DECEMBER 5, 2018

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During times of significant change, whether it’s in our career, a relationship, or even a shift in our identity, the chatter in our minds can intensify. Like a ping pong ball that won’t stop pinging and ponging.

A common challenge I hear in my work with clients is either, "I'm caught between multiple ideas of what I should do next” OR "I'm just in a haze with no clarity at all."

This can happen for all of us.

What I often see underneath is a tug of war of competing inner voices. In some cases, the voices are so loud, we can allow ourselves to become paralyzed between opposing views. In other cases, the tug of war is so intense we can reside in a fog.

In an attempt to reduce the pain of internal clutter, a common strategy (whether it’s conscious or not) is to try and shut off, get angry at, or pretend these inner voices aren’t there. In other words, use the egoic mind to try and control itself.

I've done this too and still catch myself.

Although some of these ‘shutting down’ techniques may work in the short term, I find there's something else that can bring greater peace to our nervous systems and more inner clarity in the long run.

Letting the egoic mind be as it is.

This may sound counter-intuitive at first. However, in my experience, it’s where our true freedom lies, and it’s our most powerful doorway to the clarity we seek.

Why is this?

Deep within ourselves is a little voice that judges and interprets every experience we have. It even judges our inner experiences –– the very thoughts and emotions that flow through us.

So, in the original scenario above, this little judging voice sees the experience we’re having in our mind (the conflicting ideas of what we should do next in our life, haziness of what’s true in our business/career/relationship, and all the accompanying emotions), and it says:

These voices (and emotions) are driving me nuts.
Why is this happening to me?
Oh we go again! Not these endless thoughts.

In other words, all this inside of me shouldn’t be happening. And from there, our true source of suffering begins, and the deeper clarity we seek comes to a halt.


Because our mind gets amped up and goes to war with itself. Essentially, we’re just battling ourselves. This can wreak havoc on our bodies and our overall wellbeing.

Paradoxically, when we let the voices just be as they are and show kindness towards them, the mind naturally quiets down.

Showing kindness doesn’t mean believing the thoughts are true, or that the accompanying emotions reflect out true identity. It simply means showering them with the love of our own heart, like the love we’d show a frightened child.

In essence, when we accept what is there as it is and loosen the grip of what we think should be happening, it gives our minds and nervous systems a chance to relax. A part of our mind (like a child) begins to understand that it’s not doing anything wrong. It’s ok that these thoughts exist. It’s ok that these emotions exist. It’s even ok that there’s something in us that’s resisting our thoughts and emotions in the first place. We don’t have to be experiencing anything other than where we are right now and be present with it.

This is a true form of letting go.

Letting go isn’t something we ‘try’ to do. It’s a state of grace that we become aware of that already exists within us. When we open to this grace, the challenging thoughts and emotions start to let go of us, as they’re held in the light of love.

Awareness and loving kindness are the keys to inner freedom.

This takes ongoing practice to simply observe our inner world with kindness and, very often, the support of another to hold a space of presence so we can see the truth of what’s happening underneath.

From there the innate healing energy that lies within us surfaces and surrounds the frightened parts of ourselves with love.

It’s this place of deeper relaxation and understanding where we can experience more peace with not knowing the answer to something. With peace comes greater inner stillness and from there we can more easily hear the quiet whispers of our soul, if we choose.

Essentially, our deepest inner wisdom comes when we're not holding on so tightly. It's why so many people get their creative inspirations while they're in meditation, in the shower, out for a walk, engaged in a creative hobby, or playing with a pet.

As the mystic St. John of the Cross said, “In order to come to the knowledge that you have not, you must go by a way in which you know not.”

I keep that message with me daily for my own life.

How do you go about quieting the mind and opening the heart, at work, in the midst of tough decisions, or in other areas of your life?

Ryan is an Integral Coach, consultant and musician based in Northern California. Read more of his writing and learn about his offerings on his website

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NOVEMBER 1, 2018

stepping in podcastGrief can blindside and disorient the people directly affected—and those who wish to support them. In this episode Adam speaks with Richard Levi, who facilitates grief support groups and coaches individual clients in grief. He offers some ways we can ready ourselves to join our clients in the abruptly new world that grief often creates.

It's OK that You're not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture that Doesn't Understand, by Megan Devine

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OCTOBER 4, 2018

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“Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight & continue to pull back the veil.”
— Adrienne Maree Brown

Uncovered, yes. All of it at once, it seems, and undeniably. Racism. Sexism. Abuse. Privilege. Unjust war. Injustice, period. Environmental destruction. The myriad wrongs baked into our human existence, that have been driving us for centuries in misguided directions. Nobody can look away from how we’ve been hurting each other and killing the world.

Behind the veil, also, is astounding kindness. And incredible, blinding fear.

Fast and furious the revelations come, at disturbing, often triggering speeds. Calling into question what we’ve built our lives on. Yanking some out of complicity, out of sleep. Making others defensive and scared, having them burrow down into beliefs and hide behind catch phrases and false idols. Causing still others to be relieved and/or pissed that others are only just seeing what they themselves have known all along.

We’re bumpedy-bump-bump bumping through a kind of cosmic turbulence into new, uncharted territory, being forced to reckon with all we’re leaving behind. No problem can be overcome unless it’s examined. Here we are now, in the great examination. The great facing of consequence.

We are all required to be uncomfortable.

And we are all doing what we will with that discomfort: deny, wake up, be inspired, get impatient, get enraged. Be open and humble, admit to what we’ve done wrong, to how scared we are. Or double down on irrelevant narratives that reassure us that we needn’t change even as our world inevitably speeds toward newness. Or hover, frozen, unsure yet of what to do.

Likely different combination of these for everyone.

Hold tight to each other, yes, but not to what no longer serves.

What is your experience of discomfort in these times? How are you supported? How are you able to support others?

The 2019 Year Launch workshop & teleclass is a chance to immerse yourself in these questions. 

Joy is an Integral Coach and New Ventures West's Creative Director. More writing can be found on her blog

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Something like 56 million sensory impressions come into our body at any given moment. We walk around or drive around listening to music, talking to people, reading billboards, thinking/planning/evaluating and, in midst of all that, someone or something interrupts us and takes our attention in a different direction.

Our life could be seen easily as a series of interruptions, one after another. The real question, though, is what are we being interrupted from? Isn’t it often the case that what we are being interrupted from is an earlier interruption from something else?

How far back does this chain of interruptions go? And what was the starting point?

We have appointments, starting and ending times for events, dates to meet people, vacations that we put in our schedule, and the endlessly revolving cycle of recurring events, holy days, holidays, birthdays. All these interrupt our usual daily activities. But don’t we go ahead and interrupt them with our daily activities—at least those that we feel we must adhere to—no matter the significance of a given day? More interrupting of our interruptions.

In the midst of all this it is very difficult to keep track of what we are really up to in our life. Can we, in fact, be up to anything when we are tossed around in the way I’m describing (which is, I know, on the mild side of the description— many of us live much more tempestuous lives)? What is our through line? What is the genuine ground we’re standing on?

Oh, I know we all have our explanations. We can readily answer the question “what are you up to?” with a long, sometimes compelling list of our commitments, projects and relationships. Some of us have mission statements. Do these explanations, though, account for how we actually spend our time?

Is our life’s reality the explanation we give to it or is it what we spend our time doing? And does it count as “doing” when it’s not in our plan, when it’s something that we somehow bounced into from being interrupted from what was interrupting us?

Meanwhile, our time on earth is like a flash of lightning in the sky or like the morning dew on the grass: very soon gone.

Will we be like Tolstoy’s tragic protagonist Ivan Ilyich (the central character in his important short story, The Death of Ivan Ilyich) and catch on to our life when it’s too late?

The last question is the one that is probably at the origination point for Integral Coaching.

What can minimize our spinning off into random activity and return us most quickly to what is essentially important? If we don’t have good answers to that question, I think we do stand a good chance of ending up like Ivan Ilyich. So here are some of my answers.

The most important thing for us to remember is to keep coming back to our self. By our “self,” though, I don’t mean what is often spoken about as the “self” in our culture. I’m not referring to the collection of preferences, desires, fears, habits, socialized views, momentum of ego and so on that we protect with so much vigor and vehemence.

Rather I’m pointing to something much more mysterious that arises in each moment and connects us to what is happening and what has happened—in a sense, a frontier of potential unique responsiveness. The culmination of all biological/social wisdom that can possibly show up just now, just this way. A phenomenon to be studied in awe and reverence rather than to be owned or controlled or identified with. Something/someone never quite done but always in process, always unfolding, always developing—sometimes quite slowly, sometimes quite quickly and dramatically. Different each time we look and made different by our looking.

I’m saying that our most important task as a human being is to keep returning to this sense, this feeling that isn’t exactly an experience, that has much more precise content and boundaries, but that gives rise to all possible experiences. It’s returning again and again to the one who is present, here. The one who is aware. The task is as Jesus said to his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane (a wonderful evocative reference to our everyday life where so much is at stake and where we feel a huge pull to go to sleep): stay awake and keep watch. It’s what Buddha asked us to do when he said be a lamp unto yourself. It’s what all the prophets spoke about as they implored us to keep returning to the central sacred core of our being and our personal connection to something larger than our usual identity.

More than anything else it’s important for us to build in practices, rituals, reminders that return us again and again to our self. This self-remembering is the practice of breaking the trance of activity and habit that we so easily fall into and that makes us into automatons.

I think it’s our only chance to be alive.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of the Distinctions newsletter

Photo by Dan on Unsplash

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