I built a narrative about my mother my whole life – a loving, caring, devoted mom; denying emotional neglect and toxicity until I was ready to tear down the story I created in order to survive my childhood, and see reality for what it was.
That is why I have compassion for non-colored people who are trying to break down an old system that fails black and brown people. Don’t get me wrong. I am as angry as anyone else about race relations in this country, being dark and Latina myself. And I understand what it is to carry a narrative built in childhood that gives us a false sense of safety, and how scary it is to deconstruct it.
Imagine the defenses the ego will go through trying to break down the narrative that carries a racist perspective the eye cannot see!
I believe we can help to break down barriers by sharing more with each other. We need to acknowledge the stories of the oppressed, abused, poor and suffering. Sometimes, all it takes is listening. Sometimes, it takes the courage to share your own story.
Let me offer a story from my life as a Latina:
From the time I could remember, I wanted to be a teacher. I played teacher with the neighborhood kids in my garage. I still love teaching and recently retired from teaching coach certification programs. Yet, I missed out on years of teaching in my youth. I was literally discouraged from going to college by a white, male counselor who figured a Latina girl attending summer school for Algebra should, instead, go to vocational school and learn to become a secretary. I wanted to become a teacher with a passion but he convinced me I’d never make it. My parents spoke limited English and thought the school was the authority. True story. (I went to college later in life. On scholarships and graduating with honors, while raising a family.)
But his prejudice cost me years of unsatisfying work, and the opportunity to make a difference in my life and my family’s as an educated young woman. I can’t begin to tell you what that cost me mentally, emotionally and spiritually for years. Some days I am exhausted from all the energy expended to be a successful person, carrying the weight of being female, of being Latina. I’m pretty sure it’s why I took an early retirement. Sshh! Don’t tell my current clients that.
No matter how racist non-coloreds think they are not, it doesn’t mean they get it. And that’s fair because what happens to us doesn’t happen to them. Neither do they get to abuse their power!!
So it’s up to those of us who have audience with non-coloreds to share our experiences. Let them know what it’s like to be you. Then ask,
“Where did you first learn to be afraid of black/brown people?”
and listen with open curiosity because they may be remembering for the first time. Guess what? No one has ever asked them that before!
I present that question to all of you because we tend to internalize racism, unaware that we have bought into the program – white, black, brown, everyone – in some way. It takes the entire system to buy in in order for it to become systemic. STOP BUYING IN and ask yourselves, “What can I do to make things better? Can I lead with more awareness of my prejudices? Am I willing to look at how I’ve bought into this system that doesn’t work for us all?”
Share a little. Listen A LOT. Find common ground. Share some more.
And everyone deserves kindness.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we listen more than we speak.
I’m not sure who said it first, it wasn’t me… if you know, maybe you can leave it in the comments following this.
Few develop intuition, or other skills and gifts, without first listening.
I don’t mean hear. Hearing means the eardrum got some action and the brain got some signals of the ‘whatever’ nature. Listening is hearing with intention. It’s so intent, the ears almost go taut like a dog listening for her mistress to say ‘treat.’ This type of listening can be felt in the body by most people.
How do you develop this level of listening? Mostly, by learning how to be still. Sit outside and see what your ears pick up.
Now do some deep breathing, quiet your mind, and listen again. Don’t be surprised if a hummingbird’s wings flap near you or a family of finches serenade you. Wait! Was that a robin in the distance, a butterfly on my knee? It is in this stillness that you most likely will find a sense of wonder and oneness with nature.
What does this have to do with Clear Communication and Self-care/Prevention, two of the five items leading us to thriving in this pandemic? Well, your family/staff/friends/community, everyone you influence, can be affected by this wonder of Oneness you begin to cultivate by practicing stillness in nature, your yard, near a plant or tree, a candle, music – find what works for you. Just remember: Listening creates a doorway to connection. Listening is NOT thinking about what you're going to say next while the other person is speaking! Rather, it is being CURIOUS about what is being said, how it's being said. It is LEARNING about the person speaking, being open and making a true connection that begins to develop trust.
Any word that begins with ‘co’ like in communicate, means ‘with’ or ‘together.’ Good communication brings people together, and good leadership requires good communication. When people operate as One, there is synergy, collaboration and creativity grows exponentially. For example, the creativity required to find a vaccine for Covid-19 comes about with collaboration amongst the scientist community, and clear communication from a leading body, like the World Health Organization, which requires collaboration on a global level.
Are you the type of leader who will cultivate your own sense of Oneness so that you will motivate others toward unity, synergy, collaboration and creativity?
If your answer is Yes, then you must begin with exquisite self-care. That will be my next topic along with prevention of illness.
For some of us, staying at home and working isn’t new, so take some pointers from us stay-at-home types. For example get up every day at the same time, exercise, shower, get dressed as if you are getting ready for work, school or anywhere that requires your non-pajama self. Do this at least 3 to 4 times a week. Save PJs and loungewear for evenings and weekends. It helps to split up the day.
Set your routine so that you aren’t doing one thing for too long -- it's more interesting and easier on the body. Break up your day with walks, read the paper or a good book, look at art from places that are offering free shows like the Smithsonian, talk to friends, go for a bike ride.
Meaning & Purpose!
Write that article or start that novel. Paint, draw, write, blog, crochet, design, garden, clean the pool, make repairs, exercise. Educate yourself on your industry or anything that could make you a more effective leader or more valuable employee, or add or improve a service to your clients. Integrate these into your daily routine.
These routines will help to give your days meaning and purpose when you add small goals to them. It's also helpful for children. Children absolutely thrive on routine and need it now more than ever. But make weekends special -- make it the only time they have ice cream, for example. Then everyone can look forward to it together.
Be safe. Be well. Thrive!
So what have I been doing for nearly three years that I didn't blog again after promising I would? First, I learned to never make promises I cannot guarantee. You may think that causes too much uncertainty. Well, here we are with a deadly virus upon us and all plans, and along with them many promises, are out the window as we follow those 'stay at home' instructions. Well, I hope you're following them anyhow.
What does the Inner Shaman say about the Cosmic Purpose of a deadly virus? There are those who are suffering; losing jobs, fighting illness, unable to see sick family members, frontline medical staff working overtime and risking their lives. And there those who are enjoying time off, cleaning out those cupboards and drawers, catching up on their Netflix watchlist, crafting, cooking, reading, hiking, biking, and enjoying the outdoors in many ways.
But is there a message in all this? We are given the opportunity to see how our leaders respond, or don't respond in timely fashion. We see how we, ourselves, respond when under pressure, or how our loved ones might be reacting. There are opportunities to communicate more deeply, to be honest, open, kind and diligent.
Above all, this is the time to be of service to others. Studies show that when humans are under stress, a great reliever is to be of service to others. This may not resonate with you at the moment. You may be the one who needs the help of another. If that is the case, I implore you to reach out and ask for help. If you're one of the luckier ones, then offer your services somehow. My teen-aged neighbor is using my machine to sew face masks. Meanwhile, her mother is helping me declutter and organize my kitchen (we've had lots of contact prior to our stay-at-home order so we went for it). I am offering extra coaching to my clients without charging because they are generally small business owners under great duress.
The question might be one of balance; of giving and receiving. When we give too much, we are out of balance. When we don't give at all, we are out of order. The same goes for receiving. Yes, it is as important to receive as it is to give. Check your balance there.
To answer the first question, where have I been for three years? Shamans, Intuitives and Empaths generally go through dark, silent periods for a variety of reasons. On the outside, I went through many physical challenges that included three back surgeries, and constant pain. I'm still not out of it yet, but enough that I could crawl out of the painshell and connect, communicate with my community, perhaps as a service. I intend to write more about it later. (this time I wrote 'intend' and not 'promise')
For now, in terms of the Cosmic Picture for the virus, I may not have an answer that satisfies you. I only know that I am a witness to the qualities of leadership, both governmental and my clients, the character of those around me, the incredible possibilities to mitigate climate change, and the magic of community.
To be taken seriously in his or her tribe as a true healer, the ancient shaman had to return from death or a near-death experience, or from the brink of insanity. The shaman knows the only way to deeper truth leading to profound healing is to walk through the dark side of the inner self. And it’s that darker side of us, our shadow, that keeps hidden the full truth of who we are – our authentic selves. Hidden from our deepest truth, we are blocked from our greatest authentic resourcefulness.
Fortunately, leaders today don’t need anything so dramatic as near-death experiences to be taken seriously, or to find their truest expression.
But neither is it easy.
As a descendent of Nicaragua’s Nicoya tribe, a Shamanic mountain tribe revered for their intuitive and healing gifts, intuition has always come easy to me. Authenticity has not.
Our shadows create unconscious blocks to our strongest expressions of authentic leadership and honest communication, impacting our every choice. Over time, we build up defenses, patterns, and habits to help us cope, often not recognizing how much energy goes to hiding shame, blame and inadequacy that the shadow clings to. Those coping mechanisms lurk beneath the surface of our consciousness, cause us to give up our power, and keep us from boldly and intuitively living our lives with confidence, compassion, resourcefulness and strength.
We’re gifted at different times in our lives to take that dark walk.
When we’re ready, or when it’s thrust upon us, there are tools such as the Enneagram that can help. I’ll explore some of these in future posts.
For now, recognize we all have blocks to our greater potential. It’s the chatter in our heads that says we’re wrong, we don’t have what it takes (not really), everything’s my fault… Some of you may be saying to yourself, “I’ve already worked through that,” and you’re right. And yet, we’re always given another chance to take a deeper look, to peel off the proverbial layers.
To fully, completely live an authentic life, we must dive into our deeper selves with the fearlessness of a shaman, the courage of a soldier, and the heart of a lion. When we do this, then, and only then, will we live with passion and authenticity.