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Ken at the Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, NY, 3 June 2012

I just returned from my college reunion at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. I won’t tell you what number reunion it was for me, but I’ll just say it was “a big round number” as I like to call these things. We had about 30-35% of the graduating class back, and, while this is the third time I’ve been back to College Hill, it is the first time that I was there where I felt like I was fully present. I think that a lot of people step into sites that were scenes from earlier in their lives and they revert to the person they were there, and stop being the person they are now. I’ve done that in the past, and was working really hard to be present in the fullness of who I am now.

Ken rock climbing, Hamilton College, 2 June 2012

One thing that I think is the norm for any college reunion is drinking. I think I had more in 30 hours than I normally have in a month! I was lucky to be staying in campus housing so I didn’t have to drive anywhere. In some ways I think that is to numb yourself from feeling everything as well as to try to relive your old activities, and get away from the staid live of the present. I got to see a number of friends that I was close to while I was a student, including choir buddies (I sang most of my time there are was a

member of numerous singing groups), roommates (Eric, I swear I will go to Wellesley soon in the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge. Thanks for following!), suitemates (great to meet your family Dave!), and even people I never talked with while I was there. I even met someone who I never spoke with in my four years on campus to find he lives a little over a mile away and might be interested in my career consulting (yup, it’s a tax deduction right there!).  I even got to go rock climbing for the first time in my life.  They certainly never had that when I was on campus!

Tom’s Natural Foods, Cliinton, NY. The place where I first learned about natural foods.

I also tried to do some thing that are being true to me. There was a yoga class that I took, and I first did yoga on campus where I was the only student to an upperclass woman from Brazil. That, and the health food store in the village of Clinton were things that got me to think about health issues and set me up for the 26 years that I’ve been a vegetarian. These were the seeds that grew to make me who I am now.

A really new thing for me was that I got to attend a GLBT Alumni gathering. I was not out to myself then and very few people on campus were. Now they have a building where they have programming and are very visible on campus. In talking with a number of the current students, it sounds like it’s not always the easiest thing, it’s a lot different than my time. I also got to meet other GLBT alums and find out that there’s a GBLT Alumni group! It’s amazing to think of being all of myself there. (Note: another gay alumnus of Hamilton wrote a great article for the New York Times about his experiences at reunion, which mirrors a lot of what I’m saying here.)

There are three things that really struck me while I was there:

  • One of my fellow alums was there who really made an impression on me. I didn’t know her that well while I was on campus, but we knew each other enough to say hello and chat. She’s obviously had challenges in her life as she was walking with a walker and utilized an iPad to type out what she had to say that couldn’t be relayed in hand gestures. She was in yoga class with me, and was everywhere during the weekend. I know that she had some assistance, but she was very self determined and was definitely showing up fully as she is today. I didn’t get to speak with her much, but I did tell her she if a very strong woman.Thank you, Classmate, for your presence.
  • A friend of mine that I’m still connected on Facebook asked me what it was like being gay in college and if I was out, did I hide it from people, etc. She said it must have been very difficult and she felt badly that she couldn’t have done something to make it a better experience. This was totally unprompted and really made me feel cared for. It was something small, but made a big difference in my heart.Thank you, Friend, for your presence.
  • While I was not out in college, there was a guy who was. He was an athlete and well liked, and was really the first colleague that I had that was out. I didn’t have the words for it at the time, but I realize now that he was the first guy I had a crush on. Unbelievably, he was there and I got to say thank you to him for being out, and that it made a difference to me even though I didn’t come out then. He said it was awkward, but he knew that he had to do it. I wish I could have been that brave.Thank you, Role Model, for your presence.

I was working hard at being present and being me authentically while I was there. This is difficult in lots of situations, but by forcing myself to do that, I gained some strength and that I can be more me in any situation and can take that into my future.

So, are you being present even when it’s tough?


Blooming Tree in December, 2011, Cambridge, MA

Two things happened this weekend that gave me a new perspective, and it was totally unexpected.

On Saturday, I got up, went to yoga class at The Arlington Center (highly recommended), went and did some shopping, came home, cleaned up, and then about mid afternoon noticed that I hadn’t been on line all day. At that point, I just said to myself that I should continue this and see how it goes. I ended up relaxing and doing some drawing, and then went to the great Nowell Sing We Clear Christmas concert and saw a lot of friends.

On Sunday, I went to church and heard a great sermon by Ministerial Intern Elizabeth Nguyen on “May We Be Interrupted“. In the sermon, Elizabeth talked about this time of year is when we naturally stop, or interrupt our natural activities to slow down and reflect. Of course, our commercial world doesn’t want us to do that and hypes up the energy level to jolt us out of that. We can interrupt that if we choose.

Also, unexpected things can happen when we make ourselves available to that “eureka!” moment. How many things in life have been discovered because things didn’t go to plan? How many new, cool places have you found because you went off your normal route? I had that experience on Saturday as I didn’t check my email and messages all day. I interrupted my normal pattern and found something new. Granted, I still felt secure in what I was doing. I might not have felt the freedom to do new things had I not felt I had to take care of myself.

Many of the experiences I’ve been having in the past year seem to be reinforcing the same message: Take care to set up a safe, comfortable space for great things to happen, and get out of the way. In many ways this follows my career development philosophy, in that you need to take care of your own professional development with an eye to your goals and what’s needed to get there.

So, what interruptions have you been allowing in your life, and what discoveries have you made from them?

20111107-085858.jpgWhile I’ve been in a more contemplative, meaning of the Universe type of space on this blog lately, I also have that productivity/get it done side to myself. Today, you’ll get a shot of that practical side of myself.

The reason I’m so focused on knowing yourself and what you want is that until you know and understand that, it’s hard to know where to put your efforts in the job search (and you’ll waste a lot of time). But once you are clear on your vision and goals, it’s time to start doing your research.

I’ve been very surprised that when I recommend that people do research, they really don’t know what to do. Consider this a little list of resources if you are going to develop a list of target companies for your job search.

  1. Your Reference Librarian: Whether at a your local library or a major research university’s library, librarians are your friends. They aren’t about book and telling you to be quiet. Librarians are like fox hounds for information. Put them on the trail and they are off. Just tell them the type of information you need (e.g. “All the TV stations in the state of Connecticut” or “film festivals that specialize in documentaries”) and they have databases (more about them below) and print resources that can help you locate them quickly. They are a great resource that most people overlook.
  2. Databases: As mentioned above, many libraries have access to large databases of information that will help you out. Most aren’t available to the general public, but libraries subscribe to these great services. Take advantage of them!
  3. LinkedIn: Yes, LinkedIn is great for doing research! Find out what companies people in a LinkedIn group work for. Discover where that person used to work as its probably in the same field. Look at the people who are linked to someone in the field and where do they work. lots of possibilities!
  4. Google: We all know Google, but there’s a good chance you’re not using it to its full extent. For example, if there’s a company you’re interested in, you can google the company name and the name of something else you have in common (e.g. The name of the school you went to) to find out if there is an alum who works there or if there’s a special program that both are working on. Put your detective hat on and look for clues!

So, are you searching for something or waiting for it to find you?

I’ve just returned from Easton Mountain where I participated in an intensive tantra and breathwork retreat lead by Ian Ellington. While I can’t go into all of what I learned, I can share one particular learning that was really revolutionary for me, and I think has a direct relationship to what how we connect our spirits and the way we show up in the world (e.g.  your career choice).

Here are some of the most powerful messages for me:

As I’m learning about tantra, it’s about accepting all the is, and not judging it, but instead seeing if it serves you or not.  This non-judgemental presentation of reality is really quite freeing. We tend to get so down on the “right” answer, that it puts so much pressure on it.  If we just see each action as an experiment, then we can be easier on ourselves.  So that interview didn’t go so well.  Hopefully you learned from that and will be better the next time.

Ian also presented a concept of masculine and feminine energies and coupled them with the classic yin and yang approaches of Eastern philosophy. He presented that our classic presentation of masculinity is the Masculine Yang (targeted, goal-oriented, adventurous) and the Feminine Yin (nurturing, enclosing, receiving).  He also said that there are other options, like the Masculine Yin (steadfast, resourceful, abiding) and the Feminine Yang (Thrusting, Moving, Transforming: Think Giving Birth).  You can see more about this in his video about it, but what was fascinating to me about this is that the Masculine Yin is more about creating safe space, and the Feminine Yang is about the crazy, wild, creative stuff that gets dreamed up when the conditions are right.

How many times have we gotten a great idea, or clarity on something, and it seems to come out of nowhere? Times when it seems that the planets are aligned and everything finally fits together?  We can’t seem to make it happen (like landing your dream job) but what we can do is to create the proper environment (Masculine Yin) so that good things (Feminine Yang) can happen.  Most clients that I have are doing so many Masculine Yang actions (applying to posted jobs, etc.) that aren’t getting them results, and I keep saying that they need to do more Masculine Yin actions (networking, researching, etc.) that will creative good relationships and the conditions that will make getting the job (Feminine Yang) to happen.

While this might seem a little philosophical, the jist of it is that too often we try to force things to happen, and creativity can’t be forced, but it can be coaxed.  I know from this that I need to be kinder to myself to set up space for great things to happen for me (it’s a lot easier to make space for others.  I’m a professional at that!)

So, how are you creating space for magical, creative things to happen in your life?

As many of you have possibly noticed (or just noticed now as you read this), it’s been a while since my last post here. Part of that time I was away on vacation; other times I was just busy with being outside enjoying the too short summer here in New England. I had become really good at posting a few times a week and the readership of this blog rose dramatically.

And, then it all just seemed to stop. My body and my mind needed a break. I have plenty of partially finished posts as well as numerous notes for future development. I was getting down on myself that I was breaking my own rules by slacking off.

Then, I took a deep breath and realized the my body and mind was imposing a sabbatical on me. I had written over 100 posts in the 1.5 years that I’ve had this blog, and I had run through a lot of the knowledge collected in my mind. I needed that fallow time again to refresh.

Most ministers and professors take a sabbatical ever seven or so years to really get there minds clear and try something new. The goal is to come back with new energy and ideas.

I, like many of you, don’t always do the best things for myself and sometimes I have to be hit with a “clue by 4” before I do what’s needed. If I had listened to my needs earlier, I might not have needed to take this break so abruptly. It’s a continual lesson to notice where I am and listen to my needs, whether physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual. I’m getting better, but sometimes I need to be reminded with a sledgehammer.

So, when was the last time you took a sabbatical from something? If you listen to your body, mind and spirit, what are they telling you to do?

I just come back from an amazing vacation where I got a lot of personal and professional learning and it was absolutely amazing experience. I was really in need of a vacation and I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I posted last year but I think I just was in mental summer vacation mode as many of you probably have been.

One of the main things that happened to me was that I met up with David Thompson who writes a blog called Anchorhold. I have been following his blog for about a year but I didn’t know that I actually knew him. He specializes in making of rituals

At Easton, he had set up a altar play space which was just a large tent that he had lots of different things that you can put on the altar in the tent set up and thinking of different ways to set up sacred space. The purpose was so that you have what you need to try different objects to see if the resonate with you in creating your own separate space.

I have my own sacred space in my in my house but I haven’t felt like it was really serving me. It was a little bit stale and what I found from talking with him was that the space didn’t work with my way of manifesting sacred space. I have grown to use the term “spiritual fooling around”. It’s a more playful way of feeling my connection to something larger than myself in a more lighthearted way, and my altar had more of a venerated, stuffy air to it. The stale things there weren’t going to work for me. I got home and completely cleaned out that room, and made it one where id want to come on and play, do yoga, play music, and other things that feed my soul.

This gave me the permission that I can change my environment if I need to. Just because it’s one way doesn’t mean it always has to be that way if it’s not serving you. I do have the power to affect my surroundings and change them. It’s a simple thought but powerful once you embrace it.

So, is your environment (home, work, friends, etc.) serving you? What do you need to change?

Sorry gang about the AWOL-ness of the past week. I went away on vacation, and I took a breather from posting.  I was at the Country Dance Society – Boston Center July 4th Contra & English Dance weekend at Pinewoods Camp in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Lovely dancing, lovely place, lovely people, and lovely weather.

Here are the stories that have caught my eye in the mean time!

And in celebrations of the North American National Holidays:


More will come next week! Keep checking!

Here are the most interesting stories I’ve found this week! Enjoy!

So, what’s gotten your attention this week?


Ken Overlooking San Francisco Bay

We are finally getting some warm and sunny weather in New England. And like most of us who have been wearing too many layers for too long, all I’m thinking of is summer and vacation. I’ve started to plan the days I will be away and hope for good weather.

I like to say that too often I don’t have enough “mind space”. For me, this is having the freedom to think about whatever I want to. Too often, my brain is either cluttered or bombarded with facts and information, and often both! At these times, I really don’t feel like I’ve got the capacity to actually process much of what I want, and I’m not in control of myself. I’ve found at these times that my sense of personal power and control is at its lowest. I’m always looking for the opportunity to clear my mind and get that clutter out.

As I’ve written about before, I have been a student of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, and I attended a training in May where David was the instructor. One of the things that he mentioned is that most of us are frazzled except for one time: when we’ve just wrapped everything up before going on vacation. That made me think of the relief I’ve felt when I’ve crossed everything off my list and am now ready to head off on an adventure.

I’ve decided that I want to strive to have “vacation mind” as often as possible. When I’m on vacation, I also don’t tend to let little annoyances bother me as much. If I can keep this in mind, I’ll let myself have the space for other things to happen, like create s great new idea or write something great.

So, Where do you have vacation mind? How do you get it back when you’ve lost it?

PS – Don’t forget about the contestSign up now!

Man resting in the Public Garden on a warm summer day

I’m one of those rare Americans that actually speaks a language other than English. I was a Linguistics major in college where I learned German and lived in Göttingen, Germany for a summer. For fun, I also studied Esperanto and got good enough at it to participate in a four day conference speaking only Esperanto. After graduation, I moved to T’aip’ei, Taiwan where I taught English and studied Mandarin Chinese. I also sang in a Scandinavian singing group for 11 years and I worked to pick up Swedish. Needless to say, I like languages and the different way people use words interests me.

Sometimes you find a word in another language that perfectly describes what you want to say, but there isn’t an English equivalent for it. One of those for me is the German word “aufgeregt“. As I understand it, it means off kilter, but a little more than that. For me, it embodies that uneasiness when things aren’t they way you expect them to be, you’re not sure where your grounding is, and you feel like you’re not sure of your next step.

I’ve been feeling very “aufgeregt” lately. My grounding of my rituals and what I need to do has been a bit rocked by my celiac diagnosis.  I feel like I have to make all of my own food as I can’t trust that there isn’t any gluten hiding in something.  I’ve been spending a lot of time making food, and it’s also messed with my head.  I know that I need the grounding of getting to my routines, which is the gym, meditation, walks, and being in control of my life instead of letting other things control me.  In essence, I’ve let my gluten intolerance become a big, fat hairy deal. It’s become a distraction where I’m not in charge of my direction, and letting that dictate for me what I need to do.

When I react to other input, I take away my own power, and I make poor choices for myself.  I need the grounding that can only come when I realize what’s good for me and work that, instead of letting my circumstance work me.

So, how are you getting into balance and grounding yourself?


Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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