It’s the 2nd month of Sagely Living, in which our focus shifts to business and strategy. For previous posts about this topic, click on the category, Sagely Living, on the right and you’ll arrive at a page with my previous posts, or check in with Eric Grey at Deepest Health.

Before I lay out my approach to Sagely Living: Strategy and Business, let’s talk money. I know I’m not the only one who had to shift psychological gears in order to get to a place of peaceful welcome around money (which had always seemed little more than “hard, cold cash” to me). For many years I thought money was a shallow, materialistic pursuit, which caused people to act badly even if they weren’t bad people. Good people did bad things merely because it was profitable, either for themselves or for their chosen few. As an observer of human nature I was confused by this seeming duplicity. As a child who often fell outside the ranks of my father’s financially chosen few, I felt hurt and rejected, which engendered a significant psychic connection within me between money and shame.

If you’re shaking your head and feeling that vibe because you’ve been there too, my heart goes out to you. If you haven’t already excavated that negative attachment–do it, now. You’re worth it. For me it’s been a long process, helped no doubt, by the fact of simple necessity–it was OK to have money-ambivalence when I was just supporting myself, but when I had a family to support it was critical to excavate the demons and come to terms with my absolute, God-given right to abundance and prosperity.

I’d like to thank my friends in the ‘Money and Spirit’ Life Circle hosted by the faith community at the United Church of Christ in Bath, Maine. Over the course of 40 days last winter we each committed ourselves to daily meditation and writing about the spiritual aspect of money. For me, it deeply resonated with the central theme of Judaism, exemplified by the daily prayer, the Shema, that God is One. To me, God is One doesn’t mean God is one dude (or deity). It means God is everything. There is nothing that is not God. Nothing, not even money!

The group met once a week to individually and collectively affirm our intention to change our relationship with money to one based on a belief in abundance, not scarcity. It was a phenomenal experience, which I recommend to anyone. We used a book called The Abundance Book by John Randolph Pierce as a focus point for our meditation. Many people in the group took issue with the book, and for different reasons: some found it too religious, others found it too hokey (I was somewhat in that camp), others found it strayed too far from the Christian bible. If you get the book, remember, it’s just a tool. The measure of any tool is in what you do with it.

If it hadn’t been for the shift in my consciousness about money, I would never have begun to explore ways to make more of it. But that is exactly what I have been doing, and feeling good about it, too. In this month of Sagely Living I’ll be creating a bare-bones beginner’s business plan for an income-producing project which has been stewing in my consciousness (and literally baking in my oven) for some time now. If I’m ever going to get my awesome gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate cake out of my kitchen and into yours, it’s going to take some serious strategy. Stay tuned.

The first month of A Year of Sagely Living –an experiment outlined by Eric Grey at Deepest Health and Abdallah B. Stickely at Even Unto China–has come to a close.

In this month participants have focused on scholarship. I came into the month of scholarly pursuits late, when I discovered Eric Grey’s site a few weeks ago. Rather than set myself some new scholarly goals I examined my current project–to develop a blog, and proposed to invoke the power of intention: To take what I was already doing and “become scholarly” about it.

Now, in retrospect I see that intention, while quite possibly the mother of cultivation, is no substitute for the acts and practices of a cultivated life. In other words, to do what I’m already doing, and envelope it in an aura of scholarly intention misses the mark in that it did not challenge me to engage in specific practices to cultivate a deeper understanding of my subject. I have continued to do what I was already doing, prior to my announcement to do it with a scholarly intent. Nothing really changed.

Well…maybe one thing changed. Participating in the project of two other bloggers means I started to approach blogging more as a participant in something greater than myself. Prior to that I had basically just been the mastermind of my own (controlled) environment. By connecting my blog to other blogs I actually did something scholarly.

One of the richest aspects of scholarship is the ability of focused learning to form a bridge between people. Anything worth studying just naturally engenders a yearning to be shared. That is why good scholarship involves more than just private study time. It also involves team-building, creating a community with whom to share the fruits of one’s studies. Blogging is a natural conduit for such connectivity. I decided to take it a step further, and started emailing people I know with my blog address. I’m beginning to post a few comments on more blogs, and recently offered to host the Carnival of Healing on March 22nd. (Just getting those words to light up and actually link to another page on the web is a major scholarly accomplishment for me).

Tomorrow begins the second month of Sagely Living, in which the focus of our intention turns to strategy and business. I recently happened upon a blog by an acupuncturist who offers business advice for other acupuncturists. Check out her site here.  She has a great sense of humor.  Her section about naming her business is hilarious.  This month I’ll set some specific goals, above and beyond what I’m already doing!

I am lucky enough to be one of 5 people, women and men, living in coastal Maine who happen to be experiencing a moment of synchronicity, in which our individual interests and goals have suggested to each of us the benefits of working together on specific professional projects.

What a wonderful feeling it is to be in a state of synchronous excitation among friends. But in our case, it was the result of some very specific steps that some of us took which invited the moment as surely as I am now inviting you. I invite you to look into your own lives and hearts and discover what threads of meaning and connectivity may be dangling there, awaiting your conscious participation in creating something meaningful to you and others. Here are 5 Steps you can take towards discovering that happy, happy feeling of being a part of a motivated and highly functional team based on shared values, and/or passions.

1. Look Inside…then Write Down one or two of your Values or Passions.
What makes you smile? What and who do you care about? Where is your passion? What do you do well, and enjoy? It won’t do you any good to find other people interested in taxodermy if you’re a vegan animal rights activist who won’t wear leather. So the first step in your discovery (and many of you have taken this one already) is to know what you know about yourself. Be bold but be honest. Taking risks here is OK– you can write down that you love speaking even if speaking in front of more than a few friendly faces makes your armpits sweat rivers. But don’t go so far out in right field that you are no longer talking about yourself but about someone else you’d rather wish you were. Synchronicity is easiser to find if you have adequate self-esteem and understand that you are one unique and precious soul, here to fulfill some unique and precious work on this broken planet of ours.

2. List Friends, Family, Coworkers and Acquantainces who just might share your joy.
Start with minimum censors on. So what if you’ve never said two words to someone on your list. If that’s the case, you may want to make a parenthetical note next to that person’s name of a mutual friend if you have one. After your minimally-censored list is done, feel free to go over it again–but just once–to take off someone who you feel iffy about including. But before you remove their name, remember that sometimes mild feelings of discomfort come from fear rather than spot-on wisdom. Making a list of people who could possibly co-create your dreams with you, might (if you are human) engender any number of the following: anxiety, depression, self-defeating behaviour, drunkenness, binge-eating or obsessive consumption of TV dramas and sitcoms or other avoidant behavior. So, the prospect of initiating a team scares you? Do it anyway.

3. Invite Your People Over…with a Loose Agenda. You could say something like this: “I’m having a few people over (or meeting at….) to explore the possibility of teamwork based on our shared interest in… . We’ll socialize a little and then do some smart exercises to build our ability to listen and respond to one another on a deep level.” Keep the event simple and short. Set the end time. That way, if one of your people can’t stop talking about their Aunt Hilda’s broken Windsor Chimes it won’t cause the whole group to swear silently never to return to one of these gatherings again. Instead, start with a short social period of unstructured greetings, and then, with a discreet number of minutes (60-90) left of your first gathering, take a leadership role. Start with a short introduction to your own experience or interest in the topic at hand and then invite others to go around the room and share their own. It may help to allot a certain number of minutes to this activity and to divide the time into the appropriate segments, giving each person an equal time to share. Appoint a timekeeper to gently remind a chatter to wrap it up.

4. After Introductions, Make use of the 2 Ms: Meditation and Movement… and then talk about it.
Sound strange for a group discussing gluten-free cooking or vintage Mustangs? Maybe. But both shared meditation and shared movement are powerful medicine for developing the ability to work (move) together and to listen (meditate) together. Listening together includes listening to one another but it also means listening to yourself and others simultaneously, while also hearing the extraneous sounds of the world around you (and letting them go). I’ll have more posts on movement and meditation to follow, or shoot me an email if you have a specific question and can’t wait. For now, and always, keep it simple. Don’t choreograph a break-dance popping routine and expect people to learn it (or want to learn it), even if that is your shared passion. Because the point of M and M is to learn to be a team of collaborators, not a posse of followers under a single leader. Teamwork will always involve stronger players in certain capacities, but the best teams have strong players who can also follow and followers who can also lead. Try one or more of these simple and smart exercises designed to get you thinking and working as a team:

1. Initiate/Flow: Make two lines, and stand in pairs, back to back. Each pair designates one person to ‘initiate intent,’ and the other person to ‘go with the flow.’ The idea is for the person with intent to move slowly (no talking or verbal cues) and for the person with flow to follow, while maintaining body contact. The idea is not for the person with intent to trick or out-move their partner. Remember, the goal of all these exercises is to help you begin to think and work like a team. Be sure to switch roles. Leaders must follow and followers must lead.

2. Mannequin: In pairs one person is the sculptor and one is the mannequin. Again, each person should experience both roles. The sculptor simply moves the mannequin at will and the mannequin keeps the pose. Nothing lude here, folks. Keep it nice and simple, i.e. left arm up, right arm on hip, turn head right, etc. The goal here is not to create a difficult to hold pose but to create the experience of being led and of leading, two things necessary for a group to function well. Remember everyone should practice doing both roles. As the mannequin see if you can feel the difference between using muscle strength to hold a pose and using the entire matrix of your connective tissue and your own intent to hold a pose. The latter is much easier, but if you have no idea what I’m talking about you may need some more guidance before you will get it.

After you’ve moved, talk about it. Sample questions to ponder are:

1. Was it easier for you to be the initiator or the follower? It’s important as a team member to know where your natural inclinations lie, and to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone–not entirely–because you need your strengths, but sometimes. Natural leaders will emerge and should be encouraged, but the language, knowledge and experience of the follower is invaluable to good leadership, so it behooves everyone to experience both.

2. If you worked with more than one partner, note the changes in dynamics which inevitably occur with different partners. If your group has both women and men, notice your comfort levels working with the same and opposite genders. In my experience doing community-building work of this sort it was crucial for the group to stay aware of the variety of experiences that can emerge for people around the presence (or lack) of sexual tension while being in physical touch with others. If you are clear about your boundaries and conscious about your choices this work will bring you into closer touch with your self. If you are not clear about your boundaries and you are not making conscious decisions, it is possible that group interactions such as these will challenge you to get clear and conscious. This work changes people.

3. When you were “listening” with your body to the initiation of your partner, where was your focus/energy? Does somatic listening have a center? Where is that center?
4. When you were initiating someone else’s movement, were you also listening to them? How could you deepen your listening while also initiating?

For the meditation part of your gathering, in which you practice as a group listening to the matrix in which you work, and letting go of what comes through your own mind as thought, feeling or reflection, keep it simple. Lie on your backs or sit in your chairs. Close your eyes or lower them. Relax your hands, your face, your buttocks, your shoulders, and all the other places you tend to tighten. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, making gentle but audible (to you) breath sounds. This conscious breathing will help ready you for the silence that will follow, that will be different than any solo meditating you may have done. Feel it and let it go. If you practice a particular form of meditation, go for it. If not, try initiating what Herbert Benson, MD. called the Relaxation Response, by repeating one word in your mind, over and again. Choose a word that feels peaceful to you (i.e. not “Traffic” or “Late”), or that reflects your spiritual or religious beliefs. If you choose this method you will notice that you cannot keep that one word in mind for long. When you notice that it is gone and you are thinking about your grocery shopping-list instead, no worries, simply take another deep breath and bring the word back with your breath. It will come and go and that is OK. Just bring it back when you notice it is gone, again and again.

Meditation can be a good way to open and/or close a meeting.

5. Make a Follow-Up Plan.
How and in what capacity a group will work together is not usually something decided in a few meetings. It took a group of 3 of us (and the departure of a 4th member) over one year of weekly meetings to understand the direction of our collaboration and to move away from the exploratory weekly meetings into the professional projects we are now focusing on. So don’t leave your first meeting without a plan to meet again, preferably soon. Chances are a smaller group than you began with will be interested in this experimental approach to building an interest-specific or value-based community.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!