Friction

 

It isn’t supposed to be like this. This isn’t supposed to be happening. This isn’t supposed to be here. It’s not supposed to be so difficult, so… How many times a day do we think or believe some version of that? Some story around how things should, or could, or must be, different. Other, than how they actually are.

If it would all just go our way immediately and seamlessly, be more to our liking, then, finally, things would be better. Easier. More of what we really deserve, need, or want.

But what if there is a reason? What if there is a point for all the stuff we do not like or want? What if we are not far-thinking enough to know that not having it as we want it, when we want it, is precisely what we need; for one reason or another. And what if, finding a way to include all of the things that we do not want, serves as an avenue for getting clearer on what we really do want, believe in, or value? What if what we want, and do not want, are two inseparable sides of a necessary coin?

Likely there is not a single one of us who has not lived through what we did not want. What we found to be harmful, disappointing, overwhelming, frustrating, offensive, and more. Something that we felt just should not be as it is. And then, how many of us, by living through what it was that we did not want, come to have a clearer picture of what we really did want. That there was a gain to be had by being in association with something that made us uncomfortable. Something we found undesirable. Impossible. Unbearable. Difficult. Inconvenient.

But now, as “luck and good fortune” would have it, it seems as though we are about to be in the historically “enviable” position of being the first humans beings on the planet to live a “friction-less existence” as promised to us by the makers of Siri, Alexa, and other technological personal assistants. It seems we are on the threshold now of an existence that will no longer require us to put up with the things in daily life that we find inconvenient, require too much of our effort, or that try our patience. That our smart new assistants will pave the way for a friction-free life. And we will finally be happy. Free of everything that disturbs.

Is this an ideal we should be aspiring to? Is this a value we want to pass onto the generations to come? And when we are considering all that we are gaining here, in the true fashion of looking at both sides of the coin, what does the other side say in terms of what we might be losing?

In discovering what is being lost, can we then go on to claim what we never want to let go of in the first place?

Of course, none of the ads for our new and improved lives with our ever-available, on-call assistants will ever mention that even with all of our new ease and conveniences, happiness remains ever more an inside job. One that is born of our own making, and one that by nature cannot be had by whisking away what disturbs. One that cannot be promised to us by another. Even if that other is as “smart” and infallible as a machine.

It is also worth considering that in modern times we are equating never having to wait to receive a purchased online good, having immediate access to any song ever written, or any question we might have be spoken aloud and answered instantaneously, with what makes for an amazing life. A redefining of our lives is occurring here through the screen technologies that presupposes life would be better if we should never want, or wait, be disturbed, or go without.

Is this true, possible, or even desirable to expect?

 

Inspired by The Abraham Teachings

You Cannot

 

You cannot coerce a woman who keeps her own counsel.

You cannot control a woman who finds pleasure in the forest.

You cannot silence a woman whose voice is her own.

You cannot banish a woman who knows where she belongs.

You cannot command a woman who has charted her own course.

You cannot defile a woman who belongs to Something More.

You cannot cheapen a woman who knows the value of her own life.

You cannot punish a woman who knows the cause to which she owes her allegiance.

You cannot limit a woman who knows her soul to be without bounds.

You cannot steal from a woman whose treasures are beyond your reach.

You cannot own a woman who knows her worth.

You cannot possess a woman’s body who knows her wildest nature.

You cannot demoralize a woman who answers to a higher call.

You cannot impose falsehoods on a woman who has touched the Truth.

You cannot subjugate a woman who knows the power of being a woman.

You cannot…

 

House Guests

 

It is always amazing to me how much can be learned just by paying attention to the ways that the most obvious occurrences in our lives relate to larger themes around how we are with ourselves, and with one another.

Recently, we had a house guest come to stay with us while he was in the area working on the new home he is building. As it was a night that I teach yoga, I came in on the later end of my husband and our guest finishing up with dinner. As I was sitting down, our guest asked if I would like some wine from the bottle he had brought with him as a thank you to us. I actually did not want any, but in an attempt to make him feel comfortable and show appreciation for his thoughtfulness, I said yes. To which my husband responded that he also would take a little, even though he had earlier declined.

The next morning I woke up feeling a little off. What’s going on? Am I getting sick? No, I realized, it was the wine. Despite the paltry amount that I had imbibed, what was leaving me “off” was the taking in of something that I did not want. It was the agreeing to something that did not suit me in order to stay in the good graces of another. It was the story that I had told myself about who I would be if I said no to his gracious offer.

Later that day, my husband mentioned that he had woken up that morning with a bit of a sinus headache. He attributed this to the wine. To the handful of sips that he too, had taken when he actually did not want any; getting into it only because I had taken some, and he didn’t want to seem ungrateful in light of my saying yes. He then went on to tell me that when he had seen our guest that morning he had asked him how he had slept. “Not good,” he was told, “I think it was the wine.”

Round and round and round we go with one another. Doing things we really do not want to do in order to please another. We do not want others to think we are rude, selfish, ungrateful, anti-social, or some other characterization that we have whipped up in our minds that we do not want them to label us as. It’s all so ironic. And sad. For in denying who and how we really are, we deny what we most yearn for; authentic and satisfying connection with others. And because we have not given ourselves permission to be as we are in any given moment, we cannot give permission for others to be as they are. Which leaves us coming together based on something that none of us are.

What if we leaned into, banked on, had faith in, that when we speak our truth in the company of another, no matter how difficult, awkward, inconvenient, or socially inappropriate, that it will always be for the best of all concerned? Despite any difficulties or hesitations that we might encounter.

In our home that night a domino effect was created. One that parallels what we do with one another on a regular basis. Our house guest brought something to us possibly because he felt like that was the thing you do when you stay at someone’s home; that we would  think him a thoughtful person for bringing us something. Or maybe un-thoughtful if he didn’t. My husband and I took something we did not want because we felt obliged, wanting him to feel at home with us and included; believing the false gesture of taking something we did not want would pave the way for him to feel welcome.

While there is nothing wrong with offering appreciation to another through a gift, there is most certainly something amiss when we allow ourselves to be locked into habit patterns with one another that keep us from allying with the truth of our experience. Whatever that truth may be. Whether or not that truth is convenient, inconvenient, easy to say or hear, hard to say or hear. It takes tremendous clarity, conviction, and courage to stand in the truth of your experience when in the company of another who has expectations of you. Or who you believe has expectations of you.

Can you imagine, though, what might happen if we all took responsibility for our own experience while in the presence of another, and acted on that as thoughtfully and straightforwardly as we could? Could you imagine letting go of the social “niceties” that keep us pinned to the wrong things? Can you imagine how good it would feel to not have to fake your way through an interaction?

And when we get hung up on how relating in this way is not possible for one reason or another, can we remember that, maybe, just maybe, we would all be doing one another a huge favor. That maybe over time, we would all let out a collective sigh of relief around the fact that we that we no longer had to act in ways that left us feeling “hungover” with one another.

We Belong To Each Other

 

I have been teaching at the college level for more than a decade. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me on so many levels. And yet, I am back wondering again, as I have been over the past couple of years, just how long I will continue in this role given the accelerating changes I am seeing in the students who are showing up before me.

Over the years, I have witnessed a noticeable decrease in attention. I have watched as they have grown increasingly sleep deprived. I have born witness to the growing attitude that they would rather be elsewhere, and doing other things; mainly, and by their own admission, wanting to get back into bed, back to a screen, and more often than not, both. I have felt and heard of their lack of interest and enthusiasm for the college experience. I have observed in the halls during the times between classes how they are more interested in being bent over a device than they are in hanging out with friends, or taking a moment for themselves.

While all of this has been, rightly so, cause for much concern, truly it pales in comparison to what I have been up against in one of my classes this semester. That being behavior that would be more “appropriate” to middle school (if that case can even be made), than it is to college seniors. I have been required daily to handle such things as students talking when another is talking. Students who are more interested in their side conversations than they are in paying attention to what is being taught. Along with students who regularly miss class, and come late without a thought to check in with me, or explain why.

As appalling as all of this has been, it gets worse. Much, much worse. A core group of students from this particularly difficult class have been regularly smirking and nudging each other, quite openly I might add, over another student in class whose very way of being they have deemed worthy of their ridicule. Their disdain and disregard for this student’s basic worth and humanness has been ongoing. Their complete lack of awareness has been chilling; right down to the fact that they do not even possess the common sense and the decency to know that if they are making a choice to demean another, they should at the very least be making attempts to hide what they are doing. That at least would be a step up for it would demonstrate that they knew what they were doing was wrong. But no such thing has been in evidence.

Despite a number of interventions on my part, this has continued.

And so last week, when it occurred again, I asked the student who was being targeted if he would do me a favor and get something from my car. I did this so that I could speak to the class without him being present. and therefore potentially, humiliated. Once he was gone, something inside of me erupted with such force that I had to pace the room and pause regularly to keep up with the intensity of what was moving through me. I remember very little of the specifics of what I said, but what I do remember was the poignancy of my hand over my heart and the message: We belong to one another. And what is being done here is unconscionable, and will not continue.

In this time of terrible and caustic lack of basic human decency and civility toward one another, whether in the real world or the virtual one, it has trickled down and is overtaking our children. What will become of us when there no longer exists a generation who has the basic foundations for how to respect another human being? A kind of respect that both includes and honors our differences. And one, by the way, that cannot be remediated through programs offered, but that must be lived, taught, and demonstrated in our homes and in our communities.

Do you know what the kicker is? The student who was being targeted, when I took him into the hall to ask him if he would do me a favor, worriedly looked at me and said, “Did I do something wrong? Am I in trouble?” I can barely think on this as the injustice around the person being harmed being the very same one wondering whether or not they have done something wrong, scrapes at me so deeply as to be almost unbearable.

Postscript: Not one of the students, directly or indirectly, involved in making fun of this student has yet to step forward. I find this to be perhaps the most troubling of all. For as human beings we are sure to make many, many mistakes with one another. We can absolutely count on that. Therefore, the true reveal of our character and mettle is born out of and demonstrates itself in our ability to self-correct when confronted with the truth of what we are doing. To re-do, re-work, and make repair for the mistakes and the atrocities we create with one another.

And yet, in this case, not one has stepped forward. Not one.

 

(Thank you to Vici for nudging me along on this one.)

Missing

 

I am missing the desert.

I miss the simplicity and the directness of living on and so close to the land. I miss aligning myself with the rhythms of the natural cycles. I miss the uncomplicated actions and procedures of tending to my most immediate and real needs. I miss the urgency of living with strong intention. I miss the vast spaciousness of time out of time. I miss the honest efforts of living simply. I miss the like-minded camaraderie and company of other women who had chosen as I had chosen. I miss knowing the immediacy and the importance of this, and more.

We were told that as hard as it was to spend four days and nights out on our own in the desert seeking guidance, that the real test would be coming back into our lives and finding ways to live our vision directly into the world. They were not wrong. As hard as the experience was, truly one of the hardest of my life, there was a clarity about it all that struggles to find itself an easy and permanent home in the midst of the noise, distractions, expectations, and obligations. A part leftover from those days that yearns to give over to everything that was discovered and known.

Where is all of this leading? Perhaps to the knowing that we are best served to notice, and to deeply tune into what it is that is missing from our lives. To allow ourselves to feel it all the way down to its root. And then, to do whatever is within our power to remember, and to re-instate what has been lost to us. And to the world.

But of course, that would require that we are in a position to even have the space to pause, and to listen for more than the relentless, insistent inner and outer drumbeat of doing. Always doing.

Embodied Need

 

I teach yoga from the Kripalu Yoga Tradition. The core teachings hold that the body is central and seminal to who we are. It is what we come back to moment by moment; both on and off the mat. It is the entry point to Presence. It is the grounding place to further explore the mind and our relationship to Spirit. It is a starting locale for a healthy, happy life, and a deeper connection to All That Is.

Personally, this perspective and practice has saved me. It has provided me with a way not only back into right relationship with my body, but back into my life, and its connections to self, other, and Spirit. This is no small feat in the body-hating and alienating times and culture we live in. And in case you believe that the times we live in allow more freedom for how we express our bodies, personal and societal exploitation of the female form by both men and women does not, has not, and will never constitute a respect and reverence for the body; despite what many think, or have been taught to believe.

To come back to the body requires great skill in navigating your way through because many of us have come to see the body as a foreign, awkward, uncomfortable, de-personalized, and even dangerous place to inhabit. Which is why, as it turns out, so many of us just don’t. Which is why so many of us tap into whatever we can to avoid coming into contact with what is there through the seemingly infinite multitude of ways to numb out. We can do this so effectively and continuously as to dis-inhabit our bodies on a daily basis.

Take bodily need for instance. Pure, unadulterated, straight up, real live needs of the body.

An exploration of need would reveal that many of us have been told what it is that we need by an outside source. And that that telling has often been in contradiction to our direct experience of what it is that we actually need. And then, of course, there is all of the approval and the intrinsic reward of being someone who doesn’t “have needs.” Those of us who subjugate our needs for others. Those of us who never make a wave, issue a demand, or have any kind of a need that might even slightly inconvenience another, or rock the boat of the status quo.

How often have we been forced to accept what most assuredly does not truly feed us? Or make any sense at all to us. How often has the legitimate meeting of needs in our culture been relegated to the “needy” bin; disdained for its “inconvenient” and unsightly requests? How often have we been frozen and locked in terror around speaking a real need? How often have we been unaware that we actually have a choice around how our needs are expressed and met? How many years have we spent being conditioned into the inability to be able to properly identify what it is that we most need? Or bullied into believing that it is not safe to articulate such? And in how many ways have the avenues for healthy recognition and expression of our most basic human needs been closed off? Obliterated.

It takes great courage, commitment, and determination to know yourself at the level of raw human need. It is a scary and sometimes uncertain place. It is a place that might draw ridicule or censorship. Interestingly enough, the humiliation and censoring is just as likely to come from within as without. Through it all of course, is the conditioning that each of our minds creates, listing out all of the reasons why it would be best to not enter into the deep, dark, uncharted territory of pure human need. That it would be better to go without. Or accept what does not satisfy. Sadly enough, this level of neglect and denial will be supported by those around us who are trying just as hard as we are to deny and ignore real need.

Such a quandary. Where to begin in the midst of this? Why with the body, of course! And we begin with what is most basic. As basic as, do you know when you are hungry, and can you feed yourself in a way that nourishes? As basic as, do you know when you are tired, and can you allow yourself to rest? As basic as, do you know when it feels good or not to be in the company of another, and can you allow yourself to act accordingly?

The body cares not for clocks, outer imposed schedules, or social niceties. The body needs what it needs, when it needs it. Period. For your sake, and for the sake of the world, find a practice that puts you back in touch with the Timeless Truths of the body’s deepest and truest needs.

The Consciousness of Inclusion

 

I am driving to take a yoga class one morning and I am suddenly struck by how hard it can sometimes be to be a human being in the world. There’s the traffic. Unmet needs. The information overload. Illness. Pain. Other people. Pollution. Bills. Fill in the blank.

This line of thinking gets drawn into full relief as I walk up the steps to the yoga studio and am met with a strange chemical smell followed by what sounds like an old school dentist drill on steroids. Construction. It goes on below us all throughout class. Great.

How do we say “yes” to what is here, and simultaneously work to change what is not working in our world? How do we see what is possible and let go of where we are needlessly bashing ourselves up against something that is never going to budge? How do we expect from ourselves and others what is decent and reasonable, and maybe even noteworthy, and forgive all the inevitable ways that we and others will not match up to our hopes and expectations? How do we give life the serious intent and commitment that it deserves while holding it as lightly and easily as we would a funny, well-placed joke?

And how do we know what to do, when? As in, in any given moment, which side of the coin “should” we fall to? Further, when we choose a side, can we remember to always remember to include the other end?

As I step out of class, a man is carrying full water bottles into the lobby, and empty ones back out. I hold the door for him and ask,”How’s it going?“Living the dream,” he says to me with what I detect as a note of sarcasm. I respond by saying “I really never know what to make of it when someone says that to me.” To which he says, “Sometimes it all just seems like a dream.” Pause. “Or maybe a nightmare.”

As I walk away I think to myself, “Dream? Nightmare? That’s up to us.” But as I think about it more I also see that not only does it depend upon our level of consciousness, but that it is actually both. That life actually includes it all. Always. The question being, how will we be within ourselves and with one another as we live out our individual and collective dream-nightmares?

Ignorance And Addiction

 

Ignorance: the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.

Addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit forming substance.

One of the requirements of the college course that I teach is that the students must leave any and all devices in their bags in the room next door. I instituted this policy years ago for several reasons. One. As long as the devices are around, on or not, the screens and what they offer is what the students are thinking about. Two. They can be on their devices 24/7, but they can only do what we are doing in this class twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes. Three. As the grown up in the room I have determined that this is an essential boundary to create so that the learning environment is honored and protected; giving the students a chance to not only engage in a direct way with what we are doing, but as importantly these days, to know themselves separate from the pull and the distractions of the devices.

This week, a new player arrived on the scene: the iWatch.

After class, it came to my attention that two students were checking their iWatches while we were in the midst of doing a relaxation technique. As I was describing this to my husband later that day, he said to me “That is so disrespectful.”  I admit that when I was thinking about this behavior the word “disrespectful” did cross my mind, but I realized quickly that what these students had done had absolutely nothing to do with respect.

An issue of respect would have been a step up on their part. It would have implied that they knew something and could act on that knowing. It would have meant that they knew to value and esteem what was happening in the room, and could tailor their actions accordingly. It would have required that they understood how their behavior might be impacting others, even if they themselves did not value what was happening in class. It would have necessitated understanding that a teacher would expect their full attention. Most of all, it would have challenged them to see that their life was worth far more respect than many of them give themselves, and that learning a way to relax held the potential of improving their lives.

But do you know what I am seeing? I am seeing that they do not even know that it is disrespectful. Or that they do know, and that they just cannot help themselves. I do not know which is worse. Because either way, what we are talking about here is a familial and societal breakdown around the essential role we as the grown-ups are meant to play in the lives of our children. A role that requires that we both teach them what to value and respect, while protecting them from their own ignorances as well as untoward external influences.

Instead, we are failing to educate and impart the most basic and important types of knowledge and levels of awareness to our children. Simultaneously, we are cultivating, or at least colluding with, addiction.

Where have all the grown-ups gone?

FOMO

Fear of Missing Out.

In our attempts to keep up with what the technologies demand of us now, we have tapped into and amplified a kind of deep inner tension and primal human fear that seems to sit squarely on our chest, day in and day out. And it is one that we are passing on to our children. That being, the unbearable terror of being left out of the loop. Of not knowing something. Of being “excluded.”

Does it in any way strike you as ironic, or perhaps more to the point, sad, that the more ways that we can know and connect to one another, the more intense the fear of missing something, or of being left out has grown? With our virtually infinite number of ways to gain access to anything and anyone now, there is still the ever-present fear that, if even for a moment you step away from your device, don’t bring it with you, or god forbid don’t answer or check something that comes in, that you will miss something that you cannot afford to miss.

Can you allow yourself to take a step back and feel all the way through you the intensity and the burden that this places on a life? And for a moment, can you imagine the enormous, indelible, and fear-based imprint this is leaving on our children? The anxiety, the vigilance, and the imprisonment that this generates within their growing psyches? And can you extrapolate out to how all of this leads them to believe that there is one recourse, and one recourse only; remain on guard and ever-attached to the demands of the machines. Always. No matter the cost.

No matter the way that it interferes with their ability to think their own thoughts, or to organize their time as they see fit. No matter how this interferes with sleep or with the experience of spending uninterrupted time with another. No matter the way that they, like Pavlov’s dogs, are continually at the beck and call of pings as opposed to the call of their own soul.

Think this one through. Or better yet, as an experiment, step away for a time, and see what happens. And if this feels too extreme for you, begin by asking yourself one simple question; “Realistically speaking, what am I most likely to miss out on, the vast majority of the time?” Another political rant? Another recycling of the same old themes in the news hopped up to make them seem as if they are new and worthy of your attention? A cute emogee? A post about how great and care-free another person’s life is, or how “amazing” their child is? A string of time-wasting, inane, throw-away, or insecure texts? A ridiculous picture or another stupid video that you just have to see, right now? A tweet from someone that you do not, and will not, ever know?

It just goes on and on.

It is time to get real with this one. Especially for our children. Otherwise, both they and we are doomed to suffer through the most obscene, asinine, time-consuming, and soul-sucking experiences that have ever been available to human beings. All of this happening every single day of our lives, and all in the service of never, ever, missing out on a single thing.

Interestingly enough, and despite all of our best efforts to keep up with the output being generated through the screens, we may just find that, in the end, we have indeed missed out. That we were, in fact, justified in our fears around missing something. Only, it will not be what we imagined. It will be something far worse.

 


 

 

Participation

 

I am in a yoga class, and the teacher is encouraging us to be sincere about our willingness to pay attention to the signals that the body is giving us. Instead of forcing or imposing something on the body, she asks, “Could we consider participating with the movement of our breath, and the true rhythms of our bodies?”

I cannot get this question out of my mind.

What would it be like to participate with myself in this way? How would it feel? Where would it take me? To participate is to share in something. To take part of. To enter into. To join in. There is no part of this definition that proposes a “doing to.” Or worse yet, a “getting done to.”

Think about it. How often do you do something to your body that does not feel good to you? Maybe it is eating or drinking too much, or ingesting the wrong kinds of things for your constitution. Maybe it is not getting enough sleep, or satisfying movement each and every day. Maybe it is using sugar or caffeine to perk the body up, only to go through the inevitable crash later on. Why do we do this? How is it that we have created a kind of split within ourselves where we can be feeling and knowing one thing, and then choose something in violation of that?

And how is it that not only do we do these things to ourselves, but that we also “let them” get done to us? Maybe it means working in a job where the corporate culture does not make enough room to meet the basic needs of the body; ones like respect, hunger, elimination, a sane pace, and rest. Maybe it means being in relationship with people who are so unsupportive, difficult, or harmful to be around that the best our little bodies can do is to ingest emotional toxins and turn them into tension, fear, and armor in the body.

To participate with the body is to enter into a relationship that is already there. Already set up for us to join into. Already available to share with us the gems of what it means to be an embodied being. We have forgotten this because we have come to believe that we can live outside of ourselves. We have come to believe that we can override the instincts and the messages of the body. We have come to believe that not only can the body wait, but that it should be able to line up with our modern day machine ethics of going and working 24/7.

It demonstrates just how far we have gone astray as people that we even need to make this a thing that we remediate and work on. No baby needs to be taught this. Nor any toddler. It is only as we get more and more conditioned that we lose track of the truths of the body. That we start to ignore or abhor its functioning, its needs, and its wants.

Try this. The next time you feel at odds with what is happening in your body, pause. Take a breath. Then, gently ask your body; What do you need? And then, go get it. Or do it. Or stop doing it. Whatever it would take for you to honor the need and participate fully with your experience of being in this body, in this moment.

The truth is, the only way that we can participate in this life is through a body. There is no other way. No other option. Instead of seeing this level of participation as a chore, an inconvenience, or unnecessary, what if you made the decision to fully show up for what it was that was happening with your body? No questions asked. Only a willingness to learn to remember what you have forgotten, but that is coded deep within you. Just a curiosity and a commitment around how you could develop into becoming a better participant.