A Curated Life

 

I’m in the midst, on one particular morning, of tending to the new plants, making sauce and creating medicine when it strikes me that if I was on Instagram, if I was a so-called influencer, I would be having a very different experience.

I would have changed out of my comfy clothes and chosen a perfectly curated outfit to go with the homestead/farm feel of the moment. I would be staging my morning and positioning it all just so to give you the impression of just how perfect it all was. I would do this by taking multiple pictures from different angles with multiple filters to give you the impression of a spontaneous and unplanned moment.

In the process, I would have sacrificed all of the naturally arising peace, contentment, presence and gratitude that organically arises whenever I am in alignment with what I love best. Without the pressure to post and perform, I am connected to the abundance of the natural world and to a morning where I have the precious space I need to be with what matters most to me.

This is what is being lost in our ever so carefully curated lives: A chance to be with ourselves in a way that nourishes us. So much so that even when we choose not to take that picture, to refrain from posting, is it not what we are often thinking about even if we are not acting on it? Curated lives as a performance vehicle is so insidious now that it’s with us even when we are choosing otherwise.

What strikes me as the most disastrous, the saddest, the most dangerous even, is that we haven’t considered what we are losing each and every day as we orient ourselves ever-more to allowing the screens to mediate every moment of our existence. Desperate as we are to show others something about ourselves and willing to do so at any cost.

But only after it has all been carefully, carefully curated.

In the meantime, we don’t notice that our self-esteem is in the toilet, satisfaction in our relationships plummeting, our stress accelerating, the chase for perfection never ending, with our very existence reduced down to some glam shot.

Making The Necessary Adjustments

 

No matter what guidance I am asking for these days, I keep getting the message that this is a time for pausing and being open to making adjustments in how I do things based in reflection. As opposed to reaction.

While I feel the wisdom in this, following this sage advice can also feel at odds with the pushing out of the Spring energies that I am not only sensing all around me, but also feeling inside of me in terms of what I am called to offer into the world.

And therein lies the rub.

Is it possible to find that sweet combination of doing and being? Is it possible to stand in the presence of a world on fire and not join in? Is it possible to feel all I have to give and to to stay deeply rooted in a place beyond the demands of society?

Not only do I believe it’s possible, I know it’s necessary. A have-to in a world so star struck by the latest gimmick, hashtag, magic bullet, apocalyptic video or sensational story. We have become such a thoughtless people reacting out of our own fears and allegiance to all the wrong things. Like what the influencers, billionaires, celebrities and villains are doing. In our blindness, we have lost a connection to the necessity of pausing and reflecting; leaving us reactive, and therefore dangerous.

Dangerous because we are colluding with narratives that are at odds with our very nature and with the Nature all around us. The very same energies that tell us, There is a balance and a timing to everything. To live believing we are outside of, more to the point, above that wisdom, is to create chaos and harm through the violation of basic and non-negotiable Life principles.

All of this is happening when what we need most is wisdom born of a kind of steady, slow, thoughtful, decent and time-honored way of knowing and relating to the world. But this kind of approach doesn’t play well in a culture based in ever-increasing speed, volume and the incessant push for more and more, right now. Always right now with the insecure fear that if it doesn’t happen immediately, it’s not worth waiting for.

Or that it just won’t happen at all.

This is an illusion based in our separation from our own truest Nature and the the rules that govern the ways of the natural world. An illusion we have so easily bought into because we’ve been schooled to believe that progress looks like we should always being pushing for more. That we should let the people at the top take care of things. That we should let what comes across a screen tell us want to want. That we should just keep going along with things because this is just how it is now.

But like the Spring energies making all their adjustments to ensure the best growth possible, so can we. We can decide to take up our own lives by creating the space we need to slow down. To do less. To listen more. We can decide to question more what it is and who it is we are looking to to tell us what a good life looks and feels like.

We can do the difficult work of being honest with ourselves around what is not working in our lives as reflected by how sick, stressed and unhappy we are; using all those “bad” experiences to help us course correct into greater balance.

And it all begins by being wise enough and willing enough to pause in order to make the necessary adjustments.

Just This Moment

 

I am having one of those days where my thoughts are leaning towards anticipating negative scenarios and engaging in the “what if’s” the mind is so compelled to do. And while at this point I know enough of the machinations of the mind to not go down those rabbit holes, it still can nag away at me as it was doing on this particular day.

While I have many techniques I use to bring my mind back into balance, something happened quite naturally on this day that really struck me. After a walk with my husband where I had laid out my potential “what if’s,” we made our way over to gather eggs and look at what was happening with the starts and seeds we had recently planted.

It took no time at all for my anticipating mind to tune into something life-giving; shifting me out of a chaotic mind to one quite naturally and easily at peace. A mind at ease as it found itself immersed in the bigger picture of Life. All of this with no effort on my part, other than to be in relationship with Something Greater than myself, while spontaneously repeating over and over “Just This,” as I moved through the garden.

The “Just This” was my way of focusing only on what was right before me; whether that was the lettuce I was picking, the conversation I was having or the observations I was making of the seedlings. In effect, immersing my mind in the right now versus the “what if” future.

We so take whatever we think to be truth. As something to believe in and act on. Even when all signs point to the fact that our minds have gone off the rails with fear, anxiety and judgment. And while in this day and age there is no end to solutions for an imbalanced mind from medication to meditation, we can skip right over the most accessible and effortless of approaches to healing our minds.

Here I am referring to the natural world. To the elements and conditions and living beings that we have co-evolved with since we first appeared on the planet; our very home and the clearest reflection of who we are, where we come from and what we need.

Why would we go anywhere else to gain perspective and to ground ourselves in Truth?

Because we have been conditioned to believe that our well-being resides in a screen, a pill, more stuff, more prestige, more “likes,” etc. We have come to experience ourselves as separate from, and therefore not needing the support and the tutelage of what The Earth has to offer us. Unfortunately, many of us have strayed so far and for so long, we have come to see the natural world as foreign, dark and scary. An enemy as opposed to an ally.

But here’s the thing. We are Nature herself. We are created and maintained by the same force. To know this is to tap into the good news that even if we have forgotten, even if we never learned to begin with, all we have to do is to put ourselves in the Presence of the natural world for her to do her work on us.

So find a reason every single day to linger, even for one minute, somewhere outside. Go without agenda. Go and be a listener. Go and allow yourself to get lost in the breeze, a bird singing, some fragrance, a starry night, the feel of rain on your skin. And say to yourself, “Just This.”

 

Beginning Where You Are

Beginning where you are when it comes to what is happening in your body is the ultimate homecoming and an absolute necessity if you are to know what it is your body needs. To get there though requires accepting what your body is experiencing in any given moment. Even when you don’t like what is there.

This is not easy to do as it is only natural that we want our bodies to feel a certain way. But the truth is, as hard as this can be, there’s just no way around this one. For if you hope to live in a body you feel good in and can trust, you must be willing to actually be in it.

I know this might seem ludicrous, as in, where else would you be? But that’s the trouble with being human. We can be anywhere but in the body when the mind takes us into the past or the future. Thoughts of the past keep us locked in old fears, traumas and beliefs while thoughts of the future create an anticipation of all the things we don’t want to happen to the body.

Either way we have left our bodies. We have left them without a clear, present mind that knows how to see the realities of the body for what they are. Not what we have been told they are or fear them to be. For instance, if our family of origin had a lot of fears around something like cancer, we can find ourselves ruminating about whether or not that will happen to us. In effect, priming ourselves for something we definitely do not want. Or if you were raised in such a way that the body’s most basic needs for things like touch, sleep and food were met in unhealthy ways, you will automatically believe deprivation is the norm.

To begin where you are is to accept your body exactly as you find it. I mean this literally. You must be willing to acknowledge whatever is happening. Not because you want it to stay, but because that is what is so. This includes the thoughts, the emotions, the pains, the sensations, the urges, the instincts and all of the intuitions contained within you.

This is the equivalent of mapping out a road trip. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, if you aren’t in the vehicle to begin with, how can you possibly reach your destination? How will you know what you need to make the trip? How will you know if you’ve taken a wrong turn? How will you know when you need a tune-up?

Perhaps more than anything else, if you are not fully and all the way in your own body, how will you be able to enjoy all the sights to be seen while knowing the roads to avoid?

 

Excerpted from my book Trusting Your Body: The Embodied Journey of Claiming Sacred Responsibility for Your Health & Well-Being

 

 

 

 



Staying Human

 

I’m just back from a training in Ayurveda, the 5000 year old Indian tradition of health and healing. The focus was on the balance of the mind from an Ayurvedic perspective, with much of it centered around understanding ourselves at the level of our most basic, elemental Nature comprised of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space.

In other words, the things that make up not just a human being, but all of Nature. With the understanding that unless and until we see ourselves through the lens of what we are made of and how to be in harmony with that, we will suffer. That our mind will be in a state of suffering because we won’t know who we are on the most fundamental of levels. Meaning, we will seek out all the wrong things.

Juxtapose this longstanding Ayurvedic knowing that to depart from who we are and what we are made of is to be ill, against the headline I saw when I got back: New research reveals that touch may help with anxiety.

My immediate thought was, How sad it is that we now need research to justify hugs. My second thought was, This is another example of just how far we have strayed from our very existence, caught up as we are in the world of the non-human. In other words, the machines.

We have truly fallen into a dystopian “reality” where we need research outside of ourselves to prove to us that we need touch. And then we wonder why we are not doing so well. While our inflated egos might say we are the most intelligent of any civilization, interestingly enough, we find ourselves on the brink of personal and societal destruction. And not because of some outside agent like a virus or a nuclear bomb, but because of our own denial of, and departure from, our truest Nature.

We see this in the fact that despite all the technological “advances” we have never been sicker, fatter or lonelier. We have never been more at odds with the Natural world, our own bodies and the bodies of others.

We have never been more confused, child-like and afraid of Life itself in the forms of the weather, bugs, animals and all things non-man-made. And therefore out of our control. Because we keep believing that it’s just because we haven’t found the right technological fix, and that it is the next generation of technology that will save us, we miss all the answers living right under our very noses.

The answers to what ails us being the breathing of fresh, outside air. Or the way it feels for your feet to be barefoot in the earth while you feel the joy of the sun on your un-slathered skin. Or how about the experience of being in wide-open spaces where there is not a man-made thing in sight.

None of this is complicated, and it’s all built right into our human-ness. So what’s the rub? It’s that we have forgotten what we never wanted to forget: What it actually is to be human. We are living as if we can bypass that. We are living as if we do not fall under the requirements of our deepest Nature. And we do so at great peril; the evidence of which is all around us for all to see.

Sometimes it takes getting so far away from what is real and true in order to see what is, in fact, real and true. Then it becomes the path of remembering. An intentional turning back towards your own skin and what it most hungers for. But of course, that would require that you stop being overly enamored with the world of the machines, believing them to be the highest of our expression. And instead, become entranced with your very own Nature in the form of your own body and what it needs.

Barking At The World

 

As I’ve written about before, I’ve had a cough that persistently remains despite all my tried and true remedies and approaches. Just when I thought it was on its way out the door, it has come back to teach me some more.

Now I know there are many who would say why not suppress it? Why not get some prescription to knock it back? Believe me, for the first time in nearly three decades of not using that kind of medicine, I have thought about it. I have fantasized about codeine cough syrup or some steroid. Really anything they have that would just make it go away. But I can’t stay there for long.

Why?

Because I know that when my body is expressing something, there is a very good reason it’s doing what it’s doing. And that’s a non-negotiable for me. Even if I don’t know why or how to resolve it. Even if it’s frustrating and uncomfortable. Even if it’s wearing my patience thin. Because what I know to be true is this: The last thing I want to do is to drive a bodily expression deep into my tissues; in effect, silencing its voice.

Which brings me specifically to the cough. If you are at all familiar with the work of Louise Hay, you know she brought forward a body of work that connects an emotional/mental/spiritual component to every illness  For a cough, what’s behind this symptom is a kind of barking at the world. A kind of see me. Listen to me.

So to suppress this cough feels like it would be a kind of re-traumatization to a part of me that didn’t get seen or heard in a way that felt good to me. Which is why I am wondering about where I feel unseen and unheard. Where it is that I suppress my own voice out of habit and fear. And where I am monitoring myself in terms of who I am and what I say around others.

Which means I am using this time as an opportunity to be with the cough and let it teach me. So far, every day has uncovered something new for me around being seen and heard. Feelings that have been unconscious and therefore unavailable to me before this experience. For me this is worth the frustration of something taking a long time to heal, because I can see that another part of me is getting a chance to be heard, which means it too will have a chance to heal.

To be with yourself and your health in this way requires a few things:

  • A willingness to see symptoms as essential information you do not want to ignore or suppress. Not easy to do in a medical culture based on symptom suppression.
  • A kind of presence to yourself where you are watching the thoughts and reactions that arise when something doesn’t feel good in your body. This includes your fears and your default tendency to look to an authority figure to make it better for you.
  • The courage to make connections to what may be behind the symptoms on the emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological levels. This takes practice and a kind of radical honesty with yourself.
  • An openness to learning about the part of you that is ailing to figure out what its most basic needs and functions are. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it simple.
  • Finding practitioners who support this process in you and who include all of you in the equation of your health and healing. You’ll know them by how well they listen and by the questions they ask.

By the way, what do I think was behind the cough picking back up again with a vengeance? An intense experience last weekend of feeling like there are those in the world being seen and recognized even though they may be lacking in skill or integrity; leaving me with an old reaction of despair around the unfairness and injustice of a world that gives voice to so many of the “wrong” things. This one goes deep and touched a very, very old wound that seems up for some healing.

 

What Are You Following?

 

I was taking a yoga class this week when the teacher posed the question: “Are you following your thoughts or are you following your breath?” In other words, are you chasing the thought patterns you have been ruminating on for literally years? Or are you here now, in this moment, breath by precious breath?

Where we put our attention holds the very key to life on earth being a kind of heaven or living hell. And while many of us believe and live as if what is going on outside of us, what others are doing, an epidemic, what other countries or the politicians are up to, is what creates either heaven or hell for us, it’s just not true.

What is true is that what you are habitually putting your attention on, especially when it comes to what you are thinking about, has the power to bring you everything you never wanted. Or everything you ever wanted.

How could it be any other way?

Your thoughts are what create the words that come out of your mouth. They create which actions you will take on any given day. They stand behind the energy and momentum of how you do and live and believe and love and hope and fear and eat and negotiate and relate and…

For instance, if you believe that your medical system, religion or political party has the lock on the truth, you will use your words to condemn those who don’t line top with your narrative. If you believe that the body is a machine that breaks down easily and requires a mechanic to keep it in line, you will never be open to how your thoughts and your health are one and the same.

To decide for heaven, in other words all those things you most yearn for, is to become intimately aware of, and responsible for, every single thought you think. This is a big job. Especially in the beginning when it can feel like a circus on crack inside your own mind.

That’s why it can be so instructively sane to break down the thousands and thousands of thoughts you have each and every day into a binary choice; allowing you to step out of the oblivion or the tug-of-war relationship you have with your own mind and all of its unchecked thoughts.

Try this. Get in the habit of catching yourself throughout the day by asking, What am I thinking about right now? Once you are aware of the specific content, make a down and dirty assessment by wondering whether this thought creates a sense of safety or danger within you. Drop all the content and tune into the way this thought make you feel about yourself, others and the world.

And then make a choice.

If this is not a thought you want to harbor, put your attention on something else. Follow your own breath, look at the sky, smell something delicious. To choose where to put your own attention is to make the decision to stop following a thought that brings dis-ease, and to instead choose for a little heaven here on Earth.

What The World Is Really Here To Give You

 

“The world is not here to make you happy. It’s here to make you conscious.” I heard these words spoken last week by Eckhart Tolle, renowned teacher of Presence. It came at exactly the right moment for me as the words broke through the haze of being lost in a deep well of grief.

I am no stranger to grief and sorrow. They have been traveling companions of mine for my whole life. Grief over the ways of the world. Sorrow over missed and lost connections in personal relationships. Sadness over how we treat ourselves and others.

At times, I have felt broken and victimized by how grief-stricken I have been over the ways our children’s innocence is being violated via the screens. I have been filled with sorrow over how we allow our lives to be gobbled up by distractions. And I have been heart-broken over how often the wrong things are in charge; despite the obvious destruction they bring.

This and more is what I have been revisiting of late, being “stuck in a grief loop,” as one of my practitioners so aptly put it.

But when I heard Eckhart’s words, something in me snapped to attention. Something in me knew immediately the Truth of those words. And all at once, I could see that the lifelong suffering around the grief and sorrow I have always felt has been not just because of how devastatingly sad all these things are, but because I have been expecting the world to take this sadness away from me by being other than it is.

Now, I know that our minds might go immediately to Well, what sane person wouldn’t want the madness of the world to end? What sane person wouldn’t want more respect for life? 

This is not to negate that healthy yearning. But it is to point out that when we refuse to acknowledge how things are, not how we want them to be, we suffer; fighting in vain like a fish on a line.

To see that there is something greater at play than even your most heartfelt and noble expectations of the world is to step into an entirely new game. It is to open to your spiritual nature and the real reason you are here. Which is to grow in consciousness. Which is to walk the path of remembering who you really are, and why you are here.

When I look at my life through this lens, I can say with certainty that this is so. For each time the world has not made me happy, and I have chosen to let it grow me, I have changed. And always for the better. Every unfairness and disappointment that the world has ever delivered to me, a blessing.

I guess it’s time for me to step out of the grief loop I’ve been in.

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.