My Take on Spirituality – Part 1 – Choosing the Practice instead of the Knowing

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Since I’m using the word spirituality in some of my writings, especially connecting it to leadership and business, I wanted to offer my definition of it as well. Being a fairly complicated subject matter, I will write a few more pieces presenting some other angles, and also connect it to entrepreneurship, business and leadership, but here is a start.

From having been a (Swedish) child that alternated dreams about running the world as the US President (or being the Secretary General of the UN) with dreams about living in a cave in China learning from the Shaolin Masters or sitting on a mountain top in Tibet, levitating, I’ve always been hard to peg down. I’m pragmatic, sometimes bluntly forthright and practical, especially in a business or leadership situation, and most of the time, grounded. I love to learn how the mind, body, heart and the brain work, as well as how the Universe operates. While I don’t understand more than a minute portion of the underlying scientific reasoning regarding chaos theory, quantum mechanics and string theory, I still read about it, finding the concepts tantalizing.

Yet.

It’s never been enough for me to only approach the world that way. Sweden operates as a society based on logos (even though the mystery has found a way to survive through Sweden’s creatives and their contributions to the world), where science, results and all things that can be measured have put a a choke-hold on what can’t be explained, the beauty of life itself, and what creates meaning. An approach that makes me contract, and one of the main reasons for me leaving Sweden. Reading the outstanding book The Case for God (don’t be deceived by the title – it’s not what you think) by Karen Armstrong, has given me a way to express my thoughts and sentiments regarding spirituality. Starting with a quote from Albert Einstein, which she uses in the book:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

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What Karen Armstrong contends in her book is essentially that we got religion wrong and that it has been hijacked by logos, which is applied in particular by the religious extremists. The way religion started, going way back, and that always has been upheld by nature-based, pagan and Goddess approaches, was that it was a practice for becoming a better human being. In this life. Not the next one. It was a way for dealing with our existential longings, fears and doubts. Of understanding ourselves. Above all, it had a focus on empathy and wisdom as the pinnacles of spiritual growth.

Fast forwarding several thousand years, this was repeated by Chinese and Greek philosophers, like Confucius and Socrates, who both spoke to the need of awakening real self-knowledge, again accompanied by compassion. Hinduism, especially the Ayurvedic teachings which included yoga and meditation, and the rise of Buddhism, offered a similar insight. It wasn’t the goal, it was the journey, a.k.a., the practice. that counted.

shutterstock_8362150Then came the birth of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, all at their mystic core propagating for compassion as a way towards the mystery, also formulated as a daily practice, not dogma. The problem that arose, however, was when logos was introduced as a way of explaining ‘God’ as a ‘Man in the Sky’, and/or using the written word as law, not as a mere symbol. At this point, religion had become a battlefield. Instead of being used as a day-to-day tool to become a better and more self-aware human being, it had become an axe that was easily wielded against anyone who was ‘the other’. Which, btw, in psychological terms means the ‘bad’ part of ourselves that we can’t tolerate, we project onto ‘others’. A convenient solution almost all of us employs, whether we express it externally or not.

shutterstock_418316Fast forward to the existential philosophers of the 20th century, together with the psychological schools of Freud and Jung. The former understood the need for self-awareness with a return to the mystery, and rejected explanations or absolutes. The latter, starting with Freud, helped us understand that there is no ‘The Rational Man’. Essentially, whatever we do, is mostly driven by our subconscious. Jung’s contribution was more related to a return to the mystery and the archetypal aspects of our lives that was later on followed by Joseph Campbell’s compilation of ‘The Hero’s Journey’ as a universal understanding of what drives our time on earth. (Which is why we love Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter etc. While Hollywood is shallow, racist and misogynistic on so many levels, their gift is the continued iterations of the Hero’s Journey, which speak to most of the world’s population. It’s essentially one of the best ways to tap into the archetypes that unite us all and what gives us meaning).

Which is very much the opposite of how religion has been, and is being used today. The compulsion to use religion as something that can be defined and explained by the chosen few, who then in turn can tell the rest of us heathens ‘the secret’, as Armstrong eloquently explains, is based on the need to try to dominate many of the things we have no control over. Add on the truly tough ones, such as meaning of life or what happens when we die, and people are prepared to go to great lengths to find someone who ‘knows’ (and thereby abdicating their own responsibility for their lives). Hence, the goal  of ‘knowing’ takes precedence over the ‘journey’.

The journey, which uses much less grandstanding, and is just a humble, day-to-day reconnection, is certainly not as sexy as the goal of having all the answers. Yet, in the end, as all people who are close to dying repeat when asked what they wish they had done differently is; to have lived a more authentic life, (or as Steve Jobs put it, ‘Don’t live someone else’s life’). They wish that they had taken more chances and had more fun. Above all, they wish they had loved more.

shutterstock_1498862_1Summarizing my thoughts based on the above is that for me spirituality is a daily practice of becoming better, more evolved, conscious, compassionate and happier human beings, who also are capable of paying it forward, ultimately moving humanity forward. The practice is joined by the exploration, namely our thirst for for meaning and the mystery, symbolized by the Hero’s Journey, which takes on a different color when we move it from the movie-screens and apply it to our own lives.

In order to get there, we need to dig into our mind- and body-based basements and attics, where a lot of unpleasant skeletons reside. Those inner dragons are what we need to face and not run away from, while keep opening our hearts, staying with our breath, checking in what’s going on in our bodies, while continuing the journey towards the mystery.

shutterstock_9768520Or an even shorter version: Spirituality for me is Philosophy+Psychology+Breath+Presence+The Heart+Being+The Hero’s Journey+The Mystery=A Daily Practice of Self-awareness, Heart-Opening and a life-long existential exploration. Which for some might not have anything to do with spirituality at all, but just about personal maturity and wisdom with a touch of humility and reverence for all the things we don’t understand. Each to his or her own.

My two cents on spirituality and what I want to offer to the world, especially to the often quite soulless world of business, organization and leadership, which is all about knowing and nothing about meaning. Oh. And not to forget the often dark abyss of politics, which uses the Dinosaur ‘other’ as the best axe in town. More to follow.

What are your thoughts?

Never Hide Your Green Hair

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Amy Pohler and Chris Pratt in Parks & Recreation. Owning their green hair.

How would you show up in life if you fully owned your green hair?

I’m just on the verge of launch a series of articles on spirituality, entrepreneurship and leadership, as well as my new  one-on-one Extraordinary Leadership Program for Global Visionary CEOs, Entrepreneurs & Change-Makers. In this process, however, I keep running into the same problems I’ve been fighting internally for many years; namely the need to fully own who I am. And believe me, I’ve come a long way since I started, yet there still are old remnants of insecurity that pops up. For example, especially when I deal with people who operate in a much more traditional leadership and business capacity, as happened today when I was talking to a prominent Swedish business man with a lot of seniority in the business world regarding how to navigate problems with the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce on the national level. When I tell him, or anyone like him, what I do, there is an uncomfortable silence until we can move over to a more ‘appropriate’ discussion topic, such as biometrics, biofeedback in gaming, or just plain old business politics.

This awkward pause, which to no surprise, happens prevalently especially in the older guard of business leaders and entrepreneurs, is what has stopped me from fully owning who I am, and thereby has been limiting my capacity to be of support to those who want and need my services. The fear that has been operating in me, growing up in an atheist household in the most secular country on earth, is that you can’t bring sacredness and depth into business or leadership. As if existential questions and business are two worlds apart. Which of course is utter BS. Businesses are run by human beings, the last time I checked, and thereby, no matter how much we would like to separate them two, all businesses are forged in the belly of our deepest beliefs, values and unconscious drives.

Having that said, it is this very fear that I, and so many others, are struggling with is what also holds us back from being able to really make a difference. Because it’s only people who fully show up as they are that we completely trust. It doesn’t really matter what they believe, and we might not want to buy services from them, but something deep is reflected in us when a person shows up in full ownership of who they are, especially when they show us their warts and their dark sides. It is as if we are capable of relaxing into a mirror of recognition just by associating with them. Lately, having watched the TV-series Parks & Recreation, with specifically Amy Pohler and Chris Pratt, who both are unapologetically themselves, on and off screen, I’m deeply fascinated with their lack of filters. Amy, in her role as charming, yet obsessive and dominant Parks Director Leslie Knope and and Chris in his role as the loveable, yet unemployable and intellectually challenged extra Andy Dwyer. And while they are comedians, which often makes the warts seem a lot more palatable, they are still warts, which is why they resonate at an archetypal level. The warts help us become more real.

Because it is just as Angeles Arrien, the very gifted cultural anthropologist said, quoting her grandmother:

“Never hide your green hair. They can see it anyway”.

We all have green hair somewhere, and the more time and effort we spend hiding it, the more inauthentic we come across, since people always see behind our masks. Or at the very least, they sense that something is missing. The power, however, that is unleashed when we fully own who we are, publicly, that’s where real transformation can take place. And that’s where real leadership starts.

The Return of the Sun & Starting Over

shutterstock_9340879I’m restarting this blog, now when the sun has taken a few walks around the block of earth, and I’ve landed. The next chapter of my life is calling me. This blog will reflect the unfolding of this chapter, which includes my life as a Swedish entrepreneur and wisdom teacher in the US, my work with leadership, game-changing leaders and entrepreneurs, conscious capitalism, spirituality, writing and at times even politics. And maybe even some singing. The opportunities are many, the mysteries and our essence boundless and my desire for engaging whole-heartedly with the world is taking me beyond my introverted self, putting me back into the public arena. A world that I left many years ago in order to find myself, heal some wounds and connect with something bigger. Now I feel a calling to share some of my insights and reflections, while also inviting to a dialogue with other seekers and finders out there.

With heart!

2011 – A Year of Revelations in Review

So this is it. Only 2 days before the end of this year. For me, it also feels like the end of an era, or to make it less dramatic, the end of a growth-phase. Above all, this year has been humbling, filled with revelations of how much I still have to work on, as a person, as a leader, and as a woman. At the same time, I’m so proud of myself that I no longer lie to myself to the same extent and that I’m much more prone to admit my shortcomings.

5 Top Things That Have Happened:

1. I’ve made a lot of progress with  the Quickenings Game! YEAH!!! It’s so much fun! Imagine being able to create a moving fantasy novel+ build a conscious company, while all the while applying the method I’ve built the last ten years, and even bringing in elements from my last VC-funded adventure of 1999/2000. Now it’s fundraising-time, baby!
2. I have hired my first intern/employee, who’s turned out to be the missing link for everything I want to realize here in the US. I can’t express how grateful I am for having found her, or rather, been hunted down by her;-).
3. I’ve finished my 2-year intuitive/energy/clairvoyant training, which is one of the best investments I’ve ever made and the best education out there, period. The world would be a lot better if people learned how to mind their own energy and getting access to their own information, instead of seeking it on the outside.
4. While serving the Chamber the past 1,5 years, and many times cussing and tearing my hair in frustration and stress, I’ve also been able to see how much the Chamber has served me. I’m deeply grateful for having been allowed to lead, for having met many wonderful and truly remarkable people, and for having had this experience.
5. I’ve become less of a recluse, am making new friends, and am learning how to be a bit more ‘normal’ human being again;-), which also has led to that I’ve been called on my ‘s-t’, much more than I bargained for. But to be humbled is an awesome teacher, as I keep reminding myself.

5 Top Things that I’ve learned:

1.That I need to be closer to my spiritual side in order to be happy, but when I honor that call, I’m truly blissful. I’ve never been so happy as I am now.
2. That I don’t have to prove myself anymore, or at least, to a much lesser degree.
3. That I still have many moments where I flee, from myself and from the situation I’m in, instead of facing it right on.
4. That there is a red thread, a deeper meaning, with everything that happens, that keeps surprising me.
5. That I, still, take myself way too seriously!

5 Top Intentions for 2012:

1. To strive and effort less and have much more fun!
2. To dare to stay present, even when it sucks, and I really, really want to flee.
3. To keep peeling the onion, daring to be much more vulnerable and naked.
4. To develop my mindfulness and spiritual practice, as a student and as a teacher.
5. To stand up more for myself, yet at the same time, prioritize peace within.

To each and one of you reading this, I’m wishing you an amazing 2012! This coming year is going to be wicked good! So set the space together with your intentions, be with people who support you, that space and your intentions and celebrate!!! WOHOOO!!!

Eldklotter or Fire Graffiti

I just came across this poem by Tomas Tranströmer here (thanks Andrew Sullivan). And then I had to find it in Swedish, of course. Stunning in both English and in Swedish.

FIRE GRAFFITI

As the firefly ignites and fades, ignites and fades, we follow the flashes
of its flight in the dark among the olive trees.

Throughout those dismal months, my soul sat slumped and lifeless
but my body walked to yours.
The night sky was lowing.
We milked the cosmos secretly, and survived.

ELDKLOTTER

Under de dystra månaderna gnistrade mitt liv till
bara när jag älskade med dig.
Som eldsflugan tänds och slocknar, tänds och slocknar
- glimtvis kan man följa dess väg
i nattmörkret mellan olivträden.

Under de dystra månaderna satt själen hopsjunken
och livlös
men kroppen gick raka vägen till dig.
Natthimlen råmade.
Vi tjuvmjölkade kosmos och överlevde

Hedge Funds, The End of the Mayan Calendar, and other Cosmic Occurences


Life moves in mysterious ways…and my life keeps shifting like a kaleidoscope, constantly changing colors and patterns.

Yesterday, I went to an event with 100 Women in Hedge Funds and learned from one of top people in the Hedge Fund world, Renee Haugerud.  It was fascinating to hear her perspective on where the world economy is heading 20-50 years from now and what to invest in (tip: it’s all about commodities). What I appreciated the most about her talk, however, was her capacity to talk about heavy-duty complexity in such a succinct and encompassing way. And that she’s started an institute, originally called the Female Trading School, which teaches both women and men, how to trade using both the left and right brain.

Tonight, at a yoga class, I learned that tomorrow, Oct 28, is the last day of the Mayan Calendar. The new year, according to the Mayans, will be focused on authenticity and truth. And even though I haven’t bought into the 2012 end-of-the world story, I do believe that the world is going through a major transformation, on all levels, and that we’ve only seen the beginning yet. Not surprisingly, mirrored by the discussion a day earlier on the world economy.

Earlier today, I went to see Patti, my healer, and finally, hooray, Humpty-Dumpty (aka my mind, body and soul) is back in one piece. The combined pressure of the Chamber and the upcoming Eliason fundraiser, which I’ve been dreading since last year, and old thought patterns that traveled with me back from Sweden, felt like a dark veil that was choke-holding me. And now it’s all gone – Wohoo! It’s once again quiet up there and there is so much more space and light.

Furthermore, today, Marissa and I, made tons of progress with Quickenings ‘Jedi-Warrior’ Training Game and it’s going to be so WICKED good! Holy cow. Can’t wait!

My mantra for the coming 3 weeks (at least until Nov 18) is to say on the inhale: I’m here, and on the exhale: I’m home. Which is easier said then done. Because what I  realized today after seeing Patti, is that while I’m serene as few as a coach and yoga teacher, most of the time (and in particular as a leader with deadlines), I’m a ‘worrywart’ (it’s such an unflattering term, huh;-)). But it is the honest truth. So my default position is to find a way to stress myself out. The only remedy is to tame the beast, focus on some goood loovin’, breathe and to stay friggin’ present! Ah. One day…:-).

Soul Re-Connection & The Return of Magic

Sorry for another lengthy radio silence. I’ve been traveling in Sweden, been jetlagged and inundated with work, while also starting up my new leadership training, and over all felt quite discombobulated (I love that word, the vowels are so ’round’ and cool;-)).

But last night I had an epiphany. I need to change the way I live right now.

I’ve been so immersed in the business world, in the chamber, 85 Broads, starting to raise money for the game (and learning the gaming world), traveling, Sweden itself, which has many virtues, but it runs on a low vibration and combined, they all contribute to pull me out of my soul. So does emotional eating as well as too much Hulu-watching, which are coping mechanisms for handling the above, but unfortunately add more fire to the fuel.

What happens when I lose my connection to my body and my soul is that I lose my magic and my energizer-bunny type of energy. I essentially lose myself, while the world turns into black and white static. And nothing, absolutely nothing! is worth that. I easily would choose giving up this LA-life and live on nothing in an Ashram in India, or as a Shaman in the Amazon, rather than losing my connection. I don’t need to be an entrepreneur, CEO or a business leader. It’s one way to make a difference. But I can’t live without soul or magic, and I know that living and teaching that is why I’m here.

Now, the good thing is that I believe that I don’t have to choose. But I have to really careful not to overdo the outer world, and to make sure to maintain my yoga practice on a daily basis, as well as my meditation practice. The clairvoyant meditation is great, but it works on a different level. Right now, I need to find the sacredness in everything again, which only happens when I’m in my physical yogic self.

So today, I’ve felt the magic return. It’s like a surge of ebullient and effervescent energy, climbing back up along the spine (kundalini rising, as it’s called in the yogic world). I’m truly blessed, on so many levels. I’ve reached a new level of clarity. I know what needs to come first. And I know what I need to change…The coming months will be interesting…

Life is beautiful and just as it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

Curves and Wormholes

 

It is said that there are 100 roads that lead to Rome. Yet non-linearity is still highly suspicious. In our left-brain world, we like to say that there is ONE road to Rome, ONE career path that will take us to a certain destination. If for no other reason than for our checkbooks, because being known in one field is still  the easiest path to high income. Yet I find myself more and more at peace with a more right-brained, more feminine way of being in the world – the world of curves and wormholes.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been told. “Lotta, you need to focus. Do one thing. Don’t keep changing your mind – you come across as fickle.” Yet while I at times have stayed put for the sake of it, after a time, the urge, or rather, the call, to move forward, has taken me to a new place, sometimes forcing me to leave everything behind. And make no mistake. It has cost me financially, and sometimes emotionally as well, mostly because it takes a lot of energy to keep moving the ball forward. Yet, I have no regrets. Instead, everything is now falling into place because I’m embracing curves (on many levels:-)) as well as wormholes.

What’s happening now is more of an inclusion rather than leaving things behind. Suddenly, I can see how my work as the President of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in LA is actually not a means to an end, but part of the bigger picture. I like helping companies and entrepreneurs thrive, especially those who think big, and it has provided me with a base and community I never even knew I was missing. At the same time, I also enjoy empowering women in business and leadership, this time through my leadership of 85 Broads here in SoCal. Incredibly satisfying being around women with strong business acumen, who also get a kick of supporting other women. And then my third world, which is where I’m putting most of my focus, which is turning the Quickenings model into a Jedi-Warrior computer game for leaders and thereby also creating an extended community for those who want to bring soulfulness to the business world. (I’m hereby confessing that I’m not only a fantasy-geek, I’m also a computer nerd;-)).

Coming back to my point of Curves and Wormholes. If someone had told me how long time it would take to figure out my path, I probably would have balked. I wouldn’t want to have known about all the ideas I would have to test and later discard. Yet, I believe that’s where the whole problem lies. This is really how everything evolves. Through trial and a lot of error. I believe if this curvier way of thinking was more accepted, and that utilizing the right brain wasn’t believed to be a sign of weakness, we would all be infinitely more happy and paradoxically also more successful, which leads me to the wormholes.

A wormhole, according to Wikipedia, “is a hypothetical topological feature of spacetime that would be, fundamentally, a “shortcut” through spacetime”. So, in short, being able to get from one point of the universe to another in a very unconventional way. If someone had told me a year ago who I would be today, how fast everything would have happened, and how many people I would be connected to, I wouldn’t have thought that possible and I certainly didn’t/couldn’t plan it. Yet that’s what so cool! When we step up and become leaders of ourselves and others, when we open up to and follow our intuition, and when we are operating more centered energetically,  the real magic happens.  We start jumping through wormholes that take us on shortcut through time and space, and we end up in a much better place than we ever could have orchestrated on our own. Pretty sweet deal. So embrace your curves,  jump headfirst into the abyss, and enjoy the ride. It’s going to be a good one!

What is a Conscious Leader?

Lately, I’ve had a lot of discussions with people on what a Conscious Leader is. Some detest the word ‘conscious’, since it  implies a superior position to those who are ‘non-conscious’. While I think it’s a valid point, I still believe that there is a clear distinction between a ‘conscious’ and a non-awake leader, if I can put it that way. A conscious leader to me is someone who has had some form of awakening, some form of Quickening, where they have started to see the world holistically, or as Caroline Myss puts it, views the world symbolically. They can see themselves and the part they are playing from above, being able to differentiate themselves from their smaller egos. They have reached that point where they try to do the right thing, not because it’s in book, or the law, but because it feels right, and they aspire to operate from their wiser parts of themselves, using their intuition as an important tool. If we use a maturity grid like Maslow’s hiearchy of needs, we are talking about those who have reached a level of self-realization. They operate from their hearts in conjunction with their intellect, their bodies and their soul. Of course, they are human, and they will  fall, make mistakes, and very likely get caught up in their own stuff more often than not, including jealously, small-mindedness and greed etc, but the difference is that they are aware of what’s going on and they will learn from their mistakes.

This is the new ‘breed’ of leaders the world needs. Essentially more evolved human beings. Fallible, but evolving. Those who strive for becoming better human beings for as long as they live. As a society, we’ve already have reached a higher level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and for each generation, we will find more people who at least aspire to operate at this level. But what’s necessary now is to train more existing leaders as well as future potential leaders, who also understands the business world/politics/or whatever other world they inhibit. In essence, they need to be able to straddle both worlds and bring this consciousness into whatever they do. That’s what the world needs and those are the heroes/heroines that we are holding out for.

 

 

Summer Recap

Alright. It’s time to get my lazy not so bony ass off the ground and start writing again.

There’s so much to update on but I’ll try to be brief. Overall, I’m in a surprisingly good place. I really needed some downtime after a crazy spring and so many internal changes.

Btw, I just got Spotify, which is as amazing as Hulu. Limitless free music streaming. And it’s Swedish, which is fun! Highly recommended! I’ve started online dating again, and I’m committed to give it at least a few months. I’m ready to get myself out there now. I’ve started dancing Zumba several times a week together with my yoga, and the combination with more energy cleansing is just perfect. Went to a women’s clairvoyant retreat outside San Francisco last week, which was amazing and very empowering.

On a work level, things are getting more aligned. I just finished my ebook on how to become a Superhero, which now just needs some editing, illustrations and a design, and yes, it also needs to get out there;-), but it feels really nice to have it completed. I’m in discussions with a computer game designer, and am meeting different experts figuring out how to build the Quickenings Leadership Game.  I almost feel as if I’m back to the year 1999 or 2000 of MsFreckles, but this time, with a lot more substance. The chamber keeps developing and I’m increasingly growing happier leading it, and all the people who now are joining us. And building 85 Broads here in LA has been another kick – I really dig the women and what we can do. All in all. More flow. Not in all areas, but in general, more and more contentment – and fun.

Writing this reminds me of how lucky I am, and that I’m deeply grateful for everyone I have around me and who supports me in every shape and form. I’m very privileged, and very grateful. Life is good.