Red Flags

 

This morning I did something I almost never do. I went online before my morning practice. It’s not like it’s an ironclad rule to never do this. It’s just that I know that when I start my day in reflection, I’m a different person. Closer to who I most want to be when I begin my day by checking in, as opposed to checking out.

But the allure today towards the screen was just too strong. A friend had told me about a meditation, and I got it into my head that this would make my practice better. Deeper. That maybe this would be what I needed to get over the hump of an obstacle I had been struggling with. Maybe it would get me closer to Source?

That right there should have been a red flag. But the temptation of the one-click-away to salvation was just too strong.

Once on the site and ready to buy the fix I thought I needed, for some reason the payment wouldn’t go through. So I tried it again. And then, again. And again. Actually a bunch more times. I even walked away for a minute, and then came back to try once more.

And so it was, with some sense of loss and disappointment that I headed into my morning practice. But not with my usual sense of commitment and eager anticipation.

Yesterday, I would have told you that I am far too experienced to believe that some meditation would fill some hole. Today I would tell you, some part of me does not know better. I would tell you that this whole business of what we need, and what we think we can get immediately via the screens is very, very seductive. In such an exquisitely insidious and invisible way that there’s a good chance you won’t even know it’s happening.

Why? Because the false promise of easy access salvation to a better life with just one click, flies under the radar of the rational mind. The part of us that believes we are in charge and know exactly why we are choosing what we do. What I am describing tells another story. One where our deepest longings, those places beneath the surface of awareness that drive us without us even knowing it, are easily hijacked by what is available across a screen.

It is so sobering to experience just how vulnerable we are to the belief that what we need is out there; in someone else’s hands, in an app, some purchase, a meditation download. This morning, I am deeply humbled by the ease with which I was hooked. Equally, I am deeply grateful for the daily reminder of my morning practice. Something that caught me today before I fell too far from Truth.

That Truth being, there are no quick fixes out there. No matter what form they come in. The real Truth is, it is in us. Whatever it is that we are looking for. Do we need help? We do. But the trick is, not to confuse the help (someone else’s map) with the answer we are seeking (which can only be found in the direct knowing of our own territory).

So yes, use what’s out there to spark you. But never, ever, believe something outside of you will do for you, what only you can do for yourself.

P.S. When in doubt about where you are in all of this, be on the lookout for the compulsion that you just have to have (fill in the blank) to be okay. Use that feeling of impulsiveness on your part to have something right now, as the red flag being flown to warn you off the lie you are about to buy into.

Where Your Attention Goes…

 

Have you ever found yourself trying to make sure something didn’t happen? Put all your energies into the avoidance of something? Got very internally tight trying to keep something from occurring? Built your life around making sure the thing you didn’t want to happen, didn’t?

How’s it working for you?

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself bumping up against a mindset which I will call, “trying not to be sick.” This was a surprise to me as I value being sick and the ways it gives my immune system a stretch, offers the necessary genetic upgrades my body needs to be in harmony with the world I live in, as well as teaching me so much about myself. Not to mention, I have lots and lots of tried and true go-to’s that I lean into when I am not well and that I trust implicitly.

So being sick is not something I typically fear. Or so I thought. For lurking far beneath the surface of my awareness, beneath years and years of aligning to a belief system that trusts my body in illness, there it was. I was doing my damndest, not to be sick. It got me to thinking about a whole bunch of things, a couple of which I’ll share here: One, how incredibly intractable old belief systems can be even after you thought you had moved beyond them. Two, how terribly, terribly wrong we’ve got it as a collective when it comes to what it means to be alive.

For the Truth is, there is a vast difference between trying not to be sick, and focusing on supporting yourself back to health. An absolute chasm between allowing your body to be ill and do what it needs to do, and trying to make something go away. An enormous gap between seeing the gifts illness has to offer, and refusing to notice what it is your body is trying to tell you.

Look around. Listen to the conversations you have with others. Mostly, pay attention to the thoughts you think inside your own mind when it comes to getting sick. Is there a sense of opportunity in what you can learn about yourself, or do you live terrified by what is or can happen to your body? Do you see illness as an opportunity to reset and take better care of yourself, or do you believe something is being done to you? Do you follow the bread crumbs of your days back to learn how you got yourself out of balance, or are you just annoyed with your body and looking to slam it back into production?

And these days, do you pay attention to what you need to be well, or have you picked up the recently ill-conceived co-vid narrative that to be sick is to be an enemy and a danger to those around you?

Avoiding being sick is not the same thing as paying attention to the signs and signals your body is giving you. It is not the same thing as taking a hard look at your life to see where you have gotten out of harmony with the truest needs of your life. It is not the same thing as using an uncomfortable experience to inform and guide you back into balance.

This is one of those enormous paradigm leaps where we go from the earth is flat to the earth is round; putting into action the belief that we create our own reality and that where our attention goes, our energy flows. Meaning, what we focus on matters. A lot.

Sick or not, every minute of every day, you have a choice about where you put your attention; on what you want or what you don’t want. If this makes sense to you, get in the habit of paying attention to the mind chatter. Is it encouraging you to go for what you actually want, or is it demanding that you listen to, and act on, what you don’t want?

Then, choose. Over and over and over again. Until you get your mind in the habit of orienting to what you most want. Does it take time? Yes. But what better way to spend your life than devoting your precious attention and energy to what you actually desire?

Goodness

 

For the past several months, in the weekly yoga class I attend, we have been working with something called The Mother’s Symbol. It represents various faces and powers of the Divine Feminine, as well as twelve qualities, or virtues, to cultivate in life.

The virtues include things like Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude and Perseverance. This past week, we focused on Goodness. In the exploration, the teacher quoted the words of a great sage who wrote of “goodness for the sake of goodness.” In other words, not being good to get something, or to appear a certain way to others, and certainly not to use being good as something to lord over others.

For the whole class, all I could think about was us as a collective. Us as a culture that has come to weaponize goodness. Current day ideologies that have taken what it means to be “good,” and narrowly defined it to fit an agenda which is then used to call out and convict those who do not measure up to a biased and destructive definition.

But if we come back to “goodness for the sake of goodness,” we would see that this is never a virtue to claim for an external reason; whether to look good to others, get something, or keep from being cancelled or attacked.

Instead, real goodness is cultivated from within for its own sake; transcending outside agendas and our own personal fears. Goodness from its purest perspective is only about our own evolutionary and spiritual progress. Only about our connection to Something Far Greater than us.

Only about a return to the Truth of who and what we are, and where it is that we come from. This is vastly different from the social agreements and ideologies we commit ourselves to, or are forced into.

If we really knew this, we would never, ever, use goodness as a weapon against ourselves or others. We would never, ever, use it to try and control our own behavior or that of another. For that would be in violation of, a desecration of, the most fundamental and sacred aspect of our very Nature. That being, the inherent Goodness that lives within.

I am left wondering, as I often do, if in the world of social media, extreme and polarizing ideologies and party politics, if we will be able to find our way into our own inherent goodness. I pray for all of our sakes that we can. For without experiencing the Goodness within, how will we be able to see that in another, or know the Truth of who we really are?

Devotion

 

I was talking with someone recently struggling to take better care of herself. Despite “knowing better,” she just can’t seem to get there. Each time she “fails” it seems to solidify something negative about her in her own mind. I think we can all relate.

How many promises have you made to yourself around health and self-care, only to break them?

I would tell you that it is not due to a lack of willpower, or that your intention was not a good one to begin with. I would tell you that it’s not that you don’t have the right diet, app or gear. Or that the program you were trying was faulty somehow. I would tell you that any of the above, as well as any like them, is not why what you’re doing is not working.

What then?

I would tell you that it is a lack of devotion to the preciousness of your own life that stands in your way.

OMG! Are you kidding me? That’s too much. Too esoteric. Too sad. Too hard. I’d rather go back to having the wrong outfit or signing up for the wrong diet! I get it. Changing something external about our lives seems so much easier, faster and more convenient. But it’s a lie to believe it will be the fix for a broken sense of how precious you are.

More than that, Why has it become so difficult to really, really devote ourselves to the value of our own life?

The truth is, if you keep avoiding the fact that the very reason why what you’re trying isn’t working is because down deep, you don’t think you’re worth it, not valuable enough, you will forever stay on the miserable, ineffective and shame-inducing hamster wheel of seeking external solutions. Ones you will have to try, over and over again. Ones that will cost you; both monetarily and in terms of how you feel about yourself.

More than that, you will miss the beauty of you and what you are really all about. This blindspot will also have you missing the sacred preciousness of Life all around you.

But if you can see that the reason why external attempts fail is because denying yourself the necessary devotion you have a right to, will always undermine your efforts, you are starting in the right place. If you can see that the external fix mentality, capitalized on now by a multi-billion dollar wellness industry, banks on you failing to keep you coming back for more, you begin to free yourself.

There is no external fix for a belief system that says I’m not worth it. I don’t deserve it. My life is not precious.

Learning how to honor, value and love yourself is the very foundation for self-care, and it is non-negotiable. Once you begin to engage with yourself in this way, the specifics of what you’re doing more naturally fall into place through an organic alignment with what is devotional and life-affirming. In other words, when you are no longer bouncing around from “solutions to solution,” you are instead guided to what you most need.

This is a powerful and far-reaching orientation as the long-term health of your life and those around you hangs in the balance. And it is as close and immediate as your next choice. That’s the place to start.

Your very next choice. 

When you’re about to decide the next thing to put in your mouth, the time you will go to bed, that person you will spend your time with, the outfit you put on, how much you give to work, the way you spend your money, whether you go for that walk or not, spend time on yourself or not, ask yourself these essential questions:

Does this choice reflect the preciousness of my life? Is this an act of self-devotion?

And if it’s hard for you to devote yourself in this way, find a picture of yourself when you were little. Look at your younger self and pose those very same questions while giving yourself all the time you need to catch up to what is, and always has been, Truth.

Your life matters. You matter. You are precious. A life lived with devotion to that knowledge changes everything in ways they most need to be changed. From the inside-out.

The Mind & Its Ways

 

As someone who has been observing her own mind for decades, it’s truly fascinating, sad, maddening, and more to watch how often I can catch my mind in some version of “I’m not doing enough.” Sadly, we all do this.

I know some of us would say that it drives us to do better; to be more of this or that. Sure, we get productivity out of this orientation of the mind, but what about the downside? What are the costs of “motivating” ourselves (if that is even what we are actually doing) by focusing on “not enough?”

This “less than” version of the mind is old. Very, very old. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t even ours to begin with. These were the thoughts and beliefs of those around us growing up, which we took on because it was what we thought was real and true about us as children.

I think of this part of my mind as the taskmaster who believes that by keeping me under its thumb, I’ll do more. I’ll do better. I’ll be safe.  But at what cost and according to who? My past? The number of “likes” the world is giving out? What everybody else thinks? A conditioned sense of unworthiness?

While these costs are certainly enormous, they actually pale in comparison to something we often miss. That being, that through the lens of “not enough” we miss our truest selves. Our beauty, fortitude, kindness, grit, generosity, and more; literally robbing us of the opportunity to experience the Truth of who and what we are.

To live under the mean and unfair taskmaster of “not enough” is to miss the very experience and essence of us.

This can show up for me, in all places, in my daily spiritual practice. It creeps in in the moments where despite having just spent an hour or more in deep contemplation, prayer, and connection, I’ll find my taskmaster mind saying that I’m not doing enough when it comes to the physical portion of my practice.

It sounds like this, “You’re cutting short the posture flow. You’re not doing more challenging poses. You didn’t do a full breathwork practice. You only sat in meditation for 5 minutes.” Blah, blah, blah.

It’s truly laughable and absurd to watch this parade of criticism go through my mind. My standard approach these days to the mind in this place is, “Sure, whatever.”

We need lots and lots of ways to work with the taskmaster mind. So if you’re up for it, any time you want to work with the mind, begin by catching yourself thinking. And when you catch yourself in a loop of “I’m not doing enough,” try the light-hearted “Sure, whatever” approach I just mentioned. This only works though if you keep a kind and light attitude towards the criticisms. Like you know what is being said has no merit, and you don’t feel any need to prove it wrong. 

Then, if you want to really change the mind’s orientation and start to rewire all those neural networks into something new and uplifting, try a phrase I use with myself to not only create a balancing response to that old tape, but to create a mindset that will take me back to the Truth of me.

It goes like this, “In this moment, instead of seeing “not enough,” I choose to see a woman who is…committed to her daily practice and devoted to doing deep inner work. Try it for yourself, filling in your own blanks, while you notice, with the criticizing mind held at bay, what do you see now?

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.

 

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?

 

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.