Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Remember

I live ten minutes from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).  I admit it.  I have always said that if I become rich and famous I am going to promote the heck out of northeastern Ohio.  The Akron/Cleveland Metro Parks System is one reason and the national park is the other.
I have been blessed to use the massive CVNP trail system to hike, bike, and horseback ride for years.  Don’t even get me started on my other “favorites” such as the towpath, train, farmer’s market, blue heron rookery, ledges overlook, covered bridge, beaver marsh, and the whole town of Peninsula.
The Covered Bridge where we hike, bike, and horseback ride

And of course I can’t help but boast that my husband Joe and I, along with our dogs Abby and Wali (who just passed his test today!!!) are proud members of the CVNP Paw Patrol—an innovative program that serves as a model among all of the national parks throughout the country. Paw Patrol dogs act as park “ambassadors” of good will to visitors, while showcasing the park’s unique welcoming policies for leashed dogs.
Joe with our CVNP Paw Patrol dogs Abby and Wali

But all of this is just background to what I most want to express.  Beyond the accessibility of the CVNP, beyond the incredible beauty, and beyond all of the many fun activities available—what I love most is that every time I visit, I REMEMBER.
As I enter this sanctuary and listen in the silence of nature I remember what it’s like to:
  • Feel connected to something greater than, clearly grasping that someone or something far greater and grander than we humans put this whole thing together;   
  • Be in a place and space without judgments or expectations;
  • Realize that the “barking dog” distractions of life don’t matter as much as I thought;
  • Feel at peace, merely by the acts of listening and breathing.

Most of us understand this as some level, although we may not articulate it as such.  We just know that after we visit a place filled with nature, we feel a lot better when we return home.  Deep in our core we understand that we have tapped into the most natural and sacred part of not only the universe, but ourselves.

Gordon Hempton, an internationally recognized “acoustical ecologist” has spent a lifetime experiencing and recording this “silence of nature.”  He has authored many articles and books, as well as having produced award winning recordings of nature sounds from around the world.

One of the many things that appeals to me about Gordon’s work is that he believes that when we are in “the silence of nature” we develop a deep ability to listen—to oneself as well as others.  

He claims, and I completely agree, that it is important to become experienced in listening to the silence of nature while in a state of observation and non-judgement, and only attending to the sounds of such things as birds, running water, or the wind rustling the leaves as you walk.  

Gordon also believes that the more skilled you become at listening for the sake of listening while in nature, the more attuned you will be at listening to people, to be able to truly capture the essence of their message without judgement or preconceived ideas.

How exquisite--the practice and skills you develop while in the silence of nature appears to not only be good for the soul, but also good for those you interact with every day.  What a perfect example for taking inner listening and moving it outward into our daily lives.

Take a walk in a park.  Step out on your porch in the early morning.  Sit around a campfire.  Purchase a CD with the sounds of nature.  Do whatever it takes, even for a few minutes to tune in and listen, and above all REMEMBER.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Expanding Possibilities

Over the years, especially in difficult times, I’ve had a one-sided conversation with God that starts with a basic question, followed by pleas, and topped off with down-right demands and threats.  It goes something like this:

Me:  Where are you God?  I am hurting and I need to know you are with me.  I need your help, if I’m going to make it through this.  

What I hear from God:  Silence

Me:  Please God, please help me.  Give me a sign.  I’m listening.  It’s getting pretty rough and I don’t think I’m going to make it.

What I hear from God:  Silence

Me:  Okay—the truth is that I’m getting pretty sick of this crap.  Are you going to help me or not?  I don’t get it.  What kind of God are you?  If you’re going to make me or my loved one suffer, the least you can do is toss me a bone or a scrap of something.  Give me a freakin’ break here.  I need a sign to show you care!

Alaska--One of My Favorite Places to Listen
I’m not proud of this type of communication, in fact I am actually ashamed.  But fortunately in the Divine Classroom of Life, I think God cares less about shame and more about unconditional love and learning.  

So in that respect, I think I’m in better standing with the Divine than I originally thought—for during my most intense years of The Listening Project, I had a heap of lessons about those very things.  I observed, I documented, and after beating my head (and ego) against a brick wall a few times, I grew in my ability to access and listen to Spirit.

The bottom line lesson was simple: 

If I wanted to hear God, I had to be still and look around.  Divine   guidance was at my fingertips and endless if I didn’t limit my possibilities.

The Sound of Waves--Pure joy
That insight really got me thinking. . .I started reflecting on the times, while in the midst of a difficulty when I felt alone and isolated from God, I received just the right phone call from a friend or just the right check amount in the mail or ran into just the right person who could give me the love and support I most needed.

And then I started digging deeper within myself, and I discovered that the more I let go of my narrow concepts and assumptions about how I might experience Divine presence, the more a whole new world of listening opened up to me, and the more my listening opportunities grew.
Once I shifted my thinking from limitations to possibilities I saw how journaling, dreams, friends, family, strangers, nature, music, and animals all offered opportunities to hear the voice of God. The universe was literally “popping” with Divine messages and guidance.  My job was to pay attention, look for the synchronistic events or experiences, and to discern their relevancy.
Discernment was a critical piece, for just because some event or experience occurred, I still had to interpret and determine if it was something I should pay attention to or if it was merely one of the many “barking dog” distractions that often occur in our daily lives.
We have to be so careful about taking time for this internal review. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of our external world. Anytime information comes in—always, always, always sit in your own throne to determine meaning and relevancy.

For example, the day I ran eyeball to eyeball with a giant black snake wrapped around a tree, I paid attention.  I was in the midst of great loss and wondering how I could ever climb out of the hell I was currently experiencing.  I asked myself, is the presence of this snake an opportunity to learn something that will help me at this point in time?

Snake symbolizes transformation—the shedding of one’s old skin, allowing new ways of being.  That experience, combined with other unusual animal sightings helped me understand that I was on the move. . .mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually and that most importantly, I wasn’t alone.  The message fit, offering hope for the future, and guidance for how to navigate the current difficulties.

I imagine God and the Holy Helpers sitting on the Other Side shaking their heads in wonder, not knowing whether to laugh or cry at what they were witnessing. Similar to the hummingbird I found repeatedly beating his little beak against the windowpane in our garage trying to escape, I too failed to realize that if I would just look beyond my current focus, I would see that my limited thinking prevented me from seeing the wide open pathway to freedom—the open doorway that was available only if I shifted my perspective.  With great humility I discovered I just needed to dynamite my human assumptions and let the light shine on other listening opportunities.
A Teacher of Wisdom
I can’t help but be continually amazed at how simply these Divine listening opportunities present themselves to each and every one of us.  But God can only do so much.  The rest is in our hands—more specifically our choices.
Choose to become a better listener by thinking about how and when you currently are able to access Divine guidance.  Now, kick open the door and take a look at other opportunities.  The possibilities are everywhere.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Listening as an Act of Love

One of the greatest gifts we can give one another is listening.  I always knew listening was important.  I just didn’t realize how sacred.

I best back up a bit.  I am not a novice in the art of listening.  For thirty years my bread and butter in the workplace came from my ability to listen, synthesize, and help focus my clients’ conversations so they were able to strategically move from the world of divergence and reflection to concrete strategies and actions.
As a consultant specializing in workplace conversations where collaboration was desirable and results were required, the expectations were clear.  Either I learned how to tune in to my clients and really listen, or I was out of a job.

But the kind of listening I am talking about now is far different, for there are no personal expectations or financial compensations as a result of the effort.  Instead, imagine holding something very precious in cupped hands and humbly offering it to another. 

A simple yet extraordinary gift that says, “In this space, I am yours, and I vow  that I will do every thing in my power to make sure your voice is heard.”  That’s what I mean by listening as an act of love.                                                         

Genuine listening such as this takes courage.  You have to let go of your world of ego needs, feelings of inadequacy, and control and enter into a space that the other person owns entirely.  This isn’t about you and your knowledge or experiences, it’s about them.  You are in a state of being and allowing, not in offering problem solving directives, unless you are specifically asked to do so.
It is often a place of silence.  And that silence can sometimes be uncomfortable for the listener, especially when there are no answers to be had; where no “fixing” is possible, or perhaps even wanted.

Some of my greatest listening lessons came to me when two of my friends and four animals passed away in less than a year.  For some reason, I was given the privilege to support them as they prepared to transition to the Other Side.
I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that there were moments when I didn’t know if I had the courage, strength, or even time (which I am ashamed to admit) to accompany my friends on their journeys.  

I soon discovered that a precarious balancing act was set in motion. To remain in this loving and intimate listening space I had to keep my heart open. But an open heart to love is also an open heart to suffering and sorrow. “Too much, too much,” I would plead to God, as I was bombarded by thoughts of losing these special beings in my life.

Yet in this very state of surrender, when I felt I had nothing left to give, was when I discovered I had everything I needed. 

The voice within said, “Be at peace.  We’ve got you covered.” And a mantle of grace descended upon me.

As I reflect on these listening experiences, I am filled with gratitude.  How could something so difficult, gritty, and draining be so exquisitely beautiful and fulfilling at the same time?  I have no answers, other than it seems to be a part of the human experience.  As my deceased friend Mary Ann would always say, “It is what it is.”

I now understand that listening as an act of love is a choice.  And we don’t have to wait until people or animals are ready to pass over, before offering this special gift we are all so capable of giving.
We can do for each other what those on the Other Side cannot.  A steady gaze, a loving touch, an open heart, and a readiness to listen can do absolute wonders.  Who in your life has taught you about listening?  What have you learned?  How can you take that knowledge to support others and truly give the gift of listening as an act of love?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Inner Connections

Want to know how to connect to that inner, pure, Divine part of yourself?   Easy. . . Start with what you know—all of the spaces and places where you can go that make you feel really good, where your mind is free and your heart is open.

                        Free Mind + Open Heart = Inner Connections

Teddy and Me at the Park
For me it’s a no brainer.  If I am on my horse Teddy, listening to my favorite music, or walking my dogs on a beautiful day I get similar results.  Free mind means the mind is not only allowed, but encouraged to shake loose from its day to day workload.  

Open heart means you love where you are at that point in time, you experience a sense of peace, and it’s practically impossible to feel any harsh emotions. 

Working together, the free mind and open heart literally creates a “safe haven” for that innate and Divinely intelligent part of ourselves to come forward.  In this state, nothing is forced; rather, the information is revealed.  Insights bubble up to the surface of our consciousness and present themselves for us to observe, review, or discard.  In time, the experience feels as normal as breathing. We're not even consciously aware we are doing it.  
It’s sort of funny when you think about it.  I mean, you may never have considered listening to the music of Bob Seger as a spiritual exercise to access one’s inner self.  But if it gets you to a place where you are free of everyday worries and your heart is open to positive feelings—well, that would seem like a great starting place to access the Real Me.

As I’ve mentioned before, because most of us humans don’t live in an isolated cave in the midst of silence, we have to learn how to access that inner voice in the midst of everyday life with what I often refer to as the “barking dogs”.
It seems the more we consciously seek out that inner part of ourselves, the more we are able to block out the barking dogs and the more accessible the Real Me becomes.  But that takes desire, skills, concentration, and practice.
If you want to be a race car driver able to mentally, emotionally, and physically withstand the rigors of the sport, it’s best to learn the ropes before hitting the Indianapolis 500.  No different in our daily lives as we experience the race track of life. We want to sharpen our ability to look and listen within on a regular basis so that when the really tough times hit, we’ll be ready and able to call upon our inner resources to guide and support us.

As I have tried to practice what I preach, at times I find the responsible part of me gets all huffy when I hear that inner voice calling me to come visit.  I resist, saying I have better things to do.  You know, all that important stuff like going to work, paying bills, cleaning the house, or doing the laundry.
My Divine self shakes her head in wonder. “What could me more important than coming to visit me?  If you don’t have much time, how about at least a phone call that says you know I exist and that you value what I have to offer?”

I’ve finally figured out that if I don’t have the time to go for a walk or ride my horse to experience that free mind and open heart that gives me access to my inner self, I can at least do the “text message” version as an act of remembrance.
Over the years I’ve gotten pretty creative—like every time I fill the dog bowl with water at the sink, I gaze outside at a favorite tree and make an inner connection.  Or in the midst of a meeting filled with tension and anger, I take a few breaths and imagine myself in the middle of the eye of a storm, perfectly still and at peace.

I can’t help but think that Spirit calls on us to keep it simple. (I swear simplicity is a Divine trademark!)   As always, I invite you to think about what works for you as you progress on your own listening journey.  Tap into what you already know, expand your possibilities for those inner connections, including the text messaging options, and see how it makes a difference in your life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Everyday Me Meets Real Me

In my recent My Listening Project blogs and YouTube vlogs I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about being your own best listener—being able to readily access that inner, Divine part of yourself to guide and support you on your life journey.

It sounds so simple, really.  What could be hard about looking within and using our uniquely, innate intelligence to support choices that impact us on a daily basis?  Choices that influence if we feel our lives are filled with meaning and purpose versus feeling disconnected from ourselves and others.

Consider this line of logic to see how much you could agree with the following statements:


Life is challenging;

I need all the help I can get while here on earth;

There is a Higher Power (God, Divine, Spirit, Christ, Allah, Universal Force) who is running the show and is very much a part of who I am.

It would be a good thing if I were able to tap into that inner, spiritual, pure side of myself to receive guidance, rather than strictly relying on others or on my everyday human self (filled with ego needs, insecurities, fear, anger, pain, loss, etc.) to assume control for making my daily decisions on how I live my life.

If you’re relatively comfortable with the previous statements, then you might want to check in with yourself—to get a picture of the “as is” state of how you conduct yourself on a day to day basis versus who you really are.
You can begin by drawing two stick figures on a page, one labeled the Everyday Me, the other labeled the Real Me.  Under the Everyday Me list the qualities and behaviors you exhibit on a daily basis—the good, the bad and the ugly.  

Do so as if you were observing another person moving through their day, without judgement.  Perhaps you witness that along with the “good”, you are frequently   tempermental, judgemental, harsh, or frazzled. Get it all down—this isn’t meant to be a shaming exercise.

Under the stick figure labeled the Real Me, try to put yourself in a quiet place and sincerely ask what are the qualities that define this part of you—the truly special, pure Divine qualities that are wired into the very essence of your being.  Please know that if words like ugly, shame, stupid, stubborn, or cruel come to mind you haven’t hit the real treasure yet; keep digging because so far all you’ve hit is human garbage.

This exercise requires time and practice.  It’s like being with a group of friends, family, or co-workers who don’t really listen to a thing you have to say—in fact could care less.  Even though you know you are brilliant, you train yourself not to have an opinion, what’s the point if your voice goes unheard.

So when someone eventually does ask you a question, you’re sort of stunned and speechless because it was so unexpected.  Before you speak, you want to make sure the person is serious—that they really do recognize, value, an honor your wisdom.

Posing a question to one’s inner self can be sort of like that.  If you haven’t had much experience, it may take a while before anything comes through.  Allowing rather than forcing is critical.  What comes to you comes.  

And keep in mind, these are the really special, unique qualities.  Depending on your life experiences, you may have to reach back to the earliest part of childhood to remember.

Once you are able to identify at least a couple qualities of the Real Me (the more desire and patience you have in listening, the more likely the list will grow), step back and compare your lists and take a look at what you see, asking yourself:

As of this point in time, how big is the gap between the qualities of the Everyday Me and the Real Me? How well am I able to access that inner part of myself? 

If you’re like me, a lot of times the response is, “I’ve got some work to do.” But I give myself credit.  “I’ve come a long way, baby.”
There was a time in my younger adult life when I distinctly remember standing in my parents’ driveway talking with my Dad.  I had made a personal life choice and my Dad was cautioning me about the consequences of that decision.  Not in a moralistic way (he was too smart for that) but rather in a straight forward, factual way.  He simply stated without emotion that, “Chris, you just aren’t wired that way.”

The gist of his message was that if I went forward with this choice, I was going to have to deal with feeling the discrepancy of behaving in ways that went against the essence of who I was as a person—that Divine Real Me.

The man spoke the truth!  No way, no how was my life choice the right one.  But I was too angry and frightened to see differently.  My protective ego had established the course and I was on my way.

I eventually came around to viewing things from my father’s perspective, not because of fearing my Dad’s loss of love, but because I wasn’t comfortable with my choice.  I just didn’t feel right.
In those days, I wasn’t thinking about accessing my Divine self to live an authentic life where inner and outer was in sync.  But the experience had such a jarring effect on my sense of being that I vowed then and there to never get so out of alignment that I lost track of The Real Me.

What a valuable lesson!  I’ve kept my vow and the good news is that over the years I’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting to know the Real Me.  This is the part of myself that has a direct line to my Divine source where the well never runs dry.  I can’t begin to tell you how good that feels.

I still make mistakes, lots of them—that’s part of the human experience.  But because I’m willing and able to maintain a loving and ongoing relationship with Spirit, I catch those errors in judgement sooner.  I am far less likely at this point in my life to not only lose sight of, but ignore and negate this Divine part of myself.
But I frequently need a “tune up” and that tune up means posing questions to that inner part of myself followed by a healthy dialogue.  The more I engage, the more the sharing flows.  Hard to believe that a conversation with oneself can be such a game changer in life.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Your Own Best Listener

What would it be like to be your own best listener?  Not as in, “I face the world alone and it’s you and me against everyone else,” but rather, “I face the world as a spiritual being able to tap into my own Divine self to obtain wisdom and guidance to support me in everyday life—not just for my benefit, but for the good of all."                                        

I believe that being able to be your own best listener—to access that part of ourselves   that is connected to the sacred—is the most intimate relationship a person can have. Intimate implies “being close to—really close.”  In its purest form intimacy with someone also implies a strong sense of trust, safety, and love within the relationship—  two joined together as one.
This isn’t just pie in the sky stuff.  Being your own best listener can be a game changer—the difference between living a life of fear, regret, and others’ expectations versus living authentically with confidence, meaning, and purpose. 

I’ll lay odds that most of you know what I’m talking about.  At one time or another, you’re likely to have made decisions where you “listened to your gut” in spite of others’ opinions and made the right choice.  There were other times when you were fearful, angry, centered in your own ego, or you did what someone else thought was best for you—be it in your career, relationship, or job choice.  At times such as this, all you can do is look back in wonder and say, “What was I thinking?”

Let’s take those memories and go back to the original question—what would it be like to be our own best listener?  What would it be like if we could readily access and trust that spiritual, Divine part of ourselves to speak and listen to our own inner truth?

To help you answer that question, here’s something you might want to try:

Think of a time when you were successful in reaching that inner part of yourself at a choice point in life, when you did make a decision (in spite of having no guarantees as to the outcome) based on that inner guidance.  Even years later, you still believe it was the right choice. 

How did receiving that information and guidance feel?  How and when did that sense of knowing come to you?  What was it about that experience that would make you want to take that inner decision making route again?   

Now take the information you gleaned from that positive experience and use it to think about what it would be like to be your own best listener at this point in time.  How would that feel to be in an intimate relationship with oneself?  How might that be of benefit to you and to others? 

Envision—Imagine—Think Best Case Scenario.  This just isn’t any old relationship, this is a relationship with your highest self, as in Divine Self, that you have the potential to access at any time.  What do you want out of this relationship?  Go for broke.

You can pose this question to yourself before bedtime, in the morning while brushing your teeth, or sitting in rush hour traffic—it really doesn’t matter as long as you consciously and sincerely pose the question to yourself.  Doing so frees the subconscious mind to do its thing and also gives the Divine permission to move full speed ahead.
Start writing down the words or phrases that come to you—without judgement.  Keep posing the question and allow the answers to be revealed to you.  There’s no rush.  As in any evolving relationship, particularly one in which intimacy is desirable, you want to take your time to make sure this relationship is worthy, that it will only enhance rather than negate the essence of who you really are.

Having an intimate relationship with the deepest part of our sacred selves is a choice.  You’ve got to want it—Big Time. Like all such relationships, there are moments of great joy as well as periods of extreme vulnerability.  And although that vulnerability part sometimes scares the heck out of me, it seems that there’s no way around it.  One begets the other. 

But I have learned to move beyond the fear and remember that my version of God is all about love.  I know that now.  In the end, the listening journey—being one’s own best listener—is all about love.  But my words and truth mean little in this case and your experience and knowing mean everything. 

Thomas Edison once said, “If we did all the things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” 

If we are at a point where we recognize the importance of this intimate relationship within oneself, and in fact long to get to know this inner part of ourselves in ways we have yet to imagine, we’ve taken an important first step.  The only thing I might offer is—get ready to be astounded.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

More Humble Pie Please

I’d like another slice of humble pie please—but I have to let you know I’m pretty picky about where it comes from and who makes it. I prefer to only eat what I fondly refer to as Heavenly Humble Pie prepared in the Divine Bakery.  
 I made this Humble Pie from
Tasted delicious!

The ingredients used are simple and yet superb; every bite is meant to be savored.  I can’t help myself.  I want more and I think you might want to get in on the deal as well.

You, God, and humble pie—with a little bit of C.S. Lewis and LeBron James thrown into the mix. Hopefully, I’ve piqued your interest a bit.

You may not see the connection or even like the sound of it. In fact, the mere mention of being humbled by God sounds pretty intimidating but hear me out and remember, this isn’t just any old pie.

The term “humble pie” originated in medieval times and was known as a type of meat pastry, most likely made from various pieces and parts of deer.  In today’s common usage, to eat humble pie is to acknowledge or apologize for an error.
When you’ve repeatedly boasted how unbeatable your favorite sports team is to your friends and family and your team is pummeled in a competition, you better get out the humble pie and cut yourself a big slice. 

In this case, the act of humbling implies you are demonstrating humility, as in “I was wrong.” And if your ego has a major investment in that sports team as well, humility can easily turn into humiliation.

But let’s set that situation aside for now, and consider another perspective—one where humbling is not confused with the very different act of humiliation. 

What if we were able to look at humbling oneself or living in a state of humility as a desirable, rather than an embarrassing, ego crushing state that at all costs should be avoided? 

C.S. Lewis stated that, 
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” 
And for some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately—about the many times I have been humbled by witnessing the Divine at work.  
At such moments, I am caught off-guard.  These are the precious times when I come to realize, in the most basic way, that it’s not about me.  It’s about something greater than, that exists within each one of us if we choose to move beyond ego and tap into that higher spirit.

Le Bron James, all time basketball great and favored son from Akron, Ohio stated recently,
“I’m just playing the game I love and I’ll do anything for.  And some of the benefits that’s coming with it is the humbling side.  It’s the blessed side.”  

I love that analogy—humbling equals blessing—so much better than a punishment.

Take a trip to the Grand Canyon and sit on a rock overlooking the breath-taking landscape of colors and shapes. Undergo a healing within oneself where the grief or anger that weighed heavily upon your heart has been transformed to a sense of peace, love, or forgiveness.  Beat cancer when the deck was clearly stacked against you.   

With all of these things—you can’t believe that something so impossible became possible—recognizing that we humans alone could not take credit for this miracle. Something far greater, beyond our limited scope of control was at work.

My ego tells me humbling “ain’t so good” but my heart sings with the thought that eating humble pie from the Divine Bakery is a good thing.
What if we actually realized the benefits, as in Divinely Inspired Benefits, that accrued if we actively sought out this way of being and incorporated it into our day-to-day lives?

What if we were able to say, without fear of retaliation, “Please God, allow me to be humbled.”  Would that be so bad?
If nothing else, just think about it.  Imagine a positive way of looking at the act of being humbled.  Put the image into the context of your life and consider how seeing the daily beauty and blessings in our midst could only add to the human experience.
Heavenly Humble Pie Prayer

Please (I show respect by asking)

God (that Higher Spirit that lives within and beyond)

Allow (there is a choice)

Me (my human self with all its beauty and flaws)

To Be (without expectations—to just “be” in your Presence)

Humbled (the depths of my soul acknowledge and honor your grace and blessings)