Tag: Being present

12/9/12 “Wise Owl”

Good day, team.

As often happens this time of year, I find myself winding down and rushing to get things done, all at the same time. The holidays are filled with lots of obligations, events and chores. And yet, the short days, lingering darkness and pending end of the year all signal that it’s time to rest, retreat and recuperate. It’s a mixed message at best.

Yesterday, I was perusing some older coach’s challenges and found this lovely gem from 2004. It’s as relevant today as it was then, so I thought I’d share it with you as the last challenge of 2012. It’s a great reminder to greet the moments in our lives as they come rather than constantly rushing through them. I have added a recent experience from last week while walking through the park to illustrate my point.

From the coach’s challenge written July 6, 2004:

The coach’s challenge for this week is to not rush through things. We all seem to have too much to do. Each day brings myriad tasks. Our tendency is to rush though things to get them all done by the end of the day. But, when we do that, we often feel exhausted and unsatisfied by the experience. Our challenge is to try not to be overwhelmed by the amount of things that need to get done, but to take each thing as it comes and be present with it. I often tell myself, “Do only what’s directly in front of you.” That is, stop worrying about all the other things that need to get done and stick with what needs to happen in this moment.

I’ve noticed that I’m kind of addicted to the fast-paced, multitasking, rush-around lifestyle. It makes me feel useful and significant. And yet, nothing wears me down faster than this frenzied activity. It takes discipline for me to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak. But when I do, I am so much happier.

Just the other morning on my walk through the park, I rushed along worrying about a meeting I had scheduled for later that afternoon, when I realized what a beautiful day it was. A wispy layer of fog rose from the ground, giving the surrounding landscape a luminous quality as it gave way to light emerging through the trees and shrubs. Up in a tree, not more than 10 feet from me, I saw an owl. I stopped. Beautiful in it’s arrangement of brown and white feathers, the owl looked right at me as if to say, “What are you in such a hurry about?” I continued to stand there for many minutes. While we observed each other, many other sights and sounds came into view. There was quite a cacophony of bird songs, rustling leaves and dogs barking in the distance. Gosh, I thought, if I’d just kept rushing along I would have missed all of this — including this wise owl.

This week, take some time to notice all that’s right in front of you. Don’t let yourself miss the life that’s presenting itself to you. An appropriate saying from the Amish goes like this: “It’s not rushing through tasks to achieve a series of goals that is satisfying; it’s experiencing each moment along the way.”

Have a great week, and Happy Holidays to you all! The next challenge will be published on Jan. 6, 2013.


© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

11/11/12 “When Things Fall Apart”

Good day team,

The theme of this week’s challenge is about coping with situations when things fall apart.

A few days ago, I learned that a child of one of my clients died in a terrible accident. This put me into a state of shock and despair. What could I do? I felt so helpless. My heart went out to my dear client and her family. Her loss reminded me how impermanent life is and how we take it for granted.

I found comfort in the wisdom of a Buddhist nun named Pema Chodron. She is a prolific author and well known Buddhist teacher. In 1997, she wrote a book entitled, “When Things Fall Apart.” I have found her thoughts to be very helpful in times of difficulty.

Here is some of what Pema Chodron has to say about dealing with loss and uncertainty.

“When the bottom falls out and we can’t find anything to grasp, it hurts a lot. It’s like the Naropa Institute motto: “Love of the truth puts you on the spot.” We might have some romantic view of what that means, but when we are nailed with the truth, we suffer. We look in the bathroom mirror and there we are with pimples, our aging face, our lack of kindness, our aggression and timidity – all that stuff.

“This is where tenderness comes in. When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality. There is definitely something tender and throbbing about groundlessness.

“It’s a kind of testing, the kind of testing that spiritual warriors need in order to awaken their hearts. Sometimes it’s because of illness or death that we find ourselves in this place. We experience a sense of loss – loss of our loved ones, loss of our youth, loss of our life.

“I have a friend dying of AIDS. Before I was leaving for a trip, we were talking. He said, “I didn’t want this, and I hated this, and I was terrified of this. But it turns out that this illness has been my greatest gift.” He said, “Now, every moment is so precious to me. All the people in my life are so precious to me. My whole life means so much to me.” Something had really changed, and he felt ready for his death. Something that was horrifying and scary had turned into a gift.

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

“When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know what’s really going to happen. When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do what we think is going to help. But, we don’t know. We never know if we’re going to fall flat or sit up tall. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure.

“I read somewhere about a family who had only one son. There were very poor. This son was extremely precious to them, and the only thing that mattered to his family was that he bring them some financial support and prestige. Then he was thrown from a horse and crippled. It seemed like the end of their lives. Two weeks after that, the army came into the village and took away all the healthy, strong men to fight in the war, and this young man was allowed to stay behind and take care of his family.

“Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.

“The very first noble truth of the Buddha points out that suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last – that they don’t disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security. From this point of view, the only time we ever know what’s really going on is when the rug has been pulled out and we can’t find anywhere to land. We use these situations to either wake us up or put us back to sleep. Right now – in the very instant of groundlessness – is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness.

“Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.”

This week, your challenge is to try not to escape your pain and suffering. Instead, try following Pema Chodron’s advice about “moving toward painful situations to the best of your ability with friendliness and curiosity, relaxing into the essential groundlessness of our entire situation. It is there, in the midst of chaos, that we can discover the truth and love that are indestructible.”

This week has reminded me of what’s important to me. It’s allowed me to show my appreciation for the life and people that surround me. It has opened up opportunities to be kind to others. It’s a great comfort to extend kindness out to another when you are suffering yourself. And, if suffering has caused your life to fall apart, let it fall. Trying to prevent real suffering is like trying to catch sand falling through open fingers. Things will change and one day, you will notice the suffering is gone and you are experiencing joy.

“Giving up hope is encouragement to stick with yourself, to make friends with yourself, to not run away from yourself, to return to the bare bones, no matter what’s going on. Fear of death is the background of the whole thing. It’s why we feel restless, why we panic, why there’s anxiety. But if we totally experience hopelessness, giving up all hope of alternatives to the present moment, we can have a joyful relationship with our lives, an honest, direct relationship, one that no longer ignores the reality of impermanence and death.” Pema Chodron

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

12/6/10 “Being Present”

Good day, team,

Years ago, when I first learned about being present, I had some vague
intellectual idea of what the phrase meant. I had heard that it was the key to
self-awareness and becoming more conscious, so I asked a number of gurus,
meditation teachers and people who claimed to know a lot about awareness, “How
do you do this, I mean, how do you be present?” I received answers like “You
just be in the moment” or “Just allow yourself to be where you are” or “It’s
your natural state, just allow it to happen” that frankly didn’t give me any
specific help. It wasn’t until someone suggested that I try to feel my breath or
feel my feet that I began to experience my attention in my body, which brought
me into the moment.

This week’s challenge is about the experience of being present and some good
reasons and suggestions for doing it. A client* of mine sent me this recent
article from ‘The Huffington Post’ that addresses some of the benefits of being
present. It’s written by Soren Gordhamer, the author of ‘Wisdom 2.0’. Take a look:

“Researchers are slowly coming to the same conclusion. Harvard researchers, in a
study of over 2,200 people, asked them how they were doing at various random
times. The researchers found, as reported in ‘The New York Times’
, that
what mattered more was not /what /people were doing but rather the degree of
attention that they were bringing to what they were doing. According to the
article, ‘Whatever people were doing, whether it was having sex or reading or
shopping, they tended to be happier if they focused on the activity instead of
thinking about something else. In fact, whether and where their minds wandered
was a better predictor of happiness than what they were doing.’”

We’re used to thinking that sitting on a beach in the Bahamas is much better
than sitting in rush-hour traffic in New York City. And while there may be some
truth to the fact that is easier to pay full attention while in a relaxed
environment, according to the researchers, “The location of the body is much
less important than the location of the mind, and the former has surprisingly
little influence on the latter.”

But where is our attention during most of the day? It is generally lost in
thought. According to the researchers, “On average throughout all the
quarter-million responses, minds were wandering 47 percent of the time.” But we
do not need researchers to tell us that our mind wanders just about all the
time: We can watch and see for ourselves. As Eckhart Tolle has said, “Compulsive
thinking has become a collective disease.”

And now we have all kinds of gadgets that, essentially, help us stay in our
minds, disconnected from our bodies and actual experiences in a given moment.
Walk down the street of any major city and you’ll notice that most people are
essentially somewhere else, either because they are on their phone or are
daydreaming about some future moment or reliving a past one. This moment, the
one we are living now, is often missed.

As Ram Dass used to say, “We become human doings instead of human beings.” How
do we connect with being? For Eckhart Tolle and others, one simple way is to
“focus your attention away from thinking and direct it into the body, where
being can be felt.”

Even now, reading these words, can you bring attention to your body and see
thoughts arise and pass without riding the train of associated thoughts that
take you away from this moment?

Try this: for today, whenever you notice your mind wandering, invite attention
back into your body. Focus less on doing and more on being, and see if the
actions you do take come more often from that place of ease and focus, what in
sports they call “the zone.” Prioritize not what you are doing as much as the
quality of attention you bring to what you are doing, as if what you are doing
right now deserves your full attention.

This week, see what the experience of being present is like and if it makes a
positive difference in your life.

Have a good week,


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.

* Many thanks to Mark DeWald from Move Inc. who forwarded this article to me
while he was feeling his feet!