Tapping Into The Hermit Within

 

I write this blog on the day of the Winter Solstice. A time of year many of us dread because of the increased darkness with all of the scarier feelings of loneliness, low mood and more that can go with it. But there’s another way we can look at this time of year as we head into the winter season. A way of being with the much needed and seasonal rhythm of slowing down and going within as we send our energies into the roots that hold what most sustains us.

For a deeper exploration of the natural capacity to focus inward in this way, I turn to the archetype of The Hermit: The one who intentionally withdraws as a sacred act of devotion to the exploration of what lies within. The one who chooses consciously to retreat in the service of accessing and becoming more acquainted with the deep self. The one who decides to strip their existence down to the bare essentials in order to truly know themselves.

Sounds like an incredible recipe for a meaningful life. And it just might be the very antidote some of us are looking for in a world that is increasingly bent on selling us the meaningless and the superficial. A world organized around giving us the shadow side of The Hermit. That being, all of the ways that we can withdraw and check out in extraordinarily disconnected and destructive ways.

The “dark side” of The Hermit looks like socially isolating yourself; numbing out with substances, withdrawing from meaningful endeavors and connections, getting lost in the fantasy world of the screens. This is so easy to do because of all that we are bombarded with on a daily basis and because it is practically demanded of us that we “retreat” through the use of all the medications that have become the acceptable way now to withdraw in modern times. But when you truly understand the role and the power of The Hermit’s choice to withdraw, you’re more inclined to find your way back to the light-filled side of this archetype that withdraws, ultimately and always, in search of Truth.

That’s why The Hermit is never about checking out, but instead is a map for going below the surface of the conditioning, the societal pressures, the lies, the false realities, the obfuscations and the latest binge experiences being offered to us. This archetype is a direct route to reality with a capital “R.” A conscious and conscientiously chosen retreating as a way of respecting the complications and confusions of the realities of life in a body by giving yourself time out of time to align with true and life-giving versions of what this life is really all about.

This can be done formally by going away on a retreat. But it can also be something as immediate as your very own breathing, where you intentionally pause between one breath and the next in an effort to give yourself a moment’s withdrawal from the onslaught of the daily fray. You can carve out an hour for a walk, create a moment to step outside and look at the night sky, draw a bath, drive in silence or take a night off from the hypnotic and externalizing barrage of what comes out of the screens.

In so doing, your reward is great for The Hermit is the sage, the wise-one, the one who welcomes solitude and silence as the path for knowing how to be with all the seasons of Life. Even the darkest and scariest of them all.

Wake-Up Calls

 

In the past week, I have either fallen or stumbled and almost fallen, three separate times. They all happened while I was out running in the woods. And they all coordinated perfectly to my mind being stuck on an endless loop of negativity.

A fake argument with someone inside my own mind. Indulging old protective mechanisms against an anticipated attack. Feeling responsible for another’s choices. On and on it went. Until bam! Down I went. A startling but effective way to get me off the well worn, beaten path of a mind stuck on negative thought loops.

It’s been a powerful awareness for me in these moments because habits of the mind are not always easy to notice. Especially if the various themes of our thinking have been going on for years and years. Meaning, that what we’re thinking about can go undetected for long stretches. A lifetime even. And without something a little, or a lot, jarring to the system, we just won’t change.

Which is why I don’t mind the wake-up calls because what I know to be true is this: Negative thinking unchecked erodes my experience of what it feels like to be me. And it’s not a feeling I enjoy. That’s why I have come to appreciate these physical stumbles in the woods and see them as welcomed harbingers. Lightening bolts from my own soul saying “Knock it off. You deserve better than that. You have more important things to tend to.”

The call of the soul cares not for our comfort. Nor will it indulge us in our habits of mind based on our fears, the past or any other pieces of old conditioning. It’s only aim? For us to express ourselves fully and uniquely all in the service of remembering the Truth, with a capital “T,” of who and what we are.

So while I have never found my soul to be controlling or forceful, it can be very, very persuasive with the nudges it gives me, large and small, through the circumstances of my day to day life. I believe that’s the way it works. Little nudges offering us an opportunity to course correct how it is that we are living.

Maybe it happens through the experience of a health issue, a breakup, an argument. Perhaps you’ll get fired, your house will flood, or you’ll be betrayed. The soul can show up as an unsettled yearning, a depression, or a regret. Really, any of the things in life we wish with all our hearts would not happen and that we spend a lot of time and thinking trying to keep from happening.

But what if you saw every unwanted “happenstance” as a wake-up call? As a message from beyond and within. What then? Would you say yes to the stumbles and the falls that allowed you to see the beautiful forest of Life that you are passing through? Would you say yes to the chance to grow beyond the self-imposed limitations that keep you stuck in the wrong habits?

If so, be on the lookout for what is not working, for what breaks and for what just feels way past its prime in your life.

The 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.

The Light

 

For the Winter Solstice this year, I spent the late afternoon into the early evening in front of a fire outside. The temperature was comfortable enough to make being outdoors easy. The clear sky revealed, one by one, the arrival of each star. Night birds called.

Everything was still, but for the sounds the fire was making. A kind of deep, deep stillness that can be felt in the bones, and on the level of the soul.

I kept coming back, over and over again, to the intense need for us as people to turn towards those rituals that align us with the season, and therefore, ourselves. Marking moments like the Winter Solstice remind us of the deeper meanings in Life, and of the necessary adjustments we must make to remain true to who and what we are.

Time-honored rituals built to bring us back to what we have forgotten. We need this. A lot. 

I would even go so far as to say, more than ever. For as we continue to separate from our natural roots and rhythms, we deaden ourselves to the dead lives we are living. We make excuses for why it’s okay to “live” so overwhelmed. Why it’s okay to seek sustenance masquerading as food that poisons and harms. Why it’s okay to pretend that what we’re doing is normal, and even necessary.

It’s a fool’s errand to believe that if we just run harder on the treadmill, if we just create that next life-saving technology, if we just make it to the weekend, if we just make it past cold and flu season, then, then, we will, finally, find the peace and ease we are all seeking. Not only untrue, but a detrimental diversion that blinds us to what needs doing.

It’s not out there. It’s in here. And rituals like Solstice fires, Hanukah candles and Christmas lights are there to remind us of just that. So spend some time in this Season of Light reminding yourself of the light that dwells within you. As cheesy and trite as this can sometimes come off, I believe it lands that way with us now because of how far removed we are from the fundamental Universal Truth that we are, indeed, Light.

But don’t take my word for it, spend some time with a light, a candle, a fire, and maybe, just maybe, if you stay long enough, you will have the experience that I did on the Solstice: A welling up at the recognition of that Truth.

What Enlivens You?

 

The day is magnificent. The sky a deep clear blue. The temperature crisp with leftover night frost on the windshield, but with the promise of a warmer day on the way. I am going out for a run for the first time in weeks. It feels like a big deal, because it is. This is much more than an act of habit, or getting some exercise. This is an act of me staking a claim for my own aliveness.

I am choosing for what brings me energy, as opposed to for the conditioned fears of my own mind or what conventional “wisdom” might say. You see, after getting sick recently, I have been left with a lingering cough. The kind of cough that seems it could go in any direction. A cough that has been defying all my attempts to clear it. A cough that has got my fear-based mind conjuring up all kinds of scenarios.

Bronchitis? Pneumonia? Maybe the things I know to be true about how a body heals don’t apply here. Maybe it’s my age and this is just what I can expect from here on out.

“Fuck that” is the conclusion I finally came to this morning. Why am I going to give over my precious life to made-up fears? Why am I going to link up to cultural narratives that I abhor? Why am I going to diminish my own aliveness and what is possible by playing it safe? Why am I going to link into the widespread addiction of fearing my own body?

And so out I went. Not in defiance, and certainly not in denial. But instead, I went out with myself to see what this body of mine was up for. Not to push it or control it, but to be with it and what it had to say.

And you know what it said?

“This is great and you’re doing great!” It feels so good to be out here. So good to be feeling the sun and the rhythm of my own feet on the Earth. I’m so happy. So grateful to be alive!”

We all know how to be fearful, cautious and careful. But do we know what brightens our Spirit? We all know how to dull our aliveness through anxiety, worry, eating too much and more. But do we know how to feed our own life force? We all know the cheap sense of aliveness we get from drugs, alcohol and the screens. But do we know how to nourish the sacred energy that flows through us?

What brings you alive? Do you even know?

It’s not hard, and it doesn’t cost a thing (other than your interest and commitment). Step outside. Feel the sensation of temperature and weather. Let go of judging that it’s too this or that for you. Instead, tune into the fact that each sensation lets you know you are here. You are alive. And that you have a choice about how to be with it all.

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.

JOY

 

I am making my rounds on our Farm; opening up the chickens, weeding the medicine garden, picking berries, noticing what is happening, and in general, just poking around. On this morning, despite what my have-to list would say I need to accomplish and in what order, I am allowing myself to be led.

This willingness takes me right to a magical moment with a hummingbird who lands on the fence before me. This alone feels incredible as it is rare that I do not see them in motion. Her stillness gives me a chance to really appreciate her little green iridescent body sparkling and shimmering in the light.

When she alights, she goes to all of the sunflowers, black-eyed susan’s and honeysuckle that is spread out before me. Given her momentary interest in yellow, I secretly hope she will mistake my sunflower tattoo for a real flower and come close enough for me to feel the beating of her wings.

In this moment, I am reminded that from an animal teacher wisdom perspective, the Hummingbird is all about Joy. As I watch in utter stillness so as to not spook her, I hear that while we all want to experience joy, it cannot be chased, grabbed, tricked, or lured in. Nor can it be bought, forced, scheduled, ordered or mandated.

It can only be allowed. Opened to. Aligned with. Invited in. 

There are no short cuts, and no one else can give it to you. Partly this is so because it is already in you, and partly because Joy is a mistress who knows her own mind and cannot be coerced to show up. Ever. Instead, she must be courted with great reverence and respect. With no agenda or expectation of her arrival, for she does not take kindly to false and showy displays, or to greedy demands.

Instead, only when the conditions are worthy of her gifts does she burst upon the scene from within. Creating an explosion in the chest that can set you to weeping over the magnitude of Joy herself. An experience like none other, that simply arises unbidden out of the most “simple” of moments.

All of this leads me to mourn the chasing we all do, based in a confusion we have succumbed to around the Nature of Joy; that innate and God-given revelation that answers not to the ego, but to the very living of Life itself. On Life’s terms.

Want more joy in your life? Court her. Slow down enough to notice. Take interest in the simplest of things; those moments in life that reflect Life, as opposed to another man-made demand. Allow yourself, for even one moment, to be without an agenda. This is not easy to do. But if you can do it for even one instant, you will have created an opening big enough for a hummingbird to fit through.

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.

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?”

 

 

 

What Will You Resource?

 

I am in practice this morning setting an intention for the month to come. Here in this moment, everything seems so doable. So clear. So full of possibility. And yet, I also know that when I meet up with the ways of the world, along with my own personal habits and limitations, I will have a choice to make. A choice that will feel far more difficult out there, than it does in here on my yoga mat.

That choice being: Do I do what I always do? Or do I do something else?

It is never easy “to do something else.” Our brains have a proclivity to default to the past to decide what to do. So whether it is your own personal past, or the evolutionary past of your reptilian brain, when challenged, you will always go to what you did in the past, as your first go-to. This makes good sense. Of course our brains would reference a past challenge to see what we did, and then go from there.

The problem being, that as long as we are still alive, our primal, default system believes that what we did in the past must have been successful because we’re still here. This part of our brain does not take into account the emotional and spiritual suffering we are experiencing by doing the same unsuccessful things over and over again.

There is no fighting with the most primitive parts of us. They need what they need. However, we can appeal to Something Else. For me, that always comes in the form of the Natural World.

I see this today as I make my intention, and then feel the uncertainty of being able to hold to this intention when challenged. At that very moment, the most poignant of questions arises: “When I am challenged, what will I resource?”

Instantaneously, a bird flies across my line of vision. As big as a crow, but not flying like a crow. I lose it as it lands in the trees. I find it again as it begins to beat out its rhythm. The telltale sound of the Woodpecker. I burst into tears as I realize I always have a choice as to what I will reference. Whether that be the same old unsatisfying ways or, though experienced as risky by my “past,” new ways that are more in alignment with the rhythms of my soul.

So, here’s the question: As you step forward in this day, will you resource a past that has kept you alive, or will you resource what allows you to thrive?