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.

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.”

 

Beginning Where You Are

Beginning where you are when it comes to what is happening in your body is the ultimate homecoming and an absolute necessity if you are to know what it is your body needs. To get there though requires accepting what your body is experiencing in any given moment. Even when you don’t like what is there.

This is not easy to do as it is only natural that we want our bodies to feel a certain way. But the truth is, as hard as this can be, there’s just no way around this one. For if you hope to live in a body you feel good in and can trust, you must be willing to actually be in it.

I know this might seem ludicrous, as in, where else would you be? But that’s the trouble with being human. We can be anywhere but in the body when the mind takes us into the past or the future. Thoughts of the past keep us locked in old fears, traumas and beliefs while thoughts of the future create an anticipation of all the things we don’t want to happen to the body.

Either way we have left our bodies. We have left them without a clear, present mind that knows how to see the realities of the body for what they are. Not what we have been told they are or fear them to be. For instance, if our family of origin had a lot of fears around something like cancer, we can find ourselves ruminating about whether or not that will happen to us. In effect, priming ourselves for something we definitely do not want. Or if you were raised in such a way that the body’s most basic needs for things like touch, sleep and food were met in unhealthy ways, you will automatically believe deprivation is the norm.

To begin where you are is to accept your body exactly as you find it. I mean this literally. You must be willing to acknowledge whatever is happening. Not because you want it to stay, but because that is what is so. This includes the thoughts, the emotions, the pains, the sensations, the urges, the instincts and all of the intuitions contained within you.

This is the equivalent of mapping out a road trip. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, if you aren’t in the vehicle to begin with, how can you possibly reach your destination? How will you know what you need to make the trip? How will you know if you’ve taken a wrong turn? How will you know when you need a tune-up?

Perhaps more than anything else, if you are not fully and all the way in your own body, how will you be able to enjoy all the sights to be seen while knowing the roads to avoid?

 

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

 

 

 

 



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.

Barking At The World

 

As I’ve written about before, I’ve had a cough that persistently remains despite all my tried and true remedies and approaches. Just when I thought it was on its way out the door, it has come back to teach me some more.

Now I know there are many who would say why not suppress it? Why not get some prescription to knock it back? Believe me, for the first time in nearly three decades of not using that kind of medicine, I have thought about it. I have fantasized about codeine cough syrup or some steroid. Really anything they have that would just make it go away. But I can’t stay there for long.

Why?

Because I know that when my body is expressing something, there is a very good reason it’s doing what it’s doing. And that’s a non-negotiable for me. Even if I don’t know why or how to resolve it. Even if it’s frustrating and uncomfortable. Even if it’s wearing my patience thin. Because what I know to be true is this: The last thing I want to do is to drive a bodily expression deep into my tissues; in effect, silencing its voice.

Which brings me specifically to the cough. If you are at all familiar with the work of Louise Hay, you know she brought forward a body of work that connects an emotional/mental/spiritual component to every illness  For a cough, what’s behind this symptom is a kind of barking at the world. A kind of see me. Listen to me.

So to suppress this cough feels like it would be a kind of re-traumatization to a part of me that didn’t get seen or heard in a way that felt good to me. Which is why I am wondering about where I feel unseen and unheard. Where it is that I suppress my own voice out of habit and fear. And where I am monitoring myself in terms of who I am and what I say around others.

Which means I am using this time as an opportunity to be with the cough and let it teach me. So far, every day has uncovered something new for me around being seen and heard. Feelings that have been unconscious and therefore unavailable to me before this experience. For me this is worth the frustration of something taking a long time to heal, because I can see that another part of me is getting a chance to be heard, which means it too will have a chance to heal.

To be with yourself and your health in this way requires a few things:

  • A willingness to see symptoms as essential information you do not want to ignore or suppress. Not easy to do in a medical culture based on symptom suppression.
  • A kind of presence to yourself where you are watching the thoughts and reactions that arise when something doesn’t feel good in your body. This includes your fears and your default tendency to look to an authority figure to make it better for you.
  • The courage to make connections to what may be behind the symptoms on the emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological levels. This takes practice and a kind of radical honesty with yourself.
  • An openness to learning about the part of you that is ailing to figure out what its most basic needs and functions are. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it simple.
  • Finding practitioners who support this process in you and who include all of you in the equation of your health and healing. You’ll know them by how well they listen and by the questions they ask.

By the way, what do I think was behind the cough picking back up again with a vengeance? An intense experience last weekend of feeling like there are those in the world being seen and recognized even though they may be lacking in skill or integrity; leaving me with an old reaction of despair around the unfairness and injustice of a world that gives voice to so many of the “wrong” things. This one goes deep and touched a very, very old wound that seems up for some healing.

 

Sleepless Nights

 

Did you ever have one of those nights that not only can you not fall asleep, but you just feel awful all around? Maybe something in the body hurts. Maybe the room is too hot. Maybe your mind is buzzing away or you are awash in fear.

I just had one of those recently and it left me prickly and surly the next morning. Mostly, because I could not run down the cause of why I had the night I did. Was it the late afternoon chocolate? The extra moments I spent watching something on a screen when I knew I felt like I was being assaulted? Was it the chicken I ate? Maybe it was raised in fear and that was what I was experiencing. Was it my husband’s restless sleep next to me or the storm blowing around outside? Or how about the volatile energies in the collective?

Maybe it was everything all together all at once?

It was like a tsunami of human experience ripping though me. At first I tried to sort through each one of the possible culprits to figure out what it was. But there were too many to know what was what. I went from deep and burning frustration right into despair. Not over what was happening per se, but because I just could not figure it out.

There it is. Being in the middle of a storm is one thing. Believing that you can manage it, or even understand its origins or purpose is quite another. That understanding right there is the difference between heaven and hell. Our need to figure something out, coupled with our downright refusal to say “Yes” to what is happening becomes our vote for hell.

Whether we know it or not.

I’m not saying it’s not important to run down the things that bring on a sleepless night. Or any other disturbances we find in our lives for that matter. Of course it matters. If only to learn to take responsibility for our own experiences, what it is the body needs, along with the consequences of the choices we make.

What I am trying to say here is that not everything can be figured out. Not everything can be known. Then what?

Do we fight like a fish on a line against what it is we do not want? Do we rail against the unfairness of it all? Or do we let go? Into the deep and demanding rigor of being alive in a body having all kinds of experiences. This requires going beyond our expectations and demands that Life be a certain way for us to be ok. It means going beyond us putting our stamp of approval or rejection on what is happening.

Lest you believe this means giving up, it’s just not the case. In fact, it is anything but. Instead, to let be whatever is happening is to align with the Truth that we cannot know everything, that everything is not within our control, and that to believe it is, is to create a kind of living hell.

Mostly, it is to forgo the peace that is available to us in every single moment. No matter what is happening.

Which is why the next day, I turned my attention not to the potential culprit of my terrible night’s sleep, but to my response to it. And what I found was a woman so bent on fixing something that she was not able to just be with herself, without demand, in the midst of a terrible storm.

Your Right To Your Own Health & Healing

Years ago, I was in a Holistic Health Counseling Training. It was one of the most profound and generous trainings I have ever been involved with. And I have done many. What made it so profound and generous was that we were offered every approach under the sun when it came to perspectives on health and healing. A smorgasbord of ways to approach things like diet, healthcare, spirituality, lifestyle issues and more. It was left up to us to sift through all that we were given; choosing for ourselves what worked for us, and what didn’t. 

Looking back, I can see that the founder of the school, beyond his desire to convey content, understood something vital, life-affirming and humane. An approach far too often missing in our conventional healthcare systems. The approach being, a basic trust in each other of our ability to choose for ourselves when it comes to what makes the most sense to our lives, along with what it is we personally need in order to be well. 

This is something I aspire to embody in the health and healing approaches I offer to the world. I am not being falsely self-deprecating here. Instead, I fully understand how difficult it is to not try and influence another when you believe you have the fix for them. When you believe you know better than they do about what is going on for them, and what they should do. Even must do, from certain “modern” public health perspectives.

But I want something more than to persuade or coerce another into my belief system. The “something more” is not just for me, but for all of us. I want a world where we trust each other at the level of recognizing that each of us truly does know what we are doing. Even if it cannot be understood by those around us. Even if we ourselves do not fully understand it. 

But why take that chance with one another? Because this way of being creates a world where we pay homage to the journey each of us is on. No matter what we might make of it. Because when you trust deep down inside that another has within them the capacity of inner wisdom to know their life, their body and what it is they need, you give them the great humanitarian gift of empowerment, agency and personal responsibility. 

The sacred act of you having faith in them, including your willingness to set aside your opinions and dogmas, carries the capacity to inspire and to help another move mountains in their own life. For when a person can trust themselves, what it is they are knowing and sensing from the inside out, you support them in becoming their very best. When you can stand in with another who is lost and confused without trying to get them to do what you think they should do, giving them the space to come to something on their own, they will exceed all expectations you, and even they themselves, might have of what they are capable of.

This is what changes lives on the personal level and what then goes on to change the life of the world.

Each person’s health and healing is unique to them and it is a deep, deep disrespect and a fundamental undermining of another’s humanity to try and take this from them. To ever try and co-opt the journey they have chosen for one of your own making. Each person’s journey of health and healing far exceeds a moment in time merely focused on a cure at the physical, mental or emotional level. Instead, the journey each of us is on is our soul’s deepest expression in physical form. 

To interfere with that expression by trying to manage, control, legislate, or mandate what another does in this regard, is a sin against humanity. 

(If this resonates, consider taking a look at the upcoming program I’m offering called The Healer Within.)

 

 

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 Broken Unicorns In All Of Us

 

When I was a kid and had accumulated a little pocket change of my own, I would walk down to a place called Cushing Square to visit a tiny store that sold glass figurines. I can’t remember the name of the store, but I can still recall the display window that faced out to the sidewalk and what it felt like for me to go inside.

It was absolutely magical to be in this space and to be in the company of all those glass animals. They felt so mysterious and powerful to me. I wanted them all. But because the figurines weren’t cheap for a kid, I would have to save up for what I wanted. In the meantime, I would go into the store to visit with all those little creatures I felt such a connection to.

At some point, I acquired a three-level tiered stand where I could arrange these little friends of mine into different scenarios and configurations. No matter what I did in this regard, there was always one that stood out for me: The Unicorn. I felt moved by her golden horn and the clear see-through nature of her body. I looked at her every day and every night. She was the one I loved most of all.

So you might imagine how I felt when I came home one day to find her horn broken off. It was devastating. But worse than the devastation of something so important to me being broken, was that no one would admit to doing it. And no one saw that justice prevailed.

That day, something precious and innocent broke in me. I stopped going to the store and I don’t remember what happened to all the other glass animals.

Heartbreak and innocence lost is something every one of us will pass through. Not one of us will come to the Earth and leave unscathed in this regard. We all have had our “broken Unicorn” experiences and for many of us it will follow us around for the rest of our lives. It will color how we see the world. What we believe is possible. How safe or dangerous the world feels to us. What we believe will happen to us if we love open-heartedly.

As that old song goes, “the first cut is the deepest.” Very understandable then to go through life making damn sure it doesn’t ever happen again.

This is one way to live and it makes sense given how devastating it can be to learn as children what a cruel place the world can be at times. Unfortunately, when we hold onto this through life, not only do you lose out, so does everyone around you.

There is another way. But it’s a big ask to the child inside of us who got so hurt when we didn’t even know that kind of pain or disillusionment was possible. What is that “big ask?” To reclaim your innocence. To take back your wonder and sense of possibility. The road to get there is certainly long and arduous. And it will require that you feel what you never wanted to feel again. Ever.

But in the feeling you get to heal, and then you get to decide how armored up you want to be. And when. Because to live for our entire lives waiting to be hurt again is to live as a victim. And to live as a victim is to live shut down to the magic, wonder and possibility that lives in the world.

Want to give it a try? Think back into the past. Do you have a sense of where the mentality of the broken Unicorn began for you? That place where you felt wronged, betrayed or violated. Then observe with great kindness how that plays out now for you. Where and when it shows up. You don’t have to do anything for a very long time other than to just begin to make that connection.

The Way Of The Visionary

 

I am getting close to finishing an Energy Medicine training with The Four Winds Society, and while there has been so much I have learned, there have been a couple of teachings that have really stood out for me. One of which I would like to share here with you. That being, the power behind cultivating an orientation to Life that understands that we dream our world into being with what we think about, the quality of our emotions, and what it is that we repeat over and over again in our lives through what we say and do.

From the perspective of this tradition, dreaming the world into being is the way of the Visionary: The one who understands that the world is always showing us, always a reflection of, the quality and integrity of our internal states. Always mirroring to us the condition of our love and of our deepest intentions. As you can see, this has got nothing to do with what is “out there,” and everything to do with what is “in here.”

This is the opposite of the prevailing cultural attitudes and mandates that would say we have to go out there to make the changes we believe are necessary. The current paradigm would say we have to manage and control the behavior of others for us to feel safe. That we have to interfere with the ways of the natural world and other sovereign nations to make them come in line with our needs and ideologies. We can see this in the technologies being created to block the sun to avert climate disaster, the ways that we now believe we have a right to know other people’s health and medical choices so that we feel safe, along with all the ways that we interfere with other countries under the auspices of humanitarian involvement masking our less than agenda-free interests.

And while we would say that we must go outside of ourselves to fix, correct and change what we do not want, are afraid of, are not in line with our politics or are challenged by, is this the wisest course of action? Is it actually true that if we don’t do something “out there” that it will all fall into disarray? Or is this a mere projection out onto the world keeping us from dealing with what really needs to be dealt with? In other words, us, and the state of our own being.

With our focus on what needs to change “out there,” do we even know whether or not our actions are good and necessary ones? How could we even know the answer to this question if we are out of touch with our own inner workings around why we want what we want, or are afraid of what we are afraid of?

To have vision when it comes to what the world needs and would benefit from, is to first and foremost know yourself. What it is that makes you tick. What it is that you fear and fall victim to, and then project out onto the world at large. Basically, why it is that you do what you do, and want what you want. Why it is that you must have the world be a certain way.

If this make sense to you, try this: The next time you find yourself demanding that others, or the world at large, be a certain way, ask yourself, “Why do I need this to be so?” Repeat this question to yourself three times, giving yourself lots of space between each asking to feel into the answer. Let this question work on you in a deep way and watch how your first answer may be very different then your last one.

The world is in great need of visionaries at this time. Those of us clear enough and brave enough to recognize that everything we want in the world begins with a close and committed intimacy with our own thoughts, emotions, actions and beliefs. A dedicated and devoted practice to changing the one thing in life you actually have dominion over. Yourself.