Thursday, October 9, 2014

Gifting

As I’ve been growing in my journey of gifting, I’ve been feeling more resonant with certain types of gifts over others.  In thinking about why that is, I’m finding that gifts deeply aligned with values of interconnectedness, nature-based wisdom, and unconditional love seem to be what makes my heart sing most.  Gifts that invite us to transcend the delusion of the tangible despite their tangibility :)

 

Some ideas to that end (from gross to subtle, in each case inclusive of mentioned values), would love thoughts from others-

- food

- hands (labor work)

- reusables

- books

- art (handmade) / design

- offerings from the marginalized

- seeds / compost / plants

- hugs / touch

- coursework

- joint work (eg doing a 21 day challenge together)

- connections / introductions

- links (stories/videos/music/ideas)

- smiles / words

- personal vulnerability (real-time, written, giving cherished possessions, receiving with grace)

- psychological capacity / listening (for when others are triggered or generally in position of need)

- psychological depatterning (so as to reduce the conditions for others to be triggered, etc)

 

These are all ‘small things’ that can grow to new ways of being.  And for those who are already living into these values, I’ve found the same gifts being helpful, and also more general support (eg money to homeless may go for alcohol, money for middle class may go for ipad, money for compassion entrepreneur may go to spread the ripple of connection).

 

In noticing the spectrum, I feel that the whole thing is of value, and being able to play across the spectrum of giving is worthy of aspiration.  A question I’ve been asking recently – how to be in a space of offering, in every interaction, as inclusive of the full spectrum as I can be?  A key reason that question arose is that I have received SO MUCH across this spectrum, and the sense of abundance has led to the wish to share with others.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

First money, then empathy

A question – In companies, how to put inner development on equal (or better?) footing as financial return when money is

-an immediate marker of success

-feels scarce and therefore worth making extra effort for

-creating a whirlpool of activity that makes creating time for efforts not directly affiliated as ‘superfluous’

???

 

I see this from time to time.  ‘We don’t have time for taking on personal transformation practice, its quarter end… or we’re in a cash crunch… or we just need to finish our funding round’  I notice that the same happens within myself – ‘I don’t have time for practicing shift within, I have too much work… I’m tired… I’m already doing lots to help the world… I have done enough already.’ 

I certainly understand this feeling.  Yet at the same time, if we all need to wait for financial freedom before we can invest in shifting our mindsets, not sure we’ll get there.  We see this in business as we notice that the companies that invite emotional intelligence training, mindfulness classes, etc tend to have massive margins.  Money first.  Even within business, the ‘leadership trainings’ seem to happen to those closer to the top of the hierarchy; again success/money leads, development follows. 

I’ve been working (with plenty others) on how to lower the bar for engagement so an organization can participate as a cohort.  Small time requirement, an opportunity to change the conversation in the workplace, and continue to grow slowly.  I get the sense that neural shifts don’t happen overnight, and single individuals who do that work in an organization cannot shift systems until critical mass of others go through similar transformation.

Look forward to a world where more of us engage explicitly in the practice of personal transformation.  Not just in private and on our own time, but part and parcel to what our companies are providing in the world.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Things I’ve been sitting with recently

Short stream of consciousness -

-integrating vipassana practice with dialogue for dissolving inner resistance, bringing implicit beliefs to light, inviting shadow and expanding worldviews
-rooting in subtle but pervasive daily practice
-integrating divine masculine and divine feminine
-how to be aware and learn from times when I emotionally trigger others (both explicitly and more subtly, both of which I am quite adept at doing)
-compassion as a practice.  intentionally holding the mental state of compassion when engaged with another
-inviting resistance when I see it within myself, to walk towards that which is uncomfortable (as best I can)
-seeing relationship as a field in which to develop consciousness
-‘feeling’ as a primary tool for experiencing and relating (while still utilizing ‘thinking,’ but in a more integrated manner)
-learning how to live in such a way that acknowledges that the ecological structure I see in nature around me is similar to the ecological structure of my own mind
all of this is very ‘in process,’ and I’m finding I have a lot of energy for it.  deepest form of regeneration I’ve seen is from developing the wealth within.  I am grateful.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Insights from Vipassana :)

Last month, I attended another Goenka Vipassana retreat. In attempt to capture some of the insights I thought I’d write another entry.

First, I started to notice a different seriousness in my approach, but in an effortless way. Rather than force it, there was a different level of effort manifesting during the sitting process without my conscious will to force it. I found that to be really amazing – almost like witnessing the early growing of a plant, something natural, without force.  The word meditation is a bit limiting in this aspect, as there are a million ways to ‘meditate.’  In my case, I have had a tough time to stay with practice in my mind, even though my eyes are closed and I ‘look the part.’  On this occasion, there was more inner strength to stick with it, not just casting a nice statue LOL.

Second, questions on the specifics of the practice became much more pronounced. The earlier directions of ‘focusing on breath’ or ‘shifting attention across bodily sensations’ became too imprecise, and I started asking more specific questions. In effect, I started to understand my mind’s tendency to cheat/take shortcuts/stick to old habit patterns and it became clear that sitting in silence and simply repeating old patterns isn’t really any different from the same happening in day-to-day life.

Third, simplicity and service has taken on new meaning for me. Both are more and more tools to shift the gross level mind pattern more and more towards seeing reality. Without simplicity, the minds subconscious pattern of being lost in acquiring/managing possessions and security is not addressed. Without unconditional service, the minds pattern of reconnecting everything to an ‘I’ is not addressed. It is possible to practice simplicity and service without the intention of addressing these patterns. It just so happens that holding this root intention seems to lead to simplicity, service, and over time the regeneration of holistic wealth for all.

On the final full day, where lovingkindness meditation is introduced, I have historically had quite emotionally powerful experiences. This occasion was no different, although perhaps more intense as gratitude wells up more and more in life. I have done nothing consciously to deserve being exposed to a path that has created so much joy from within and the ending of so much suffering – even at my ridiculously early stage of practice. While this continues to be a challenging practice, and one I do not necessarily cling to as ‘the path,’ the value I’ve seen has been so amazing and powerful that I’m drawn to tears with regularity – and I’m grateful for the emotional fluidity to experience that!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Moving to San Francisco

presidio.jpg

Definitely a belated note, but as of August 2013 I’ve moved to San Francisco!  Below is a bit of the journey as to why this move happened after 8+ years in NYC. I’m so grateful for my time there, filled with people who I hope to stay connected to for life (I currently still am there 25% of the time).  I currently live and work in the Presidio, picture above.

 

The reason for the move was multidimensional.  First, to be closer to noble friend community in bay area as well as parents in Arizona.  Second, to shift out of a pace of life/lifestyle in NYC that did not feel healthy or sustainable to me long-term.  Third, and most relevant for this post, is the ongoing shift in my life’s work. 

 

For the last 4ish years, I’ve been involved in the field of investing for social/environmental benefit.  Another way to look at it is that I was looking for an ‘organizational container’ in which to practice the values I was looking to cultivate.  Coming from the management consulting world, the idea of melding capitalism with bettering the world sounded powerful.  Armonia has been the primary container for this and I am eternally grateful for both the relationships and opportunity to delve deeper within, which the group continues to support today.

 

In that period, my own approach has evolved, and I’d frame it as 3 distinct frames of thought.  First was the idea of ‘impact.’  Impact Investing as a term was coined by the Rockefeller folks a few years back and speaks to the broad importance of using the engine of finance to contribute towards ‘the good.’  This field has grown considerably in the last few years and includes some amazing people who have helped shape me.  However, as time went on, I started to see the limitations of impact – in effect, that impact still needed to follow the rules of the financial system, which is infinite financial growth at any cost.  Inevitably, this leads to destruction of non-financial wealth to keep up with growth (eg clearcutting, longer work hours, etc).  In regular investing, this means we chop down forests to keep growing consumption.  In impact investing, we may still chop down forests, but we’re doing so to build ‘sustainable’ housing.  Better than otherwise, but in some ways we are simply slowing down the rate at which we’re running off the cliff.

 

Based off this understanding, the second frame we started to implement was that of ‘regeneration.’  What does it take to use financial wealth to build non-financial wealth?  We started looking at the roots of non-financial wealth and found soil-building and community-building to be key.  A few of the investments this led to was in the field of Holistic Management along with ecosystem regeneration.  Of course, to make this work, we still needed to keep the projects financially viable, hence the investment approach was of value.  As time went on, I kept feeling that there was a glass ceiling here as well.  I was becoming more and more aware of the crises facing the world and was trying to understand why regeneration as we had framed it wasn’t scratching the itch.

 

In the last year+, the frame that has guided my thinking has been around ‘transformation,’ specifically inner transformation.  In an attempt to ‘do our part’ in serving the greater good, it became more and more clear that entrenched systems (financial, educational, healthcare, etc) were in place to reinforce a way of thinking that was the root cause of our global crises.  Tweaking the system wouldn’t fix the fatal flaw, and forcing the system to change wasn’t an option.  So I/we started to look into understanding how systems change and found that it starts within each of us and follows non-linear paths.  Helping facilitate a shift in personal-orientation, from ‘me’ to ‘we’ (starting with ourselves) thus became a heavy focus. 

 

The interest in transformation has led to development of practices to bring generosity/mindfulness/compassion into the business environment through consistent action and reflection practice.  I’m now piloting with the help and support of both Armonia and RSF Social Finance (along with ServiceSpace, which has been holding this worldview for some time now).  We are even using the gift economy model as an approach to experiment on this and in investments as a whole, talk about a leading edge investment approach!  With RSF and ServiceSpace being based in SF and having experimented with these approaches for many years, it became clear that having more time in these spaces was important in the next stage of the unfolding (hence the move).

 

As we’ve played with these pilots, the stories coming out of the process have been amazingly inspiring and in some cases stunning.  Entire strategies have been shifted, companies have incorporated ‘gift culture’ into their beyond profit business models, families have shifted their relationships, and we’re at the tip of iceberg.  Funnily enough, this all is catalyzed through simple group practices such as a 21 day kindness challenge, which actually has some powerful research behind its effectiveness.

 

To be clear, I do believe that impact investing and regenerative investing are needed in this world, and these approaches to social enterprise are the places where I’m connecting today as well.  However, to develop products/services ONLY at that level, without addressing inner transformation as mission critical to a social enterprise is leaving something on the table in my estimation.  In the coming years, I hope we come to see ‘inner impact’ as the deepest form of impact there is, and something that can be offered and practiced by any business.  I plan to step up in my own authenticity as best I can in an effort to create the conditions for this.