Three Friends for the Journey

by Andrea Chilcote

I started my business some twenty years ago. While I can’t always remember where I put my keys, I vividly recall the state of mind and emotion that accompanied the first year of that journey. The time was exhilarating, terrifying and – almost always — focused and intentional. I succeeded (at least so far).Today, I’m observing so many people who are stepping courageously in the direction of some dream, whether by default (a job elimination) or determination (a planned pursuit of a goal), and I’m reminded of the intangible — though very real — factors that precede tangible success.

In the last 24 hours I have listened to the stories of three friends in the process of creating a new and better future. While I won’t share their names here, I’ll identify each of them by the qualities they are exhibiting, capabilities I believe are among the determinants of future peace, satisfaction and success.

I’ll call the first friend “Intentionality.” Intentionality has arrived where she’s at by completing the journey of self-awareness. She knows who she is, confidently naming her innate and learned talents and skills, squarely facing her flaws and limitations, and, perhaps most importantly, declaring what she wants and needs in her life at this moment and for the foreseeable future. Having just left a job in which much was accomplished, she ponders “what-if’s” and entertains well-meaning suggestions and advice from others. But she always returns to purpose as her decision criterion. Listening to her, I was reminded of the power of intent to move mountains.

What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it. – Alexander Graham Bell

My second friend’s name is “Perspective.” He is exhibiting an uncanny ability to look at things from a positive, big-picture perspective. The circumstances surrounding his recent job elimination are far from personal, though I know very few people who would not personalize them. This friend is resolute in his belief that “when one door closes, another opens,” and is genuinely invigorated by the opportunity to write a new chapter in his career.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. – Helen Keller

The third friend’s name is “Surrender.” If you heard her story in full, you would feel empathy at a minimum and perhaps even sadness, as she is facing a major life dilemma and neither option is without pain. To live in integrity, she must eventually pursue one path or the other. She is choosing to examine possibilities, leaving no stone unturned, while holding faith that unseen forces conspire to ensure the right decisions are made.

During a particularly fearful time during that first year of my business, a dear mentor offered me the following affirmation. The simple passage became my mantra, a source of comfort when I got tired or my faith waned. I shared it with “Surrender” today:

Work peacefully and joyfully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring right results. –
James Allen

Intentionality, perspective and surrender. Each of my three friends actually embodies all three qualities. Each is an aspect of the whole person. Intentionality needs perspective to pursue challenging yet realistic goals. Perspective passed through surrender, choosing not to be stalled even momentarily by a victim mindset. Surrender understands the paradoxical nature of intent, and is able to take courageous steps in light of forces beyond her direct control.

Consider how these three aspects serve you in the pursuit of your dreams. Is there one or more you could call upon for assistance to make the journey smoother? I hope you’ll consider taking one of my friends along.

My Left Leg

by Andrea Chilcote

I’ve always been pretty good at logic and analysis, calculating and thinking. Having just begun feeling in earnest late into my 30’s, I am still somewhat new to it. (Yes, that’s a bit of a joke as all of us feel – yet it is new for me to give credence to my more intuitive and creative side). And just when I think I have the right brain-left brain, head-heart thing in balance, whammo – I get hit with a lesson – a lesson that involves the mind-body connection.

For the past four years I’ve been studying and practicing (but not yet mastering), a form of Pilates that has virtually changed my life. The discipline, an invention of the talented Dana Sterling of Carefree Movement, has eliminated back pain and frequent headaches, and has built strength I never knew was possible. A good example of the principle “simple not easy,” it’s not a mere workout routine but rather a new way to sit, stand, sleep and breathe, 24-7. Who knew it would impact how I think and interact with others?

Among other things during these focused four years, I have been striving to balance my weight on both sides of my body, rather than using only my right side for strength, straining and stretching my left mercilessly. My posture has improved vastly, and my leg strength is – well, more or less is ­– balanced. So what a surprise when a Chi Gong instructor, someone I regard as a masterful, intuitive teacher remarked to me: “Andrea, you walk with your weight on your right side only, barely skimming the surface with your left foot. What are you holding back from yourself and the world?”

He went on to explain how my lack of left side physical connection to the earth could be restricting my connection to my right brain, that feeling-based center that I have come to realize is the driver of everything. Damn, damn, damn. I thought I was doing so well.

The fact is, I was doing well to that point. But there’s so much more. Perhaps I’m still allowing my logical know-it-all left hemisphere to be in charge, by default.

So why am I sharing this story here? It seems to present a reinforcement of an often-pondered principle. Your right brain represents the creative force. It signifies perfection not yet manifest. Your left brain is the doing force, the active, willing servant. In perfect balance, creative intuition says: “Here is what I want and need. Here is the life I choose to live and the types of people and experiences that make it fulfilling.” The logical, efficient analytic side says: “You want that? I’ll get it for you. Here’s what we need to do…”

My friend shared a lesson from her golf coach. She’s learning to use her whole body in her swing, rather than default to her dominant side. The outcome? She no longer hesitates over the ball, analyzing to the point of destroying her presence.

I don’t know if you rely on the right side of your body to drag the rest of you around as you go about your busy days (though it’s actually a very common pattern). But if you are allowing past messages and memories, or so-called logic to usurp your creative knowing in any area of your life, notice how you’re standing. Which way are you leaning?

What I Control

by Andrea Chilcote

I was talking with a friend who, like me, turned fifty this year. After a lighthearted lament about physical aging, we shared one treasured outcome of this age: the settled-in quality that comes from knowing ourselves so well. We both agreed that regarding our many personality traits, good and bad, knowing and accepting ourselves is the most important thing.

Understanding what sparks our spirit as well as what pushes our buttons gives us the ultimate freedom, the ultimate control. We can choose to limit our experiences to those we prefer, or we can manage our reaction to those things (usually provoked by other people) that cause stress. Clearly this knowledge and subsequent liberty is not limited to those fifty and over. But it is an interesting phenomenon. At about this age, those who would hide their apparent flaws begin to admit their humanness, and those who would refrain from acknowledging their unique strengths begin to name them, out loud. Finally, because we have conscious awareness, we can control our experience of the world. Can you hear the choir singing “Hallelujah!”?

Toward the end of our conversation, my friend, who errs on the side of humility, declared: “One thing I’m not is controlling!” And thus began an afternoon of self-analysis regarding the issue of self-awareness… and control.

A master of self-control, I’ve never been one to try to control other people, perhaps because I would abhor the idea that someone would do that to me. But I have tried to control the universe, and anyone who knows me well would likely smile at this statement. During this 50th year, I learned that control is a myth. It is futile.

Perhaps trying to the control the universe – life and death, fate and providence – for fifty years simply makes one weary. Now I smile at the thought that I was ever in control of anything. Except my experience.

In one of my favorite passages from A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle speaks of the peace that comes from accepting the circumstances of the present moment, and the suffering that ensues if one’s focus is on what could have been or might be. I believe the same can be said of control. When one tries to control that which can’t be managed or directed, suffering results. Surrender gives us, paradoxically, the ability to control our reaction. We can choose to accept or resist, endure or avoid, judge or embrace.

My friend and I embrace the many blessings that define our lives, not the least of which are the unique traits – quirks included – that make us who we are. These very traits are what guided our many decisions and created the lives we live. We are happy in an imperfect world, mostly because we know who we are and what we contribute to others in small ways and large.

Is there a quality of your being, a quality uniquely you, that you could take out, brush off and embrace?  Try it for an hour or a day – and notice how comforting the feeling. Surrender to the truth of it instead of trying to hide, change – or control it. Those around you might notice too.