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?

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.

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?

Shame

 

I grew up Catholic and I went to Catholic schools all the way though high school. Beyond religion, my parents believed they were procuring a good education for me and my siblings. And I was getting a great education.

In shame.

Shame was how the nuns and the priests kept the exuberance of youth in line. It was how they got us to be quiet, compliant and obedient. While it kept the order as far as they were concerned, it took a toll on me; leaving a deep and indelible mark of fear and apprehension. One that said there was something inherently wrong with me anytime I did not agree with what was being offered up. Anytime I did not line up to what the status quo was demanding of me, automatically put me in the place of not just feeling wrong, but being wrong. Inherently.

To say the least, it put me at odds with myself; undercutting my self-esteem, confidence and creativity, along with undermining my sense of ease with others. For when you feel the ever-present potential of shame and it’s result, feeling inherently wrong according to another, it’s hard to let down. Hard to trust. Hard to be yourself.

It literally took me decades to unwind from all of this. Just in time, it seems, to be living through the most “shamey-ist” of times I have ever witnessed. All being played out under the banner of being politically correct, a good person, virtuous, inclusive and caring.

Look around. Somehow we have come to the place where we have allowed ourselves to be shamed into the medicine we use. Into what we put into our very bodies; whether it aligns with our beliefs, or not. Shamed into how we speak and interact with others. Called out for using an incorrect pronoun or for challenging questionable relational mores. Shamed for feeling differently. Canceled and censored across social media when we do not line up with the narrative du jour.

Worst of all, shamed for asking questions, for using common sense, for pointing out obvious discrepancies, mixed agendas and attitudes that separate.

As someone who grew up under the dark and heavy shackles of shame-based approaches, what I will tell you is this: When you shame someone, you may, for a time, coerce or scare them into behaving in a certain way. But you will never, ever, have their agreement. You will never, ever, have their heart and soul. You will never, ever, have their goodwill or genuine allegiance. You will never, ever, have the necessary checks and balances to keep those in power from doing the wrong things.

And you will never, ever, have an authentic contributor to the common good whenever you manage a person through the power of wrong. For shame destroys freedom, love of life and fellow man, creativity and authentic connection.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe those in the position of shaming others care not for us to live in that place of sovereignty and conscious choice, but instead relish our head down, tail between our legs, obedience. Maybe they, as the nuns did, prefer keeping us afraid to question. Afraid to choose differently. Afraid to call out the harm being done.

But at some point that shame goes sideways. Always. Shame drives people into resentment, secrecy and acting out. Shame keeps a populace infantilized and reactive. You need look no further than the Catholic school kids I went to high school with. We were the craziest at partying, having sex and acting out all kinds of subversive behaviors. All the things where shame had been applied the most heavily by our “teachers.”

I propose we learn to make our choices from a mature and internal place. One connected to our heart and soul, and therefore, by its very Nature, inextricably bound to doing right by not only ourselves, but by the group as well.

As my yoga teacher once said, there is the compassion and other forms of moral behavior you put on like you would a coat because you were told to. Shamed into. And then there are the ways of living and being with others and the world born organically from within. Life-affirming behaviors and perspectives that naturally arise when you are aligned with an open heart, a clear mind and a body free from stress.

But this would take time. And a ton of personal responsibility on each of our parts. Not to mention a whole lot of courage to not allow yourself to be bullied into something by the shame police. Choosing instead, to live from a place of understanding, forgiveness, encouragement and open discourse.

I’m in. You?

Cleaning House

 

When I got back from being away on vacation, quite unexpectedly and with no plan ahead of time, I found myself compelled to clear everything out before I put anything away. That first afternoon back, I spent 5 hours clearing and cleaning out shelves and closets. It went by in an instant.

That urge has continued on into this week; with any spare moment being given over to organizing, consolidating, using up and passing on. I imagine this will go on for at least another week as I feel a deep inner urge that goes beyond just “getting rid of stuff.”

I know we typically associate the Spring with the season that we do our big yearly cleaning. And it’s true. After a winter, there is this welling up to clear out and air out. A kind of sweeping out the cobwebs and all of the cold and stagnant places. A necessary and practical ritual to let go of winter’s ways in order to open up to new growth.

But for me, the Fall is the season that has the greater impact in my life. Maybe it’s because as someone who went to grad school and then on to teach around an academic calendar, this time of year always feels like my New Year. My time to get clear and cleared out to get ready for what is to come.

But as the years go on, it feels much more primal and embodied than that. It feels like a necessary prerequisite for my very continued existence; both physical and spiritual. A way for me to honor what has come before, and to pare down to make way for The Great Unknown.

If you think about it, for most of our cellular memory as human beings, we had to align with the seasons. So even though we would be in the height now of the gathering time, historically it was also a time when you had better get really clear about what your stores were, and what it is that you would be carrying into the darkest and sparsest time of year.

So, while practically speaking, it may not be so true for many of us in terms of physical survival, on some level, it is. For you cannot survive or thrive when you are bogged down and filled to the brim with excess and extraneous baggage.

What would it be like for you to use this time of the year to deepen into what truly nourishes you, while eliminating what does not? This is about holding the fullness of the harvest with the knowledge that winter is coming. That means we need to make some clear and sometimes difficult decisions about what to keep and what to let go of for the sake of a more robust surviving and thriving.

For the Truth is, The Great Unknown does not suffer extravagance or thoughtlessness.

So, if you’re up for it, take time this Fall to reflect on what matters most to you. Then look at your surroundings and begin to evaluate whether what you have in your life has value to you. Or not. More pointedly, did it ever really have value to you? Even further, will it have any value to you in the future, or will it serve as a burden to your existence?

Inner Authority

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Not Know & To Do Nothing

 

“I don’t know what to do.”

Lately, this phrase finds its way into my life more and more. As in, I don’t know what to do when nothing I try will bring resolve to something in my life. Or, I don’t know what to do when I look out at a world demanding I live in a way that makes absolutely no sense to me.

I am reading a novel called “A Wizard of Earthsea,” where one of the final scenes finds the protagonist traveling further than he or anyone has ever gone in his attempt to bring resolve to something. The wizard comes to the place where the magic and all the things he has ever known no longer work. He is left moving ever closer to something that is only his to do, but with no way of knowing what to do when he gets there.

Or, what will happen.

This is exactly how I feel lately as I come up against those places in Life where what I did before no longer works, and yet, I have no idea what to do or how things will turn out. It is not a comfortable place. But it is a real place.

More to the point here, it is the very place that most of us try and avoid at all costs.

It is terrifying to feel you have no power to effect change. No control over shifting something in your life. It’s almost too painful to admit. And so, we don’t. Instead, we engage in all kinds of behaviors that make us feel as though we are doing something. Anything. Creating the illusion that what we are doing is having an impact. That it’s up to us around how things turn out.

But it’s not always up to us.

That’s a hard, almost unbearable Truth to be with. And, it’s the only legitimate starting point. It’s like before someone can get sober, they must first admit something they have been unwilling to admit to before.

Interestingly enough, to come to the knowing that it is not up to you and that you don’t know what to do puts you in an exquisite position. That being, the vantage point of seeing something more clearly because the situation is not muddied by all of your attempts and preconceptions. Of course, this awareness often comes in surrender moments for we do not easily let go of what we always do.

But if and when you can admit that nothing you have been trying is working, try doing nothing. Yes, you heard it. Do nothing. This was the permission a friend recently gave me: A reminder that to do nothing is a sane and valid response. Full disclosure: It feels awful initially. Like the whole thing is going to hit the floor if you don’t do what you always do.

But if you can be with that, knowing that feeling awful is a part of it, there is a coming to terms that is possible. A kind of necessary correction around what is within your control and jurisdiction, and what is not.

If this makes any sense to you, be on the lookout for the places where you always do the same thing without getting the results you want. The times where you are trying to muscle something into happening to no avail. And then stop. Just stop. If even for a moment.

At Odds

 

There is so much in the world that I don’t want to be happening. Some days, I feel like a fish on a hook. Desperately, relentlessly and ineffectively struggling. Fighting. Denying. Blaming.

I hate it. I hate the way it feels. Mostly I hate the way that it squanders my precious time here on Earth.

Several years ago, a friend told me how she chooses a word for the year. I loved the idea, so I took up the practice. This year my word is Freedom. Not a kind of fighting to be free, like a rebellious hands-on-hips teenager bellowing “You can’t tell me what to do!” But instead, an embodiment of a genuine, god-given freedom that comes from within, is transcendent of what is happening around me, and most of all, comes with no strings attached.

As in, not and never, ever bestowed by another.

This is big stuff. As in, Let no man steal your peace.” This sounds so great. I mean who wouldn’t want that? To be able to go around all day with nothing bothering you. Nothing getting to you. But here’s the truth, the wanting of it doesn’t even come close to what it takes to get it.

So what does it take to gain a sense of inner freedom? The ability to be with “What Is,” while taking complete ownership of how you respond. No blaming. No complaining. No victim.

I realize this is a tall order. I recognize almost none of us has had training in this. And yet, as far as I can see this is the only way to the lasting happiness and peace we all yearn for. Otherwise, we are left believing that every time the world does something that does not feel good or right to us, we are basically F*cked. Imprisoned by forces beyond our control.

I am so tired of being at odds with what is happening. Aren’t you? More to the point, so tired of being at odds with myself because the world is at odds with itself. Of course, this is literally the chicken and the egg. As in, which comes first? A world at odds? Or me at odds? Out there? In here?

In some ways, it does not matter because “in here,” is and always will be, the only place I have any control over.

So perhaps you will join me. If so, the next time you find yourself like a fish on a line, railing against what is, simply say, “Yes.” Acknowledge that what you do not want is here and decide that you get to do the only thing that you can do. Decide how you are going to be and feel about that. No matter what.

The New Paradigm: Foundations 101

 

Your health and well-being is the single largest contribution you will ever make to the world. Or, as Ram Dass once put it, “The only thing you have to offer another human being, ever, is your own state of being.”

I recognize this can feel daunting. Perhaps beyond your reach and capacity. It might even feel like hogwash. And simultaneously true. All at the same time. I also know that to ignore this is to put ourselves at odds with not only our own and truest Nature, but also with Everything and Everyone around us.

From this perspective, this is no small thing we are talking about here.

Of course, I did not always know this. Early on it never occurred to me to consider how I was living was impacting others. Makes sense given that I did not even know how it was that I was impacting me. Never mind everyone else I came in contact with. But I know it now, and I watch it play out. Meaning, that when I am healthy, resourced and clear, the quality of my interactions is always of a higher caliber. The healthiness of the engagement prioritized. Even when, and perhaps most especially, when it is a difficult encounter.

Our health and well-being is not only the very foundation of our lives, and what it feels like to be alive, it is the very foundation of our lives together. How could it be anything else? Individually and together we create the collective. The whole will always only be as good as the sum of all of its parts. There is no “in here” that does not reflect “out there.” For to live out of balance within ourselves is to create the very imbalances outside of ourselves that we all abhor. And fear.

So here’s the million dollar question, “If it were true that my health and well-being is the single most important contribution I will ever make to the world, what then?

Without trying to find a quick fix answer, without discounting this as too airy-fairy to be of value, and without succumbing to an internal paralysis because it feels like too much or because you wouldn’t know what to do, what if you just asked yourself that question? A lot. What if you let that question and your intention to contribute from a whole place, guide you?

What then?

 

The Stories We Tell

 

I am recently told a story of a woman who travelled to Peru to be with a local shaman. She went seeking answers as to why her life was such a mess. I imagine what it took for her to get to this place. To be so unable to understand what was happening for her, and what it was that she needed to do. To feel the anticipation and the hope that there would be a magical transformation performed by a seer in a life-altering ceremony in a mystical nation.

He told her she needed to stop drinking.This was not what she expected. Or wanted. This was most decidedly, not what she came for.

She came seeking a transcendent explanation and experience as to why her life was not working out. She came believing that delivery from her own personal hell would come neatly packaged up and “performed” for her by another. Someone wiser. Someone more “hooked up” than her.

But that is not how growth goes. Change is hard, and it is messy. Despite our child-like fantasies of an external savior, the one who knows all, the one who knows more and better than we, and the one who takes it all away, that is not how real change works.

I am involved in a year long somatic training. Right now we are fully immersed in all of the behaviors we engage in to bypass the pain we cannot be with. It is excruciating. And it is liberating. To be in a place where you are nose-to-nose with the truth of your own behaviors is humbling. To see them in the light of the protective functions they play in your life is nothing short of breathtaking.

You see, we all have perfectly good reasons for doing what we do. Even, and maybe most especially, when what we are doing hurts us.

Look into your own Life. What’s not working? Could you be so brave and so wise as to notice a behavior, a feeling or a thought, one you wished was not there? Locating it, gently say to yourself, “It’s okay that you’re here.” 

This is not to say that you like it or want it to stay. This is a courtesy, and an honesty that you extend to yourself where you do not turn away, but instead turn towards, what is not working. This is done in the Spirit of a kind of reconciliation with your past. How it is that you got here. This is done with the understanding that the codes for changing anything, lie embedded within us.

And it all begins by learning how to be with what is.