Shannon Ingram's Place

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Location: Orange County/CA

Musings of a woman who left her corporate career to become a caregiver for elderly parents, wrote a book and found her way back to corporate - with love, instead of fear, leading the way. Now working at my Alma Mater, UC Irvine, as Marketing and Communications Director for the School of Biological Sciences.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Intuitive Intention

Synchronicity is choreographed by a great, pervasive intelligence that lies at the heart of nature, and is manifest in each of us through intuitive knowledge. ---Deepak Chopra

Last week I decided simply to follow my intuition through the holidays instead of trying to fill my days with activities planned in advance. The only two plans I made - because I really wanted to - were to attend church services at 7 PM on Christmas Eve and to go to my cousin's home on Christmas Day. Late last week my dear friend and minister, Sandy Moore, asked me if I wanted to join her and her family for "late supper" at a lovely restaurant in Laguna Beach after church on the 24th. "Sure, that would be great," I said. It was my intuition talking.

In the back of my mind, I knew that Christmas Eve dinner with the Moore's would be enchanting. I knew that Sandy would ask each of us an engaging question of some sort. She did that at dinner every night during the wonderful Caribbean cruise Gary and I went on with her and her husband, our co-minister Kirk, five years ago. Each night, we shared deep thoughts and deep laughter too. After dinner, Gary would order all of us the evening's nightcap served in a colorful metal shot glass "keepsake." By the end of the week, we had enough glasses to start a bell choir. But I digress....

I arrived early for the church service and was able to sit in the second row in front of the horn section of the band. I love sitting close to the musicians so I was happy not to have someone with me who would say, "I can't stand being this close to the speakers." My friend, June Crockett, sat down next to me. Soon it was standing room only in the sanctuary. The music was fabulous, especially the duet of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by our vocalist, Gretchen Almond, and Taylor Carroll, a teenage cancer survivor and church member whose voice is very similar to Josh Groban's. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. The service ended with an incredible candlelighting ceremony with everyone holding a lit candle and singing "Silent Night." Thankfully the smoke alarms didn't go off when everyone blew out their candles.

Later, when we arrived at the beautiful oceanfront restaurant, it was crowded with revelers enjoying Christmas at the beach. Once we had our cocktails, Sandy asked her first great question, "What's your grown-up Christmas wish?" She elaborated by asking what did we wish for ourselves or the world - maybe just one or two words. The first thing that jumped into my mind was patience. The word settled into my heart. I wasn't really sure why my wish was patience, because God knows I've been very patient the past few months. When I was a child, I thought my mom needed to learn patience. I looked up the definition in the dictionary and it said, "The quality or habit of enduring without complaint." That definition wasn't really what I would have termed my "Christmas wish." I took a deep breath and, sure enough, patience resonated in my body. "Maybe it's a different kind of patience," I thought.

When I shared "Patience," Sandy looked at me and said, "Wow, that's interesting, Shannon, because I experience you as being amazingly patient already." I hesitated a moment and said, "It's not just patience for me, it's for everything." Everyone was shaking their heads up and down. They knew. One of the things that struck me in the movie, "How Do You Know," was the idea of just shutting up and not talking - not blurting out words you're thinking, just because you can say them. Ever since seeing the movie two weeks ago, I've been choosing NOT to say a lot of things. For someone with the nickname, "Mouth of the Pacific," that's a REALLY BIG DEAL!

OK, so here's where it gets more interesting. The past two Sundays, Sandy has been talking about a new book by Pema Chodron called "Taking the Leap - Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears." She has shared quotes from the book like this one: As human beings we have the potential to disentangle ourselves from old habits, and the potential to love and care about each other. We have the capacity to wake up and live consciously, but, you may have noticed, we also have a strong inclination to stay asleep. It’s as if we are always at a crossroad, continuously choosing which way to go. Moment by moment we can choose to go toward further clarity and happiness or toward confusion and pain.

On Christmas Day, still ruminating about why I would choose patience for my grown-up wish, as well as my intention for 2011, I googled "patience and anger." I was thinking maybe it's my anger and pain that wants me to choose patience. Lo and behold, right at the top of the page was: "The Answer to Anger & Aggression is Patience," an article by none other than Pema Chodrun. I clicked on it immediately. The article blew me away. Take this, for instance:

To begin with, I learned about patience and the cessation of suffering. It’s said that patience is a way to de-escalate aggression. I’m thinking here of aggression as synonymous with pain. When we’re feeling aggressive—and in some sense this would apply to any strong feeling—there’s an enormous pregnant quality that pulls us in the direction of wanting to get some resolution. It hurts so much to feel the aggression that we want it to be resolved. So what do we usually do? We do exactly what is going to escalate the aggression and the suffering. We strike out; we hit back. Something hurts our feelings, and initially there is some softness there—if you’re fast, you can catch it—but usually you don’t even realize there is any softness. You find yourself in the middle of a hot, noisy, pulsating, wanting-to-just-get-even-with-someone state of mind: it has a very hard quality to it. With your words or your actions, in order to escape the pain of aggression, you create more aggression and pain. At that point, patience means getting smart: you stop and wait. You also have to shut up, because if you say anything it’s going to come out aggressive, even if you say, “I love you.”

I love it that Chodrun also writes that fearlessness goes with patience. She says that if you practice the kind of patience that leads to the de-escalation of aggression, you'll be cultivating a tremendous amount of courage. You get to "see the whole thing without acting it out."

So once again, synchronicity and intuitive intention seems to be working for my greater good. I am looking for patience and curiosity to be my guides as we cross over into 2011. And a little forgiveness too.

Here's a link to Chodrun's article:

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Good Photo on Silverado's LIFE blog

We needed a good photo of a Silverado Hospice patient who passed away this year for an article about holiday grief....I found one with TWO late, great hospice patients:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gifts from Gaye and God

I've been determined not to feel super sad about my current life situation during this holiday season. My intention to enjoy this festive time with family and friends has been very strong. Happily, it's manifesting in amazing invitations and fun experiences to go along with therapy, of course!

Late last week, my friend Gaye called to ask if I wanted to bring our mutual friend, Sandy, and join her and Rick for the Hollywood premiere of a new film, "How Do You Know." I was incredulous at such good fortune, and of course both Sandy and I said YES. Monday night, Sandy and I walked the red carpet (on the OPPOSITE side of the cameras because we were on the "B" list - but so what!) in Westwood, watched the movie with Hollywood elite including its stars, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Paul Rudd and hobknobbed with the rich and famous at the fabulous Sony Pictures party afterwards. We got very close to adorable Owen Wilson, who truly steals the whole film, Reese Witherspoon (pictured in above via my very bad crackberry photo) and Paul Rudd, and we also saw a bunch of other stars including Hank Azaria, Seth Rogen and Jane Fonda. We didn't get to see Jack, but we did see his kids. And the food was awesome. I discovered that one fabulous night of dreamy, starstruck activity is great medicine for a broken heart!

And then last night I summoned all my courage and went out to watch the Newport Harbor Boat Parade of Lights with Cory, Em, Keegan and Kendall.....and Gary. We dined at old fave Wilma's then dashed off to the waterfront to see the lights. "Dashing" seems to have been Kendall's chosen theme for the evening. She dashed in the sand as the boats passed and screamed with glee at the bright lights everywhere. Keegan was especially interested in the "real" snowman (more like an "iceman") in the patio of a bayfront home. Thanks to my low expectations for the evening, it turned out to be a very sweet experience of how important children are during this time of year. Their imaginations and excitement illumined the night as much as the lights from the boat parade.

Thanks again to everyone who has sent me best wishes. The healing has begun.