Navigating Big Life Changes with a little bit of help

When my dad died at 89 after living a blessed life, I couldn’t do math or read anything longer than a paragraph for three months. After giving birth to each of our sons, I shut out the news world because the stories of violence and pain punctured my full-heart.  Since we moved abroad almost two months ago, I struggle with focus and keeping track of details.

Parents passing, babies arriving, and moving to a new country are all major life events. And, no matter what the reason for the change, we are usually in for an unexpected ride. I have learned over the years, to go with the flow and be patient with myself during big transitions. I’ve also learned not to hold shame for memories that aren’t particularly happy or prideful. 

After my dad died, paying for groceries became a challenge.My mind would go blank when confronted with simple addition and subtraction. I would push bills and coins across the counter at the local Trader Joe’s and ask plainly, “Is this enough?” At first, it was so frustrating and then, I decided to stop being so surprised and indignant about my newfound inability. The mantra in my head slowly switched from, “What’s wrong with me?” to, “I need a little bit of help.” 

When our first son was born, I switched pediatricians because the office was in an area of Oakland that painfully reminded me that we, as a society, have left many humans behind. For years to come, I held confused feelings about my inability to face humanity compounded by the privilege of switching pediatricians. I learned later, I needed a little bit of help and it came in the form of me controlling some of my environments during those infant years.

Yes, time heals and has shed light on major changes in my life. But, my perspective has also been informed by a framework. I use the Enneagram for my continued personal development and in my coaching practice. One of the core principles of the Enneagram is that humans have three centers of intelligence: head, heart, and body.  Most of us are familiar with ideas like, my head wanted one thing and my heart another, but my gut said to do this.  For those of us in the Western world, we likely lean on the head (mind) as the ultimate source of knowledge and the location of our sense of “knowing”. But, the body and heart have equal importance and value. 

In the Enneagram system, each one of us is more familiar with one center than others. For example, I’m a body person. I am comfortable with instant action and trusting my gut. It’s my superpower; until — it’s not. I use my heart least, and in times of stress, overuse my head. With practice and work, I’ve become more skilled in using all three centers. When we operate in one (or two) centers constantly, we are more than likely fulfilling some egoic image or structure we have built versus consciously choosing what’s right for us. In short, the centers of intelligence help us break through limiting patterns and access more of ourselves.

In the case of a major change, the centers of intelligence often yield to one another or become dominant or subordinate. Like burners on a stove — one center is hot while the other two can remain cold or warm. No need to touch any dials or knobs; the centers know when to show up – if we listen.  I like to think of them as automatic pilots helping us to navigate the change. 

When my dad died, the center of intelligence I needed most was my heart. The emotions I faced were big, deep and complex. I felt the sorrow of losing a person I loved so dearly and joy for what his passing meant to him as a man of deep faith. I was also receiving all the love and emotions others felt for him as well as witnessing the pain of my siblings and mom. 

I didn’t need my brain during the days and weeks following my dad’s death. Nor did I need it for the ensuing mourning period. I didn’t need math; I needed to feel. My heart was there to intelligently help me connect to my feelings, emotions, and memories. And, as the weeks passed, my heart helped me navigate my new life without my Dad.

When our sons were born, my heart was split wide open. It was true for me, as it is for many parents, that I have never felt a greater love. It was bliss and wonderment so big I thought my heart would burst. Once again, I needed to be in my heart. I didn’t need to think anything through. Pay bills or stay updated on the US War with Iraq. I needed to experience this once in a lifetime love and let it nurture the connection with my babies. If I thought about everything that needed to be done or was exposed to the hard truth that the outside world is often harsh and cruel, it would have taken me away from the bonding and profound connection with our sons. When a heart is bursting with love, even the the smallest of slights can feel incredibly painful. I remember telling a friend, “it’s puppies and rainbows for me for awhile.That’s about all I can handle.”

Now, I’ve moved almost 6,000 miles away. New continent, new country, new language. I struggle with details and follow-through. It may be that I have exhausted one center of intelligence and another one is picking up all the slack.  I’m not sure yet, but let me try to explain. There were so many complex mental logistics leading up to the move that my head center was large and in charge for months. I was like a master project-manager: ticking boxes and shredding to-do lists in my wake.

Now, that we have moved, I find myself using my body (where my intuition resides). I simply don’t understand a lot of the information presented to me. Some due to the language barrier or cultural awareness of why things are done a certain way.  So, I rely on my gut. When our boys asked to go into the city to ride scooters with some of the neighborhood kids, I had to use my intuition. Kids here are much more independent and being new, I don’t know any of their parents. So, I just listened to what my body told me. And, off they went (and safely returned!).

I do think that big changes are exhausting and it’s possible that we are so tired, that our brains shut down. Yet, there are many examples of big changes in my life where my head center was dominant – especially in my career. 

I know from experience that we can override our centers of intelligence through sheer force of will or denial. We can force one of the burners to stay off when it really should be on high. When we do this, we are stuck in an egoist pattern that impedes us from accessing our whole self.  I also know from experience that when I see others hijacking this natural change process, they just need a little help. 

With love, light and a little help,

Ellen 

How we moved to Switzerland

Our move abroad wasn’t a fluke…

Our idea to move to Switzerland was put in motion in 2009, when my husband and I were deciding where to raise our sons.

Our first big move was intentional. Like most new parents (we had two boys under two), deciding where our sons would spend their formative years felt both weighty and exciting. Between two careers, two babies with colic, and two dogs in a 1200 square foot rental, Rob and I created our vision for what was next. We chose Pleasanton, CA — 30 miles east of Berkeley, CA — where we made our start as a couple. In retrospect, a winning factor for Pleasanton was its many lovely outdoor pools and parks with water features. After our first visit, I told Rob it felt like Club Med, or what I thought Club Med to be based on the New York Times Travel section ads. In the end, our fate was sealed with a lethal combo of new parent conscientiousness and all-inclusive vacation fantasy. 2009 was a very intentional year for our young family.

Switzerland wasn’t on the agenda at this point. In fact, it never really was, but I’ll get to that in a bit. At the same time we were moving our family to Pleasanton, Rob and I had the foresight to commit to creating the next 10 years. THE NEXT TEN. I am not much of a planner by nature, but I am a possibility person. Plus, I facilitated business meetings for a living, so I’m no stranger to visioning exercises. Luckily, Rob is always game. So, as we settled into our suburban environs — a pact was born. It looked like this, “No matter where we are in the next 10 years, we will be as intentional about creating those ensuing 10 years, as we are the current 10. Why 10? Our boys would be transitioning from primary school to middle school at that point. Plus, it makes for easy counting.

Our family thrived in Pleasanton. It more than delivered on providing the community and educational experience we desired for our boys. At the 8-year mark, when our sons were entering grades 4 and 5, our task to consciously envision the next 10 years was upon us. Rob and I checked-in while hiking one Sunday morning. We both agreed that our family was thriving, but the frenetic pace of the Bay Area, while stimulating for our work life, put unnecessary strain on our family life. And, even more importantly, we agreed there was so much more “out there” and felt pulled to be “open” to something new. We didn’t have a solid plan or any answers. My work could take me almost anywhere; Rob’s work was not flexible. Being in technology, the Silicon Valley seemed hard to beat. We agreed to start small — pursue possibility with clear intention and minimal effort. We then took two very small but intentional steps:

Take these two simple steps to manifest what you want in your life…

  1. PUT INTENTION INTO ACTION: We began our intention of moving by looking at things differently. We committed to look at each place we visited for work or pleasure, with open minds and ask, “Could we live here?” We visited ten different cities in next two years. We took notes and discussed our findings so we could agree (or not) on the ingredients for our new vision. Through this process, we also created an option to stay in the Bay Area and make a few small, but powerful changes to the way we lived, so we could, in fact, slow our pace have more family-time. And, we also did something else….
  2. LET THE UNIVERSE DO THE WORK: I created a quick visioning exercise with a small process (or ritual) where each of us wrote the vision for our family for the next 10 years. The only instruction I gave was to put consideration into how it would “feel” and not worry about specific details. Our boys were 9 and 10 years old at the time, and I was amazed at what they wrote. I then read each of our visions aloud and circled the similar themes. Our themes were: more time together as a family, less time in the car, more time in nature, somewhere less crowded but still interesting, mountains, water, and somewhere that had a lot to offer, good schools and a sense of community. There were a few outliers like, more X-Box time or unlimited ice cream, but for the most part, I was amazed at how aligned we all were. And, then, I folded up the pieces of paper and put them on my office book shelf under a paperweight. And, left them there for the universe to do the rest. Tips:
    • The ACT of writing our ideas pen to paper is critical because it puts energy into the universe.
    • Reading intentions to another or in our case, sharing our visions was a critical step for our family because it symbolized what we together, wanted to create. Even if this is not empirically true – if you are reading this and want to create more possibility in your life – it can’t hurt to WRITE IT DOWN or SAY IT OUT LOUD in the presence of others. It’s powerful – try it.

There was a knock on the door…

Almost eighteen months later, we were on a family vacation in Williamsburg, VA. And, Rob stepped out of our hotel room for a work call. When he was done, he knocked on the door to our hotel room and as I opened it he said, “You aren’t going to believe it, but I got a job offer for a new role that’s very exciting and they want me to move to Europe.”

When I put our vision papers on that makeshift altar on the bookshelf in my home-office, I never considered Europe. Rob and I never discussed Switzerland. Not because it wouldn’t be desirable, but because it never occurred to us to dream that big. We jumped at the chance to move to realizing that we would never squander what the Universe offered. Tip: If the universe creates something bigger than you dreamed, don’t debate it. Just go for it.

I have a series of stories like this from my life. The story I just shared is very similar to how I met Rob, I wrote out a list of the qualities I wanted in a partner and put it in my underwear drawer! When we bought our first house in Pleasanton, there were a myriad of things that had to happen which we had no control over in critical window of time in the very competitive Bay Area. In both these instances, too, I had to let go to before anything “happened”.

Every time one of these inexplicable major events have happened in my life, it’s brought me to my knees. Literally. I’m humbled and reminded that I’m always being taken care of by something bigger than myself. I try to return the gifts I have received from the Universe to others; sometimes, by sharing my stories and inspiration, or listening to others pain and joys, or providing solid support and guidance when others need it. I try to remind others that living a life of intention isn’t easy, but the Universe (insert your word here) is always there to help us.

My intention is to spend more time now on Live Your Jam. I’ve let go of my consulting practice and will focus solely on coaching and helping others Live their Jam. I have some ideas. I’m not really sure where the Universe will take me, but I know from experience, I’ll be humbled. I invite you to follow me and also share your inexplicable stories and Jam lessons with me.

Love and light,

Ellen

Seeking those who are living their Life Purpose (Jam)

Are you someone who is living a life of passion and purpose? If so, how did you to where you are today? Who helped you along the way? What key lessons would you share with others who are committed to living a life of purpose?

8 Keys to Finding Your Life Purpose

Everyone has their own unique gifts to offer the world. We all want our lives to matter and leave the world better because we were in it. The 8 keys to finding your life purpose are listed below. But, there are two tricky aspects of Life Purpose that we should all be aware of.

1. Life Purpose isn’t singular; it’s collective.

Thinking we have one singular purpose is a fallacy. We can have many paths that we fully enjoy, give us meaning, fulfill us, and then, that path may lead to another. We have to be awake to what we are being called to next and have the courage to follow it. It’s the collective that embodies our purpose.

For the first part of my career, I was in Finance. My oldest brother lost his life to cancer and my parents and family were shattered. When I graduated from college, as a healing homage to my parents, I decided to work really hard and succeed at whatever I put my mind to. Subconsciously, I thought if I were successful, it would bring my folks joy and perhaps alleviate some of their pain. No one asked me to do this, but, with the drive to heal them – I began a very successful career in Finance — something I had no deep interest in. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I realized that I was going down a path that felt empty inside.

I was able to take time after my Fiance career to discover that what I really wanted was quite simple- to help people lead more fulfilling lives. My soul’s destiny is to be an inspirer, mentor, teacher, and someone who helps others shine their own light.

I am now on my third big career shift helping others lead more fulfilling lives. I am now an expert at teaching others to shine their own lights. But, if I hadn’t had the Finance and Business background, I couldn’t have easily transitioned to my second shift as an Organization Development Consultant and Executive Coach. So, I see life purpose as our collective experience. All roads lead to the other and are intertwined and in each shift or stage, we are sharing and honing our unique gifts.

2. Life Purpose is not out there somewhere. It’s in the present moment.

This is such a hard CONCEPT! Eckhart Tolle helped me understand this fully for myself. He says that our outer purpose changes with circumstances and necessarily involves time. Which is what I’m describing above. We have more than one life purpose. It shifts, changes, grows as we grow. We need to stay open and listen to our deep desires in order to follow them to greater fulfillment and alignment with our true Self. Whereas our inner purpose always remains the same. Our inner purpose requires us to be absolutely present in whatever we do and so let our actions be guided and empowered by awareness, the awakened consciousness, rather than controlled by the egoic mind. We fulfill our destiny and realize our purpose when we awaken to who we are: conscious Presence. I highly recommend anyone who has not read Awakening to a New Earth by Eckhart Tolle to read it immediately.

How do you view your Life Purpose? Do you see it as something out in front of you? Or do you see it in your ability to stay present – truly present with what comes from inside of you. Not what your mind says, but that voice that we all have that represents our soul’s desire. Here are 8 Inspirational Truths to help you have the courage to design a life that can keep you aligned with your Soul’s calling.

8 Inspirational Truths to Help you Find Your Life Purpose

  1. You were born for a purpose.
  2. You have innate gifts that are meant to be share with the world.
  3. Your purpose is an energetic field just like you; it shifts. changes, and grows.
  4. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.
  5. Spend your time with people who inspire you and have done thing you aspire to.
  6. Participate more in your life and plan less.
  7. Place your attention on what you want; not what you don’t want.
  8. Know what gives you energy and fulfills you – when faced with decisions in your day, choose those things

VIKTOR FRANKL, LIFE PURPOSE and JAM

The notion that humans are intended for a certain life purpose goes back many centuries. Rumi, a beloved 13th century Sufi poet, wrote extensively about life purpose. He wrote, “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart”.

The Christian tradition is rich with proverbs and passages from the Bible that discuss God’s calling people to a purpose. Apostle Paul says, “We are God’s handi­work, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

3 Steps to Live Your Passion and Life Purpose

Do you know what your purpose and passion is in life? Every one of us wants to feel as though our life matters. We want our time spent on earth to be meaningful and for the world to be a better place for us having lived in it. I started Live Your Jam because I wanted to inspire and help people live a life of meaning. (Jam = Passion + Skills)

Live Your Jam presents: Polly Doyle’s Inspiring Jam Story

My childhood friend Polly has been helping others for years and was ready for a change. Hear how Polly courageously closed the door on her career of 20 years and opened a new door to live her Jam.

 

Who Would Moms Bomb?

Moms and Jesus have a lot in common…

As women, we endure a lot of changes after we give birth. Some of the changes have a universal quality to them and we can all relate. Others are individual — specific to our own experiences and interpretations. Some of the changes are fleeting and some are lasting. Some of the changes are transformative. 

Transformative meaning you are forever changed; no going back kind of stuff. For me, my transformation is that my heart is now wide-open. Having an open-heart is really a state of being. I’m not totally sure how your heart gets open. I just know what it feels like and it’s way different than being in your head. The head feels sharp, right, edgy, focused. The heart feels soft, warm, open, supportive.

The open heart sees, feels and absorbs the beauty of the world.

Sonia Choquette

Some people are more open-hearted than others. Old souls, perhaps? Some folks meditate to get that way. I’m pretty sure there are some psychedelics that can make one feel as if their heart is open. Falling in love can give one the feeling of an open-heart.  For me, having children made my heart split me wide open.

Increased compassion for others

All of a sudden, my compassion for others has increased. I see the homeless man on the street and instead of annoying you while he’s hitting me up for money, I realize he was someone’s baby and he has a mother, too. I walk into my favorite restaurant for a much-needed dinner date with my husband and realize that the noise is too loud and the place feels too harsh, edgy….disconnected. My world now needs to be soft and fluid, inviting and warm. So, my and husband and I get takeout and bring it home where there’s plenty of warmth and comfort. 

No wars if moms were in charge

I realize too that there would be no wars if mothers were in power. Who would want to harm another person? Not only is that person someone’s son or daughter, but that person is another human being. And, mom’s know how precious life is – after all, we gave birth. 

Who would Mom’s Bomb?

The bumper sticker, Who Would Jesus Bomb? could easily say, Who Would Moms Bomb? The answer is simple, we wouldn’t bomb anyone, we’d give them love because we know, that’s all there is.

VIKTOR FRANKL, LIFE PURPOSE and JAM

The notion that humans are intended for a certain purpose goes back many centuries. Rumi, a beloved 13th century Sufi poet, wrote extensively about life purpose. He wrote, “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart”.  The Christian tradition is rich with proverbs and passages from the Bible that discuss God’s calling people to a purpose. Apostle Paul says, “We are God’s handi­work, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

Life Purpose: The 3 Stages of Jam — Where are YOU?

SaveSave

SaveSave

Check out our Free Resources Library!

Do you know your values? Get our free Values Finder Tool!

Get access to tools to help you Live Your Jam by subscribing to our Jammer newsletter.
Everyone has a Jam. Join us to Live Your Soul’s calling!