Red Flags

 

This morning I did something I almost never do. I went online before my morning practice. It’s not like it’s an ironclad rule to never do this. It’s just that I know that when I start my day in reflection, I’m a different person. Closer to who I most want to be when I begin my day by checking in, as opposed to checking out.

But the allure today towards the screen was just too strong. A friend had told me about a meditation, and I got it into my head that this would make my practice better. Deeper. That maybe this would be what I needed to get over the hump of an obstacle I had been struggling with. Maybe it would get me closer to Source?

That right there should have been a red flag. But the temptation of the one-click-away to salvation was just too strong.

Once on the site and ready to buy the fix I thought I needed, for some reason the payment wouldn’t go through. So I tried it again. And then, again. And again. Actually a bunch more times. I even walked away for a minute, and then came back to try once more.

And so it was, with some sense of loss and disappointment that I headed into my morning practice. But not with my usual sense of commitment and eager anticipation.

Yesterday, I would have told you that I am far too experienced to believe that some meditation would fill some hole. Today I would tell you, some part of me does not know better. I would tell you that this whole business of what we need, and what we think we can get immediately via the screens is very, very seductive. In such an exquisitely insidious and invisible way that there’s a good chance you won’t even know it’s happening.

Why? Because the false promise of easy access salvation to a better life with just one click, flies under the radar of the rational mind. The part of us that believes we are in charge and know exactly why we are choosing what we do. What I am describing tells another story. One where our deepest longings, those places beneath the surface of awareness that drive us without us even knowing it, are easily hijacked by what is available across a screen.

It is so sobering to experience just how vulnerable we are to the belief that what we need is out there; in someone else’s hands, in an app, some purchase, a meditation download. This morning, I am deeply humbled by the ease with which I was hooked. Equally, I am deeply grateful for the daily reminder of my morning practice. Something that caught me today before I fell too far from Truth.

That Truth being, there are no quick fixes out there. No matter what form they come in. The real Truth is, it is in us. Whatever it is that we are looking for. Do we need help? We do. But the trick is, not to confuse the help (someone else’s map) with the answer we are seeking (which can only be found in the direct knowing of our own territory).

So yes, use what’s out there to spark you. But never, ever, believe something outside of you will do for you, what only you can do for yourself.

P.S. When in doubt about where you are in all of this, be on the lookout for the compulsion that you just have to have (fill in the blank) to be okay. Use that feeling of impulsiveness on your part to have something right now, as the red flag being flown to warn you off the lie you are about to buy into.

Starving

 

I was talking to a friend recently and she was wondering why it had taken so long for her to recognize that some of her long-standing friendships, ones that had fallen away over the past few years, had actually, never worked for her to begin with. Had always been too much work. Had never fed her. In effect, had left her empty.

I have spent a great deal of my life thinking about this very thing. More to the point, struggling deeply with needing and wanting more out of relationships when “more” was just not available. With breaking off parts of myself to make things work. Or lending parts of myself to the relationship to make up for what was not coming in from the other side.

Historically, I would stay and believe I should just be glad for what crumbs were available. Or, I would try and get the other “up to speed” so there would be the possibility that I could get fed in a way that made sense to me. And then, of course, I could chip the edges of myself off in the misguided belief that maybe this was the fix. Just be what they seem to want you to be, and maybe you’ll get what you want.

The message always being: Just slot in. Don’t rock the boat by wanting more. There is nothing more available. Take what is here and be happy you’ve got anything at all.

When it seems that crumbs (or even toxins or junk) is all that’s available to us, we will gobble up even the most un-nourishing of relationships in our desperate attempts to fill that need-based longing inside. We will convince ourselves that it is good enough.That it is what we really want.

To be clear, I am not talking about using others to fill a void that only you can fill. Nor am I talking about this from the consumptive, modern day model that says we all need more “friends,” followers and “likes.”

What I am talking about is the real, biologically-based drive to be in good company. To be seen and honored for who you are. To be in connection where all of you gets to be there. Never has this been more assaulted or relegated to the basement than in the past several years. Never have we been more lonely, fearful, socially awkward and prone to believing in sub par, sloppy second-hand substitutes like online connection and “social” distancing, as being the cure for what ails us.

All the while, the central dilemma that each and every human being will face, how it is that I can be fully who I am and have that be met in a satisfying way, gets twisted and distorted, rendering us helpless to know what it is that actually makes for healthy and satisfying relationships.

But as always, changing this lives right here, in this moment. Lives right in the next interaction you have that leaves you hungry, sour, and craving something else. What is that something else, you might ask?

Only you can know that. The trick is, can you be courageous enough to ask the question, listen for the answer, and then actually do something about it?

“Your Best Life”

 

I was working with a woman this week who was describing how tired she feels trying to “live her best life.” How she is trying so hard to do everything “right.” Not only is it not working, it’s backfiring. She’s not enjoying herself, and she’s not getting the results either promised to her, or that she believes she should be getting with all this effort.

I told her she was not alone. And I told her that there is a good chance that what’s driving her, does not even come from her own desires. Or from what her body or her life truly needs. Or even from an authentic source of what it actually means and takes to live your best life.

Not only is there a multi-billion dollar health and wellness industry intentionally cultivating insecurity in us while driving us to look outside ourselves in order to sell us lots of stuff, there is social media with its cruel drive to pit us against one another in a competition around living our best lives. And then of course, there is the entertainment industry with its warped, computer-generated, plastic-surgery-altered and starved-body version of beauty and health.

And while intellectually a good many of us would say that we know that all of this is not real or something to reference, we do so anyway because somewhere deep down inside of us, we have come to believe it. Or we believe others believe it and that we will be judged by those standards; leaving even the hesitant among us to go along with what we know is bogus. And harmful.

All of this has reminded me of something I heard a teacher say when I first started training in yoga. That being, Yoga is not about self-improvement. I had no idea what they were talking about. What do you mean it’s not about improving? Are you suggesting I don’t try and be a better person? Go for, in today’s parlance, my best life?

Yes. That is exactly what Yoga and any other Light-filled perspective, tradition or religious approach is saying. It has not, and never has been, about self-improvement with a little “s.” Instead it is about the Self with a big “S.” The one that needs no improvement. The one that has never been diminished by our choices or the ways of the world. The One that is an authentic expression of Source.

But what does that mean in terms of self-improvement? It means that whatever we choose to do, we do so in the service of our soul. In the service of our highest and best good. In the service of taking care of our bodies and minds that they may support us in being here in a life-affirming way. In the service of behaving in the world in a way that aligns with our highest calling, along with a deep and abiding sense of connection to All That Is.

Want to take this into practice? Get away from the commercials. Get away from social media that leaves you feeling less then. Get away from entertainment offering up plasticized themes and characters. But mostly, learn to source Something Greater than what a person is trying to sell you, mandate or demand of you in order to be seen as having value and a right to belong.

Perfection

 

For New Year’s Eve I had the good fortune to be with a friend who was guiding an intention ceremony. As we moved into a meditation, instead of asking for something specific and of my own making, I found myself spontaneously asking the Universe what it most wanted me to know at this time.

The answer came immediately and brought up so much emotion, it was hard not to break out sobbing in a room full of people. What I heard was this:

Can you see the perfection in it All?

It’s so telling to me that my question was responded to with a question. I did not get some final and definitive answer, but instead an open-ended invitation into something quite profound. For in those first moments of more than hearing, but actually feeling that invitation down into every part of me, it was clear that I was being asked to set aside all the ways that I don’t see the perfection in Life.

All the ways that I think I know better. All the ways that I reject or twist away from what is because I don’t like it. Because it doesn’t fit with my narrative. Or because I believe it’s unfair, and therefore, should not be here.

What I knew to my core in that moment was that I was in no position to know what should or should not be. And not in a criticizing or punitive way that left me feeling bad somehow. But as an absolute Truth of existence that is always there whether I know it or not. And, that should I choose to align with that Truth, everything, literally everything in my life not only changes, but becomes possible; taking me to where I most want to be with myself, others and the world.

That being, at peace with it All.

So what if the choice to not fight with anything, to see it all as having a place, is the ticket to everything we all desire? Equally, what if our refusal to see the perfection in everything is why we are so unhappy, afraid, dissatisfied, sick and disconnected?

This is to be the energy of 2023 for me. Want to join me?

If so, start with low-stakes moments in your day. What I mean be this is, can you be open to the idea that the traffic, the unwanted post on your feed, the mess someone left in the house, the weather, etc., are not necessarily a problem, an irritation or an outrage? But instead, that what you consider horribly imperfect, and therefore unwanted and not supposed to be here, is in fact an act of Perfection.

This even goes for the moments when you fall back, can’t find the perfection, and then use your response as a way to either beat yourself up or rail against what is happening. In these moments, consider that everything, absolutely everything, has a kind of rightness to its existence. A kind of perfect fit and necessity. Even when we can’t or won’t see it. Even when we think we know better than Source and Life itself.

P.S. For anyone believing that this is condoning bad things in the world, I encourage you to look deeper.

When The New Is The Old

 

Here we are at the start of a New Year. A time where individually and collectively we push towards new habits and new outlooks. But in the times we are living in, is it actually the wisest course of action to continue to push for what is new? Especially when you factor in that for all of our “new and progressive” ways, we have actually become quite barbaric in our treatment of ourselves, others and the planet.

Less healthy, less tolerant, less happy, less satisfied, less safe, less, less, less…

Maybe, just maybe, looking to the “old” is what we all most need more of in our lives. I recognize I risk being labeled old school, out-of-touch, an impediment to progress, irrelevant, etc. But when I look around and see the tipping point we sit at, I could care less about how I am labeled.

What I do care deeply about is how far off track, how far away from our essential selves, how absolutely destructive, unhappy and sick we’ve become. You certainly don’t need me to point this out to you. I know you see it too. And if you don’t, well, whatever I say here will not be for you.

But if you do recognize what’s happening and you’re willing to step beyond blame, fear, hate and the like, what are we to do? How are we to move beyond what we have agreed to that is not working for any of us?

I’d like to propose an orientation to our lives that harks back to the “old.” Not as a way to romanticize the past or ignore the requirements of the present, but to look for what has worked for us in the past. Not so much specific actions as tried and true ways of being that have supported us forever. And more to the point, actually reflect the Truths of our existence.

What might this look like? I’ll take you back to an enduring question I asked myself hundreds of times when I was raising children and trying to navigate lots of bogus and harmful have-to’s that the culture and those around me said my children must have in order to be okay and prepared for this new world of ours. That question was, and continues to be:

What does a human being absolutely need? What do we need that we could not do without on the most fundamental of levels when it comes to surviving and thriving? What universal and timeless must-haves need to be there that transcend the times, peer pressure, marketing, mandates and more?

This is a deep and natural exploration that takes us right back to some of the most essential Truths of being alive. So, check it out for yourself because this is indeed a very inside job. And then, align with what you find and learn to live it.

The Light

 

For the Winter Solstice this year, I spent the late afternoon into the early evening in front of a fire outside. The temperature was comfortable enough to make being outdoors easy. The clear sky revealed, one by one, the arrival of each star. Night birds called.

Everything was still, but for the sounds the fire was making. A kind of deep, deep stillness that can be felt in the bones, and on the level of the soul.

I kept coming back, over and over again, to the intense need for us as people to turn towards those rituals that align us with the season, and therefore, ourselves. Marking moments like the Winter Solstice remind us of the deeper meanings in Life, and of the necessary adjustments we must make to remain true to who and what we are.

Time-honored rituals built to bring us back to what we have forgotten. We need this. A lot. 

I would even go so far as to say, more than ever. For as we continue to separate from our natural roots and rhythms, we deaden ourselves to the dead lives we are living. We make excuses for why it’s okay to “live” so overwhelmed. Why it’s okay to seek sustenance masquerading as food that poisons and harms. Why it’s okay to pretend that what we’re doing is normal, and even necessary.

It’s a fool’s errand to believe that if we just run harder on the treadmill, if we just create that next life-saving technology, if we just make it to the weekend, if we just make it past cold and flu season, then, then, we will, finally, find the peace and ease we are all seeking. Not only untrue, but a detrimental diversion that blinds us to what needs doing.

It’s not out there. It’s in here. And rituals like Solstice fires, Hanukah candles and Christmas lights are there to remind us of just that. So spend some time in this Season of Light reminding yourself of the light that dwells within you. As cheesy and trite as this can sometimes come off, I believe it lands that way with us now because of how far removed we are from the fundamental Universal Truth that we are, indeed, Light.

But don’t take my word for it, spend some time with a light, a candle, a fire, and maybe, just maybe, if you stay long enough, you will have the experience that I did on the Solstice: A welling up at the recognition of that Truth.

Where Your Attention Goes…

 

Have you ever found yourself trying to make sure something didn’t happen? Put all your energies into the avoidance of something? Got very internally tight trying to keep something from occurring? Built your life around making sure the thing you didn’t want to happen, didn’t?

How’s it working for you?

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself bumping up against a mindset which I will call, “trying not to be sick.” This was a surprise to me as I value being sick and the ways it gives my immune system a stretch, offers the necessary genetic upgrades my body needs to be in harmony with the world I live in, as well as teaching me so much about myself. Not to mention, I have lots and lots of tried and true go-to’s that I lean into when I am not well and that I trust implicitly.

So being sick is not something I typically fear. Or so I thought. For lurking far beneath the surface of my awareness, beneath years and years of aligning to a belief system that trusts my body in illness, there it was. I was doing my damndest, not to be sick. It got me to thinking about a whole bunch of things, a couple of which I’ll share here: One, how incredibly intractable old belief systems can be even after you thought you had moved beyond them. Two, how terribly, terribly wrong we’ve got it as a collective when it comes to what it means to be alive.

For the Truth is, there is a vast difference between trying not to be sick, and focusing on supporting yourself back to health. An absolute chasm between allowing your body to be ill and do what it needs to do, and trying to make something go away. An enormous gap between seeing the gifts illness has to offer, and refusing to notice what it is your body is trying to tell you.

Look around. Listen to the conversations you have with others. Mostly, pay attention to the thoughts you think inside your own mind when it comes to getting sick. Is there a sense of opportunity in what you can learn about yourself, or do you live terrified by what is or can happen to your body? Do you see illness as an opportunity to reset and take better care of yourself, or do you believe something is being done to you? Do you follow the bread crumbs of your days back to learn how you got yourself out of balance, or are you just annoyed with your body and looking to slam it back into production?

And these days, do you pay attention to what you need to be well, or have you picked up the recently ill-conceived co-vid narrative that to be sick is to be an enemy and a danger to those around you?

Avoiding being sick is not the same thing as paying attention to the signs and signals your body is giving you. It is not the same thing as taking a hard look at your life to see where you have gotten out of harmony with the truest needs of your life. It is not the same thing as using an uncomfortable experience to inform and guide you back into balance.

This is one of those enormous paradigm leaps where we go from the earth is flat to the earth is round; putting into action the belief that we create our own reality and that where our attention goes, our energy flows. Meaning, what we focus on matters. A lot.

Sick or not, every minute of every day, you have a choice about where you put your attention; on what you want or what you don’t want. If this makes sense to you, get in the habit of paying attention to the mind chatter. Is it encouraging you to go for what you actually want, or is it demanding that you listen to, and act on, what you don’t want?

Then, choose. Over and over and over again. Until you get your mind in the habit of orienting to what you most want. Does it take time? Yes. But what better way to spend your life than devoting your precious attention and energy to what you actually desire?

Higher Love

 

Last weekend I ran in one of my favorite road races. Maybe it’s the season and all the holiday decorations that make it feel so special. Or maybe it’s the funny and festive costumes that people not only wear, but run in. Perhaps it’s the brass band, the women drummers or the dance troup that line the course. Maybe it’s the people that stand on the side of the road with bells and other festive holiday accoutrements cheering you on. Perhaps, it’s a combination of all of the above.

And for sure, personally, this year there was the deep, deep appreciation I felt for my body for being able to run after having not been well enough to run for a couple of weeks.

Whatever it is on any given year, there is such an overwhelming feeling of goodwill that each year as I cross the finish line, I burst out crying. With joy. With a deep appreciation for being alive. With the knowing that this is what I want to feel more of when I am around other people.

This year the words from a Steve Winwood song, “Bring me a higher love” were blasting over the loud speaker as I finished. It felt so perfect and so expressive of what I was feeling. Being out there with people of all types, all shapes and sizes, in a harmonious way, reminds me of what is possible when we are all running our own pace, in the company of others, while we all focus in the same direction.

It doesn’t matter what you look like, what gear you have, how fast or slow you are, how fit or not you are, or even, believe it or not, whether or not you “finish.” Instead, it’s about being together, as is. Side by side. No questions asked. No judgments meted out.

We could do this. We can do this. But it will take each and every one of us making a decision to see the one before you, next to you and behind you, as worthy of your appreciation. Worthy of your admiration of how great they are doing, no matter what it looks like. This is not to excuse bad behavior, but instead to acknowledge that running the race of Life can be arduous and at times, overwhelming, and that no matter what it looks like from the outside, we all really are doing the very best we can in any given moment.

What if we decided to have the wisdom to greet each other with a kind of higher love? As opposed to expecting the worst. Or looking for flaws. Or greedily confirming our inherent judgments and biases in an attempt to feel “right.”

What Enlivens You?

 

The day is magnificent. The sky a deep clear blue. The temperature crisp with leftover night frost on the windshield, but with the promise of a warmer day on the way. I am going out for a run for the first time in weeks. It feels like a big deal, because it is. This is much more than an act of habit, or getting some exercise. This is an act of me staking a claim for my own aliveness.

I am choosing for what brings me energy, as opposed to for the conditioned fears of my own mind or what conventional “wisdom” might say. You see, after getting sick recently, I have been left with a lingering cough. The kind of cough that seems it could go in any direction. A cough that has been defying all my attempts to clear it. A cough that has got my fear-based mind conjuring up all kinds of scenarios.

Bronchitis? Pneumonia? Maybe the things I know to be true about how a body heals don’t apply here. Maybe it’s my age and this is just what I can expect from here on out.

“Fuck that” is the conclusion I finally came to this morning. Why am I going to give over my precious life to made-up fears? Why am I going to link up to cultural narratives that I abhor? Why am I going to diminish my own aliveness and what is possible by playing it safe? Why am I going to link into the widespread addiction of fearing my own body?

And so out I went. Not in defiance, and certainly not in denial. But instead, I went out with myself to see what this body of mine was up for. Not to push it or control it, but to be with it and what it had to say.

And you know what it said?

“This is great and you’re doing great!” It feels so good to be out here. So good to be feeling the sun and the rhythm of my own feet on the Earth. I’m so happy. So grateful to be alive!”

We all know how to be fearful, cautious and careful. But do we know what brightens our Spirit? We all know how to dull our aliveness through anxiety, worry, eating too much and more. But do we know how to feed our own life force? We all know the cheap sense of aliveness we get from drugs, alcohol and the screens. But do we know how to nourish the sacred energy that flows through us?

What brings you alive? Do you even know?

It’s not hard, and it doesn’t cost a thing (other than your interest and commitment). Step outside. Feel the sensation of temperature and weather. Let go of judging that it’s too this or that for you. Instead, tune into the fact that each sensation lets you know you are here. You are alive. And that you have a choice about how to be with it all.

Hail Mary’s

 

I was traveling home by plane this week, and as these things go, my first flight was delayed enough that it looked like I would not make my connecting flight. That meant I was going to either spend the night, and all the next day, in Dallas waiting for an evening flight, or, I was going to get re-routed to DC, get put up in a hotel for a couple of hours, only to turn back around and catch an early flight.

As you might imagine, I didn’t want either one of these scenarios. So I decided that I would do the only thing I could do: I would place all of my focus, all of my attention, all of my energy, on what I actually wanted. Getting home that night.

Now, I’m not so naive as to not know that there are many, many factors beyond my personal focus at play in the Universe that would be influencing this outcome. I also know that the human mind and energy field is a powerful apparatus for creation. I decided that I would see what was possible if I kept my mind focused on what I wanted, versus what I didn’t want.

This is the opposite of what we usually do. Typically, we obsess about the outcomes we don’t want any part of. We make plans around what we don’t want, and then we make contingency plans based on that. All the while focusing (if you can call it that) on what we don’t want. And if you’ve ever paid attention to one of these moments, you know that while you are busy imagining all the worst case scenarios you don’t want any part of, you feel awful. Stressed. Chaotic. Angry. Anxious.

Which brings me to my next point. Staying focused on what I wanted kept me feeling calm, open and optimistic. Hopeful. Certainly in a much better mood. It also highlighted for me how often we don’t really go after what we want because we feel as though we will be disappointed. It feels like if we don’t really go for it, then It won’t be as painful if we don’t get it.

That night, I kept thinking about the football expression, “Hail Mary Pass.” How when it is all on the line in the final moments of a game, with nothing to lose by going for it, the quarterback will huck the ball as far as he can with all the players that can get free, making a beeline for the end zone. With the hope that someone may come up with the ball. A kind of all in, last ditch attempt. Exhilarating. And potentially, disappointing. But ultimately a no-holds-bar effort to go for what you want.

And so it was that I ran through the mega city airport of Dallas, going for my own Hail Mary, even with the great unlikelihood of making it as I was past the time of takeoff. As I came ripping around the corner to the gate I looked at the first stranger I saw and said, “Hartford?” to which he responded, “Delayed.”

I burst into tears.

Why the tears? Because in that moment, I was crystal clear that my efforts to go for it had been responded to in a big and beautiful way. This is something I yearn to live more and more connected to on a regular basis. And why not? The world is going to do what the world is going to do, and then, at some point, it will all be over.

Why not go for it? Why not align with all the invisible support available to us?