Tiny Springtime Steps Toward Alignment

Tiny Springtime Steps Toward Alignment

In earth-based spirituality and astrology, eclipses are considered portals. Things are one way, and then they’re not. You are in one world, and then you awaken to find yourself in another. They’re excellent times to shed patterns that keep us stuck in meaningless patterns of suffering.

I went into this eclipse knowing that I wanted to work with it intentionally, and when I awoke at 5:00am that morning, I walked outside under the moon and begged to be free of the self-hatred that had so bitterly worn me down.

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Our Spiritually Impoverished Workplaces

Our Spiritually Impoverished Workplaces

When I was a senior in college, my world came crashing down. Over the course of one panic-attack filled weekend, I had what those in the Christian community call "a crisis of faith." For seven years after that weekend, I rejected anything that felt remotely spiritual. I couldn't walk into a church without feeling a knot in my stomach, I felt angry anytime someone used the word "God," and I thought Richard Dawkins was the shit.

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Dreams as Career Development Guides

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As a young Psychology student in college, I was taught that researchers still don't really understand dreams, but the predominant theory was that they're just how your brain processes information from the day - tossing out what's useless and keeping the knowledge you'll need in order to function tomorrow. No hidden meanings, no prophetic qualities - just an overnight update like the one your computer makes.

I felt sad and conflicted to learn this, and yet, I believed it for a very long time. I'd have dreams and hardly even pay attention to them because I figured that they were just nonsense.

That's unfortunate, because I think I could have avoided a lot of pain and heartache had I paid attention to this vast resource that we have access to every night. 

I don't believe that every dream I have holds some major "aha!" moment, but for me, it's this amazingly easy, simple way to stay aware of what's going on for me at a level below my consciousness.

Carl Jung, one of the most incredible thinkers (and feelers) of our time, believed that dreams were the process by which you become conscious of unconscious thoughts and feelings. He taught that dreams reveal much more than they conceal, and that their interpretation is highly personal - no one can tell you what your dream does or doesn't mean for you.

I think this is why we've poo-pooed dreams in our modern culture. Since we couldn't categorize, measure, and standardize their meanings, we tossed them aside as neurological waste.

That's nonsense, and I believe it's high time we included dreams in our personal and professional development work.

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Since I've reconnected with my own dream life, I've been able to understand personal changes I'm going through, have gained insight into my business, and have been able to process old pain that was keeping me stuck, all of which is pretty amazing.

At this point, I should note that for some people, dreams just don't really resonate with them, or they never remember their dreams when they wake up. That's totally fine, and those people have other ways to access their subconscious, intuitive sides. Jung taught that even if we don't remember our dreams, they're still working their magic and helping us become aware of what's going on beneath the surface.

If you're curious about the dreams you have and are wondering how you can start tapping into their wisdom (your wisdom), I've got one trick that I've found incredibly helpful.

The technique is attributed to Carl Jung's dream analysis method, but I wasn't able to find any hard evidence of that online (fear not: I've reserved almost all of his books at the library and will let you know what I find out later). Luckily, papa Jung encouraged people to just figure it out on their own and not overthink this, so here goes:

My version of a "cut to the heart of the symbolism in your dream" analysis technique:

Step one: When you wake up from a dream, it's helpful to do something that solidifies it in your consciousness since so often we fall back asleep or go about our day and forget the details that were so vivid while we were sleeping. Some people write in a dream journal that they keep by their bed, put a note in their phone, or just try to remember it once they're awake. Do whatever feels easy and light to you.

Step two: As you remember the dream, take any symbol or character from it (it can be a person, animal, stone - whatever interests you) and pretend you are that symbol.

As you take on that symbol's persona, pretend that symbol has a message for you, the dreamer. What does this symbol want you to know? What does the symbol say? What is that symbol trying to make you aware of?

That's it. That's the trick. And it's revolutionized the way I understand my dreams.

I'll give you an example that helped me understand where I was getting stuck in my business:

A few months ago, I had a dream that I was in charge of a downtown revitalization project, and one of the larger art pieces for the downtown square was an iron sculpture of an Orca whale. I watched sadly as workers welded on its rusty fins and tried to make it appear alive and majestic even though it was a sorry representation of the whale's true beauty in its natural state.

That was basically it - the rest didn't really feel important to me, so when I woke up, I just focused on that image of the steel Orca and how sad it made me feel (we don't have to conduct a 5-hour analysis on our dreams, we can just take the snippets that really speak to us).

As I sat remembering the dream, I pretended to be that iron Orca. I pretended it had a message for me, and the message came through clearly: the Orca represented my worklife, and while it wanted to be wild and alive, it was becoming a mechanical, stiff shadow of its real nature.

Message received: it was time to loosen the reins, step aside, and stop trying to force my career into a small, lifeless box. This totally resonated with me at the time, and it was exactly what I needed to be made aware of.

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Now, on another day, maybe the Orca would have meant something different to me. Maybe Orcas represent something else entirely to you. And that's all fine and well. You can scoff at this entire idea - part of me does sometimes, too - it goes against what we've been taught about external, "objective" truths, and it can feel silly to try and bring our dreamlives into the professional arena.

But give it a try - even if it's just once. Play around with analyzing a part of a dream you had and see what you find.

Learning how to remember and interpret your dreams is a skill, but it's not one you need to fret over or feel any sense of "not good enough" about.

Your dreamlife is yours, and it's simply a resource that's available to you if you want to tap into it. It will always be there, and if you can just be soft and playful with it, you'll gain the insights your consciousness needs. Trust yourself with this process - whatever feels like the right interpretation is the right interpretation...with one big caveat:

The right interpretation, the one stemming from your intuition, will feel good - it will feel peaceful, clarifying, and calming, even if you get the sense that you need to make some changes, like I did with my Orca dream. Interpretations that make you feel afraid, bad about yourself, or fearful are coming from your ego - the part of you that hates any kind of change.

So trust the sense you're getting, but try to make sure it's from your growth-oriented deeper self, not the fearful part of you that wants to stay exactly who and where you are forever.

I hope you'll give this a try if it fits for you, and I would love, love, LOVE to hear from you if you gain any insights about your career by using this technique!

Are You Digesting Life Properly?

Are You Digesting Life Properly?

Have you ever had something come up in your life that feels eerily similar to an issue you've dealt with in the past?

A while ago, I entered into a business partnership that was all wrong, and while my intuition was sending me alarm signals the entire way, I chose to ignore them. Sure enough, the partnership had to end, and it wasn't a pleasant experience.

Something came up recently within a completely different context, but it had the same icky texture. Since our brains like to find commonalities and make sense of new experiences, my brain immediately declared, "This situation is just like that other one was, which means it's horrible and you need to get out!"

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Transcending Fear: Rabbit Medicine

Transcending Fear: Rabbit Medicine

In honor of being authentic and bringing some spiritual wisdom into our worklives, I want to share a story that's adapted from a book I love: Medicine Cards by David Carson and Jamie Sams.

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Three Ways to Embrace the Unknown

Three Ways to Embrace the Unknown

Most of us have an aversion to the unknown. We're uncomfortable with whatever's unplanned, mysterious, or hidden. A lot of us were raised to believe that things should be known - that if we don't know something already, we need to learn it, measure it, shed light on it, etc. There's an air of desperation behind this belief, and it can drive us to create a false sense of knowing and control through excessive planning and worry. 

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What Will You Do to Prepare for Spring?

What Will You Do to Prepare for Spring?

Tomorrow is officially the Celtic holiday of Imbolc, an ancient celebration marking the shift from Winter to Spring. It was a time when herding animals like sheep were beginning to give birth, little wildflowers were popping up, and the sun was lingering in the sky for a little longer each day. Even if there's snow on the ground, frost on our windows, or if the darkness still feels oppressive, something in us is stirring. We know deep down that Spring will inevitably come again, and soon.

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What the U.S. Election Has to Do With Your Career

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantLast week in the U.S., we elected Donald Trump to be our next president. Some of us were appalled, and others of us were relieved. Since election day, there's been an outpouring of emotion, shaming, fear, and blaming of the "other" for where we are today. This election has exposed the shadow side of the U.S. that so many of us were happy to ignore as long as we could.

In some ways, this is a gift: we can see the darkness, and now we get to decide how we want to dance with it.

This has nothing to do with how (or if) you voted last week. The fact is that we're all part of a political and cultural system that feeds off of deceit, oppression, and silence, and each of us is in some way responsible for how we got here.

We're responsible because we've all tolerated deceit, oppression, and silence when it has served us.

We don't mind supporting policies - governmental or organizational - that limit others' rights as long as it doesn't get in our way. We excuse the fact that our boss silences us in meetings because we prefer the steady paycheck. Or we tolerate the mistreatment of entry-level workers in our company because we don't think there's anything we can do to change it.

I know it might seem extreme to argue that this election is related to your career, but it's not if you believe that everything - and everyone - is connected in some way.

The mechanism that keeps us silent when we're asked to do something at work that doesn't align with our values is the same mechanism that tells us not to expect more from our government.

Whatever it is that's telling us we don't have any talent is the same force that says we can't do anything to change the world.

And the part of us that seeks a scapegoat when we make a mistake at work is the very same thing that's causing us to point the finger and blame "the other party" for where we are as a country.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantOur lives are a reflection of who we are inside, and the election simply reflected that back to us on a larger scale.

Notice if your immediate reaction to that sentence is to take offense and separate yourself as "better than."

This is where we are, folks. It's uncomfortable, and the world feels like a scary, divided place, but we still have power - every one of us.

And it's time that we step up and be our most loving, magnanimous selves.

It's time we live out our giftedness, because when we don't, we give systems permission to keep us trapped.

It's time to be generous: with our assumptions, with our time, our money, with everything we have to give.

We get to choose what posture we want to take during this time. We get to choose how we treat "the other" and how we treat ourselves.

Your career isn't your entire life, but it is a place where you spend a considerable amount of time and energy. If you're showing up to work as someone you're not, suffocating your creativity and joy along the way, then you won't have enough in your spiritual bank account to contribute what I know you want to in this lifetime.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantMany of us feel a sense of urgency right now, no matter what our political perspective is. The ground beneath us is shifting, and we can either scream and burn bridges along the way, or we can choose to be better. We can choose to live out our values and our gifts instead of spiraling into blame and hatred.

Choose to be light and peace and all those complex, life-giving things that you are.

Like, seriously - I mean it.

Do something today that is a reflection of your best self. Be more generous than you've ever been before. Stretch yourself to speak up against a system that's keeping so many people small and in despair.

Expand and love more openly than you did yesterday. And keep expanding.

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI think I believe in ghosts. I don't think they're scary things that are out to get us, but it makes sense to me that there would be "people" who are a little lost and stuck in a sort of limbo - no longer in their bodies, but nowhere else, either. It's almost Halloween (or Samhain) in the United States, and many of our ancestors believed that during this time of year, the "veil" between the human and spiritual realms was the thinnest. Lines get crossed, things get blurry.

If ghosts are humans who are now lost and lack the substance of being in a real body, then I have some scary news:

Ghosts are haunting your workplace.

They're everywhere.

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey tells us about what's called the "Character Ethic," which was how people in the U.S. thought of personal success up until the World War I era.

In the Character Ethic model, personal success and prestige was linked to the quality of your character and whether or not you possessed traits like integrity, humility, honesty, etc.

After World War I, something shifted, and what became popular and valued instead was what he calls the "Personality Ethic," which is about your social image, your attitude, and your ability to influence others.

Susan Cain also details this shift in her book Quiet, and it's fascinating. Instead of focusing on who people were inside, we began to value the image that those people projected.

We created a cult of personality, where it doesn't matter as much if you have integrity - what matters is whether or not you can you work a room.

Are you projecting the right image?

Are you doing all the right things?

Do you have a lot of friends?

Are you popular?

This is an over-simplification of these concepts that doesn't take into account the overtones of classism, racism, and other "isms" that have always been present in our society, but for the sake of this post, that's how I'll boil down these two paradigms.

Can you see the Personality Ethic playing out in our society today?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantGenerations of kids were shown that what mattered most was how they fit in socially, how well they could influence other kids, and how well they fit into the mold that was cast for them.

Sure, lip service was paid to character - we all remember those posters that said stuff like "There's no I in TEAM" and "Character is what you do when no one's watching," but being a good team player wasn't what we were really rewarded for. The social capital was in being the star, the success story, the popular kid.

Now those kids are grown up, and they're running our organizations and showing up to work each day. After years and years of being told that their personality mattered more than who they were inside, they float around like ghosts: vapid, stuck, and immaterial.

When we compromise our values over and over again, we lose the substance of who we are.

When we allow ourselves to participate in practices and cultures that erode what's good inside of us, we get lost.

I almost became a ghost, but luckily, in this metaphor, ghosts can always return to their humanity, so don't worry too much if you're feeling a little like Casper these days.

I became ghost-like after buying into the belief that it was better to be charming and likable at work than it was to act in a way that was in alignment with my values. I compromised, I looked away from things I knew were wrong, and I desperately tried to fit into the mold of "rising star."

Instead of telling managers that I thought they were pitting employees against one another, I smiled and asked them how their weekend was. Instead of telling the toxic employee in my office that their attitude was literally bringing down an entire team, I tip-toed and did what I could to get them on "my side."

This shit happened day in, and day out. And I was losing myself.

Now, of course, nothing is "black and white," and personality is an important component of working well with other people. Humans are social beings, and the ability to navigate interpersonal interactions is really helpful and important.

But you can only fake it for so long.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantUnless you have a deep, grounded sense of who you are and act in alignment with your values, your charm and image will fade over time into a shadow vaguely resembling who you used to be.

If you see something at work - or in the rest of life - that hits you as "off" or wrong, don't ignore it. See if you can make small tweaks that get you closer to living a life of integrity and depth.

Ghosts are real, and they haunt our workplaces, but you don't have to be one of them.


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What is True?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI was driving home from the grocery store yesterday, and I was stopped a few cars down from a red light. On the righthand corner ahead of me, there was a man who looked to be in his 30s with a cardboard sign that read "We are people too." I liked that, and wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment. And while he wasn't openly asking for money, his sign and where he was standing implied that that's what he was requesting from those of us driving by.

A few seconds later, the light changed to green, and everyone started rolling forward. As I drove by, I noticed he had folded the sign in half so that it read something else:

"Go fuck yourself."

When I read that, the first thing I felt was surprise.

And then relief.

It was striking. While I'm sure that's what a lot of people asking for money on the streets want to say after they've been ignored, yelled at, or demeaned, I've never actually seen a sign with that written on it.

It was refreshing to see someone in real life - someone who was socially and physically vulnerable, no less - say exactly how he felt. "Go fuck yourself."

How often do you hear or speak the truth at work? How often does a message come in loud and clear from someone's mouth? Coming from the world of Human Resources, I've seen my fair share of spin in the workplace.

"We don't want to justify paying you more" becomes "Our research shows that this is the appropriate salary range for someone in your position."

"We have no intention of continuing your contract after three months" becomes "We'd like to see how you do in the role and then talk about the possibility of having you come on permanently."

"We have no idea where we're headed and everyone on the leadership team hates each other" becomes "We're excited about the future and are working hard to find strategic paths forward."

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantImagine a workplace that's been taken over by huge spiders weaving webs of total befuddlement and confusion. Everyone's walking around with sticky webs all over their bodies, leaving them tangled, heavy, and nearly blind.

Some people have been around the spinning of the webs for so long that they can hardly recognize the truth anymore - in themselves or in others.

Many of us have our polite, outward-facing selves - the parts of us that hold the sign that gently says "We are people too." While it's appropriate to keep good boundaries at work and keep some part of ourselves private, too many of us are walking around as victims and accomplices of the befuddlement spiders.

Have you ever shown someone the side of your sign that says "Go fuck yourself"? What keeps you from turning it over?

And the truth doesn't have to be angry like that - what keeps you from speaking other truths, like "I love you" or "I'm afraid" or "I don't believe that's fair"?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

For most of us, it's fear and shame. But your truth can cut right through all of that, and it can also cut through the webs of confusion and mistrust that are so prevalent in many organizations today.

The day before I saw the man on the street with that sign, I used a tea bag that had a little message on it. It said "Truth is everlasting."

The truth isn't going anywhere, and it will come up again and again until we can't ignore it. Better to let it in with open arms than to continue being wrapped up in the webs that keep us trapped and confused.

What is true? What do you say to yourself before you make it nice and palatable for others?

What's on the back of your sign, and will you ever show it to us?