All as One

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The state of our world today makes me think about the course I took at Landmark years ago (and reviewed twice since, each time getting it on a deeper level).

Just to give you a little background, Landmark is a cutting edge transformational company that offers courses that support people in living a created life.  There is a curriculum for living, as they used to call it, that included 4 courses:

  • Landmark Forum – where you got your personal transformation
  • Seminar Program – where you practiced the tools in your life
  • Advanced Course – where you got to create yourself as a possibility in the world
  • Self Expression and Leadership Program – where you got what it takes to transform your own community

The first course was awesome, I remember being in it like it was yesterday.  In just one weekend, I have turned my life around.  I was a 27 year old Montenegrin girl living in New York, bartending for living even though I had a Master Degree in Liberal Arts (Film and Psychology) and struggling with my identity, relationships, finances and self-image.  Sunday afternoon of the Landmark forum was the moment I realized, down in my bones, that I create my life.  I reap what I sow and if I wanted different results, I have to be different, which would have me do things differently, which will, in turn, help me create a different life.

This will sound like a total brag because it is:  I have since, taken charge of my finances, turned them around, repaired relationship with people in my life, created different jobs until I created my own business, gotten married to an amazing man and had 2 children, created ton of art and have lived those 15 years with every cell of my being.  I was down at times but never too long and never without realizing what was stopping me, letting it go and going back up.  I have learned and acquired many tools since, but the transformational tools I got at Landmark have been crucial in my ability to turn things around.

As someone who always wanted to do well, personal transformation made sense.  I was often complimented on how I do things in comparison with others but since we don’t live alone on this planet, it wasn’t enough for me to know.

In the second course, called Advanced Course, for the first time ever, I learned about what it was like to be all as one. You see, in life, we often make sure we clean “our side of the road” and then we get right about how well we did make others around us wrong for not stepping up.  You can like being right only so much because eventually you become this superhero and everyone around you seems to be the jerk.  I know some buy into that story but it’s absolutely contradiction this notion that we are all one.  So, if we are all one, how do we deal with someone “misbehaving?”

I remember sitting in my course after a lunch break waiting for the leader to start.  When someone yelled: “when are we gonna start?” she got up and said: “As a community, we are not here.”  This puzzled us at first:

“But I am here!” “I don’t care someone else is late” “Why should we suffer because someone is not showing up” were just some of many things that people were shouting, all of us expressing the way we deal with the crises.  Some of us were annoyed to be slowed down by others, some of us completely resigned to that fact.  But the magical thing happened next: as we were each dealing with our egos, and willing to acknowledge it and get what was at stake, people start arriving.  As if by magic, when we were all willing to see that we were, in fact, one, everyone was in their seats.

Years later, in preparation to leading my own course, I reviewed this program.  Same conversation happened, except now, I knew that we weren’t going to start until everyone was in.  Josselyn, one of my favorite humans and leader at Landmark, stopped people like me dead in our tracks. Instead of making the conversation about everyone being in their places, she called those of us who were leaders and had us stand up accountable for not acting like leaders.  In my head, what went on was something like this: “Let them figure it out, I already know this!” which was sadly, just a different version of the initial upset with people misbehaving.

Fast forward, 2 years ago, right after my husband reviewed the course for himself, he insisted I did it too.  But this time, when we were coming back to the break, instead of waiting for Josselyn to start the conversation about integrity and “operating as one,” I got up and looked around and despite not wanting to act almighty, I started asking everyone with an empty seat next to them: “Do you know who was sitting here and can you get in touch with them?.”  Before you knew it, a few of us were stepping up assuring people were in the room and I have felt so much gratitude inside for what was available when I stepped up and demanded of others that they step up.

By the time next break rolled around, many people came to thank me and I realized, for all this times I considered myself a “leader” as a title or something I achieved, it is only when I put it in action that people were relating to me as a leader.  This was life altering to me and taught me a valuable lesson: “don’t wait for someone to show up and save you, do what you can do right now, do it to the best of your ability and be willing to demand leadership of others because we can’t do anything alone but we can each do our part”

In times like this, we are called to be bigger than we want to be.  I told my husband last night as I was just digesting everything that happened in my day: we are called to be the bigger versions of ourselves.  The way we are right now isn’t enough.  For me, that looks like taking care of kids, making sure that they are learning, playing, growing such that I can work on my books, help through my online programs, offer sessions for people to heal the parts of themselves that are still left disintegrated.  These types of events bring out  our own survival so it’s important to acknowledge where the fear is coming from and be sane in how we go forward.  I also send emails to teachers to help them in every way and families that are impacted by kids staying at home.  It’s just a beginning …

Now I ask you, what can you do right now?  How can you step up into the leadership where you are and let go of a thought that one person makes no difference?  A friend yesterday posted on Instagram a pot of food she made and offered to run for medicine and errands for elderly.  I was so moved by her generosity.  What can you do and how can I help?  Please share your ideas and this blog with all those you think it can inspire into action.

Proud Mama of a School Boy

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Later this morning, my son will have a ceremony to complete his Kindergarten and  officially become a 1st grader.  My emotions are running wild.  His  year was an adjustment for me and if I was to do it all again (which I will with my younger boy) I will definitely do my best to surrender more often.

Parenting can push our buttons in the most expansive of ways.  This year, it has pushed mine.  However, it also allowed me  to heal and appreciate not just the  work my son has done, but the work that I have done when I was his age as well as now  as his mom.  It helped me heal my inner child and do work to embrace my own past and see things from a different point of view.

Because all of us parents do what we think works, I insisted that my son complete his homework as soon as he came home from school, washed his hands and changed into comfortable clothing.  He had to read a book per day for school, and he read at least three.  His spelling tests were on Monday, he  mispelled a word  once the entire year and it was a silly mistake he often makes when he writes B instead of D.  We dealt with every issue that came our way with compassion and honest communication with him and his teachers.  We were, hands down, among the most involved parents.  The result of it is: his scores are all exceeding expectations, and he can easily do second grade reading and math, among other things.

All of this would be in vein if my son didn’t do his part.  “You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink.”  This year, I have had my butt kicked so many times to learn this lesson and understand that smart and independent kids will not just obey.  They need to understand why something is the way it is and what is expected of them, and they will remember, compare and challenge integrity of things and people because they are inherently wired to be honest humans.

In some ways, I don’t know why I am crying except, possibly, to release the tension, the intention and attention that has been 100% tuned in to my son’s success without compromising everything else that happens in life. I can appreciate summer break in a whole new way because I think our bodies do need to stop, refresh and reset before they create a new project or see another mountain to climb.

All in all, I am sitting  here in the dark of the night and  quiet of a household with a husband and 2 boys sound asleep to just allow my emotions to settle, to pour my heart onto these pages and remind myself to appreciate every moment.  In our world  where things can happen with a push of a button, I think we often forget that things are not built over night, but rather take consistency of time and effort.  It feels beyond awesome that I know we gave our all but also see the wonderful result of a job well done.

Thank you to God/Universe for giving me this gift of being a mother, for partnership of my husband and everyone that supports us on this journey, my mom probably the most but also our family, friends, teachers, doctors and even random strangers.  Thank you for the beautiiful  and kind boys and the opportunity to raise them.  Thank you for the opportunity to  celebrate our hard work this year and acknowledgement for all the work nobody even sees that we do, but that we relentlessy do every day of the year.

 

 

If You Are Tempted To Give Unsolicited Advice, Please Read This First

When you are someone who deeply cares about people and the world, you are bound to have opinions about how things can be better, what would make a bigger impact or how to achieve the best outcome.  If you are smart, involved and invested, you likely have opinions. Most people who never give advice are not necessarily kinder people, but often resigned that there is anything they can say that really matters or they simply don’t care.  If you want to tell people things, you are most likely passionate.  I truly respect that and it’s actually why I shifted the way I now hear other people’s advice even when I know I didn’t ask for it.

Regardless of our passion and best intentions though, it makes no sense to spend any of our time and energy if it was going to land in a black hole, or even worse, if we  are going to be misunderstood and possibly attacked for it.  It is, therefore, so important to step back and think twice before we say something.  There is a saying in my culture that roughly translates as: “measure many times, but cut only once.”  I would say, think it over many times before you actually speak, or communicate, what you want to say.

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I believe that, regardless of our good intentions, it is our job to assure that what we are wanting to say is not only said as clearly as we could possibly say it, but is not falling on deaf ears and is actually making a difference for the person we are speaking to. The most important first step is: Understand why you want to say what you are saying, look for the agenda you may have, resolve for yourself that your communication is not merely a reaction to something that happened to you, or a response to something that isn’t happening now.  If you really look at this, often times you may realize that you are reacting to something and it will make it less important for you to speak to the person you originally wanted to give an advice to. You may realize, this is your own inner insecurity and something that isn’t so much about what you are to tell others but what you need to resolve with yourself.

I attended many transformational programs in my attempt to better understand myself and others.  In one of my first seminars, during the conversations about selling the next program, I raised my hand to acknowledge the current seminar team (volunteers). The leader asked me if I was open to having a breakthrough. When I accepted, she asked: “what had you raise your hand exactly during the sales conversation and not a moment sooner?”  Initially, I really thought that this was on my mind an entire evening, but she insisted that there was no accident I interrupted the sales conversation and not a moment earlier.  My eyes teared up as I realized, I was ashamed that I couldn’t afford to take the next program and was considering volunteering as it would provide me with the training and I wouldn’t have to pay.  Suddenly, an entire group of 80+ participant was moved by my transparency.  Those who could afford to go on were moved by my courage and those that couldn’t now new the way to continue their journey of transformation even though they didn’t have the money to pay for it.

In short, I made a difference. In my case, what I had to say was uncovered with a support of a very trained seminar leader.  We don’t always have that luxury, but it is always wise to think through what we want to say and why we are actually saying it.

Even when we are clear that we really have something to say, it is never OK to just “dump” our view on someone else without first asking their permission.  Dumping is simply inappropriate, but asking permission to say something allows the other person to set themselves up and be ready to hear what we have to say.  This doesn’t guarantee they will like it, most people just want to avoid looking bad at all cost so they won’t take feedback well at all.  However, being granted permission usually prevents people from getting  very defensive, and we have a fair shot at being heard.

After having the kids, I noticed my husband would get defensive when I made suggestions to him.  Luckily, we talked about it openly and he told me that he didn’t get defensive because he disagreed with me, but because of how and when I brought it up.    In moments when my husband was pressed with time and already feeling like he was failing, when I made suggestion, it sounded to him more like a complaint than constructive criticism and he wouldn’t take it well.  In addition, he often saw it as lack of gratitude and appreciation for all the things that he actually was doing and doing well.  This now has me work harder on finding a way to still speak my truth instead of forcing it down when it is convenient for me.  I also do my best to include my gratitude before I was talking say anything and this has really improved our relationship.

Lastly, we want to ask, is what we are saying really making a difference to that person?  I often feel like downloading my advice in comment section on social media and especially when people already openly ask for advice.  But here is a question I ask:  what is a difference we are trying to make and frankly, why are we giving it away for free? Most people are not going around wanting to give free advice to people who are in desperate need for it.  We are far more likely to want to say something to people we feel are doing well otherwise, it’s just this one thing that we feel we can add.  It often comes from us wanting to sound smart and be seen as someone qualified rather than an actual commitment to making a difference.  This is why, lately, every time I have an urge to give unsolicited advice, I write my own post about it and post on my Facebook, Instagram, or in this blog.  At least this way, I am honest with the difference I want to make:  I want to be seen and heard for the wisdom I share with people.  It takes discipline, but it’s far more satisfying at the end.

When it comes to unsolicited advice, there are rare occasions when the urge to communicate is stronger than everything I mentioned above.  I believe in exceptions though.  There are times and situations where we know the other person can’t even see that something that we have so much knowledge about and because that is a blind spot for them.  If the damage of the other person not seeing something is high, we may take a risk and say something anyway.  But if we are to do that, we have to address the elephant in a room, and call it what it is.  It may sound as simple as: “I know this is the advice you never asked for, but my knowing X makes me want to say Y so strongly and I hope you can consider it as I am really wanting to make a difference as wish someone have done it with me.”

At the end of the day, the truth is,  nobody really has to listen to our musings.  As wise and important as we may think we are, I believe people have freedom to live their life the best way they know how and have no obligation to hear us out.  If we remember that, I think we can nail the best thing to do most of the time.