Rock Boundaries

 

Away on retreat several weeks ago, I ran into the “Rock of Gibraltar.” This was the nickname given to an enormous boulder that sat at the junction of three trails meeting. It was quite a spectacle sitting there in the middle of the woods. So much so that someone had written a poem to this behemoth and staked it off to the side for people, or maybe it seemed for the rock itself, to enjoy.

I stumbled across this monument on one of my days out hiking, and I was struck by its presence. If ever you could imagine the physical embodiment of strength and grounded-ness, this was it. If ever you wanted an extraordinary example of steadiness, stillness and solidness, this was it. It was as if it knew its place and knew how to hold it well. It truly was the kind of thing that made you want to sit there and hang out with it for a while. And so I did.

What I noticed first was despite its rock-hard, exceedingly clear edges, things were growing all over it. Delicate little flowers. Florescent green mosses. And lots of things were crawling on top of it while other things were momentarily resting there. Yet none of this changed the nature of Gibraltar. Not by even one iota. It continued to be itself; unharmed, undisturbed, unperturbed and most of all, unchanging.

In that moment I was brought to think about boundaries. About how difficult it can be to know when and where to draw a line with others. About how often we either collapse our boundaries to acquiesce to some demand or expectation, or on the other end of the spectrum, how we harden up and armor up to protect ourselves. And then there is good old Gibraltar, doing the only thing it knows how to do. Be itself. Fully and completely. No apologies. No accusations. No explanations. No permission requested.

That is when it really sunk in for me. How when considering or working on boundaries with others, we can make the mistake of believing that we need to begin with our edges. Or worse yet, that we need to begin outside of ourselves. Both are incorrect. We need to begin with our center. With the core of who we are. With the deepest essence of our truest nature. In a phrase, we need to be fully established in the truth of who we are, then the rest just naturally takes care of itself.

This is not easy to do. It would be far easier to believe that others should act the way we want them to. It would be far easier to believe we have to be at war with others, protecting ourselves against their violations and onslaughts. It would be far easier to just cave into the demands to keep the peace. And yet, to do any of this would be to violate our best and truest natures, which by extension, then goes on to skew and contaminate our interactions with others.

That big, beautiful rock stands as a powerful symbol for me. One that says it is possible to be in harmonious and symbiotic relationship with all of the life on us and around us when we never, not for one moment, cease to be ourselves.

On Being Lost

 

Away on retreat recently I got lost in the woods. Really lost. For hours I bushwhacked until I finally made my way to a trail system, which eventually took me out of the forest and into the car of a very nice man who got me back to where I was trying to go.

The next day I made my way back to the trails I had stumbled upon and spent the morning exploring the main branches and all of the little ancillaries that would eventually dead end somewhere. And even though I did not necessarily know where I was going, I had a familiarity that I did not have the day before. This gave me more confidence and a sense of groundedness to be back at least somewhat knowing where I was, where only the day before I had been utterly lost.

Along with a better sense of where I was, I also brought better supplies. This time I was more prepared, resilient, and therefore, at ease. This allowed me to settle into myself; no longer being in a kind of survival mode. No longer having to work down self-generated, along with realistically-based, fears. And it got me to thinking.

Even though the day before had not been what I had signed up for; having originally intended to do a little effortless exploration (which explained my lack of preparedness), and even though I had had moments of thinking I might be spending the night out in the woods unprepared and unwilling, somehow the experience had gifted me with something.

What that something was showed up as an opportunity to dig a little deeper inside of myself to separate fact from fiction. For instance, when lost, I would catch myself in a kind of made-up panic. Almost like given what was happening, I was supposed to be freaked out when in fact, in any particular moment, I was actually perfectly OK. Warm, dry, fed, able to move, able to think and reason.

Or I would start running some story about what this meant about me. How it wasn’t how I wanted to be spending my time. What others would think. When in all actuality, the truth was, I was just a woman wandering around in the woods, knowing that at some point I was going to come out somewhere. I mean really, who cares where I came out as long as I came out?

Through being lost, I see the beauty of the metaphor it affords us all. That being, that when we find ourselves not knowing where we are, we have a choice. We can go down the rabbit hole of fear, judgment and self-recrimination. Or we can be where we are until we know where we are.

Just Being

 

No clock. No phone. No schedule. No running water. No computer. No talking. No electricity. No hair brush. No datebook. No mirror. No make-up. No doing for anyone else, but me.

I am away on a self-generated retreat for 5 days and 4 nights in an off-the-grid cabin in the woods. I am commemorating the 1 year anniversary of a vision fast I did in the desert last year at this time. It is tradition to mark the experience. And it is more than that. I feel called to take the time to reflect on the past year in a way that is free of the usual obligations, and most of all, free of the expectations I carry of myself. The ones that no longer serve.

While I was away, my theme was “getting to just be.” As in having a chance to see who and what I am when I am not linked into all of the things that I do every single day. Like how I look to others. Or when I am supposed to eat or sleep according to a clock. Or how I need to feel at any given moment. Or how I use my words. Or keep my commitments. Or smell.

This kind of experience carries with it the power to take us back to a natural and unself-conscious way of being within ourselves. Something that is actually a birthright and was present to us as children before we were conditioned by the circumstances and experiences of our lives. To a place inside where we innately and instinctively know exactly how to move and breathe and think and feel and want and need and voice and exist; according to rhythms simple, truthful and authentic. And while it is there waiting for us, always and in all ways, it takes time to peel back the layers. To quiet the critical and limiting voices in your head. To give yourself the permission.

And it takes practice. Lots of it.

Do you ever wonder what is beneath all the doing, the structuring, and the tending to the cultural, relational, and personal expectations around who you need to be? Want to find out? If so, how about scheduling your own version of a retreat to “Just Be.” You don’t have to go far. Your own home could do as a start. All you need is some space on your own. Whatever that looks like for you.

Turn everything off. Chuck the schedule and the have-to’s. Let yourself lay around. Let yourself be directed by simple basic urges like bathroom needs, hunger, thirst, comfort, rest, and movement. Let your mind do what it does without taking it too seriously. Or better yet, put it on vacation mode. Include lots and lots of Nature. She is the greatest teacher of all around how to just be naturally.

So whether you have an hour, a day, or a weekend, what would it be like to give yourself over to the experience of just getting to be? No apology, justification or explanation required. Or even allowed. Can you imagine giving this to yourself? Time to just be? Moment by moment. No matter what the mind might throw up saying this is stupid or that you do not have the right, or that it is too much or a waste of time.

You do have the right. As bestowed upon you by Creation itself to be fully and authentically a being who gets to just be.

 

Lay Down

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

You Cannot

 

You cannot coerce a woman who keeps her own counsel.

You cannot control a woman who finds pleasure in the forest.

You cannot silence a woman whose voice is her own.

You cannot banish a woman who knows where she belongs.

You cannot command a woman who has charted her own course.

You cannot defile a woman who belongs to Something More.

You cannot cheapen a woman who knows the value of her own life.

You cannot punish a woman who knows the cause to which she owes her allegiance.

You cannot limit a woman who knows her soul to be without bounds.

You cannot steal from a woman whose treasures are beyond your reach.

You cannot own a woman who knows her worth.

You cannot possess a woman’s body who knows her wildest nature.

You cannot demoralize a woman who answers to a higher call.

You cannot impose falsehoods on a woman who has touched the Truth.

You cannot subjugate a woman who knows the power of being a woman.

You cannot…

 

Missing

 

I am missing the desert.

I miss the simplicity and the directness of living on and so close to the land. I miss aligning myself with the rhythms of the natural cycles. I miss the uncomplicated actions and procedures of tending to my most immediate and real needs. I miss the urgency of living with strong intention. I miss the vast spaciousness of time out of time. I miss the honest efforts of living simply. I miss the like-minded camaraderie and company of other women who had chosen as I had chosen. I miss knowing the immediacy and the importance of this, and more.

We were told that as hard as it was to spend four days and nights out on our own in the desert seeking guidance, that the real test would be coming back into our lives and finding ways to live our vision directly into the world. They were not wrong. As hard as the experience was, truly one of the hardest of my life, there was a clarity about it all that struggles to find itself an easy and permanent home in the midst of the noise, distractions, expectations, and obligations. A part leftover from those days that yearns to give over to everything that was discovered and known.

Where is all of this leading? Perhaps to the knowing that we are best served to notice, and to deeply tune into what it is that is missing from our lives. To allow ourselves to feel it all the way down to its root. And then, to do whatever is within our power to remember, and to re-instate what has been lost to us. And to the world.

But of course, that would require that we are in a position to even have the space to pause, and to listen for more than the relentless, insistent inner and outer drumbeat of doing. Always doing.

Being Seen

 

We all want to be seen for who we are. At its very core, this is not about winning a personality contest. It is not about laying out your credentials for others to admire. It is not about garnering fame. Nor is it about amassing a fortune or ego gratification. Instead, it is about being recognized. And in that recognition, finding your true place in the world.

What we are talking about here often involves being known beyond what we can see about ourselves all on our own. Therefore, we cannot always go this one alone. We need help. And this is exactly the place where it gets so very tricky. For many of the distortions we hold about ourselves have taken place in the taking in and believing of false and warped reflections we have gotten from others over the course of our lifetime.

This is what can leave us unwilling or reluctant to count on others in this way. We can take this in many directions. Maybe we wall ourselves off trying to do it all on our own. Maybe we over-rely on others opinions of who we are. Maybe we go to the wrong sources over and over again; either in our minds, or in the relationships we continue to create. Any way we do it though, either by closing off or going after the wrong things, will always leave us off the mark somehow. That mark being, the Truth of our existence.

Inside each and every one of us is the Absolute knowing of who we are, and why we are here. But after years and years of the wrong information, we learn to forget. And to distort and manipulate. And to settle for lives not even close to being seen for who we are.

Like following bread crumbs through the forest, having no idea where we are going or where it will lead to, we begin this journey of self-discovery by tracing ourselves backwards towards that original truth; with the starting point being right now. As in, is there a place in your life where you feel dissatisfied around how you are being seen, or the place you hold in the world? Is there a part of you that not only yearns for something else, but actually knows there is something else here for you? How is it that you most want to be known, and therefore seen, in this world?

This is not a job description. It is not a way of gaining acceptance or having your worth externally validated. It is not a way of making money. It is not about forcing someone to see something about you. It is the inward essence and the outward embodiment of what lives deep inside of you; looking for a way out.

When was the last time you felt truly seen by another? An experience that felt complete unto itself. A reflection you could see in another person’s eyes when they looked at you that had nothing to do with what you could do or give to them? And if this has not been available to you, do you have any idea why not?

When I was in the desert living in circle with 12 other women, I had daily experiences of being seen. It filled me with such strength. I felt supported in ways I have often denied myself, or did not receive in my first communities growing up. And it all began when I made the commitment to myself that I was going to allow myself to be seen for who I most am, and who I most yearn to grow into. This was not an easy thing to do. It meant putting myself out there. It meant being vulnerable. It meant admitting that I wanted to be seen for what was most extraordinary in me.

Being seen for who we truly are is not one of those human wants that would be nice if we got it, but that we could muddle through without. No. Instead, this is one of those central, core human needs that gone unmet will leave us resorting to the wrong things, while traveling the wrong avenues, to get those wrong things; in the end leaving us unseen and unknown to both ourselves, and the world.

Find Your Hunger

 

Today, I was looking over notes from the time I spent in the desert fasting. What really stuck out for me this time around was, “Find your hunger.”  What that meant back then was to be with everything that I was hungry for. It was scary to feel that level of need because of how exposed, and therefore vulnerable, it left me.

It was also heartening because of how real, and how very true it all was. To admit what we are hungry for is both an exposure, and a possibility. And while most often we associate hunger with food, what I am referring to here is the whole human experience of want and need. An experience that holds the potent possibility of taking us all the way from deprivation and desperation to fulfillment and assurance. And then, back again.

For the past three years I have been teaching a form of sacred, conscious dance. Every single time I teach this, enormous waves of fear and resistance flood my being. My mind goes absolutely nuts with all kinds of thoughts. This is the last time I am doing this. I don’t want to do this anymore. Nobody wants this. This is a waste of my time. You’re putting too much into this without enough of a return. On and on it goes. This despite the fact that I feel so alive when teaching. This despite the fact that I feel deeply connected to self, other, and Spirit during this time. This despite what an amazingly creative and satisfying outlet this is for me.

After reading “Find your hunger” something around the resistance I feel to teaching this form got cleared up for me. You see, one of the things I am most hungry for is to be in community while I am deeply established in my own experience and connected to Spirit. I yearn for a palpable and visible interconnection of self, other, and All That Is. I long to be with others in a deep, present, soulful, real, and raw way. This is what I am hungry for. And when I teach this dance form, it opens me to the possibility of receiving what I most want. Which in turn, exposes me to the possibility that I may not get it.

I think that in the psyche of every human being our deepest needs stand right next to our deepest fears. And often we get them so tangled up that it seems that maybe it would be preferable to not put ourselves in the position of saying what we most desire and need. That somehow it would be better, safer, to listen to the fears around the impossibility of us getting what we want. The fears of rejection or humiliation. The fears of us not being worthy of getting what we need. The fears that what we most need and value may not be available, or honored.

Personally, I am seeing that one of the things that our world needs most is for all of the starving people to step forward, without blame or shame, and reveal to all what they are most deprived of. To stand fully and openly in their longing, so much so that the power of raw, real human need becomes an undeniable call to be heard. And responded to. Can you imagine how our world might change if real human needs became the guiding force for what we put our attention and resources to?

If you see yourself as starved for something vital to your well-being, could you be courageous enough to name it? Could you be daring enough to ask for it? Could you be bold enough to know that you deserved it? Could you be wise enough to see that with your deepest desires met, the world gets fed?

Being

 

When people ask me what it was like to spend four days and nights on my own in the desert, I sense from both them, and myself, a kind of expectation around providing a story; some start to finish tale of adventure and peril. Surprisingly enough, while there are lots of “stories” to be told, not only am I not inclined, I see that any story that I could tell would not come close to the most astonishing parts of the experience; that being the way it changed me. More to the point, returned me; to myself and to the permission to just be.

What continues to surprise (while simultaneously carrying such a natural and familiar feel to it all) are the invisible, yet palpable, inner shifts that often defy words or explanations. As a matter of fact, none of the most noteworthy of changes seems to require recognition, validation, or proof from either others or myself. And while I can feel tectonic-level shifts within, there is this quality of nothing to do, or work on, in the midst of quite a lot happening.

This is new to me. As someone who loves to articulate the inner landscape and work on it, as well as being subject to the historical belief that she needs to write a dissertation to prove that she gets to be here and know what she knows, this new way of being brings with it a sense of ease that miraculously happens without the usual effortings on my part.

Looking back on the desert experience, I know where it came from. It came from doing nothing. Literally. For hours and days on end. And while not easy, out of the “nothing” came the gift of knowing that I have a right to just be; without explanation, apology, or trying to convince myself or anyone else of anything. This is every human being’s birth right. The right to just be without needing to earn it or prove it. This is something built in by Existence itself, and it is ours for the taking.

This completely flies in the face of so much of what we believe, what we have been taught, and how we live. Nonetheless, it is true.

Look to your life. Where do you busy yourself as a way of earning your place here? Notice where you think you have to keep up a certain way of presenting yourself or doing so that you will be OK, accepted, safe, guaranteed something, or included. What would it be like if you regularly allowed yourself to do nothing? For starters, and a very rich start at that, you could watch what comes up in your mind to even entertain the idea of doing nothing.

 

Two Hawks Dancing

 

While away several weeks ago, spending every day in the deserts of New Mexico, a mantra of sorts organically arose during the days I was out on my own. And while it took some time to get there, after the dust of my habitual mind states had settled down a bit, this is what came in: It is everywhere. It is in me. It includes everything. It is always available.

I walked my steps to this. I breathed this. I returned to this when my crazy mind went crazy. I opened to these truths as fully as I could. And in a relatively short period of time, It was not something I experienced as being separate from me. More to the point, I was It. “It” being Something Far Greater than me, yet including me somehow. It knew me. Considered me. Responded to me. Was aware of me. Was me.

Out there on my own, without my usual distractions and agendas, I was able to live that in a way that was immediate, visceral, and magical. Completely aligned with It, every prayer was answered, every yearning was met, every fear was allayed, and every deepest hope was known.

So, perhaps you will not find it a surprise that I am left wondering how it is that I will bring the woman back from the desert who not only knew, but embodied the magic and the mystery of knowing what she is inseparably a part of. And how it is that she will meet up with the modern woman who lives in a world that does not so naturally orient in that direction.

As I was wondering about this one morning in practice, I saw a shadow moving over the land, and peeked out to see that it was a hawk flying over head. Right behind it came another hawk. They soared together in the most magnificent dance; spiraling, descending, ascending, and moving in a kind of unison that defied the rational. When one finally broke off and flew away, the other followed. As tears came to my eyes, the phrase, “Two Hawks Dancing” came to mind.

In that grace-filled moment, I knew, as reflected by what I had just witnessed, that the worry I had about weaving the desert woman into my life was unfounded. Based on what I had just seen with how the hawks moved together, I knew in my bones, that the desert woman would do a dance with the modern woman with ease and agility; where one or the other would take the lead, and that lead would change depending on the circumstances, and in exactly the right way and with exactly the most precise and exquisite of timing in how each showed up. There was, as I had feared, no division, no choice to be made about who to be. Or how to be in the world.

When we are present to more than our version of how things need to go, our addiction to busyness, or our ingrained, unconscious habits, knowings, affirmations, and guidance can be found and reflected in the observation of, and the experience of, absolutely anything that is around us. Or in us. Because, It Is Everywhere. To be tuned into this possibility requires a level of attention, care, openness, and trust. Most of all, it requires a kind of slowing down, almost to the point of stopping.

What would it be like to hold a question, or a wondering in your mind, while you sat quietly and openly? Would you be willing to allow whatever arose in you or around you to serve as guidance? For in truth, is this not what we are all so hungry for? Is this not what we are in desperate need of at a time in our history where far too many of us have turned our lives over to something outside of us? Something or some number of things decidedly not superior in intelligence? And that does not carry our best interests at heart?

When in doubt, look to the Natural world for a clear and connected reflection of who you are, and what you need. Suspend what you think you know about things, and what they stand for. Instead, see if you can open to what something might stand for in light of your question. See if you can let something stand for other than your preconceived ideas of what it is.

And then, let yourself be with the alignment that comes when you can feel that all the way down to your bones. No matter what your mind might say. No matter what you can or cannot “prove” to anyone.