Running Your Own Race

 

Every Tuesday night, I run in a local road race. The course takes you through woods, fields and a river. It’s beautiful. While I love the scenery and the physical challenge, what really keeps me coming back are all the life lessons that show up for me each week.

I never know what lesson it might be ahead of time. But one thing I can always count on is that it will be something meaningful for my life and how I live it. This week was no different. Give me a moment here to set this up so you have an image in your mind.

Along the route, there are a couple of places where you have to veer off the main path for a bit in order to get the mileage to add up to a 5k. It doesn’t contribute a lot more, but it is part of the race.

In one section of the course, as I am gaining on the person in front of me, we hit one of those veer-off places. Only the woman didn’t veer off, while I did. This meant that the distance she was running was less than I was running. Meaning, that where I had been close to passing her, I lost that advantage.

Right away I noticed my mind pick up its pace. Should I call out to here and let her know? Maybe I should find her after the race to let her know she had missed a section? Maybe she was new to the course and didn’t know? Maybe she did it intentionally? Maybe she just forgot?

As I was watching the parade of thoughts go through my mind, it occurred to me how much this absolutely did not matter. What an incredible metaphor for life this moment was. We’re all running our own race, and it truly does not not matter what anyone else does in theirs. It only matters what you do in the running of yours.

Will it look like some people are cutting corners and maybe even getting away with it? Yes. Will some people be given an unfair advantage of one sort or another? Definitely. Might there be some outright cheaters? For sure. Might another’s actions degrade the race for all? Unfortunately, yes.

Now I know we could all argue that fair is fair, and that there need to be rules we all abide by. And I would agree. However, there is something even more important here at the end of the day. That “something more important” is the quality, the feel and the sanity of your own life. With that said, you’ve got to be willing to look at and let go of those things that degrade how it feels to be alive.

For my money, monitoring other people’s choices is at the top of the list when it comes to creating suffering in my life.

So while the justice part of me can often struggle with what other people are doing that I believe is unfair, none of it matters. What matters is that I run my own race and do the best that I can. What matters is that I keep my eye on my own pace. What matters is that I recognize the effort I am putting in and give myself lots of grace on the days when I don’t feel at my “personal best.”

We waste a lot of time each and every day worrying about and commenting on how others are running their race when that energy would be better served keeping us on track in our own lives.

A Curated Life

 

I’m in the midst, on one particular morning, of tending to the new plants, making sauce and creating medicine when it strikes me that if I was on Instagram, if I was a so-called influencer, I would be having a very different experience.

I would have changed out of my comfy clothes and chosen a perfectly curated outfit to go with the homestead/farm feel of the moment. I would be staging my morning and positioning it all just so to give you the impression of just how perfect it all was. I would do this by taking multiple pictures from different angles with multiple filters to give you the impression of a spontaneous and unplanned moment.

In the process, I would have sacrificed all of the naturally arising peace, contentment, presence and gratitude that organically arises whenever I am in alignment with what I love best. Without the pressure to post and perform, I am connected to the abundance of the natural world and to a morning where I have the precious space I need to be with what matters most to me.

This is what is being lost in our ever so carefully curated lives: A chance to be with ourselves in a way that nourishes us. So much so that even when we choose not to take that picture, to refrain from posting, is it not what we are often thinking about even if we are not acting on it? Curated lives as a performance vehicle is so insidious now that it’s with us even when we are choosing otherwise.

What strikes me as the most disastrous, the saddest, the most dangerous even, is that we haven’t considered what we are losing each and every day as we orient ourselves ever-more to allowing the screens to mediate every moment of our existence. Desperate as we are to show others something about ourselves and willing to do so at any cost.

But only after it has all been carefully, carefully curated.

In the meantime, we don’t notice that our self-esteem is in the toilet, satisfaction in our relationships plummeting, our stress accelerating, the chase for perfection never ending, with our very existence reduced down to some glam shot.

Making The Necessary Adjustments

 

No matter what guidance I am asking for these days, I keep getting the message that this is a time for pausing and being open to making adjustments in how I do things based in reflection. As opposed to reaction.

While I feel the wisdom in this, following this sage advice can also feel at odds with the pushing out of the Spring energies that I am not only sensing all around me, but also feeling inside of me in terms of what I am called to offer into the world.

And therein lies the rub.

Is it possible to find that sweet combination of doing and being? Is it possible to stand in the presence of a world on fire and not join in? Is it possible to feel all I have to give and to to stay deeply rooted in a place beyond the demands of society?

Not only do I believe it’s possible, I know it’s necessary. A have-to in a world so star struck by the latest gimmick, hashtag, magic bullet, apocalyptic video or sensational story. We have become such a thoughtless people reacting out of our own fears and allegiance to all the wrong things. Like what the influencers, billionaires, celebrities and villains are doing. In our blindness, we have lost a connection to the necessity of pausing and reflecting; leaving us reactive, and therefore dangerous.

Dangerous because we are colluding with narratives that are at odds with our very nature and with the Nature all around us. The very same energies that tell us, There is a balance and a timing to everything. To live believing we are outside of, more to the point, above that wisdom, is to create chaos and harm through the violation of basic and non-negotiable Life principles.

All of this is happening when what we need most is wisdom born of a kind of steady, slow, thoughtful, decent and time-honored way of knowing and relating to the world. But this kind of approach doesn’t play well in a culture based in ever-increasing speed, volume and the incessant push for more and more, right now. Always right now with the insecure fear that if it doesn’t happen immediately, it’s not worth waiting for.

Or that it just won’t happen at all.

This is an illusion based in our separation from our own truest Nature and the the rules that govern the ways of the natural world. An illusion we have so easily bought into because we’ve been schooled to believe that progress looks like we should always being pushing for more. That we should let the people at the top take care of things. That we should let what comes across a screen tell us want to want. That we should just keep going along with things because this is just how it is now.

But like the Spring energies making all their adjustments to ensure the best growth possible, so can we. We can decide to take up our own lives by creating the space we need to slow down. To do less. To listen more. We can decide to question more what it is and who it is we are looking to to tell us what a good life looks and feels like.

We can do the difficult work of being honest with ourselves around what is not working in our lives as reflected by how sick, stressed and unhappy we are; using all those “bad” experiences to help us course correct into greater balance.

And it all begins by being wise enough and willing enough to pause in order to make the necessary adjustments.

Just This Moment

 

I am having one of those days where my thoughts are leaning towards anticipating negative scenarios and engaging in the “what if’s” the mind is so compelled to do. And while at this point I know enough of the machinations of the mind to not go down those rabbit holes, it still can nag away at me as it was doing on this particular day.

While I have many techniques I use to bring my mind back into balance, something happened quite naturally on this day that really struck me. After a walk with my husband where I had laid out my potential “what if’s,” we made our way over to gather eggs and look at what was happening with the starts and seeds we had recently planted.

It took no time at all for my anticipating mind to tune into something life-giving; shifting me out of a chaotic mind to one quite naturally and easily at peace. A mind at ease as it found itself immersed in the bigger picture of Life. All of this with no effort on my part, other than to be in relationship with Something Greater than myself, while spontaneously repeating over and over “Just This,” as I moved through the garden.

The “Just This” was my way of focusing only on what was right before me; whether that was the lettuce I was picking, the conversation I was having or the observations I was making of the seedlings. In effect, immersing my mind in the right now versus the “what if” future.

We so take whatever we think to be truth. As something to believe in and act on. Even when all signs point to the fact that our minds have gone off the rails with fear, anxiety and judgment. And while in this day and age there is no end to solutions for an imbalanced mind from medication to meditation, we can skip right over the most accessible and effortless of approaches to healing our minds.

Here I am referring to the natural world. To the elements and conditions and living beings that we have co-evolved with since we first appeared on the planet; our very home and the clearest reflection of who we are, where we come from and what we need.

Why would we go anywhere else to gain perspective and to ground ourselves in Truth?

Because we have been conditioned to believe that our well-being resides in a screen, a pill, more stuff, more prestige, more “likes,” etc. We have come to experience ourselves as separate from, and therefore not needing the support and the tutelage of what The Earth has to offer us. Unfortunately, many of us have strayed so far and for so long, we have come to see the natural world as foreign, dark and scary. An enemy as opposed to an ally.

But here’s the thing. We are Nature herself. We are created and maintained by the same force. To know this is to tap into the good news that even if we have forgotten, even if we never learned to begin with, all we have to do is to put ourselves in the Presence of the natural world for her to do her work on us.

So find a reason every single day to linger, even for one minute, somewhere outside. Go without agenda. Go and be a listener. Go and allow yourself to get lost in the breeze, a bird singing, some fragrance, a starry night, the feel of rain on your skin. And say to yourself, “Just This.”

 

Beginning Where You Are

Beginning where you are when it comes to what is happening in your body is the ultimate homecoming and an absolute necessity if you are to know what it is your body needs. To get there though requires accepting what your body is experiencing in any given moment. Even when you don’t like what is there.

This is not easy to do as it is only natural that we want our bodies to feel a certain way. But the truth is, as hard as this can be, there’s just no way around this one. For if you hope to live in a body you feel good in and can trust, you must be willing to actually be in it.

I know this might seem ludicrous, as in, where else would you be? But that’s the trouble with being human. We can be anywhere but in the body when the mind takes us into the past or the future. Thoughts of the past keep us locked in old fears, traumas and beliefs while thoughts of the future create an anticipation of all the things we don’t want to happen to the body.

Either way we have left our bodies. We have left them without a clear, present mind that knows how to see the realities of the body for what they are. Not what we have been told they are or fear them to be. For instance, if our family of origin had a lot of fears around something like cancer, we can find ourselves ruminating about whether or not that will happen to us. In effect, priming ourselves for something we definitely do not want. Or if you were raised in such a way that the body’s most basic needs for things like touch, sleep and food were met in unhealthy ways, you will automatically believe deprivation is the norm.

To begin where you are is to accept your body exactly as you find it. I mean this literally. You must be willing to acknowledge whatever is happening. Not because you want it to stay, but because that is what is so. This includes the thoughts, the emotions, the pains, the sensations, the urges, the instincts and all of the intuitions contained within you.

This is the equivalent of mapping out a road trip. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, if you aren’t in the vehicle to begin with, how can you possibly reach your destination? How will you know what you need to make the trip? How will you know if you’ve taken a wrong turn? How will you know when you need a tune-up?

Perhaps more than anything else, if you are not fully and all the way in your own body, how will you be able to enjoy all the sights to be seen while knowing the roads to avoid?

 

Excerpted from my book Trusting Your Body: The Embodied Journey of Claiming Sacred Responsibility for Your Health & Well-Being

 

 

 

 



Staying Human

 

I’m just back from a training in Ayurveda, the 5000 year old Indian tradition of health and healing. The focus was on the balance of the mind from an Ayurvedic perspective, with much of it centered around understanding ourselves at the level of our most basic, elemental Nature comprised of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space.

In other words, the things that make up not just a human being, but all of Nature. With the understanding that unless and until we see ourselves through the lens of what we are made of and how to be in harmony with that, we will suffer. That our mind will be in a state of suffering because we won’t know who we are on the most fundamental of levels. Meaning, we will seek out all the wrong things.

Juxtapose this longstanding Ayurvedic knowing that to depart from who we are and what we are made of is to be ill, against the headline I saw when I got back: New research reveals that touch may help with anxiety.

My immediate thought was, How sad it is that we now need research to justify hugs. My second thought was, This is another example of just how far we have strayed from our very existence, caught up as we are in the world of the non-human. In other words, the machines.

We have truly fallen into a dystopian “reality” where we need research outside of ourselves to prove to us that we need touch. And then we wonder why we are not doing so well. While our inflated egos might say we are the most intelligent of any civilization, interestingly enough, we find ourselves on the brink of personal and societal destruction. And not because of some outside agent like a virus or a nuclear bomb, but because of our own denial of, and departure from, our truest Nature.

We see this in the fact that despite all the technological “advances” we have never been sicker, fatter or lonelier. We have never been more at odds with the Natural world, our own bodies and the bodies of others.

We have never been more confused, child-like and afraid of Life itself in the forms of the weather, bugs, animals and all things non-man-made. And therefore out of our control. Because we keep believing that it’s just because we haven’t found the right technological fix, and that it is the next generation of technology that will save us, we miss all the answers living right under our very noses.

The answers to what ails us being the breathing of fresh, outside air. Or the way it feels for your feet to be barefoot in the earth while you feel the joy of the sun on your un-slathered skin. Or how about the experience of being in wide-open spaces where there is not a man-made thing in sight.

None of this is complicated, and it’s all built right into our human-ness. So what’s the rub? It’s that we have forgotten what we never wanted to forget: What it actually is to be human. We are living as if we can bypass that. We are living as if we do not fall under the requirements of our deepest Nature. And we do so at great peril; the evidence of which is all around us for all to see.

Sometimes it takes getting so far away from what is real and true in order to see what is, in fact, real and true. Then it becomes the path of remembering. An intentional turning back towards your own skin and what it most hungers for. But of course, that would require that you stop being overly enamored with the world of the machines, believing them to be the highest of our expression. And instead, become entranced with your very own Nature in the form of your own body and what it needs.

Barking At The World

 

As I’ve written about before, I’ve had a cough that persistently remains despite all my tried and true remedies and approaches. Just when I thought it was on its way out the door, it has come back to teach me some more.

Now I know there are many who would say why not suppress it? Why not get some prescription to knock it back? Believe me, for the first time in nearly three decades of not using that kind of medicine, I have thought about it. I have fantasized about codeine cough syrup or some steroid. Really anything they have that would just make it go away. But I can’t stay there for long.

Why?

Because I know that when my body is expressing something, there is a very good reason it’s doing what it’s doing. And that’s a non-negotiable for me. Even if I don’t know why or how to resolve it. Even if it’s frustrating and uncomfortable. Even if it’s wearing my patience thin. Because what I know to be true is this: The last thing I want to do is to drive a bodily expression deep into my tissues; in effect, silencing its voice.

Which brings me specifically to the cough. If you are at all familiar with the work of Louise Hay, you know she brought forward a body of work that connects an emotional/mental/spiritual component to every illness  For a cough, what’s behind this symptom is a kind of barking at the world. A kind of see me. Listen to me.

So to suppress this cough feels like it would be a kind of re-traumatization to a part of me that didn’t get seen or heard in a way that felt good to me. Which is why I am wondering about where I feel unseen and unheard. Where it is that I suppress my own voice out of habit and fear. And where I am monitoring myself in terms of who I am and what I say around others.

Which means I am using this time as an opportunity to be with the cough and let it teach me. So far, every day has uncovered something new for me around being seen and heard. Feelings that have been unconscious and therefore unavailable to me before this experience. For me this is worth the frustration of something taking a long time to heal, because I can see that another part of me is getting a chance to be heard, which means it too will have a chance to heal.

To be with yourself and your health in this way requires a few things:

  • A willingness to see symptoms as essential information you do not want to ignore or suppress. Not easy to do in a medical culture based on symptom suppression.
  • A kind of presence to yourself where you are watching the thoughts and reactions that arise when something doesn’t feel good in your body. This includes your fears and your default tendency to look to an authority figure to make it better for you.
  • The courage to make connections to what may be behind the symptoms on the emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological levels. This takes practice and a kind of radical honesty with yourself.
  • An openness to learning about the part of you that is ailing to figure out what its most basic needs and functions are. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it simple.
  • Finding practitioners who support this process in you and who include all of you in the equation of your health and healing. You’ll know them by how well they listen and by the questions they ask.

By the way, what do I think was behind the cough picking back up again with a vengeance? An intense experience last weekend of feeling like there are those in the world being seen and recognized even though they may be lacking in skill or integrity; leaving me with an old reaction of despair around the unfairness and injustice of a world that gives voice to so many of the “wrong” things. This one goes deep and touched a very, very old wound that seems up for some healing.

 

What Is Happiness Anyway?

 

If you were to ask the average person what they most wanted for themselves or their kids, I think many would say “happiness” topped their list. But I also think this is about as far as many people go with what one could argue needs to be a necessary examination of something so important to you.

For starters, do you even know what being happy means, what it costs or even how to get there? I don’t think we do. Which is why it’s so easy for us to be manipulated into believing all kinds of things when it comes to what happiness is and where it comes from.

“Good fortune, prosperity, a state of well-being and contentment” are what the dictionary has to say about happiness. Seems like something worth going for. These days though, this worthy state is fraught with all kinds of problems, misdirections and brainwashing.

In our heavily influenced and commercialized world we are being sold to by billion dollar companies what well-being and good fortune looks like. Guess what? Happiness looks exactly like having things. Their things in the shape and form of products and services. Or perhaps it’s all about having lots of followers or garnering lots of likes for curating your life on social media and exploiting yourself by posting it all to be used as a kind of fodder for your ever-hungry “friends.”

Then there are all the streaming and online services that make their images of other people look so enticing, while creating big feelings in you. These externally induced feelings are what you go on to equate with a kind of contentment and good fortune that compel you to sit and watch for hours on end as figures on a screen go on to have the life you want. Or maybe, being glued in front of a screen helps you forget the life you are living that you don’t want.

Either way, you call it happiness.

Of course we can’t forget about the drugs. All the wonderful drugs that will create a pseudo state of happiness that can be purchased in pot shops or through ask your doctor campaigns. And if that’s not your jam, your happiness can be bought by your next online purchase and delivered right to your door the next day. No effort on your part other than to push a button.

None of this is happiness and we deserve better. We deserve better than to believe our well-being can be bought and sold. We deserve better than to medicate ourselves into some false and illusory state that we now equate with contentment. But because so many of us are doing it, we don’t much question ourselves, and even if we do, we hide out under the cover of the herd.

As much as we may be going along for this ride, deep down, we know we are being lied to. More to the point, we know we are lying to ourselves. That’s why whatever we do in this modern day frantic pursuit of happiness always falls flat, always needs another fix, and always is at the hands and mercy of a thing that someone else is willing to sell us.

Happiness is an inside job. It doesn’t look like what Hollywood portrays and it definitely does not come in a pill. It is hard won. It is fleeting. It is honest. It is a choice. It is enduring in its simplicity and it is personal to you. What might it look like?

Personally, I take my cues here from a synonym for happiness. “Blessed.” What is it that makes you feel blessed? For me, it looks like watching the moon or your kid play t-ball. It looks like sitting down for a meal you prepared with those you love. It looks like being with a good friend for a walk in the woods. It looks like getting your chance to be here and learning and growing yourself into who you most want to be.

What Are You Following?

 

I was taking a yoga class this week when the teacher posed the question: “Are you following your thoughts or are you following your breath?” In other words, are you chasing the thought patterns you have been ruminating on for literally years? Or are you here now, in this moment, breath by precious breath?

Where we put our attention holds the very key to life on earth being a kind of heaven or living hell. And while many of us believe and live as if what is going on outside of us, what others are doing, an epidemic, what other countries or the politicians are up to, is what creates either heaven or hell for us, it’s just not true.

What is true is that what you are habitually putting your attention on, especially when it comes to what you are thinking about, has the power to bring you everything you never wanted. Or everything you ever wanted.

How could it be any other way?

Your thoughts are what create the words that come out of your mouth. They create which actions you will take on any given day. They stand behind the energy and momentum of how you do and live and believe and love and hope and fear and eat and negotiate and relate and…

For instance, if you believe that your medical system, religion or political party has the lock on the truth, you will use your words to condemn those who don’t line top with your narrative. If you believe that the body is a machine that breaks down easily and requires a mechanic to keep it in line, you will never be open to how your thoughts and your health are one and the same.

To decide for heaven, in other words all those things you most yearn for, is to become intimately aware of, and responsible for, every single thought you think. This is a big job. Especially in the beginning when it can feel like a circus on crack inside your own mind.

That’s why it can be so instructively sane to break down the thousands and thousands of thoughts you have each and every day into a binary choice; allowing you to step out of the oblivion or the tug-of-war relationship you have with your own mind and all of its unchecked thoughts.

Try this. Get in the habit of catching yourself throughout the day by asking, What am I thinking about right now? Once you are aware of the specific content, make a down and dirty assessment by wondering whether this thought creates a sense of safety or danger within you. Drop all the content and tune into the way this thought make you feel about yourself, others and the world.

And then make a choice.

If this is not a thought you want to harbor, put your attention on something else. Follow your own breath, look at the sky, smell something delicious. To choose where to put your own attention is to make the decision to stop following a thought that brings dis-ease, and to instead choose for a little heaven here on Earth.

Beyond Wrong

 

I’m in the middle of teaching my Healer Within program and I am prepping for the class that focuses on what I refer to as “Learning the Language of Your Body.” In other words, coming to see the symptoms and sensations of the body as vital and necessary communication you want to be in touch with. Working with this material keeps drawing me back over and over again to one essential truth: In order to learn the language of your body, you must be willing to go beyond “wrong” when it comes to what your body is doing.

This is not easy to do. In fact, it’s exceedingly difficult given the intense conditioning by our current conventional medical system that insists, despite any evidence to the contrary from other health systems, that any imbalance in your body is a problem, an inconvenience, a misstep on the part of your biology that must be addressed with pills and procedures.

There’s more. For you to suspend the belief that there is something wrong with your body is also to tap into another deep-seated piece of conditioning we are all subject to: There is something wrong with you. Something wrong with you if you think differently than your tribe. Want differently than what the culture offers up in terms of its insane pace and inhumane approach to life and living. Feel differently about what you are told and sold when it comes to who you are and what you are capable of.

In other words, don’t stick out, don’t be too great, don’t rock the boat. Instead, do all that you can to never be wrong in the eyes of another.

Bottom line? To even consider to begin to unwind from the wrongness you unconsciously direct at yourself and your body each and every day is to knowingly make the choice to depart from any and all of the places you make yourself wrong. Whether those places exist in your own mind, or are reflected back to you from a consensual reality that is predicated on you fitting into it. Even if that means it needs to snuff out any chance of you questioning the current reality by undermining you with a big dose of, “You’re wrong to step out of line as we have drawn it.”  

This can feel like an enormous task and even quite scary to take on. Why? Because we use making ourselves wrong to dim our light in order to belong. And we use something being wrong with our bodies as an escape hatch to avoid getting to know our bodies more fully, while learning how to claim full responsibility for them.

However. It can be simplified and made doable by asking one penetrating question:

If I wasn’t making myself/my body wrong right now, what would I know?