What can you do when you’re shaken?
Find your ground.
I’ve been to New Zealand, and really respect and like it. There’s a Maori term – turangawaewae, “a place to stand” – that I’ve come back to many times.
I’m sure I don’t know the full meaning of the word in its cultural context. But at a basic level, it’s clear that we all need a place to stand. A physical place to be sure – hearth and home, land and sea, a bed to curl up in – but also psychological or spiritual places, such as feeling loved, a calm clear center inside, knowledge of the facts, compassion and ethics, and realistic plans.
This is our ground, the place we rest in and move out from . . . even under the best of circumstances. And when you’re shaken by events at any scale – from changes in your health to changes in your country or world (here’s a recent post you may find relevant: Take Heart) – then it’s especially important to find and hold your ground.
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” — Maya Angelou
It was early evening when it happened.
I was walking back to my car after a boxing session (yup, I box!), when I turned the corner and encountered a homeless man lying face-up on the sidewalk. He was motionless. Quiet. Had little sign of life. I wasn’t sure what to do or how to help him. So instead, I just kept walking with my head down.
A moment later, a thought flashed through my mind. “Did I really just walk past a man lying on the ground and keep going?”
I got into my car and felt a deep sense of shame.
To start off, when I say “boss,” I’m talking about the kind of manager whose leadership strategies are all about command and control.
Bosses want to be seen as the dominant force in the office and business and tend to “manage” their employees through intimidation and fear.
They have a very “top-down” way of doing things and think it’s more important to be in control of their team rather than to establish trust and inspiration.
Often, a boss’s management style is very rigid. There’s no nuance, no ability to see different sides of an issue.
The boss declares, “I’m in charge” and “I’ve decided this” and “I expect that” – without encouraging any input from their team. It’s the boss’s way or the highway.
Of course, big decisions need to be made all the time in business, and being decisive is necessary and important.
Strolling in summer down Bleecker near Broadway, we pass a young Hispanic couple sitting on the curb. They begin to argue. He blurts out, “How can you say that?” She looks hurt. They start squabbling in Spanish. We laugh at them and at ourselves. It’s the same argument since the beginning of time skipping between us. The details change. The language evolves. We long to be close, then bump into each other, and tumble through life the best we can. How to stay close without losing who we are? How not to run away or retreat into isolation when misunderstood? How to stay connected and tethered to the truth that outlasts all argument? The next morning, I land on a bench in Union Square where the homeless sleep in the sun this time of year. A damaged man in a T-shirt is walking in circles, talking on a cell phone, though there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the other end. A young woman who’s listening to music is watching him too. We catch each other’s eye, not sure if we should get involved. But that’s the mask we all need to put down, the one that keeps us at a distance. For we’re already involved. The question is how?
I am in the midst of a new project, something I’ve never attempted before, and I’ve been keeping a journal of the process. I promise to share all about it at that right time but for today here’s what I want you to know.
Over the weekend I read my journal and I had forgotten how absolutely terrified I was when I began it.
My first journal entry revealed that I was sick with nerves and severe anxiety as I began this project. I was filled with self-doubt and fear of failing. At one point I felt like I would pass out just thinking about the enormity of what I was committing to while having thoughts such as:
“Who am I to attempt this?”
‘”I don’t know how to do this.”
“I’m not smart enough to do this.”
“No one will ever be interested in this project.”
“I’ll end up looking like such as loser for attempting this.”
These and many other negative thoughts consumed my monkey mind, initially.
But, I didn’t let it stop me.
“I don’t know what to do. I’ve put all my eggs in this law school basket and I just dropped it,” said Christy Plunkett, a character in the television sitcom Mom. Her mother Bonnie yelped in excitement, “That’s why you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I just got that!”
How often do we learn something and not really get what it means? We read countless books about a particular subject, watch experts talk about it, maybe even take courses so we can put it into practice. We think we understand but at the back of our mind, there’s still a paradoxical layer that leaves us confused, struggling to fully grasp its true meaning — until the proverbial penny finally drops. Most people call this an aha moment, and this is one of mine.
I’ve been meditating for many years. It has made such impact on my life. It gave birth to profound experiences that were life-changing for me. One of the things that meditation taught me is to focus on the present moment. In addition to that, I’ve also read many materials, among them Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and The Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hahn. I’ve also been listening to Deepak Chopra’s guided meditations for years where he talks about being present over and over again. Their teachings made sense to me. Partially.
In reality, I was struggling to reconcile the difference between embracing the here and now and accepting my current situation. I want something else for myself. I want to follow the path to a “life with purpose.”
Whenever I happen to catch a nature program on TV, it always strikes me how the animals that are the most successful in their natural habitats are the ones that are the best at adapting – oftentimes at a moment’s notice – and it’s a brilliant reminder that the same is true for humans. I see, time and time again - through my own experiences as well as those of my children and coaching clients – that the more adaptable we can be, the better we’re able to navigate through whatever challenges might come our way. The messages are all around us on a regular basis encouraging us to: “expand,” “get in the flow of life,” “detach from outcomes” – all just slightly more “woo-woo,” esoteric ways of asking us to be more adaptable to our current situations, so that we can feel more success and joy in life.
So much of our ability to adapt and go with the flow, however, depends on letting go of all the should’s in our lives: “I should be farther along in my career by now,” “I should have more money in the bank,” “I shouldn’t be in debt ” This type of self-talk just ends up keeping us stuck, not to mention, down in the dumps. If the shoulds are bogging you down – well it’s time to kick ‘em to the curb!
“We’re not the cause, we’re the effect.” - Nipsey Hussle
I am always in awe of the divine design of life. A true believer in the philosophy that “there are no coincidences,” I am always fascinated by the people who cross my path. Whether it be someone I am standing next to in a long line or the person who sits next to me at seminar, workshop, or dinner party, I am always curious as to what the connection will be and why we are crossing each other’s path at that moment in time. This is especially true when I travel – I am always intrigued to see who will be in the seat next to me and why.
About nine months ago, I was flying from Miami to Los Angeles. Trained to get on the plane as early as you can to get that overhead space, I was all settled in and just waiting for my flying partner to appear. A man in his thirties wearing big gold with diamonds chains finally came and claimed the seat next to me. As he got comfortable in his window seat, I realized that many of the people walking by seemed to know and pay homage to him with a high-five, thumbs-up, or some sort of gesture of recognition and respect. Now totally curious as to who he was, I decided to ask. He humbly and gracefully explained that he was a rapper. Later he shared that his name was Nipsey Hussle.
Admittedly, I had no idea who he was. However, being someone who works with so many people who feel stuck, cannot get out of their own way, or remain the victim of their past or some life situation, I am always in awe of the people who manage to move past their stories of victimization - “Oh woe is me” or “life is unfair” - and manifest huge success. Wanting to learn more about who he was and what had driven him, we chatted for a while. He shared about where he had come from, his family, his work ethic, his different business ventures, and all that he was doing to give back to the community. Reflecting on all he had created, he said that what really struck him is that one day he woke up and found that he had “crossed that imaginary line.”
My conversation with Nipsey has stuck with me. The fact is, whether we realize it or not, most of us have this imaginary (or, for some people, very vivid), line of what we think is possible. We have stories filled with limiting beliefs about what we think we can achieve or manifest in our lifetime. Think of the times you have told yourself that you can’t do, have, or achieve something because of your age, background, physical appearance, finances, education, or life circumstances.
One of the first things I learned in Journalism school is the importance to provide the Who, What, When, Where, and How in every story.
As someone who always wanted to know all of those things, especially when I am trying to make BIG decisions and choices in my life, learning how to BE with NOT KNOWING changed my life.
Once I realized it was impossible to always know what to do and how to be, I figured out a few things that made my life easier.=-
Overwhelm, anxiety, depression… it’s everywhere!
Are you feeling it?
Whenever you operate in the ego mind code, you experience separation… fear… anxiety… overwhelm…
These feelings (or more accurately, low vibrational ‘frequencies’) happen when the energetics of your life is out of alignment with your own personal, spiritual and energetic capacity.
When you operate in the divine mind code, you embody the best version of you and you experience happiness. When you operate in the ego mind code, you become all too familiar with these feelings of suffering.
If you want to release these low vibrational frequencies, you must break the hold that the ego mind code has in your life. Breaking this hold requires training your mind to practice new ways of thinking.
Just for fun, let’s imagine your ego mind is your new puppy. It’s name is Ego Puppy.
Everyone was born with an ego puppy.
It has already learned some terrible tricks from the rest of the litter, the untrained mother, and the mostly-absent father. When you discover Ego Puppy, you are convinced this feral creature has been roaming wild for centuries.
It is hard to believe it could have learned such obnoxious behavior in only a few months. It’s already ruining the carpet; chewing slippers, sneakers, and your most cherished items; stealing food; and regularly keeping the whole neighborhood up all night with its whining and barking.
Like the puppy Marley in the movie Marley and Me, it brings chaos and one crisis after another into your life.
What's the "wallpaper" in your own mind?
Are you full to the rim?
Finish what is in your cup.
Once upon a time, a scholar came to visit a saint. After the scholar had been orating and propounding for a while, the saint proposed some tea. She slowly filled the scholar's cup: gradually the tea rose to the very brim and began spilling over onto the table, yet she kept pouring and pouring. The scholar burst out: "Stop! You can't add anything to something that's already full!" The saint set down the teapot and replied, "Exactly."
Whether it's the blankness of a canvas to an artist, the silence between the notes in music, bare dirt for a new garden, the not-knowing openness of a scientist exploring new hypotheses, an unused shelf in a closet or cupboard, or some open time in your schedule, you need space to act effectively, dance with your partners, and have room around your emotional reactions.
Yet most of us, me included, tend to stuff as much as possible into whatever room is available - room in closets, schedules, budgets, relationships, and even the mind itself.
When I recently attended a bootcamp class at my gym, I noticed this adorable twenty-something standing next to me. Although I have seen her before, I have never talked to her. Truth is, she generally works out every morning at 6 AM, whereas I stumble in at 7 AM. I have in the past overheard some of her conversations. They generally revolve around what she is eating and her asking advice from others since she is “starving herself and not losing any more weight.” Having been in that situation for a huge portion of my life, I have had tremendous empathy for her. Although part of me wanted to jump right in and save her, I could hear my three daughters (who are also in their twenties) in my head saying, “Mom, don’t be scary!” So beyond complimenting her whenever I could and was appropriate, I kept my scary-self quiet.
But on this day, my mind was on overdrive, stunned by the news that continues to come out of the growing number of reports of sexual assault and harassment as part of the #MeToo movement and of the women (and men) whom were silenced by the shadow of shame and frozen by fear.
Victory over our own lower nature is now or never. We can't end conflict later. We can't stop being sad, cruel, angry, scared, or anxious later. Thinking, or hoping, that any destination we have in mind is going to be superior to where we're presently standing is exactly why we're still standing in that same place where we have to hope that some tomorrow will be better.
Later does not exist in reality.
Only to the lower self does the concept of "later" have any merit. This self-created, false concept of time allows it to create yet another “you” in another time when you'll be a wiser, stronger, and generally superior individual.
But your higher nature knows for you to experience the miracle of real inner transformation, to step up to a superior life level, you must no longer think in terms of how you'll be "next time." It understands, as we must, that a change in nature is immediate; it is now, or it won't be at all.
And so it's imperative to meet each moment of your life with this realization: it's only what you do right now that is the seed of change. And in the endless beauty and mystery of what is the now, this same seed of change is also the seed of a New Self. Here's why this is true: If you choose to change right now, then you won't have to worry about how to be different next time!
When feeling scattered, collect and concentrate your thoughts and feelings.
To what is your mind given?
Come to a place of calm center.
I’m old enough to remember a time when people usually answered “good” when you asked them the standard, “How are you?” (often said “harya?”). These days the answer is commonly “busy.”
I know what it feels like to get very busy and start to feel dispersed: juggling a dozen priorities at any moment, attention skittering from one thing to another, body revved up, feeling stretched thin and spread out like being squished between two sheets of glass.
Do you know the feeling? Besides being both unpleasant and a spigot of stress hormones, it’s weirdly contagious. Spreading from one person to another and fueled in part by the underlying economics of consumerism, we now have a Western and especially American culture of busyness. If you’re not busy, you must not be important. If you don’t have a lot on your mind, you must be under-performing. If your kids aren’t busy with homework and after-school activities, they won’t get ahead. If you don’t look busy, someone will ask you to work harder. Etc.
Enough already. Instead of being scattered to the four winds, collect and concentrate your mind and energy. Besides feeling a lot better, it’s more effective in the long run. For example, what does an Olympic gymnast do before launching a tumbling run or a rocket before heading into space? Come to center.
One thing about a seasonal change is, well, change! On our farm, we have become hosts to various nests – owls, sparrows, robins and more. We have a mated pair of coywolves who have made a den in the ravine and all manner of other creatures including some very bold raccoons seem to think it’s ok to stroll past our house in broad daylight like they own the place and we don’t count. Now thankfully, we have a ten-foot fence around the back of the compound so my teeny Pomeranians don’t get eaten, but I always have to go out with them and supervise just in case the pair of red-tailed hawks that hang out in the trees decide they look like snacks. This morning I went out with the fluff balls and stood under a new robin’s nest (or should I say condo) that she skillfully built right above the door and whose occupant decided to poop on my head. I was so upset for a moment I could not believe I had to change my clothes since I had an interview online and fix my hair yadaydaya!! But I stopped pretty quickly and I just had to laugh! Bird poop is not the end of the world and if I had to go on right away I could have pretended it was toothpaste HA!
Never a dull moment at Zen Farm.
This week’s Goddess Power Oracle reading is all about having a sense of humor around our revelations brought into light by the symbolism of the Goddess Yhi. It’s asking us to really trust that our new beginnings are called new for a reason. New means we might not know how, or might need to learn something, might not know the steps, etc. We are brimming with potential this week, says Cerridwyn, but this is all uncharted if it’s new, so how can we expect ourselves to have all the answers, know the steps, given that new doesn’t mean familiar or “the same as before”.
Life expands and contracts in the yoke of a second. One minute there’s an unseeable vastness between life and death, and the next, it’s the length of a needle we’ve dropped and can’t seem to find. There is no one name or reason or label we can put on what we go through, though all of us, in our want to calm our fears, try to pin it down. Yet when doing all we can—holding, listening, bearing witness, and resisting the demon of “why” while leaning into the angel of “how”—there’s so much wisdom in the depths of our rawness. In being so present and engaged, we are forever shaped and carved as we shape and carve. This only makes us a more finely wrought instrument. So you are not blind and thickheaded, no matter how powerless you might feel. Quite the opposite: you are a clear jewel being burnished until all of life is reflected through your deeply exposed heart.
Len contacted me for Inner Bonding facilitation while he was going through a divorce. He had discovered Inner Bonding through a Google search and realized that what he was struggling with was self-abandonment.
Len was diligent in having sessions with me and in reading everything he could about Inner Bonding. Within a couple of months, he could spout Inner Bonding with the best of them, and had even started to help various friends and relatives with Inner Bonding. He was keenly aware of the taker role his wife had adopted in their marriage, and completely understood the caretaking role and level of self-abandonment that had been his end of their codependent system.
But Nothing Changed…
However, nothing was actually changing is his relationships with others – because all this information was in his mind, but not in his experience. He was not actually practicing Inner Bonding. He believed that if he understood it, then somehow something would change.
This calendar week has always been special to me and to my family. The Easter holiday was always the herald of a new beginning and that something sacred and beautiful was shared in my home. It was a time for peace, reconciliation, and one where everything felt like we were all getting a second chance. I don’t have one bad memory of this time of year (unlike Christmas, which took me years to heal my inner Scrooge and fear of holiday crazy).
And, to top it off, I was raised to celebrate 2 Easters in a row! These were the western Christian holiday, as we were raised as Anglicans, and then another one the next weekend as my Dad celebrated the Serbian Orthodox traditions, which followed a different calendar.
And, although these are supposed to be religious holidays, we were also all painting eggs and hunting for chocolate from the Easter Bunny!!
So this year Easter came late since it is always held the Sunday after the full moon that followed the March equinox. And since the full moon happened literally right after the equinox- here we are!
When you take the popular phrase “Follow your bliss” and trace it back to its source, something more powerful was intended. In a late interview the famous expert on mythology Joseph Campbell first used the phrase, saying “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you.”
This implication that bliss is a personal path, and that the path is pre-determined, is much more than “do what you really like to do,” which is how most people interpret “Follow your bliss.” Let me expand on this point by showing that “bliss” is much more fundamental than almost anyone realizes. It holds the key to transforming the mind.
“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you.”
Doing what you really like to do is certainly a good idea; it is much better than the opposite, doing what you have to do even if you don’t particularly like it. But no one can engage in pleasurable activity all the time. The human mind brings us experiences of pleasure and pain, and since the two are paired as inescapable opposites, mental tension and conflict are inevitable no matter how positive and pleasant you try to make your life be. (For deeper background, please see my most recent post, “Can You Make Your Mind Your Friend?”)
In every life, reminders arrive about what's really key.
What matters most to you?
Remember the important things.
In every life, reminders arrive about what's really important.
I’ve received some myself, as I’m sure you have, too. Perhaps it was news of a potentially serious health problem, the death of a loved one, or an accident that could have turned fatal. These are uncomfortably concrete messages that sooner or later something will catch up with each one of us.
When I’m pierced with one of these reminders, it’s like there are three layers in my mind. The top layer is focused on problem-solving. Beneath that is what seems like a furry little animal that’s upset and wants to curl up and be hugged. The bottom layer feels accepting, peaceful, and grateful.