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.

If Only I Had Known

 

My husband and I are walking through a section of woods that has been logged over the past year. Where once I could have followed the trail blindfolded, I have no idea where I am. Or how to get from where I am, to where I want to be. It’s disconcerting.

I find myself saying, “If only I had known this was going to happen, I would have paid attention in a different way.” The magnitude of that statement stops me cold. For how often have we all said, across all times and spaces, some version of, “If only I had known…” 

In hindsight, with the evidence already clearly laid out before us, it seems a no-brainer. As in, How could I have missed this? How could I have not seen or known?

Herein lies the great dilemma around what is within our power of observation, and what is beyond it. I think much of the time, we have no idea. Instead, we muck around in places we have no control over, while simultaneously abdicating the power we do have. We dump all of our precious attention into worries, distractions, obsessions and fears; getting so outside of ourselves and what is actually there, that we, in effect, become blind.

We do not want to see things as they are. We want other people to be other than what they are. We want the world to be other than what it is. And we want our bodies, our lives and our relationships to be other than what they are. In the meantime, we miss the Truth of the landscape that we are currently occupying, and moving through. In so doing, we become disoriented, losing our way.

The Truth is, you will never know what to do next, or how to get to where you most want to go without first knowing where you are. Whether that is in the woods, in the world, or in the forest of your own mind, body and soul. We cannot be trying to get somewhere without first knowing exactly where we are. But that requires courage, and a willingness to admit when we have no idea where we are, what we are doing, or where we are even going.

It is hard work to be with where you are in any given moment. Harder still though is to live with the unintended consequences and the lost opportunities of waiting for hindsight to give you 20/20 vision.

Waiting To Be Born

 

I know things are hard for many of us right now. I know the world feels like it is burning. And I know that many of us wish it was not so.

But it is.

I realize that sounds harsh, and maybe even heartless, but if we can see that there is meaning, or at least the possibility of meaning in all of this, than we can choose to make it so. What am I talking about? I am talking about that when everything is in ruin, when it feels like there is no way out, something is waiting to be born. Something that has never been allowed before is trying to get in.

Something is painfully wanting and seeking our attention.

I keep having an image of myself as the one giving birth to something, as well as the one being born, as well as the one in attendance. I am the birther. I am the midwife. And I am what is being born. It is all so very, very trippy. And all so very, very timely. For who could deny that the time is here. The time is NOW for everything that stands before us. There is no other time than now to address what needs our attention.

But only if we can see it as so. Only if we can understand that the excruciating pain we are all experiencing are birthing pains; the necessary signaling to us to stop, pay attention, and get ready.

I don’t know about you, but I am done. I am done squandering my life force and my happiness in my attempts to live according to some standard that does not include me. I am done pretending that what the world is doing is okay by me. I am done being part of a system that does not value Life.

And I am not the only one who is done. The Earth herself is done. She has had it. And rightly so.

I do not say this with doomsday reports. I say this in a “Way-To-Go-Mother Earth” kind of way. I say this from the perspective that she will be just fine without us. That she does not need our saving. Nor will she wait for us. Instead, we need to catch up to Her Reality, for she will most assuredly go on with, or without us.

Do you know what it is that really needs saving though? Us.

Harder than managing a climate crisis, or any other global event for that matter, is the recognition that everything that stands before us that needs doing, is an inside job. How could it be anything but? Our thoughts, behaviors and choices are what have gotten us here. So it will only be the awareness of this, and the changing of what we are doing, that will shift anything.

Quelling the onslaught of pollution or climate change, or any global issue, pales in difficulty, as great as it is, to what it takes to turn one human mind from unconsciousness to Grace.

In the end, saving the Earth is a natural outgrowth of saving ourselves. We have it all backwards whenever we begin outside of who we are and what we do. I think we flip things as a distraction, and because we have been conditioned so. For as intense as the suffering can be around all of the world’s ills, it is far easier to be with that, than changing old and outdated mindsets.

The Limitations of Certainty Seeking

 

A friend of mine introduced me to the phrase, “certainty seeking.” It means just what it sounds like.

While it is so natural as a human being to want a high degree of certainty guaranteed, when it comes to how things in Life will go, it is an illusion. As a species we seem to be the only ones on the planet who not only do not know that there are no such guarantees, we go so far as to demand that it be so; compounding an already dangerous and misguided notion.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what to do. While terrifying to hold at first, this orientation to Life is a true one. A real one. One that lines us up with reality, thereby allowing us to be with things from a clear starting point. Meaning, we are much more likely to respond with accuracy and in a right-sized manner.

This past week, I had a surprising turn of events in that suddenly my back was spasming with such intensity that I could barely walk. I could not take a deep breath. Nor could I get my pants on by myself. In the midst of the worst of it, my husband found me sobbing, “I don’t know what to do.” All of my usual approaches and remedies had fallen short. Nothing was working.

Later, working with one of my practitioners, he uttered the phrase “trapped vulnerability,” which initiated another round of sobbing. There it was. The physical pain was nothing compared to the deep existential vulnerability of being alive that I was up against. Now the question became, “How am I going to be with this?”

What has unfolded over this week is that my deepest vulnerability is bound to my deepest power. That giving way to vulnerability and uncertainty puts me back into alignment with Truth. The doorway in being, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what is going to happen.” It is from this place that I create an opening. A portal if you will, where things I never thought of have a chance to reveal themselves. Where unimaginable support has a chance to come in. And where the most unbearable pain turns into Strength. Possibility. Healing.

We are living in times where a kind of dogma of certainty has settled over us like a plague; settling in us and between us. The message? This, and only this is what you are allowed to believe in. If you do, you are guaranteed a certain outcome. And while to many of us this certainty can feel so reassuring, it is illusion. One that is robbing us of Truth and Possibility.

To believe that another can offer you the certainty you seek is a fool’s errand. An existential foreclosure. Worst of all, somewhere deep inside, you know it is not true. To trade in this lie is to set yourself against the forces and the powers of the Universe. The very same One, which never has and never will, offer you that type of guarantee.

The Future of Health

 

Not long ago, I saw a commercial which seems to sum up where we are, and where we are headed when it comes to health. Unless, that is, enough of us decide for something else. Something more True. More Real. More Life-affirming. More, well, human.

The commercial opens with the following tagline: “The future of health is on your wrist.” We are then shown a woman operating at warp speed in her life, while being continuously reminded by the device on her arm to “Relax.” Then it tells her to “Run.” Then “Swim.” Then do “Tae Kwon Do.” Then “Dance.” I watch in horror as she manically leaps from one instruction to the next; all directed by a tiny machine she is wearing on her arm.

If this weren’t so alarming, it would be funny. Saturday Night Live parody funny.

But it’s not funny. Not when we consider how many of us take health advice from people trying to sell us something, and whose mixed agenda includes delivering messages of “health and well-being” while bolstering their the bottom line by keeping us ever insecure and doubtful about our own ability to go it without them. It becomes even less funny when we break down the messages that are being taken up by viewers regarding what it means to be healthy. Images that are telling us that instructions from a piece of technology are what we need to be listening to. That somehow we will not know what we need, or what to do, and that it is best to outsource that knowing to something non-human.

In our infatuation with, and now indoctrination into, all things technological in order to stay healthy, we are losing the main and central ingredient to health and well-being. That being, it is built in and is predicated on a personal knowing born of experience and attention.The “knowing” of which I speak is inborn, and yet it requires both cultivation and protection. It does not take its cues from a commercial. Nor does it require a machine in order to stay well. In fact, the abdication of this personal knowing is what is at the heart of a deep and dangerous disconnect from the natural and healing wisdom of our bodies.

The future of health would do well to consider not only what is presently happening in health care, but to take a good, hard look at how it is that we have arrived in a place where so many of us are so sick and so disconnected from the most basic principles of how to care for a human body. For before we can talk about the future, we must weed out what is currently not working. What is outdated. Misleading. Harmful even.

Do you want to know what the real future of health is? IT IS YOU. It is your inner and personal knowing restored, trusted, and acted upon. And it is so, so basic. As basic as paying closer attention to yourself. For instance, how often do you see something advertised that is claiming to be able to improve your health, and that you jump at because you think either this will be easy, or because “they” must know better. Watch the impulse to outsource your health and well-being while getting into the habit of checking in with yourself, asking, “Is that really what a human being needs to be well, or am I being sold something?”