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Hello blogging world!

Ken at Taos Plaza, Taos, New Mexico, August 2012

I know, I’ve been a bit AWOL for a while.  I’ve had an amazing summer where I was traveling a lot and had a lot of adventures.  I went to New York State, New Brunswick, Provincetown (yes, there will be the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge post for that!), Kentucky, and New Mexico.  I have not tended to be a big traveler, but this year was different, and I was trying something new.  It has been a great experience with new learnings, and you will be seeing comments and pictures about them on this blog.

That being said, I’ve let you, and most importantly myself, down by not keeping up with blog posts.  Writing down my thoughts and comments on spirit, passion, and career is not only a way to put my thoughts in concrete form and promote my ideas to you (and any potential clients), but also a spiritual practice.  In the zen practice of every action you take can be mindful and promote your spiritual health, I’ve been blogging to keep myself focused and active in mind.  I’ve been more active in body this summer with all the traveling, and I have gotten better with being more consistent with my yoga and meditation practices.  That is a good thing, and I’m happy for that.

I can’t change the past, and it does absolutely no good to get down on myself for avoiding this, as I won’t be a better blogger now because I have a judgmental voice in my head.  I can just be kind to myself and move on forward.

So, how are you being kind to yourself and acknowledging your past shortcomings?

Ken at Swede Road, Little Ridge, New Brunswick, Canada, July 2012

Ken at Beach Point Landing, Truro, Massachusetts, July 2012

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Tree in Boston Common, December 2011

I started this blog (almost two years ago now) because I wanted to get out my ideas on the intersection of where people feel their passion and souls live and what they do in their lives to create meaning and support themselves. I’ve seen too many of my clients who are just blindly going through their professional careers who then 5, 10, 20 or even more years into it discover that they are completely unfulfilled and feel like they have been wasting their lives. It’s my goal to get as many people as possible to consider what’s important to them first before taking these steps. They might take the same actions, but this time with confidence.

I’ve also been doing a kit of personal reflection and study in my life and tried to share my learnings with all of you. Probably the greatest insight that I’ve had is one that I’ve read and heard for years, but I finally “got it”. As is probably apparent from my posts and my professional position, I’m a great proponent of planning and working your plan. I’m always looking for ways to be in control of what’s needed to be done (just look at all the posts that I have with the tags GTD, actions, goals, and the like). That’s my natural way of being and I can easily teach this to others. I’ve had to be a student of the other side, namely allowing things to happen.

I’ve been so driven to get things done that I’ve been impatient to allow things to happen. I’ve come to realize in a visceral sense (and not just intellectually) that there are too many variables in the world that I have no control over, and I have to learn how to just “be” in order to effectively deal with life’s challenges. As the saying goes “Life happens while you’re making other plans”. If I’ve been working so hard to get everything right, I’m not able to deal with what’s in front of me effectively.

In reviewing some of the data that I’ve seen from this blog, the #1 search term that brings people to my site is “human being versus human doing”. My first post on this is subject is one of my most read posts. I think that people have a great longing wondering if what they do has meaning and if there are other ways of being. As you can probably tell, it’s my work to answer that question with a resounding “Yes!”.

The first step is to practice “being”. It sounds cliche, but you have to work at slowing your mind down and just be present to the current moment. Our fast paced culture does all it can to keep us from bring present. This is not something I can just give you; it takes practice. You will screw it up a lot at the beginning. Keep trying. There are lots of different ways (yoga, meditation, prayer, serving others, etc.). Find the way that works for you and keep trying to do it and stay present.

Once you get that down, it will be much easier to actually take the action steps you need to make your dreams happen. You’ll have a focused goal and won’t have a lot if other things crowding your mind to keep you from the action steps to get them done.

So, how are you being today?

Ken at Cape Spear, Newfoundland, June 2010

As those regular readers of The Spirit-Work Connection have already noticed, it’s been quite a while since I’ve written here. Like many of you can attest, sometimes life packs more into your schedule than your calendar or mental capacities can handle. That was certainly the case for me. I’ve been booked basically every day and night for the past three weeks with whatever slivers of time available taken to try to recharge. I’m looking forward to a few days to do things like fold laundry (I’ve got four loads waiting for me!) and cleaning up my outdoor plants for the impending frosts.

I’m finding that I’ve been spending a lot of time being very active in pursuing accomplishments (more clients, reading, having meetings to get things done) and I haven’t been doing as much to just take care of myself. I haven’t been going to the gym and doing yoga as much as I’d like. I have been taking walks pretty consistently (gotta get outside while we still have light and somewhat warm temperatures here in Boston) but the more concentrated honoring of my physical self has been lacking. As I learned through my Tantra studies, great, creative things can happen when you create a space for miracles to bubble up. My body not only is the vehicle for me to do so many great things (planning in a trip to the Bahamas in January!) but it also houses my spirit for this lifetime. I’m in the need to clean house and make this a more comfortable place for me.

Here on Halloween, many traditions celebrate that this is the time when our ancestors (i.e. those that no longer have their earthly containers) are closer to us than at any other time of the year. I should be pleased that I have a container/body to dwell in and that is something to be happy about and celebrate.

I’ve decided that this winter season will be a cocooning time for me where I’ll focus on doing yoga, meditating,  journaling, reading good books, and cooking good food. And breathing. Got to remember to keep breathing.

So, what are you doing to take care of the one container you’ll never get out of in this life?

Broom Flowers at Easton Mountain

Here in the US, we are just about to celebrate the Labor Day Weekend. Regardless of what it is astrologically, this is effectively the end of the summer. The academic year for colleges (and the deluge of students that move in the Boston area this weekend) and schools really starts in earnest on Tuesday, and the whole spirit and pace of the land changes.

Just like squirrels scurrying around to gather enough food for the too-soon-coming winter, the pace quickens here with professional meetings starting and theater and musical organizations seasons opening (Do you have your season tickets?). The days are getting shorter at an increasing rate, and we’re having cooler mornings greet us as we get up and start our days.

I feel like I still need about another month of summer to really unwind. We had a sort of abbreviated summer with a cool June, and there are many things that I’d still like to do.

I’m going away to Easton Mountain for their Labor Day weekend program, and my goal is to read, take pictures, lie in a hammock, and just be. I’m going to extend this summer as much as I can, and squeeze every drop out of it.

I’ve been doing a lot of self-development work on trying to be present in each moment. I’m too easily distracted by the great drama that continually plays in my mind. I’ve found that if I pay attention to that instead of what’s in front of me, I feel like I’ve missed out on summer and any other event that I’ve enjoyed. I’m hoping that by being present even when it’s not summer, I can live in that retreat/non-rushed feeling a little while longer. It’s an experiment, but one that has very promising outcomes.

I hope you have a great, relaxing weekend.

So, what are you doing to have a retreat in your mind this weekend?

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!

To all my loyal readers and to my inner conscious: I’m sorry. It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted here, and it’s been something’s that’s been gnawing on me for quite a while. I know that it’s something I enjoy and helps me to keep focused in the world, but I’ve been avoiding it. Every since I got back from my vacation in Florida (warm weather! Yay!), I’ve been out of sorts with my routines. I haven’t been meditating as often and I’ve felt like I’m not in as much control.

Part of this comes from guilt. I know that my plans have been to do this, but it didn’t happen and then the guilt keeps me from looking at it for a while. I don’t want to be reminded that I let myself (and my adoring fans who wait on my every erudite word) down. When I get caught up in that crazy sort of thinking, nothing gets done.

I like to say that I’m a firm believer in reality. So, I didn’t get a blog post written. Maybe I’ve just been tied and didn’t have much to say. Maybe I needed the mind space to deal with something else in life. Whatever it is, I can’t keep myself down because I didn’t live up to my standards. I can only try again.

I find that a ritual of doing things all the time work for me when those ritualistic activities are ones that I’ve chosen that serve my higher purpose.

So, what rituals serve you?

I’ll be a guest speaker on The Quest of Life radio show on WRPI-FM on Friday, December 17, 2010 and my topic will be Connecting Your Spirit and Your Work. The next few blog posts will go into more talk about the points that I’ll be speaking on there.

What happens to a dream deferred?  These words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reverberate in my mind when I talk with many of my clients. As s consequence of my line of work, many people come to me with that “lost” expression of their souls. they don’t know where they are or what they want to do with their lives. Many times, these clients felt that they had something and that it’s gotten away from them or vanished before their eyes.

There could be many reasons for that. While some could be that they didn’t have a clear plan in the first place or that  circumstances in the world have changed their lives, a big reason I see is that people made decisions way back at the initial part of their planning that didn’t include listening to their own heart.

For the average individual, career decisions are made sometime shortly before or after the age of 20. Whether you go to college, a trade school or not, we ask our young people “So, what do you want to do with your life?” and mist often these people are incapable to really answer this question (with many exceptions, of course).  As our culture tends to perpetuate the concept of having one career your entire life, so young professionals are brought up with the thought that they better get it correct now or they will screw up their lives. That seems to be a remnant of the “working at the town mill” mentality that many of our parents grew up with.  Granted, we now know that now one will be there to take care of us if we don’t do it for ourselves. (Note: estimates by the US Dept. of Labor say that the average Baby Boomer had 11 jobs from ages 18-65; chances are good that there were a lot of changes going on there!)

Given such a high stress on getting it right on our young people, it’s not hard to understand that they will tend to look for others to help them with such an important decision.  Unfortunately, what many times happens is that they make decisions to keep others happy, instead of listening to their own heart.  I have dealt with too many 30-somethings who have done great career changes because they always wanted to do something, but their parents or society had other ideas for them.  That’s not to say that these people were out to sabotage this young person’s life, but that the student probably didn’t have a strong enough sense of self to speak their own truth, and by not practicing listening then, that voice stopped being listened.  That dream deferred then comes back screaming later on to get the minds attention when the soul have been ignored.

A common occurence about 10 years ago was when the software and engineering industries took a big hit in the Boston area, and a lot of computer programmers where suddenly out of work.  Many of these people went into the field in the 80’s when “that’s where the jobs were” and they never had to look for a job; it always found them.  What many of them discovered was that when they had to look for a job and say why they wanted to be a programmer, they had nothing to say.  They found out that they were doing it only for the money and stability.  Now that they had a choice, many people went into other fields.

So, what dreams have you deferred?

I’ve got a beard now, and I’ve had it for almost two years. I grow a good beard and I’ve been encouraged over the past few decades to grow it. The problem was always that at about three weeks time, I would want to to tear my face off as it would get so itchy (and my face would break out). I have a lot of friends who have beards (and really think that all men look better with beards) and I would tell them that I was about to shave off my beard because if the itching. With great fervor, they would insist that I just grow it out and it wouldn’t itch anymore.  It never worked for me, as I’d last at most a month.

Finally, I grew it out and I tried something different.  I noticed that a lot of guys would now have their beards really short, and I thought it looked really cool.  I got a shaver with the trimmer guide, and just kept my beard to about a seven days growth.  Surprise, I didn’t itch.  Found out that I’ve got very curly beard hair, and by growing it longer, it would curl back into my face and make me itch.  Whereas for other guys, growing their beard out would make it more comfortable, for me it’s the opposite.

In navigating our career paths, many times we get recommendations from people that work for them, but don’t work for us, and many times they are absolutely sure are know the right thing.  This goes to show that you really have to look at what is your own situation, what works for you, and what doesn’t.  That’s one reason that I work with so many people in asking the “What do you want?” question.  Until you know more about what’s important to you and your own situational specifics, it’s hard to know where to go.

So, how do you know what recommendations to take?

Note: Remember about my Finding Your Calling Workshop at Easton Mountain, March 18-20, 2011!  Tell your friends!

I’ve been battling a sinus infection for over a week and it’s really gotten me into a low energy place (that’s also why I haven’t done a blog post in the past week). My brain has been very fuzzy and it’s hard to keep my mind on doing anything. Luckily, I’m on my second round of antibiotics and that seems to be helping. I actually got some things done last night that I haven’t been able to do for a while (I still have a couple of loads of laundry to fold though).

One thing that I have been noticing in my life recently is my ability to numb myself to the outside world when it gets “scary” for me. Just now I had the idea to start writing my thoughts down for this blog post, and my mind went right to the want to play a computer game or listening to music.  I’ve been getting more aware of this since doing more work with Joe Weston’s Respectful Confrontation approach. I tend to numb myself from the works when it doesn’t flow as easily as I think it should, and I can then avoid doing or thinking of many things.

Gollum

When this happens, I’ve hit a little respite from life, but then I have to deal with things later. Occasionally, my problem will just disappear, but most likely it is waiting more me to emerge out of my mental bunker and deal with it. At that time, I’ve usually gotten some more strength to deal with the issue and don’t feel so overwhelmed. It’s like my personal strength has been zapped when I’m presented with anything from a disagreement with a friend to having to put away my winter clothes. I’ve come to see that this is when I’m attacked by my personal Gollum, a gremlin that waits for my moment of weakness, and then convinces me that I have to hide for my safety. I lose the sense of personal power where I know I can handle things. This Gollum used to control my life much more than now.  I’m working at just noticing when he’s around, as it seems like he has control of my when I don’t realize it.  If I’m vigilant enough, then I can hopefully avoid these traps where I’m doing something silly and time-wasting instead of getting a number of things done that I want to do.

How does your Gollum show up in your life? What does he keep you from?

I think that we’ve all had times in our lives when it feels like we’ve got the weight of the world on us and there’s pressure from outside of us to deal with something that we really don’t what to address. It’s usually that we are just so paralyzed by the concept of taking action that we avoid it at all costs. This can be a self-perpetuating cycle, as we get more and more scared to deal with it, that it becomes a “Big Fat Hairy Deal”.

When in the presence of a Big Fat Hairy Deal, we just want it to go away and not bother us. We’ll deny that it’s there. We’ll put off facing it to do something much more important (like surfing the web to research the use of hydroponics in the 18th Century).  We do these things because we know that nothing in the world is more dangerous than actually facing The Big Fat Hairy Deal.

I’ve also found that nothing is as sweet as the relief when you finally know that the Big Fat Hairy Deal is not going to bother you. Many times all it took was making that awkward phone call or going through that pile of bills.  It can be so simple to just deal with the issue, and get it past you.

I was reminded of this as I’ve been doing pretty well lately: meditating, dealing with the standard stuff that comes up in life, etc, when all of a sudden I had a bunch of things happen to me.  Between family illnesses and upsets, professional upsets, and dealing with the darkening of the days, all of a sudden I seemed to be much more overwhelmed with things and not able to concentrate as well as I have in the past.  It took me a while to remember that this is the way that I used to feel constantly, and that if I just try to see what’s in front of me at the moment, I see distinct things clearly. When I’m overwhelmed, it’s a mass of things together, and all that pops up in my head is the Big Fat Hairy Deal.

With many of my clients, they are paralyzed by fear of going forward and don’t know what to do. The Big Fat Hairy Deal shows up in their lives and stops them in their tracks.  I like to say that the Big Fat Hairy Deal is just another name for fear, and everything that you don’t know what it is.  You can reclaim your life and your future by seeing what’s in front of you for what it is, which could be anything from a broken dish to a co-worker who always thinks he’s right and doesn’t show respect for your opinion.  If you make it more than it is, it will have power over you.

What’s the Big Fat Hairy Deal in your life? What is the Big Fat Hairy Deal blocking you from?

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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