The Invitation

In this second podcast of the series I offer an invitation to explore our core resources. We each have these amazing super powers but we sometimes forget that they are there for us to access. In this podcast, I make the proposal for why each of us is more brilliant than we currently imagine.

The Journey Begins

This is the first podcast in the series and it took the shape of an interview between myself and Sam Fisher. He asks questions about this practice and why I began developing and sharing it. This podcast will explore our being human and offer tools and insights through the Sound Body Wisdom practice. It’s a space of possibility expanded by science, mind-body practices and personal wisdom.

You are the Path

If you are someone that knows me…or perhaps reads any of these ponderings….you would likely know that I spend much of my time examining my thoughts/heart space, dismantling my sense of ‘self’ and attempting to see all of life from as many perspectives as possible (without my brain exploding).

I don’t practice any of this as a form of nihilism or self deprecation…..but as a path towards not being controlled by my attachments, to grow more deeply in open-hearted compassion and broader awareness.
I live with a fully intact personality and trove of opinions that can burst on the scene at any time, but they dwell side-by-side with this practice.

For me, the most important commitment is to love others and myself without any conditions or judgment. (Authentic love comes as the foundation and then after that are all the opinions and personality.)
Generally, it’s my own fears or smallness that gets in my way of this. I have found that the more I explore this ‘path of me’, the more available and free I am to love without constrictions.

Why would we ever withhold our love or think for one moment we are ‘better than’ or ‘not as good as’ someone else? And yet we are prolific at doing this very thing. Each day we experience divisive thoughts based on: social standing, education, economics, physical appearance, gender, evaluative comparisons……on and on.
So yes, my curiosity seems to continuously boomerang back to: Why not love our selves and others fully, without conditions? Why engage in the knee jerk human patent of judging one another? What gets in our way of creating a life that embraces that we are all fundamentally equal, yet diverse, without exception?

I am always finding new doorways to explore this practice and recently I have had a few ‘new’ doors present themselves. One of them has been this thing we call ‘death’ (and the never-ending maze of personal attachments we base on our perceptions of living.)
I have had the honor of spending time with a good friend as he goes through the transition from this physical world: to converse openly and with our mystified soft hearts about this life, the transition of energy and perceptions.

He was amazed to witness for himself the gradual shift in how day-to-day moments could feel so different, the challenge of having his once strong physical body not be ‘his own’ anymore, the journey to let go of copious attachments and the ability to see from new spaces in his heart/soul/energy. This time with him has afforded me new opportunities to examine a few more standard foundations that affect my every day thoughts. More specifically, our linear relationship to living, aging and apprehension/denial of our own mortality.
It has offered new prisms through which I gain insight and follow my curiosity in this laboratory of me.

Along with this, I have started getting to know a person that lives within the local transient/homeless community. Having conversations about what has changed for her since becoming ‘homeless’, the tangible shift in how people treat her and my own sense of ‘us/them’ while being invited into their circles……..

Both of these experiences in different ways have been potent in demonstrating the lines we draw and perceptions we cling to sometimes. The need to feel safe or comfortable even if that means choosing to shy away from examining these defining judgments, the status quo script or beliefs about self and other whether due to life circumstances or our own mortality.

I find myself surrendering more and more to how little is ‘certain’ in our lives (even with these days and routines that might unfold as expected or planned). We all know there are ‘no guarantees’ in this life and yet we invest a lot of time and energy towards trying to control and bend this ‘truth’ as much as we can. This can potentially look many different ways: the eye cream we dab on to ‘prevent’ aging, the gossip we speak about other individuals, the material objects we surround ourselves with, the inner voices that declare we are somehow not ‘good enough’ or the small untruth we tell in any given moment….
We have so many movements of the mind enabling us to sidestep this possibility of the unknown and all that we cannot control or predict in this life. So many inflexible or stylized thoughts we use to maintain our position on the map of living …..to somehow offer a guarantee of where we place in the scheme of things. No matter whether they are subtle or strongly apparent….we are running these scripts daily.

It seems that we don’t often greet the uncertainty of living (which can feel threatening) with open arms. Instead, we often try to manipulate or distract from it. We become frightened by the unknown open space of questioning and feel vulnerable to the varied ‘truths’ in each moment. There is much more comfort and safety in trying to control ‘reality’ and shape it into the existing (inherited) images that we already have of the world and ourselves. This might create temporary relief from the uncertainty that is inherent in being human……but ultimately it is just a tool we all use to create more comfort and accommodations.

(and just to be clear…..I participate in forms of daily control and distraction and can thoroughly enjoy the time I spend there…..but for me it is about finding a balance and an awareness of what I am choosing and why. I have no hard and fast lines or judgments about any of this…..just curiosities)

It seems that if we seldom participate in a practice of examination and questioning, we come to believe we (or others) are whatever arises in our conditioned minds. We have gotten so used to looking outside ourselves for ‘answers’ that we have forgotten to be curious about who it is that’s doing the looking.
If we are willing to investigate the spaces in between our thoughts we might discover a relationship to uncertainty that begins to feel more comfortable. We might fully witness the vast energy we exert to conform our lives to an ‘acceptable’ version of the image we desire….. and then choose to utilize that energy in different ways.

Yes, we have such incredibly intricate and compulsive responses in the mind……. but it is within this complex web that we can find a vast and rich resource. We don’t seem to realize that the raw and layered material of ‘us’ is the path. You can learn from any teacher or teachings……but I feel that to truly find wisdom and compassion…….you must discover yourself. Because you are the ‘truth’ and no one else can take you there except for you.
Yes, all these teachers/teachings have left us road maps but ultimately you must travel that road yourself and ask questions along the way. Each person’s path is unique and at times you will need to improvise, but it is a mystery only you can discover.

It reminds me of a story about a student and a Zen master. The student approached the Zen master saying ‘I have come to learn THE path’. The Zen teacher sat for a moment and replied with loving emphasis, ‘You are the path’.

When we begin to recognize that so much of how we experience life is a reflection of the mind, then each experience becomes an opportunity to discover our dance with this process; The actions, opinions, and thinking that we use to shape our sense of safe reality, the attachment we have to ‘knowing’/control and the lack of compassion / kindness in relation to self and other when immersed in these attachments.

Each moment we get to choose what version of theater we would like to engage and if we want to perhaps take a peek backstage. Understanding with greater depth what lies behind curtains can offer a broader experience of the magic. We never arrive at a final act or answer but we get to continuously be present in the open space of uncertainty with a welcoming breath.

>>>

I have no new sharing of tools as I close from these ponderings. My practices are ones I have previously offered that I find help me to cultivate awareness and humility…….

After I click ‘publish’ I will continue to sift through depths where my conditioned mind and personal perceptions make for entertaining theatre. The theatre that is me, you and the world around us. The subjectivity of it all……….
the influences….choices……..
I sometimes feel like a puppy trying to catch its own tail. Circle upon circle and eventually I sit down, take a breath and continue my spiral dance later with new vigor and delight. All these words and they don’t ever seem to come close ….to this journey of living.

Take care and thanks for connecting…….

Undeniable self love

“It’s undeniable how brilliant you are, in an unreliable world you shine like a star.”

These are the opening lyrics to a cheesy Pop song I enjoy. Listening to it today, I reflected again on the ease with which we give away such love and adoration to others…..but not typically to ourselves.
Generally speaking, when we sing a song like this we are singing about someone else.

I reflected further upon my own journey with ‘love songs’. Remembering that about 10 years ago I made a shift in my way of relating to songs like this.
At the time, I was going through some challenging events personally and I had such a focus on external love and relationships. (And yes, there had been a ‘break-up’ involved in this personal exploration.) And I realized that what felt like unbearable ‘suffering’ was my persistence in wanting to have someone be the focus of these ‘love songs’.
Since I couldn’t change the fact that there was no ‘somebody’ and I couldn’t change the radio playlist…..I had to shift my perception and focus.

It took some negotiating at first, but eventually I realized I needed to whole heartedly sing this to myself. Every time and without exception I needed to be able to put myself as the ‘somebody’ in the song.
It couldn’t just be the occasional ‘positive affirmation’ or lip service. I needed to have the same verve as if I was singing it to someone other than me.
(Don’t get me wrong, I am an uber romantic and I enjoy having someone to sing these songs to…..but now, I am equally able to sing them to myself.)

As I have shared this perspective with people there sometimes seems to be a hesitance; a worry that this could perhaps be seen as narcissism.
I find this fascinating……
How could unconditionally loving oneself be seen as ‘excessive self-love’?
(I would imagine a narcissistic personality would mean there are problems arising from an out of balance self- centeredness that disrupts other interactions.)

I am simply talking about the pure and unfettered loving of oneself that is our birthright.
No more, no less.
Why would we choose anything else?
And once we have this resource within ourselves…are we not even more capable of offering it without conditions to another person?

For this reason…… I sing loud and with a big heart…..
…….for me, for you and for the romantic joy in it all……

The gift of Improvisation

After teaching a recent workshop I was reflecting on ‘improvisation’ and how it is a consistent tool I utilize in my work (and in life)….. so I thought I would share some ideas.

I feel that improvisation takes you ‘off script’ and into being more present in ‘the moment’.  It can also develop our intuition and senses.  It can be engaged in many different ways (in performance, in travel, cooking, making friends, work etc) but often it asks you to turn off the ‘auto pilot’ we are using most of the day. I think auto pilot serves a purpose to be sure, but it can also impose some limitations.

I feel improvisation is about opening up to possibilities or seeing options you didn’t realize were already there.  It can create new pathways for thinking, seeing and being. Some of the ways it can achieve this is by taking us out of ‘ordinary’ space and time, asking us to step to ‘one side’ of typical and potentially pushing our comfort buttons.

Being ‘off script’ can be unsettling….you don’t know what comes next….and it is in this ‘unknown’ that you can discover a new way of being in your body, your thoughts and in your experience of yourself and living.

I truly believe we can shift our habits of thought and perspective in ways that can remove limitations put in place over time.  This shift can have benefits in our health, creativity and our perceptions of self.
Improvisation assists this by interrupting the rapid fire ‘auto pilot’ of ‘shoulds’, routine and statements of what defines things. Improvisation can help us observe these patterns by juxtaposing new possibilities and simply interrupting the ‘typical’.
This interruption can allow for more potential by cracking a window in our conditioned thinking and behavior.

Our ability to more fully know (and express) ourselves is one of the most significant explorations we have in this life. To remain open and curious about ourselves is a continuous gift; the journey is never complete and is always teaching us something. And when we give permission to perceive ourselves and the world in new ways, it creates a domino effect that also touches others.
We each are amazingly brilliant beings and the effect our thoughts and perceptions have on one another (and ourselves) is quite tangible……

…..in life and on stage…..I always endeavor to remember this……

Thanks for reading…..

….and thinking makes it so….

We live these finite lives and each of our days we fill with continuous thought.  In a way I suppose we are our thoughts because it is these very thoughts that construct our worlds, opinions, actions, emotions, choices….the manifest  ‘reality’ of our days.

There is a quote from Hamlet that often leaps to my mouth….’There is neither bad or good but thinking makes it so.’

…..’thinking makes it so….’

I am sure many would make debate about the existence and definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.  But my focus of curiosity is on …..‘and thinking makes it so’.  As I peel layers of ‘self’ I find continuous chains of thinking.  Peeling brings thinking.  Writing brings thinking.  Most activities are thought based.  We are formulating thoughts constantly.  And all these thoughts inform and influence us.

Such influence in fact that there can be a challenge to know one self without the thoughts.  How can we separate our ‘essence’ from all the thinking?

I must say that in writing about this I put my pen down often.

I simultaneously feel I could write indefinitely (in circles) but that it is also as simple as the words of Hamlet. 

So then, why do I write?  Well, I feel compelled to follow threads and ask questions; to question the ‘thoughts’…..all the thinking.  Even though it is the mind I use to do this questioning (the mind that also indulges the habitual thinking process)….I find these flash moments of the unexpected.  Glimpses that are in between these mechanisms and offer me the very breath I use to interrupt the habits of thinking  that can limit me….get me stuck…..put me on auto-pilot.

To be honest, this experience is beyond words to truly describe.  But I feel it….something…..I feel it.  And I witness the possibility of interrupting thought and thinking.  I witness an expanded palette of ‘choices’ when I am aware (and interrupt) this slipstream of the mind; when I am not simply riding on the unquestioned suction of its propellers.

The vehicle of my thinking is an elaborate creation that has been in continuous design since my birth (at least).  How incredible.  How vast.  I don’t know that I could (or need to) dismantle such a work of ‘art’.  But I have found that creating spaces in the soundtrack of my thinking has changed my life.  Changed it in a way where I experience more compassion, spaciousness, unconditioned love and a range of choice.  I am able to see an array of other possibilities in my concepts, perceptions and ensuing emotions.   I also get to see where I feel attached to certain concepts and emotions.  I don’t feel inclined much these days to figure out these attachments as much as ask if they are serving to nourish.  What do they create?  Perpetuate?

(….’but thinking makes it so’….)

I have found there is a dance with thinking and that I am not just along for the ride.  There is infinite potential and discovery in those spaces within the slipstream/soundtrack of our thoughts.  These spaces are not quite as ‘straightforward’.  They leave a bit of mystery to it all and a loosening of the ego.  But if I am improvising with …..’and thinking makes it so’…..then perhaps I can counteract the possible discomfort that accompanies mystery with simply ‘thinking’ another potential  ‘reality’….

What do you think?

Thanks for coming along on the journey…..

The ‘Brain’

It is amazing to me that our perceptions, memories, experiences and general personalities are completely beholden to this thing we call the brain. It is the mission control and data bank of all things ‘us’. It’s an enigma while at the same time we are able to read volumes of research explaining some of its mechanisms and functions. From the very measurable maps of synapses and electrical discharges to the mysteries of memory and ‘consciousness’ (ie:the awareness the mind has of itself and the world)…… it defines each of us individually. We like to believe that we have control over our brains….. but the irony here is that it is the mind itself proposing this possibility in the first place.

As I write I wonder if one shortcoming here is in using the singular word/designation of ‘brain’ to describe something so vast, limitless and immeasurable. (Maybe instead of ‘brain’ I might refer to this expanse as the Incomprehensible Landscape of Glimpses into Oneself)

Brain: noun
1. an organ of soft nervous tissue contained in the skull of vertebrates, functioning as the coordinating center of sensation and intellectual and nervous activity.

This definition makes it all sound so simple and clear….but alas…….

It is all quite a quandary because in order to perceive or own consciousness we need to actually use our consciousness……which is sorta like the eye looking at the eye or a tooth biting itself. Due to this provision we cannot truly look at it objectively or perhaps even delve too deeply within it. Sir Arthur Ellington, a well regarded scientist of the last century, in the end just threw up his hands. He said ‘even the best we can say, even with simple things like perception, is that something unknown is doing…..we do not know what.’
I suppose this is what interests me in people like Buddha who said ‘if consciousness has to understand itself it has to be through subjectivity’. For me…. I understand this as an invitation to go inward, not outward, for information. That the path to understanding the world around me and my own inner workings (or ‘brain’) is through the unique and subjective map (perceptions and mind translations) of me. I can research brain functionality until the endlessly… but nothing truly gets below the surface quite like personal inquiry.

The ‘brain’ seems far from a definitive object. Yes, we can measure some things….. but vast areas and functions of the brain are still relatively unknown. For instance something as commonplace as our memory…. human recall is fairly hit or miss. Neuroscientific research tells us that our brains don’t use a fixed-address system, and our memories tend to overlap, combine, and disappear for reasons no one yet fully understands.
The one thing we do know is rather vague: Memories live in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. After that, the entire question of how memory works is up for grabs. For example, where precisely in the hippocampus (or prefrontal cortex) is my memory of reading a particular book for the first time? If I try to summon that random memory, I am likely to wind up with a blur of a half dozen indistinct recollections and no brain-scan technology able to help me bring it into better focus.
Other things like the understanding of how dreams work or ‘out of body’ experiences fall into a similar category of great mystery. Not to mention it seems apparent that modern science can’t really even ‘explain’ your ‘average’, in-the-brain consciousness. They have been able to detail neuronal firings and synaptic transmissions designating many cognitive functions but there is no true explanation or measure for things like conscious awareness, free will or the essence of experienced perceptions (like the blue hue, texture and smell of the ocean). So what is this subjective occurrence of feelings, awareness, and phenomenal experience (our’inner life’) and do we consider it significant even though it is unable to be quantified and measured?

I recently learned that science has been able to measure brain electrical activity believed to correlate with consciousness (through monitors and tests/EEGs) and applied these tests to dying patients at or near the moment of death. The studies have shown distinct end-of-life brain activity occuring in brain tissue which is metabolically dead, receiving no blood or oxygen flow. These findings have been revelatory and there have been many subsequent explanations….. but no concrete answers. How or Why conscious activity of any sort is occurring in the nearly dead brain is a ‘mystery’ to us.

We have been studying the brain since the time of the ancients. 387 BC- Plato teaches in Athens that the brain is where our mental processes take place. However Aristotle (335 BC) suggests the heart is the center of thought and declares that the heart, not the brain, is where the action is. (In fact this ancient belief becomes so popular and well received that it spawns the saying “to memorize by heart”) And in our modern era there has been great momentum and ‘breakthroughs’ in brain research and understanding, especially in the last 15 years. But even as we quench our thirst for knowledge and answers….I am not sure that the realm of the brain (this Incomprehensible Landscape) will ever have ‘an answer’ but simply provide more questions. Similar to the universe and all the continuous discoveries…..I think the more we look the more territory and questions we discover…..and more will continuously unfold. This photo below brings this comparison closer to home for me:

Our brains and consciousness cannot be neatly packaged, summed up and fully explained. I know that we sometimes seem to prefer tidy answers and definitive descriptions in order to ‘understand’…… but I am offering that it is quite possible we will neither have a complete answer to how this incomprehensible landscape of the brain functions nor will it ever be a patent for how each person may perceive and operate.

My curiosity then leads me to wonder if perhaps things like ‘knowing’ and ‘reality’ are really quite subjective and each person looking within themselves, being reflective and curious is equally important to the most comprehensive scientific brain research. Why not get curious and explore our own awareness, perceptions, emotions and thoughts through this vehicle of the mind/consciousness? Truly, I believe we are our own best ‘researcher’ on so many levels.

Ultimately, even with our incredible ability to research, locate and beautifully explain some amount of particulars, the nature of the brain/consciousness seems ever adapting, subjective and (to some degree) elusive…..
……remember…..we are the ‘eye looking at the eye’.

Thanks for reading and sharing.
Jacq

“Heady”

Today my friend called my writing ‘heady’ and I watched myself begin to feel a small sense of defeat. When she asked ‘why’….I realized that my intention for writing was to offer ideas and explorations in an accessible way and to share the possibility that questioning the nature of the ‘self’ can be a practice that is not unlike riding a bike. But often I have heard things like ‘heady’ to describe what I share and the definition of this term includes ‘demanding’. So somehow I felt defeated in that I imagined people don’t want to engage in things that are ‘demanding’ on this level. But she was able to share from her own experience that even within the challenging nature of the writing, she finds seeds and jewels that stay with her. These then become tools she has utilized in her every day life…… and I couldn’t imagine anything more accessible than that.
It’s true that in my writing and questioning I am proposing that each of us step outside of our cultural unconscious ‘indoctrination’….to bring awareness to the maps and veils (or any other metaphor) that cover us quite often without our even knowing. I am suggesting a practice that involves a peeling back of these forces simply to generate more awareness……a practice that is awareness for the sake of awareness without knowing for sure what affect it might propel. Like the shaping of rock from a river’s flow…..I believe the way we direct awareness has tangible yet indefinable reverberations in our life and world.
“Heady’ or not…….I’m game……

My tribe

There are many tools for navigating our human thoughts and emotions so that we can stay grounded, balanced and empowered on our life journey. I know many people have an idea that they are looking for something outside of themselves to assist them but I have found that (most) everything I need is right here inside of me.

There have been many different practices, therapies and events from which I have discovered the particular tools I utilize and how to improvise with them. One of my favorite and most helpful tools is the relationship I have with what I call my ‘Inner Tribe’. I have written about this before but I thought it might be helpful to write more about the way I work with my Inner Tribe. The particulars of how I have figured this out for myself have changed my life immensely and my relationship to it continues to evolve every day.

Often when I refer to my ‘parts’ it seems a bit confusing for people to understand the extent to which I work with this metaphoric tool but I have found such incredible insight and ability to fully love myself through my growing into it, that it seems significant to say more.

When I speak about my ‘parts’ I am basically referring to the abundance of dynamics, emotions, thoughts and ego nuances within myself that can include or influence such things as belief systems shaped in my youth, self-protecting mechanisms picked up through my life, any form of conditioning or consistent ‘inner voice’ that influences my behavior or emotions. I feel there is really no limit to the many overtones that comprise our personalities and inner landscape. Some of these are more obvious while others are often moving and shaking behind the scenes but influence us none the less. My curiosity is around the parts and inner dialogue that cause me to contract or feel small…..parts that get in the way of my loving and accepting myself fully and without judgement.

I first articulated this sense of Inner Tribe to myself about 10 years ago. The discovery came from noticing that when I would have any self deprecating thoughts there was typically a voice connected to them. This less than nourishing inner commentary or belief would be fairly consistent and there was no removing it by force or convincing it through rational mind. I finally realized these outspoken ‘parts’ that were creating limitations or depressions in me actually believed they had a valid reason for what they were saying and imposing. It was at this point I had the idea to ask them directly what they needed from ‘me’ and then actually listen to what they told me. (The radical piece of this was the ‘listening’ to them and truly caring.) Over many months I persisted in asking, being curious without judgement and being patient. They didn’t always say much or even acknowledge my question (and yes, there is a healthy amount of allowing for imagination, trust and intuition in this practice) but with patience I gradually found they would talk to me and tell me about how they were feeling and why. I would even make dates with them if they were feeling quiet and make sure to keep that date. I never stood them up for any reason…..especially if I was feeling better or perhaps they were no longer acting out. I did this because I recognized that the key here was in developing the relationship through trust and consistency not to mention the opportunity to talk with them during neutral & untriggered times when I would actually have more resource. I needed to show these parts I cared and didn’t just want to get rid of them and I needed to be able to learn and open in the process. I gradually came to understand that more than anything the majority of my parts simply wanted to be heard, most importantly, by me. When they began to trust I was actually available for them (and listening) they slowly began integrating with what I call the ‘wise woman’ me. They were no longer trying to get something and act out for their ‘needs’…..they felt more complete and could then include themselves in the ‘me’ that is wise and fully present in the NOW…..the me that feels no sense of lacking or limitations and is fully in the present moment. The Wise Woman is all of my Inner Tribe or parts working in unison without distress.

I want to keep clarifying that ‘parts’, ‘inner tribe’ and ‘me’ are all the same (along with any number of other metaphors or labels). These parts or inner tribe are comprised of my younger/adolescent feelings, the self depreciating thoughts, the emotions that take over in any moment that can disconnect me from my power or create a sense of inadequacy or ‘less than’. (It also includes all the vibrant and joyful aspects)…..it is everything I experience and the thoughts and emotions connected. In this writing I am specifically focusing on the relationship I have with the ones that have wreaked havoc or have had an unhealthy impact when they are left to their own devices.

Another way I can explain how I interact with this is through my relationship with my 8 yr old, Asa. Whenever he is having feelings or ‘acting out’ with sadness, anger, fear I meet him with unconditioned love. I think about how I listen to him when he shares and would never dream of blowing him off if I have made a date with him nor would I judge him for his feelings. I don’t criticize him or think less of him for his feelings and I am able to create boundaries with care and wisdom. When I realized this about my connection with him I began to imagine how I could show that same level of love, wisdom and compassion towards my Inner Tribe/parts/me. Knowing and loving him has taught me so much about loving all of my parts without conditions.

The cool thing about this practice is that it works in any situation for me. Let me offer a simple example……
Let’s say I am at a party talking with people and I notice that something in the conversation pushes a button (or two) in me because I start to observe my thoughts and/or behavior change. Perhaps I start to contract physically or the manner in which I am talking is now from imbalanced/younger parts or ones trying to prove something/or make someone else feel ‘less than’ (so they can feel ‘better’). When I notice this happening I send a general question to all my parts (all of me) and ask ‘who is talking right now’ try to see what is happening for them. (After all these years I am able to do this inner work while staying engaged at the party. I think this is due to the substantial amount of mutual trust with my parts so they speak more readily and share their perspectives.) The general reason quite often is that this part(s) feels inadequate in some way or ‘less than’. I don’t try to talk them out of their feeling but instead I acknowledge what they share without judgement, perhaps hold them or hold space for them and simply show up with unconditioned love.
I engage in this practice of dialogue to cultivate my relationship with this part(s) of me (the inner tribe) and so that the part can hopefully reach a point of integration with the whole and have less need to act out.

The main experience I want to convey here is more about the empowered and direct sense with which I address these thoughts/parts. I recognize these emotions or thought patterns as active parts (or members of a tribe) within me and engage them as I would a child with which I feel unconditional love and I am never trying to ‘get rid’ of them or ‘fix’ them. The honest challenge here for me is to simply Love them…..and continue to bring more love to each scenario where they act out or impose their needs or beliefs.

Another metaphor I use is called ‘driving the car’. When I notice something is ‘up’ for me or I am feeling agitated, sad or challenged in any way……I send out a general question to my Inner Tribe that basically asks ‘who is in the drivers seat right now’ because I know it isn’t my fully integrated Wise Woman. I recognize some other part has taken the wheel and is driving the car (aka: driving how I am feeling). I generally don’t get some detailed image of the part (it is sometimes a sense or a form but not clear identity or specifics) but I get the gist of their energy, why they wanted to drive/take control and I simply ask if I can ride shotgun. This approach started as a surprise to these parts as they had been used to a less welcoming acknowledgement in the past. But I typically get in the passenger seat without trying to take the keys or take over. I sometimes ask if I can turn the radio on, make small talk and generally hang out with them…..I just give them space all the while keeping everyone safe and a sense of boundaries for reckless driving. Eventually I let them know I enjoy driving and if they ever get tired I would be happy to take the wheel. Amazingly, these parts almost always hand over the keys and are happy for me to drive. And the important aspect of this is I don’t kick them to the curb and drive away as fast as I can…..I make sure they are with me riding shotgun now and we continue to hang out together. We get to bond and this bond is what nurtures the trust and mutual respect and compassion between us. Somewhere along the drive they integrate back with the Tribe and I have found they have less and less need to actually want to drive the car or act out. My sense is that they are getting their needs met, they are being heard and held and that is all they ever wanted in the first place so now they can simply relax and ‘evolve’ into the full ‘me’.

I realize a metaphor is only as helpful as it relates to the individual so I would encourage you to riff on these or feel creative with customizing new ones. As I said at the beginning of this writing….I believe most of what we need to learn and the tools for it are already within us. Sometimes it is a matter of finding the words and images that become bridges for this practice of the self.
The metaphors I have shared here have been amazing bridges and allies for teaching me there is no reason for not fully loving myself every moment of the day. And this has changed my life.
Truly, all of my parts are a blessing and challenge and the tribe is ever changing…..but like raising a child…… I fully commit to being there through it all.

What is certainty?

Our relationship to uncertainty is not always straightforward. Each of us has different ways we cope and dance with it. And each of us probably defines it in different ways.
But it is something we live with every moment of our lives while employing many methods for distracting ourselves or creating a sense that we have somehow sidestepped it with all our knowledge, opinions and belief systems.

The challenge in writing about ‘uncertainty’ is in the nuance and subjective qualities inherent as well as the amazing range it involves. From the greater umbrella of the mystery of life and death to our very mundane human realm of diversity and differences…..we are consistently employing ‘certainties’ to make sense of our lives.

In this I am curious how any attachment to what we think we ‘know’ can perhaps become something that is depleting overall. Or how our certainty feeds judgement and a more narrow world for us all to live in……a world where we continuously support systems that seek to diminish some and elevate others. Whether locally or in larger social systems I am curious how are desire to avoid uncertainty can become oppressive in our individual lives and also the world around us.

When it comes to this journey of life, living and dying can we ever truly say ‘for sure’ about the nature of it all? I feel we create meaning around us and look to define and shape our world as a way of feeling more comfortable. The space of ‘not knowing’ is typically not one in which we as humans seem to find comfort. (and yes, I realize these are huge generalizations I am making)
My experiences and journey has led me to perceive all of life as uncertain…. and that as humans we seem to impose ‘answers’, interpretations and definitions to feel a sense of control, comfort and safety. In many ways our certainties define us and help us define the world…..they are the lens through which we read things. And these certainties can allow us to experience the world and life in a way that is more ‘manageable’. It lets us create a safe ‘container’ when we design definitions and draw lines around us. In a way it gives us something to lean or push up against as opposed to boundless space all around and perhaps a sense of falling. We are truly amazing and brilliant for creating ways of making sense in this vast universe.

In our everyday interactions, thoughts and choices we can find a very subtle interplay of our attachment to ‘certainty’ informing our opinions. I am particularly curious about our sense of certainty as it leads to judgement of oneself and others. Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t be asking any of these questions if I didn’t have little flags going up around the nature of our certainties and how they fuel so many of our judgements and systems of hierarchy…..how the simple desire to define and feel certain can fuel limiting perspectives that become divisive in ways that are not nourishing.
(And just to clarify the difference between judgement and opinion….for me, when your opinion seeks to make someone else wrong or ‘less than’ it has moved over into judgement.)

In our day to day lives we are confronted continuously with belief systems and choices. It can be as subtle as what someone should wear to a certain event or occasion to how one should raise a child. Again, having our opinions is beautiful but what happens when it shifts to a certainty of one method being ‘better than’ another or ‘right’? When does our attachment to what we ‘know’, what we feel certain about, shift into judgement and become a defeating system for our diverse community and planet?
How do we truly embrace one another in all our diversity if we are holding fast to our certainties without room for other views? What is it that compels us to let our certainties/belief systems see someone else as ‘lesser than’ or to create a hierarchical system of human worth?
That is the curiosity I have and ponder……never arriving at an answer but compassionately witnessing the conditionality of what it is to feel safe in this human world….all the choices we make, have learned and pass on to our youth around ‘acceptable’ ways for shaping how we ‘think’ and interact with each other.

For me it has been a joy and terror over the years to develop a comfort level with saying ‘I don’t know” and letting go of my attachments to knowing and certainty. I observe at intervals throughout my days the feeling of security and safety in believing I ‘know’ something. Whether it is the ‘best’ route to take between 2 points, politics, concepts of an ‘afterlife’ or a moral dilemma…… we find layers of our certainty wound up in our beliefs and opinions. There is a complex design at work within us and discovering which certainties we are attached to can perhaps teach us volumes about oneself and the world we live in. (And again, my focus is around where we feel ‘attached’ and inflexible to some degree.)

More and more I have moved into a place of finding my safety in not knowing. I have said before that I don’t believe life is about maintaining ‘comfort’ but riding the balance of ‘comfort’ and ‘discomfort’. There is an incredible wealth of freedom when I am not attached to being ‘right’,‘knowing’ or comfortable….. and I can then open up to any number of ‘answers’ or perspectives to emerge simultaneously.

I realize that opening to different ‘truths’ and ‘knowingness’ can create a place of discomfort (especially when it potentially touches on core belief systems). But what do you have to lose by simply practicing letting go….even for a short time…letting go of certainty and fast held beliefs or judgements? They are always there to reclaim. What makes us feel comfortable in our certainties, beliefs and attitudes? What makes us uncomfortable when we consider the space of simply not knowing, having no answer or multiple answers?

Try this……

During the course of your day see if you can notice/observe something about which you feel certain. This can be a perception of someone close to you, a political topic or a discussion involving a different point of view with someone else.
In observing your thought see if you can embrace the equal possibility that there are simultaneous other ‘truths’ or perspectives. See if you can generate a few other perspectives or embrace ones that others have offered. Then, see if you can also whole heartedly embrace a perception of ‘not knowing’. To allow yourself to not arrive at any answer or opinion for a few moments.
Now notice what thoughts come along with this exercise. Notice what pushes your comfort edge and where you feel more attached to ‘knowing’ and/or being ‘right’? Where do you feel any resistance?
If you feel no resistance or discomfort keep pushing the edge a bit with different topics/situations and see which ones actually challenge you and where you find attachments unwilling to loosen.
Also, observe how long you are able to rest in ‘not knowing’ before your mind wants to arrive again at an answer, attitude or ‘truth’.
(If you have a flair for imagination you can even question things like your favorite foods, music or activities as a practice of letting go. These are things that might seem strange or trivial since they are basic personal preferences but they allow us access into where we are attached to what defines us personally)

Can we find equal space to be curious rather than reaching for certainty and relying on definitions? Can we play with letting go of any sense of knowing or even opinion and dwell in a space of uncertainty for even brief periods?

Ultimately this is all about ‘practice’……the practice of the self……the practice of curiosity. The willingness to go into the laboratory of your own mind and discover through experimentation the power of your own thought processes (as well as collective processes). This is a practice that asks you to step outside the accepted framework of your thoughts, attachments and beliefs and engage questioning as a tool for learning…..and I would even say ’empowerment’ on many levels.

Our human world is complex, diverse and filled with so many beliefs and definitions. How do we navigate the fullness of this with grace? Can holding fast to certainties and defintions truly nourish us and the world around us in the long run?……or does it create a system that depletes ? And do we choose a feeling of ‘safety’ at any expense whether to the people around us or other groups in our society?

I support and admire each of our incredible uniqueness, personal expression and opinions. Along with this……how do we continue to grow and open? How do we allow ourselves to be a little uncomfortable as we equally support both new perspectives and a space of not knowing on this life journey ? How do we swim in uncertainty without feeling like we are drowning in it?
I don’t know……but I am learning……

Palms open

What if we walked through our days with palms up and hands open? What if the heart was open, eager and ready even while hurting?  What if you agree to receive the joy and sorrow life is offering in each moment?  What if you said ‘yes’ to the complex ‘story’ of you that is unfolding each and every moment?
 
Or…….
What if you pick 10 things you believe to be true within your belief system.  Pick anything and just notice the list and how you feel about these ‘truths’.  The beauty of a list like this is that in a room of people or even a city of people you will most likely find that each person’s list is both unique and similar.  Some people might have the ‘same’ things, others could have the opposite while others would be amazed to learn something new from the perspective of your list.

Every day we are unfolding the stories of our lives…past, present and future.  And every day we have the power to bear witness to others and allow ourselves to be witnessed living these stories.  If we allow this exchange of witnessing and find the inherent connection of these human ‘lists’ we might find affirmations both in our sameness and our differences.  We affirm each others ‘being’ in this process which simultaneously affirms our own.
 
Those moments in life when we feel authentically seen or known we can sometimes have this potent sense of connection to everything and everyone (and ourselves!).  It is a silent breath that wakes us from head to toe without criticism.
 
What if we choose to discover and live our authentic self right now….right now with all our story unfolding without judgement.  What if you honor in yourself and others all the diverse qualities and feelings within each of us?  What if we offer all that we are as gifts without predjudice?

This life is always bouncing us point to point and we gather as we go.  We can take every experience, every morsel, to live each day diving into the unknown…this mystery of us.

And sharing our stories can crack open locks.  It can shine light on the threads that weave through us all and dare to celebrate what we have in common and the brilliance of our differences/uniqueness.  Our stories (which is every life moment strung together unedited) teach and inspire, challenge and puzzle, offer grief and joy, expand and give insight.  And they do this most exquisitely when we continue to offer and receive them within ourselves and others.

There is an alchemy to personal expression.  It is not enough to simply know the story of you…there is a potency in the act of accepting, sharing and being witnessed.  There is a mutual learning when we extend our hands and both offer the canvas of ourselves and receive that of another.  Yes, there is challenge and hurt but riding along side beauty and amazement.  Actively engage and be ready to catch it all in your vision and breath with acceptance.  Your story is one that is always changing and uniquely unfolding this you in the world.  And each version of you is in a dance with every other you in perfect equation….. A truth and mystery not to be judged or explained but to be honored without evaluation.

 

Everything connected

Every  day I am witnessing and questioning these ways of being human.  Our behavior, words and thoughts….for me it is a journey of questioning without the arrival of answers (per se)……curiosity upon curiosity.

Why is it that when I hear people speak in manners that diminish themselves or others….I feel a contraction within myself….a wince.  When I notice this contraction (as fleeting as it may be) I get incredibly curious about it.  How did it feel overall in my body?  Does it seem like a sensation that nourishes me?  Generally speaking I have yet to feel it be anything other than depleting or limiting.  So I ask myself if I want to contribute, manifest or engage in energy or activity that is contrary to nourishment?  The resounding reply within me is no, I do not.  My ‘being’ gravitates toward nourishment and potential.

So then I begin to wonder why it is so prevalent and acceptable to engage in thoughts, words and actions that seem to diminish/malnourish one’s self or others.  Often times it can be incredibly subtle because we have so deftly absorbed this type of language and behavior into our vernacular…..and yet even the more blatant acts or comments can unfold without question or backlash.

I begin to wonder how perhaps compassion, personal awareness, love without condition and empathy can offer guidance into new patterns, language and perceptions…..new possibility for interacting and being without diminishing or lacking nourishment.

How does each of us find a path that allows us to see and feel every person as equal in ‘status’ even while honoring our differences and uniqueness?  How can we enjoy our opinions without them needing to minimize someone else’s opinions?  How can we engage them without subscribing to the built in hierarchical system?  How can we have our opinions but not be attached to them?

All of this is simply questioning with the acceptance that there are no ‘true’ answers and the idea of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ doesn’t apply in this context (and many others).  Whether we choose to question any of this or not…there is no right or wrong choice.

It is all simply choices and then life unfolding from these individual and collective choices.

I believe that everything from our thoughts, to feelings and to actions is intimately interconnected between us all.  That each of us affects the other in ways beyond measure or even comprehension.  There is no limit to how connected we are and yet we seem to live as if we are definitively separate and perhaps even arrogantly independent.

What would change if you knew that the love you show/share with a friend or relative rippled out and touched total strangers?  Or if the angry words said in a heated moment or traffic jam can do the same?  What if every thoughts, feeling and action we have was like a stone tossed in a pond affecting the point of contact but rippling out infinitely and influencing everything along the way?  How would our sense of responsibility change?

I believe each of us is a vast energetic source of power….each of us without exception is this.  In many ways it seems we have lost our connection to it.  And I can feel how each of us are allies in reconnecting individually and collectively within again.  Without judgement or the language of ‘shoulds’….. our belief in one another , without exception, feels like a mighty  and brilliant force.

Oh…… Judgement

Judgement……what role does it serve in our lives and world?  What does it illicit in you as you read the word?

I am fascinated in watching it in myself and all around as it seems quite persistent.  Is it inherent or is it conditioned?  Does it serve the health and well being of us all?  Is it a nourishing (adjective:containing substances necessary for growth, health, and vibrance) element or something that deprives nourishment?  What role does it play?

These are some of the questions I ask myself. (and I have come to appreciate using the concept of ‘nourishment’ as a barometer in my questioning)

And I find myself so amazed at how pervasive it is in most arenas of human interaction and thought and how rarely do I see it nourish people or situations.

I should clarify here that ‘judgement’ as I am addressing it is different from the definition of it as opinion or decisions based on one’s wise and practical conclusions.  The judgement I am speaking of is along the lines of making someone else or yourself greater than or lesser than.

(To criticize or condemn someone from a position of assumed moral superiority.  Or to sit in judgment assuming the right to judge someone, esp. in a critical manner.)

I support everyone’s right to opinions and celebrate it emphatically.  This is an important detail so as not to confuse what it is I am questioning.

I am questioning our choice, each of us, to judge or criticize in most situations.  I am curious how we feel it supports growth and health for all and what it serves within us when we engage or perpetuate it?

Do we judge things when they threaten the comfort of our own held belief systems?  Do we feel a need to defend what feels safe and familiar within us and that which we are attached to?  By minimizing the existence of other ideas, thoughts, feelings and ways of living are we somehow trying to create a sense of personal power in a world that is inconceivably diverse in human and natural design?  Do we simply feel engaging judgement is benign and doesn’t really need to be questioned?  Or perhaps it is our right to judge and criticize and is as natural as eating and sleeping.

Imagine for a moment if you can that you moved to a city where judgement didn’t exist.  How would you explain it to other people and the purpose of engaging it?  But even more so…..imagine how it would feel to be in a place where you would never be judged and where your own internal judgements dissipated.  (remember that judgement in this context is not opinion or experience)

Can you sit back and close your eyes for one moment and see if you can feel that in your body and breathe it in even if you might not believe it is possible.  What do you notice?

For me I notice that there is a feeling of relaxation and ease within me.

I think it is tricky sometimes because judgement and criticism can be slippery allies with opinion and only our own internal knowing can understand our intentions.  I personally tend to dismantle down to the most subtle of thoughts and energies in myself so I can come to know more about my inner workings and offer new possibilities that allow for more nourishment for myself and others. In this practice I will even question my engaging in comparisons or how I speak information in social contexts.  I can see how craftily and indirect the judgement in me can manifest because those parts of me have a perceived notion of survival on some level.  It is pretty impressive and what I always come back to is love without conditions and compassion for those parts of myself.  When I am able to witness ways they engage in judgement and all its derivatives, I can simply become curious, loving and compassionate for the ways they have learned to ‘survive’.  And it is through witnessing and presence with them that the possibility of growing more into nourishing dynamic is possible.

That is me……at least today……

What does judgement or criticism serve or nourish in your life and can you ask the questions without judging what you notice in yourself?

Love……a rediscovery

The day will come when, after harnessing the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness the energies of Love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
-Teilhard de Chardin

This quote tickles me so much. And I must confess that I am at times also flummoxed by this world.

It seems so apparent and tangible to me….this natural wonder (and power) of Love. I can follow threads and see so many steps and human events that have unfolded causing us to disconnect from our own inherent natural resource. All of it helping to create a sense of powerlessness and encouraging us to act from smallness. And I know that every act of smallness/unkindness is likely an attempt to feel like we have our power…..all along not realizing that it is within us. That we never need to try and claim it at the expense of other people or the natural world.

I even realize that no matter what I put upon these pages that it will all likely remain words if individuals do not seek an authentic connection to the essence (their own essence) that lies underneath.  (That reconnecting to unconditioned Love within us is not a passive act……there is some consciousness and effort called for)
It is for each person to choose the world they want to create and it is truly a process of discernment. The template we are born into is a maze that we navigate every day. Every day there are possibilities all around me that I am not always able to see because they have not been a part of my living experience or the groundwork and familiar environment cultivated since my birth.  (I am also hindered by my places of smallness) But every day I reach into the unknown and clumsily search to make contact with the sense inside me that there are always new ways to act and feel from the power deep inside me. It is a power and truth that dwells in unconditioned Love.

I fall short constantly and it is not a comfortable feeling. But I think I have come to realize that this journey of being human is not always about being comfortable. It is a balance and mix of so many things. Where there is comfort I believe includes the blessing of discomfort……joy and sorrow……ecstatic and meditative…….rage and bliss……
As I have accepted the blessing of all of these energetic expressions within me and the truth of the unending source of Love within me…….the possibilities seem to morph and shift.
It is not about my experience of life becoming easier…….but truly one of discovering ‘fire for the second time’ every single day.

And ironically we all need one another on this journey. The famous quote ‘no one is free unless we are all free’ works on every level no matter how small. So I suppose that is why I keep questioning and writing…..because I need you. I need each of you….everyone on the planet (in a mind boggling equation of sorts). We each need one another to live from our Love and connection to our inner source of personal power and brightness. We are inextricably linked in this unfolding. And there is such potency in this truth.

So, here we are…..all relying on one another and deeply immersed in this journey of discovery…….
All I can do is keep breathing deeply and honestly…….

Is self awareness ‘essential’?

Human beings are endowed with this amazing ability of self awareness, reflection and consciousness.

Through this trait we can endlessly engage in questioning our own existence, that of a ‘higher power’ and the ‘purpose’ of life (all the while perhaps going further down the rabbit hole). But through this ability of self awareness we can also learn so much about ourselves and affect incredible shifts in certain patterns that diminish or limit us in everyday life. We can grow our ability to understand other points of view, engage in authentic communication and allow our awareness to bring us more gently into balance with ourselves, others and the world.

Through the engagement of awareness I feel anything is possible as we take off our ‘blinders’ and see more possibilities for how we choose to think, feel and live.

How incredible to have the ability to grow (and possibly change) each day by directing this ability of awareness.

And yet why does it feel that we forget or even choose to not engage it throughout much of our days and lives?

It seems that we have developed the idea that having this level of awareness is complicated or too much effort. Or perhaps we never learned that it is actually already ours and living within us……a tool simply waiting to be engaged or recognized. Perhaps that is why so many of us seek out teachers and books to learn how to ‘get it’ or ‘find it’. It doesn’t appear that our status quo is about empowering the individual to look within themselves. And this is not a commentary against teachers or seeking insight. I truly believe that each of us needs guidance and support throughout our lives and teachers, books, a stranger on the bus or our community can offer this at different times. What I find challenging is the perspective that you are looking for something ‘outside’ of yourself. This is different from someone or something helping you find and nurture that which is already within you.

(And sometimes, with teachers in particular, we put them up on pedestals and elevate them. Doing this keeps them on a different level and can perpetuate this feeling of personal lacking.)

I see so many ways in which we are generally taught (or have learned) from birth that most of what we seek is ‘outside’ of us instead of within us. It’s almost like reaching into the dark looking for your glasses while all the while they rest upon your nose. Self awareness (along with so many of our skills) offers each of us a unique resource right there within ourselves.  Why is the first place we look every day not within?

I rarely think you will ever find your ‘glasses’ out there but rather deep within yourself and the nature of being human……our capacity to cultivate awareness, engage thought, create choice and adopt change. All of these lie within each of us (along with our ability for love and compassion). Yes, it looks different for each of us but it is generally there within us all……at times ‘hidden’ but not necessarily more than a seed beneath the soil.

We tend to look and feel past this abundant garden of potential seeds within us and head straight to the grocery store where food waits ready and packaged to buy.

Again, none of this is to say you should be an ‘island’ in and of yourself without outside inspiration, guidance or tools……just not at the exception of finding and sourcing it from within.

Hmmmmmm, let’s try a few things……..

First let’s just imagine ourselves as these resourceful individuals that are not lacking. Believe for a moment that most everything you need is within you and that you can nurture and cultivate it through a daily practice using this amazing tool of self awareness as your guide. (Discover what works for you in imagining this and whether it is through visualization, verbalizing, breath…….one is not better than another so simply be creative in discovering what path can get you there.)

Notice how it feels when you can breathe into that and let it rest as being ‘true’ for even a moment. Notice the challenges that may arise as you offer this vision. Just notice from an open and non-judging perspective.
Little by little each day see what happens if you take time to do this.

Now, as you continue to do this and expand this sensation of personal resource……begin to also develop as a compassionate witness to the ever unfolding network of your thoughts, emotions and physical impulses. Use your awareness to be curious about your choices and behaviors throughout the day and in certain situations.
No matter how benign or habitual just notice and gently inquire ‘why?’. An innocent question that can elicit incredible responses when we use our awareness to help us listen.

If you can start there and are able to stay with this awareness…..it slowly begins to widen. Like a window, it opens a little more each day you engage it. It will increase exponentially as you use each new ‘widening’ as a platform from which to ‘see’ and question even more. Awareness can help us to see options that might be more essential to our livelihood and living…… a more authentic and connected way of being in the world. A place of opening ourselves to new perspectives and choosing what feels most essential to our individual core.

I would say play with that for a few months and see how you feel and what you notice.
Ask yourself how you can keep yourself interested in it and make it fun as opposed to ‘work’ that feels tiring? Follow your curiosity about yourself.

Once we nurture self awareness there is no end to how we can observe, question and choose. And like most things we must actually engage and cultivate our skills of awareness.
If we don’t engage or interact with it, it’s like having a garden we have taken the time to nurture and cultivate but instead of eating and enjoying the abundance….we let it wither. We end up surrendering much of our own personal internal resource. Why not choose to be your own gardener and harvest the abundance inside of YOU?
When we trust a little and take a leap…… letting go of concepts, habits and pictures of ‘reality’ we have held for so long…….we can create so much possibility within ourselves and the world (a choice for growth and not from a sense of lacking in how we are right now). This practice asks you to disorient yourself and dwell in uncertainty just a little bit to potentially unwind and re-learn yourself in familiar and new ways. All this by simply choosing to bring greater awareness and loving curiosity to yourself.
It’s all pretty amazing………..

Thanks for reading…….much love

jacq


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