Simple Requests


I think a lot about what it means to live in a way that honors myself, while also living in harmony with others. As you can imagine, there is no shortage of opportunities for me to practice, in real time, how to actually live this.

I got another chance recently when one of the men doing some work on our farm brought his dog. When he asked me if it was okay for the dog to be here, I said, “yes.” But that was only a partial answer. I really wanted to say “Yes, as long as you keep him out of my medicine garden.”

But I didn’t. Why? Because I thought he would think I was uptight, a bitch, not a dog lover. And if I’m really being honest, it’s because I thought there was a chance he would be angry. Not because he had shown any inkling of behaving that way, but because that is an old imprint of mine: I make a reasonable request to a male and I get exploded on.

This leaves me not saying what I need to say in certain situations. And because I didn’t say what I really needed to say, when the dog did go into my medicine garden, I vacillated between seething and feeling like I didn’t have a right to seethe. This led to all kinds of unkind thoughts towards this unconscious man and his unruly dog. Which then led to unkind thoughts about myself.

It all felt terrible.

Then, I got an opening. When I had to leave a note for the men for something else, I added the part about doing their best to keep the dog out of the garden. The response? Both men profusely and sincerely apologized. No one flipped out on me. This left me able to spontaneously and naturally say to them, “I just wanted to let you know so that I would’t be secretly pissed at you and your dog.” We all laughed.

Something very old and afraid in me lifted through that honest exchange.

More than that, saying what I needed to say has allowed me to enjoy having their dog around. Interestingly enough, as I write this, he is standing outside the glass door looking in at me. Now it could be the two raw eggs I gave him this morning, but to me it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that by speaking up when I needed to, not only did I not have to live in fear or resentment, I see, once again, that every time I speak up from a place of clarity, not only am I better for it, we are all better for it.

But this takes effort, and an enormous amount of personal responsibility. We all refrain from saying what we really feel because we are afraid of the reaction we might get. What’s important to know is that any time you are trying to make a simple and reasonable request, and you are afraid to speak it, the past is in play.

That’s where the responsibility part comes in. It’s your job to run down what that is for you so that you do not project something onto another that doesn’t belong to them. The result? We learn to honor ourselves and to live in harmony with others.

Through Whose Eyes?


Seeing ourselves through another’s eyes has its benefits. It can help us see what we cannot on our own; guiding us though our blindspots and limitations of self-recognition, while giving us the kind of reflection we all need to see ourselves, our circumstances and life in general in a more clear-eyed way.

Seeing ourselves through another’s eyes also includes a deep and dark shadow. As in, what if who is doing the seeing is unwell, afraid, biased or driven for some reason to keep you from being seen in your fullness?

As children, how we were seen by the adults around us created how we then went on to see ourselves. If that early seeing by another was clear, loving, kind and fair, we got one image of ourselves. If that seeing was distorted, wound-filled, mean or chaotic, we got another image of ourselves.

Recently, I got poison ivy all around one of my eyes. Not only did I get the telltale blistering, but because the eye is so sensitive, I also got all this swelling on my eye lid, and on the side and under my eye. Every time I looked in the mirror, all I could think of was that movie, The Elephant Man. I felt like his daughter.

So while there has been a fair amount of itchiness and physical discomfort, it has been nothing compared to the psychological discomfort. Dozens of times each day, especially when I am encountering other people, I find myself rehearsing what I will say to whoever I encounter. Some part of me wants them to know what’s going on here. A kind of compulsion to make sure they know this is not how I usually look. (This is also still the case with people who know how I usually look??!!)

So they won’t think…What? What am I working so hard to keep them from seeing?

That there’s something wrong with me? That they will be turned off by my appearance? Then what?

The “then what” is where it actually gets juicy because whether we know it or not, this is what we all suffer under. The belief that another won’t like something about us. And if they don’t like a certain something about us, they won’t like us. They won’t think well of us, include us, take care of us, give us what we need, that we will be left alone, made fun of, maybe even harmed.

All because we believe that if someone doesn’t like what they “see” about us, somehow, somewhere, we’re screwed. Which is why so many of us work so hard to manage how others see us. Hoping against hope that if we can just get them to see the “right” version, we’ll be loved, safe, happy…

But if you have been at all paying attention in your life you know exactly how this plays out. You know exactly how ridiculously hard you need to work to measure up to all the different seeings by all the different people. And you know exactly how often you must betray yourself to measure up; creating all kinds of inner tension, misery and inauthenticity.

As a human being who needs to be seen and to belong, I am susceptible to what others see in me. But because I am equally, if not more, committed to something more than acquiescing to old dysfunctional relational patterns, I have been doing an experiment. I have been intentionally not mentioning my appearance. Intentionally giving no explanation. Even when I know they are looking at my face and thinking about it.

Even when I feel nervous about what they are thinking about.

Something to consider. Whenever you find yourself explaining yourself, your behaviors, appearance, motives, it is a dead giveaway that you are trying to mange how another sees you. A dead giveaway that you are back being a kid who is worried about how others see you in terms of belonging, safety and survival.

That’s when you have a choice. Stay with the old pattern of letting who you are be reduced down to what another does or does not see. Or decide to see what it would be like to see yourself.

Who’s The Expert?


There’s a lot in the air these days about who’s in charge when it comes to our health. Given the divisiveness and the accusations that abound here, it feels a little dicey even putting it out there. But if we don’t take a deeper look at who is the ultimate authority when it comes to the health and well-being of our bodies, we will not only continue to be at each other’s throats, we will have missed the most important question of all:

What makes for true health, and in whose hands does it belong?

Thinking about this, I was taken back to a time when I was working as a therapist-in-training. There were so many rules about how to engage with a patient. The proper boundaries around interactions that we had to set. The legal requirements around how to practice, and how to keep from being sued.

And then of course, and perhaps most ‘important’ of all, was the agreed upon (and often unspoken) narrative that drove the therapeutic interaction: The therapist is the expert and they know far more about the patient than the patient knows about their own life, what the trouble is and what they most need. In other words “I’m the expert and it’s up to me to tell you what’s wrong with you and how to fix it. It’s your job to do what I tell you.”

This never sat well with me, though at the time I could not have told you why. But now I can.

To ever presume that you are the expert in another person’s life is to not only create an imbalanced relationship that carries with it the promise, or at least the possibility of abuse, is nothing compared to what you will have robbed that person of. That being, their experience of learning how to claim their own inner authority.

For any of us to come to know a sense of full adult status, we must traverse the difficult terrain of claiming full responsibility for ourselves; the choices we make, and the lives we create through those choices. It is by engaging with all of the decisions that we must make as an adult in charge of our own body that we reap the power, clarity, strength, autonomy and authority that we require to live in health. And that our communities require of us in order to create healthy communities.

Becoming the bona fide expert in our own lives is the single, greatest contribution we will ever make to our life and to the lives of those around us.

Just as every parent must understand that to keep a young adult child tethered to us and our expertise may feel safer than letting them figure out what they must on their own, to do this is to cripple them. It is to rob them of a sense of self-trust and inner authority.

It is no different with the health of our bodies and with those who would appoint themselves as the ‘experts.’ We must, each on our own, be allowed the space and the freedom to decide what is best for us, mistakes and all. To do anything less is to cripple a populace. It is to keep them infantilized to parentified and controlling outside authorities.

In the end, it is to undermine the richness and the possibility of a world based on a kind of organic health that seeds itself in individual expertise, that then goes on to blossom into health for all.

Bodily Reflections


“How can I stand without gripping?”

I am in my morning practice as I ask myself this question. Why this question? Because I am noticing for the umpteenth time the way I am clenching and gripping the muscles on the outside of my hips to hold myself upright.

At this point in time, I know enough to know that not only is this not necessary in order to keep me standing, as importantly, this pattern serves as the root cause of the pain I often get in my left hip and lower back. And yet, all these years later, it’s still there. Hence my question.

Posing this question is significantly different than imposing something on my body. Like trying to force it into a new position. It’s also different than medicating myself against and away from what my body’s messages of pain, imbalance and discomfort are. These approaches never work because they are not including the most important ingredient; my body and what it’s telling me.

I have come to know that when I wonder about something with my body, it always gives me information. The most fascinating thing of all being, I never know what it’s going to reveal. I know this can be a source of fear for a lot of us, but I will tell you:

There is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the messages of your body. If you are willing to be open to truth.

Today’s truth for me had nothing to do with reminding myself over and over again to release muscles. Instead, the truth being spoken today had to do with releasing an old way of meeting up with the world. One where I am hanging on for dear life to take a stand in a world I perceive won’t be interested in what I’m offering, or will somehow be hostile towards what I am bringing forward. (With the bodily gripping being a way I shore myself up for the perceived assault.)

You can see then, that no amount of reworking my muscles or taking pain medication will ever resolve what is happening in my body, unless and until, I address a pattern far deeper than the way my muscles grip.

This way of being with ourselves not only changes the health of the body, it takes us directly to a greater Truth of who we are and why we are here. To try and control or  medicate against our bodies in order to shut them up, is, in effect, shutting up our very existence.

Pecking Order


We have chickens. Every year or so, we add to the flock. Despite the conversations I have with the old guard before the newcomers arrive, there is alway an adjustment period we just have to go through. It’s not comfortable. Not for them. And certainly not for me as I listen to their calls of alarm and indignation over being put together with a group they don’t know.

This week it occurred to me how like them we are as humans. We get used to who we are with and how things are. We establish our pecking orders, and we insist upon knowing who is on the top and who is on the bottom. And we can get so territorial, even violent, when that order gets disrupted. So defensive, afraid and combative of the ‘other.’ So willing to make the ‘other’ wrong, even evil and dangerous.

So even though I remind the chickens who are here now that they were once the newcomers, once the ones who were being pushed out and maybe even attacked, they don’t remember. It always surprises me that they do not remember what it felt like to be low man on the totem pole. To feel like you’re not welcome. To know that a group would rather see you go than stay. To know that others might feel justified in harming you to stake their claim.

Or maybe they do remember, but they are not willing to give up their position of power.

Either way, is this not what is happening to us more and more now? All of the ways that the various groups that were trodden upon and disrespected, and who are now gaining power of their own, are themselves going on to demonize and ‘other’ the dominant group. Maybe you would say the oppressor groups deserve it, or that it is only natural to do what was done to you when you get to be the one on top.


But I say, there has got to be a way for all of us to live with full status while we iron out the wrongs of the past, without going on to repeat them to someone else. Without rearranging the pecking order of who is now oppressor and who is now oppressed.

P.S. After less than a week, the two flocks have already begun their steady course towards blending; going from separation and attack to unity and harmony. And we think we’re the intelligent ones.

(And if you’d like a practice that moves you closer to unity with All…Every morning I burn a bit of sage before practice and say…May whatever keeps me from being in harmony with the life within and the life without, be cleared from me.)