i’m doing it again

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

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

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

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

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

what if just being who we are is enough?

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

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

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

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

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

willingness

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

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

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

But they’re all just stories!

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

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

it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad

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

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

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

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

Willingness is half the battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

it’s worth it

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson #1: Don’t believe your thoughts.

That really is where all of the damage is done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice for difficult times….

I actually don’t have any. Every difficult time is unique. It’s got its own set of subtleties, nuances and intricate systems that no one can really predict, probably least of all the person in the difficulty. Tai Chi is like that: there is no rulebook. You simply need to be in the moment and respond naturally. That mindset has helped me enormously this week, that and my therapist’s advice.

I started seeing a therapist at the beginning of the year because I was advocating therapy for people I love and I was following the Ghandi “don’t eat sugar” story. [short version: lady comes to Ghandi and asks “please tell my son to stop eating sugar!” Ghandi replies, “come back in 2 weeks” so 2 weeks later she makes the trek again, he tells the kid to stop eating sugar and the mom says “why didn’t you tell him 2 weeks ago” and Ghandi says “because 2 weeks ago I was still eating sugar”). Anyway, little did I know when I made the appointment the depth of need I would have for this resource before all was said and done.

And this is key: it is never “all said and done.”

We humans keep looking to tidy things up, forgetting perhaps that life is this ever-flowing, ever-dynamic profusion of change. It’s like Mr. Incredible… “can’t the world stay saved for 5 minutes?!” Not that I’m saving anything, but I do fall into the trap of wanting to get to “happily ever after” as if everything stayed put in that dynamic. It’s a strange proclivity of us humans, especially given the fact that all of nature is demonstrating that that is not the way things truly are.

I am not particularly used to emotional upheaval. I certainly was as a child, and I developed a lot of strategies that were very helpful at the time, but which I outgrew without taking off. This last decade has been a slow roll of identifying and releasing those patterns and I am super grateful, but, geezohmy can we please be done sometime soon?

What has been most helpful this week – well 3 things – the first is prayer. Normally I enjoy a nice mantra with my issues, but this one was so deep and heavy, all I could get to was “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” Very helpful. If my mind is reaching for God in any way, I can feel better just for that fact.  Helpful thing #2 was my therapist’s homework: “Today’s homework is TODAY” not the past, not the future. Focus on today until we shore up the resources to address the past or future with a clearer head. Maybe the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Helpful thing #3 is the idea that evolution only occurs in one direction. Any attention to any direction other than love and moving forward  is attention ill-spent. And since my only objective is evolving, any of those other thought-stream traps I used to chew on is participation in a drama. The drama is compelling. The drama seems valid. The drama is not what I want. Thus, my 3 things are saving me.

I absolutely Must Stop making Grand Pronouncements

You’d think I’d’ve learned this by now. I seem addicted to Grand Pronouncements (“I will never <insert bad habit> here” “We should do <insert good habit here> every week” “I no longer <insert annoying trait” etc). I seem to love doing it, given how often I do it. I’ve been wanting to stop for some time now, but actually haven’t put much effort towards it beyond catchy post titles (and further proclamations).

The right person could easily come into my house and make my kitchen towels bright white. And probably other dull things like t-shirts that used to be bright white. I literally have no idea how to do it, and the few time’s I’ve used bleach I’ve just ruined and spotted things. It’s not my forte.

I’ve spent a long time trying to determine what my forte is, but mostly what I have come up with are all of the shortcomings. So I’m pretty clear on the long list of what my forte is NOT. I think it’s time for that to evolve a bit and get into discovery. Mostly because I am pretty clear on my overall next steps – to develop more kindness and compassion as I practice, practice, practice slowing down and connecting to Presence. I’m not sure exactly what that is going to look like, and this blog is actually my first baby step. But the rest of it: the big picture: is elusive. And I am sick to death of making “this is it!” pronouncements. I’ve got a long list of failed entrepreneurial ventures (and a few little successes to treasure) and now I just want to be curious.

My brain is not in charge anymore, or at least not with the complete dictatorial madness it’s had over the years. My body is totally in on the game through all of these practices (FINALLY. Seriously, I had no idea) and my body is not into grand pronouncements at all. It’s into feeling out the present moment and responding in kind. Such a better plan than the control freak who was at the wheel for So. Freaking. Long.

I honestly have very little clue what the next period of time looks like. Things are shifting for our family on so many levels, mostly based on choice but also based on circumstance. I don’t want to take a step and proclaim the mission, because the next step shouldn’t be encumbered by that limited idea of step one. This needs to be a dynamic, unnamed process. I think it’s my only chance at true being-ness. And being, growing, evolving is a path that doesn’t try to predict or control the future, but revels in the NOW, no matter what that looks like (which is hard).

maybe the scariest day I’ve had

Today, while reading about repression I had a moment. Or perhaps the moment had me. All of the sudden, my body started to shake. Well, actually, it took me about 10 attempts to read this one paragraph, and a full half an hour to get through the page, and then the stuff started in my body and then i experienced the emergence of a lie I told, something i had rationalized and minimized and thought I’d addressed sufficiently to be “over.” Yeah. Not so much in my body. My body let me know today that it was NOT OK.

My body has been letting me know for years that I have things to address to be the person I want to be. Part of me has felt for some time that the journey of illness – well, that the body is on my side and that anywhere this journey takes me is someplace I need to go. And I have been brave. and relentless. You will have a hard time finding a rock I have been unwilling to turn over. Until today. Then about 20 little rocks poured down – little bits of shame and frustration, absolute aghastness at what an asshole I can be and have been and  seem to not be able to shake being.

I had an experience several months ago with trauma in my elbows. It had been a physical experience that was traumatic, but quick, and so I sortof mentally blocked it out as over without fully processing it. I was surprised – because it was so long ago. and over. I barely even remembered it. I didn’t recognize the trauma much less its lack of resolution. My range of motion in my arms opened up significantly and a certain level of pain stopped. I have been dumpster-diving every single stinking thing in my past, and the stuff that has tripped me up, and comes to be  “healing events” are SO unexpected. This? This is what it got me stuck? Seriously? OK. I guess so.

My whole body has been shaky all day. There’s something here. And oddly enough it is requiring me to rethink everything i think i know about myself, re-look at stories I had spun to make more acceptable. I’m practically a professional at re-spinning stories.

Luckily, I’m also practically a professional at surrendering to Life Itself. Because without the deep and consistent practice I have been cultivating these many years, I have too many reasons to hate myself today, too many stupid things I’ve done, too many bull-in-a-china-shop moments, too many acts of total unconscious foolishness and fear. All those things. And for every redeeming quality I might have, I can match it with so many moments of Just. Plain. Wrong.  All I can do is surrender. Surrender and stand in amazement at the quality of friends in my life, the utter amazingness of my husband, the patience of my family.  I have not made this life easy on those around me. I have difficult ways of being. And because Tucker is so patient with me, I guess I got to thinking I wasn’t so difficult.

And so, tonight, as I lay me down, I have no choice but to surrender. I know that wallowing in my thoughts is literally the most foolish thing I can do. I know believing our thoughts is the source of our suffering. And my dear teacher Byron Katie’s Work will have me know that the opposite of whatever I am thinking is at least as true. We are, all of us, equal. We are, all of us, imperfect. We are, all of us, doing more than we understand with our limited minds. Life is so much bigger than we know. All I can hope to do is evolve. To love better, bigger, more fully – ever greater expressions of love, freedom and relationship. To Love itself. Expressing and evolving. As and through us. Even when, sometimes, we are idiots.

 

i don’t believe my thoughts, therefore I am…

What I am noticing today is that the less I believe in my thoughts, the grander they become to try to get my attention. and maybe i start to believe it a little bit before, phew! oh, yeah! just a thought! phew. And then another. and then another. but, again, how far down the rabbit hole I go before “choosing” as the Ascension people would say, or turning to God. Turning to God, again and again. If there is anything I want to get mastery in – i want turning to God to always be my experience, opening to Life itself, knowing it as the all-loving creator’s embrace. Tai Chi is next, but somehow I think tai chi would just be a natural part of being fully present in God-consciousness.

People like Byron Katie are really a boon. To systematically choose bliss, snip, snip, anything else. it all leads back to bliss and we can talk about it all day but witnessing it brings it more alive. Trusting the universe so completely because IT IS WHAT IS and it’s doing a splendid job of unfolding, as evidenced by its unfolding, regardless of any commentary you could bring about why it should be another way. Loving What Is. Radical.

Gene talks about Tai Chi wanting to be known. That even people very new to it can have some advanced tai chi moments in moments of need. I also think stillness wants to be known. that’s why i think every breath counts. If you take even one deep, intentional breath each day – with the objective of noticing your body breathe in and noticing it breathe out, and not being in the ‘thought stream’ for just that noticing. I think i need to get better descriptors of that, or more, but anyhow, i believe just that one breath will act as a supermagnet. it will find ways to make you want to add to it. at least for me.

a lot of people don’t want to slow down, and a lot of people can’t. but everyone, i think, wants to know how to truly relax. and that might just be a really important framing for this work. getting into the car/brakes metaphor, you need this skill – and people don’t have it and consequently extra stress, people with insomnia… deep rest, full-body relaxation, that’s a really essential capacity of this human form. and it’s a capacity I spent a lot of years paving over, and really stopped my capacity for. and as i am developing capacity the busy world keeps dancing in front of me, trying to get me to think this worry is something that needs my attention! It might be life-changing! All. The. Time.

Which is why I need so many cues. It’s why I’m always developing new ones. My habituated tendency defaults to action, to accomplishing. As soon as I feel better I should be accomplishing more. Still. After a decade.  But a decade wherein I built a structure that makes it less and less “the sky is falling” and more and more “this should be interesting…”