A Curated Life

 

I’m in the midst, on one particular morning, of tending to the new plants, making sauce and creating medicine when it strikes me that if I was on Instagram, if I was a so-called influencer, I would be having a very different experience.

I would have changed out of my comfy clothes and chosen a perfectly curated outfit to go with the homestead/farm feel of the moment. I would be staging my morning and positioning it all just so to give you the impression of just how perfect it all was. I would do this by taking multiple pictures from different angles with multiple filters to give you the impression of a spontaneous and unplanned moment.

In the process, I would have sacrificed all of the naturally arising peace, contentment, presence and gratitude that organically arises whenever I am in alignment with what I love best. Without the pressure to post and perform, I am connected to the abundance of the natural world and to a morning where I have the precious space I need to be with what matters most to me.

This is what is being lost in our ever so carefully curated lives: A chance to be with ourselves in a way that nourishes us. So much so that even when we choose not to take that picture, to refrain from posting, is it not what we are often thinking about even if we are not acting on it? Curated lives as a performance vehicle is so insidious now that it’s with us even when we are choosing otherwise.

What strikes me as the most disastrous, the saddest, the most dangerous even, is that we haven’t considered what we are losing each and every day as we orient ourselves ever-more to allowing the screens to mediate every moment of our existence. Desperate as we are to show others something about ourselves and willing to do so at any cost.

But only after it has all been carefully, carefully curated.

In the meantime, we don’t notice that our self-esteem is in the toilet, satisfaction in our relationships plummeting, our stress accelerating, the chase for perfection never ending, with our very existence reduced down to some glam shot.

Making The Necessary Adjustments

 

No matter what guidance I am asking for these days, I keep getting the message that this is a time for pausing and being open to making adjustments in how I do things based in reflection. As opposed to reaction.

While I feel the wisdom in this, following this sage advice can also feel at odds with the pushing out of the Spring energies that I am not only sensing all around me, but also feeling inside of me in terms of what I am called to offer into the world.

And therein lies the rub.

Is it possible to find that sweet combination of doing and being? Is it possible to stand in the presence of a world on fire and not join in? Is it possible to feel all I have to give and to to stay deeply rooted in a place beyond the demands of society?

Not only do I believe it’s possible, I know it’s necessary. A have-to in a world so star struck by the latest gimmick, hashtag, magic bullet, apocalyptic video or sensational story. We have become such a thoughtless people reacting out of our own fears and allegiance to all the wrong things. Like what the influencers, billionaires, celebrities and villains are doing. In our blindness, we have lost a connection to the necessity of pausing and reflecting; leaving us reactive, and therefore dangerous.

Dangerous because we are colluding with narratives that are at odds with our very nature and with the Nature all around us. The very same energies that tell us, There is a balance and a timing to everything. To live believing we are outside of, more to the point, above that wisdom, is to create chaos and harm through the violation of basic and non-negotiable Life principles.

All of this is happening when what we need most is wisdom born of a kind of steady, slow, thoughtful, decent and time-honored way of knowing and relating to the world. But this kind of approach doesn’t play well in a culture based in ever-increasing speed, volume and the incessant push for more and more, right now. Always right now with the insecure fear that if it doesn’t happen immediately, it’s not worth waiting for.

Or that it just won’t happen at all.

This is an illusion based in our separation from our own truest Nature and the the rules that govern the ways of the natural world. An illusion we have so easily bought into because we’ve been schooled to believe that progress looks like we should always being pushing for more. That we should let the people at the top take care of things. That we should let what comes across a screen tell us want to want. That we should just keep going along with things because this is just how it is now.

But like the Spring energies making all their adjustments to ensure the best growth possible, so can we. We can decide to take up our own lives by creating the space we need to slow down. To do less. To listen more. We can decide to question more what it is and who it is we are looking to to tell us what a good life looks and feels like.

We can do the difficult work of being honest with ourselves around what is not working in our lives as reflected by how sick, stressed and unhappy we are; using all those “bad” experiences to help us course correct into greater balance.

And it all begins by being wise enough and willing enough to pause in order to make the necessary adjustments.

Just This Moment

 

I am having one of those days where my thoughts are leaning towards anticipating negative scenarios and engaging in the “what if’s” the mind is so compelled to do. And while at this point I know enough of the machinations of the mind to not go down those rabbit holes, it still can nag away at me as it was doing on this particular day.

While I have many techniques I use to bring my mind back into balance, something happened quite naturally on this day that really struck me. After a walk with my husband where I had laid out my potential “what if’s,” we made our way over to gather eggs and look at what was happening with the starts and seeds we had recently planted.

It took no time at all for my anticipating mind to tune into something life-giving; shifting me out of a chaotic mind to one quite naturally and easily at peace. A mind at ease as it found itself immersed in the bigger picture of Life. All of this with no effort on my part, other than to be in relationship with Something Greater than myself, while spontaneously repeating over and over “Just This,” as I moved through the garden.

The “Just This” was my way of focusing only on what was right before me; whether that was the lettuce I was picking, the conversation I was having or the observations I was making of the seedlings. In effect, immersing my mind in the right now versus the “what if” future.

We so take whatever we think to be truth. As something to believe in and act on. Even when all signs point to the fact that our minds have gone off the rails with fear, anxiety and judgment. And while in this day and age there is no end to solutions for an imbalanced mind from medication to meditation, we can skip right over the most accessible and effortless of approaches to healing our minds.

Here I am referring to the natural world. To the elements and conditions and living beings that we have co-evolved with since we first appeared on the planet; our very home and the clearest reflection of who we are, where we come from and what we need.

Why would we go anywhere else to gain perspective and to ground ourselves in Truth?

Because we have been conditioned to believe that our well-being resides in a screen, a pill, more stuff, more prestige, more “likes,” etc. We have come to experience ourselves as separate from, and therefore not needing the support and the tutelage of what The Earth has to offer us. Unfortunately, many of us have strayed so far and for so long, we have come to see the natural world as foreign, dark and scary. An enemy as opposed to an ally.

But here’s the thing. We are Nature herself. We are created and maintained by the same force. To know this is to tap into the good news that even if we have forgotten, even if we never learned to begin with, all we have to do is to put ourselves in the Presence of the natural world for her to do her work on us.

So find a reason every single day to linger, even for one minute, somewhere outside. Go without agenda. Go and be a listener. Go and allow yourself to get lost in the breeze, a bird singing, some fragrance, a starry night, the feel of rain on your skin. And say to yourself, “Just This.”

 

Sleepless Nights

 

Did you ever have one of those nights that not only can you not fall asleep, but you just feel awful all around? Maybe something in the body hurts. Maybe the room is too hot. Maybe your mind is buzzing away or you are awash in fear.

I just had one of those recently and it left me prickly and surly the next morning. Mostly, because I could not run down the cause of why I had the night I did. Was it the late afternoon chocolate? The extra moments I spent watching something on a screen when I knew I felt like I was being assaulted? Was it the chicken I ate? Maybe it was raised in fear and that was what I was experiencing. Was it my husband’s restless sleep next to me or the storm blowing around outside? Or how about the volatile energies in the collective?

Maybe it was everything all together all at once?

It was like a tsunami of human experience ripping though me. At first I tried to sort through each one of the possible culprits to figure out what it was. But there were too many to know what was what. I went from deep and burning frustration right into despair. Not over what was happening per se, but because I just could not figure it out.

There it is. Being in the middle of a storm is one thing. Believing that you can manage it, or even understand its origins or purpose is quite another. That understanding right there is the difference between heaven and hell. Our need to figure something out, coupled with our downright refusal to say “Yes” to what is happening becomes our vote for hell.

Whether we know it or not.

I’m not saying it’s not important to run down the things that bring on a sleepless night. Or any other disturbances we find in our lives for that matter. Of course it matters. If only to learn to take responsibility for our own experiences, what it is the body needs, along with the consequences of the choices we make.

What I am trying to say here is that not everything can be figured out. Not everything can be known. Then what?

Do we fight like a fish on a line against what it is we do not want? Do we rail against the unfairness of it all? Or do we let go? Into the deep and demanding rigor of being alive in a body having all kinds of experiences. This requires going beyond our expectations and demands that Life be a certain way for us to be ok. It means going beyond us putting our stamp of approval or rejection on what is happening.

Lest you believe this means giving up, it’s just not the case. In fact, it is anything but. Instead, to let be whatever is happening is to align with the Truth that we cannot know everything, that everything is not within our control, and that to believe it is, is to create a kind of living hell.

Mostly, it is to forgo the peace that is available to us in every single moment. No matter what is happening.

Which is why the next day, I turned my attention not to the potential culprit of my terrible night’s sleep, but to my response to it. And what I found was a woman so bent on fixing something that she was not able to just be with herself, without demand, in the midst of a terrible storm.

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.”

 

 

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.

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.

The Broken Unicorns In All Of Us

 

When I was a kid and had accumulated a little pocket change of my own, I would walk down to a place called Cushing Square to visit a tiny store that sold glass figurines. I can’t remember the name of the store, but I can still recall the display window that faced out to the sidewalk and what it felt like for me to go inside.

It was absolutely magical to be in this space and to be in the company of all those glass animals. They felt so mysterious and powerful to me. I wanted them all. But because the figurines weren’t cheap for a kid, I would have to save up for what I wanted. In the meantime, I would go into the store to visit with all those little creatures I felt such a connection to.

At some point, I acquired a three-level tiered stand where I could arrange these little friends of mine into different scenarios and configurations. No matter what I did in this regard, there was always one that stood out for me: The Unicorn. I felt moved by her golden horn and the clear see-through nature of her body. I looked at her every day and every night. She was the one I loved most of all.

So you might imagine how I felt when I came home one day to find her horn broken off. It was devastating. But worse than the devastation of something so important to me being broken, was that no one would admit to doing it. And no one saw that justice prevailed.

That day, something precious and innocent broke in me. I stopped going to the store and I don’t remember what happened to all the other glass animals.

Heartbreak and innocence lost is something every one of us will pass through. Not one of us will come to the Earth and leave unscathed in this regard. We all have had our “broken Unicorn” experiences and for many of us it will follow us around for the rest of our lives. It will color how we see the world. What we believe is possible. How safe or dangerous the world feels to us. What we believe will happen to us if we love open-heartedly.

As that old song goes, “the first cut is the deepest.” Very understandable then to go through life making damn sure it doesn’t ever happen again.

This is one way to live and it makes sense given how devastating it can be to learn as children what a cruel place the world can be at times. Unfortunately, when we hold onto this through life, not only do you lose out, so does everyone around you.

There is another way. But it’s a big ask to the child inside of us who got so hurt when we didn’t even know that kind of pain or disillusionment was possible. What is that “big ask?” To reclaim your innocence. To take back your wonder and sense of possibility. The road to get there is certainly long and arduous. And it will require that you feel what you never wanted to feel again. Ever.

But in the feeling you get to heal, and then you get to decide how armored up you want to be. And when. Because to live for our entire lives waiting to be hurt again is to live as a victim. And to live as a victim is to live shut down to the magic, wonder and possibility that lives in the world.

Want to give it a try? Think back into the past. Do you have a sense of where the mentality of the broken Unicorn began for you? That place where you felt wronged, betrayed or violated. Then observe with great kindness how that plays out now for you. Where and when it shows up. You don’t have to do anything for a very long time other than to just begin to make that connection.

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)