Five months into our family’s yearlong adventure living abroad in Sweden, I'm wondering where all the light went. It sure is dim and dark outside. Yeah yeah, I knew it would be like this. But living in it is always different than knowing, in your head, it is coming.
In my life I’ve had many, many experiences of choosing to “lean into light” — to recover from fear and pain to love and joy — yet this is the first time I’m actually facing this kind of dark.
Long seasons of cold, rain, wind and dark have been known to knock people off-center, and I am committed to utilizing all the tools I’ve got for self care, as the season rolls on. Buy a UV light? Maybe. Get outside, walk up stairs and hike up hills? Oh yes.
How would you make it — without too many grumpy days — through a long dark winter?
Letter writing has always been a therapeutic art for me, so I’ll write through the winter. Last week I wrote this letter for parents to use as they wish, since there is a growing number of parents who want their holidays to be less about presents, or “stuff” — and more about connection and quality time.
Whether you are a parent or not, chances are you want less stress and debt this holiday season. Consider this. How much more rewarding would it be to spend less time, money and attention on presents and more quality time with people you’ll miss indescribably when you die? Yep, when you leave your body. Because we all will, right?
In western cultures, we tend to avoid talking about our inevitable physical death. What purpose does this serve? If anything, I've seen people enjoy life more when they stop pretending to be immortal.
There’s no good reason to wait until we’re taking our last breaths. Ask the big questions now. Express your big feelings now. To your friends, to your mom or cousin or favorite co-workers…
What would you do if you knew you had two weeks to live?
What art is living inside of you, that you are denying and want to step-up?
What makes you feel alive, and are you doing that enough?
They'll feel your love.
From one perspective, living in a human body is rivetingly blissful and filled with pleasure. From another perspective, our bodies are limited and the real "light" is on the "other side," after we leave our bodies. Wherever you stand in the range of these beliefs, I will assert that we are here on this Earth to become really good at leaning into light. During long dark winters, or divorce or destructive wildfire, or adolescent growing pains or while we're looking for a new job that actually feels worth our time...
Asking the big questions and expressing the big feelings can help us feel alive.
As published by the Findhorn Foundation.
Have you ever wondered what life on Planet Earth might be like in 100 years, when maybe, just maybe, humanity has reached a point of valuing spiritual intelligence (SQ) as much as we seem to value rational intelligence (IQ)? We have barely begun valuing emotional intelligence (EQ) so how long might it take before we value what is seen as yet another essential leap into the intelligence and potential of humanity — spiritual intelligence?
With the future being unpredictable, that question may be less helpful than those presenting themselves more readily in the here and now. What is SQ? And as for our own inner questioning, how does each of us embrace it more fully in our own lives?
Exhibiting how humanity is grappling with this relatively new area of study, many definitions have been presented for SQ.
Whereas IQ is associated with the left brain and EQ is associated with the right brain, SQ is noted as a “third way” of human intelligence, including elements of the intangible or immeasurable aspects of living in a human body.
Perhaps the most succinct definition comes from Richard Griffiths, former National Chairman of the Transpersonal Psychology section of the Australian Psychological Society, who says, “Spiritual intelligence equals IQ and EQ exercised with presence.”
Griffiths defines presence as the movement of awareness from ego to soul. Coming from ego, we tend to focus more on fear, short term vision, our limitations, and seeing ourselves as small or insignificant — even if that small sense of self is sometimes masked by conceit or arrogance. Coming from a sense of soul means our view is more vast. We see ourselves as part of a great web of life, relationships, patterns, all of which are significant in their impact on the world we live in.
The term Spiritual Intelligence was coined in 1997 by Danah Zohar when she introduced the concept in her book Rewiring the Corporate Brain. In this book Zohar explores the implications of SQ and other sciences that were new at the time, relating them directly to organisational problems and challenges faced by corporate leaders. She wanted to illustrate how humans can exercise full creative capacities, rather than making IQ the indisputable heavyweight among our intelligences. Considered one of the world’s greatest thinkers in the realm of management, Zohar studied Physics and Philosophy at MIT and did her postgraduate work in Philosophy, Religion and Psychology at Harvard.
To be clear, definitions of SQ note that spirituality is distinct from religiosity, equating SQ with existential intelligence. In his 2004 book The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, Stephen Covey wrote, "Spiritual intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences, because it becomes the source of guidance for the others."
While there is yet no universally accepted method of measuring SQ, there are many well developed tools. Principles and measurement criteria found in them include: valuing other people for their differences, not despite them; self-awareness; spontaneity; positive use of adversity; bilateral respect in our relationships; maintaining a sense of tranquility regardless of workload; the ability to utilise spiritual resources to solve problems, and; ego self mastery.
One assessment tool which has been tested and also cross-correlated with an instrument from Harvard University is called SQ21. It uses a framework of 21 skills to map strengths and identify development areas. The Findhorn Foundation will be hosting a workshop in June 2018, Next Level Leadership, that uses this model, giving participants a full assessment.
What becomes possible when we amplify our own spiritual intelligence?
Reflecting on how SQ might have touched my life, I am reminded of a noteworthy moment in 1997 during my last year of college when something called to me about Hawai’i. From someplace deep within me, I wanted to go. And I wanted to go all by myself. In my mind I recalled images of endless, lush greenery. Specifically Kaua’i, I had heard, was “the most beautiful place on Earth.”
Some close friends had traveled alone, but in my family this wasn’t common for a person my age. My sister was concerned. My dad was concerned. I was cautioned against it. Still I felt called to go. And while there were left-brain (IQ-related) reasons supporting my longing — such as the knowing that it was part of the USA, my own native country, and that the main spoken language was English — I could have also followed the advice of the TV media. Don’t travel alone; it isn’t safe; stay close to home; bad things happen to good people. What if…? What if…? What if…?
Those messages simply didn’t resonate. There was a tug too strong in my heart, an instinctual tug, that urged me to listen. From an EQ perspective, my feeling of trust that it would work out just fine, took centre stage. Very clearly there was a feeling in my heart that knew I was safe. Perhaps my intuition and soul awareness, both aspects of SQ, intermingling with IQ and EQ in the dance of this decision, were what allowed this to become a defining moment in the rest of my life.
Sure enough, though I stayed only with ‘strangers’ and went with very little money, it took less than a week for one of the most life changing experiences of my life to occur. Almost as in a dream state, I found myself sitting in the living room of a man who is internationally renowned for his spiritual clarity, a teacher of forgiveness, who ended up being a dedicated spiritual mentor and friend to me over the last 20 years.
Something tells me it was this deep-rooted sense of safety — an unwavering sense of certainty in who I am rather than what I am being in this moment or that moment, the connection I had to my own soul, the refusal to buy into messages of fear — that led to this experience. When we have a strong internal sense of who we are, on a bigger and deeper scale than what is showing up in our present moment circumstances, our decisions are enveloped in SQ. In those moments when we are aware of who we are, our essence, we may find ourselves in places we would not have imagined ourselves. Something much greater is at play. This is what SQ can lead us to; this is leadership when SQ is engaged. Had I listened only to left- or right-brain information, I might have had a great trip. But I don’t suspect it would have been epic.
We are in good company.
SQ is universal; each of us can access it when we choose to. No one has “a corner on the market” as my coach likes to remind me. Whether afraid or not, whether others approve of our explorations or not, when we open up to our own SQ, it smiles back at us like a lavender bush stretching for the sun.
Today, we live in a world with almost incomprehensible human suffering. The atrocities that happen every single day due to humanity’s unloving choices can feel debilitating, like a heavy dark cloud that zaps our motivation. Fortunately, to provide leadership for addressing the magnitude of these problems, there are many, many examples of SQ in our midst. Now that there are various tools for measuring SQ in individuals, hundreds of humans have been widely recognized as having high levels of SQ. Among them are Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Don Miguel Ruiz, Caroline Myss, Adyashanti, Deepak Chopra, Paulo Coelho, Clarissa Pinkola Estes and Gary Snyder. This is just the very tip of the iceberg.
It is not necessary to know someone personally to benefit from the chemistry exchanged between us. Reading a book by someone who embodies SQ or listening to a talk in person or online are both good ways to enhance our sense of spiritual wisdom. Simply deciding that SQ is important to us is an act of commitment as it expresses our values and vision and leads to thoughts, feelings and actions that support this decision.
May we all find ways to engage playfully — and even engage a bit of spiritual ‘mischief’ — with our own SQ, inviting it to surface from our wise inner depths before we have a chance to think too hard about it.
A simple question I like to ask myself sometimes, when faced with a difficult situation such as conflict with a loved one, is: How would my spiritual self guide me here? It is almost shocking how quickly we can seem to trick ourselves out of fear-based thoughts, turning instead to our own timeless wisdom.
It's common knowledge that gratitude improves quality of life. Simply put, when we feel grateful, we feel good. And feeling good makes life feel better.
When our daughter Helena was one year old, we began a family ritual. Every night as we sat down for dinner, before picking up a fork or taking one bite of food, we would share three things we're grateful for. What began as a way to bring more joy into our lives has not only lifted us up after long days at work. It has made us laugh and probably helped us digest our food better and eat more mindfully, too.
At first Helena would say, "I'm grateful for blueberries." That was it, blueberries. That was her thing for weeks on end. Other fruits entered the scene, and then it was "pink" for a while. Tonight at dinner it was, "All the colors." Her shares are almost always more laugh inducing than mine.
So in the spirit of this delightful child we've been blessed with, and in the spirit of The Child, who lives within each of us and freely shares her/his joy, let me share my Top Ten Gratitudes for the day. Just for today -- tomorrow they may be different.
As is the case with most of my writing, this is both an honest, personal share, and an invitation for you to explore what brings you joy... what you're grateful for... Both are an expression of my love for humanity: all of you, and me.
10) I'm grateful to have a pro skateboarder friend who's super kind and generous and will gladly send a few skateboarding goodies to me for my young skater pals' birthdays. His generosity feeds the healthy passions of my young pals.
9) I'm grateful for the last 3 weeks off Facebook. I don't miss it.
8) I'm grateful my ego gets weaker every day.
7) I'm grateful to like who I am, even though I sometimes piss off close friends with the bold things I'm not afraid to say.
6) I'm grateful for the college professor who encouraged me to write my own major.
5) I'm grateful my husband loves to cook, and is really good at it.
4) I'm grateful our daughter survived after being born with pneumonia.
3) I'm grateful for our backyard golden raspberries (pictured above). They are my favorite thing about our current home, ripening abundantly every spring.
2) I'm grateful to have studied communication since I was about 8 years old, even though it took childhood trauma to launch this passion.
1) I'm grateful for acupuncture, frisbee and smart friends to help me refine my resume.
It's addictive! See how I snuck in three on that last one? What are Y-O-U grateful for today?
Get out a pen, write down your ten. Choosing to feel grateful results in feeling more grateful. What we focus on, grows. Simple physics. What we acknowledge, we get more of. If your attention is on it, you are giving it power.
I'm grateful you just read my blog post.
Ten days ago I co-led a workshop called Dealing with Conflict. Participants raved about it. My co-leader, a wizard in the world of relationship coaching, and I had a blast.
Then today was living proof of why people say, "What you want to learn, teach."
Today the universe tested me: Do you practice what you preach? Are you living what you teach? I woke to make Earl Grey tea and found a mean spirited comment awaiting on a social media post I'd written about my next workshop, called Radical Love in Parenting. Profane name calling, insults, mean spirited aggression, it was all there.
For a moment I thought of deleting it. We get to choose what we expose ourselves to, as humans, and I very proactively choose and create a loving world. Why would I allow such hatefulness on my page?
Well, because hate can only project itself outwardly when it is felt inwardly, too. And it is my pledge of allegiance in this life, to love people -- even when they're mean -- not to add pain to pain by being mean back, or abandoning them.
Gut said: Keep it. This person is in pain. Deal with conflict. Be with conflict. See if you can help it dissipate in the presence of Love.
And so I replied, to the best of my ability staying in a place of grace and strength, not embodying any of the qualities I don't want more of in the world: harsh criticism, judgment, violence. It may not have been a perfect response but I was proud of it. I was facing conflict in a way that felt self-honoring: inviting this person to consider a way of communicating that was respectful (differences being perfectly OK, but not meanness) and yet being "my own big sister" in clearly stating meanness wouldn't be allowed in this Leaning into Light community. I drove to a cafe to work for the day, feeling vividly content with who, and how, I was being.
In the hours that followed, life showed me the glistening jewel within conflict. Why it can be so helpful to a warrior for Love, how it can stretch us to our next edge in living the life that we dream of: a richly fulfilled, courageous and dazzling-with-light, existence.
If you missed our Dealing with Conflict workshop... shucks! We'll offer more. Popular stuff. But here are a few simple tips to rise above the war zone, rather than sinking into its muck.
1) Pause. The ever-undervalued pause. Let yourself process first. If you're emotionally triggered, you can take space. You don't need to respond right away. Take a break. An hour, 10 minutes, a day, what do you need to find more neutral ground before responding? Responding defensively and immediately can be harmful and further aggravating.
2) Don't take it personally. Remember Don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements? Slam dunk on that one, #2, Don't take anything personally. Master that one and you're on your way, Baby. Big stuff. Remember that what someone else says, says far more about them than it does about you. If someone is harshly critical, consider the wounds inside of them and have compassion. Or dig it up. (And if someone is openly loving, hmmm, that may be someone you want to spend more time around, eh?)
3) Respond with strength and grace. Honor yourself. Be your own big sister or big brother. Stand for your own values and vision; you are their best friend. Clarify what you intended, if you were misunderstood. Take responsibility for your role, if it is clear what your role is. Were your actions or words in alignment with who and how you want to be in this world? If not, own it. Acknowledge it. Put yourself in their shoes.
Using those guidelines to the best of my ability, I felt stretched in all the best ways, my emotional and spiritual capacity widened up to greet life more fully for the sake of my well being and everyone else's.
And then a post arrived, from my friend and collaborator Olivia. In one of my favorite ways love gets expressed: the written word. From someone I met while we served as President and Vice President on a Board of Directors together. We loved working together so much that we now co-lead The Sisters Series for Leaning into Light's workshops.
Since I am such a fan and practitioner of PDA (Public Displays of Affection) I will share it here, with an enormously grateful heart.
I drove home the other day, from a really fun time with sister, aunt, friend. I was thinking about you. And how, from the moment I met you, you have influenced me.
It wasn't always comfortable. Sometimes when someone's vocal way of being (you are very vocal), comes up against your edges, it can be painful, because she is actually shining so much light, that it challenges how you may speak, or think or act.
It challenged me, it inspired me. There were some very deliberate ways that you communicated (pausing to take in a situation, taking the time to articulate what you ACTUALLY wanted.... not just saying things to be agreeable), pointing things out, taking the time to address them, challenging a group to be better!!!!!! Let's be better, let's live this life as brings the most peace to the most people on earth as possible.
Any how. Your being, how you are, made me look at how I wanted to be. And explore those edges... inspired me to speak my truth, in a gentle, loving, respectful way... because then, more people win. I have also noticed that if I am feeling out of integrity in any particular area in my life -- maybe not a big deal thing, maybe a big deal thing -- that being with you can actually feel hard... and again, it's because I find you to consistently speak so much from a truthful heart, that, if I am not in a similar moment myself... it shines light on those areas of pain.
But, here's the thing... YOU LOVE. And are so good at it. That... it just invites more love, and light to get its groove on, and show up. That's rad.
The work you do with Leaning into Light, the workshops, the blog posts... they are you! And they are an invitation to anyone who wants to explore their edges, take time to reflect on what is important to them, and to be given really simple, strong support to make those small or big changes that actually shift things.
It's awesome. Thanks for the work you do.
Conflict gave me a big, bold invitation to become a stronger, more powerful and loving communicator. Conflict showed me what I've learned. Conflict showed me that I practice what I preach. Conflict need not be fed with our attention; it CAN dissipate with Love.
And with that, I exhale one giant breath of thanks for being on this fine planet, in such fine company, for one more day. Good night, friends.
If women fully own our power one day, we won't recognize the world we live in the next day. And so, to offer my gifts to more women around the world, I have decided to venture into delivering my services online! Took me awhile, heh heh.
What happens when women own our power? Quite frankly, the power within us is unstoppable. When we own our power we:
- move more freely and uncensored, in our day to day lives
- amp up the potency of our intimate partnerships
- more easily let go of relationships that don't bring out the best in us
- draw in new friendships that are deeply energizing
- have a potent, magnetic impact in business and social endeavors
- feel deeper bliss in our hips and bones
- adapt to change more easily
- become stronger and more gracious role models for our children
- invite masculine power to become more balanced and mature
- create a world with less war and more love (hands down, no doubt, 100%)
Only when we ourselves honor and own our power -- which can be distilled all the way down to Love itself -- will the world “outside” of us mirror back its reverence for woman.
We have the power to bring new life into being. Stop for a moment, right there.
We have the power to choose who our partners are, which jobs we want and which jobs we don’t. We have the power to embody grace in the face of chaos, the power to support our families in highly skillful ways that society doesn’t recognize and honor, the power to be present to complex systems dynamics as we lead projects with enormous compassion and inclusivity, a high level of attention to detail, and even mastery.
We have the power to wear make-up, high heels, men's shoes or women's shoes, pants or dresses, or whatever we feel like wearing. We have the power to feed babies from our own bodies (this one is a superpower).
Whether or not we can have babies, whether or not we can debate about political or historical subjects with a table of men, whether or not we can mesmerize an audience with our voice or guitar, whether or not we can impress people with our frisbee skills, ALL women are ALL powerful when we choose to own it, stand in it, honor it.
It is a CHOICE.
There is no end point in owning our power. No finish line. Every day we choose 1,000 times whether we honor the power within us, or give it away out of a sense of lack of self worth or other fear. Practice, practice, practice. Every moment, every single day. The answers and the power are within.
P.S. Thanks to our collaborators, partners and friends for being part this very exciting moment of Leaning into Light as we venture online with our workshops! Loving more widely is a big part of our big vision!
To My Dear and Precious Daughter,
I am writing this letter for you to read in 10 or 20 years. You are napping, now two and a half years old, still so perfectly brave and unfiltered, still so willing to "own" your power. Actually, you're unwilling not to. You know that Love is who you are; you were born knowing this.
What do I mean by "own" our power? To know it; to acknowledge it; to fiercely stand in it; to honor it. To refuse not to embrace the exquisite expression of life that you are.
When you're five years old, or 11, or 26 or 40, will you want to own your power? Certainly you will. For right now, you might be wondering why the hell I'm even asking this.
I ask because women do not fully own our power. If we did, overnight, the world we see tomorrow would barely be recognizable. We instead give our power away--> to men, for a night or for an instant or for a lifetime, for their approval... to jobs we don't love, for years or for moments or for months, for the sense of safety we feel they give... to cultural expectations and images of what we ought to look like, to fill the holes of self-judgment we inhale starting in childhood.... We give our power away to other people's judgments, by letting them sink into our own eyes... We give our power away when any thought we think, feeling we feel, or action we take does not acknowledge that Love is who we are. We aren't bad or wrong for doing it; we're always just as lovable. Yet gosh, sweet child of mine, wouldn't it be marvelous if women stopped giving our power away so much?
I'From the day you were conceived, my life and voice became bolder than ever. Your existence has raised the bar for mine more than anything else ever will. Giving birth to you gave me many things, one of them being a swift, solid smack in the face to stop EVERY single thing I was doing to not love myself. This I must do, for you. No, not for you. But because of the Love you have helped expand inside my being. Can I put this all into words? No, sweet One. But still I'll always try.
There are no easy answers. Owning our power as women requires that we be our boldest, bravest, most rigorously honest selves. No one has the answers for anybody else. The point is to create space for the answers we all have for ourselves, to rise to the surface. We can be curious. We can ask questions. And questions are powerful, very powerful.
When women ask powerful questions, and make space within ourselves to answer them from a place of empowerment, fierce honesty, and deep self-love... Oh my, Dear Daughter, Oh my. Your mama squints at the thought of it. It isn't about power over anything (men, other women, or anything else). It is about power for the sake of life.
Forever yours, dear daughter,
P.S. In your honor, I am inviting a group of women to join me for a 3-part series, three one-hour conversations, about what life will be like when women own our power. Because it isn't a question of if; it's a question of when. Supported by other women and by the power that lies within us -- which is Love itself -- nothing will stop us. How dare I claim this, dear daughter? Because as you well know, and so breathtakingly exhibit with every move you make and every deliciously delightful word you say and tear you cry... Love is unstoppable.
Listen to our free recording for August, a 30-minute talk with Jessica Rios on her 13 month adventure living abroad, Humane and Heartbreaking, here.
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, and eternally a fan of Fred Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded conversations are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.