In Lockdown

 

Did you know that the brain wave states active when you are feeling threatened are different than when you are at peace? And that in the fear-based survival mind you lock onto a “me versus you” orientation towards others, while a primitive territorial aggression around scarcity arises?

Imagine now that millions, maybe even billions of us, because we are in such longstanding states of chronic stress, are walking around feeling threatened by others. As well as fiercely territorial over our capacity to get our own most basic needs for safety and security met. When you add it all up, do you know what you get?

Hell.

Here’s the real kicker. We can be making it all up in our own minds. We can literally be preparing for battle based on the thoughts we are keeping; with no imminent danger actually before us. And because the body believes everything that the mind says, it kicks into action, preparing to defend itself, by tightening up and getting ready for war.

The truth is, no one will ever do worse to us than what we do to ourselves in our own minds. If you are with me thus far, it only becomes the next logical step to see that the real make or break place when it comes to how it feels to be alive, is within our own minds. For the reality is, every moment of every day, we have a choice. Will we choose heaven? Or will we choose hell?

I see this being played out as my body continues to unwind from an injury, so does my mind. I am watching how long standing patterns of gripping and tensing, a kind of hanging on for dear life in my muscle patterns, are an expression of a survival mind. One so old that I had not noticed it at this level before. So old that the tension has become familiar to me. “Normal.” Expected. A way to structure myself. This is concerning, for to structure oneself around stress is to suffer.

And it is to cause suffering.

And yet, if there is anything that the time of Covid lockdowns and restrictions has taught me, it is that I have a choice. No matter what. No matter what the outer circumstances; whether that be mandates or a spasming back-my mind and the state of my nervous system is my own to decide. It is literally the one thing in my humanity that no one else can have. Or dictate.

I read something recently where an Indian sage is quoted as saying, “The will of God is not for weak people.” No kidding. This plays out for me as I see all of the ways that my mind can make up a threat in the world of restrictions, or in an unwelcome pain. But I will tell you something that I know deep inside my bones. When I can see that there is Something Greater at play in all of this, I know that to a person, we are all being given an opportunity to make a choice. Different than we have ever made before. And it is not for the weak, or the faint of heart.

I see it as being the chance to break with all of the hells we have created in our own minds, whatever that is for each of us, in order to open to what we all most yearn for. A kind of literal Heaven on Earth. For me, that looks and feels like a world where Life is honored. In all of its forms and expressions. And where violations against Life itself, are the things in lockdown.

If this feels resonant to you, then by extension, we must be willing to ask some very deep and penetrating questions of ourselves like, “Where in my daily routines have I made it “normal” to violate Life? Mine or another’s?”

Fixing

 

Spending time last week with a gripping pain in my body continues to offer many teachings. Right now I am working with what it is to be with myself, my thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations without trying to fix what I am experiencing.

I am a “fixer” from way back. It helped me to survive what felt like chaos and harm growing up; allowing me to feel empowered in disempowering situations. While there is nothing wrong with seeking a fix, it can become problematic when the efforts are knee-jerk and unconscious. Based more from a need to make difficult things go away, then it is to accurately see what is there. This “seeing what is there” being the key ingredient in taking “right” action. By that I mean an action which not only correctly matches what is needed, it also does not create more harm, or a new level of problem.

As I go deeper into the experience of pain, I see the flaws inherent in trying to fix something. Mainly that when I need to fix, it implies something is wrong. Which brings me right into judgement. Of myself, the situation, and whatever it is I am experiencing. In the judgment there is intolerance. With that comes resistance. And in the resistance, a battle ensues.

So now, instead of being wide open and observational about what is happening, I have tightened up and narrowed down my focus into a mere sliver of the information available. This is one of the quintessential hallmarks of being in a survival response. The blinders go on, our view narrows, and we are left with a fraction of the input we need to make a good choice.

So what does this result in? We throw on band-aids. We go back to what we did in the past. Even if it didn’t work. We leave out essential information. We close ourselves off to, and are intolerant of, new ways of approaching old and long-standing problems. Look around. It is everywhere. But mostly, we can find it in the personal and collective approaches we continue to take to health. So like a mosquito banging itself against a glass window when there is an open door behind it, we too stay trapped in the same old same old.

If you are up for something different, other than remaining trapped in old ways of doing things, try this: Whenever you are feeling an unwanted sensation in your body, pause. Take a breath. Give what is happening a name. And just for this moment, let it be. Just let it be.

Watch what happens when you do not fight.

The Limitations of Certainty Seeking

 

A friend of mine introduced me to the phrase, “certainty seeking.” It means just what it sounds like.

While it is so natural as a human being to want a high degree of certainty guaranteed, when it comes to how things in Life will go, it is an illusion. As a species we seem to be the only ones on the planet who not only do not know that there are no such guarantees, we go so far as to demand that it be so; compounding an already dangerous and misguided notion.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what to do. While terrifying to hold at first, this orientation to Life is a true one. A real one. One that lines us up with reality, thereby allowing us to be with things from a clear starting point. Meaning, we are much more likely to respond with accuracy and in a right-sized manner.

This past week, I had a surprising turn of events in that suddenly my back was spasming with such intensity that I could barely walk. I could not take a deep breath. Nor could I get my pants on by myself. In the midst of the worst of it, my husband found me sobbing, “I don’t know what to do.” All of my usual approaches and remedies had fallen short. Nothing was working.

Later, working with one of my practitioners, he uttered the phrase “trapped vulnerability,” which initiated another round of sobbing. There it was. The physical pain was nothing compared to the deep existential vulnerability of being alive that I was up against. Now the question became, “How am I going to be with this?”

What has unfolded over this week is that my deepest vulnerability is bound to my deepest power. That giving way to vulnerability and uncertainty puts me back into alignment with Truth. The doorway in being, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what is going to happen.” It is from this place that I create an opening. A portal if you will, where things I never thought of have a chance to reveal themselves. Where unimaginable support has a chance to come in. And where the most unbearable pain turns into Strength. Possibility. Healing.

We are living in times where a kind of dogma of certainty has settled over us like a plague; settling in us and between us. The message? This, and only this is what you are allowed to believe in. If you do, you are guaranteed a certain outcome. And while to many of us this certainty can feel so reassuring, it is illusion. One that is robbing us of Truth and Possibility.

To believe that another can offer you the certainty you seek is a fool’s errand. An existential foreclosure. Worst of all, somewhere deep inside, you know it is not true. To trade in this lie is to set yourself against the forces and the powers of the Universe. The very same One, which never has and never will, offer you that type of guarantee.

The Future of Health

 

Not long ago, I saw a commercial which seems to sum up where we are, and where we are headed when it comes to health. Unless, that is, enough of us decide for something else. Something more True. More Real. More Life-affirming. More, well, human.

The commercial opens with the following tagline: “The future of health is on your wrist.” We are then shown a woman operating at warp speed in her life, while being continuously reminded by the device on her arm to “Relax.” Then it tells her to “Run.” Then “Swim.” Then do “Tae Kwon Do.” Then “Dance.” I watch in horror as she manically leaps from one instruction to the next; all directed by a tiny machine she is wearing on her arm.

If this weren’t so alarming, it would be funny. Saturday Night Live parody funny.

But it’s not funny. Not when we consider how many of us take health advice from people trying to sell us something, and whose mixed agenda includes delivering messages of “health and well-being” while bolstering their the bottom line by keeping us ever insecure and doubtful about our own ability to go it without them. It becomes even less funny when we break down the messages that are being taken up by viewers regarding what it means to be healthy. Images that are telling us that instructions from a piece of technology are what we need to be listening to. That somehow we will not know what we need, or what to do, and that it is best to outsource that knowing to something non-human.

In our infatuation with, and now indoctrination into, all things technological in order to stay healthy, we are losing the main and central ingredient to health and well-being. That being, it is built in and is predicated on a personal knowing born of experience and attention.The “knowing” of which I speak is inborn, and yet it requires both cultivation and protection. It does not take its cues from a commercial. Nor does it require a machine in order to stay well. In fact, the abdication of this personal knowing is what is at the heart of a deep and dangerous disconnect from the natural and healing wisdom of our bodies.

The future of health would do well to consider not only what is presently happening in health care, but to take a good, hard look at how it is that we have arrived in a place where so many of us are so sick and so disconnected from the most basic principles of how to care for a human body. For before we can talk about the future, we must weed out what is currently not working. What is outdated. Misleading. Harmful even.

Do you want to know what the real future of health is? IT IS YOU. It is your inner and personal knowing restored, trusted, and acted upon. And it is so, so basic. As basic as paying closer attention to yourself. For instance, how often do you see something advertised that is claiming to be able to improve your health, and that you jump at because you think either this will be easy, or because “they” must know better. Watch the impulse to outsource your health and well-being while getting into the habit of checking in with yourself, asking, “Is that really what a human being needs to be well, or am I being sold something?”

 

Self-Care 101

 

Look around, we have never had more information about taking care of ourselves. Eat healthier. Exercise. Get more sleep. Be grateful. Take time for yourself. Breathe. On and on it goes. And yet…we have never been sicker. Less happy. Less fulfilled. Less ourselves. Dare I say, less human.

What’s going on?

Mostly, when I talk to people, they will sheepishly admit, yes they know they need to do something. And they’ve tried. God, have they tried. And it will even seem like what they are doing is working, at least for a bit. But at some point, without fail, after some period of time, they find themselves back to where they started. In other words, back to ignoring themselves and denying what it is that they really need to do in order to take good care of themselves.

Sure, the world is distracting. And we are too busy. Yes, the corporations have now created a multi-billion dollar industry to keep us tied to them to feel like we are taking care of ourselves. Because without them, we wouldn’t know what we needed or what to do. But what if the real reason why we never get there is because we are running right past the obvious? Right past what we have all begun to forget. Or know how to access.

That being, that at its most basic and authentic, self-care is built in. Innate. Hardwired into the nervous system. Into every cell, organ and tissue layer. Think about it. What then? For if it is built in, that means we all already know how to do it. It means that even if we have strayed, even if we never got it through our upbringing and environment, it can never be lost to us. It also means that we, and no other, are the ultimate authority in terms of caring for ourselves, and that all practitioners, medical suggestions, edicts, trends, research and fads are never the real source of what it is that we need to be well. Can these things serve as potential support? Sure. The final word? Never.

How could it be any other way? Without the ability to care for ourselves, and with it the built in knowledge of “how-to,” there would be no human species. For without care, there is no Life. Sadly, if you look closely enough, “no Life” is just where we are hurtling towards as a species when you witness the rates of cancer, heart disease, debilitating depression and more. This is not bad luck, bad genes or just the way it is now. This is a result of an entire species turning its back on what is most natural to who we are; the ability to care for ourselves and others.

Maybe, we are at this point to finally remind us all that our health and well-being resides within, and that what we are seeing is the end point of hundreds of years of being pulled into a kind of inner blindness. Blinded to the absolute biological Truth that the Urge for Life to continue and to care for itself lives within. And can only be extinguished at death.

Health & The Self

 

Last night, I taught a class focusing on health from an Ayurvedic perspective. (Ayurveda being the ancient 5000 year old healing tradition of India.) From this perspective, there is a well-known definition which outlines the fundamentals of health; going from purely physiological states all the way to a unification of body, mind and soul. But it all begins with the premise that one is “established in the Self.”

Take a moment to sense what that might even mean to you. This is a deeply personal exploration, and therefore, unlike what many of us have been taught to believe, there is no right or wrong here. So, what would it feel like to be established within your own self? For me, just thinking those words is a visceral experience. A kind of felt sense homecoming if you will, where I return to myself. More fully inhabit myself. Often, not even realizing that I have even left, until I am back.

For many of us, we are anything but seated within our own self. Our body is wherever we are flinging it around at hyper speed in any given moment. Or maybe it is collapsing somewhere in zombie-like fashion. Either way, our body being in one place, and our minds somewhere else sets up a kind of leaving. So whether we are fretting over or regretting the past, or anticipating the future and creating scary and unwanted scenarios, we stand divided. Abandoned. Unestablished in anything but misery.

Not quite what the ancients had in mind when they proposed that the very first aspect of health is to be seated in the Self.

In other words, as opposed to standing sovereign and unified within, we are instead bashing around inside of ourselves. Or, we have left ourselves. Like an abandoned building we no longer inhabit, and so falls into disrepair, and worst of all becomes inhabited by transient and vagrant energies, we are established nowhere; becoming lost to ourselves, and therefore the world.

If we are to truly claim the birthright of our health, we must be willing to go beyond what we are currently being offered. For it is outdated. If it ever was in date to begin with. I know this can sound harsh, or even scary. That is not the intention. Instead, this is not a bash as much as it is a reckoning. A willingness to recognize that we are anywhere but in health as a nation. Perhaps even as a world. And that to find our way back into a sane, sacred and healthy establishment within ourselves is to go back to the very roots of what it means to inhabit a body.

What might this look like for you? Perhaps it means asking yourself the fundamental question, Where am I right now? as you race through your day, watch disturbing content across a screen, or engage in the same old same old thoughts that always leave you feeling like shit. Or maybe it is to recognize that the schedule you keep, the people you associate with, the news you obsess over, or the work you are doing is so aversive to you on some level, that you can only try and get out of your very own skin.

We did not come here to leave. We came here to know ourselves. To create, contribute, and grow. To do so requires that we focus our lives establishing ourselves in what is real and what is true. When in doubt, ask yourself, what could a human being absolutely not do without? Leave the rest alone. At least, for the most part.

Opening & Closing Doors

 

Back in the spring, we had three doors replaced in our home. Partly, my husband wanted to continue to insure a net positive home. And yes, it would also open up the view. But mostly, he felt that having a tighter seal would keep the ladybugs out of the home he had worked so hard in designing to keep them out.

In any case, after the doors were installed, right from the start, I had to struggle to open and close them. I would have to use both hands to work the lever, while positioning myself, sumo wrestler style, to give myself the extra leverage I needed to lower the latch or lock it in place. Maybe I’m a wimp, but this seemed excessive to me.

My husband took a different stance. Maybe I should lift weights, he joked. It’s pilot error, he chastised. Even when one of his male friends was unable to get himself out the door after spending the night, literally trapped in our house until he found a door that had been left unlocked, still no movement on my husband’s part. No concession that something was off. What about your mother, I asked. Could she get out? Well, no. But so what, she doesn’t live here. Even the thought of someone he loved being unable to move freely in and out of our home did not move the needle.

Something was definitely not working here. Call me crazy, but in my world, one should not need to be working out at the gym to operate the doors to your own home. So why would a reasonable and rationale person cling so thoroughly to something in the face of evidence to the contrary? Why would someone deflect, project and ignore so completely the reality before them?

In a nutshell, personal investment and world view.

My husband had spent the first 3 years in our new home outraged every time the lady bugs got in because he had spent a lot of time, energy and resources making sure that would never happen. He was convinced that with these new doors, the problem would be solved. He had also spent a ton of time researching and speaking with the rep from the door company. Had even scheduled him twice to come back to make adjustments. To no avail.

Me? I had no skin in this game whatsoever. (Unless you call being able to get in and out of a door without breaking a sweat an agenda.) I hadn’t been the one to design or build the house. I had not done all the research or spent all that time on the phone. But mostly, I had no illusions about the power and the intelligence of a ladybug getting to where it wanted to go; despite my husband’s best efforts.

As you can imagine, his investment was immense. This approach just had to work. There was no other way. It just had to be the fix. Only. It wasn’t. Not only were the doors not working, there was no guarantee that they would even do what he believed they would do once the ladybugs returned in late fallFor as they say, “Life will find a way.” 

So here it is. Whenever we have decided something, spent a lot of time putting our energy into something, believing we have found the solution, invested ourselves fully in something, that’s it. There is no considering another way. No looking at other options. No considering the facts. Even when they are right in front of us. It’s the whole cognitive dissonance thing: either you factor in new information and adjust your world view. Or. You deny, ignore and take whatever comes your way and distort it enough until it justifies your decision.

The ability to shift perspectives is to admit fallibility, and is the hallmark of an open and confident person. One who understands that our limited view of the world must be acknowledged. And it ultimately speaks to someone possessing a certain kind of mental flexibility: A capacity that makes for great leaders, trustworthy friends, even-handed partners, and a sane populace.

And it is what the world is begging for right now.

So if you are up for looking at your own ability to shift perspectives, look for the places where you feel everything inside of you physically tense up when things are not as you want them to be. Look for the place inside of you where you cannot bear to hear the other side of something. And then, see what it would be like to include one piece of what it is you cannot accept. One shade of grey you have been denying. One other avenue that might, in fact, work.

P.S. My husband has shifted his perspective. Now it’s the rep who can’t square what he sold us with how it is actually playing out.

 

Personal Power

 

I am on Cape Cod as a storm blows through. Thunder and lightening. Heavy rain. High winds. When I wake and hear the storm, I am compelled to go out to see the ocean before She calms. As I make my way to the bluffs I pass a man, who in our brief exchange, informs me that, “the ocean is angry today.” While I recognize that assessment is as close as he can get to something about what he has seen, I also know deep in my bones that that is not an accurate description.

The ocean is not angry. She is unleashed.

Depending on your relationship to personal power, Nature can be many things; angry, awesome, terrifying, inspiring, life-giving, life-taking. You name it. How we feel when we see Nature at her fullest says more about us than it does about Her. It says more about our relationship with raw, uninhibited, and unapologetic power than it does with any misstep on her part. How we see the natural world exactly parallels our relationship with our own experience of personal power.

For instance, if we are needing to control and manage the elements, expecting Mother Nature to get in line with our comfort levels and expectations, it means we do the same to ourselves. And to others. It means that we allow that same level of imposed and artificial containment to be done to us. One way or another.

Look at all the things we do, every single day, because we feel like we should. Because we believe, and are told, that this is what makes us a good person. I know, I know, we do it for others. We do it because this is what society expects and needs from us. That without us containing our power, society would break down. But here’s the thing that many of us never, ever, investigate: Where is the truth, and the line, around being yourself, and being a contributing member to the community? So while there is an argument to be made for the necessary and vital tension required to balance the needs of the individual and the needs of the group, is it actually true that we need to tamp down and tame ourselves in order to belong? In order to do good?

If you are interested in exploring personally where that line is for you, learn to pay attention to the conversations in your mind around what you need to do according to others. What it is that you have made to mean what good is. What you have convinced yourself of what it is that you must do in order to fit in. To be thought well of. And then, wonder to yourself, “What would the power of the ocean have to say about that?”

We are not here to acquiesce to the distorted demands of a world that has confused what real power is. We are here, instead, to express the fullness and the totality of who and what we are. To do anything less is a lie. An error of judgment. A case of mistaken identity and misplaced allegiance.

Raw power. Unleashed. Unapologetic. We interpret it as unsavory and unwanted because we have forgotten what it feels like to be free. Wild. And unencumbered by falsehoods imposed from within and without.

What Actually Makes Us Better?

 

I am driving on the Mass Pike recently when I see a billboard that simultaneously blows my mind, saddens and outrages me, and brings me right up against the world we are living in. It goes like this: “Springfield is better with Cannabis.”

What The Bleep Are We Doing?

What is happening to us that we would even make a statement like this? Never mind proudly putting it up on a highway for all to see. Including our children. Is this what we want to be boasting about for our communities? Are we so desperate that anything that brings us money is touted as something great? No matter what it is? Are we so overwhelmed and compliant that the best we can hope for is to medicate entire communities into oblivion so that we will not notice what is happening to us?

And what about our children? What message do we send them when we equate drugs with making things better? Especially in cities like Springfield, where like many large cities, they are already ravaged by the ills of poverty, drug abuse, and disenfranchisement. Core societal issues that must be faced and resolved before any city can claim its Greatness. This one example alone exemplifies just how disposable we have come to accept that certain communities are.

Truly, the absolute disregard and disrespect for what makes us great, is staggering.

Like so many things in our world, we are not thinking this one through. Opting instead to take the very, very short view. As in, a populace numbed out? Yes. Coffers filled for some? Sure. But Great? I don’t think so. Not even close. 

Watch closely the words that are being used by others to describe the state of our world, and what it is that we should want and can expect. And then ask yourself, “Is this actually as good, and even great, as it gets?” If it’s not, do not comply. Not in your mind. Not in your words. Not in your actions.

 

 

Destruction and Creation

 

All around us, destruction reigns supreme. Things are breaking down, and coming apart at the seams. On any given day, there is yet another news story about what is coming to an end. Yet another personal story, yours or someone close to you, about some devastating life experience. For most of us, that spells out only one thing: pain and suffering. And while we will all have our individual reactions to what we do not want destroyed (fear, grief, anger, apathy, etc.) any of those reactions, while normal, is missing the boat. Completely.

Years ago, when I first began to reframe how I looked at the happenings of my life, I was obsessed with a tape series by Caroline Myss. I would pop one in and go for long, long walks or runs. I would sob, or rail, or be inspired, all depending on the day and what it was that I was listening to. But always, I would come back to one essential place: I did not need to be a victim any longer. What was happening (or had happened) was not being done to me. I had a choice.

This way of being was new to me, so it was moving to hear her talk about a man, who in one short day, lost everything; his wife, his business, his home, his long-term friend. Instead of crumbling, he got down on his knees, speaking to God for the first time in a long time, and basically said, “You must be trying to get my attention. What do you want me to know?” He then went on to use that level of surrender as his guiding force as he began to carve out the life he was most meant to live. All based on being open as opposed to victimized. As opposed to taking years to make use of the experiences Life was offering him, he turned it around in a day!

We in the West we have a very destructive relationship to destruction. Maybe we see things ending as as a failure, or somehow unfair; believing we are entitled to the ego’s version of Life. Collectively, we seem to feel as though we have a right to destroy in order to get whatever we want. Drunk with lust for power, greed, and control we do great harm to ourselves and others. But if you follow Universal Law, destruction is one natural and essential part of the Creation-Death-Rebirth cycle of Life. All the animals, plants and insects know this. As does the sun and the moon. The Celts and the traditions of Yoga know this. As do all indigenous people.

For anything to be created and to remain, something must die, at some point.

If we are to Create, individually and collectively, what we are truly worthy of, we must be willing to let go of all that we are not. Of all that is depleting, obscuring and distorting. Of all that has run its course. This is not something another can choose for you. Nor is it found in a catchy meme or spiritual bypass. To willingly allow something to go that you have been, or believed, for a long time, is nothing short of a herculean effort. Unless, of course, you cease to struggle, and just hand it all over to Something More than you.

If you are struggling, ask the same question that man asked: “What do you want me to know?” And then, hardest of all, LISTEN. Deeply. Agree within yourself that Life must be trying to show you something.