Life-Giving Mutations

 

I saw an article today reporting that the virus was mutating. The tone of the piece was that of abject terror. It was filled with statements built to push the panic button in the minds of those reading it. The solution offered? Out and out warfare. Measures that would annihilate the virus, and therefore, restore health. Along with peace of mind.

Sounds good. Just get rid of the offending organism, and all will be well.

Only…

What this piece failed to tell its readers is that viruses, like all forms of Life, constantly, continuously and naturally mutate in order to adapt to the current environment. This is to be expected. This is biological truth. This is a survival mechanism built into everything that is alive. Something that is constantly going on both around us, and within us.

But this is hard for us to be with. We want to be in charge. We want to be the ones controlling what Life does. We want to be the ones wiping out what we don’t like or are afraid of. This is “normal” and to be expected. But it is pure arrogance, ignorance and fear that drives this behavior. Producing in the end all manner of negative consequences we never thought to consider or saw coming.

But we do have our cautionary tales that if paid attention to could guide us as we step forward. We have already seen the virulent superbugs that have mutated into something we cannot treat due to our over-use of antibiotics and hand sterilizers. So deadly that 14,000 people a year die of impossible-to-treat infections that they picked up in the hospital.*

So when we are considering what we are up against now in the form of a virus, if we look at numbers, what we find is that those of us who have succumbed to the virus, or have struggled the hardest with it, have been deeply and alarmingly out of balance. Have been living with chronic, often lifestyle-related conditions that weaken us and leave us more susceptible to things like a virus; which then comes in and tips the scales of a system already dangerously out of balance and at odds with itself.

And because we are at odds with ourselves, we are therefore at odds with every form of Life that surrounds us. Given this, it would seem that the wisest, most visionary course of action would be one that would address the underlying root causes of these chronic, life-depleting and soul-sucking imbalances. An approach that would bring people back into balance, leaving them less susceptible to a virus because they were no longer serving as a drained and ravaged host.

But because our modern day epidemics of life-style related diseases, autoimmune problems and chronic conditions have become our new normal, have become so widespread and commonplace, we fail to recognize these deep states of imbalance as being not only the problems that they are, but also the root of future problems.

Consider this. What do you believe would be more difficult to do? Fight a virus? Or address the causes of the chronic conditions that cripple our world? For as difficult as it is to be living as we are now with all of the fears and the restrictions, it is nothing compared to the energy that it would take to go back to the drawing board and change the way we are living.

Changing a collective way of Life is a tall order. But as always, all you have to do, is do you.

Where is your life out of balance? Do not seek the answer to this through the intellect. Go to your body. Go to how it feels to be alive. Are you exhausted? Addicted to something? Unhappy? Unfulfilled at work? Unseen in a relationship? In pain? Do what you can to address this and you will not have to live in fear of your own body. You will not have to live as if a virus is a kind of diabolical serial killer from the microbial world out to get you.

Just like us, the virus is trying its best to stay alive. To simply live. Therefore, could we learn to be the best mutators of all? Willing to adapt ourselves back into balance with all that is around and within us; thereby rendering the impact a virus has on us, less impactful.

Intelligence is inherent in everything that is here. Wise ones have been telling us that since the dawn of time. Even medical science is finally catching up. But for all of us to catch up, we have to make a shift, an internal mutation if you will, where we let go of the falsehood that the human prefrontal cortex is the highest form of intelligence. This requires recognizing that there is Intelligence out there far more knowing than we currently behave. And that to learn to align with that, is to be truly wise.

We are part of something. Something we have been fearing, underestimating and demonizing, as opposed to living in harmony with. But maybe, just maybe, we can learn through a virus; letting it teach us all something about how to live in accord with others.

 

The Microbiome Solution: A Radical New Way To Heal Your Body From The Inside Out by Dr. Robynne Chutkan A great, accessible and practical read on learning about the world of microbes that we live with. Lots of fantastic recipes as well.

Power

 

I have been thinking a lot lately about power. Who has it. How it is accumulated. How it moves. What it looks and feels like. For to be in a position of power is to influence. It is to control. It is to have authority over. It is to determine. It is to be sovereign.

Given the life-giving or life-denying impact power has on us individually and collectively, it would be wise for us to explore its role in our lives. As in, who has it and who doesn’t. As in, how one gets it, and what it is that we are truly going for here.

To understand power more fully requires going to what lies behind it all. In other words, what’s the motivation for what’s being done? Or required. Seems like as good a place as any to determine for ourselves whether what is in power is in fact in one’s best interest, and the best interest of the common good, or not. For there is a vast and life-altering difference between power distorted and power authentically come by.

Here’s what I have come to so far:

Power distorted is concentrated, self-serving, and exclusive.

Power that is authentic shares itself, considers the whole, and is inclusive.

Distorted power separates, forces, and demands the status quo be upheld.

Authentic power brings us together, invites, and dares to walk in the unknown.

Power coming from distortion derives from without and imposes from the top down; demanding control and domination while insisting on obedience.

Power coming from an authentic source springs from within and grows from the bottom up; seeking consensus and partnership while claiming sovereignty.

Distorted and coercive power manipulates the lower survival centers of the brain through its messages of fear, while authentic power speaks to a kind of Truth within that reverberates through every single layer of us.

Look around at what is happening now. Feel it in your bones. Sense it in your guts. Look for it under your skin. Do you know the difference between a power that takes advantage of your fears, and one that seeks only your highest good and what it is that truly heals?

If not, get help. Help around how to tell the difference between real and imagined fears. For if you would like to contribute at this moment in time, this is one of the greatest contributions you will ever make. For when you can determine for yourself what it is that you will believe in, and what it is that you will not, you will find your way to authentic power, rendering distorted power, obsolete.

Ten To The Thirty One

 

I have been on a bit of a whirlwind of learning over the past several months. Something in me is feeling very, very hungry for as broad and as deep of a perspective as I can open to and integrate into, in understanding the world, the circumstances we find ourselves in, along with my place in all of this.

For as things crumble and churn, if I can open to a wider understanding of Life itself, I am then offered a seemingly infinite number of opportunities to create anew. To get it “right.” Right being choosing for a life based on what it is that a human being needs to live and to live well; what it is to exist in the world in a life-affirming way. But I can only entertain new possibilities if I am willing to be open and curious to what is before me and who it is that I actually am. As I see it, this kind of willingness offers me a chance to see what we “affectionately” call the pandemic as a harbinger of good will, change and possibility.

What the Bleep?

Stay with me. For if we could see the virus as a messenger and catalyst of change and adaptation, we would not only line up with biological truth, we would come together with a Greater Reality helping us to understand that everything that is here is here for a reason. Here for us, actually. Not against us, as many of us would believe.

Because this can be so very different from how many of us think about this, and because we are in a time when the rallying cry is “the science says,” let’s go there. Let’s look at the science. Actually, let’s go even further by looking at a cutting-edge understanding around viruses and their essential place in our world.

According to Dr. Zach Bush, a triple-board certified (this is rare) physician and educator who speaks on the microbiome, he would say that we need the virus. He would say that the life-giving ecosystem of viruses, bacteria and fungi that inhabit everything in our world, including us, are essential for health.

Dr. Bush would say that there are ten to the thirty one viruses inhabiting our world. Can you even begin to imagine what that number is? That is a 10 with 31 zeroes after it. To give you a sense of the magnitude of what we are talking about, there are 10 million times more viruses than stars in the universe! This is perhaps somehow unimaginable to the human mind that we could be surrounded by, covered by, and inhabited by something that vast, and that invisible to us. Yet it is true nonetheless. More to the point, it is worth our time to catch up to understanding what is noteworthy and beneficial about viruses.

For instance, Dr. Bush would say that if the viruses really wanted us gone, we would be. That’s how many there are, and that’s how virulent some can be. Far more than we could ever combat. Which begs the question, if there are that many, and if they could wipe us out, why bother trying to fight a select few when the reality is that there are no “bad” microbes when we are in balance.Therefore, why not find a way to live in balance with all of them?

Biologically speaking, we are part of, inseparable from, a microbial stew. Always. And in all ways. From this viewpoint, it would be counterproductive to focus on eradication of, and far more prudent to focus on how we can be in harmony with. But that’s not been our way. Historically, we would rather wipe something out rather than learn how to co-exist with.

That needs to change.

Here’s something else to consider. According to the new science, viruses are here to help update our genetics. In other words, we need them to continue to adapt in a healthy way to our environment. Now, this might be brand new to you, so don’t take my word for it. Go check out a progressive source around viruses, the microbiome and how it all comes together in the health of an individual and a planet. For if what I have just passed on to you is in fact biological truth, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do in our attitude, beliefs and fear-based “reasoning” regarding our current approaches.

Looked at in this way, we are called to come to grips with the stories and the behaviors that we have embraced and that leave us living out of balance and apart from our true inheritance. All of the ways that our separating ideas are in error biologically and spiritually. All of the ways that we go after and attempt to eradicate the offending entity as opposed to finding the balance, has got to stop. And we have got to open our eyes on a very common sense level, that something is not working here, and has not for a very long time.

Will we be willing to recognize that and chart a new course? Will we be willing to wonder what is possible here if we open to everything that is available to us as opposed to only one source of information around what to do?

We have got a big, collective chance here my friends. What are you going to do about it? Will it be business as usual? Will things have to get completely desperate before you entertain another perspective?

Or are you ready for Something else?

 

 

Cloaked

 

I was nearly ready to send something out for this week’s blog when I ran into an image that feels far more pertinent to comment on regarding where we are at in this pivotal time as a culture. I won’t go into all of the details around how I came upon this image. Instead, let me share it with you.

It is a simple, line-drawing, black and white cartoon sketch of a Klansman decked out in the usual cloak; body and face covered head to toe in white, with only small slits cut out for eyes. He is righteously (aggressively?) holding towards you, with a kind of “in your face” stance, a picket sign. It reads: “I ain’t wearing no mask. Re-open ‘merica.”

Okay, okay, so this is what we are up against is what I think as I take in the full implications of what this means for us. To be direct, there are far more choices here than those wearing a mask being on the side of right, as the someones who cares about others, and that those not wearing a mask are on the side of hatred and lack of concern for anything but themselves and the economy. There is a more nuanced picture around why a person would choose to not wear a mask that has nothing to do with Klan leanings or disregard for others’ health and well-being

As someone who does not align with the mandatory policy of mask-wearing, and as someone who is simultaneously for the health and welfare of the greatest good of the people, and as someone who also holds the conviction that it is each of our rights to decide in this regard, I find the polarization around wearing or not wearing a mask to be misinformed, dangerous and divisive; whether it is openly stated, implied, insinuated or unconsciously driven.

For more than two decades I have been a student and a teacher of the breath. It is my ultimate go-to in all that I do. It has changed my life, and it has changed the lives of so many people that I have taught in more ways than I or them could ever enumerate on in this space. Not only does the breath play the most essential role in keeping us alive, it is a powerful agent in connecting heart to head, unconscious to conscious, and matter to Spirit. Not to mention its role in equilibrating the emotions and quieting the mind. I could go on and on and on. And when I am teaching about the breath, I do.

Bringing the breath to the current circumstances, here is what I know to be true. On the inhale, covering your face restricts the flow of oxygen; a nutrient every cell in your body needs a continuous supply of, and without which we go into a state of hypoxia. At the extreme, this state is dangerous enough to kill us. In its “milder” iterations it leaves us with just enough oxygen to survive but not thrive; reducing the health and well-being of body and mind on a subtle yet sweeping systemic level. Ultimately serving as an invisible foundation for dis-ease.

On the exhale you are releasing the waste product CO2. This eliminatory function is absolutely essential to your survival. Respiratory waste is not meant to be reabsorbed into your body. But when your face is covered that is exactly what is happening. It is curious to note that with all of the emphasis being placed on the necessity of well-ventilated public spaces, we would choose to mandate such an intense lack of personal ventilation.

Lastly, when your body does not receive the oxygen it needs, you put your system into a stress response where you release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol suppresses the immune system. So what we are left with are bodies not getting the most essential nutrient in healthy amounts, who are then reabsorbing metabolic waste products and all the while trying to be healthy in the midst of a suppressed immune response.

And to those who would say that the mask is not for me, it is for others, I would say that my compromised health is far more of a risk factor to you than whether or not I wear a mask. I would say that my personal health is the very foundation of collective health. I would say that the body’s most basic and truest needs are simple and that we would be well served to learn what those are and to adhere to them.

I would also say that when we find ways to divide against each other in fear, we lose the insulating capacity and immune health that is available through our social connections and well-wishing of others. I would say that if instead of boiling things down to un-useful, unhelpful and untrue dichotomies, we instead spent our precious life force coming together to look at what it is that makes for a healthy population, we would find our answers. I would say that shrouding any issue in mandates not based in real human needs has always served throughout history as the root cause of the wrong things taking hold in us and between us. Let us not be those people with each other.

P.S. Do not take my word for it. As a matter of fact, never, ever take my word for anything. Instead, learn about your own body. Learn to decide your own mind. For if you truly want to keep others “safe,” this and only this is what it will take.Do not be misled by quick fixes and guarantees of safety issued from outside of you.

P.P.S. Hypoxia is when not enough oxygen makes its way to the cells and tissues of the body, with the early signs being anxiety, confusion and restlessness. Isn’t that exactly how many of us would describe ourselves? To go one further, is not the inability of the body to take in the oxygen it needs exactly what the virus brings us to? How ironic that our fix is the problem.

Power

 

How much of what happens is because we are expecting it to happen?

 

Our minds are so very, very powerful. Powerful enough to heal our bodies with sugar pills and medically “faked” procedures. A mere suggestion from a doctor can take us to new health heights, or find us dead in exactly the amount of time we were “given” to live. And while this and more falls under the term “placebo effect,” it is so much more than that limited phrase suggests.

Likely you have heard of the placebo effect; described as being an experience where the brain convinces the body that a treatment not known to cure what is ailing you, somehow has the capacity to do so. Taking it further, maybe you have even had the experience where you were thinking something or feeling something in your mind so strongly that something happened in your body. Negative or positive. An experience where you created health or disease; “just” by a thought, “just” by an emotion.

The first time this ever happened to me I was in my mid 20’s and I was coming down with some kind of womping respiratory illness that I knew was going to leave me very sick. I knew it because the symptoms that were arising were the indicators of how I would typically get sick; having already gone through multiple bouts of bronchitis that would lay me up for weeks, and sometimes even months. At the time I had been going through an enormous amount of stress, and was very unhappy.

Somehow I convinced myself that what I needed most was a night of some hard core partying to blow out the deadly stress and difficult emotions that had been building up inside. I believed fully, absolutely and completely that a night of smoking and drinking was what I needed to set myself straight.

It worked.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that health depleting practices like getting drunk and filling the lungs with smoke is a remedy for respiratory health. What I am suggesting is that I so fully believed it that my body responded in kind. With my expectations somehow internally producing the exact combination of chemistry and more to render me well.

Expectations have an enormous impact and effect on bodily functions and systems. Our minds make a prediction about what is possible with our health, and then make it come true through our own internal pharmacies and healing processes.

This then begs the question: If we have something so powerful built right into us, why is this not the leading approach in all that we do around health and well-being? A timely corollary being: Do we continue to experience what we are experiencing now because the “expert” predictions, the very same ones that so many of our minds have taken to be true, are creating expectations in our minds that our bodies go on to fulfill?

Think about it.

What if all around us, we were bathing in messages that made use of this power instead of ingesting messages that predict, plan and expect for ill health? Can you imagine it? Can you imagine charting your own health in this way? Not easy. Not at all.

But so very, very possible.

(I highly recommend Joe Dispenza’s book, “You Are The Placebo”)

 

 

Receiving Risk

Not long ago, a practitioner asked me, “Could you receive what it is that you do not want to receive?” What? No! Are you out of your mind? What are you talking about? Why would you even say that to me? Why would I want to receive something I did not want? What a weird and disturbing thing to say to someone!

And yet, what a deeply, profound and truthful question to ask. I know now why she asked it. She was wondering how close to reality I could get without balking. Without denying what is there. Without trying to reconfigure the Truth of what stands before me. And she asked it because it is so. Because it is here. Because a willingness to receive what we do not want, and to find a way to be with it, maybe even make good use of it, is a big part of being alive in a healthy and satisfying way.

What we are talking about here are the risks and the conditions of being alive. Of the fact that there are no guarantees. No definites when it comes to how our lives will go. And even though, way down deep, each and every one of us knows this, we fight tooth and nail for it not to be so. In fact, we create lives, individually and collectively, based on the denial of the realities that stand before us.

The question I am asking myself now is, “Can I surrender and become the one who embraces it all?” Not because I want it. Not because I like it. Not because I hope what I do not want sticks around. Not because I am a masochist feeling the need to be punished. But because I have come to see that until I can fully and completely say “Yes” to what is before me, I cannot choose from a clear and balanced place. A place by the way, that because it includes it all, is the most reality-based, true to form, comprehensive assessment of what is actually happening. Warts and all. Including the unwanted.

This as opposed to choosing from fear and resistance. From a refusal to receive what is before you. From a place of trying to control what is not yours to control. For the Truth is, whenever we choose from denial, scarcity, fear, avoidance, control, resistance etc. we will always, always create unintended consequences, along with a whole set of  problems we never intended. Or saw coming.

It puts me in mind of a book I once read by a medical doctor called Less Medicine, More Health: 7 Assumptions That Drive Too Much Medical Care. The first assumption being that all risk cannot be eliminated, and that trying creates risks of its own. Which brings us to what is happening now. That being, the current obsession with sterility and how it is creating a world of unintended consequences in the form of increased devastation to the planet through the excessive and fear-driven use of resources. We see this in the forms of paper towels, disposable gloves, masks, cleaning supplies and more being consumed at volumes the earth will not be able to tolerate without repercussion.

As we attempt to control one risk and to quell our fears, we over-use anti-microbial products; imbalancing our personal, collective and earthly microbiomes. Those luscious, rich and delicately balanced universes of micro-organsims that cover our bodies and the body of the earth; serving as a protective layer and health-giving resource. Particularly for the immune system. And so, while we think we are doing one thing to protect ourselves, are we in fact potentially creating a “cure” far worse than the disease we are attempting to eradicate?

What of the increased use of water, disposable containers, and overall resource depletion as we wage a war on trying to eliminate one terrifying risk only to trade it for a host of other equally, or perhaps more terrifying sets of consequences? In our attempts to reduce one form of toxicity, we increase other toxicity levels on the planet through the use of bleach and other harsh and life-depleting chemicals. And now, after decades of lobbying and finally succeeding in getting plastic disposable bags out of the waste stream, they are back now because it has been determined that reusable bags pose a threat.

So even though the CDC states that while “it may be possible” for the virus to be spread through contact with objects or surfaces, “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” we can’t hear that. We can’t make that adjustment.

Back and forth, back and forth we yo-yo as a people. Trading one harm for another.

Where can we turn in times like this? How about to the hard core truths of existence? Those truths that lie at the heart of, and serve as the root of all else. Truths like the importance of each and every one of us learning how to manage our fears so that we do not create more harm through reactive and fear-based choices. Truths like we cannot control everything despite what we have to come to believe.

Biggest of all, could we learn to come to grips with the barest, harshest, truest and most precious of all realities? That being, that life has risks. That being alive is a delicate and risky business. And that facing our own mortality, while choosing to live as fully as we can is the greatest, sanest, safest, most honest and life-giving form of risk management that is available here on the planet.

 

 

Preventable

Each year in the United States, on average, here is what we can expect in terms of how people die:

435,000 deaths from smoking

Almost 112,000 from being overweight

85,000 from alcoholism

37,000 from car accidents

15,000 from gun violence (excluding suicide)

1,100 from bee stings

And somewhere between 210,00 and 448,000 deaths from medical errors

To date, 12 people have died from the Coronavirus in the U.S.

Do you have a sense of where I am going with this? Where is the outrage over medically-induced deaths? Where is the needed cultural change regarding deaths from gun violence? On and on it goes. And while likely we have not seen the end of the number of people who may die from this virus, the point I am making still holds. That point being, all of the ways we get unnecessarily and dangerously whipped up with, and are feeding on, unrealistic fears. Along with all of the ways we get so caught up in moments like this as to lose all perspective; focusing and gathering instead around culturally, communally and self-generated made-up fears that over-emphasize and exaggerate the dangers we are facing, and call it a life.

In the meantime, we ignore the real threats, devastations and tragedies in our world. In the meantime, the stress response we put ourselves in depresses our immune functioning leaving us more susceptible to the very thing we fear. In the meantime, we feed the wrong things by buying more. In the meantime, we miss the real ways we can healthfully address situations like this. In the meantime, we are so perpetually distracted that we miss the real dangers of our world; allowing them to go largely unnoticed and unaddressed. In the meantime, we prime our nervous systems for the next crisis; ever-ready now to live as if the world is just one threat after another. In the meantime, we lose track that life is both  finite and precious. With things we can control. And things we cannot.

This is not about more face masks and Purell for the vast majority of us. Instead this is about creating a way of life that supports a healthy body; on our own and together. It is about a way of being that encourages and promotes reality-based perspectives. Ones that understand the difference between real and imagined fears.

Did you know that the CDC reports that each year there are somewhere around 1.2 million preventable deaths? How about we take a look at that, and what it would take to prevent them. Guess what though? We already have the answer. Slow down. Be good to yourself and others. Move your body. Breathe. Eat real food. Stay hydrated. Keep good company. Get the sleep you need. Do work that fulfills you. Cultivate positive mind states and emotions.

Somehow though, this is nowhere near as compelling as the fear that is being generated over this virus. Somehow we prefer jettisoning ourselves from one crisis to another. Why is that? This would be the place to begin should you recognize there is another way to live; taking all the energy it requires to be afraid, and directing it instead towards what makes for a healthy human being.

How might the death toll change then? Beyond even that, how might your Life improve?

 

Tricky Footing

 

I am on a run in the woods traveling down a trail covered in leaves. Beneath the leaves are lots of acorns and loose rock. I keep stumbling over and over again in this one particular section, almost falling flat on my face several times, before I recognize that I am actually, not there. Not in my body. Not on the trail. But elsewhere, in my mind. And it takes all the near misses of falling down to recognize that there is a deep agitation inside my mind that is burning me up from the inside, and pulling me out of where I actually am. It is nothing short of pure hell to experience a mind on fire and a body left vacated. No wonder I can barely stay on my feet.

It occurs to me how essential it is that when we are navigating tricky terrain in our lives, (which I am, hence the burning mind), that is exactly the time we least want to go on autopilot. The time we least want to check out and go unaware. And yet, it is often exactly what we do and where we go when we do not want to feel what we are feeling. But the truth is, when the footing gets particularly tricky, difficult, and even “unbearable,” that is exactly when we most need to be where we are. When we most need to be in our body, fully within ourselves; seeing what we are seeing and feeling what we are feeling.

I recently heard a great teacher talk about how our attention is our most precious resource, and that one of the most powerful things we can do is to recognize when we are giving our attention away. How, why and when do you give your attention away? Worrying about the past or the future? What someone thinks of you? Financial fears? Ruminations about the body? Work to discover what it is that takes your attention away, and take it back. Whatever the cost. Whatever it is that you must give up or rework.

Claim your attention as the powerful force that it is to literally choose your happiness or unhappiness. Your health and well-being or your suffering. Your peace of mind or a kind of chaos within. Be where you are. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Your body is here. The Earth is here. This moment is here.The mind, on the other hand, may be anywhere, but here. And when that is so, work to get it back.

You might be thinking sounds good, but how do I do it? I’ll tell you what I did. Once I noticed what was going on, an attention to your thoughts always being the first step, I began to do two things. The first one was I began to feel and listen to the sound of my feet hitting the Earth. I felt the cold on my face. I tuned into my breathing and I began to focus on the sky and the trees. And when that wasn’t enough to cool the mind off, I began to talk to myself saying things like; “You have a choice, what do you want more; to feel like this or to do something else?”

To take your attention back requires a kind of presence on your part; a willingness to notice when your mind has taken off. And then what you need is an absolute, unshakeable accountability on your part for the thoughts you choose to keep and to the places where you give yourself away based on where your attention goes. And while there is no end to what grabs our attention away from us, away from what is real and true, away from the present moment, this is yours, and only yours to do.

Staying

 

A Yoga teacher I know often says in class some version of, “Stay with yourself.” It never ceases to stop me in my tracks. Those tracks being all of the ways that my mind, chattering, obsessing and preoccupied as it is, has led me to be anywhere but with myself. Do you remember when they used to say “Elvis has left the building?” That’s what it feels like. Only, it’s me and not Elvis. And the building is my body.

There seems to be a real epidemic of “leaving” in the culture. So many ways and so many reasons to get out of the body and whatever our experience is. Take my college students and the way that they party. Recently, while working with the concept of mindfulness, the art and science of being present moment to moment without judgment, they began talking about how they use drugs and alcohol to knock down the stress. Jokingly I was calling it the sledgehammer approach. A way of forcefully busting through the stress by getting blackout drunk.

But because they have been practicing being mindful with their bodies, it has been opening up the possibility of managing the stress differently. Of noticing when the build up of tension is occurring, leaving them in a position to try something like the breath or time outside, as opposed to letting the stress accumulate unchecked. And for the ones practicing being more in their bodies, they’re finding that it just doesn’t feel so good anymore to pound down 14 beers when 3 would suffice.

But in order for any of us to make this level of shift with whatever our “sledgehammer of choice” is requires, first and foremost, the willingness to inhabit ourselves differently. The willingness to want something else other than annihilating ourselves with habits that harm. This requires three things. The space that you carve out to take care of yourself. A perspective on why this would be important for you. And a practice; something you do on a regular basis to get clear in your mind while offering a stress outlet for the body.

You might be wondering what is available should you practice staying with yourself. While I could list off all of the things I have experienced, along with all of the things students have said, I encourage you to give it a try for yourself. For this is truly the only way this one works. You cannot think about this one, or watch a video on it. You cannot wait until later. It begins in this moment and it is something you have to practice over and over again. Why? Because given how long many of us have been outside the building of our own bodies, leaving has become familiar and normal. Leaving is rewarded by the culture. Leaving has become more compelling than staying.

All Heart

 

Someone recently said to me, “If it’s in your heart, you have to do it.” This represents a radical departure from how many of us live. Many of us would say instead, “If it’s in your mind, you have to do it.” Or believe it. Or be governed by it.

While our culture loves to worship the mind as the ultimate powerhouse, the heart has 60 times the electrical charge of the brain. Along with that, more nerve pathways travel from the heart to the brain than the other way around. In other words, in some very essential places, it is the heart leading the way. Once again, our biological intelligence is pointing to something we all too often do not recognize. In this case, that being, that it is the heart that is the true powerhouse. The one carrying the big charge. The call we want to sit up and take notice of. The one we do not want to deny.

This is not easy to do given the loud and insistent ways that the mind can drown out the more subtle and graceful messages of the heart. Not easy to do in a culture that has made many of us wary, shy and even downright suspicious of what the heart has to say. Some of us have even been so deeply and painfully wounded that it feels like nothing short of terrifying to imagine letting our hearts come out of hiding. And while likely we have all heard some version of “follow your heart,” it can seem like more of a romantic notion than a reality-based, viable approach to life.

For one, we don’t have a lot of good role models for this. And if we do, they are often saints, or people like the Dali Lama who can be too removed from daily life for us to feel as though we too, have access to what they do. For another, in a culture that uses fear as a sales tactic, as a way to keep us in line and that offers up entertainment based on the horrific and the outrageous, we can be left believing that to rely on the heart and its ways is childish, weak, ineffective, soft or overly sentimental. Maybe even downright dangerous to our safety and well-being.

It is anything but that. Believe it or not, the heart has its origins in courage. As in, the word courage derives from the French root “cour,” meaning heart. So beautifully portrayed in what the lion was looking for in The Wizard of Oz. But that is a child’s fantasy you might think. Maybe. Or maybe it is an expression of what we all most deeply long for. Something we all intuitively know to be a resource far greater than the insecurities, fears, shames, grievances, controls, anticipations and worries of the mind.

Check it out for yourself. Lying in bed first thing in the morning, before the mind has kicked into gear, pause. Don’t let the schedule and the demands of the day move in before you have placed one hand over your heart, and taken a few deep breaths right into the very center of your courage and wisdom. Ask your heart what it wants. And then, listen.