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.

The Things In Life That Are Too Big For Us

 

This week, I heard someone use the phrase, “Too big to address and too big to walk away from,” in reference to one of the big issues we as a people are facing. I had never heard that expression before, but boy did it land for me; so aptly describing an experience many of us are having when we look out into the destruction and chaos of a world gone mad.

Too big to address and too big to walk away from.

At first glance, it may feel like being between a rock and a hard place. Nowhere to go. Nothing you can do. I think this is where many of us live these days. Stuck in limbo. Recognizing that a lot needs to be addressed, challenged and changed, but feeling like it is far too big for us to have an impact.

So we fall into despair. Apathy. Frustration. Cynicism.

Or maybe we throw all of ourselves at an issue. Working overtime. Dedicating ourselves to some external cause that we pour our heart and soul into. Doing more than our share and sometimes feeling resentful that others don’t care as much. Or are not pulling their weight.

In the face of the world’s “issues” it can be so easy to fall into “this is just the way things are now” or to kick into high gear and start trying to fix everything. But what if the issues that are too big to address and too big to walk away from are actually a visioning opportunity, a call from our very own soul? One that requires we go into our very own lives and handle our big issues, before we turn our attention to the world.

This inner anchoring in the face of world overwhelm grounds us and give us access to deeper ways of knowing beyond the knee-jerk reactions so typical of us when we confront big, scary issues. We need some kind of inner referencing because the truth is, neither apathy nor overwork are the path of wisdom. The way of thoughtful action. The way of understanding that always, and in all ways, anything out there big enough to be a problem, needs to be known in here, inside each one of us, first.

Otherwise, we add to the chaos and the confusion as we bring our own blind spots, fears and agendas to the situation at hand. To go into the bigness of your very own issues is to understand, in seed form, the big issues the world currently faces.

If this is so, it begs the question, “What in your life feels too big to ignore, and simultaneously too big to handle? We’ve all got one. That core issue that just won’t go away. The one that seems to be at the root of everything else. The one we work really hard to cover up.

Do you know what yours is?

I guarantee you something: Figure out what yours is, along with all of its ins and outs, and you will have a gold standard template for addressing the biggest and most intractable world issues. The ones we can’t seem to solve. The ones that overwhelm and frighten us the most.

Try it. Look to your own life. What are you pretending not to know?

Use this question whenever you meet up with your big life issues and watch how not only your life begins to change, but you start to have a much clearer sense of how to be with what is too big to address and too big to walk away from when it comes to the world at large.

 

Your Right To Your Own Health & Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

A More Honest Existence

 

After returning home from being away for Thanksgiving, I find myself naturally drawn to cleaning out the refrigerator, food drawers and cabinets. Then I take the cleaning out and organizing into my office and bedroom closet. This goes on all week. It feels good.

In the process, I feel a deep connection to people from other time periods who would be clearing out the previous year in order to make space for storing what was needed most for the winter to come. A kind of necessary and life-saving taking stock if you wanted to survive a long, hard winter. “Taking sensible precautions” as I heard someone say recently, to ensure you and yours had what you needed.

In a world of “anything and everything” at your fingertips 24/7, all of the stuff being just a click away, the necessary practice of taking stock to survive is no longer a lived reality for many of us. But it should be. In fact, it really, really needs to be.

Why?

Because whether we think we need it or not in modern day existence, taking stock provides a deep reality check. One that promises to keep us honest and in alignment with the Truth of existence.

So even though taking stock in this way may not, at the moment, be an issue of imminent survival as it was for our ancestors, there is something so fundamental and so very necessary about lightening up in a world accelerating at a faster rate than any human being has ever lived through before.

It stands to reason that if we are going to successfully, joyfully and honestly align with the speed of change happening, whether we like the pace or not, we must be willing to jettison the stuff. I include here not just the material things we accumulate (often unnecessarily) but also all the ideas, beliefs and habits that keep us trapped in denser and slower versions of the reality that stands before us; both what is possible and what is required of the times we find ourselves in.

This is not easy. We love to cling to the familiar, to what has always brought us comfort. Whether that is actually so or not. I would argue that a great deal of the stuff we accumulate has very little to do with real comfort, or survival, for that matter. Instead, being more about living on the receiving end of too much advertising and too much belief in something external giving us what we truly need in order to be okay.

I began writing this piece on the day of the full moon. Full moons are often associated with releasing and letting go. But in order to do this, we have to first be willing to look at things as they actually are. Then we must be willing to ask ourselves some very hard questions when we see that maybe, just maybe, what we have bought and bought into, isn’t working for us.

I know this can feel like a lot, but it promises a lot to get clear about our lives and how we are living. So instead of focusing on what is too hard to get clear on and let go of, what if you focused on that clear light feeling you get after cleaning out the closet or the garage or the basement? That feeling of greater spaciousness and inner ease when you let go of what no longer serves.

That sense of freedom and inner order that you experience after the physical clearing out is something that also translates into more room for an expanded awareness of possibility, the Mystery and a greater sense of preparedness around how to be in the world in these times. Add to this the vow we often make, after taking the time and energy to clear out the stuff to be more conscientious about not filling the space back up, and you have yourself  a commitment to choose differently from now on. More intentionally.

If this resonates, you could add a little affirmation into the mix to make it all so much more powerful and likely to stick. For instance, “I freely release what I no longer need in order to make room for a more honest existence.”

 

 

Which Role Will You Play In The World?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wake-Up Calls

 

In the past week, I have either fallen or stumbled and almost fallen, three separate times. They all happened while I was out running in the woods. And they all coordinated perfectly to my mind being stuck on an endless loop of negativity.

A fake argument with someone inside my own mind. Indulging old protective mechanisms against an anticipated attack. Feeling responsible for another’s choices. On and on it went. Until bam! Down I went. A startling but effective way to get me off the well worn, beaten path of a mind stuck on negative thought loops.

It’s been a powerful awareness for me in these moments because habits of the mind are not always easy to notice. Especially if the various themes of our thinking have been going on for years and years. Meaning, that what we’re thinking about can go undetected for long stretches. A lifetime even. And without something a little, or a lot, jarring to the system, we just won’t change.

Which is why I don’t mind the wake-up calls because what I know to be true is this: Negative thinking unchecked erodes my experience of what it feels like to be me. And it’s not a feeling I enjoy. That’s why I have come to appreciate these physical stumbles in the woods and see them as welcomed harbingers. Lightening bolts from my own soul saying “Knock it off. You deserve better than that. You have more important things to tend to.”

The call of the soul cares not for our comfort. Nor will it indulge us in our habits of mind based on our fears, the past or any other pieces of old conditioning. It’s only aim? For us to express ourselves fully and uniquely all in the service of remembering the Truth, with a capital “T,” of who and what we are.

So while I have never found my soul to be controlling or forceful, it can be very, very persuasive with the nudges it gives me, large and small, through the circumstances of my day to day life. I believe that’s the way it works. Little nudges offering us an opportunity to course correct how it is that we are living.

Maybe it happens through the experience of a health issue, a breakup, an argument. Perhaps you’ll get fired, your house will flood, or you’ll be betrayed. The soul can show up as an unsettled yearning, a depression, or a regret. Really, any of the things in life we wish with all our hearts would not happen and that we spend a lot of time and thinking trying to keep from happening.

But what if you saw every unwanted “happenstance” as a wake-up call? As a message from beyond and within. What then? Would you say yes to the stumbles and the falls that allowed you to see the beautiful forest of Life that you are passing through? Would you say yes to the chance to grow beyond the self-imposed limitations that keep you stuck in the wrong habits?

If so, be on the lookout for what is not working, for what breaks and for what just feels way past its prime in your life.

To Trust Your Body Is To Trust Yourself

 

I talk and teach a lot about trusting your body. Sounds nice. But the truth is, given how we have been conditioned over the last decades to do anything but trust our bodies, this can be a hard sell in a world encouraging the abdication of this sacred connection to the technologies and the experts we have come to put more of our faith in than these bodies of ours.

This is problematic on many levels. But perhaps the most problematic of all, is that if we don’t trust our very own body, we will not be able to trust ourselves, and we will not be able to trust life itself. Without a steady belief in what we are experiencing and knowing through our own body, we will be adrift in terms of how to navigate the changing waters of the world. And without a reliance on how life flows through these bodies, we will be at odds with ourselves over what we can expect day to day in terms of a greater support and guidance that is available to all of us.

It’s such a strange thing to be talking about trusting your body. As if it is somehow separate from your very existence and how you live. And yet, this is where we are: So horribly removed and disconnected from what is innate that we find ourselves having to do some kind of rehab to remind us of what is not just built in, but that forms the very basis of who we are.

We are mammals, and there is not a mammal out there, other than us, that does not exist without complete and utter trust in what it is experiencing, and what it means to be in a body. The good news is, this is an authentic and powerful place to go to to re-learn where to take our cues from. What I mean by this is that just by turning our attention to that which is most inherent and most basic about being in a body is the way back to trusting your body, yourself, and all of life.

Best of all, it’s not fancy, expensive, complicated or beyond your reach. It is quite literally, as close to you as your next breath. As close to you as the next time you sense thirst, hunger or exhaustion. What I am talking about here is a kind of reacquaintance to your body’s most basic and non-negotiable needs. Those things you could not do without and still survive. Those things that a newborn baby must have in order to live.

The very things modern life has taught us to put on the back burner, but that still remains alive and well inside of us and can be found by wondering to yourself, “What could I absolutely not be able to live without?”

It’s not your cell phone, Netflix or social media. It’s not a new pair of shoes, a fancy trip or a new car. It is quite literally your breath and your ability to feed yourself. I know most of us would say we already know how to do this. But do we? Do we actually quench our thirst with life-giving water or do we flood ourselves with caffeinated drinks? Do we feed ourselves what our body really needs to be well or do we consume lots of processed, fake, and ever more bizarre substances masquerading as food? Do we get the rest we need or are we more interested in staying up late to watch the latest bit of noise coming out of a screen?

To bring this right down into the body and out of the machinations of the mind, try this: Once a day pause and take a full deep breath in as you feel some sensation in your body. Then ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” If you can get in the habit of starting there, I will guarantee you something; over time as you turn more and more back to your most basic needs, a fundamental trust will form with your body which will then extend out to how well you trust yourself. And life as well.

How Are You Creating The World?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karma

 

Recently, I heard a teacher say that to try and convince someone else of what you want for them, no matter how true or noble, is to take on their karma. Those words stopped me in my tracks, and left me feeling like I had stepped on a garden rake and gotten whacked in the face.

I began to think about all the times I had tried to get a person in my life to see something, or to want something. All the times I had tried to convince someone of something. Anything. All the times I had thought about how this person or that person, or the world in general, should do things differently. Do things the way I thought they should be done. And it didn’t matter one bit that I could justify to you that I only wanted what was best for them, when the truth is, I couldn’t bear what another was doing, for one reason or another.

Frankly, it was overwhelming to imagine taking on the karma of dozens, hundreds, even thousands or millions. Imagining myself weighing in on what all these people should or should not do. Want or not want. Believe or not believe. Sometimes having said it outright, while at other times thinking it.

This is something we all do. All the time. If you doubt this, watch how often you try and get someone to see things as you do, or try and get them to take your suggestion about how they should live their life. And it doesn’t even have to be about the big moments. It can be as “small” as what they “should” do about a difficult co-worker or whether or not they should buy something.

Watch how often you listen to the news or look out into the world and believe that you know better about what another person or group should or should not be doing.

And then, imagine taking on all of that karma. All the baggage, known and unknown to you and them, that goes with why and how they act as they do. All the karma around how they got to where they are now. All of their hurts, disappointments and dysfunctions. All of their projections, anger, blindspots and expectations. All of their insanity, fears and sadness. Even all of their past lives. Everything they need to account for, now becomes yours. Whoa.

It is so incredibly tricky when it comes to how we relate to others. So challenging to be in relationship without making what others do or do not do be about us. About our need to have them act a certain way so we can feel safe, connected and valued.

If this resonates and you want to join me, start by watching yourself in conversation with others. Catch yourself trying to convince someone of something, anything. For this to work though, you will have to be very, very good to yourself; as in not judging or shaming yourself when you see what it is that you are up to.

And when you do notice what’s happening, ask yourself, Do I want to take on this person’s karma? Do I really want to be responsible for how things turn out for them? And when you find yourself in a dynamic where another gladly hands over their choices to you about what they should do, run.

Meaning & Purpose

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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