The Mind & Its Ways

 

As someone who has been observing her own mind for decades, it’s truly fascinating, sad, maddening, and more to watch how often I can catch my mind in some version of “I’m not doing enough.” Sadly, we all do this.

I know some of us would say that it drives us to do better; to be more of this or that. Sure, we get productivity out of this orientation of the mind, but what about the downside? What are the costs of “motivating” ourselves (if that is even what we are actually doing) by focusing on “not enough?”

This “less than” version of the mind is old. Very, very old. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t even ours to begin with. These were the thoughts and beliefs of those around us growing up, which we took on because it was what we thought was real and true about us as children.

I think of this part of my mind as the taskmaster who believes that by keeping me under its thumb, I’ll do more. I’ll do better. I’ll be safe.  But at what cost and according to who? My past? The number of “likes” the world is giving out? What everybody else thinks? A conditioned sense of unworthiness?

While these costs are certainly enormous, they actually pale in comparison to something we often miss. That being, that through the lens of “not enough” we miss our truest selves. Our beauty, fortitude, kindness, grit, generosity, and more; literally robbing us of the opportunity to experience the Truth of who and what we are.

To live under the mean and unfair taskmaster of “not enough” is to miss the very experience and essence of us.

This can show up for me, in all places, in my daily spiritual practice. It creeps in in the moments where despite having just spent an hour or more in deep contemplation, prayer, and connection, I’ll find my taskmaster mind saying that I’m not doing enough when it comes to the physical portion of my practice.

It sounds like this, “You’re cutting short the posture flow. You’re not doing more challenging poses. You didn’t do a full breathwork practice. You only sat in meditation for 5 minutes.” Blah, blah, blah.

It’s truly laughable and absurd to watch this parade of criticism go through my mind. My standard approach these days to the mind in this place is, “Sure, whatever.”

We need lots and lots of ways to work with the taskmaster mind. So if you’re up for it, any time you want to work with the mind, begin by catching yourself thinking. And when you catch yourself in a loop of “I’m not doing enough,” try the light-hearted “Sure, whatever” approach I just mentioned. This only works though if you keep a kind and light attitude towards the criticisms. Like you know what is being said has no merit, and you don’t feel any need to prove it wrong. 

Then, if you want to really change the mind’s orientation and start to rewire all those neural networks into something new and uplifting, try a phrase I use with myself to not only create a balancing response to that old tape, but to create a mindset that will take me back to the Truth of me.

It goes like this, “In this moment, instead of seeing “not enough,” I choose to see a woman who is…committed to her daily practice and devoted to doing deep inner work. Try it for yourself, filling in your own blanks, while you notice, with the criticizing mind held at bay, what do you see now?

Hearts Are Made To Be Broken

 

Years ago I found a little hanging heart for the garden. It’s made of metal and there are two hearts within a bigger outer heart. It hangs off a pole that goes into the ground, and it moves with the wind.

Because it got broken beyond even all the repairs my husband could do, last year I got a new one. An even bigger one. But just like the first one, it got so banged up by the elements that my husband has already twice had to repair it.

When it happened the first time, I found myself saying, “My heart is broken. Can you fix it?” I immediately saw the deeper meaning behind what I was saying. As in, the world has broken my heart. Can it be fixed?

It’s not easy being human. There are so many harsh realities we must all come to face. So many ways we can be hurt. So many ways that the sensitive, loving parts of us can be broken, and driven underground. So many ways that our open-hearted innocence can be warped into anger, cynicism, fear, and victimhood.

It reminds me of something my yoga teacher once said in a training I was in when I was feeling particularly heart-centered, open, and vulnerable. He said, “The world will break your heart, but you are not your heart.” I have never forgotten these words. It is life-altering for me to know that despite how painful life can get, I am more than even the greatest of any heartbreak I will ever experience.

So now, my first little broken heart lives in the earth of my medicine garden. My newer and bigger heart swings around in the wind, shored up by my husband’s loving touch. I look at it every day out my study window as I write, or as I make my way to the chickens, while it stands imperfectly at the entrance of the path that takes people to our yurt, and I think, “Hearts are made to be broken, and the measure of a woman is how many times it can happen to her without her spirit being broken.”

Rethinking Harm

 

I am these days, as dare I say all of us are, aware of, alert to, and afraid of, lots and lots of what is happening in our world. Lots of what feels out of my hands, and certainly nothing I would ever knowingly create.

And yet, here I am. Here we are. Now what?

Let’s start with the obvious, and then make our way to the not so obvious. There’s a lot of harm going on in the world. That’s obvious. From here on out is where we start to get into the ‘not so obvious.’

While it’s easy, maybe even natural, to believe that someone else is causing the harm and that we are the innocent bystanders caught up in something not of our own making, what if this is not the whole story? What if there is way more to this narrative than meets the eye? What if we have more responsibility in the harms being caused in the world than we would like to admit?

This can be hard to hear. Offensive even. Especially if you have never considered how your state of being contributes to the ways of the world. But hear me out. To be with this in a meaningful way, you have to stretch your lens and be willing to see the underlying connection of all things.

Let’s start with an ancient perspective on how all things are connected. Since the dawn of at least recorded history, all of our wisest and well-known teachers have espoused some version of “As within, so without.” In other words, whatever is going on within you, me, or us, is exactly what we will find going on outside of us in the world.

For instance, maybe you never have or never would murder someone, but have you ever felt a rage so deep within yourself towards another that felt beyond your control? Or perhaps you would never rape someone, but have you ever tried to control another person and get them to do what they didn’t want to do? Maybe you’ve never created a war, but do you ever go to war with other people in your own mind?

If you’re willing, there are lots of ways to play with how your inner life is connected to the outer life. But it takes a kind of openness and compassion on your part to look at what is outside of you that you find deplorable, and to see if you can find it in yourself. To root out the harm in your inner world in the service of transforming that harm into something else for the outer world.

But I will tell you from firsthand experience, it’s not easy to get this honest with yourself. Perhaps the hardest thing we will ever do as human beings is to look at the places in ourselves we hide from. The very same places that we will disown by projecting them onto somebody else. As in, that’s horrible, I would never do that. Only to find upon closer examination, that in your own way, yes you do.

Because this can be so tricky to be with, I offer you something a very wise woman offered to me years ago. It seems that in the port town she lives in, the war ships would come in and out. This greatly disturbed her and left her feeling powerless and angry. So she made up a little prayer and it goes like this: “May no harm come to you, may no harm come from you.”

I have found this prayer to be a beautiful way to defuse the inner fears and hostilities that can arise in me in response to a world bringing harm. In the meantime, it creates the space I need to rethink how I might be, in my own way, bringing harm. If even ‘just’ through my own thoughts and inner reactions.

The Healer Within

 

When you think of the word “Healer,” what comes to mind? Someone in a white coat? A shaman? Or maybe something in between?

I am guessing though, that whatever your image or definition is, it is likely, not you. That for most of us that word conjures up someone else. Something outside of you. Someone more knowledgeable and more expert than you.

When I looked up the etymology of the word “heal,” it comes from the Old English. The definition, in the exact order it was given in, goes like this: Cure. Save. Make whole. With a “healer” being one who heals. 

In other words, a healer is one who cures, saves, or makes whole.

A lot is revealed in the order of the wording in the definition as we go from cure, to save, to make whole. I think the order speaks directly to where we are in our own healing evolution; both individually and collectively. As in, when we believe that health is about curing and saving as opposed to making whole, we find ourselves in a more primitive (dare I say outdated) evolutionary model of health and healing.

Personally, I believe that there is an essential distinction that needs to be made by more of us if we are to make the necessary evolutionary leap beyond the illness model we now subscribe to and into a greater and vaster possibility.

Without using being cured or saved as the litmus test, what might happen if more of us began to see what health is, and how we heal from a more advanced perspective?

We know all too well, having done it for far too long now, the experience of being cured, looking for a cure, feeling incurable, with all of the shame, frustration, and fear that goes along with this. We also know all too well its companion; outsourcing our authority to someone who “knows better.” Someone who can save us.

This place of looking to be cured by a savior is nowhere more prevalent than in our conventional medical system. But what if this paradigm is incorrect in terms of where the real healing resides? And what if healing is about so much more than just health? 

These are enormous questions to contemplate. Even more challenging to put this mindset into practice. We are so conditioned to look for cures in the hands of someone other than our own. Which is why we need new ways of thinking about what healing is, and in whose hands it actually belongs.

If you’re up for it, try this: Spend some time in a quiet moment thinking about a challenging health issue in your life. If you could take the worry and the someone-else-knows better-than-I-do out of the equation, what would healing mean to you if it wasn’t about being cured or saved by someone else?

Specifically, what would healing look like, feel like, and yes, require from you, to make whole something about you and your life? An evolutionary shift that would help open you to the possibility of being your own Healer Within in the service of a greater experience of wholeness.

In my world, that would be a true advancement in modern medicine.

 

P.S. If you are wanting to explore more deeply your own Healer Within, please visit https://rememberingwhatmattersmost.thinkific.com/courses/membership

Inner Authority

 

I think a lot about what it means to be healthy, and to heal. Over the years, I’ve come to see that there are the absolute biological necessities of life that must be met. These are the ones that, whether we do them or not, we’ve all heard about. The must-have’s like eating whole foods, getting the rest we need, staying hydrated, moving our bodies, etc.

What is less, or even not at all, talked about, are essential internal attitudes and perspectives that are the non-negotiable pre-requisites for health and healing. Mindsets, that if missing, will leave even the “healthiest” of diets or the most rigorous of exercise regimens lacking.

I want to begin this part of the conversation by sharing one of the most stunning things I have heard anyone say in a very long time: “The time for relying on outer authorities is over.”  Wow. OMG! What are you talking about? 

Whether you find this perspective enlightening or frightening, hear me out. Claiming inner authority for how we inhabit these bodies of ours is the New Paradigm waiting to be born, and it begins with Personal Responsibility and Self-Trust. How could it be otherwise? Who is the only one who lives in your body and has the capacity to care for it? Who is the only one who actually knows how it feels? Or what it needs?

It is your body. It is yours to take care of.

But this truth has gotten waylaid. We have become overly dependent on sources outside of us to tell us what we need. Just look at all the pharmaceutical commercials or the ever- burgeoning public health campaigns. One money based. The other politically based and fear-driven.

Of course, we need our helping professionals. But when we don’t trust our own body or when we hand over responsibility for it, while we may believe we are getting a guarantee or getting out of something too difficult for us, we actually lose a lot.

That being, living as a fully empowered adult who knows how to take care of, and trust themselves. When I mentioned this idea to someone not long ago, she said “That’s a big lift.” 

It is.

So maybe we can break it down into a more manageable, desirable even, way of being with our own health. I see self-trust and personal responsibility as two sides to the same coin. As in, the more I claim responsibility for the choices I make around my health, the more I come to have faith in my ability to make good choices in the future.

The more I trust myself, the more confident I feel claiming ownership of how I treat my body. Self-trust is the capacity to believe in your own body and its ability to heal. Personal responsibility is the capacity to respond to what your body actually needs in any given moment, in an authentic way. As in, not based in fear, doubt or the need to have someone make it better for you.

In a nutshell, this is the energy of meeting what your body is doing and needing, while serving as your own trusted adviser and confidante. This is the opposite of feeling so disempowered that you leave health decisions in someone else’s hands, or of being so afraid, confused and doubtful of your own body that once again, you are left only to leave it up to someone else.

Because we are literally swimming in a sea of belief systems that tell us it is “normal” to leave our bodies in the hands of experts and authorities, we need ways of breaking through the conditioning.

Here are some things to be on the lookout for: Do you feel like a little kid when you are with your doctor? Are you afraid to say certain things because it might upset them? Do they dismiss you when you have another opinion? Do you find yourself asking for their permission, or feeling like you have to justify an instinct or an intuition that you have about your health?

It can feel scary and overwhelming to take back what is yours. It can feel so very risky at first. Go slow. Start in low stakes situations. Observe yourself. Notice when you are trying to please or are over-explaining. We all have our histories with authorities, but suffice to say, we have become conditioned to be quite obedient and compliant in the presence of someone credentialed.

Especially when we feel they have knowledge we don’t possess. But did you know that the first definition of “expert” is “experienced?” That’s it. This “expert” status is available to you and is as basic as getting some more experience with your very own body. It truly is as simple as learning to pay a little more attention to what your body likes and what it doesn’t.

Forget about all the information about how to take care of yourself. (Most of us aren’t doing it anyway, or we use it to beat ourselves up with.) Instead, begin and end each day by asking your body “How’s it going?” And then, just listen. This kind of listening and being with yourself is the very foundation of personal responsibility and self-trust: A capacity that extends well beyond your health.

Do No Harm (As Best As You Can)

 

I am teaching a yoga class at my house this week, when out of the blue comes a “thud.” I know immediately a bird has just flown head first into one of our windows. There is nothing I can do in the moment, so I continue teaching; hoping against all hope that it is not dead, while equally knowing that based on the force of the thud, it likely is dead.

After class, I look out the window to see a beautiful robin, the very harbinger of Spring itself, lying dead on the ground. I decide to let it be where it is, thinking (hoping) that an animal will come by in the night to take it away so I don’t have to be the one to do it. As fate would have it, the robin is still there in the morning.

This is mine to do.

As I carry it towards the woods looking for a place to lay it down, I am connected to two things. The first being the childhood memories that start popping into my mind. How when I was a kid, I would find dead birds, mice, the desiccated turtles that had escaped our aquarium only to be found months later, along with the kitten that died on my birthday and more, that I would bury under the giant pine tree in our backyard.

In honor of that “random” memory arising right at the moment I have this dead bird in my hand, I look for a pine tree.

The second thing that comes up for me is that even when we as humans are trying not to do harm, we do. Like building a house in the middle of a huge open space that serves as the flight path for many eager birds building their nests at this time of year. We did not do it with the intention to harm. But it brought harm nonetheless. As evidenced by the robin in my hands, and all of the other consequences to the natural world through our choice to build something.

I do not say this to beat myself up, or even to say that we should not have built the house. That would be a waste of time, and an exercise in a guilty indulgence that takes us nowhere. As in, if I feel bad enough about this, it somehow balances what I did. It does not.

I say it as a point of fact. Everything we do has consequences to everything else around us.

There is no getting around this reality. And yet, we try. We pretend what we’re doing doesn’t matter. We ignore the consequences of our ways. We deny we have anything to do with the devastations going on all around us. We kick lots of cans down the road despite the impact it will have for the generations to come.

Or, as happens in so many segments of the culture (like the area I live in), we endlessly beat ourselves up, ever-guilty about every single choice we make. Frozen in our ability to feel good about being alive because we cannot choose anything without feeling remorse. We then we go on to judge and accuse others of not doing enough to save the planet. Of not caring enough. Of not feeling ashamed enough of our very presence.

It’s all exhausting, and it all misses the point. Everything we do has consequences to everything around us. Now what? Without hiding behind guilt, fear, or denial, now what? It is an absolute fact that we bring an impact to bear upon the world by the very nature of our existence here.

What if we started with that knowing, and lived from there? But this does not fit neatly into a definitive answer, and therefore does not sit well with us.

Do no harm, as best as you can is what I say. What might that even look like? In my view it is far less about the specific actions we take (although they matter a lot), and more about your level of awareness. A kind of consciousness that says I know I walk heavy here, how can I see that and still live in relationship with everything around me?

How can I honor all Life while living here as fully, responsibly, and joyfully as I can?

This is far more difficult to do and be with than guilt, or manmade rules. Which is why we likely opt for those approaches rather than a deep exploration around how we are here. If we were deeply contemplating our existence here, it would mean looking into the closed eyes of all the dead robins we have ever had a hand in.

Without turning away. Without beating ourselves up. Without blaming someone else, or feeling like we were entitled to something. What if we just saw that to be human in modern times is so very, very complicated, and that the very best that we can do, is to do the best that we can do.

Every Single Bit Of It

 

“All of it gets to be here,” is a practice I come in and out of using. Right now, I am back in.

I both love and hate this practice. I both resist it, and know it to be true. Beyond true, I know it is the directest route to healing my own body/mind separation, the splits that divide us as people, along with the false personas we mistakenly claim as being who we are because we don’t feel we have a right to be all of who and what we are.

This is what gets to be here in my world. The wasps and the ladybugs that infest my home each year. The people defrauding our government, and the ‘entrepeneurs’ bringing us closer and closer to the brink of extinction with their GMO’s, chemicals, surveillance technologies and fake foods. The policies that deny anyone free will over their own body. The people I feel have hurt me. Any and all of the ways that I believe the ‘wrong’ things are in charge.

The list goes on, and it’s enormous! But all of it, every single bit of it, gets to be here. Day after day. Year after year. It’s maddening to include what I don’t want to be here. And frightening. It can feel depressing and risky to believe, to know, that it all gets to be here. That pain that won’t resolve. The lingering illness. That unresolved conflict. The corporation bringing harm.

All of it gets to be here.

I am in no way suggesting that I want these things, like them, or am giving them a free pass. What I am suggesting is that when I take this attitude my life changes for the better. This sounds hard to do. Impossible even. You might even be wondering, Why bother? What’s in it for me? In a word, PEACE. A literal oasis in a desert of fighting against everything we do not want, but that is here nonetheless.

Think about it. How often are you fighting something within your own mind? All the things you don’t want to be here. All the ways that you resist and try and manage ‘what is.’ The weather you don’t like. The traffic you rage against. The annoying co-worker or boss you wish would just go away. A family member not supporting you. The government or a political party that just makes you want to scream.

On and it goes. All day, every day. Big and little wars within that go on to create our outer wars in the places we inhabit together. For as the old adage goes, “As within, so without.”

If this makes any sense to you, give it a try in low stakes situations. For example, ‘let’ the weather you don’t like be here. ‘Allow’ another person’s bad mood to be here. ‘Accept’ that those you disagree with, even vehemently, get to be here.

Instead of looking around at how the world will fall apart because it’s not going according to your plan, watch what happens inside of you when you can honestly and truly let what is here, be here.

What Will You Resource?

 

I am in practice this morning setting an intention for the month to come. Here in this moment, everything seems so doable. So clear. So full of possibility. And yet, I also know that when I meet up with the ways of the world, along with my own personal habits and limitations, I will have a choice to make. A choice that will feel far more difficult out there, than it does in here on my yoga mat.

That choice being: Do I do what I always do? Or do I do something else?

It is never easy “to do something else.” Our brains have a proclivity to default to the past to decide what to do. So whether it is your own personal past, or the evolutionary past of your reptilian brain, when challenged, you will always go to what you did in the past, as your first go-to. This makes good sense. Of course our brains would reference a past challenge to see what we did, and then go from there.

The problem being, that as long as we are still alive, our primal, default system believes that what we did in the past must have been successful because we’re still here. This part of our brain does not take into account the emotional and spiritual suffering we are experiencing by doing the same unsuccessful things over and over again.

There is no fighting with the most primitive parts of us. They need what they need. However, we can appeal to Something Else. For me, that always comes in the form of the Natural World.

I see this today as I make my intention, and then feel the uncertainty of being able to hold to this intention when challenged. At that very moment, the most poignant of questions arises: “When I am challenged, what will I resource?”

Instantaneously, a bird flies across my line of vision. As big as a crow, but not flying like a crow. I lose it as it lands in the trees. I find it again as it begins to beat out its rhythm. The telltale sound of the Woodpecker. I burst into tears as I realize I always have a choice as to what I will reference. Whether that be the same old unsatisfying ways or, though experienced as risky by my “past,” new ways that are more in alignment with the rhythms of my soul.

So, here’s the question: As you step forward in this day, will you resource a past that has kept you alive, or will you resource what allows you to thrive? 

Wanting & The Modern Age

 

I am regularly wondering how it is that we are going to be in the world of Instantaneous, Effortless, and Disposable Everything, and still remain Aware, Grateful, and Conscientious.

Still remain Humans Connected to the True Source of Everything.

We all know that in a matter of mere seconds we can locate something online and in one easy click find it on our doorstep. Sometimes even the very next day. No trip to the store required. No experience of going to get something, and it being sold out. How wonderful to get something we want so effortlessly!

Simultaneously, how very, very problematic. As we have quicker and quicker access to the stuff we want, it reshapes our experience to wanting itself. What it is we think we need to have. What it is we believe we deserve.

As the effort, the wait, and the weighing of options gets taken out of the equation of the stuff we want, while the impulse to “want what we want when we want it” takes over via the technologies, we create a world of impulse buying. With all of the detrimental consequences that impulse buying brings to not only the planet, but to our very sense of what it is that we actually need.

Of what it is that is most important.

Yesterday I got one of those notes from the post office that said I had an envelope waiting for me to be picked up that needed to be signed for. I literally had no idea what it was. It was from France of all places!?? When I got it, it was so light that I thought this must be a joke. Or a hoax. There’s nothing in this.

When I opened it up, it was seeds. In a moment of feeling a deep connection to the plant Desert Rose several weeks earlier, I had gone online and purchased seeds to plant in my medicine garden. In that impulsive moment of buying I had not noticed how ridiculously far this would travel to get to me. Worse than that, I forgot about it as soon as I was done.

If those seeds had not arrived, I would not have remembered ordering them. That’s a problem.

It hurt my soul to be standing in the parking lot of the post office looking at those seeds. It felt like such a dishonoring of the very essence of what seeds represent: Life. Pure potential. A connection to not only the earth, but to the very Source of Life itself.

It leaves me wondering: How are we going to do this? How are we going to be with our wants as they get more and more accelerated through the technologies, and still remain true to what is most essential in Life?

How are we going to be with this seemingly bottomless pit of human wanting as it meets up with the instant gratification of The Modern Age? How are we going to remember that while to want is human, the amplification of that very same wanting, as encouraged by the technologies, is absolutely disastrous when it comes to what we make most important in Life.

Embracing Obstacles

 

It’s not easy being in a body. There are so many sensations, pressures, thoughts, beliefs and experiences that go along with how we feel about our bodies, and what it means to inhabit them. That’s why it can feel preferable to “leave” them. Or let someone else be in charge of them.

It has become a socially condoned way of “living” to leave our bodies and what it is we are experiencing. Take my college students and the way that they “party.” The way they use drugs and alcohol to knock down the stress. To keep them from feeling what they don’t want to feel.

I know this place. All too well. It was how I lived for years. Partying, eating and exercising to excess and as punishment. Self-loathing and worthlessness arising out of the choices I was making. It was only when I began to feel how horrible what I was doing to myself felt, that I was able to shift. Only when I was willing to encounter the obstacles to good and fulfilling connection with my body did things, slowly and steadily, begin to change.

While incredibly difficult, excruciating and sad to come up against the obstacles that were keeping me from myself, it was real. Most of all, it was true. Obstacles are an absolutely unavoidable and essential part of the journey of being at home in our own body. So that’s where I began. With what was real by way of what was in between me and my body. In between me and my ability to be at home in myself. 

I know the current thinking is to get away from what feels bad. I would even go so far as to say that it is built into us as mammals to get away from what causes pain. That it is a necessary part of our survival and coping mechanisms to avoid what hurts. This life-giving tendency most certainly has its place. However, in modern day living where our pains are often self- and culturally-induced, with no connection whatsoever to real physical survival requirements, our wires have gotten crossed when it comes to avoidance. 

The basic, primal instinct of avoidance has gotten flipped on its head, and is now bringing harm rather than relief, while being met by a world all too happy to sell us things that keep us from ever having to feel what it is to be in our own bodies. 

Given the cultural mindset that says “Take this to get away from feeling what you are feeling in your body,” to hear that in order to be at home in yourself, you must go towards what you typically avoid, can sound paradoxical. Or even insane. But if we don’t include this part of embodiment, we’ll miss out on some of the most important information we need when it comes to the body and how it is that we are treating it. Not to mention that it is pure fantasy to try and avoid what we would rather not know. 

Acting as if something is not there, does not make it so.

It is only when we include what does not feel good, what is not working, what is keeping us from a good relationship with ourselves, can we see that what we’re doing is actually not working. Maybe even hurting. That any of the denying, diversions and medicating we’re engaging in, outweighs any “benefits” they may bring in the short-term. Worst of all, that what we’re choosing through our avoidance may actually become the impediment itself to healing what ails us.

In the end, keeping us from not only the health we desire, but the opportunity to know ourselves fully through the empowered journey of learning to trust and care for ourselves.