Connecting The Dots

Discussing the threads of my own passions which have culminated in my work as coach, mentor, presenter in my own business.

What do you love?

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Are you a glass half full or half empty kinda person? When looking at a situation do you see the glaring mistakes, things that are wrong or do you marvel at what's going well? If you are like many of us the glass is half empty and our partners, kids, co-workers, the world haven't figured 'it' out yet!

Just got off the phone a while ago with someone near and dear to me. She's a wonderful gal on so many levels. When it comes to work though I am not sure why she is still there? So little seems to go right, multiple layers of process and people don't line up day over day. Now I'm not saying that isn't so. Lord knows in a big company things don't run smoothly. That said she's hard pressed to speak of anything going well. (yes I ask and get a huffy sounding reply). This is a pattern of years. Of course suggesting this isn't a great environment to be in everyday doesn't net me a cheerful response either. Thing is it's often soul sucking to speak with her. My energy levels plunge. When we are with others I watch them check out when she speaks. This impacts the world! So when I catch myself focusing on the darker side of things it makes me realize I too am putting a low energy vibe out into my world. It's a habit of thinking and speaking.

Now the flip side of this is, of course, looking for what is going well in your life. This too is a habit one can cultivate. While at lunch last week with a dear friend and colleague of mine, he shared a practice he has gotten into and does every morning. With a cup of coffee in hand, the radio on low, he looks out his window and appreciates his day. All the good things that have happened (or bullets he's dodged!) to bring him to this moment. His wonderful daughters and the lives they are launching into. All the great people he will meet today. The wonderful opportunities he knows are coming his way as well as the unknown delights that will occur as well. He said he sits for an hour or so and marinates (my word) in this space of appreciation and humility. The upshot is very little ruffles him, most delights him and he's present to the day and what it brings. I was inspired!

Taking this up a notch what if we spoke about what we love, ... on a regular basis and even out loud. Affirming the good things in our lives in person, on the phone, on email tends to have you eye see more of what is going well in your life. This sends a very different energetic vibe out into the world. I felt lighter and loving after my time with my friend. The world is impacted by this also!       

We often are flummoxed by what/ how we can do anything that would make the world better right now. We get stuck thinking the action needs to be big and bold and impact thousands. Well being conscious and responsible for the energy we bring to our lives is a great place to start. Seeing the world with appreciation, curiosity, compassion touches those in our world who touch those in their world, who touch those in their worlds. If we are all connected, then this small act indeed makes a difference for many! 

Finding peace

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, November 14, 2017

This last few weeks has felt quite different. As I wrote in my last blog ( and in my October/ November newsletter (Living Life by Lists Revisited), I have been practicing allowing, even welcoming what I call my 3 horses of the apocalypse. Control, Approval, Security. 

 Getting underneath the heavy-handedness with which I managed life has shifted something quite weighty. Less and less Madame Control runs the show. In 'seeing her' in my mind's eye and giving a big wave and smile, she's quite content to return those with minimum fuss. Beyond her, my old story has been upgraded. The little girl who wanted to be told she was good, and loved and could do/ be anything she really wanted gets that from the adult ME. That previous programming holds less sway. It's about new neural pathways.

There is a newly minted spaciousness and ease with friends, family and myself. I wake up feeling differently about my day. Heck I sleep better too! This delicious sense of contentedness has settled over my days. Not wanting to return to that old place, the practice of stopping to check in to see who's running the show continues. A small investment for finding this measure of peace.


Make peace with your resistance

Mary Johnson - Friday, October 27, 2017

Tomorrow is a big day. I will co-facilitate a very large group. Close to 400 people. This is a stretch for me. In accepting this work I wanted to do it differently. Not sure if this sounds familiar but do you, like me, spend time and loads of energy organizing and listing out what to do, to revise again and again? This coupled with imagined scenarios of things gone wrong that drive more checking and rechecking. 

Well this is generally how I have worked. :( Enter a fabulous teacher. A fellow named Jim Demther. He spoke about, especially in the moments of anxiousness  about something or harsh self talk, to attune to what's happening within you. Specifically, 

~ Note the sensations within your body. 

~ What feelings do these bring up. 

~ Notice your thoughts.  

I have been to this point many times. It tends to ramp me up. Taking it a step further, Jim asked us to check and see if this was about Approval, Control, Security. Bingo! Right away this resonated. I have a Control Madame who is fierce and an Approval Sprite who is insatiable. Not pretty and frankly rather embarrassing!

Luckily Jim doesn't leave us here! The invitation then becomes to acknowledge the Approval, Control or Security. Even bolder welcome it. All of this in service of simply allowing Approval, Control or Security to be there. To quit resisting what is. While I am able to acknowledge what shows up, it's still hard for me to welcome any of these at this point. There's a lot of self judgement shows up. Clearly more to work on! What I have noticed is a lessening of my internal resistance. It feels more expansive. With that I am more available and confident about what's next.

This facilitation has been a huge opportunity to practice, practice and practice some more. The payoff is great. I am feeling into the difference between anticipation and organizing for a good event vs driving myself with endless activities to assuage my feelings of Approval, Control, Security. This has me in a place of feeling fairly relaxed and confident that I have attended to what is needed on my part to make the time a success. This is a whole new place.     

Wish me luck!

Yes, Me Too

Mary Johnson - Thursday, October 19, 2017

For the last couple of weeks I have been debating in my head space whether or not I write this blog. Last night I watched a PVR'd episode of 22 Minutes. In it Susan Kent spoke to her experience with sexual harassment/ assault. Her declaration tipped the scale for me.

There are a number of stories I want to touch on. Believe this is also many women's experience. It doesn't just happen once. The first situation took place at the old Edmonton Archives on 101 St. As kids, (and I'm talking about 5, 6, 7), we would go over to look at all the cool old artifacts of our city's past and the most fun was we got to climb all over the old equipment in the big yard at the back. (parents would be horrified today!). I was 'in charge' at the grand age of 6 or 7 of my sister who was 2 years younger and our 2 friends 1 and 3 years younger than me. One day the old curator, a man we chatted with regularly for several years, called me over to show me something. I had no reason not to go look. Sure enough it was a ruse. He grabbed me and landed a couple of kisses while he pawed me. I squirmed out of his grasp, quickly gathered up the little kids an was out of there. I told the others under no circumstances to go back there. My sister and I never did.

So why not tell my folks? Well I was afraid I would catch heck. We lived in the inner city and were warned about strangers all the time. Except as is often the case he wasn't a stranger, ..... Secondly I knew, just knew in my bones, my dad would go over there and beat the bejeezus out of him. Funny there I was protecting a creep. So you stay away and become wary.   

The next 2 incidences occurred in my early days of work. One involved the CEO of the hospital and my interactions with him as the Union President. It consisted of inappropriate comments and looking. Gals you know the look. You feel slimed. Found out much later I wasn't the only one he did this to. We kept silent because we didn't want to lose our jobs.

The second was a boss who thought he could brush up against you in the hall touching your breasts or behind. We were 2 women and the nurses a department of men. I was a little bolder then and told him the next time I'd break his %*&# face. My colleague didn't feel she could say anything. As she told me when I asked why she didn't speak up. "I'm a single mom with 3 kids. This job works for them and me. I can't go back to shift work." A while later a significant unethical issue went down in our department. When all other routes failed I blew the whistle. And was unceremoniously walked off the job under the watch of the security fellow and told to never set foot on the property again. It was humiliating. Speaking up didn't garner any 'Atta girl's'. While in the end I was vindicated. (The parent company, when my allegations arrived, came in and investigated. Some house cleaning of the culprits went down.) I was still out a job. You become tainted goods. This one haunted me for a long time.         

Even in contemplating sharing my story I noticed I was downplaying it on my mind. 'The good girl', one who doesn't make a fuss, was in full force. She's concerned for me. It's dangerous out to speak up. I've experienced this first hand. In the end isn't it the fear that continues to keep us silent? Time to change this one. Enough is enough! 

It's not mind over matter

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The other day at yoga someone commented about noticing less flexibility and referenced getting older. A very quick "oh it's just mind over matter." was tossed out. In other words don't think yourself as getting older then you won't get older. Oh I wish it were that easy. If we are lucky (and I sure hope I am!!), we will age. Period. That doesn't mean we have to get 'old'. At least not for a good long while.  

It's fascinating how much the and energy goes into avoiding thinking about or contemplating the inevitable. The 'mind over matter' comment is common as is absolute silliness like 60 is the new 40. No it's not! (I think I've done this rant before.) Last evening in our 1st session of Life's Third Act there were declarative statements. "I'm NEVER quitting work; I'm NEVER getting old; I don't intend to become frail or bent over." There is a difference in having a positive and curious attitude about getting older and another whole thing that is denial.

What if we claimed our age? Were actually proud of being 64, 73, 85. At my son's wedding this past weekend many 60+ individuals hung out late and partied pretty darn well. Could they keep up with the 30 year olds? Well they did, ..... but differently. And maybe that's the thing. It's both Mind and Matter. The Matter part of the equation exists. Arthritis, cataract surgery, fussier digestive systems, differing energy levels, hips and knee replacements were part of that over 60 age group at the wedding. Those same folks also are windsurfers, high elevation hikers/ backpackers, bikers, gardeners, swimmers, etc etc. Thing is you acknowledge it and work with it.

So let's quit pretending we can live these years the same way we did at 30. Don't become a cheap imitation of yourself. Be curious how we can live our best lives as we enter this new time. Know that both mind and matter count! It always has. We were just too young to know it! :)        


Mary Johnson - Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Adrienne Clarkson wrote a brilliant article on 'Canada: Making a home on Native Land' in the Saturday September 23rd Globe and Mail. I loved her story about coming to this country and how it became her family's Home. She opened with a line from Robert Frost's 'The Death of a Hired Man'. Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.' Her premise is that Home acknowledges you, invites you in, welcomes you.

My mind made a leap while contemplating her article. The experience of newcomers coming to this country also speaks to our experience of feeling at home within ourselves. I would put forth that our fully residing within ourselves is as foreign as coming to a new land. So many of us are not comfortable in ourselves - our Home. For example it's not uncommon to hear a vexing about the imperfection of our physical features and aging. We fight the changes that happen to us over our lifetime. Reliving and embellishing old stories about our lives keep us trapped in a narrative that no longer serves us. Being vulnerable and showing a soft underbelly is rare. Look at the deep resonance of Brene Brown's work. Consumerism and social media has taken the place of genuine connection and meaning. Living somewhere outside ourselves in a painful past or imagined future is where many of us spend a good part of our days. Keeping ourselves busy and distracted keeps us from hearing our authentic voice.

How are we able to welcome others when we are unable to welcome ourselves, in all our iterations? If we cannot give ourselves compassion and understanding how do we extend it to those we perceive as different than us? This doesn't mean we don't extend time and energy into the work of our world. I would suggest though that doing the work on ourselves will make what else that's needed, easier.     


Some Rob Brezsny inspiration

Mary Johnson - Thursday, September 21, 2017

Usually on Wednesday or Thursday mornings I head into Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology. He has a wild and wonderful way of informing your week in inspiring and delightful ways. This last day of summer was no exception. 

Here then is an excerpt from my week's horoscope that I thought deserved a wider audience.

"I invite you to keep a running list of all the ways life delights you and helps you and energizes you. Describe everyday miracles you take for granted . . . the uncanny powers you possess . . . the small joys that occur so routinely you forget how much they mean to you . . . the steady flow of benefits bestowed on you by people you know and don't know. What works for you? What makes you feel at home in the world?"

Oh let me count the ways. Thank you Rob!

What seeds are you producing?

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My garden was quite beautiful this year. It’s been a long time since the berries and apples have been as plentiful. That’s a surprise considering the dryness of our summer.

In speaking with a gardener friend, he indicated that in a year that stresses plants, they produce lots of seeds (or fruit). Nature truly works with what it is given. Then it struck me! This phenomenon of nature could be a metaphor for our stressful times. Are we, as we navigate our work and day-to-day living, being asked to produce something else? Creating seeds in the form of new beginnings and different ways of doing things.

For example the other day I met with my dear friend who has been given a diagnosis that, while is a surprise to few, is a surprise to her. After years of resisting and wrestling her feelings and reactions not 1 but 2 skilled and gentle physicians have held out the same answers to her health situation. She is finally in a place to hear it. Life is asking her to not automatically accept the story(s) she has been telling herself for years. If she chooses there is an opportunity to re-story what as taken place before. To produce new seeds of an equally true story - one more compassionate and nurturing. Re-imagine her place in the world now and going forward. 

Is this not true for most of us? We are experiencing stressful times. What might be the opportunities, if you chose, to use your stress differently? Friction points can be places where perhaps you are being asked to shift some old patterns, ways of being that no longer work well for you. These are the seeds of new beginnings, different ways of showing up and being in your world.

Beyond the challenge, this is the gift of these times.

Let it be broken

Mary Johnson - Friday, September 08, 2017

A long overdue catch up with one of my very first coaching clients was full of wonderful stories and adventures in her conscious evolution. C is one of the most deliberate and determined people I know in seeking to let go of behaviours and ways of being that no longer serve her. In describing the situation at her former employers she said 'I have in previous roles spent far too much energy trying to hold together something that was broken'. C said she caught herself moving into that mode when her department of 8 was reduced to just herself. 

One day she said to herself, 'Let it be broken.' In essence let it follow whatever path it will without interference from me. Whoa that's big and for most of us very hard to do. I see and hear it all over. Men and women afraid to negotiate a new deal in their relationships; showing up the same way day over day hoping and wishing someone would notice the hard work, dedication; constant complaining about someone or some system flaw; little energy at the end of the day to do the things that you enjoy - heck just basic looking after yourself; the same or worse results continuing without a mind as to what can make it better (that's just the way it is!). Collectively we persist, feeling that be viewed as a 'quitter' is far worse. 

Interestingly C. didn't 'quit'. She just stopped playing the business world version of 'Whack-a-Mole' and let it be broken. The upshot! It was declared by the organization really they weren't interested in maintaining this work. That gave her an great out and other opportunities began to appear. 'As long as I invested my energy so vigorously in something no longer desired by the organization', she said, 'there was no opportunity for what needed to happen, happen'.  

I love this story. Sometimes things are broken. Not repairable in their present form. It's honest and authentic to acknowledge it. And to know that something even more important for our journey is waiting around the corner.

Late summer musings

Mary Johnson - Thursday, August 31, 2017

It's August 31st. Looking back over the past few months I've been taking some time to reflect and be grateful.

~ we've had some hot days and some cool ones but no hurricanes, floods, blistering droughts, earthquakes, mudslides. I'll put up with the odd mosquito! 

~ as a country we are trying to walk a middle ground of being open and working with others in a positive way. Hard work living next door to this President.

~ as a woman living here I have an extraordinary amount of freedom.

~ we got our front yard project done! Loads of work and much satisfaction!! and some muscle definition. :)

~ got to see our son who lives in the US. Always a treat.

~ my darling grand daughter has started Grade 1. NO!! too soon. 

~ wedding plans for September 30th are well under way.

~ great get togethers with friends and family.

~ enjoyed more camping and seeing new places.

There are of course many more things to celebrate but as I turn and bid our 'unofficial summer' goodbye, it wonderful to to stand still and simply take in the many, many blessings of my life. A huge thank you from my heart!

May your summer have been blessed also. Wishing you a spectacular Fall!