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Jesica Hanley Vega

Sing Your Song

Month

August 2015

Cocktail Chatter: The Introverts Edition

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Thanks to this “Glory of Amlwch” bush, I shifted from anxiety to peace in a matter of seconds.

If you’re like me, when you look out on a sea of strangers – shaking hands, making cocktail chatter, and exchanging cards – you break into a cold sweat. Almost four years ago, I fled the stresses and social intensity of life in Los Angeles for a simpler existence on the shores of Puget Sound.

It suits me in the Pacific Northwest, and living so closely to the natural world has instilled a confidence and sense of self that eluded me for many years. Living here, I’ve also rediscovered the desire to inspire others that once led me to be a filmmaker. But isolation has also distanced me from my peers, and the desire to close that gap inspired my pilgrimage to The Hive.

Closing that gap was both easier and more challenging than I’d expected. It may not be necessary to say, but I am extremely introverted. I feel comfortable with animals, plants, intimate exchanges and meaningful conversation, but don’t fare as well with the kind of small talk necessary at a conference or crowded party. So there I was, in this environment of openness and excitement, knowing I was among the very people I wanted to talk to…and yet often feeling incapable of establishing the connections I sought. But here’s what I realized…

You ARE your contribution. When I remembered how much I care about the world and my commitment to connecting people to themselves and their planet, my interactions were intimate and meaningful, despite the flurry of small talk all around us.

Most people want to be recognized for who they really are and, while there were people with whom I didn’t connect, more often than not – through my commitment – I was able to find a common humanity with people even if we lacked common experience, background or age.

Check in with something that grounds youI’ve been photographing the natural world since I arrived in Washington and nothing soothes my nervous system like being up close and personal with living things. At my most anxious moments, if I could find a blooming thing with which to check in, I was fine. Ultimately, my social courage over the weekend was a testament to the wonders of getting grounded For me the source is flowers, but no matter your method, it’s worth embracing: not just in crowds, but in any stressful circumstance.

In closing, if you also find yourself in a cold sweat when you look out on a sea of strange faces, and prefer almost anything to shaking hands and making cocktail chatter, remember two things: you are a contribution and what is eternal, real and true can be the magic elixir when it comes to introducing yourself. Because, even if you’re an introvert, the next hand you shake may be the one that transforms your world.

A-Buzz

coffee pot
For a long time, espresso has meant home to me. At least for the time being, something else will have to do.

A few weeks prior to heading to San Francisco, I wasn’t feeling my best physically. I was suffering from body aches, my energy levels were erratic, and my appetite wasn’t good. Making my bed more comfortable helped, but I thought I might feel even better if I improved my diet and eliminated coffee

After the initial withdrawal wore off, my energy levels and mood quickly  improved  and my thinking got more clear. I considered the experiment a success and decided to keep going.

And then one day, stuck with nothing to do while my husband discussed alignment with a mechanic at a used tire shop I took a walk. Even before I set out, I knew that if I walked far enough, I would pass Bluebeard Cafe: where I’ve made many pit stops to make a bad day better, where I’ve brought visiting guests to show off my adopted hometown and where they serve the best espresso in Tacoma, 

Even before I could see it, I felt my body pulled towards the familiar entrance. Conditioned to know that pleasure and relief were on the way, my physical excitement mounted and I started to wonder why I’d quit drinking coffee in the first place.

Espresso; it was a bright spot in a bad day, a boring day, an exhausting day or a good day. It  was a guaranteed pleasure, my one daily indulgence and part of my heritage.

But rather than going in, I kept on walking and instead stepped into a healthy tea and herb shop where I found a book called Rumi’s Four Essential Practices. One of those essential practices, I discovered, is fasting.

I’ve never been a dieter and, though I am a spiritual practitioner, I’d never taken on fasting as a spiritual discipline. And yet, without realizing it, in addition to improving my physical condition, my new diet had actually been giving me the opportunity to deepen my relationship to self.

I brought the book with me to San Francisco and was glad I did when the first thing I found upon checking into my room was a gleaming Nespresso maker. In addition to providing an exciting opportunity to join a community of impassioned and accomplished leaders, my weekend at The Hive was clearly going to be a continual challenge to my resolve.

But I kept in mind these words from Rumi, which were a constant reminder that my commitment to hearing my soul was stronger than my commitment to having a buzz.

yesterday you filled your stomach 
with all kinds of bread and foods
you became so sluggish 
so sleepy

what comes of such indulgence?
either recklessness
or the need to go to the toilet

sounds of moans and mourning
come from the soul while fasting
but the only sound that comes after a meal
is a low-pitched rumble from the rear end

so friend
if you want to hear what the soul has to say
then skip the meal;
it you want to hear from the other end
then bring the bowl closer to you

Expansion

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The view from my room at Cavallo Point Lodge. If it wasn’t for the fog, beyond the eucalyptus, you’d see the Golden Gate Bridge.

One of the hardest parts of preparing for The Hive Global Leaders Program this week was getting over the idea that I didn’t belong.

Once the initial euphoria of anticipation passed and I took a look at who my fellow Hivers  were, a shock of “I’m out of my league” shuddered through me and I closed my laptop lid.

As much as our hearts may dream of expanding our horizons and recreating ourselves in the model of who we are inside, our egos and identities want to keep us safe. There’s a  reason why we lead the lives we do and why so many dreams go unfulfilled. When we step into the unknown and out of the comfort zone of familiarity, a lot of uncomfortable emotions arise. And it’s a lot easier, and a lot safer, to avoid such raw feelings of uncertainty. It’s a lot easier to postpone something until we feel more ready, accomplished or prepared.

But there’s nothing like jumping in.

So I did. And with the loving support of friends and colleagues, I got over myself and started considering that I belong. Because I say I do. Because I know there’s a place for connection, communion and awareness in all spheres of life, and I want to bring those things to global leaders, just like I’ve been bringing them to my friends and clients all along.

I belong here because I see a need and I want to fill it: with insights, support and everything else I bring when I show up. I’m not like the other entrepreneurs, techies and leaders whom I’m meeting (most of them at least) and that’s okay. In fact, that’s exactly why I need to be here.

Finding The Soul Behind Your Walls

IMG_9700In the space between sleep and wake this morning, I was inspired by some thoughts about contemplation, subjectivity and the human necessity for physical and symbolic structures to represent the ineffable. Because that’s what I like to think about when I’m waking up.

It got me writing as soon as I got up, and then browsing through the internets, where I found this wonderful review of Parker J. Palmer’s book “A Hidden Wholeness” on Brainpickings.org.

Wikipedia lists Parker J. Palmer as an author, educator and activist. He’s also a Quaker and a wise voice to which I return again and again.

The physical structure which he uses to describe what keeps us from our true selves is the wall. And this is what he has to say about it: Here is the ultimate irony of the divided life: live behind a wall long enough, and the true self you tried to hide from the world disappears from your own view. The wall itself and the wall outside it become all that you know. Eventually, you even forget that the wall is there. And that hidden behind it is someone called “you.”

When we talk about things which are subjective – how we feel, what we sense – language immediately becomes a challenge. That is why these things are the domain of art and poetry: how else can we capture such elusive sensations than through symbol and suggestion?

In our rational world, what is subjective is assumed to be the unreliable inferior to its more scientific counterpart, the objective. And yet, as Parker makes clear, when we address our subjective selves, we can find who we really are.

The next questions become: how important is it to discover who we really are and are we willing to give up objectivity to find out?

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