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the power of positive thinking

i think positive thinking is very powerful, but there are few things that trigger me more than someone’s certainty that one’s illness can be reversed through positive thinking, which, oddly enough, i think it can. but i don’t think it looks like what we think it looks like.

Addressing illness has revolutionized my life. I believe my body has led me on a journey I couldn’t have reached any other way. Every bit of me was certain my ultimate victory was out there somewhere, when i just became good enough to finally achieve it. I was on track with dozens of pictures that meant success, if only i could match them. My body snapped me out of that mindset. success became a moment-by-moment endeavor, with it’s primary characteristic not matching some picture, but meeting the moment with an open heart. Big difference.

I believe our bodies are on our side. They’re pointing us inward, to just be with ourselves, as we are, as they say ‘in sickness and in health’. i just took so many things for granted while in health, illness has shown me so much to appreciate.

i think what closes me up when someone mentions illness all being in our thinking is that i feel it comes from a place of finding a magic enchantment that will cancel-cancel-cancel a belief and to prove you did it right, you get better. I think i tried that a lot, for years, and didn’t get better. it wasn’t until i married my thinking with every single everyday practice that i started to get healing traction. It wasn’t just think a new thought. It was, it is, more like: let me be with the thought i’m thinking, with who i am, with what i do, with how I meet life.

The truth is i’m tender about it because i failed. i couldn’t think the diseases away. it took a whole new relationship to thinking, to my body and life and habits. and perhaps those changes were supported or even steered towards by including positive beliefs (I say a series of meridian affirmations every day.

the power of positive thinking is more than affirmations, though, and to the degree that i consider the world as the open and dynamic expression of life that it is, instead of the fixed, flawed, frustrating world that also seems to present itself, positive thinking really takes hold. Kindof goes back to the ‘is the universe friendly’ essential question, and when your internal answer to that is ‘yes” positive thinking is pretty natural, I think.

my journey to healing is becoming less and less an intellectual (thinking- positive, neutral or negative) exercise and more and more a physical, stillness-based solution. I’d say I need to experience at least 2 hours of stillness in my day. that still leaves 14 or so hours of activity, and my activity level varies within that time. Sometimes I am energized and moving through things. sometimes I am like molasses. sometimes i spend another 10 hours pretty darn still. i’ve come to trust that listening to my body’s energy level is more important than any set of activities that would’ve allowed me to feel successful in the day. My whole world really did get turned upside down. and i quite like it. I’m still working on it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a whole person process, not just reciting an affirmation. Or maybe it can be that, too. Of course it can. But I am happy that I’ve found a way or series of ways that are moving me in the right direction.

so much to write about

two things are on my mind that i’d like to capture. one is how many choices we make per day, and how many of them are conscious. the other is what kind of person i want to be, i am, i am growing into. these come from two thoughts – the feelings i felt when i first got sick (“but, i’m healthy. i consciously make healthy decisions all the time”) and the feeling that I am finally who i have always wanted to be (the byron katie book really helped me recognize that. i’d been feeling it, simply because things keep opening up, but this put those feelings in the context of ‘who you are’ and who you are right now is *enough* but so. much. more. than enough. you are, i am, we are, s/he is a abundantly radiant presence. That’s tough to get at first, everything seems so wrong (climate, politics, education – you name it) how can everything be enough. but this is a conversation away from the other two…

putting some words around the person i’ve always wanted to become – and beginning to have more laughter has really put the crescendo on it – is light and open and life-positive and funny. Huh. I thought there were going to be some paragraphs here, but that about sums it up. No, of course ‘living in a state of appreciation’ and ‘celebrating loving relationships’ and conundrums like ‘stillness/action” and “service/healthy boundaries” and things like that have to be in there, too. Appreciation. Presence. Willingness. Curiosity.

So, as more and more moments are getting clocked in that column, my heart is opening and my patterns are coming up for the looking at and i’m less rushed and annoyed and frustrated. i still have remnants of many of my drives for old paradigms of success, but i have a presence of mind that reminds me of my only goal: evolving, ever towards love. That clears things up pretty fast.

Which leads to the second idea. Thinking I made healthy choices because I enforced a bunch of predelections (margarine, aspartame and msg are bad) and occassionally ate meals other than pasta.

What I realized when my body took the reins was that I was making 5 or 6 healthy choices a day (exercising, a piece of fruit, not having a donut, meditating (“sometimes”) – 5 or 6 healthy choices a day, but you never knew which ones on which days or at least I sure as heck didn’t). What I didn’t realize is that I was making 100+ decisions every day. So the 5 or 6 kindof sucked as a ratio. and I was making 20 mediocre decisions because a better decision felt too hard. and 20 more that were admittedly bad decisions (but were expedient, made someone else feel better, or went directly against my gut for some reason or another). More than 50 decisions remained that I was completely unconscious of. Decisions I’d made dozens or more years ago that no longer had any relevence to my life but had become habitual and so are still on payroll. More than half of my decisions were habits so entrenched I couldn’t even see them.

I’ve been working on this for a long time, on wellness, on connection to nature and others and universe, on Life Itself flowing through me with fewer and fewer obstructions. Of being an instrument of love itself with fewer and fewer sour notes. And as i’m able to be present enough to focus on life as it is unfolding in the moment as being absolutely what it is and what it is is divine, different old habits and patterns keep ramping up to the surface to be addressed, acknowledged, invited into awareness. Yeah, so that’s way better than the ‘you’re not good enough’ whip cracking mental activity i had going on for the first 50 years…

 

inner critic

tai chi really socked it to me today, showing me how caught up i still am with the whip and the inner critic. stuff i have been actively working on unplugging day in and day out and here is a place it has largely ruled the roost right under my nose.

The radical notion that all is well really goes against everything i used to live for – the need to prove and validate my self and my opinions, to line up on the “right” side of the line, to resist that which would hold me back. All being well eliminates the need for all of that jazz. all of the stories, all of the attachments… poof!… all is well. let me sit and bask in that. if only for a moment

basking in the sensation of all being well even just for a single intentional breath – a deep breath in and out with the accompanying thought ‘all is well’ – is a game-changer.

these 30 prompts or cues… the idea is to cue that intentional breath at least once per day. And if the prompt actually sticks, it will probably add two or three cues for breath throughout a normal day. then if a couple of key cues get integrated, you find yourself taking excellent moments of connection 20+ times per day. Effortlessly. Because you’ve got these microhabits. Intentional ones born of experience and intention. Get good at it and you have  lovely path to ‘prayer without ceasing.’ Connection consistently throughout the day. High aspiration.

I believe my most effective path to deep, peaceful stillness has come from these micro habits. I didn’t really like sitting down to meditate for a half an hour twice per day. adopting that only came when I really was going to be sitting there still anyway (else activate pain). Anyhow, the technique of mini-loading my day (too small to fail) starting getting me to experience deep conscious breaths upon certain cues. Those moments, those simple breaths, became so delicious i started looking for more cues. and started sitting just to bask in a group of breaths at a time and from that sprouted a practice that absolutely adores days i get 2 half an hour practices in, but doesn’t beat myself up about it when I don’t.

But i know meditation brings out the inner critic in most people the way tai chi is bringing it out in me (and hopefully kicking it out for good, which i believe tai chi absolutely capable of doing). Seeing this is helping me realize how little inner critic remains in my meditative life – a place that also used to be a stronghold. But that all changed with Eric and Devi Klein of Wisdom Heart really getting the point across that:

  1. all meditation is good meditation. sitting counts 100%, even if you’re jumpy & distracted. its a practice not a perfect
  2. Getting distracted is not failure. it’s a cue to bring yourself back. you’re building a muscle. ‘where do i go when i get distracted?’ right back to the breath. it’s a good habit, and one that i absolutely want to cultivate.
  3. sitting for sitting’s sake. detachment from the need/expectation  of a certain experience. practice & nonattachment.

 

the quickening…

since the beginning of the year life has taken on a more active pace than i’d been able to sustain in probably a decade. i’m able to sustain it, and indeed it seems that for all of my slowing down there is an increased speed that I can’t control, making the slowing down practices all the more important to incorporate into my days. i notice i still feel guilty when i am resting, even after all of these years. Not every time and not intensely, but it’s still there. Nonetheless, the pace is picking up. i can feel it. and luckily it is corresponding with a renewed wellness.

If we take the middle 30 days of my body’s 2010 crisis as a 10 pain/intensity (which it wasn’t. it was 7-8 with moments of 10), and prior to losing my filling I was at a 6 and since losing my filling i’ve mostly been a 2 or less, with a 6 month decline into 3-4 last year. Anyway, I’m mostly under 2. but with a bit more energy and a bit less self care requirements. and if i keep the self care in there, i’m less than a 1. but still with range of motion restrictions in my hip. and wobbly fingers.

but that’s just physical. emotionally, the healthy concepts i’d read about and tried to work to put into practice have begun to settle and take root. I’m able to feel connected in easy ways. I’m not trying to advance an agenda, so I’m not measuring moments by how well they serve my envisioned future. I just embrace them in the now. what a difference.

spiritually, i am so excited i can hardly contain myself. and why would i? at the end of the book ‘the sacred science’ (about plant medicines of the amazon) nick polizzi asks a series of questions ending with “who are you at your core?”(paraphrase)  and the answer was so clear for the very first time. I had the palpable understanding (much like i had a palpable understanding of the yin/yang being a real principle in and through and all around us) that at my essence, I am just life itself expressing itself. Just like everyone and everything else.

That has been my idea of heaven for some time: the recognition of God unfolding everywhere. That everything is just dripping with God-Love. Anything else is just a story. And some of those stories are interesting, or worth paying attention to, or unavoidable. But beyond all the stories, we are just an expression of life. here for a lifespan, in keeping with our species general development, sure to die and to be replaced by the next generations. Life. expressing itself. all across the universe. and in, through and as us.

It is a radical idea to consider that “there is nothing wrong here” to literally love what is. that right here in this moment, i am enough, life is enough, everything is resplendent if we only have eyes to see it as so. Isn’t it so obviously worth a try? It takes hold very quickly and whisks us into virtuous circles and synchronicities.

But to finish this idea of the quickening, If 10% of my practices took root the first 20 years of my spiritual practice, and maybe 30 to 50 percent during the last decade, I feel that things are integrating at quite a clip the last year but markedly the last 4 months. the feminine power course was a real catalyst, great paradigm shifting, visionary direction. Add in the Thomas Hubl and of course Paul Selig’s work, and I am just feeling the evolution of myself and life itself towards ever greater love, freedom and order. it’s exhilarating and i’m grateful.

Practice, practice, practice

A number of years ago, as a gift for finishing a book tour, i got a ‘style statement’ from danielle laporte. the idea was that she would interview you and select two words as encapsulating the things most important to or expressive about you and you could then use those two words as a rudder in making decisions and staying true to your north star. my style statement was ‘cultured elegance’  which is a nice rudder, I suppose.

During our interview I talked about being extremely, deeply happy on the inside, but having the experience of ‘not quite there.’ i wasn’t able to really bring the happiness to the day-to-day feelings. I remembered my exact sentence for some time, but can’t quite access it right now.

At that time, I had a neighbor who was very intent on becoming my friend. She was trying to convince me I wasn’t truly as happy as i said i was. not a great technique to lure me, lol. but i wasn’t as happy as i said i was, i was far more happy. but, she was right in that i did have a layer of not quite happy I just couldn’t shake.

It wasn’t long after that my body started this new journey, which truly has helped and is helping me break through all the crusty crap that got between the life force in me and its most joyous expression in the world. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual constructs and beliefs that had gone unnoticed and untended, cultivated with a strange assortment of stressors and unnecessary tension. All kinds of junk. I’ve been diving into it full time for a decade and i still find huge storehouses full to the brim.

i had this great visual in meditation yesterday. i had a visual of a renaissance royal court. and for some reason there’s a guy going around collecting jewelry. So when he comes around, I give him all my thoughts – the necklace of my children, the earrings of my marriage, the bracelets of work and ankle bracelets of spiritual aspirations. And I feel sortof like Mooji’s “leave the backpack of your identity on the rack before you enter”And then, I go into meditation. But thoughts continue to come up, and it’s like a monty python skit, where there is always another little pearl tie-stud, and another ridiculous pocket pin. But I put them in the hat and smile and get on with my meditation. It was fun.

So, a decade or so ago when I was telling danielle laporte that i wanted to bring the happiness i felt into my daily experience, i was spending my free time figuring out what I had to do to be better, to get better, to cultivate becoming what I wanted to become. Now i spend my free time having little fantasy meditations about wholeness and the giddy joy of this very moment being complete in every way. This is a huge upgrade. It doesn’t have to take a decade, though.

We are, at our essence, life itself, living and being. just like everything else. that’s where oneness lay. everything else we think about, all of our individual identities and momentary priorities, are extremely small subplots to the simple fact of life itself moving through time, changing and growing, expressing and receiving. And in the grand procession of life we are utterly influential, ultimately powerful by means of every choice we make. I do still wonder about multiple planes of being where every choice plays out, but then my little noggin gets confused and i find joy thinking about other things. But EXPERIENCING joy, that comes fully from my being able to be in the present moment and recognize it lacks nothing, no matter what some casual observer may easily be able to point out.

you learn something new every day

Today I learned that “Gru” from Despicable Me’s first name is Felonious. And here, I thought it was Gru all these years. Just another drop in the ocean of things I think I know that are in whole or in part wrong. It’s amazing to think how many things fall in that category. We all have hundreds of misunderstandings we don’t even know we have.

Someone like Byron Katie is thrilled to have these erroneous thoughts, because every time something comes up and we open up to it and let the truth change us… a fairy gets her wings or something. Good stuff happens. We can leave it at that. And I can vouch for the advantages. The more I thrill in being wrong so I can accept the new so I can grow and change, the sillier I find the ‘wrongness” and the more I can laugh at myself. And as we all know, laughter was my new year’s resolution.  Just doin’ my job…

Also contributing to increasing laughter is this idea of being with my children without agenda. without my trying to teach them something or give them notes on how they’re currently doing things. notes. ok, maybe i’m just trying to politely say criticism. My kids are still pretty young for this, but unplugging from being the constant assessment machine and trying to mold them in any way is really freeing me up to enjoy them. And maybe even enjoy me a little bit more as well.

i did learn today that i miss wearing a wig from time to time. Wigs are fun and so much easier and more successful than me trying to style my hair.

i also learned that i am getting to old for theme park rides. and theme parks. i think i’ll always be into Disney because they do present an elevated experience of the whole thing, and I will take my children to theme parks while they are still at home and interested in them, but I think i learned today about no longer needing to ride the rides. Especially for a creaky lady, getting banged around just isn’t fun. and to save space they’re doing all of these “sit here while I shake you” rides, and I think I can leave that to the next generation with my best wishes.

I also figured out that i read about 30-40 books per year. I was actually pretty surprised by that. I was certain of a dozen or so, but now I’d say I probably read about a dozen novels, a dozen health books and more than a dozen books on spirituality. Actually, I might read more than that because I also pick up 2-3 books from the library every time i go. And then there are audiobooks, and the books Tucker reads to Jacob in the evenings. See? Once again, just here in this paragraph, I thought I knew something and then learned I was wrong, that I was looking at a fraction of the whole situation. And like has been my practice all day, I will gladly turn in my outdated “knowledge” for a new level of understanding.

today was a very good day

Today was a very good day. It included me realizing ways in which i can be a jerk, which is great because “awareness is the healing agent” so even cringey stuff has it’s purpose if we can embrace it. It also included me spending a lot of time on tai chi and seemingly getting worse, but again, mistakes fuel growth and time in is time in (in that concept of 10,000 hours. oh, man, i hadn’t thought about that in relationship to tai chi before. now i really have to start spending bigger blocks of time because at an hour per day it will take 27 years to get that 10000 hours in. aw, man. this went from a very good day to a kindof depressing day. ok. excuse me while i take a few breaths).

Perhaps it has been a good day because even recognizing an error is auspicious and stopping mid-stream or not repeating it is a boon. i mean, i spend a lot of time talking about evolving, growing, not holding on to poor habits or dysfunctional beliefs, so as things come into view or i get to unwind something it’s meeting my goal even if (maybe especially if) it’s uncomfortable. I get excited to think about who I might be without all of this junk, and wonder if i’ll ever get to live her fully. Each noticing, when met with acknowledgment instead of denial, brings me closer to finding out. It’s good incentive.

Josie just read from some high school social instagram post that her astrological sign, mine, Jake’s and Tucker’s all fall in the “offends people without realizing it” squad. Pretty funny, since that is one of the things I recognized!

Ages ago, by high school for certain, i developed a policy that if you were going to try to offend me, you were going to have to work hard at it. As in, bring down a brick wall. Obviously, this was a defense mechanism from a socially challenged childhood, but I figured people offended or hurt my feeling me without even trying and that just seemed ridiculous. Plus, people are SO OFTEN misunderstood. So it’s a policy I’ve kept in force for many years. I try not to take things personally. I try not to discern what you were “really” saying.  If you’re “really saying x” please, just say “x” and if you don’t yet you expect me to understand “x,” good luck. As a policy, I am taking you at face value. Hence, I miss a lot.

If you have ever met me (with 3 distinct exceptions, to whom I am sorry) you know that if I had any problem with you at all, I’d bring it up first thing. I am not very subtly trying to get some message across. there it is: I am not subtle. I can be pretty delirious, though, and offend people without realizing it at all and with no intention to at all. Oops.

I’m happy to have all of this stuff all up and about so it can be sorted and settled.

i don’t go to church

No generation in recorded history has had as much to contend with as the current living humans. My mother was the first person on her block to have a television or a new car. She had a party-line. She probably also had the same school schedule as the average current student. A few changes for sure, but all within a large and largely unchanging core. The world is changing so fast, and we all have our stories about it.

One of my stories has to do with the Catholic Church. I liked growing up going to Catholic school, though, admittedly many of the nuns were full-on mean, many of the priests were arrogant and condescending, and we had just the parking lot for a playground. The framework gave me a taste for spirituality and relationship to the Divine even if the practices of the church, the school, and the congregants more often were just letting me know I wasn’t quite good enough. I didn’t take that personally because I didn’t see them hold anyone but themselves out as good enough. I learned very early that all of this people taking part in this sacrament lost all unity in the parking lot (which I believe was the kind everyone just pulled into, thereby attaching each car to the next to be able to get out – a plan destined for frustration). Anyhow, I was born a Catholic and that was well-enough. My father was a devout Catholic. He was dedicated to the church. He read the readings during mass every other week. He cared deeply. So, when he was dying in the hospital in Detroit, a place our posh pastor wasn’t too into, he went ignored. We would even have to beg the onsite chaplain to visit him. I lost my interest in the Church during that period. He was a power-user and got absolutely no love when he needed it most. His last rites were performed by a stranger.

So that was basically my separation from the church. But it got deeper. later in life I met a number of women with autoimmune disease, all of whom had a similar upbringing to my own. Catholic. A thick and argumentative parent/child divide, alcohol in a prominent position on the family alter, and emotional availability not being invented yet. By having children, baptizing them and keeping a roof over their heads, parents were meeting the church’s requirements and so felt completely ennobled by their own behavior regardless of how it was affecting their children. I was always surprised when I met people who grew up feeling valued by their parents/siblings. I don’t doubt my parents valued me, but that had very little to do with how our household went down. Our household, for me, was a mine field. Constantly. It blew my mind that people had peaceful homes. I kindof blame Catholicism that I didn’t, although, in retrospect, it may have been even worse without it.

My children have had no official spiritual instruction. There is a lot I regret about that, but like everything, there are benefits, too. They do grow up in a peaceful home, though. Remarkably peaceful. Remarkably supportive. Certainly outside of what I had believed possible prior to meeting my husband. Not Catholic, BTW.

Not sure where this topic came from, today, but there it is…

 

so much i don’t know

going to Tai Chi is so humbling. I want to know so deeply and I’m working hard to barely scratch the surface. More mentally working hard, though. such a poor habit. i used to worry about japanese many hours per day, but only practice japanese for about a half an hour. I wonder what was up with that. No doubt if i practiced as much as i thought about it, i’d have much madder skillz than i’ve got.

I’m reading a book at the monastery describing one gentleman’s experiences with mystical indian saints exploring deeper realities and all kinds of cool stuff. I feel like my life is so full of stuff I want to know more about, how can i possibly get to that level? Mystical experience is so fantastic to me. part of me knows absolutely that it is the gate to infinite love. part of me thinks its just a weird dream-like apparition, part of me marvels at how deep the truth must be to have such a broad and varied host of expressions and experiences.

One of the nice things about finally finding this word “evolving” to bring into coalition all of the things i’ve cared about and do care about and want to contribute to. i think since love is right in the first 4 letters it literally contains love – it speaks to what is most life-positive, is the way of all of the living things we can witness or learn about – it has us take our place not as some “pinnacle” of “civilization” kind of junk, but as growing, changing beings experiencing life and interacting with it with the power of nature herself.

the best part about ‘evolving’ as the word is that I intrinsically can’t know what evolving leads to – i have no real picture i’m trying to meet. i’m just choosing love, deep breaths, relaxing, responding. Something like “enlightenment” I have probably 500 ideas about. Evolving? Just a trust that it seems to happen in life-positive ways.

I want to experience reverence for everything. i get glimpses, and i am often overlaying reverence because i know what i am seeing is life itself and that’s how i want to respond. but i know that there is a place in me from which reverence rises up naturally (not as an intellectual process but as a choice making itself.) I would imagine that evolving would include that space. in any case, i like the thought.

failure is sweet, too

I’m reading Byron Katie, “A Thousand Names for Joy” which is about the Tao Te Ching, so between inquiry and tai chi, this book is just right for me right now. Byron Katie is an inspiration, in that full, unrelenting bliss really is that possible all the time. And we have so many stories to keep us out of it. But why? Out of it is pain, in it is bliss. Silly humans. Aren’t we adorable?

it is amazing to me how many different paths we can take. i used to be so curious about *really* famous people in *really* obscure disciplines… you’re talking to a world-class <whatever> and have no idea, you’d never know it, no pomp or circumstance. And then there are the very showy people, “Don’t you know who I am?” kind of privilege that even if you’ve no idea who they are they are sucking all of the life out of a room (or filling it. either way.) Everyone really is God in disguise. And we really all are just walking each other home.

Laughter (or, more laughter) has been my new years resolution for three years running, i think. i noticed a lot of laughter today. that was sweet. finally. because i’ve been pretty much failing at getting more laughter into my life these three years, but i’m so happy i’ve kept up with the aspiration. it’s worth waiting for.

i had another long-held belief literally fall off the cart this week. Let’s put it this way, it had to do with my father’s reactions. my father has been dead for 33 years, so amazing i still had this active, right? But these beliefs stay until we inquire, which usually almost immediately resolves it, though it can take a while. Am I contradicting myself? There are worlds inside me (is that a Thoreau paraphrase? i think so).

Evolving as my primary focus is pretty much stacking the deck because we all evolve – ALL OF LIFE EVOLVES sortof like hearts beat – whether we’re in on it or not. and evolving includes all of the other verticals, career, parenting, partnership, community, all of it. So making it my first priority feels like it sortof guarantees it will happen and that it includes any of my former priorities (I feel a little sneaky, like the “wishing for more wishes” clause). I know being an evolving parent will make me the best parent I can be. and the best community-member, and the kindest spouse.  But, when I fail, that’s sweet, too. because I’m not branding myself with my failure. it’s simply something that “was” because evolving is always forward-looking, there’s no holding it against myself. it’s just something that happened. Really, evolving as the top priority is remarkably freeing.