New Normal

 

I recently heard author and women’s health advocate Christianne Northrup describe what we are going through right now as “The Great Awakening.”  Yes. You heard it right.

With that said, could you, for even one moment, open to the possibility that everything that is happening now, all of the chaos, the pain, the uncertainty, the fear and the break down, is Something exquisitely and intentionally designed just for you? As Something not meant to punish, but to promote the very highest and best in all of us?

I know, it can feel like a stretch. Or even an insult or an outrage. Or something too New-Agey to take seriously.

But what if it were true? What if this was our one big chance, for all of us here now, to do something different. Something life-affirming. Something beyond what we would have thought possible, or been willing to do when things were less intense. More “certain.” More to our liking. More “normal.” What if all that is happening is precisely what is required to wake us up to the truth that each and every one of us is here at this very moment for a great and powerful reason? And what if, even if you think I am full of it, or this makes you mad, that you might decide to play along just to see what would happen by picking up such a powerful and profound perspective.

That perspective being, that what you do matters. That how you meet up with Life matters. That this is your one life, and this is what is here now, so what will you do? Will you bemoan the fact you are here? Will you live feeling as though you have been cheated from your life? Will you lash out because it is not what you wanted? Will you hunker down in terror?

It puts me in mind of a new favorite quote of mine: “The will of God is not for weak people.”

Several months ago, just as all of this was really getting started, I was traveling back and forth to Florida to be with my mother. In the midst of the fear brewing, the uncertainty of what was happening with my mother, the proximity to people I feel challenged by while finding myself moving through a medical system that feels inhumane at best and downright harmful at worst, every day, every single day, I would ask for a miracle.

And every day I got one.

Some days it would come in the soft sweet singing of the woman who was drawing blood from my mother’s terribly bruised arms that brought me to tears for the sheer humanity and tenderness of the moment amidst a brutal health system. Other days it would come in the form of a song that was playing as I turned on the radio; where the line being sung at that exact moment, spoke directly to where I was at and gave me all the hope and reassurance I needed. On other days it came in the form of the pre-dawn quiet and all that was conveyed to me in that space. I am filled with emotion as I write this; being instantaneously brought back to a perspective that gave me life when it felt as if there was so little to be had.

It is easy to succumb to fear, doubt, panic and negativity. But what is encoded in any Great Awakening is the strength, the endurance, the courage and the grace you need to pass though something you do not believe you can pass through. And it is in the faith, the foresight and the grit to recognize that in the dismantling, Something, somewhere, must be trying to tell you something.

By whatever name you go by, turn to the vast perspective of that Something and wonder what it is that is wanting to be awakened in you. Open to a perspective beyond your wants, desires, habits and fears. And do it every day. Every single day. Until this, and only this, is your new normal.

 

**Quote by Baba Hari Dass

 

Reality Testing

Reality Check: Something that clarifies or serves as a reminder of reality; often by correcting a misconception

Does worrying about others keep them safe?

Does worrying about getting sick keep you healthy?

Does fearing what you or another might be harboring keep us all safer?

Does fear and worry equal how much love and caring exists between us, or serve as proof that we are doing the right thing?

It really is as simple as that.

What’s difficult is letting go of the misconceptions that we individually and collectively harbor that distort Truth. What’s difficult is becoming aware of where we use the wrong things to keep us safe. What’s difficult is letting go of the fallacies that justify the wrong choices. What’s difficult is realizing what is within our control, and what is not.

What’s difficult is recognizing that when the worry and the obsessive fears arrive, it is never the time to give in to that “reality,” and always the time to ask a more penetrating question of the reality that begins with a capital “R.”

Meeting Up

 

When my kids were younger, and then especially during the teen years, there would be times when they would offer up some hair brain scheme with great enthusiasm. With great justification around why it was such a good idea. With great hope, excitement  and even specific “well thought-out” plans around the soundness of what they were proposing.

Along with great denial around what my response would actually be.

At those times, I would sweetly respond to them by saying “Excuse me, have we met?” This was my comical, appropriate and parentally responsible way of saying, NO FUCKING WAY! Are you out of your mind? You surely must be to even think I would consider something like that. To which they would skulk off, knowing the conversation, and any further debate, was off the table. With the message being that what they were wanting was so absurd as to not even be worthy of further debate.

I loved it. It worked. It kept the relationship intact. It kept my sanity. And it kept the hierarchy of the relationship status in full view. As in who it was that was actually in charge of keeping things real. Supportive. Protective. And in line with what makes for a healthy response to Reality.

Which brings us to the point here. That being the challenge around meeting up with Reality with a capital “R” all on our own. The one we do not want to see. The one we do not want to be with. The very one we feel we cannot be with. The one we deny, distort and demand that it be other than it is. And the very same one that only by the Grace of Something More than us, Something Bigger than us, can we get back on track. That we can feel contained enough, guided enough and supported enough to turn and meet up with What Is. Despite our fears, denials and perhaps most of all, our lack of capacity and maturity.

Do you have this in your life? Some structure, some connection, some Presence that you recognize and honor as being more in the know than you are? As holding a far Greater Wisdom than your hair brained thoughts are capable of? Something Big enough to hold the feelings and the denials that you cannot be with? A Reflection that allows you to meet up with yourself as is, while holding you accountable to something more real?

If you have this, lean into it. If you don’t, open to it. There is no greater time than in the midst of widespread uncertainty than to find your way back into Something more mature than you. Something more knowing. Something with your best and long-term interests in mind. Something that would never, ever, allow you to go on, going in the wrong direction, unchecked.

To turn towards ourselves with some version of “Excuse me, have we met” when deranged thoughts and unhelpful feelings are running the show, is exactly the place to start. It is a choice that admits that our minds can so easily be deceived by the wrong ideas, and that what we most need to do is to submit to something bigger. Giving over, surrendering to, the healthiest of all developmental progressions that takes us from immaturity to maturity.

What if it is not about accessing more of your own crazy mind, or the crazy mind of those around you? And instead, everything to do with coming under the protective wing of Something that is not swayed by your lack of maturity and all of the immature demands and denials that emanate from that.

Judgment

I teach the art and practice of Mindfulness. My favorite definition coming from Jon Kabat-Zinn who says that, “Mindfulness is being present moment to moment without judgment.” If you have ever tried to wrangle your mind into the here and now, you know that being present is hard enough, and when you factor in the “without judgment” piece, it gets even harder.

For the longest time, I thought of judgment as a problem. Maybe even the problem. As in, the enemy of humanity. Of close connections. Of a well-lived life. The very thing that needed to be dealt with and ultimately eradicated. A scourge deserving to be wiped out and wiped clean from our minds. I thought of it as an indictment against how we were doing as people whenever and wherever it showed up. A kind of relational, self-esteem and spiritual shame that needed to be concealed. Or even better, annihilated.

But after years and years of my own practice along with years and years of working with others, I have a different story these days around judgment, and it is one of growth, repair, inclusivity and forgiveness. It is an understanding that as humans we are always judging; for both good and ill, with the truth being that judgment is not just a wart on humanity, it is also an integral and essential aspect of the human experience.

At its best, judgment is a kind of discernment of the mind that is absolutely necessary for not only physical survival and where we put our precious attention and spend our time, but it is also a prerequisite for emotional and spiritual well-being to make the determination that something, or someone, is not in your best interest. Not worth your time or energy. And as judgy as that may seem, it is not. Instead, it is a crucial and necessary determination that speaks to, and supports, the preciousness of your one Life.

Right next to discernment is learning the signs of when judgment has gone south; turning us against ourselves and the world. This is where mindfulness, a kind of noticing and paying attention to our thoughts, comes in handy. For without a recognition that we are judging, we run the risk of letting something harmful, go unchecked.

So, while in certain circles, judgment has gotten a bad rap, the real question to ponder is, when is it life-giving, and when is it life-depleting? Where is it a necessary response, despite the judgment you may impose on yourself or have imposed on you? And when is it based in ignorance, prejudice, fear and unhealthy conditioning?

One way to move through this is to begin to pay attention to the thoughts you are having as you go through your day; particularly the ones that seem to elicit a big charge. The ones you ruminate over. The ones that make you angry or frustrated. The ones that put you at odds with yourself or another. And when you find that you are in a judgment that is not life-affirming, say to yourself “Oops, pardon me.” And then imagine withdrawing yourself from what you are focusing on.

When I do this, I see it as though I have inadvertently stepped on someone’s foot. Maybe even my own. And that as soon as I feel the weight of it, I withdraw the pressure, back off, and say “Sorry, I’m in the wrong place.”  No more and no less.

 

Boundaries

 

Ever heard someone say, or maybe even said yourself, “I really need to create better boundaries.” Typically, a statement like this will come up whenever we feel as though we are being taken advantage of, or maybe because we are giving away too much of ourselves. Likely we have all been there. It seems only natural that there will be those places where we will need to draw a better line, keep something back for ourselves, say “No,” or just in general, do less.

Or maybe more to the point, do only what is ours to do.

How do we even begin to figure that out? For surely if we really knew what was ours to do we would not be in need of creating better boundaries. So perhaps there is more to this whole boundary thing than just keeping something out. Or in. Depending, of course, on how you do what you do.

Boundary setting can feel as though something must be erected; built strong enough in order to keep things out. It might even feel like it is something placed outside of us; like a giant, electrified fence with a big “KEEP OUT” sign and some barbed wire at the top. It can feel like this especially when we have let things go too far. So far, in fact, that we imagine ourselves on one side of our fence, with others on the opposite side; feeling like if we do not get very strict with ourselves and others we will be taken advantage of. That something will be taken from us, or that another will enter where they are not welcome. Or that we will abandon ourselves, giving away too much, doing what is not ours to do, only to be left depleted, resentful, and used up.

Seeing it this way though misses the point. Partly because it puts us at odds with both ourselves and others; creating a kind of battle where there is a winner and a loser. Someone protected, and someone protected against; with the subtext being that it is because of the other person, or our level of sensitivity and openness, that we must guard ourselves by drawing a hard line. That something is being done to us, as opposed to us choosing for something. As in ourselves. For when we place the emphasis on the boundary itself, we miss the most important thing of all. That being, that when we are fully with ourselves, fully occupied in who we are and what we are feeling, fully accountable for our experiences in life, right-sized boundaries naturally, effortlessly, precisely and perfectly arrange themselves moment by moment by moment.

But this can only happen when we are fully inhabiting ourselves. Fully sovereign unto the  experience we are having. Fully occupied, as in, not having left ourselves vacant. It means not having extended beyond ourselves, nor having shrunk back leaving a void for something or someone else to occupy. When we inhabit ourselves in this way, there is no leaking out, or invasion in, for there is quite literally no room for the territory of you to be overrun, occupied or given away because you are so fully filled with who you are.

This is not easy to do. Many of us are so used to confusing our needs and wants with other people’s needs and wants that it can be very, very tricky to figure out where I end, and you begin. It can feel almost “natural” to give ourselves away. To over-do. To overcompensate. Which is exactly the point. For when we are fully claiming who we are and where we are in any given moment, we do not extend ourselves erroneously, nor do we leave a void to be filled by others expectations or demands. Instead, we create the long sought after journey of fully being all in with ourselves. Which then leaves interactions with others more clear. More known. Less confusing. And with far less boundary-problematic co-dependency between us.

Here is something to try. As you move throughout your day, occasionally stop and ask yourself, “Where am I?” If you find that you have left yourself out of the equation, are doing more than your share, are taking the brunt of something, if you feel overrun by what other people think or want from you, come back. Right then and there. Come back. Locate into yourself in that very moment. Connect to what you are thinking, feeling and sensing. Then proceed.

 

Surrender

 

I have a friend who picks a word to work on for the year. While it has intrigued me, it was not until this year that I decided to give it a try. Initially, I chose “gratitude.” Sounds good, right? Who could argue with being grateful as a focus for the year? Well, I could when it turns out not to be your word. For on the very same day I chose “gratitude,” I was in an end-of-the-year yoga class, and I got the very clear sense that my word was not gratitude, it was surrender.

When it came to me, I was moved to tears. I felt so connected to my life and to Source. So ready to surrender it all. Until that is, several hours later when my laptop died, and I was convinced that my daughter had initiated the demise.

It was truly amazing to watch how just a few short hours after the calm surrender of the yoga class, I was instantaneously catapulted so easily straight into an all out war with the reality of the moment. The exact opposite of surrender.

You see, I “needed” that lap top to get a playlist together for a class I was teaching two days later in a brand new location. Right away my mind went to what it would mean about me if I wasn’t ready to teach. Right away my mind went to the “fact” that my laptop had been working just fine until my daughter downloaded an app on it. And right away my mind went to that at least it had been working in a limited way until my daughter got on the phone with the Apple tech, who after he instructed her to do something, left the computer unable to even turn on.

Oh! My! God!!!!

As all of this played out, I swung between irritation, anger, resentment and moment by moment mental reminders to let it go. That it was not a big deal. That it would all work out. Except, that I did not really, actually believe that. That is, until my husband called to share some difficult health news about a friend, at which point I quickly hung up and went to tell my daughter that I was not mad at her. At which point both she and I both burst into tears while we stood there clinging to each other like survivors of some catastrophe.

I am emotional just writing this. For in that moment, what revealed itself was that all the fighting against reality had put me in a position of being at odds with someone I loved. And how often do we all do that? Make some stupid thing more important than the relationship. But when that perspective shift came in, I could not get to my daughter quick enough. And God did it feel good. Right. Exactly where I most wanted to be. Much better than being the one wronged or inconvenienced. Much better than being upset with someone. And much, much better than being right.

Admittedly so, I am a little worried about what I have signed up for. And yet, I know that I am all in because of what transpired between my daughter and I in that moment. Don’t we all need this? A way into where we most want to be that is stronger than the habits and conditioning of the ego, with all of its plans and strategies for holding and defending a position?

Want to join me in this “little” experiment? I know it won’t be easy, but this experience that I am writing about has clued me into something. That being, that when we are not clinging to the wrong things or trying to force Life to turn out a particular way, there is more space for… EVERYTHING! Including most of all what it is that we want most of all.

 

A Careful Time

 

So, here we are again at that time of year. That being, the time of resolutions. The time where we set intentions and make commitments to ourselves and others with so much hope and resolve. Equally, it is the time when our resolutions can become lost and forgotten as firmly as they first came in.

Recently, while away at a training, every day as I went to class, I would pass this quote: “You are carefully designing the person you are right now. It’s time to take ownership of that creative process.” Yes, I would think inwardly each time I went by it. Yes, this is what I want more than anything else in the world. Yes, I resolve to take this up with a firm commitment.

Then, Life would show up in the form of longstanding thoughts, beliefs and habit patterns that ran contrary to this lofty and much desired resolution. Life would show up in the form of interactions with other people that challenged the process I was trying to carefully and deliberately design.

And there’s the rub. Creating a resolution or intention is one thing. Living it is an entirely different matter. Which is why it is so easy to make one, and so very, very challenging to keep one.

What I have found is that in order to deliberately create a new habit, belief or way of being requires a breaking down of the goal or the aim into the down and dirty of the moment. As in, how does this commitment show up in the gritty reality of Life versus the fantasized version of what it will be, look like, or take.

What that meant for me was breaking that quote down into the specific qualities of the person I was intentionally designing. For me, this broke down into two categories: Being who and what I am, and being a well-wisher of others. With that as my guide, each time I noticed my mind cycling back to old thoughts and patterns, I would wonder to myself, “Does that thought/feeling/action/belief get me closer or further from who and what I am? Does that thought/feeling/action/belief make me a well-wisher of others? When the answer was no, as it was each time that I tuned into what was happening, I would shift away from what I was thinking or feeling. I would drop it as quickly as I had noticed it.

It was exhausting, constant and time-consuming to work with myself in this way. And, it was powerful, life-changing, and exactly where I most want to be. That being, in alignment with taking full and complete charge and responsibility for who I am and how I move through the world.

Try it. What do you want for yourself this coming year? Once you have it, break that down into something manageable that you can reference in any given moment to discern whether you are there or not. For instance, looking for love? Where and when do you push it away, or set yourself up as unlovable? Looking to be seen? Where and when do you hide or diminish yourself to yourself or others? Looking to feel healthier? Where and when do you indulge in the wrong things?

The trick here is to catch yourself in as many moments as possible acting out of alignment with what you most want. Not in a punitive or judgmental way, but as a correction. One meant to take you back on course and towards the person you are carefully designing yourself to be, in a way that most lines up with the satisfaction and the magnitude of fully claiming the creative process of your life.

A Sacred Act

 

We all know we are in a season identified in our culture as a time of giving. But what about receiving? For without this end of the equation, something that has been given cannot find a place to call home. It cannot land and be welcomed in. It cannot be expressed in any kind of a meaningful way.

It is interesting to note then how much emphasis gets placed on the one giving, along with what and how much is given. And then there is the built-in hierarchy where the giver gets the loftier position than that of the receiver. We focus on the generosity of the donor; the one who is doing for others. We even have award ceremonies where we single out, and celebrate the most generous among us. The message being; these are the truly gifted ones.

But there is no giving, no generosity possible without the receiving. Without the magnanimity of the one opening themselves up, often even submitting or surrendering, in order to receive. There is no generosity of the giver possible without the full and equal generosity of the receiver. So where are the award ceremonies for those of us who excel at receiving? No where to be found actually. Instead, those that are on the receiving side of the equation sometimes hold the undesirable position of being seen as “less than;” evoking pity, contempt, suspicion, superiority, and more.

To receive is to permit to enter. It is to take in. It is to welcome, to greet, to accept, and to serve as a receptacle for. When viewed from this perspective, receiving is a holy act. A sacred exchange that requires both sides. And this is true whether we are talking about our relationship with All That Is or what happens between us and other people in interactions large and small, visible and invisible, easy and difficult.

So how about it? What would it take for you to see the precious nature of receiving? More to the point, what could you start doing about that? Does it require a change of heart? Of identity? Of habit? Whatever it calls for, one thing is certain; for many of us, receiving can be far more difficult than giving will ever be.

What We Call Things

Have you ever noticed the places where what we would say we are doing as a culture flies in the face of what is actually and truly happening? It often feels to me like the equivalent of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Do you know that story? The one where the Emperor, the “wise” ones, along with the masses are being misled into believing, or at least acting as though they believe, that the display they are bearing witness to is finery, when in fact it is an all out duping? More to the point, that what is being represented and sold as the finest imaginable is in fact, a lie? And how in the end, it takes the integrity and honesty, along with a lack of commitment to the status quo, of a child, to name the Truth? A kind of Truth, by the way, that every adult in that moment was capable of claiming?

An example of how this goes on regularly in our culture occurred recently while I was taking my husband to an eye appointment; the kind where you need someone else to drive you because your pupils have been dilated. This meant that I was the one driving him, which meant that I found myself moving through an area saturated with enormous building after enormous building of medical offices. Row after row of factories housing our “health”/disease care system. No more fully in evidence than when I passed what is named, “The Center for Cancer Care.”

The Center for Cancer Care?? Did I read that wrong? I must have because how could we possibly have created, gone on to fund, stand behind, and elevate to a position of being the gold standard, a center that cares for cancer?! Have we lost our minds?

Why is it not “The Center For Healing?” For Hope. For Human Care & Possibility. For Human Dignity. For Getting To The Root Cause of Disease. Why is it the cancer we are caring for? Does this focus leave us spending too many of our precious resources “caring” for cancer when in fact we should be caring for people? And is this why we have such a hard time eradicating it? Because we are pouring all of our resources into the wrong place, the wrong set of beliefs, the wrong set of approaches, and ultimately asking too many of the the wrong sets of questions because we are beginning with the wrong thing? Because we are beginning with what we are afraid of, instead of what we love? With what we want to eradicate instead of what we want to cultivate? Because we have not called it and defined it by its real name?

Here’s one for you. Does it strike you in any way odd that cancer has become such big business? And that for all of the billions and billions thrown at it, remains the disease that continues to thrive despite our best efforts? Is the war on cancer the best approach, or are we defining it in the wrong terms, ultimately taking us off course for a cure?

Maybe you find what I am saying naive, insulting or disrespectful. Maybe. “Of course we are not caring for cancer, we are caring for people,” many would say. Maybe. But the words being used tell another story. The words demonstrate an unavoidable truth; the focus is on cancer. The starting point is on cancer. On disease. On the problem. Not people. Not health. Not healing. Not the solution.

What we name things matters. The ability to call something by its true name matters. The real and true name serves as the starting point, after which everything else will follow. Therefore, if we do not get it right at the start, it will never be right. It follows then that it is essential that we recognize that the words we choose carry weight and tell a story; both obvious and hidden. Words reveal powerful meaning around how we really think about something; holding all of the intentions, beliefs, attitudes and motivations embedded within the words we use, along with the reasons we use them. But only if we are willing to pay attention.

While the West does not recognize the energetic and vibratory nature of language, traditions in the East do. Sanskrit for one, does. It recognizes that sound, words, are the most powerful medicine on the planet, and therefore are to be used with great care, respect, clarity and reverence. Even the Bible recognizes this; “In the beginning was the word…”

Look around. Where do you see things not being called by their true name? What would it take for you to be more intentional with the words you use? What would it take to bring more discernment around what you are accepting as truth? And where can you step beyond your comfort zone, the need to belong to the wrong thing, along with lifetimes of fears, to call out the culturally agreed upon falsehoods that we are calling our finest, all while elevating us to our very worst.

(Inspired by Vici. Thank you dear friend.)

Uncertainty

 

I don’t know about you, but I often want to know exactly how things are going to turn out. I want some kind of a guarantee. I want a map. A good one. And I want assurances that I am on the right track. Something that says, “Here’s how to do it, and here’s how it will all turn out.” And P.S., you will be OK through it all.

This is all so very, very human. And so very, very short-sighted.

It is not a surprise that many of us would characterize the times we are living in as uncertain. Certainly, you can find lots and lots of support for this just by listening to the daily news. It might even feel as though we are living in perhaps the most uncertain times ever in the history of man. This leaves many of us terrified, stressed, angry, jaded and overwhelmed. And I think we might be hard-pressed to find too many people who would welcome, and even thrive on the uncertainty we are facing.

And yet, what if we could? What if what we need most right now is the ability, personally and collectively, to create through, and with, the uncertainty?

It puts me in mind of my daughter who called last June very upset because the house she was to be moving into in a matter of a few short weeks, had had an electrical fire. That meant that she would not be able to move in until September. At best. She was very distressed not knowing what was going to happen. Where she was going to live. What this meant for her summer plans. If the house would even be ready in the fall for when school started back.

At some point, however, she caught up to the situation, and began to embrace the reality that the certainty she had been counting on, was gone. The question then became, “what next?” Surprisingly enough, with uncertainty fully embraced, she set up an amazing experience for herself in the Northwest Territories of Canada where she lived in a yurt and met great people, all while interning for a farm whose mission it is to bring greater food awareness and security into a part of the world deficient in this. She learned a ton of new skills. She spent time in a magnificent landscape. And she grew.

Even better? Upon arriving home, not only was the house ready weeks before school started, but it had been rehabbed back into a far better condition than what she had signed up for. She described it as feeling like she had moved into a brand new place! Not only that, but she saved money as no rent was charged for several months.

Win. Win. Win.

But none of this would have happened if she had fallen into fear or despair over the uncertainty of her situation. And that’s the trick. Recognizing that when the unexpected strikes, if we can gather ourselves long enough to be open to an opportunity, something amazing might just be born out of the uncertainty. As crazy as it may seem when we find ourselves uncomfortable or afraid, this is what is available. Always. Believe it or not, it is available around political polarization, climate change, violence, job loss, illness, and any of the other personal and collective uncertainties we are facing.

This is not easy to see or to do. But the truth is, life is uncertain. Every second of every day. It’s just that we have gotten so used to a certain level of predictability and orderliness that we forget, that like any creature on the planet, we too are subject to the laws of chaos, change and uncertainty.

But what if we embraced this? What if instead of fear, despair, outrage and overwhelm, we chose to say “Yes” as quickly as we could, followed by, “What is possible here?” What if  seeing uncertainty not only as a hard and fast reality, but also as a highly creative partner, a kind of muse, became our new narrative? A force in Life not meant to tear us down, create defeat, pessimism and victimization, but instead an opening to possibility.

How then would you look at what is in front of you now? How then would you look at what is happening on the world stage?