To truly create something different, to rise above the standard forms that we have been handed, to reach new levels of collective spiritual insight, we need more evolved leadership.
We may have desires to create something different, but it is up to us to take responsibility and make sure we are walking the walk of being a truly transformational leader.
To one degree or another, leaders in the past have been people who tell others what to do. They direct or inform. In moments, they might inspire, but the inspiration, more often than not, is more of a pointer in the direction where their followers should be headed.
This old model is partly born of a notion that the leader has something in his or her head that the others involved need to learn how to execute on or adhere to. What is more true is that, while a leader might know something about where the group is going, there is quite a bit that is unknown—growth requires a stepping into the unknown. The leader will be just as changed and surprised by the process as everyone else.
When we assume that the leader has the answer and the followers are merely trying to catch up or make it happen, it devalues the contributions of those involved. It creates a dysfunctional hierarchy based on an authoritarian model where one person knows and everyone else learns or follows.
While this works at certain levels of consciousness, where the divine nature, creative spark, and soul essence are not yet being expressed, once we are operating in groups with more consciousness, the old model becomes oppressive.
As a leader, it is easy to think that we have grown beyond this model when in fact we have not. It takes continual refinement to advance beyond established norms of leadership.
To be clear, to embrace new forms of leadership worthy of our collective growth in consciousness, we do not need to do away with all forms of hierarchy—in fact, that is somewhat problematic. We do need, however, to work with these structures in an entirely new way.
In a healthier, more advanced version of leadership worthy of our noble endeavors, the leader is the first person to adjust their behavior. This above all else is what makes them the leader. They do not need to tell others to make changes so that then they can change or realize their objective. They change so that others can also make changes.
As a leader, before making a request, you make the desired shift inside of yourself. If you see a problem in someone else’s behavior, see how it is showing up in your behavior or how you are contributing to its creation.
Following on this, the question when things are not working out is not what does this other person need to do to get on track, but what do you need to do to be a better leader. This rigorous inquiry and adjustment is the foundation of a more advanced leadership.
As your leadership becomes more refined, it is built on listening to what is coming through each individual and harnessing this in service of a collective vision. You are not fearlessly in front barking out commands to those following, but tirelessly attending to the full expression of what is coming through.
This part of leadership often requires sitting back. Not a resentful sitting back, creating a standoff of disengagement and fear, but the sitting back that creates perspective on what is happening, that grounds itself in the larger vision, that holds a light for others to see by.
From this perspective, it is possible to see how to maximize everyone’s potential and grow the collective work. It is possible to see how to help people contribute more and better. With humility, it is possible to put aside agendas about what things should look like and create excellence from what is.
This type of leader looks at each person and evaluates them not only on a collective standard but on their individual contribution. What wisdom does this person have to offer in their approach to the work at hand? How might what is bothering or challenging your actually be a missing piece in making it work?
Or, if a person is making mistakes, not showing up, or being otherwise problematic, the question for the other person from the evolved leader is: “What do you need to make this work for you,” instead of “why are you making this mistake?”
If, after being given the support that they need to succeed, someone is unable to rise to the call of what is needed, this is its own instruction and will most often be evident to all involved, creating smooth transitions and ongoing goodwill.
This shift alone begins to dissolve unhealthy dynamics that people have with authority figures. No longer do people need to prove their worth and value to the leader. They can trust that their worth and value is an intrinsic part of the whole. They know that the obstacles they face will be easier to overcome because they have the support of both the leader and the collective.
These more developed leaders, whom I imagine you are trying to become, do not have followers. You have collaborators who, through their deep respect for your leadership, give their all to a joint creation. These collaborators are fully empowered to be leaders themselves and are capable of being led by others they are working with.
As you make the shift to this more powerful form of leadership, what you are able to create exponentially increases. No longer does one person need to bear the burden of bringing forth the vision; rather, the vision is brought forth from the collective hearts and souls of all who are involved, making it powerful and secure beyond measure.
What is Spiritual Bypassing…And, Is it Really a Problem?
“Spiritual bypassing, a term coined in the early 1980s by psychologist John Welwood, refers to the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with uncomfortable feelings, unresolved wounds, and fundamental emotional and psychological needs.” –Jonathan Toniolo
In extreme cases, it leads to denied or disowned aspects of ourselves that may leak out unexpectedly as we move through life.
We can suspect spiritual bypassing when we are using spiritual tools to avoid uncomfortable emotions, when we have become identified with the goal rather than the process of spirituality, or when we need to appear a certain way to be seen as spiritual.
Just as everyone uses defense strategies, everyone with a spiritual orientation is at risk of spiritual bypassing.
The trick is that one use for spiritual tools is to direct our attention, energy, and emotion toward positive growth. How do we tell the difference between this productive use of the tools and spiritual bypassing?
The answer is not in the tools themselves, but in the reasons that we use them. And it is not a binary system. At any point we may not be completely spiritually bypassing, but it is very likely that it is happening to some degree. We might be productively using our spiritual tools for the most part while also escaping some uncomfortable emotions that need to be examined.
Another area where people get confused about spiritual bypassing is when it happens in conjunction with intense emotions. Just because you have intense emotions—negative or otherwise—it does not mean that you are not spiritually bypassing. Sometimes we choose one emotional experience, even if it is challenging, over the one that we really need to be experiencing if we want to grow and heal.
The same is true for “confronting” realities. We might actively work on one area of our life so that we appear to be devoted to our spiritual and personal development while ignoring the area that is in desperate need of attention.
The bottom line is that it is not the superficial aspects of our behavior that represent spiritual bypassing, but rather the underlying mechanisms and our intent. It is very tricky terrain, and try as we might, we will all likely use spiritual bypassing at some point to cope with our lives.
The questions are—as with most things—to what degree are we doing it, and at what cost? When we frequently use spiritual bypassing, we are at risk of relegating parts of ourselves to the shadows—the disowned aspects of our selves. These parts of our selves are not gone: they are simply removed from our awareness because of our own denial. When we do this, we are likely to act in ways that are not in alignment with our spiritual efforts. If we are deep in denial, we will not even see what we are doing.
Spiritual bypassing is simply a defense mechanism, and, for many, a rather innocuous one—but for those people who are spiritual leaders or avid seekers, it poses a much larger threat because it presents a mechanism by which one can believe that they are on the path while in truth they are quite far from it.
“The spiritual ego can arise before and after liberation. Vigilance is required until the very last breath.” -Mu
Anyone on a spiritual path is at risk of falling prey to toxic spirituality, whether it is their own, that of someone close to them, or a spiritual leader’s. But the behaviors that create toxic spirituality are commonplace, and we can all very likely find at least some minor way that we engage in them. These problems amplify with the degree to which these behaviors are allowed to flourish—be they in our spiritual lives or otherwise.
Below are six signs that bad habits exist or have started to develop.
The Belief That the Rules Don’t Apply to Us: This can start in small ways—for example, with experiencing preferential treatment such as not waiting one’s turn or expecting to be treated in a special way—but can grow into bigger, more egregious infractions, all of which can fly under the radar until a much larger problem has developed.
Justification of Harmful Behavior: This is especially dangerous when behavior is excused through spiritual means. Well beyond preferential treatment is when harm to another person is justified by spiritual reasons as, for example, when the person who creates the harm claims they were told to do so by a spiritual source for the other person’s good or their spiritual development.
Superiority Mindset: You start believing your religion or religious group is the best or that they are better than others because of their pedigree, depth of knowledge, or place along their spiritual path.
Believing That You Are Beyond Simple and Best Practices: You begin to believe that you do not need to practice what you preach and subsequently abandon the foundational practices of your spirituality.
Polarized Identification: This habit involves identifying with the light and forgetting to see one’s limitations. This can range from glossing over problematic behaviors to the outright denial of their existence.
“Do As I Say, Not As I Do” Mentality: You create a standard by which others need to prove their worthiness and level of spiritual purity while your own problematic behavior is allowed to go unchecked.
If we notice that we have begun to slip ourselves, then the foundational practices of love, forgiveness, and respect can go a long way toward helping us get back on track. If we notice any of the above negative traits in another person, we may benefit from assessing the impact of the behavior and making choices that maintain our spiritual health.
Four Tools for Creating an Ethical Organization (group, program, family etc…)
I believe that most people want to do the right thing most of the time—so why is it that they so often don’t, and what can we do about it? Whether it is in the place we work, a program we have created, or even our family, what supports the people involved in the best possible way?
When people are in environments where speaking up comes with consequences, they are under pressure to achieve unrealistic goals, ethics are either not talked about or only given lip service, and the leader is seen as not walking the walk, they are likely to make bad choices—small or large.
Drawing from an article in the Harvard Business Review by Ron Carucci, “Why Ethical People Make Unethical Choices,” the following offers four straightforward ways to create more health in any group you lead or are a part of.
Create an Environment Where People Can Speak Up: When people are able to voice their concerns, they both help the group grow and create an opportunity for problems to be solved. Additionally, when people are able to speak up about problems that they see, they are less likely to use unethical means to solve those problems. This type of environment is created less by what one says and more by the way one responds when feedback has been given.
Create Clear and Achievable Goals as Well as the Means to Meet Them: Performance goals that are unrealistic—whether because of the goals themselves or because there are not the means to meet them—encourage unethical behavior. People are stuck between a rock and a hard place: not meeting the goal or cutting corners to get it done. This is amplified by the amount of pressure that is put on people to achieve the unrealistic goals. Unrealistic goals over an extended period of time not only encourage unethical behavior but also decrease the motivation of the people who are involved.
Talk About Ethics: If you want ethics to be important, then make the conversation about them central to what it is that you are doing. Make it clear what the ethical standards are for your group, and be an example of what those behaviors look like in action. This is further supported by including ethical considerations in each aspect of what is being done.
Set a Positive Example: Especially if you are the leader of the group, it is important to act in a way that conveys ethical integrity. This takes into consideration that many people have been disappointed by leaders in the past and will likely be expecting you to do the same. Take extra time to not only walk the walk but to help clear up any misunderstandings that might be generated so that you may help to build a trusting environment.
Stop trying to be perfect: You already are. Yes, each one of us is a work in progress, but that work is perfect in its state of evolution. When you are driven by perfection, you are unable to appreciate who you already are. Try instead to look at what is right about you.
Stop Trying to Impress Others: The people who want to be impressed (in the way I am talking about here) are not worth your time. The people who will judge you without knowing you or based on some criteria that are not even important to you are just not your people. The people who matter will think you are amazing. Pay more attention to them.
Stop Trying to Be Someone Else: If you are comparing yourself to someone who has different talents than you do or if you think that you should be doing things a different way than is natural for you, instead start to appreciate how you do things and what your talents are.
Find What You Love: When you let yourself be yourself, you will naturally be drawn to what you love. But, what you love also shows you something about who you are. If you don’t know what you love, experiment. If you like it, try doing it again and see if it grows into something.
Give Yourself Permission to Do What You Love: Once you find the things you love, do them a lot. The more that you do what you love, the happier and the more satisfied you will be with your life. If you know what you love but you are not doing it, get the support you need to give yourself permission to be happy.
Don’t Waste Time Doing Other Things: Why bother doing things that you do not enjoy? Yes, I understand life has some practicalities that need to be addressed, but once they have been attended to—are you still wasting time not doing what you love? If so, start a plan to cut out the things that are not in line with who you want to be or what you love, and then take action.
Slow Down: We can all get a bit ahead of ourselves. It is not about doing more or doing it faster, it is about really enjoying our life. We can’t do that if we are moving so fast that we don’t even know what is happening. Start by building some real breaks into your schedule.
Pay Attention to What Is Working (Most of the Time): Most of us would benefit from being a bit more positive. There is a place for looking at what is not working, but when we pay attention to what works, we often learn more about it and therefore can have more of it. We also feel better about what we are experiencing. If you see yourself getting negative, find one thing that is working.
Express Gratitude: Being grateful is one of the most effective ways to be happier. When in doubt, find something to appreciate. And don’t forget to apply it to yourself!
Learn to Fully Receive: The emphasis on doing that most of us have been enculturated into leaves us less skilled when it comes to receiving. But how can we have a full and rich life if we can’t receive it? The next time someone compliments you, take it in.
Ready for an even more fulfilling life? See my article here to learn about living in your truth >>> “7 Signs You Are Living Your Truth.”
One of the main issues that people face in their personal and spiritual development is in the cultivation of presence. Many people get so preoccupied with fixing what is wrong with themselves or healing the past that they forget the reason for doing all of this work: to learn how to be in love with their life each day.
Sometimes, we do not need to fix the past so much as we need to learn new ways of being with the present so that we can have more of what we want. In short, the solution isn’t in changing the past but in being more adept at each and every moment. We do this by learning to be more present.
Here are three steps to cultivating presence.
Slow Down: As soon as we slow ourselves down, we witness the chaos that drove us in each moment. This can be our chattering mind or our compulsive drive to keep busy. At first we are uncomfortable, but once we break through, we have access to a type of experience we did not have before. Slowing down creates an environment for cultivating presence.
Pay Attention: As we begin to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment—our distraction, how we are feeling, or something someone said—we begin to see what is really going on with us. Paying attention brings things into conscious awareness, which allows us to work with them.
Acknowledge Where You Are Giving Your Energy: We slow down so that we can create the space to pay attention. We pay attention so that we can see what we are giving our energy to that is detracting from what is now present. Then when we get caught up in something that we do not want to give our energy to, we can reapply our attention by acknowledging that we are doing so.
These three steps make us more aware. It is from this place of awareness that we can be more fully in the present moment and can choose how we want to proceed from this point—direct our energy or be more receptive. We learn what keeps us away from being with the present moment and we can make new choices about how we want to connect, create more joy, or take our next steps.
Cultivating presence can lead to more fulfillment – read more about this important topic here: >>> “10 Ways to Live More Fully.”
Wondering if you are living in your truth? Use these signs to help you see the way.
You are Happy. Not just happy because things are going your way, but really, deeply happy regardless of how things are going. When we are aligned with our inner truth, we feel happy.
You Feel Congruent. When you are living your truth, your insides and your outsides match. You feel you are with the right people doing the right things most of the time.
You Have Lots of Energy. An abundance of energy is the result of being in our truth. Even if facing a serious illness, people aligned with their truth have more energy and are more vivacious than those who might be facing something similar without such alignment.
You Feel Inspired. Being connected with your inner truth leaves you feeling inspired. When you are connected with your inner truth you feel creative and naturally want to contribute to the world around you.
You Feel Confident. There is nothing as good for your confidence as being connected to your truth. When you are connected to your truth, you trust in what is right for you, you know what you know and what you don’t, and you feel comfortable right where you are.
Life is Informative. When you are connected to your truth, life is not a series of challenges to get past but rather a series of events to help you unfold even more. Being in your truth helps you see the informative nature of all things.
You Can Be Generous. When you are in your truth, you naturally have overflow. Being in your truth means not being in all the things that block your truth. As a result, you have an abundance of resources that you can be generous with.
Ready to sink more into living your truth? See my blog post >>> “Uncovering Your Souls True Voice.”
One of the most direct ways to create a better life and a better world is to cultivate compassion. Compassion directed inward connects us with our truth and leaves us loving ourselves. Compassion directed outward decreases disagreements and misunderstandings.
When we judge and condemn aspects of ourselves (and aspects of others), we can find ourselves in inner discomfort or creating discomfort in those around us. When we are able to bring compassion into each situation, we deepen our love of ourselves and have a more positive effect on the world.
Compassion is the ability to understand the experience of another person or even an aspect of ourselves. Our compassion sees the other and acknowledges the experience as real and valid. It does not judge or look for who is to blame, but simply honors what is. A compassionate response sees beyond the story lines and the polarities to the deeper truth of the matter.
Many of our problems (both interior and exterior) can be solved by offering compassion. When we offer compassion to ourselves, we honor our experience and acknowledge our truth.
Compassion toward ourselves stops us from getting caught in the trap of self-criticism and the potential self-negating actions that follow. This does not mean we do not hold ourselves accountable—just that we offer understanding and care with our accountability. Compassion toward others offers them the same gifts.
Compassion is so powerful because it offers the following:
Compassion acknowledges. A compassionate approach is one that sees another where he or she is, how he or she feels, without the need to overlay wisdom, platitudes, or judgments.
Compassion honors. Compassion comes with deep respect for another’s truth, regardless of what that truth is. A compassionate person does not need to prove that an alternative way of being or viewing things is important or necessary.
Compassion does not blame. Compassion does not need to point fingers or assess responsibility. A compassionate person can see all sides of the situation and understand that all have a place and a right to exist.
Compassion is most often cultivated through being misunderstood or mistreated ourselves. This pain has the potential to wake us up to a deeper reality. After we have stood on more than one side of a disagreement, it is more challenging to maintain the “someone is right/someone is wrong” perspective.
We can actively cultivate our own compassion by choosing to see all sides of issues as they arise. We are not so much waiting for life to crack us open but rather using each moment to expand our own awareness. We put ourselves in another person’s shoes as a moment-to-moment practice of our life.
This gift of compassion makes way for our growth as well as the growth of those around us and works to heal the challenges we face rather than contributing to them, all of which aids in the creation of an environment ripe for self-love and offering healing to the world.
Being self-compassionate is also a key to living your truth. Read more at >>> “Uncovering Your Souls True Voice.”
As one of the primary emotions, shame is a part of the human experience you’re your struggling with feelings of shame, use these quotes to spark some gentleness with yourself, and gratitude within.
Mistakes Are Okay
“Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.” – Vincent Van Gogh
There’s an ebb and flow to life, and everyone is in it together. We all make decisions that lead to outcomes we’d rather not experience. Sometimes, we act from a place of fear or resentment, or intentionally cause harm to those around us. Sometimes, we are naive or have inaccurate information. While mistakes are inevitable, what action do you want to choose from here?
Consider Inner Vs. Outer Factors
“You cannot change the wind, but you can adjust the sails.” – Bertha Calloway
While the circumstances that triggered your feeling of shame may or may not be in your control, your choice to hang out in shame is within your control. We can honor the moment of shame but not linger there. How can you take care of yourself so that the shame can shift?
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne/Christopher Robin
Shame can be rooted in untruths told to us by others. What if your courage, strength, and brilliance is greater than you’ve ever believed, and the only thing stopping you are your thoughts?
Consider the Ripple
“Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” – Edwin Hubbel Chapin
Whatever the reasons for your experience of shame, remember your positive impact as well. Your choices will ripple out and likely far outweigh your mistakes. What impact do you want to have on others?
Shift to Gratitude
“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin
One of the easiest ways to change our emotional experience is to come into our hearts. Look around and consider what you can feel grateful for in this moment. Then – and this is the trick – don’t just think about gratitude, but actually invite in the feeling. What can you feel grateful for now?
Hang Out with a Dog
“Dogs have boundless enthusiasm but no sense of shame. I should have a dog as a life coach.” – Moby
We can learn a lot from animals, and dogs are a great example of (usually) living without shame. It’s possible to draw energy from a memory of an animal or person you admire for their shameless way of being. What memory makes you smile?
Looking for more inspiration to overcome shame? Check out my personal share about >>> “Self Love.”
I have been forged in the fire of doubt, lies, and forgetfulness, and I am made of self-love.
In addition to granting us the ability to be happier and make a greater positive impact in the world, self-love is an inoculation against some of the most challenging experiences in life. It is the armor of the seekers, the healers, and the transformational mavericks of the world.
For me, this knowledge was hard won. While I can look back to my childhood and find a connection with the divine starting as early as I can remember and an unrelenting urge to help and heal for just as long, self-love was virtually absent.
The earlier part of my life was dominated by pain. Everything hurt, but I did not know how I felt. Although I had people around me, I had little feeling of connectedness with them. And, I believed quite completely that there was something inherently wrong with me.
The first insight that I got about self-love came about when I had my son. I simply wanted more for him than what I had myself and I knew I needed to learn how to get it so I could teach him to do the same. To this day, I know that if it weren’t for my love of him, I very likely would have stayed mired in my pain.
Inspired by my son, I set out—destination unknown. Before too long, I discovered that what I was looking for was love: pure, undeniable love of the self.
Lack of self-love can show up as unhealthy choices, judgments about our unhealthy choices, an unrelenting ache, or a feeling that we are not quite expressing our full light. But at its root there is a belief that there is something inherently wrong with who we are.
This is the place where no self-love is present.
Otherwise, why would we simply just not let ourselves be who we are?
Signs that we truly love ourselves are unconditional acceptance –even of the messy or seemingly inconsequential parts, staying on our own side regardless of what happens, holding ourselves accountable only for what is truly ours, and loving ourselves regardless of our mistakes.
If we pay attention to what is underneath when we are not doing these things, we see in these shadowy moments of self-negation where our self-love is most needed.
Here in the crevasses between the more positive and accepted parts of ourselves, we can find the (sometimes) hidden belief that something is wrong with us. It is perhaps the most powerful lie that we can believe in the course of our lives –and many of us do.
Not only is it debilitating in our own inner experience, but this lie can be used to get us to back down, back off, or give up by anyone who is looking to co-opt our light, serve their personal agenda, or stop our forces of healing and transformation.
So, let us, each one of us, set the record straight.
Each one of us is an ideally crafted expression with a purpose and place. There are no mistakes. We are not all supposed to be 5 foot 10 inches tall, with brown hair, and good at math. Nor are our insides supposed to be the same, or our emotional expressions, or our ways of perceiving the world.
But it is not enough to know this in our minds – which most of us do. It must be etched on our bones and woven into our soul. Without that, it is a hollow shell of a belief that we merely try to hide our lack of self-worth under.
Fortunately for us, life has a built in tool to help us learn to love ourselves more and more completely. The difficult moments of our lives are not designed to show us what is wrong with us but rather to show us the path back to ourselves by displaying the illusion. In this process, we learn what self-love truly is.
When facing the difficult circumstances of life, we can use them to feed the part of us that believes that there is something wrong with us or we can use them to help us see what we are not loving about ourselves and learn to love ourselves more completely. When we do this we become healthy, happier, and more resilient.
My prayer for you is that you can pause your usual interpretations of yourself to see the perfection of who you are and that you are willing to lovingly seek out the environments that support your most positive expression.
There is no one else like you. Who you are is perfect, sacred, and very needed.
Do you ever have trouble loving yourself because you feel ashamed? If so, please see my article >>> “What is Wrong With Me? Healing From Toxic Shame.”