Resonance

 

My son played a gig in our yurt last Saturday night. Today I was talking to a friend of his about what he enjoyed about the show. He was struck by how resonant the sound was inside the yurt, especially at the center. I value his perspective on this as he is a “techie” and knows acoustics.

We start talking about circular spaces and the beauty of being in one. He tells me that in certain cultures, besides the spiritual aspect, spaces were built round so that no matter where you were in the space, everyone could hear you from anywhere in the room. Makes sense. He then went on to add that if you said something negative, not only could everyone else hear it, but that you yourself would hear your words carried back to you!

My mind explodes with the possibility contained in this. What would it be like if each and every one of us could really “hear” any and all negativity that we put out into any room? How would that change the words that come out of our own mouth? Further, how could each and every one of us carry ourselves as a structure with such integrity that we reflected back negativity without getting personal about it? Or shaming. Or superior. Or combative. Or co-dependent.

Of course, that would require that each and every one of us got to know our own “you know what” so that we did not get caught up in what another person was doing. It would require that we find our own resonant center and hold that in the presence of whatever was happening in the room. Could we learn to be that impersonal? That objective? That established in our own experience?

To serve as a clear reflection for the world takes a lot of work. It means not reacting to another based on your own negativities. It means carving out enough time in your own life to get to know yourself and how your buttons get pushed. It means taking personal responsibility for how you are receiving what you are receiving.This is different than trying to get another person to be different or to stop doing what they are doing.

Try this: The next time you are in a difficult encounter, literally, take a step back. Not in a confrontational or dismissive way, but as a way of demonstrating to yourself your desire to step away from behaving in a way that increases negativity. Then, as best as you can, stay with your own experience, and for a moment, forget about what the other person is doing. Give yourself enough time to see the truth of your own inner response, and why it is that you do what you do. Then, and only then, and without any effort on your part, will you serve as a center of resonance in any room you inhabit.

Being Watched

 

“The only thing that Orwell failed to predict was that we would install the telescreens ourselves and that our biggest fear is that no one would be watching.”

 

Our children’s insecurities are mounting, magnified in part by their use of social media. They fish and maneuver for compliments and reassurances in the forms of “likes” and “followers.” They grow more and more comfortable spinning and marketing themselves. They remain ever-vigilant for feedback. They spend their precious days ruminating over getting their words just right, or their picture “flawless;” desperately needing others to see them as they most want to be seen.

I once read, “Men watch women and women watch themselves being watched.” This pierced me all the way through the first time I read it in ways that are not easy to articulate. Suffice to say, it spoke directly, acutely, and poignantly to my experience of growing up female in this culture.

I know what it is to watch myself being watched. To watch myself being watched through the eyes of a culture whose expectations, standards, images, accepted behaviors and social norms, of and for a woman, are degrading, disrespectful and dehumanizing. I know what it is to watch myself through the eyes of misogyny that is candy coated in layers of denials, justifications, and projections, and then rolled out as something I should want, even count myself lucky to be on the receiving end of.

For too many years, it left me unnaturally oriented to and even “at home” with being watched in all the wrong ways. It left me at home with being seen in ways that shattered my spirit, denigrated my sense of self, and sacrificed any ease or well-being I might have experienced in my female body. It taught me that my very existence, my right to be here, to be loved and appreciated, was conditional, always, upon what another saw in me. Men most especially. It felt to me like what they saw in me and wanted from me was who I was, and who I needed to be. Whether that was good for me or not. And whether what they saw was true or not.

It felt like all that it would take for me to be banished or reduced down to nothing, was one bad picture of me posted for all to see. A picture deemed so hideous in the eyes of another that it could only mean that that was the truth of me. Because of this, part of me could never, ever stop checking. Could never, ever stop posing and positioning myself in ways that I believed others would like. It felt as though my very existence depended on me knowing precisely what others wanted of me. I worked very, very hard to line up with this.

After I had been doing this long enough, all of the monitoring and the feedback that I had been receiving from outside of me, got installed inside of me. It felt necessary to my survival. I did not trust myself; only those watching me. I did not see myself as separate from being watched. To do this would have required me knowing that I was not what others saw. Since I did not possess that knowing, well, it was anybody’s game. Except mine. It is deeply disturbing to witness how much a woman will go against herself when she is wedded to watching herself being watched; bound by what they “see.”

What is it doing to our children to grow up needing to be watched to feel as though they deserve to exist?

Feeling

We are living in intense and overwhelming times, leaving us with a lot to feel. Simultaneously, we have never had more ways to not feel a single thing. From over-the-counter medications to pharmaceutical prescriptions to recreational drugs. From coffee to sugar to energy drinks to alcohol. And from a never-ending stream of distractions in the form of our screen technologies.

I am a yoga teacher in the Kripalu Yoga tradition. The namesake of the lineage, Swami Kripalu, once said that just when the right thing is happening, an aspirant will perceive it as being the wrong thing that is happening and end the practice. Just when, in all actuality, they are right on the edge of a breakthrough. This is why, he counseled, that it was imperative to receive guidance and support from someone further along on the path.

We see the way this plays out in life. Sometimes just when the right thing is happening, we will label it wrong, or not what we wanted, or expected it to be. It is so hard to imagine that difficult or unwanted feelings could possibly mean that we are onto exactly the right thing. But it is true nonetheless. Our feelings serve as guidance, and as such they are an important source of knowing in the world. Further, our unwanted feelings serve to let us know exactly how and why something is off in our world, requiring our attention.

That includes feelings of anger, anxiety, disappointment, sadness, rage, shame, grief and overwhelm. Can you imagine feeling what you are feeling without trying to medicate it away? Can you imagine seeing awful and difficult to bear feelings as guidance while allowing that perception alone to serve as teacher and guide? Can you see the possibility in this approach in a world gone made with pushing for exactly the wrong things and where it will only be our feelings of discomfort that will light the way for us?

This requires both great sensitivity and great strength. It requires your attention and willingness. And it requires your patience as you learn skills you do not currently possess. What you can expect from this level of effort is that some day, down the road, you will wake up to the realization that not only can you bear what you thought was unbearable, but that in the meantime you have gained great strengths, along with ways of perceiving life where you see the merit and the necessity in being with what is “too difficult” to feel.

Otherwise, we run the risk daily, individually and collectively, of creating over and over again a living hell. If you are feeling something there is a good and valid reason for it. What if you could see it as just that? And if all else fails, refuse to take guidance from anyone or any way of living that is more screwed up than you.

 

The Game

 

There is a way that we all play “the game.” One way or another. A way that we pretend we are enjoying something when we are not. A way that we believe we should want something that we do not. A way that we engage in Life according to rules that we do not believe in.

Sometimes we will fight against this; inwardly or outwardly. Sometimes we will smile our way through; acquiescing to it all. Sometimes we will put our heads in the sand; refusing to engage. Sometimes we will disappear; using invisibility as a way to get out of it. And sometimes we will be passive-aggressive; pretending to play a game that we are subversively trying to undermine. All of this is some form of hiding out; way of refusing to engage with what is not working for us, giving us just enough relief to continue on in a game we don’t want to be playing.

Believing that our only recourse in living is to be found in following rules that we find intolerable is never the answer. The answer lies in knowing yourself and living according to your own rules. The answer lies in completely, totally and even-handedly removing your energies from a game you want no part of, and then funneling all of those powerful, personal energies into a game that does make sense to you.

As someone once said to me; “If I throw a ball at you and you don’t catch it-the game is over.” Learning how to play your own game requires letting the balls drop that are not working for you. That takes guts. It takes trusting what is working for you and not working for you, without judging yourself to be wrong because you do not measure up to the rules of a game you never wanted to be playing in the first place.

A Happy Family

I am at our local co-op when I run into the mother of one of my son’s friends. We catch up a bit, going back and forth about how the summer is going, and what we are both up to. When I let her know I am spending my time finishing a book on the downside of technology and kids, she lets me know about a trip she and her family recently took.

She tells me how she consciously chose a vacation spot where there was no Wi-Fi access. And she specifically required beforehand that everyone leave their phones at home, not bringing them on the trip. She admitted to being worried about how they would respond to this, as well as how long it would take for her two children to settle down into time together without their devices.

With a big smile, she told me that they had adjusted immediately! How they had talked and sung together as a family for the whole ride up, and how wonderful it had been to be with them without the distractions and the intrusions of the phones. She told me she had pondered creating some kind of a requirement after they got back around times for no cell phone use at home, but felt that it was probably too late now to impose such a thing as both kids would be going off to college in the fall, and were perhaps too old for that kind of thing now. For a moment she paused, appearing to be pondering something. She ended our conversation, speaking more to herself than to me, by saying; “We were a much happier family before the cell phones.”

What do you say to something like that? Everything this woman, or any of us for that matter, needs to proceed around technology and our families is contained in that one heart-wrenching revelation.

Resentment

Resentment: a feeling of persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, an insult, or an injury.

How many of us live resenting the very requirements of our day to day living? This question surfaces in my mind as I pick raspberries. For the longest couple of weeks, I kept checking and checking to see if they were ripe. Nope. Then, in less than a 24 hour time period they went from “nope” to bursting. So many, in fact, that I will not be able to get to them all this day. That’s OK. I am really here hoping to get just enough to make the very first raspberry jam of the season. And while I will be doing this between now and September, many, many more times, this first batch is always special to me.

As I am picking, I am feeling how grateful I am to have the time, the space and the inclination to be doing what I am doing in an unhurried way. And while I do have things to get to, beats to hit, right now I have an abundance of time to be here. This as opposed to hurriedly, maybe resentfully, cramming what I am doing in between other things. (Or worse yet, needing to assign this task to a reluctant teenager who might just poison the bounty with discontent and ill will.)

Along with the gratitude, I am also aware that if I were overly busy, this thing that I am doing which so matters to me, would be experienced as a resentment. I would be feeling as though this chore was some insult to my time; an overwhelm in my day. This awareness leads me to think about us as a culture and how often it is that we resent the very things that make up the fabric of our lives, all because we have set up our lives where we have too much going on. Because of this, things like self-care, home-cooking, taking care of another, doing whatever needs to be done, or what matters most, can only be experienced as one more thing to do in a too long list of things to do, all because we have made certain things more important than the basic and simple necessities of life and of living.

With enough space in our lives, chores lose their edge, caring for ourselves is juicy, and supporting another fills us. Our busyness, over-scheduling, and technological time-sucks leaves us resenting what we most need to do for ourselves and others. So, if you find yourself resenting the necessities of what keeps your life going, and what it is that makes for a good life, pause for a moment and ask yourself; If I had all the time in the world, how would I feel about what I am doing right now? And then, the hardest question of all to ask, and then, to answer; What would need to change in my life to make enough space and time for what needs doing?    

Nothing

 

“Nothing to fix. Nothing to figure out.” I’ve said these words countless times to others. But when I hear these words spoken from a teacher in a class I am taking, it goes all the way in. Not as a compassionate thing to say. Not as a syrupy New Age platitude. But as the purest instructions for freedom. The most resonant Truth around our experience of being alive.

Contained in these simple, honest words lies the possibility of taking whatever you are experiencing and holding it up to the light of there being nothing that needs to be done. Nothing that needs to be changed. That can almost feel heretical in a culture that is always pushing and doing and fixing and managing. Everything, every, single day.

And when we run this past our rational minds, this way of being can feel like a lot of you know what. Or dangerous. Or lazy. Or… Despite that response, nothing  we are experiencing is inherently bad or wrong or undesirable. It just is. Can you imagine what it would be like in any given moment to just let yourself be? As is? To say “yes” to how you are feeling? Whatever that is? As scary or unfamiliar as it might feel, can you see the power in not resisiting what is in the form of the sensations flowing through you, or the circumstances you find yourself in? Words cannot possibly convey the magnitude of this shift in terms of how it leaves us feeling about us. This is one you cannot read about, but instead need to practice as your own personal medicine for freedom and well-being.

“Blow Back”

 

My son will turn nineteen in just over a month, and is leaving for Nashville to make his way in the music world soon thereafter. In preparation for this next phase of his life, and because as a graduated senior our house rules on no cell phone have been lifted, he has just purchased his first cell phone. As he sits before me on that first day, new phone in hand, he is both beaming and apprehensive.

We talk the next morning over breakfast and he indulges me (because of course he has heard it all before), as I go over the hit parade of things to most watch out for. I tell him that if he will hear me out, I will leave him to his own after this; except of course if it interferes with our relationship or house rules. I remind him of things like not on your body, not near your bed when you are sleeping, and never when driving. I remind him of things like never anything typed over a screen you wouldn’t say in person, along with my plea to not let this dumb down his exceptional social skills and his ability to meet interpersonal challenges head on and in person. I encourage him to protect his relationships, listen to his body, and always remain present noticing how he is using and why. The conversation is a good one. My rational mind is satisfied that the information I most want to convey has been said. I feel confident based on how he has been raised and who he is as a person, hoping that all of this will serve him well in the enormous challenge that stands before him.

Surprisingly so, I am even happy for him. I can see how he is ready to go off to make his way in the world of music, and that this device will help him do business as business is being done. I can see he has been given a childhood, a before, and a strong and discriminating foundation. I can see that he is watchful, creating boundaries, and at this point, is even a little wary of how this is going to change things for him.

And I can also see that in a matter of days his world has dramatically changed. Suddenly he is tied to something. Suddenly his mind is occupied by something. Quite extensively, from what I can see. Now there is this thing he has to check. Repeatedly. Now there is this thing that has to be charged, brought with him, and referenced before he can do anything else. It is striking to be on the outside of this. It is unsettling to watch how in a few short days, his mind has reset so profoundly to something outside of himself.

As the days have worn on a deep heaviness, more to the point, despair, has come over me as I see how much he suddenly needs this thing he has been more than OK without. I watch him now as this is the first thing he does every morning, and the last thing he does before going to bed at night. I see that his focus and his attention is with his phone now; a thing has become more interesting than us, or anything that is happening in our home. 

Instead of a weekend morning stretching before us with room to catch up after he has woken up, maybe share some food, or connect over something in the moment, the screen captivates him now. It feels like I have to schedule time to interact with him, or wait for a time when he is not looking down at the screen. And what used to just organically arise and develop between us is gone. This is more than awful. Seeing it close up with one of my children for the very first time, I see that it is far, far worse for all of us than I have ever imagined, heard about, or observed. It hits me so hard that I am left without adequate words to describe the devastation I am witnessing; not just for him, but for all of our children and the families they are unknowingly distancing themselves from.

And while I know he is in the early throes of it all, and hopefully it will settle out in a way that best serves him, I cannot help but see that this thing owns him now in a way he used to own himself. And while this may be exactly what he wants and needs, to have something that catalyzes and firms up his severance from us, I can’t help but notice that this little piece of metal is being used as an avoidance of what is too difficult for him to be with. 

This is the very same person, by the way, who just a short time ago maintained his music career, drove a car, and got together with friends; all without a cell phone. This is the same kid who would be gone all day, and more on weekends, not getting calls or an email until he got home, and who now suddenly can’t go more than a few minutes without checking to see what’s come in. This is the same kid who used to call anyone without hesitation, and who now texts instead. This is the same kid who would go off and read or play music and who now seems more interested in being available to his device. 

It has become the priority. And even though, by many standards, he is making excellent and well thought out attempts at drawing good lines around when he is using it and when not, still, he is different to be around; beholden to, tied to, and enslaved by something outside of himself. I write this as my attempt to make sense of something that has the capacity to drive me mad with grief, despair and frustration. I write this as a way of reaching out. My mother’s heart is broken and bleeding, for him, for them, and for us. 

I realize that one likely response to what I have just told you would be to say, well, of course this is happening, he was “deprived” all those years. If you had just let him have one all along this never would have happened. I do understand why it would be so much easier and far more reassuring to believe that this is happening because he didn’t get it earlier. Only, it’s not true. How do I know this? I know this because all I need to do is to look at the ones who started early, recognizing that they and their families are suffering the same fate as my son. Just sooner.

I know something deep in my bones. I bet you do too. That being, whether they get it early or late, they are succumbing to the technologies in ways that take them away from themselves, their families, and even the friends they remain ever “connected” to via the machines. If we could be willing to admit to what is happening we would put ourselves in a position to adequately guide and protect them. So, while it might be convenient to imagine that what I have described is nothing more than blow back brought on by “deprivation,” that would be a lie.

What if we were willing to both recognize and act on the fact that the screen technologies are an extremely seductive and addictive force? Perhaps more than anything we as people have ever had to contend with. What if we agreed to use as our starting point the recognition that the technologies are beyond our children, and should never, ever, be left up to them? How then might we proceed?

Wild Teachings

 

Wild Rose has been in bloom for the past couple of weeks. She is pretty much gone now up our way. She is the plant of my heart. An ally. A teacher. A guardian. Because Rose’s flowering is so short-lived, I was making a mad dash to make medicine and personal care products before her time was up. One day, in the midst of making medicine, I was thinking that this powerful, natural and healing presence would be available to me all year long. On the heels of that thought came, “No, it won’t. I don’t have near enough for that to happen.”

And in that moment, instead of feeling a lack around this, I saw the beautiful necessity for me of something not being available whenever I wanted it. Everything is not supposed to be there for us constantly and in every moment. And while we might want this to be so, it is not good for us. More to the point; it is damaging. For us. For the planet. And for our relationships with others.

We people live like big shots on the planet. As if it is all here for our taking. As if anything we want should be easy, convenient, and accessible. All the time. And this mindset is only worsening through the proliferation of the technologies that make us feel as if everything should be instantaneous and ever-available.

What will we do in the face of this? How will we learn to govern ourselves voluntarily? Why should we if we don’t have to. Or want to. Because the wisdom that comes from Nature, of which we are a part, demonstrates over and over again that there is most decidedly a season for all things; a time for everything to be here, and not be here. Much as we don’t want to know it, limitation is a vital part of the cycle of Life. It serves as the bedrock for the conditions of Life to flourish, having absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with scarcity or deprivation.

Beats

 

When we are trying to hit a lot of beats in our day to day, it can be easy to believe that accomplishing our to-do list is the point of our living. With this comes the sometimes hidden hope or belief that when all of these things are done, then, finally then, we can get to… What our heart truly yearns for. Better health. The relationship that needs tending to. A habit change. Better care of ourselves. A life that makes sense to us.

And so we keep going. Running harder and faster. As a civilization we have never worked so hard to do more, keep up, and get ahead of it all, while simultaneously believing we are living the dream right in the midst of so much self-imposed intensity and suffering. The honest to god truth is; there is no keeping up. There is no getting ahead. There is no magical, restful, satisfying and fulfilling place that resides at the end of treadmill living; a place that we will finally reach and inhabit if we can just stay on the moving conveyor belt long enough and well enough.

The problem is, we cannot see this truth when we are on the treadmill because all of our energy is focused on staying on. That thing is moving so fast on its own and through our own added momentum, that if feels as though if we stopped running we would be flung off risking death, starvation, alienation and other injuries we most wish to avoid. And even if we survived all of this, maybe we would not be able to get back on. What would that mean?

The answer is not on the treadmill. It is not in a to-do list or other people’s expectations of us. It is not in the obvious and not so obvious deadly messages we receive from the culture about what the good life looks like and takes to get there. It is not in the past and what our parents told us. It is in this moment. Whatever this point in time calls for and whatever that looks like. And sometimes what it looks like is discontent, disease, and dissatisfaction. Oooh, who wants that? Better keep moving.

Or, you could look at how you are living. What hurts? What do you feel resentful about? What imbalances are currently manifesting in your body? Which relationships are not working and why? The trick here is two-fold. One. You must slow down long enough to feel more than the press to keep driving forward. Two. You must recognize that what is not working in your life is information and guidance so precious you want to find ways to befriend it.

P.S. I wrote this effortlessly and without any intention of doing so after getting off of my own treadmill in a time when lots and lots is stacking up. By making the conscious effort to honor the stillness and the space of a daily practice, I am regularly awed by the magic, synchronicity, inspiration and ease that happens when I stop. This is often most especially the case when the treadmill mentality would tell me that this is exactly the time I cannot stop. My advice to us all; Sit down everybody. Just sit down.