Goodness

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staying Close To Your Body

 

Last weekend I was in the mountains hiking with a friend. Recounting some of my history with hiking and why I feel the way I do about it, I was brought back to the early days of getting out onto the trail. At the time I was in my mid-twenties and living a very destructive, disconnected, and I would even say, abusive, relationship with my body.

Really, I could not even call what I had with my body back then, a relationship. It was more like I was some foreign exchange student visiting a frightening and overwhelming country where I didn’t know the language; leaving me confused, scared and frustrated a great deal of the time.

But out on the trail, and by necessity in order to be able to do what I was doing, I had to learn to be with my body in ways I never had before. I actually had to pay attention to it if I expected it to be able to get up and down a mountain in one piece. I actually had to stop overriding the messages it was sending me to be able to keep going.

What did that look like?

Paying attention to basic signals of thirst, hunger and physical sensation. I had to notice before I got depleted physically what my body needed by way of food and water. I had to tune into the twisted shoulder strap, the crinkled sock or the fact that I was overheating or cooling down too fast.

Otherwise what was something small and manageable in the moment, became too big and unmanageable to compensate for later on. The body is amazing in its endurance, resilience and redundancy out on the trail, but pushed beyond its limits in uncaring and unthinking ways, you will pay the price. Every single time.

Because I was first getting into hiking well before cell phones and from a time when we were all a lot heartier, the expectation was that, except in the most dire of circumstances, you got down under your own steam. It wasn’t just you out there. It was also those you were with, as well as those who might risk coming out to rescue you. So you better be able to do what needed doing.

This meant that I had to learn fast how to stay close to my body because attending early to something calling for my attention got me one kind of a hike, while waiting until the messages had become wildfires that were out of control got me another kind of a hike.

For me, and from the very start, hiking is and always has been a metaphor for life in a body. Not just with myself, but also in terms of what I “owe” to others. What I need to pay attention to out there is not unlike what I need to pay attention to in the day to day. Both for myself, and others.

Here are some simple “trail” instructions:

Stay close to your body and its most basic needs, while attending to imbalances and physical urges early and often. Remember you have a duty to those you are traveling with. A duty to hold up your own end.

Which can only be done if you know how to take care of your own end to begin with.

Be Nice

 

Two weeks ago, I saw a yard sign that read “Be Nice.” I let it go. Sort of. But then yesterday I saw it again on another lawn, and the rage that had started to simmer a few weeks ago, burst into full boil.

What’s the big deal you might be wondering? I mean come on, there are far worse things someone could post for all those driving by to see. Right? And I might agree. Except for one teeny, tiny problem.

I know better. More to the point, I have lived a great deal of my life under the oppressive rule of nice. As a woman, I know intimately the dark magic behind insisting that a girl be a “nice girl.” A deadly, suffocating and soul-sucking insistence that insinuates a kind of “be nice or else.” Or else what, you might ask?

You will be left, shamed, ostracized, attacked and ridiculed. Along the way you will be told that it is all your fault because you just didn’t behave nice enough. A deep-seated cultural, familial and relational “hidden curriculum” that makes it all but impossible to challenge what you are being conditioned to believe. Whether it is good for you, or not. Whether the request is valid, or not.

Because here’s the question that never gets asked inside the mind of that girl: “Nice” according to whom, and for what gain?

Talk to any woman who is willing to be honest with you, and she will tell you of the scars she still bears by being groomed in nice. She will tell you of the control and the manipulation that one little word inflicted on her life. She will tell you of how she turned against herself to stay nice in another’s eyes. Even when what they were insisting upon was harm-based. How she tolerated and allowed the worst of behaviors from another in order to keep anyone from thinking she wasn’t nice enough.

A moving target of being “nice” according to this person, then that person, and then that person… According to that system, that school, that community… An ever-vigilant effort on her part that she poured her very life force into to live up to what was being demanded of her. No matter the cost.

No matter that what she was being asked to live up to, was never right or true to begin with. How she would risk depression, anxiety, a loss of self-esteem, an obliteration of her truest Nature, an erosion of a kind and loving relationship with herself, a thwarting of her life-giving instincts and intuitions. All done to avoid the repercussions of being labeled not nice.

Being nice, when legislated by someone outside of you, is a form of slavery. It is a way to shut you up. A way to keep you quiet. A way to shame you into something that may not be in your best interests.

A way to keep you from questioning bad behavior from the powers that be. One little word with the power to keep you from being you and from questioning what is most decidedly, questionable.

I will not be nice if it means I must give over my life to something controlling and manipulative. This is too great of a price to pay. Do we need to find ways to be with each other in more respectful ways? We do. Are there certain character traits that lift up all of us and that we would be wise to cultivate in each other? Yes.

But how dare you use nice to enslave others to your will. How dare you add another brick to the growing social credit system we are heading towards where outside sources score you on how nice or not you are. And then decide what you get to have in life by way of movement though a culture based on whether or not they think you and your ways check the “nice” box.

We must learn to recognize when virtues are being co-opted and used against us. The very same sacred and life-affirming virtues that already exist within us, and need only trust, patience and encouragement to bring them forward. Otherwise, we are condemned to live as a culture of goody-goody’s wagging their fingers at each other; ready to rat out anyone who does not conform.

We have got a very big question before us as a world: Do we want to live with each other based on the very best in us, or do we want to live according to the smaller version of ourselves where we use distorted versions of human virtues to control one another?

P.S. When I looked up “nice” in the dictionary and the thesaurus, here’s what I found: foolish, wanton, silly, simple, trivial, old-maidish, persnickety.

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.

Simple Requests

 

I think a lot about what it means to live in a way that honors myself, while also living in harmony with others. As you can imagine, there is no shortage of opportunities for me to practice, in real time, how to actually live this.

I got another chance recently when one of the men doing some work on our farm brought his dog. When he asked me if it was okay for the dog to be here, I said, “yes.” But that was only a partial answer. I really wanted to say “Yes, as long as you keep him out of my medicine garden.”

But I didn’t. Why? Because I thought he would think I was uptight, a bitch, not a dog lover. And if I’m really being honest, it’s because I thought there was a chance he would be angry. Not because he had shown any inkling of behaving that way, but because that is an old imprint of mine: I make a reasonable request to a male and I get exploded on.

This leaves me not saying what I need to say in certain situations. And because I didn’t say what I really needed to say, when the dog did go into my medicine garden, I vacillated between seething and feeling like I didn’t have a right to seethe. This led to all kinds of unkind thoughts towards this unconscious man and his unruly dog. Which then led to unkind thoughts about myself.

It all felt terrible.

Then, I got an opening. When I had to leave a note for the men for something else, I added the part about doing their best to keep the dog out of the garden. The response? Both men profusely and sincerely apologized. No one flipped out on me. This left me able to spontaneously and naturally say to them, “I just wanted to let you know so that I would’t be secretly pissed at you and your dog.” We all laughed.

Something very old and afraid in me lifted through that honest exchange.

More than that, saying what I needed to say has allowed me to enjoy having their dog around. Interestingly enough, as I write this, he is standing outside the glass door looking in at me. Now it could be the two raw eggs I gave him this morning, but to me it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that by speaking up when I needed to, not only did I not have to live in fear or resentment, I see, once again, that every time I speak up from a place of clarity, not only am I better for it, we are all better for it.

But this takes effort, and an enormous amount of personal responsibility. We all refrain from saying what we really feel because we are afraid of the reaction we might get. What’s important to know is that any time you are trying to make a simple and reasonable request, and you are afraid to speak it, the past is in play.

That’s where the responsibility part comes in. It’s your job to run down what that is for you so that you do not project something onto another that doesn’t belong to them. The result? We learn to honor ourselves and to live in harmony with others.

True Power

 

I am running at the ocean’s edge on the last day of my time away, and I am struck by the immense power of the ocean as waves smash against the shore; followed by visible rip currents. I am stopped by the enormous power doing its thing right beside me. And yet, as vast and powerful as the ocean is, it is pulled and directed by Something Far Greater. Yes, the moon. But even beyond that.

And it occurs to me, “Just like us.”

The big difference being, of course, that the ocean does not draw back from its raw and wild strength. Nor does it believe itself to be more powerful than it actually is. That level of ignorance and hubris belongs solely to human beings. The only species to both negate and inflate our true powers here on Earth.

We see this in the ways we try and control every facet of the world from the weather we wish we could manage, to the weeds we try and destroy, to the bugs we don’t like, to trying to manage and control other people and other countries. We see it in all the ways that we do not know our proper place here on Earth, as we believe we are the dominators and the controllers of how the waters flow, while we engineer fake foods, genetically modify organisms and now, even our very own bodies through all of the technological ‘innovations’ we are so proud of.

The very same ones that leave us believing we are the most powerful force in the world. Even as we sicken and suffer, while spreading dis-ease everywhere we go now, we continue on course because we are after all, in charge of it all.

Simultaneous to the misplaced power we ascribe to ourselves, we fear the power that is ours, and only ours, to rightfully claim. We deny our creativity, our instincts and intuitions, our voice and what it is that makes us unique in the ‘service’ of fitting in. We sidestep speaking our truths because we imagine dangerous societal repercussions. And we do our very, very best, to make sure we never, ever, stick out too much. Never draw outside of the lines or make a wave.

And even when we do go ‘against the grain,’ how often is our behavior more of a rebellious reaction, as opposed to a true expression of our authentic power? Behavior that arises purely and organically, and that has nothing to do with anything other than an expression of our own true Nature.

Do you think that the ocean cares that it is too rough for us? Do you think it worries that we are afraid of, or inconvenienced by, its deepest and most feral contents? Do you think for even one second it stops being what it is to fit in with our beliefs about what it should be?

We would all be well-served to dig a little deeper into our truest Nature. That which is undeniably beyond opinions and reactions (ours or another’s), while coming to the realization that who we are is not between us and other people, it is between us and that which created us.

Inspired by the ocean and by Mother Teresa’s poem “Do it Anyway.” And if you would like to reclaim the healing power that resides within you, consider joining me for The Healer Within.

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.

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.

Embracing Obstacles

 

It’s not easy being in a body. There are so many sensations, pressures, thoughts, beliefs and experiences that go along with how we feel about our bodies, and what it means to inhabit them. That’s why it can feel preferable to “leave” them. Or let someone else be in charge of them.

It has become a socially condoned way of “living” to leave our bodies and what it is we are experiencing. Take my college students and the way that they “party.” The way they use drugs and alcohol to knock down the stress. To keep them from feeling what they don’t want to feel.

I know this place. All too well. It was how I lived for years. Partying, eating and exercising to excess and as punishment. Self-loathing and worthlessness arising out of the choices I was making. It was only when I began to feel how horrible what I was doing to myself felt, that I was able to shift. Only when I was willing to encounter the obstacles to good and fulfilling connection with my body did things, slowly and steadily, begin to change.

While incredibly difficult, excruciating and sad to come up against the obstacles that were keeping me from myself, it was real. Most of all, it was true. Obstacles are an absolutely unavoidable and essential part of the journey of being at home in our own body. So that’s where I began. With what was real by way of what was in between me and my body. In between me and my ability to be at home in myself. 

I know the current thinking is to get away from what feels bad. I would even go so far as to say that it is built into us as mammals to get away from what causes pain. That it is a necessary part of our survival and coping mechanisms to avoid what hurts. This life-giving tendency most certainly has its place. However, in modern day living where our pains are often self- and culturally-induced, with no connection whatsoever to real physical survival requirements, our wires have gotten crossed when it comes to avoidance. 

The basic, primal instinct of avoidance has gotten flipped on its head, and is now bringing harm rather than relief, while being met by a world all too happy to sell us things that keep us from ever having to feel what it is to be in our own bodies. 

Given the cultural mindset that says “Take this to get away from feeling what you are feeling in your body,” to hear that in order to be at home in yourself, you must go towards what you typically avoid, can sound paradoxical. Or even insane. But if we don’t include this part of embodiment, we’ll miss out on some of the most important information we need when it comes to the body and how it is that we are treating it. Not to mention that it is pure fantasy to try and avoid what we would rather not know. 

Acting as if something is not there, does not make it so.

It is only when we include what does not feel good, what is not working, what is keeping us from a good relationship with ourselves, can we see that what we’re doing is actually not working. Maybe even hurting. That any of the denying, diversions and medicating we’re engaging in, outweighs any “benefits” they may bring in the short-term. Worst of all, that what we’re choosing through our avoidance may actually become the impediment itself to healing what ails us.

In the end, keeping us from not only the health we desire, but the opportunity to know ourselves fully through the empowered journey of learning to trust and care for ourselves. 

 

Love

 

There are those who say, and have said since time recorded, that Love is the very fabric, energy and pulse of the Universe. If that’s so, it seems important enough to ponder what it is beyond flowers, chocolates and jewelry. Wouldn’t you say?

I know we use the word. I know we see it “represented” in emogees and on cards. I know we will say we love things like cake or our iPhone. I know we are expected to love certain people more than others, and that we are instructed to “Love thy neighbor.” And even our enemies.

But what is it exactly that we’re doing here? Do we even know?

It has been said that love heals. That love conquers all. That love is blind. And that love can move mountains. Still. What is it?

Personally, I know that love is not money. Nor is it things. I believe many people would agree to that, and yet those same people, at any given moment, might equate love to something too small to be it. As in, the bigger the diamond the more he loves you.

I know it’s not words, though words can express it. And I know that saying “I love you,” can be used for many, many reasons other than love. I also know that since the advent of cell phones, it is used liberally. Becoming a must-have way to say good-bye whether you are feeling it or not. A needy gesture to the other person serving as a desperate stand-in for how little we show it.

It’s almost like the more disconnected we get from each other, the more the words replace what it would actually take to create the connection and the closeness we all long for.

I find it harder to say what it is, then what it is not. As in, it is not desperate, anxious, or manipulative. It does not fill a void. It does not demand anything. Nor does it make up for personal lack and insecurities. It does not punish, withhold or humiliate. And it never, ever forces another to engage in a particular action to prove itself.

Perhaps love with a capital “L” is beyond words. As ineffable as the Source from whence it comes. Something available to us, something we can pass on, but never of our own making. So maybe the very best we can do is to open our heart to its Presence and its desire to flow through us.

Whether we ever say those three little words, or not.