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.

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.

The Stories We Tell

 

I am recently told a story of a woman who travelled to Peru to be with a local shaman. She went seeking answers as to why her life was such a mess. I imagine what it took for her to get to this place. To be so unable to understand what was happening for her, and what it was that she needed to do. To feel the anticipation and the hope that there would be a magical transformation performed by a seer in a life-altering ceremony in a mystical nation.

He told her she needed to stop drinking.This was not what she expected. Or wanted. This was most decidedly, not what she came for.

She came seeking a transcendent explanation and experience as to why her life was not working out. She came believing that delivery from her own personal hell would come neatly packaged up and “performed” for her by another. Someone wiser. Someone more “hooked up” than her.

But that is not how growth goes. Change is hard, and it is messy. Despite our child-like fantasies of an external savior, the one who knows all, the one who knows more and better than we, and the one who takes it all away, that is not how real change works.

I am involved in a year long somatic training. Right now we are fully immersed in all of the behaviors we engage in to bypass the pain we cannot be with. It is excruciating. And it is liberating. To be in a place where you are nose-to-nose with the truth of your own behaviors is humbling. To see them in the light of the protective functions they play in your life is nothing short of breathtaking.

You see, we all have perfectly good reasons for doing what we do. Even, and maybe most especially, when what we are doing hurts us.

Look into your own Life. What’s not working? Could you be so brave and so wise as to notice a behavior, a feeling or a thought, one you wished was not there? Locating it, gently say to yourself, “It’s okay that you’re here.” 

This is not to say that you like it or want it to stay. This is a courtesy, and an honesty that you extend to yourself where you do not turn away, but instead turn towards, what is not working. This is done in the Spirit of a kind of reconciliation with your past. How it is that you got here. This is done with the understanding that the codes for changing anything, lie embedded within us.

And it all begins by learning how to be with what is.

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.

Everything We Need

I wake this morning to the call of the crows, and even though I am rising later than they would normally be around, there they are. Three of them. Arranged in a little triangle. Three is a number of balance and completion. It signifies past, present, and future. The triangle is the strongest shape in construction.

My day is off to a great start. Why? Because I am listening. Listening to more than my fears and conditioning. Listening to something other than the self-imposed limitations that plague me. Listening to the Truth of the Universe as spoken by The Natural World.

The animals always serve as a harbinger, or a reminder, or a confirmation of something for me. This morning I am thinking about expressing more of myself through the work I do as I first lay eyes on the crows. I take their presence as confirmation and reminder. I am on the right path, and I no longer need live with outdated versions about what people are going to do with me if I challenge their world view.

And then, it gets better. Out on a run, I encounter a doe and her fawn on the road right at the moment I am thinking about the progression each one of us is on in our own lives. That we are all in different stages of development, and that all stages are to be respected and honored.

And then, it get even better. As I am running back towards my house, there is a cyclist broken down on the side of the road. For those of you who know my road, you know he is miles in either direction of help. I ask him if he needs anything, to which he responds, “I have everything I need. It’s just that right now, it’s catastrophic.” To which I respond, “Just like being in the world we are living in.”

And there it is, we have everything we need to be healthy. We have everything we need to solve things with other people and nations. We have everything we need to live in harmony with the Earth. And we have everything we need for everyone’s needs to be met and for their greatest potential to be expressed. The question is, will we do it? Will we each and every one of us make the shifts we need to make? Or will we continue to create catastrophes to wake us up out of our own self-imposed fogs?

This is not easy to do, and it takes time. But if we are committed, little by little, and in great leaps and bounds, we can find ourselves there. If you are willing, try my new 10% practice for anything you are ready to shift in your life. It looks like this: When you are full, leave that last bite on the plate. When you are moving your body, go a little stronger, a little more, or a little more unusual to challenge yourself. When you get a sense inside that you can’t prove, but you know to be legitimate, see if you can act on it, or at least keep it in mind. If you are always talking, be more quiet, and if you are always holding back in conversation, step forward. Go to bed a little earlier, turn your phone off at the dinner table, do whatever needs changing in your life in increments of 10%, and watch what happens.