Last week I enjoyed a lovely vacation. Being fully away from work is kind of a new thing for me. After years of running a product based company I spent many vacations communicating with customers here and there or doing back end work as orders continued to come in while I was elsewhere. Luckily technology made that possible, but to be honest it never really felt like I was fully stepping away from work. Even when I had handed everything off to someone else I would still get pings when I made a sale or had to reply to an urgent media request. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but after stepping away from work last week, I can see just how different being away from work feels now. This time I truly left work at home and it really shifted my perspective.
I spent a good amount of time looking at the mountains. Trees. Water. All against a very blue sky. The world looks so big in the mountains. Or maybe it is that we understand just how small our bodies are. I held a pinecone the size of my head.
It was the first week in a while that I did not meet with clients and that space really gave me time to think about my work. I’ve written before about being a keeper of secrets. It is something in my energy that enters a room before my body does. People tell me things. All sorts of things. It took a long time to really understand this phenomena as an actual happening, but it most definitely is. And it has kind of always been. There is something about me that lets people know I can hold them. Listen. And listen without judgment.
My daughter often asks me as a keeper of secrets what the most unusual thing I’ve ever heard. And to be honest it would be hard to choose. After working with kids experiencing psychosis, I’ve heard all sorts of interesting things. I’ve worked with kids who are certain they are Jesus. Kids who identify with Hitler and spit out racist propaganda all day long. Kids who think they are the devil. Kids with such deep paranoia that they hear people scratching at their bedroom windows at night to read their minds. It’s a spectrum and one that reminds me of the fragility and resolve of the human condition. Sanity is not a constant. Sanity is not a guarantee.
Regardless of the narrative being shared in those moments I guess I’ve always been able to see the person underneath it all. And maybe that perspective is what enters the room around me. I’m a big picture believer and seeing the world from this perspective has a somewhat gentle effect. I seem to suggest the idea that we are more than a single moment reflects.
As we drove home through the towering trees, I reflected on my current mentorship clients. They totally light my fire. I feel like this work is where I have always wanted to be and it was a nice reminder to know just how much I was looking forward to seeing my clients as the week came to a close. If there is one thread that remains throughout my professional career - from fine artist, to psychotherapist, to entrepreneur and jewelry designer, to business mentor - it’s that in every variation of myself, I have been a listener. Each style of listening has been different. The fine artist listens differently than the psychotherapist, from the mentor, etc. But in all endeavors I have embodied the listener role in some way, shape, or form.
What I’ve noticed about being a listener as a business mentor is that my clients come to me with a specific need or role for me to fill. And I love this! My clients are creative powerhouses. They are seasoned. Inspired. Beyond asking permission. They know who they are, what they want, and know exactly how they want me to guide them. For most, I am a thinking partner. A deep listener. Someone to gather all the loose threads, point out where they join, and support ambitions, intention and desire. But underneath the diverse goals, challenges, and ambitions, lies a place where all my clients join.
And this place is very quiet.
Every person who has invited me to listen - even as a fine artist honoring the materials that speak through my hands - wants to change. When I think about all the ideas, problem solving, challenges, strategizing, and planning that I work on together with my clients, each task is born from a desire to change. An inspiration toward growth. And for that desire and inspiration to be recognized and brought to light. Sometimes it is a simple shift like hiring out a daily task or switching to a more aligned supplier or more manageable schedule. Other times it is a deep desire for change. To recognize the self in a new way, fully step into a role and intentional embodiment, or the confidence to free themselves from what they know and jump with fear and enthusiasm into something entirely new.
When I get still and listen to the quiet of change, I hear seedlings. Tiny little lovely things gently placed in shallow soil. Working hard to burst through the outer shell and push through the dirt. It is quiet work, this pushing. Sometimes so quiet that it is entirely overlooked and kept buried by things less quiet. But quiet is different from unknown. Quiet is wisdom. Quiet is inner truth. And this is the difference I illuminate.
One of the things that comes to mind when I think about this difference is an art piece a fellow student presented for final review the last semester of my time at SFAI. The project, quite simply, was to listen to dirt. At the beginning of the semester, a compost pile was delivered to the back of the school outside the photography lab. My classmate placed microphones and recording equipment throughout the pile of dirt and amplified and then recorded the sounds. The art of the piece was to listen to the dirt and over the course of the semester. To discover the melody. It was a beautifully subtle exploration and one that offered learnings that could be easily lost if approached with assumption. The question wasn’t what does dirt sound like, but can we be spacious and still enough to really hear it? To witness subtle and small transformations that we cannot see. How small of a change can we recognize? Cool, right?!
I see this action lived through my houseplants so often. I’ve learned that in my home when it comes to plants, the more the merrier. They like to be near each other. To witness. Quietly listen. Change. The more I group them together, the more they thrive. The plants that thrive the most are the ones that share space with the dogs while they sleep. This quiet togetherness absent of intention does wonders for the growth of the plants. And this spaciousness and freedom from intention is a magic that the dogs provide quite beautifully. They do not have wishes for the plants. Only to breathe together. To be together. To allow for change together. It is in stillness that they bear witness and allow for growth.
There is a similar deep listening and witnessing that occurs in psychotherapy - the reparative experience. I had a client once, a teenage girl who was hospitalized on and off for the better part of a year. She was 16, lived in a group home and survived a horrendous early childhood. Her parents were absent physically and when present physically, absent emotionally. She wanted to change. Worked hard to change, but lacked a quiet ear. My work with her was to listen without an agenda. Mostly in a quiet way and wait for the change to unearth, the desire for growth to develop. Our sessions consisted of me watching her color with markers in a coloring book. Seemingly simple, but there was so much in that room. Anxiety, anger, sadness, excitement and desire. I could feel it all. But this kind of listening doesn’t require action. And this is HARD. To not be motivated by the anxiety of silence or strength of the emotions, the pressure of the ego or an outside agenda of expectations. To not fill the space. To not disrupt the unknown. Just to sit and watch the seed. Water the seed. Allow the seed to feel safe in their own dirt. Safe enough to have wishes. Safe enough to unearth the desire for change. Safe enough to burst through the soil. Even if only a small bit. This quietness and gentle tending to is a kind of love.
Change and growth seldom occur as we imagine. Somewhere in the ether there exists a narrative that change is big. Like a giant wave that sweeps us away. A ground shattering earthquake. A lightning strike. A Thunderous roar. But this is rarely the case. Change FEELS big. But in reality, change occurs in much smaller steps and slowly grows to crescendo. In fact, the seemingly smallest and simplest changes foster the greatest potential for growth.
The quiet move toward change I witness with my clients might feel like an earthquake, but with an ear to the dirt one can hear the small moves toward growth that have already been planted. All this time change has been occurring. Under the soil. Within the roots. Of the stalks.
The lightning strike of my work is not to change everything my clients are doing. Rearrange systems or turn them into a certain kind of leader or entrepreneur. But to listen, be still, and illuminate the changes they have already begun. To guide them toward honoring their growth, individuality, and the unfolding of their unique process. To have patience in the unknown. This is when the sky really breaks open. The shock isn't in the big, loud, changes. It is in the quiet. Illuminating what still lies beneath the soil. With an ear to the dirt.
As always thank you for sending me your questions! I LOVE responding!
This week I’m answering a reader question about the NOT-SELF.
Let's dive in!
NOT-SELF is offered in partnership with SIGNATURE. Our SIGNATURE acts as a guide to when we are making our most aligned decisions - this basically translates to relying on our body to serve us and lead in making decisions and allowing our beautiful minds to use their energy be in service to others. Our NOT -SELF acts as a gentle reminder of when we are making decisions from a place of logic. This sounds wild and mystical, and yeah it is! But with practice, we can better understand what it feels like to experience the NOT-SELF and use it to redirect.
Often times the NOT-SELF can reflect when we are not prioritizing ourselves, creating strong boundaries, or acting out of reaction instead of response. The purpose of the NOT-SELF as guidance is not out of shame or inadequacy. Experiencing the NOT-SELF doesn't mean you are making poor decisions, or not coming from a place of awareness. In my opinion the purpose of the NOT-SELF is to act as a timeout. A moment to notice. A space to do a little audit to see what in our lives is creating feelings of our NOT-SELF. And then of course to try and let go of judgement around it as we determine if we can make even small changes in these areas. And/or spend more time in our SIGNATURE to help balance our energy.
We cannot always eliminate people, places, or things that inspire our NOT-SELF. And this isn't the point of Human Design, or life for that matter. Being alive means living in contrast. Being uncomfortable. Love + Loss. Together. The purpose of Human Design isn't to avoid anything that doesn't feel good. That's called delusion and magical thinking and from a psychological perspective, it's not super healthy. I like to think of my NOT-SELF as a BFF pointing out that I missed a button before I leave the bathroom. It's like a friendly heads up. Hey, this or that is creating this body response. Take note. Evaluate. Determine if change is possible. Button the button. Sometimes change is just a conversation. The NOT-SELF can be subtle.
If you would like me to illuminate your NOT-SELF a bit next week let me know by hitting the reply button below and sending me your NOT-SELF or birthdate, birth time and birth location. Happy to shed more light on it!