All posts by playdoh

what I’m learning

I’ve been learning from my body these many years, slowly and subtly but distinctly and gently. This week of 3 hours of practice each day has amped things up. I guess that’s to be expected, but somehow I hadn’t expected it.

Yesterday I had a headache and a lot of basic house work and Tucker was ill and the kids had their activities. So, I couldn’t indulge in ice or laying down. I tried using the technique David Hawkins has in his book Health and Recovery. As the thought comes up (whatever it is. ‘my head hurts’ or ‘this sucks’ or ‘just get through this next task’) shifting my focus into the body. Where does this mental idea show up in the body? It usually has a few places, or did for me. How does it feel? What does it feel like if i stop resisting this feeling? Just taking a breath and seeing if i can relax into it just a little. It was fascinating. And, it definitely helped in my day.

And, as things do sometimes, experiencing success in the unwinding of tension, some deeper mental tensions came up. Can you see me now? Can this horrible mental picture I am painting of the future be solved with your silly technique?

Solved? I don’t know. It can be ameliorated for sure. And maybe if I apply the technique every time it pops up, over time it may be solved. But, it has led me directly into my body, and these extra, extended practices have had plenty of fodder to see if I can relax into (it feels more like under) whatever areas are agitated correlating to the disturbing thoughts. Now I’m curious how much of the mental work I’ve done could have been unwound in the body instead of the therapist’s office or the writing workshop. Not that it matters. I’ll use all the techniques. and be grateful for them. But I’m beginning to believe a body practice has even more to offer than I imagined.

I am profoundly disturbed by the amount of unnecessary physical tension I hold in my body in any given moment. (Where do I feel that disturbance in my body? Can i stop resisting it? Yes. it does ease up.) This pattern has been around for a long time. No wonder I had so much anxiety. It’s all I can do not to have anxiety about releasing it, the mountain seems so large. And it’s wildly frustrating because I just relaxed my shoulders 2 seconds ago, how can I possibly need to do it again? But, I have the opportunity to do it again, and when i make that choice, I feel I am adding to the release of tension in the world, as well as in my body.

This feeling that the choices I am making in my microcosm might impact the macrocosm is usually very empowering. It gives a little more meaning and purpose to taking the time and intention to make these choices. At the very beginning of this journey, when my body hurt, I was annoyed. Angry. I felt victimized. Then I decided to accept the body as my teacher and now I feel I have an opportunity to contribute to the calmness and sanity in the world by literally tending to my body. Releasing tension. It is completely within my capability. It is available in every moment.

I love this practice.

can you see me now?

i’ve long believed that our lives and the universe is a game of “can  you see me now?” -can you see the love in me now?- and our spiritual unfolding is expanded by our ability to say “Yes!” that maybe, just maybe, the universe exactly as it is- is life unfolding in the highest. Maybe all our judgements and resistances are just thoughts. our tormentors; but relatively inconsequential to the effulgent expression of life itelf through and as us. sortof like whether you’re reading or watching a movie on a flight from NY to LA. You’re getting there (reliably, but not always), regardless of your experiences on the flight.

Life is supporting us in known and unknown ways.  Gravity comes to mind. the earth holding us near. we are part of community, the earth’s community, in every possible sense. but we all feel so disconnected. that’s because the mental sphere is not where true connection happens. it may be where some of it starts, but connection is a full body experience. We love how people make us feel, and the sense of connection in nature. Its more than our thoughts about it. It’s a very physical experience.

coming into the body, thoughts come and during this practice I’m asking myself, “where does that thought show up in my body?” I want to get out of my head and into my body. Feel into it, and stop resisting whatever that feeling is. just if i can.  just for a moment. Get curious about the size and shape and intensity. noticing. asking, ‘how can i release resistance to this sensation. can i accept this sensation? can i see how it plays out for the next couple of minutes, here?’ this is foundational bodyfulness inquiry. It’s a convenient practice. it can be uncomfortable. and then i release my resistance to that discomfort. and so the moments go on.

My thoughts really would like to take me for a ride, though. All sorts of rollercoaster rides of unintended consequences and power trips. Who I might become if i’m not careful. Identity and memory. Nefarious outcomes I’d had no idea I’d contributed to ala Shantaram. I have to release resistence to outcome, and accept that doing my best in the present moment, all the present moments, is going to have to be enough. because it’s all I’ve got. And the universe often offers up grace and luck and the kindness of strangers. We’re here. We’re doing our best. Whether we believe it or not. and Life marches on.

My body has been deeply effected by my living in all of those scenarios – the constant mental track of possible outcomes, most of them unacceptable at some level. Prepare and avoid, Predict and control. All thinking, all the time. The body releasing stress chemicals as if it were ALL TRUE NOW. ….

But isn’t that our responsibility? Preparing for the future? Doing our best to make the conditions amenable to future thriving? Making the future better? Protecting what we love?

I don’t think so. I mean, I do think so, but only AFTER we’ve put the oxygen mask on ourselves. We don’t sacrifice the present moment to the future (at least for a few present moments per day). we embody in the present moment as our most valuable contribution to any future. Bring the fullness of our experience and an open heart to the task at hand. Some people are great at it. I want to be. Hence this practice. Being in the present moment and bringing the fullness of our being and resources to that with which we are in encounter. trusting that Life Itself is life positive and things are progressing as they only can given all the inputs up until now. all of our power for change is in the present moment – but our mental track isn’t going to facilitate it (else its gazillion efforts so far would have). Our bodies are quite excellent at it when given the opportunity.

Sense and respond is THE BOMB! Sitting in this present moment, the fullness of your heart and head, intentions and relationships, failings and triumphs – all of it learning… pointing ourselves, by the focus of our attention, to what we care about – the full expression of our values and hopes for the world. Spending our time there. Practicing. Developing capacity and support networks. Creating the future.

Predict and control models have us imagining a future, and all the ways we, other people and the world need to change to have it come out acceptably.

Sense and Respond models say, I am equipped for what this experience has for me. I will access what I know and respond to this situation to the best of my ability. I do my best and see what’s next instead of seeing how it stacks up to an imagined future where all the problems are solved. I spent most of my time mentally arranging the world. i still do far too often. But in this practice I glimpse the other side of the rainbow. real peace with life. and curiosity and enjoyment and shining. Of each of us. we are the expression of life itself in relationship.

Is that even possible?

Feels true to me. It’s an orientation, I think. I certainly haven’t experienced it all true/all the time. But the more I align with it, the more evidence i get. Try it! just for a breath or two. see how it feels in your body 😉

i can be a jerk

sometimes I am a jerk.

sometimes i’m all the way through the gate of jerkdom and didn’t even know I was anywhere along the trail.

that is a shitty attribute.

sometimes my being a jerk is beneficial, even to the person i’ve been a jerk to. doesn’t excuse it.  couldn’t we have gotten there another way?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

I sit and offer my heart and my life to the source of all life to use me as She will, to let me be of service, to become the fullest expression of the possibility of this life in service to the betterment of all.

But I’d like it all to be neat and tidy. and i’d like to come out smelling like a rose. Please. If it’s not too much trouble.

The more effusive love becomes in our lives, doesn’t it clean up our bad habits? Our anger? Our pain?

I have no idea. I will say that many bad habits have cleaned themselves up in the past several years through this thing I’m calling Bodyfulness. Things I’d “efforted” quitting dozens of times all of the sudden, done. Grudges? Tender. and open to inquiry. we’ll see how they go.

But, I’ve still got plenty of frustrating habits, knowingly even more than I’m aware of. and I’m still a jerk sometimes. And selfish.

Of course all of these things are thoughts. Byron Katie would have me apply “The Work” and see that it’s all illusion. Huh. That sounds like a great idea….

In the meanwhile, and just to round this out, I really, really wish I could be perfect . Kind and loving and an expression of love and a creative force for good in every moment. And I’d want to see myself as perfect, but, you know, not have some out of control ego. Can the two coexist? Swami Vivekananda offers the solution: You can see yourself as perfect, that’s all well and good, as long as you see everyone else as perfect, too!

curating my life

making the focus of my attention the feeling state of my body anchors me in the present moment. This is the most basic level of my life. How am I here? Thoughts steal the show most of the day. Pasteur said that all of man’s problems can be reduced to his inability to sit alone in a room. This most basic experience and most basic expression is very telling. the body is speaking to us through a multitude of feelings, sensations and emotions. are we present enough to hear it, curious enough to pay it some attention and fluent enough to translate it?

Translate it is back to the mind. And that’s valuable – for the portion of our days when thoughts are front and center, being able to translate the body’s cues is key. But developing the fluency is done with attention. it’s not something you can skim the surface and really know. knowing comes through experience. experience comes through practice.

my friend recently reminded me of the quote, ‘enlightenment is an accident. certain practices can make you accident-prone.’ i don’t know about enlightenment here with this body practice, but peace of mind, contentment, curiosity about life and willingness to participate in it – that’s what it cultivates. Trust developes when I’m not always looking at what is wrong. that it might be exactly what it needs to be for its highest evolution – that is a real possibility. but not something the mind can know for sure.

evolving is a game of growth and creativity and mind, but it is also physical. we can’t think our way out of these bodies. trust me, i’ve tried. but my friend mentioned a movie where you’ll soon be able to upload consciousness. maybe. that’s not my concern. it’s not my interest. my interest is unfolding in the present moment to release my grievances against life and open my heart to the fullness Life is offering me. And I believe the more time I spend in my body, the more I am successful in that interest.

And this is why i am so excited about this month. Being a voice and space for body and presence.

A few months ago my dear power partner asked what a healthy day would look like. I was truly shocked to uncover I had no idea. I’d spent so much time fantasizing about an intangible dream life and managing my disease, I gave *everything but that* thought. And as I’ve tried to picture it, to pat out the parts of the day being in regular practice because the more I practice being in my body, the more I distribute that attentiveness throughout the day. and when i am paying attention to the feeling state of my body throughout the day, my body directs me to things that nourish me. I also really, really love being in community with women. I feel nourished by that and I feel contributory. those are good feelings. i want to connect with my kids more, and the more present i am to them the better that goes, too. So 3x per day practice is spending my time in my ideal way to spend time – three times per day! I feel incredibly lucky that I have the capacity to do it, both the physical reliability and Tucker managing our financial wherewithal all by his lonesome. I still have guilt around that – feeling value without income, worth without net worth is hard. But my body doesn’t struggle with that connundrum. it just breathes. notices. relates. – and when I am in practice: stops resisting. What a gift.

today was the first day

I’m making myself available online to facilitate “bodyfulness” – I will be available 15 hours per week. M-F 9-10, 12-1, and 6:30-7:30 pacific. If you could use a guided practice of making the feeling state of the body the focus of attention for a few breaths, I’m there to give the cueing, as well as provide some context for why deep, intentional breath is so beneficial to the body. And also the mind (getting out of it for a moment or two). And also, to the flow of life itself.

This is a practice for me, and so it is a shared practice in the online space because I have 3 basic beliefs: 1) our bodies are on our side; 2) every body is different (and we have to learn the language of our own body) and 3) healing happens in relationship. So it is at once very personal and intimate, and also universal and shared.

I’m not sure how it will work, but I am super curious. I think 75% of the participation will be for under 10 minutes, sortof a guided body-based meditation with the context of trusting the body and relaxing into it as the chief activity. But the conversation about the context wherein relaxing into our bodies starts to sort out our minds and lives may be interesting and so some people might come to have that discussion. I’m betting the most interesting session of the week will be right after the Paul Selig livestream on Wednesday nights. That stuff is powerful, and I will still be floating when the Bodyfulness session starts 15 minutes later. But I’ll also be referencing authors and practices that support this present-moment-attentive way of approaching the world. So you could spend 5 minutes a week with me, or 3 hours per day – although i’m pretty sure that’d get old pretty quick…

It’s a big experiment. I realized, “More than anything else, I want to talk about Life Itself moving through us and that we are far more in sync than we can imagine” and share the practices that support me – because without the body-care practices I have, I get into my mind and I buy into all my stories and I feel somewhat terrible.  Then my body releases the hormones and chemicals that make me sick. So, yeah, I want to be engaged in body and presence and evolution as many hours of the day as I can. Maybe it will be a good touchstone for people like me who struggle with control and over-thinking. Maybe it won’t and I’m no worse off for trying. But if it connects and uplifts, I would love for something like this to be my path forward in life…

when harry met sally

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life. I mean, that’s always true, and i think life improves when we live that way, but often it is hard to feel that way. i have spent quite a lot of the last 9 years absolutely unsure about what was next and cultivating equanimity about that uncertainty (because i kept trying to figure it out, and failing. so I needed a new tactic). Most of my reading and education during these years has been in the direction of evolution,  physical health, pain reduction, mental health, equanimity, spiritual upliftment, nature, equality, human potential and integration.

I haven’t had a clue how to show up in the world. it just wasn’t available to me yet. my direction has been clear but i have felt largely impotent about expressing and/or knowing what to do next. So i quit focusing on next and doubled down on being fully present in the current moment. That’s a practice and actually a lot of fun and i’ve been squarely in that camp for years and am slowly getting better at it. but this week, a whole bunch of things came together and i saw things in a whole new way. and as billy crystal says in WHMS (and I paraphrase) – when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life in a certain way, you want the rest of your life to get started as quickly as possible. That’s how I feel.

Its been a long time coming.

Sharing my stillness and body practices is a huge dream for two reasons. 1) I need to be doing it all the time, and it keeps me doing it, so it’s entirely selfish and about accountability; 2) these ideas and practices are so beautiful and freeing to me. my general beingness feels nurtured even during the scary bits – and there are scary bits. because i am not perfect and i’m integrating decades of misinterpretation of life… I watched more Tara Brach last night and she spoke of having a particularly stressful period and then having to lead a retreat and first having to go through the (and i paraphrase) “really, Tara, after all these years, you still get impatient, you’re still haven’t overcome your humanness.” We don’t need to overcome our humanness. We can’t wait until we’re perfect to interact. We’re in relationship, whether we’re participating or not, so do your best to spend your time doing what you love and what wants to flow through you.

I’ve spent a lot of years with asking my instrument be tuned to more purely play Mother’s love through me. I hoped it would purify me and make me this ultra-kind and always gentle version of myself. And maybe it will, but it hasn’t yet, that’s for sure. But in all my fault and frailty, I also have strength and wisdom and I need to accept the whole yin/yang truth about myself. But it is time for me to start intentionally broadcasting all these wonderful ideas and ways of living from the many inspirational individuals and traditions I’ve been blessed enough to be soaking in these many years…

bodyfulness

Susan Brewer, the coordinator for the talk last Saturday, suggested taking “Bodyfulness” out of the text and making it the title of the talk. It is more interesting than slowing down. I thought that was an excellent suggestion. And now, I am really taken with the idea.

Being in my body is the most rewarding time I spend. Every breath taken with the focus of attention being the feeling state of the body rewards me with everything that was elusive to me in years of spiritual practice. My body doesn’t identify with any of the drama, and while it stores the tension, it is also offers the opportunity for literal release. It’s a practice, but it is also an experience and the experience is transformative. Naturally. Because the body is a part of nature. and inhabiting the body by way of its feeling state being the focus of attention, it builds the muscle of presence for interacting with all of life.

There is a cost, and it is ongoing. It’s facing our demons. Everything we’re running from. Sounds awful. Keeps most people away.

But in my experience, the body is actually pretty gentle most of the time. This from a woman with a chronic illness, but the more I relax into my body, the more my whole life relaxes.  and in that state of rest, something comes up – and a deep sense of “hey, i’m being present to whatever comes up, good, bad or in between”– just that much willingness – or more accurately, the willingness to not immediately repress the feeling or experience or label it as bad or undesireable… this orientation, being in the body as the primary experience, not labeling the feeling (or the thoughts triggering it) as wrong, going back to the body and breathing… this might just open up the insight that the wound had been carrying.

The Presence Process describes wounds as power packets. fuel. things that, when released, express their velocity to power us into the direction of our fullest expression. I’ve always loved that concept. Being in somatic awareness is turning the concept into the experience. Priceless.

Bodyfulness feels like what I’ve been looking for. Talking about slowing down sets me up to have to convince people that something with a negative connotation is actually a luxury. It’s a great prize for anyone who can shift the paradigm, but it’s an uphill battle. Why do that?

Bodyfulness evokes mindfulness, which is certainly its orientation, but it is distinct, and “bodyfulness” describes how. It lends itself to the mindset of wanting to be present and respectful. It encapsulates everything i’ve been doing with slowing down, with body practices, with health and nutrition.. it’s really such a nice solution. And it had been right there under my nose until Susan pulled it up and said, “how ’bout this?” I’m pretty excited. my body feels pretty light and buoyant when i think about it, and even moreso when I just feel into it.

authenticity

My husband just gave me the best Valentine’s gift. He’s given me this gift in parts basically always, but the way he just described me, the clarity and honesty, is a gift that held up a mirror that cleared up so much for me.

He called me 100% authentic 100% of the time.

What a sweetheart. Beats chocolates any day.

He also cautioned me about how people interpret that. For example, I genuinely like people in general and am mostly open to what people have to offer. Consequently, I often come off interested in others. And I’m generally pretty nice. Indeed, I’m almost always pretty interested and pretty nice.

When I disagree with things, I say it. So, when I’m authentically in the negative with someone, they tend to go and determine that my positive input is inauthentic. But it’s not. And that’s confusing for people.

I developed this sortof raw authenticity because I sucked at niceties. And I watch people say one thing “Oh, sure, we’d be happy to help!” and then complain about it, and I literally can’t see any good in that way of being. I can’t see any good in sitting there hoping someone can read my mind, either. I spent a good portion of my earlier life wishing someone would read my mind and deliver me from [something]. No one ever did. So I changed my strategy. Seemed logical.

I also suck at lies. In fact, even withholding information. For example, I’ll tell Tucker: hey, let’s not tell the kids x, y or z. And literally, that invokes me to make x, y or z the very first thing I say when I see them. As you can imagine, Christmas has very few surprises. And if there is a big surprise, they’ll often get to open it the day it arrives (I’ve gotten around this by saying, “Christmas is more of a season than a day” – same with birthdays) all because I’ve developed this inability to hold things back.

Most of the problems I see in the world and on TV can boil down to people not communicating. Not saying this because you want people to think that. So, while my way of being may be extreme, it is counterbalancing a culture of wanting one thing and saying another for whatever imagined reason.

My authenticity may be misinterpreted, and even full-on disliked. I’m OK with that. It saves me incredible amounts of time. And by no means do i mean to imply my authenticity is socially appropriate. It would be infinitely easier if I could pretend I didn’t care about stuff I care about in order to have a conversation with a very fine person who happens to believe in things I would die on the stake to protest. Most people can do that. I cannot.

I maybe gush a little when I’m grooving with people, mostly because I’m so grateful. It’s relatively rare for me to groove with people because most interaction likes to hang at the surface. I don’t. And while I  pull my punches when I voice my disagreement, I still voice it. I’ve trained myself to voice it at the first signs of trouble because, why not? why wait? you may say, “because things often work themselves out” but I haven’t actually ever experienced that. I used to wait, and wait, and wait, and by the time I had to call out I was so freaking angry I would be enraged. And I had a very powerful rage mentor in my father, so this is something I wanted to de-power not empower. And so I developed an early-warning system and a policy of over-communicating. And while I am by no means a poster child for perfect humans, I have more peace of mind than the average bear, and more harmony in my close relationships than I ever imagined possible. So it works for me.

So when Tucker called me 100% authentic 100% of the time, it wasn’t saying I am wonderful or terrible. I took it as a gift, indeed a great one, because I felt seen and acknowledged. Not even appreciated: I am not sure he appreciates the fact that I have very little filter. But, he is an excellent observer, and he can see me for who I am, and even caution me about how it might be received, without judgment. That’s why he’s my valentine…

 

culture could use some upgrades

Because my childhood included an adult that had anger take over from time to time, I learned to function (to some degree) in conflict. It was definitely an unhealthy environment, and it taught me the value of emotional hygiene, which, admittedly, was not a big deal in the 50’s/60’s/70’s in the circles I was aware of at least… Anyhow…

Conflict is a part of life. Trauma does not have to arise out of conflict. It can, especially if left untended, but facing conflict with equanimity (you’ve got a problem? ok. let’s hear it and we’ll go from there) barely ever happens. Instead, people tend to suit up. Not all conflict is worth suiting up for.

Tucker used to hate returning things to stores. It just rang his bells. Why voluntarily put yourself in conflict. It seemed ridiculous to me: returning an item to a store is not a conflict. Well, to me it wasn’t. But, for some time it was to him. And i think that is in part because they had so little conflict in his house, and when they had it, it was a drag, so why walk into a situation where someone might get mad? We’re all the products of our early environments.

My friend Brandi used to do a really excellent seminar on Boundaries. How creating boundaries, which is often interpreted in a “stay away” attitude, is actually an act of intimacy. I trust you enough to let you know what my compass says here.

I used to tell my kids, if someone isn’t liking you right now, don’t take it personally. Think about pizza. Sometimes you can eat pizza every night for days. Sometimes, you just don’t want pizza. It doesn’t mean you don’t like pizza or you’re cursing it, it just means… let’s focus our attention elsewhere for a minute.

So, boundaries and handling conflict are two areas (which I believe are intertwined) where our culture could use an upgrade. Indeed, if we’re going to progress culturally, I believe we need a whole new conversation about these things. What kindness it is to be clear about what we are feeling and needing. I mean, we don’t always understand it ourselves, but as we commit to dialing in to our inner compass, to living life from a place of trust (not trusting that everything is going to go a certain way, but trusting that you have the resources and support to move forward in life come what may), we can receive what comes to us with curiosity over defensiveness, clarity over wishing the world would change, and deep groundedness in ourselves over lashing out at others.

Of course, we are humans. Things get messy. It’s hard to grow without changing (impossible) and hard to learn without making mistakes and hard to break things without making a mess. Framing mistakes as undesirable is another source of confusion for me in our culture.  Maybe that will be tomorrow’s post…

my big TOE

Smoking enables people taking breaks, that’s why intelligent people can still do it despite the damning health and environmental impact. I am lucky that I cannot smoke anymore, or I totally would, just to facilitate the break. I am a personality type that is basically always thinking and “trying to do something” and breaks are not natural to me. Without smoking, I basically had to invent a whole daily dynamic of talking and reading and writing about it just to try to make sure i do it.

Some people do not have this problem. Some people are not anxious or overly cerebral. We all have our unique mix of skills and challenges. Blessed by some things, cursed by others. But, of course, which is in the eye of the beholder.

And that’s why I titled today’s post theory of everything. My theory of everything is that when we inhabit ourselves fully; 1)the divinity which keeps us breathing, plus 2)the earth creation of these amazing bodies – the result of millions of years of evolution – Life itself expresses through us. Life lives through us. we add embellishments and even set the direction through the gift of free will expressed by the focus of our intention, but Life has a bigger, grander being and expressing of which we are a part.

Also, integrating spirit and body happens IN THE BODY, and so spending time and focus just being in the body – this is the key. We can think about orange juice all day long, but until we actually drink it we remain thirsty… When we are all doing this, we are operating in concert and while troubles may come up, they are not defended, they naturally resolve themselves and in doing so contribute to the furtherence of wellness.

WEllness. We. Each fully inhabiting a progressively more integrated physical/spiritual self, our spirit, which is not restricted by our identities and personal dramas. The deeper we are in that space, the more we meet others from that space. As much time as possible in that space feels like a very good idea.

Also in my TOE, we are put on this earth, that spark within us, to anchor the vibration of that spark. Everything about the details of the duration of the time from first breath to last is only mildly consequential to the overall impact of that grounding. Sortof like, we’re all traveling from NYC to LA, and while we are in the air, what you do does not really impact our ability to arrive in LA. It greatly impacts your own experience of it, but nothing is at stake here. The end is sure. But dynamic. and unknown. and unknowable, but able to be experienced. and that’s what we’re here doing. wow.