Waiting

 

In a recent personal exploration, I came in contact with what I will simply call here, “Waiting.” That part of me that gets put on hold, that stops breathing fully, that gets frozen, that even, on some level, ceases to live.

All while I wait for something to happen.

For that email, that phone call, that person to change. For the permission to be myself. For the madness to be over. For the guarantee that something will or will not happen.

Contrast that to the part of me that could not wait to get out onto the trail this morning. The part that didn’t let a standing temperature of eight degrees with a wind chill of well below zero cause her to wait for another time. The part that actually reveled in the gale force winds causing the trees to talk and sand tornados to appear out of nowhere.

We are a world of waiting. For the next text, the next like, the next, next, next…

These recent years have found us all in a waiting game. Waiting for a test result to tell us what’s going on and how we must proceed. Waiting for the permission to go outside. Waiting to be told when we could be with loved ones again. Waiting to be given the okay to take our masks off, go back to work, gather. Waiting for something to go away. Waiting for something to save us.

We wait for our boss or spouse to change. We wait for vacations, the weekend and retirement. We wait for the next package to arrive from Amazon. We wait for the diagnosis to tell us how we’re doing, or for the weight to finally come off. We wait for ourselves to change. For things to be somehow, somewhere different. We wait to die.

We wait and we wait and we wait.

Waiting is child’s play. It is a mentality that says my life is not in my hands. It is a mindset that says my freedom, my health, my wellbeing, my very life is not up to me. That there are forces out there that will decide how free and alive I can be. Where I can go, how I can live, and what is possible.

But the Truth is, Life does not wait. Our lives do not wait. They go on, with us or without us. So just as the wind did not wait for me to go on a run before it unleashed its full force, I ask you, as I ask myself: Are you waiting or are you living? 

Red Flags

 

This morning I did something I almost never do. I went online before my morning practice. It’s not like it’s an ironclad rule to never do this. It’s just that I know that when I start my day in reflection, I’m a different person. Closer to who I most want to be when I begin my day by checking in, as opposed to checking out.

But the allure today towards the screen was just too strong. A friend had told me about a meditation, and I got it into my head that this would make my practice better. Deeper. That maybe this would be what I needed to get over the hump of an obstacle I had been struggling with. Maybe it would get me closer to Source?

That right there should have been a red flag. But the temptation of the one-click-away to salvation was just too strong.

Once on the site and ready to buy the fix I thought I needed, for some reason the payment wouldn’t go through. So I tried it again. And then, again. And again. Actually a bunch more times. I even walked away for a minute, and then came back to try once more.

And so it was, with some sense of loss and disappointment that I headed into my morning practice. But not with my usual sense of commitment and eager anticipation.

Yesterday, I would have told you that I am far too experienced to believe that some meditation would fill some hole. Today I would tell you, some part of me does not know better. I would tell you that this whole business of what we need, and what we think we can get immediately via the screens is very, very seductive. In such an exquisitely insidious and invisible way that there’s a good chance you won’t even know it’s happening.

Why? Because the false promise of easy access salvation to a better life with just one click, flies under the radar of the rational mind. The part of us that believes we are in charge and know exactly why we are choosing what we do. What I am describing tells another story. One where our deepest longings, those places beneath the surface of awareness that drive us without us even knowing it, are easily hijacked by what is available across a screen.

It is so sobering to experience just how vulnerable we are to the belief that what we need is out there; in someone else’s hands, in an app, some purchase, a meditation download. This morning, I am deeply humbled by the ease with which I was hooked. Equally, I am deeply grateful for the daily reminder of my morning practice. Something that caught me today before I fell too far from Truth.

That Truth being, there are no quick fixes out there. No matter what form they come in. The real Truth is, it is in us. Whatever it is that we are looking for. Do we need help? We do. But the trick is, not to confuse the help (someone else’s map) with the answer we are seeking (which can only be found in the direct knowing of our own territory).

So yes, use what’s out there to spark you. But never, ever, believe something outside of you will do for you, what only you can do for yourself.

P.S. When in doubt about where you are in all of this, be on the lookout for the compulsion that you just have to have (fill in the blank) to be okay. Use that feeling of impulsiveness on your part to have something right now, as the red flag being flown to warn you off the lie you are about to buy into.

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.

Where Your Attention Goes…

 

Have you ever found yourself trying to make sure something didn’t happen? Put all your energies into the avoidance of something? Got very internally tight trying to keep something from occurring? Built your life around making sure the thing you didn’t want to happen, didn’t?

How’s it working for you?

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself bumping up against a mindset which I will call, “trying not to be sick.” This was a surprise to me as I value being sick and the ways it gives my immune system a stretch, offers the necessary genetic upgrades my body needs to be in harmony with the world I live in, as well as teaching me so much about myself. Not to mention, I have lots and lots of tried and true go-to’s that I lean into when I am not well and that I trust implicitly.

So being sick is not something I typically fear. Or so I thought. For lurking far beneath the surface of my awareness, beneath years and years of aligning to a belief system that trusts my body in illness, there it was. I was doing my damndest, not to be sick. It got me to thinking about a whole bunch of things, a couple of which I’ll share here: One, how incredibly intractable old belief systems can be even after you thought you had moved beyond them. Two, how terribly, terribly wrong we’ve got it as a collective when it comes to what it means to be alive.

For the Truth is, there is a vast difference between trying not to be sick, and focusing on supporting yourself back to health. An absolute chasm between allowing your body to be ill and do what it needs to do, and trying to make something go away. An enormous gap between seeing the gifts illness has to offer, and refusing to notice what it is your body is trying to tell you.

Look around. Listen to the conversations you have with others. Mostly, pay attention to the thoughts you think inside your own mind when it comes to getting sick. Is there a sense of opportunity in what you can learn about yourself, or do you live terrified by what is or can happen to your body? Do you see illness as an opportunity to reset and take better care of yourself, or do you believe something is being done to you? Do you follow the bread crumbs of your days back to learn how you got yourself out of balance, or are you just annoyed with your body and looking to slam it back into production?

And these days, do you pay attention to what you need to be well, or have you picked up the recently ill-conceived co-vid narrative that to be sick is to be an enemy and a danger to those around you?

Avoiding being sick is not the same thing as paying attention to the signs and signals your body is giving you. It is not the same thing as taking a hard look at your life to see where you have gotten out of harmony with the truest needs of your life. It is not the same thing as using an uncomfortable experience to inform and guide you back into balance.

This is one of those enormous paradigm leaps where we go from the earth is flat to the earth is round; putting into action the belief that we create our own reality and that where our attention goes, our energy flows. Meaning, what we focus on matters. A lot.

Sick or not, every minute of every day, you have a choice about where you put your attention; on what you want or what you don’t want. If this makes sense to you, get in the habit of paying attention to the mind chatter. Is it encouraging you to go for what you actually want, or is it demanding that you listen to, and act on, what you don’t want?

Then, choose. Over and over and over again. Until you get your mind in the habit of orienting to what you most want. Does it take time? Yes. But what better way to spend your life than devoting your precious attention and energy to what you actually desire?

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.

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.

Balance

 

Here we sit right at the Fall Equinox. A time of equal light and dark. One moment in time balanced on the turning of the outer Universe. Reflecting back into our own inner Universe what is possible when we align with what is most natural and true to who and what we are.

This is not easy. The human mind will take anything, even the concept of balance, and turn  it into something to commodify, sell, and then use as some impossible standard with which to beat ourselves up with.

The Truth is, there is no work-life balance. There is no magical place where everything is accounted for and taken care of. No place where you will finally have all the time, resources and energy to… fill in the blank. And there is no treatment, supplement, book or practice that will gift you with a final resting spot of eternal balance.

Instead, balance is a choice. A seasonal one. A daily one. A moment by moment one.

Balance is elusive, shifting, able to be found, unnerving, arduous and simple. Sounds like one big contradiction. That’s because it is. You cannot chase balance. You cannot make it happen. But you can cultivate the conditions for it to thrive. You can court it by inviting it into your life. You can shepherd a way of being that honors it.

Even so, you will lose it, find it and then lose it again. As my first yoga teacher said about the balancing postures, “You need to fall out of balance to know what true balance is.” That means we have to include it all. The times we feel balanced, and the times we don’t. And we have to be willing to study both, closely and intensively, to know what it takes.

What it asks of us.

That’s because balance is a living energy as opposed to something you purchase. One that cares not about your ideas, but only seeks to know itself through its opposites: Like night and day, male and female, off and on, right and wrong, good and bad, soft and hard, strong and weak, etc.

Imagine yourself as a set of balancing scales. Learn to notice which side of things you tend to fall towards. Too much busyness? Add a pinch of rest. Too much mental pushing? Add a moment of a hand over your heart. Too much talking? Be silent for once. Too much focus on others? Practice some selfishness. Too much screen time? Go outside for a breath or two.

It doesn’t take much. Just an intention to watch when the scales have tipped too far in one direction, and then being willing to add a dose of its opposite. As Ayurveda would say “Opposites balance.” So find what you do too much of, figure out its opposite and begin to weave it into your repertoire. It may never be your default or go-to, but it will go a long way to balancing your own inner light and dark.

Intentions

 

Intentions are a powerful way to focus a mind that loves to dwell in the limitations and pain of the past, along with the apprehensions and anxieties of the future. But more than anything, intentions put you into direct contact with what you really want in life. Which then puts you into direct contact with all of the ways that you undermine what it is that you really want in life.

This past year, I have bumped up my intention setting to include a monthly ritual on each new moon to get very clear about something in my life based on the astrology we are in. Basically, I am aligning myself with my own energies as well as larger Universal forces; helping me to accelerate whatever it is that I am navigating towards.

Then, I spend the following weeks bringing myself back over and over again to what I have intended. This helps me to navigate by a True North (what it is that I most want) and gives me something to align with when I have gotten off course (what it is that I don’t want).

Given the long list of distractions and addictions available in the culture at this time, without a clear intention of what you most want in Life, you will be doomed to keep repeating over and over again what is not working for you.

This month the new moon was in the sign of Virgo. I have a special feeling for this sign as it is all about the body. Not only one of my favorite topics, but the very cornerstone for everything I do in life. And this doesn’t just apply to me. We cannot be here without a body. Nor can we enjoy ourselves or have energy to create what’s important to us when we are in a body that feels like crap.

Does it not make sense then, to create a special relationship with this one body of yours?

One way to begin is to let yourself imagine what it is that you really want when it comes to your body. This month, I did that by creating an intention for myself at the new moon: May I know what it is to live in this body feeling fully blessed, loved, protected, understood and seen.

As I go through my days, I can pinpoint the moments when I am in alignment with this deep desire, and when I am not. As always, it breaks down to my state of mind. Am I in an old place when experiencing my body, an anticipated future, or am I here right now? And when I am here through the lens of the present versus the past versus the future, what is my experience like in each state when it comes to how it feels to be in this body of mine?

I will tell you something that holds true for all of us. No matter what your body is feeling or experiencing, when you are only in the present moment with what is happening, not only is the experience doable, you will find more sustenance and support than when you are imagining past or future scenarios about what it all means. Further, only when you are in your body now, as is, can you experience feeling fully blessed, loved, protected, understood and seen.

No matter what is happening.

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.