I was trying to catch up on my Richard Rohr blog posts or at least place the new sub-theme this week in context.  Rohr takes a theme for an entire year and builds it out in sub-themes that he tackles each week or every couple weeks.  This week's theme is "Connecting with Universal Meaning."  I was intrigued enough to read on. After reading his post, I decided to listen to his 8 minute video introducing the theme for the year (2017) which is "From the Bottom Up."  There were several things he said during that video that inspired me to blog.  Yes, I know it's been a while.  I did have a vacation in there to Scotland...which is where my feature picture came from for today's SWOG blog entry.  Eilean Donan Castle is my favorite spot in the Highlands of Scotland and we were fortunate to have the sun come out just before we got there. But, I digress... Back to Rohr.  So back in the late 1990's all the world was talking about "paradigm shifts."  It was becoming an overused phrase and many CEO business leaders would suffer a gag reflex when someone in their HR or OD areas would use it.  So swallow hard, because I'm about to pontificate on our own personal "paradigm shifts!" Rohr quotes the author Thomas Kuhn who popularized the phrase, and it goes like this:
A paradigm shift becomes necessary when the plausibility structure of the previous paradigm becomes so full of holes and patchwork "fixes" that a complete overhaul, which once looked utterly threatening, now appears as a lifeline.
That quote really hit me as important in the journey of life.  We all create our own stories.  We create our own paradigms as we go through life.  Our stories are written initially by early influencers like parents, relatives, teachers, coaches and those who teach us and mold us according to their stories for navigating life.  Our stories help us choose and then rationalize actions and behaviors in accordance to our story.  We practice our politics and our religion according to the story we've adopted.  We choose our friends, our mates, our homes, our jobs according to the story we've crafted for ourselves. And here's the thing that nobody tells you early on in your story creation:  The story changes.  Yes, it does.  The story changes because something usually happens to us that makes us question our neatly created and well-maintained story. And, as the author says above, "when the plausibility structure of the previous paradigm (read here: story) becomes so full of holes and patchwork 'fixes' (read here: when we can no longer fit current events into our old story)... a complete overhaul now appears as a lifeline." This seemed to be saying to me:  Grab the lifeline.  Be flexible with your story.  Stay open to a different way of looking at things--including yourself.  Stay open to a different way of being.  Stay open to listening to the cues that prompt you to a different way of relating...to yourself...to others...to your spirituality. I think this is the underpinning of vertical adult stage development.  When your way of making meaning in life is no longer working for you; when it "becomes so full of holes;" it may be time for a personal paradigm shift.  There's a quote that goes, "Change your story, change your life."  I know that can work, too.  But, sometimes your life changes first and then your story doesn't seem quite right. Is it time to update the edition of your story?  I wonder how many editions we will write until it's all said and done?  

Being a Superhero

Somehow the day after the Free Comic Book Giveaway seemed like a good time to talk about indestructibility.  We often think of superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in those terms.  They've been through all sorts of dangerous plots and still come out the other side whole. You just know, however, that this plot--ah, I mean post--will have a twist.  So let's start with Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, and I will endeavor to apply his guidance to our journeys through life AND indestructibility.  

Dying Into Life

The Wisdom traditions look at dying and resurrection differently than we've been taught--at least in main stream Christianity.  And, just in case you're about to tune out because I've said something that typically bores or offends you, please read on.  Several of you are dealing with "destructibility" issues right now, and all of us will deal with them at some point in time during our lives.  Rohr says:
Death is not just the death of the physical body, but all the times we hit bottom and must let go of how we thought life should be...
Now, I've got your attention.  I've experienced "hitting bottom," and I've lived beside people who have lost children unexpectedly, who have lost spouses unexpectedly, who have lost parents unexpectedly, who have experienced debilitating health issues, who have lost jobs unexpectedly, who have lost life savings unexpectedly, who have lost siblings at a young age, who have experienced divorce unexpectedly, who have watched their companies experience rapid decline, and really, the examples could go on.  The examples of how "we hit bottom" are countless and usually don't happen just once in our lives. Here is where the plot gets interesting.  Let me continue to explain by returning to the quote from Rohr:
...must let go of how we thought life should be and surrender to a Larger Power.  And in that sense, we all probably go through many deaths in our lifetime.  These deaths to the small self (ego) are tipping points, opportunities to choose transformation early.  Unfortunately, most people turn bitter and look for someone to blame.  So their death is indeed death for them, because they close down to growth and new life. But if you do choose to walk through the depths--even the depths of your own sin and mistakes--you will come out the other side, knowing you've been taken there by a Source larger than yourself.  Surely this is what it means to be saved. Being saved doesn't mean that you are any better than anyone else or will be whisked off into heaven.  It means you've allowed and accepted the mystery of transformation here and now. If we are to speak of miracles, the most miraculous thing of all is that God uses the very thing that would normally destroy you--the tragic, sorrowful, painful, or unjust--to transform and enlighten you.  Now you are indestructible; there are no dead ends....This is not a one-time cosmic transaction, but the constant pattern of all growth and change.
 

What Does This Mean To Me?

I watch all of us hang on to ways of life, ways of thinking, ways of doing that no longer serve us.  I hear people say things like, "I just want to get through this so I can get back to my normal life." What if you're not supposed to get back to your normal life.  What if you're supposed to allow the "death" you are experiencing to transform your way of being, your way of thinking, your way of behaving?  What if there's a deeper message and you're being "pursued" to open yourself to the learning it can teach.  What if your greatest living is yet to come when you listen and allow the lessons to soak in, changing your thinking, your beliefs and, therefore, your outcomes?  What if you are indestructible because you are reborn to a new way of approaching your changed life? What if...?  Maybe you really are a superhero?!?!    
Wow.  I just came home from a celebration of life service honoring a 42-year old man who lost a very short battle to cancer.  He was the son of one of my former bosses, and I had met him only once-- so I was mostly there in support of his parents. After this 2-hour celebration filled with stories, laughter, tears and all emotions that go along with those, I feel like I know him better and more importantly heard the valuable lessons of how he lived. Zach resided in multiple places in the United States over his relatively short life.  He grew up in Pennsylvania but spent considerable time in New York City, Philadelphia, Colorado and finally California.  He majored in an engineering discipline in college but he ended up studying the ways of Native Americans in the west.  I remember his father scratching and shaking his head multiple times over the years when I would ask how his son was doing, and he usually ended with something like, "I'm not sure if he'll ever settle down and figure out what to do."  Of course his father--a classic baby boomer--was used to the ways of choosing a career discipline and following that discipline throughout your life until retirement. Ah, but the stories today.  The free spirit; the kindness; the sense of humor; the "being present" for people in his life; the choosing warmth, openness and helpfulness over impatience and aggravation; the making everyone that entered a room--even his hospital room at the end of his life--feel welcomed and honored; the singing in the shower and the car; the laughter; the hikes; the honoring nature; the loving animals; the being present for children.  I'm not kidding.  Person after person (and there were quite a few who spoke) had the stories to back up the character that was Zach. The last gentleman who spoke was a friend from Colorado.  He told us that just before he left for the airport to make the flight across the country for the service, he made a decision to change out of his dress clothes--so sure he was that Zach was laughing at him from somewhere in the spirit world.  And, instead he put on a flannel shirt, hiking pants, and substituted a duffel bag and a cooler for his suitcase.  He spoke of Zach the way everyone else had but somehow he captured the spirit of Zach in this last quote--from Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader from the 18th and 19th centuries:
Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.  Trouble no one about his religion.  Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.  Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.  Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.  Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.  Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.  Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.  When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.  Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.  If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.  Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs their spirit of its vision.  When your turn comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.  Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.
Zach was an accomplished photographer and he had his own blog where he clearly demonstrated his talent and love for nature.  You can access his blog here:  https://feralzach.com/tag/zachary-e-dautrich/ Many of you know I've been aware of red tail hawks flying close above me on numerous occasions in the last year.  Well, Zach loved red tail hawks and has numerous gorgeous shots of them on his blog.  On the way out of the service today, we were handed a post card with one of Zach's red tail hawk photos on one side and the Tecumseh quote on the other.  Wow.  There are messages here for me to learn. Finally, I will send a note to Zach's parents to thank them for the service and for Zach.  I think his father, in particular, now has his answer about Zach's calling.  It wasn't so much about what Zach was "doing" that mattered...it was what he was "being" that brought so much joy, respect, laughter and peace to so many people who filled that room today. Rest well dear SMOG.      
I have been struggling for a long time with what I perceive as the polarization of America.  It hurts to see us so dug into our convictions and so unwilling to listen to others' points of view. One might argue this time period is no worse than it was in the 1960's during the Vietnam conflict.  I know there are a handful of you who remember more than a few passing perceptions and news stories of that time.  Those who have those vivid memories will often say, in many ways, that conflict was worse.  Or how about Nixon and Watergate.  This was also a very divisive time in our nation's history.  Go back in time even farther and you have the Civil War and the slavery issue.  Talk about divisive--when we had a whole set of states seceding from the Union. Perhaps the difference between Civil War times and now is the accessibility of information through dozens of broadcast media sources as well as explosion of social media outlets.  In addition, I learned something else on Sunday of this week when I listened to a report on CBS Sunday Morning, so I did a bit more research and this is basically what I found:
The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was — in the Commission's view — honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC, which was believed to have been under pressure from then President Ronald Reagan, eliminated the Doctrine in 1987. The FCC formally removed the language that implemented the Doctrine, in August of 2011. The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.
Ah.  Interesting.  The year 1987 marks the birth of broadcast ideologies without a necessity to present opposing points of view.  So, now I get how the likes of Rush Limbaugh on the right and Rachel Maddow on the left can get away with saying things that seem--to those of us in the relative middle--unbelievably outrageous.  It also explains why polarization is alive and well in these times.  Naturally we all have biases based on a variety of influences in our lives, and you don't have to go too far to find someone in either national media or social media outlets who supports our particular viewpoint.  And we all know that--as a general rule--we tend to be drawn to people like ourselves--who look like us, who sound like us, and who believe like us.  It's harder to be in relationship with people who have divergent points of view.  It's hard to listen to them and open our minds to the views they believe.  It's hard.  Truly hard. And, based on the Adult Stage Development numbers, a majority of Americans don't open our minds to others' perspectives (Skill Centric stage or earlier).  In the old days (my God, I sound like my mother right now!), our elders were story tellers and through their stories they imparted the wisdom and perspectives that they had learned through life.  Our elders' wisdom often came as a result of situations they experienced where their viewpoint was not always the one, the only, and the correct way of looking at things.  And, it usually came when these elders witnessed the youth in their lives experiencing a hurtful situation where the elder could use the story to help the youth learn wonderful life wisdom. Finally, I'm not blaming everyone else for this phenomenon.  I struggle with polarization myself.  I struggle to listen to others who have differing points of view.  I am having to constantly challenge myself, and I often fall short.  But, I'm now one of those elders (eek!)  Don't I have an obligation to push myself to open my mind?  Shouldn't I learn differing ways to look at things?  Shouldn't I refrain from judgment?  Shouldn't I be patient with myself and others?  And, if I'm listening attentively, can I expect--should I expect--the person who is speaking to me will turn around and extend the favor? Hmmm.  Some food for thought and further conversation.      
I found a meaningful quote on a Ten Thousand Villages blog post, written by a woman who has found a way to make her life work even within a challenging economic and sociopolitical system. It was a great reminder for me.  I love sharing my journey on this blog.  I have always been motivated by trying to help others, as well as by sharing my frustrations, joys and learnings.  I have to always remember, however, that my way is not THE way.  It is not the one, the only and/or the RIGHT way.  It's my journey.  Yours is your own. If these posts help you to think, wonderful.  If they help you to learn, fabulous.  If they keep you in touch with who I am becoming, super.  If they inform your development, cool.  If they make you think I've lost my marbles, that's okay too.  It's all good. Journey on, my dear SWOG friends!      
Sometimes when I read a passage I find myself saying, "Huh?" Having no idea what the author just said, I scratch my head, read it again, and if I still don't get it--I move on.  Maybe I'm just not meant to get it yet.  Maybe I haven't reached that level of discernment, enlightenment or whatever other "ment" I'm meant to reach at that particular moment. I've decided, however, it shouldn't keep me from trying. Cynthia Bourgeault is one of those authors who I can sometimes "get" and sometimes I scratch my head.  She's been a guest writer in Rohr's blog over the course of the last couple months.  She is so deep that I often lose her on the way down into the cave mountain she's trying to take me. So, when her post today made sense to me...it was a moment of excitement, encouragement, and wonderment.  In other words, the "ment's" were working to form a great big "Ah.  Ah Ha" today. What does it say to you--even if it is bemusement?  
The Opposition Is Never the Problem Sunday, March 19, 2017 This week Cynthia Bourgeault, one of CAC’s core faculty members, continues exploring how the Law of Three can be put into action to facilitate positive change in the world. We’ve been exploring the Law of Three in a theoretical way, getting acquainted with its major precepts and a few of its peculiarities. But what do some concrete examples of Law of Three in action look like? Consider the following Law of Three triads: seed/moist earth/sun = sprout flour/water/fire = bread plaintiff/defendant/judge = resolution sails/keel/helmsperson = course made good But these are only textbook examples, while the Law of Three is all about action. It is one thing to recognize a Law of Three configuration in a theoretical exploration; it is another thing altogether to recognize it in actual life and be able to work with it confidently and skillfully. The single most liberating insight to come out of my work with the Law of Three was the realization that what appears to be the resisting or opposing force is never actually the problem to be overcome. Second force, or holy denying, is a legitimate and essential component in every new arising: no resistance, no new arising! That realization in and of itself radically rearranges the playing field, shifting the focus away from trying to eliminate the opposition and toward working collaboratively for a more spacious solution. According to the Law of Three, once an impasse is reached, it can never be solved by going backward but only forward, into that new arising that honors all the players and brings them into a new relationship. (Einstein seems to have been on to this insight in his famous dictum that a problem can never be solved at the level at which it is created.) The three forces are like three strands in a braid; all three are required for the weaving. One woman in a group I was working with was almost instantly able to turn around a very difficult standoff with an ultraconservative bishop when she realized that his resistance was not the problem to be solved but a given to be worked with. With an almost visceral “Aha!” she relaxed her sense of polarization and was stunned to learn the next day that he had miraculously softened his stance. While it was not clear to her who had actually been the broker of third force here, it was clear to her that the two relaxations were not unrelated. One can only imagine how greatly the political and religious culture wars of our era could be eased by this simple courtesy of the Law of Three: (1) the enemy is never the problem but the opportunity; (2) the problem will never be solved through eliminating or silencing the opposition but by learning to hold the tension of the opposites and launch them in a new direction. Imagine what a different world it would be if these two simple precepts were internalized and enacted.
Ah.  Ah Ha.
OK, after working at Ten Thousand Villages for almost four weeks now, I have become an absolute Fair Trade convert.  And, of course, I have to put in a plug for Ten Thousand Villages whose founder--Edna Ruth Byler--is recognized as the Fair Trade movement's originator. You, too, can be part of the story. View online: http://www.tenthousandvillages.com Of course, I can't help but put Edna Ruth's story in SWOG blog--after all, she sure sounds like a Strong Woman of Grace.  You can read how she got started here:  http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/about-history/ And check out their wonderful blog called "Mosaic," which can be accessed on their site or at: http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/mosaic/categories/fair-trade/ It won't take you long to see where swog lady is spending her paycheck!!! Enjoy!
Follow-ups are important for a number of reasons. Understanding, closure, clarity, answering un-answered questions to name a few. Sometimes (read here--"many times") we make assumptions about communications that we shouldn't.   There's that tricky judgment thing again!!!   Below is a follow-up post from Rohr to my last one on the Grace of Humility:
Contemplative Christianity Is the Great Tradition Thursday, January 19, 2017 I believe the teaching of contemplation is absolutely key to rebuilding Christianity, otherwise our very style of “knowing” is off base and everything that follows is skewed. Our untransformed brains are hardwired to focus on the negative and to dualistically label and divide, it seems. While rational critique and logical judgment are important for practical matters, they can only get us so far. We need nondual consciousness—the mind of Christ—to process the great questions of love, suffering, death, infinity, and divinity and to be unafraid of diversity and welcoming of union at ever higher and more expansive levels. We will explore contemplation and nondual consciousness more in a few weeks, but for now let me briefly define the practice of contemplative prayer: In a silent posture of self-emptying, we let go of habitual thoughts and sensations and connect with an Inner Witness (Romans 8:16)—God’s presence within—that gazes back at ourselves and out at reality with an Abiding Love. Contemplation is learning how to offer “a long, loving look at the Real.” [1] Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have a long but intermittent tradition of teaching contemplation. Catholics today may know the word contemplation, but that doesn’t mean we know the actual how or the important why. Instead of teaching silent mindfulness, in recent centuries the church emphasized repetition of rote, wordy prayers, and “attendance” at social prayer. Even most of the great contemplative Orders (Cistercian, Carmelite, Poor Clare, etc.) now recognize that they stopped directly teaching the practice of silent prayer to their own members. Contemplative prayer was largely lost after the dualistic, tribal fights of the Reformation and the Enlightenment. The utter vulnerability of silence did not allow us to “prove” anything and so was no longer attractive. The Protestant tradition does not have a strong history of contemplation beyond a few isolated individuals who discovered it on their own. The Orthodox tradition had it well-documented on paper and in a few monasteries, but it was far too tribal go where contemplation always leads—toward universal compassion, inclusivity, and nonviolence. So most traditionalists today are not traditional at all! They know so little about the Big Tradition beyond their ethnic version since the last national revolution in their country. That is what happens when you move into a defensive posture against others. You circle the wagons around externals and non-essentials, and the first thing to go is anything interior or as subversive to your own ego as is contemplation. Of course this is precisely what is essential for true transformation. Without it, we have the French and Spanish Catholic hierarchies largely opposing their own needed revolutions and reforms, English and German bishops blessing all their wars, and the majority of Orthodox hierarchies co-operating with communist dictators against their own people. This is the bad fruit of non-contemplative Christianity, which Thomas Merton was one of the first to be public and vocal about in the 1950s. Christians need to retrieve our own tradition of accessing and living from an alternative consciousness. First we have to know that the Christian contemplative tradition even exists and once flourished. We’re not simply borrowing from Eastern religions and modern neuroscience. It is very clear in the Desert Fathers and Mothers, many of whom fled to the desert in the fourth century so they could practice what they felt was authentic Christianity, unhindered by the priorities of the new imperial religion that was based largely on externals. The alternative contemplative tradition persisted in Celtic Christianity (outside the Roman Empire); in the Eastern Church’s collection of texts, called the Philokalia; and in the monastic history of all the ancient Orders of the East and West, which only sometimes taught it directly or indirectly (e.g., Dionysius, John Cassian, the monastery of St. Victor in Paris, the Franciscans Bonaventure and Francisco de Osuna, and the final explosion in the Spanish Carmelites). Otherwise, it was more exemplified in highly transformed people who came to it through conscious prayer, love, or suffering. There were anomalies like the Jesuits, Jean Pierre de Caussade and Teilhard de Chardin, and very many women foundresses of communities who show all the fruits of a contemplative life. Women and lay people had more easy access to contemplation precisely because they were not seminary and liturgically trained. Like Julian of Norwich, they learned it on the side and on the sly and often through suffering!
  Enough said for today.  
I've been thinking about this topic for a long time.  In fact, it's part of what prompted this blog in the first place.  In my "About SWOG BLOG" section, I write about the struggle many women have with being strong, confident and self-assured while maintaining dignity, grace, approachability and humility. Brené Brown talks about this in her book The Power of Vulnerability.  She has worked on this not only through her research but personally, herself, to the point that she uses a mantra to try to combat shame and maintain the delicate balance between strength and grace.  She repeats the following "authenticity mantra" when she finds herself in sensitive situations including when she is triggered by events and people in her life:
Don't shrink; don't puff up; just stay in your sacred ground.            Brené Brown
Humility, I think, is something we develop toward over time.  Rohr said the following in a recent blog post on humility:
Space, time, and patience reveal the patterns of grace.  This is why it takes most of us a long time to be converted.
I am speculating--very unscientifically by the way-- that we go through phases or stages on our way to the potential of humility, and there are a variety of reasons why we struggle to get to a balance of strength with grace.  Let me mention a few here in this post and, as always, I'm interested in your comments and wisdom.  Please keep in mind, I'm reflecting from my own experience and perspective; yours will add to the richness of the post. As women we are notoriously insecure, frequently compare ourselves to others, are more prone to experience shame including body image issues, and we are generally convinced our worth isn't as substantial as that of our male counterparts.  So we somehow end up in an inferior state of mind, in jobs where we don't work to our potential, in unequal pay situations, in a state of burnout from continually trying to prove ourselves to-----well frankly----to ourselves....and so on.  When we are feeling these things, according to Dr. Brown, we tend to "shrink" or move away from the shame we feel. Then somewhere along the way we get angry about all that.  That's when we start to "puff up."  The large chip shows up on our shoulders, and we tell anyone who will listen and a lot of people who don't (listen) that we deserve "more."  More respect; more money; more recognition; more adulation; more proof of love; more, more, more.  At that point the pendulum has swung to the other side, and we are women-- hear us roar.  In this reaction, we're using shame and blame to fight our shame.  We are no closer to the actual issue when we "puff up."  The actual issue is loving ourselves, accepting ourselves and our imperfections, being honest with our shadow sides and understanding what triggers us.  We're just directing our shame outward. Some women never "puff up" but they turn that anger inside and it shows up in a form of depression.  They are convinced they will never be good enough so why even bother to try.  Self-defeating behaviors show up here and the spiral downward only continues.  This is another form of "shrinking." I also think because of this insecurity, we are prone to look for affirmation in not-so-healthy ways.  This is the classic people pleaser.  This is where we fall into relationship traps.  This is where we make job changes for the wrong reasons.  This is where we feel a need to tell people how special we are or celebrate out loud things that may be best absorbed within our spirits.  We crave others recognizing our "superiority," and we do a lot of "resume-sharing" and one-upping during conversations, cocktail parties, and work events. Two other potential threats to leading a humble life are knowledge and experience.  In his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Deepak Chopra writes:
The Yoga of Understanding has been referred to...as the razor's edge and we are cautioned to tread carefully on this path.  As we gain understanding about the laws of nature we run the risk of arrogance.  Arrogance inflates the ego and the ego overshadows the spirit.  The original sincere quest for discovery leads to an alienation from the very source which intimacy was sought.  Truly great scientists are known for their humility.  For even as they explore and unravel the secrets of the unknown, the unknown looms larger and becomes evermore mysterious.  Humility leads to wonder which leads to innocence.  The return of innocence invites us to enter the luminous mystery of life and surrender to it.  Yoga of Knowledge can be a wonderful path if we are mature enough to understand that there are seductive temptations that may entrap us for awhile in diversions of the intellect.
Rohr writes:

But the Bible does not make transformation dependent on cleverness at all; rather, transformation is found in one of God’s favorite and most effective hiding places: humility. Read the opening eight Beatitudes in this light (Matthew 5:1-12). Such “poverty of spirit,” Jesus says, is something we seem to lose as we grow into supposed adulthood.

We all need what Jesus described as the mind of a curious child (see Matthew 18:1-5). A “beginner’s mind,” which is truly open and living in the now or in what some call “constantly renewed immediacy,” is the most natural and simple path for all spiritual wisdom.

Experience, knowledge and a degree of "success" in the career world can lull us into "puff-dom" (that just sounds like a cool new word--doesn't it??!!).  We just KNOW what's the right way because it was our way of doing things that reaped rewards.  Judgments and polarizations abound and anything that resembles a different path from ours has to be the WRONG way or at least inferior to our way of thinking or doing.  All or nothing.  Right or wrong.  Good or bad.  My way or the highway.  This can also be disguised more subtly as "counsel," "advice," or "wisdom" from one who "knows the ropes."

The reason I speak about all this is because I have struggled with it.  I have lived it.  I seek to develop away from it.  And, I think it's like smokers who quit or try to quit.  Many of them have difficulty being around other smokers.  At first, it tempts them to start smoking again, and they have to guard against being sucked back into the habit.  Self promotion, judgment, finger pointing and competitiveness are very contagious.  Just like gossip, it's easy to get drawn back in.  Then later, the former smokers struggle with being around the smoke.  They are hyper sensitive to it, and it just flat out annoys them.  They become a bit self-righteous about the behavior they used to engage in.  So goes the recovering "puff-upper" (ANOTHER new word!!).  For those of you following the adult stage development reading, this is why the "Individualist" or "Self-Questioning" stage has difficulty with the "Expert" or "Skill-Centric" stage folks.  They are both self-righteous in their meaning making. How to overcome shrinking/moving away, people pleasing and/or puffing up?  Loving and accepting ourselves first--whatever that takes--maybe through coaching, counseling, meditation, spiritual studies & practices, self-improvement reading, Ted Talks by thought leaders like Brené Brown and whatever else works for you.  Taking care of the company you keep because it does impact you.  My coach likes to say, "Keep yourself out of the line of fire."  Try not to subject yourself to people and situations who try to shame you, try to suck you into a competitive relationship, and/or demonstrate the kinds of behavior that you are trying to overcome.  It doesn't mean you can't regard those people with love and compassion, but like the addict, you may not be able to be around them and stay free of the behavior you are trying to change.  And finally, Rohr's quote above is a good source of advice...maintain a "present" focus and approach life with curiosity instead of a knowing certainty. Those are ideas I've pulled from men and women much wiser than me.  What are your ideas? "Don't shrink; don't puff up; just stay in your sacred ground."   IMG_1863  
Actually, I think the title of this post is a bit misleading.  I'm not sure there's anything particularly graceful about stage transition based on what I can discern thus far.  Maybe it's a blessing and therefore "of grace" that one goes through stage development.  I'm not sure about that yet either.  There are certainly no guarantees of being happier on the other side--or at least the instructors Barbara Braham and Chris Wahl noted that in their two day conference I attended back in September. I've included a couple of their slides and a few other pictures with quotes to help me attempt to explain this topic.  First, some quotes on Stage Transition (click on picture to make it larger):   slide1   How do you know when you're going through a stage transition?  (And, I do use "stage" before transition purposefully, because according to Barbara and Chris, you can go through a transition, but not necessarily develop to a new "meaning making" stage at the same time).  I really love the Bridges quote to attempt an answer to that question:
One way or another, most people in transition have the experience of no longer being quite sure who they are.           ~William Bridges
Life transitions include things like career changes, relationship changes, residence changes, education, health changes, life phases (parenthood, empty nest, retirement), and aging.  Just because you experience those changes doesn't mean you are necessarily going through a developmental transition.  The latter are more evidenced by the following (from Braham & Wahl):
  1. Dissatisfaction with aspects of the current stage
  2. Experiencing the limits of current meaning making
  3. Life is getting more complex and demands expanded meaning-making
  4. Exposure and attraction to later stages of meaning-making (education, friends, colleagues)
  5. Purposeful, intentional development
  6. Mysterious reasons
  So, developmental transitions are often prompted by life transitions, but they don't have to be.  In my case, life transitions started the process moving and then I would point to numbers 1, 2, 4, 5 and perhaps even 6 as reasons behind my feeling tugged and unsettled. Speaking of unsettling, here are the stages you typically go through when experiencing a developmental transition:   slide1   I think I've given you plenty to digest for the next few days (I know, I know...perhaps the next few months!!).  Some of the implications of these transitions include (and I'm quoting the seminar leaders here): losing friends who have no idea what is the matter with you right now; career indecision; choosing different activities and people to hang with because the former people and things don't fit so well anymore; drive seems missing or non-existent; you or others experience you as volatile, uncertain, ambiguous, indecisive, unclear, and so forth. I can't help end this post with two wonderful quotes.  Namaste everyone! owning-our-story-quote-brene-brown   lost-quote-thoreau