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?”

 

 

 

Making a Difference

 

This morning in practice, after spending some time contemplating how to better serve the world, I ‘randomly’ ran into a quote by William James.

“I will act as if I do make a difference.”

There it is. Once again we are back with us, even when we believe we are asking for others. It is another reminder to me that always, always, it begins with me. Not in some narcissistic, selfie way, but in a grounded, I can only help others to the extent that I can help myself, way.

More to the point here, I can only make a difference in the world to the extent that I can embody that who I am and what I do matters. A lot. But in the time of big splashy altruism, philanthrocapitalism, social media, influencers and having millions of followers, this can sound lame. Ineffective. Ridiculous even. As in, what does it matter what’s happening on the inside of you in the face of what is happening in the outside world?

And that’s why so many of us fall into despair, outrage, anger, fear and aggression. These are the responses of people who feel they have no impact in the world. That no matter what they do, nothing changes.

This is where an enormous paradigm leap is called for if you expect to see the changes in the world you yearn for. The leap of faith that must be made is going from believing that the changes need to occur outside of you, to knowing that the changes need to occur inside of you.

I will act as if what I do, who I am and what I believe in makes a difference is the non-negotiable shift that must occur. A kind of internal mantra that must get paired every day with a penetrating question like: What can I do today to live like who I am and what I do makes a difference?

Ask it before getting out of bed in the morning. Ask it when you encounter a difficult moment with the world. Ask it when you find yourself falling into despair or outrage. Ask it when you feel too small to make a difference. Ask it when it all feels so unfair and unjust.

And then look for the most mundane of moments in your life to live like what you do matters. As in, how you talk to yourself and others, how you spend your time and money, how you handle disappointment, horror and greed, how you nourish yourself, how you…

I will act as if I do make a difference.

The Mind & Its Ways

 

As someone who has been observing her own mind for decades, it’s truly fascinating, sad, maddening, and more to watch how often I can catch my mind in some version of “I’m not doing enough.” Sadly, we all do this.

I know some of us would say that it drives us to do better; to be more of this or that. Sure, we get productivity out of this orientation of the mind, but what about the downside? What are the costs of “motivating” ourselves (if that is even what we are actually doing) by focusing on “not enough?”

This “less than” version of the mind is old. Very, very old. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t even ours to begin with. These were the thoughts and beliefs of those around us growing up, which we took on because it was what we thought was real and true about us as children.

I think of this part of my mind as the taskmaster who believes that by keeping me under its thumb, I’ll do more. I’ll do better. I’ll be safe.  But at what cost and according to who? My past? The number of “likes” the world is giving out? What everybody else thinks? A conditioned sense of unworthiness?

While these costs are certainly enormous, they actually pale in comparison to something we often miss. That being, that through the lens of “not enough” we miss our truest selves. Our beauty, fortitude, kindness, grit, generosity, and more; literally robbing us of the opportunity to experience the Truth of who and what we are.

To live under the mean and unfair taskmaster of “not enough” is to miss the very experience and essence of us.

This can show up for me, in all places, in my daily spiritual practice. It creeps in in the moments where despite having just spent an hour or more in deep contemplation, prayer, and connection, I’ll find my taskmaster mind saying that I’m not doing enough when it comes to the physical portion of my practice.

It sounds like this, “You’re cutting short the posture flow. You’re not doing more challenging poses. You didn’t do a full breathwork practice. You only sat in meditation for 5 minutes.” Blah, blah, blah.

It’s truly laughable and absurd to watch this parade of criticism go through my mind. My standard approach these days to the mind in this place is, “Sure, whatever.”

We need lots and lots of ways to work with the taskmaster mind. So if you’re up for it, any time you want to work with the mind, begin by catching yourself thinking. And when you catch yourself in a loop of “I’m not doing enough,” try the light-hearted “Sure, whatever” approach I just mentioned. This only works though if you keep a kind and light attitude towards the criticisms. Like you know what is being said has no merit, and you don’t feel any need to prove it wrong. 

Then, if you want to really change the mind’s orientation and start to rewire all those neural networks into something new and uplifting, try a phrase I use with myself to not only create a balancing response to that old tape, but to create a mindset that will take me back to the Truth of me.

It goes like this, “In this moment, instead of seeing “not enough,” I choose to see a woman who is…committed to her daily practice and devoted to doing deep inner work. Try it for yourself, filling in your own blanks, while you notice, with the criticizing mind held at bay, what do you see now?

Hearts Are Made To Be Broken

 

Years ago I found a little hanging heart for the garden. It’s made of metal and there are two hearts within a bigger outer heart. It hangs off a pole that goes into the ground, and it moves with the wind.

Because it got broken beyond even all the repairs my husband could do, last year I got a new one. An even bigger one. But just like the first one, it got so banged up by the elements that my husband has already twice had to repair it.

When it happened the first time, I found myself saying, “My heart is broken. Can you fix it?” I immediately saw the deeper meaning behind what I was saying. As in, the world has broken my heart. Can it be fixed?

It’s not easy being human. There are so many harsh realities we must all come to face. So many ways we can be hurt. So many ways that the sensitive, loving parts of us can be broken, and driven underground. So many ways that our open-hearted innocence can be warped into anger, cynicism, fear, and victimhood.

It reminds me of something my yoga teacher once said in a training I was in when I was feeling particularly heart-centered, open, and vulnerable. He said, “The world will break your heart, but you are not your heart.” I have never forgotten these words. It is life-altering for me to know that despite how painful life can get, I am more than even the greatest of any heartbreak I will ever experience.

So now, my first little broken heart lives in the earth of my medicine garden. My newer and bigger heart swings around in the wind, shored up by my husband’s loving touch. I look at it every day out my study window as I write, or as I make my way to the chickens, while it stands imperfectly at the entrance of the path that takes people to our yurt, and I think, “Hearts are made to be broken, and the measure of a woman is how many times it can happen to her without her spirit being broken.”

Inner Authority

 

I think a lot about what it means to be healthy, and to heal. Over the years, I’ve come to see that there are the absolute biological necessities of life that must be met. These are the ones that, whether we do them or not, we’ve all heard about. The must-have’s like eating whole foods, getting the rest we need, staying hydrated, moving our bodies, etc.

What is less, or even not at all, talked about, are essential internal attitudes and perspectives that are the non-negotiable pre-requisites for health and healing. Mindsets, that if missing, will leave even the “healthiest” of diets or the most rigorous of exercise regimens lacking.

I want to begin this part of the conversation by sharing one of the most stunning things I have heard anyone say in a very long time: “The time for relying on outer authorities is over.”  Wow. OMG! What are you talking about? 

Whether you find this perspective enlightening or frightening, hear me out. Claiming inner authority for how we inhabit these bodies of ours is the New Paradigm waiting to be born, and it begins with Personal Responsibility and Self-Trust. How could it be otherwise? Who is the only one who lives in your body and has the capacity to care for it? Who is the only one who actually knows how it feels? Or what it needs?

It is your body. It is yours to take care of.

But this truth has gotten waylaid. We have become overly dependent on sources outside of us to tell us what we need. Just look at all the pharmaceutical commercials or the ever- burgeoning public health campaigns. One money based. The other politically based and fear-driven.

Of course, we need our helping professionals. But when we don’t trust our own body or when we hand over responsibility for it, while we may believe we are getting a guarantee or getting out of something too difficult for us, we actually lose a lot.

That being, living as a fully empowered adult who knows how to take care of, and trust themselves. When I mentioned this idea to someone not long ago, she said “That’s a big lift.” 

It is.

So maybe we can break it down into a more manageable, desirable even, way of being with our own health. I see self-trust and personal responsibility as two sides to the same coin. As in, the more I claim responsibility for the choices I make around my health, the more I come to have faith in my ability to make good choices in the future.

The more I trust myself, the more confident I feel claiming ownership of how I treat my body. Self-trust is the capacity to believe in your own body and its ability to heal. Personal responsibility is the capacity to respond to what your body actually needs in any given moment, in an authentic way. As in, not based in fear, doubt or the need to have someone make it better for you.

In a nutshell, this is the energy of meeting what your body is doing and needing, while serving as your own trusted adviser and confidante. This is the opposite of feeling so disempowered that you leave health decisions in someone else’s hands, or of being so afraid, confused and doubtful of your own body that once again, you are left only to leave it up to someone else.

Because we are literally swimming in a sea of belief systems that tell us it is “normal” to leave our bodies in the hands of experts and authorities, we need ways of breaking through the conditioning.

Here are some things to be on the lookout for: Do you feel like a little kid when you are with your doctor? Are you afraid to say certain things because it might upset them? Do they dismiss you when you have another opinion? Do you find yourself asking for their permission, or feeling like you have to justify an instinct or an intuition that you have about your health?

It can feel scary and overwhelming to take back what is yours. It can feel so very risky at first. Go slow. Start in low stakes situations. Observe yourself. Notice when you are trying to please or are over-explaining. We all have our histories with authorities, but suffice to say, we have become conditioned to be quite obedient and compliant in the presence of someone credentialed.

Especially when we feel they have knowledge we don’t possess. But did you know that the first definition of “expert” is “experienced?” That’s it. This “expert” status is available to you and is as basic as getting some more experience with your very own body. It truly is as simple as learning to pay a little more attention to what your body likes and what it doesn’t.

Forget about all the information about how to take care of yourself. (Most of us aren’t doing it anyway, or we use it to beat ourselves up with.) Instead, begin and end each day by asking your body “How’s it going?” And then, just listen. This kind of listening and being with yourself is the very foundation of personal responsibility and self-trust: A capacity that extends well beyond your health.