Gleaning the Gifts

I have heard it said that “the content of our lives is the curriculum for our soul’s evolution,” a call to grow. Oftentimes the curriculum is not easy, but if we choose to glean the gifts, our “dark night” experiences can bring transformation; they can help us to access our inner sanctuary, to create new beginnings, and move forward to live a life we love.

Change can happen slowly or in a moment. My journey of deeper transformation began December 4, 1997, with a phone call from my Doctor. He had the biopsy results, and the diagnosis was breast cancer. I was blindsided. The day before the phone call, my picture-perfect life looked like this: I was fit and seemingly healthy. I was “happily” married with three beautiful young sons. I loved being a mom and my husband and I were business partners in a successful training and consulting business. Six month later, the life I had known came apart at the seams. My marriage ended, as did our business partnership. By July of 1998, I was a cancer survivor, a single parent and unemployed.

When I began rebuilding my life, I realize I was an “unconsciously and somewhat competent” DreamBuilder. I had a vision for what I did want (the first principle of transformation). I wanted to heal on every level. I had a burning desire to see my young sons grow into men. I wanted to grow spiritually. I wanted to make a difference in the world, and I wanted to have some amazing travel adventures. In 1999, I had another go with cancer. I wasn’t sure if my health would cooperate, but I made a firm decision, (the second principle of transformation). I wanted so much out of life. I wanted, as expressed by Henry David Thoreau, to suck the marrow out of whatever amount of time I would be gifted with. Where I fell short in the scheme of DreamBuilding, was befriending my “fear.” Hindsight is a great teacher. I know now, that fear will always be a player when we are on our growing edge… I didn’t know it back then, and what I lacked was solid mentorship and a system of support to navigate all the change. I couldn’t see my subconscious blocks and the belief systems that caused me to collapse back to habitual thinking patterns and ways of being when I felt fear. As a result, I took many unnecessary detours in those early years… and I am here to tell you that you don’t have to.

Why did I share this, and why does it matter?  Because I want you to know that you are far more capable and resourced than you can imagine. The power breathing you is greater than any circumstance, situation or condition you may be facing today. It is important to traverse and process our dark nights. As we do this, we can “glean the gifts” that the tough stuff teaches us about ourselves. If I can live into the life of my dreams, you can too. I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anybody, but I would wish where it took me on everybody. It is with a sense of deep gratitude that I can tell you today, I have realized all my earlier dreams… and I am now pulled by new ones.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my oldest son was 11 years old. He is now 35. Next September, I’ve been invited to officiate his wedding ceremony. Something I had not even imagined. These are what I call “bonus dreams”!

The Choice

An Elder Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. He said to the boy, “A fight is going on inside me, and it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This is a valuable teaching that reminds us of the power we have to choose our thoughts, emotions, actions and ultimately how we experience our lives.

When times (pandemic) and situations challenge us (change, loss, other people), it is easy to default to habitual patterns and ways of being. When we get caught up in looking outside of ourselves to make sense of what is going on inside. It is a known way of coping and gives us a false sense of feeling in control when life feels uncontrollable. The downfall is that it actually creates the opposite result. It strips us of our sense of personal power and freedom to choose. It keeps us stuck in a cycle that does not serve us, or our ability to grow.

Transformation begins with a clear vision of the life you would love to live. When you decide for transformation, (which means to go beyond your current form) you will hear both of the voices. There is a part of you that really wants to move forward, that is excited to grow, that knows you are capable of so much more life. Yet there is another part of you, me, and all of us that really doesn’t want to see change. It wants to keep us right where we are, it’s what is known, it’s safe, and although it limits us and can keep us from living into our potential…it’s comfortable. This is the voice that causes us to sabotage our growth and success.

An important brave thinking tool is to “notice what you are noticing”. Becoming aware of what is going on within you. When you hear from the voice that wants to hold you back, when you are feeling stressed, this tool can help you to “push pause” and make a different choice; a choice to “feed” the voice that wants your vision to win. Think of the acronym S-T-O-P. The (S) reminds us to stop; (T) take three deep breaths and smile into every part of your body, this takes us out of our thinking mind; (O) Observe your body sensations…Where and what are you feeling? (P) Proceed with a choice, an action that is loving and compassionate.

Sometimes life is hard and tough stuff happens. You need to acknowledge this, and make an “appointment with disappointment.” Feel your feelings…journal, exercise, talk to a friend, your coach or mentor, and know you are not alone. Extend the same compassion and kindness to yourself as you would to a friend; and then recommit to your vision.

Leaving familiar ways of being behind is the work of transformation, and this is where a system of support is invaluable. Top athletes, business owners and successful executives know this. Working with my own coach, I know this. Why? Because we cannot see our own subconscious blocks. It is hard to see the picture when we are in the frame. As Maxwell Maltz said, “you cannot never outperform your self image but you can change it.”

In each and every moment we are creating our life, we create either by design or by default. Which voice will you feed?