Monthly Archives: November 2018

well, that was helpful

Today I enjoyed the great privilege of participating in Julia Schneider’s “Alive with Possibility Women’s Circle.” Julia has covered some great stuff in these circles, and today was no exception. Speaking about masculine and feminine energies, I realized today a dynamic I had been utterly blind to, and also the path to sorting it. Wow. That’s something.

Talking about masculine energy being productivity-oriented and feminine energy being stillness/rest/rejuvenation oriented, years ago I realized that most of my adulthood my mental energies were extremely fixated on productivity, accomplishment and achievement. Feminine energies, I begrudged. I should *have* to take care of my body, it should just work, dammit! I barely knew how to rest (it was just getting ready to do the next thing), rest was boring, why would I want to do that?

Now, if you’ve known me, you know I’ve also had a profound “type B” streak in me as well (I am a Gemini. I am not this or that, I am this and that. And so are you. It is just really noticeable in me), but this inner dialogue was extremely masculine-driven even when I was acting all chill.

As I’ve embraced slowness and stillness and disengaged from establishing value through accomplishment (or at least activity), I’ve held a bit of a grudge against my masculine energies. I resent them for dominating my paradigm. Obviously, this is a huge cultural piece – masculine energy has been dominating the paradigm and obviously the tides are turning – but personally, I’ve held anger over being in a paradigm that just wouldn’t quit driving me endlessly to be something better than who I was.

As I’ve worked with “feminine power” it really has been empowering, and a paradigm shift.  It makes a tremendous difference in my experience, but i still have perceived myself in a bit of a struggle between masculine and feminine aspects of myself.

Last Thanksgiving, having quite a bit to do and somewhat fragile health, I began a practice which I now recognize as creating a “feminine” container and allowing the “masculine” energies to work within it. (this was a commitment to resting for 15 minutes per hour and being active for 45 minutes at a time. this interplay was remarkably successful for me (I mean, resting 15 minutes per hour seemed pretty extreme and unsustainable – but it worked! really well!) During that Thanksgiving, everything went off well – all the food got cooked, the house prepared, etc. with no stress (literally! several times the 15 minutes would entail planning for the next few activity sessions, but I did not raise my voice at a kid or feel panic that something wasn’t happening for a single instance which is remarkable for me). I now am remembering that I still smoked, and that “having a cigarette break” every hour was the context that made that work (or even seem possible) – but I have done this 15/45 several times since then, sans cigs, and it just keeps getting more interesting.

But, my point today is that I’ve got to give up the grudge about having been dominated and set the context so that part of me can be active within a broader context wherein it cannot move out of balance. It’s my responsibility to set that context. Yes, when I act mindlessly, my dominant, progress-oriented side jumps in the driver’s seat BECAUSE NO ONE IS DRIVING. Mindlessly. Easy for a dictator to take up shop.

Put the soul in the driver’s seat, that dictator can turn into a task-monkey. Who can be mad at a task-monkey? I mean, it’s a monkey!

And more importantly, the soul is in charge. The soul likes to do things but doesn’t establish its worth by what it has done. The soul likes to connect and can notice times and people and cues that allow for connection, but once noticed can move into action to make connection as a subset of this broader noticing and intent. The soul is not worried, whereas the brain can hardly stop.

For a time in my life, I thought if i did everything I thought I should and changed things and impacted the world in a certain way, I would get to my soul and we would feel accomplished and good. During this last decade I’ve put the kabash on that theory and just spent a few breaths per day in the company of my soul. It doesn’t need accomplishment, or control, or anything else. It simply would like to play. and that is the shift from Lisa to Lila.

focus-pocus

Yep. Focus is magical. What we turn our focus towards is enlivened, and the spirit in which we turn our focus sets the direction of that liveliness. I have been focused on some silly things, and in the spirit of ‘wanting to graduate’.

Well, that’s delicious to unplug!

Wanting to be fully present is so different than wanting to graduate. And what would i do when i graduated anyway? I’d be present, i think. So, yeah, maybe I can just keep with the presence part.

I saw another thing today that I thought was magical: don’t keep making a mistake just because you’ve been doing it for a long time. These two things felt linked to me and i’m pretty excited.

another thing i’m feeling so profoundly is that this focus isn’t just ours. I mean we are in complete control over our own focus, right? Except for the thousands of inputs jumping all over the place trying to get our attention. We are in communication with life and trying to focus on any of that out there stuff keeps me off the mark. centering in myself, it is quite easy for me to determine if something deserves my focus or not, and this centering and feeling ‘what do i want to put my focus on’ has yeilded some really incredible people/teachings/forums/programs/inspiration/activism. And right now my dance card is so full of cool stuff that I am utterly delighted.

But my head? Still has a bunch of junk going on. this gets back to the repeating a mistake simply because i’ve been doing it so long. The catty diatribes my brain can go off on are really obsolete. Yet I’ve been keeping them around. Because I’m so sure some of them are right, lol (hint: they’re not. even if they are.) There is a discernment that is necessary to live and participate in our culture, but honestly, it’s a pretty trim crew. I definitely over-invested in “thoughts” and as I can see patterns and recognize what serves me, it’s still an enormous portion of the airtime between my ears that is keeping me on the hamster wheel when I know how to get off.

Enter focus cues!

Breathing cues has been a game i’ve been playing with myself for several years, and it has been magnificient. Simple, fun, effective. I still *really need* the cues, because I *really need* the relaxation, body focus and dropping out of the thought stream. I hope to (I was going to say ‘graduate some day’) get better and better at it. But it’s a pretty smooth-running machine in my day-to-day life, so I’m going to add something new. Something harder.

I’m taking a month of practice, but i believe my New Year’s Resolution is to use the cue of judgemental thoughts (right or not 😉 as a cue to focus on my heart. To employ HeartMath’s Heart Coherence. Most of the reason I judge things is habit (I knew Drumf was an idiot decades ago… i don’t need to continue having the conversation…) and as I gravitate towards people and ideas and movements that literally enlighten my life and body, I can’t have my focus so easily lay upon ‘what’s wrong.’

One of my life-cues the last 4 or 5 years has been “there’s nothing wrong here” (and if i think there is, my mistake). It’s been a very helpful tool in learning to receive the world as it is, and adjusting ME. I believe this new practice is going to take it to the next level.

There are things on this earth that excite me to no end. And there are things that utterly break my heart. Those are feeling states in response to things, and don’t require much peanut gallery input. I’ve been making strides at listening to my body even when it is inconvenient (especially then!) and now I’m going to take this same approach with my focus. put it on what i: 1)appreciate, or 2)want to create.

Let’s see how it impacts December!

the only way out is through

I experience difficulty diving into difficult emotions that i’ve already felt I’ve covered. But, I know better than to let that stop me, and I know better than to let the discomfort of the feelings make me mask them. and so I am angry again about issues from the felt sense of my childhood and adolescence. I imagine this is somewhat normal, and if this bout of anger about these nuances of how I perceive I grew up (this is a step up: at least I know that my remembrance is my perception and not necessarily a fact. I’ll take that as a small victory) is anything like the others, once i go through a bit of huffing and puffing, I can settle down, remember everyone is and was doing their best, and recognize that I gained advantages as well as disadvantages from the circumstances.

None of us get through life unscarred. Even the most cared for child is going to interpret this comment or that action as less-than-expected. Coping with this is an essential life skill. It blows my mind that we teach all kinds of bizarre and unnecessary to life stuff in school but basic emotional hygiene is taboo. It’s the stuff parents are supposed to handle, but let’s face it, parenting really could use some instruction, too. Listening to tales from social worker friends about what goes on in families… how do we not set the stage for basic care?

Sitting with all of this, the sources of weird ideas in my own life and the collective trauma of our children worldwide, there is a choice. The choice is between forgiveness and overwhelm. Overwhelm is easy. The problems are big and deep and scary. Our history is riddled with atrocities – and the crazy part is we teach about it in schools but don’t teach how to not repeat it – because shit gets repeated until we intervene. Someone’s got to stop the cycle.

Forgiveness stops cycles. Desmond Tutu talks about forgiveness only coming through truth and honesty about the event. Everyone gets to talk. Everyone gets to walk around the situation and understand it from all of the perspectives. We aren’t exactly comfortable with that in today’s American society. There’s a lot of fingerpointing and blame. That’s not going to last. Responsibility and forgiveness are going to win the day, but it looks to me like it’s going to be a bloody battle until then.

I look at the atrocities the American government has commited against children just in the last 6 months, not to mention the institutionalized oppression that’s been going on consistently. We are traumatizing a generation. My gripes are small in comparison, and the luxury of the safety and support that allows me to look at and reconcile with my stuff isn’t available to everyone. I wonder if I could actively help, somehow working to heal the collective trauma. I’m not sure how yet. I have joined the Business Plan for Peace program to look at exactly this stuff (inner work and outer contribution). I hope it gives me the tools to make a difference in the lives of our children.

with purpose things become bearable

I think it’s the uncertainty of pain that makes it so… painful. Or contributes to the suffering.

There’s a picture in my head that the illness i’ve been experiencing was the result of decades of frustration without the tools to process and transcend it. Every hurt got tucked away in a joint. and when i got myself well enough emotionally and had resources and tools to release all of it, it started coming out – and that’s not always pretty.

I do have a lot of tools, though, and continue to collect more. Tools for developing my life with ease, acceptance, love, wholeness, curiosity and agency. And these tools work! My mental chatter is a fraction of what it was for most of my life. I still have a ways to go to be out of the thought stream, but the fact that I can get quiet on demand and stay that way for a restorative amount of time – whether a breath or an hour (though i’ll typically have dozens of “HEY THINK ABOUT ME” moments in that hour – but I am succumbing to fewer and fewer) – this does a lot for my peace of mind.

I sortof feel I led a double life. For many (most) years, I had this very Zen coating with this very anxious and defensive interior. The Zen aspects of myself weren’t false, they just weren’t grounded. They made me have better thoughts than the thoughts available to me as an anxious person, but the teachings kept coming up against that black plastic paper I put in my garden so the weeds wouldn’t push through.

Well, I’m taking out that black plastic paper separating my garden from the fullness of the earth. Weeds are normal and I have lots of delicious techniques for releasing them. I’ve developed decades of “bask in the divine” strategies and they’ve finally gotten hold enough that the structure simply can’t abide with an anxious center. I NEVER imagined myself as anxious (I bought my own hype) until just after this diagnosis the first truly gifted therapist I visited sprung that on me in a receptive moment. I was floored. It was absolutely true, absolutely obvious and I was clear that I would have absolutely and eloquently denied it in any other circumstance. Bravo, Sue Rita. Well played. and very helpful.

That’s when meditation moved from being a groovy hobby that i participated in to some degree because enlightenment is the goal of life to becoming a tool to get into that anxiety, and make the space for it to unwind. This has been a completely different approach. Practical. Helpful. Gentle. As opposed to Efforting. Esoteric Goal I’m Having Trouble Reaching. and Yes, This Makes Me Spiritual.

Exceptional trade-up.

Using the tools of meditation, nutrition, hydration, sleep, movement, and inspired activity I’ve made quite a dent in the anxious core. And it’s possible that this last flare up has gotten even deeper and begun (or ended) another layer of releasing….

I’m not looking for “complete” anymore, as in “i am done with this! I have mastered this!” I find it to be a moving target, and all of life shows me that everything is in cycle and as we gain mastery, we simply don’t have the frustration in dealing with things so much. we still have to deal with them to some degree. Yes, one of the things I am becoming more comfortable with is this idea of no beginning and no end. I mean it’s been spelled out for me in dozens of holy texts, I just never thought to apply it to practical everyday life. I had a friend talk today about her frustration in having a lesson she’s completed time and again still come up – and there’s this “if it’s come up, it obviously isn’t complete, and the way we make it complete is to not have it trigger us anymore. so what’s the trigger?” and then we get to the trigger and release that and that lesson may be back tomorrow but tomorrow it will be new. we’ll be better versed to meet it.

What is the Rumi poem about greeting every guest? (it’s worth looking up)

pain is tiring

Physically. and emotionally.

I believe the opportunity with an extended period of pain is many-fold. The most important piece, i think, might be accepting the self as the self is and not requiring “normalcy” to be OK. “I’ll be OK when this pain goes away” just can’t be the policy because what if the pain never goes away?

I’m currently worse than I’ve been these last 3 weeks. That is not the direction I was hoping for, certainly, but clearly my peace with life can’t be based on constant improvement. Don’t get me wrong, I love continual improvement and directional progress and things like that, it’s simply not available to me right now. Can I be OK when that which I need to be OK is not available?

Well, obviously, yes. It’s just not easy.

Phase one is being gentle with myself. Pain is tiring and draining, and rest is hard. Even with all of my ‘relaxing into the pain’ constant pain makes it really hard to rest. Rest is not very restful and yet it’s exactly what the body needs. This dynamic has been my biggest challenge the last few days. This is where pain medication comes in handy, but I don’t take pain medication – although last night I decided that if I am not *significantly better* by Christmas, I’ll look into taking one of the many (extremely toxic) RA drugs available. I’ve long felt that taking these things simply exchanges one set of problems for another, but if my situation is not improved, that may be an exchange I’m open to. We’ll see.

This being gentle with the self is incredibly difficult because I really want to have at least *some* capacity to do *something* so that i’m not just an occasionally moaning log either in my bed or at a chair. But, guess what? I can’t. If this were a typewriter, I could not type. It is the effortlessness of touch on this keyboard that allows me to write (thanks, Apple). Often I try to read and watch and learn when I’m in this position, and it works sometimes but pain makes it hard to concentrate. Trying to watch comedies is a traditional pain pastime, but i get so frustrated trying to *find* something funny, it can go either way for me.

I think my lesson right now is establishing a new normal that I’m not judging as “less than.” What I can do is different. It doesn’t make me ‘less’ than I used to be. If I keep holding my 20 or 30 year old self as my marker of wellness, I’m screwed. I don’t even want to do the things I did at 20 or 30 yet for some reason I still hold these things up as things I *should* be able to do. I am absolutely delighted to have graduated from most of my younger activities, and I truly value so many of my current activities – why I hold this outdated set of criteria about what makes me “well” makes no sense.

I know that the most important service I can render on this plane is to witness the inherent divinity in everyone and everything. I can do that whether I am in bed or walking through town. This is what I’m going to focus on. I can lay in bed and hold any specific thought I can think of to the light of love.

This reminds me of one of the ways I fall asleep when I’m in the kind of pain that doesn’t let you fall asleep. I forgive everything. Just going through everything with “I forgive my body for being in pain. I forgive my father for his outbursts. I forgive myself for that dumbass thing i did (there are usually dozens of those). I forgive this person for whatever I felt was incongruent” just forgiveness over and over and over. It helps me fall asleep and very often when I wake up I feel a little better.

Anyhow, if I’m clear that my service on this planet is to recognize the divinity in all, pain gives me an opportunity to really comprehend the “all” of it, personally and societally, and a pace at which I can really dig in to understanding the breadth of redemption available with just that little bit of recontextualizing. What if this whole illness is to get me to slow down and bless things? And what if, through this illness, I spend thousands of hours blessing every aspect of life, even the bits I’m uncomfortable with. I dare say those thousands of hours would be the shining jewel of my experience – far moreso than my egoic triumphs or drunken shenanigans of my 20’s and 30’s. It seems like I need to keep an open mind to what this time and condition means in my life. Lord knows I have time to contemplate it…

 

giving thanks

Today’s the official day to give thanks, but those with gratitude practices will tell you that the real juice is in the daily (momently) practice. Looking at life in late November, so many Americans are just so grateful for warmth, family and food, and these are worthwhile things for which to be grateful. But having an annual practice necessitates we focus on the macro, and the truth is, as we recognize the micro reasons for giving thanks we can really gain traction for living a life in appreciation of All That Is.

I’m glad we have this national holiday, and while i don’t believe you can institutionalize things like thankfulness or peace we certainly can cultivate them, and our culture plays an enormous role in how we develop our orientation to the world, fearful or grateful, defensive or curious. Things like “Thanksgiving” move us in the right direction, even when we seem to be steamrolling in the opposite direction.

I am thankful for so many things, and I want to become grateful for so many more. I can recognize how much of my worldview felt entitled to things as a younger woman, and I am particularly thankful to have moved through that particular stage and very much appreciate every time another layer of that drops off…. I want to develop ever deeper appreciation for the thousands of things that let our days go by, even the tough ones. And on the tough ones, I’ve noticed there are often even more things to be appreciative of, the kind of appreciation that lasts beyond the moment and restores a worldview wherein we really are in this together.

I can’t really look at this tradition without the sad acknowledgment of Native Americans and the ruthless way the American government decimated the culture.

So now I am thankful, but I am also ashamed.

(this is not the way i expected this post to go, btw, but here we are.)

Collective trauma needs to be acknowledged to begin to be healed. I am thankful that as a species we are learning this and that we have examples like South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission. As I look at America today, I know that a process like that is the first step to healing. Being realistic about the past and how it holds the future captive just might be enough to engage us in the potential of the healing work. All this discontent and animosity sources from collective trauma, and we can pretend all day long that we sprang forth from daylillies, but we didn’t, and until we reconcile our beginnings our end is chaotic.

We have a fair number of brilliant people who have begun this work, modeled this work, and written about the process – because every instance of it is going to be unique. I’m thankful for it all.

But, this really did come out much less appreciative than I anticipated. So, I’m just going to offer my 10 influences I’m especially appreciating right now:

  1. Paul Selig
  2. Thomas Hübl
  3. The Business Plan for Peace/Sheva Carr & Scilla Elworthy
  4. Claire Zammit & Craig Hamilton/Evolving Wisdom
  5. Qi Gong/Tai Chi
  6. Vedanta
  7. Perelandra
  8. Attachment Theory
  9. Synergy & Jan
  10. Small Group Work/Barbara Sher/Barbara Marx Hubbard

the full spectrum of responses

I’m glad to have this opportunity to look at very real pain in a variety of different ways in the real world. It is one thing to think about how I respond to pain, it is another thing to sense and respond in the moment. So I’ve had thousands of moments here now and I can say, I have a lot of different responses.

Sometimes I cry.

Sometimes I muscle through it and do ‘what i need to do’

Sometimes I relax into it (this is my favorite and seems to be the most impactful).

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, and sometimes I feel I am such a burden on those around me I simply can’t ask for one more <seemingly ridiculous> thing. Seemingly ridiculous things like: can you come from across the house to get that water bottle that is 16 inches from me yet I cannot reach, and in the attempted reaching I seem to have aggravated everything I’m trying to heal.

I work in this life with a single intent: to evolve. I believe our evolution is exactly like all of Nature’s evolution, towards greater expressions of love, freedom and complexity (which i understand to include relationship)… and with that: a story

Satan, too, was present as God created the world. And as God created and said, “This is Good.” Satan, impressed and enraptured by the Creation said, “Yes! This is good!! Let’s Organize It!”

And so it is with my responses to pain. I have a lot of them. Different responses at different times. But the one thing I am especially careful to not indulge in is the fear that the pain will last forever. Not because pain doesn’t last (because often it does) but because *everything* is in a constant state of change and to hold something out of that knowledge seems to me – well, quite frankly it’s too painful! Thinking “this will never end” is just about the worst thought I can have. I believe it’s what made the beginning of this disease so hard for me. “Will this ever end? Is this what my life is like now?”

To combat that particular train of thought, I try to employ curiosity. Knowing, foundationally, that everything is changing, surely the pain changes, too. Now I can get curious about the moment to moment changes in the pain… the style of pain (dull or piercing), the intensity of it, the size and shape of the pain area itself and how it moves through one or more parts of the body. What it feels like when I resist it and what it feels like when i relax into it. Where it goes.

So, what was with the story in the middle? I believe it is a source of my pain. Trying to categorize, contextualize, assign value… me trying to “figure out how I deal with pain” is not helpful. I deal with pain a ton of ways. Me noticing how different responses impact pain in different moments is far more instructive: but it requires an absolute presence. I can’t go back into “what’s the right response” from some organizational history. I MUST have the response that bubbles up in the moment.

Another story:

Showering is difficult for me under the best of circumstances. I get cold into my bones and it takes quite a bit for me to come back up to temp. So, I’ve never been too crazy about showers, but add in todays challenge (I should be clear: i’m significantly better today which is why I even attempted showering, but my left arm still won’t let my hand reach my face, which would’ve been helpful. My right arm had much better mobility, so i thought i’d give it a go) and I needed a nap when I was done.

Showers energize healthy people. If I were healthy, I shouldn’t need a nap after a shower.

But in order to become healthy, I need to respect my body enough to do what it needs to do in the moment, nap or no nap.

And what makes me think showers are supposed to energize me? They have literally never energized me, even when I appreciate the new sense of clean. I know several people who shower twice per day. That sounds like pure purgatory to me, but they love it (else they wouldn’t do it). So my picture of the appropriate response to showering is on one end of the spectrum, and their picture is on another end.

Neither of us is “right.”

We become “right” for the moment we do what is true for us.

And so it is with pain. I see the value of my various strategies for relating with pain, but that doesn’t make them “right” for anyone else but me – and really in any given moment even the best strategy may just not work. Life is such a dynamic force that as soon as we put expectation and rules along, i think we generally invalidate the purity of sensing and responding in the present moment – the only moment that really exists. Living here, and not in the land of shoulds or different, is the real prize, even when it hurts.

sitting in pain

hey! it happened! i’m officially flared up. My left hand is really big and my arms are under 50% functionality, with lots of motions causing searing pain. It’s making me cancel obligations, well, everything. Moving hurts, stillness only can last so long, and seriously, one wrong move and i want to cry. sometimes i do. just for a minute.

and yet, my job is to relax into it. so weird.

I’m not sure if relaxing into it changes the pain, but it definitely changes my relationship to the pain. THAT is interesting.

Yet, the nitty gritty of the pain game is mental. Why am i flaring up? what have i done wrong? what combination made it this way? i must not be as spiritually progressed as i thought. Boy, I sorta suck at stable health. probably i brought this on myself by getting my ‘surgery haircut’ so ‘in case my arms didn’t work, i wouldn’t have to ask someone to brush my hair.’ yeah, i will admit the haircut is coming in handy, but how much did it contribute to fulfilling the prophecy?

Yep, my mind could chew on that crap all day. thankfully, i’ve got a few practices that take me out of the mental game for at least a few breaths, and once you do that, it’s never as interesting as it was. Indeed, when i start thinking the stories are *really* interesting, that’s now a signal that i need to count to 20, or sit in meditation, or go for a walk – just get out of the thought stream for a spell.

Once out of the thought stream i try to shift to relaxing. Perhaps it’s because by body tenses up to protect painful joints, sometimes moving into relaxation is painful, but usually only for a second. sometimes it’s too much and i need to tense again. then I’ll go to another area – because i always have several areas with weird tension.

Even in the pain, while it does get old, i can still hold the idea that my body is on my side. I trust that it’s leading me somewhere and teaching me things. When i get a deep flare up like this, now my job goes from <anything else> to listening to my body and supporting its progress through the flare up. At my wisest, I immediately begin fasting (green juice (with fish oil), water, fermented beverage, bone broth, tea – – very nutrient dense fasting) but sometimes it takes me a couple of days (which I *always* regret). Because I drink so much and so often throughout the day, it’s not hard to fast at all.

Stillness is definitely a big strategy for dealing with pain, too, but oddly enough sometimes i need to get up. This is unusual for me, because if my body is not in pain, I could lay in bed for 17+ hours without getting up once. But horizontal just does not work sometimes when i’m flared up, so i’m honoring that (and using it as an opportunity to blog through pain even though my typing is very slow on the left, lol.)

I’ve been using all kinds of CBD, arthritis creams, specialized tinctures. sometimes they help. today, none is cutting it even a drop. ditto on compression gloves and even my last-resort castor oil heat wraps – they took the high notes out of the pain, but the areas I did are still big and swollen. i don’t mean to underestimate the castor oil pack, because those things do take the high notes out which is a very big deal.

Illness changed my life, and in so many ways dramatically for the better. I keep wanting to graduate. I keep wanting wellness to tell me I’ve finally figured it all out and now i will be in balance. Health would validate my general happiness as being in sync with Nature. meh. i am pretty happy. and i really care about nature and do a relatively solid job of regularly communing with Nature. so this health thing must have a different purpose for me. or something. but i really have no choice but to assume it’s leading me somewhere, and if ‘up until now’ is any indication, my body has been leading me into deeper integrity (what i eat, companies & concepts I support, how i spend my time) and more attentive listening – so i’ll go on whatever journey it takes me on. even when it is painful.

New practices!

I do a lot of stretching exercises. I need them. And I often count to 10 during each rep. But today it finally occurred to me to do attunements during the rep instead, and so i timed out some attunements from Paul Selig’s work and now I feel like i am going to ramp up my personal attunement while i stretch for the double win! So exciting. Why didn’t I do this ages ago?

About 2 weeks ago I added a 25 (slow) breath front forward bend to my routine morning and evening. adding 50 deep intentional breaths to the day really is a quantum addition. This is something I will probably continue counting with because i find it quite meditative and i stretch and straighten on the inhale, relax and drop my head on the exhale. it makes the counting really easy and fun. Often in my normal 25 breath practices (when I wake, before I sleep, and in activity through the day) the breath is an anchor, but i often get tangled in the rope. With the forward bend, the breath is an anchor and a support, it lifts me as much as it grounds me. A new favorite.

All of these practices support the kind of lifestyle my body requires of me, and as I listen to my body it also is beginning to discipline my mind. Unfortunately, part of disciplining my mind is tending to plenty of the poor behaviors my mind has been free to engage in through habit and culture and neglect/misunderstanding. As these things come up, do I remember all of the tools I’ve learned to meet them? sometimes. Luckily, my deepest practice has become going to  mantra when uncomfortable, so this more than anything else puts a halt on any wallowing (I’ve been extremely achy lately. there’s been a little wallowing) and puts me into a mindset that really any outer circumstance can be brought for acknowledgement and blessing, and frankly that’s the best possible use of my time. Often it helps, sometimes it doesn’t, but the simple act of turning to Life Itself, acknowledging it’s wisdom and my own limited vision, being willing to undertake what life asks of me, being curious about what that might be and why on earth it looks the way it does, but going back and resting in the mantra, in the knowledge of great wisdom, compassion and redemption – far greater souls than I (forgetting for a moment that we are all, each one of us, equal) have put their energy into mantra, I feel like i get to draw on an unlimited bank account that just keeps refilling. In the mantra space, it’s no longer a mental game, it’s a decision of being. The mantra opens up (or actually IS) a higher vibrational reality, and by deciding to go there and hang out for a while, I bring myself there. What a great idea!!

Maybe it would help if I demonstrate. If enough things pull at me and I become even a little out of alignment, my inner dialogue goes something like this: “why are things this way? what did i do wrong? why am i in pain? I’ve uncovered so much stuff and it has helped me get better, but why can’t i figure this out? what is wrong with me? what do i still have to learn? why is it so elusive? why won’t this release? could i DO anymore freaking practices?” (cap “DO” meant to imitate Chandler Bing).

Introduce mantra into that bouillabaisse of frustration and my inner dialogue goes something like this: “om tare tuttare ture soha” and occassional thoughts like “all of the great souls of history raised their energy to this and greater frequencies, and energy never dies. I humbly bow to the great souls, and I resolve to raise my own energy for the benefit of all, no matter what it looks like to my limited mind”

An improvement, wouldn’t you say? Then the pain, instead of being some judgement and sentence of my wrongness, is just a condition. A condition that I am tasked with and I am up to the task. And just like when my kids do something grumpily, I try to remind them that their contribution matters and is important to the people around them, the sun shines a ittle bit and we feel the warmth and having a little purpose and contribution goes a long way 🙂

Every rest counts

Relaxing the body doesn’t come naturally to me, even after these years of intentional body consciousness. I treasure every effort I make to deeply relax and I have yet to make the effort to relax and not have cascading muscle release throughout my whole body. Why I have been holding all of this weird tension I do not know, but I do know that I can retrain my way of being, albeit slowly, and that being in a state of alert relaxation is the posture I’d most like to be in most often.

It is downright comical to me now to see all of the areas I hold tension. So unnecessary. And seemingly developed over all of the years I spent “having to do x” and “wanting to be y” … this last month since my hip replacement I’ve had the luxury of really investigating the micro-movements in my daily habits. I have tension in almost all of them, from the way I reach an item in the cupboard, how I chop veg, … I’ve been working on slowing down my tooth brushing for years and it is still a challenge every. single. day.

I want to meet every baby in the world with a warm welcome and a download of QiGong or Tai Chi. Here, friend! You can harness the power of the universe within your own body, but it will take a deep trust (in millions of years of evolution, highly trustworthy), relaxation (which the whole world will try to jolt you out of, but ignore them!) and curiosity.

We have turned so much on its head since the Industrial Revolution. We went from lifestyles of Sense and Respond to Predict and Control – perhaps the worst trade-off ever. People barely know how to sense OR respond – even to their own thoughts and feelings, and this makes for a highly uptight culture, especially since predictions are usually wrong and control is an illusion, and a damaging one at that. I actually remember training myself out of sensing and responding – like many people (Catholic!) I was raised that the body was a source of sin and not to be trusted. Indeed, the desires and sensations of the body were what we’d spend our lives fighting against for purity or some such rot. What a weird tradition. What a shame.

I’m madly in love with exploring the world from a position of wholeness, curiosity and relationship. I’m only able to fully do it from time to time, and I’m a bit sad to say that even some of my nearest and dearest challenge “wholeness” all the time. Another remnant from a paradigm that says we’re all flawed (while we are all imperfect, I disagree it is a flaw) and any real humility would acknowledge that and feeling whole is both delusional and arrogant.

Feeling whole is even more counter-culture than slowing down, but just as tricky to practice. Like so many of the juiciest aspects of life, we’ve got a bit of a paradox – just like slowing down seems to make me far more productive, feeling whole allows me to explore things I’d like to add into my life – but without the “this will fix me” or “I need this to be whole” that always drove my curiosity before.

How can I relax into this? This is the question that is feeding everything from physical pain to emotional turmoil, and as I embrace it I can feel the tension leave. Then, my unconscious habits re-engage the tension which patiently waits for me to release it again. Some things are unwinding through this dance, some require the intervention of a practice (such as Bodytalk or tapping) to stop automatically reengaging tension, some may take new techniques, but it is the decision to lead a life assuming that life itself knew what it was doing (and I can therefore trust, rest, and relax) that makes all the difference.