Sleepless Nights

 

Did you ever have one of those nights that not only can you not fall asleep, but you just feel awful all around? Maybe something in the body hurts. Maybe the room is too hot. Maybe your mind is buzzing away or you are awash in fear.

I just had one of those recently and it left me prickly and surly the next morning. Mostly, because I could not run down the cause of why I had the night I did. Was it the late afternoon chocolate? The extra moments I spent watching something on a screen when I knew I felt like I was being assaulted? Was it the chicken I ate? Maybe it was raised in fear and that was what I was experiencing. Was it my husband’s restless sleep next to me or the storm blowing around outside? Or how about the volatile energies in the collective?

Maybe it was everything all together all at once?

It was like a tsunami of human experience ripping though me. At first I tried to sort through each one of the possible culprits to figure out what it was. But there were too many to know what was what. I went from deep and burning frustration right into despair. Not over what was happening per se, but because I just could not figure it out.

There it is. Being in the middle of a storm is one thing. Believing that you can manage it, or even understand its origins or purpose is quite another. That understanding right there is the difference between heaven and hell. Our need to figure something out, coupled with our downright refusal to say “Yes” to what is happening becomes our vote for hell.

Whether we know it or not.

I’m not saying it’s not important to run down the things that bring on a sleepless night. Or any other disturbances we find in our lives for that matter. Of course it matters. If only to learn to take responsibility for our own experiences, what it is the body needs, along with the consequences of the choices we make.

What I am trying to say here is that not everything can be figured out. Not everything can be known. Then what?

Do we fight like a fish on a line against what it is we do not want? Do we rail against the unfairness of it all? Or do we let go? Into the deep and demanding rigor of being alive in a body having all kinds of experiences. This requires going beyond our expectations and demands that Life be a certain way for us to be ok. It means going beyond us putting our stamp of approval or rejection on what is happening.

Lest you believe this means giving up, it’s just not the case. In fact, it is anything but. Instead, to let be whatever is happening is to align with the Truth that we cannot know everything, that everything is not within our control, and that to believe it is, is to create a kind of living hell.

Mostly, it is to forgo the peace that is available to us in every single moment. No matter what is happening.

Which is why the next day, I turned my attention not to the potential culprit of my terrible night’s sleep, but to my response to it. And what I found was a woman so bent on fixing something that she was not able to just be with herself, without demand, in the midst of a terrible storm.

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.

Your Right To Your Own Health & Healing

Years ago, I was in a Holistic Health Counseling Training. It was one of the most profound and generous trainings I have ever been involved with. And I have done many. What made it so profound and generous was that we were offered every approach under the sun when it came to perspectives on health and healing. A smorgasbord of ways to approach things like diet, healthcare, spirituality, lifestyle issues and more. It was left up to us to sift through all that we were given; choosing for ourselves what worked for us, and what didn’t. 

Looking back, I can see that the founder of the school, beyond his desire to convey content, understood something vital, life-affirming and humane. An approach far too often missing in our conventional healthcare systems. The approach being, a basic trust in each other of our ability to choose for ourselves when it comes to what makes the most sense to our lives, along with what it is we personally need in order to be well. 

This is something I aspire to embody in the health and healing approaches I offer to the world. I am not being falsely self-deprecating here. Instead, I fully understand how difficult it is to not try and influence another when you believe you have the fix for them. When you believe you know better than they do about what is going on for them, and what they should do. Even must do, from certain “modern” public health perspectives.

But I want something more than to persuade or coerce another into my belief system. The “something more” is not just for me, but for all of us. I want a world where we trust each other at the level of recognizing that each of us truly does know what we are doing. Even if it cannot be understood by those around us. Even if we ourselves do not fully understand it. 

But why take that chance with one another? Because this way of being creates a world where we pay homage to the journey each of us is on. No matter what we might make of it. Because when you trust deep down inside that another has within them the capacity of inner wisdom to know their life, their body and what it is they need, you give them the great humanitarian gift of empowerment, agency and personal responsibility. 

The sacred act of you having faith in them, including your willingness to set aside your opinions and dogmas, carries the capacity to inspire and to help another move mountains in their own life. For when a person can trust themselves, what it is they are knowing and sensing from the inside out, you support them in becoming their very best. When you can stand in with another who is lost and confused without trying to get them to do what you think they should do, giving them the space to come to something on their own, they will exceed all expectations you, and even they themselves, might have of what they are capable of.

This is what changes lives on the personal level and what then goes on to change the life of the world.

Each person’s health and healing is unique to them and it is a deep, deep disrespect and a fundamental undermining of another’s humanity to try and take this from them. To ever try and co-opt the journey they have chosen for one of your own making. Each person’s journey of health and healing far exceeds a moment in time merely focused on a cure at the physical, mental or emotional level. Instead, the journey each of us is on is our soul’s deepest expression in physical form. 

To interfere with that expression by trying to manage, control, legislate, or mandate what another does in this regard, is a sin against humanity. 

(If this resonates, consider taking a look at the upcoming program I’m offering called The Healer Within.)

 

 

Which Role Will You Play In The World?

 

This week I taught a yoga class based on the Sanskrit word “sama.” It translates into “same or equal,” and is experienced as the ability to emulate the Divine whose Presence is equal in all matters concerning the world. What it looks like for us is described in one of the central yogic texts that guides us to be “even” in our ways of dealing with life. To be the same through pleasure or pain, good fortune or misfortune, praise or blame.

There are no clearer, nor more liberating instructions, for the times we are living in, than this.

For to be at the mercy of the rise and fall of the ways of the world, is to suffer. It is to never know lasting peace because there will always be another tragedy, another horror, another injustice. And it is to play out one of the three big dominant roles we choose in our interactions with others. That of the victim, the persecutor and the savior.

The victim is the energy of being harmed, overpowered and without agency in the face of greater forces. The energy of the persecutor is that of dominance, aggression and oppression. And finally, the energy of the savior is that of the rescuer, the fixer, the one that everyone comes to to solve their problems.

Depending on the day and the circumstances, we can play any and all of the three depending on what’s being triggered in us. You are in victim whenever you are in the role of the overwhelmed and bullied child who needs saving. The perpetrator, when you are forcing and coercing another to your own will. And the savior when you are being the one who makes things better for others because it seems like they can’t do it for themselves.

But there is another way. That of the Sovereign: One who is free of external control and therefore the up and down nature of the world. The one who charts their own course, choosing to meet the world as it is. The one who decides how she will be moved by the world, and who consciously chooses to be grown and hewn by all the experiences of Life. No questions asked.

The Sovereign is the one who allows that everyone deserves the right to live out their life as they see fit, without being forced into something or rescued from something. And is the one who is even enough within herself to bear witness to the world, without choosing for or against. Instead, choosing to be with.

This can be felt and known by all those around her. For instance, there is growing research demonstrating that we can feel the electromagnetic energy of the heart’s field. And now Quantum Biology is demonstrating how our physiology is experienced by others. In other words, when we are at peace, when we are “even,” it is a palpable experience for all those around us. This is vastly different than being part of the big drama game of suffering we all like to play. One that activates a deadness or a hardening of the heart, while ramping up the physiology of stress that then emanates into the world.

If this resonates, practice where it is easy. Try being more neutral when it comes to the small things in your day like the weather, the seasons, or the traffic. Or how about practicing a kind of internal same-ness whether you get the recognition or not, win the lottery or not, have an argument go your way or not.

Your opportunities to work with this are endless as you go through your day, and are presented to you each time you feel yourself in a less than “even” emotional place.

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.

How Are You Creating The World?

 

There is an old expression that I believe comes from the Talmud. It goes like this, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” Take a moment to really, really let that sink in.

If this is so, how committed are you to spending the time to recognize that who you are, impacts your perceptions of life?

We live in a very, very sick society. I know that on some level, we all know this. How could we not? It’s everywhere. But because it’s everywhere, it begins to take on a kind of background hum and a sense of fait accompli. But if you’re willing to see how things are, you can see it in the poisons sprayed on our foods that we give to our children. You can see it in the collective worship at the alter of the screens, and the ways we refuse to keep ourselves from what is devaluing our lives. You can see it in the ways that we have begun to mandate which medicine people must use in order to be part of society. And you can see it in all the ways that we have never been more ill in body, mind and soul.

There is more. Much more. More that we have come to accept as normal. Even as it visibly sickens us.

But it’s not true. This isn’t normal. And somewhere deep inside we all know this. I believe it comes down then to what someone recently said to me about “calling the ghost by name.” A willingness on our part to name what is messed up and broken.

Because here’s the truth, who you are is not separate from the sickness of the world. You are merely one aspect of the way things are. Because when you add it all up, what’s out there is based on the sum total of each and every one of us. Of all the messed up and broken aspects of ourselves that we will not be with.

This is not a New Age cliche. It is Truth. For as we change our inner perceptions, and change what it is that we ourselves are being, the world reflects that. How could it be otherwise?

For instance, how do you contribute to the harmful food supply out there in terms of what you consider food and feed yourself with? Where do you place a screen above all else and even engage in that which is less than what you actually need and deserve? Where do you hold that others should do as you do when it comes to how people live and take care of themselves? And where have you been less than willing to address what ails you?

When you recognize that you are out of alignment with your values, you shift the ethics that run the world. When you change the way you feed yourself, you shift what nurturance is available to all of us. When you decide to stop all the scrolling and make the people in your life a priority, the world begins to prioritize people over machines. And when you decide to finally commit to something you need to do for your own health, the world begins to heal.

Today I read something that feels like the antidote to all the sickness. An author was making the point that in certain traditions, beauty was less about the physical appearance of a person, and everything about how well you knew yourself. That’s the guide. How well you know yourself. How well you know the “are” of you.

I know it seems like a lot, and maybe you are even wondering how what’s out there is connected to what’s in here. But if you see this as a lifelong exploration of getting to know yourself and what it is that makes you tick, you are halfway there. And then, if you’re willing to simply consider that what you’re seeing out there, is in here, you will be all the way there.

The Broken Unicorns In All Of Us

 

When I was a kid and had accumulated a little pocket change of my own, I would walk down to a place called Cushing Square to visit a tiny store that sold glass figurines. I can’t remember the name of the store, but I can still recall the display window that faced out to the sidewalk and what it felt like for me to go inside.

It was absolutely magical to be in this space and to be in the company of all those glass animals. They felt so mysterious and powerful to me. I wanted them all. But because the figurines weren’t cheap for a kid, I would have to save up for what I wanted. In the meantime, I would go into the store to visit with all those little creatures I felt such a connection to.

At some point, I acquired a three-level tiered stand where I could arrange these little friends of mine into different scenarios and configurations. No matter what I did in this regard, there was always one that stood out for me: The Unicorn. I felt moved by her golden horn and the clear see-through nature of her body. I looked at her every day and every night. She was the one I loved most of all.

So you might imagine how I felt when I came home one day to find her horn broken off. It was devastating. But worse than the devastation of something so important to me being broken, was that no one would admit to doing it. And no one saw that justice prevailed.

That day, something precious and innocent broke in me. I stopped going to the store and I don’t remember what happened to all the other glass animals.

Heartbreak and innocence lost is something every one of us will pass through. Not one of us will come to the Earth and leave unscathed in this regard. We all have had our “broken Unicorn” experiences and for many of us it will follow us around for the rest of our lives. It will color how we see the world. What we believe is possible. How safe or dangerous the world feels to us. What we believe will happen to us if we love open-heartedly.

As that old song goes, “the first cut is the deepest.” Very understandable then to go through life making damn sure it doesn’t ever happen again.

This is one way to live and it makes sense given how devastating it can be to learn as children what a cruel place the world can be at times. Unfortunately, when we hold onto this through life, not only do you lose out, so does everyone around you.

There is another way. But it’s a big ask to the child inside of us who got so hurt when we didn’t even know that kind of pain or disillusionment was possible. What is that “big ask?” To reclaim your innocence. To take back your wonder and sense of possibility. The road to get there is certainly long and arduous. And it will require that you feel what you never wanted to feel again. Ever.

But in the feeling you get to heal, and then you get to decide how armored up you want to be. And when. Because to live for our entire lives waiting to be hurt again is to live as a victim. And to live as a victim is to live shut down to the magic, wonder and possibility that lives in the world.

Want to give it a try? Think back into the past. Do you have a sense of where the mentality of the broken Unicorn began for you? That place where you felt wronged, betrayed or violated. Then observe with great kindness how that plays out now for you. Where and when it shows up. You don’t have to do anything for a very long time other than to just begin to make that connection.

Getting Stung In Life

 

We got two new hives of bees this year. It’s been a nightmare. Since the very first day, they have been “overly” aggressive. I put that in quotes because I am quite sure that from their perspective, they are doing what they need to do. Nothing more, nothing less. But as someone trying to be in her garden, communing with nature and the bounty of the Earth, without being hounded or stung, it has felt over the top for me.

At times I have been outraged by this situation; threatening to others that I was going to set fire to them in the night and murder them all. I have rerouted my morning routines in an effort to placate them. I have avoided the garden and sent my husband, fully suited up in his bee suit, in my place. I have covered up, prayed, appealed to them in my mind and sent them love. All to no avail. They continue to do what they do, which sometimes means, stinging me.

All of this has left me with a hint of PTSD and a good dose of paranoia whenever I hear their telltale buzzing sound. It has even transferred over to my experience with the bumble bees who I get along with quite well; having no concern to be face to face with them when my head is poking around inside the flowers they are on while I am weeding.

Today, one of our bees landed on my basket of flowers while I was harvesting some fruit. I watched as the anticipation and fear of getting stung, again, welled up inside me. I looked around to see if there was more than one, having created of late in my mind, horror movie scenarios where hundred of them are attacking me.

There was only one. That gave me pause, and allowed me to see that with all of the stories I had in my mind each time they were around, or not, I was trapped inside a self-made hellish narrative where I was conjuring up fear before anything even happened.

We do this all the time. We anticipate all kinds of things we don’t want to happen; believing that our fears and worries will somehow prepare us. Will leave us in control. It’s all an illusion. Worse yet, our conjured fears rob us of the enjoyment of life and leave us with the impression that the world is an awful and dangerous place, and the best we can do is to clamp down on everything we are afraid of. Control it. Get rid of it. Make rules about it.

But to live a good life is to get stung sometimes. It is to face the fears of the moment that are born of the ghosts of the past. It is to recognize that it all gets to be here; the things we hate, the things we are afraid of, the things that offend us.

And so, when I add it all up, the getting stung against all of the angst I have created around this, getting stung is not such a big deal after all.

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.

Meaning & Purpose

 

I’m reading a book where the author has just finished describing a study where more than half of us feel the work we do has no meaning. No purpose. That many of us believe what we do has no real use. With this comes all kinds of things from depression to disease to a sense of despair and worthlessness. And with all of this comes greater levels of unhappiness, addiction and vulnerability to looking for meaning in all the wrong places. To being prey for ways of coming together with others that offer purpose through harm. Like the KKK and other hate groups, getting into dangerous social media challenges, or being part of social trends based on peer pressure and the narrative du jour.

Right down the road we have a neighbor who when we first moved out here knocked on our door and asked if it would be okay to pick up the apples on the side of the road by our home. He went on to tell us that the tree the apples came from, a Baldwin, was an heirloom and likely over 100 years old. He waxed poetic about this being the best tasting and cooking apple there was.

At the time, I had no appreciation for any of this. Not only was I in over my head due to the big move we had just made, it didn’t feel natural to me to consider eating food off the land I was living on. I indulged him in the moment, and forgot about it all pretty quickly after he left.

Cut to twenty years later when that same tree died, leaving me grief-stricken over the loss. Over the years, I had come to anticipate and cherish its bloom that only came every other year. It was the apple of my children’s childhood, and a precious offering we shared with others.

For many years my neighbor tried grafting so he could propagate offspring from this ancient tree. It never took. Then I didn’t hear from him for a handful of years until the day I got a letter in the mail. He wrote that he had found other Baldwins and had successfully grafted them onto root stock, and was wondering if my husband and I would be willing to plant some of these tress on our land.

Besides our answer being a resounding yes, when he came up to bring the trees, it almost felt like we were adopting a baby from him. Not only did he have very clear conditions and instructions for the trees, he was very concerned about where they would go to insure they had a chance to survive the modernization of our world. At one point in the conversation, he told my husband he believed this was his purpose in life: To protect and continue the survival of this great tree.

This man is an exemplar of what it means to live with meaning and purpose. His actions were never based on what he was going to get out of all his efforts. His only drive being to answer a deep call from within. He is a wonderful living demonstration of how unique the expression of meaning and purpose can be in a person’s life. And my relationship to him and what I gained points to the unknowable and uncontrivable ripple effects our actions have on others when we find what we truly care about and live it all the way through.

None of this looks like, or “measures up to,” the criteria of our modern world where we have come to believe that for your life to have meaning and purpose, it must be about you and what you get. That you must have a million followers, that your efforts must be splashy, and that you must be ridiculously paid for what you offer to the world.

(The book I referenced is called The Psychology of Totalitarianism by Mattias Desmet)