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.



I have a writing buddy that I regularly talk with by phone. She is at the beginning of writing a book. I am at the end. Even though we are in different places in the process, it never ceases to amaze me that no matter what topic is up for either one of us, there is always much to be gained in a partnership that holds two ends of the same continuum.

Recently, we had gone a month without meeting due to scheduling conflicts and time commitments. We had agreed though to keep working on our projects, despite the gap in our regularly scheduled check-ins. When we finally did talk, what we both discovered was that neither one of us had done much. No submissions had been tended. No chapters edited. No calls or inquiries made. It was easy to see that both of us were feeling like we were coming to the call with not much to speak of.

However, standing in the reflection of the other, it was much easier to see the truth of what each of us had actually been doing, and giving space for. All of the ways that a lot had been happening for both of us. That we had indeed been “working” on our projects on some deeper, perhaps harder to see, below the surface kind of way. Recognizing this in both of us, my buddy proposed that we give ourselves total permission to continue doing the supposed “nothing” of the past month for another two weeks. That we give ourselves over to giving lots and lots of permission to what was already happening. That we, in effect, trust the process deeply enough to let the so-called nothing be a central part of all the doing that is required in getting a book written and published.

This is not easy to do in a world that demands productivity. A kind of “show me the money” mentality. A kind of “you are only as good as your last sale” attitude.  A world that applauds speed and how much you can generate in the shortest amount of time possible. A world that does not often recognize the slower, deeper and more invisible work of creating. A world that is too often blind in its ability to honor the pacing, rhythm and integrity of the process; favoring outcome instead.

Permission is defined as “formal consent.” A type of “authorization.” When applied to the process of giving birth to something, that part feels right. What I would argue with is where that consent and authorization come from. I say this because of how many of us have come to believe that permission is an externally generated bestowal we hope to god to get from another, or perhaps the culture at large. However, this belief has got it backwards. For at its truest and most life-giving, real authorization is granted from the inside out. It something you claim as a birthright. It is something you offer to yourself as a sacred and irrefutable fact of Life.

The permission to be who you are, expressing yourself as you express yourself in any given moment, is not only the greatest gift you can give to yourself, it is the greatest of what you can bestow to another. For in Truth, if each of us had the strength, the support, the inner recognition and the clarity of purpose to give ourselves all the permission we needed, all would be right not only in our own world, but in all the worlds at large.

My suggestion? Find a permission buddy. Someone you make a pact with to show up as you are, while offering them the same. Someone whom you can trust to bring forward ideas, thoughts, emotions, wonderings, concerns and more. A mutually agreed upon consent and authorization that gives the space required for a human being to be in a process, whatever that looks or feels like, where that effort is seen and honored, and where the end game is merely a by-product.

Can you imagine what it would feel like to not only give yourself total permission to be as you are, doing what you are doing, but to also be so blessed as to find that with another?

A Way In


Years ago, when I first started making changes in my life, I was looking for a way out. A way out of feeling awful in and about my body. A way out of negative and self-debasing thoughts. A way out of unbearable emotions. A way out of un-supportive and dissatisfying relationships. A way out of work that did not feed me. A way out of all of the habits that I had picked up along the way in an attempt to handle, medicate and get away from all that I was feeling. And while the impulse was to bring ease and greater balance through these habits, an attempt on my part to feel better, this band-aid approach of covering over what didn’t feel good, always left me somehow worse off.

My yoga teacher once said that the first impulse on the path is the urge to feel better. Different. Other than how you are currently experiencing yourself and life. Even if you do not have a clue about what the “better” or “different” is, or even looks like. Even if you do not know what it will take or how you will do it. Looking back, I can most definitely vouch for this sentiment. For it is not easy to be a human being, and there can be much that we are looking for a way out of. There is so much to feel. There are so many physical sensations to move through. So many thoughts and so many encounters to be with. Given the sometimes overwhelming nature of what it means to be alive, it is only natural to want to get away from certain aspects of living in an attempt to feel better.

Enter the choice to commit yourself to self-discovery and self-awareness. The intention and the subsequent grit you must exert to get out from under unhealthy patterns, conditioning, beliefs, attitudes and more. And while it is easy to believe that the way out is the name of the game, at its very heart, any attempts you make in this regard are always about, a way in. But because the suffering can be so all encompassing, this is an easy thing to miss, leaving us to believe that the point is to get away from something, when in fact, we are really trying to find our way back in to something.

And while it can seem like the way out and the way in are two sides of the same coin, which they are, it matters tremendously which one you choose to focus on. For if you try and find a way out of yourself and what you are experiencing, that is a vastly different orientation than trying to find your way back into yourself. The first approach contains within it the underlying belief that there is something you need to get away from; a kind of separation from something, but without giving you a place to land. The second approach implies a moving towards; a kind of finding your way back to something that already exists. A homecoming, if you will; a place that continues to be there whether you choose it or not. A way in that awaits your notice.

Which side of the coin do you tend to live on? Are you trying to get over, away from, or past the experiences of your life? Or do you find yourself moving in and towards something? Watch yourself as you go through your days. Catch the moments where you feel at odds with something and watch your attempts to get away. And if you can, wonder what it would look and feel like to find a way back in towards yourself, as opposed to looking for a way out. Maybe it means softening something that has gotten too tight in body or mind. Maybe it means a gentle smile to yourself as you acknowledge what you are up against as a human being living in a vulnerable body and a mind that just won’t quit. Maybe it means forgiving yourself; making room for all of the reasons and all of the ways that you try and escape yourself and the life you have created.

And maybe, more than anything else, it becomes a decision on your part to choose to recognize that the way in is far more interesting and far more valuable than all of the things you are trying to find a way out of.

Relational Freedom


Last weekend I was away in New York City for a Movement Workshop. Every day we went through a blend of movement experiences that sometimes we did on our own, and sometimes in partnership with others. During one of the last exercises, I was partnered with someone whom I knew instantly, I did not want to touch, nor be touched by. Instinctively, and without thought, my body gave a clear and resounding message of revulsion. This did not happen on the thinking level, as in “that guy is gross or creepy,” but at the body level, where waves of unease and disgust washed over me. Over and over again.

There was absolutely no denying how I felt. Until, that is, a lifetime of conditioning rose up obliterating that most basic and fundamental body knowing. The primal information that said, “Do not partner with him.”  Instead, I felt myself giving over to all kinds of things. Like how this would look. Or how he would feel, or what he might do. Things like imagining I would be seen as socially unacceptable, hysterical, overly sensitive, bothersome, or problematic.

Add to that all of the subconscious programs that were running. The ones that say I do not have a right to say no. The ones that say there must be something wrong with me that I can’t just suck it up and deal with it. The ones that say I am making a big deal out of nothing. The ones that say that somehow this is my bad.

I do not blame him. Nor do I blame myself. What I am left with is the inherent messiness around being in relationship. I am left with the recognition of the burden that we all struggle under where our social and familial conditioning all too often squelches necessary and vital instincts. The very same ones that may at times run contrary to what is polite, expected or socially acceptable. I am left with the struggle of what it means to be a human being with an animal body, and how it is that I can both navigate and make use of important built-in instincts, while also being part of a social fabric that sometimes requires me to squelch base instincts for the good of the whole.

Upon returning home I happened upon a description about being in relationship where it was proposed that any interaction with another is not a 50/50 split. Instead, it is about being 100% responsible on your end for you, while the other person is 100% responsible on their end for them. Otherwise, it is an entanglement; a kind of imbalanced, unsatisfying and potentially harmful interaction.

I see this in the experience I had with this man. For if I could have acted in the moment, based on what was happening for me, it would have been a purely natural and situational response, as opposed to something traumatizing and personal. Like an animal encountering something in the wild that it was repulsed by, and just naturally moved away from. No judgment. No drama. No need to bypass anything. Just a kind of “This doesn’t work for me right now so I am going to go in another direction.” No explanation. No apology. No big story about what this means for me or for you.

But to do this requires lots and lots of permission. Permission to be in our bodies and to act on what we are feeling. Permission to get stuck and to make mistakes. Permission to step beyond social parameters. And most importantly of all, permission to decide for ourselves what and who we will move towards or away from. No matter what it looks like.

Moving towards what works for you and away from what does not is true relational freedom. This approach requires a lot of practice, and a lot of discernment, for it is not always as obvious as it seems on the surface. Truly, it is the work of a lifetime. And why not? Why not pour ourselves into understanding how we are in relationship? For is this not one of our greatest sources of both joy and pain? One of our greatest sources of both dissatisfaction and pleasure? Misunderstanding and recognition? Contentment and dis-ease?

This takes us to an undeniable Truth: It all begins with you. No matter the “who” or “what” of any given encounter. If this makes sense to you, it then requires a kind of willingness on your part to commit to being in your body, while learning to receive the signals it is sending you; every minute of every day.This skill not only makes for an authentic and satisfying life, but it goes on to become the basis for all that you do and all that you are; both on your own and in relationship.

And if you would like to try it but are unsure about how to start, begin by noticing something, anything, in your body when you are having an encounter with another person. Don’t judge it, try and fix it, or make it go away. Just be with it, seeing if you can sense what a “No” feels like, and what a “Yes” feels like, in your body. For any of us to be 100% accountable to our end of any relationship or encounter, we must always start with ourselves and our own experience. Then, and only then, do we factor in the other.