When I sit to meditate, sometimes it feels like I’m riding a bucking horse...
The horse = all these thoughts flying through my mind fast and wild.
The horse is my mind.
And my mind is doing what minds are supposed to do...think, plan, predict, judge, remember stuff...
All the time.
Sometimes this horse is buck wild.
Sometimes she’s calmer, steadier depending on what’s going on in any given moment.
I don’t need to control this beautiful horse or berate her and try and force her to calm down.
That’s exhausting...and it doesn’t work for me.
Instead I can just get off the horse for a little while and rest in awareness.
I can also be grateful for this horse because she helps me navigate the day.
But I don’t need to be riding her all the damn time.
Knowing I have that choice is liberating. And that’s why I practice.
May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.
I was up most of last night with anxiety...listening to the silence.
I was thinking about all the black folks (and some non-black) + queer folks (and some non-queer) + women folks (and some non-women) who have fought SO hard, bled, died, lost jobs, been jailed, dealt with harassment and intimidation, sucked it up, sacrificed, overachieved, been (re)traumatized over and over and over, yet so many maintained an extraordinary faith in our collective humanity. In Love.
I can live and feel this free because of that Love.
I recognize not everyone enjoys the privileges I do, experiences this same freedom. But I do...and that's what I can offer to the world. That's how I say thank you.
I don't fear my anxiety anymore, even though it can frustrate the hell out of me. And when I get really curious about it instead of fighting it, I realize what's underneath...in this case it was deep gratitude.
And I can rest there.
Maybe this is helpful for you too.
UPDATE: Thank you so much everyone for the DMs and texts. I can't talk right now. I’m OK, it’s not new. I’m still having trouble pulling myself together so I think I just want to be with my tears and let the heartache move through me. I love and appreciate you
I was just on a Zoom call created to hold space for black people to support one another. There were 400+ on the call I think.
We were Zoom bombed by someone screaming over loud music “kill all ni**ers, George Floyd had it coming…” We couldn’t figure out how to stop him so we had to end the call.
I cried, I’m shaken. And the reason I’m sharing this is because those who are committed to white supremacy will likely become even more desperate as we move toward the light.
And take really good care of yourselves - mind, body, spirit.
Someone in my family just sent a message and said…not explicitly but the message was received nonetheless…that I should be cautious about what I post publicly because I may lose some audience for my coaching services, especially now since that is my only source of income since I left corporate in Jan.
All absolutely expressed from a place of love and concern.
But the sacrifice and psychic burden are too great when I play that game.
I will attract the exact people who value who I am and what I offer as a coach.
I AM my brand. There's no separation between me and my business, only alignment.
And who I am will resonate with some and it won’t with others.
As it should be.
I also have black (and non-black) friends who are choosing not to speak out publicly right now for that reason, for fear of losing livelihood and earning ability, and I have tremendous compassion and understanding for that as well. I appreciate that folks have different financial situations and access to resources.
I've decided my integrity is inviolate…and I have to make that choice, over and over, every day. Sometimes it's not easy.
I trust that the rest will work itself out as long as I move in Love.
It’s hard right now. My heart is sore and my body is tired. Stay safe, healthy and in loving community my friends.
I was on a call tonight where several white women were commenting on how they were afraid of offending black people or saying the wrong thing, and that it can be so uncomfortable to speak up, to pull up.
Your discomfort is what is required though. It took folks being uncomfortable for me to have my basic rights protected so that I can simply BE as a black queer woman. And there's still such a long way to go.
So my initial feelings were disappointment, frustration, sadness, self-righteousness. There was some compassion but honestly not much in that moment.
I kept listening, suspending my judgment for a bit b/c it felt reactionary…
As I listened, I remembered that white people who want to dismantle racism/white supremacy don’t have the embodied, lived experience of being black in this country. Some may not have any intimate relationships with black people for varied reasons.
Black people have been having these conversations already, navigating this reality for a loooong time to varying degrees.
But for many, this level of acknowledgment and personal inquiry is new and intimidating. It requires humility and courage and a deep commitment to Love, peace and justice.
What I heard on the call is that some were ready to be uncomfortable, are doing the work, and are not collapsing around fragility.
I heard good intentions and sincere hearts.
We ALL need compassion. This ain’t easy, and we’ve all been swimming in these waters.
There are also those forces committed to greed, hatred and delusion, profiting from it. There’s that.
As we each do our personal, collective, and systemic work let’s allow each other to make mistakes, learn and then, with sincere intention, do better. I’ve been learning something new every day this week - about my own internalized biases, about the history of the movement, about the history of this country…
I’ll do my imperfect best. That’s what I ask from you.
“Everything moves at the speed of relationships.” - Alicia Garza (https://aliciagarza.com/)
I was on a business call this morning and initially I was feeling so distracted, judgmental, disconnected...
My nervous system has been fired up.
Then as the meeting went on, I turned my camera off, did some deep breathing, and began watching all that negative mental chatter. Whew!
I eventually found some space around the thoughts and slowly began to soften.
It got me thinking...
I refuse to give my power away to darkness. And I invite you to do the same.
I’ve been giving these negative energies (eg. lost souls like trump) the power over how I feel, the power to set the tone of my day, the power over my capacity to show up from Love...really??
I’m being whipped around emotionally by what the media is serving up, comments by people I don’t even know, the collective fear, the desperate attempt by some to maintain the mindset and systems built on white privilege.
I’m taking my power back.
I’m choosing to be happy, even thrive, even in the midst of these circumstances.
I will feel ALL of my feelings...the anger, the heartache, the despair...and hold them with reverence, curiosity and tenderness as they move through me.
I will continue to do my work in the world, with a clear intention to connect, love, hold space, offer support, and advocate for systems and policies that reduce suffering and support Life.
I will prioritize my wellbeing by resting, meditating, journaling, music, loving, listening to media that inspires me and reminds me of the truth.
I will not feel guilty for my joy.
I will cultivate it...unapologetically.
And I will serve from that space as best I can.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
- Audre Lorde
I’ve been meeting some beautiful people since I left corporate 3 weeks ago, a few who have asked me how life coaching works and why I chose to do it full time.
It got me thinking, so here goes...
For more than 10yrs now, clients initially reach out to me because of some difficulty closing the gap between where they are and where they want to be, how they want to feel.
For some folks their career feels off track, some are feeling lost, many with relationship heartache, managing physical pain, new empty nesters, many with kids or parents stressing them all the way out, some want to feel better in their bodies, some want to start a business or side hustle, etc. And they know it doesn’t HAVE to be this way.
They are some of the most courageous, inspiring people I’ve ever met.
What I do as a coach is help folks (especially women in mid-life) uncover their own intentions, capacity, wisdom and strength, and hold them accountable to being in alignment with that more often than not. Then that gap closes one choice, one day at a time. And then we celebrate.
I love this work so much.
THIS IS IT, as my beloved teacher Cheri loved to say. If you or someone you know would love some support to close your gap(s) and/or are curious about how all this works, book some time on my calendar at www.talktosharon.com and let’s talk ❤️
In many ways it’s been an intense couple years, with huge highs and heartbreaking lows. Its been particularly challenging this year to maintain a persistent sense of steadiness, spaciousness, equanimity.
I've been suffering.
Suffering is such a sledgehammer of a word but it’s accurate. Big sufferings like losing a loved one and little sufferings that are more like mental and physical discomfort. It's my own personal suffering marbled with the suffering of the world which often feels so personal.
Pain, whether physical or emotional, is natural, normal, even necessary. It's purely information. But suffering is that additional layer of story we add to our pain. This shouldn't be happening. I can't handle this. Will this pain get worse.
Lama Rod Owens offered this powerful invitation during a recent dharma talk in Durham...”don’t waste your pain.” Pain is actually serving us, showing us where it hurts, showing us where to let go, even reminding us of our interdependence. Pain triggers suffering when we resist just being with it...listening.
Pain is inevitable and suffering optional, but it's also true that suffering is unavoidable. Real talk. It's the First Noble Truth.
I tend to manage my suffering by overanalyzing it, distracting myself from it, trying to rush through it, or spiritualizing it...in essence using my personality or ego to navigate my suffering, to avoid genuinely working with it.
These strategies don’t seem to work as well anymore; they feel played out. Or maybe I’m just more aware that they don’t work. At best they provide some temporary relief, and at this point I'm more interested in getting free than playing with emotional pacifiers.
How I meet and hold my suffering is a practice on the path to liberation. Suffering is the ultimate practice space. And trying to bypass this practice by circumnavigating my suffering keeps me stuck at the level of ego instead of trusting, relaxing into the Awareness that can hold it all, tenderly, with curiosity.
I used to think the goal in life was to live and think in ways that avoid suffering or that move me through it as fast as possible. There’s a certain level of superficial success and personal development possible with that approach to life for sure. It's also exhausting.
But to feel truly free I have to cultivate my capacity to hold and care for my inevitable suffering in ways that create space for insight and wisdom to emerge.
How do I care for my suffering?
I no longer want to expend valuable energy trying to avoid suffering or overindulge it by repeating unskillful habitual mental patterns and actions.
I want to suffer well.
Pain can trigger suffering and I won’t waste this pain or this suffering; I’ll use it to get free.
May we all be free.
While on a recent meditation retreat I had this incredibly clear visualization during one of my morning sits, almost like a lucid dream. I've had several experiences like this before over the years, but this one has really sweetened my practice!
I'll try to describe it. Here goes...
After a few minutes of meditating, a crystal clear image of a schoolyard playground popped into my mind. It looked just like the playgrounds that were all around me growing up in Queens. Tall metal fence. Handball courts. Concrete scribbled with colored chalk. Metal benches. Swings with that hard ass black rubber mat underneath just off to the side.
It was a beautiful, sunny day. Light blue skies. A few wispy clouds. Occasional car passing by.
In the playground were all these little sharons running around. Not "little girl" sharons but full grown, smaller versions of me.
It was noisy.
In the playground was "controlling sharon" telling everyone what to do.
There was "joyful sharon" running around hugging and kissing everyone.
There was "self-conscious sharon" worried what people were thinking about her.
There was "confident sharon" feeling totally at ease playing with everyone.
There was "judgmental sharon" evaluating and critiquing how everyone was playing.
There was "spiritual sharon" over in a corner contemplating the meaning of life.
There was "self-righteous sharon" telling the other sharons the right way to believe.
There was "open hearted sharon" feeling the pain of all the other sharons.
You get the picture. Lots of little sharons.
They were all running around, jumping, interacting, playing. Some were louder than others, some seemed to want more attention, some were anxious, some were happy, some indifferent.
Off to the side of the playground, laying in a cheap plastic lounge chair by the handball courts (not kidding) was big Sharon. She was relaxing peacefully, just watching them all play from a distance.
You could tell how much big Sharon loved them. She'd gaze over at each of them with what seemed like compassion, appreciation, acceptance. From time to time, big Sharon would get up from the lounge chair and stroll around the playground, making sure they weren't getting hurt, listening to them, smiling, savoring the entire experience.
Frequently one of the little sharons would become disruptive. Big Sharon would slowly walk over to that particular little sharon (e.g. controlling sharon) and, with a sweet tenderness ask her what she needed. After a few moments it was apparent little sharon felt reassured (maybe validated), and would then skip away to resume play with the other sharons.
Stay with me now...
A few minutes later I became aware of "something" that was watching this entire scene play out...watching the little sharons playing, watching big Sharon sitting in the lounge chair by the handball courts. Watching it all.
Just then a massive wave of peace filled my entire being, along with a deep relaxation and joy that's hard to put into words. I stayed with those sensations for a while, sorta basking in it for the rest of the meditation.
After that sit I shared the experience with my fellow meditators, and over the past few weeks I've been contemplating what it all could mean.
Where I've landed with it feels really profound and I've been revisiting the visualization often, sharing it with friends and coaching clients ever since. Maybe there is something of value here for you too.
The little sharons represent aspects of my personality, expressions of energy that reflect my inner dialogue. Controlling, anxious, joyful, self-conscious, judgmental, funny, loving, spiritual, and so on.
Big Sharon represents the wiser expression of me that taps into intuition and inspiration and reflects who I am underneath all the ego-centric manifestations.
So who was watching?
The witness was pure Awareness...that which I can't fully describe or capture in words but can only be experienced. Call it God, Spirit, Universal Energy, Life. It is pure, it's spacious, it's still. It's peace. It includes everything and needs nothing.
It is Love.
I've spent much of my adult life suffering from, working with what I'll call an existential heartache that's been with me for as long as I can remember, a deep sense that there is more to life than what I'm seeing in myself, in others, in the world I find myself in.
So often I'm craving an experience of what is real, direct, clear, pure, connective, authentic, fully felt...pure Love, Interbeing. Up until the past several years I just didn't have words for this free floating anxiety or for the waves of alternating sadness and bliss I feel in response to what seems like the most ordinary things.
What I've come to understand is that I can access and rest in this Witnessing Awareness and fully experience this Love...at any time. It waits patiently in the present moment.
I became a successful businesswoman but I couldn't find this experience in worldly success. I became a raging alcoholic but couldn't find it at the bottom of a bottle. I even became an ordained minister chasing this experience, but I didn't find it in the dogma of religion.
I found it in the wisdom of spiritual teachings and teachers who didn't prescribe truth to me but instead pointed me towards it, not as an intellectual exercise or as an inherited belief structure, but instead as a lived experience.
That's what my playground visualization was...a reminder of the truth of who I am. Of who we are.
I am that Witnessing Awareness AND I am big Sharon AND I am all those little sharons. I am all of it.
And so are you.
As my mindfulness practice deepens, I'm becoming more skillful at noticing the little sharons and asking them what they need instead of letting them run the show.
I'm also becoming more familiar with that sweet spaciousness that watches this all play out, that can hold it all.
And most importantly, I'm cultivating a self-compassion that can meet me wherever I am in the moment with kindness and patience and equanimity.
For me this is what the purest experience of Love feels like.
So I rest here as often as I can...and then play. And rest. And play.
I call myself a Love Activist.
I have it tattooed on my arm as a reminder of my commitment and a declaration to the world.
I love these 7 steps as quick and dirty guidelines...
1) Recommit Every Day
When you're on a mission of peace, your commitment to nonviolence is tested daily. So every day, you’re called to recommit to who you are, to keep your heart open and to stand your ground as a peacemaker....
Read the rest of the 7 steps by Alice Walker here.
At today's Meetup I invited folks to consider that we're all connected, simply different manifestations of One source. And the belief in separation (from each other, from our inherent divinity) creates SO much personal and collective suffering.
I used this example...from the surface all islands appear to be separate from each other, but deeper underneath the surface there is no separation.
It's a beautiful practice to try and transcend the limitations of our conditioning and meet each other (and ourselves) as often as possible below the surface, beneath the level of ego, in this awareness of Oneness. In Love.
"Your heart is the light of this world. Don't let your mind hide it." ~ Mooji
Today I came across a homeless man on the side of the road while heading out to lunch. I grabbed one of my metta bags and pulled over onto the shoulder.
I walked over to him, offered what I had, and told him my wish for him - peace of mind, comfort, safety, love.
Then I hugged him, not a pat on the back type of hug, but an "I see you" tight kinda hug. We smiled, recognizing we just had a moment, I got back into my car, teary eyed, and he waved bye.
I share to remind us all that we need each other.
Almost 18yrs ago I lost literally everything (my marriage, job, home, money, health) and without the love of family, insurance, and credit cards I could max out for alcoholic treatment facilities, who knows who or where I'd be.
This world is often tough, precarious and unfair, ripe with suffering. What can we do right where we are to reduce the suffering of others (and our own) in small, seemingly insignificant ways?
Do what you can if for no other reason than for the pure joy of opening your heart.
Physical pain is a part of life. Small pains. Big pains. Chronic pain. In many cases it's unavoidable. I've learned it's better to spend my valuable energy on cultivating wellness than trying to avoid pain.
But wellness doesn't mean feeling pain-free.
Wellness looks different for everyone. For me it's a feeling of acceptance, presence, compassion, openness and gratitude for my life. Whether or not I feel WELL has less to do with how much physical pain my neck arthritis or anything else is causing me, but how skillfully or fearfully I work with the pain. After revisiting Pema Chodron's teachings on suffering, meditation and freedom, I was given an opportunity to work with them this past weekend...
Pain is here. Stop. Breathe. Allow. Breathe. Gentle. Allow...by meeting the pain with gentleness, mindfulness and noticing any story I might be making up about the pain that is causing me to suffer (e.g. will it get worse, can I handle it, what will happen, etc.), I was able to be with the pain with less suffering, more compassion, less fear.
Pain is inevitable, yes, but the suffering is driven by our thoughts ABOUT the pain. Pain is here, but wellness is also.
Practicing mindfulness to tap into my fundamental feeling of wellness in the midst of my physical pain definitely continues to be a challenging exercise, but it has been proven true for me (again) that genuine joy or a feeling that all is well is independent of what is happening to or around me.
I believe that not because I read about it or heard about it at a seminar or lecture, but because I experience it. And from that experience my belief becomes knowing.
At those times when my response to life does not reflect the spiritual principles I study, the disconnect is not in my understanding of the concepts but in feeling the truth of them for me.
I invite you to look at any area of your life that is causing you pain - physical or emotional. Can you access a feeling of wellness or a knowing that all is well even when you would prefer life be different in the moment?
How can you use your pain to deepen your experience of life, your awareness, your compassion for yourself and for others in pain?
Share your thoughts...
People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges." - Joseph F. Newton.
I do this too, often unintentionally. Feeling lonely has become a trigger for me to start bridge-buildin'!
I make a phone call. Invite someone to coffee. Tell someone I love them. Walls are formed in the heart...so are bridges. Let's build them together.
Why L2YL Coaching
Living and working in alignment with my deepest values and intentions is my daily practice; helping women and the organizations that employ them THRIVE by offering a proven mindset management model to embody values and achieve transformational goals is my life's work.