The Limitations of Certainty Seeking

 

A friend of mine introduced me to the phrase, “certainty seeking.” It means just what it sounds like.

While it is so natural as a human being to want a high degree of certainty guaranteed, when it comes to how things in Life will go, it is an illusion. As a species we seem to be the only ones on the planet who not only do not know that there are no such guarantees, we go so far as to demand that it be so; compounding an already dangerous and misguided notion.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what to do. While terrifying to hold at first, this orientation to Life is a true one. A real one. One that lines us up with reality, thereby allowing us to be with things from a clear starting point. Meaning, we are much more likely to respond with accuracy and in a right-sized manner.

This past week, I had a surprising turn of events in that suddenly my back was spasming with such intensity that I could barely walk. I could not take a deep breath. Nor could I get my pants on by myself. In the midst of the worst of it, my husband found me sobbing, “I don’t know what to do.” All of my usual approaches and remedies had fallen short. Nothing was working.

Later, working with one of my practitioners, he uttered the phrase “trapped vulnerability,” which initiated another round of sobbing. There it was. The physical pain was nothing compared to the deep existential vulnerability of being alive that I was up against. Now the question became, “How am I going to be with this?”

What has unfolded over this week is that my deepest vulnerability is bound to my deepest power. That giving way to vulnerability and uncertainty puts me back into alignment with Truth. The doorway in being, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what is going to happen.” It is from this place that I create an opening. A portal if you will, where things I never thought of have a chance to reveal themselves. Where unimaginable support has a chance to come in. And where the most unbearable pain turns into Strength. Possibility. Healing.

We are living in times where a kind of dogma of certainty has settled over us like a plague; settling in us and between us. The message? This, and only this is what you are allowed to believe in. If you do, you are guaranteed a certain outcome. And while to many of us this certainty can feel so reassuring, it is illusion. One that is robbing us of Truth and Possibility.

To believe that another can offer you the certainty you seek is a fool’s errand. An existential foreclosure. Worst of all, somewhere deep inside, you know it is not true. To trade in this lie is to set yourself against the forces and the powers of the Universe. The very same One, which never has and never will, offer you that type of guarantee.

The Future of Health

 

Not long ago, I saw a commercial which seems to sum up where we are, and where we are headed when it comes to health. Unless, that is, enough of us decide for something else. Something more True. More Real. More Life-affirming. More, well, human.

The commercial opens with the following tagline: “The future of health is on your wrist.” We are then shown a woman operating at warp speed in her life, while being continuously reminded by the device on her arm to “Relax.” Then it tells her to “Run.” Then “Swim.” Then do “Tae Kwon Do.” Then “Dance.” I watch in horror as she manically leaps from one instruction to the next; all directed by a tiny machine she is wearing on her arm.

If this weren’t so alarming, it would be funny. Saturday Night Live parody funny.

But it’s not funny. Not when we consider how many of us take health advice from people trying to sell us something, and whose mixed agenda includes delivering messages of “health and well-being” while bolstering their the bottom line by keeping us ever insecure and doubtful about our own ability to go it without them. It becomes even less funny when we break down the messages that are being taken up by viewers regarding what it means to be healthy. Images that are telling us that instructions from a piece of technology are what we need to be listening to. That somehow we will not know what we need, or what to do, and that it is best to outsource that knowing to something non-human.

In our infatuation with, and now indoctrination into, all things technological in order to stay healthy, we are losing the main and central ingredient to health and well-being. That being, it is built in and is predicated on a personal knowing born of experience and attention.The “knowing” of which I speak is inborn, and yet it requires both cultivation and protection. It does not take its cues from a commercial. Nor does it require a machine in order to stay well. In fact, the abdication of this personal knowing is what is at the heart of a deep and dangerous disconnect from the natural and healing wisdom of our bodies.

The future of health would do well to consider not only what is presently happening in health care, but to take a good, hard look at how it is that we have arrived in a place where so many of us are so sick and so disconnected from the most basic principles of how to care for a human body. For before we can talk about the future, we must weed out what is currently not working. What is outdated. Misleading. Harmful even.

Do you want to know what the real future of health is? IT IS YOU. It is your inner and personal knowing restored, trusted, and acted upon. And it is so, so basic. As basic as paying closer attention to yourself. For instance, how often do you see something advertised that is claiming to be able to improve your health, and that you jump at because you think either this will be easy, or because “they” must know better. Watch the impulse to outsource your health and well-being while getting into the habit of checking in with yourself, asking, “Is that really what a human being needs to be well, or am I being sold something?”

 

Self-Care 101

 

Look around, we have never had more information about taking care of ourselves. Eat healthier. Exercise. Get more sleep. Be grateful. Take time for yourself. Breathe. On and on it goes. And yet…we have never been sicker. Less happy. Less fulfilled. Less ourselves. Dare I say, less human.

What’s going on?

Mostly, when I talk to people, they will sheepishly admit, yes they know they need to do something. And they’ve tried. God, have they tried. And it will even seem like what they are doing is working, at least for a bit. But at some point, without fail, after some period of time, they find themselves back to where they started. In other words, back to ignoring themselves and denying what it is that they really need to do in order to take good care of themselves.

Sure, the world is distracting. And we are too busy. Yes, the corporations have now created a multi-billion dollar industry to keep us tied to them to feel like we are taking care of ourselves. Because without them, we wouldn’t know what we needed or what to do. But what if the real reason why we never get there is because we are running right past the obvious? Right past what we have all begun to forget. Or know how to access.

That being, that at its most basic and authentic, self-care is built in. Innate. Hardwired into the nervous system. Into every cell, organ and tissue layer. Think about it. What then? For if it is built in, that means we all already know how to do it. It means that even if we have strayed, even if we never got it through our upbringing and environment, it can never be lost to us. It also means that we, and no other, are the ultimate authority in terms of caring for ourselves, and that all practitioners, medical suggestions, edicts, trends, research and fads are never the real source of what it is that we need to be well. Can these things serve as potential support? Sure. The final word? Never.

How could it be any other way? Without the ability to care for ourselves, and with it the built in knowledge of “how-to,” there would be no human species. For without care, there is no Life. Sadly, if you look closely enough, “no Life” is just where we are hurtling towards as a species when you witness the rates of cancer, heart disease, debilitating depression and more. This is not bad luck, bad genes or just the way it is now. This is a result of an entire species turning its back on what is most natural to who we are; the ability to care for ourselves and others.

Maybe, we are at this point to finally remind us all that our health and well-being resides within, and that what we are seeing is the end point of hundreds of years of being pulled into a kind of inner blindness. Blinded to the absolute biological Truth that the Urge for Life to continue and to care for itself lives within. And can only be extinguished at death.

Health & The Self

 

Last night, I taught a class focusing on health from an Ayurvedic perspective. (Ayurveda being the ancient 5000 year old healing tradition of India.) From this perspective, there is a well-known definition which outlines the fundamentals of health; going from purely physiological states all the way to a unification of body, mind and soul. But it all begins with the premise that one is “established in the Self.”

Take a moment to sense what that might even mean to you. This is a deeply personal exploration, and therefore, unlike what many of us have been taught to believe, there is no right or wrong here. So, what would it feel like to be established within your own self? For me, just thinking those words is a visceral experience. A kind of felt sense homecoming if you will, where I return to myself. More fully inhabit myself. Often, not even realizing that I have even left, until I am back.

For many of us, we are anything but seated within our own self. Our body is wherever we are flinging it around at hyper speed in any given moment. Or maybe it is collapsing somewhere in zombie-like fashion. Either way, our body being in one place, and our minds somewhere else sets up a kind of leaving. So whether we are fretting over or regretting the past, or anticipating the future and creating scary and unwanted scenarios, we stand divided. Abandoned. Unestablished in anything but misery.

Not quite what the ancients had in mind when they proposed that the very first aspect of health is to be seated in the Self.

In other words, as opposed to standing sovereign and unified within, we are instead bashing around inside of ourselves. Or, we have left ourselves. Like an abandoned building we no longer inhabit, and so falls into disrepair, and worst of all becomes inhabited by transient and vagrant energies, we are established nowhere; becoming lost to ourselves, and therefore the world.

If we are to truly claim the birthright of our health, we must be willing to go beyond what we are currently being offered. For it is outdated. If it ever was in date to begin with. I know this can sound harsh, or even scary. That is not the intention. Instead, this is not a bash as much as it is a reckoning. A willingness to recognize that we are anywhere but in health as a nation. Perhaps even as a world. And that to find our way back into a sane, sacred and healthy establishment within ourselves is to go back to the very roots of what it means to inhabit a body.

What might this look like for you? Perhaps it means asking yourself the fundamental question, Where am I right now? as you race through your day, watch disturbing content across a screen, or engage in the same old same old thoughts that always leave you feeling like shit. Or maybe it is to recognize that the schedule you keep, the people you associate with, the news you obsess over, or the work you are doing is so aversive to you on some level, that you can only try and get out of your very own skin.

We did not come here to leave. We came here to know ourselves. To create, contribute, and grow. To do so requires that we focus our lives establishing ourselves in what is real and what is true. When in doubt, ask yourself, what could a human being absolutely not do without? Leave the rest alone. At least, for the most part.

Universal & Natural Alignment

 

We have chickens, and at the moment blueberries, peaches, elderberry, and now apples, all ready and waiting to be picked. Every morning, I make my rounds of picking fruit, gatherings eggs, and talking to the chickens. I love this time of year for just this; a daily reason to be outside that starts my day on the right side of Life and living.

Walking barefoot in the grass, fending off mosquitoes, listening to the sounds of the birds, encountering something unexpected or beautiful, all do what nothing else can: Remind me of who and what I am, and What it is that I am connected to. Outside, in the Presence of Nature, the pettiness, the greed, and the ugliness of this world recedes and becomes right-sized. Ceasing suddenly to loom so large in my psyche and on my heart. Ceasing to be the most important show on earth.

At the very core of all our troubles, both personal and collective, is that we have forgotten we belong to Something much greater than the distortions and demands of the times. Something much greater than our personal strivings and short-comings. And we have forgotten that in our forgetting, we separate ourselves from the Guidance and Support that is available to us when we take our rightful place in the order of things.

Find a reason, every day, to start your day outside. It can be anything. A garden. A morning walk. A bird feeder. A commitment to step out your back door and take a few deep breaths. While you are there, intentionally observe and sense what is around you. Something that is both you, and so much more than you all there for the picking. How can you align with This? Humble yourself to This? Learn from This?

While we often believe that the issues we face as a people are enormous, complicated and unsolvable, I will tell you that in the Presence of the Natural and Universal Truths that play out right before our very eyes, right under our very noses and feet, and right within ear-shot, lies the answers to Everything. Sound naive? Sure. To the modern day mind this way of existing appears foolish. But I ask you, how much more foolish is it that we continue to destroy ourselves, one another and the planet as we drift further and further away from these simple Truths?

P.S. Did you know that spending time outside in the morning sets your biological clock to the natural rhythms of light and dark? Meaning that you naturally balance your hormones, shift your metabolism, while offering you innumerable benefits like a better night’s sleep. Indispensable in a world where we get too much of the wrong kind of light (screens), and not enough of the right kind of light (Sun). Yet another example of the natural healing and balancing effects offered by Nature Herself.

 

To Whom Do You Belong?

 

Figuring out to what and to whom I belong has long played a central role in my life. In my early years, there was only one choice: Conform to belong. To not conform was to be left without emotional connection. It was to be penalized. When I hit my teenage years, I had had enough, and so I ceased to conform. I rebelled, hard, against what never felt right to me to begin with. Though this left me on the outs with a parent, I kept going in an attempt to break from what undermined who I authentically was. At the time, I thought I didn’t care what they thought. But I did. So, even though some part of me needed the fight, the boundary, the definition, rebelling against conforming never got me what I needed because I was still defining myself against what I didn’t want. Still trying to belong from the outside in. Still on the outside of a kind of belonging that made any sense to me.

Then came the years that I thought I would try and go it alone. That I would keep myself at a distance from belonging; having come to the conclusion that being in relationship meant I had to negotiate myself in ways that felt harmful to me. That in order to belong, I had to leave really important parts of myself behind. Or at least, in hiding. While this represented another layer in the evolution of my belonging odyssey, in the end, this wasn’t the way to go either. Sure, there were things I didn’t have to negotiate, but there were also important and essential experiences missing.

It was only when I began to turn back towards myself (perhaps for the very first time in my life) that I started to discover who I really was and what I actually needed in belonging. It was a new and vastly unexplored territory to connect with something deep inside me that had nothing to do with my ideas about what I thought I needed to do to belong. This journey has been decades in the making, and continues still, even as I write about this. But at this point, I am so in. Why? Because it has taught me many, many valuable lessons about what it means to balance the Truth of who I am, while belonging in ways that equally support that, and simultaneously, contribute to the Greater Good.

This seems like an unresolvable paradox to many of us. That we actually get to be who we are, and belong. Without negotiation of what is most central to us. We believe this because most of us have been taught and conditioned to believe you either have to choose for yourself (and be selfish and alone) or choose to belong (and give up who you are and what you need). Nary shall the two meet in most people’s world view. And so we usually hole up on one side or the other of the equation of autonomy and belonging.

But here it is, you cannot belong to anyone or anything else until you firmly and completely belong to yourself. First. This is not easy to do. Our most deep-seated, and often unconscious feelings, about belonging go all the way back to being babies and young children where in order to literally survive, we had to belong. No. Matter. What. That meant we instinctively did whatever it took to stay connected to those around us; whether it was good for us and what we needed, or not. Now, as adults, what we think belonging means, and what we believe we must do to belong, has its roots in the minds of infants and babies. In other words, preverbal, and below the reasoning of the grown-up mind.

That is why it can feel so hard to get back to. Or why it is that we do not even recognize it, or feel like we have a choice.That is why it feels so necessary and so compelling to keep belonging in the less than satisfying, and even harmful, ways that we do. How we belong now is what we felt like we had to do back then. What this means is, our very ideas around survival are tied to belonging. From that stage of mind, it would be dangerous to not fit in. The desperate need, often against our better judgment or even our own health, to compromise and negotiate ourselves away to keep from being judged, abandoned, aggressed upon, or ostracized, has its origins in the past, and its expression in the present.

Which brings us to the times of Co-vid. Yes, we are back here again. For to ignore what is being played out on the main stage, would be to deny both how things have gotten derailed, and what it actually is that can bring us back on track. Meaning, we must be willing, each of us, to look at how what it means to belong has been commandeered; centering around outward behaviors that we do or do not do. A kind of “social currency” that we garner, or not, through following a mandate.

This is dangerous to not only personal autonomy, but to your ability to bring a healthy sense of who you are to the group. For the Truth is, we do not belong to other’s expectations of us. Not to their demands, mandates or ideas. We belong to Something much, much greater than that. To begin to question what belonging means to you is to do the work of the Ages. It is to intentionally separate yourself from group think in order to find the Truth within, that you then offer back out as the very foundation of True Belonging.

If this makes any sense to you, begin to notice yourself more closely in relationship. Where do you sell out? Why? Be gentle as this is the work of retelling the little one in you a new and updated version of a story you have long held. Not unlike when a child finds out for the first time, there is no Santa Claus. In that noticing, when you come upon that place where you are locked in an old pattern around what it means to belong, either fighting for your right to be or acquiescing your life in order to fit in, say to yourself, “I belong to Life as it runs through me and from whence it came. It is safe to know this.”

P.S. If you are looking for more structured support in distinguishing between your True Self and what the culture expects of you in order to fit in, check out The Way of Integrity: Finding The Path To Your True Self by Martha Beck.

As Within, So Without

 

Years ago, when I was first studying shamanism, we were working with the concept of “as within, so without.” A basic tenet of not only shamanism, but many, many religious and philosophical schools of thought. In a nutshell, it is known as a fundamental law of existence, where whatever is within you, can be found playing out in the world around you.

This was an enormous shift for me to begin to explore how what I harbored within me in terms of fears, resentment, anger, and imbalance was being expressed in my outer world. That it wasn’t being done to me. This challenged the victim in me. The one who got to both bemoan the atrocities of the world and stand separate from them somehow; believing that it all was someone else’s doing. Believing someone else was at fault. Believing that if the world of people would just get their shit together, everything would be better.

During the same time period I was exploring “as within, so without,” I heard a story about a village that was in desperate straits; suffering through season after season of drought. Finally, they called in a shaman to help bring the rains to their failing crops. He took a hut at the outskirts of town to stay in, and holed up inside for week after week. The people began to get agitated and restless for they could not see any change in their circumstances. To them, it appeared he was doing nothing.

Finally, when the villagers could take it no more, they sent one of their own to check up on him. To call him to task for the reason he had been called in. That being, to bring the rain. When the villager confronted the shaman with the lack of progress, the shaman took a long pause looking deeply into the man’s eyes, and said, “Before the outer world can bring the rain again to you, your village must come to balance within itself. I am bringing back the healing and the balance within all of you and among you that you have turned away from. That is why you have no rain.”  

This is where we stand now with the Earth. She will go on with or without us. And whether or not we go on is up to us, but perhaps not in the ways we believe. For what if everything that you can see outside of you that you find unbearable, horrible, and excruciating is yours to do? From the inside out.

This is not the same as going on a crusade about what you want to fix in the world. This is the opposite of that. It is instead, going within yourself to find what you cannot bear, or are afraid of in the world, and locate it within yourself. And then, work to bring that into balance. For the Truth is, what we do to ourselves, we do to the Earth. However we violate our own precious Nature is exactly how we violate the precious Nature of the planet.

The real problem here is: We do not value Life. Not ours. Not others. Not the Planet’s. For if we did, there is much we would never, ever do. It is a deep and ancient knowing and practice to take on that level of accountability within yourself; doing what is yours and only yours to do.

If this resonates with you, watch your thoughts around what is happening to the Earth; your fears, your anger, your apathy, your blame. And then, look to find it in yourself as a direct path to bringing balance, peace, stability and harmony back into our world.

Walls

 

I recently read an article by a bodyworker who was talking about how we build false walls and false floors in our fascia and muscles to compensate for postural imbalances. Basically, all of the ways that we get ourselves positioned incorrectly, and then come to lean into those false constructions to free up the dominant side of the body so that it is available for action. I so know this process in my own body. And I so know how this way of holding myself both reflects and entrenches old, unhealthy states of mind.

In other words, how the walls in my body represent the ones I have built up inside of my own mind to keep me feeling safe. Balanced. Prepared and ready for action. Walls that have been created to give me a sense of security. Whether or not that is actually so having nothing to do with the maintenance of them in my life. Even going to great lengths to hold onto what does not work. What hurts. What is faulty.

Which is why coming to recognize that there has never been a single hurt that I have ever experienced as an adult that wasn’t connected to the past, has changed my Life.

For if you can come to see that how you view what is happening to you now as being somehow connected to long ago, you will have taken a most important step to freeing yourself up from the false constructions that set the stage for why you suffer now. This is not a rationale for staying stuck in the past. Instead, it is a reminder that what happens in the mind happens in the body, and that what happens in the body happens in the mind.

That we can go in through either doorway to change all of us.

Try it. Find one thing that bothers you now. Something you feel slightly hurt or disappointed by. Come up with a headline. For instance: “Feeling Unsupported.” Then, follow the bread crumbs back. Where in the past have you felt like this before? Drop all the names, the places, and the circumstances. What feels familiar to you from then to now? Name what it was for you, and then move. Dance it. Shake it. Wiggle and writhe it. Move your body in random and unusual ways until you feel like something has completed itself.

Then, watch yourself throughout the rest of your day. Is how what you lean into, or what is dominant, different somehow?