Milestones

I am one day into my fifty-first year, having turned 50 yesterday, and i’ve got to say, so far i like it. I did, of course, have a particularly delicious lead in. Now that I am here at the keyboard, i can’t even chronicle the last few days. it is too tender and sweet.

And there are so many good things to talk about.

I’ve had dozens of blogposts running in my mind these last four days when I’ve remained largely pixel-free. Sweet moments of understanding, of recognition. Acknowledgements of patterns in nature and of nature itself. Harmony. Effulgence. Right now? Nothing. And they were good, too. I miss them and hope they come back. Ideas I wanted to explore and consider and share…

I feel like I’ve been praying for a very long time with periods of the feeling of progress, but this past weekend was like a firehouse of the love and gorgeousness of life itself showered upon me again and again. I have had the full spectrum of emotions and relational struggles this past year, doubts and discomfort and enduring, but in these days, no question, the universe said, “everything’s ok. in fact, everything is flipping beautiful. and loves you. and everyone else. a lot.”

Nice message!

There were a few moments of personal triumph, too! Like not voicing my frank opinion to a person who was struggling. I am pretty free with that and I think I am going to stick to the Japanese, you’ll need to ask three times. i was always a one-time gal, and as I reflect back, i often spoke preemptively to any asking at all. But my opinion was meaningless, and she needed to just be pointed back into herself, and it was gratifying to really feel into that. So this is a good step.

This is also funny: I was describing my experience to my friend in these glowing terms, how amazing it was, how wonderful it was, and then i said, i was so cold the first night that the second night I slept with the hair dryer so when i woke up to the cold sheets i could warm them quickly. She was aghast. visually repulsed. she was like, i am never staying there, good god that sounds awful. And I had to laugh. Because yes, it was a drag, but just a little drag compared to all the big awesomeness, and the hair dryer solved the drag, and i was just so happy, but yeah, now that i hear it through your ears that does sound kinda bad.

But when you’re in love, nothing else matters. Where there is love, nothing else matters – from my 8 nights with Ganesha. But that’s a story for another session…

not what I thought. again.

It’s funny that we even trust our thinking, it is wrong so often. the thought stream is this largely generic constant progression of swirling miscellany, and yet we assemble it in such a way as to give it great personality and meaning. There is great wisdom in the human mind, but that drops precipitously when we talk about the human thought stream. In general, that’s just swirl.

Nevertheless, i get caught up in them as much as anyone else, and I start believing them. and that is almost never useful. Understanding the difference between being caught in the thought stream and accessing your bonafide individual learning for application to a situation is like night and day. In Sweden, in my case. I can go for long periods not accessing the thought stream (because I am too busy being in my body, in the moment). that’s like summer in Sweden.

Then i’ve got those spells wherein I just swirl around the thought stream and everything stays dark. that’s the winter in Sweden. The thought stream is not light, it’s not progressive, it’s got all kinds of stuff in it, but none of them lead to freedom. Even the thought of freedom is a bondage unless the experience of freedom can be accessed through the thought (which it can, but the thought stream doesn’t let that happen much. because experiencing the freedom means taking a break from the thought stream long enough to touch that freedom. that’s a longer break than the thought stream allows.)

I’m shooting video for the udemy course. it’s fun, but i’ve got too much information and i’m not much for scripting. my test days were easy and went well. yesterday i tried to dive in now that the setup is right, and yeah, it didn’t go as i expected. what it did do: it went as it went. for better or worse, some experience has been experienced and chances are it will contribute to the better execution of the overall project as it continues. But, silly me, i thought i’d be done by now.

And I’m not. And I might miss my deadline. And I’m ok with that.

Part of my practice is finding things curious instead of good or bad. Trusting that if this didn’t happen, it’s for the best. Trusting whatever happens. It’s freeing. And it keeps me out of the thought stream. Because the thought stream is just going to tell me all of the things that “it not going as well as I’d hoped” means. It means I am all sorts of undesireable things, and it may even mean that i suck. But if I’m not in the thought stream looking for meaning, i can be experiencing the meaning that is happening, which is never good or bad, it always just is.

The knowledge of good and evil.  The judgement of good or bad. That is definitely when things started to get complicated…

finding a safe space

I didn’t realize, until i was developing this program, how important a safe space is, or rather, i thought the emotional safe space was necessary, i knew having a container for your experience – but it’s also a physical safe space we need.

I didn’t recognize until a few months ago that I didn’t have a comfortable place in the house other than bed. things are fine, the couch is a stupid depth, and the chairs are pretty comfortable but not ‘release the body’ comfortable.

So I made one.

Built out of foam shapes. It’s super comfortable. my feet rest up on my bed, which relieves a lot in my back and neck. it’s great. i wish i understood this sooner. spending even just a minute a day (it’ll never be shorter than that because it’ll feel so good to relax, you couldn’t take just one and then have to go through the effort of getting up)

But, let me tell you, I look for moments to spend a minute or 15 in this safe, comfortable space, just breathing and relaxing sometimes thinking, but always coming back to the breath and body release.

i have been doing this (breath and body release) for a long time, and it continually gets more interesting. but having a daily place to achieve that i think is a big part of continued wellness. it’s a wellness enhancer FOR SURE.

I feel about sitting/laying in this space the way I used to feel about cigarettes.

I don’t feel that way about cigarettes any more. Not one bit. Which is shocking to me because i have ALWAYS in the back of my mind known that if the conditions were right I would certainly smoke. and who knows, i may still, but it’s sortof repugnant to me more than nostalgic, which is a category it has always held. positive nostalgia. but i’ve worked through enough coffee enemas that I will probably never subject myself to it again (it often gives me terrible pain, but the coffee enema usually solves it. TMI, i know. but my time isn’t up and it’s what came out.

so, yes, a safe place. a seat you feel good and can relax, and a safe emotional confidant – this is loam for getting into the stillness of the body from which all action flows and all tension relaxes.

ohmygoodness, i do love me some stillness. But it’s too much to write about it without doing it, so i’m a little short on my time because stillness in my safe place awaits and i can’t resist it!

Wait! I’ve built my current safe space in my bedroom, with my knees up. i think i could do this with a yoga mat and a pillow in the midst of traveling. finding a comfortable position. Wow, this is such a big deal. and this is where i so admire my college friend Lauren Hall for the work she does with supportive housing in SF. And I leave it at that cuz i want to talk about it more, but another day: stillness calls (but i did end up making the time)

Infinity

Driving along the canyon road,  I was thinking about a dog that’d gotten bit by a rattlesnake. I wondered how many rattlesnakes lived in that canyon. I figured the number is finite, but to have a finite number you have to have a border or a boundary, saying, “within this designated space, there are exactly this many rattlesnakes. today.”  because along with a spacial boundary we need a time boundary as well. To get to a finite number you need to point to something very specific.

The I thought about how much life is in the canyon. and i believe the answer is an infinite amount. Even if you identify some geography and say “how much life is in that space” you can’t really itemize it because everything about it is in an unchanging state of changing. So at one nanosecond, the ratio between dirt and grasses, trees and insects, fungi and molds, reptiles and animals has one answer, but a nanosecond later, this lizard has lost its life, these insects have had a boon to their economy and water  conditions changed as algae bloomed. It is not finite. yet life is in the finite. in it. infinite. right there, and everywhere else, too. infinitely.

The permutations of life on earth are at least relatively finite. Massive changes plop down (fire. books. electric light. plastic) and switch up the dynamics endlessly, but there are so many endless variations, all playing themselves out. The infinite. In the finite. And back again.

___________

I want to end this post here, because there’s a completeness of the feeling I had and I fear going on much more will come from struggle and I want to come from curiosity and openness. but i’m not out of time, and so I want to continue to write. I’ve spent so much time on the Udemy writing I have somewhat neglected these postings. but only kindof. isn’t that the story of my life. i am ready to transcend the stories, perhaps exactly through including them, but that’s another story. The next story I want to talk about is grief. and i still have 5 minutes. so here we go.

In my experience of grieving my health and the missed expectations, I imagined my grief sitting next to me on a porch, looking at a stunning view. Most of the time we just sat there, me and grief. sometimes we talked, but not too much. it didn’t necessarily change my pain, but it changed my relationship to the pain. Whether or not you are in pain we can all learn from this lesson of presence, befriending the ostracized and just being.

Spending time in this way, I began to accept my body as a teacher, as an instrument of life itself, expressing. I turned my attention to fulfilling my role: tending my time, feeding and caring for my body, choosing my worldview. And my worldview mostly looked like: I am certain i can make a best of this. Little did I know. It began to make the best of me. But that’s another story…

Allowing the grief, feeling where it sits in the body, relaxing into it and breathing. Asking it questions. Feeling the changes, listening to them. spending time just being in a state of listening – not a state of thinking, but a state of feeling. I read the other day that you can’t do both at the same time, and in my experience over these several days, as i am present in the body my mind pauses, but then i pop back into it to report on whatever that feeling was so i can judge it as good or bad or anything else. That dynamic usually gets a fraction of a second in a feeling state and the next 30 seconds- to several hours- thinking about it. That’s the pattern we’re changing the ratio on. More feeling, breathing, smiling – it naturally pushes aside the worrying, fretting and trying to control. just for a second. but, oh, what a second.

I love them so much I want to be a collector. but the only way you can collect present moments is in the present moment, but you get all of it instead of the piddly little bit we allow ourselves as we are rushing to “do”

 

i’m doing it again

May was a difficult month. Sometimes that happens. It is a little easier when it is happening in May because there is so much beauty in the spring’s dance to summer, but uncomfortable feelings, difficult emotions, worries and fears have a way of making that only mild solace. And then of course when the moment’s awareness says, “just another thought!” and the flowers gain a little color until the next time my mind takes the bait.

Often, when I am having a difficult time I will put myself into puzzles or little things that help  me feel like even though I might be the most deluded and ineffectual people in the world (<– that person took the bait!) at least I can bring order to this string of colors or numbers or game. Sometimes it helps. It is fleeting, like everything else. But my body is trained to enjoy “accomplishing something” or “finishing a task” or “being smart enough.” It’s an interesting technique. It’s helped me (see Candy Crush, CMFT entry last year). And I’m happy to have little wins when my mind seems tuned to “dreary FM”.

Reading Jack Kornfield’s “After the Ecstacy, the Laundry” and it is so refreshing because it basically talks about the fact that awakening is a process that has highs and lows. We hear a lot about the highs, and less about the lows – the bouts of depression before and/or after a period of enlightenment or integration. It’s part of the truth of life: ebbs and flows. In theory, the Realized Master is whole in both ebb and flow. Getting there – getting to wholeness much less the ability to maintain it in good times or bad – is a process. Spiritual lottery may hand out the occassional all-access pass to permanent divine awareness (really? permanence? we know better than that), but for the most part, that human is in there, too, gumming up the works. Making bad decisions. Responding poorly (because it’s not responding, it’s reacting). And compassion is hard to come by when there’s so much evidence we’re wrong. And that’s why compassion is so freaking important.

also in the book, the fact that the Dalai Lama had never heard of self-hatred and when he learned how many experienced it just in the room with him, he wept. What a horrible concept! And, like everything else, self-hatred is a spectrum, and there are plenty of acceptable forms of it culturally. There are acceptable forms of lots of very destructive things. And so we have to listen to a different call. The call of the heart. Of knowing how you lean, and in what you root. And rooting in compassion, for self and others, is obviously the right choice. but it’s more than a choice, it is a series of choices. one after the other, day after day. I have a lot of evidence that I didn’t act with compassion and I could have. But we all must forgive ourselves. It us our mind and these trains of thought that hold us hostage. Totally self-imposed.

Tai Chi was also, as usual, excellent today. I was a mess. but it was excellent.

what if just being who we are is enough?

I have this pipedream of Josie going to Idyllwild Arts for 11th & 12th grade. It’s crazy expensive and we have a long, long list of priorities before we drop that kind of cash. As in, we could do another trip or Josie could go there. I might even pick that. But, brainstorming ideas, I thought, “what if i followed the ittybiz example and charge $250 to reframe an issue?” I am an expert reframer. It made us laugh. what if we could fund our lifestyle with me just doing what i do.

and why not? mostly because who gives a shit what I have to say. I mean, i typically try to spin an inspiring, you’ve-had-the-power-all-along type tale, I’m wrong as often as i’m right and it’s really just another story. And who needs stories. I mean, the world needs stories, but do we? Aren’t stories just the things we get caught up in and lose sight of who we truly are?  I don’t really want to contribute to that. And I don’t want to pretend I have all the answers. But what I do have are endless approaches for feeling your way through something, getting from point a to point b.

But, it would be nice to do something i’m naturally good at and facilitate something cool for our family. wow, it’s been a long time since I contributed to the finances, though i have drained quite a bit. I am cognizant of this, and honestly it has been a huge part of the conversation in my head around the struggle to believe in worth without action. where’s the evidence of my worth. how can just being me be enough? I was entirely resistant to the idea, which made my forced stillness all the more difficult to bear. and it wouldn’t let me out until i could get there. and got there, i did. mostly. i spent a long time getting to the point that i genuinely could feel my own value despite not having a roster of “why” it was valid. Then something shifted, and while i still struggle with it from time to time, the path back to wholeness in the present moment becomes easier and easier to see. I have enough practices – I’m like an agent with a rolodex – there’s a path to anything/anyone.

As I write this Udemy course, slowing down/stillness becomes broader and broader, deeper and deeper. which is exciting because i think i could probably do a whole bunch of these courses just with the material i’d originally intended just for the first one. I’m contemplating writing down how many minutes per day i spend in tai chi or meditation. i’m drawn by the accountability aspect, and the tracking with general well being, but i also don’t want to make it a show. or is it already a show and that makes it more transparent? things to be thinking about as this all develops.

I am clear Evolving is my sole goal. it includes every other goal. and that teaching is a method of learning and I want to keep the flow of learning, so it’s time to share my practice  and actively show up in the world, so this is my obvious (only?) next step.

willingness

the thought stream can be so compelling. the stories it tells are custom designed to captivate our attention, receive our focus for rides through familiarity. different takes on life, commentary, perspectives. i spend so much time in my head, analyzing life, assessing my progress or to do list. just the little bit of time focused on being in the body can unplug all of that in an instant. When I go too long without Tai Chi or standing meditation, or other body-based experiential (oh, i just started reading a book talking about “inspirience” which i just love), when i am up in my head too much i have a thousand things to navigate. when i am in my body, i can sense life navigating me. i like that much better.

Be here now. Here, inhabiting this body, receiving the unfolding of this moment in whatever place this is, with whomever accompanies us. this can be cause for endless curiosity and an open embrace of life. why do we experience anything else? Humanness, maybe. OK. we did not create ourselves, so I’m trusting whatever intelligence is expressing as us to have done a fine job putting us together. we have plenty of choices to make and I want to make my choices embracing evolution, the natural progression to greater love, freedom and relationship.

But then I start getting all past and future oriented. I tell myself stories about my worth and what the world thinks of me. I tell myself stories of my failure or my grandeur, my honest mistakes and my less noble ones. the choices i’m proud of, the ones i’m curious about, the ones i fear…

But they’re all just stories!

David Hawkins wrote something that I distilled as: “don’t take the bait.” in Letting Go: the art of Surrender, he talks about thoughts being like bait on a hook, and as soon as you take the bait, that hook is taking you for a ride. and if you make it out, often you’re in an eddy or something – good for getting you off the hook, but still disorienting and not ideal.

Its funny how much i take the bait. and it’s amazing how deeply i appreciate the practices that pull me out of the thought stream when I have taken the bait. or even when i haven’t – but when i don’t, it’s because of these practices. But, boy, i understand how reliant i am on these practices and i am grateful to have them. because NOW really is the best place to be.

it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad

as i become more and more present, situations reveal themselves in new ways/interpretations. opening our hearts to more than a fixed perspective starts to let you see more things..obviously.  and being willing to look at whatever is smack dab in your lap is a brave state of being. Let us aspire…

i can see things now I didn’t see before. some of it I am more comfortable with than other parts. One thing i noticed is that I get mad at myself – i can feel anger/disappointment chemicals flood my body – for things as ridiculous as finding a towel that should have gone in that last load. seems like a real misappropriation of chemical cultivations. certainly, i’d like to unplug that. i mean, disappointment is real and allowed, but shit happens. getting upset is optional. no real benefit comes from being hard on oneself. people talk about needing things to prod oneself on, but i think that’s sortof masochistic. doesn’t stop me, though. but maybe now is the time. Yes! now is the time! of course it is, or it wouldn’t be in my awareness. but what an old and deep habit, in such insidious little corners of life! I can’t express the moment of recognition of the physical feeling of the anger of not having done it “right”. I probably create 100 or such little moments throughout the day. little ‘is this going the way i want it to go’ moments, times to bring out the scorecard and see where we’re at. what a waste of effing time.

i know that being present, slowing down, being open. being. i know this is the way forward. i need to write about it, talk about it, think about it and PRACTICE IT as often as possible. every moment i spend pays handsome dividends in the present. as ACIM says, it releases the past in the present and thus creates the future. So many good resources. so many good tools. thankful for the habit to turn to the breath, the mantra, presence itself…

Sometimes I fall off my good intentions. even some of the practices. sometimes I just screw up. and sometimes I even don’t get mad at myself now. i like uncovering areas where i do, so that i can release it, but sometimes i fall off the wagon. usually i don’t (and that is because when i do, i typically pay for it at some point – and navigating that point has been a constant source of curiosity these last many years). so tonight I ate a lot of weird food. then, having done so, ate a bunch more. I feel pretty sick. It is completely self-imposed. and i could be mad at myself. it’d be justified. but i’m going to opt for compassion and understanding, and the recognition tht life is messy. that’s what i got tonight, and i’m kinda glad for it.

Willingness is half the battle

Slowing down includes not running from uncomfortable emotions or situations. The bad news is that it can not feel very good. The good news is that it passes. And when it passes, it actually goes away; the charge plays itself out in real time (often, even this last bit for me, much shorter a time than I imagine it will take) and is then done.

When I think back to unfortunate situations I’ve been involved in, often I can very quickly re-establish connection to the energetic signature of the event. That’s a fancy way of saying I connect to the exact same thing I felt whenever the event took place. There is a reason for this: unprocessed emotions STAY EXACTLY WHERE YOU LEFT THEM.

I have a friend in a happy marriage of more than 20 years. They get along really well, but every now and again a certain moment from *when they were dating* comes up. A fight. And as she tells the story she becomes visibly upset. She is still mad at him for that behavior. And she can forget about it, but when she remembers, watch out. It is exactly where she left it. It’s not often that she revisits it, but the problem is she revisits it! Don’t revisit! Process! When she finally goes through the effort of fully processing it, a) she probably won’t remember anymore and b) if she does, it won’t bring her whole body chemistry back to that anger – indeed, she might even laugh.

Processing difficult emotions can happen hundreds of different ways. I intend to do an emotional processing section on this site some day to look at the many resources available to us. My first three suggestions (other than therapy, which, if you find a skillful practitioner, can be wonderful because *healing happens in relationship*) are all googleable: 1) The Work by Byron Katie, 2) Radical Forgiveness worksheets from our friend Colin Tipping, and 3) Tapping, or the Emotional Freedom Technique. All three are free tools and can dramatically reduce the “emotional charge” that drives you directly back to the offending event.

I have old worksheets of each of these modalities. Things that REALLY FREAKED ME OUT when I began doing this. I am so glad I’ve saved the worksheets (and I recommend you do, too) because now I can go through and look at them and see just how well they have worked. Most of these things would evoke tremendous emotions at the time of writing, and as I read them now hold no charge at all. I read it and think, “I am so glad that doesn’t haunt me anymore!”

The distinguishing factor in all of those releases though, is willingness to leave that old emotional charge behind. As evidenced by the simple fact of taking a step to disengage with the identity that is so caught up in the offending thought/emotion/state of being. I’m not sure it matters what strategy you employ – that willingness itself is what snaps open the curtains and lets the light begin to shine in. The rest are just details…

it’s worth it

Being that I am wanting to advocate slowing down for a living, I have to deal with the fact that slowing down brings up people’s emotional baggage. It’s a good thing overall, but a sensitive thing and often an unpleasant thing, as I am currently demonstrating for myself and others….

I think a baseline of a little extra deep breathing isn’t going to confront many people, but if slowing down takes hold at all, we need a support system in our outer world, and a toolset for our inner world.

I have found the cadence of turmoil to be actually quite gentle. As I acquire and use new tools it seems *just enough* difficulty comes up for me to sit with and address. This surprises me every time. At least a handful of times in the past 6 months I’ve had some issue come up and thought “oh no, this one is probably going to be pretty intense” and then it processes relatively quickly. I’m pinning this on my willingness.

During our trip there came a point where the kids seemed to feel they were obligated to purchase something at every shop/giftshop we entered. Uhm, no. The litmus test became “are you willing to spend your own money on this?” If yes, I’m happy to buy it -none of their money required. If no, well, then, let’s not spend my money. It was great. Maybe every 10th time I’d actually make them spend their own cash (probably times when I was less than enthused about the item in question).

I feel a similar dynamic in this emotional processing work. When I am willing things go far more easily than I expect. When I am resistant (like this week) things take a bit longer. When I am willing intellectually but resistant with everything else it gets a little complicated. But slowing down, leaning into it, staying present – from what I can tell this strategy leads to lasting change and ever-deeper layers of resolution. My mental audio track continues to diminish WHICH MIGHT BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL.

Lesson #1: Don’t believe your thoughts.

That really is where all of the damage is done.

New agers have a lot of the ‘positive thinking’ stuff going on. More and more people are understanding the importance of the tenor of our thoughts – crappy thoughts generally produce less desireable outcomes. It’s not rocket science. The way we think – our worldview and the tenor of the inner dialogue – makes all the difference. So, between “don’t believe your thoughts” and “the universe is friendly (at least maybe)” and “we’re all just doing our best/walking each other home” the mental channel can be relatively at peace.

The heart channel is really important, too. About 3 years ago I had a distinct distillation of what had always been intellectually-intensive spiritual contemplation into a much more somatic experience of devotion – In Vedanta this is the distinction between jnana yoga and bhakti yoga. It changed my experience dramatically because spiritual experience is EXPERIENCE, not a concept. Concepts are neat and all, but this is a different animal entirely.

Probably 5 years before that I began a meditative practice wherein I would try to move my locust of identity from my mind/head to my heart (because hearts don’t think), so the brain could continue to produce thoughts without the benefit of my attention. I really liked this technique. I’m guessing my shift from jnana to bhakti started with this meditative technique.

That’s the story for another day, because I think now with my head and heart being tended regularly the new challenge is around the dan tien – this is a much longer post about the power centers in our lives.

BUT, even with all of the discomfort, the fear that keeps trying to overtake my mind (Thank God for the many tools I can employ), the disdain for the past behaviours, etc – for all of this yuck, it is worth it. Slowly but surely freeing myself from the bondage of my past is uncomfortable indeed, but the freedom – there is actual freedom there. And that is a very big deal indeed.

But the caveat is about having a support system and a toolset so that we don’t fall into crisis and jeopardize whatever peace of mind we’ve been able to achieve thus far…