Where Your Attention Goes…

 

Have you ever found yourself trying to make sure something didn’t happen? Put all your energies into the avoidance of something? Got very internally tight trying to keep something from occurring? Built your life around making sure the thing you didn’t want to happen, didn’t?

How’s it working for you?

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself bumping up against a mindset which I will call, “trying not to be sick.” This was a surprise to me as I value being sick and the ways it gives my immune system a stretch, offers the necessary genetic upgrades my body needs to be in harmony with the world I live in, as well as teaching me so much about myself. Not to mention, I have lots and lots of tried and true go-to’s that I lean into when I am not well and that I trust implicitly.

So being sick is not something I typically fear. Or so I thought. For lurking far beneath the surface of my awareness, beneath years and years of aligning to a belief system that trusts my body in illness, there it was. I was doing my damndest, not to be sick. It got me to thinking about a whole bunch of things, a couple of which I’ll share here: One, how incredibly intractable old belief systems can be even after you thought you had moved beyond them. Two, how terribly, terribly wrong we’ve got it as a collective when it comes to what it means to be alive.

For the Truth is, there is a vast difference between trying not to be sick, and focusing on supporting yourself back to health. An absolute chasm between allowing your body to be ill and do what it needs to do, and trying to make something go away. An enormous gap between seeing the gifts illness has to offer, and refusing to notice what it is your body is trying to tell you.

Look around. Listen to the conversations you have with others. Mostly, pay attention to the thoughts you think inside your own mind when it comes to getting sick. Is there a sense of opportunity in what you can learn about yourself, or do you live terrified by what is or can happen to your body? Do you see illness as an opportunity to reset and take better care of yourself, or do you believe something is being done to you? Do you follow the bread crumbs of your days back to learn how you got yourself out of balance, or are you just annoyed with your body and looking to slam it back into production?

And these days, do you pay attention to what you need to be well, or have you picked up the recently ill-conceived co-vid narrative that to be sick is to be an enemy and a danger to those around you?

Avoiding being sick is not the same thing as paying attention to the signs and signals your body is giving you. It is not the same thing as taking a hard look at your life to see where you have gotten out of harmony with the truest needs of your life. It is not the same thing as using an uncomfortable experience to inform and guide you back into balance.

This is one of those enormous paradigm leaps where we go from the earth is flat to the earth is round; putting into action the belief that we create our own reality and that where our attention goes, our energy flows. Meaning, what we focus on matters. A lot.

Sick or not, every minute of every day, you have a choice about where you put your attention; on what you want or what you don’t want. If this makes sense to you, get in the habit of paying attention to the mind chatter. Is it encouraging you to go for what you actually want, or is it demanding that you listen to, and act on, what you don’t want?

Then, choose. Over and over and over again. Until you get your mind in the habit of orienting to what you most want. Does it take time? Yes. But what better way to spend your life than devoting your precious attention and energy to what you actually desire?

What Enlivens You?

 

The day is magnificent. The sky a deep clear blue. The temperature crisp with leftover night frost on the windshield, but with the promise of a warmer day on the way. I am going out for a run for the first time in weeks. It feels like a big deal, because it is. This is much more than an act of habit, or getting some exercise. This is an act of me staking a claim for my own aliveness.

I am choosing for what brings me energy, as opposed to for the conditioned fears of my own mind or what conventional “wisdom” might say. You see, after getting sick recently, I have been left with a lingering cough. The kind of cough that seems it could go in any direction. A cough that has been defying all my attempts to clear it. A cough that has got my fear-based mind conjuring up all kinds of scenarios.

Bronchitis? Pneumonia? Maybe the things I know to be true about how a body heals don’t apply here. Maybe it’s my age and this is just what I can expect from here on out.

“Fuck that” is the conclusion I finally came to this morning. Why am I going to give over my precious life to made-up fears? Why am I going to link up to cultural narratives that I abhor? Why am I going to diminish my own aliveness and what is possible by playing it safe? Why am I going to link into the widespread addiction of fearing my own body?

And so out I went. Not in defiance, and certainly not in denial. But instead, I went out with myself to see what this body of mine was up for. Not to push it or control it, but to be with it and what it had to say.

And you know what it said?

“This is great and you’re doing great!” It feels so good to be out here. So good to be feeling the sun and the rhythm of my own feet on the Earth. I’m so happy. So grateful to be alive!”

We all know how to be fearful, cautious and careful. But do we know what brightens our Spirit? We all know how to dull our aliveness through anxiety, worry, eating too much and more. But do we know how to feed our own life force? We all know the cheap sense of aliveness we get from drugs, alcohol and the screens. But do we know how to nourish the sacred energy that flows through us?

What brings you alive? Do you even know?

It’s not hard, and it doesn’t cost a thing (other than your interest and commitment). Step outside. Feel the sensation of temperature and weather. Let go of judging that it’s too this or that for you. Instead, tune into the fact that each sensation lets you know you are here. You are alive. And that you have a choice about how to be with it all.

Staying Close To Your Body

 

Last weekend I was in the mountains hiking with a friend. Recounting some of my history with hiking and why I feel the way I do about it, I was brought back to the early days of getting out onto the trail. At the time I was in my mid-twenties and living a very destructive, disconnected, and I would even say, abusive, relationship with my body.

Really, I could not even call what I had with my body back then, a relationship. It was more like I was some foreign exchange student visiting a frightening and overwhelming country where I didn’t know the language; leaving me confused, scared and frustrated a great deal of the time.

But out on the trail, and by necessity in order to be able to do what I was doing, I had to learn to be with my body in ways I never had before. I actually had to pay attention to it if I expected it to be able to get up and down a mountain in one piece. I actually had to stop overriding the messages it was sending me to be able to keep going.

What did that look like?

Paying attention to basic signals of thirst, hunger and physical sensation. I had to notice before I got depleted physically what my body needed by way of food and water. I had to tune into the twisted shoulder strap, the crinkled sock or the fact that I was overheating or cooling down too fast.

Otherwise what was something small and manageable in the moment, became too big and unmanageable to compensate for later on. The body is amazing in its endurance, resilience and redundancy out on the trail, but pushed beyond its limits in uncaring and unthinking ways, you will pay the price. Every single time.

Because I was first getting into hiking well before cell phones and from a time when we were all a lot heartier, the expectation was that, except in the most dire of circumstances, you got down under your own steam. It wasn’t just you out there. It was also those you were with, as well as those who might risk coming out to rescue you. So you better be able to do what needed doing.

This meant that I had to learn fast how to stay close to my body because attending early to something calling for my attention got me one kind of a hike, while waiting until the messages had become wildfires that were out of control got me another kind of a hike.

For me, and from the very start, hiking is and always has been a metaphor for life in a body. Not just with myself, but also in terms of what I “owe” to others. What I need to pay attention to out there is not unlike what I need to pay attention to in the day to day. Both for myself, and others.

Here are some simple “trail” instructions:

Stay close to your body and its most basic needs, while attending to imbalances and physical urges early and often. Remember you have a duty to those you are traveling with. A duty to hold up your own end.

Which can only be done if you know how to take care of your own end to begin with.

Devotion

 

I was talking with someone recently struggling to take better care of herself. Despite “knowing better,” she just can’t seem to get there. Each time she “fails” it seems to solidify something negative about her in her own mind. I think we can all relate.

How many promises have you made to yourself around health and self-care, only to break them?

I would tell you that it is not due to a lack of willpower, or that your intention was not a good one to begin with. I would tell you that it’s not that you don’t have the right diet, app or gear. Or that the program you were trying was faulty somehow. I would tell you that any of the above, as well as any like them, is not why what you’re doing is not working.

What then?

I would tell you that it is a lack of devotion to the preciousness of your own life that stands in your way.

OMG! Are you kidding me? That’s too much. Too esoteric. Too sad. Too hard. I’d rather go back to having the wrong outfit or signing up for the wrong diet! I get it. Changing something external about our lives seems so much easier, faster and more convenient. But it’s a lie to believe it will be the fix for a broken sense of how precious you are.

More than that, Why has it become so difficult to really, really devote ourselves to the value of our own life?

The truth is, if you keep avoiding the fact that the very reason why what you’re trying isn’t working is because down deep, you don’t think you’re worth it, not valuable enough, you will forever stay on the miserable, ineffective and shame-inducing hamster wheel of seeking external solutions. Ones you will have to try, over and over again. Ones that will cost you; both monetarily and in terms of how you feel about yourself.

More than that, you will miss the beauty of you and what you are really all about. This blindspot will also have you missing the sacred preciousness of Life all around you.

But if you can see that the reason why external attempts fail is because denying yourself the necessary devotion you have a right to, will always undermine your efforts, you are starting in the right place. If you can see that the external fix mentality, capitalized on now by a multi-billion dollar wellness industry, banks on you failing to keep you coming back for more, you begin to free yourself.

There is no external fix for a belief system that says I’m not worth it. I don’t deserve it. My life is not precious.

Learning how to honor, value and love yourself is the very foundation for self-care, and it is non-negotiable. Once you begin to engage with yourself in this way, the specifics of what you’re doing more naturally fall into place through an organic alignment with what is devotional and life-affirming. In other words, when you are no longer bouncing around from “solutions to solution,” you are instead guided to what you most need.

This is a powerful and far-reaching orientation as the long-term health of your life and those around you hangs in the balance. And it is as close and immediate as your next choice. That’s the place to start.

Your very next choice. 

When you’re about to decide the next thing to put in your mouth, the time you will go to bed, that person you will spend your time with, the outfit you put on, how much you give to work, the way you spend your money, whether you go for that walk or not, spend time on yourself or not, ask yourself these essential questions:

Does this choice reflect the preciousness of my life? Is this an act of self-devotion?

And if it’s hard for you to devote yourself in this way, find a picture of yourself when you were little. Look at your younger self and pose those very same questions while giving yourself all the time you need to catch up to what is, and always has been, Truth.

Your life matters. You matter. You are precious. A life lived with devotion to that knowledge changes everything in ways they most need to be changed. From the inside-out.

Intentions

 

Intentions are a powerful way to focus a mind that loves to dwell in the limitations and pain of the past, along with the apprehensions and anxieties of the future. But more than anything, intentions put you into direct contact with what you really want in life. Which then puts you into direct contact with all of the ways that you undermine what it is that you really want in life.

This past year, I have bumped up my intention setting to include a monthly ritual on each new moon to get very clear about something in my life based on the astrology we are in. Basically, I am aligning myself with my own energies as well as larger Universal forces; helping me to accelerate whatever it is that I am navigating towards.

Then, I spend the following weeks bringing myself back over and over again to what I have intended. This helps me to navigate by a True North (what it is that I most want) and gives me something to align with when I have gotten off course (what it is that I don’t want).

Given the long list of distractions and addictions available in the culture at this time, without a clear intention of what you most want in Life, you will be doomed to keep repeating over and over again what is not working for you.

This month the new moon was in the sign of Virgo. I have a special feeling for this sign as it is all about the body. Not only one of my favorite topics, but the very cornerstone for everything I do in life. And this doesn’t just apply to me. We cannot be here without a body. Nor can we enjoy ourselves or have energy to create what’s important to us when we are in a body that feels like crap.

Does it not make sense then, to create a special relationship with this one body of yours?

One way to begin is to let yourself imagine what it is that you really want when it comes to your body. This month, I did that by creating an intention for myself at the new moon: May I know what it is to live in this body feeling fully blessed, loved, protected, understood and seen.

As I go through my days, I can pinpoint the moments when I am in alignment with this deep desire, and when I am not. As always, it breaks down to my state of mind. Am I in an old place when experiencing my body, an anticipated future, or am I here right now? And when I am here through the lens of the present versus the past versus the future, what is my experience like in each state when it comes to how it feels to be in this body of mine?

I will tell you something that holds true for all of us. No matter what your body is feeling or experiencing, when you are only in the present moment with what is happening, not only is the experience doable, you will find more sustenance and support than when you are imagining past or future scenarios about what it all means. Further, only when you are in your body now, as is, can you experience feeling fully blessed, loved, protected, understood and seen.

No matter what is happening.

Your One Body

 

You only get one body, and you will be with that body for the rest of your life. The relationship you have with your one body will be the most enduring one of your entire embodied existence. Does it not make sense then, to cultivate a deep and trusting connection with this one body of yours? One that transcends doubts, self-loathing, fears, worries, distrust and agendas that undermine its healthy functioning, and your ability to feel good about being in a body. 

It can be easy to believe that our high rates of disease, illness and overall bodily disconnection are just the way it is now. But what if there is much, much more to this story? What if essential pieces have been left out when it comes to the basis of your health and well-being? And what if some of those missing pieces have to do with who it is that is actually responsible for your health, what your body truly needs and what it is that your symptoms are really all about? 

There is an ever-growing awakening that we have strayed too far from what is good for us, and that our current main‐stream medical approach appears to be incapable of saving us from the ill health and bodily disconnection that are far too common now, and that seem only to be accelerating; with greater levels of suffering on the rise now as we seek answers and quick fixes outside the realm of our very own embodied know-how. 

This can be hard to hear. It can feel so much easier to believe that the fixes we seek for the body will be in a piece of machinery, an expert or a pill. That what these bodies of ours need most will come in the form of something far more intelligent than these bodies of ours. Something more infallible, orderly and guaranteed. Something safe because ‘everyone’ else is doing it, or because our doctor says so. 

But what if this view is wrong? What if the reason so many of us are suffering so much in our bodies is because we have not started with what is real and true about who we are and what we most need? What if what we actually need is not complicated at all, but as simple and as close to us as our next breath? Or a well-placed question? Or a tending to one of our body’s most basic and non-negotiable needs like hydration, real food, rest, movement or connection? 

In a world that has normalized harming and mistrusting the body, sometimes even requiring this as a way to fit in, doing things differently from those around you requires great courage. We have such a powerful, survival-based need to belong that it can feel impossible to do anything but conform. To do what others are doing. To do what we are being told to do. No wonder it can feel so unsettling to trust these bodies of ours if it means doing things differently than those around us. 

But how good is it for you, or the community for that matter, to continue to go along with what does not serve the very best in you? Or that even downright violates your body’s most fundamental requirements and your trusting relationship to it? Learning to trust your own body is a lifelong process and is as basic and in the now as asking yourself throughout the day, What is my body experiencing, and what does it need?

Excerpted from my book, Trusting Your Body: The Embodied Journey of Claiming Sacred Responsibility for Your Health & Well-Being



Who’s The Expert?

 

There’s a lot in the air these days about who’s in charge when it comes to our health. Given the divisiveness and the accusations that abound here, it feels a little dicey even putting it out there. But if we don’t take a deeper look at who is the ultimate authority when it comes to the health and well-being of our bodies, we will not only continue to be at each other’s throats, we will have missed the most important question of all:

What makes for true health, and in whose hands does it belong?

Thinking about this, I was taken back to a time when I was working as a therapist-in-training. There were so many rules about how to engage with a patient. The proper boundaries around interactions that we had to set. The legal requirements around how to practice, and how to keep from being sued.

And then of course, and perhaps most ‘important’ of all, was the agreed upon (and often unspoken) narrative that drove the therapeutic interaction: The therapist is the expert and they know far more about the patient than the patient knows about their own life, what the trouble is and what they most need. In other words “I’m the expert and it’s up to me to tell you what’s wrong with you and how to fix it. It’s your job to do what I tell you.”

This never sat well with me, though at the time I could not have told you why. But now I can.

To ever presume that you are the expert in another person’s life is to not only create an imbalanced relationship that carries with it the promise, or at least the possibility of abuse, is nothing compared to what you will have robbed that person of. That being, their experience of learning how to claim their own inner authority.

For any of us to come to know a sense of full adult status, we must traverse the difficult terrain of claiming full responsibility for ourselves; the choices we make, and the lives we create through those choices. It is by engaging with all of the decisions that we must make as an adult in charge of our own body that we reap the power, clarity, strength, autonomy and authority that we require to live in health. And that our communities require of us in order to create healthy communities.

Becoming the bona fide expert in our own lives is the single, greatest contribution we will ever make to our life and to the lives of those around us.

Just as every parent must understand that to keep a young adult child tethered to us and our expertise may feel safer than letting them figure out what they must on their own, to do this is to cripple them. It is to rob them of a sense of self-trust and inner authority.

It is no different with the health of our bodies and with those who would appoint themselves as the ‘experts.’ We must, each on our own, be allowed the space and the freedom to decide what is best for us, mistakes and all. To do anything less is to cripple a populace. It is to keep them infantilized to parentified and controlling outside authorities.

In the end, it is to undermine the richness and the possibility of a world based on a kind of organic health that seeds itself in individual expertise, that then goes on to blossom into health for all.

Bodily Reflections

 

“How can I stand without gripping?”

I am in my morning practice as I ask myself this question. Why this question? Because I am noticing for the umpteenth time the way I am clenching and gripping the muscles on the outside of my hips to hold myself upright.

At this point in time, I know enough to know that not only is this not necessary in order to keep me standing, as importantly, this pattern serves as the root cause of the pain I often get in my left hip and lower back. And yet, all these years later, it’s still there. Hence my question.

Posing this question is significantly different than imposing something on my body. Like trying to force it into a new position. It’s also different than medicating myself against and away from what my body’s messages of pain, imbalance and discomfort are. These approaches never work because they are not including the most important ingredient; my body and what it’s telling me.

I have come to know that when I wonder about something with my body, it always gives me information. The most fascinating thing of all being, I never know what it’s going to reveal. I know this can be a source of fear for a lot of us, but I will tell you:

There is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the messages of your body. If you are willing to be open to truth.

Today’s truth for me had nothing to do with reminding myself over and over again to release muscles. Instead, the truth being spoken today had to do with releasing an old way of meeting up with the world. One where I am hanging on for dear life to take a stand in a world I perceive won’t be interested in what I’m offering, or will somehow be hostile towards what I am bringing forward. (With the bodily gripping being a way I shore myself up for the perceived assault.)

You can see then, that no amount of reworking my muscles or taking pain medication will ever resolve what is happening in my body, unless and until, I address a pattern far deeper than the way my muscles grip.

This way of being with ourselves not only changes the health of the body, it takes us directly to a greater Truth of who we are and why we are here. To try and control or  medicate against our bodies in order to shut them up, is, in effect, shutting up our very existence.

The Healer Within

 

When you think of the word “Healer,” what comes to mind? Someone in a white coat? A shaman? Or maybe something in between?

I am guessing though, that whatever your image or definition is, it is likely, not you. That for most of us that word conjures up someone else. Something outside of you. Someone more knowledgeable and more expert than you.

When I looked up the etymology of the word “heal,” it comes from the Old English. The definition, in the exact order it was given in, goes like this: Cure. Save. Make whole. With a “healer” being one who heals. 

In other words, a healer is one who cures, saves, or makes whole.

A lot is revealed in the order of the wording in the definition as we go from cure, to save, to make whole. I think the order speaks directly to where we are in our own healing evolution; both individually and collectively. As in, when we believe that health is about curing and saving as opposed to making whole, we find ourselves in a more primitive (dare I say outdated) evolutionary model of health and healing.

Personally, I believe that there is an essential distinction that needs to be made by more of us if we are to make the necessary evolutionary leap beyond the illness model we now subscribe to and into a greater and vaster possibility.

Without using being cured or saved as the litmus test, what might happen if more of us began to see what health is, and how we heal from a more advanced perspective?

We know all too well, having done it for far too long now, the experience of being cured, looking for a cure, feeling incurable, with all of the shame, frustration, and fear that goes along with this. We also know all too well its companion; outsourcing our authority to someone who “knows better.” Someone who can save us.

This place of looking to be cured by a savior is nowhere more prevalent than in our conventional medical system. But what if this paradigm is incorrect in terms of where the real healing resides? And what if healing is about so much more than just health? 

These are enormous questions to contemplate. Even more challenging to put this mindset into practice. We are so conditioned to look for cures in the hands of someone other than our own. Which is why we need new ways of thinking about what healing is, and in whose hands it actually belongs.

If you’re up for it, try this: Spend some time in a quiet moment thinking about a challenging health issue in your life. If you could take the worry and the someone-else-knows better-than-I-do out of the equation, what would healing mean to you if it wasn’t about being cured or saved by someone else?

Specifically, what would healing look like, feel like, and yes, require from you, to make whole something about you and your life? An evolutionary shift that would help open you to the possibility of being your own Healer Within in the service of a greater experience of wholeness.

In my world, that would be a true advancement in modern medicine.

 

P.S. If you are wanting to explore more deeply your own Healer Within, please visit https://rememberingwhatmattersmost.thinkific.com/courses/membership

Embracing Obstacles

 

It’s not easy being in a body. There are so many sensations, pressures, thoughts, beliefs and experiences that go along with how we feel about our bodies, and what it means to inhabit them. That’s why it can feel preferable to “leave” them. Or let someone else be in charge of them.

It has become a socially condoned way of “living” to leave our bodies and what it is we are experiencing. Take my college students and the way that they “party.” The way they use drugs and alcohol to knock down the stress. To keep them from feeling what they don’t want to feel.

I know this place. All too well. It was how I lived for years. Partying, eating and exercising to excess and as punishment. Self-loathing and worthlessness arising out of the choices I was making. It was only when I began to feel how horrible what I was doing to myself felt, that I was able to shift. Only when I was willing to encounter the obstacles to good and fulfilling connection with my body did things, slowly and steadily, begin to change.

While incredibly difficult, excruciating and sad to come up against the obstacles that were keeping me from myself, it was real. Most of all, it was true. Obstacles are an absolutely unavoidable and essential part of the journey of being at home in our own body. So that’s where I began. With what was real by way of what was in between me and my body. In between me and my ability to be at home in myself. 

I know the current thinking is to get away from what feels bad. I would even go so far as to say that it is built into us as mammals to get away from what causes pain. That it is a necessary part of our survival and coping mechanisms to avoid what hurts. This life-giving tendency most certainly has its place. However, in modern day living where our pains are often self- and culturally-induced, with no connection whatsoever to real physical survival requirements, our wires have gotten crossed when it comes to avoidance. 

The basic, primal instinct of avoidance has gotten flipped on its head, and is now bringing harm rather than relief, while being met by a world all too happy to sell us things that keep us from ever having to feel what it is to be in our own bodies. 

Given the cultural mindset that says “Take this to get away from feeling what you are feeling in your body,” to hear that in order to be at home in yourself, you must go towards what you typically avoid, can sound paradoxical. Or even insane. But if we don’t include this part of embodiment, we’ll miss out on some of the most important information we need when it comes to the body and how it is that we are treating it. Not to mention that it is pure fantasy to try and avoid what we would rather not know. 

Acting as if something is not there, does not make it so.

It is only when we include what does not feel good, what is not working, what is keeping us from a good relationship with ourselves, can we see that what we’re doing is actually not working. Maybe even hurting. That any of the denying, diversions and medicating we’re engaging in, outweighs any “benefits” they may bring in the short-term. Worst of all, that what we’re choosing through our avoidance may actually become the impediment itself to healing what ails us.

In the end, keeping us from not only the health we desire, but the opportunity to know ourselves fully through the empowered journey of learning to trust and care for ourselves.