Waiting

 

As that old song goes, “The waiting is the hardest part.” I feel that right now. You? I feel it in myself and I feel it in the world. It’s not like I want to get back to the way things were. That’s never made sense to me. But boy am I ready for what I believe things could be. And therein lies the rub.

How do you be with what is here, now? While still standing, waiting, believing, eagerly, openly and excitedly even, in something else? For me that something else always has to do with how we are living as a people. How we are treating ourselves, one another, and the planet. On that level it is both so simple and so straightforward, while at the same time being so complex and so challenging.

If there was one question I could ask when I am no longer here, it would be, Why is it so hard to be who we really are? Why do we fight and avoid our truest nature? Why do we hurt ourselves and one another? Why is it so easy, sought after even, to get sidetracked from what matters most? Sure, I know some would say it is because of our past. Or maybe because that is just how the world is. Some would say it is how we learn. But is this the only way we can learn? If so, we must be really off track to require such extreme lessons to be coming our way.

What would it be like though to change out of love? Out of possibility? Out of the belief that we deserve better? I know it’s possible because these were all of the reasons that allowed me to make such dramatic internal shifts in myself as a young mother. My reasons were not for me, they were for another. But my god did it end up being for me as that orientation grew and stretched me in ways I never could have imagined at the start of it all.

So is that the key? To do it for more than ourselves? What would that even look like? If this was the answer, or at least a part of it, I know for sure doing for others has got nothing to do with following external mandates. It’s not even got to do with whether or not another thinks you are a good person. This can be hard to hear. If doing for others cannot be measured in that way, what’s the criteria then? How will we know when we are in healthy alignment, and when it is that we are following the wrong things?

All I can say about this comes from my experiences as a mother. There was a lot of waiting there. A lot of input with no guarantee. A lot of blind faith. But mostly,  a lot of selfreflection. A lot of being with why it was that I was doing what I was doing that had nothing to do with the specifics of what I was doing. This is what brought me to myself.  And to the understanding of how it is that doing for another brings us back to the Truth of who we are and what we most need. Interesting, how in the end, it is the focus on the other that actually brings us back to our very best Selves.

It is potent and transformational medicine to serve others, to act on behalf of another, to gesture to the world that you care about more than yourself. It is a seriously sacred duty. One that should never be taken lightly. Nor allowed to be misdirected or misguided by the wrong sentiments.For to do so would be the equivalent of allowing children to tell you how you should be in relationship to them to demonstrate your caring. If this were true, it would mean you could never draw a line. Or let them know that what they were wanting or believing was harmful. You could never make a choice, or take an action that they might not understand. But that you did.

A Good Girl

 

Like most, if not all children, I grew up trying to be good. Being a good girl was an organizing principle in my life. A kind of Holy Grail that I pursued with all my might. I was discerning in my endeavors and excellent in my follow through in this regard. I knew that what “good” meant for my father was different than my mother, than my grandfather, than my teachers. This extended to all of the grown-ups I came in contact with. I knew exactly what I needed to do to receive the coveted recognition of “goodness” as bestowed by whatever adult stood before me.

I was so good at being good that it made me physically sick in the form of debilitating stomach pains that had no “cause” according to the doctor. It would be years before I would come to understand it was the price I was paying for a kind of goodness that made others comfortable, as I sacrificed my own well-being to be seen in a certain way. None of this had anything to do with vanity and everything to do with belonging.

I know there is an argument to be made around the perhaps “essential” nature of conditioning children to the mores of the grown-ups in their lives. A kind of “for the good of all,” that I suppose must happen to a certain extent in order to have families and communities where it is clear about what makes for good, and what makes for bad. Whether this is, in fact, how it needs to go, matters not. What does matter to us as children is how absolute to us it all feels. How undeniable, incontrovertible, and inviolate the understandings are that we pick up around what makes us good or not. And how that gives us the right to belong. Or not.

Enter adulthood. While many of us would say that our choices now are based on reason and rationality, if you look at fields that study human nature, what we find is that anywhere from 90 to 95% of what we do emanates from our subconscious. The place in us where the root of all of our attitudes, beliefs and mores live. Including what we believe we need to do to fit in. Including the deep imprints from experiences we had as children around our own autonomy and belonging. This is the very same place that deeply controls our actions, thoughts, and choices. A subterranean world of influence that we typically have no awareness of; despite its powerful presence in our lives.

Which brings me to my point. I recently came across the phrase “Virtue Signaling.” It is being used in relation to whether one complies with the mandates currently in place around the virus, or not. When we comply we signal the virtues of caring and selflessness. When we do not, we signal that we are selfish and dangerous. This messaging strikes deeply at the heart of what it means to be a good person in relation to others. Something we all yearn to be seen as. Something that may feel like heresy to question.

But what if there was more to the story than that?

This is difficult to get to in a world where the preponderance of signalling says compliance with a particular set of instructions is how you do your part. Is how you show you care. Is how you are a hero. Ways of being that every one of us wants to be characterized as by others. But at what cost, and according to whose definition of virtuous? For what if there was far more to this story than the black and white summation of who we are based on whether or not we are masked or get a vaccine? What if there was solid and current science that offered another paradigm around how to be with what is happening?

Interestingly enough, the first reference in the dictionary for the word virtuous is potent. And then, efficacious. When we consider that possessing virtue is about being powerful and effective that adds another dimension to this conversation around what it means to signal to another your virtue. Your goodness. Your caring. Your heroism. What I mean is, what if being virtuous included the courage to ask powerful and effective questions while exploring other possibilities around what it is that brings health to an individual and to the collective?

Where do you derive your goodness from? Does it come from inside of you, from your own mighty well of authenticity and integrity? Or does it come from someplace else? And what is the downside of labeling people as virtuous or not based on one demonstrable piece of information?

The Power Of Nothing

 

Every morning, I begin my daily practice in the same way. I sit. I just sit. I breathe. I look out the window. I might sip hot water. But basically, I sit and do nothing.

What would possess a person to sit and do nothing? Because, I have come to discover that when all of the mud settles, the mud being the difficult and troubling thoughts threatening to take over, there comes a sense of spaciousness that not only allows me to breathe, it reminds me of who I am, and who I most want to be. Believe it or not, out of the nothing, comes everything. Absolutely Everything.

I have found over the years that out of that spacious nothing-ness, creativity, ease, alignment, discernment, clarity, and my favorite of all, Truth with a capital “T,” resides. Which means that any problem I have, any solution I am seeking, any balm needed for my broken heart, or any quieting required for an insane mind, is there. Always.

I first discovered the “nothing” when, after my kids had gone off to school, my mind would kick into high gear in an absolute frenzy over all of the things I had to and wanted to get done. It would hound me about how I needed to do things; in what order, how fast, how well. It was maddening. So much so that I couldn’t settle into yoga or meditation because the demands of the mind were that intense.

So I sat, doing nothing, initially to protest. To say to the thoughts, I want out. I am not playing anymore. I will not negotiate with you anymore. And then, at some point, what began out of an exasperated refusal to participate anymore with a derailed mind, turned into a portal transporting me to a whole new universe that I did not even know was accessible with so little effort. Without me having to work my way into the ease and peace I was seeking. I literally did not need to do a single thing.

But it does take time, and some getting used to. Some days it only takes a small handful of minutes for everything to settle down. At other times, I sit doing nothing for all of the time I have devoted for a morning practice. And even though my crazy mind will still push me to get going, to do something for god’s sake, I know better now. I know that in the nothing, everything that I could have ever hoped for will show up when given the space.

To the busy, stressed out, divided, and fear-based mind this practice can feel like a death. And it is. But not the death of anything but those things that need to go anyway. Not the death of anything other than exactly what you would be better off without. Try it. And when the mind screams and screams and starts rolling out all the heavy artillery around what a slacker-loser you are for not doing more, nod your head and continue to sit, remembering that you do not have to believe everything that your mind thinks. As a matter of fact, when you get right down to it, much of what your mind thinks with all of its judgments and worries and evaluations, is nothing worth listening to anyway.

Someone

 

One of my favorite movies is the emotionally charged “Walk The Line.” It is the story of the country singer Johnny Cash. In an early scene, a young Cash is brought to the bedside of his dying brother. His main confidante, ally and friend in a family filled with the darkness of a father addicted and volatile, is leaving him.

As the adults stand around the bedside, doing nothing, resigned to the fate of his brother, Johnny begs “Do something.” His voice breaking and resounding with a mix of rawness, desperation and command.

It gets me every time. No matter how many times I have seen it the haunting and imploring echoes of his pleas reverberate in my bones filling me with a kind of desperation, despair and yes, a command that derives from someplace deep.

“Do Something.” And its corollary, “Isn’t someone going to do something?” This has been my inner begging, pleading, beseeching prayer my whole life. Sometimes it has taken the form of a child-like need unmet. At other times it has taken the form of the rebel fed up with the injustices of the world. And at other times, it has taken the form of the disappointed and frustrated adult who judges or blames.

Now it is taking a new form. Empowerment. A kind of knowing that when we look out at the world and cry out, “This is not right. Someone needs to do something,” we must come to the realization that the someone is none other than us. As in, I am that someone. It is up to me. I am the one to do something.

Now, this does not mean that we take it all on ourselves trading our power for martyrdom. Instead, it is a deep knowing that whatever I see when I look out there that needs tending to, that needs correcting, that needs starting or stopping, is not someone else’s to do. But instead, mine.

Look out into the world. What cries out within you “Do Something?” And instead of turning away, what would happen if you sought the counsel of that desperate and commanding plea?

Guarantees

 

My husband was recently recounting a conversation he had with a practitioner, who in anticipation of re-opening their office had asked, “Would you like me to tell you how we are going to keep you safe?” To which my husband responded, “I do not require you to keep me safe.” To which I would add, “Nor is that something you could ever guarantee me.”

Safety. We all want to feel safe. It is in fact perhaps our most basic of all needs. And at its very best, it is something we cultivate within and offer without.

Being safe and feeling safe are a major source of conversation in the culture at the moment. As a matter of fact, it is something that has been brewing beneath the surface for many of us for what seems like forever. Given that, and all that is being revealed around what this means in practice (not words) it is incumbent upon all of us to understand what we are asking for, what we are being promised, and what is being justified in the name of safety.

Spoiler alert: No one can guarantee your safety. Not a parent. Not your spouse. Not the government. Not a mask, hand washing, tracing or vaccines. But by God how we want it. And who wouldn’t? This most primary of needs for safety and protection harkens back to childhood when you believed that it was possible that someone else could promise and deliver a guarantee of safety to you. And how well your safety needs were or were not met in childhood sets the stage for how you will perceive the world. For your capacity to determine what is safe, what is a threat, and what is real and imagined around both.

The first time I ever heard anyone talk on this was years ago while I was in the midst of a very intense emotional. physical and spiritually challenging training. At some point, as things were breaking down and people’s fears and woundings were being revealed, in their terror they began to find fault with the training. In their inability to be with what they were experiencing, they began to accuse the program director and staff of creating an unsafe environment. It was a deeply heated and emotional group exchange, as well as something we were all feeling and navigating in our own ways.

Much to my surprise and ultimate deep gratitude, instead of the director going into self-blame and acquiescing because someone had thrown down the safety card, she navigated a brilliant truth: That being, that no one else can guarantee your safety. That being, that when we are afraid and rattled, we will default to that child-like expectation. Instead, she let us know that what she was offering was a sacred container for people to come together, and that what you did within that space was up to you.

The root of “safe” from the Greek means “whole,” with the definition being “free from risk, danger, harm or injury.” And while there are certain practices and ways of being that we agree upon for the well-being of all, a guarantee of life without risk, danger, harm or injury can never be proffered. Nor should it be expected. For to wholly live is to live with the risk of being alive. And to demand safety, to use safety as a protocol in the ways we are using it, is to set us all up for not only failure, but to set in motion the justification of all manner of things that have absolutely nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with a lie.

Safety can be an intention. It can be honored and it can be protected. It can be respected and agreed upon. And when it comes to re-imagining the long-standing and often outdated beliefs we hold around this, I will leave you with something my husband is talking about at work. 

“Safety is a shared responsibility.”

In practice: If you would like to see how this works in your world, do not go to the adult mind that would say, “Of course I know there are no guarantees.” Instead, go below the surface, to the child, to the unconscious, to the place that gets scared. Can you sit with that? Can you feel the need, the vulnerability and the desperation for someone to pledge a certainty for you? Can you open to all of that without trying to have someone take that away for you?

And if you would like to take a deeper look around the maps of safety and danger we create in childhood, the very same ones that continue to inform or drive us as adults, I recommend a book called “Nurturing Resilience” by Kathy Kain.

Sanctuary Living

 

Not long ago, I was having a conversation with an astrologer I work with, and we were comparing notes about how we were doing in these times; what it was that was serving as a sacred and healthy foundation for staying steady in the midst of so much upheaval. So much fear. So much uncertainty.

He summed it all up in two words. Sanctuary Living. The phrase literally caught my breath. In the moment it felt like I had never heard anything so beautiful. So poignant. So hopeful. And so very, very needed. By all of us. Everywhere.

Sanctuary is defined as a consecrated place. As a place of refuge and protection. Living is defined as having life. Being full of vigor. True to life. When we put these two glorious words together they offer us us an image, a model, a possibility.

Can you imagine your life, your home, your schedule being imbued with the energy of consecration? A kind of refuge that honors what is true to the needs of your life. A protection placed on the value of your life, all of Life, that is filled with the vigor of respect.

On one level, it’s so basic. So obvious. On another level, it is so complicated and confusing. And yet, beneath it all, it is something we all yearn for. That being, a life where we feel valued. A life where our outer circumstances hold and nourish how sacred and precious we are.

What if we imagined ourselves and the lives we create as churches, temples, mosques, alters, sacred groves of trees, ancient hermitages? What things would we allow into our sacred space? What things would never be allowed in?

And what if more of us began to see ourselves and our lives through this lens?

Everything

 

Everything. Absolutely everything is included. The stuff we want. The stuff we don’t want. What’s easy. What’s difficult. What’s known. What’s unknown. All of it.

Can you imagine it? Can you imagine claiming all of it? Giving space and recognition, voice and comfort to it all. That “All” being, everything that you experience in Life. Nothing omitted. Nothing to get past. Instead, a big, wild, effervescent, sometimes stinky, tapestry that you can call your own. Every single moment of every single day. All of what it is that makes up your Life.

Right from this moment on, right down to, and including, the last moment.

What if that actually was the choice (by the way, it is) that was before us at any given moment? The knowing that, as Tara Brach would say, “This too belongs.” This too belongs. As in, it all belongs. All of it. Every single bit of it. Nothing too ugly, shameful, painful, unwanted, difficult or disgusting to be here. And nothing too outrageous, wild, unkempt, fanciful or impossibly brilliant to be here.

But of course, this would take a commitment, and a kind of determination to no longer play the victim to your Life circumstances. To no longer believe and act as if you have no choice. To no longer leave your Life in the hands of something or someone else. To no longer abandon yourself because you do not like how you are feeling. Or what it is that is showing up.

Can you do it? Of course you can. Interestingly enough though, that is not the question. The question is, will you do it? Will you claim the totality of your Life? Beginning with, will you take ownership of, and responsibility for, what you are experiencing?

This is a tall order. This is something most of us have not been schooled in. Something most of us have not been given the skills to be with. Therefore, where to begin?

Begin at the beginning. Begin with one simple statement: “I commit to seeing everything I experience today as a necessary, loving and legitimate part of my life.” Knowing this then, the only sane response is to say “Yes” to what is here. Not to say I like it or want it, but instead to say out loud that I recognize this is, in fact, here. It is to say there must be a reason for whatever is here to be here, and I am open to knowing that reason.

Getting even more up close and personal: Instead of pushing you away, I am open to knowing why you are here for me. And I am committed to not succumbing to the belief that Life is against me, and you are opposed to me. That I am open to discovering what gifts you bring for my Life that I might not recognize as such unless I am willing to look differently. Gifts that I will never recognize when I am committed to being victimized by you. Gifts that I open to because that is what is here, and because there is a valid and good reason for it. Gifts I open to with no guarantees offered or expected.

Can we do it? Yes. Will we do it? Only you can say.

Masks

 

My husband and I are discussing the latest CDC recommendation to wear masks when out in public. It prompts a philosophical conversation around individual choice and belonging. In the end, my husband determines, that while personally he does not feel called to wear a mask, he would do it to “blend in.” 

Blending in.

Is this not the catch phrase for all of the things we as human beings do to not stick out, disturb or generate the “wrong” optics? Might this be precisely the most difficult of all dilemmas anyone of us will ever face who chooses to know themselves unto themselves?

To be clear, this is not a debate on the rightness or the wrongness of masks. Instead, it is an exploration around the nature of being an individual, a true and authentic individual, and what it means to belong from that place. As opposed to all of the shaving and distorting and acquiescing we do out of deep-seated fears around being shunned, shamed or left out. It is a hard look at all of the things each and every one of us does, every single day, to fit in. To avoid rocking the boat; garnering the disapproval of those around us.

To question your place in the scheme of things. To wonder what it means to be true to yourself. And then, to go on to do it all while remaining desirous of belonging is the making of not only a genuine and satisfying life, but it is absolutely the most essential stuff required for the making of a healthy, vibrant and flourishing community. For the truth is, there must be a challenge to the status quo. Otherwise our institutions, families, groups and communities wind up stale to fresh ideas, suffocating of individual expression and tyrannical and narrow-minded in structure and expectation.

Think for a moment. Who are your heroes? Your thought leaders? What would our world be like had even one of them not allowed their ideas and sensibilities to see the light of day? What would have been lost had any one of these true and unique individuals allowed the prevailing attitudes and customs of the times to squash what was unpopular, heretical or unfamiliar?

The challenging part here is that this is not a one-time choice. And there is no definitive response or line to be drawn that will hold true for all times and for all situations. This can leave it looking like there are no rules, and that therefore, the ways of the individual are undermining of the public good. This could not be further from the truth. For although the journey of the individual choosing authenticity may not always be recognizable to the group, or will not always look the same for everyone, there is one irrefutable truth you can count on.That being, that when an individual is truly choosing for their highest and best good, it will always, always, be in the highest and best good of all.

But for the group mind, the mind based on fear, consensus thinking and safety in numbers mentality, this can feel feel too unknown, too uncertain, too chaotic, too uncontrollable, and therefore too dangerous to consider. 

Why? Because we are talking about nothing less than people deciding their own minds. Nothing less than being unable to control or distort what is new, different, unfamiliar or downright opposed to how things are currently being done. Nothing less than getting comfortable with other people doing things differently than us and seeing it as a value. Nothing less than trusting our own process, along with the processes of those around us. Nothing less than full on faith and the recognition that when we support ourselves in our highest expression, while doing the same for those around us, ultimately, ultimately, we will get to the very best of who we are both individually and collectively.

But this will take time. And effort. And faith. And courage. And support. And it can only actually begin within and around us when we come to value our unique expressions right alongside our deep yearning and need to belong from that place, and that place only.

To wear a mask or not. On some deeply personal and communal level, is this not the question we are all faced with? And is this not an answer that each and every one of us must come to on our own?

The Herd

 

The herd has been spooked, and we are becoming ever-more afraid by the moment. More distrustful of others and what they may bring. More wary of contact. More suspicious of the benign.

As mammals, our herding behavior is built to insulate us against the dangers and stresses of Life. We are built by and for one another. To hold, nurture and protect each other during times of distress. It is our relationships with one another that heals the traumas of the past, bridges the terrors of the moment, and gives hope for the future.

Be very, very careful of where you let your mind go in these times for it can be felt and known by all of us. And like a barrel filled to the brink, it takes only one more drop to tip the barrel to overflowing. Therefore, choose the barrel you are filling carefully and wisely. For you may very well be the deciding drop to a world awash in fear. Or you may very well be the deciding drop for a world born anew with hope,Truth and possibility.

Never discount the role you play when it comes to the larger issues of the world. Just as one drop of ocean water contains, and is, the ocean itself, each and every one of us is the greater body of the world. Of the collective us. Of the direction our world will tip towards. Know the power of the part you play and choose your words, actions, thoughts and emotions accordingly. Nothing you do is insignificant. Nothing you do is separate from what is happening all around you.

Choose for hope, and then choose again. Choose for sanity, and then choose again. Choose for faith, and then choose again. Choose and choose and choose. Again and again. Ever-mindful of what you are choosing, and in all of the ways that your choices are rippling out, shaping and filling the mind of the one-bodied herd, and therefore our shared and collective reality.

What if just one thought by one of us could be the deciding vote? And what if that vote was yours, and yours alone?

True

 

Recently I read an article on Tara Brach, a well-known meditation teacher, where she told the story of a woman who works doing palliative care. It seems that the most common thing this woman hears as people are dying is that they were not true to themselves.

Really, really take that one in. Let it penetrate so deeply that you cannot possibly ignore its impact. Let it disturb you enough to make a change. For if you can imagine what it would feel like to be at the end of your life, and realize that you had not been true to who and what you are, you are in a position to change that fate. So, imagine the personal regret. The devastation. The heartbreak. And then, take it further by imagining the loss as not only being your own, but being the loss of everyone you ever met or were in relation to. And imagine how that loss would keep rippling out; emanating from a center point of falseness, while reaching further and further and further into the world.

Devastating is not nearly big enough, not even close, to capture what we are talking about here. For what we are talking about here is missing, due to mislabeling, THE VERY MOST IMPORTANT THING OF YOUR WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE. In Truth, there is nothing else you are meant to be doing here other than to figure out who and what you are, and to find ways, large and small, to be true to that. And only that.

And yet, we find endless ways to chip away at holding true to who we really are. We find numerous avenues to get so sidetracked that we no longer even know what it would mean to be true to ourselves. We take on versions of who we are, lacking in truth and resonance, because that is what we were told, or because we find it far too arduous to dig in and commit to throwing off the lies: all of what it is, that is not us. We then go on to not only accept, but to defend with all our might, what is false. And we then go on to call it who we are.

Regularly we forget that this most sacred and time-honored endeavor is far more important than how much money we make. Whether or not others agree with us, or even how much they like us. It is more important than where we live, what our job is, or how much we weigh. It matters more than where our kids go to college, the ring on our finger, or the car we drive. Whether we had good luck or bad luck, whether others got us or not, and whether or not we were famous. It is more important then the latest iPhone, putting someone in their place, or keeping up with the news or latest must-see episode.

We “sell out” all the time and for all kinds of reasons. We then go on to legitimize why it is OK to diminish, hide and falsify who we are. And we act as if all of the diminishments and dings we submit ourselves to are not that important. Are no big deal. Are worth the cost of belonging, safety, and other worldly measures. But a day of reckoning is surely coming for each and every one of us.

Will you be ready? Will you be able to measure up to the unwavering, the unapologetic and the unforgiving clarity of death in terms of who and what you have been? For what we all know, deep down inside, but somehow choose to ignore, is that there is no clearer lens, no truer test of how we have done in this regard than being at the end of it all.

But being at the end of it all leaves no time. So what do you say? How about now? How about not letting another moment go by where you leave being untrue to yourself, unchecked.