Hearts Are Made To Be Broken

 

Years ago I found a little hanging heart for the garden. It’s made of metal and there are two hearts within a bigger outer heart. It hangs off a pole that goes into the ground, and it moves with the wind.

Because it got broken beyond even all the repairs my husband could do, last year I got a new one. An even bigger one. But just like the first one, it got so banged up by the elements that my husband has already twice had to repair it.

When it happened the first time, I found myself saying, “My heart is broken. Can you fix it?” I immediately saw the deeper meaning behind what I was saying. As in, the world has broken my heart. Can it be fixed?

It’s not easy being human. There are so many harsh realities we must all come to face. So many ways we can be hurt. So many ways that the sensitive, loving parts of us can be broken, and driven underground. So many ways that our open-hearted innocence can be warped into anger, cynicism, fear, and victimhood.

It reminds me of something my yoga teacher once said in a training I was in when I was feeling particularly heart-centered, open, and vulnerable. He said, “The world will break your heart, but you are not your heart.” I have never forgotten these words. It is life-altering for me to know that despite how painful life can get, I am more than even the greatest of any heartbreak I will ever experience.

So now, my first little broken heart lives in the earth of my medicine garden. My newer and bigger heart swings around in the wind, shored up by my husband’s loving touch. I look at it every day out my study window as I write, or as I make my way to the chickens, while it stands imperfectly at the entrance of the path that takes people to our yurt, and I think, “Hearts are made to be broken, and the measure of a woman is how many times it can happen to her without her spirit being broken.”

Rethinking Harm

 

I am these days, as dare I say all of us are, aware of, alert to, and afraid of, lots and lots of what is happening in our world. Lots of what feels out of my hands, and certainly nothing I would ever knowingly create.

And yet, here I am. Here we are. Now what?

Let’s start with the obvious, and then make our way to the not so obvious. There’s a lot of harm going on in the world. That’s obvious. From here on out is where we start to get into the ‘not so obvious.’

While it’s easy, maybe even natural, to believe that someone else is causing the harm and that we are the innocent bystanders caught up in something not of our own making, what if this is not the whole story? What if there is way more to this narrative than meets the eye? What if we have more responsibility in the harms being caused in the world than we would like to admit?

This can be hard to hear. Offensive even. Especially if you have never considered how your state of being contributes to the ways of the world. But hear me out. To be with this in a meaningful way, you have to stretch your lens and be willing to see the underlying connection of all things.

Let’s start with an ancient perspective on how all things are connected. Since the dawn of at least recorded history, all of our wisest and well-known teachers have espoused some version of “As within, so without.” In other words, whatever is going on within you, me, or us, is exactly what we will find going on outside of us in the world.

For instance, maybe you never have or never would murder someone, but have you ever felt a rage so deep within yourself towards another that felt beyond your control? Or perhaps you would never rape someone, but have you ever tried to control another person and get them to do what they didn’t want to do? Maybe you’ve never created a war, but do you ever go to war with other people in your own mind?

If you’re willing, there are lots of ways to play with how your inner life is connected to the outer life. But it takes a kind of openness and compassion on your part to look at what is outside of you that you find deplorable, and to see if you can find it in yourself. To root out the harm in your inner world in the service of transforming that harm into something else for the outer world.

But I will tell you from firsthand experience, it’s not easy to get this honest with yourself. Perhaps the hardest thing we will ever do as human beings is to look at the places in ourselves we hide from. The very same places that we will disown by projecting them onto somebody else. As in, that’s horrible, I would never do that. Only to find upon closer examination, that in your own way, yes you do.

Because this can be so tricky to be with, I offer you something a very wise woman offered to me years ago. It seems that in the port town she lives in, the war ships would come in and out. This greatly disturbed her and left her feeling powerless and angry. So she made up a little prayer and it goes like this: “May no harm come to you, may no harm come from you.”

I have found this prayer to be a beautiful way to defuse the inner fears and hostilities that can arise in me in response to a world bringing harm. In the meantime, it creates the space I need to rethink how I might be, in my own way, bringing harm. If even ‘just’ through my own thoughts and inner reactions.

Every Single Bit Of It

 

“All of it gets to be here,” is a practice I come in and out of using. Right now, I am back in.

I both love and hate this practice. I both resist it, and know it to be true. Beyond true, I know it is the directest route to healing my own body/mind separation, the splits that divide us as people, along with the false personas we mistakenly claim as being who we are because we don’t feel we have a right to be all of who and what we are.

This is what gets to be here in my world. The wasps and the ladybugs that infest my home each year. The people defrauding our government, and the ‘entrepeneurs’ bringing us closer and closer to the brink of extinction with their GMO’s, chemicals, surveillance technologies and fake foods. The policies that deny anyone free will over their own body. The people I feel have hurt me. Any and all of the ways that I believe the ‘wrong’ things are in charge.

The list goes on, and it’s enormous! But all of it, every single bit of it, gets to be here. Day after day. Year after year. It’s maddening to include what I don’t want to be here. And frightening. It can feel depressing and risky to believe, to know, that it all gets to be here. That pain that won’t resolve. The lingering illness. That unresolved conflict. The corporation bringing harm.

All of it gets to be here.

I am in no way suggesting that I want these things, like them, or am giving them a free pass. What I am suggesting is that when I take this attitude my life changes for the better. This sounds hard to do. Impossible even. You might even be wondering, Why bother? What’s in it for me? In a word, PEACE. A literal oasis in a desert of fighting against everything we do not want, but that is here nonetheless.

Think about it. How often are you fighting something within your own mind? All the things you don’t want to be here. All the ways that you resist and try and manage ‘what is.’ The weather you don’t like. The traffic you rage against. The annoying co-worker or boss you wish would just go away. A family member not supporting you. The government or a political party that just makes you want to scream.

On and it goes. All day, every day. Big and little wars within that go on to create our outer wars in the places we inhabit together. For as the old adage goes, “As within, so without.”

If this makes any sense to you, give it a try in low stakes situations. For example, ‘let’ the weather you don’t like be here. ‘Allow’ another person’s bad mood to be here. ‘Accept’ that those you disagree with, even vehemently, get to be here.

Instead of looking around at how the world will fall apart because it’s not going according to your plan, watch what happens inside of you when you can honestly and truly let what is here, be here.

What Will You Resource?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embracing Obstacles

 

It’s not easy being in a body. There are so many sensations, pressures, thoughts, beliefs and experiences that go along with how we feel about our bodies, and what it means to inhabit them. That’s why it can feel preferable to “leave” them. Or let someone else be in charge of them.

It has become a socially condoned way of “living” to leave our bodies and what it is we are experiencing. Take my college students and the way that they “party.” The way they use drugs and alcohol to knock down the stress. To keep them from feeling what they don’t want to feel.

I know this place. All too well. It was how I lived for years. Partying, eating and exercising to excess and as punishment. Self-loathing and worthlessness arising out of the choices I was making. It was only when I began to feel how horrible what I was doing to myself felt, that I was able to shift. Only when I was willing to encounter the obstacles to good and fulfilling connection with my body did things, slowly and steadily, begin to change.

While incredibly difficult, excruciating and sad to come up against the obstacles that were keeping me from myself, it was real. Most of all, it was true. Obstacles are an absolutely unavoidable and essential part of the journey of being at home in our own body. So that’s where I began. With what was real by way of what was in between me and my body. In between me and my ability to be at home in myself. 

I know the current thinking is to get away from what feels bad. I would even go so far as to say that it is built into us as mammals to get away from what causes pain. That it is a necessary part of our survival and coping mechanisms to avoid what hurts. This life-giving tendency most certainly has its place. However, in modern day living where our pains are often self- and culturally-induced, with no connection whatsoever to real physical survival requirements, our wires have gotten crossed when it comes to avoidance. 

The basic, primal instinct of avoidance has gotten flipped on its head, and is now bringing harm rather than relief, while being met by a world all too happy to sell us things that keep us from ever having to feel what it is to be in our own bodies. 

Given the cultural mindset that says “Take this to get away from feeling what you are feeling in your body,” to hear that in order to be at home in yourself, you must go towards what you typically avoid, can sound paradoxical. Or even insane. But if we don’t include this part of embodiment, we’ll miss out on some of the most important information we need when it comes to the body and how it is that we are treating it. Not to mention that it is pure fantasy to try and avoid what we would rather not know. 

Acting as if something is not there, does not make it so.

It is only when we include what does not feel good, what is not working, what is keeping us from a good relationship with ourselves, can we see that what we’re doing is actually not working. Maybe even hurting. That any of the denying, diversions and medicating we’re engaging in, outweighs any “benefits” they may bring in the short-term. Worst of all, that what we’re choosing through our avoidance may actually become the impediment itself to healing what ails us.

In the end, keeping us from not only the health we desire, but the opportunity to know ourselves fully through the empowered journey of learning to trust and care for ourselves. 

 

Love

 

There are those who say, and have said since time recorded, that Love is the very fabric, energy and pulse of the Universe. If that’s so, it seems important enough to ponder what it is beyond flowers, chocolates and jewelry. Wouldn’t you say?

I know we use the word. I know we see it “represented” in emogees and on cards. I know we will say we love things like cake or our iPhone. I know we are expected to love certain people more than others, and that we are instructed to “Love thy neighbor.” And even our enemies.

But what is it exactly that we’re doing here? Do we even know?

It has been said that love heals. That love conquers all. That love is blind. And that love can move mountains. Still. What is it?

Personally, I know that love is not money. Nor is it things. I believe many people would agree to that, and yet those same people, at any given moment, might equate love to something too small to be it. As in, the bigger the diamond the more he loves you.

I know it’s not words, though words can express it. And I know that saying “I love you,” can be used for many, many reasons other than love. I also know that since the advent of cell phones, it is used liberally. Becoming a must-have way to say good-bye whether you are feeling it or not. A needy gesture to the other person serving as a desperate stand-in for how little we show it.

It’s almost like the more disconnected we get from each other, the more the words replace what it would actually take to create the connection and the closeness we all long for.

I find it harder to say what it is, then what it is not. As in, it is not desperate, anxious, or manipulative. It does not fill a void. It does not demand anything. Nor does it make up for personal lack and insecurities. It does not punish, withhold or humiliate. And it never, ever forces another to engage in a particular action to prove itself.

Perhaps love with a capital “L” is beyond words. As ineffable as the Source from whence it comes. Something available to us, something we can pass on, but never of our own making. So maybe the very best we can do is to open our heart to its Presence and its desire to flow through us.

Whether we ever say those three little words, or not.

 

A Manifesto

 

I am in the midst of exploring, very deeply, what health is. What supports it. What undermines it.

The deeper I go, the more I come to see that there are fundamental perspectives that must be embraced first. That before we can even decide what healthcare or medicine looks like for each of us, we must first develop a way of being in relationship with ourselves and all of Life that comes as close as we can to working with basic truths around what it actually takes to be healthy and to thrive.

Here is my attempt. Run it though your own system. What resonates? What challenges? Where could you begin?

 The Embodiment Manifesto:

A Revolutionary Commitment To Redefining How We Care For Ourselves

Mission: To explore what is possible when we learn how to recognize and honor real human needs, live according to life-affirming values, express the Truth of who and what we are.

As Fully Sovereign & Embodied Beings, We Believe That:

  • Who we are and how we live matters.
  • Our health is our own responsibility.
  • The single greatest contribution we will ever make to the world is how we take care of ourselves.
  • Honoring real human needs is the basis for how we know and care for ourselves.
  • Self-Care is built-in.
  • Everything is Connected.
  • The body is Intelligent & any signs or symptoms we experience are worthy of our attention.
  • Claiming bodily sovereignty is a healthy act.
  • Valuing our own life is valuing all Life. 
  • Good Medicine is always in the hands of the people: For the people, by the people, and of the people.

 

To Not Know & To Do Nothing

 

“I don’t know what to do.”

Lately, this phrase finds its way into my life more and more. As in, I don’t know what to do when nothing I try will bring resolve to something in my life. Or, I don’t know what to do when I look out at a world demanding I live in a way that makes absolutely no sense to me.

I am reading a novel called “A Wizard of Earthsea,” where one of the final scenes finds the protagonist traveling further than he or anyone has ever gone in his attempt to bring resolve to something. The wizard comes to the place where the magic and all the things he has ever known no longer work. He is left moving ever closer to something that is only his to do, but with no way of knowing what to do when he gets there.

Or, what will happen.

This is exactly how I feel lately as I come up against those places in Life where what I did before no longer works, and yet, I have no idea what to do or how things will turn out. It is not a comfortable place. But it is a real place.

More to the point here, it is the very place that most of us try and avoid at all costs.

It is terrifying to feel you have no power to effect change. No control over shifting something in your life. It’s almost too painful to admit. And so, we don’t. Instead, we engage in all kinds of behaviors that make us feel as though we are doing something. Anything. Creating the illusion that what we are doing is having an impact. That it’s up to us around how things turn out.

But it’s not always up to us.

That’s a hard, almost unbearable Truth to be with. And, it’s the only legitimate starting point. It’s like before someone can get sober, they must first admit something they have been unwilling to admit to before.

Interestingly enough, to come to the knowing that it is not up to you and that you don’t know what to do puts you in an exquisite position. That being, the vantage point of seeing something more clearly because the situation is not muddied by all of your attempts and preconceptions. Of course, this awareness often comes in surrender moments for we do not easily let go of what we always do.

But if and when you can admit that nothing you have been trying is working, try doing nothing. Yes, you heard it. Do nothing. This was the permission a friend recently gave me: A reminder that to do nothing is a sane and valid response. Full disclosure: It feels awful initially. Like the whole thing is going to hit the floor if you don’t do what you always do.

But if you can be with that, knowing that feeling awful is a part of it, there is a coming to terms that is possible. A kind of necessary correction around what is within your control and jurisdiction, and what is not.

If this makes any sense to you, be on the lookout for the places where you always do the same thing without getting the results you want. The times where you are trying to muscle something into happening to no avail. And then stop. Just stop. If even for a moment.

At Odds

 

There is so much in the world that I don’t want to be happening. Some days, I feel like a fish on a hook. Desperately, relentlessly and ineffectively struggling. Fighting. Denying. Blaming.

I hate it. I hate the way it feels. Mostly I hate the way that it squanders my precious time here on Earth.

Several years ago, a friend told me how she chooses a word for the year. I loved the idea, so I took up the practice. This year my word is Freedom. Not a kind of fighting to be free, like a rebellious hands-on-hips teenager bellowing “You can’t tell me what to do!” But instead, an embodiment of a genuine, god-given freedom that comes from within, is transcendent of what is happening around me, and most of all, comes with no strings attached.

As in, not and never, ever bestowed by another.

This is big stuff. As in, Let no man steal your peace.” This sounds so great. I mean who wouldn’t want that? To be able to go around all day with nothing bothering you. Nothing getting to you. But here’s the truth, the wanting of it doesn’t even come close to what it takes to get it.

So what does it take to gain a sense of inner freedom? The ability to be with “What Is,” while taking complete ownership of how you respond. No blaming. No complaining. No victim.

I realize this is a tall order. I recognize almost none of us has had training in this. And yet, as far as I can see this is the only way to the lasting happiness and peace we all yearn for. Otherwise, we are left believing that every time the world does something that does not feel good or right to us, we are basically F*cked. Imprisoned by forces beyond our control.

I am so tired of being at odds with what is happening. Aren’t you? More to the point, so tired of being at odds with myself because the world is at odds with itself. Of course, this is literally the chicken and the egg. As in, which comes first? A world at odds? Or me at odds? Out there? In here?

In some ways, it does not matter because “in here,” is and always will be, the only place I have any control over.

So perhaps you will join me. If so, the next time you find yourself like a fish on a line, railing against what is, simply say, “Yes.” Acknowledge that what you do not want is here and decide that you get to do the only thing that you can do. Decide how you are going to be and feel about that. No matter what.

The New Paradigm: Foundations 101

 

Your health and well-being is the single largest contribution you will ever make to the world. Or, as Ram Dass once put it, “The only thing you have to offer another human being, ever, is your own state of being.”

I recognize this can feel daunting. Perhaps beyond your reach and capacity. It might even feel like hogwash. And simultaneously true. All at the same time. I also know that to ignore this is to put ourselves at odds with not only our own and truest Nature, but also with Everything and Everyone around us.

From this perspective, this is no small thing we are talking about here.

Of course, I did not always know this. Early on it never occurred to me to consider how I was living was impacting others. Makes sense given that I did not even know how it was that I was impacting me. Never mind everyone else I came in contact with. But I know it now, and I watch it play out. Meaning, that when I am healthy, resourced and clear, the quality of my interactions is always of a higher caliber. The healthiness of the engagement prioritized. Even when, and perhaps most especially, when it is a difficult encounter.

Our health and well-being is not only the very foundation of our lives, and what it feels like to be alive, it is the very foundation of our lives together. How could it be anything else? Individually and together we create the collective. The whole will always only be as good as the sum of all of its parts. There is no “in here” that does not reflect “out there.” For to live out of balance within ourselves is to create the very imbalances outside of ourselves that we all abhor. And fear.

So here’s the million dollar question, “If it were true that my health and well-being is the single most important contribution I will ever make to the world, what then?

Without trying to find a quick fix answer, without discounting this as too airy-fairy to be of value, and without succumbing to an internal paralysis because it feels like too much or because you wouldn’t know what to do, what if you just asked yourself that question? A lot. What if you let that question and your intention to contribute from a whole place, guide you?

What then?