Measures of a year well spent

I think we all do it; a year comes to an end and we start to reflect on what has, and has not been accomplished; aspirations for new jobs, moves, new loves, finally reaching the goal...for reinvention?
Invariably, it opens up a whole can of angst.
But what of internal evolution? What of walking the labyrinth of inner landscape? Of traveling great distances to come home to ourselves, while externally, not much has changed?

What of forward motion that can't be measured in a straight line?

We assign so much value, and measure of worth and identity by the external. Its a very modern, and western thing, I think. This DO-ing rather than BE-ing.


I am in no way suggesting that we don't set, and work toward our aspirations (for me a better word than goals) or that we passively sit back and wait for our dreams to manifest via the "power of positive thinking"
Only that we redefine what progress looks like. And, maybe show ourselves some kindness.
I am a seasoned practitioner of whipping ones-self with the sharply barbed list of what what hasn't been accomplished.
But what if we took pause, a kindly few moments with ourselves, to list our victories?

  • How much rootedness, and emotional intelligence have we gained?
  • How much more do we belong to ourselves?
  • The days we did get to the gymspeak our truth, choose, rather than react?
  • New ways of being with ourselves and in the world. 
  • The ways we've lived braver.

Maybe this year has been marked by huge leaps and gains; hoped for personal life events, and gigantic promotions, Woohoo! For real, amazing.
But if it’s been a series of quiet stretches rather than epic leaps ..also Woohoo!

What would you have to embrace or let go of, to be okay with the year that was?

We have an idea, about straight lines from here to there, and if we don't get there we go through the mental war-with-self for not having reached point B, and draw hard lines in the sand. But life happens in between the lines.

I invite you to consider;

  • Who you were a year ago? How have you changed, become more of yourself?
  • What inner precipices have you walked to the edge of, and perhaps crossed? 
  • Where have you realized that there is work to do? -This is a big thing too!
  • Were there times that you quietly said yes to a thing? Or, without fanfare, just said said NO?
  • Is there a realization -or several, that you've had about how you want to live your life in the year to come? This is valuable.

What I've come to know that time is not linear, its circular. And that "progress" speeds up and slows down with influencers not
seen by the naked eye or measured by calendar month. 

Or by year. 

 

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Doing our work, so that we can do our work

Someone recently told me that I was, to paraphrase, too "self-analytical” basically, that I spend too much time thinking about myself. It stung.  
Is this really how I appear? OMG Have I been misunderstood, again?
(Cue the ouch of recurring life-theme)
And then I forgot about it ...but not really.

Having recently spent a week on retreat with with a group of people doing some deep "self-analyzing" I'm thinking of it again. 
And of the need for us not get stuck in "self" work, but to follow the continuum of healing, so that our own found clarity and wholeness is the foundation from which we move to heal brokenness in he world -in whichever ways we are uniquely inspired to do so. Art, writing, animals, hospice work, gardening with love ...just BE-ing, living and interacting from this place.

The truth is that the personal development/self help/coaching world can be maddeningly narcissistic and ego serving, and become a loop of navel gazing and designer mala beads.


My own commitment to self inquiry and healing, and the reason I coach, is about the very opposite --it's because whole, healed, authentic people create a whole, healed world. And this is my daily entreaty ...

Its about dynamic revealing, and seeing, peeling back the layers of false conditioning and disconnect, about figuring out what really, deeply, matters. And then turning our gaze and our actions, outward, and being the change.

Just as we aren’t designed to be solitary creatures, but meant for connection -to immediate community and greater earth community, our work to embody a fuller expression of who we really are, isn’t meant to be wholly self-focused, but for the good of the whole ...to take into the world  in small and big ways, that create ripples that reach the recesses of distortion and dark.

Inward directed inquiry and self care are not the end goals, but the way forward

Getting really clear and working on our stuff, allows us to discover and hone the ways of being that we want to bring into the world. 

Coming home to ourselves means we can then relate to others from a place of rootedness and grounding, and self-integrity, that we can then reflect out into the world-community near and far.

 

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On walking to edges

Im thinking about edges this morning -and walking to them.
And that edges come in different forms …not all present with a stomach clenchingly dramatic precipice, and are accompanied by thematically appropriate soundtrack.
Some are subtle, woven into the fabric of our daily choices, and directions taken. 
A little ..”Ooh, hello, well here is little thingie to notice and stretch to the other side of ...”
And, subtle doesn’t equal un monumental.
An edge doesn't have to feel cold sweat dramatic, and rock us to our core, to be profound. Or to bring a shift.
Sometimes the subtlest action of stepping off the curb in our not usual direction to the grocery store -down a not before seen road, or a quiet YES, or just
choosing to be still, sitting with feelings or thoughts never before given space to BE, can cause ripples equal to stepping off a precipice thousands of miles high …
.
The thing is, that we keep stepping.

 

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Holding Places

When I was studying anatomy -and specifically multi directional breathing, we learned about how when cadavers are dissected, the habitual postures and holding patterns in life are reflected in atrophied and misshapen lungs (and other organs) in death.
Where a person has held tight -their insides had also not expanded, not been able to function fully, multi-dimentially.

This has always stuck with me, and felt like a profound metaphor for examining and asking, where am I contracted? Where am I folded, and un true?

What parts of me if untended to, will be atrophied or misshapen if examined at the end of my life?

The year or so before my trip to Scotland, and the trip itself were very much about a profound getting, of my holding places. And how uneven my growth had been, incredibly developed in some areas, but also, many places that had never seen the light, never been fed or tended to, or had a chance to become …there was malnourishment patterned from as long ago as I can remember, that needed attention; Soil, sunlight, listening to. Open and wild space in which to take hold …
For me it took getting physically sick to really know it.

I am continuing to restructure my life and work in a way is that both nourishing and values-aligned.

We all have them …I wonder, where are the places in you, the metaphorical atrophied lungs? What would be found if you were to be opened up today?

What values and things held sacred, are lying unexpressed, and in need of honoring and tending?

Being the change

I was speaking with someone yesterday about the overwhelm she feels at so many wrongs and injustices in the world, how to choose one, where to focus, how to have effect ...

What I said to her, and what I truly believe, is that it really doesn't matter WHAT we do, as long as we DO.

I believe that every action taken toward the healing of a brokenness, the righting of an imbalance, whether it be in our close community; planting trees, working with children, delivering meals on wheels, or being the voice of non human animals. Using our art to by-pass the polarization that can come with dialogue, and instead reaching peoples hearts and feeling-places, fanning the flames of awareness.
Or on the other side of the world, protecting old growth forests, blocking bulldozers and pipelines, or holding vigils and bearing direct witness to that which is unbearable, each and every thing we do with the passionate intention of shedding light and transforming what is, lends itself to the greater groundswell of awakening and paradigm shifting that is pulsing and ready to become … 

Each action that aligns with our own unique voice and heart-calling, and our unfettered impulses of compassion and humanity, feeds the collective shift toward a new way of existing on this planet, and a just and sustainable world for all beings.

The important thing is that we DO. 
Each of us has so much more effect than the individual actions we take. 
Every action creates a ripple that connects to other ripples and literally reverberates around the world.

 

Having a soft heart in a hard world

I've been thinking a lot lately on what it means to have a soft heart. To feel, acutely. 

Earth as self, animals as self, the homeless person on the corner, as self. 
And about how the world at large and even most therapists and others in helping professions, attribute this depth of feeling to some kind of pathology, to something missing from our childhood, or a projection of the hurt parts of ourselves onto those most vulnerable, and it is dismissed as a kind of "reverse healing" that negates our authentic impulse.

I strongly counter that rather than soft hearts indicating that something is wrong with us, they are an indication that something is RIGHT with us.

Feeling, viscerally, as part of the whole; recognizing the struggle of another, the experience of empathy, a call to alleviate suffering, seeing self in others -across the illusory divide of species and color and culture (and that there IS no "other") are all part of moving closer to our unfettered state and essential nature.

And, softness doesn't cancel out ferocity.

Walking this earth with a soft heart, the willingness to feel the pain (and the magnificence) of mad love for all that is, and the impulse to act upon it, is a gift. 

Do more of that.
Nothing is wrong with you.

The "Holidays"

A friend recently asked me to name 10 things I like and 10 things I dislike about New York. My answers, not unpredictably, were heavy on the dislike and short on the like. (Living in a place that more mirrors who I am and what I value requires a longer post, and is an element of my inentioning for the new year)

But there is this thing that I am feeling particularly aware of today;
I very much like living in a place where for many, today is just another day. Some celebrate, many do not, some have nothing and cannot, and for some, today comes with dread, and stress, and/or pain. 
And all of this gives permission to not feel like a freak, for this not being a day I do anything in particular to mark.
When I was younger "The Holidays" brought up deeply painful feelings of not enough-ness, and lack, and sorrow. 
Today, I know that none of those old stories are true, and those feelings are no longer part of my tape loop. 
And, I am utterly free to do as I wish, in a city that judges and cares not, about how I spend Christmas day.
Today I woke happy. I gave thanks for, and extra adoration to my cat companions, I moved my body, fed it beautiful food, took care of the outside feral cats, and will spend a few hours reading a novel that takes place in 8th century Gotland. A truly Merry day.
Whether we mark today with celebration or not, with friends and family, or not, there IS no "normal" and whatever we choose, it is perfectly, enough.
Peace, joy, safety, wellness, liberty, and abundance to all. 
Today. And everyday.

Truth Telling

So much of my work, no, all of my work, is about telling the truth. And alignment; with the seemingly at odds parts of ourselves, with our integrity, our values, how we show up on the world, and ultimately, our essential selves.

We are always called to teach what it is that we ourselves need to work on. 
And so, I've felt challenged by aligning and sharing all parts me publicly.
Activist, shit caller, person of faith, lover of this earth, and coach.

Today it feels really important to up my game of authenticity and risk. 
Because the world needs us; present, and fierce, and awake, hearts cracked open, and fully engaged.
To that end, here is a post I wrote privately this morning, now shared publicly;

In Junior high I used to wear a question authority t-shirt just to be sure "they" knew I was not buying it. 
I've always been profoundly offended by injustice and untruth, and I never understood why no one else could see that the emperor had no clothes. 
I've mellowed with age, tremendously; where as before, my rage came from the anger and fight in me, it now comes from love (which is always the ultimate truth underneath) 
Not airy fairy, passive, lets all just get along kind of love, but radical, ferocious, defend my family, kind of love; 
for the earth, and rocks, and rivers, for the trees that speak profound wisdom, for the moss, and salamanders, and spiders. For the dolphins, and marmosets, and wolves, and fishes. 
For the rats in laboratories, for every mother cow, and every baby stolen, and for the humans too, who are enslaved, and brutalized, and marginalized, and so conditioned that we've forgotten who we really are, and lost connection to our true nature.

The ultimate truth is oneness. There is no "other". We are not divided by color, gender, preference, or species. There are billions of unique manifestations of source, but not a single one of these manifestations is separate from, or other than us. 

I've done a shitload of work to align the parts of myself; lover, healer, empath, live-er with reverence and awareness of the Divine in all beings, and fighter, justice seeker, caller of shit, and citizen of this planet, not this (or any) country. 
And I have more work to do. 
To quiet my anger, more. To live from fierce love, more.

Why am I saying all of this? 
I don't know exactly, but it feels important at this juncture. 
To name that calling out what is happening in this country -and the world, does not mean that we are living in the "negative" or being "unspiritual". 
We can hold the knowledge of wholeness, while calling out distortion. Know the ultimate truth of oneness, while naming the injustices and falsehoods that perpetuate the illusion of separateness. 
Stepping in line is not a requirement for evolution or awakening, nor to be "spiritual beings" -we already are.
 

#SpiritualActivism #Truth #Justice #Spirituality #Coach #Healer #Teacher#Oneness #Earthlover #TreeHugger

Every upheaval is an opportunity to reassemble the pieces in a way that better serves us, as they fall back into place.

No matter how scary, or unsettling or painful, there is always, always, an opportunity within the challenge. 
To shed trappings and falsehoods, to stand bare and learn, and become a truer, more present, and rawer version of ourselves. 
In every challenge there is an chance to crack open a little further. To take a step closer to wholeness.

Sometimes, it's too soon. We are too close to the pain. 
But the question is always there: where is the learning?

There is always an answer.

 

 

artwork by Christian Schloe

artwork by Christian Schloe

So often all of our planning, and ruminating, and discussing, gets in the way the thing we most want, of just letting go ...

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments.  
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her.  
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. 
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice. 
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.  
She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go.  
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.  
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go. 
She didn’t journal about it. 
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. 
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. 
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. 
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. 
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. 
She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. 
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened. 
There was no applause or congratulations. 
No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. 
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle. 
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be. 
A small smile came over her face. 
A light breeze blew through her. 
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.
~ Rev. Safire Rose

 

What does life without trees do to our essential nature?

I was at the gym the other day and had the beginnings of this series of thoughts;  (I intensely dislike “the gym” and have always thought the idea of fitness without purpose a kind of modern absurdity. It wasn't that long ago that LIFE was exercise enough. But like most, mine isn’t, and I crave the outlet of intense physical activity to keep me balanced).

The scope of the artificialness of our lives hit me all at once; I was engaging in engineered exercise on a man-made machine designed to approximate my natural gait and movements, under fluorescent lights, in a huge square cement building pumped with machine-cooled air, fake smells throughout to mask natural ones, and dispensers of destined-for-landfill germicide wipes for every surface. And sounds unlike anything that would occur in the natural world, or that my nervous system was created to be able to make sense of and assimilate, pumped into my ears through a plastic battery operated device …

We walk almost solely on uniformly hard surfaces. We live in homes (or boxes stacked on top of each other called apartments) and work in buildings of cement and synthetic materials, filled with no naturally occurring shapes or even colors, and most often, artificial light. The speed and quality of the movements around us, the things we touch, the shapes and horizons (or lack of) that our eyes rest upon, smells, textures, even our food and our patterns of sleep, bear no resemblance to that which our DNA is coded for.  

And then I read a short story about how birds that live in cities age faster and die earlier than birds in their natural habitat, because the city disrupts normal development. Even if there is more access to food, the stress of the city (noise, light, humans) make cells deteriorate more rapidly. And I thought, of course. True for them, true for us. Our animal nature cannot be sustained in a world of concrete, over crowding, and without the sounds of silence. This kind of stress and adaptation to un natural environments is contrary to our needs at a cellular level. 

In most of our daily lives, we encounter only that which is other than our bodies and nervous systems were designed to recognize and process. Just as so many of the highly processed and chemically engineered “foods” we now eat are unrecognizable by the body and are responded to as toxins, (and in turn create disease).

Studies have shown that spending just 1.5 hours walking in a forest decreases the brain activity responsible for psychological illness –this was true in every single person. And few days spent in nature increases levels of creative thinking by 50%

There are modern comforts I have great appreciation for; refrigeration is pretty wonderful, and though I have lived without running water, indoor plumbing, or electricity, I am fan of all three. I’m not suggesting that we stop showering, and return to rubbing sticks. But I have to wonder, as larger and larger populations live solely in an urban landscape, to what degree do we owe our individual and societal distortions to developmental deprivation at a cellular and spiritual level, of that which we need and are evolutionary designed to thrive on?

 

 

Depending on where we live, most of us go through our days, weeks -sometimes entire lives, never smelling the wonders of soil, or the air, pregnant with the smells of a recent thunderstorm, or have the experience bare feet on grass, or the magic of cool sand and blazing sunset, and a connection to earth elements and the natural rhythm of life. We never have the experience of our senses alight, and self as part of the whole.

What happens to a life without natural beauty?  What becomes of a lifetime without communion with a single tree?

We are not designed to live in such close proximity and such extreme conditions with so many others. It's contrary to our needs and essential nature at a cellular level. Are we developing similar manias, and compulsive-destructive behaviors that occur in non human animals kept in zoos and other confined states, removed from their habitats, denied their every natural inclination and impulse. No earth under foot, sun on skin, or freedom to roam. (It is literally, madness, called zoochosis -psychosis caused by confinement)  

I think a degree of the same holds true of our own psychological and physiological response to living void of all that our animal nature needs to thrive, and this causes the unbalance and dis-ease we currently see in individuals and society as a whole. And we are being medicated for depression and stress induced behaviors in skyrocketing numbers.

I remember being about 6 years old and seeing cement roads merged with cement sidewalks, merged with cement buildings, and only a few square feet here and there where a tree or bit of grass popped through, and telling my mother that I thought the earth must be suffocating. I remember feeling so much distress, thinking she would be unable to breathe, or grow life. 

I think the earth is indeed suffocating. And where she goes, so go we. We are in urgent need of re-wilding

So what is the answer?  I don’t know entirely, I’m still finding my way, but perhaps a new awareness of the needs of the human spirit must be incorporated into architecture and urban planning, and ultimately a rewriting of what we value and how we live as a society, but it starts with awareness. 

And then comes intention; to find our way back to ourselves, to our essential nature, and the recognition that we are OF, not separate from. And with that …perhaps comes love enough to live into saving that which we need to survive. And in the now, there ARE small steps we can take that don’t require cross country moves to the mountains, or huge sums of money. 

The ways to creatively connect to our essential nature are numerous, but here are a few things we can easily do to ground and awaken.

•  Get up early and watch the sunrise -even in the densest of concrete jungles you will find symphonies of birds celebrating the morning. Listen deeply. Join the celebration.

•  Forget what anyone thinks and hug a tree, the older the better. So much wisdom.

•  Find even a small corner of grass, take off your shoes, place your feet firmly on the earth, and just BE. Gift yourself with at least 15 minutes.

•  Go to a farmers market, buy some gloriously beautiful rainbow beets and purple potatoes, and lemon cucumbers. Sit down to a meal of whole, minimally seasoned, unadulterated, fresh vegitables. Savor the subtleties of flavor and texture, and the direct connection to the earth they came from. Finish your meal with farm fresh organic strawberries. Drink in the sweet aroma.

•  Surround yourself with living green things, (And eat as many as possible too!) Add plants to your home -If your intimidated by plant care get hearty varieties like cacti and succulents 

  Share your life with animals, any and all time spent with animals, of fur, feather or fin, domestic or wild, connects us to our own essential nature, and to subtle and profound ways of relating and appreciating, otherwise lost in our daily hustle.

•  Burn pure (not synthetic) essential oils -not sweet scents like patchouli or lavender, but smells of wildness like oakmoss, juniper, cedar, and melissa. I love rosemary too -and really love the smell of citronella, its very therapeutic, but reminds some of mosquito repellant :)

•  Find a recording of the subtle sounds of natural elements, and let that be your background –wonderful things can be found on Spotify or created on Pandora.

·  And of course, there is actually being in nature. No matter where we live, there is a park, or a refuge, or lake, stream, or ocean that can be reached. If planning an excursion feels daunting let someone else take care of the driving and details. Search Meet Up for outdoor adventures. Google local hiking or biking day trips to sign up for, they can range from gentle to strenuous, something for everyone. I just did a 10-mile hike, plus yoga, and vegan lunch, with a small group and a guide. It was sustenance for the spirit, and all I had to do was show up.

 

How do you re wild? Please feel free to comment!

True Longing

TRUE LONGING
When you forget or repress the truth and depth of your invisible belonging and decide to belong to some system, person, or project, you short-circuit your longing and squander your identity. To have true integrity, poise, and courage is to be attuned to the silent and invisible nature within you. Real maturity is the integrity of inhabiting that "immortal longing" that always calls you to new horizons. Your true longing is to belong to the eternal that echoes continually in everything that happens to you. Real power has nothing to do with force, control, status, or money. Real power is the persistent courage to be at ease with the unsolved and the unfinished. To be able to recognize, in the scattered graffiti of your desires, the signature of the eternal.


John O'Donohue
Excerpt from ETERNAL ECHOES