Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Walking the Talk

When I started this journey, I had no idea that the personal steps taken would lead to a public walk.  I also didn't realize that I would become an example of change.  It is often said that people do not like change.  Not so.  It is the "fear of the unknown" aspect of change that people do not like.  When presented with an example of change, the very same people may form an opinion different from one  formed  without an example.  People will often visualize how something will effect them when they do not have a way to "see" a result.  We humans love to "fill in the blanks".  A physical, tangible walking example ends speculation about change. When people can see, touch, and feel how a positive change can be brought forth, they become curious and are apt to try it for themselves.   Each of us possess the ability to be an example of something for someone.  Most of us never know who is watching our gait nor do we realize the impact we are making. When you recognize that you, solicited or not, have become an example for others, you must act accordingly and accept the responsibility that comes with it.  If you are blessed with both the knowledge and the opportunity to lead by example, use it!

Be Contagious

A walking advertisement
As stated, I started out on a personal walk of faith.  Faith in success, support, and transformation.  I decided to advertise.  I ordered a Vegan OM t-shirt from a vegan friend who is also graphic-artist/designer.  I love this shirt.  It exemplifies who and what I am.  It sparks inquiries.  If asked, I am sure to tell my truth.   I had begun to "talk", sharing my story with strangers.   When you start talking, you must back up your words, you must walk.  If the talk is truth, the walk is easy.  If your words lie, then a bumpy road lies ahead.

My husband always says "you never know how you look to others until they tell you".  What I failed to realize is how my walk has begun to influenced the steps of others close to me who are on a walk of their own.  As I receive coaching, counseling and guidance, I am being sought to give of the same:
  •   My brother-in-law, the 18yr old gentlemen, a friend on the verge of his 30th birthday, and my son have each expressed their desire to become a vegetarian and have made steps in that direction.
  • My husband is content with his consumption of meat but has increased his vegetable intake by 80%, even sampling my dishes
While I can not take full responsibility for the personal choice of these individuals to effect change in their lives, I accept that my example serves as a contagious burst toward a new alternative.  My new loquaciousness has led to a call to action, to spread this positive contagion further.  So far, so good - in the nine short months since seriously committing to this lifestyle,  I have guest written an article for a wellness website, written a testimony for an e-book, been featured in a vegan cookbook, served as a yoga ambassador for a wellness event, and have been asked to become an employee wellness champion for a retailer.  It is a continuous cycle.  The more you reach out, the more reach out to you.  Since my son lives with me, it is easy to reach out to him.  His favorite Asian inspired dish is General Tso's Chicken.  It is a sweet and spicy chicken dish served with fried rice and broccoli.  I made this vegan version for my husband and son. They both admitted it rivaled the meat version. Although not a proponent of faux meat, I accept that it helps the transition from a meat to a plant based diet go a little smoother.

Spreading contagion: Stir-fried
Vegan version of a favorite Asian-inspired dish

Vegan Gung Pao 

Seitan, Green Onion
Garlic, Ginger
Dried red chili peppers (seeds removed), Sea salt,
Agave nectar, Sesame Oil
Brown rice, Broccoli
Bragg's Amino Acid

Steam brown rice, set aside. Dice garlic, ginger, onion.   Heat sesame oil in pan or wok.  Add diced ingredients, chili peppers, broccoli. Add seitan, agave nectar & sea salt to taste.  Place stir fry over bed of rice.  Top with amino acid.

More than Just Food!

When you decide to place your ideas in motion, you can apply it to anything.  It's about more than just food!  A friend who blogs about a "blissful, eco-friendly life", just sold all of her belongings and is moving her family to another state to build an eco-friendly house on an organic farm.  She has begun to live her words!  She has decided what a better way  to "show" a blissful life instead of just "telling" how blissful life can be.   When things do not go well, most people are quick to report it, talk about, or complain about it.  They are not however, so quick when to "tell"  when things are great.  They hoard the good thing to themselves, only volunteering when asked or prompted.  It's a little selfish and we all are guilty.  We like to keep our goodies close to our hearts.  Oddly, while you would think keeping it close will prolongs it's life, it doesn't, for nothing lasts forever.  It is better to spread your good thing amongst many to ensure it's life, your legacy, and the life of those you've touched.  Go, tell your story,  put action into your words. Share your goodness.  Whether it is cooking a new version of an old favorite, offering a few pointers on how to do or "be", building a farmhouse, or simply wearing a t-shirt, become an example of  some "thing" for some "one".

"Each one, teach one" ~African Proverb

Yoga:  Setting Intention
The beginning of each yoga practice begins with an intention. An intention is not a goal.  A goal is a future-based objective.  An intention is "present-based".   Intentions are values which establish clarity for your practice. 

According to abellayoga.com, intentions can be as simple as a word: "breathe", "relax", a statement, "I am happy with who I am", or a dedication to someone you wish send positive energy. The purpose of an intention is to focus on where you are at the present time and what you plan to do right now. 

Setting intention is a personal, current-state, grounding alignment of mind and body.  As the mind, "talks", the intention prepares the body for the "walk". 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Servant Leadership

I first heard this oxymoronic term in my corporate life about fifteen years ago.  As a member of my firm's executive staff, I was required as so were my colleagues, to take some form of annual training. Each year, it was something we all dreaded.  Our CEO however, an excellent strategic planner, had arranged for each of us to take the same course together maximizing the effectiveness of the training with minimal time away from the office.  The course was aptly titled "Servant Leadership".  Everyone in that room, myself included, were responsible for managing a major division.  We were "important", we were "leaders".   

The instructor began by asking us to look around the room and to single out our business nemesis, the one colleague that got under our skin.  That was easy.  As seniors, we were all extremely territorial and competitive.  There were definitely a few rivalries each vying for the favor of the CEO.   The instructor asked us to write down five work-related things we disliked about the person we selected.  We had ten minutes to do so.  Easy.  I jotted down seven things in two minutes.  Then the instructor did something interesting...he gave us ten more minutes and asked us to write down five work-related things we "liked" about the same person.  hmm.  Not so easy.  I managed to jot down just two things before the time ran out.  Everyone in the room had the same experience.  The instructor told us that our egos had lead us to feel superior and competitive , that we felt we could display negativity and judgment regarding someone's else work.   We had each objectified the people we had selected, failing to see their humanity. This same ego prohibited us from possessing the humility needed to acknowledge the goodness in our colleagues' work; that just as easily as we selected someone to "dislike", someone else had most probably easily selected us also.


The point of the exercise was to learn how to "see" people and how to be humble.  The instructor told us that "you can't lead unless you know how to serve".  How profound.   When you quiet your pride, you open your heart and your hands to humility and servitude.  Our CEO got it!  By serving the needs of her egotistical staff, she had broken barriers which resulted in a more cohesive, successful organization.  She saw that she could not lead the organization forward if the senior staff did not get along.  Under the auspices of "mandatory training", it was brilliant leadership.

Prepare to serve.  Humble yourself.
  I've never forgotten this lesson and was grateful to receive it early in my career as I used it to "pay it forward" and I learned to serve my staff as I led them.  I never thought this concept could be used outside of my corporate world.  More and more, I am finding that the more I humble myself to service the needs of others, the more I find myself in a position of leadership as opportunities to teach, coach, direct, guide and share continue to present themselves.

The vegan and yogic community is a "pay it forward" world.  As someone helps you, you help someone else, who in turn helps yet another.  You can only give and receive help if you are humble enough to admit that you need help, and are grateful when you receive it.  It is a positive cycle.  Thus, serving and leading are one and the same, a strong servant also leads and directs the manner in which those they serve shall go.


I've had the pleasure of meeting Jen McGown.  Jen is the humble leader of One Yoga Philly yoga studio and is also the founder of the, Yoga on the Parkway, which fulfills her dream of serving the citizens of her city.  It is an event that promotes health and wellness.  It is the ultimate example of paying it forward.

I am certain that those who attend or lend a helping hand will be touched in some manner and will reach out to someone else.  No ego's here.  I am most impressed with Jen because she has used her hands to create this event first to those she served, and then led, folks whose hands now work in her stead spreading a positive message with infectious enthusiasm.  She so eloquently  wrote about it a very moving blog entry in which she shares her gratitude.  What touched me about this entry is that it reminded me of the training I mentioned earlier.  Jen, like the instructor, had removed the objectivity out of leadership and made it real, made it "human".

As I wrote to her in response to this post, I stated that it all begins with the hands.  Hands are tangible and hold your truth.    Using your hands to effect change shall be returned in abundance. How you use them will either condemn you or reward you. Why not use them positively?

King or King Maker

Ask yourself.  Who is more powerful, the King or the King Maker?  A wise man will tell you it isn't the king.  It is the servant, the king maker.  If the king is powerful, how powerful is he who makes the king?  The servant is the person behind the scenes "making it happen".  If you are the king:
  • be sure to serve the king maker and your reign shall be long and prosperous for the king maker shall lend their hand to help you serve the people
  • remember to pay it forward by mentoring and becoming the maker of future kings
Think of those you consider great leaders albeit personal, historical, or famous.  What did they have in common? What made them great?  Can you recognize their servitude and humility?  If you can not, then you have not identified a true leader.  You have mistakenly identified a dictator, one who abuses power, one who lets their egos take over, one who consumes and uses their hands to break instead of build.

We are all born with the capability to become leaders.  How we choose to develop our inner leader is determined by our actions:

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others"~Gandhi 

Identify your leadership.    Look, see, attend.  Focus on five good things in a person instead of five that aren't. Define your servitude.  Embrace your humility. 


Yoga:  Mudras (Healing Hand Movement)

When you think of serving, you usually start with your hands.  In yoga, the hands play an important role in practice.  Hands are used to perform mudras. Mudras begin with the hands but can encompass the entire body.  People use mudras without even realizing it as hands in prayer position is a common mudra used in several religions.

Guyan Mudra
Stimulates knowledge, ability, receptiveness and calm.
According to Kundalini Yoga.org, "a mudra is a gesture or position of the hands that locks and guides energy flow and reflexes to the brain.  By curling, crossing, stretching, and touching the fingers and hands, we can talk to the body and mind as each of the area of the hand reflexes to a certain part of the mind or body."  In Buddhism, a mudra is the beginning of cleansing on the path to enlightenment.

A mudra prepares the mind and the body for service and for leadership.