Agency and Grace, and the Story about my friend's third Ear

Happy New Decade! Welcome to the latest wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

First off, I’d like to say thank you. It’s pure enjoyment connecting with you in this way. As 2020 is looking to be another year of collective growth and expansion, I’m looking forward to continuing to create pockets of space for reflection and the opportunity to take a breather right here, right now.

Listening seems to be on the agenda for many people these days. Whether we listen too much, or we don’t listen enough…

Typically we think of listening in two ways—the outer listening and the inner listening, where the outer listening (listening to and for external impulses), more often than not, takes precedence. At least consciously. 

In a conversation with a friend recently, she surprised me by sharing the story about her “third ear”. I liked it very much and got her permission to share it.

My friend, Anne, has been an Open Space facilitator for as long as Open Space  has been a thing (30+ years). Open Space is a form of self-organising and a powerful and simple way to run productive meetings, workshops, or conferences. In its most common form, the process centres around issue(s) of importance to any person willing to take some responsibility for it.

For those of you who have not come across Open Space Technology before, I recommend checking it out. It’s a fascinating, inspiring, and empowering meeting technology. It has Four Rules and One Law—the Law of Two Feet.

The Four Rules are:
1. Whoever come are the right people.
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
3. Whenever it starts is the right time.
4. When it’s over, it’s over.

The Law of Two Feet says: “If, during the course of the gathering, any person finds themselves in a situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they can go to some more productive place.”  

The first time I participated in an Open Space facilitated conference I was bewildered by the lack of structure. I remember feeling very uncomfortable as my conditioned perspective had me wonder what could possibly come out of such an unstructured approach?

Well, it turns out, a lot.

One of the basic premises of Open Space is that you take responsibility for what interests you. For example, if you’re at a conference or workshop and you have something that you’d like others’ input on, you offer it as a topic for conversation. Each topic or issue is then assigned a meeting space. Participants are invited to decide which topics they are interested in and they apply the law of two feet and wander over to the relevant discussion. Sometimes lots of people show up, sometimes only a few. Other times none at all.

There’s no judgment. The law of two feet. 

As an Open Space beginner, I felt incredibly awkward, rude, and disrespectful if I decided to leave a discussion and go someplace else. But there’s no judgment as I am taking responsibility for what is important to me. Over time I have gotten used to the law of two feet as part of how Open Space works, but it clashes sometimes with how the world at large is run.

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded that I ought to make the principle of the law of two feet conscious in all areas of my life because…

…what the principle is really about is agency and grace. Two things we can’t have too much of.

So, what about the story of my friend’s third ear?

Well, Anne and I had been talking about how we both follow resonance and divine (inner) guidance. How both are fundamental principles for how we make decisions and decide on next steps in our lives.

Working as a facilitator of groups where you open space for emergence, as Anne does, it’s important to give that emergence a voice. As Anne shared her story with me she explained how she had to learn to be present in every moment and just respond to each moment as it showed up and trust that her response would continue to hold the open space of agency and grace. She learned to listen to the energy of the group and follow it meticulously using her “third ear”, her ability to listen for resonance and dissonance in a group using her whole being, not just her physical ears.

I’ve never thought of my own practice of listening with my whole being as a third ear. I like it very much. Thanks, Anne!

If you were to describe your third ear, what would you say?

It’s a new year and a new decade. Last year was a fire hose of experiences and learning that took me way beyond my comfort zone. As a result, I have revisited my values and have come to some inspiring and interesting insights—insights that I’ll be coming back to in the not too distant future.

In the spirit of Open Space, I’ll close with some of the things that I’m bringing with me into this new year and decade. Things that will help me to show up fully in this year of 20/20 vision : agency, grace, and the principle of the law of two feet.

What things are you bringing with you into this new year and new decade?

Until next time…

..from my soul to yours,

Maria


*Fika for Your Soul* is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives. Fika (pronounced ‘Feeka’) is Swedish and means taking a [coffee/tea] break.

Meet your Freedom Zone

Welcome to the latest wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

Let me set the stage. At the time I’m writing this, we’re gearing up to Christmas. Some will celebrate massively, others not so much. I fall in the latter category. By choice.

For me, the Christmas and New Year season is an opportunity to rest, to create space, to catch-up, to prepare for the new year. Living in a different country than my family, there’s always a balancing between traveling to visit family and friends (which will be full-on), or wishing my friends and family Merry Christmas from afar and carving out some much needed time and space for rest and recharge.

My decision and choice not to see family over Christmas used to come with heavy feelings of guilt. I know my parents would love me to visit, yet they respect my need and desire to take a break during Christmas. So, I’ve learned not to feel guilty about my choice. Instead of Christmas, I visit them in Nov/Dec and then again in Jan/Feb, when the madness and leftovers from the holiday season are long gone.

So, what’s this thing about ‘Freedom Zone’? What is it, and what it may look like?

I’ll tell you in a minute.

As you may have gathered, my top value – my main motivation – is FREEDOM. I feel a deeply rooted peace, and my whole being is sighing with relief when I connect with the energy of freedom and what it means to me.

The pull towards freedom doesn’t come from a need to escape or run away from things. The motivation runs deeper than that, beyond any surface level challenges or opportunities that may present themselves in my life. It’s on the soul level.

I believe that there are two landscapes to freedom: the INNER and the OUTER.

…The INNER landscape contains the building blocks that help us in the external world. It contains characteristics and strengths. Understanding how we perceive our sense of freedom internally can equip us with most of what is needed to be a great leader in life.

…The OUTER landscape is our lived experience of freedom. If we understand our map to freedom, and what it means to us, then we have a map to help us navigate life. 

“Inner and outer freedom exists when we have access to what makes us tick. When we have a framework in place that supports our growth, evolution, and explorations in life.

My version of freedom…?

Mmm…it includes having the freedom to choose, to be who I am, to take responsibility for who I am, to be curious, and to operate beyond constricting boundaries and expectations – mine and others.

You see, FREEDOM fires me up. It makes me want to take action, to change, to grow, to evolve. It connects me to instinct and deeper wisdom, to inspiration, awareness, and autonomy. It expands my perspective and it keeps me on my toes.

So, what’s a ‘Freedom Zone’?

A Freedom Zone is a space for exploration and expansion. We all have one.

If you’ve never thought about it before, this is a chance to get acquainted. If the concept is new to you, I invite you to sit with the question, “What does my Freedom Zone look like?”.

What’s coming to you?

There are no right or wrong answers. Only what matters to you.

Some of you will know that the theme for me this year is ‘showing up fully’. This means having the confidence, clarity, and courage to walk my talk, to walk my own path.

When I do this, I know that I’m in my Freedom Zone, the zone where I’m in alignment, in balance, and where I experience meaning, fulfilment, and deep joy.

I’ve got 30+ years of experience from business operations in the high-tech electronics industry. About 15 years ago I recognised that something was missing. I was living my life based on other people’s ideas, not my own. I gave myself permission to explore my Freedom Zone. I’ve learned what it looks like and what makes it ‘hum’. My Christmas break is part of this. Taking it one step further and actually living in it has been a great pleasure over the last 15 years.

Rediscovering and consciously sculpting and cultivating my Freedom Zone is a continuous journey. The purpose of knowing what your Freedom Zone looks like is to help you stand strong in what you care deeply about and who you are in this phase of your life. It doesn’t have to have a focus on spirituality. Your Freedom Zone is your Freedom Zone, no matter what it looks like.

My wish for you is that you’ll take the opportunity to explore what your Freedom Zone looks like, so that you can live your life with confidence, clarity, and contentment, and be fully connected to all that you are.

Until next time…

..from my soul to yours,

Maria


*Fika for Your Soul* is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives. Fika (pronounced ‘Feeka’) is Swedish for taking a [coffee/tea] break.

Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

Three keys to overturning blind spots

Welcome to the latest wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

Some of you know that ‘showing up fully’ is a theme for me this year. And looking at what’s going on around us, the world at large seems to be pointing in a similar direction…to how it’s time for humanity to show up.

My definition of showing up fully includes having the confidence, clarity, and courage to forge my own path, to walk my own way. When I do that, I know that I’m in my freedom zone—the zone where I’m in alignment and in balance, and where I experience meaning, fulfillment, and delight.

A new opportunity to show up further appeared the other day and inspired what I’m sharing with you now. It’s linked to the human propensity for making decisions ahead of time, the deals we make with ourselves, and how these paint our freedom zone a certain way….

I’m the reflective type. In preparation for a session with coach Alex I pondered what was at the top of the list, what wanted to be the entry point for our upcoming conversation. For all the previous sessions, I had known in advance what wanted to be looked at.

This time…

Nothing. Nada. Crickets.

I was bewildered. There are plenty of topics to talk about, but, somehow, nothing came to the forefront.

It felt like a vacuum. At a loss, and being possibly somewhat unorthodox, at the time of our call I invited coach Alex to provide a doorway.

I was confused (and a bit frustrated) by how ‘blank’ I felt and how everything we approached seemed like decoys. Then, BOOM! After almost an hour, we stumbled upon a blind spot that has been ducking attention for decades.

It became clear to me that I’ve been operating with a ‘retreat’ tactic from an early age. I heard myself say that I’m afraid of sensory overload and so in any situation where that may be a possibility, I retreat in advance. Or put another way, I create an energetic boundary that keeps me from experiencing said sensory overload.

I’ve gotten so used to doing this for myself that I never ask if it’s needed. It happens automatically.

For me, the magnitude of this discovery is enormous.

I get why it happened way back when. It was a means to protect myself at a time when I didn’t know how else to handle what was going on and I made a deal with myself that retreating was the best way to cope.

At the end of the coaching session it became clear why I had felt so ‘blank’, why I had been unable to provide an entry point for our conversation. I’d embodied the very thing that was ready to be found!

Yep. Somehow, the avoidance pattern had queued itself up to be discovered and my embodying it— by going blank—was the clue. How weird and wonderful!

As coach Alex and I named this tactic that wanted to be found, I could feel things shift. Still, I was a bit bewildered by how this would affect my daily life. Then a dear friend, upon hearing about this weird and wonderful call, helped this discovery to land.

My friend said something along the lines of, “Wow, Maria, what if this tactic hadn’t been…!”

I so appreciate her saying this as it helped me feel what is now possible. It isn’t about what could have been or what I may have missed out on. That isn’t what she meant. It’s about what’s now possible as I step into situations with a different presence and awareness.

Don’t get me wrong, the sensory overload is a real thing. However, instead of deciding in advance that that’s what’s going to happen, from here on I will check in with myself. That way, my ‘retreat tactic’ blind spot won’t have the power to blind me.

Let me close by sharing three things that can help you recognize, and see through, blind spots. None are rocket science, just helpful reminders.

…Be aware of situations, scenarios, or circumstances where you may have auto-pilot switched on. Could there be a blind spot in there somewhere?

…Remember to check in with yourself. Ask yourself the question, “What’s my confidence, clarity, and courage level right now?”

…Ask someone you trust to reflect back what they see. Do they notice certain patterns or behaviour that you are unaware of?

I hope this has been helpful. In terms of my own discovery, I’m still surprised at how this one almost got away. How tricky it was to catch it, and how incredibly deeply it had nested itself into my everyday. As this continues to unravel, my guess is that I’ll be given opportunities to come back to this topic again.

..from my soul to yours,

Maria

PS! I’ve mentioned the concept of a ‘freedom zone’ a few times. We all have one. If this concept is new to you, I invite you to sit with the question, “What might/does my freedom zone look like?” What comes to you? I’ll be speaking more about this in the coming few weeks. If you are intrigued and inspired, and you’d like to share, I’d love to know. 🙂


*Fika for Your Soul* is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives. Fika (pronounced ‘Feka’) is Swedish and means taking a [coffee/tea] break.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Three keys to keeping any type of love alive

Welcome to the latest wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

My theme for the past week and a bit has been LOVE. And although the topic is vast, this is probably one of the shortest waves yet. 🙂

This most recent exploration started when I brought the following question to one of my sessions with coach Alex: “What does love look like at this point in my life?”.

Being a somewhat biggish question…it felt like throwing myself in at the deep end. Plus, I had no idea where the question would take me.

For me, this question goes beyond romantic love. Although it started in the personal sphere, it’s just as relevant for personal and professional relationships as it is for my relationship with the world at large.

Knowing what I know about myself, my lifestyle, and my approach to life… How do I characterise LOVE? What does it mean to me? How do I know when it’s present? What’s important?

Being an ongoing exploration, there’s no definitive answer yet…

…but summarising the outcome of my coaching session (and taking it beyond just describing what love looks like), I have identified three things that I consider important to keeping any type of love alive:

  • Openness to see a different and wider perspective.
  • Laughing with someone and laughing at ourselves.
  • Willingness to expand beyond what we know.

I bring this list to you today because the world we live in is growing seemingly more bizarre every day. I think it’s safe to say that many of us find our jaws dropping almost daily in response to what we see happening in the world around us.

I read Brené Brown’s recent blogpost, “Doubling Down on Love” this morning. Lots of goodness, but one key takeaway: whether we feel fearful, angry, or frustrated with the world at large, approaching any action or reaction with an energy of love will power a constructive momentum. Brené ends her post: “We have to live love to give love.” Awesomely true.

My list of three keys to keeping love alive — openness to a wider perspective, a shared gift of laughter, and willingness to learn — opens a door to keeping an open mind, forgiveness, and compassion. I consider these three nuggets a way to show love to self, to those we come into contact with in our everyday lives, and to the world at large. They’re one way to keep the energy of love, any type of love, alive.

How do you feel about these three keys to keeping love alive? Is there something you would add?

..from my soul to yours,

Maria


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*Fika for Your Soul* is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives. Fika (pronounced ‘Feka’) is Swedish and means taking a [coffee/tea] break.

Image courtesy Pexels and Pixabay.

Darwin awards and disarming techniques

Welcome to the latest wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

In mid-September I shared my own material in person for the first time. It was a 90-minute talk to a small-ish group. It was titled, “6 Keys to Wholeness – Your Map to Inner and Outer Magic”, and it covered how we can bridge our inner and outer worlds and an exercise showing the participants where their learning or growing edge is currently, based on the 6 Keys to Wholeness model.

On the surface, doing the talk might not seem like much…but it’s actually massive. Sharing my material is something that I’ve been putting off for years.

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Having done the talk and seeing it received well is an awesome feeling. And, at the same time, it feels very strange because I’ve spent most of my life in the background, supporting other people.

As you might imagine, preparing the talk was at the front of my mind, so I didn’t write this post as planned…

…I figured I could record a video instead. Great idea! I brought out my phone and opened the camera app and spent the next 10 minutes talking about what I was going to talk about, only to realise that I hadn’t actually switched to video and hit record. Duh!

No further along. 🙂 Back to square one.

This reminds me of something I got introduced to recently – the notion of the Darwin Awards. It came up in conversation thanks to some daft action-taking.

What are the Darwin Awards, you may wonder? Well, Wikipedia has this to say:

“The Darwin Awards are a tongue-in-cheek honor, originating in Usenet newsgroup discussions around 1985. They recognize individuals who have supposedly contributed to human evolution by selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization by their own actions.”

I laughed out loud when my friend told me about it as it’s a loving and not too brutal way of owning up to having done something not too clever.

Early on in my career I recognised the power of admitting to screw-ups, instead of trying to blame other people or circumstances, or in any other way try and run away from what might not have turned out so great. In my experience, still to this day, it’s the best disarming technique there is. Most of the time it prevents blown fuses and dominating anger. Sure, there can still be telling-off and stern talking, but they become more constructive.

I’ve applied the same approach in my personal life, with the difference that here I’ve added bucket loads of inner scorning and criticising of myself to no end. Which has had me play small, as the thought of sharing those ‘misfortunes’ made me feel like a failure at living life.

Somehow, now, the knee-jerk reaction of self-scorn is gone, and I’ll happily share my not-so-fine moments. 😉

…Maybe this side of openness is a result of having done the talk and seeing that the world didn’t implode. And that whatever mistakes I made didn’t catapult us into a different planetary orbit.

…Maybe it’s having had the courage to step into a conversation about intimacy and vulnerability and what it means to be feminine…with my male coach. Conversations that have had me come out the other end a different person.

But, as I say this, I know that I don’t need to figure this one out.

What I do know is that post-talk I feel increased appreciation for being human. We’re pretty awesome. All of us.

I’m curious. How do you feel about sharing mishaps? What’s your top disarming technique? If you feel inspired, let me know.

Coming back to Darwin Awards… I’ll leave you with another qualifier:

I started smoking fairly young. At the age of 13. One fine day, I and my closest friend “went for a walk”. We sat on a bench by the lake near where we lived, puffing away. As I lit my cigarette, I thought to myself that the lighter felt a bit odd and sounded “crackly”.

What possessed me to do what I did, I’ll never know. I lifted the lighter to my ear and lit it. Whofff! Hair on fire! Hair on fire!

There are no words for it other than – incredibly stupid.

Happily, the fire was put out quickly. 🙂 No massive damage, just the horrible smell of burnt hair, and a slight imbalance comparing left and right…

And, as luck would have it, my way out of experiencing total humiliation for my stupidity was that I could still tuck my hair behind my ears so no one was the wiser. 🙂

..from my soul to yours,

Maria


Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

*Fika for Your Soul* is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives. Fika (pronounced ‘Feka’) is Swedish and means taking a [coffee/tea] break.

On being passport-less, reconnecting your engine, and having a persona make-over.

Welcome to the next wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

The summer is coming to an end here in the UK. That said, the weather has been and continues to be stellar. Living by the sea is such a treat.

Reflecting on the summer months, I’m made aware of a bigger pattern that’s up.

…The pattern of IDENTITY.

Yep. Why go for the small stuff, eh?! 🙂

Whether our focus is personal, local, regional, or global, it seems that the collective pot that contains our identity – who we are and how we show up – is being royally stirred at present. With some of our leaders challenging our understanding of what leadership is…it provokes an intimate look at what we consider decent behaviour and, in extension, who we want to be. For some this is a welcome nudge, for others not so much.

Back in May, I had to send my passport to the Home Office in connection with my EU Settlement Status application.

As an expat, I take my passport *everywhere* as it’s my only means of identification. Being passport-less…crikey, massive DISCOMFORT!

Having said a temporary good-bye to my burgundy friend I felt vulnerable.

I felt trapped because I couldn’t travel, but I discovered…

…being without my passport was also exciting. Sending it off meant I had to “let go” of my passport, and metaphorically speaking, my persona. (Truth be told, only upon reflection did I see this deeper meaning.) 🙂

To give some context: I think of “persona” as the amalgamation of the roles I inhabit in different parts of my life. It’s filled with conditioning and beliefs. It’s made up of stories that I’ve told myself about me, or that others have told me about me. It’s built upon my knowledge and experiences, my education in life.

I’m sharing all this here today because a good few years ago I realised that my version of ME (my persona) wasn’t my own. I woke up one day not recognising who I was. I felt disconnected from my own life. It felt like my soul had fallen silent.

Back then, on the surface, my life was a brilliant one. But, on looking under the proverbial hood, I saw many cables and connectors were loose, detached from the engine’s components. How could the vehicle that is my life run (anywhere!) unless everything was fully connected?

So, I made the decision to re-connect with myself. To figure out who I was at that time. Who I wanted to be, how I wanted to show up in life.

Fast-forward quite a few years…

As an extension of this exploration, I’ve reoriented my work to have soul-leadership be my focus, to guide people to rediscover their soul’s voice, and to help them align their inner and outer worlds (no need to choose one over the other). To help them create freedom and wholeness. Just as I did for myself. 

That isn’t to say that I’m all done. No. It’s a continuous journey. But now, my engine is connected and my vehicle is taking me to places that are meaningful to me.

I’ll close by circling back to identity.

…Not surprisingly, our everyday situations and circumstances give clear pointers to our identity, and how we identify ourselves.

If it’s been a while since you thought about the words and language you use to describe yourself, or you’ve recently felt a desire, nudge, or even a yearning to revisit how you describe today’s version of you, here are a few tips to get you started.

Ask a few of your closest and most trusted friends or connections to share:

  • Three characteristics that would describe you.
  • Your top three strengths.
  • Three words that would signify how you show up.
  • How you make them feel.
  • What’s your special sauce.
  • What colour and shape they would ascribe to you, if they were to describe you this way.

These are just examples; I’m sure this will spark alternative versions that are perfect for you. No matter which questions or characteristics you use, you’ll be surprised at what others see in you that you may not see in yourself. I did this a few years ago myself. At first it was terrifying, so I started with a small circle, then expanded it a bit the feedback took me by surprise. I found out that the way I described myself was seriously out of date. We would benefit from doing this exercise regularly as we change and evolve with every interaction. (Not leave it for 20 years like I did!) 

I’m happy to report that my passport was safely returned from the Home Office, and the application for settled status was approved. I’m no longer in no man’s land. I can travel again. And, in terms of the right to live and work in the UK…I’m prepped for Brexit. 🙂

..from my soul to yours,

Maria

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*Fika for Your Soul* is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives.

Quantum Flirting with Something Bigger?

Wow, what an incredible couple of weeks! Have you felt it too? It’s been absolute bonkers (and wonderful!) in so many ways.

I did a short Facebook Live a while back where I mentioned how it felt like the Universe was taking a breath, that the energy had calmed down from having been quite intense a few days prior. That was temporary. 🙂

Some are experiencing that the world is seemingly going to hell in a hand basket, and the more light that is shone on us all, the more darkness and fear are bubbling to the surface.

I’ve always felt connected to something bigger, something in the subtler and unseen realms. I bring this connection into my work as a coach, mentor, sounding board, and sensing partner. It takes the form of listening to the unsaid and the unseen, the invisible. My listening to and including the invisible in the work I do is the reason I’ve decided to share what I’m about to share here today.

Some of you may think that I’m going a bit nuts as I try and describe what I notice and experience in the seen and unseen world, but it feels important to push the boundaries…

…so, without further ado, welcome to the next wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!


My experience of feeling connected to something bigger, to the field of invisible energy around me, to the collective, has grown exponentially over the last 15 years I’ve spent in the personal development field.

Although the world is still heavily driven by individualism, the notion of interconnectedness and ‘oneness’ is less fringe today as a result of spiritual evolution and the rise of, for example, the practice of compassion…

Continue reading Quantum Flirting with Something Bigger?