Championing the Game of Life

Welcome to the latest wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

*Fika for Your Soul* is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives. ‘Fika’ [feeka] is Swedish for, among other things, taking a break.


From time to time I watch Marie Forleo’s MarieTV. The other day, she aired an episode with Abby Wambach, a retired US football/soccer player, coach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, a pay-equality advocate, and much much more.

Marie welcomed us to the episode by saying, and I paraphrase… “If you want to be a champion in the game of life, this is for you”.

My ears perked up.

Something sparked in me when I heard those words. I repeated them to myself.

The vibe they carry is that of growth, confidence, expansion, and freedom. And to me, “being a champion in the game of life” translates to taking personal responsibility, something that is dear to my heart.

Some of the nuggets that stayed with me from this episode include…

…the importance of defying labels,
…stepping off the safe path into unchartered territory, and 
…leaving the pack.

Although these three points stand out to me because they’re what’s up for me right now, I’m going to stick my neck out and offer that they are universal; most of us face these one way or another, in some shape or form.

So, a few thoughts on…

Defying labels

No matter how safe they make us feel, labels also have the power to “dumb us down”. Labels make things easy. It’s easy to hide behind them. They help us conform; they help us fit in. And just as much as they can help us feel like we belong…they can also create division.

Labels help organise the world as we know it, so it’s not that labels are pointless or useless, it’s just that they can easily obscure what’s important and make us forget who and what we truly are.

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded that there’s a difference between me giving myself a label and having someone else attaching a label to me. Still, whether added by me or someone else, labels added without awareness can easily create debilitating limitations.

Stepping off the safe path

Labels have a role to play here as well. They create boxes we live in. I think of these boxes as a safe path.

One label or box, in particular, has seemed like an especially difficult one to let go of for me personally—the “employee mindset”.

Historically, the label “employee” or the box “employee mindset” is all I’ve known. It’s been sold to me as the safe, sensible, and sincere option. More or less everyone I knew growing up operated within this same box.

Looking at it this way, it’s no surprise how deep its foundation goes. Yet, I’m still taken by surprise by how solid some of this foundation remains.

Extracting myself from this “employee mindset” box…

…There’s fear, both subtle and not so subtle, of not being safe, of making “unsensible” decisions. And fear that choosing something different means being insincere about my direction and choices in life.

The way I create frameworks or boundaries for myself has been heavily influenced by this box. I constantly have to remind myself that the knee-jerk reaction or choice might not be the whole story. That there is an expanded version available that I have yet to experience.

Leaving the pack

“Successful” people’s stories seem to always have a part where they deviate from the most trodden path. Where they strike out on their own. Where they make choices that are deeply meaningful to them, which in turn take them further than they ever imagined.

A few thoughts on leaving the pack… (notes to self)

…It doesn’t have to look or feel dramatic. It can…but it doesn’t have to.

…Striking out on our own doesn’t mean we’re predatorily competitive.

…By making choices that are deeply meaningful we build strength in following our soul.

In closing, I’ll end with this…

In the conversation, Abby Wambach refers to how she used to cling to labels because they gave her what she thought she was. I can relate to this, and at the same time I find myself feeling like I’ve just woken up from a slumber thanks to a new deeper awareness of how labels play a role in who I am and the choices I make.

What’s your relationship with labels? How would you say that you are championing your life?

If you feel inspired to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

…from my soul to yours,

Maria

PS! I highly recommend watching the whole MarieTV episode (on Facebook). It contains many good points we can use as we take ownership of who we are and how we show up. The video is also available on YouTube.

Taking stock, and what do frogs have to do with summer solstice?

Welcome to the latest wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

*Fika for Your Soul* is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives.


A couple of weeks ago it was Midsummer’s Eve. In Sweden, if April 30th (Walpurgis Night or Valborgsmässoafton) is a celebration of Spring, then Midsummer (Midsommar) is when summer begins.

Midsommar is the most important holiday in Sweden all year. Even more so than Christmas and New Year. I may have moved away from Sweden in 2005, but I still feel a strong pull towards Midsommar and I suspect it’s the pagan in me that’s stirring the pot.

Having said that, I don’t know much about the origin of the modern day celebrations and practices, such as for example the dancing (read: jumping with both feet around a maypole that’s covered in leaves and flowers, singing ‘Little frogs…’!)

Continue reading Taking stock, and what do frogs have to do with summer solstice?

Never be disappointed in yourself.

Welcome to the inaugural wave of *Fika for Your Soul*!

*Fika for Your Soul* is a continuous series of articles or posts (I refer to these as waves). This series is about connecting with inspiration from everyday situations and conversations. It’s about discovery, reflection, leaning into, and stretching beyond…how we may see, understand, and express freedom, exploration, and leadership (among other things), all in the context of our daily lives.


My friend said something the other day that almost slid under the radar. It was a general statement, not directed at anyone in particular…

“Never be disappointed in yourself.”

At first glance, it’s one of those innocuous statements that could meet a response such as, “Yeah, yeah, of course not. Easier said than done”.

But my friend’s statement lingered in the air. I stared at him because something in me had responded very powerfully and very deeply.

It’s easy to sound clichéd about these things. We’re often told to believe in ourselves…a mindset reinforced with the intellectual understanding that even if we don’t succeed, we do the best that we can.

But my response wasn’t intellectual. I could FEEL the truth in what my friend was saying. What this had me REALISE, or KNOW, is that nobody should EVER feel disappointed in themselves.

Continue reading Never be disappointed in yourself.

The Ingenious Connection Between our Subconscious Mind & our External World

The woman in the green jacket

Our external world gives us the best signals.

In the town where I live, I’ve seen a young woman roaming the streets, asking for change, sometimes accompanied by a man who she always walks a few steps behind, but usually on her own. She often sits on High Street bundled up in a sleeping bag.

A few months ago, I noticed she was wearing what looked like a new green jacket. This past couple of weeks, I’ve seen her more or less every time I’ve been out and about. The jacket is dirty now, and she looks tired and worn out.

One evening a couple of days ago, I was on my way to a restaurant with a friend. We came across this woman and she asked if we had any spare coins. I don’t usually have any coins on me, but this time I did and I gave her what I had. Over dinner, I told my friend about her, and that something about her seemed to stay with me.

I hadn’t been able to put my finger on what that was. There was a chunky, “blobby” feeling in my chest whenever I thought of her. It felt very uncomfortable.

Was it guilt, shame, fear, or something else? I live my life believing that, if what I perceive around me triggers me one way or another, it exists within me. So…this lady represents something in me that wants to be seen and released.

I didn’t have to poke around long to see what was going on. It was staring me in the face.

The feeling wasn’t fear of her – it was fear of becoming her.

OMG.

I feel something stir as I share these words in the here and now, and there’s no shying away from them.

A timely rejection

Back in 2008, I was very close to moving to the US. At a crucial point in discussions about a job opportunity, the recession hit and that avenue closed. I continued to feel a pull to move to the US and in November 2012, I applied for an investment visa. It meant incorporating a company and investing some money in it to lay the groundwork for a visa while serving US clients from abroad.

As I walked into the US embassy in Stockholm for my visa interview in March of 2013, I didn’t “feel” it. It was as if I was in a bubble. No flow, no energy moving. Yes, I was nervous. But there was more to it than that, although I didn’t have the words for it at the time.

My visa application was rejected. I wasn’t surprised. I had a sense that the rejection confirmed something I already knew. I had followed my gut in pursuing the visa, yet maybe this was the Universe’s way of telling me it wasn’t meant to be…or, there was some other learning in it…or maybe the timing was off…

All the way through, from the first impulse in 2008 to move to the US, I’d been adamant that I would bring some furniture with me. My reasoning was that I had a few pieces from my grandparents that I didn’t want to give away, and since I was already living far from the rest of my family, I couldn’t easily return them. Or, so the story went.

I stayed curious about my stubborn determination to bring furniture. Why did I think there was a “need”? After some digging to see what was really going on, I found that I had a belief that moving to the US without furniture would mean I was homeless, with no security, and could easily become a living-under-a-bridge-with-a-shopping-trolly person. Now, I see the ill-crafted logic. Not having your own furniture doesn’t make you homeless – places can be rented furnished! But that somehow didn’t matter. I had this looming feeling that moving to the US without furniture could turn me into a homeless person.

It wasn’t until I was trying to figure out why the lady in the green jacket was having such an effect on me that I connected the dots and remembered about the visa application and the furniture.

Notice any similarities…?

Limiting beliefs

Over the past year and a bit, I’ve been training to become a certified Spiritual Practitioner. Part of the training requires getting to, and operating from, the cause-side of the “cause and effect equation”. Meaning that if I’m at the effect side of the equation, I perceive that things are happening to me. That’s victimhood. If I’m at the cause end of the equation, I realize I’m the creator, the one responsible. Exploring and learning to be “at cause” involves looking at patterns that show up and situations that trigger me in some way, and then releasing them.

Coming back to the fear of becoming the woman in the green jacket, there’s actually another piece that takes it deeper. I’m afraid of failing my new venture.

I notice my choice of words, “I’m afraid of failing my new venture”. I’m afraid of being a disappointment to my new venture, that I don’t have what it takes to do it justice, that I’m not good enough. Though that’s a lot clearer about what’s going on, it’s still somewhat covert as that wording still separates myself from myself. My venture is me, it’s my life’s work!

The above may sound a bit doom-and-gloomy, but it really isn’t!

As a Spiritual Practitioner, I have the tools to clear my limiting decisions or beliefs. Such decisions or beliefs result from traumatic events (in this lifetime or other lifetimes). Based on the experience in that traumatic moment we decide there and then to believe a certain truth as a way to protect ourselves in the future. That limiting belief gets stored in our subconscious and helps guide us forward in life. We’re usually not aware of these “truths” running our lives, and, at times, it can be somewhat tricky to find them.

I also know as a Spiritual Practitioner, when things that “show up” in my life trigger a powerful emotional response, some limiting decision or belief is poking me to be released.

For example, take the lady in the green jacket or being homeless without furniture. My underlying emotion or feeling of discomfort is a sign of something that’s ready to be released. Actively pursuing my life’s work, is triggering this deep-set limiting belief. I don’t need to figure out the details of exactly what happened when to cause this belief (to know the full story linked to the emotion). What has been, has been. The key is to identify the emotion within the trigger and ask what I make that mean about me now, and to ask that question repeatedly until I’ve gotten deep enough to reach the core limiting belief.

The true victory here is recognising the pattern and identifying the limiting belief (or core belief) that I’ve been running at a subtle level, a belief I’ve been using for a long time to make meaning of opportunities and possibilities in my life. A belief I was only vaguely aware of, off and on, until the lady with the green jacket showed up.

Zeroing in and releasing

I’m very close to nailing down the wording for this core belief. When I get it right, when I find the perfect combination of words, I know from past experience that I’ll feel that rightness as a deep, uncomfortable contraction in my chest. Despite the discomfort, I’ll welcome it, because finding the right wording for my limiting belief is the biggest chunk of the work of letting the belief go.  

The actual process for releasing the belief is fairly quick. And, incredibly powerful.

After a belief has been released, generally one of three things happens. (1) The situation or circumstance that caused the trigger disappears completely, or (2) the situation or circumstance remains but external behaviour changes, or (3) the situation or circumstance remains the same but you’re no longer triggered by it.

Knowing how powerful this release process is, I’m looking forward to shifting this core belief and seeing how I’ll show up in my life’s work when I’m not subconsciously holding myself back because of fear.

If you’re aware of patterns, or you are noticing similar situations showing up in your life that make you feel deeply uncomfortable, guilty, fearful, angry, or sad, contact me to schedule a free 45-minute Curiosity Call. You don’t have to let limiting beliefs hold you back.

The Expanded Landscape, 5 Phases of Awakening – Part #2

If you haven’t yet read Part #1 where I cover the 1st and the 2nd Phase of Awakening, you can do that here.

Early on, I “knew” that my 3D mind was limited in its ability to understand the width and depth of opportunities that may lie ahead. Even with lots of experience and knowledge there would still be an incredible number of possibilities that I would not be able to name, or even suggest, as they expanded beyond my sphere of awareness.

I had a sense that by fixating on a desired outcome I would limit what was possible. It felt more natural to invite ALL possibilities to play and allow my inner guidance system to take me by the hand and guide me forward.

I’d always had a sense that I had access to a “channel of information” or “flow” that was experienced beyond the physical body and mind, but it was so elusive that I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was just there. In conversation with friends in my teens and early twenties, I was able to offer suggestions to perceived dilemmas without necessarily having had the lived experience. That said, I didn’t have any language to access this kind of knowing back then. It’s just in hindsight that I’ve been able to recognise what was going on.

When I first experienced the sensation of resonance in my body, I felt it as a tingling sensation on my upper arms. It felt like a gentle squeeze, as if someone was standing behind me placing their hands gently on my upper arms applying slight pressure. The Squeeze proved to be a helpful way to gauge what direction to take in everyday situations, and in 2009 I made a commitment to follow my inner guidance system and my “gut-feel” for all my decision-making. It was both exhilarating and a bit daunting, as sometimes the Squeeze and my gut suggested next steps that took me beyond my comfort zone.

My first ever experience of gut-feel happened a lot earlier though – in 1994, while I was in the process of considering an opportunity to move to Germany for work. This was waaay before I was even slightly aware that there was such a thing as “gut-feel” and waaay before I had started to become aware of my spiritual curiosity.

Since then, I’ve learned that we have access to different layers of information depending on which level we engage at. Reaching the level of depth that touches someone’s soul is profound. I can tell when it happens as I feel it in my body, and I notice their energy change. It’s almost like a switch is turned on and something clicks into place. The client, however, may or may not be able to put words to their experience.

Today, we’ll continue our journey along the path of the 5 Phases of Awakening, the phases that Jeff and I outlined in November 2018. As I’ve mentioned before, this is just one model, one perspective, and its purpose is to be a guide for fellow travelers.

Continue reading The Expanded Landscape, 5 Phases of Awakening – Part #2

Seekers, Finders, and 5 Phases of Awakening – Part #1

Awakening. It’s been around for eons. Some are living it, some are baffled by it, lots of people feel drawn to it. I first became aware of being on a journey of awakening in 2005, age 38. Yet, only recently did I see my own trajectory clearly for the first time.

To my surprise, I noticed that my experiences seemed to organise themselves into multiple “levels” of exploration. Each widening the perspective of mind, heart, and spirit. Now, this isn’t new, but what felt new was the fact that I ‘sensed’ the characteristics for each level.

How peculiar! My curiosity had been awoken. With the help of my friend and divine collaborator, Jeff Vander Clute, I decided to take a closer look.

The first characteristics of awakening to show up were: curiosity, experimentation, discipline, realisation, and mastery. Interestingly, when we looked at my experiences over the past 10+ years, they slotted in nicely with these characteristics. Who knew! We named the initial five phases: Awakening Curiosity, Awakening Experience, Awakening Insight, Awakening Realisation, and Awakening Mastery. Each name points to the focus and outcome for that phase.

phases of awakening
Example Trajectory

The learning that followed this discovery includes knowing where my expertise is of best use, plus a better understanding of how to support someone depending on where they are along their journey.

Reflecting on this newfound clarity, I came to see that a new tool had been born, ‘Phases of Awakening’ – a guide for seekers and finders along their spiritual journey.

Continue reading Seekers, Finders, and 5 Phases of Awakening – Part #1

An Open Letter to those in search of Spiritual Freedom – Part #4/4

This is the last part, part four, of my series on the principle that has guided my own journey and now underlies every element of my coaching, teaching, and mentoring practice: Spiritual Freedom. (Learn more at http://www.annamariaback.com)

So, how can one recognise Spiritual Freedom?

As a wise friend shared, Spirit is the oxygen of the soul. For the logical mind, Spiritual Freedom can seem challengingly elusive because it is intangible. Some say spiritual freedom is an experience. And, as frustrating as this may be, unless you’ve had the experience…well, it stays intangible.

Instead of calling it an experience, I would offer that Spiritual Freedom is more of a state. The beauty of it is that there is no fixed formula. You decide what it means to you, what makes it true for you.

As I mentioned earlier, in my view (which is only one model of many), the antithesis to Spiritual Freedom is Fear. Fear of living, fear of being oneself, fear of standing up for and to oneself, and fear of not believing in oneself, to name a few. When it dawned on me that my life lacked Spiritual Freedom, I felt confused. A part of me felt guilty because, really, what did I have to complain about?! I was a free spirit. My life was pretty awesome and comfortable.

To me, Spiritual Freedom is having the freedom to choose, to be who I am, to take responsibility for who I am, to be curious, to operate beyond the constricting boundaries of expectations:

  • It is what fires me up, what makes me want to take action, to change, to grow, to evolve.
  • It is my main motivation in everything I do, who I am, and also why I do what I do.
  • It is connected to instinct and deeper wisdom, inspiration, awareness, and autonomy.
  • It expands my perspective, it keeps me on my toes as it brings self-discovery and evolution into focus.
  • It provides me with the framework to having the courage to lean beyond my comfort zone.
  • It makes me feel freer, agile, alive, inspired, and energised.
  • It helps me fine tune my focus and have trust in turning inward.

Spiritual Freedom involves integrating spiritual practices in everyday life and not being held back by circumstances. It involves being aware of the systems I operate within, deciding who I want to be and how I want to show up.

During my ongoing self-discovery expedition, the following questions have provided direction:

  1. Am I owning my story?
  2. Am I living my values?
  3. Am I showing up fully?

Spiritual Freedom is about listening to our soul’s calling, giving our inner wisdom its opportunity to shine. Feeling contentment, fulfilment, and inner satisfaction. Being confident in who we are and what we have to offer, knowing that we are enough, knowing that our spirit is awake to express itself fully.

To no longer be defined or confined by story is also part of Spiritual Freedom. It’s about being free to own whatever is within you – that which follows you through life, and beyond – your inner core, your joy and freedom.

The three questions about owning my story, living my values, and showing up fully, have been a steady companion for some time. At times I have wondered if they are clear enough, and how and if they connect to Spiritual Freedom. One wise friend recently said, “They do for me. Upon answering these questions with ‘no– no– no’, it tells me why I’m not there yet”.

If your answers to the above questions are “no” – remember, it’s not about blame. It’s about acceptance, recognition, forgiveness, and appreciation. The beauty is, as there is no fixed formula, we all have access to those, and to the freedom they lead to.

My question to you is…is Spiritual Freedom present in your life? If yes, what does it look like? And if not, would you like it to be?