Waiting

 

In a recent personal exploration, I came in contact with what I will simply call here, “Waiting.” That part of me that gets put on hold, that stops breathing fully, that gets frozen, that even, on some level, ceases to live.

All while I wait for something to happen.

For that email, that phone call, that person to change. For the permission to be myself. For the madness to be over. For the guarantee that something will or will not happen.

Contrast that to the part of me that could not wait to get out onto the trail this morning. The part that didn’t let a standing temperature of eight degrees with a wind chill of well below zero cause her to wait for another time. The part that actually reveled in the gale force winds causing the trees to talk and sand tornados to appear out of nowhere.

We are a world of waiting. For the next text, the next like, the next, next, next…

These recent years have found us all in a waiting game. Waiting for a test result to tell us what’s going on and how we must proceed. Waiting for the permission to go outside. Waiting to be told when we could be with loved ones again. Waiting to be given the okay to take our masks off, go back to work, gather. Waiting for something to go away. Waiting for something to save us.

We wait for our boss or spouse to change. We wait for vacations, the weekend and retirement. We wait for the next package to arrive from Amazon. We wait for the diagnosis to tell us how we’re doing, or for the weight to finally come off. We wait for ourselves to change. For things to be somehow, somewhere different. We wait to die.

We wait and we wait and we wait.

Waiting is child’s play. It is a mentality that says my life is not in my hands. It is a mindset that says my freedom, my health, my wellbeing, my very life is not up to me. That there are forces out there that will decide how free and alive I can be. Where I can go, how I can live, and what is possible.

But the Truth is, Life does not wait. Our lives do not wait. They go on, with us or without us. So just as the wind did not wait for me to go on a run before it unleashed its full force, I ask you, as I ask myself: Are you waiting or are you living? 

The Light

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balance

 

Here we sit right at the Fall Equinox. A time of equal light and dark. One moment in time balanced on the turning of the outer Universe. Reflecting back into our own inner Universe what is possible when we align with what is most natural and true to who and what we are.

This is not easy. The human mind will take anything, even the concept of balance, and turn  it into something to commodify, sell, and then use as some impossible standard with which to beat ourselves up with.

The Truth is, there is no work-life balance. There is no magical place where everything is accounted for and taken care of. No place where you will finally have all the time, resources and energy to… fill in the blank. And there is no treatment, supplement, book or practice that will gift you with a final resting spot of eternal balance.

Instead, balance is a choice. A seasonal one. A daily one. A moment by moment one.

Balance is elusive, shifting, able to be found, unnerving, arduous and simple. Sounds like one big contradiction. That’s because it is. You cannot chase balance. You cannot make it happen. But you can cultivate the conditions for it to thrive. You can court it by inviting it into your life. You can shepherd a way of being that honors it.

Even so, you will lose it, find it and then lose it again. As my first yoga teacher said about the balancing postures, “You need to fall out of balance to know what true balance is.” That means we have to include it all. The times we feel balanced, and the times we don’t. And we have to be willing to study both, closely and intensively, to know what it takes.

What it asks of us.

That’s because balance is a living energy as opposed to something you purchase. One that cares not about your ideas, but only seeks to know itself through its opposites: Like night and day, male and female, off and on, right and wrong, good and bad, soft and hard, strong and weak, etc.

Imagine yourself as a set of balancing scales. Learn to notice which side of things you tend to fall towards. Too much busyness? Add a pinch of rest. Too much mental pushing? Add a moment of a hand over your heart. Too much talking? Be silent for once. Too much focus on others? Practice some selfishness. Too much screen time? Go outside for a breath or two.

It doesn’t take much. Just an intention to watch when the scales have tipped too far in one direction, and then being willing to add a dose of its opposite. As Ayurveda would say “Opposites balance.” So find what you do too much of, figure out its opposite and begin to weave it into your repertoire. It may never be your default or go-to, but it will go a long way to balancing your own inner light and dark.

The Soul’s Transformation

 

I am watching caterpillars that have attached to my back porch make their way into their cocoons to begin their great metamorphosis into the Monarchs they will soon become. As with all that I see in the natural world, I cannot help but sense the map these displays of Creation lay out for me, and for any of us who choose to see things beyond the spoon-fed narratives of a world that would have us dull down, line up and fit in at any cost.

In other words, those of us who want something more than just standing in line waiting to die. Or be approved of. Or thought of as good people. Those of us feeling called and pulled and shaped and molded by Something that wants only for us to express our soul’s longing to create itself here in all of its glory, for all of the world to see.

This is no easy task.

Years ago, my yoga teacher said that our soul does not care about our job, our degrees or what society thinks we should be. It cares only to be itself. To do otherwise is what causes our illnesses, our discontents, our regrets and dissatisfactions. I remember thinking at the time, how very, very liberating. And how very, very terrifying!

It occurs to me for the very first time in writing this, the significance of the word “Monarch” that we say so often when referring to a butterfly. It means, A person who reigns over a kingdom. A sovereign ruler. One that holds a preeminent position or power. With a monarchy being defined as, undivided rule.

It’s all there in the name of this majestic and migratory creature that has set up shop on my back porch to begin the process of taking its maiden flight. Far greater even than traveling from North to South across a vast land mass. For the journey from being a land crawler to a winged creature of the air is truly the domain of the soul and can only happen in a sovereign and undivided being.

As I watch the metamorphosis, I am struck by the deep and profound stillness it exudes as it makes its way into its temporary shroud. One night I could literally feel the way it was turning into itself. Stilling itself. All of this internal stilling being the basis for what was to come next.

We could take a page from this lovely creature who literally embodies the blueprint for how to transform into its fullest soul-filled expression by allowing ourselves to court more stillness in our own lives. A kind of death-filled stillness that allows us to leave behind what’s done, in favor of what’s coming.

Even if we don’t know what that is. More to the point, how could we? Just as the caterpillar cannot know what is in store, our human minds cannot know what the soul has in store for us. And yet, somewhere deep within, the blueprint is all laid out for us to be that preeminent power in our own lives.

It is just waiting for us to get quiet enough to allow it to unfold.

JOY

 

I am making my rounds on our Farm; opening up the chickens, weeding the medicine garden, picking berries, noticing what is happening, and in general, just poking around. On this morning, despite what my have-to list would say I need to accomplish and in what order, I am allowing myself to be led.

This willingness takes me right to a magical moment with a hummingbird who lands on the fence before me. This alone feels incredible as it is rare that I do not see them in motion. Her stillness gives me a chance to really appreciate her little green iridescent body sparkling and shimmering in the light.

When she alights, she goes to all of the sunflowers, black-eyed susan’s and honeysuckle that is spread out before me. Given her momentary interest in yellow, I secretly hope she will mistake my sunflower tattoo for a real flower and come close enough for me to feel the beating of her wings.

In this moment, I am reminded that from an animal teacher wisdom perspective, the Hummingbird is all about Joy. As I watch in utter stillness so as to not spook her, I hear that while we all want to experience joy, it cannot be chased, grabbed, tricked, or lured in. Nor can it be bought, forced, scheduled, ordered or mandated.

It can only be allowed. Opened to. Aligned with. Invited in. 

There are no short cuts, and no one else can give it to you. Partly this is so because it is already in you, and partly because Joy is a mistress who knows her own mind and cannot be coerced to show up. Ever. Instead, she must be courted with great reverence and respect. With no agenda or expectation of her arrival, for she does not take kindly to false and showy displays, or to greedy demands.

Instead, only when the conditions are worthy of her gifts does she burst upon the scene from within. Creating an explosion in the chest that can set you to weeping over the magnitude of Joy herself. An experience like none other, that simply arises unbidden out of the most “simple” of moments.

All of this leads me to mourn the chasing we all do, based in a confusion we have succumbed to around the Nature of Joy; that innate and God-given revelation that answers not to the ego, but to the very living of Life itself. On Life’s terms.

Want more joy in your life? Court her. Slow down enough to notice. Take interest in the simplest of things; those moments in life that reflect Life, as opposed to another man-made demand. Allow yourself, for even one moment, to be without an agenda. This is not easy to do. But if you can do it for even one instant, you will have created an opening big enough for a hummingbird to fit through.

Pecking Order

 

We have chickens. Every year or so, we add to the flock. Despite the conversations I have with the old guard before the newcomers arrive, there is alway an adjustment period we just have to go through. It’s not comfortable. Not for them. And certainly not for me as I listen to their calls of alarm and indignation over being put together with a group they don’t know.

This week it occurred to me how like them we are as humans. We get used to who we are with and how things are. We establish our pecking orders, and we insist upon knowing who is on the top and who is on the bottom. And we can get so territorial, even violent, when that order gets disrupted. So defensive, afraid and combative of the ‘other.’ So willing to make the ‘other’ wrong, even evil and dangerous.

So even though I remind the chickens who are here now that they were once the newcomers, once the ones who were being pushed out and maybe even attacked, they don’t remember. It always surprises me that they do not remember what it felt like to be low man on the totem pole. To feel like you’re not welcome. To know that a group would rather see you go than stay. To know that others might feel justified in harming you to stake their claim.

Or maybe they do remember, but they are not willing to give up their position of power.

Either way, is this not what is happening to us more and more now? All of the ways that the various groups that were trodden upon and disrespected, and who are now gaining power of their own, are themselves going on to demonize and ‘other’ the dominant group. Maybe you would say the oppressor groups deserve it, or that it is only natural to do what was done to you when you get to be the one on top.

Maybe.

But I say, there has got to be a way for all of us to live with full status while we iron out the wrongs of the past, without going on to repeat them to someone else. Without rearranging the pecking order of who is now oppressor and who is now oppressed.

P.S. After less than a week, the two flocks have already begun their steady course towards blending; going from separation and attack to unity and harmony. And we think we’re the intelligent ones.

(And if you’d like a practice that moves you closer to unity with All…Every morning I burn a bit of sage before practice and say…May whatever keeps me from being in harmony with the life within and the life without, be cleared from me.)

True Power

 

I am running at the ocean’s edge on the last day of my time away, and I am struck by the immense power of the ocean as waves smash against the shore; followed by visible rip currents. I am stopped by the enormous power doing its thing right beside me. And yet, as vast and powerful as the ocean is, it is pulled and directed by Something Far Greater. Yes, the moon. But even beyond that.

And it occurs to me, “Just like us.”

The big difference being, of course, that the ocean does not draw back from its raw and wild strength. Nor does it believe itself to be more powerful than it actually is. That level of ignorance and hubris belongs solely to human beings. The only species to both negate and inflate our true powers here on Earth.

We see this in the ways we try and control every facet of the world from the weather we wish we could manage, to the weeds we try and destroy, to the bugs we don’t like, to trying to manage and control other people and other countries. We see it in all the ways that we do not know our proper place here on Earth, as we believe we are the dominators and the controllers of how the waters flow, while we engineer fake foods, genetically modify organisms and now, even our very own bodies through all of the technological ‘innovations’ we are so proud of.

The very same ones that leave us believing we are the most powerful force in the world. Even as we sicken and suffer, while spreading dis-ease everywhere we go now, we continue on course because we are after all, in charge of it all.

Simultaneous to the misplaced power we ascribe to ourselves, we fear the power that is ours, and only ours, to rightfully claim. We deny our creativity, our instincts and intuitions, our voice and what it is that makes us unique in the ‘service’ of fitting in. We sidestep speaking our truths because we imagine dangerous societal repercussions. And we do our very, very best, to make sure we never, ever, stick out too much. Never draw outside of the lines or make a wave.

And even when we do go ‘against the grain,’ how often is our behavior more of a rebellious reaction, as opposed to a true expression of our authentic power? Behavior that arises purely and organically, and that has nothing to do with anything other than an expression of our own true Nature.

Do you think that the ocean cares that it is too rough for us? Do you think it worries that we are afraid of, or inconvenienced by, its deepest and most feral contents? Do you think for even one second it stops being what it is to fit in with our beliefs about what it should be?

We would all be well-served to dig a little deeper into our truest Nature. That which is undeniably beyond opinions and reactions (ours or another’s), while coming to the realization that who we are is not between us and other people, it is between us and that which created us.

Inspired by the ocean and by Mother Teresa’s poem “Do it Anyway.” And if you would like to reclaim the healing power that resides within you, consider joining me for The Healer Within.

Natural Rhythms

 

There is a vast difference between how I am “supposed” to be and how I actually am.

This can get lost, obliterated even, in the day to day expectations and demands of a world that no longer honors, never mind knows, what it takes to be a human being. Which is why I take to the natural world daily. And then on select occasions, why I take deeper forays into what is wild and untouched by the abuses of man.

Last weekend, one of these deeper experiences took the form of going into the mountains. Alone. Some people understand the solitude-seeking, and others are frightened by it. Yes, anytime we are alone, there will always be a mix of it feeling so right while simultaneously including fears of all sorts. But beyond either is the possibility of resetting my own internal clock. Of returning to what is most natural in me.

Like eating, moving, sleeping and relating on my own timetable. Something that can get ignored or distorted in modern life. Basic needs that call to be met according to their own internal clock, as opposed to the clocks that tell time and help us keep appointments, while being on someone else’s schedule.

While I was away, whether I was eating or hiking or sitting and staring into the wilderness, I kept asking the question, “What would it mean to live at the speed and need of my own natural rhythms?”

It went like this:

Since I have no where to be and am not on anyone else’s time frame, do I really need to be driving this fast?

Can I respond to the need to pee instead of gutting it out for the next hour?

I know I had one hike in mind, but can I change my mind mid-hike? Can I go longer? Or shorter?

And on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the mountains, can I crawl back into bed?

The mind has its own ideas about all of this. But I am not asking my mind. I am asking my body. 

Despite how many of us have become separated from this way of being, the capacity to tune into our own natural rhythms are encoded right into us and wait only for us to give it space and recognition. To honor it for what it is and what it can teach us. Like how to live well in the world we were born into. This was something we knew all about when we were little. We lived at the speed of the body. We didn’t just follow the rhythms of the body, we were the very rhythms of the body itself.

Now to you. “What would it mean for you today to live according to the speed and the need of your own natural rhythms?”

 

 

 

Do No Harm (As Best As You Can)

 

I am teaching a yoga class at my house this week, when out of the blue comes a “thud.” I know immediately a bird has just flown head first into one of our windows. There is nothing I can do in the moment, so I continue teaching; hoping against all hope that it is not dead, while equally knowing that based on the force of the thud, it likely is dead.

After class, I look out the window to see a beautiful robin, the very harbinger of Spring itself, lying dead on the ground. I decide to let it be where it is, thinking (hoping) that an animal will come by in the night to take it away so I don’t have to be the one to do it. As fate would have it, the robin is still there in the morning.

This is mine to do.

As I carry it towards the woods looking for a place to lay it down, I am connected to two things. The first being the childhood memories that start popping into my mind. How when I was a kid, I would find dead birds, mice, the desiccated turtles that had escaped our aquarium only to be found months later, along with the kitten that died on my birthday and more, that I would bury under the giant pine tree in our backyard.

In honor of that “random” memory arising right at the moment I have this dead bird in my hand, I look for a pine tree.

The second thing that comes up for me is that even when we as humans are trying not to do harm, we do. Like building a house in the middle of a huge open space that serves as the flight path for many eager birds building their nests at this time of year. We did not do it with the intention to harm. But it brought harm nonetheless. As evidenced by the robin in my hands, and all of the other consequences to the natural world through our choice to build something.

I do not say this to beat myself up, or even to say that we should not have built the house. That would be a waste of time, and an exercise in a guilty indulgence that takes us nowhere. As in, if I feel bad enough about this, it somehow balances what I did. It does not.

I say it as a point of fact. Everything we do has consequences to everything else around us.

There is no getting around this reality. And yet, we try. We pretend what we’re doing doesn’t matter. We ignore the consequences of our ways. We deny we have anything to do with the devastations going on all around us. We kick lots of cans down the road despite the impact it will have for the generations to come.

Or, as happens in so many segments of the culture (like the area I live in), we endlessly beat ourselves up, ever-guilty about every single choice we make. Frozen in our ability to feel good about being alive because we cannot choose anything without feeling remorse. We then we go on to judge and accuse others of not doing enough to save the planet. Of not caring enough. Of not feeling ashamed enough of our very presence.

It’s all exhausting, and it all misses the point. Everything we do has consequences to everything around us. Now what? Without hiding behind guilt, fear, or denial, now what? It is an absolute fact that we bring an impact to bear upon the world by the very nature of our existence here.

What if we started with that knowing, and lived from there? But this does not fit neatly into a definitive answer, and therefore does not sit well with us.

Do no harm, as best as you can is what I say. What might that even look like? In my view it is far less about the specific actions we take (although they matter a lot), and more about your level of awareness. A kind of consciousness that says I know I walk heavy here, how can I see that and still live in relationship with everything around me?

How can I honor all Life while living here as fully, responsibly, and joyfully as I can?

This is far more difficult to do and be with than guilt, or manmade rules. Which is why we likely opt for those approaches rather than a deep exploration around how we are here. If we were deeply contemplating our existence here, it would mean looking into the closed eyes of all the dead robins we have ever had a hand in.

Without turning away. Without beating ourselves up. Without blaming someone else, or feeling like we were entitled to something. What if we just saw that to be human in modern times is so very, very complicated, and that the very best that we can do, is to do the best that we can do.

What Will You Resource?

 

I am in practice this morning setting an intention for the month to come. Here in this moment, everything seems so doable. So clear. So full of possibility. And yet, I also know that when I meet up with the ways of the world, along with my own personal habits and limitations, I will have a choice to make. A choice that will feel far more difficult out there, than it does in here on my yoga mat.

That choice being: Do I do what I always do? Or do I do something else?

It is never easy “to do something else.” Our brains have a proclivity to default to the past to decide what to do. So whether it is your own personal past, or the evolutionary past of your reptilian brain, when challenged, you will always go to what you did in the past, as your first go-to. This makes good sense. Of course our brains would reference a past challenge to see what we did, and then go from there.

The problem being, that as long as we are still alive, our primal, default system believes that what we did in the past must have been successful because we’re still here. This part of our brain does not take into account the emotional and spiritual suffering we are experiencing by doing the same unsuccessful things over and over again.

There is no fighting with the most primitive parts of us. They need what they need. However, we can appeal to Something Else. For me, that always comes in the form of the Natural World.

I see this today as I make my intention, and then feel the uncertainty of being able to hold to this intention when challenged. At that very moment, the most poignant of questions arises: “When I am challenged, what will I resource?”

Instantaneously, a bird flies across my line of vision. As big as a crow, but not flying like a crow. I lose it as it lands in the trees. I find it again as it begins to beat out its rhythm. The telltale sound of the Woodpecker. I burst into tears as I realize I always have a choice as to what I will reference. Whether that be the same old unsatisfying ways or, though experienced as risky by my “past,” new ways that are more in alignment with the rhythms of my soul.

So, here’s the question: As you step forward in this day, will you resource a past that has kept you alive, or will you resource what allows you to thrive?