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About the Author
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The Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life
By Karen Kimsey-House, Ann Betz
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2014 Karen Kimsey-House and Ann Betz
All rights reserved.
In truth there is but one problem and therefore only one answer ... the root problem is separation.
The Human Story
We chose to introduce this book with our personal stories not to garner sympathy or set ourselves apart in our suffering, but because they serve to illustrate the larger human story. As leaders in the coaching field, we've both taught and trained all over the world, hearing life stories from many people across many cultures. The essence of the stories is the same — do I belong? Am I good enough? Am I a part of things? The experience of separation and the fear of not belonging is universal, and it affects us in every area of our lives.
This sense of separateness affects our professional careers, our family life and has a profound impact on every relationship we have. In this chapter, we'll explore the many ways we experience separateness as human beings — from ourselves, from each other, from life and nature, and from however we choose to define and inhabit our spiritual lives.
Separation from Self
For most, life is a search for the proper manila envelope in which to get oneself filed.
It's heartbreakingly common to feel separate from oneself, not fully knowing our own passions and preferences, living lives out of synch with our natures and misaligned from a sense of true purpose. Even pondering the question "why am I here?" takes a fair amount of courage, and thus is not something many of us do in our day-to-day lives.
It's interesting to note that a recent study found human beings feel the unease known as "existential angst" in the same area of the brain associated with both physical pain and the pain of social rejection. It's painful and distressing to ponder the meaning — or meaninglessness — we fear is inherent in our lives, and thus most of us generally avoid it, staying separate from ourselves, never really knowing our own core.
We come by this honestly, as most societies encourage a "go along to get along" approach to life, rewarding those who fit in and punishing those who don't. Modern public schools as we know them were designed to create workers who are ready to fit into existing systems, and even to this day far too often prefer to have children sit in rows without asking too many questions.
Karen knows the impact of needing to fit in and please. Growing up as the eldest of three in a military family, she learned to help out, stand up straight, and appear neat, pressed, and well behaved at all times, meanwhile never developing the capacity to know what she wanted and needed herself. "The summer I was seventeen, I was deciding where to apply to college. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to go to a large campus with lots of people and activities, or somewhere more intimate, quiet and small. And as I thought about it, I realized that, not only did I not know, I had no idea where to look to find out. I had no tools for understanding or knowing what I, from inside myself, truly preferred."
Karen's dilemma illustrates a common human problem: when we are encouraged (or required) to focus our efforts on getting along and fitting in, how do we determine what we ourselves want? And if we don't know what we want, how do we ever know who we are? And if we don't know what we want or who we are, how do we contribute our unique value to the world?
In 1968, George Land gave 1,600 five-year-olds a creativity test used by NASA to select innovative engineers and scientists. He then retested the same children at ages ten and fifteen. The test results were amazing: at age five, 98% of children registered genius level creativity; 30% at age 10; and only 12% at age 15. The same test given to 280,000 adults placed their genius level creativity at only 2%. This study shows us that noncreative behavior is learned, that creativity is inherent in human beings, our very birthright. In losing this, we lose ourselves.
Years ago Karen was planting marigolds with her five-year-old niece. She put the seed packet on a stick to mark the rows, and her niece turned it around to face the flowers. "Why did you do that, honey?" Karen asked. "Because otherwise they don't know what they should look like," her niece replied.
We have learned, even at young ages, to look outside ourselves to see who we are supposed to be, what we're supposed to wear, what we're supposed to look like. We grow up knowing what is "right" in whatever society we are raised, but often not knowing who we really are. And we shut ourselves down in shame, afraid who we are is not good enough, not right, not the norm. We try to take up less space, apologizing for who we are, betraying our own truth and abandoning our precious selves. As Brené Brown, the well-known researcher on shame and resilience, reflects, "When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight, and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling. We think to ourselves, 'I'm the only one. Something is wrong with me. I am alone.'"
Separation from Each Other
We have all these devices that keep us connected, and yet we're more disconnected than ever before. Why is that? ~Emilio Estevez
We not only feel this deep separation from ourselves, but from one another as well, both personally and globally. Because we don't really know ourselves, too often we don't really know and see those around us either, even friends or family, not to mention people very unlike ourselves.
One of the things that is inspiring (and perhaps a little sad) is how amazed people are when they realize how much deeper and rewarding relationships in their lives can be. We see it in the classroom during CTI coaching courses as people easily bond and connect much more deeply than they are accustomed to. Coaching clients also often comment how quickly they end up confiding in their coaches, opening their hearts with true vulnerability. It's as if we are all dying of thirst in the desert and have forgotten water exists. Somehow it has become "normal" to feel disconnected and remarkable to feel connection.
Even though we have methods of communication that easily bridge continents, we are losing more and more of any sort of feeling of community. We manage from afar, have "virtual" meetings, and call it more productive. One of Ann's coaching clients struggled with managing a direct report who was in a different city (a more and more common practice). "I don't really know her," he said. "She's worked for me for a year now and she does a good job, but we don't have that 'pull the plow together' sort of relationship I've been able to create with others." He went on to add, "I never thought the little things mattered that much, the quick chat by the coffeemaker, even walking down the hall to a meeting or seeing a new photo of someone's kid on their desk. But now I think maybe we've underestimated how much these things are the glue that holds a team together."
Much has been written about how we are less and less humanly connected the more we advance in technology. And while it's not all bad by any means, there seems to be a deep and pervasive feeling that we are somehow simply missing one another. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011 Time Use Survey, of all of our daily leisure time (about five-and-a-half hours on average), we only spend about forty-five minutes socializing. The rest is largely television and Internet use. In North America, the United Kingdom, and India, for example, studies show that the average parent spends between seven and eleven minutes a day talking with their children. Another UK study by the insurance company esure found that couples spend, on average, a little over three-and-a-half hours a week together, an hour-and-a-half of which is spent doing chores or in silence in front of the TV.
And even when we do connect with people we care about, all too often it ends up being a sort of "news report" or running commentary on our lives. "I did this, I went here, I crossed these items off my to-do list." Then we listen in turn to their report, and call it "catching up." What are we were actually catching up on? In the small amount of time we even talk to each other every day, how much do we actually communicate?
At the risk of stating the obvious, research by Dr. Matthias Mehl of the University of Arizona (among others) finds people seem to be happier when they spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk. Authentically connecting truly does matter.
Deep connection brings us beyond the story and details of life. It requires that we stop and realize there is a human someone over there to be known and understood, not just a role or a title. While this sounds obvious, it's become the norm (especially Western society) to bulldoze through every day, moving from one item on the to-do list to the next. How many meetings start with an honest, authentic, personal check-in? How much of the time do we feel the pressure to "get down to business," forgetting that the person in front of us or on the phone is first and foremost a human being?
Ann was talking to a friend about this recently, who said, "What's really sad is that we aren't even very aware that we don't know each other. We base so much of our interactions on assumptions. I wish someone would say to me, 'You know what? I don't really know you.' Now that would be refreshing."
And yet, we come by this honestly, not because we are bad people. Our brains themselves are designed in part to interact with assumptions and prior beliefs. It takes a fair amount of the brain's energy to assess each situation anew as we move through life, which is not very efficient. Thus, we are designed to default to seeing what we expect to see and operating in habitual ways in order to save available brain energy for processing and assessment when it is deemed necessary. In other words, it simply takes less energy to assume people are their titles, reputations, and even stereotypes. And at the pace we're going these days, who has time to stop and ask, "Who are you, really?"
We used to inhabit societal structures that by their very nature connected us — our tribe, our church, temple or mosque, our family, our community. As we've become more sophisticated and moved into an increasingly global society, we've found new ways to interact (emailing, texting, etc) but not to connect.
Karen was recently having a conversation with a friend about upcoming local elections. "You know what?" the friend said. "One guy knocked on my door and introduced himself, and I found myself tempted to vote for him just because I had had the chance to connect with a real, live human being. I know it's silly, because of course his policy stance and voting record are much more important rationally, but for a minute there, all I could feel was the relief of actually meeting someone rather than looking at a postcard or an e-mail."
Separation from Life
Most people are on the world, not in it — have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them — undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate. ~John Muir
Many of us consume food that comes in packages. We don't plant, kill or gather it. We live in air-conditioned and heated homes, drive climate-controlled cars, and during certain seasons work from dawn to dusk, going days without being outside in daylight. Fear of abduction (or worse) has us keep our children inside or in supervised activities. The Internet has made it possible to get anything you want and visit anywhere in the world virtually (or create whole new worlds and new selves). Why go anywhere?
In Western society in particular, we've become separate from the pounding beat of life itself, and often feel like we have lost our place in the family of things. We are experts at control, taking food production to horrifying Frankenstein-like levels with genetically modified crops and factory farming. Our homes are pest-free and we sanitize grocery cart handles to prevent coming into contact with something that might hurt us. Sometimes it seems like if we could encase our children in plastic to prevent illness or injury, we would!
Of course, this is a scenario painted with broad strokes, and certainly isn't the case for everyone. Many people make conscious and even heroic efforts to stay connected to their food and the natural world. But it can feel like an uphill battle. While it's possible to live a life that is more connected to the earth, it takes a fair amount of awareness, effort, and intention to do so. In most communities and social groups, it's just not the default position.
When it comes to food, many nutrition experts today agree that the best way to shop at the grocery store is "around the edges." That is, avoid the center aisles with their processed and prepared foods. But even then, there is more and more concern that the fruits and vegetables, meats and milk we are eating, unless organic and not genetically modified, may be slowly poisoning us. For example, results from a German study published in the journal Ithaka found that people who have no direct contact with agriculture have significant concentrations of glyphosate (five to twenty times the permissible upper limit for glyphosate in German drinking water) in their urine. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many broad-spectrum herbicides, including Roundup, and has been linked to a wide range of health concerns, including endocrine disruption, DNA damage, and birth defects in chicken and frog embryos. What's notable here is that these weren't people living on or near farms or dealing with herbicides in any way. These were city dwellers.
In other areas of life, in addition to the environmental ravages of our air and water, scientists have started becoming more and more concerned about noise and light pollution. In most major cities it's impossible to see the stars or have a truly quiet moment without the rumble of traffic or the roar of a neighbor's leaf blower. And this has an impact beyond mere annoyance. In a 2010 Scientific American "Ask the Brains" column, Mark Andrews wrote, "Stress resulting from background noise may decrease higher brain function, impairing learning and memory." Other studies have found that continuous background noise — all too common in today's households — has a negative impact on an infant's developing brain.
In contrast, Karen recalls the experience of being by herself on a meditation retreat. "I found a quiet spot up on a bluff with an amazing view of the valley below me, and I sat. I sat still and just felt the world around me, and the longer I sat, the more life I felt in me, as if I were integrally a part of things and connected to the energy of this beautiful world. It was such a different feeling than how I normally go through my day. I've tried to bring it in consciously since, but it's easy to forget."
Another example came from a friend who recently returned from a long-anticipated trip to Spain, who was telling Ann about her adventures. "It was — good," she said. "But not great. I realized that I sort of spent the trip looking through the viewfinder of my camera trying somehow to 'get' it all. We were so busy and concerned about seeing everything that there was no time for creativity. Now I realize that the most fun times were when we didn't have plans and just let ourselves explore." She saw Spain, but she didn't fully experience it. When we are so busy trying to check things off on a list or take yet another picture "to remember it by" we run the risk of missing the essence and connecting to life.
We spent thousands and thousands of years sleeping under the stars, listening to the wind in the trees, drinking from clear flowing streams, and eating food grown without hormones or chemicals. Of course we miss this, and on a primal level long for it in our very blood and bones. How could we not feel sad at our separateness from life itself?
Ann remembers the four years she and her family lived in Costa Rica. "Our house was quite open and the jungle just came in as it liked. After a while we got used to the various aspects of nature that wanted to come through the house, from army ants to the occasional tarantula. In all honesty, I didn't love the bugs, but when the hummingbirds stopped by to say hello or when we could smell night blooming flowers on the breeze, it kind of made up for it. I miss this feeling of being a part of things in that very visceral way."
Separation from God, Spirit, Universal Energy, Oneness
Most human beings imagine themselves to be separate from God. Out of this idea, humans imagine themselves to be separate from each other as well. Yet no human is separate from God, since God is Everything That Is. Therefore humans are not, and cannot be, separate from each other. ~Neale Donald Walsch
Perhaps at its very base, our collective experience of separation ultimately comes from the same source — our separation from God (or whatever you know as oneness, source, the ultimate energy). The French theologian Teilhard de Chardin wrote that we are "spiritual beings having a human experience." Many traditions and teachers believe that at its spiritual core, this "human experience" is the illusion of separation from source. Enlightenment, then, is the experience of reconnecting to oneness and realizing the illusion while here on earth in human form. In this view, life as we know it is a journey back to wholeness, which is the truth of who we are.
Excerpted from Integration by Karen Kimsey-House, Ann Betz. Copyright © 2014 Karen Kimsey-House and Ann Betz. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Ann's Story and Karen's Story xii
Chapter 1 Separation 5
Chapter 2 How Did We Get Here? 16
Chapter 3 Integration: The next phase of human awareness 27
Chapter 4 Being Co-Active 49
Chapter 5 The Philosophy of Being Co-Active: The Four Cornerstones 64
Chapter 6 The Power of a Designed Alliance 100
Chapter 7 The Five Keys To Integration 128
About the Authors 170