“I've rarely experienced a 'training' program that so effectively combines rigorous methodology with generous heart. I now have a living compendium of precise, relevant practices.”
“Working with Joanne and Laura has been transformational at many levels of my life. Through their Integral Coaching® training, I have come to understand what “being human” means.”
“Integral Coaching Canada provides what we believe is the most complete and comprehensive coaching program available. ”
I woke up this morning wanting to write. I was pondering this time of year and thinking about contributing to our ICC blog. This is not a usual occurrence for me as I don’t consider myself a “writer.” There has been a lot coming up for me about what I want to say this year to all you dear souls. I know many of you have heard about my cancer diagnosis from our team; thank you for all your kind support, cards and gifts. I have truly appreciated hearing from you. Lately, I have been experiencing so many different feelings and perspectives. Rather than try to choose one to talk about, I found myself stepping back and asking, “What is all of this saying to me?” These few words arose, “a lot, heart and resilience.”
This year we have all experienced levels of change, demand and complexity that may rival many other times in our lives as possibly the most challenging. Demands that impact our day-to-day worlds in so many ways that call for constant adjusting, adapting, learning, facing difficult news that often feels (and is) beyond our control, and empty spaces that used to be filled with socializing, sharing, connecting, and exploring. All heightening the demand for energy, for care, for decision-making, for letting go, for letting in, and for finding ground in the midst of it all.
This is a lot. It weighs heavily on the heart, yet it calls for heart. It can have our minds become filled with wishes for times past, or times ahead, for any place but here. It calls for the kind of adjustments, creativity and being with “what is” that is essential for what I would call, “heartful resilience.”
Being resilient with an open heart, grounded body and an engaged mind is often thought of when something big challenges us. My sense is that we are all fully living more resilient lives than ever. Day to day. Moment to moment. Can we see it? Can we recognize our unique forms of resilience? Can we own it? Do we pause to acknowledge, appreciate and be grateful for it? Perhaps yes, most likely not, as we are busy attending to what is before us each day.
Looking back, since the arrival of COVID, I realize how much Joanne and I have personally been through. In early March I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in my lungs, liver and lymph nodes. While there is no cure, what is before us is the question of how much time do I have? That all depends on finding a treatment that can slow or suspend the growth of this cancer for a year, a few years. So far, nothing has worked as expected. The cancer has been growing up until my latest CT Scan, which listed my tumours as “stable.” For the first time in nine months, the cancer isn’t growing. It isn’t shrinking either, but I’ll take stable! So, I will continue on my current chemo drug and keep going.
During the last nine months, we also supported the ICC team, led by Val Rosettani, to get our courses fully online and this is going really, really well. People from more parts of the globe are now taking our courses, as well as those who could not have afforded the travel. Bravo to the ICC team and to all our new students!
We built our dream house out in the country and took possession in June. We sold our house in Ottawa in July, moved in August and spent September/October integrating two homes into one. We love our new home and it was a lot of work. All done while keeping safe and undergoing cancer treatment. Then Joanne’s mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in November, she had surgery a few weeks ago, and is now out of the hospital after a fifteen-day stay. She is doing well. We have been supporting her and Joanne’s sisters, as care givers, from afar. We have also maintained a rigorous social distancing posture given my status in a high-risk category, and so socializing consists of a few outdoor visits, ZOOM calls, email, and FaceTime. We miss hugs.
It has been and continues to be a lot. I’m sure you too have a list from the last nine months! Individuals and businesses have all been affected and forever changed.
John and Steven Riley (Riley Construction) built our home. John is the dad. Steven is the son. John is a wise, quiet man. He doesn’t speak much, but when he does, you listen up. We were talking with him about the difficult times we have all been in during this pandemic. Here is what he said,
“This is our generation’s challenge. Some generations had world wars. Some generations had the great depression. We haven’t really had our global challenge. People of our generation didn’t grow up in a great depression or in the middle of war, so we didn’t get to experience what is needed to get by in a hard, hard global time. This is ours. This is our chance to cope, and survive, and come together. This is ours. We are lucky that we haven’t had one until now. It’s just our turn.”
So true. What a long view and wide perspective. Don’t you want a man like that laying the foundation of your new house? A house that will hopefully be around for generations.
So, this is our time. Yours. Mine. Ours.
Joanne and I have found that we have been drawing on capacities - that were decades in the building - in ways we have never had to before. Not to this degree. But we have never been faced with cancer plus a pandemic plus building a house plus selling a house plus moving plus re-positioning a business plus all the normal challenges of a life. It calls upon everything we have.
A cornerstone in ICC training is building the capacity to “be with what is.” We have found this to be the most important capability that we have been drawing upon during this time. We have been doing that daily, in any given moment when surges of overwhelming sadness or grief arise, when moments of joy burst forth, or when I just feel lost. Being with “what is” calls for so much. I have to be open-hearted to even feel what is arising, let alone be able to stay present to follow the feeling through, not short circuit it. I have to be able to find some ground so that I don’t just spin off (which happens at times, for sure). And, I have to be able to find language to be able to express myself so that I am able to communicate with my beloved wife.
What has surprised me through all of this is how much gratitude keeps arising. I am deeply grateful that I have these capacities to draw upon and be supported by. And, of course, there is always room for further growth and development. I am grateful that I am able to meet the moment as grounded as possible for then I am able to be with this moment and see what it is bringing. I am able to better discern what my body, heart, emotions, mind and soul need because I am staying in touch. This is incredibly helpful given the impacts on my body of chemo drugs and cancer.
Who knew that as the year comes to a close that I’d be feeling grateful? Not grateful for cancer or all this suffering. But grateful, deep inside of me, for this moment and my ability to be with it as best I can. I am so grateful for our family and friends, for my tai chi teacher who has been assisting me in some deep internal development as I face this time, for my practices, for this sunny morning, and for my wife... standing right next to me so fully in all of this even as she faces a future where she will be standing alone. And right now, I am so grateful for a CT Scan that says, “stable.”
This is a glimpse into our world. And then there is each of your worlds...full of what you are facing, experiencing, navigating, and being with. I bow to each of you with respect, regard and well wishes. Who knew that 2020 (and 2021 to come) would call for so much from each and all of us.
And now it is the holiday season. What to say? The holiday season means so many different things to different people.
Here is my wish for you... Pursue ways to have this time nourish your soul, and the souls of those you love. Find ways to gets tastes of the holiday season that you know, love and wish to experience. They may not fully fill you emotionally the same way they did in times past, but perhaps you can touch them so that you can feel those threads of tradition carry through in some way. Maybe this season will open up something for you that gives new meaning. From this place of “being with what is,” you get to explore, “now what?” May you find ways to have this season bring meaning, nourishment and value. Some of us have always been alone during the holiday season and COVID is now allowing the rest of us to join you there. May you feel less alone with more of us there with you.
May we bring some grace to this time. Together, apart.
We wish each and all of you the very best throughout this season, during the closing of 2020 and the arrival of 2021.
Personally, I am sending you so much love.
Thank you for your kindness to me and each other.