Parallels

 

Last weekend I ran in a road race that included me and my closest 6000 friends. This is so not my type of race. I am much more built for the small, “mom and pop event;” preferably one that would take me through the woods. And yet, I love this race. Why? Because of the visible and palpable displays of inclusion, camaraderie, support, and good will.

For instance, there were the pairs of runners where one friend, mother, father, or mentor gently and steadfastly encouraged along their struggling protegee. There were the festive and exuberant cheering spectators whose enthusiasm and energy, as my husband noted, “Lifted you up and carried you along, further than you could get on your own.” And there was the visible call for justice as evidenced by the signs that many runners were wearing on their shirts; most poignantly moving being how many men came out in support of abused, disenfranchised, and dis-empowered women.

Running along and taking all of this in got me to thinking about the parallels for living in a more just and supportive world. A world where we encouraged one another along. A world where we spoke out against injustice. A world where everyone was included in the race; where every shape, size, ability level, age, and color was welcome and got all mixed in together in a wildly colorful display of human beings moving together towards one goal. A world where, as my husband said, “It’s amazing how little time it takes for everyone to finish.”

This is why every year I come back. This is why every year it sneaks up on me and leaves me crying at the finish line. This is what I want. This is what I want.

Yoga Nemesis

Every Wednesday I take a yoga class in at a local studio. This is the only day each week that I practice with others. As someone who usually practices on her own, this means a great deal to me. There is so much that I learn each and every week. And while I go to this class to practice in community, and to be challenged on the level of physical yoga, it is often a great surprise to me what it is that I end up learning.

For instance, I get to see each week exactly what I want to happen, or wish would happen, and then, what actually happens; along with my response to the gap between my fantasized reality and the actual reality. I get to see that because this time is so special to me, I want others to feel and act the same way. I want them to line up with my version of how we should be together, what this should mean to us, and therefore, how we should act.

I most certainly do not want to accept the woman who comes in late almost every single week, and then disrupts the class while she gets her things, and then somehow manages to get other people to rearrange their mats for her, even though the class has started. I do not want to accept her side-talking with a friend, or the way that she takes up so much of the teacher’s attention, or the overall space in the room. And I definitely do not want to accept her sighs and her huffing and puffing when the teacher offers something she can’t, or doesn’t want to do.

Last week, 15 minutes into class, this same woman comes in and winds up right in front of me. Based on the configuration of the class, I am actually facing her. A mirror. Even with my eyes closed, I can see her. I can feel her. I am thinking about her. What am I thinking? I am thinking about how she, in her selfish self-absorption, is killing the yoga vibe. And right as I am about to self-righteously launch into how often in life the wrong things or the wrong people get all the attention, or at least the right of way, I am suddenly struck dumb in my thinking. What comes in behind the disruption of my thoughts is; I am the one who is giving the wrong thing attention. I am the one who is giving the wrong thing the right of way. I am killing the yoga vibe. I am keeping the wrong thing alive in this room within me, based on what I have chosen to focus on, giving it the right of way, and allowing it to take up my precious time, energy, and focus.

As my first yoga teacher used to say, “Keep your eyes on your own mat.”

Fundamentals

 

Every Wednesday I take a yoga class where the teacher guides us through many postures that I know well. She also guides us in postures that not only have I never done before, but that I also have never seen or heard of. I like this. Why? Because every week lots and lots gets revealed to me about me, and the ways I most want to live.

For instance, lately I am seeing that there are those extreme, rare, and unique shapes to put my body and mind into that run parallel to what I encounter in life. And while I can sometimes believe that I need to prepare and know ahead of time how to approach or manage everything that comes my way, I can see that this is not true. I can see that there is another way.

How this shows up on the mat is that when I am practicing never before encountered poses, what is required of me falls into two categories. First, I am asked to engage in a kind of presence, openness, willingness and receptiveness as the leading response to what I am involved with no matter how challenging, foreign, or out of my comfort zone.

Second, these out of my comfort zone experiences demand a kind of baseline strength, balance, and flexibility that is honed through my daily habits and practices. What this looks like on the yoga mat is that the fundamental skills that I have developed over years of practice put me in a better position to attempt, be with, and oftentimes be “successful” with postures that I have never done before.

What I am suggesting here is the dual work of daily finding opportunities to both open and strengthen yourself in ways that allow you to be with all of you, and with all of life’s challenges. This approach relies on the development of a kind of inner strength and confidence that is built on attending daily to what needs strengthening in your life. To what is calling for more balance. And to what is demanding more flexibility on your part.

Adjustments

 

I am laying in bed, not sleeping for the umpteenth night in a row. Why? Because I am brainstorming about how I can take care of the excessive light that is coming into our bedroom at night. Since moving into our new home, we have gone from  a dark cave to a brilliantly lit room. Lovely during the day. Intrusive at night.

On one particular night, I catch myself. I hear what is underneath all the ruminating I am doing in my mind about this. Beyond the realities of the importance of a dark room for a good night’s sleep, I begin to sense something else. That being, that all of this trying to manage something is my way of trying to get it all just so, so that I can finally be OK.

The sheer recognition of this loosens something inside, creating enough inner space for me to wonder; Even with things as they are, could I still choose to be OK right now without anything needing to change? Could I choose to make the adjustments that are within my power to make, when the opportunities to do so present themselves, and then be willing to be with things exactly as they are? Could I let go of all of the obsessive fixing, fussing, and rearranging that I am doing in my mind? Could I let go of needing things outside of myself to be a certain way? This is no easy thing to do, programmed as I am, to believe that life must line up just so in certain areas of my life.

It is such a human thing to try and improve upon things in our outer circumstances. It is so very normal to imagine how things could be different. In and of itself, this is not a problem. The problem arises when we live as if we cannot be OK unless… Or until… We can even go so far as to build a whole life based on trying to get things to turn out how we think we need them to be.

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.

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?    

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.

Somewhere Else

 

I am fasting every month for a day and a half for the next year. I am doing this in preparation for a Vision Fast I am doing in May of 2018 in New Mexico. I know this is going to be a massive stretch for me, and so, in preparation, I am trying to stretch a little bit at a time before I go.

I have fasted three times now, and every time has been different. Sometimes physical discomfort has been the leading torment. At other times, it has been the incessant wailing of my mind. Wherever I have landed in this, each and every time I have caught the scent of a running theme in my thoughts. That being, the regular instructions coming out of my mind telling me to endure my experience in a way that gets me through it, or past it, to a time in the future when things will be better. Easier. More to my liking and comfort level.

Years ago, my yoga teacher spoke on the difference between experiencing our lives, and enduring them. Through the fasting, I have been face to face with how I endure. I feel the endurance as an inner tension; a way of trying to steer and manage, protect and get away. In the body it reveals itself as a clenched jaw, a tight gut and a body armored against what is happening. In the mind, it shows up as a big, fat “NO!” to the experience at hand.

In the midst of last night’s 3 a.m. mental and physical suffering, I had the obvious revelation that I had, in fact, chosen to have this particular experience. That contrary to the opinion of my ordinary mind, “it” wasn’t being done to me. Therefore, I had a choice about how to be with this, and more to the point, the recognition that I always have a choice about how to be with anything. And so, I chose to say “YES” to the sensations in my body and to the chaos in my mind. And then I took it further by choosing to pour it all into an intention for what I wanted. Even further, I chose to devote all of what I was doing and experiencing to Something More than me. With that, I fell asleep and awoke in the morning at ease, despite the hunger.

There is something so very powerful about choosing to experience the moments of our lives exactly as they are, while channeling it all into what we most deeply want out of Life. Add in devotion to Something More than yourself, and you have valuable instructions for a life fully lived. And isn’t that what we all want? The ability to be with all of ourselves, while being connected to Something Greater.

The Way Is Narrow

 

“Narrow your life down to this moment.” This is my mantra, and it is bringing me more peace and clarity than I could have ever imagined. No small feat given the fullness of my life at this time.

Running into this simple instruction from the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle a couple of months ago could not have come at a better time for me. It showed up right in time for the perfect and beautiful storm of internal and external upheaval and shifts that started to brew in the wake of endings and new beginnings.

Returning to this phrase over and over again has settled me down in the most profound of ways. A pressure has been lifted. And within the words, I feel more than words could possibly convey; I feel a Truth so simple that is it incredibly easy to miss. That Truth being that anything that you need is contained both right in front of you in the form of this moment, and directly inside you.

Try it. Try letting go of “later.” Try letting go of using your mind to create endless scenarios around “What if?” and “How am I going to do this or make that happen?” Instead, every time you find yourself spinning out into the business of trying to manage the future, say to yourself; I narrow my life down to this moment. Watch what happens.

“Lies”

 

The day I left to come home after a visit with my mother in Florida, I called the airline just before we were leaving to check on the flight status. The plane was delayed by 15 minutes. When I got off the phone and told my mother this, she demanded the phone number of the airline so that she herself could call. “Why?” I asked. “Because I think you are lying to me.” Huh?

(To give you the back story, my mother was dropping me off at the airport and then going on to play in her Sunday golf group. I had already offered to go earlier so that she would not be rushed. She did not want to do that because she did not want me to wait any longer than I had to at the airport.)

As we began to go back and forth, back and forth about her calling the airline to check on the veracity of my report, a timely piece of sanity crept in during our exchange allowing me to ask, “Why would I lie to you about this?” To which she immediately responded, “Because that is what I would do.” I burst out laughing with the relief of no longer feeling like I had to convince another person that I was not, in fact, a liar. More to the point, I could see that I had been gearing up for something that did not have a single solitary thing to do with me and whether or not I was being honest. It had to do with her and how she would have handled the situation. By her own admission, she would have lied to me if the roles were reversed because she would not want me to feel bad about her having to wait longer at the airport. And because she felt as though the lie would in service to me, she would not have even seen it as a lie.

It has left me wondering; “Do we ever truly know who is in front of us? Or do we just believe they are some reflection of who we are, how we do things, along with our beliefs about how people should be?

In the end, I have decided to stay with just figuring myself out. No one else. What I have found is this; there have been more times than I can count where I have tried to convince another person of who I am or am not. Sometimes I have done this face to face with another. More times than not though, I have done it through the fake conversations and arguments I hold in my own mind. I have spent a whole lot of time with something that has never had a single thing to do with me, ever. Even if it looked like it did.