Today

The past two or three weeks…hellish fear alternating with ordinary existence. Up and down, okay and then very not okay, but still okay, somehow. Waking up fully, recently to the apparently dire circumstances of the earth and few interested in taking appropriate action, systems that impose unsustainable ways of living, people everywhere disconnected, leaders and others at the top of the food chain unwilling to relinquish the status quo, the threat of 5G and the globe surrounded by satellites altering the environment we’ve adapted to in ways that are already harming all living things, a blue lit world that interferes with our built in biological master controls. Drugs and unlimited onscreen substitute for real life experiences, automatons instead of critical thinking humans. Inhumane treatment of others everywhere. I can’t believe that this is the shit I’ve awakened to. I wrestle with grief, fear, sadness, anger, disbelief. I keep noticing that there’s been a shift to a way less personal orientation to all of it. It’s less about me, or “happiness” or a career, or my stuff.

There’s my crying over my lost innocence, my thinking that it would all be fine one day after I healed the trauma wounds and figured out my place in the big picture. Then none of it makes sense when there’s no “me” to take seriously. And yet it all makes sense now. All the pieces fit. My lifelong discontent, sadness for the world, why I couldn’t drink the Koolaid in all my Econ classes…externalities waved away, like so much chalk dust on a blackboard. The missing depth when I tried to connect with others, the things I couldn’t tell anyone about because they could not see the same things I saw. Thinking something was wrong with me, but knowing I saw what I saw, all this time, unable to reconcile it and fit somewhere in the world.

Today didn’t turn out like I planned. Maybe I should start letting go of the criticism around that. Maybe I could accept I am not a well-planned kind of human and dump that extra stress, dump all the ideas I ever had about what I am supposed to be. I felt not terrible, despite the poor sleep.

Spent most of the morning til 12:30 outside, grateful. Walking him to the bus stop, gawking at at a neighbor’s beautiful garden on the way back, reading, eating, weeding, watching the mosquitos, and the bumblebees coming back to work, meeting with a friend online for unexpected discussions. Afterward seeing a doe and spotted fawn next door, eyeballing me and the organic buffet of my yard. Trying to talk myself out of my yard and into the gym.

Then I realized I had an appointment earlier than I remembered, and the whole day shifted. I ate lunch and showered and went, and had very good sessions (I still keep being surprised – it feels outside of my control, somehow, larger than me), discovered the third client had canceled but I had missed the info.

So there was no painting trim, no meditating, no exercise. There was the cup of tea I hadn’t planned. Catching beetles, watering some wilted garden friends. Choosing to run the grocery errand, clean the kitchen and make dinner, instead of computer work.

I heard myself say while talking to the friend this morning, there is no strategy that works anymore for the fear. “Even trying to get ground makes no sense”, I say, “because… well, I AM the ground.” It’s indescribable. I connect with my body, my center, my me-ness, and then it suddenly shifts and it feels like it’s EVERYTHING. It’s not mine. It’s the earth and the sky and the void and me and it’s shifting, alive, breathing. It’s all happening inside the space of that. And it isn’t anything inside of anything. It’s all one thing. I cannot place the hierarchy I used to use. It doesn’t fit. Everything just IS. It doesn’t need my help.

As we talk, the friend and I, I realize there is no point in trying to find a safe place to be with all that’s happening. I try to convey this and succeed a little. I tell her I’m content to leave it an open question right now…how to be with what’s happening to the earth, to people, and the traumatic disconnection that supports all that appears to be so destructive. I’m not sure I made any sense.

I’m embarrassed about not holding the meeting last night that I was so interested in having when I announced at meditation it a week ago, to try to read Joanna Macy or David Loy together, to DO something. I know I may still have to come and go from the terror of what might happen to me or those I love because of the environment’s effects, and I will try my best to view this as  the doorway to freedom and not turn away from the opportunity.

As the day goes on, I realize, every story has a bias, and I cannot find one that is more true than another. This is so disorienting. Nowhere to rest my head. At least it’s shifting fast enough to save me the embarrassment of starting some campaign or another only to have the understanding and the energy pulled out from underneath it all like a rug. I have experiences of others working very hard to avoid this place, or tocompletely numb to it, or substituting comfortable perspectives in order to cope – just to survive. I understand and feel no judgement in this moment.

I wonder at how and why I keep going in this journey. It truly feels like every teacher’s description: a combination of Grace and integrity – following the trail that leads to the truth of being, no matter where it goes. I’m starting to feel less pull to keep “working on my trauma”. Every time I get on a table, or sit in the client chair, or even meditate, the wave of unfolding starts and goes until the last minute of the hour. It’s predictable now, and feels ordinary, and as it should be. The unwinding is just happening, no trying or efforting. Less fear today, in this moment, about where it’s all going. Something seems fundamentally different today, and I am grateful. Sweet relief.

 

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Things I Can Do Now

It’s 9:40. He’s turned down the travel options I offer several times. I linger only a moment in disappointment. It’s hot and humid though the sun is long down since it was 91 degrees, and I’m hoping they’re still there. I slip on my shoes and a red Buckeyes cap and say bye, and hop on my bike with anticipation. I skip the helmet, expecting a smooth ride on dark, quiet neighborhood roads. I realize I don’t have my bike lit for night riding and promise myself to be careful. It’s my secret mini-rebellion. It’s the 3rd time on my bike today, and I feel grateful. I briefly think of the previous owner – my late father in law – and how he loved to ride. It’s a beautiful machine.

I ride smoothly through the still air, all downhill, passing a deer at the end of the street, I slowly turn left past it and stare as it watches me pass, my basket rattling as I travel over bumps, the thick breeze barely cool on my skin but keeps the mosquitos at bay, random bugs tapping me in the face along the way. No walkers out. The late dusk ride feels like flying. Only two cars on the way. I keep my visor down to avoid the blinding headlights of anxious drivers using their highbeams on quiet neighborhood streets, but checking for parked cars ahead to avoid calamity. Intending to return to the same park where I saw them before, I accidentally overshoot the mark…too far south. I take the path in and survey my options. I wonder if there’s a penalty for being there after dark.

The trail is dark, and I feel a spike of nerves as I press onward. It quickly turns to excitement and tell myself it’ll be ok. I watch for animals and other late night trail inhabitants, but there are none. I banish the thought of branches or other unseen obstacles. I have to look just a few feet ahead, in order to see; looking out further produces blindness. I pass two parks as I head north, trying to remember in the dark if it’s the next one or not, and suddenly, I recall the daytime image of where I am, and see the trail downhill ahead is under water. I briefly contemplate trying to ride through, but can’t tell how deep it is, and instead take an alternate route, through woods, a mulch trail, and hope my skinny road bike tires won’t be pierced by a splinter. The path curves through a little dark grove of trees and opens into the park I seek – I recognize the outline of the giant sycamore against the sky, with the picnic table beneath, just beyond the unmowed stretches of meadow on either side of the path before they become lawn.

I ride toward the path exit and turn around so I can approach and see the meadow backed by forest, like a stage, for the thousand fireflies blinking like fairy lights. I’m excited, grateful, and relieved it’s still going on. The show is accompanied by crickets, the highway sounds, and the faint popping of premature fireworks from the neighborhoods north. The Big Dipper overhead, I watch with wonder, riding back and forth between the park entrance and the riverside trail, lucky to have a loop made by two trail exits that join and head to the sycamore. I stop on my bike more than once to stare, stock still in awe, not that concerned about the mosquitoes that are biting.

Round and round I ride, careful each time I enter the riverside trail, wondering if there are skunks, and mystified by the lack of others wanting to see the spectacle. Riding through the trees on the trail I look up for as long as I dare, balancing carefully in the dark, to see pink clouds between the black treetop silhouettes against a baby blue sky. It is a marvelous combination of light and dark, with the highway lights reflecting off of the high river water of recent rains on my right. I keep going around counter clockwise, carefully following the shadows of the trail, almost falling off around one of the sharp turns while looking at the sky.

Opposite the flashing river, I see the faint lights of kitchen windows and family room that back up to the park. I wonder if they can see the firefly show. I wonder how no one can be here to appreciate this except me. I keep riding, listening to crickets and fireworks, staring up at the show that extends high into the trees. I think how the blinking is like fireworks. I think about catching fireflies in a jar as a kid and how much I loved those times outside at night in the summer, playing tag or chasing the lightning bugs. As I ride, “one more time”, and “one more time” again, through the trail circle, from river to road, and back, riding in and out of the fairy show, darkness thickens. The show becomes more spectacular. I think, “take a mental picture you might need when you’re 80 and can’t get here”. Then I think, “I’m coming back tomorrow” and “I’ll do this even when I’m 80,” trying not to think whether there will be fireflies, or trees, or an earth, or an 80 year old me, in 30 years.

I keep riding in the night air, thinking lightly of the time, not wanting to worry him by being gone too long. One last time I leave, looking back, trying not to fall off my bike, and not returning. I put my cap back on and head into the tree lined streets with randomly lit lampposts. Uphill now, I downshift. Not as fast, but still a thrill in the dark summer air. I try to feel it…summer…a week past solstice. Almost July. It feels like a dream. I appreciate the safe little neighborhood, and my little secret adventure. I feel free, fearless, grateful, unworried. It doesn’t quite feel like I decided to do it, rather, more like something led me there tonight.

I couldn’t have done it before. Not like this – unafraid and free. An imprint of pure summer  on my brain and body. Not needing permission, not needing company, not grasping for more. Perfection. I’m alive.

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Roller Coaster

Holy Cow! I cannot believe what a ride. Expansion after beautiful expansion, each followed by a contraction. The contractions seem to feel more horrible each time. Like a Parthian shot, the old patterns seem to announce in a Monty Python voice, “I’m not dead yet!”, an insult to the beatific and spacious expansions in my meditation and therapy sessions. Tight contracted weeping and fear.

Moods swing wildly between “there’s nothing to fix, all is well,” and “the world is ending tomorrow (or sometime soon after)”. This is punctuated by periods of extreme listlessness and tension, and an inability to take action on much of anything new in an organized way, and then blessed moments of feeling grounded, inspired and alive. It comes in spurts. House painting, journaling, exercising, reading, gardening…but no recognizable rhythm to any of it. Sleep is all over the place, energy is all over the place. I still can’t stick to a regular bedtime or rising time. Yet, I’m eating well, keeping moving, still meditating, and moving forward. I can still feel my body in ways that never were possible before. I’m still curious about the relationship of all this new sensing to living, and pleasure, and sex.

I see people doing things I want to do, having it all together, and feel jealous, hopeless, defeated. Then I take inventory and find I don’t really want those things at all, and feel terrified, because I used to want them, and I still have no idea what will fill its place. If I can’t sustain any energy to BE SOMEONE, or ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS then what’s it all about? I am closer than ever to just moving through life as it directs, surrendering to the obvious, doing what I am clearly meant to do, and dropping ideas about image, success, and the regard of others. Those things haven’t gone lightly or willingly, though. They are the cost of doing business in this awakening game. I can no longer sustain the energy to pursue them. I can only pursue what is genuine in me. I know what that is by how I feel when I stray from it – like being dead.

My work with clients, though, has never been better. It is stupefying. I feel so incredibly strong and clear in the space of the intention to support others. If I can hold my seat on this roller coaster ride, I’m hoping it will level out a bit and I can feel more settled in my own life. The panic of “there’s no safe place anywhere” is becoming more and more clearly understood as a pattern rather than a reality.  It provides a doorway for me to access the unfinished business as I faithfully continue BCST and SE sessions in a less desperate and more knowing confident way of feeling the coming to the end of the most serious work.

I’m reminded when I feel intensely unsafe that I have a way to connect to Source, through my body, in a reliable way. I can just sense it there. Interestingly enough, it seems to follow the length of my torso, from the top of my head to the tip of my tail – the sense of something bigger than me, inhabiting this form in the center of my body. Yep, just checked – it’s still there. Even when I can’t stand to be in my own skin because it is so uncomfortable, I have a sense of “everything keeps changing”, and a knowing that the desperate impulse to change my external surroundings will not fix everything. And yet, my deep longing to be nearer nature, with less noise and artificial light, persists. It has been with me ever since I remember. It is a part of my me-ness.

This change process seems to require the courage, dedication and conviction of a warrior. I get the Bodhisattva meaning more than ever now. Holding my ground as everything falls away, no belief left untouched, as though I’m on a little iceberg in the middle of the ocean, and it’s melting. I know I can swim. I know I have beautiful friends in the ocean. A part of me longs to be one with the great dark aliveness of the water, and let the current sweep me away in its embrace.

I write this to you, my Friends, because I don’t think anyone ever talks about this part of the process. They always talk about the pretty parts. The pretty parts are indeed very pretty, for sure! I’m writing to you from this moment of “all is well” to tell you I really do think it will all be well. This is what change is like. This is what it is like to allow healing and awakening to have its way with you, to surrender body, mind, soul and emotions to the uniquely divine purpose of your being. I had no idea. How could I?

 

 

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From Having to Being

Fromm talks a lot in his books about the journey to becoming and being. I feel like it’s all just been a bunch of words and ideas until recently. Probably because I didn’t, couldn’t (how could I?), know about the necessity of being embodied, of actually having a body, in order to be, well…ANYTHING!

I really had no I idea how literally the disconnection from self manifests. When I first started to have Somatic Experiencing sessions, one of the very first things that caught my attention was the experience of less tension in my gut. It was amazing!

After that, there were experiences of being able to feel parts of my body as I never had before – almost as though someone had plugged me back in or reconnected the wire to my brain that would allow me to register that part of me as real and really mine. I could FEEL it in a different way. It’s like it was numb before, and then suddenly it was not.

Lately this has started to happen to my face, my mouth, inside my ears, the soles of my feet, the insides of my legs, my butt and all my girl parts – not all at the same time, but in a patterned sequence connected to the content I’m working on in sessions at that time.

This last and most recent awakening of my body, the ability to sense myself as female, has had a really startling side effect…there’s a playfulness now that wasn’t there before – just for the sake of play. Silliness, goofiness, curiosity, appreciation for things around me and about my body I never experienced before. I don’t know what to call it except joy. Pure and simple pleasure of being alive. I could never have predicted this, or guessed the trajectory, or what it would feel like to be here. I’ve read a lot of spiritual and self help books that hinted at this, but the experience is quite unbelievable. A week ago I felt like a 5 year old, then became 11 for a day, and then 13, then 22, and now back to my own age.

What persists is the pleasure of aliveness. I didn’t have the spontaneous collapsing of all reality into a “oneness” that includes the toilet brush. It’s been a bit by bit coming alive these past few years. And seemingly suddenly, here it is. The pleasure of air on my skin, the solidness of the ground beneath, the sun or the rain or the moon, the touch of my partner, touching my partner, eating a meal together, a spontaneous smile when others pass nearby. And, the  interconnectedness of all things feels like just an ordinary and wonderful fact of life. The total lack of effort – spontaneous gratitude – is astounding. 

That does not mean that there are no challenges, no contractions, no resistances. These extraordinary experiences of newness are already starting to integrate and become normal being for me. But I am positioned now better than ever to create more and more of the life I really want because I can FEEL. Shedding the trauma held in my body has made it safe to do that. I can see now how impossible that was from a place where I wasn’t able to feel myself, or feel safe being a self, or feel safe moving in the spontaneous ways that self wants to move. How do you know what you want or don’t want if you can’t feel?

This journey hasn’t been exactly like anyone else’s experience that I’ve heard or read, but there have been many helpful pointers and similarities along the way – just enough, I’d say. Perfect, even. If I could have had some extra advice along the way, I’d have wanted to have someone to whisper over and over, “Keep going. Don’t ever give up the dream of being alive. Whatever form that longing takes for you now, protect that flame of desire and keep going. Your experiences matter more than anything else. Don’t spend too much time comparing yourself to others. Take breaks from thinking about negative things. Just keep going and follow the path however it shows up.” Even without the whisperer, I guess something in me played that role anyway.

The trauma work has been crucially important in opening the way to higher consciousness and spontaneous joy.  I feel so grateful for the impulse toward life, for Somatic Experiencing, and for BCST. Transcendance is nice – truly, but it just doesn’t compare to the dual experience of consciousness plus embodiment. I’m grateful for every coincidence, every synchrony, every single thing that helped me get to here and now.

Joy to you today and always.

-c

 

 

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Spinning

I’m writing as much as I can before I have to go the office to meet clients. It’s been bothering me that I haven’t written more recently than this, but things are changing (in me) so quickly now that as soon as I start to write, it’s different again.

Today I had a session where I had support to contact and bring back online the parts of me that make me a woman…my curves, my parts, my essential femaleness. I’m aware it wasn’t safe to fully inhabit these parts while I was growing up, and all of the factors that play a role.

It’s going on 6 years since the very first time I ever heard about a thing called Somatic Experiencing, and so I think, wow, a lifetime of severe trauma and PTSD, and it took only 6 years to become a whole human again. I get why some people might not want to invest in that. And, in truth, I’ve probably been working on this healing process since I was 5 (that’s 45 yrs, give or take). For 6 years I’ve worked on it in all my somatic trainings where we practice on each other, practice and trade with my peers, studied polyvagal theory and SE, paid for ongoing SE, BCST, and Rolfing and polarity work, and meditated and studied nonduality and spirituality nonstop. I’ve been lucky to also be a demo in trainings with some highly skilled teachers: Dave Berger, Abi Blakeslee, Raja Selvam, Peter Levine. Those  experiences have all been pivotal in their own way.

The demo with Peter at the end of March really seems to have shifted everything into high gear, like a million tiny pieces falling into place, still falling. I worked on a tonsils surgery from childhood, which I never would have guessed was holding up so much of my ability to move forward in life.

Last Saturday I had a session with an assistant at Dave Berger’s BASE training,  and it seemed like I suddenly had a 3d face after that. Now 5 days later, I also have a 3d body.

People ask me what it’s going to look like, how long it’s going to take, and I wish I could tell them. I can only say that I know that any effort put toward awakening to yourself is never wasted. I notice that with right support, the thing that wants to bubble up next to be processed just seems to arise, and that there’s no wrong place to start, because, as I’m discovering in ways my mind could only guess, it’s all connected.

Have a wonderful, loving, living, breathing, beautiful human day. I’m off to work.

Peace

 

(I’ll fill in links to the people and things in this post later this evening if you want to check back.)

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Moving Beyond Safety

It’s been pretty amazing to watch this organic shift that starts to happen when we reach a tipping point in our sense of safety. I’ve anticipated that I’ve been headed toward something new, but couldn’t quite vocalize it, nor identify it. It did seem to become more accessible as I continued, and continue, to work on the fear in whatever forms it seems to arise. And then I’ve had to push myself, with help, to go to places I don’t know if I would have gone on my own…to make real change, without the assurance that it is in the exact perfect direction, but it is movement! nonetheless.

The main thing I want to share with you today is that eternal bliss is not the goal. I have heard this many times, but until recently it was only mind stuff. I could not allow for another option, given the amount of unsafety I had experienced at very vulnerable times in life. I could conceive of the logic of bliss not being the endpoint, but I could never imagine it for myself until recently. You may, and I certainly did, hold eternal calm/safety/bliss/relief as the goal while facing head-on the Leviathon that is developmental trauma. That is just fine. It is also good information to let you know where your are at in your nervous system development. And then at some point, I cannot predict for you when, you will start to be interested in life, and want to poke your head out into the world, and begin to wonder what it really possible for you out there.

Through a series of recent discoveries, it’s suddenly quite clear to me in a new way that discomfort is not the enemy. It is information. It can tell us to reposition our bodies, or that there is something to pay deeper attention to, or it could be a an incomplete self protection response waiting to express and finish its business. And, it can also be our bodymind’s way of communicating to us that something NEW is happening. Our ages old wiring tells us to PAY ATTENTION TO NEW STUFF in case there is something we will need to respond to. It does this with BIG FEELINGS that can be incredibly uncomfortable, and that our minds may mistakenly predict based on our past experiences COULD BE VERY BAD, EVEN DANGEROUS! If we just accept this mind interpretation, we might even be able to find something bad happening to justify the interpretation and satisfy the part of us that wants to keep running that same old program. Rinse. Repeat.

NEW could be bad, but it could just as easily be neutral or good. Unresolved trauma is what gets in the way of being able to tolerate discomfort that arises when we move toward our authenticity, when we try to stretch to satisfy the needs for variety and adventure that make us feel alive in the world. The difficulty making accurate assessments of safety is called faulty neuroception. It’s a short in our system for being able to tell safe from not safe. Imagine how devastating this can be for someone who has a hard time feeling safe and is working really hard to figure out how to establish some modicum of security in the world. Or maybe you already know.

Stretching ourselves doesn’t have to come in the form of overwork, overdoing, overexercising, or overextending ourselves. We don’t have to cliff jump in a squirrel suit or ride motorcycles without helmets. These seem to be forms of pursuit that lead to breakdown of the mind and body, and eventually to illness or early death. These forms of pushing beyond our limits seem to be more an unconscious numbing the intolerability of intense feelings and experiences than they are really living fully. Finding meaningful work, play, partners and friends; being adequately appreciated for our work and care; saying no to things that we know we should; and continuously moving toward our potential and responding to life’s challenges can provide plenty of excitement in themselves. Things that get in the way of of that are likely traumatic stress-related.

Stretching ourselves in the form of risking everything to be who we really are takes guts no matter what, but it also takes nervous system capacity. Trying to do it without capacity is a drag! Illness, long recovery times, constant setbacks. Having experiences that made us feel unsafe or unwelcome at a very early age, perhaps even from the time of conception, can make almost any amount of charge stimulated by just living feel life threatening. It can literally shut us down and send us into hiding, scrambling to find some sense of safety. And that response is completely involuntary – an artifact of previous experiences. It may feel completely out our control, and in a lot of ways, it really is, until we get a better sense of what our body is trying to do. It may take a long time for us to start to turn attention toward what is happening inside, because it is so uncomfortable in there. Once we can make some sense of what our body/nervous system is saying, we can start to work with it and not against it. We can finally be on our own team!

I’m so happy to realize and share with you this newfound breath of fresh clarity I have about the difference between various forms of coaching, and deep nervous system informed psychotherapeutic work that addresses this shutting down effect. Some signs that you might want to look more deeply into how to cultivate more therapeutic experiences of safety for your nervous system healing include:

  • chronic feelings of unrealized potential
  • difficulty being in groups, crowds or in public spaces
  • limitations on your movements or activities because of fear or anxiety
  • paralysis when trying to make movement on your goals
  • freeze, dissociation or panic when encountering stressors
  • discomfort or difficulty being at ease around others
  • mental/emotional/physical exhaustion after doing activities you like or being with people you care about
  • random unexpected anxiety peaks
  • longstanding depresssion or fatigue
  • feelings of derealization
  • always feeling like a fraud or like you will be found out
  • not being able to take in or feel appreciation, comfort, connection, or pride
  • feeling very young and vulnerable, and feeling pressure to hide it or get over it
  • meds or tools work for a little while but never satisfactory or don’t last

These are not all the ways to tell you might have unresolved nervous system dysregulation, but I think they paint a good picture for you. There’s a ton of well meaning self help literature and helpers out there who do not know or understand the neurophysiology of trauma, nor how to treat it. Educate yourself so you can target your time, energy and money you put into it. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad because you can’t do the thing, whatever that is, that they are telling you to do, that is supposed to fix the problem. If you’re stuck, it’s likely there’s a good reason. Listen…can you hear it? Your body is trying to talk to you! I so hope you can be your own best friend and start to listen. Just start, in the tiniest way to you can manage. Get a guide who knows the territory, if you need one.

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Shiny vs Light

I saw this clip on a morning program today about a person who has achieved “viral” fame on Facebook for packaging and dispensing soundbites of mindfulness wisdom for the masses. Yes, I occasionally watch this dumb shit. As a therapist, I consider it part of my job to stay a bit in touch with what people are being fed through the boob tube – decade-old health advice, drug pushing, ridiculous recipes, fear mongering, sensationalism, frosted with gossip, fashion advice and the deal of the week. Understanding a bit about the environmental impacts people are coping with helps me understand the total load on their nervous systems.

As I listened to this very attractive person give “live” on the spot advice to the hosts, and watched them reel off a list of his accomplishments, pictures him and his work, I could feel the pull…”wow, if only I could do that”. And “he’s legit!” After all, he was AN ACTUAL MONK for 3 years! If I could make shiny videos, or give those talks or appeal to the masses, then…oh wait – I don’t have the monk thing for street cred…and then I caught myself. Mesmerized by the shiny. There are a few extremely young, hip, very visible individuals on social media who do this sort of thing. Their videos are captivating. And after the video is done… Have they impacted me? Does this change anyone or stick in any significant way?  I don’t know. I think a few of them are pretty awesome…Prince Ea, Russell Brand. They can say unpopular things, opposing mass beliefs, addictions, habits. And there are some really real ones out there, risking, telling the truth, doing it their own way, no matter the cost. My friend Elena comes to mind.

What happened today for me was a moment of clarity. I’m really not motivated by the shiny any. I am after the real. I am after true light, not just the reflections. I don’t need to be someone else. This is what I have to offer others. My whole life has been a journey of trying to move away from the need to entertain and maintain the interest of shallow wounded people, confused about why it felt so empty even though they excited me and attracted me and looked so good on the outside. When you’re deprived of connection for so long, you’ll do anything to get it, and settle for scraps, pretending to be whatever anyone wants. Hiding your real self away for approval, for acceptance, for attention.

I want to be real. With me, with you, with the world. I don’t want to feed anyone a line of shit just to make them feel better. I don’t want to pretend anymore. There’s not time. I want to stand up for what’s real. I want to feel others, and be felt by them. As I keep doing my own internal work, I can feel my own being while in relationship more and more, and it makes it possible to be at ease, to have difficult conversations, to be my real self, to be truly present for others. It beats the living daylights out of the pretend relationships – no contest. I can name what’s real so we can hold a space for it. I know that they can feel me there, and feel the safety in it, because they get better. They can see things that weren’t accessible to their conscious awareness before. They change. They marvel at the safety they feel.

Motivational sound bites have their place. I always have the quote nearby from Marianne Williamson about our deepest fear being our light, not our darkness that most scares us. I have the Teddy Roosevelt quote hanging on my wall where I can see it every time I look up from my screen, “It is not the critic who counts;…”. I’m always underlining brilliant passages in my books, and savoring beautiful quotes that point at Truth. These things matter. They are guideposts.

And what I know now, is that more than ever we live in a world where no one seems to be listening, everyone is overwhelmed and wants to escape, and the joys of capitalism offer us a million and one ways to numb the unbearable, muffling the part of us screaming that we need to pay attention. We need safety and presence and real connection in order to be able to attend to those ignored parts of us. Not diagnosis and eradication through either medical or mindful means. Guideposts will not be enough to support real change.

I want to help people stop playing whack a mole – getting rid of their symptoms and having  them continually pop up in another form. I want to help people be curious about what their bodies and the experiences of life are trying to tell them if they knew how to listen, or even thought for a second that they should. All you have to do is look around to see the sickness; anxious kids, angry drivers, everyone looking at phones nonstop, guzzling coffee and sugar, doing drugs, drinking and eating and exercising themselves to death, ever-increasing rates of cancer and gut problems and autoimmune diseases.

I don’t want to sell people some flashy mindfulness garbage about how meditation or enlightenment is going to make all of their problems or symptoms go away. I don’t want to make it easier for people to go on ignoring the messages life is screaming at them, to go on living lives of quiet desperation. Yes, it may make you feel better for a while, but in the end, thankfully, all techniques are doomed to fail. We are wonderfully and fearfully made to wake up, no matter what, and encounter ourselves as we are.

There are many heroines/heroes; many people whom I admire are doing fantastic things out there. I am grateful to them all, AND I am excavating the places that hide my courage. The courage to be what I am, and not worry about being shiny or pleasing. To not need to copy or model myself after them or anyone else who’s already been approval stamped. To let my own light shine however it wants to, and give you the courage to let yours shine. To show up for you and write here for you as my realest self. To motivate you to excavate and find your own light to add to the sea of lights out there so together we might burn off the veneer of shallowness and fear and trauma with the power of our lights combined. To truly live free.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles
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