Is anyone else feeling off balance right now?
A recent foot surgery literally has me off balance, feeling unsteady and unsure. Couple that with what is going on in our communities, country and the world, and I started to find myself feeling mentally, emotionally and even spiritually uncentered as well.
I recently wobbled my way to Chicago in bandages and a boot to visit our son who is there on a summer internship. When I asked him how he liked Chicago, he said, “I love it, except for the violence.”
That got my immediate attention.
He and his roommates had recently witnessed a street brawl and they saw someone who they thought was reaching for a gun. My son went on to explain that he doesn’t take public transport in the city because it doesn’t feel safe. And, it doesn’t feel safe for him because it is not safe. What came up for me immediately was that my son is 21-years-old and he fears for his safety on a city street and train rail?
Here is my beloved son, teetering on the innocence of youth, validity of a young adulthood and a promising future, fearing for his safety while coming home at night. That puts this momma off balance for sure.
I clearly see that the increase in violence is directly affecting my son—my family. And, that increased violence and so many other issues are affecting each and every one of us. There are so many challenges that we’re facing as a collective society, and I cannot help but feel increasingly and deeply concerned. I’m thrown even more off balance and shocked by recent SCOTUS decisions, especially as school shootings, gun violence, mental health issues and overall polarization and concerns about safety in America continue to escalate.
Leading from a place of compassion, I understand that it makes sense that I—that all of us— are not feeling surefooted right now. It’s hard to. But, as a leader, I also find myself searching for solutions…
Keep Your Heart Open in Hell
In renowned journalist Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, a weekly email newsletter that I receive, she writes about her own unbalance in an article entitled Keep Your Heart Open in Hell, which is well worth the read. In the article, Maria begins by explaining her personal journey in finding balance as an emerging journalist in a male dominated field with four young children and as a staunch advocate for women’s rights—which we’ve all, in one way or another, had to fight for in a struggle to unearth the long-standing patriarchal dominance in order to find and foster balance between the masculine and feminine, which are inherently designed to work with and support each other.
As a women’s leadership and personal and professional development coach and as a female, I see this everyday in my life and in my practice. Women of all walks of life are consistently working hard in finding balance between home and work, all the while struggling to understand the craziness of the world “out there.”
In her brilliant article, Maria writes,
“In my lifetime, women have had to fight for everything. We’ve had to fight to be seen, to be accepted, to be respected, to have the rights that others have. I have written before about growing up with all brothers and having to fight for my equality. I went into journalism when there were very few women. I had to fight every day to be seen, to be respected, to be taken seriously, to be paid equally, to get an equal shot at the big boy stories. Every day was a fight. It was the same when I was First Lady of California, and on and on. The pressure to be perfect, to not mess up, is on every woman’s mind. The pressure to be perfect so that other women can have a shot is real.”
In my 2016 TEDx talk, The Illusion of Perfection, I talk about the made up stories we create to live into what we or others believe to be the “right way” to be, feel and do life. This conditioning, which affects each of us, is a fallacy, yet it is perpetuated day in and day out in our lives. And, we’re increasingly experiencing more division and polarization, as demonstrated by the state of the country, politics and, most recently, shocking SCOTUS rulings. Without thinking, so many put stakes in the ground, declaring, “I am right!” All I could think was: Where is the curiosity, the compassion and the connection that we all inherently desire? And then I continued to read…
Further in Maria’s article, she offers up a beautiful, heart-centered, mind-expanding and artistically-stunning video, How To Keep Your Heart Open in Hell – IT’S ALL PERFECT, by Ram Dass that helped her—and me—in finding some balance and inspiration in the midst of all the uncertainty, chaos and unbalance. As she encouraged her readers to watch it, I’m encouraging you, too, to watch it as well. I found it to serve as a wonderful reminder of the true perfection of our lives—that we are whole, perfect and complete—just as we are, even when we, our lives and the world seem so messed up and off balance.
In his video, the beloved spiritual teacher Ram Dass explores nonduality, which in the case of perfectionism and the polarization we’re experiencing today serves as a valuable reminder that duality (separateness) is conditioned, and that everything and everyone—regardless of politics, lifestyle, upbringing, cultural background, education, social status, etc—is connected, or, even closer to the truth, interconnected—that’s nonduality. Ram Dass also explores the universal power of love and presents some questions to contemplate as we all attempt to navigate this human experience.
How do you keep your heart open in hell?
What does it mean to be in love with the world?
And what does it mean to be in action?
What do you do?
Reading Maria’s article and watching the Ram Dass video gave me a better sense of balance, and inspired me to take action, including returning to blogging regularly about matters of the heart, leadership, community, compassion (including self-compassion) and being active. It reminded me that we get to lead and inspire through who we are and how we show up everyday. It also reminded me of the importance of staying connected to community, growth and transformation and, always, the heart. As Ram Dass says, the mind knows boundaries; the heart has no boundaries.
Finding Balance And Grounding Within
I wonder what is coming up for you as you, too, also work to navigate these crazy times—all the polarities, the uncertainties, the injustices and the pure shock, dizziness and dis-ease that wells up within us when we see, hear and feel all the hurt. I also wonder what may come up for you after you read Maria’s article and watch Ram Dass’ video on keeping the heart open in hell. As Maria mentions—and most of us have been guilty of it—when things get overwhelming, there’s a pull to turn away, shut off the news, close our eyes and numb out.
But, what if we didn’t?
What if we leaned into it all, leading with the heart, coming from a place of love and connection? What if doing such inspired more and more others to do the same? And the ripples continued on and on?
Personally, I am committed to writing more, sharing from the heart and leaning into the discomfort of the realities of our world right now. I recently reposted a blog on Facebook by Martha Beck, in which she encourages all to stay the course. My hope is that you and I—that all of us—will stay the course and reach out and connect with each other when we feel disheartened. We get to support each other and keep finding others who can see clearly and talk openly about these crazy times—even if we don’t always agree with each other.
In leading with our vulnerable hearts, finding balance in uncertainty and connecting with curiosity, we build community and sustain ourselves to be able to keep our hearts open in hell.
I have missed you my dear readers. I feel humbled and inspired when I see each one of you in the world, whether in real time or through the technology driven platforms that—like it, love it or not—are embedded into today’s culture and do give us more opportunity to connect.
In closing, I’ll leave you with two more paragraphs from Maria’s heartfelt and inspiring article.
“In my life, I’ve come to realize that people only decide to change when they’ve had enough. You have to want something different. You have to feel like you deserve something different to actually get something different. Maybe that’s what it will take: millions of people waking up realizing that what they are experiencing is no less than hell.”
“Women have been through so much and have accomplished so much. We know how to get stuff done. Now, we will move forward stronger than ever with so many others standing with us. We will do this with our hearts open despite it feeling like hell. We have no other choice.”
From my open heart to yours,
P.S., On your quest for finding balance and stepping into empowerment and leadership, which we need more of these days, and you’re interested in connecting about how leadership and empowerment coaching can help you develop, grow and transform personally and professionally, contact me today to set up a call. I also offer a transformative 15-week online UPROOT Curriculum, designed to help you align your life’s activities, relationships, work with who you really and connect with beautiful, like-minded women around the country, as well as nourishing and highly transformative deep dive UPROOT retreats in the majestic Colorado Rockies and in other beautiful places throughout the world.