Being & Belonging

 

Something that has been up for me for years, being somewhat of a preoccupation, is how I can be who I am while being in relationship with other people. Now you might say, of course you are yourself. Who else could you be? And of course you are in relationship with others, just look at your life. On the surface both would be true. However, I find that there is something much more interesting, and challenging, that resides below the surface of being and belonging when we are willing to look.

In the early years of life we were all 100% who we were as babies and young children. Quite literally, we knew nothing else other than being. Just being. Whatever that meant. In joy, sorrow, hunger, need, exhaustion, satisfaction, fear and trust. Then, the weighty and complicated importance of relationship began to take hold. We knew on a primal, basic, survival level, that we would not be OK without those around us, and that meant that we were bound to how they felt about us. Meaning that we had to do things to keep them interested in us, wanting us, willing to look out for us. And so, we began to make adjustments. A little here. A little there. A lot here. A lot there. In the process, we began to forget how to just be unto ourselves. Without negotiation, justification or distortion.

The need to belong began to take precedent over the need to be. And perhaps developmentally, this is as it should be. Who knows? What I do know though is that the loss of being able to just be takes its toll on all of us. For there is no authentic expression, no joy, no ease, no true fulfillment unless our lives are an expression of our truest Being. Simultaneously, there is no true belonging unless we are fully being ourselves. But this is a gamble that many of us would rather just not take.

When I was in the desert a couple of years ago, there was a small tree that symbolized the Christmas tree of my childhood. I spent one day placing little rocks underneath it that represented gifts that I so needed as a child, but never got. As you can imagine they were not things. The biggest gift of all that I gave to myself was that of the right to just be. It sounds simple. Maybe obvious even. But I will tell you, more than 2 years later I am still working on that one. And with more than fifty years on the planet, it has been a rare encounter to meet another person who allows themselves to just be.

It feels to me that while difficult to get to, there is no more noble effort than this. Than to devote ourselves to who we truly are and what it means to be with others from that place. Can you imagine what we would individually and collectively experience and be capable of if we all aimed for knowing who we really were and chose to belong from there?

If you want to check it out for yourself, watch your thoughts as you move through your day. How often do you allow yourself to be who you are, what you are, and where you are? Try making this a point of your existence, and then watch what happens.

All Heart

 

Someone recently said to me, “If it’s in your heart, you have to do it.” This represents a radical departure from how many of us live. Many of us would say instead, “If it’s in your mind, you have to do it.” Or believe it. Or be governed by it.

While our culture loves to worship the mind as the ultimate powerhouse, the heart has 60 times the electrical charge of the brain. Along with that, more nerve pathways travel from the heart to the brain than the other way around. In other words, in some very essential places, it is the heart leading the way. Once again, our biological intelligence is pointing to something we all too often do not recognize. In this case, that being, that it is the heart that is the true powerhouse. The one carrying the big charge. The call we want to sit up and take notice of. The one we do not want to deny.

This is not easy to do given the loud and insistent ways that the mind can drown out the more subtle and graceful messages of the heart. Not easy to do in a culture that has made many of us wary, shy and even downright suspicious of what the heart has to say. Some of us have even been so deeply and painfully wounded that it feels like nothing short of terrifying to imagine letting our hearts come out of hiding. And while likely we have all heard some version of “follow your heart,” it can seem like more of a romantic notion than a reality-based, viable approach to life.

For one, we don’t have a lot of good role models for this. And if we do, they are often saints, or people like the Dali Lama who can be too removed from daily life for us to feel as though we too, have access to what they do. For another, in a culture that uses fear as a sales tactic, as a way to keep us in line and that offers up entertainment based on the horrific and the outrageous, we can be left believing that to rely on the heart and its ways is childish, weak, ineffective, soft or overly sentimental. Maybe even downright dangerous to our safety and well-being.

It is anything but that. Believe it or not, the heart has its origins in courage. As in, the word courage derives from the French root “cour,” meaning heart. So beautifully portrayed in what the lion was looking for in The Wizard of Oz. But that is a child’s fantasy you might think. Maybe. Or maybe it is an expression of what we all most deeply long for. Something we all intuitively know to be a resource far greater than the insecurities, fears, shames, grievances, controls, anticipations and worries of the mind.

Check it out for yourself. Lying in bed first thing in the morning, before the mind has kicked into gear, pause. Don’t let the schedule and the demands of the day move in before you have placed one hand over your heart, and taken a few deep breaths right into the very center of your courage and wisdom. Ask your heart what it wants. And then, listen.

Imitation

 

I recently read that imitation is the basis of all social intelligence. That we are wired, right from the very beginning of life, to mimic the human beings around us. Particularly our primary caregivers; those we spend the most amount of time with. Those that we depend upon for our very survival and well-being. Those that we want to be like more than anyone else in the world.

I remember it so well with my son Jack when he was young. For a time we dubbed him “The Worker,” not only because he loved to use brooms and hammers but because this was what he told someone he wanted to be when he grew up. He was emulating my husband, his father. He took great pride and joy using his hands and busying himself with building, cleaning and fixing things. I could make the argument here that being “a worker” was less about any role or job, and much more about him trying to be just like someone he loved and looked up to.

If we take this simple example and extrapolate it out into the world at large, it calls for us, as the the adults, to be clear about what we are modeling. This is not limited to just your children, or even whether or not you have children. What matters only is what we are offering to the younger generations by way of what we are showing them is possible, necessary and desirable.

Nowhere is our lack of understanding around being a role model more in evidence then with the way we use the technologies. What it is that we are demonstrating and offering up as something to be imitated. And while many of us have marveled, or been distressed by, how quickly the children take to the screens, or how absorbed they are by it to the exclusion of other more important things, is there anywhere else to look but at ourselves? This is not easy to do. As a matter of fact, it is far easier to shake our heads in either awe or distress at what the younger generations are doing, than it is to take a hard look at what we are doing.

When we characterize our children’s preoccupation with all things screen as some new extraordinary, or scary, adaptation to the species, something only the younger generations possess, is it not folly to miss the most salient point of all? That being, that it is we who have showed them the way. We who have demonstrated to them how important the devices are. We who have acted as a model for what to want and how to be with all of this.

Because we do not have a lot of time with this one as far too many children are missing out on something worthy of their precious life to imitate, I ask you now, “Are you proud of what you are showing the children around the role that the technologies play in your life?” And while it may sting in the moment to stand in the presence of such a pointed question, this is what our children need. Now. Right now. Grown-ups who are proud of how they handle the devices. Grown-ups who recognize the central and powerful position they hold in the life of a child, and who carry that charge with respect and vision.

If we are going to elevate anything in life to the exclusive and lofty position that the technologies have achieved in such a short amount of time, should it not be of the highest caliber? Should it not be worthy of the very best in our children? For the truth is, the children are watching us. All of the time. They want to be like us. They want what we want. If this makes any sense to you whatsoever, then the only question is, “How and where can I do right by the children, and where is it that I am letting them down?”

 

“Harmful”

 

We all have things we do not like. People, situations, institutions and more that we believe to be threatening, damaging or overwhelming. Maybe it is the politics of the day. What our neighbors are doing. The traffic. The systems we engage with. A relative. A co-worker. The object of the distress is not so much the point here as the way we feel in the presence of that which we find injurious. This is not easy to see. For it can be difficult to impossible to see whatever is offending us as anything other than harmful.

Unless we open to a new perspective.

For instance, while we may feel justified in our feelings, when we look closely enough, separate from the “offending party” on the other side of us and what they do or do not do, the truth is, we are the ones left hurting on our side of the equation. Beyond that, because we hold to the belief that keeping the offender in the position of well, being the offender, we further ingrain the split leaving us to occupy the position of the offended one. Of the one who has damage being done to them. As in there is the offender and the offended. A kind of one side against the other scenario.

Whenever I find myself feeling as though there is no way out or around this kind of thing, I go to the body to see how it handles such situations. The body, as in that part of us that is not caught up in the past, conditioned behaviors or old beliefs. But instead, the deep animal aspect of us that has an inherent biological wisdom and truth built right in. A kind of intelligence that is beyond the wounds, beliefs and score keeping of the mind.

When it comes to the split around the “offender” and the “offended,” I think of the gut. I think of the communities of bacteria and other organisms, both beneficial and harmful, that inhabit the digestive tract. Many of us know that the presence of the friendly microbes is a big predictor of gut health. They also contribute to immune and mental vitality, make vitamins, digest food and more yet to even be discovered.

A big focus in this area is the role that the friendly bacteria play in keeping the gut colonized so that the harmful bacteria cannot take over. Cannot tip the scales as it were towards imbalance; creating discomfort and disease. In a nutshell, with enough of the “friendlies” around, the “unfriendlies,” those things that would bring us harm, are squeezed out.

But not completely.

For though we might want to imagine a gut (or a life) with nothing harmful being present, not only is it not possible, it is actually not even desirable. As far as the body is concerned, it’s not even an aim. At all.

Huh?

You see, the body needs the mix.The body is built to be in the presence of harm, and to know exactly how to proceed. From this biological perspective, it is not about eradicating harm as much as it is about keeping the balance. As much as it is about recognizing that the presence of “harmful ones” gives the rest of the organism an opportunity to strengthen itself. A chance to clarify its role and position in the mix of all that is happening to and around the life of a body. A kind of necessary workout to the system on behalf of health.

We could think of our lives in the exact same way. For though it is easy to believe that our lives would be better off without that which produces harm, that would not actually be true. For when we meet up with that which is capable of inflicting injury, it gives us an opportunity to learn and to grow. It offers the exquisite experience of us mutating towards more resilience, more strength, and more built-in know-how through the exercise of defining what and who we are, against that which we are not.

With that said, this approach calls for a high degree of personal responsibility for it is so much easier to paint the world in black and white. So much easier to categorize our existence in terms of the black hats and the white hats. So much easier to label “harm” as the enemy to either be fought against or vanquished by. But in so doing, we miss out on one of the most essential teachings around being alive in a robust way; the ability to evolve by transmuting “the harm” we come in contact with in the service of evolution to a higher order.

A lofty idea that is made real by trying something basic. The next time you are up against “harm,” ask yourself the question; “If I were to suspend being the one who is harmed, what would be possible here?” What might I see? Learn? What balance might be brought to my life through exposure to that which I find offensive?

 

A Witness

 

For many years now a car full of Jehovah Witnesses have made their way every so often to my home; taking the 3 mile trek down our dirt road to knock on my door. A section of the road, by the way, which has less than a dozen homes. Not much bang for the buck in terms of spreading the word.

Yet, they come anyway, and for the longest time that was OK by me. I got to know one of them, Patricia, a little bit. A kind, warm, grandmotherly figure. Part of me felt like it was really nothing to give them a few minutes of my time. More to the point, I do respect what they are doing (awkward and weird as it can be when they show up at your door). I also felt for them somehow; what it took to go knocking on stranger’s doors. Then there is the part of me that had a soft spot for them as my own great-grandmother, who I adored, was a Jehovah. And then one last part of me felt like to be the person I most want to be meant being open to these visitations.

Complicated.

Only, at some point, it really, really stopped working for me. The visits that began to increase in frequency, with less and less time in between. How in the beginning I might only see them once or twice a year, but then how that began to shift to every couple of months. And then, at times, even more frequent than that. Patricia started bringing more people to introduce me to. One time they even tucked their literature into my own personal writing and reflections that I had left spread out on a table on my back porch.

It was enough.

I went through all kinds of thoughts and feelings on this one. Many reflections on boundaries, and what it means to set one. There were times when I felt angry about what was happening. At other times I felt trapped. There were the moments when what was happening pulled up other boundary violations and troubles from the past. And then, my own “personal favorite,” the moments when I felt as though there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t just be OK with this.

By the time they showed back up again, I had done a lot of work on this one. When the boundary I needed to set with them came out of me, it came out clear and kind. It came out effortlessly and with grace. It came out in a way where she and I were actually on the same page; with Patricia already having recognized that this was no longer working for me.

In the end, it seems as though beyond all of my struggling with this one, I just needed to name it with her. I just needed to say out loud that it no longer worked for me for them to come by. The whole exchange was so natural that as we parted, and I have no idea which one of us initiated it, we both reached into the space and clasped hands.

I cried afterwards. The reason for my tears was the recognition that a big part of my struggle with this was that I actually and genuinely liked her.

It is so much easier to draw a line when we do not like someone, or when we are absolutely fed up. But oh how difficult to choose for ourselves (and ultimately the other) when we like someone, or when the mind keeps saying, “What’s the big deal, it’s not really harming you.” 

This is what we are left to decide in the day to day with loved ones and others we encounter. Those times and circumstances where sure, we could let it go. We could put up with it. Sure, we could tolerate it for all of the reasons the mind will come up with. But at what cost? At what cost to the Truth within, and between us?

I do not know where the line is for you, but I do know one thing; clear boundaries set the stage for a sense of personal wholeness and well-being, which translates into more harmonious and satisfying encounters with others. Even if that means doing something that feels hard. For whatever the reason.

Context

 

Last weekend my husband and I ran a 5 mile road race. This is a distance that is right at the edge of my comfort zone. Add to that a grueling 1 mile uphill in the middle of the race that is steeper than anything I have ever run. So steep, as a matter of fact, that many, many runners walk it. And not just the slow ones!

I had come into the morning on the heels of a disastrous night’s sleep. You know the ones where you aren’t even sure whether or not you slept? Given this, I had no idea what to expect from myself. Therefore, I had to make some quick mental adjustments to give myself a chance to be with a day that I had been looking forward to in a way that would be supportive as opposed to degrading.

The first adjustment I made was to lower the bar; that meant finishing became my main goal. Right alongside that was the equally important goal of enjoying myself; of soaking up the support of the crowd; of leaning into the gratitude that I felt that I can still do this; of relishing the experience of being with one of my favorite people in the world, doing something we both enjoy.

All of this put me in the position of having a fabulous time. But more than that, it opened up something in me around the kind of person I want to be, and the kind of world I want to live in; including what it takes to do so.

I have to back up for a moment here and include that the night before the race, we had watched the Fred Roger’s documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” The loving world that Mr. Rogers created, championed and protected for children kept looping through my mind as I became the recipient of so many people, strangers, smiling at me, cheering me on, and wishing me well. Even though they had no idea who I was. I was gifted over and over again with incredible support. No strings attached. It felt as though I was deserving of it just because I was there. Just because I was me, doing what I was doing in the way I was doing it.

No need for me to be first. Or keep any pace. No need for me to look like anything other than I did. Or be doing anything other than what I was. It was incredible. And it was so easy to respond in kind.

At the end of the race, I started imagining what the world would be like if this was available for each and every one of us, every single day. What it would be like to make eye contact, smile at strangers, and wish them well. I realized that what made this possible was that there was a context. A structure. Something created that runners and spectators could step into that allowed for this level of open giving and receiving. We see this at other times. Maybe it is a wedding. Or a funeral. Maybe when a baby is born. Or someone is sick.

I realized that I am no longer willing for some external set of circumstances to dictate to me when and where this can happen. What if instead of me waiting for someone else, or for the events of Life to provide the context for a genuine and easy show of open-hearted-ness to others, I, myself, became the context? And what if that context traveled with me everywhere I went? No matter what the outer circumstances.

And if this seems silly or impossible, check it against this; “What really is the point of our lives here together?” Is it to compete? Be the best? Compare? Guard against? Get our share? Win? Alienate from? Keep others in their place?

Or is it something else?

Hard Choices

 

I hear from my husband the latest news around the most recent mass killings. I am so very angry. So very tired of business as usual. So fed up with the ways that we as a people allow for, supply and even promote the most egregious and destructive of acts against our own kind. I am so done with the choices that we all continue to make that destroy and squander Life.

As hard as it is to bear witness to the atrocities that have grown far too common, what is even more difficult is getting our minds around the fact that none of the violence that occurs “out there” is separate from “in here.” Indeed, it is a startling enterprise to begin to even consider that what is outside of you, is inside of you. That this is not someone else’s problem or doing. That this is ours. All of ours.

It is easy, and oh so convenient, to think that “real” violence is something that you would never do. Something that only bad people, evil people, criminals, lunatics and the deranged perpetrate on the rest of us. Think again. There are many, many forms of violence that we all engage in daily. But because it does not result in immediate death, or look like an obvious and outward form of violence, we do not recognize it as such. But what if our definition was one that said that any thought, word, or action that devalued or harmed Life, any Life in any way, was indeed a form of violence?

How then might we view our daily habits of speech, thought and action? As in, the way our gossip tears other people down. As in, the self-criticism we engage in that harms and dismantles our own vitality. As in, the entitled and gratuitous spending choices that rip and strip the Earth of finite resources. As in, living a life of anesticization by numbing out our precious life force with whatever activity or substance we can get our hands on. As in, annihilating a stranger with our words, reducing them to nothing in our mind because they are not driving fast enough. Or behaving the way we think they should.

And just in case you believe I am only ranting at you, I am not. I include myself in this. I include all of us in this.

The “this” being, what it is that we are choosing. And I am not just talking about gun-laws. For as hard as this one has been to change, it is nothing compared to what it takes to live lives that are based on valuing Life. In all of its forms. On every level. Whether it is difficult or not. For the truth is, laws are ultimately a band-aid, and though desperately needed at this time and in certain circumstances, not nearly enough for addressing the root cause of what we are facing.

To understand this more deeply, let’s take this down into the personal. What needs to go in your life but that somehow you have refused, up to this point, to change? Where do you leap from one crisis to the next; engaging in just enough action to get back to the status quo ASAP? Reflecting and answering in such a way offers the possibility of understanding why it is that no traction ever occurs on a national level on the topic of gun violence.

For the hard truth is, the answers are personal in nature and found by looking at what is being slaughtered in your very own life, where nothing ever changes, despite the desperate cries for help. For truly, the only way to understand “out there,” is to understand “in here.” And if we could begin to do this, we would put ourselves in the powerful position of understanding something so thoroughly as to know exactly where the problem stemmed from, and then most importantly of all, know how to act with wisdom, clarity, purpose and compassion. Which by the way has nothing to do with “being soft on crime,” and everything to do with understanding a matter so deeply that the solution naturally presents itself to you, and therefore, to us.

Can you see what we are up against? Why it is so hard, impossible even, to do things collectively that we cannot do individually? How difficult what it is that I am suggesting? For if we cannot do this within ourselves, how will we change the collective experience? It would be so much easier to believe that gun control is the total answer, or that more surveillance would solve what we are up against. That more rules and more paranoia and suspicion are what is called for. That these approaches and emotional states will be what saves us. But none of this will ever be effective at the level we require. Why? Because it is not addressing the root cause. In other words, why settle for catching the shooter, after the damage has already been done, when we could work to develop a world where there was no need for anyone to become a shooter?

But to do this would require far more effort than choosing fear, blame and a kind of armoring up; calling instead for a high degree of personal responsibility and social accountability. Despite the arduous nature of this course of action, the reward would be great. Monumental and far-reaching. For our attempts and our solutions would be coming from a place of Truth; putting us in the exquisite and Life-affirming position of knowing what is truly called for as we step forward. In short, we quite literally become the solution. This as opposed to looking for one, or expecting others to find one for us.

I understand you may find me naive. Maybe even dangerous in proposing such far-out, “impossible” and idealistic ideas. And perhaps you would be right on certain levels, and from certain perspectives. Maybe. But I will tell you this: People who value their own life and the lives of those around them do not make these kinds of choices. Do not need to be legislated and protected against. That right there is the Truth. As for the rest of it, well…you decide.

For if we know anything about our nature, we know that it can be far easier to be distracted by the wrong things than to do the hard work that the right things require. That it can be so much easier to imagine things out there coming at us, and doing to us versus knowing that we are at cause in our own lives. This is risky for many of us to consider because there are no guarantees. And perhaps because most of all, what we are talking about is such an enormous evolutionary leap to find within ourselves that it would require putting down a whole bunch about who and what we believe ourselves to be, and how it is that we “must” live.

The bottom line is this: Our lives are far more valuable than we are making them out to be. All you need to do is to look around to see how we treat children, people different than us, the species of the Earth. All you need to do is to look at the dehumanizing medical, political  and educational systems that we claim to be the finest on Earth, and yet daily ignore the real needs of the people moving through those institutions, and who it is they are meant to serve.

Something like this cannot merely be spoken of, but must be lived; day in and day out. It is a process, and never about doing it right, and always about the intention that lives behind why you do, what you do. This is not easy to accomplish in the times we are living in where there are so many shows to be watched, so many people to follow, so many drinks to be had, edibles to be consumed, worries to foster, and grievances to be fed. Lest you believe I am demonizing these things, I am not. I am merely, and strongly, pointing out that they are not the source of sustenance with which to feed, value and source a Life.

My practical response to this? I for one will be waging an all out inner campaign against violence. It began on the day of hearing the news when I chose to take a walk to clean up trash that others had dumped instead of sitting at home stewing. It will continue with as many ways as I can imagine to gather people together in the service of what is uplifting and essential. Most of all, I am pledging an all out campaign on any and all life-negating and critical thoughts that I harbor against myself and other.

Too simplistic? Too unrelated to the topic at hand? Maybe. But what if it were true?? What if when enough of us make a choice to honor and value Life in all of its forms, we will weave together a world where honoring Life is the beginning, middle and end of literally every single thing we do, speak, think and pray for? Both individually and collectively.

I’m in. How about you?

Calling

I am unexpectedly drawn to sit on the back porch this morning. This is an unusual urge as I have my list of things that I need and want to do. There are chickens to be fed and watered. There are raspberries to be picked. There is the curriculum that needs revamping and the submission that needs to be completed. In my to-do list mind, this is the abbreviated version.

Sitting down though just feels so right in this moment that I can’t imagine engaging in anything else. In the stopping I have the chance to tune into what is all around me. The biggest part of that being the bird song; there are so many voices out there. One in particular rises to the surface. A female turkey. I hear her call over and over again. I cannot see her, though I know she is close by. I begin to wonder about her and what she is doing. Why is she calling? My question is answered when several minutes later I begin to hear the sound of another turkey answering in the distance.

Though I will impose my human interpretation here, risking projection, I believe she has been calling to find herself in the presence of another like her. One who understands who she is and what it is that she needs. One who can accompany her through the woods; understanding her ways, while naturally supporting her. One that allows her to be fully herself.

I once heard someone say that we live in a “Call and Response Universe.” A kind of format where when the call goes out, we are answered. More than answered, we are responded to on a level that defies the ways of the ordinary mind with all of its limitations, distortions, accusations, criticisms, and defense mechanisms. The very part of the mind that we must get past in order to send out our truest and most natural call. For in truth, how often do we not feel met, responded to or understood, simply for lack of trying? Simply because we have not sent out a genuine call?

Of course, we could all say what it was that made us stop calling. What harms were done. What neglect we suffered under. What lack of response we were met with. All of the rationalizations around why it is not safe for us to genuinely call out for what we need, yearn for, hope and desire in our lives. All of the evidence that we could give for why it is better to stay mute. And of course, all of that could be true on some level. Yet, none of that changes one simple fact; that call still exists within us. That yearning for our cry be met and received still lives on.

So, what would it take? What would need to change? What old story would you have to let go of? What courage would you need to muster to send out your call to those of your kind?

Our lives, and therefore the Life of the world, is in dire need of this. In need of all of us sending out authentic and life-affirming calls to action to not only say what we need, but equally, to repute that which we do not need. Calls that come up from our truest and deepest selves. Ones that are not hesitant, ashamed, awkward, diluted or distorted by “What will they think?” Ones that are unafraid of taking the chance of not being met, or of being ridiculed, dismissed or ignored.

The call can be so quiet as to feel like a tiny whisper within you, or it can be sent so loudly as to feel like a roar. How big or small, loud or hushed is not what matters. What matters is that you send out your call with both the knowing and the expectation that you will be responded to. Even if that means a shaking and a quivering in your voice as you call out.

Control

 

I have hung laundry on a morning where the skies are split between a baby blue and a steely grey. Sun? Rain? Even though it looks like I only have a 50/50 chance of the clothes successfully drying, I keep going because this is the day I have decided to do laundry.

Right from the start, I can feel myself falling into a familiar inner struggle; a kind of attempt to muscle something through that I have absolutely no dominion over. I feel it in the way my jaw tightens. I notice it in the way my eyes keep searching the sky. I experience it through the repetitive thoughts I keep having. Somewhere inside, it feels as if my obsessive attention will turn the sun on, and the clouds off. Almost as if my personal efforts will turn the weather in favor of what I want. As if.

I find myself thinking, “It’s not too much to ask to get just a little more time before the rain.” A feeling that I really need this to turn out a particular way, maybe even deserve it to, based on the extra effort I will have to make to take it all down, and still need to dry it. Based, really, on because this is how I want the day to go. It is as if I am trying to force something to happen. That the tightening against what I don’t want will make it turn out the way I want it to. As if I can somehow bargain with something that is clearly beyond my sphere of authority.

I know this might sound like no big deal, silly even. And I might even agree with you were it not for the fact that this one seemingly no-big-deal moment serves as a reflection of the ways in which I attempt to control what is most assuredly beyond my control. Where, when and how I want to manage Life to go a certain way. All of the inner bargaining, justifying, and tension that mounts as I live the fantasy that I have power over what I do not.

And there you have it. How often it is that we spend our precious life force, our sense of ease and well-being, along with our ability to be aligned with reality, on exerting ourselves not only unnecessarily, but without a chance in hell of ever achieving what it is that we are trying to make happen. And even when we do have moments that leave us believing that all of our forcing has gotten us what we want and need, at what cost has this occurred? How much painful delusion do we continue to generate in the process?

Of course we all want life to go as we want it to go. That is only human. The real trick though is cultivating the discernment between that which you can effect, and that which you cannot. Between efforts well spent, and those that are ill-conceived. Between attempts that nourish, enliven and uplift from those that harm, deaden, and are based in unreality.

When contemplating something of this magnitude, it helps to start simple; as in with something that feels like a low stakes situation to you. A place where you can experiment with learning the difference between what you have control over, and what you don’t. Weather is a good one. So is traffic. More challenging are things like what other people do. And while the intellect may rise up and say “Of course I know I can’t control weather, traffic, or other people,” that is often not how we really feel, way down deep. Never mind act.

What this means is, we need to look beyond the rational mind. It means looking to where you find yourself exerting effort that is out of keeping with the reality of the situation; no matter what the mind might be saying. One way to do this is to notice when you find yourself working really hard to try and make something happen. And if you can catch yourself in any given moment, you might try asking, “Is there anything that I can actually do about this?” Or, “Is there anything required of me here?”

As hard as it can be to have the presence to even know to ask this question, the next piece is even more challenging. That being, the letting go. That being, that when you discover it is beyond you, can you stop the wrestling? Can you calm the endless what-if’s? Can you release the non-productive, fruitless and delusional efforting? And when you can’t, can you watch yourself with kindness as you struggle like a fish on a hook?

All of this takes practice. A commitment to see things as they are. Along with the patience that is required to allow for something new to take hold.

In case you are wondering, once I put the weather struggle down and went on with my day, it was effortless to respond when the rains finally came. In the meantime, I had a wonderful tension-free morning reading, doing chores, writing, and picking raspberries.

Permission

 

I have a writing buddy that I regularly talk with by phone. She is at the beginning of writing a book. I am at the end. Even though we are in different places in the process, it never ceases to amaze me that no matter what topic is up for either one of us, there is always much to be gained in a partnership that holds two ends of the same continuum.

Recently, we had gone a month without meeting due to scheduling conflicts and time commitments. We had agreed though to keep working on our projects, despite the gap in our regularly scheduled check-ins. When we finally did talk, what we both discovered was that neither one of us had done much. No submissions had been tended. No chapters edited. No calls or inquiries made. It was easy to see that both of us were feeling like we were coming to the call with not much to speak of.

However, standing in the reflection of the other, it was much easier to see the truth of what each of us had actually been doing, and giving space for. All of the ways that a lot had been happening for both of us. That we had indeed been “working” on our projects on some deeper, perhaps harder to see, below the surface kind of way. Recognizing this in both of us, my buddy proposed that we give ourselves total permission to continue doing the supposed “nothing” of the past month for another two weeks. That we give ourselves over to giving lots and lots of permission to what was already happening. That we, in effect, trust the process deeply enough to let the so-called nothing be a central part of all the doing that is required in getting a book written and published.

This is not easy to do in a world that demands productivity. A kind of “show me the money” mentality. A kind of “you are only as good as your last sale” attitude.  A world that applauds speed and how much you can generate in the shortest amount of time possible. A world that does not often recognize the slower, deeper and more invisible work of creating. A world that is too often blind in its ability to honor the pacing, rhythm and integrity of the process; favoring outcome instead.

Permission is defined as “formal consent.” A type of “authorization.” When applied to the process of giving birth to something, that part feels right. What I would argue with is where that consent and authorization come from. I say this because of how many of us have come to believe that permission is an externally generated bestowal we hope to god to get from another, or perhaps the culture at large. However, this belief has got it backwards. For at its truest and most life-giving, real authorization is granted from the inside out. It something you claim as a birthright. It is something you offer to yourself as a sacred and irrefutable fact of Life.

The permission to be who you are, expressing yourself as you express yourself in any given moment, is not only the greatest gift you can give to yourself, it is the greatest of what you can bestow to another. For in Truth, if each of us had the strength, the support, the inner recognition and the clarity of purpose to give ourselves all the permission we needed, all would be right not only in our own world, but in all the worlds at large.

My suggestion? Find a permission buddy. Someone you make a pact with to show up as you are, while offering them the same. Someone whom you can trust to bring forward ideas, thoughts, emotions, wonderings, concerns and more. A mutually agreed upon consent and authorization that gives the space required for a human being to be in a process, whatever that looks or feels like, where that effort is seen and honored, and where the end game is merely a by-product.

Can you imagine what it would feel like to not only give yourself total permission to be as you are, doing what you are doing, but to also be so blessed as to find that with another?