Context

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or is it something else?

Hard Choices

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m in. How about you?

Control

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Edge of Compassion

 

Traveling around in the world of yoga, it is not uncommon to hear regular talk of compassion. Most often it is spoken of as an orientation to self and other based on love, understanding, empathy, acceptance and forgiveness. Or maybe as the heartfelt desire to relieve suffering in the world. These are all good, noble and important aspirations. As a matter of fact, we might be hard pressed to find many who would disagree with such an exalted approach to Life.

And yet, there can be serious downsides to this. It might come in the form of believing that compassion is something you do to yourself or another. It might show up as the inadequacy that registers in your mind or the minds of others when your displays of compassion do not look or feel like they are supposed to, because they do not line up with some external definition of such. It might come in the form of using compassion as a way to keep others close and beholden to you; a kind of indebtedness. Or it might show up as an insidious way of managing or controlling other’s views of you; as in, because you are “a compassionate person,” you are somehow above reproach. These downsides range from the incomplete to the manipulative to the dangerous.

When looked at from this perspective, compassion is actually a very, very edgy place. A place that requires a lot of personal integrity and responsibility. A place that demands an accounting of your actions and most importantly, your underlying motivations; a honed focus on “the why” of what you do, versus “the what” of what you do.

There are many who would argue that we are born innately and naturally compassionate, and that the ways of the world take this natural inclination and distort it. Squash it. Squander it. And that when given half a chance, along with the right circumstances, this is the state that not only do we long to return to, but would gladly get to of our own accord. If this makes any sense to you, then it only  stands to reason that a return to an inborn compassion that has been covered up or somehow misconstrued requires a kind of ferocity. A particular type of discernment that is keen enough, sharp enough, and edgy enough to cut through all of what has been overlaid and woven onto and into this native and life-giving inclination.

Compassion is not a coat to be donned. It is not a way to fit in, or ingratiate yourself. Nor is it a sugary sweet that you dispense. Instead, it is an inherited, powerful, magnetic and raw force to be reckoned with. One that requires accountability and a kind of ongoing nurturance. One that has nothing to do with how it looks from the outside. One that is only truly resonant when the intentions and the motivations of the one offering the compassion have been married up to a rigorous kind of personal integrity.

My yoga teacher once spoke on the compassion that arises organically as opposed to the one that we feel like we are supposed to be with ourselves or show to others. He taught that the organic type originates naturally from within when the body is free of tension, the heart safe and at ease, and the mind clear. Looked at in this way, compassion has absolutely everything to do with the state of the giver, and is the first and most important condition to be met. Ever.

Choosing To Be Alive

 

Alive: Having life: Not dead or inanimate.

Many years ago I attended a yoga conference where the theme was living fully alive. Some part of me was intrigued. And some part of me just did not get it. As in, obviously I am alive. Otherwise I would not be here. Therefore, what’s all the fuss about? Why focus an entire conference of multi-day workshops and keynotes around this obvious and undeniable reality?

I’ll tell you why. Because it is one thing for the body to have a pulse, and quite another to live an experience of being fully alive. Fully expressed. It’s so strange, really. Everything that comes into existence on the planet, whether a dandelion, baby animals, insects or trees, all come in bursting with life. Fully programmed to live, without exception, as completely as they can, the full potential of whatever they are. Knowing nothing other than this, until they no longer exist.

We humans are the only ones, in all of existence, who can be alive on paper, while not being meaningfully alive in a truly vital and authentic way. We see this in how we don’t speak up when everything in us is screaming to. We see this in the way we stay when it is really time to go. We see this in the way we take on the feelings, dysfunctions and responsibilities of others. We see this in all of the big and small ways that we diminish ourselves each and every day by the thoughts we harbor about ourselves.And we see this in all of the ways that we lie to ourselves and to others about who we really are; accepting and imposing false and imprisoning expectations around who we get to be.

Lately, it occurs to me that being born, truly the first choice around me being alive, did not require a conscious, active agreement on my part. But that now, it does. A pact that I, in fact, need to make with awareness moment by moment around how it is that I will show up in my life. A compact between me and Life itself that must transcend the past, with its deadening load of conditioning, pain, constrictions and limitations on my aliveness. A contract that I make with myself that must bypass and ignore what other people think, feel and believe about how I should live; about how alive I get to be. An absolute and stalwart understanding from within me that must rise above the zombie apocalypse I witness each and every day as more and more of us choose screen life, busyness, stress, numbing out, checking out, over-scheduling, fear and more over true aliveness.

Think about it for a moment. Look at all of the ways there are to medicate ourselves against the experience of being alive through food, alcohol, drugs, devices and more that deaden us to the experience of being fully alive.

I so want this for myself. I so want this for all of us. And yet, I also see what we are up against. Where are our role models? Where are the societal structures that offer the support we need to live in bodies energized, minds illumined and spirits soaring? Unfortunately, what we are up against all too often are the false highs provided by external substances and things like shopping or watching something titillating on a screen. But where are the genuine, natural and healthful outlets for an organic experience of aliveness? One that arises purely out of you being here. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Check it out for yourself. If you really chose to be alive, what would that look like for you? Would you settle for food that dulled you out? Would you acquiesce to keeping company with those that brought you down? Would acquiring things serve as the highest use of your precious time? And while we all know how to overstimulate ourselves, do you even know the down deep feeling of being animated and full of life, just because?

If you have no clue about what I am talking about, or even where or how to begin, start with what feels like a restriction, a bind, a shackle, an imposition. And then, as Bob Marley did, give yourself the instruction; “Open your eyes and look within, are you satisfied with the life your living? And if not, could you be courageous enough and alive enough to choose for that which animates and enlivens? Could you throw off that which deadens? As easily as a tree letting go of a diseased limb.

 

Whose Time Is It?

 

If you asked most people, they might tell you that besides finances, time is what they lack. They might even go on to tell you that making time for what matters most to them is hard, and sometimes even, impossible work. Embedded in this belief is that time is something that you don’t deserve more of, comes to you by magic, by the good grace of another, or when all of the circumstances of your life finally line up to offer you a slot of what you most need more of.

But the truth is, creating time for what you most value will never just fall into your lap. It is something you intend, commit to, and perhaps most of all, protect. And it is an ongoing, day to day process where over and over again you intend, recommit, and continue to protect what is most precious to you.

Not long ago I ran a workshop on self-care where my co-facilitator marketed the offering on Facebook. In total, she got 45 hits saying people were interested. Do you know how many of those people carved out a day to take care of themselves? Zero.

It requires absolutely nothing of us to say that we want something. To say that we wish we had the time to do such and such. On the other hand, it takes everything in us to make the decision to carve out the time to do what needs to be done. To get to the something we absolutely need or find valuable.

This is not easy to do given how many things so many of us have committed to. We live in times where the very real challenge of choice, with its seemingly infinite array of options and obligations, leaves far too many of us frazzled, burdened, and out of time for what we really want and need. It gets even more complicated when we add in that we could likely justify much of what takes up our time as something that we see as “good” or “necessary.”

But is it actually true?* Is it actually true that we need to be filling our days as we do? Is it actually true that all of the things we do to fill our time are either good for us, or even necessary? To answer these questions with any kind of clarity requires that we get beneath why it is that we so often give away our precious time. And we all do it for any number of reasons. Fear. Guilt. Obligation. Insecurity. Stuck in a role. Wanting to be valued, seen and included. The list goes on.

What’s yours?

Try this. The next time you are about to commit to yet another occupation of your precious time, ask yourself two essential questions. One, “Why am I really, really choosing this right now? Two, Is this how I want to be spending my time? And then, listen deeply. Asking in this way will likely bring to the surface some hard and difficult feelings to be with. Like annoyance, or a sense of being put upon, or a worry about what would happen if you stop. Not to worry. Feelings will pass. As does time.

*Borrowed from Byron Katie and her Inquiry Work.

Now

 

Many of us believe that once things settle down in our life, once something changes, once someone starts or stops doing what they are doing, then, finally, we will get to what it is that we are really wanting to get to for ourselves. Maybe it is a book. A moment on our own. A new movement practice. A bath. Peace of mind.

Whatever it is though, we wait, or fight, or rage, or despair, hoping and praying that things will line up just so from the outside in so that we will finally have the space to be able to get to… Or to feel… Or get a chance to…

We may wind up waiting for a very long time. For some of us, that will be the equivalent of a lifetime.

Getting to what it is that we need to do for ourselves can only happen in any given moment. As in, right now. For the truth is, it is never an issue of some future configuration of things or other people’s actions, where the door will magically swing open, and there we will be; at the very place we have dreamed of. Finally.

Instead, what if it was about getting to what you need to get to for yourself, right now? With things exactly as they are. With not a single thing needing to be different outside of you.

If this makes sense to you, I offer you a powerful practice I have been working with. As I enter into my day with all that it asks of me from the outside world, I ask myself; “How can I make this work for me?” 

If you can get past the initial knee-jerk reaction that this is selfish, or that others will somehow be left out of the equation, or think ill of you, you will be gifted in the most unexpected and satisfying of ways. And literally, there is nothing you need to figure out or make happen. All that you have to do is to lightly hold that question in your mind as you move through your day. “How can I make this work for me?”

Try it.

 

 

Settling Down

I am in the woods with my husband on a clear cold day. We decide to sit on a log that crosses over a little stream to meditate. The setting is idyllic. The sounds from the water soothing. The company stellar. My body comfortable and cozy. I have nowhere to be but where I am.

And yet, the mind. Oh, how it goes. Everywhere.

As I am sitting, supposedly meditating, I start to notice the pressures and the disturbances of my thoughts. It begins to dawn on me that even when the external circumstances couldn’t be more supportive, it just takes time for some things to settle down inside. And when there is no judgment about how long this takes, or the particular forms that it arrives in, there is no problem with this; on any level.

From this perspective, it just becomes a really, really good thing to know. For if I can recognize this about myself, that it sometimes takes time, even a lot of time, to settle down, it gives me the courage to stay. And in the staying, I leave myself open to what comes after the disturbance, the chaos, and the confusion.

Many of us never put ourselves in the position of just being with whatever is happening in the mind; instead, working our tail off to get out of it. Or change it. Or fix it. Or obliterate it. Or cover it up. The “it” being all of the things that we simply cannot tolerate. The things that we just do not want to be there. And because we cannot be with “it,” we never give ourselves a chance to come through to the other side, and have that experience.

So maybe the issue is not what many of us would say it is. That being the impossibility or the difficulty of being with the disturbances and the chaos of the mind. But maybe instead, it is about our willingness to ride it out. Our faith even, that this too shall pass.

The thing with this one though is that you cannot get there merely by thinking about it as an idea. You actually have to experience it, by doing it. You have to practice waiting it out. Sitting there. Counting to 10. Watching the intensity of the thoughts as they pick up steam towards some unseen crescendo, and then start to come back down again.

From a practical standpoint, you might even time yourself in increments. As in for today, I am going to sit un-moving and un-changing, being with my thoughts as they are, for 1 minute. And if that is too much, half it, and then half it again. Because if it really is about the willingness to stay, any amount is just as good as any other amount of time.

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.

No

 

My husband is telling me about a sales approach he and his employees are working with where the whole point of what you are doing with a prospective client is to get to the truth as quickly as you can. Part of what expedites that process is recognizing that a “no” from someone is just as good as a “yes.” I absolutely love it when I come across honest and authentic teachings in the day to day, and sometimes, even from the most unlikely of sources. In this case, a sales method.

Can you imagine getting to the truth, whatever it was in your life, alone or with others, as quickly as possible? No hemming and hawing. No hedging. No blaming. No avoiding. And could you also imagine that responding with a “no” was just as valuable as a “yes” in getting to that very same truth? No need to pretend. No need to fear what it would mean about or for you. No need to defend your position, or form committees as a way to garner back-up on why you get to refuse what it is that you do not want. Or need. Or feel comfortable with.

I have to tell you that as a women, this one concept alone is so revolutionary that had I known it earlier, I would have saved myself a world of suffering in my interactions with others. Especially with men. For most of my life I did not even know that “No” was an option. Not even when it would have protected me, or been in my best interest. Or how about this one? That I had a right to it; without explanation or apology. Just because.

How often do we say yes when we really need to say no? We do it all the time. We do it because we do not think others will like our response. We do it because we do not believe we are worth more, or have a choice. We do it out of fear. We do it out of habit. And we do it because that is what we have been conditioned to do.

Think about it. Every time we take into ourselves, or our lives, something which does not belong, we violate ourselves. We override the truth of our existence. The refusal of what we really need or want diminishes the power and the vitality of what it feels like to be alive. It makes a choice, instead, to live smaller, unsupported, and bogged down by the wrong things.

Like the toddler learning how to use the word “No,” we might be a little clumsy in our early attempts to draw a line. And sometimes that is why we can’t get ourselves there. We are afraid of how it might come out. Maybe that is in part due to how many “No’s” we have squelched over a lifetime; creating a backlog that feels like it has the power to destroy if ever unleashed. It makes me wonder if this is why we have such difficulties as adults with young children when they first start to realize that “No” is a choice. They can be absolutely drunk with the power of it all; completely unconcerned that we are put off by their refusal of something that we want them to do.

Do we struggle with them around this because we have become confused over our own right to assert ourselves? Do we resent the idea that someone else gets to do what we have not been able to do for ourselves?

If getting to the truth as quickly as possible makes sense to you, the truth is, we have just as much right to say no as to say yes. A commitment to getting to the truth will always be facilitated by our ability to respond as authentically as we need to. And, our ability to authentically respond will always bring us to the truth in a far more direct and satisfying way.