The Limitations of Certainty Seeking

 

A friend of mine introduced me to the phrase, “certainty seeking.” It means just what it sounds like.

While it is so natural as a human being to want a high degree of certainty guaranteed, when it comes to how things in Life will go, it is an illusion. As a species we seem to be the only ones on the planet who not only do not know that there are no such guarantees, we go so far as to demand that it be so; compounding an already dangerous and misguided notion.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what to do. While terrifying to hold at first, this orientation to Life is a true one. A real one. One that lines us up with reality, thereby allowing us to be with things from a clear starting point. Meaning, we are much more likely to respond with accuracy and in a right-sized manner.

This past week, I had a surprising turn of events in that suddenly my back was spasming with such intensity that I could barely walk. I could not take a deep breath. Nor could I get my pants on by myself. In the midst of the worst of it, my husband found me sobbing, “I don’t know what to do.” All of my usual approaches and remedies had fallen short. Nothing was working.

Later, working with one of my practitioners, he uttered the phrase “trapped vulnerability,” which initiated another round of sobbing. There it was. The physical pain was nothing compared to the deep existential vulnerability of being alive that I was up against. Now the question became, “How am I going to be with this?”

What has unfolded over this week is that my deepest vulnerability is bound to my deepest power. That giving way to vulnerability and uncertainty puts me back into alignment with Truth. The doorway in being, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what is going to happen.” It is from this place that I create an opening. A portal if you will, where things I never thought of have a chance to reveal themselves. Where unimaginable support has a chance to come in. And where the most unbearable pain turns into Strength. Possibility. Healing.

We are living in times where a kind of dogma of certainty has settled over us like a plague; settling in us and between us. The message? This, and only this is what you are allowed to believe in. If you do, you are guaranteed a certain outcome. And while to many of us this certainty can feel so reassuring, it is illusion. One that is robbing us of Truth and Possibility.

To believe that another can offer you the certainty you seek is a fool’s errand. An existential foreclosure. Worst of all, somewhere deep inside, you know it is not true. To trade in this lie is to set yourself against the forces and the powers of the Universe. The very same One, which never has and never will, offer you that type of guarantee.

The Future of Health

 

Not long ago, I saw a commercial which seems to sum up where we are, and where we are headed when it comes to health. Unless, that is, enough of us decide for something else. Something more True. More Real. More Life-affirming. More, well, human.

The commercial opens with the following tagline: “The future of health is on your wrist.” We are then shown a woman operating at warp speed in her life, while being continuously reminded by the device on her arm to “Relax.” Then it tells her to “Run.” Then “Swim.” Then do “Tae Kwon Do.” Then “Dance.” I watch in horror as she manically leaps from one instruction to the next; all directed by a tiny machine she is wearing on her arm.

If this weren’t so alarming, it would be funny. Saturday Night Live parody funny.

But it’s not funny. Not when we consider how many of us take health advice from people trying to sell us something, and whose mixed agenda includes delivering messages of “health and well-being” while bolstering their the bottom line by keeping us ever insecure and doubtful about our own ability to go it without them. It becomes even less funny when we break down the messages that are being taken up by viewers regarding what it means to be healthy. Images that are telling us that instructions from a piece of technology are what we need to be listening to. That somehow we will not know what we need, or what to do, and that it is best to outsource that knowing to something non-human.

In our infatuation with, and now indoctrination into, all things technological in order to stay healthy, we are losing the main and central ingredient to health and well-being. That being, it is built in and is predicated on a personal knowing born of experience and attention.The “knowing” of which I speak is inborn, and yet it requires both cultivation and protection. It does not take its cues from a commercial. Nor does it require a machine in order to stay well. In fact, the abdication of this personal knowing is what is at the heart of a deep and dangerous disconnect from the natural and healing wisdom of our bodies.

The future of health would do well to consider not only what is presently happening in health care, but to take a good, hard look at how it is that we have arrived in a place where so many of us are so sick and so disconnected from the most basic principles of how to care for a human body. For before we can talk about the future, we must weed out what is currently not working. What is outdated. Misleading. Harmful even.

Do you want to know what the real future of health is? IT IS YOU. It is your inner and personal knowing restored, trusted, and acted upon. And it is so, so basic. As basic as paying closer attention to yourself. For instance, how often do you see something advertised that is claiming to be able to improve your health, and that you jump at because you think either this will be easy, or because “they” must know better. Watch the impulse to outsource your health and well-being while getting into the habit of checking in with yourself, asking, “Is that really what a human being needs to be well, or am I being sold something?”

 

Health & The Self

 

Last night, I taught a class focusing on health from an Ayurvedic perspective. (Ayurveda being the ancient 5000 year old healing tradition of India.) From this perspective, there is a well-known definition which outlines the fundamentals of health; going from purely physiological states all the way to a unification of body, mind and soul. But it all begins with the premise that one is “established in the Self.”

Take a moment to sense what that might even mean to you. This is a deeply personal exploration, and therefore, unlike what many of us have been taught to believe, there is no right or wrong here. So, what would it feel like to be established within your own self? For me, just thinking those words is a visceral experience. A kind of felt sense homecoming if you will, where I return to myself. More fully inhabit myself. Often, not even realizing that I have even left, until I am back.

For many of us, we are anything but seated within our own self. Our body is wherever we are flinging it around at hyper speed in any given moment. Or maybe it is collapsing somewhere in zombie-like fashion. Either way, our body being in one place, and our minds somewhere else sets up a kind of leaving. So whether we are fretting over or regretting the past, or anticipating the future and creating scary and unwanted scenarios, we stand divided. Abandoned. Unestablished in anything but misery.

Not quite what the ancients had in mind when they proposed that the very first aspect of health is to be seated in the Self.

In other words, as opposed to standing sovereign and unified within, we are instead bashing around inside of ourselves. Or, we have left ourselves. Like an abandoned building we no longer inhabit, and so falls into disrepair, and worst of all becomes inhabited by transient and vagrant energies, we are established nowhere; becoming lost to ourselves, and therefore the world.

If we are to truly claim the birthright of our health, we must be willing to go beyond what we are currently being offered. For it is outdated. If it ever was in date to begin with. I know this can sound harsh, or even scary. That is not the intention. Instead, this is not a bash as much as it is a reckoning. A willingness to recognize that we are anywhere but in health as a nation. Perhaps even as a world. And that to find our way back into a sane, sacred and healthy establishment within ourselves is to go back to the very roots of what it means to inhabit a body.

What might this look like for you? Perhaps it means asking yourself the fundamental question, Where am I right now? as you race through your day, watch disturbing content across a screen, or engage in the same old same old thoughts that always leave you feeling like shit. Or maybe it is to recognize that the schedule you keep, the people you associate with, the news you obsess over, or the work you are doing is so aversive to you on some level, that you can only try and get out of your very own skin.

We did not come here to leave. We came here to know ourselves. To create, contribute, and grow. To do so requires that we focus our lives establishing ourselves in what is real and what is true. When in doubt, ask yourself, what could a human being absolutely not do without? Leave the rest alone. At least, for the most part.

Opening & Closing Doors

 

Back in the spring, we had three doors replaced in our home. Partly, my husband wanted to continue to insure a net positive home. And yes, it would also open up the view. But mostly, he felt that having a tighter seal would keep the ladybugs out of the home he had worked so hard in designing to keep them out.

In any case, after the doors were installed, right from the start, I had to struggle to open and close them. I would have to use both hands to work the lever, while positioning myself, sumo wrestler style, to give myself the extra leverage I needed to lower the latch or lock it in place. Maybe I’m a wimp, but this seemed excessive to me.

My husband took a different stance. Maybe I should lift weights, he joked. It’s pilot error, he chastised. Even when one of his male friends was unable to get himself out the door after spending the night, literally trapped in our house until he found a door that had been left unlocked, still no movement on my husband’s part. No concession that something was off. What about your mother, I asked. Could she get out? Well, no. But so what, she doesn’t live here. Even the thought of someone he loved being unable to move freely in and out of our home did not move the needle.

Something was definitely not working here. Call me crazy, but in my world, one should not need to be working out at the gym to operate the doors to your own home. So why would a reasonable and rationale person cling so thoroughly to something in the face of evidence to the contrary? Why would someone deflect, project and ignore so completely the reality before them?

In a nutshell, personal investment and world view.

My husband had spent the first 3 years in our new home outraged every time the lady bugs got in because he had spent a lot of time, energy and resources making sure that would never happen. He was convinced that with these new doors, the problem would be solved. He had also spent a ton of time researching and speaking with the rep from the door company. Had even scheduled him twice to come back to make adjustments. To no avail.

Me? I had no skin in this game whatsoever. (Unless you call being able to get in and out of a door without breaking a sweat an agenda.) I hadn’t been the one to design or build the house. I had not done all the research or spent all that time on the phone. But mostly, I had no illusions about the power and the intelligence of a ladybug getting to where it wanted to go; despite my husband’s best efforts.

As you can imagine, his investment was immense. This approach just had to work. There was no other way. It just had to be the fix. Only. It wasn’t. Not only were the doors not working, there was no guarantee that they would even do what he believed they would do once the ladybugs returned in late fallFor as they say, “Life will find a way.” 

So here it is. Whenever we have decided something, spent a lot of time putting our energy into something, believing we have found the solution, invested ourselves fully in something, that’s it. There is no considering another way. No looking at other options. No considering the facts. Even when they are right in front of us. It’s the whole cognitive dissonance thing: either you factor in new information and adjust your world view. Or. You deny, ignore and take whatever comes your way and distort it enough until it justifies your decision.

The ability to shift perspectives is to admit fallibility, and is the hallmark of an open and confident person. One who understands that our limited view of the world must be acknowledged. And it ultimately speaks to someone possessing a certain kind of mental flexibility: A capacity that makes for great leaders, trustworthy friends, even-handed partners, and a sane populace.

And it is what the world is begging for right now.

So if you are up for looking at your own ability to shift perspectives, look for the places where you feel everything inside of you physically tense up when things are not as you want them to be. Look for the place inside of you where you cannot bear to hear the other side of something. And then, see what it would be like to include one piece of what it is you cannot accept. One shade of grey you have been denying. One other avenue that might, in fact, work.

P.S. My husband has shifted his perspective. Now it’s the rep who can’t square what he sold us with how it is actually playing out.

 

Destruction and Creation

 

All around us, destruction reigns supreme. Things are breaking down, and coming apart at the seams. On any given day, there is yet another news story about what is coming to an end. Yet another personal story, yours or someone close to you, about some devastating life experience. For most of us, that spells out only one thing: pain and suffering. And while we will all have our individual reactions to what we do not want destroyed (fear, grief, anger, apathy, etc.) any of those reactions, while normal, is missing the boat. Completely.

Years ago, when I first began to reframe how I looked at the happenings of my life, I was obsessed with a tape series by Caroline Myss. I would pop one in and go for long, long walks or runs. I would sob, or rail, or be inspired, all depending on the day and what it was that I was listening to. But always, I would come back to one essential place: I did not need to be a victim any longer. What was happening (or had happened) was not being done to me. I had a choice.

This way of being was new to me, so it was moving to hear her talk about a man, who in one short day, lost everything; his wife, his business, his home, his long-term friend. Instead of crumbling, he got down on his knees, speaking to God for the first time in a long time, and basically said, “You must be trying to get my attention. What do you want me to know?” He then went on to use that level of surrender as his guiding force as he began to carve out the life he was most meant to live. All based on being open as opposed to victimized. As opposed to taking years to make use of the experiences Life was offering him, he turned it around in a day!

We in the West we have a very destructive relationship to destruction. Maybe we see things ending as as a failure, or somehow unfair; believing we are entitled to the ego’s version of Life. Collectively, we seem to feel as though we have a right to destroy in order to get whatever we want. Drunk with lust for power, greed, and control we do great harm to ourselves and others. But if you follow Universal Law, destruction is one natural and essential part of the Creation-Death-Rebirth cycle of Life. All the animals, plants and insects know this. As does the sun and the moon. The Celts and the traditions of Yoga know this. As do all indigenous people.

For anything to be created and to remain, something must die, at some point.

If we are to Create, individually and collectively, what we are truly worthy of, we must be willing to let go of all that we are not. Of all that is depleting, obscuring and distorting. Of all that has run its course. This is not something another can choose for you. Nor is it found in a catchy meme or spiritual bypass. To willingly allow something to go that you have been, or believed, for a long time, is nothing short of a herculean effort. Unless, of course, you cease to struggle, and just hand it all over to Something More than you.

If you are struggling, ask the same question that man asked: “What do you want me to know?” And then, hardest of all, LISTEN. Deeply. Agree within yourself that Life must be trying to show you something.

To Whom Do You Belong?

 

Figuring out to what and to whom I belong has long played a central role in my life. In my early years, there was only one choice: Conform to belong. To not conform was to be left without emotional connection. It was to be penalized. When I hit my teenage years, I had had enough, and so I ceased to conform. I rebelled, hard, against what never felt right to me to begin with. Though this left me on the outs with a parent, I kept going in an attempt to break from what undermined who I authentically was. At the time, I thought I didn’t care what they thought. But I did. So, even though some part of me needed the fight, the boundary, the definition, rebelling against conforming never got me what I needed because I was still defining myself against what I didn’t want. Still trying to belong from the outside in. Still on the outside of a kind of belonging that made any sense to me.

Then came the years that I thought I would try and go it alone. That I would keep myself at a distance from belonging; having come to the conclusion that being in relationship meant I had to negotiate myself in ways that felt harmful to me. That in order to belong, I had to leave really important parts of myself behind. Or at least, in hiding. While this represented another layer in the evolution of my belonging odyssey, in the end, this wasn’t the way to go either. Sure, there were things I didn’t have to negotiate, but there were also important and essential experiences missing.

It was only when I began to turn back towards myself (perhaps for the very first time in my life) that I started to discover who I really was and what I actually needed in belonging. It was a new and vastly unexplored territory to connect with something deep inside me that had nothing to do with my ideas about what I thought I needed to do to belong. This journey has been decades in the making, and continues still, even as I write about this. But at this point, I am so in. Why? Because it has taught me many, many valuable lessons about what it means to balance the Truth of who I am, while belonging in ways that equally support that, and simultaneously, contribute to the Greater Good.

This seems like an unresolvable paradox to many of us. That we actually get to be who we are, and belong. Without negotiation of what is most central to us. We believe this because most of us have been taught and conditioned to believe you either have to choose for yourself (and be selfish and alone) or choose to belong (and give up who you are and what you need). Nary shall the two meet in most people’s world view. And so we usually hole up on one side or the other of the equation of autonomy and belonging.

But here it is, you cannot belong to anyone or anything else until you firmly and completely belong to yourself. First. This is not easy to do. Our most deep-seated, and often unconscious feelings, about belonging go all the way back to being babies and young children where in order to literally survive, we had to belong. No. Matter. What. That meant we instinctively did whatever it took to stay connected to those around us; whether it was good for us and what we needed, or not. Now, as adults, what we think belonging means, and what we believe we must do to belong, has its roots in the minds of infants and babies. In other words, preverbal, and below the reasoning of the grown-up mind.

That is why it can feel so hard to get back to. Or why it is that we do not even recognize it, or feel like we have a choice.That is why it feels so necessary and so compelling to keep belonging in the less than satisfying, and even harmful, ways that we do. How we belong now is what we felt like we had to do back then. What this means is, our very ideas around survival are tied to belonging. From that stage of mind, it would be dangerous to not fit in. The desperate need, often against our better judgment or even our own health, to compromise and negotiate ourselves away to keep from being judged, abandoned, aggressed upon, or ostracized, has its origins in the past, and its expression in the present.

Which brings us to the times of Co-vid. Yes, we are back here again. For to ignore what is being played out on the main stage, would be to deny both how things have gotten derailed, and what it actually is that can bring us back on track. Meaning, we must be willing, each of us, to look at how what it means to belong has been commandeered; centering around outward behaviors that we do or do not do. A kind of “social currency” that we garner, or not, through following a mandate.

This is dangerous to not only personal autonomy, but to your ability to bring a healthy sense of who you are to the group. For the Truth is, we do not belong to other’s expectations of us. Not to their demands, mandates or ideas. We belong to Something much, much greater than that. To begin to question what belonging means to you is to do the work of the Ages. It is to intentionally separate yourself from group think in order to find the Truth within, that you then offer back out as the very foundation of True Belonging.

If this makes any sense to you, begin to notice yourself more closely in relationship. Where do you sell out? Why? Be gentle as this is the work of retelling the little one in you a new and updated version of a story you have long held. Not unlike when a child finds out for the first time, there is no Santa Claus. In that noticing, when you come upon that place where you are locked in an old pattern around what it means to belong, either fighting for your right to be or acquiescing your life in order to fit in, say to yourself, “I belong to Life as it runs through me and from whence it came. It is safe to know this.”

P.S. If you are looking for more structured support in distinguishing between your True Self and what the culture expects of you in order to fit in, check out The Way of Integrity: Finding The Path To Your True Self by Martha Beck.

As Within, So Without

 

Years ago, when I was first studying shamanism, we were working with the concept of “as within, so without.” A basic tenet of not only shamanism, but many, many religious and philosophical schools of thought. In a nutshell, it is known as a fundamental law of existence, where whatever is within you, can be found playing out in the world around you.

This was an enormous shift for me to begin to explore how what I harbored within me in terms of fears, resentment, anger, and imbalance was being expressed in my outer world. That it wasn’t being done to me. This challenged the victim in me. The one who got to both bemoan the atrocities of the world and stand separate from them somehow; believing that it all was someone else’s doing. Believing someone else was at fault. Believing that if the world of people would just get their shit together, everything would be better.

During the same time period I was exploring “as within, so without,” I heard a story about a village that was in desperate straits; suffering through season after season of drought. Finally, they called in a shaman to help bring the rains to their failing crops. He took a hut at the outskirts of town to stay in, and holed up inside for week after week. The people began to get agitated and restless for they could not see any change in their circumstances. To them, it appeared he was doing nothing.

Finally, when the villagers could take it no more, they sent one of their own to check up on him. To call him to task for the reason he had been called in. That being, to bring the rain. When the villager confronted the shaman with the lack of progress, the shaman took a long pause looking deeply into the man’s eyes, and said, “Before the outer world can bring the rain again to you, your village must come to balance within itself. I am bringing back the healing and the balance within all of you and among you that you have turned away from. That is why you have no rain.”  

This is where we stand now with the Earth. She will go on with or without us. And whether or not we go on is up to us, but perhaps not in the ways we believe. For what if everything that you can see outside of you that you find unbearable, horrible, and excruciating is yours to do? From the inside out.

This is not the same as going on a crusade about what you want to fix in the world. This is the opposite of that. It is instead, going within yourself to find what you cannot bear, or are afraid of in the world, and locate it within yourself. And then, work to bring that into balance. For the Truth is, what we do to ourselves, we do to the Earth. However we violate our own precious Nature is exactly how we violate the precious Nature of the planet.

The real problem here is: We do not value Life. Not ours. Not others. Not the Planet’s. For if we did, there is much we would never, ever do. It is a deep and ancient knowing and practice to take on that level of accountability within yourself; doing what is yours and only yours to do.

If this resonates with you, watch your thoughts around what is happening to the Earth; your fears, your anger, your apathy, your blame. And then, look to find it in yourself as a direct path to bringing balance, peace, stability and harmony back into our world.

To Be Of Service

 

Not long ago I had a Vedic astrological reading. This system has some similarities to Western astrology, but is also very different in some fundamental ways. So while I have experience with Western astrology, working in a new system allowed me to see and understand aspects of myself that sometimes elude me.

One of those elusive aspects being my relationship to service in the world. My concern for the welfare of All that has been with me since I can remember. It has been a source of great joy for me at times. As well as a place of pain, confusion, distortion, and overwhelm. You would think helping others would be straightforward. It is anything but. For when you really begin to wonder what it actually means, looks like, and takes, to be of genuine and authentic service in the world, it gets a little, or a lot, murky, sticky, and oh so very tangled.

Personally, this exploration has been the single greatest, and most arduous endeavor I have ever taken on. Ever.

I use the phrase “taken on” intentionally. For to contribute in a healthy and meaningful way is to first and foremost choose to do the work of getting to know yourself inside and out. It is to come to understand why it is that you do what you do “in the service of others.” It is, paradoxically, to begin with yourself, not the other.

It is to seek out the dark and distorted places that look like help, but that are really masking your own personal gratification, neediness, and desperations around safety, belonging, and being seen and approved of. Ouch. And it is to recognize that much of what we do for others that looks so noteworthy, newsworthy and post-worthy, are in all actuality, about us. Basically, our attempts to look like a good person. To insinuate ourselves into the lives of others so that they need us. Cannot do without us, and think well of us.

Through it all, we deny our own needs and what is best for us in the name of sacrifice. The world loves this. It rewards and elevates those of us who do more than our share. Those of us who do not consider ourselves. Those of us who look “good” according to some cultural definition. Sadly, “rewarding” those of us who contribute in ways that allow others to not have to take responsibility for their own lives.

Enter 2020, and all of this takes on a deeper, darker, and more dangerous tone through the seemingly world-wide agreement to signal our virtue to one another based on whether or not we follow mandates that ask us to deny basic human needs. Based on whether or not we choose an experimental drug. Based supposedly on us doing all of this not for ourselves, but for others. Effectively separating us from our truest needs and the absolute, God-given right to bodily sovereignty.

To choose an action that leaves you out of the equation, that asks you to give up control over your own body, is to cause great harm to not only yourself, but to the people you say you are helping. For the Truth is, our collective is only as healthy as the individuals who make it up. Which begs the question: Why would we ever ask any individual to sacrifice their health and well-being for the good of all?

If this makes any sense to you, begin to get into the habit of asking yourself, “Why am I really doing this?” whenever you see yourself as helping the cause. Whenever you hear that voice, inside or out, that says “Do this, not for yourself, but for others.”