The Slow Awakening of Being Aware

The Slow Awakening of Being Aware

In the face of the coronavirus and all of the restrictions it is bringing into our lives, the social scientist in me wants to know how this will change us in the future, what lessons will we have learned about ourselves that we will take into our future? 

For myself, I have been working for a very long time on “being” more and “doing” less.  My life has always revolved around a running list of things to do, places to go, people to meet.  It seemed like the more I did the happier I was, until I began to realize that I was doing so much that I wasn’t happy anymore.  That was a revelation to me, and I began to realize that my identity was tied up around what I did, not who I really was.  I pledged to go deep inside myself and find what was most important to me, and only say “yes” to things that followed the path of this vision for myself.  Until March 2020, I was doing a not-so-great-job of this, albeit improving on my normal.  But when the coronavirus “stay at home” orders hit, I found a new level of just being.  My work slowed down, I wasn’t doing any traveling. I began to read more often, I read poetry and signed up for a series of talks by David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, and spent time just getting lost in his voice as he read many of his poems and other poet’s works as well. 

But, most interesting of all, I observed and noticed spring as it came in.  It sounds like such a silly thing to say, but I don’t think I have ever noticed how the winter changed into spring in such a profound manner.  Each morning, the light would shine through my bedroom window, illuminating the forest outside my window.  I watched as the forest floor turned from brown to green, the big leafy plants that came in first, and the others slowly following.  I watched the trees slowly bud, some trees faster than others, and the different colors of the forest floor and the trees as the moved into full leaves.  The Cherry Blossoms came out first and went quickly, littering our yard with tiny pink petals.  The choreography of the flowering trees was amazing, some blooming early and others blooming later, but always a flowering tree to behold.  The bright green of the new leaves turning into a darker green of the summer leaves.  And then, noticing the different types of birds that came to the bird feeder-the yellow finches, the male and female cardinals mating and beginning to make their nests, the red headed woodpeckers and the round bellied blue birds.  The birds used a Crepe Myrtle tree as a landing area as the waited their turn at the feeder, birds of a similar size eating together, and then giving way to the larger birds as they flew to the feeder. The weather, so unpredictable in the spring, went from cold enough for a fire in the fireplace, to hot enough for shorts and tee-shirts within days.  And in between those days, so many days of rain that poured down as I watched it through the windows.  None of this unusual in any way for any spring, but the awakening of my senses to the beauty and flow of spring was most unusual.  It gave me pause to consider that the benefits of awakening into awareness of what is going on around me, versus rushing through the world on “fast”.  So this was what “being” looked like. It was a beautiful learning for me.

Based on my experience, I’ve taken to asking my coaching clients a series of questions around these thoughts as we slowly move into our new normal of living with the fear of coronavirus-

  • What has been your biggest challenge during this time?
  • What asset or aspect of your personality has been most useful for you during this time?
  • What have you been doing that you weren’t able to do before?
  • What has shifted for you?
  • What will you do differently when this is over?
  • And, of course, my favorite-“What are you more aware of?”
Now’s the Time to think about your Three Year Vision

Now’s the Time to think about your Three Year Vision

I have coached hundreds of client in my years of being a leadership coach. It’s a profession I love so much, and I am fueled by the work I see my clients doing that can transform their lives. Clients often ask me how to get the most out of our Leadership Coaching engagement, and one exercise I often use is a simple visioning exercise. Often we think about “visioning” as something that is near daunting.  How do we know what we really want?  How can we plan for a vision in such a complex world?  And now, with the added pressure of the Coronavirus, how can we see what three years from now will be?

For these chaotic and unusual times, where it’s difficult to plan for the next week, a three year vision can be comforting.  In reality, a 3-Year vision is just a spot at the end of a journey that you have thought about in your mind.  It’s like a car trip, you may end up at the destination that you first chose, or you may veer off the road to another destination.  But when you set the car on the path to where you want to end up, there’s a much higher chance you will move forward on your journey of getting there.

Here are three easy steps to start on your own 3 year visioning process. Grab a journal and a pen, take a couple of quiet hours in a place that you feel comfortable in, get a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine, and work through these steps.

  • Up Until Now (The Past)
    • Take some time to write down answers to these questions around your past
      • What influenced you when you were growing up?
      • What were some of your takeaways from your first professional job?
      • What’s influenced you or is shaping you from three years ago to now?

  • What’s True Now (The Present)
    • Ask yourself the question, “What is true for me now?”.  Write a list of these truths, just one after another.  When you think you are finished, pause for a few minutes and add a few more.

  • What do I want the Future to Look Like? (The Future)
    • Now that you have looked at your “Up Until Now” and your “What’s True Now”, review them both and begin to think of what you want to be different.
    • Where do you want to be in 3 years?  Physical Location, Job, Personal Life.  If you close your eyes and see yourself in 3 years from now, what does it look like?
    • Write yourself a letter, dated three years from today, in the first person.  Vividly describe what you see for yourself. Close your eyes and see, feel, hear, touch and smell what it’s like for you.
    • Put the letter aside for one week, and then get it out and review it again.  Make the changes that feel right for you after a week of reflection.

Keep your vision on your desktop or in a written form in your journal, and review it every few months to see where you are.  Your vision letter is a living document that will move with you as you move towards your vision.

Contact me at if you would like help with your vision!

Intercultural “sameness” versus “difference”

Intercultural “sameness” versus “difference”

I have spent a good part of my adult life either living or traveling in other countries than my own.  Four years in London, 4 years in Kuala Lumpur, 8 years in Brussels; with a lot of stateside moving before, in-between and after.  My family is a global one, with our 3 boys born and raised across three continents.  It was, and is, a wonderful life that I wouldn’t trade in for anything. I have so many stories from our travels that have ground in me the belief that we are all very much more the same inside, no matter how different we may be on the outside.  As the Covid-19 virus continues to terrorize the world, I see this more now than ever.  The virus doesn’t notice the color of our skin, our religion or our culture, it only notices that we are human.

When we moved from London to Malaysia in 1994, my oldest son, Matt was 19 months old, and my youngest son Nick was 4 months old.  My husband Tom, had moved to Kuala Lumpur in October to start his new job and I went back to the US on Maternity leave with the boys to stay with my parents for a few months to get our youngest, Nick, all of his vaccinations in before he was allowed to fly to Malaysia.  In December, Tom came over to take the whole family back-a daunting 35 hour door-to-door journey with a baby and a toddler. 

After flying from Indianapolis to LA, then LA to Narita, Japan; we found ourselves in a lounge for a 4 hour layover.  We had been traveling well over one full day by this time.  It was late at night in Japan, and Nick was asleep in his baby carrier, with Tom asleep next to him with one arm thrown over the carrier.  Matthew was wide awake and bored.  He and I left the lounge to explore a bit, his little hand in mine.  We found a lovely playground area in the airport not far from the lounge.  There was another young mother there with her 2 year old, I guessed that they might have been from India.  For a while, we sat next to each other and laughed at our boys playing hide and seek, chasing each other and generally doing everything that two toddler boys do.  Matthew was starting to finally get tired after a bit, so I took the opportunity to get him to go back with me, thinking I might be able to change places with Tom for a quick nap…if Nick wasn’t awake and hungry at least.  I stopped by the bathroom on the way back to change Matt’s diaper, and as we were coming out of the bathroom, I saw my new friend running towards me in distress without her son.  She had lost him, in the same way have all mothers have lost our toddlers, by turning your back for one second and wondering where they could have gone.  As I was listening to her, I saw a Japanese airport security guard.  I ran over to him to explain what happened, and he pulled out his radio communicator and started calling for help.  Two other guards immediately came, and we all started looking for the little boy.  After what seemed like an hour but was probably about 15 minutes, he came running out from behind a wall and ran straight into his mother’s arms.  All of us clapped our hands and cheered, and we looked like the happiest bunch of people in the world.  The mother thanked all of us with hugs and tears.

I carried Matt back to the lounge and sat down next to Tom, who was still asleep, having no idea of the events that had just occurred.  As I settled Matt into a chair with his pillow and blanket for a sleep, and my adrenaline rush and heart rate started to quiet down, something amazing struck me. Throughout the entire time and interaction I spent talking to the woman and her son and the security guard, not once were we all speaking the same language.  In fact, we were speaking three separate languages. The woman was speaking an Indian dialect, I think Tamil; the security guard  was speaking Japanese and me, English.  Yet somehow we managed to communicate every single thing that needed to be said, and every single emotion that  needed to be felt, without a single understood word between us.  As I thought about my move to my new home in Kuala Lumpur, where I knew that many things would be so different and I would be in a country that I knew nothing about the culture and didn’t know one person other than my husband, I had a new level of faith that it would be ok.  We are so much more of the same than we are different.  And, it turned out to be not so hard at all.