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.

“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.

Instructions For The Times

 

When I think about the times we’re living through, I see vast, vast possibilities before us, standing side by side with the devastation of a world crumbling to pieces from the inside out.

I know it’s only natural to drop back into fear, anger, despair and outrage. I know it’s only natural to lash out in blame. I know it’s only natural to separate ourselves from one another. But what I also know on a deep and personal level is a place of possibility that I have visited many times in my life. That being, when you can allow for the breaking down, for the coming apart, for the falling to pieces, for the going up in flames, something new will be born.

Every. Single. Time.

Personally speaking, I am up for these times. I am up for more of us getting pushed to the brink of what is no longer working. I do not wish upon anyone the suffering that accompanies these kinds of tectonic squeezes and shifts, but I do wish for a struggle born of a big enough and noble enough cause that forces us to wrestle with creating an honest look at our lives. Individually and collectively.

To that end, I pass on a phrase a friend shared with me recently that I believe has the potential to act as a set of instructions for how to go about living through the breaking apart of the world:

Get Your House In Order

Get your house in order. If you let it, the words carry the resonance of a Truth that is deeply and uniquely powerful and personally impactful for each and every one of us. A code, if you will, that is personalized to who we are and what it is that needs to be done next. And then what needs to be done after that. And then, after that. And after that.

So, without trying to figure anything out with your mind, first, just say that phrase to yourself. What does it move in you? Repeat it to yourself in the days, weeks and months to come. Let its vibration work on you, guide you, and ultimately, inspire you to take action. You might also flip it around and make it a question. One posed on behalf of your own life and that of the world.

What do I need to do next to get my own house in order?

If you can be with this, I promise you this: Your life will be the better for it, and so will everyone’s around you. For the world can only find order when each and every one of us has figured out how to get our own house in order.

11.11

 

As I write this, today is November 11th. 11.11.  In many places in the world, it is a day of great significance. In the U.S., it is the day we honor our veterans. And in many circles, today is known as a portal day. A day of personal and spiritual significance. A day to pay attention to. A day to set powerful intentions on.

A day to move closer to the Truth of who we are and why we are here.

Funny, how typically I would have been writing yesterday on the 10th. But the writing just wouldn’t come. So I set it aside. Now I know why. I was supposed to be with this day in this way. I was supposed to be willing to do something different.

This small example sums up what a day like today is all about: An opportunity to be different than my usual habits and preconceived ideas. A day to move and choose and talk and be with more intention. More reverence. More awareness that there is Something Greater at play in my Life than how I would have it.

But in order for us to be available to these more sensitive threads in the universal order of things, we must not only pay attention, we must be committed to leaving some room in our minds, our schedules, our wants, for these sacred threads to reveal themselves to us. Not just in specific times like a holiday, a death, a birth or going to a service, but in the moment to moment unfolding of our lives.

We are missing something when we believe we are too busy, or that there are only certain times we can be more available to a holy opportunity.

It is there in how you eat. How you speak to another. How you think about those you fear or disagree with. How you consume things. How you stay when you should go. How you remain silent when you should speak. For it is there. Always. And in All Ways.

What we are talking about here is one moment in time, a momentary portal, to remind us all to be more One, more unified, more whole in all that we are and all that we do. For it’s easy to do it on the “special” days, and much, much harder to keep the commitment going over more of the days of our lives.

So even when the day passes (which it already has as you read this), can you remember to look for 11.11 more often? Can you remember to let it’s significance reveal something to you in any given moment? Can you commit to making more room inside of your life and mind for the unexpected that shows up when you live more as One than 2 or 3 or 10 or 200…?

Nourishment

 

What Is Nourishing To You?

Have you ever really thought about what nourishment is, or explored it for yourself? Last night, in the monthly group I facilitate, this was the question I was exploring with some other women. The conversation we had is still reverberating with me so I thought I would continue it here.

The dictionary says that to nourish is to “support, maintain, promote the growth of.” Personally, this definition does not even come close to what the act of nourishing feels like to me when I am really doing it. The dictionary version feels too dry and disembodied to describe the deep, deep down feeling I get of being tended to in the most sacred of ways when I am really nourishing myself. 

Which is why I am proposing an exploration of your own. One that truly taps into the rich and luscious possibilities of discovering what nourishes you, along with what does not. And maybe most important of all, why you are not.

As with all things related to the health of mind, body and spirit, there is never any one-size-fits-all out there that could ever do justice to the experience of feeling fully nourished across all the changing moments of your life. To believe that would be to not only rob yourself of the greatest of experiences of learning to be more present to yourself, it would promote the rationale for believing that you are being nourished when in fact you are only accepting sloppy seconds. In other words, using sub par substitutes for what you most need and desire; believing that that is all there is for you.

So, how do you know? How can you tell whether something is truly nourishing or just some “facsimile of” masquerading as what you most need? Can anything be nourishing? Can something be nourishing in one moment, and not in another?

While I can’t answer those questions for you, you can. But the only way to do that is to learn to be in your body more and more often as you go through your day making all the decisions you need to make when it comes to that which nourishes, and that which does not. This is different then the habits you have, the thoughts you keep, the opinions of others, expert advice or what your past has to say.

Just writing that brings up how much there is when it comes to truly figuring out what is nourishing to each and every one of us. Which is why it can be easier to start by identifying the places in your life that it is not.

Nourishment is not, and never will be, a post on social media, a hashtag or a meme. It is never a way to beat yourself up or keep up with the imaginary Jones’s. It is never about medicating yourself or pleasing another.

Instead, this is a daily ritual of returning to yourself as often as you can remember to, while seeing that the choice of what you give to yourself is always yours. This takes time and practice. It also takes a lot of courage to put the pause button on long enough (despite the noise in your own mind and all around you) to connect to whether or not something or someone is feeding you. Or taking from you.

Here’s a practical way to get started. Make it a point once a day to catch yourself in a choice you are about to make. It could be eating, having a conversation, being in front of a screen, doing something on your to-do list. Pause. Ask yourself, “Does this feel nourishing to me?”

If so, keep going. If not, take note. Get curious, not judgmental. If you can, wonder to yourself, “Is there a way I can shift this to something more nourishing?” Maybe that means leaving the last bite of dessert untouched, excusing yourself from a depleting conversation, allowing yourself to be done even though the to-do list is not finished or being brave enough to disappoint another.

There is no good or bad, right or wrong here. Your only litmus test is whether or not you are honoring what you need in any given moment with something that is truly nourishing to you.

Infinity

 

I am in the midst of one of those fake conversations with another person inside my own mind. If I’m being honest, it was less a conversation and more of a me telling them off. Even though I am “winning” the argument, it’s not going well. Why? Because it is happening in the middle of my morning practice. The very place I go to for understanding, peace, solace and did I say, Peace?

I am at war inside myself.

All my usual stuff to re-route my mind isn’t working. Frustrated, I decide to be still for a moment. Spent on trying to resolve it myself, I turn to Source and ask a question. “Can you help me figure this out?” The response, You won’t understand. This doesn’t sit well with me, so I ask “Why not?” Because you would have to see the big picture, and you can’t. Again, I don’t like the answer so I say, “I can do that. I can see the big picture.” The response, Infinity Big Picture. 

“Oh.” That I cannot do.

Here’s my takeaway. What if we knew, I mean really knew, that even though we can’t see the whole thing, that everyone was exactly where they were supposed to be (including us), doing what they are supposed to be doing, and that it was all being done, for us? Not to us.

Personally, I do believe this is true (as hard as it can be to live with that knowing all the time). But for argument’s sake, let’s say it’s not true. That this is just a bunch of New Age hooey. Would it matter? What would be the harm in agreeing to the fact that we don’t have the biggest perspective? That there is so much more than one human mind can know. That there is always way more to the story than our limited set of “facts.”

Given where we are at collectively, what would be the harm in throwing caution to the wind and admitting that we don’t know it all? That the usual stuff isn’t working and that we need a much, much bigger perspective if we are ever to have the peace of mind we all long for. Not to mention the peace we need with each other if we have any hope of being here together and not being at war with each other. Both in our minds, and in the “real” world.

(If there is even any such thing anymore given what we have constructed and agreed to.)

Simple Requests

 

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

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

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

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

It all felt terrible.

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

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

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

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

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

Through Whose Eyes?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outrage to Real Contribution

 

It’s so easy for me to go to outrage the moment I perceive even a hint of injustice or harm being brought to bear in the world. For a very long time, it felt like it was the only sane response to a world gone mad with polluting, degrading our food and water supplies, not protecting children from the vagaries and sink holes of the screen technologies, a disease care instead of a health care system, power running amok everywhere with its disregard for human life, and more.

I could go on, but I believe you get the point.

But as the years have gone by, I see things differently. I see that I am wasting my precious life force to be continually shaking an angry fist at the powers that be; believing that the intensity of my commitment in this regard will change what is happening. It doesn’t. Or believing that I have to be the one to hold the line against all the ‘bad’ guys. I don’t. Or believing that if I stopped feeling so much intensity, it would mean I was giving up. It doesn’t. 

I recently heard someone say that outrage is the voice of the victim. That sealed it. That was all it took to fully push me all the way into another camp.

That camp being a kind of “Build it and they will come.”

Now I am not suggesting that we turn a blind eye to the injustices of the world. Nor am I suggesting we leave it in someone else’s hands to deal with. And I am definitely not suggesting we check out into some fantasy land where everything will somehow magically correct itself all by itself.

So if it’s not any of this, what is it?

Here’s where it gets tricky. We need to act. But how? And then, here’s where it gets really tricky. Can we recognize that everything is happening for a reason, without collapsing into giving up and doing nothing? This is a lot to sort out, and because of its seeming enormity, it can feel impossible, or at least too daunting to sort out with any chance of having a meaningful impact.

But here’s what I know. There is something that each of us can do simply through how we choose to live. This doesn’t have to be big, or even anything anyone else notices. It’s got nothing to do with guilt or beating ourselves up for being people of the first world. It’s not a competition to see who recycles more or gives their kids organic snacks. And for goodness sake, it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with what you can post about and get rewarded for the virtue you show as you wait for all the ‘likes’ to pile up.

This is about choosing, when and where you can, for a world that makes sense to you. Dare I say, for a world of your dreams. And it’s as close to you as your next thought, word or action. It’s as close to you as how you behave when someone, in person or online, behaves differently than you want them to. It’s as close as not taking more than your share at dinner or at the grocery store. It’s as close as not flipping someone off when you’re driving.

And it is as close as catching yourself playing the victim instead of doing what you can do. Instead of doing what is yours to do to contribute in a real and meaningful way to a world literally dying for more of us to do so.