Trembling

 

“God is in the trembling.” I read this, and it gives me peace. Imagine it. What if God truly were in the things that we found most difficult? Overwhelming. Unbearable. Gross. Messy. Shameful. Painful. Unsightly. Unseemly.

Personally, I resonate most with the healing and spiritual traditions that make lots and lots of room for being human. The ones that teach that for us to know our divine nature, and for us to have any chance of feeling at home here in our own bodies, is to embrace and be with the density and the muck of our humanity. The ones that say that if we travel straight into the heart of the very experiences that feel like too much to be with, this is where we will find not only our connection to All That Is, but a greater sense of ease about who we are, and how to be here.

This is not meant to be known as a concept, an idea, or even as a set of instructions that you follow, but instead, as a felt sense. Something you can feel and know in your gut. As in I know this to be true in every single part of me; from my brain to my bones and beyond. A  direct experience of what is actually happening for you in the form of the trembling, the sorrow, the physical sensations, the irritations, the fears, and more.

This is an experience that is separate from what the rational mind or other people say is OK or how it is that you need to be socially in order to fit in. It is a kind of knowing from within that penetrates and permeates the totality of who we are. A kind of going in wherever you are, and then coming out on the other side. But it can be a very long trip from standing in the trembling to coming out the other side. Therefore, how do we make our way?

We begin by noticing what we will not allow in ourselves. And ever so gently, we begin to inquire why that might be. We begin to notice the ways that we want absolutely no part of some parts of ourselves. And then we do the inconceivable. We give whatever is there, permission to be there. As is. No strings. No demands. No time limits. No hiding and no shaming.

This runs so contrary to our collective beliefs that we must be continuously on guard against something arising which we feel should not, cannot, must not, be there. It runs contrary to the thoughts that say if I accept this about myself I will be kicked out, worthless, the object of ridicule, a deserving recipient of shame, unsafe. Or. If I allow this to be here, it will never go away. Or. Agreeing to it being here says I want it.

We have come to believe that only by achieving some other, “better” version of us will we be OK. More acceptable. More worthy. More…whatever. Many of us spend our entire lives trying to be good enough, holy enough, moral enough, worthy enough, smart enough, thin enough, young enough. It might be one thing if this actually worked. If it ever did produce a real experience of feeling more whole. But far too often, it just doesn’t.

Why is that? Because as soon as you have satisfied one condition of being better, another one pops up, and you will forever more find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to constantly monitor and upgrade. Monitor and upgrade. Monitor and upgrade.

It is a finish line that just keeps getting moved. A terrible and endless trap. Demoralizing and maddening at best. But ultimately, and at worst, the absolute wrong idea of who we truly are, along with what it is that is happening for us.

Recently, I began experimenting with something I picked up out of Brene Brown’s book Braving The Wilderness. In it she tells a story about right before she went on the Oprah Show; how she was freaking out around all the ways that she wasn’t enough of this or that. To counteract this awful and soul-crushing inner and made-up experience, she sat down and wrote herself a permission slip. Old school. Just like the ones you used to write out and sign for a kid going on a field trip.

Only this one was for her. This one was to give herself permission to be exactly who she is. Give it a try. The next time you find yourself fretting over how you don’t measure up, give yourself the permission, verbal or written, to be exactly who you are. As you are. And what you are, in any given moment.

P.S. In case there is any confusion, this is never about acting out on yourself or others “the trembling.” It is instead about feeling and recognizing what is there. Often, we are afraid to be with what is there because we are afraid of what we might “do.” Remember though, feeling something and acting something out are two entirely different things. To feel what is there is to take responsibility for. To act out what is there is to project your experience outside of yourself; the opposite of taking responsibility.

Truly, what an important distinction and practice for the times we are living in.

Lay Down

 

Last year, while alone in the New Mexican desert fasting, an amazing thing happened the first night out. It is something that continues to linger; having led to profound changes inside of me at a level beyond words, and yet, simultaneously, directly felt in my body.

You see, it is one thing to be on your own in the middle of nowhere in the daytime. But it becomes an entirely different entity in the night. Somehow in the darkness every rational and irrational fear you ever had, or might ever have, band together to form their own terrifying version of dark possibilities in your mind.

I could see this was coming as the sun began to set, and so, I started praying, begging really, that I be allowed to spend that first night out without “something getting me.” Now that something could have been real, but more than likely I knew that “that something” would be some internal, made-up, mind-driven horror show of my own making. So I asked to be protected from myself in this regard. And I asked if it were possible to have a good night’s sleep.

But mostly, I asked to have an experience that night of laying on the ground, in contact with the rhythms of the Earth, in a way that would help to restore my nervous system to a base line of ease, confidence, and resilience. A kind of going back in time to reset any of the ways my sense of safety and security in my body and in the world had been compromised.

To my great surprise, and eternal gratitude, I slept through the night; waking only once to open my eyes long enough to see a shooting star, and then easily falling back to sleep. When I awoke unafraid in the morning, it felt like nothing short of a miracle.

As if that wasn’t enough, that same miracle has continued in the most unexpected of ways since getting back home. Prior to my time in the desert, if I did not get at least 8 hours of sleep, I would feel absolutely ruined the next day. I would be touchy, edgy, physically unwell, and just plain exhausted to the bone if I did not get at least that amount of sleep. Prior to the desert I would feel absolutely unequipped to deal with life if my sleep was at all compromised. This left me working very, very hard. It was as if there was no reserve in my tank from which I could draw on. As if I were, on some level, closer to empty than would be expected given the resources available to me.

But since the desert, it  somehow no longer matters, at all, how much sleep I get. Sure, I continue to gravitate to the 8 hours, but if it doesn’t happen, well, no big deal. It has been such a significant shift in me that those who know me best have commented on it.

Best of all, this goes well beyond sleep; directly supporting and shifting a deep and lasting change in my nervous system where better resilience around sleep deprivation is but one outcome. It feels as though I was somehow re-wired, leaving me better equipped to handle Life in all of its forms. The stuff that used to really get to me, rattle me, stay with me, rolls off of me now like water off a duck’s back.

I mention all of this to you to point out that for most of the history of our species, we laid down each night on the ground. More to the point, each and every day we came into direct and continuous contact with the earth. Many traditions point to the necessity and benefits of putting our bodies against the land for an experience of homeostasis-ness and healing. Even science has caught up to this reality. For now it can be measured that the earth has an electrical field; a kind of resonance, that puts us back in tune. Not only can it be felt, it can be measured.

It stands to reason then that if you are not feeling well in body, mind or spirit, or want to live more balanced and enlivened on a regular basis, go put yourself up against the Earth. You do not have to “know” anything because this is not a rational pursuit. You do not have to know what you are doing because it is not you who will be doing the doing. This is between your body and the body of the Earth. Just make it a point to regularly get at least your feet or butt on the ground. And then wait. Breathe. Receive. Feel.

 

Doubt

 

I should have known. Any time I create a big, bold version of what I want to manifest in the world, what shows up first, always, are all of the ways that I am keeping myself from what it is that I am asking for. Or wanting to express, unveil, claim, or experience. So, I guess that it should have come as no surprise to me that only 2 days into the New Year, “doubt” has found its way into my mind.

Doubt, as in of lack of confidence and uncertainty about how to proceed. In other words, the classic definition of the word, along with the decidedly uncomfortable and undermining experience to self-worth that accompanies it.

I do not know why it is that we as humans are the only aspects of Consciousness on the planet that struggle with choosing to manifest our fullest expression in the world. I only know that it is. Sure, we can all name the personal reasons why we limit ourselves, and yet, truly we are no different than the trees and the wolves, the sun and the moon, even the spiders and the ants, who can only be fully and completely who and what they are; without hesitation or reservation. No matter what they experience along the way, they can only come back over and over again to their truest and fullest expression.

Yet, here we are as humans, having somehow separated ourselves from this Truth, choosing instead to follow all of our doubts and fears around what we are capable of, and what we believe we have a right to go for. Therefore, since doubt does exist, is a part of the human experience, how is it that we can proceed? How is it that we can recognize it without succumbing to it? Such that when doubt does come to visit, we can see it for what it is, and somehow include it in the experience. This as opposed to using it as a way to diminish or derail ourselves.

I find there are many possibilities when it comes to working with difficult emotions like this. The nuts and bolts of it always being the ability to name what the feeling or the thought is. As in, “oh yeah, here’s doubt.” The capacity to get into the habit of doing this offers the essential experience of separation from something that if left unchecked holds the power to get us going in the exact opposite direction of what is true. While simple to state, this first step requires a commitment to noticing and becoming aware of your inner world. Yet, it is so powerful that if you only ever went this far, you would discover a kind of freedom unknown to yourself before.

Why is that? Because, in the recognition of what is there, you become privy to the history, the memories, the sensations, and the stories you have attached to the doubt as it comes up for you. This arms you with a kind of debunking superpower in that you are now in a position to choose whether or not to feed this thing called doubt.

When I can do this with my own experience, I find that doubt drives me back to faith; to the absolute knowing that because I know doubt, I know faith. And because I know them both, I  have a choice of what it is that I will let drive me. Doubt reminds me that being uncertain, and not knowing what to do, allows me to reach out for more support; to do what I need to do to engage with a widening circle of meaningful and supportive friends and colleagues. Doubt reminds me to shift my perspective into what is more life-affirming and true. For me this translates into a regular referencing of the natural world which always, and in all ways, expresses itself easily, fully, and continuously.

And today, doubt has helped me listen to my instincts. The very same ones that took me to my dictionary to look up a definition. Where to my surprise I found that one of the descriptions of doubt is, A deliberate suspension of judgment.

I can work on that.

A New Year

 

So, here it comes again. The cultural practice of starting anew. Of giving up. Of somehow being different. The time of year for creating a newer, better, more improved version of ourselves. On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with this. Nothing wrong with making changes or letting go of what no longer serves our health and happiness.

What does create a “wrongness” though is when the motivation to change comes from a place of lack, unworthiness, fear, external pressure, or cultural fads and mandates. A place that says I will be more loveable, acceptable, worthy, safe, or successful if I just do… Or if I just get rid of… Some deep-seated agreement that we have made with ourselves and the world that says we are not enough. Not OK as is.

When we come from this place in our attempts to change, we have taken an action that might look well-intentioned on the surface, only to find that underneath, we are engaging in yet another opportunity to turn the knife on ourselves. I do believe this is why so many of our resolutions are destined to fail. For there is no love in this. No nourishment. No true support.

The truth is, in order for us to take the life-altering, and often scary step to re-imagine ourselves, we must feel supported. We must feel as though the step we are taking brings us into greater alignment with who we most are, and what it is that we most want. There is no pressure in this. No collusion. No ultimatums. No force. And most assuredly, no unworthiness.

This flies in the face of what many of us have been taught to believe. That being, that change comes through a kind of willpower on our part, and more often than not, a particular type of willpower which uses inner force, control, and shame as its influencing agents. More to the point, that change comes from discovering something about ourselves that just has to go; for one reason or another. Otherwise, we are not enough. Not…Fill in the blank.

But what if we could see this for what it is? What if we took a chance and did exactly the opposite? What if, every once in a while, we just gave up? Gave up trying to be different. Gave up trying to be more of this. Or less of that. This might feel like heresy to those of us committed to improving our lives. To those of us with a health issue. To those of us wanting to improve our financial lot. To those of us wanting something different from a relationship.

But what if it were true? What if any real and lasting change could only come through fully accepting ourselves? As is. Moment by moment. No matter what. Can you imagine what might shift all on its own? Things like weight changes, personality foibles, relationship struggles,health challenges, and more, just by loosening up on ourselves. Just by allowing in, and making room for, what is already there.

What if the simple act of saying “yes” to yourself would dissolve what you exert so much effort in trying to change? Trying to get to be different; other than it is. To be sure, it is a risk to even consider giving it a try given how many of us believe that if we stopped the struggle to improve ourselves that we would just collapse in a puddle of ill health, hedonism, laziness, you name it.

But what if it were true? What if giving up trying to give up anything about yourself was precisely the path to take to get you to where you most want to be? And most importantly, to who you most truly are.

Perfectionism

 

This past semester, in the college class I teach, we were working with ways to challenge some of the negative thoughts and beliefs that we hold. The ones that we do not question; having somehow, unfortunately, become acclimated to them. Even though they drive us, and even though they define how it feels to be alive.

To highlight for the class how this process of challenging an existing belief might look like,  we began by using one student’s thoughts as an example. It seems he was about to play a big event as a D.J.; something he had been thinking about and hoping for, for quite some time. But now, standing on the edge of everything he most wanted, he was so worried that for weeks he had not slept well. He just couldn’t stop thinking negative and catastrophic thoughts about himself and how the night would go. Needless to say, he was in no way enjoying the prep required to get ready for something he really, really wanted.

As we got into it more, it quickly became obvious that something was driving the worry. Some thought pattern that hovered just below his awareness, but that he was able to access by naming out loud some of his fears. The biggest one being, that he was terrified that if he was not absolutely flawless, that if he botched even one thing, then his big chance would be ruined, and he would never again work in his chosen field.

No wonder.

No wonder he could not sleep. No wonder he had no joy in the lead up. How could he given the oppressively high stakes he was living under? How could he given that he had left no room for circumstances beyond his control? How could he given that he had left no room for his humanness? No room for even one tiny, never mind big, mistake. In a word, he was under the intense sway of perfectionism.

Do you know this one? The do or die necessity that it has to be just so? Or else…

As difficult as it can be, one of the most fruitful places to go to is the “or else.” As in “or else what?” Doing this gives us access to that very particular type of survival fear that sits just behind the driven quality of why it has to be just so. That ancient imprint that tells us we are in danger somehow if we do not get it exactly right. The same part, by the way, that most needs, more than anything else, to know that it is safe and loved; no matter what.

And that being flawless is not a criteria for the right to exist.

And so, when perfectionism shows up in your life, instead of falling under its sway, could you be willing to challenge it? To name the fear that drives it by asking the question “Or else, what exactly?” and then being willing to say out loud what you are most afraid of. Better yet, speak this out loud to another person; plain and simple. No rationalizations. No, “I know this is silly.” No letting yourself indulge the fear. Just a naming.

Maybe this sounds too easy, but I will tell you, there is something profoundly transformational about saying a fear out loud, as opposed to letting it fester and grow in strength. Just beneath the surface, and just compelling enough to define our lives in exactly the wrong way.

 

Sent From?

 

I have come to dread receiving an email where it says at the bottom of the message, “Sent from my iPhone.” Why is that you might ask?

Because I can pretty much count on the fact that what I am receiving will be cryptic; even if a much fuller and more in depth response would be more in keeping with the level of the exchange. I can also count on the reply being hurried as the sender squeezes me into some non-existent space between all of the things they are doing and already attending to. I can also count on more mistakes, more misunderstandings, and more misreads because the person on the other end is actually not present or available enough to put their attention on what it is that I have sent them.

And most of all, I dread these four little words because I can pretty much count on feeling somehow let down, cheated even, in the interaction. I feel this way even though the responses come fast and furious. Even though they get back to me at all hours. Even though they put the “cutest and most heartfelt” of emogees in their message, along with characters from a keyboard arranged in such specific combinations as to convey their deepest or most present emotional states to me. Even though it seems like they are making me a priority by responding instantaneously from anywhere; no matter what is happening. No matter what they are already engaged in.

But I don’t feel like a priority. I feel like a bystander to a kind of obsessive preoccupation to a device where I am a means to an end. That end being that I serve as the justification for why so many of us now need to stay glued to our phones. Of course we do, we would say, because that is what is expected of us now. And so we comply, but often in the most meaningless of ways all dressed up as significant. Momentous even.

How about this? Instead of “Sent from my iPhone” we try “Sent from Me?” Maybe then we would take more ownership of our communications; valuing them in the way they deserve to be valued. Maybe we would recognize that this is an exchange between two people. Maybe the quality and the quantity of what and how we send a message would change. Maybe we could even begin to count more regularly on something truly heartfelt and significant.

Or maybe we wouldn’t even send at all. Maybe we would call. Maybe we would visit in person. Maybe we would wait until we had the time and the space to send something worthy of our relationship.

Have we forgotten what we mean to each other? Do we matter so little to one another now that we have become not much more than initiators and recipients of assembly line relating; a kind of speedy, one size fits all, generic response system where the “better and the more convenient” the technologies make our exchanges,” the worse our connections become?

I Am Here

 

“Am I here?”

I find this question, along with, “Where am I?” and  “How am I?” to be about the most important things I can ask of myself in any given moment. It sounds so simple. So obvious. So ridiculous even. Of course I am here. But am I? And if I am here, do I actually know how I am doing?

Too often our bodies are in one place, and our minds are in another. That means that we cannot actually be in relationship to who we are, where we are, what we are doing, and who we are with. Really think about that. If we are not in relationship to any of these things, how could we possibly know who we are and what it is that we need? And if we do not know who we are and what we need, how could we possibly know what choices to make; whether we are on the “right track” or not? Whether we are helping or hurting? Whether we are making it all up or not? Whether we are living our one true life, or playing out some well-rehearsed, habituated fantasy?

We are living as animated objects passing through some artificial background when the body is in one place and the mind another. This leaves us as little more than robots. Zombies. Automatons. It is as if we are actors walking across a stage, separate from the scenery that surrounds us, and the roles that we play. And it leaves us hungry. Yearning. Dissatisfied.

And it is from exactly this place, that it is so very easy to reach outside of ourselves to feel something. Anything. Just to feel. Just to know that we are here.

To be here is to feel. It is to notice. It is to bump up against. It is to take it all in as often as we can. It is to be in a body. As is. And to inhabit that body fully as the surest route to reminding us of who we are, and why we are here. To dive deeply and courageously into flesh and bone is to find out what it is that we truly need, and most important of all, to know that we are here.

Every morning and every evening as you lie in bed, put your hands on your body and say “I am here.” Just like you did when you were a kid and would scribble or graffiti  those words on some tree, or desk or sidewalk, with your name attached. A way of announcing to yourself and to the world the most important thing you could ever know, even without knowing, that you are here.

I Believe

 

Recently, I attended a pickling workshop taught by a woman from Bangladesh. With her heavily accented English and her old world love for cooking and feeding people, she stands out in a world too busy and too distracted to cook, to spend time with family, or to slow down over what truly satisfies. Her matter of fact and intuitive cooking style was inspirational and authentic; devoid of pretense, expert mentality, or showmanship.

So I guess it should have come as no surprise that, though she had conveyed measurements and ingredient lists to our host who had then gone on to make up recipe sheets, what was on the paper and how she was actually cooking didn’t quite line up. It quickly became clear that she did not cook by numbers. Ever. She was just not a measuring cup, by the book, kind of woman. So much so, that it became kind of a running joke throughout the night about how often what she was actually doing differed from what was on the sheet, with at least one of us asking, “Wait, what did she just do? How much of that did she put in?”

Each time this happened she would sweetly smile and offer up a little shrug. And at one point, really more to herself than to us, she simply stated, “I believe in my hands.” My God, what a concept. What a life instruction in a world too often driven by a “paint by number” mentality; right and wrong according to some external measurement. Some thing or some one else’s version other than our own.

I believe in my hands says I believe in myself. I believe in what I sense and feel. It says I believe in my experience and I believe in something other than what the outside dictates. It says I believe in what nourishes and sustains, and that as sure as these are my hands, this is what I hold to, and this is what I find most dear.

How many of us no longer make the time to cultivate this type of knowing? A knowing, gained through and transcendent of, a specific skill set. Confidence created through the learning, the time spent, and the actual doing. A belief system and an experience of self-trust born out of learning a set of valuable life skills. An approach that truly satisfies and feeds the life of a human being. As well as those they come in contact with.

And how many of our children will never be given a chance to know this kind of experience? A way of being that can only be mastered by actually inhabiting the day to day requirements of the life of a human being. A kind of knowing that can only come from offering yourself up to something with love. A way of life that can only be had over years and years of devoting yourself to something truly worthwhile. And in the end, a way of inhabiting ourselves from the inside out; developing the kind of inner authority necessary for a life well lived and for valuable contributions made.

A kind of knowing, by the way, that will never, ever, come out of  a life squeezed off because of modern day busyness requirements or preferences for a screen.

When we are considering all that the screen technologies, along with the demands of keeping up, are offering to us and our children, can we also remember to consider what is being lost? All of the things that will never show up on a report card, which school you got into, what job you get, or what gets measured in a research study, simply because we did not know, or remember, to include them? And because there are just some things, the most important things, that can never be measured by an outside source, or ever known through our recently screen-obsessed myopic focus on what we are making most important in the living of our lives.

What do you believe in? What do we want our children to believe in? Do our day to day choices reflect these vital and necessary beliefs? Or are we living and teaching belief systems based on an inhumane pace along with lives filled to the brim with what is most decidedly not human? Not nourishing. Not the recipe for a life well-lived.

 

Giving Up

 

I recently heard a woman say that she had given up, giving up coffee. (Give yourself a moment with this one.) When I heard her say this my whole being lit up. At first I went to the most obvious thing I have been intermittently, over the years, trying to give up. That being sugar. When I wondered what would it be like to give up, giving up sugar, I immediately felt great. It was as if a weight had been lifted. And right behind that, a permission, an opening, to actually enjoy something that I actually enjoy.

How often do we engage in our little “guilty pleasures” in ways that do not, in fact, offer any pleasure because we are far too busy feeling guilty? But it gets even better.

I could give up beating myself up that I should somehow know better. Do better. Set a better example. I could give up acting as if this one small act blows up all the amazingly nutritious and delicious food that I make and eat every day. I could give up feeling as though this is somehow bad, and by extension, that I am somehow bad because of it.

We do this all the time. We equate something we are doing, that we don’t think we should be doing, with who we fundamentally are. And while certainly our cumulative actions over time point to how we have decided to live in this world, the sum of these actions is but a fraction of the totality of who we are. In essence, we are way more than whether or not we choose to…(Fill in the blank).

There is such a fine line in life around how we do what we do. On one level, there is nothing wrong with improving. Nothing wrong with trying to do “it” better. Certainly, we could even make the case that in many areas of our world, we would all be better off if we all put some more time into changing the aspects of ourselves that bring harm and disharmony.

But this cannot be the whole story. For this is only one side of a two-sided coin. The other side holds that it is just as valuable to give up trying to give up what we think is wrong with us. Unsightly. Unseemly. Unworthy. Shameful. To give up running on the never-ending treadmill of not enough. Not doing enough. Not doing it right.

On this side of the coin, we do not need a reason, justifications, a set of credentials, a right way of living, or a tangible list of the good deeds that we do to justify why it is that we get to just be. Here. As we are. As is. To do what we do. To love what we love.

What would it be like to experiment with, on the topic of your choice, giving up, giving up how you truly feel, or what it is that you really want, but that somehow you have not been able to give yourself because you believe it will mean something about you that you do not want to be?

Why Are You Here?

 

Last semester, while my college class was in the midst of our unit on Technology and Well-Being, the students were practicing mindfulness around how they used their devices. Students were reporting back that they mindlessly, and “for no reason,” found themselves obsessively picking up their phones looking for something; though too often they felt as though they could not name exactly what it was that they were looking for. This left them spending hours and hours checking and scrolling; even though there was nothing they were particularly interested in. Even though they recognized the time that they were wasting, and all of the ways that they were not getting to what they needed to be getting to.

Or more to the point, receiving any satisfaction around what it was that felt as though it just needed to be satisfied.

One student spoke of a remedy she had devised to combat this incessant and unconscious habit. She taped a sticky note to the back of her phone with the words; “Why am I here?” It was not until recently, after recounting this tip to a new class, that the enormity of the enormity of the question really hit me.This was not merely a question posed to help someone pause in order to become more conscious of their choices around technology. Instead, this is the most fundamental, far-reaching, and essential question that any of us can ask of ourselves. Ever.

To choose to make this so visible, so front and center in the day to day, is nothing short of revolutionary in a world gone mad with forgetting the value and the importance of why it is that we are actually here. For in truth, we are talking about nothing less than this when it comes to how we are living our lives; most especially around how we are choosing to use the technologies.

Do you know why you are here? Are you the least bit interested in why you are here? Do you even know you are here at all?  

And if you are, why would you ever give that precious knowing and exploration over to a machine? Why would we ever train our children to believe that their net worth, their very reason for being here, is based on what phone they own, what picture they post, or how many levels they have reached?