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.

Goodness

 

For the past several months, in the weekly yoga class I attend, we have been working with something called The Mother’s Symbol. It represents various faces and powers of the Divine Feminine, as well as twelve qualities, or virtues, to cultivate in life.

The virtues include things like Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude and Perseverance. This past week, we focused on Goodness. In the exploration, the teacher quoted the words of a great sage who wrote of “goodness for the sake of goodness.” In other words, not being good to get something, or to appear a certain way to others, and certainly not to use being good as something to lord over others.

For the whole class, all I could think about was us as a collective. Us as a culture that has come to weaponize goodness. Current day ideologies that have taken what it means to be “good,” and narrowly defined it to fit an agenda which is then used to call out and convict those who do not measure up to a biased and destructive definition.

But if we come back to “goodness for the sake of goodness,” we would see that this is never a virtue to claim for an external reason; whether to look good to others, get something, or keep from being cancelled or attacked.

Instead, real goodness is cultivated from within for its own sake; transcending outside agendas and our own personal fears. Goodness from its purest perspective is only about our own evolutionary and spiritual progress. Only about our connection to Something Far Greater than us.

Only about a return to the Truth of who and what we are, and where it is that we come from. This is vastly different from the social agreements and ideologies we commit ourselves to, or are forced into.

If we really knew this, we would never, ever, use goodness as a weapon against ourselves or others. We would never, ever, use it to try and control our own behavior or that of another. For that would be in violation of, a desecration of, the most fundamental and sacred aspect of our very Nature. That being, the inherent Goodness that lives within.

I am left wondering, as I often do, if in the world of social media, extreme and polarizing ideologies and party politics, if we will be able to find our way into our own inherent goodness. I pray for all of our sakes that we can. For without experiencing the Goodness within, how will we be able to see that in another, or know the Truth of who we really are?

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.

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.

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.

Nourishment

 

What Is Nourishing To You?

Have you ever really thought about what nourishment is, or explored it for yourself? Last night, in the monthly group I facilitate, this was the question I was exploring with some other women. The conversation we had is still reverberating with me so I thought I would continue it here.

The dictionary says that to nourish is to “support, maintain, promote the growth of.” Personally, this definition does not even come close to what the act of nourishing feels like to me when I am really doing it. The dictionary version feels too dry and disembodied to describe the deep, deep down feeling I get of being tended to in the most sacred of ways when I am really nourishing myself. 

Which is why I am proposing an exploration of your own. One that truly taps into the rich and luscious possibilities of discovering what nourishes you, along with what does not. And maybe most important of all, why you are not.

As with all things related to the health of mind, body and spirit, there is never any one-size-fits-all out there that could ever do justice to the experience of feeling fully nourished across all the changing moments of your life. To believe that would be to not only rob yourself of the greatest of experiences of learning to be more present to yourself, it would promote the rationale for believing that you are being nourished when in fact you are only accepting sloppy seconds. In other words, using sub par substitutes for what you most need and desire; believing that that is all there is for you.

So, how do you know? How can you tell whether something is truly nourishing or just some “facsimile of” masquerading as what you most need? Can anything be nourishing? Can something be nourishing in one moment, and not in another?

While I can’t answer those questions for you, you can. But the only way to do that is to learn to be in your body more and more often as you go through your day making all the decisions you need to make when it comes to that which nourishes, and that which does not. This is different then the habits you have, the thoughts you keep, the opinions of others, expert advice or what your past has to say.

Just writing that brings up how much there is when it comes to truly figuring out what is nourishing to each and every one of us. Which is why it can be easier to start by identifying the places in your life that it is not.

Nourishment is not, and never will be, a post on social media, a hashtag or a meme. It is never a way to beat yourself up or keep up with the imaginary Jones’s. It is never about medicating yourself or pleasing another.

Instead, this is a daily ritual of returning to yourself as often as you can remember to, while seeing that the choice of what you give to yourself is always yours. This takes time and practice. It also takes a lot of courage to put the pause button on long enough (despite the noise in your own mind and all around you) to connect to whether or not something or someone is feeding you. Or taking from you.

Here’s a practical way to get started. Make it a point once a day to catch yourself in a choice you are about to make. It could be eating, having a conversation, being in front of a screen, doing something on your to-do list. Pause. Ask yourself, “Does this feel nourishing to me?”

If so, keep going. If not, take note. Get curious, not judgmental. If you can, wonder to yourself, “Is there a way I can shift this to something more nourishing?” Maybe that means leaving the last bite of dessert untouched, excusing yourself from a depleting conversation, allowing yourself to be done even though the to-do list is not finished or being brave enough to disappoint another.

There is no good or bad, right or wrong here. Your only litmus test is whether or not you are honoring what you need in any given moment with something that is truly nourishing to you.

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



Through Whose Eyes?

 

Seeing ourselves through another’s eyes has its benefits. It can help us see what we cannot on our own; guiding us though our blindspots and limitations of self-recognition, while giving us the kind of reflection we all need to see ourselves, our circumstances and life in general in a more clear-eyed way.

Seeing ourselves through another’s eyes also includes a deep and dark shadow. As in, what if who is doing the seeing is unwell, afraid, biased or driven for some reason to keep you from being seen in your fullness?

As children, how we were seen by the adults around us created how we then went on to see ourselves. If that early seeing by another was clear, loving, kind and fair, we got one image of ourselves. If that seeing was distorted, wound-filled, mean or chaotic, we got another image of ourselves.

Recently, I got poison ivy all around one of my eyes. Not only did I get the telltale blistering, but because the eye is so sensitive, I also got all this swelling on my eye lid, and on the side and under my eye. Every time I looked in the mirror, all I could think of was that movie, The Elephant Man. I felt like his daughter.

So while there has been a fair amount of itchiness and physical discomfort, it has been nothing compared to the psychological discomfort. Dozens of times each day, especially when I am encountering other people, I find myself rehearsing what I will say to whoever I encounter. Some part of me wants them to know what’s going on here. A kind of compulsion to make sure they know this is not how I usually look. (This is also still the case with people who know how I usually look??!!)

So they won’t think…What? What am I working so hard to keep them from seeing?

That there’s something wrong with me? That they will be turned off by my appearance? Then what?

The “then what” is where it actually gets juicy because whether we know it or not, this is what we all suffer under. The belief that another won’t like something about us. And if they don’t like a certain something about us, they won’t like us. They won’t think well of us, include us, take care of us, give us what we need, that we will be left alone, made fun of, maybe even harmed.

All because we believe that if someone doesn’t like what they “see” about us, somehow, somewhere, we’re screwed. Which is why so many of us work so hard to manage how others see us. Hoping against hope that if we can just get them to see the “right” version, we’ll be loved, safe, happy…

But if you have been at all paying attention in your life you know exactly how this plays out. You know exactly how ridiculously hard you need to work to measure up to all the different seeings by all the different people. And you know exactly how often you must betray yourself to measure up; creating all kinds of inner tension, misery and inauthenticity.

As a human being who needs to be seen and to belong, I am susceptible to what others see in me. But because I am equally, if not more, committed to something more than acquiescing to old dysfunctional relational patterns, I have been doing an experiment. I have been intentionally not mentioning my appearance. Intentionally giving no explanation. Even when I know they are looking at my face and thinking about it.

Even when I feel nervous about what they are thinking about.

Something to consider. Whenever you find yourself explaining yourself, your behaviors, appearance, motives, it is a dead giveaway that you are trying to mange how another sees you. A dead giveaway that you are back being a kid who is worried about how others see you in terms of belonging, safety and survival.

That’s when you have a choice. Stay with the old pattern of letting who you are be reduced down to what another does or does not see. Or decide to see what it would be like to see yourself.

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?”