Tag: wisdom

3/24/13 “It’s A Mystery”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about allowing the great mystery of our lives and the things that happen to us be as they are. Here’s the experience that sparked this idea:

Years ago, I was in Ireland on a writing trip with the poet David Whyte and 22 other aspiring writers. We signed up for this adventure to learn more about writing and to experience the Irish countryside with someone who knew the land extremely well. Once there, we traveled, mostly on foot, throughout the countryside in Western Ireland with David and many of his poet, musician and otherwise eccentric friends.

Our days were pretty much the same. We woke in our lovely cottages in the seaside town of Ballyvaughn, had breakfast with our cottage mates, then walked to the main house for tea and coffee, and shared the stories and poems that we had written along the way. Then we’d hike together for the rest of the morning, which always managed to produce some amazing revelations, either from the earth or the stones or the animals, about life, love, the universe and nature.

After our morning jaunt, we usually had a hearty lunch at a pub or restaurant and then more ambling in the afternoon, followed by a late afternoon nap back at the cottage. In the evenings, we were entertained by local musicians or simply had a few pints at the pub and shared stories — with plenty of laughter. All in all, it was my idea of the perfect vacation.

One day, after a particularly strenuous hike, we arrived in a small town, anxious to plunk ourselves down at the pub for food and drink at lunchtime. As we drove into the town square, we all noticed a bright red phone booth and immediately expressed our desire to call home before lunch. We’d not had any Internet or phone access for about five days, so the idea that we could call loved ones, check voicemail or touch base with work associates seemed like a luxury. We exited our vans quickly and immediately lined up at the phone booth to make our calls. I ended up last in line — mostly because others seemed to have a more pressing need to call family and work. It was fine with me; I wasn’t in a hurry to call home.

As I stood in line, I noticed how much the light kept changing — not at all unusual for Ireland at the beginning of June when blasts of rain and wind can come up without warning to produce a mini-torrential downpour and, within the next moment, be gone as quickly as they came. I also noticed a gentlemen standing just outside the door of the pub, under a small bit of roof overhang, smoking a pipe. He donned a woolen cap and wore the typical wool blazer, you so often see on the farmers and field workers in Ireland, complete with a few holes and well-worn patches at the elbows.

He watched us Americans in our waterproof jackets, hiking shoes and nylon pants, with walking sticks in hand and backpacks slung over our shoulders. Here we were, all lined up at the only phone booth for miles around, looking anxiously at whomever was on the phone trying to be patient for our turn. I wondered what he must think of us as he stood so still and contemplative, pipe smoke drifting up around his capped head. He appeared infinitely patient compared with the anxiety and anticipation that circulated within our group.

It seemed odd to be so excited about a phone call, but we’d all grown up with the ability to pick up the phone at anytime, anywhere and get the information we needed. So this felt like our big chance! I watched as each person emerged from the phone booth, some with satisfied expressions, having made the connection they’d hoped for. Others, with disappointed faces, not having been able to connect with the person they were trying to reach. Who could explain this phenomenon of picking up a phone receiver, holding it to your ear, putting some money into a box, and then within a few seconds, hearing the voice of another person who was thousands of miles away from you? “Hello?” they would answer, and there you were in a bright red phone booth in a tiny Irish town no one had ever heard of, speaking to them as though they were sitting right next to you.

Now that, I thought, is a mystery. I know someone could explain how it all works to me at least mechanically and technologically. But I was baffled by the idea itself. Perhaps because I’d gone for five days without using a phone, it dawned on me what an amazing thing it was that we could do this. I’d never thought about it before. But now it seemed to be nothing short of a miracle that technology had enabled this tool for people to connect emotionally and intellectually in a fairly intimate fashion over such great distances. I remember distinctly thinking, “Goodness me, what other mysteries exist in my life that I take for granted?”

As the line got smaller, I gave more thought about who to call. I began to get excited about talking with my mother to let her know how I was. She was always so happy to hear from me, and she would love the idea that I was calling from a red phone booth in Ireland somewhere.

Just as my turn for the booth was getting close, the skies turned black and a sudden downpour soaked me to the bone. The person before me was just finishing his call, but until he did, I stood waiting in the rain. As he quickly opened the glass door to the booth, I heard a quick, “I’m so sorry,” as he made a mad dash for the pub. I got in the booth and, as the rain beat loudly on the metal roof, I realized that the deafening sound would prevent me from hearing anyone on the other end of the line. I waited, feeling like an idiot to be standing in a glass box, while the rain thundered across the town square in huge sheets of water. The man at the pub’s doorway, continued to smoke his pipe and made a slight adjustment of his legs, so that his right foot scooted back under the overhang, which now dripped incessantly from the rain.

As the windows to the phone booth steamed up, it became impossible to see what was happening outside, and it made my waiting for the storm to pass even more vexing. Then, as the rain began to dissipate, I picked up the receiver in hopes of making my call. The phone was dead. I would not get to make a call after all. All I could do was wait for the storm to pass so I could make my way into the pub.

After five or so long minutes, I began to see the inside of the booth lighten up, and I knew that it was over. As I emerged from the booth, I was happy to see rays of light streaming through fast-moving clouds and everything within my sight was twinkling as tiny bits of raindrops sparkled in the sunlight. What a miracle, I thought. The world around me was refreshed and enlightened.

I made my way across the now muddy main street to the front door of the pub. The Irish gentleman still stood there, now poking at the bowl of his pipe with a well worn metal tool, looking intently at its contents. As I approached, he looked right at me, eye to eye, heart to heart. His eyes were so bright and present that they disarmed me. I was suddenly embarrassed by the intimacy and buffered it by making small talk. “Gosh,” I exclaimed, “that was quite a storm!” He looked up at the sky for a brief moment and then back at me. “It’s a mystery,” he responded. The total acceptance in his voice and the presence in his eyes rendered me silent. We stood, in that moment, looking into each others eyes in complete silence. There was nothing else to say. It was a mystery, and it was perfect.

As I sat in the pub a few moments later with a pint in my hand, I realized how right he was. It’s really all a mystery, I thought. It’s all a matter of how you see it. You can take it all for granted and not see the great mystery or beauty in anything, or you can experience just the opposite. Every leaf of grass, as Walt Whitman said, is a miracle. In that moment, I knew that the great mysteries of life are just that and need no further explanation. The wise Irishman at the doorway had allowed me to see it simply for what it was — no need to analyze, no need to investigate, no need to explain — just a mystery. And being fine with that was the gift he gave me in that moment.

This week, take notice of the mysteries in your life. Perhaps it’s the shrubs in your yard beginning to grow new buds. Maybe it’s the color of your teammate’s sweater that matches the color of her eyes. How about the first bite of a warmed morning muffin or a sip of scrumptious red wine? Notice the changing weather this time of year from cold and rainy to bright and sunny, all within a few minutes span. Last weekend, I saw three different rainbows emerge across the city and was reminded again of life’s great mysteries.

See these mysteries and try being content with just observing them. Try experiencing them instead of explaining them. Allow them to seep into you like water into a sponge. Be with them just as they are.

As the great author Paulo Coelho wrote, “We have to stop and be humble enough to understand that there is something called ‘mystery.’”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

3/17/13 “Neti-Neti”

Good day, team.

I’m happy to greet the new week. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and if you’ve grown up with a name like mine, then you always celebrate your ancestors on this day. It’s a good way to start a week — with a day of celebration.

The subject of this week’s challenge is “neti-neti.” This phrase comes from Sanskrit and means “not this, not this.” These are important words for me. I first heard them from my wise therapist when I was 45 years old. I was starting to say “no” a lot more often in my life and couldn’t quite figure out why that was. I didn’t think it was bad. In fact, every time I said “no” to someone or some thing, I found it liberating. So it wasn’t the “no” that bothered me but rather the fact that previously in my life, I’d said “yes” to just about everything. And that turned out not to be the best response to many of the things that kept popping up in my life.

For example, once an old friend called and asked if I wanted to go out to a local bar to hear some music with her. We had a history of going to these kinds of places, drinking too much and attracting some rather unsavory characters at the bar or on the dance floor. Regardless of how the evening turned out, I always regretted waking up the next morning hungover and deeply depressed that I’d made such bad choices the night before. This time, when she called, a deep sense of certainty arose in me and I said, most emphatically, “No thanks.” She replied, “Maybe some other time.” And I remember thinking, there won’t be some other time.

As I hung up the phone, I felt free. I finally had the courage to say “no” to her, and I knew in that moment that I could let it all go. All the judgment I’d had about my actions when she and I went out drinking together, all the lack of self-trust that came from not making good decisions for myself, all the pain that came from wanting love and affection and looking for it in the wrong places. Just two words, “No thanks,” and poof — I was released from all that drama and destructive behavior.

It felt so good that I began saying “no” more often in a variety of different situations — with my family, at work, with my diet and even with my crafty cat, who seemed to have a way of manipulating me into saying “yes” to him more often than was good for either of us. I began saying “no” all over the place, and it began to worry me that perhaps I was becoming a really negative person. What if I said “no” to something that was actually a good opportunity for me?

In describing this to my therapist, she told me about neti-neti. She explained that with age comes wisdom, and part of that wisdom is the ability to make good distinctions. Understanding and being able to act upon what we know is good for us as well as what’s not good for us is key to our emotional maturity and well-being.

What I found most interesting about neti-neti was that I could say “no” to something and not necessarily know what the “yes” alternative was. Consequently, rather than “No, I don’t want this, but I do want that,” it was just fine to say, “No, not this.” I often didn’t know what the new “this” would be, but the space that was presented once I turned away from something and before I embraced something new was a wonderful place of innocence and curiosity. It encouraged exploration instead of certainty, and it gave me room to stretch and see the world differently. It became a place to rest without fear and without the pressure that comes along with taking on something new.

I began experimenting with neti-neti at work. I would be working on a project, and although the work I was doing was good, I also knew it wasn’t my best. But my constant urge to get it done would override my desire to do the best quality job. I tried objectively looking at the results from time to time, and rather than feel compelled to finish, I would allow myself to look at it in finer detail. I began to hear it in my head — I’d look at one part of the project and see that it needed refining. Then the words “neti-neti” would come. Other times, I could clearly see that the work I was doing was just right, and it got a resounding “yes.” I would find myself in business meetings, and when someone began to behave in a way that was unprofessional, I would hear it again, “neti-neti.” I would go to the museum to look at art, and the lack of good composition in a painting or the wrong color palette would evoke the words again, “neti-neti.” Listening to music became even more interesting as the discerning neti-neti would review the notes I was hearing and make its determination. Ironically, I remember thinking that if I listened to discordant music it would evoke the neti-neti more often, but the opposite happened. Now that I had a better way of making distinctions, I was more open minded to all kinds of music, not just familiar or simple melodies.

A more open mind was one of the major by products of cultivating the neti-neti. It helped me see things with a finer eye, a more discerning ear and a more open heart. I never would have imagined that the ability to say, “This is not for me” would offer me more and better choices than when I always said “yes.”

This week, try experimenting with neti-neti. Maybe you’re having trouble breaking an old habit — for example, having three glasses of wine at night for dinner instead of one. Try saying “neti-neti” to the second and third glasses. Perhaps you find yourself working late at your job too many nights a week and then feel guilty as you drive home, knowing your spouse will not be happy with you. Try saying “neti-neti” to the urge to stay late for one day a week and go home at 5:30. See how it feels as you drive away from the office. Or maybe you say “neti-neti” to the feelings of guilt and try accepting that working late, at least for now, is what you need to do to succeed.

One of my closest friends found herself in an abusive relationship with her husband. She called me one night and confessed, “You know, it’s not just him. I can clearly see how I provoke him and even though I don’t like the abuse that follows, I can’t seem to stop the pattern.” She and her husband had been working with a marriage counselor on this subject and both parties were seeing how their poor behaviors lead them into terrible fights and abusive actions. I knew about their history, and there was no doubt, they had lots of work ahead of them to increase their understanding and break old patterns of behavior. I thought about telling my friend about neti-neti, but it seemed too simple. But then, I thought, if it helps, why not? It certainly had helped me make better decisions in my life, so I told her about it.

Weeks later, she sent me an e-mail thanking me. She wrote, “Now Bill and I have this little tool we can use. When we start to go down that destructive path, one of us will say, “neti-neti,” and it’s just enough to break up the behavior patterns and give us a chance to stop. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, we’re so grateful.”

Try using neti-neti this week. See if it works for you!

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

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.

9/9/12 “Being Hard on Yourself”

Good day, team.

This has been my week to berate myself. It’s not something I do often, but when I do, it really feels awful. A discontented state of mind hangs over me like a stormy day and can be accompanied by nasty thoughts of judgment and negativity that shoot at me like arrows. I once saw a painting of St. Sebastian with hundreds of arrows piercing his body. That’s how it feels, but the arrows are on the inside shooting at my internal world rather than outside striking my physical body.

Sometimes, the coach needs a coach. Fortunately, because I write this challenge each week, I try to read things that inspire me and give me ideas. One of these things is a wonderful blog called Tiny Buddha. I love how author Lori Deschene takes her life experience and turns it into tiny bits of wisdom. After this past week, I really needed some help, and Tiny Buddha offered it up with the following:

“On Being Too Hard on Yourself”
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” — African Proverb

“Sometimes we judge ourselves pretty harshly. We blame ourselves for things we have absolutely no control over. We criticize, berate and even disparage ourselves, treating ourselves far worse than we’d ever treat other people.
“It’s just all too easy to hold ourselves to high standards and then get frustrated if we fail to meet them. I know I have done this before, and, at the risk of sounding defeatist, I know I will do it at some point again.
“I believe that in much the same we will inevitably have conflicts with other people, we will also go through times when we’re not kind and loving to ourselves.
“Perhaps the key to silencing the enemy within is accepting that it is there — that we all possess both darkness and light within us — and then learning to create a higher ratio of self-affirming to self-diminishing thoughts. Maybe the goal shouldn’t be to always be positive but to recognize when we start being self-critical so that we can shift our thoughts more quickly and effectively with each internal struggle.
“In a perfect world, we would always know the exact way to think and thing to do to nurture ourselves and honor our needs, and we’d instinctively always do those things. Maybe some people do. But I can’t speak for them, because I sometimes struggle.
“What helps me is to focus on progress, not perfection — to forgive myself when I’ve gotten negative and then start anew from right where I stand.
“Today if you get down on yourself, remember: You’re doing the best you can, and you have the power to choose, right now, that your best is good enough.”
And so dear subscribers, your challenge this week is to take Lori’s advice. Even if you don’t get down on yourself, remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can. And if you choose to believe that your best is good enough, you might just feel more empowered. If you do have a down day or week, Lori’s words will be particularly meaningful. The sentence that made me feel so much better this morning was this one:
“Perhaps the key to silencing the enemy within is accepting that it is there — that we all possess both darkness and light within us — and then learning to create a higher ratio of self-affirming to self-diminishing thoughts.”
This week, try using Lori’s tiny wisdom to bring you back into the light.
Have a good week,


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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

8/16/10 “Wisdom”

Good day, team,

This week’s challenge comes from a graduation card that I saw in a store today. It’s such good advice, I thought I’d share it.

Wisdom for a Good Life:

As you
go out
to remake
the world,
I offer
the following
bits of wisdom—
keep learning,
stay awake
to amazement,
be kind
than right.
And remember,
while you
might not
with this now,
being loved
than being

—Lisa Rice Wheeler

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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