holes in socks, broken teeth, getting old, losing objects, and catching colds.” Just as soon as I notice the Backson, this fearsome creature calms down, and becomes more like the ‘real’ Backson we see when the movie credits roll – friendly, kind, and patient.

The gentle ‘real’ Backson with a photo of the ferocious ‘imaginary’ one.

That’s when I find myself able to say out loud “I don’t know. Show me. I am willing.” Then I listen. Try it sometime.  What’s the worst thing that could happen?   Nothing!

At worst I’ve had a little pause in my day – a refreshing breathing space.
At best I discover exactly the answer I need right now.

Not the whole answer for every eventuality.
Not all the answers … and certainly not every possible answer for every possible person.
But just the simple answer I need for now – for me to take my next step.

And that is enough.
Thank you Pooh.

Words in italics adapted from:

http://disney.go.com/pooh/home/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnie_the_Pooh_(film)

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The Giant Pumpkin, Snoopy, and Acceptance

On a hot day in late May, our younger son, Nick, came home from a visit to a friend clutching a rather ugly large-leafed seedling in a small pot. “Look what Malcolm’s Dad gave me Ma! It’s a giant pumpkin!”

My heart sank. I am not a gardener, neither is Nick. Though he loves planting, and is certainly in love with the idea of gardening! Writing down planting instructions for his Dad – he didn’t ask me, smart kid! – the next day he hopped a plane for a three-month internship in France. Nick just does stuff like that. And I get grumpy! And yet with his impulses, experience has shown that there’s always a deeper reason, though rarely known up-front least of all to himself! But I still got grumpy!

Days went by and the plant sat there – a constant reminder of a responsibility I didn’t want. Secretly I hoped it would die. Finally one day, I asked a young friend who was helping me in the yard to plant it. My husband watered it faithfully, and the dang thing grew and grew and grew.

By the time it filled the vegetable patch with its sturdy runners and huge leaves, I began to pay it a little attention. By July, I found myself talking to it, and scolding it not-so-gently as I picked up errant runners almost every day, and trained them off the lawn, back and around within the patch. I think I was working off my resentment. It didn’t seem to mind, like it knew what it was doing and why it was here, even though I didn’t – Yet! Soon there were huge yellow flowers – males at first, and soon females. The bees were having a ball, and soon there were fruit. All but one dropped away. And from August through October, that one grew and grew and grew.

The massive pumpkin was a delight to my 88-year-old mother, an avid gardener herself, who was staying with us this summer; and, of course, to Nick when he returned in September. I was happy about that. For myself – I enjoyed taking photos – but that was it. I wanted to let it sit there, perhaps with a spotlight for Halloween; still resisting what was right there in front of me, and more eager for the dying brown patch to be cleaned up, and get it all over with. But as always, Nick knew different. He insisted on moving it – heaving roll by heaving roll (I got that all on video! Hah!) – to lean up against the basketball pole in the driveway for all to see.

And then it snowed – heavy wet snow, and tons of it! Trees and branches came crashing down the evening of 29th October, and we lost power for a week. In the midst of all that misery, Tom and Eric from Drew Gardens paid us a visit. After a warm chat that cheered us up immensely, they took that pumpkin, carved it into a giant
Snoopy head with a squash for its nose, and set it on a large rock up the hill accompanied by a carved Woodstock, along with 250 more lighted pumpkins! That Halloween night, ‘Snoopy’ was enjoyed by dozens of children and their families as they traipsed through muddy slush enjoying the annual Jack-o’-lantern display at the apple orchard.

The pumpkin knew its job and its destiny.
Nick did too … in his own way, following his bright impulses to act!

Would I have been more gracious and grateful and joyful about that little plant had I known how things would turn out? How much pleasure it gave Mum? and Nick? and Tom? and Eric? and all those children? How much fun it was to take photos and even have some published in the local paper?

Perhaps. I don’t know.

I do know that I am learning to accept with gratitude anything and everything that comes to me; awakening to the realization that acceptance is not at all about being a doormat. True acceptance is empowering. After all, isn’t seeing and accepting what is here now, totally pre-requisite to being free to choose what next?

Acceptance is the willingness to receive – wholeheartedly with no resistance – with gratitude and certainty that great things are happening.

Or to quote a young friend Drew, who simply says, “It’s all good.”

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“Tony, Star and Clarity”

Another month gone, another blog post not done … and so again I share my the most recent bulletin I wrote for CoCreating Clarity! Enjoy!

Describing my work to others has often been a challenge, both today with CoCreating Clarity and very often in the past. Why? Because so much of the time, it has been about exploring, creating, and claiming new ground for effective collaboration across traditional boundaries – both in individual thinking and in organizational structures.

The challenge of explaining what I did arose yet again one day!

Fishing?

This time to my new manager, Tony Lauck, the brilliant technical director of the engineering group I was in. My exasperation led me to create this analogy for him:

I don’t catch fish …though I once did design, write and test systems software.
I don’t show people how to use a fishing rod to catch fish … though I once did specify software development and testing policies and procedures.
I don’t teach people how to design better fishing rods … though I once did teach Software Quality and Software Engineering Workshops.

I do, however, show people how to decide for themselves whether they should be fishing in the first place, or whether perhaps they should be out hunting bear instead! …

That’s what Systems Thinking, the associated forums, the collaboration I’m creating is all about!

He got it right away! That was eighteen years ago.
Tony remains a dear and valued friend.
A few weeks ago explaining to him what I am now doing in CoCreating Clarity, he responded:

“As to creating clarity …
It’s a good idea, but there are several reasons why people don’t create clarity.
Some people don’t think it is valuable, let alone necessary.
Others want it, don’t know how to achieve it, but are willing to try.
Still others are just plain lazy.
Perhaps you can help all of these people.
The hard ones are the ones that don’t want clarity because they want to exploit misunderstandings.
I don’t know how you deal with these people, they are out there, unfortunately.”

I got it right away!

Tony’s words expand upon the foundational hypothesis of CoCreating Clarity – recently tweeted in precisely 140 characters by another dear friend Star Dargin, an extraordinary engineering manager turned leadership coach:

“We believe that at the root of many business problems is the absence, avoidance, or breakdown of communication between eople.” C.I. Strutt

So for now CoCreating Clarity is focused on people who “want it, don’t know how to achieve it, but are willing to try.” Starting with those in the world who are willing seems to be a good thing to do.

My intention is to effortlessly and painlessly assimilate the others … they won’t even realize it’s happening! Resistance is futile! J

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Moyers, Thoreau and Clarity …

I have not written a post for a while … not for May, and not for June, and now it is July. Will I be writing an original post anytime soon. I think not … and so I am sharing what I wrote for my latest bulletin on CoCreating Clarity.  Better than nothing! 🙂 … Enjoy!

Quoting Bill Moyers talking with Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show’ (June 1st) –

“I think that we’re lost in what Thoreau called ‘the mere smoke of opinion’. The news is about what people want to keep hidden. Everything else is publicity. And people don’t want to keep their opinions hidden. They want to keep the facts hidden. And it takes a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of effort to go and explore the facts and to bring them out. And so a lot of news organizations – they no longer do a lot of reporting. They simply rely on opinion, talk … all of that. And that undermines journalism.”

I would add that it undermines the very lives we lead – at work with our colleagues, at home with our families, and everywhere else. CoCreating Clarity.

Mere Smoke of Opinion

The Mere Smoke of Opinion

sorts through what is fact and what is the mere smoke of opinion, assumption, unhelpful interpretation, and fear that silently become the secret autopilot that propels our lives.

In the full quote from ‘Walden’ Thoreau wrote –

“ … it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields.”

CoCreating Clarity reboots us to begin again to trust our alert and healthy natures, and with this new awareness, to discover new choices. And the best news is that CoCreating Clarity, unlike the good journalism Moyers speaks of, does not require a lot of time or money. All it takes is willingness, courage and a few hours with me!

Moyers also went on to say “The truth goes down better in a democracy, when it Is marinated in humor”, and so too in CoCreating Clarity, the truth goes down nicely with good humor, and a side of good chocolate!

PS: You can watch Bill Moyers on the Daily Show here – Part I and Part II

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Could it be that simple?

Murky waters today … inside! Murkier skies outside … and raining too! How is blogging going to help either? Tired, blah …. lacking inspiration! That’s it inspiration! Something new, something exciting! Something energizing that makes me feel like I’m making a difference …. right now! Or perhaps just lunch and a nap? Just quit pushing myself to do the next thing and the next and then the next! The world won’t come to an end if I take a break and rest. I’m not a lazy bad person … Am I? Could it be that simple? Yes I think so … it is that simple … I know so!

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