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Archive for the ‘Coaching’ Category

“Who’s in Your Fab 5?”

Monday, July 20th, 2009

My Fab 5

Mary Anne & her drumming Fab 5 in Hawaii

There is an amazing new book out called The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle. Coyle visited some of the world’s greatest “hotbeds”, which are small areas that have produced large amounts of talent. It’s all about having a better understanding of where talent comes from, how we learn, and how we can discover more by our mistakes. Coyle talks a lot about how we can acquire skill by learning about a substance called myelin. “Myelin is the insulation that wraps around nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy.”

According to Coyle, there is a pattern in acquiring talent that includes, “deep practice, ignition, and master coaching.” I found this fascinating. I always wondered what talents were inherited and which ones were not. How can we increase our level of talent? …Practice, practice, practice.

In looking at how to increase our level of talent, I found there were other factors such as confidence, motivation, and environment. Want to build up that myelin? Here are just a few of my suggestions.

There may be times you want to do something new or increase your level of performance, but fear gets in your way. Notice and acknowledge fear when it arises. The more you push it away, the more it returns – even bigger and louder.

  1. Make mistakes. We not only learn by doing; we also learn by re-doing. Our brains can actually recalibrate according to what we learn from our mistakes. So, go ahead and use that phrase you did as a kid, “Do-over.”
  2. “You are who you hang out with.” A good friend of mine, Fr. Bob, once said this to me on a retreat back in 1989. Basically, look around and see who you are hanging around with and that will show you where your energy and actions are drawn towards. Are your friends there to support you on your journey or holding you back? Another way of saying this is, “Who is your Fab 5?” Take an inventory of the people who most influence your life.
  3. Do something new. Push yourself. Challenge yourself to do one thing that scares you. “Do It Afraid.”
  4. Ask questions. Push the limits of your brain and your heart. Begin a practice of asking questions daily and see what emerges. Create a question ritual. I find by asking a BIG question, it leads me to what is next in my life. My big question this month is: How can I be of MORE service?
  5. Follow your breath. Your breath is your will. When you are ready to start a new project, practice your skills, or create a path, start with your breath.  Use your breath to guide you. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly and deeply. Awareness of our breath allows for better focus.
  6. Finally, our coaches were right – practice, practice, practice. Repetition is key when wanting to acquire a new skill.

So, go ahead, make mistakes, practice, and find a good coach. Then look around and ask, “Who’s in your Fab 5?”

Thanks to my “Fab 5” for  keeping me on track, pushing me to be more, and allowing the space to practice, to grow, and to develop.


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Living Succinctly

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I recently finished the book The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta. In his book he talks about creating a blueprint for living with less clutter, noise, distractions, and unnecessary interruptions in our daily living. Babauta says, “By setting limitations, we must choose the essential.”

How can we choose the essential? I started looking at all the “stuff” in my life. These are the things that fill up my home, my desk, my inbox, and even the trunk of my car. I began to notice that I was surrounded by so many unessential things. My vision is to live more succinctly. I want to be able to live with fewer things and make myself available for more experiences. A rich filled life for me is not having more things, but the ability to spend time with good friends, travel to new places, and create space for more learning.

To live succinctly means keeping the essential and letting the rest fall away. A good example that Babauta refers to in choosing the essential is in a poetry form known as a haiku. A haiku is Japanese style poetry written in seventeen syllables on three lines (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables). A haiku is usually written about a nature related ordinary moment. Back in 1990, I wrote a Haiku poem in response to some volunteer work I was doing with children in the Bahamas.

Little arms and hands

Wrapped around my waist show me

The beauty of God-

Here is to speaking and living succinctly – and noticing what begins to show up in your life. Are there places in your life where you can set limitations and free yourself for more of the essential? Take notice of how you fill your days, your desk, and your home.

Start with the beauty of a Haiku. Everyone is invited to send me their haiku poems and I will post them. Send your poems to toningtheom@yahoo.com.

This blog is dedicated to all my English teachers who inspired me to read poetry and encouraged me to write. The haiku is dedicated to all the children in the Bahamas where living succinctly and lovingly was a gift I still carry today.

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Peace – There’s an App for That

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Peace - There's An App for That

Peace - There's An App for That

“Do you want to identify a bird? There’s an app for that.” “Do you need to find a pizza place in Brooklyn? There’s an app for that.” “Do you want to find the place with the best surfing conditions? There’s an app for that.”After watching so many commercials about the iPhone, I have come to realize that they have over 35,000 applications (app). There’s an app for almost anything right at your finger tips.

This started my thinking about what other kind of apps could be added. What about having a peace app? What would a peace app look and feel like? What if just by hitting the peace app button, a whole screen opened up for us to fully experience peace? Perhaps that app already exists inside each of us and it is just a matter of accessing it.

There is an incredible CD, Celebrate Peace, by Snatam Kaur. This CD is about spreading hopeful messages about practicing and cultivating peace. Kaur talks about all of us sharing in the vision of witnessing peace everyday all around us. Kaur says, “Peace begins with choice, develops through practice, and spreads by example.” The question then becomes, are we willing to practice and share peace with one another? It starts with each person being peace. We can then see peace in each other.

Each of us can be the peace story. On a cold day in January 2003, an “old man” stands by the side of the road in upstate New York holding up a sign. The United States had just declared that we would go to war. And one man stood in bitter cold temperatures wrapped in a flannel shirt and wearing a winter cap with a sign that simply read – PEACE. That man was Pete Seeger. He has spent his lifetime teaching and living peace by cleaning up the Hudson River and singing songs of hope and peace. He just turned 90 years old this year and is still gathering folks to joyfully sing together. Seeger’s songs are about spreading peace and harmony throughout the world.

We can celebrate peace each and every day in small and big ways. We can speak kinder words – and listen to one another. We can practice peace in our everyday lives in how we spend time with one another, how we support one another, and how we collaborate with one another. Let’s celebrate every moment of peace. As Kaur says, “By celebrating peace, we acknowledge that it exists, call attention to it, unite around it, and inspire others to embrace it.”

Inside of us lives peace. Be peace. Live peace. Love peace. Give peace. Peace be with you – my peace I offer you. Offer each person you meet today your peace.

We are so much more than our technology – we are the human spirit.

Peace – There’s an app for that. Humanity.

This blog is dedicated to Pete Seeger for all his work and music that creates peaceful connections throughout the world.

Mary Anne

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Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Reverend Joyce Meyer tells a true story of “Do It Afraid.” The story is about Elizabeth Elliot, whose husband was killed, along with four other missionaries, in Ecuador. Elizabeth was devastated and said her life was controlled by fear. Every time she felt she was making progress and ready to minister again, her fear stopped her in her tracks. During a conversation about her devastating fear, a friend simply asked, “Why don’t you do it afraid?” Elizabeth listened and she did just that. Along with her friend Rachel, Elizabeth was able to return to Ecuador and minister again, including ministering to the very people who had killed their loved ones.

The first time I heard this line it was posed to me by my Life Coach, Paulette Rao. I was stuck in my own spiral of thoughts and hesitant to move forward. I had expressed how I wanted to make a bigger contribution in the world, but I was playing it safe. I told her I was scared of playing full out. Paulette’s response was, “Playing full out does mean being willing to look at the fear of breaking through instead of living with the feelings of playing small, safe. Playing safe is equivalent to not blowing air into that balloon you talked about for fear of pushing the edges out. Scary place—a place you’ve never been. It is a choice. Fear of failure or the pain of longing, regret, and resentment of not going for it. Playing safe –well, we know that pain.” Paulette then challenged me to, “Do it afraid.” She added, “Which is better – the pain of what you’re doing right now or the pain of breaking through?”

Every time I really show up in the world, I do it afraid. Every time I teach, facilitate a workshop, or lead a meditation, I do it afraid. I do it anyway. I imagine myself as I want to be in the world and I live from that place. I visualize how happy I am when speaking, listening, and holding space with others. I imagine asking myself how did I get through that really hard moment and what did I learn?

In her book, The Soul of Money, Lynn Twist interviews a woman held back by fear. She asked her what it was that got her through those first years of being able to create the opportunities for herself and her daughters. The woman responded, “I stopped letting fear stop me. I was afraid, but I did it anyway. I trusted myself.” This is the place I want to live from. I want to trust myself enough to always do it afraid.

Recently while teaching a weekend intensive, I retold Elizabeth Elliot’s story as a metaphor of how we can show up for ourselves. I reminded participants that we come to the circle alone, scared, worried, and often projecting our own insecurities, but we show up. I invited the participants, many of whom I have taught for three years, to do it afraid. Whatever the ‘it’ is, do it, live it, breathe it. You want to create a Peace Wall – do it. You want to paint in your studio and then create massive sculpture pieces – do it. You want to chant and sing, and drum – do it. Do it anyway. Do it despite yourself.

Playing small doesn’t serve anyone, but it feeds the fear voice. I notice when I am in fear, I edit myself and become silent. I find myself listening to the voice that says, “That’s the craziest idea I ever heard.” Or the one that says, “Who do you think you are?” When I share about my creative workshops/circles with other people, I might get ‘that look’ or stare or even a reply of a long OKAY. Right away my mind translates that to mean that I’m strange. Finally, I had the courage to ask someone what they meant by their “OK response” and they said they were not sure what I meant and were embarrassed to ask for more information. I could have given into the fear and thought I ought to be silent or I could play full out and ask for more.

My Life Coach Paulette was so on target about playing full out and recognized my emergence in the world. As she put it, “It is time for you to shine, to emerge, to play full out. It is time or it wouldn’t be keeping you up at night. It is time because every shred of evidence points at the value you create and I know you’re committed to continuing creating it.”

Eleanor Roosevelt taught this lesson as well many years ago when she said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I am ready to play full out and make a larger contribution in the world. I am committing to doing one thing afraid every day and I invite you to join me.

What is one thing you are willing to do today to play full out?

Whatever it is, do it afraid!

Special thanks to my coach & friend Paulette Rao who has been a special part of my journey to emerge. http://truenorthresources.com/home.html

Also, to learn more about Lynn Twist, check out her Soul of Money Institute. http://www.soulofmoney.org/about

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My MTA Mystical Moment

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

NYC subway
NYC subway

Just when you think you have experienced everything on the NYC subway system, you wake up and realize that new experiences are there waiting for you. Last week, I took the G train to Brooklyn and realized in my almost 20 years in NYC, I had never taken the G train before. I felt like a little kid taking a ride and felt excitement come over me as I discovered new parts of the city.

I wasn’t always open to new subway moments. As a matter of fact, I have had my share (like most New Yorkers) of MTA frustrations, announcements, delays, and cancelled services. Throughout my years taking the MTA subway into Manhattan from the Bronx, I have been delayed by hours due to sick passengers, kicked off the train for unknown reasons, asked to exit through all the cars because of a fire, and left stranded at East 180th Street.

For many years, I had subway anxiety. I worried about getting to work late and panicked when the train was delayed for “traffic ahead.” Having to stand for an hour on the subway also caused a lot of distress. I decided to travel with a good book and iPod to help get me through my ride with more ease. I would tune out the announcements and concentrate on reading and listening to my favorite music or podcasts.

This past week, I had an amazing MTA mystical moment. I was listening to the Oprah-Spirit Channel Podcast – that alone is a mystical moment. I had downloaded a few podcasts that expand my thinking and spark my creativity. On this particular morning, I was listening to an interview with Oprah and Daniel Pink (his book A Whole New Mind is amazing). In the background, the conductor was making announcements about delays. At first I ignored them, but then our train stopped for at least 5 minutes, and the announcement came again, “We are sorry for the delay. There is a police investigation up ahead. As soon as we receive clearance, we will proceed.” Passengers started mumbling, cursing, and rolling their eyes at the announcement.

I thought, ‘I can handle a small delay.’ Then, there was another announcement about the delay. I made my iPod louder to block it. Finally, after the third announcement, the words “police investigation ahead” echoed in the background. I took a breath, closed my eyes, and became still in the midst of a crowded subway car. In that quiet space, I could hear a soft voice inside repeating the words, investigation, investigation, investigation. And the moment came when my mind allowed the questions to come in and I could hear myself ask, “What needs investigation in your life right now? In what areas do you need to investigate?”

I let the questions float without answering them. I began to see a screen of areas in my life that need further exploration. I started my morning by experiencing the delay as an opportunity to investigate parts of my work, relationships, and dreams.

The delay taught me the lesson of slowing down and not rushing from thing to thing. Am I in a rush or is my mind in a rush? Looking for the bigger picture in the smaller moments can be some of the greatest gifts – even with a half hour delay due to a police investigation. I am grateful to the MTA for giving me the mystical moment to slow down and investigate my life. What a beautiful way to start the day! Perfect!

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A New “Once Upon a Time”…

Friday, March 13th, 2009

“Once upon a time…”

How often have I heard those words? The expression is more about where we were at one point in our lives then where we are now. The implicit meaning is – this is how we did things – once upon a time.

As I listen to my story said aloud or the telling of other stories, I can usually find the place of “once upon a time.” What we believe about our once upon a time will often be played out. We usually go for the familiar or comfort even in the simplest of things, like, that favorite sweatshirt or pair of jeans or what I like to call our “old story” (otherwise known as our deep-rooted story we have believed to be true). What if the story had a different ending?

To see this in practice, I tested out a theory about stories. I told famous fairy tales to 1st – 3rd graders and changed the ending. In the Three Little Pigs, I had the wolf huff and puff to blow down the brick house, only to be exhausted. I had the wolf express that he just wanted some good home cooked food and didn’t know how else to get an invitation from the pigs. “No!” the kids would shout at me. “That’s not how it goes.” When I asked what really happened, I would get a summary of the fairy tale. The children would say the ending exactly as it had been read to them repeatedly.

The next part of my experiment would be to tell a story that most of the students had probably never heard of and I would make up an ending. In this case, they sat at the edge of their seats to see what happened next. And, of course, I would always have a happy ending.

Here was my discovery. When the children had no attachment to the stories, they were very excited about the ending. But when the story was known and told over and over, the ending had to be the way they had memorized it.

I also noticed the stories followed a pattern. The characters would leave to find themselves, to find their families, to escape, or to discover fame or fortune. They would often return realizing everything they needed was already in front of them or inside of them.

The power and meaning of our stories can hold us back or set us free. In Jim Loehr’s book, “The Power of Story”, he reveals that your life is the most important story you will ever tell. Loehr says, “Everyone’s got a story. And thank goodness. Because our capacity to tell stories is, I believe, just about our most profoundest gift.”

So, here is the invitation. First, read or think about your favorite fairy tale. Really listen to it. Then change the ending and notice how you feel.

Second, identify your own story. Start with “once upon a time” and continue writing your “old story.” Once completed, re-write one sentence, one piece, one theme, or even the ending. You have the power to tell, to write, and to share an amazing epic – your new story.

If you would like to learn more about the transformative power of stories and how to powerfully identify and release the old ones and call forth the new ones, then join me May 14 – 17, 2009 for a gathering of Women Wisdom-Keepers.

Visit: http://www.toningtheom.com/events.html#cosmic

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Who’s in Your Cabinet?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

OK, I’ll admit it. I have been intrigued with everything about our new president. I have been watching every little thing President Obama does – from the swearing in ceremony, to the dance with the first lady, to the first day of signing executive orders. I have been amazed at the shift in the thinking, the hope of what is possible, and the potential at what this country can do with one another.

I was intrigued by every new Cabinet position announced by President Obama. I thought about what kind of Cabinet I would want to create. I began to generate a list of new Cabinet positions I would like to see.

My list of new Cabinet members includes a Secretary of Humor, someone who makes us laugh and reminds us not to take ourselves so seriously. I would also appoint a Secretary of Play, someone who reminds us that play is important for our health and well-being. In this position, the member would help us remember all the games we played as children, give us time to sing, to dance, to drum, and to color outside the lines. Finally, I would appoint a Secretary of Coaching so when all the predictions of doom and gloom come our way, there is someone asking the important questions about possible solutions. They will ask us how can we solve some of the most important dilemmas and they will keep asking. The Coach will believe in us when we forget and remind us that together we can do anything.

There are a lot of economic, social, and environmental issues to work on over the next four years. May be adults can relearn to ask more questions, take more naps, and connect the dots. Perhaps it is time to we all give ourselves permission to color outside the lines.

Who is in your Cabinet? Have fun!

Mary Anne

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