A Curated Life

 

I’m in the midst, on one particular morning, of tending to the new plants, making sauce and creating medicine when it strikes me that if I was on Instagram, if I was a so-called influencer, I would be having a very different experience.

I would have changed out of my comfy clothes and chosen a perfectly curated outfit to go with the homestead/farm feel of the moment. I would be staging my morning and positioning it all just so to give you the impression of just how perfect it all was. I would do this by taking multiple pictures from different angles with multiple filters to give you the impression of a spontaneous and unplanned moment.

In the process, I would have sacrificed all of the naturally arising peace, contentment, presence and gratitude that organically arises whenever I am in alignment with what I love best. Without the pressure to post and perform, I am connected to the abundance of the natural world and to a morning where I have the precious space I need to be with what matters most to me.

This is what is being lost in our ever so carefully curated lives: A chance to be with ourselves in a way that nourishes us. So much so that even when we choose not to take that picture, to refrain from posting, is it not what we are often thinking about even if we are not acting on it? Curated lives as a performance vehicle is so insidious now that it’s with us even when we are choosing otherwise.

What strikes me as the most disastrous, the saddest, the most dangerous even, is that we haven’t considered what we are losing each and every day as we orient ourselves ever-more to allowing the screens to mediate every moment of our existence. Desperate as we are to show others something about ourselves and willing to do so at any cost.

But only after it has all been carefully, carefully curated.

In the meantime, we don’t notice that our self-esteem is in the toilet, satisfaction in our relationships plummeting, our stress accelerating, the chase for perfection never ending, with our very existence reduced down to some glam shot.

Making The Necessary Adjustments

 

No matter what guidance I am asking for these days, I keep getting the message that this is a time for pausing and being open to making adjustments in how I do things based in reflection. As opposed to reaction.

While I feel the wisdom in this, following this sage advice can also feel at odds with the pushing out of the Spring energies that I am not only sensing all around me, but also feeling inside of me in terms of what I am called to offer into the world.

And therein lies the rub.

Is it possible to find that sweet combination of doing and being? Is it possible to stand in the presence of a world on fire and not join in? Is it possible to feel all I have to give and to to stay deeply rooted in a place beyond the demands of society?

Not only do I believe it’s possible, I know it’s necessary. A have-to in a world so star struck by the latest gimmick, hashtag, magic bullet, apocalyptic video or sensational story. We have become such a thoughtless people reacting out of our own fears and allegiance to all the wrong things. Like what the influencers, billionaires, celebrities and villains are doing. In our blindness, we have lost a connection to the necessity of pausing and reflecting; leaving us reactive, and therefore dangerous.

Dangerous because we are colluding with narratives that are at odds with our very nature and with the Nature all around us. The very same energies that tell us, There is a balance and a timing to everything. To live believing we are outside of, more to the point, above that wisdom, is to create chaos and harm through the violation of basic and non-negotiable Life principles.

All of this is happening when what we need most is wisdom born of a kind of steady, slow, thoughtful, decent and time-honored way of knowing and relating to the world. But this kind of approach doesn’t play well in a culture based in ever-increasing speed, volume and the incessant push for more and more, right now. Always right now with the insecure fear that if it doesn’t happen immediately, it’s not worth waiting for.

Or that it just won’t happen at all.

This is an illusion based in our separation from our own truest Nature and the the rules that govern the ways of the natural world. An illusion we have so easily bought into because we’ve been schooled to believe that progress looks like we should always being pushing for more. That we should let the people at the top take care of things. That we should let what comes across a screen tell us want to want. That we should just keep going along with things because this is just how it is now.

But like the Spring energies making all their adjustments to ensure the best growth possible, so can we. We can decide to take up our own lives by creating the space we need to slow down. To do less. To listen more. We can decide to question more what it is and who it is we are looking to to tell us what a good life looks and feels like.

We can do the difficult work of being honest with ourselves around what is not working in our lives as reflected by how sick, stressed and unhappy we are; using all those “bad” experiences to help us course correct into greater balance.

And it all begins by being wise enough and willing enough to pause in order to make the necessary adjustments.

Just This Moment

 

I am having one of those days where my thoughts are leaning towards anticipating negative scenarios and engaging in the “what if’s” the mind is so compelled to do. And while at this point I know enough of the machinations of the mind to not go down those rabbit holes, it still can nag away at me as it was doing on this particular day.

While I have many techniques I use to bring my mind back into balance, something happened quite naturally on this day that really struck me. After a walk with my husband where I had laid out my potential “what if’s,” we made our way over to gather eggs and look at what was happening with the starts and seeds we had recently planted.

It took no time at all for my anticipating mind to tune into something life-giving; shifting me out of a chaotic mind to one quite naturally and easily at peace. A mind at ease as it found itself immersed in the bigger picture of Life. All of this with no effort on my part, other than to be in relationship with Something Greater than myself, while spontaneously repeating over and over “Just This,” as I moved through the garden.

The “Just This” was my way of focusing only on what was right before me; whether that was the lettuce I was picking, the conversation I was having or the observations I was making of the seedlings. In effect, immersing my mind in the right now versus the “what if” future.

We so take whatever we think to be truth. As something to believe in and act on. Even when all signs point to the fact that our minds have gone off the rails with fear, anxiety and judgment. And while in this day and age there is no end to solutions for an imbalanced mind from medication to meditation, we can skip right over the most accessible and effortless of approaches to healing our minds.

Here I am referring to the natural world. To the elements and conditions and living beings that we have co-evolved with since we first appeared on the planet; our very home and the clearest reflection of who we are, where we come from and what we need.

Why would we go anywhere else to gain perspective and to ground ourselves in Truth?

Because we have been conditioned to believe that our well-being resides in a screen, a pill, more stuff, more prestige, more “likes,” etc. We have come to experience ourselves as separate from, and therefore not needing the support and the tutelage of what The Earth has to offer us. Unfortunately, many of us have strayed so far and for so long, we have come to see the natural world as foreign, dark and scary. An enemy as opposed to an ally.

But here’s the thing. We are Nature herself. We are created and maintained by the same force. To know this is to tap into the good news that even if we have forgotten, even if we never learned to begin with, all we have to do is to put ourselves in the Presence of the natural world for her to do her work on us.

So find a reason every single day to linger, even for one minute, somewhere outside. Go without agenda. Go and be a listener. Go and allow yourself to get lost in the breeze, a bird singing, some fragrance, a starry night, the feel of rain on your skin. And say to yourself, “Just This.”

 

Staying Human

 

I’m just back from a training in Ayurveda, the 5000 year old Indian tradition of health and healing. The focus was on the balance of the mind from an Ayurvedic perspective, with much of it centered around understanding ourselves at the level of our most basic, elemental Nature comprised of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space.

In other words, the things that make up not just a human being, but all of Nature. With the understanding that unless and until we see ourselves through the lens of what we are made of and how to be in harmony with that, we will suffer. That our mind will be in a state of suffering because we won’t know who we are on the most fundamental of levels. Meaning, we will seek out all the wrong things.

Juxtapose this longstanding Ayurvedic knowing that to depart from who we are and what we are made of is to be ill, against the headline I saw when I got back: New research reveals that touch may help with anxiety.

My immediate thought was, How sad it is that we now need research to justify hugs. My second thought was, This is another example of just how far we have strayed from our very existence, caught up as we are in the world of the non-human. In other words, the machines.

We have truly fallen into a dystopian “reality” where we need research outside of ourselves to prove to us that we need touch. And then we wonder why we are not doing so well. While our inflated egos might say we are the most intelligent of any civilization, interestingly enough, we find ourselves on the brink of personal and societal destruction. And not because of some outside agent like a virus or a nuclear bomb, but because of our own denial of, and departure from, our truest Nature.

We see this in the fact that despite all the technological “advances” we have never been sicker, fatter or lonelier. We have never been more at odds with the Natural world, our own bodies and the bodies of others.

We have never been more confused, child-like and afraid of Life itself in the forms of the weather, bugs, animals and all things non-man-made. And therefore out of our control. Because we keep believing that it’s just because we haven’t found the right technological fix, and that it is the next generation of technology that will save us, we miss all the answers living right under our very noses.

The answers to what ails us being the breathing of fresh, outside air. Or the way it feels for your feet to be barefoot in the earth while you feel the joy of the sun on your un-slathered skin. Or how about the experience of being in wide-open spaces where there is not a man-made thing in sight.

None of this is complicated, and it’s all built right into our human-ness. So what’s the rub? It’s that we have forgotten what we never wanted to forget: What it actually is to be human. We are living as if we can bypass that. We are living as if we do not fall under the requirements of our deepest Nature. And we do so at great peril; the evidence of which is all around us for all to see.

Sometimes it takes getting so far away from what is real and true in order to see what is, in fact, real and true. Then it becomes the path of remembering. An intentional turning back towards your own skin and what it most hungers for. But of course, that would require that you stop being overly enamored with the world of the machines, believing them to be the highest of our expression. And instead, become entranced with your very own Nature in the form of your own body and what it needs.

Tapping Into The Hermit Within

 

I write this blog on the day of the Winter Solstice. A time of year many of us dread because of the increased darkness with all of the scarier feelings of loneliness, low mood and more that can go with it. But there’s another way we can look at this time of year as we head into the winter season. A way of being with the much needed and seasonal rhythm of slowing down and going within as we send our energies into the roots that hold what most sustains us.

For a deeper exploration of the natural capacity to focus inward in this way, I turn to the archetype of The Hermit: The one who intentionally withdraws as a sacred act of devotion to the exploration of what lies within. The one who chooses consciously to retreat in the service of accessing and becoming more acquainted with the deep self. The one who decides to strip their existence down to the bare essentials in order to truly know themselves.

Sounds like an incredible recipe for a meaningful life. And it just might be the very antidote some of us are looking for in a world that is increasingly bent on selling us the meaningless and the superficial. A world organized around giving us the shadow side of The Hermit. That being, all of the ways that we can withdraw and check out in extraordinarily disconnected and destructive ways.

The “dark side” of The Hermit looks like socially isolating yourself; numbing out with substances, withdrawing from meaningful endeavors and connections, getting lost in the fantasy world of the screens. This is so easy to do because of all that we are bombarded with on a daily basis and because it is practically demanded of us that we “retreat” through the use of all the medications that have become the acceptable way now to withdraw in modern times. But when you truly understand the role and the power of The Hermit’s choice to withdraw, you’re more inclined to find your way back to the light-filled side of this archetype that withdraws, ultimately and always, in search of Truth.

That’s why The Hermit is never about checking out, but instead is a map for going below the surface of the conditioning, the societal pressures, the lies, the false realities, the obfuscations and the latest binge experiences being offered to us. This archetype is a direct route to reality with a capital “R.” A conscious and conscientiously chosen retreating as a way of respecting the complications and confusions of the realities of life in a body by giving yourself time out of time to align with true and life-giving versions of what this life is really all about.

This can be done formally by going away on a retreat. But it can also be something as immediate as your very own breathing, where you intentionally pause between one breath and the next in an effort to give yourself a moment’s withdrawal from the onslaught of the daily fray. You can carve out an hour for a walk, create a moment to step outside and look at the night sky, draw a bath, drive in silence or take a night off from the hypnotic and externalizing barrage of what comes out of the screens.

In so doing, your reward is great for The Hermit is the sage, the wise-one, the one who welcomes solitude and silence as the path for knowing how to be with all the seasons of Life. Even the darkest and scariest of them all.

Clarity Found

I’m up early. I am still adjusting to the time change from the week before. When I look out the window and see everything covered in frost, how it all glimmers in the light of the rising sun, I know why I was called out of bed so persistently.

The excitement builds and I can’t get outside fast enough. Everything is sparkling. And the air, oh the air, is so crystal clear. I take deeper and deeper breaths, feeling the medicine on each and every inhale. The unadulterated medicine of pure clarity. I breathe it way down deep; into every nook and cranny of myself.

The experience is life-changing; taking me beyond my confused mind and the muddle of the world. I see in this moment that despite what we might believe about life in the midst of so much chaos and confusion, there is clarity to be had. Right smack dab in the middle of so much destruction and obfuscation.

It originates in the quiet stillness of the air and the way it smells. It is reflected in the change that comes over me as I take this all in; what is outside of me taking up a place inside of me. Rearranging me. Becoming me.

I can see further and I can hear more. Yes, I know partly it’s because of the leaves being down, but it’s also something more. Much, much more. It is something beyond words, but it can be felt. And known. If only we would make ourselves available to It. On this particular morning, It has made itself available to me because I allowed myself to step outside of my routine. Because I was willing to see the power of availing myself to something much grander than the man-made world.

No smartphone will ever do this for you. I don’t care how “smart” we think they are. They do not, and will not, ever compare to a perfectly crystalline morning. To believe otherwise shows just how far we have fallen from the Truth of existence. For no news cycle, exciting new app, more “likes,” what’s trending or another stupid cat video will ever quell the disquiet that lives within.

Will ever return us to ourselves and what it is we most yearn for.

What I am with on this morning is the greatest Source of anything I will ever need. The clearest guidance I could ever use. The deepest reflection of what it is that’s true. Why? Because it is real. And because it is beyond beyond the made-up fears, the hang-ups, the mixed agendas and the incessant worrying of man. Pure and agenda-free in its origin, delivery and intention.

To align with this is to know oneself. It is to step beyond the noise. It is to choose for something real. It is to make a sane choice in an insane world.

Wake-Up Calls

 

In the past week, I have either fallen or stumbled and almost fallen, three separate times. They all happened while I was out running in the woods. And they all coordinated perfectly to my mind being stuck on an endless loop of negativity.

A fake argument with someone inside my own mind. Indulging old protective mechanisms against an anticipated attack. Feeling responsible for another’s choices. On and on it went. Until bam! Down I went. A startling but effective way to get me off the well worn, beaten path of a mind stuck on negative thought loops.

It’s been a powerful awareness for me in these moments because habits of the mind are not always easy to notice. Especially if the various themes of our thinking have been going on for years and years. Meaning, that what we’re thinking about can go undetected for long stretches. A lifetime even. And without something a little, or a lot, jarring to the system, we just won’t change.

Which is why I don’t mind the wake-up calls because what I know to be true is this: Negative thinking unchecked erodes my experience of what it feels like to be me. And it’s not a feeling I enjoy. That’s why I have come to appreciate these physical stumbles in the woods and see them as welcomed harbingers. Lightening bolts from my own soul saying “Knock it off. You deserve better than that. You have more important things to tend to.”

The call of the soul cares not for our comfort. Nor will it indulge us in our habits of mind based on our fears, the past or any other pieces of old conditioning. It’s only aim? For us to express ourselves fully and uniquely all in the service of remembering the Truth, with a capital “T,” of who and what we are.

So while I have never found my soul to be controlling or forceful, it can be very, very persuasive with the nudges it gives me, large and small, through the circumstances of my day to day life. I believe that’s the way it works. Little nudges offering us an opportunity to course correct how it is that we are living.

Maybe it happens through the experience of a health issue, a breakup, an argument. Perhaps you’ll get fired, your house will flood, or you’ll be betrayed. The soul can show up as an unsettled yearning, a depression, or a regret. Really, any of the things in life we wish with all our hearts would not happen and that we spend a lot of time and thinking trying to keep from happening.

But what if you saw every unwanted “happenstance” as a wake-up call? As a message from beyond and within. What then? Would you say yes to the stumbles and the falls that allowed you to see the beautiful forest of Life that you are passing through? Would you say yes to the chance to grow beyond the self-imposed limitations that keep you stuck in the wrong habits?

If so, be on the lookout for what is not working, for what breaks and for what just feels way past its prime in your life.

The Creepy Places

 

Out in the woods recently, the most amazing thought dropped into my mind: The less afraid I am of my own nature, the less afraid I am of Nature herself. I did not intend this thought to occur, nor was I even thinking about anything related to this statement. Nonetheless, when that knowing dropped in, I felt gifted by an enormous understanding of myself, as well as being the fortunate recipient of a map for how to think about what I see reflected in myself and in the natural world.

And that is why I love being in the woods. Or at the ocean. Or in the mountains. I never know what pearl might just drop into my mind. Solutions to big issues and ways of knowing the world in a more honest way find me without effort, and reveal to me what is possible with these minds of ours when we are not filling them with fear, excessive screen time, addictive substances, incessant distractions or insipid conversations laced with gossip.

Nature has its own undeniable and uncommodify-able Intelligence. A bounty that cannot be forced to offer itself, but that is available to us when we make ourselves available to it. My experience has been there is a kind of wisdom just waiting to express itself to us. If only we would just get out there and listen. If only we would just get out there and see that how we feel about the natural world is actually how we feel about ourselves.

Which is why I have noticed over the years that the less I make myself wrong, the less I need to make things like ticks, bees, slugs, and other “creepy” and “gross” things wrong. The less afraid I have become of my own dark and murky places, the less I need to demonize the shadowy woods and other locals or creatures that I don’t fully understand.

My time in nature has taught me that the more I accept and understand myself, the easier it is for me to include that the world is full of creepy, stingy, gross and slimy things that I just don’t get why they’re here. But whether or not I understand their existence is not the point. The point is, they belong, therefore we all belong.

With this said, it leaves me thinking maybe all of the chasing and the yelling and the legislating we are doing around Mother Earth and how to “save Her,” is actually another one of our human diversions that covers up what truly needs doing. Maybe what really needs to happen is for us to double down on getting to know the truth and the totality of our own human nature. Because I can guarantee you one thing: When we know the Truth of who and what we are, we will not harm, squander, demonize or try and control any of the Earth’s beauty or bounty.

No legislation required.

Getting Stung In Life

 

We got two new hives of bees this year. It’s been a nightmare. Since the very first day, they have been “overly” aggressive. I put that in quotes because I am quite sure that from their perspective, they are doing what they need to do. Nothing more, nothing less. But as someone trying to be in her garden, communing with nature and the bounty of the Earth, without being hounded or stung, it has felt over the top for me.

At times I have been outraged by this situation; threatening to others that I was going to set fire to them in the night and murder them all. I have rerouted my morning routines in an effort to placate them. I have avoided the garden and sent my husband, fully suited up in his bee suit, in my place. I have covered up, prayed, appealed to them in my mind and sent them love. All to no avail. They continue to do what they do, which sometimes means, stinging me.

All of this has left me with a hint of PTSD and a good dose of paranoia whenever I hear their telltale buzzing sound. It has even transferred over to my experience with the bumble bees who I get along with quite well; having no concern to be face to face with them when my head is poking around inside the flowers they are on while I am weeding.

Today, one of our bees landed on my basket of flowers while I was harvesting some fruit. I watched as the anticipation and fear of getting stung, again, welled up inside me. I looked around to see if there was more than one, having created of late in my mind, horror movie scenarios where hundred of them are attacking me.

There was only one. That gave me pause, and allowed me to see that with all of the stories I had in my mind each time they were around, or not, I was trapped inside a self-made hellish narrative where I was conjuring up fear before anything even happened.

We do this all the time. We anticipate all kinds of things we don’t want to happen; believing that our fears and worries will somehow prepare us. Will leave us in control. It’s all an illusion. Worse yet, our conjured fears rob us of the enjoyment of life and leave us with the impression that the world is an awful and dangerous place, and the best we can do is to clamp down on everything we are afraid of. Control it. Get rid of it. Make rules about it.

But to live a good life is to get stung sometimes. It is to face the fears of the moment that are born of the ghosts of the past. It is to recognize that it all gets to be here; the things we hate, the things we are afraid of, the things that offend us.

And so, when I add it all up, the getting stung against all of the angst I have created around this, getting stung is not such a big deal after all.

Exactly What Or Who Is It That Needs Saving?

 

I know we are all well aware of lots and lots of concerns, and even potential dangers, when it comes to what it happening to the Earth. I also know there are many ideas about how to proceed from doing not much at all, to regenerative approaches, to very intrusive and aggressive “solutions,” in our attempts to save the planet.

Personally, I would say we need to rethink the whole idea of saving the planet.

This is something I’ve been feeling for a long time now and it got touched off recently when I read the research our government is doing around solar engineering technology. In a nutshell, through the use of various technologies, the sun’s “harmful” rays are reflected back into the stratosphere.

My blood ran cold reading this as I began to wonder about the chain of events this could set in motion. Does it not occur to those in charge that directing the energy of one of the most powerful forces in the Universe back against itself and the rest of the solar system, might create something cataclysmic?

And as for the so-called “harmful” rays of the sun, how is this idea even in play given the life-giving influence the sun has on our planet? Without whose rays, we we would not be able to be here. Digging down further, does it make any sense whatsoever to interfere with something that is actually not even the problem?

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe this is another set of actions, strategies, initiatives and monetary outlays that keeps us from having to tangle with the most essential question of all. Is the sun our problem, or is it how we are living?

You would think given our illustrious history of disrupting the planet through DDT, glyphosate, GMO’s, deforestation and more, we might have learned something along the way about the consequences of our interventions. That we might have humbly learned to be the tiniest bit more cautious when it comes to our ideas about what can and cannot be controlled here on planet Earth.

Deepest of all questions, Are we once again refusing to address the root cause of what is happening? Of how it is that we have gotten to where we currently find ourselves? I think we refuse this question, because if we didn’t, there is only one conclusion we could possibly come to; the problem is us. It is us that needs the intervention. The planet does not need saving. We do.

I think the reason we are so overwrought with saving the planet is because it allows us to live in denial of our own actions. So like the family overly-focused on the behaviors of the addict, each person’s need to change goes unrecognized, and therefore undone.

But if you step back from all the denial, the fears, the arguments, the blame and the legislations, one thing is for sure: The planet will be just fine without us. She will go on. The real question is whether or not we will.

“Save the planet by saving yourself” is my motto.

In my experience, those of us who have learned how to “save” ourselves are those of us who have found greater balance within. People who know how to value and care for their own life, know how to value and care for the Life all around them. From this way of being there is no interfering with or trying to control anything. There is only a deep appreciation for Life in all its forms which goes on to serve as the basis for all decisions and actions taken in the world.

But here’s the catch: It’s way harder to save yourself than to save the planet. Far more difficult to roll up your sleeves and do the life-saving work on your own life. Way more strenuous to root out all the self-loathing, the disconnections and the misunderstandings and misuses of your own power that result in our current collective circumstances.

Maybe that’s why we don’t do it.