2020 Vision

I’m excited about the New Year. I’m even more excited about the new decade.

My vision for this adventure is all about conscious evolution. How present can I be to the old, unconscious habits I’ve developed over a lifetime that no longer serve me or my intentions? How can I renew and restore my daily activities so they clearly and decisively contribute to a world that works for everyone, that frees the human psyche (including but not limited to my own) from fear, and participates in nature as a humble and wondrous partner?

Breath by breath, I would say. Decision by decision. Noticing and noticing. Opening and opening.

It’s the journey of a lifetime, this path to conscious engagement in the present moment. I’m getting a trial by fire this month, in that I’ve realized (since a few months into Tai Chi) that the posture I always thought was so great is distributing weight through non-weight-bearing areas along with other problems. So these last few weeks (now starting Heaven and Earth Qi Gong) I have been challenged to be conscious of standing and literally taking each step in a whole new way, and boy has it sucked. I am telling myself that it is the relearning causing the pain and incapacity in my knees for example, but I’ve always been particularly skilled in rationalization. No matter: it is the stories we believe that dictate our emotional state, so mine will believe this is leading to something better, something more durable and reliable and relatable, something that will propel my ability to be of service.

2020 is just such a great year to be alive. No doubt it’s full of true insanity (already!) but I believe that is the counterbalance to the deep and lasting sanity that is taking hold in the hearts of millions. I believe the (r)evolution is upon us – towards a broader and more expansive understanding of community and diversity and gifts and giving, towards self-expression and mutual support. I see it everywhere, and the bounty of teachers demonstrating the simple (not necessarily easy) and expansive truth about the nature of who and what we are – it really is a privilege to be alive and a tremendous responsibility to calibrate and align to the emerging unity and the creative unfolding of a new way of life on this planet. To do the work when fear arises so that we can be with it without fear – so that we can be with it knowing that it has arisen so that it can be met with love, with compassion, with witnessing and with a fearlessness in which it is both welcome and able to dissolve.

I’ve been doing this work for a long time and I am humbled by how much I have yet to do. And yet, this itself is evolution. This itself demands I be more conscious more seconds of each day, developing the capacity to look where I have carefully constructed diversions and letting in some fresh air.

Wholeness means all of it, the exaltation of those moments of felt unity and the humility of the untended areas of my personal garden, and the intention and action to tend to them – gently and powerfully – for the love of  the garden, not the promise of its yield.

I believe this decade will be miraculous in many ways, and it is my intention to contribute to the actualization of love in action with every cell of my body, in service to All.

what infinite really means

This endlessness, the persistent unfolding of life itself onward ever present – its heady stuff. I’ve written before about coming to understand the word and concept of ‘infinite’ and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve also written before about every time i start to feel a little mastery of something (i noticed this first around infant napping schedules), it lasted 5 seconds and a new phase began. I’ve felt my share of frustration around that, but it sings of the ever unfolding of life itself, so we’ll accept it as a positive thing.

i have spent a lot of time this past year practicing bodyfulness, on calls, as meditation, throughout the day… I’ve gotten pretty good at habitually drawing attention to the felt-sense with the key elements of not wanting to fix, change, or interpret what I feel (gets trickier) and trickier still, inviting whatever I feel to relax, but not because i need it to. That last part is especially hard during flare ups or any sustained high intensity pain, but if i can muster the *thought* I’m happy – if i can give 10 seconds of genuine practice, I’m really happy.

Today it came to me that I have to do it (invite whatever I feel, as it is, without wanting to fix, change, understand) while I am in motion.

That’s quite a bit harder, because it’s motion when the pain is most active for me.

And because i was really starting to get the hang of ‘in stillness’ it only makes sense that ‘and during action’ should come up.

The SLG umbrella for whatever I’ve been trying to put together is The Ministry of Stillness. It has the tagline of ‘and inspired action’ but i haven’t known how to work it in yet. Now, I’m getting the sense, is the time.

I’m starting this heaven and earth qi gong, and the instructor gives excellent cuing for a level of centered groundedness. Not all of it I can do. But, if, as I approach the parts of the form that are currently unavailable to me with this in mind – inviting (but not demanding) relaxation and feeling the discomforts of my edges gently yet fully, without wishing they would change.

Tough assignment! Shit hurts! But I’m psyched, because I feel like I have been training for exactly this for some time. and i’m even feeling the shame of having it take so long… feeling it and letting it pass, as I embrace the possibility of a whole new way of being in my body. Yeah, that’s exciting.

i think this moves from ‘every breath counts’ collecting intentional breaths throughout the day to ‘every breath of intentional physical centered, balanced roundedness counts” and hopefully drop my gravity into my feet in a way that they can shake the bad habits i developed and start to build a balanced and powerful way of being in the world.

how can I help?

The Christmas we spent in England, there was a series of television ads for a grocer with the tagline something like, ‘How can I help?” I’ve tried to google it with no luck, but this active inquiry to helping reminded me of what sets Disney and Ritz Carlton apart from other places with great customer service: Active Engagement in what the customer wants.

I’ve come to realize today (I’m having a flare up, so lots of time to think/process/do practices) that for the last couple of years I’ve been on a “unlearning the things you think help people, and just asking people what they need (and if they don’t know, then not thinking I’m clairvoyant or omniscient and deciding what they need… if they don’t know, let them know I’m available when they can articulate what they need. So unlike how I’ve done it (and thought it should be done) all my life. And liberating. And probably a lot more helpful.

Today I mentioned on a body fulness call that we all are part genius and part fool. We have areas of profound, experiential knowing and areas where we are such idiots, we don’t even know that category exists much less how wrong we are about it. The idiot parts reveal themselves during things like “The Presence Process” (have I mentioned I’m doing this? Fourth round, I think, but maybe 3rd)… Anyhow, through this process, I am seeing that I valued anticipating others’ needs and acting on them as a strategy for love as a kid, which was a fine and effective strategy but not a healthy way to interact with life or people as a general policy.

I got to be an excellent mind-reader for a few people, and then seemed to think I had it pretty figured out for everyone. I realized some time ago – I think even before the illness – that me trying to anticipate and act on needs people couldn’t even articulate was crazy pants. Way too much pressure. Maybe I could’ve done things like that as a kid with predictable household habits, but out in the real world it was a recipe for disaster and the textbook setup for miscommunication. So, at some point during our time in RI I quit cold turkey, with the general public at least. I did not assume I knew what was best for you. I’m happy to help, but you’re going to have to tell me what you’d like.

Intimate relationships was another story. Because, you know, I knew what was best for everybody I truly “knew” right? Well, I seem to have thought so. About 2 years ago I had a somewhat major expression on how thoroughly that is not the case (detailed here, I’m sure) and in the last week or two I’ve come to realize that if I maintain a sense that “I know what would work better” it’s an unfortunate way to live.

I’m extremely lucky. I’ve had a lot of choices pan out (although God knows I’ve had a lot of choices very much not pan out), and I’m married to an embodiment of prioritizing effort to high-impact areas. I squandered a lot of energy on “being helpful” to people who weren’t into it, or even if they were into it, weren’t ready for it; where ultimately the effort didn’t result in positive outcomes for me or the intended helpee.

Recently in a book I enjoyed, it talked about thinking you would do something differently if “x” happened to you… (as I write this, I think it was Byron Katie) and the lesson was coming to understand that we are literally all one: that person is handling “x” exactly how you would handle it if you had “x” happen and had been raised and had the same experiences as that person. It’s what we’re all doing. We’re all unique amalgamations of traits. And while if “x” happened to us, with our unique experiences, of course we wouldn’t do exactly what the other person would do – of course not, we draw from an entirely different experience well. but it doesn’t make one choice better than another, even if the results of one choice seem to provide the desired outcome more efficiently than the other choice. Like everything, the long-term results remain to be seen.

Thus: my new favorite phrase is “I’d like to support you. Please let me know how I can be supportive to you.”

It’s a tough question to answer in 21st century America. We’re supposed to be independent. We’re proudest when we don’t have to rely on anybody. (there was a whole bit earlier in this writing about trying to read people’s minds: there’s a whole passive aggressive archetype who thinks “it’s not worth anything if i had to ask for it’ and ‘someone who loves me should be able to ‘just know’ what I need” and those are very unproductive mindsets. Just wanted to make sure that gets pointed out in this essay). For some, it’s frowned upon to ask for things. Selfish. Bold. [ok, boomer!]

It’s wildly freeing (for everyone) when we can consider and articulate our needs. I’m excited to encourage this wonderful trait in all I meet and truly desire to support.

shame and guilt

I feel like shame and guilt are like a vaudeville act. they keep showing up in different guises with different riffs. They make themselves distracting and keep our attention through sheer constant material. Or at least they keep mine.

I’m reading a book called, “Coming to Wholeness” which is taking my bodyful practice to a whole new level. And the universe has continued to invite me to go just a little bit slower. and because of that combination, I am experiencing a deep appreciation this morning for having the time and attention to focus on Wholeness, Awareness, Unity and Life Itself.  And within minutes, in walk guilt and shame.

Really? I’m experiencing appreciation despite having a body wracked with a lack of ease (feeling just a little proud of myself maybe?) and Guilt and Shame waltz in?

Guilt: mostly that I haven’t pulled my financial weight in my marriage (despite the fact my husband gives me zero grief about this), and some guilt that I haven’t figured out how to be in relationship to the world in a way that is actually helpful (in short, that I don’t have a job, and I don’t know what to do next). That I’m not a more active parent/partner/daughter/friend…

Shame: well, i’m ashamed that I’m not healthy. if i were as emotiono-spiritually advanced as I’d like to be, my body would be light and easy and practically floating, not this haunted house of a body. Plus? if I am smart, why can’t i articulate it in a compelling way to share it? and I don’t do anything. people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off and I respond to email every couple of days. I am milking this not-wellness thing, perhaps to absurdity. I should be a better person. on every level.

I notice the guilt and shame and let it invalidate the good feelings about focusing attention on life itself (and the attending wholeness and feeling supported and adventure) and I start defending myself. Valid stuff. I believe peace and calm are a more valuable currency than green dollars, and I am consistently growing my portfolio. But, defending is participating in the drama, and Laurel and Hardy go back and forth on a loop.

Luckily, this lovely book and my lovely practices acknowledge the feeling and find it in the body and accept it entirely while inviting it to relax, open, release. It’s the ultimate diffuser.

I also had a really big step this week, having read “Leadership and Self-Deception” last week, I had an opportunity where someone was (justifiably, I’ll admit) trying to guilt and shame me, and I could see their underlying pain and sought to address it. I’m not sure how well I did, but it was a far cry better than my general MO (let them know I’m right as bitingly as necessary). That book talks about an inner, sudden realization and I definitely experienced exactly that about another relationship while reading. That the lesson would then peek its head in during an emotionally-loaded moment demonstrates its a bigger, transformative shift than just a “concept” I hope to “employ.” Another book for the “must read” list…

yes, even slower

I can’t remember the topic of my latest posts, and I should probably check, but i think i wrote of the struggle of ‘i’d be better if…’ and ‘if only i could align my thoughts i wouldn’t experience pain’ kind of stuff.

Turns out, I had a doozy of a flare up. Whether be it due to thoughts, weather, or potato chips, i got to slow down again. real slow. slower still.

And I thought, “i can’t possibly need to go slower” and life said to me… “…actually…” and so slower still I went and more insights revealed themselves. Insights on everything from my posture and the way I carry my weight to road blocks in interpreting certain family members’ antics. Insights. Opportunities to notice and change. A whole lot of uncomfortable, but by slowing down and not resisting, a more nuanced step forward, with the kinds of habits and thought processes that will better serve a legacy of health (even if an imperfect expression).

I’ve been excited as I’ve been feeling better to also have the felt sense that the changes got made beyond a superficial fix. When my body really hurts, typically, if i go slowly enough I can find a pace that doesn’t activate any of the pain. i mean, it’s ridiculously slow. it could take me 12 minutes to walk the 30 feet to the kitchen, but what else have I got to do? Whatever plans I had fall directly off a cliff when i have a flare up, and the whole day is mostly stillness or self-explored physical therapy. And some of the revelations and pacing has given me cues to continue to influence the way I walk and stand and interact.

What’s even more exciting is that even as I move into 5th level physical slowness, my mental track shifts gears as well, allowing more inputs and fewer outputs (an increase in noticing that with which I’m interacting, and decrease in intrusive chatter). I can experience more gratitude and less judgement – even about things that obviously really need my judgement (is there actually anything that needs judgement? depends on when you ask me).

I’ve been in a fog for several months, trying to endure it, apply what I know, surrender, look to create for the betterment of all… this flare up feels to mark the distillation of the fog (remembering “Code to Joy” and the idea that an acre of dense fog is about 8 oz of water – an easily manageable amount!) and I trust that I can maneuver within it differently moving forward.

I really thought -for the last few months- that I needed to speed up to get out of the fog. Action is what would transform the energy. I tried all kinds of action. Mostly disappointing results – although plenty of very nice occurrences, too. But it’s not action that is saving me. Once again, it’s a deeper level of slowing down. You’d think I’d bet on that pony more readily, but my habit is to think Quick Wit offers the best odds. I trust I’ll learn sooner or later.

finding the gift in pain?

My sister needed a root canal and said, ‘while i was in pain, i kept trying to do what you do- find the gift in it- and it sucked and i couldn’t find it.’

let me be clear: that’s not what i do.

During pain, I breathe and with my exhalation, try to release resistance to the pain. I use the breath to explore the pain on the inhale (what size/shape/gravity/nature) and melt around it on the exhale. Sometimes I can do this for 1/2 hour. sometimes I can only do it for a couple of breaths. More than once, the pain has gotten so intense I’ve passed out (which actually was welcome because sleep is difficult when in pain). Noticing the pain, releasing resistance, trying to come to equanimity. I use the breath and whatever practices I can remember (like inviting pain to sit on the porch with me and watch the sunset) to be present to the experience of the pain. Sometimes, I just have to take some medicine and sleep (I’ve found 30mg of CBD puts me out reliably). What’s for sure is it slows me down, and I no longer begrudge it the time. My orientation is: My body must be needing something and this is the only way it can get it. OK, I’ll play along. Releasing mental resistence=step one.

The gift I’ve found through pain isn’t in the pain itself. The gift has been in what the experience of pain has done for my life, and does for my life. Deciding not to try to avoid or get away from pain, pain mandates present moment awareness, and sustained present moment awareness at that – even if it’s hard and unpleasant. That present moment awareness lets me look my kids in the eyes to see what they’re really asking – I am convinced I would have given mostly cursory attention and perfunctory answers to most of my kids’ questions had I continued on the path I was careening down prior to pain. I have a thousand examples of something I would’ve zoomed by, I now hold and appreciate and respond to. That’s the gift of pain. It changed the quality of my attention.

Within the moments of pain, sometimes I imagine the pain telling me its origin story. I try to just release resistance – to the story, to the sensation, to anything that’s not pure space. Most of the time I just let pain let me get quiet. This week, it’s been working intensely on my walking. I am sort of a comedy show to watch – extremely slow, but when I go slower than a snail, I am more aware of the shifting of my weight, the orientation of my legs and knees, the drop in my sacrum. I have always been awkward in my body to some degree. I feel this particular bout of pain is going in and correcting some essential habits I developed to work around all of the tension of various unprocessed traumas. I use pain to learn deeper and deeper ways of relaxing. that has nice implications in my pain-free times, too.

So, it’s not so much that i find a gift in the pain – it’s more that by releasing my resistance to pain in general and learning how to be present, many gifts have unfolded in the foundation of my life and my interactions with others and with life itself. I let pain set the pace of my life – a pace I never would have chosen nor been  convinced to embrace, and that pace has transformed me. Do I miss my old pace? Sometimes. But, I also see the constant ‘chasing’ i was doing, and i don’t miss that at all. And through this new pace, I’m able to see the chasing i still do, which brings it into choice, which lets me make a new decision. I never would’ve seen it at my old pace. So, this is another aspect of the gift.

But, I don’t sit enjoying pain. By exploring it, sometimes I can achieve a few breaths or a few moments of equanimity. Sometimes, though, most of my experience is enduring the pain. This last bout, I’ve been practicing Radical Rest where I say, “I am relaxing for my knee” and trying to relax my whole body in honor of the painful knee. I found it super interesting. This is how I occupy myself with pain. I’m a far cry from plucking daisies within it…

trauma

Two things i learned from the trauma summit:

one of trauma’s hallmarks is the idea that there is not enough time.

the physical anxiety of mentally waiting for the next assault is a component of trauma.

These two things defined my life. And, I gotta tell you, I really interpreted life as a series of assaults on my sovereignty and plans that I had to figure out how to fix to move on with my plans. And I was absolutely positive that i was playing against time, and the fear of there actually not being enough time (and enough skill) to actualize my potential – terrifying.

I had balancers, in spiritual and human potential ideas, but I was into the hurried, assailing world hook line and sinker.

I am extremely grateful to be slowing down and disinvesting from that energy field and mindset and method of operation. I can’t imagine how I would’ve done it without pain.

I don’t want to fetishize pain. Pain is no fun. But if it’s here, it must be possible in some version of the world that it’s here to help. That’s the version I want to live in. In any case, I want to live in a world of presence and compassion and savoring and natural timing. However you get there, it’s the place to be.

my orientation

Today I read in Paul Selig’s latest book (I’m going to paraphrase because the book is in the other room and it really hurts to walk) ‘when you make the decision that everything that comes to you is for you, without exception, coming to you as a requirement for growth, that’s when life gets interesting. When we can meet everything as definitely an aspect of God coming to us to be witnessed, related to, and loved as only we can love it. Yeah, that’s a paradigm shift, and the upgrade of all  upgrades.

Do I have pain because i’ve done things wrong and continue to do them wrong? Matters not: It’s here, so it is obviously a requirement for my growth, which i will meet with humility, witness, relation and love. Yeah, that’s so much better than the feeling of the last few days. Maintaining it, remembering, that is the key. but the good news is that when i forget, it becomes unbearable, making me reevaluate and remember. (how many things in my life i’ve learned and forgotten… six months later: wait! i’d already solved this! I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true.)

______

I’ve been flared up which has given me time to watch the Collective Trauma Summit, lucky, lucky me. I’ve learned a lot. I’m buoyed by knowing there are so many talented, brilliant, caring people out in the world seeding connection, compassion, presence and love. I’m grateful to be a blood cell in the current of this artery (is that too weird? i want to feed and expand this pathway, seemed like an ok metaphor)

Everybody, and I mean everybody, talked about the importance of being in your body. Everybody. Several gave nice practices. It made me so excited.

There is no way I would be in my body without this illness – every freaking chance I get to re-speed up, I do (even if just a little). This illness has forcibly placed me – exactly where I want to be. Everyone I respect most talking about what to actually do to bring about society that cares for EVERYONE, they’re all saying, “be here.” and literally, I am exactly there. And, make no mistake, I would not be here. I didn’t even know what here meant. here was just about the most uncomfortable place in the world. i could sit still for 1 second before jumping off into an activity or a mental chattering. being in my body, grounded, still, open, curious, receptive… this did not exist for me. It does now. I have pain to thank.

<insert whole: ‘i’m ready to grow without pain’ section>

I know the value of being in my body, and I’ve developed a lot of practices to lure me back when I get caught up in the mental stream. I really love them and I am excited to express more as that comes. but this dance of being in the body and being in the mind and coming back to the body and being in relationship mindfully, and being in relationship through a mask of isolation – it’s all unfolding, carving that riverbed.

I spend a lot of time consciously turning my attention to my feeling state. I do it a lot.And i’m still at the very beginning of actually “getting it”. so happy to be on the ride.

Thank you for suffering through my tribulation… sometimes I forget it’s all a choice. Am I choosing to be incomplete in the moment, needing something to be whole? Am I choosing to be complete in the moment, laughing off any concept that would hold me as ‘not quite there yet’.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice. But it is.

The choice to remember we are not here to fix ourselves, but to live.

(chinese proverb: the bird does not sing because it has an answer, but because it has a song.)

it is So. Darned. Tempting. to envision a state of being that is improved over the one i am experiencing. i can come up with a thousand little condition improvements that altogether would look like heaven on earth to my conditioned mind of aversions and preferences. it’s just that i want heaven’t version of heaven on earth, not the hodgepodge of learned ‘better’ and ‘worse’s. and the truth of the matter is that life itself is expressing through this exact moment i’m in – and is alive and free and beautiful. when i rest in that, and then allow my creativity to think about what i can contribute (instead of how i should be different, or life should be different) – this is the life i want to live. i don’t want to chase anything anymore, not even awakening or health. i want to relax into and love what is. now. as is.

important to remember.

my wholeness looks like this

After a weekend of reevaluating whether or not i’ve shifted my thoughts well enough – more like a weekend of knowing that i HAVEN’T shifted my thoughts/thinking/beliefs quite enough as evidenced by real swelling and pain – I am delighted to remember the work of The Guides and that I am in agreement to whatever is before me, which comes to me for my benefit and offers me the opportunity to unfold… So, yes, i can feel that this pain is what is before me right now and my sensitivity to it, my willingness to engage and be present, release resistance and feel connection – this is my work. and i’m pretty good at it and find it interesting and expansive. I’m not so good at it that it ‘works’ and takes away all my pain, but here it is before me and so i will meet it with curiosity and openness, just the way i want to meet everything (Caroline Casey and the emotional set point of “woof, woof, wanna play?”)

I can get really hard on myself when I forget. When I think my responsibility is to fix myself. when i can point out all of the ways in which i am failing, if  life is about comfort at every turn…

I suddenly got very frustrated at the idea of the self help industry selling a ‘life can be a cadence of unceasing abundance, if you just do it right… here, try my way’… it’s no different than the constant growth economic model that’s depleting everything on the planet. All good all the time is actually what is happening, whatever we think of it, but it certainly doesn’t look like it all the time, given the values and expectations we all have in our heads about what is good and what is bad.

It would be lovely to be pain-free, and some days I am pretty close. Today is not one of those days, and I believe a big part of it is the stress I have been putting myself under in this “If i were doing it right, i wouldn’t be in pain… I would be able to cure myself” conversation in my head.

Over the decade plenty of people have intimated the New Age wisdom that it’s all in my thoughts, and if I could clean them up, I’d be well. And, the truth is, through this practice, plenty of my thoughts have shifted and I am weller because of it. Anger and frustration have a quick and noticeable impact on my pain levels, and I’ve gotten much better at identifying and moving through those emotions rather than getting caught in the stories and hanging on to them.

Francis Lucille and his “it’s just ignorance” (which I’ve read plenty of times in spiritual  texts) begs the question: then, please, how do I get out of ignorance?

For me, as I make my way through life and navigating my physical challenges, it has to do with relaxing. with remembering wholeness. with consciously connecting to the deep interconnected web of all life. with releasing judgements about what it is supposed to look like or what my experience is supposed to be. being willing and open and curious. with filling my time and mind with possibility and human potential. and for the most part, that keeps my days feeling well-spent.

and then every once in a while, I get caught in this “but if i were doing it right, it would look like this” trap. and maybe that’s true. but I am where I am, and I am doing my best, just like everyone else. I am whole, just as I am. my wholeness is complete whether or not it looks like other visions of wholeness.

it can be confusing, though. I’ll tell you that…