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Universe Says: FULL STOP

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This post on mindfulness was initially written before we had a clue what a pandemic might do to our practices, our businesses, our love lives, and our souls. Seems to me, that the world got a FULL STOP.

Just 4 years ago I was rushing along with all of my creative strategies and plans for building an empire, but something wasn’t working. I was forcing the process. I was “trying to push the river,” as XXX said in his fantastic book on self-awareness and self-discipline. At that time I was asking for the path forward. I was praying. I was doing my mindfulness work, gratitude lists every morning, going to al-anon meetings, and trying to discover what was wrong with my lack of a loving relationship.

I got the message in 2018. It’s the same message I get all the time. Don’t force it. Pay attention. Listen. And don’t bide your time, get active in your investigations while being patient in your actions. it was time, back then, to NOT MAKE A MOVE.

In the iChing’s 64 hexagrams, there is one that I have thrown more than 5 times in the last 20 years. It’s always the same message, and it’s always the exact time I need to hear it. Perhaps the message is a bit of a mantra for me now, as I have embraced the idea of ACTIVELY WAITING. Here’s the hexagram and a few snippets of wisdom.

the iching

“At the outset, there is a suggestion of danger. The man remains calm, concerns himself only with the immediate task at hand, and does not move to counteract remote threats.”

And that’s my overarching philosophy about approaching big decisions. If you don’t have the OBVIOUS ANSWER, simply bid your time. But this does not mean rest. The message of the hexagram is that by actively waiting, researching all opportunities, and NOT TAKING DIRECT ACTION.

When the answer is revealed by your research, the way will be overwhelmingly obvious. You are looking for a full YES. Don’t force the decision. Don’t take too many defensive or offensive actions in response to the danger. Wait. Bid your time. Give your research a chance to reveal the way forward.

Here’s where I was in 2018. (In a future post, I’ll address the YES when it comes.)

+++ The Original, “Full Stop” post +++

Let’s start with February, shall we? It’s been the most intense and transformative month of my young 55-year-old life. I felt at times like my skin was being burnt away by the velocity of the change underway. The pace of change, conflict, resolution, conflict, opportunity, and so on, was exhausting. I stopped drinking coffee because I didn’t need any stimulants. I adjusted my psyche meds to reduce activation. And I started to manage my sleep hours in a much more directed way. All to say, the month continued to burn away my old baggage and scorch my newly exposed skin. Ouch.

What I had to keep focusing on, in order to stay sane and stay on the planet, was to pause everything and focus on a few meditative breathes. Just stop. And breathe. It worked. But it wasn’t enough. The pain of transformation and re-entry into my new life continued.

March has come with a bit more gentleness but I am still being served up for healing in every area of my life. Most recently that massive shift has happened in my relationship with money and work. I’ve always worked for a living. And in the last 8 years, since my divorce, my ex-wife (I mean, my kids) has gotten 50% of everything I’ve earned. It makes it a bit hard to maintain living quarters. It has been a challenging 8 years. And last week, something massive changed. More on that later.

The job thing has been quite interesting for me to explore emotionally. Rationally I was of the mind, I need a big full-time job to provide the child support and healthcare my family still requires and deserves. I was applying for a lot of jobs. Some of them are above my experience and most of them are below my senior-level marketing role. But the universe and recruiters see through these missteps. I never got callbacks on the “manager” or “specialist” roles, it was clear from my resume that I was a director level or perhaps ready for a VP position. So the job market in this hot tech town, Austin, Texas, was rough. I was not getting any hits. Until February. And then the job offers began raining down on me, and the jobs I was applying to all started asking me to take the first interview step.

Then two weeks ago I met a man.

This man changed my perspective on life and my future goals. But that’s what he does. He’s an executive life coach. Helping c-level (not me) executives move from their primary careers to “what’s next.” And he’s very good at what he does. 25+ years in, and he’s also an expert in the industry. He and I shared 147 connections on LinkedIn. All of my “mentors” and “goto thinkers” were also 1st level connections with this man.

And he started out by telling me his story. And we agreed to work together, we agreed that I could help his company do a better job of marketing itself online. A relationship was formed. But something deeper was also formed, from our first meeting. We understood each other, trusted each other, in a rare and powerful way. I knew from the first meeting, that David and I were going to powerfully change each other’s lives, in a great way.

Two days after our initial meeting I asked him to “coach” me on a 10-minute call. I had a lot up in the air, and I wanted to get this executive coach in on a tiny piece of my story to see if my thinking was way off, or if I was heading in the right direction. So I told David of my two options, as I saw them.

Option 1: Full-time gig with a tech firm, making good money and providing full benefits and retirement support.

Option 2: Continuing with my freelance gig (Fluent Social) and wing the benefits with my 2018 Obamacare coverage.

David immediately spoke up. “You’re missing the bigger picture.” He saw something I didn’t. Again, that’s what he does. That’s his mission in life to use his Christ-centered leadership to guide people to their happiness and higher purpose.

You see, I had handed him a copy of my new book (Single Dad Seeks) when we first met and explained that I was in the process of working with a new agent who was going to make me and The Whole Parent into a national forum for single parenting. She’s an online content placement agent. She’s going to get my content, my story, published all over the place. And in return for that, I will get more exposure, sell a few more books, and over the long run become more of a spokesperson for single parents in the national media. (Ask me later about when the Today Show came to my house and interviewed me about this blog and my writing and my single parenting experience.)

“You don’t need to take any full-time job,” he continued. “You are being served up by the universe, and this agent came into your life for a reason. And, in fact, so did I.”

There is was. He was confronting my work/money fear that goes something like this, “What if I don’t take that full-time job and my book fails? What if the freelance work dries up again? What if I get depressed? How will I survive without a good job and good health insurance.”

That was last week. This week the conversation continues. And the challenges to my old fear-based beliefs have been showing up in spades. On Thursday, I had my 2nd consulting meeting with him, and we had a great session. I’m excited and energized by the work with him and his team. And I left the meeting feeling more confident and happy with my “freelance” choice than ever before. I still had a few job interviews moving forward for the week, but I was considering what it would feel like to tell them “no” and not do the interview at all. I was working on my fear. I wasn’t there yet, but he was helping me challenge my fear-based belief.

On Thursday, this week I had another session with him, where I am helping him market his business online. At the end of this session, he and I prayed together over some of my requests to the universe, including finding a relationship. I was humbled by his ability to give so freely of his love and his devotion to Jesus.

As I left his office that afternoon, I was looking at my email and deleting all-new “recruiter/job offer” emails until ONE caught my eye from a recruiter named Jill. I got in my car and noticed that Jill had also left me a voicemail. Rather than delete Jill’s email, I clicked on her phone number, saying to myself, “Okay, Jill (Universe) let’s see what you’ve got right now. I’m ready to be delivered.”

I left a voicemail for Jill. I deleted her voicemail without listening to it. Let’s cut to the chase, Lord, I said to myself. About 10 minutes later an excited Jill calls and begins to unpack this exciting opportunity in Austin, Texas with a small company that thinks I might just be what they need to jumpstart their growth and take care of their lead requests that the team has been too busy to respond to. (A Great problem for a company to have until it’s starting to piss off the leads and it becomes the brand of the company that they can’t handle any more business.)

Well, digital marketing is how I’ve made my living over the last 25 years, so this job sounded perfect. Jill and I talked for an hour and a half. She sent me a few documents to sign a non-disclosure agreement clearing the way for me to have an unfiltered conversation with the business owner on Monday, the Monday that is now two days away. Next Monday.

Wow, it was a whirlwind of a WIN-WIN and I went to bed excited. I wondered how my new friend would take my change of heart, but it was twice what he was offering at some future date, and this was a bird in the hand. I didn’t sleep very well, I was conflicted and anxious. I’m sure the business owner, Jill, and my friend all slept without worrying about me.

Yesterday, Friday morning, I woke up with a spiritual hangover. I felt sick. I knew that the dream job Jill was offering was no more than a fancier, better-paid, 60-hour soul-killer job. Well, not all 60-hour jobs have to be soul killers, but, as I mentioned, I have just written a book, and… well… the 60-70 weeks were behind me.

I sent an email to my friend asking for a 10-minute conversation (PERSONAL) in a mildly crisis-driven panic.  And then I paused and prayed. I asked my higher power to show me the right path. I asked for God to give me his direction. And I meditated on that. Pause. Breathe. Listen.

A voice came through my meditation loud and clear, “You can talk to Jill if you want to. You can entertain a big corporate job and put a Tesla in your garage, but …”

I knew what he was going to say when I spoke with him later in the day.

“The universe is speaking to you.” No, he would say, “The Lord is speaking to you, and showing up for you at this moment in your life. It is your job to listen and get out of his way as he transforms your life.”

I called Jill.

By the time he and I spoke that afternoon, I just needed to relate my decision to him. “I heard your voice in my head,” I said.

“No John,” he said. “You heard the Lord answering your question.”

Pause. Breathe. Listen.

Full Stop. 


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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the little red book of mindfulness - john oakley mcelhenney


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