What If?

 

What if the things you struggle with most, the personal issues, feelings, challenges, foibles, problems, habits, downfalls, etc., are not actually yours?

This past year I have had the great and good fortune to be working with someone who has helped me to see that many of the longstanding struggles, the things that have made me feel the worst about myself, the very things I have been working on for decades, were never mine to begin with. Instead, they were something that I took on as mine from another, a kind of mistaken identity if you will. Therefore, no matter how diligent, committed and widespread I was in my attempts to heal, because it was not mine and did not in fact belong to me, I had no power to effect real and lasting change. Further, it all gave rise to a kind of confusion, frustration and self-criticism around why things were not different given how hard I was working.

It was the equivalent of trying to clean out or rehab my own home by going across the street and working on my neighbor’s house. No matter how hard I worked, it was never going to happen.

It puts me in mind of something I once heard about the generations that followed Holocaust survivors. It seems that the children, and at least the children’s children of those who lived the horror of concentration camp life somehow bear that mark in their DNA; even though they themselves did not go through the experience. That somehow their wiring in terms of how they feel about themselves and the world got altered by an experience they themselves never had.

No baby comes into the world with self-esteem issues, a sense of wrongness, or not enough-ness.That is something we all learned. More to the point, something we all absorbed from those around us when we were more one than two. Growing in utero and as babies and children we did not experience what those around us were going through or how they felt about themselves and the world, as separate from us. Instead, we experienced what was happening for them, as happening for us. This is far more than a case of adult modeling, or even about the things that got said or done to us, and everything to do with us experiencing what they were experiencing. Believing it was ours. Their frustrations were our frustrations. Their sorrows were our sorrows.Their self-criticisms and resentments were our criticisms and resentments. Their fears were our fears. And their dysfunctions were our dysfunctions. On and on it goes. Pick anything, and watch where it leads.

Understanding it in this way gives rise to a whole new way of understanding yourself; particularly around those things you struggle with most. Those things you have put so much time and energy into. Those things that you know intellectually should be different, but never seem to change. Never is this about blame or abdication of our own free will, but instead it is a kind of redistribution where we carefully, lovingly and mindfully put things back where they belong. Just like we were taught growing up when we were done playing with something.

If you feel as though you have been at something about yourself for a very long time, with limited success, could it be a matter of properly identifying where it belongs? Could it be a matter of returning it to whoever it belongs to? As simple as asking, “Whose is this anyway?” Not with anger or animosity, but more like “Oh, sorry I got confused about who this belongs to.”

Now, of course this all happened before we had words or grown-up ways of looking at things which means that now, to really be with this, we will need to see beneath the words. We will need to listen for the echo or the shadow of the ways we are not good to ourselves. Maybe it will show up in not taking our share, or the subtle ways we diminish ourselves. Maybe it will show up in how we eat, sleep or relate. Maybe it will show up in what we believe we can expect from Life. Listen and feel deeply for what is below the surface. Just like an animal would. And when you get a whiff of something that smells off, something that leaves you feeling less than, ask with great curiosity and gentleness “Is what I am feeling right now even mine?” .

 

(Deep gratitude to Gabrielli and Infinity Healing)

Boundaries

 

Ever heard someone say, or maybe even said yourself, “I really need to create better boundaries.” Typically, a statement like this will come up whenever we feel as though we are being taken advantage of, or maybe because we are giving away too much of ourselves. Likely we have all been there. It seems only natural that there will be those places where we will need to draw a better line, keep something back for ourselves, say “No,” or just in general, do less.

Or maybe more to the point, do only what is ours to do.

How do we even begin to figure that out? For surely if we really knew what was ours to do we would not be in need of creating better boundaries. So perhaps there is more to this whole boundary thing than just keeping something out. Or in. Depending, of course, on how you do what you do.

Boundary setting can feel as though something must be erected; built strong enough in order to keep things out. It might even feel like it is something placed outside of us; like a giant, electrified fence with a big “KEEP OUT” sign and some barbed wire at the top. It can feel like this especially when we have let things go too far. So far, in fact, that we imagine ourselves on one side of our fence, with others on the opposite side; feeling like if we do not get very strict with ourselves and others we will be taken advantage of. That something will be taken from us, or that another will enter where they are not welcome. Or that we will abandon ourselves, giving away too much, doing what is not ours to do, only to be left depleted, resentful, and used up.

Seeing it this way though misses the point. Partly because it puts us at odds with both ourselves and others; creating a kind of battle where there is a winner and a loser. Someone protected, and someone protected against; with the subtext being that it is because of the other person, or our level of sensitivity and openness, that we must guard ourselves by drawing a hard line. That something is being done to us, as opposed to us choosing for something. As in ourselves. For when we place the emphasis on the boundary itself, we miss the most important thing of all. That being, that when we are fully with ourselves, fully occupied in who we are and what we are feeling, fully accountable for our experiences in life, right-sized boundaries naturally, effortlessly, precisely and perfectly arrange themselves moment by moment by moment.

But this can only happen when we are fully inhabiting ourselves. Fully sovereign unto the  experience we are having. Fully occupied, as in, not having left ourselves vacant. It means not having extended beyond ourselves, nor having shrunk back leaving a void for something or someone else to occupy. When we inhabit ourselves in this way, there is no leaking out, or invasion in, for there is quite literally no room for the territory of you to be overrun, occupied or given away because you are so fully filled with who you are.

This is not easy to do. Many of us are so used to confusing our needs and wants with other people’s needs and wants that it can be very, very tricky to figure out where I end, and you begin. It can feel almost “natural” to give ourselves away. To over-do. To overcompensate. Which is exactly the point. For when we are fully claiming who we are and where we are in any given moment, we do not extend ourselves erroneously, nor do we leave a void to be filled by others expectations or demands. Instead, we create the long sought after journey of fully being all in with ourselves. Which then leaves interactions with others more clear. More known. Less confusing. And with far less boundary-problematic co-dependency between us.

Here is something to try. As you move throughout your day, occasionally stop and ask yourself, “Where am I?” If you find that you have left yourself out of the equation, are doing more than your share, are taking the brunt of something, if you feel overrun by what other people think or want from you, come back. Right then and there. Come back. Locate into yourself in that very moment. Connect to what you are thinking, feeling and sensing. Then proceed.

 

The Yin Turning Yang

 

As I step outside before the sun comes up to go for a walk in the woods, I am met by a bright moon on the waning side of full. The moon is setting in the west, while the sun has yet to come up in the east. Standing between these well-known polarities is also as it is now with the season. For while we are still moving towards the darkest depths of winter, at the same time, minute by minute each day, we move towards more light.

And yet, even with the light steadily, noticeably and undeniably increasing, we are still not even at the half-way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. I see all of this reflected in my own internal process where I am not yet “out of the dark” with some longstanding issues, while simultaneously I cannot deny that ever more the light is making its way back in. The Celts might call this a “betwixt and between” time and space. Not really exactly somewhere just yet. Not really on the other side of something, but somewhere in between.

All of it continues to show up in my mind in that I am both excited to be getting into the woods before sunrise, and also a little apprehensive. It is still dark after all. Who knows what moves in the dark? There is a back and forth between sensing the mystery of this time of day, and a fear of the dark and what it holds that ping pongs around in my mind until I stop on the trail in an attempt to stop the match in my mind.

Right next to me is an enormous boulder, a symbol of those things that are steady. Those things that are not subject to the made-up machinations of the mind. Directly up and to my right is the moon, and directly up and to my left is the sky just beginning to brighten. I cannot help but see the metaphor in standing exactly between these two powerful and primordial forces; the light and the dark. Neither good, nor bad. Neither one better than the other. Both with its own particular sets of gifts and challenges to offer.

And while many of us might prefer the light, there is so much to be had from the dark. So much to be discovered in the depths of Winter’s shadow. Thinking all of this I round some bend, and suddenly there is just so much more light. A small part of me is relieved, while a part that longs for something more grieves the loss; not just of the dark but of the time I have spent being afraid of it. For I recognize that in my fears of being in the dark, and wishing it were light-filled, that I am missing something when I wish it was other than it is. That the dark is not a place to be missed, avoided, feared, wished away, or navigated half-heartedly. But instead, something to be deeply honored. Accepted. Welcomed in even.

Good news. We are still in winter where darkness prevails. Which means we still have plenty of time to gather the teachings and the healings that are only possible in the darkest of times. While never easy, it cannot be avoided. For as sure as there is light, there is dark.

Surrender

 

I have a friend who picks a word to work on for the year. While it has intrigued me, it was not until this year that I decided to give it a try. Initially, I chose “gratitude.” Sounds good, right? Who could argue with being grateful as a focus for the year? Well, I could when it turns out not to be your word. For on the very same day I chose “gratitude,” I was in an end-of-the-year yoga class, and I got the very clear sense that my word was not gratitude, it was surrender.

When it came to me, I was moved to tears. I felt so connected to my life and to Source. So ready to surrender it all. Until that is, several hours later when my laptop died, and I was convinced that my daughter had initiated the demise.

It was truly amazing to watch how just a few short hours after the calm surrender of the yoga class, I was instantaneously catapulted so easily straight into an all out war with the reality of the moment. The exact opposite of surrender.

You see, I “needed” that lap top to get a playlist together for a class I was teaching two days later in a brand new location. Right away my mind went to what it would mean about me if I wasn’t ready to teach. Right away my mind went to the “fact” that my laptop had been working just fine until my daughter downloaded an app on it. And right away my mind went to that at least it had been working in a limited way until my daughter got on the phone with the Apple tech, who after he instructed her to do something, left the computer unable to even turn on.

Oh! My! God!!!!

As all of this played out, I swung between irritation, anger, resentment and moment by moment mental reminders to let it go. That it was not a big deal. That it would all work out. Except, that I did not really, actually believe that. That is, until my husband called to share some difficult health news about a friend, at which point I quickly hung up and went to tell my daughter that I was not mad at her. At which point both she and I both burst into tears while we stood there clinging to each other like survivors of some catastrophe.

I am emotional just writing this. For in that moment, what revealed itself was that all the fighting against reality had put me in a position of being at odds with someone I loved. And how often do we all do that? Make some stupid thing more important than the relationship. But when that perspective shift came in, I could not get to my daughter quick enough. And God did it feel good. Right. Exactly where I most wanted to be. Much better than being the one wronged or inconvenienced. Much better than being upset with someone. And much, much better than being right.

Admittedly so, I am a little worried about what I have signed up for. And yet, I know that I am all in because of what transpired between my daughter and I in that moment. Don’t we all need this? A way into where we most want to be that is stronger than the habits and conditioning of the ego, with all of its plans and strategies for holding and defending a position?

Want to join me in this “little” experiment? I know it won’t be easy, but this experience that I am writing about has clued me into something. That being, that when we are not clinging to the wrong things or trying to force Life to turn out a particular way, there is more space for… EVERYTHING! Including most of all what it is that we want most of all.

 

A Careful Time

 

So, here we are again at that time of year. That being, the time of resolutions. The time where we set intentions and make commitments to ourselves and others with so much hope and resolve. Equally, it is the time when our resolutions can become lost and forgotten as firmly as they first came in.

Recently, while away at a training, every day as I went to class, I would pass this quote: “You are carefully designing the person you are right now. It’s time to take ownership of that creative process.” Yes, I would think inwardly each time I went by it. Yes, this is what I want more than anything else in the world. Yes, I resolve to take this up with a firm commitment.

Then, Life would show up in the form of longstanding thoughts, beliefs and habit patterns that ran contrary to this lofty and much desired resolution. Life would show up in the form of interactions with other people that challenged the process I was trying to carefully and deliberately design.

And there’s the rub. Creating a resolution or intention is one thing. Living it is an entirely different matter. Which is why it is so easy to make one, and so very, very challenging to keep one.

What I have found is that in order to deliberately create a new habit, belief or way of being requires a breaking down of the goal or the aim into the down and dirty of the moment. As in, how does this commitment show up in the gritty reality of Life versus the fantasized version of what it will be, look like, or take.

What that meant for me was breaking that quote down into the specific qualities of the person I was intentionally designing. For me, this broke down into two categories: Being who and what I am, and being a well-wisher of others. With that as my guide, each time I noticed my mind cycling back to old thoughts and patterns, I would wonder to myself, “Does that thought/feeling/action/belief get me closer or further from who and what I am? Does that thought/feeling/action/belief make me a well-wisher of others? When the answer was no, as it was each time that I tuned into what was happening, I would shift away from what I was thinking or feeling. I would drop it as quickly as I had noticed it.

It was exhausting, constant and time-consuming to work with myself in this way. And, it was powerful, life-changing, and exactly where I most want to be. That being, in alignment with taking full and complete charge and responsibility for who I am and how I move through the world.

Try it. What do you want for yourself this coming year? Once you have it, break that down into something manageable that you can reference in any given moment to discern whether you are there or not. For instance, looking for love? Where and when do you push it away, or set yourself up as unlovable? Looking to be seen? Where and when do you hide or diminish yourself to yourself or others? Looking to feel healthier? Where and when do you indulge in the wrong things?

The trick here is to catch yourself in as many moments as possible acting out of alignment with what you most want. Not in a punitive or judgmental way, but as a correction. One meant to take you back on course and towards the person you are carefully designing yourself to be, in a way that most lines up with the satisfaction and the magnitude of fully claiming the creative process of your life.