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

 

 

 

 



The Things In Life That Are Too Big For Us

 

This week, I heard someone use the phrase, “Too big to address and too big to walk away from,” in reference to one of the big issues we as a people are facing. I had never heard that expression before, but boy did it land for me; so aptly describing an experience many of us are having when we look out into the destruction and chaos of a world gone mad.

Too big to address and too big to walk away from.

At first glance, it may feel like being between a rock and a hard place. Nowhere to go. Nothing you can do. I think this is where many of us live these days. Stuck in limbo. Recognizing that a lot needs to be addressed, challenged and changed, but feeling like it is far too big for us to have an impact.

So we fall into despair. Apathy. Frustration. Cynicism.

Or maybe we throw all of ourselves at an issue. Working overtime. Dedicating ourselves to some external cause that we pour our heart and soul into. Doing more than our share and sometimes feeling resentful that others don’t care as much. Or are not pulling their weight.

In the face of the world’s “issues” it can be so easy to fall into “this is just the way things are now” or to kick into high gear and start trying to fix everything. But what if the issues that are too big to address and too big to walk away from are actually a visioning opportunity, a call from our very own soul? One that requires we go into our very own lives and handle our big issues, before we turn our attention to the world.

This inner anchoring in the face of world overwhelm grounds us and give us access to deeper ways of knowing beyond the knee-jerk reactions so typical of us when we confront big, scary issues. We need some kind of inner referencing because the truth is, neither apathy nor overwork are the path of wisdom. The way of thoughtful action. The way of understanding that always, and in all ways, anything out there big enough to be a problem, needs to be known in here, inside each one of us, first.

Otherwise, we add to the chaos and the confusion as we bring our own blind spots, fears and agendas to the situation at hand. To go into the bigness of your very own issues is to understand, in seed form, the big issues the world currently faces.

If this is so, it begs the question, “What in your life feels too big to ignore, and simultaneously too big to handle? We’ve all got one. That core issue that just won’t go away. The one that seems to be at the root of everything else. The one we work really hard to cover up.

Do you know what yours is?

I guarantee you something: Figure out what yours is, along with all of its ins and outs, and you will have a gold standard template for addressing the biggest and most intractable world issues. The ones we can’t seem to solve. The ones that overwhelm and frighten us the most.

Try it. Look to your own life. What are you pretending not to know?

Use this question whenever you meet up with your big life issues and watch how not only your life begins to change, but you start to have a much clearer sense of how to be with what is too big to address and too big to walk away from when it comes to the world at large.

 

Karma

 

Recently, I heard a teacher say that to try and convince someone else of what you want for them, no matter how true or noble, is to take on their karma. Those words stopped me in my tracks, and left me feeling like I had stepped on a garden rake and gotten whacked in the face.

I began to think about all the times I had tried to get a person in my life to see something, or to want something. All the times I had tried to convince someone of something. Anything. All the times I had thought about how this person or that person, or the world in general, should do things differently. Do things the way I thought they should be done. And it didn’t matter one bit that I could justify to you that I only wanted what was best for them, when the truth is, I couldn’t bear what another was doing, for one reason or another.

Frankly, it was overwhelming to imagine taking on the karma of dozens, hundreds, even thousands or millions. Imagining myself weighing in on what all these people should or should not do. Want or not want. Believe or not believe. Sometimes having said it outright, while at other times thinking it.

This is something we all do. All the time. If you doubt this, watch how often you try and get someone to see things as you do, or try and get them to take your suggestion about how they should live their life. And it doesn’t even have to be about the big moments. It can be as “small” as what they “should” do about a difficult co-worker or whether or not they should buy something.

Watch how often you listen to the news or look out into the world and believe that you know better about what another person or group should or should not be doing.

And then, imagine taking on all of that karma. All the baggage, known and unknown to you and them, that goes with why and how they act as they do. All the karma around how they got to where they are now. All of their hurts, disappointments and dysfunctions. All of their projections, anger, blindspots and expectations. All of their insanity, fears and sadness. Even all of their past lives. Everything they need to account for, now becomes yours. Whoa.

It is so incredibly tricky when it comes to how we relate to others. So challenging to be in relationship without making what others do or do not do be about us. About our need to have them act a certain way so we can feel safe, connected and valued.

If this resonates and you want to join me, start by watching yourself in conversation with others. Catch yourself trying to convince someone of something, anything. For this to work though, you will have to be very, very good to yourself; as in not judging or shaming yourself when you see what it is that you are up to.

And when you do notice what’s happening, ask yourself, Do I want to take on this person’s karma? Do I really want to be responsible for how things turn out for them? And when you find yourself in a dynamic where another gladly hands over their choices to you about what they should do, run.

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.

Retreat

 

I am heading out for retreat on the day I am writing this, and it has got me thinking about a quote from Joseph Campbell. Years ago his words gave me permission to retreat; well before I could articulate what I was doing and why. The quote goes like this:

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

This is why I go away, and this is why I maintain a daily practice. Exactly because of what he wrote. The experience is not something you can read about, watch on Netflix or hear about from another. It is not always easy. It is not always popular. You run the risk of being labelled selfish or indulgent.

Most of all, you run the risk of discovering aspects of yourself that you may not want to know about. Qualities, thoughts and emotions that you have kept hidden from the world. Interestingly enough, at first it will seem like there are only dark things you keep hidden, but if you stick with it long enough, you come to see how you also hide your light, your gifts, your superpowers.

True retreat is not about distracting or indulging yourself. It is about one thing, and one thing only: Being with yourself through it all. Discovering the Truth of who and what you are. From this place, you are in a position to truly live. From this place, you are in a position to truly contribute.

Anything less is just a continuation of the same old, same old conditioning that has created the endless loop of suffering and misery we all struggle with. So why not take the chance of going off by yourself to see what there is to be discovered?

The Myth of Being in Control

 

Coming home on Sunday night from hiking with a friend, a day that was both awe-inspiring and grueling, I hit a bear on the dirt road to my house.

The bear shot out of the woods so fast and with so much focused momentum, I barely had time to hit the break just as I was hitting her. The sound was awful. Worse than the sound though, was the feeling of hitting the bear. Twice. I went back to check on her, but she was gone.

I felt like I had slammed into a wall head first after feeling so empowered by the day I had had. What was going on here? Was I driving too fast? Could I have dome something differently? How could this be happening after such an amazing day? What was the Universe trying to tell me?

I love the wildlife that lives all around me. More to the point, I look to them. I watch their comings and goings, and I am always alert to their messages. They are my inspiration and my teachers, and I had just hit one of my most revered guides.

I immediately went to wrong; as in this must have been my fault. I must be out of balance somehow. I must be in need of some lesson. But within seconds, I caught myself going to self-blame, set it aside, and opened up to see what else might be there.

Right away I had the knowing that even when we do not intend to cause harm, we do. It seems like it would be a hard pill to swallow, but in that moment, I was able to say Yes, I know that is true. There was such freedom in admitting just that. And while that was an incredible insight and shift, there was still more to come.

The next day in practice, as I contemplated what had happened, I got a strong message: There is so much in Life that is beyond your control. So while you would come up with all kinds of reasons for this and why it happened, some things in Life are just not in your control.

I think that for us humans, admitting we do not have the control we think we do is so terrifying, that it is far more palatable to blame ourselves, or another, then to recognize how much is not up to us. And that as we stand on the brink of the next generation of technologies which threatens to amplify our already out-of-control-god-like estimations of what we believe we can do, we further blind ourselves to just how much is not within our control.

So terrifying is it for us to feel how not in control we are that we would rather create a world based on a destructive illusion of absolute control of man over Nature than to align with our proper role in the scheme of things. Worse yet, the further we stray from knowing we don’t decide the ways of things, the unhappier, lonelier, the more desperate, sick and harmful we have become. And continue to be.

To be human in the age of so many technological advances masquerading as a source of complete control, the greater our challenge becomes to remember our place in the order of things. So if you’re inclined, get in the habit of regularly saying to yourself, “That is not something I have any control over.” 

You might just surprise yourself and find that instead of feeling terrified by that statement, you feel a sense of relief. Relieved to finally be in alignment with how things actually work here.

Holy Rage

 

A conversation that seems to be cropping up more and more between my husband and I centers around some version of how to hold the “irritation,” the “frustration,” the “impatience,” dare I say it, the “rage,” that we are both experiencing when we look out at the world and see what is happening.

I put all of those hot button words in quotes to draw our attention to something I believe is crucial here. That being, the so-called “negative” emotions, the very ones we are most afraid of, and have been the most conditioned to suppress, are often sacred inner guidance coming to reveal something to us about what is happening. Like when a firm stand needs to be taken because the behavior or the circumstances are so off-base and out of alignment. Or because something is in violation of what should be inviolate; like when it comes to what supports Life, and what does not.

To work with such intensity is to say Yes to claiming enormous personal responsibility for how you understand and let these emotions inform you. For at their highest use, they are incredibly powerful and life-changing. But it is like learning to work with fire. Things can get burnt. Things can get out of control. Which is why so many of us are afraid to recognize and honor the message that is being conveyed to us by the fiery ones.

To be clear, this is not an excuse to go off on others, or to give you a pass because you are over tired and don’t have the bandwidth to be more patient or tolerant. Instead, it is an exercise in getting to know yourself so well that you can distinguish between a holy message and an out of balance response on your part.

To work with such charged emotions means opening up to the possibility that these seemingly troublesome feelings have a place; without indulging them or defending harm done. This requires developing a lot of self-awareness because god knows we don’t need one more of us justifying our rage as something useful and deserving in the world.

At their best, these fiery emotions can be a kind of holy rage that wells up from within. A kind of wild and transformative fire that is born of a steadfast commitment to a better way; offering up renewal and rejuvenation in its wake. But here is where practice and self-reflection comes in. For to wield fire is to know its power and its limitations. It is to get clear that this is never personal to another person, only to the behavior. And it is never about the reckless, self-indulgent “raging” driven by social media, party politics, victim mentality or a need to be right.

So, if you’re up for it, the next time you’re experiencing one of the so-called fiery, and even to many of us, dangerous emotions, wonder to yourself, “What’s this all about?” You will need to be relentlessly honest with yourself. You will need to be clear about where the emotion is coming from. And you will need to hold that however it’s used, it’s being done for the highest and best good of all.

P.S. If you catch a whiff of “they deserved it,” you’re in the wrong place. At its most balanced there is a clear and steady flame to holy rage that never feels out of control and never carries an intention to harm.

Intentionality

 

I have been trained in and have practiced Yogic and Shamanic techniques and philosophies for many years. In ancient times, both were part of one root in India; sharing essential world views and spiritual sensibilities. While I love so much about both traditions, perhaps my favorite of all is the concept and practice of intentionality that I use to create a foundation for how I live.

Living with intention is a deep practice; resulting in the ultimate knowing that the “how” and the “why” of what we do is more important than anything. The “what” of how we live pales in comparison to what lives behind it.  Every single time. This is vastly different than the way modern living is obsessed with the “what.” What you look like. What you do. What you give. What your credentials are. What others see in you.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen the ways that the “what” of something can be very deceiving. How it can be a false representation of someone’s true intentions. In other words, something can look very, very good in the what and be an absolute abomination when it comes to the intention behind it all. Easy examples are the marketing strategies that convince us that the companies care about us or the planet when all they are doing is trying to sell us something. Or how about the leaders in life, on all levels, who present as so caring when all they want is your vote. Or your silence. Or to remain in charge without challenge.

In a world that so rewards the “what,” even when it costs us all far too much than we should ever pay, it can feel like too much work to be fully intentional in your actions, your thoughts and in your exchanges with others. There may be no immediate reward, no external benefit or prize given. It may even cause you lots of extra effort or cost you in terms of something.

Why?

Because to live with more intention requires a kind of honesty and whole-heartedness that the world does not always recognize, or appreciate. And because this way of living demands an unwavering focus on getting to the bottom of why you do what you do, why what matters to you matters to you, and then cleaning up your act when you are out of alignment between the why and the what of how you live.

Motherhood was by far my greatest and most strenuous teacher in this regard. Interestingly enough, as the world grows more and more insane, I find myself at the threshold of another time of great teaching in terms of what it means to live with intention. No matter what. What this means for me is that I cannot use the outer circumstances of the world to dictate to me the why of my what.

Instead, I am working on building my muscle of intention ever stronger by being as focused and deliberate as I can be; even in the midst of destructive and unreasonable times that would say there is nothing I can do.

Maybe you’ve noticed it too. All the ways that there are more and more demands being placed on us to live a certain way, to believe a certain thing, to line up with a particular narrative or ideology. With the penalty being, if you do not express the what in the way it is mandated, you are a (fill in the blank with the latest of social media’s accusations du jour).

The antidote to this is to choose “for” something, and then to line your life up with that. Every thought, every action, every word. This is not easy to do in a world with so many damaging choices and so many harmful demands to slot into the what of someone else’s ideas of what your life should look like.

Being intentional is to be discerning. It is to be fearless in the face of your own fears around how others will feel about the why and the how of what you do. It is to stare down the voices within you that would say you do not have permission to choose your why and how you live. It is to know when you are crumbling in your attempts to live with more intention because you do not know whether or not you are worth such an elevated existence.

But the Truth is, it’s already there inside you. If you doubt it, just look at the ways you admire those in life who have really chosen to focus their attention to live more intentionally. Maybe it is an athlete. Or an artist. Or a great teacher. More likely, it is someone you know living a “regular” life. To see this in another is the experience of the seed recognizing the plant. So I would ask you, what is it that you admire about them and then look beyond “the what” to their why and how for clues as to how you might proceed.

Finally, since you already possess within you the seed of living with greater intentionality, what is one small thing you could do today to tend to that seed? And then, what is one small thing you could do tomorrow? And then, the tomorrow after that, and after that…

For to live intentionally is a lifelong pursuit.

 

 

When the Wrong Things Are In Charge

 

Because I grew up in alcoholism, I am highly sensitive and keenly attuned to what I will call, “the wrong thing being in charge.” What I mean by this is that my internal radar picks up on people and circumstances in the world promoting, even mandating, that what is harmful be accepted as the norm. I know intimately the devastating and far-reaching impact the wrong thing can have on us individually and collectively; robbing us of satisfying relationships and a sense of ease, faith and security in the world.

The upside is, I carry this sensitivity with me everywhere I go. So it is very easy for me to spot other versions of the wrong thing being in charge. For instance, this capacity allowed me to see decades ago the interference screens would have on the health and well-being of our kids and our families; which is why my children were not given cell phones, why they were not allowed on social media and why their screen time exposure was kept to a minimum.

Spotting the wrong thing running the show is why I got out of conventional medicine, conventionally grown food and any other misaligned systems where I could figure out a way to opt out. Recently, when the University I taught at required that I, a student and teacher of the breath, wear a mask while I taught, I said no. These are my most obvious examples. There are more. Both large and small.

Whether you agree with my interpretation of what constitutes the wrong thing being in charge doesn’t matter. What matters is this: How often do you agree to something that in your gut, you know is wrong? It doesn’t even have to be some main stage world issue. It can be as simple as not saying something when someone near you is promoting the wrong ideas, or asking the wrong things of you.

When we allow the wrong things to be in charge in life, we play the role of the victim. The one who has no say. No power. Believe it or not, we derive benefit from this. How? By believing that because it is not up to us, that someone else is in charge, we can abdicate the responsibility of our lives and our actions to someone or something that is outside of us.

This disempowering abdication asks, Who am I to say something is off? Who am I to challenge the status quo?

Who you are is someone who can look around to see how all the wrong things we have let be in charge, have left us ill. Right down to our very souls. We are sick with the acceptance of what we know is not right.

Lest you believe this is far beyond you and your little life, it is not. We are sensing beings who know immediately when something is off. This is a built-in knowing that reveals itself to you every single day. And you don’t need to have grown up in alcoholism to come by it. Why? Because your capacity to know down deep the right and the wrong of something is within you. It is only a matter of whether or not you will tune into it.

Maybe it is that small tug in your gut. The feeling that something just doesn’t add up, or smell right. It is akin to the record skipping, or the moment in The Matrix when there is a visual glitch in the program.

To be clear, this is not about pointing the finger or shaking an angry fist at the news. Instead, it is choosing to see when something is off, and doing whatever is yours to do. Whatever is within the scope of your power to right that wrong. To stand as a beacon. Not as one who calls out another’s behavior for their own glory, but because it is so.

We deny this role in our lives for all kinds of reasons. We don’t want to be “that person.” We are afraid others will not like us. Maybe they will mock, leave or ridicule us. Maybe we will lose something. Whatever our reason, we have become complacent and lethargic after so many years of being enslaved to the wrong thing. It has become the new “normal” now to just go along.

To be mediocre, silent and compliant.

But if you want something else, begin to pay more attention to the radar that lives within you, and learn to act on it. Tap into that feeling that something is “off.” Even if you cannot articulate why. You will have to pay very close attention here because it is very easy to miss. Especially since so many of us have grown so accustomed to accepting the wrong things, and believing that this is just how it is now.

My advice? Be willing to be the one, in whatever way you can, to say “The Emperor has no clothes on.” Not as a way to elevate your status on social media, not as a way to lord something over others and certainly not as a way to put yourself in the position of deciding right and wrong for another. But as a bona fide acceptance and hard won capacity of growing into being an adult who lives by a solid personal code of right and wrong. And who carries that with them everywhere they go.

No matter what.

 

An Intentional Life

 

I am recently back from guiding a women’s retreat in the mountains. As we got close to the end, what seemed to be on each woman’s mind was, How do I take what I have discovered here and bring it back into my life? Even more importantly, How do I make it stick?

These questions have been on my mind ever since. Because really, what does it matter if when you go away, you can tap into what you really need and what’s most important to you, but can’t integrate it into your life on the daily? Who cares if you are up on all the latest and the greatest that the Internet and the apps have to offer, but find yourself cycling through endless experiences of trying the next thing out there that’s trending; with no real enduring change for the exchange of your precious time and energy.

Not to mention the disappointment, and maybe even self-loathing, when once again you can’t get the changes you want, to stick.

I can only say what has worked in my life. That being, getting very, very intentional about how you are living. Getting clear about what matters most to you, and then lining up everything, absolutely everything, to that. Through time, trial and error, and yes, effort, you begin to create a life that is holy. Why? Because it is based on what is most important in all the worlds. It is created by living through and above the ups and downs, the fads, the busyness, the mandates, the pressures, the marketing, the constant allure of the screens, and every other manner of distraction out there.

Living like this requires digging deeply over and over again to get to what you most want. This applies whether or not you are tired, feel like you have the time or are worth it. And it absolutely applies no matter who you are with. This is not easy to do. It’s like training for an ultramarathon that will take you through all kinds of terrain, some for which you will be prepared and some for which you will not. And oh by the way, it never ends.

Hearing this can feel overwhelming. As in how could a person possibly get to this? Well, there is no getting there. Only a kind of commitment that strengthens over time; ultimately giving way to greater and greater satisfaction such that the efforts pale in comparison to the return. That return is you, and a life well-lived.

Thinking about this all week has brought up a bunch of gems I’d like to share with you. To live intentionally…

  • Is to want more and to go for it.
  • Is to learn to stand for something. No matter what.
  • Is to let go of old ideas and habits. Again and again.
  • Is to learn to see every challenge to your intention as a chance to strengthen your resolve.
  • Is  to let the very best in you be called forward.
  • Is to be stronger than the naysaying; both within and without.
  • Is to let yourself be shaped and forged by a larger vision for your life.
  • Is to give up trying to belong based on fitting in.
  • Is to believe you are worth it.

So now we cycle back to the beginning question, How do I stick with it? I would say, figure out what you want more than anything else in the world and hold that as your enduring and unrelenting focus.