Walking the Heart Path

If life is a journey, I believe each of us must honor the sacred integrity of our own path. We must learn to lead from within, aligning our outer choices with our inner values, callings, and convictions.

But how exactly?

How, for example, do we discern and distinguish our own path from others’? How do we hear our own voice above the noise and courageously honor our own callings in the face of resistance from others?

Sometimes we lack a sense of vision, purpose or the ability to hear our calls. Perhaps we have a limited degree of self-awareness, and in the absence of self-knowledge and respect, look to the external to define our sense of worth. Sometimes our paths are laid out Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 9.26.57 AMbefore us by others, and we blindly follow what we are often unable or afraid to discover for ourselves. Perhaps we internally judge ourselves as unworthy or incapable of making a different choice, choosing powerlessness over self-empowerment. We allow fear to overshadow the gift of authenticity and allow the opinions of others to trample our own. Sometimes, we may find ourselves in a different role — judging others, perhaps harshly so, as if our subconscious’ way of defending the fragility of our own choices and ego.

In recent weeks, I’ve been inspired by those whose path have crossed my own; those who are not only daring to dream, but who have challenged themselves to leave the security of convention, convenience, and/or comfort to follow their sense of calling and conviction for their lives. While the stories differ in detail, what they share in common is a sense of daring and the courage to try, regardless of whether their decision to change was by choice or chance. What they share is the belief that when vision and effort are combined with core values and a deep-centered sense of faith and possibility, baby steps taken can begin to propel them toward their dreams and to live a life of purpose.

I’ve also encountered others who have shared their struggle to find their authentic voice and walk their true path, finding comfort instead in the status quo out of fear of what might happen if they dared to make a change. Not surprisingly, instead of projecting a sense of inner peace with their decision, energetically, they project a sense of dis-ease at best, and sometimes even outright anger as their internal discontent morphs into judgment and criticism of others.

Wherever we find ourselves on the continuum of life, if we are to honor and embrace our authentic voice and the essence of all that we have to offer, we must learn to silence the critics, whether our own or others. To realize our leadership potential, we must also own our truths and find the courage to live our convictions however and wherever we choose to live out our leadership in our individual journeys.

Exercising the courage to live in integrity with who you authentically are and to live out your callings and convictions is at the essence of heart-aligned living. In doing so, we not only find our true heart path but help pave a path forward for others, too.

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Yesterday marked the official launch of my new book, Walking the Heart Path: Bite-Sized Bits of Wisdom on Living & Leading from the Inside Out. It was also a day recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day.

As a way of giving back and helping pave a path forward for others, $1 of every book purchased will be donated to the Foundation for Girls. Focused on nurturing the leader in every girl, this Charlotte, NC-based 501(c)3 providing mentoring, financial literacy, STEM, and other skills-based training to at-risk girls in Charlotte. 

“Hope”

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Note: This poem was selected for inclusion in a second edition of Inspiring Hope: One Story at a Time, to be released in late 2014. This second edition, compiled by Gary Doi, features a collection of stories, poems, art and photography that each represent various themes on the subject of hope. Net proceeds from the sale of these books benefit the Asturias Academy Library in Xela, Guatemala.

Click on the video below to see excerpts from the first book on hope in the series:

Me and My Shadow

The sun shining over endless fields of corn as the sun rose to meet the day, I walked in peaceful reflection, grateful for this season of joy and abundant growth.  As my mind and body meandered along the path, I became aware of the shadow cast, at times looming large in front of me, while at other times trailing behind, depending on the sun and the direction I chose to take.

Isn’t that how it is with life sometimes?  With every choice we make, we can choose light or shadow.  When we turn away from the light, allowing ego and fear and darkness to dominate our thoughts and action, our shadow selves can loom larger than life, threatening to overshadow all that is good and beautiful.  Like child’s play on a bedroom wall, we can even create distortions and illusions in our shadows; perhaps entertaining in the moment, though forever distracting us from what’s real and what’s true.  Alternatively, can choose to walk toward the light, both figuratively and literally.  We can choose to lead with love, enabling our hearts to open in the warmth of the sun, leaving our shadows trailing behind.

I’m curious…How do you live and lead each day?  Do you walk toward the light with clear intention and purpose, or allow shadows to cast darkness over all that is good and true?  Do you distort the truth or walk with integrity?  Do you hold on to what is real, or find yourself chasing illusions?

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Empowering Our Dreams From Within

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved biographies and autobiographies.  Real life stories of courage amidst struggle, triumph over defeat, and hope in the face of despair. I love these stories not only because they’re interesting, but because they challenge and inspire us to grow beyond the status quo, daring us to dream and live our lives out loud — with passion, courage and conviction; transforming our lives from one of complacency to a derring do adventure.

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Yet even as we are moved by the actions of others, far too often inspiration sits idly on the shelves of our lives as we silence ourselves, mock our hopes and trade our dreams for the illusion of safety or approval of others.

Some of us doubt and disempower ourselves, perhaps allowing others to make us feel small, insignificant or incapable, as if the truth of who we are is somehow not enough.  Others of us willingly bury our dreams and barter our self-respect in exchange for outer measures of success, or wait passively for others to magically hand us the keys to our life, forgetting that we are co-creators in our own lives and destinies.  Some of us resist stepping out in the name humility,  though in the process we deny the world the gift of ourselves.  We fill our minds with self-limiting (and perpetuating) beliefs, wondering to ourselves:

Who am I to try?  What if I fail?  What will ‘they’ think?  What can I do?  What do I have to offer?  What difference can one person make?  

Who are you not to try? I challenge you to consider.  Who are you not to live your voice out loud?  Who are you not to share your gifts with the world?

True empowerment is not just about what happens without, but what happens within.

It begins the deep knowing that you matter.  That we all matter.

It is the belief that we each have within us the power to make a difference  in our own unique way; that we each have the ability to touch, reach and teach another, through the gift of our own example.

Transformative in nature, it is the catalyst that converts ideas into action — giving birth to our dreams and life to our voice.

At its essence, empowerment is the fullest expression and collective gift of our authentic selves.

I’m curious… What does empowerment mean to you?  What role does it play in leadership? What beliefs/tools empower you to live your life out loud?  What challenges have you overcome on the way to your own dream(s)?  What holds you back from living your life to the fullest?  

On Callings and Convictions

ImageSometimes we are called to serve – whether for a moment, a season or a lifetime.  We are called to make sacrifices for a greater good; to courageously face challenges head on; to relentlessly pursue the course of right action, even when it may be unwelcome.

We do not heed these callings for our own gain, though there may be moments in which we feel richly rewarded for the work we are called to do.  We do not heed these callings for others’ approval, for just as there may be those who love and support us, there are just as many or more who may not only misunderstand, but may actively seek to sabotage us or others in the process.

Callings and convictions are about leaving the comfort and familiarity of the known for the unknown.

Callings and convictions are about leading and living and serving from within, not without.

They are about living from the heart and doing what’s right.

On purpose.

With passion.

With love.

I’m curious…what callings and convictions have you followed on your own life path?  What were the lessons learned?  What costs, if any, have you encountered for living the courage of your convictions?  How have you grown as a result of honoring your own journey? 

Postscript:  For those who, like me, believe that our lives and journeys and purpose are about something larger than our individual selves, I would add the following:  sometimes callings are not so much about our own plans, but about God’s plan for us.  While the convictions of our heart sometimes call us to follow a certain path, the purpose of our choice is not always clear, and it is often only in post-mortem analysis that we can begin to see the the real purpose(s) behind a given calling or path.

The Labyrinth of Our Heart

(Note: Below is a post I wrote a while back, though never published. Still, sometimes our unpublished thoughts are still worth sharing, and this post is no exception.  It is the essence of what walking the ‘Heart Path’ is all about, the values by which I live my own journey and the vantage point from which this blog is written.)

Robert Frost once wrote,

 “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…Two roads diverged…, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

The poem came to mind this evening as I broke from routine and the predictable route of my evening walk, and in doing so, encountered the unexpected joy of running into a friend – a fellow Rotarian, who also happens to be our local priest.  As we walked and talked together, I found myself delighting in the discovery of new and heretofore unknown paths as well as a labyrinth he showed me, hidden among the trees at one of my favorite hang-outs, our local college.  He knew I would appreciate the beauty of this spot on a deeper, more spiritual level, and shared with me his own routine of reflectively walking to the center of the labyrinth…the figurative center of our heart.

As we continued our walk, we quickly found ourselves shifting from the casual talk of life and community, to recent decisions in my life.  We touched on the topic of servant leadership, then ultimately to the subject of God, surrender, and the wondrous joy (filled with the predictive ups and downs of life) that inevitably awaits us when we are finally willing to give up our illusions of control and give in to the mystery of Life.  As we parted ways and I headed home, I reflected on my own journey to this place of surrender over these past few years…the signposts along the way, the tests and trials, and ultimately, to the deep peace and joy that now fills my spirit.

On this journey to surrender, sometimes our heart and soul cry out in anguish, guilt or remorse – to be free from the pain and prisons of our own heart and mind, often of our own making. Sometimes, the heart and soul cries out in defiant anger, driven by a need for justice for wrongs that can’t be undone or for losses we cannot reclaim.

Sometimes, however, the heart and soul’s cry is about something different altogether…

Not a rallying cry out, so much as a calling within…to be (re)united with our purpose for being; to align our heart and soul and mind in such a way that we can better serve and love those we journey with, and in doing so, discover and live our own joy.  Increasingly, as I walk around the circles of my own life, each step leading me closer to the center of my heart, I find my joy increasing, and with it, the possibility for peace and love, too.  Every step taken in faith is met with deep gratitude for all that has come before and all that is still yet to be.

Just as in Frost’s poem above, I have chosen to take the road less traveled by…no longer the road of safety and convention, nor the road of self worth defined by external measures of success; but rather, I have chosen the path that leads us within, not without; the road of Faith and surrender; and the larger voyage that asks not how the world can serve me, but how I may best serve the world and those others I journey with.

I have chosen the heart path.

And already,

it has made all of the difference…