the water we swim in

Recently, I was talking with a very dear and trusted friend and fellow coach about the inherent challenge in learning to hold two seemingly opposite sets of feelings about the same thing, person, situation or experience. Her response immediately provided a broader context for my growing awareness. She said, “It’s the water we swim in, right?” We are not necessarily shown that the “both and” is an ok place to be with anything. In fact, we are taught that the “either or” is the way forward.

After a brief pause, I realized just how profound her response was. Here we are, in this crazy time in our human history, seeking to find a way forward that is peaceful, loving and mutually supportive of all…and holding opposite feelings or perspectives is generally not what we are taught to realize as normal. Somehow we learn that we have to choose one feeling or the other feeling…as if the two, on balance cannot truly co-exist. Perhaps this isn’t as true for you as it has been for me…for my whole life! And perhaps it is also true that our collective reluctance to hear or see those who are different or hold different beliefs than we do may be rooted in this “either or” culture we live in and unconsciously perpetuate.

Full disclosure…my sun sign is Libra and I have a Libra stellium (Sun, Jupiter and Mars) in the 12th house. Yep…a LOT of Libra!! So, my tendency to live the extremes is well entrenched. Throwing the “baby out with the bath water” isn’t an uncommon way to describe the ways I can be extreme in my behavior and choices. Learning to moderate this part of my being –  slowing down or completely standing down, when I feel that overwhelming need to move quickly in one direction – has been an interesting process over these years. Many believe that we Librans are balanced by nature. Nope! We are learning balance!

“What is behind your eyes holds more power than what is in front of them.”

– Gary Zukav

What I have found to be true with my habit of believing that I must choose one feeling or perspective over the other is that I begin to tell myself a story about my present situation or growing dilemma. It’s as if I force myself to choose one side of the apparent dilemma and create a story that is supposed to make the choice alright. Except it no longer works for me. I have begun to see and feel the discomfort and outright suffering that I have created for myself all of these years.

“Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.”

– Epictetus

If none of this is making sense, here is an example.

About a year ago, I relocated back to a place I left in 2016. I left rather quickly after the sale of my home. I had always wished to return and it took more than two years and an evacuation for a hurricane to facilitate my return. I had a home built. It was ready in four months. When I moved in, there were multiple issues which were completely unexpected – one was potentially life threatening. I was so grateful to be back in Virginia and I did NOT like my new home. I tried. I really tried to fall in love with it. It wasn’t happening. For months, I attempted to convince myself that it was fine. After all I was back in the place I wished to live and I further told myself I just needed to get over it. That wasn’t happening either. Late in the afternoon one day last Fall, I admitted out loud – I heard myself say it – that I was so very happy to be back here and the house just wasn’t where I wished to live. In that moment, I realized how the creation of a story had trapped me –  in a place within – in which I was miserable. More importantly, I became aware of the reality of choosing one side or the other side of a dilemma (“either or” thinking), over the realization that both can be true and can co-exist (“both and” perspective). Since that moment, I’ve opened my heart and mind to the possibility of moving again as soon as the right place become available or apparent.

A weight was lifted in that moment, too. A weight that I had placed on myself (and was quite good at doing for many, many years) was no longer there…and I lifted it myself!

The water we swim in can be dark and murky or it can be clearer and easier to navigate. As I have said many times, perspective is everything.

“The moment you change your perception, is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.”

– Dr. Bruce H. Lipton

reflections on innocence…lost

See the world with the innocence of children.
Approach the world with the daring of children.
Love the world with the readiness of children.
Heal the world with the purity of children.
Change the world with the wisdom of children.

– Neale Donald Walsch

There are many terrified children all around us. You will know them by the adult suits they are wearing. Their behavior is an observable verification of their terror. Anger and condescension indicate a deep fear within. They are over-compensating as a cover for the beliefs that they are unprepared, unworthy, and simply aren’t good enough or don’t have all they believe they need, to be successful where they are.

They are defensive and reactive. Everything is a crisis which must be tended to and fixed…right now.

They come across as confident and in control when deep inside they are unsure of themselves, and everything – in their minds – is completely out of control.

What do these people need?

They need to be seen and heard for who they really are…deep down inside. They need a steady, open-hearted soul as a partner in this moment; a compassionate listener who can softly and comfortably hold the space while listening to them, allowing them to be who they truly are – wounded, scared. This melting process – the shedding of armor – takes time. This isn’t easy work…and it is necessary for living the full life that each soul has the opportunity to live.

The reward for engaging this process of self rediscovery? More joy; awakening to a sense of inner calm, and peace; acceptance of life – as it is; an open, loving heart; and the realization that love is all there is. It is in there – in our hearts – waiting for us to re-discover the innocence long lost to the many beliefs and experiences which resulted in our losing ourselves.

How is the child within you? Does he/she feel loved, valued, nurtured, cared for and accepted? Is she/he free to play or explore new horizons, or dream about the endless possibilities that life offers?

Or

Does he/she feel unloved, undervalued, isolated and forgotten? Has she/he distracted him/herself from the simple acts of dreaming, creating and seeing myriad possibilities?

We are living in such extraordinary times. All are needed. In healing ourselves, we add to the essential healing of our planet and all of its inhabitants. This is the work of our lives.

Will we be a part of the healing solution? Or will we put our heads down and hope it all goes away? (It won’t.)

 

“We not only need to have a deep respect for children; but also a deep respect for the child in everyone.”
C. JoyBell C.

 

What do you need for yourself?

 

blind loyalty

Blind loyalty is just that….BLIND.

Open. Your. Eyes.

Question EVERYTHING.

Taking NOTHING at face value.

Be still.

Dig DEEP.

Ask your heart.

Listen to your intuition.

Trust yourself first, then your trust of others will not be misplaced.

(written in Spring, 2016)

*If seeking for answers outside of yourself is more more of a habit than deep listening, observing, and researching, be diligent. Do your own research. Do not rely on shortcuts and the beliefs at the core of others’ projections in various media for your answers, or what you might consider to be the “right” answer. Ask yourself, are these shallow perspectives? Go deeper. Look beyond. Your answers will eventually resonate through your awareness and the alignment with who you are. Your feelings will tell you.

Don’t like the answer? Go deeper. Ask yourself, “Who am I”? And isn’t that the most important question at the core of everything you believe, see, feel and act upon?

Blind loyalty – the ultimate surrender of personal power to another human being.

the tendrils of grief

The collective denial of our underlying emotional life has contributed to an array of troubles and symptoms. What is often diagnosed as depression is actually low-grade chronic grief locked into the psyche, complete with the ancillary ingredients of shame and despair.

 – Francis Weller

 

A week ago, I lost a small furry companion who had been a part of my life for the last 15 years. I have so many memories of his always being close, wherever I lived, always snuggling and seeming to know of the comfort I needed, even if I wasn’t fully aware of the need, myself. His comfort was in his sweet, soft presence. He was a male, polydactyl, tuxedo who suckled the inside of his right front paw (think of a baby). There was something about him that softened the moments of my most edgy internal feelings. Although he had been ill for a while, his passing was extremely difficult for me. I am still getting used to not having him around in his furry little body; and I know he will always be near.

As I have been moving through the days, I am aware of the many layers of grief that are still there…deep within. I’ve written several times in this space about grief. Grief is a very familiar place for me and I have found so many ways to process the multiple layers and experiences that still surface from time to time. Even with the passing of this sweet little companion, I have been taken back to the losses of other furry ones in my past. It is as if they all decided to return to help me remember that this isn’t a new experience and there is much for which to be grateful, even as I am deep in my grief.

In those moments of raw grief, I was reminded of the gifts of the presence of each one in my life. So losing my dear little Cooper served to remind me of the many gifts of his presence, while also helping me see  – one more time – that even when we think we’re alone, we are not alone – ever.

The tendrils of grief are like some plants. Consider grapes, melons and other such plants whose tendrils are long and curly and twisting in their structure. Some tendrils are soft and pliable and others are tougher, and a bit like bark on a tree. All of this serves to remind me that some feelings are soft and easier to acknowledge; and still others are more challenging to allow to surface from their deeply buried places within us. The old adage that “feel to heal” as a way forward is easy to say and not always easy to navigate. As with most challenging experiences in life, some of our processing work is our own to do. And…not to be minimized is the importance of also having a trusted other to listen, acknowledge and support us as we work through these sometimes curious and often painful experiences.

Gratitude holds many gifts for us when we open to acknowledging and expressing it, even when our hearts are aching. The beauty of memories is the potential to see, feel and acknowledge gratitude in those moments as we reflect on them. Not all are wonderful; some are challenging; and all have something for us. Therein lies the gifts of the experiences for which we can be grateful.

We must couple grief and gratitude in a way that encourages us to stay open to life.

 – Francis Weller

 

an invitation in the new year

What a man takes in by contemplation, that he pours out in love.

 – Meister Eckhart

As I watch the first snow of the season fall from the sky, I cannot help reflecting on the beauty of it and what it compels us to do, if we will allow it – to slow down, breathe, observe and reflect/contemplate.

The snow is quiet. It falls ever so softly from the clouds above. And yet, the planet it falls upon is anything but soft and quiet. This juxtaposition gives me pause…as I seek to stay out of despair. Compassion for the worst behaviors among our fellow humans is, at times, extremely tough to dig for and offer. Yet, these are the moments and places that call to me from the wounds within – the places which are still hurting; the places where perhaps traces of grief, unprocessed, still exist.

As I continue to cultivate my inner observer, I’ve begun to notice a few things that I wish to offer here…with an invitation for you to consider their meaning, from your perspective or experience. Comments are always welcome, and I believe that the more we explore together – which this medium allows us to do without being in the same room – the more we learn with the possibility of evolving our perspectives on long held thoughts or beliefs.

These words  – without definitions – have been floating around in my mind as I consider the state of the country I live in at this moment.

Authenticity
Conformity
Projection
Responsibility
Fear
Love

I could write so much more about each of these, to offer my perspectives on and my observations and feelings about them. However, I wish to leave the door between us for conversation to be open without my perspectives to filter them.

I do wish to offer that fear keeps us from engaging with others in a variety of ways. So I hope you will trust yourself and me enough to offer your thoughtful perspectives on any or all of these. I feel that if we hold hands as we cross the deep chasm that seems to divide us from ourselves and us from each other, we will make it to the other side – more fully ourselves – open hearts, open arms and open minds.

Thank you for being here.

Sending my love to each of you, wherever you may be, in this new year.

Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.

 – Paramahansa Yogananda

 

wondering as I wander

These past weeks have seemed to be a void of much of anything for me. Writing, reading…have seemed elusive. I have not slept as well and at times have had some interesting dreams that I reflect upon the meaning of. Even as I have been present in this void, I have had moments in which I felt there was a dark veil between Spirit (God) and me. And even then, I have been aware of that awesome loving presence in my life. I have often felt I was living and experiencing a dichotomous existence, at times. I have grounded myself in my beliefs and in the interactions of those closest to me. Now, the veil feels more like protection than separation. This period has been steeped in reflection and contemplation.

Slowly and intermittently, I have found moments when writing has been soothing. Most recently, I wrote about a few things that I have been wondering about. My wondering represents a bit of wandering around various topics – borne of experiences and observations of self and others. Perhaps the contemplation of these is in part the way through this seemingly and sometimes dark “void”.

These are my recent wonderings…as I wander into contemplating both the complexity and simplicity of each.

  • Masculine and Feminine energy in all of us; how we balance (or not) this energy in our various activities, roles and day-to-day interactions. How we become conscious of these and awaken to love.
  • How to support others in the beginning moment of seeing themselves as valued and valuable – as an important step into the essential healing process that life offers.
  • Patience with our individual processes. Growth, healing and evolution cannot be timed or rushed, pushed or hurried along. Our lives unfold in each moment. Our thoughts influence the quality of those moments.
  • The myriad ways we wear armor to protect our broken hearts, all the while keeping (or unconsciously pushing away) the very intimacy (in-to-me-see) we seek at a distance. This intimacy requires us to open our hearts, to be vulnerable. It takes courage to take off the armor, to risk love – at and from the deepest part of ourselves.
  • The myths of perfection and control. Perfection isn’t attainable and we do not have control. Control has us.
  • The courage of speaking out or up – about abuses – of power, inappropriate actions and behaviors. Supporting those who courageously stand, as they honor their commitments (oaths), even in the face of scrutiny by those who may not know or even wish to understand, while also enduring personal threats and harassment.
  • The inspiration that opens me to write or prevents my desire to pick up my pen or to compose a post for my blog. It seems to wax and wane.

These wonderings give way to others as I wander.

Feelings. Thoughts. Questions. Curiosities. Reconciliation. Resolution. Contemplation.

What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.

-Meister Eckhart

 

inner peace

What are you not doing that is somehow contributing to discomfort in your being…right now?

We hear…all of the time. Hearing isn’t listening…or not the listening to which I am referring.

I’m not speaking of the day-to-day noises from the myriad sources in the spaces and places we happen to be. I am speaking of the voice in our heart or from God, Universe, Spirit or whatever you use in reference to the energy that is greater than us, of which we are all a part. I am not speaking of the voice in the head – often referred to as the ego – which can feel like a secondary being within. I am speaking of the tender voice which inquires, guides or offers loving, supportive messages which are always there for us – if we slow down enough (deep breathing helps) to hear what is being offered.

“When you recognise that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking.”
 – Eckhart Tolle

These last few weeks have been very challenging on multiple fronts and I am reminded in many moments that inner peace is mine – anytime, anywhere, in any situation if I can simply remember, accept and allow it to be what guides me rather than reacting to the multiple stimuli that feel pervasive lately.

The news headlines are very distracting and upsetting these days. The darkness feels intense and I know it will be a while before we collectively walk out of it by walking through it. The feeling that I must “DO” something is pretty intense at times, and yet I know that returning to my “BE-ing” is my greatest and healthiest contribution to the whole at this moment. Reminding myself of who I am, and all of the good that is everywhere on the planet is a much brighter way through the seemingly overwhelming (at times) darkness. AND…it is my inner peace which can be so intensely challenged.

My old friend, depression, often lurks these days, and I embrace it and tell it that I am fine. I remember who I am…and I am NOT separated from LOVE, God, Spirit, etc. I am a part of it. My old friend then seems to disappear. I was once reminded that embracing that which we most fear will encourage its departure much sooner. I believe it. I know that ignoring it only encourages it to take up residence, again.

Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.

– Pema Chodron

These are challenging times. Many are hurting and many innocents are leaving the planet for reasons not easy to understand. We’ve all chosen to be here at this time, even if we don’t believe that. We each make different contributions at this extremely challenging and very important time. The choices we make, the feelings that we have, the actions that we take, make all of the difference in the collective path forward. Creating, cultivating and maintaining inner peace is one the of the most important contributions we make to stabilizing the ship which seems to be rocking uncontrollably in the tempest of our divisions.

The recent death of Elijah Cummings was a surprise. I have previously mentioned in this space that I lived in an area which was included in his district for a number of years. A man of integrity and principle, he faced some intense criticism in recent months. His humanity was never lost to the vitriolic exchanges which have become commonplace in the public discourse. Many quotes are attributed to him and there is one that really stood out for me when I read it last week. “Our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see. Will we rob them of their destiny? Will we rob them of their dreams? No – we will not do that.” Creating, cultivating and maintaining inner peace is one the of the most important contributions we make to stabilizing the ship which seems to be rocking uncontrollably in the tempest of our divisions. For the future of our children and grandchildren, stabilizing the ship is paramount.

“How do I get there,” you may wonder. By first turning away from the distractions and tuning into yourself, you take an important first step. Whether is it busy-ness (also known as overdoing-ness), keeping a constant focus on electronic devices and the multiple apps (especially social media apps) you may have on it; anything that prevents you from being still or quiet – even for a few moments – all conspire to push away the inner spaces which long for your attention. Creating, cultivating and maintaining inner peace is one the of the most important contributions we make to stabilizing the ship which seems to be rocking uncontrollably in the tempest of our divisions. Your soul is calling….

These can be difficult steps to take, especially if you do not already have a practice which brings you back to yourself. Your practice may be journaling; it may be meditation; reading books which inspire the highest and best in us all; walks in nature – while listening to and observing the beauty of the planet; are examples of what can be steps toward enriching the inner life and cultivating that seeming elusive inner peace. Creating, cultivating and maintaining inner peace is one the of the most important contributions we make to stabilizing the ship which seems to be rocking uncontrollably in the tempest of our divisions. We each have the capacity to begin from within.

There are other ways to begin this journey inward as well. I also heard from a fellow blogger through a comment on my previous post about another tool for navigating these tumultuous times, “One thing that helps me is to give light to others.” Meeting people where they are; offering an open and listening heart; offering your light; are all wonderful ways to cultivate and maintain inner peace. There are quite a few compassionate listeners “out there” who, by the simple act of listening and witnessing another, facilitate the clearing of the blocked inner pathways. I am grateful for those in my life who provide this important support and assistance. We are not islands; we do not have to “muscle” through alone; and asking for help is always appropriate, is always right and is an important step back to ourselves.

Remember the entrance to the sanctuary is inside you.

 – Rumi

Let the sun shine from within.

 

sitting in darkness

 

The world feels very dark to me these days. My concerns are many and my feelings…raw. I look at the trees, slowly changing color, and realize that nature in the northern hemisphere is moving through shorter days and longer nights…more darkness. Enjoying the colors makes the transition easier to walk softly through. However, the conditions in many countries, including mine feel dark, deeply divided and deadly. In times like this we often wish to distract ourselves in any way possible or to simply “check out” to avoid the reality of the feelings these times can evoke.

I believe – even though it is challenging for me, too – that as individuals we have an opportunity to dive in. To dive into the darker aspects of our being…to plumb the depths of our psyche, our experiences. This is where we find the opportunity to heal ourselves so that our lights shine brighter. When I find my self in these dark times, I read, write and spend time just being quiet. Some of what I’ve read today has brought some solace and offered a crack into the lighter parts of my psyche by reminding me of my humanness.

One quote from John Lennon and Yoko Ono really resonated as I watch the great divides in my own country seem to widen. “Don’t hate what you don’t understand.” If only we might all slow down to consider that there is so much that we do not understand, and either do some research on our own or pause and allow processes to unfold without our taking sides or otherwise contributing to the hateful slinging of words swirling around us. Indeed, so many feel they are right and others are wrong. And Wayne Dyer’s words ring in my heart…paraphrased here: When you have a choice between being right or to be kind, choose to be kind. This seems out of reach for us when we are so angry or in despair from our own experiences and all we seem to see around us is more of the same.

Healing the hatred that may be simmering is an inside job. It is ours alone – no one else’s – to do. Until and unless we do our work on ourselves, we will find it extremely challenging to offer love, compassion and peace to those whose words and actions are harsh, disparaging and ugly toward others. This IS the work of our lives.

Some us, by nature feel these feelings perhaps a bit more deeply than others – and neither is right or wrong. We are simply different. Honoring our differences is foundational to being able to offer love, compassion and peace to those with whom we differ on perspectives, feelings and beliefs.

With gratitude to Anne Whitaker at Writing From the Twelfth House, I offer the following poem that she shared in her blog post this afternoon.

The Place Where We Are Right

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

– Yehuda Amichai

May we use the changing of seasons –  the natural seasons in whatever part of the world we live in or the storms of the political seasons – to create quiet time to reflect. As we contemplate our own dark feelings and experiences as a path or journey to finding our way back to the brighter light within…of love, we will find peace within. We need this for ourselves. Our fellow humans need this. Our planet needs this. NOW.

revisiting integrity

Two years ago, October 17, 2017,  to be exact, I wrote a relatively brief piece on integrity.  In the last few days, many issues and occurrences in the collective, as well as in the lives of those closest to me, point to the cracks in organizational foundations, seemingly built on integrity. I was instantly reminded of a specific quote that is contained in the aforementioned post from 2017. Please take a moment to read it. It is brief and seems apropos of the days we are in at this moment.

I also offer this – a response to one of those close to me, with whom I shared the quote contained in the blog:

“Usually the ones we want to hear or see will not get the message through the sharing of words or quotes. Like all of us, we have to learn from experience. The best outcome is for the experience to not be a devastating one for all concerned. Best to energetically wish them well as you move on to something even better. You had apparently outgrown this experience.”

We are living in times of great change – in the world and individually within ourselves. We are called to become the very best of who we are, so that we can engage when we felt lead to, and to do so from a place of our most authentic self, centered in our heart of love – which is connected to the All That Is (God, Spirit, Universe or whatever name you give to the powerful loving energy that is in and all around us). We are not called to dive into or otherwise create conflict. We ARE called to bring our best selves to anything we experience in each moment.

We are called to speak our authentic and deep truth with our compassionate hearts. We are called to observe ourselves and our experiences in order to know the wisdom that we inherently have – borne of our experiences – those which we call “good” and those which we call “bad”. All are for the evolution of our souls: the awakening of ourselves, our hearts from the mind controlling. sleepwalking unconsciousness to the empowered awareness of our consciousness, of our collective connection to one another.

Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

 – Don Miguel Ruiz

 

 

 

and what IS the plan?

What religion a man holds, to what race he belongs, these things are not important; the really important thing is this knowledge: the knowledge of God’s plan for men. For God has a plan, and that plan is evolution.  –

 – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Year ago, I walked away from organized religion. I found its contradictions, admonitions and judgments irreconcilable to the truth I felt deep within and the questions that had been in my heart for most of my life. The time space between walking away and then learning about what living was really all about was fraught with many challenges, as life can always offer us. Meeting my emotions without as much self judgment and fear was an eye opening experience. As more and more perspectives, information and options came into my awareness and experience, I started to create my own patchwork of beliefs. These provided useful and realistic “containers” within which to hold my experiences so that I could truly begin to embrace what I’m really up to in this life of mine.

Along the way, I found many authors, teachers, coaches, healers, to name only a few resources. I’ve read so many books, blogs, quotes, email messages, etc. And like everything else in our human experience, my beliefs and feelings about them continue to evolve.

I found that a lot of my understanding of what I was learning in organized religion seemed dependent upon an experience of passivity in beliefs about our life experiences. “God has a plan,” is what I heard. “Maybe this is a part of God’s plan for you.” As if I am to be the punching bag of life and to relax in the knowing that my “reward” was in “heaven”. When I hear intelligent adults speak these words today, I reflect on how these words used to make me feel. We all experience life through the lens of our beliefs – regardless of what we have heard, learned, read or been exposed to. I’m quite sure there are quite a few walking the planet today who are quite comfortable with allowing life to have its way and surrendering to the idea that “Maybe it’s God’s plan” without giving any additional thought or reflection to the experience, or what may have been underlying it in the first place.

“Controlling people try to control people, and they do the same with God—but loving anything always means a certain giving up of control. You tend to create a God who is just like you—whereas it was supposed to be the other way around.”
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For and Believe

To be sure, in the early days. I didn’t’t encounter anyone who dared offer another way of looking at life…or another lens through which to look at life experience in order to, at a minimum, consider what was at the core or the cause of the outcome or the experience. In fact, I recall with great clarity a question that I seemed to always ask myself about why certain things happened when I was such a good person –  honest, caring, generous, etc.

It is not easy to release an old belief that really doesn’t work for you. And embracing something that is new and seemingly “out there” is harder still.

Thought is cause, experience is effect. If you don’t like the effects in your life, you have to
change the nature of your thinking.
– Marianne Williamson

And who knew how powerful our thoughts (borne of our beliefs) really are? I certainly didn’t.

It has taken me some time to expand my beliefs and to embrace a bigger knowing about the universal energy that many refer to as God, Spirit, Universe and so on. What doing so has provided is a pathway to peace – within. By embracing what I now know is the intention of my soul in this lifetime, I see past traumas, and joyful moments as very much a part of it all. I know that our intentions, our words and actions, return to us. Love and fear are returned.

“For God has a plan, and that plan is evolution.” We have a choice to be active participants in our evolution, or to be dragged, suffering as more and more of the planet moves on – by releasing the old beliefs, and claiming responsibility for choices – cause and effect.