A Happy Visit

I gave the incident little more thought – until that afternoon…

Arthur's beloved rescue horse Duke, a victim of tripping, passed away over year ago. That evening, Arthur said Duke had joined the great white horse in the sky. For Christmas, I asked local artist and friend Jan Taylor to create a memory.

Arthur’s beloved rescue horse Duke, a victim of tripping, passed away over year ago. That evening, Arthur said Duke had joined the great white horse in the sky. For Christmas this year, I asked local artist and friend Jan Taylor to create a memory.

by Andrea Chilcote

Did you have any unexpected visitors this holiday week? We did.

One night last week I was away in Atlanta on business, looking forward to going home the next day to enjoy the Christmas weekend. After I had gone to bed but was not yet fully asleep, I heard the “ding” of a text message. I had spoken a “good night” to my husband Arthur so I knew all was well at home, but I rose anyway and checked my phone.

There I found a photo of Arthur’s beloved horse Duke, who had passed away in August. The message, from Arthur, said: “Why did you send this to me??” (Two question marks).

I quickly replied that I had not sent it, that I had nearly been asleep, and wished to resume that state. He texted back.

“Well, I can see that you texted this photo! It came from you.” He persisted.

“It’s a mystery then,” I replied. “I’ll have a look when I get there tomorrow.” Arthur is not the most tech savvy person, and I assumed he somehow texted himself that photo from those in his phone. The fact that I had never seen that shot before was a bit mysterious, but I assumed all would make sense by the light of day.

When I arrived home the next evening, I asked to see the original text. Arthur told me, disappointed, that it had disappeared on its own. Thinking he had deleted it, I checked my own phone. Mine had vanished too! Yet I had seen the image he forwarded with my own eyes the night before.

I gave the incident little more thought – until that afternoon. I was sitting at my desk when Arthur ran down the hall. “Andrea, look!” he shouted. “Roxy just texted me the same photo!” I looked at his phone, and sure enough he had a text from Roxy, the loving woman who helps him care for the horses. She was at the barn, so I immediately walked there with Arthur’s phone in hand.

“Did you just send Arthur a text?” I asked, calmly. “No,” Roxy replied. “Why?”

I showed her the text, from her. Wide eyed, she pulled out her phone. “I don’t even have that picture,” she said. To be sure, she checked her sent texts (none) and her photos of the horses. None matched that shot.

I returned to the house, one part shaken and one part excited. How had this happened? Was there a tangible explanation, or – had Duke found a way (using sophisticated technology mind you) to say hello from the other side?

If you knew Duke, you will reconnect with his spirit when you look in those eyes.

If you knew Duke, you will reconnect with his spirit when you look in those eyes. –Arthur Chilcote with Duke, Christmas 2013.

Duke was a very special rescue horse. A victim of the cruel sport of “tripping,” he came to our safe haven with many physical and emotional scars. His body was aged and broken, but his spirit was strong. In the three years he was with us, he grew to trust humans and genuinely loved his main caregiver, Arthur. Our veterinarian marveled at his resilience, and shared our sadness when at last his body gave up at the end of the summer.

There’s one thing I know for sure, with every morsel of my being: There is no such thing as death. The humans we love who have passed from this earth, as well as our precious animal companions, can and do watch over us, connect with our spirits and send us their light. So then why should I find it remarkable that Duke, who had an extraordinary bond to our family, paid us a visit? I’ve pondered that question a lot over the past few days.

Where I’ve landed is this. The energy of surprise and wonderment was Duke’s Christmas gift. While we have faith in the great mystery of the eternal soul, it helps to have a tangible reminder once in a while. A perfect gift, a happy visit.

—This post appeared originally last-year December on The Spirited Woman where  Andrea is a weekly blogger.

A Gift of Peace

 What do I most want for Christmas? What I really want is peace.

A Gift of Peaceby Andrea Chilcote

What do I most want for Christmas? What I really want is peace. Peace. The Encarta dictionary tells me peace is “freedom from war.” Okay, that’s what I want, and I want more. It goes on to define peace as “tranquility, mental calm and harmony.” Ahhh. That’s it, that’s it.

And even as I write this wish, I know that peace is not something to seek. It is a gift that I (and all of you) already possess. It is a state of being available to us at any time we are willing to silent our worries, judgments and fears, and remain present to the wonders contained in the moment at hand.

this very moment by Andrea ChilcoteEarlier this week I received a message from a colleague thanking me for the gift of my latest book, This Very Moment, a photo-journal style collection of posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman blog. She told me that she had experienced a tough day, was uncharacteristically stressed and filled with negativity, and been unable to sleep. She opened the book in the middle of the night. Just a few simple reminders to become present to the feelings of her heart vs. out-of-control left brain analysis allowed her to sleep soundly and awake rested. At peace, in fact.

The ever-centered Dalai Lama says: “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” I know this is true, and so do you.

In the last several months, I have been hyper-aware of the effect of my energy – my thoughts, feelings and behaviors – on others around me. While I am far from the state of mastery of peace in every thought and action, awareness is the first step. With it, I am able to make a conscious choice to breathe then smile at the over-tired sales clerk, or relax as I talk to the scripted customer service representative. Yesterday I even found myself removing the irritated tone from my voice as I “spoke with” the automated airline reservation system. I know she’s not “real” – but I am, and it’s me who I harm with these feelings of annoyance. It’s my “peace” that gets disturbed.

Peace (or any other positive state of being you seek) will not be found in a package to open. This gift resides in each of our hearts. Open your heart this holiday season and I bet you’ll find it there.

This post appeared originally last-year December on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

Right Before My Eyes

Right-Before-My-Eyesby Andrea Chilcote

What treasures might you find this holiday season if you slow down, become present, and look and listen with a wide-open heart? The following post appeared originally last-year November on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

I am not an artsy-craftsy type, though I admire the handiwork of those who are. So when my friend suggested a project that involved rocks, paints and ribbons over the Thanksgiving holiday (mostly to occupy the children), I said I would enjoy watching, not participating. Until Madison found my bird.

We have an abundance of cactus on our desert hiking paths. When the larger varieties die, their wooden skeletons often break into small sections that have an uncanny resemblance to birds. It’s a bit hard to describe that here – the connected, curved sticks form “wings” and the joints look like a bird’s head – though it takes some imagination to see these birds, even on the trail. Trust me when I say there’s a likeness, one that can be enhanced with strategically placed recycled feathers and a little paint. For some reason I enjoy finding the skeleton remnants and making these birds, and over the years I have created a few for myself and others. I had been looking for one for the past few weeks for a Christmas gift for a friend.

On the morning of the craft party, I waited inside until everyone had the supplies set up on the picnic table on our front patio. When I walked outside, I was once again invited to join the activity. Wistfully, I stated, “I would do so if I had a bird, but I’ve not been able to find one.” Immediately in response, my ten-year-old friend Madison asked:  “Is that a bird?,” pointing to a shape on a little-used patio bench. Right before my eyes, there sat the most perfect “bird” skeleton.

Had I carried that treasure back from a hike more than a year ago? Two years? I can’t even recall doing it, though I’m not suggesting that the thing just materialized that morning. Most likely I found it, tucked it in a relatively safe place in the event I was inspired to bring it to life as folk art, and promptly forgot about it. (Even though I must have walked by it a hundred times since leaving it there.)

How often is what we seek right before our eyes? Recently I was asked to make a small contribution to an upcoming release, the book Something More by Randy Hain.  He asked me to comment on the career dilemma many face when examining questions of fulfillment and purpose in life and realize that their current job doesn’t give them the things they think they want and need. In the chapter entitled “Should I stay or should I go?” Randy, the managing partner in an executive recruiting firm, states: “Some of the issues these professionals were hoping to escape also exist in their new organization … because the problem or issue frequently lies within themselves.” He talks about the importance of self awareness – and self examination – before taking action.

Randy asked about my views on this topic, and I recounted the story of a client who was working with me to decide if it was possible to leave a difficult job. As it turns out, she was also trying to decide whether or not to stay in what appeared to be an unfulfilling marriage. By taking a somewhat painful but honest look at her life, she realized what she was seeking was actually there before her. She eventually left the job but reengaged in her marriage. That was ten years ago and she’s happy today.

Since the bird’s apparent manifestation, I have been “finding” other things that I would have told you weren’t there just moments before. Yesterday I found a friend’s long-lost Maui Jim sunglasses. They were in a desk drawer that I use regularly, and I’ve known she was missing them for a year. Never mind how they got there, which is a puzzle in itself – how did I not see them before now?

I’ve written about the skewed perception that occurs during the split second it takes for data to move from the receptors of our eyes to the interpretation of our brain. I’m going to hold the discovery of a cactus remnant and pair of lost sunglasses as a metaphor to remember to ask if what I seek is already mine. Surely my lifelong goal to show up, fully present, and pay attention to what’s before me will serve this new endeavor. Certainly my practice of listening to my heart first will allow me to avoid at least some of the tricks my clever mind likes to play.

What treasures might you find if you slow down, become present, and look and listen with a wide-open heart? The exercise is not limited to inanimate objects. In fact, it can change our lives.

______________________

Thought Leader Interview Series—with Randy Hain: This fall I began conducting a series of interviews with thought leaders in diverse fields. See this interview, featuring my colleague Randy Hain, focused on the topic of relationships and confidence.

Step Up! We All Must Lead

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

I’m feeling very hopeful.     Step Up_Gen Y

For more than 20 years I’ve been helping organizations cultivate cultures that are more participative, respectful, and learning-focused, where dialogue, development and learning are valued over hierarchy, and, ummm … leaders’ egos. There are leagues of people like me out there – and some days I wonder, “Why, if we’re making progress, are we all still in business?”  The need is still so great despite the efforts being made.

If you’ve ever worked for a company, and if you’ve ever had a boss, you probably know what a paternalistic, controlling management style looks like. Chances are you’ve experienced it, observed it – or maybe even acted in that manner. But this style of so-called leading is not limited to companies. It’s also played out in families, communities and social venues.

Now, the universe is conspiring to help, in a few big ways.

Some new teachers have arrived on the scene, the generation of our future, Gen Y. They’re an optimistic, success focused, confident and self-reliant bunch. And guess what? They don’t respond well to command and control. Recently, I had the honor of being interviewed by Ladan Nikraven of Chief Learning Officer Magazine for their online feature, Ask a Gen Y.  I suggested that the irony is that we have been trying for many years to promote the kind of corporate cultures in which Gen Y thrives, and along they come to help us walk our talk.

Economic realities and technological capabilities have converged to enable (or force) organizations to create what we call, in my world, “matrix” structures. People live and work in locations far from customers and team members, have more than one boss, and must influence peers in the organization without any direct authority over them. All of this means they have to collaborate, share information, and build an uncommon degree of trust.

Some individuals are responding to the changes I describe by breathing a little easier, because it simply feels more authentic. Some organizations are models for the shift. In fact, a client company has adopted Robert Greenleaf‘s “servant leadership model”  as a guidepost for employee behavior. And they mean it.

Others are fighting change. But a tipping point just might have been reached.

Why is this important for you? Because we are all leaders. If you’ve given your power to some person or organization, there’s never been a better time to take it back.

Several years ago, a participant in a workshop I was conducting lamented that she would never be promoted to a leadership position because she wasn’t allowed to lead in her current role, and thus was unable to demonstrate she had the potential. Upon further discussion, it turns out she defined “leadership” as having the position authority one gains from a title – the ability to unilaterally direct others and have them comply.

While that may seem naive to some of you, how many times have you failed to lead because you weren’t officially sanctioned to do so?

Personal development guru Martha Beck writes: “Part of the transformation of human consciousness is understanding that we can lead from any social or economic position, if we access our power to direct our own thinking, make our own choices, and respond to our own sense of right and wrong.”

Step up. We all must lead.

History Lesson

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

Watershed-MomentWho would we be without our history? The fact is, we are our history. We can remain hostage to it, and let come what may, sometimes repeating the sins of our fathers and mothers. We can work through it, growing a lot or a little from numerous experiences and therapies, formal and informal. We can even transcend it in those watershed moments that I believe present themselves many times in every lifetime if our eyes are open. But no matter the choice or the path, what we are left with is a product of those diverse experiences, and they define who we are today.

Personally I’ve never liked history. Most museums don’t appeal to me, and I’ve never seen the point of studying obscure facts about centuries past. I know that some people get great joy from collecting antique relics or studying their ancestry, but I’ve always been a present moment kind of girl, with an eye on the future.

So when I sat down to write “my story,” for the Spirited Woman 2014 Directory, I soon began to feel like I was dragging out ancient history. It felt uncomfortable. I demonstrate a degree of vulnerability in these posts every week, but rarely do I tell the whole thing about how I got where I am today. It just doesn’t seem that compelling, and never mind trying to do it in 500 words. But it’s become important now, very important.

Here’s an example of why. Just today I made a simple choice that created undue stress for me and those around me. I made one too many commitments. If everything had worked exactly as planned, it would have been fine. But of course, life never works that way and I was forced to make another choice. What did I eliminate? The one thing on my list I personally needed most. It was the right choice for the day – not the right choice for the life.

I could shrug this off and vow to do better next time. But this history idea is gnawing at me. How can I transform this pattern of behavior?

I know the answer. It involves acknowledging the reasons I am often driven beyond what’s reasonable, to achieve that which is not necessary. The most gentle way I have of examining the root of these core traits and drivers inside myself is through writing. (While I welcome the transcendent experiences, I’m a little too tired tonight).

So I have to go now, and finish my story. I hope I can inspire you to finish yours, too.

Visit the I AM an Every Woman Visionary board on Pinterest to find “Pins of Inspiration”; where I and my colleagues, are celebrating the upcoming December 12th launch of the 2014 Spirited Woman Directory: A Collection of Stories & Resources for An Inspired Life!