Our Inner Tribe and the power of relationship.

This podcast offers a different perspective for the ways we relate to our emotions, moods, habits of inner chatter and the impact it all has on us. Inner Tribe is a metaphor and a technique for working with our unconscious and the ways it directly influences. Each of us has so many different parts of ourselves that show up moment to moment. They can range from joy filled to angry to anxious, and anything in between. These parts of us show up based on a variety of internal or external stimulus. The key is noticing when they arrive and then knowing how to develop your relationship with them.

Awareness insight and exercise

I have been speaking to the importance of awareness and why it is essential. Here is a simple exercise I call ‘Body Scan’ to help you build your personal awareness. You can do it in as little as a few minutes or longer when you have the time. This episode offers you the basics so you can do it on your own anywhere.

Our Relationship to the Unconscious

This podcast explores the nature of the unconscious, how it interacts in our life and ways to shift our relationship to it. Developing our awareness and learning to interact with our unconscious is a game changer. For more insights and exercises check out the website SoundBodyWisdom.com.

Awareness is Key

This podcast discusses the workings of our unconscious and how awareness empowers us to make changes in our habits and conditioning. There is also a simple exercise to help grow your personal awareness and connect the dots of the practice.

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.

Life is Art

Sitting with my tea, I was watching the movements of this mind…..playing the intermediary (or multiple advocate) for the unfolding of thoughts I was having. I was amused by the constant tweak in perception these contrasting advocate roles offered, how it could show me some new aspect to the thought beyond my attachments.

Then my thoughts shifted to photography. I have been reflecting on this passion of mine with more consideration lately as I realized that it is something that has never faded for me. That these ‘captured moments’ never fail to evoke or stimulate something within me.

And then I recognized that each moment in my life is like the experience of looking at a photograph. Each moment I am filling in the blanks, writing a story and unwinding a string of sensations. Each moment I am compelled by the images in front of me or the creations of my mind’s eye. With patience, commitment and awareness I learn about ‘myself’ through this exchange/practice.

In any given experience, each of us may view an event and walk away with very different interpretations.
We may, or may not, have similarities to what we perceive from the ‘same’ stimulus.

The art of life (or the life of art) is every day and the elaborate witness that is you and I brings such a particular nuance to the viewing. I hope that there will always be passionate exchange about our perceptions…..but I also hope that we don’t forget to honor one another along the way. And perhaps, along the way, open ourselves to the ever present ‘tweak’ that is accessible to us. Not as a form of abandoning our beliefs but as a practice of learning from the ‘divergent advocates’ available and within each of us.

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…….

beyond personality

I was recently talking with a friend about the challenges that can arise in seeing all people as equal (yet different). We were actually discussing a basic Buddhist perspective that everyone is ‘the Buddha’ or has Buddha nature. For me, regardless of the ‘spiritual’ teaching or text…..essential equality is a simple truth. In my authentic core I can find no reason for this to be ‘untrue’.

But it doesn’t mean it’s easy to practice…..

I was remembering a few years ago when I was on tour in the SE. I had gone out for my morning walk and was pondering the difficulty I was experiencing with ‘living’ this simple truth on a daily basis. I questioned more deeply and asked myself what it was that got in ‘my way’ of being able to see each and every person without exception as equal; no one person intrinsically greater than or lesser than another.

The general reply I found was ‘personality’.

I would get stuck around people’s personalities and my ensuing preferences and opinions about them. Basically, nuances in my personality juxtaposed with theirs.
Over the years, I had developed the ability to find space in my attachment to my own personality but there would still be those exceptions, those individuals where it would get sticky for me.
With the exception of becoming a hermit, I wanted to create a tool or practice to help me dissolve this stickiness.

As I continued to walk, I noticed I was in this lush garden district filled with such incredible variety of flowers and trees. I saw particular types of flowers and trees that I thought ‘I love those, they are my favorite’….etc.
And as I noticed my personality and preference expressing itself for these ‘personalities’ in nature, I wondered if I could see all of this plant variety around me as ‘equal’ and individually (and collectively) beautiful. And believe me, there are some plants that I could easily not see as ‘equal’ to others. So, on that morning walk I began to ‘practice’ with the plants…..and I practiced every day.

After a little time I was able to let go of the stickiness of comparison/judgement and just accept each plant I encountered with equal appreciation. (I still have my opinions or preferences but I have created space to choose my perspective moment to moment….stickiness is not the ‘default’)
With my new tool and lots of enthusisam I thought ‘I am ready to now apply what I have learned to people!’
Needless to say, it didn’t work the same with humans as plants. There was still so much attachment and ego fluctuation in relation to certain people and interactions.

So I pondered some more…..wondering if there was a middle step….a place where personality would be less potent….?
And I thought about newborn babies; the way they can feel less ‘sticky’ for me. (They certainly have personality, but seem to be less ‘filled’ with it.)

So I decided to try something else.
Any time I found it difficult to see someone as ‘equal to’ (and without comparison to) others…..I would imagine them when they were first born. As soon as I did this, everything just came into balance and the attachments/judgements evaporated. It was like a love bomb went off and there was no need for the comparisons of greater than/lesser than. It was a simple space of ‘being’….neutral witnessing.

By using this tool I found a way to work with these ‘sticky personality’ moments and find a reprieve from my conditioned mind. I was able to create more space and compassion, not only for the complexities of the personalities of others……but for myself too.

Ahhh yes, a lifetime of study and practice…..

A song

Do you have one of those songs…?
….. one that can just create a sense of wide open space or ‘peace’ within you?

It’s as if everything falls away and this sense of calm and respite fills you. It’s almost like nostalgia but without the ‘ache’ because you feel content…home.

{Nostalgia- a wistful desire to return in thought or fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s own home or homeland; A sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place and time. From Greek: n`ost (os) a return home}

My song today is Alexi Murdoch’s Orange Sky. For me, it’s a spacious landscape within which I can find nourishment and an expanded sense of peace.

Thought falls away

In my cells I can effortlessly feel everything connected. There is no above or below, greater than/lesser than…..
All connected, all in floating balance, all breath…..
A vibrant feeling of contentment, not desiring more or less….

I think many of us have these songs, these moments….
So of course I imagine what it would be like if each of us could live in that experience for a few minutes simultaneously. What would it be like for each of us to have that feeling of peace all at once?

And I wonder to what degree that sense of ‘home’ or that yearning for it (’nostalgia’) might vary or be the same for each of us wherever we live? What is this feeling as humans for a return to ‘home’; a yearning for another time where we felt a perceived sense of contentment? (And are there ever times we know that it lives inside of us and not in some other time or place.) Is this a universal experience?

What a curious phenomenon….nostalgia…..being human….

I have witnessed my own relationship to ‘nostalgia’ and ‘home’ unwind/shift over the years so that when the song ends….the feeling doesn’t disappear (because the song didn’t ‘create’ it). The minutes of the song serve like a small ‘retreat’ time to recharge, recount and remember. It reminds me that whatever I feel in those minutes dwells within me; that every breath is my ‘home’. And that the practice is to live each present moment with an authentic sense of contentment……every moment a balance of the blessing and challenge…….every moment a ‘song’.

And so I smile and push ‘repeat’……..

How is it that…..

I constantly come back to this same curiosity…..

”Why wouldn’t we love ourselves every moment of the day?”

Why not love authentically and unconditionally and how could this question ever get old or redundant?
When we love ourselves and live this inner experience of unconditioned Love it seems that what follows is that this love generates more love and ripples out to other people and situations.

It is quite simple and yet so complex. It becomes even more complicated when it seems we get confused about what is truly unconditioned Love. I have experienced people describing the ‘unconditioned Love’ they are enacting and yet there are so many subtle cues that perhaps it is not quite without conditions.
My way of cross checking myself is noticing if there is any ‘but’ or caveat attached to the love. For me, any ‘condition’ even remotely attached means there is still some refinement left for me to do. 
I generally then ask myself what the ‘but’ or condition means to me.
I also ask what possible reason I might have for not loving myself or another person without judgement?

Why isn’t the status quo more about meeting each person without judgement and reducing the habit of creating lesser than/greater than comparisons between us? Why do we write so many ‘stories’ that seek to limit people?
(When I say ‘stories’ I am talking about what we mentally ‘write’ about ourselves or others that somehow defines us or them. These definitions can then come to limit or ‘box-in’ ourselves or the other person. At times these stories can also incorporate a sense of us or them being ‘better’ than the other. What would happen if we saw everyone beyond the limitations of story? Can we do that?)

There are many factors for how we have gotten so entrenched in judgement, comparisons and a lack of self love….so many ways we have been conditioned to think these are healthy and normal human behavior.
In this mix is our general relationship with words and concepts.
Language can get fairly sticky when it comes to our ideas and stories about ourselves, others and the world.

A perfect word example would be the topic of this initial question: ‘Love’.
You could ask 100 people what it means and probably get 100 different answers or emotional responses. 
Try sitting with the concept of ‘Love’ for a few minutes and see all the different ideas, definitions and feelings that come to you. 
Now imagine that it is different for every person you might encounter in 1 day. And than multiply this times the diversity of each culture around the planet.
Where and how do we all meet on this fundamental word and concept? How can we use such a diverse and individualized expression in sweeping generalized ways?

We can apply this same exploration to other potent words/concepts:

Happiness
- Success
- Good
- Purpose

These and so many more are subject to the influences of the past and societal standards towards what is perceived as ‘normal’ and desirable.  Each has a ‘should’ attached to it in relation to our lives. And each one wields a heavy effect on our personalities, perceptions and the world we create.

How is it that we haven’t figured out that ‘normal’ is an illusion we buy into? How is it we are so readily accepting of criticism, judgement and competitive systems of coexistence as the standard?
When did this become the ‘norm’….and did it happen all at once or as a slow and quiet movement……

 

Self Care redux

Self care……
A topic revisited…..

This is something that means very different things to different people and manifests differently just as much.
I have heard friends speak about wanting to put more attention towards this and yet it becomes elusive for them. It’s clear that the desire for ‘self care’ tools is strong so why does it seem to evade us?

As I ask these questions I look within myself for as many perspectives as possible in the complexity of being human. I untether my fixed thinking and allow myself to get a broader view from many angles.

Each of us has our own individualized range of personal (and conditioned) perspectives. They can be simultaneously our blessing and challenge. Our unique conditioning is what allows each of us to discover our own particular insights and teachings in the world.
This discovery comes from personal reflection, questioning and being curious about one self.
What works for one person may or may not work for all. We can certainly be inspired by what others discover but I believe it is ultimately a personal journey of the individual to reflect and ask questions. It is amazing to be motivated by things and people outside of us but to remember that the spark of this inspiration is coming from within us. We could not see, feel or realize any of it if it weren’t first inside of us.

I mention this because I feel that many people detach from their insights of personal growth, giving it away to something/someone outside of them. It seems easier to assign wisdom to anything other than our selves. This balance is critical to me on the path of self-care.

In many ways, personal reflection and awareness can sound so simple in print but can be a bit more complicated to embody and integrate. It asks us to touch upon and inquire in areas that are not necessarily our ‘comfort’ zone. It can immerse you in vulnerability and places of uncertainty.
I believe a key companion to accompany personal reflection/awareness is an abundant dose of authentic compassion or non-judgment. It’s not confusing to me why many of our vulnerable or uncertain parts might not want to reveal themselves if they think they’re going to be beat up, invalidated or criticized.
We need to be able to witness and hold ourselves with deep respect, reverence and love for all that we are…..every part of us…..right now…..not some ideal in the future. Right now, this breath, with all the blessings and challenges that are part of us.

Perhaps now I might re-focus towards the practical.
It’s all fine and good to talk about loving oneself but sometimes all the talk keeps it a bit intangible. I think when it comes to the details of self care we all find those foggy places and are not quite sure what the next step might be. More often than not we can be inspired by something we heard or read….. but without practical tools it remains this lofty goal or a cozy notion for ‘some day in the future when I am an evolved person’.
My sense is that we are that evolved person right now and much of what we need is within us this very moment. Like riding a bike….we have the tools we need but we have to practice and get the feel for it.
As I have said before, I think what ends up serving the individual on their journey of self-care (aka: self love) will be ongoing and uniquely their own creation. Each of us has our own learning curves, our triggers and different needs. Discovering more about all of them can help you create tools for shifting your old patterns….in particular, patterns that limit your capacity for self-care. Only you can do this level of personal questioning and discovery.

I thought I might share a few tools that work for me and perhaps you might get sparked or inspired to improvise with them and create for yourself…….

-I ask questions…….

For self-care I ask myself if a situation, person or pattern nourishes me. Then, I listen with a soft heart of non-judgment.
The listening is equally as important as the asking in this.

I also speak to myself as a ‘tribe (see my other post about ‘inner tribe’), acknowledging that I have different aspects of myself that show up with varied opinions and needs at different times.

I compassionately listen to the diverse voices that sometimes emerge and simply honor and respect them …without judgment. (You might be surprised what you can learn when you listen without pre-conceived ideas of ‘right and wrong’)

The more I learn about the needs of these different parts I slowly gain insight about my personal behaviors and habits.

As we get to know ourselves more……we realize that one size does not always fit all. Through our self-awareness that comes from questioning, trial and error…… we can understand why some tools work for us while others don’t. We can let go of comparisons and make choices based on personal wisdom and our own unique needs.

Bottom line:
I question, listen without judgment and allow myself to gain insight into how I personally function so I can create effective new tools and technique based on this insight.

-I make lists and observe

Instead of trying to figure it all out ……I simply make a list of objective observations.
This might look like:
~Tightening in chest
~Rapid fire thoughts
~Sense of overwhelm
~Need to distract
~Swelling of anger
~Feeling of insecurity

Nine times out of ten there are all sorts of indicators or re-occurring behaviors that accompany periods of lacking self-care. Many of these are entrenched or learned and have yet to be interrupted.

I simply make the list and leave it until later.
Then when I am not immersed in the feelings/sensations I can connect to things on the list with curiosity.
This will then lead me back to asking simple questions and listening to what follows.

This simple act of listing helps me observe objectively. From there insights can emerge.

It is only through the guide of personal awareness that I am able to unwind the habits that deplete me. Lists teach me to be an engaged observer who is my own best ally.

-When steeped in emotions….
Try to notice the emotion and pause….create a little space.
Remind yourself that what you are feeling is just a moment in time and let it keep moving. Try not to let it get stuck or frozen. Every moment is completely fresh and new. Try thinking of each moment as un-fabricated. Next, look at the ‘entanglement’ and say to yourself ‘there is nothing wrong here’….and notice how that feels….observe whatever thoughts or feelings that follow.
Relax your grip on the moment…..relax the storyline and allow yourself to breathe back into open space inside. Open space without storyline can sometimes be threatening to the habitual pattern so it’s not always simple to manifest. There are many attachments to the image of ‘me’ …….looking and being a ‘right’ way and retreating into this familiar version of self can feel more secure than the wide open space. Space is threatening because there is nothing to hold onto or attach to there.

Play with these….and play with your own imagination and perceptions.
(I sometimes think we underestimate the role of imagination in our own self-discovery. It is a powerful ally when we let it be.)
Perhaps something in these tools might assist you on your discovery of learning yourself….wide-open.

……loving oneself without conditions and judgment IS self-care…..

Thanks for visiting!

Comfort

I am contemplating ‘comfort’ and pondering the many ways it may or may not influence our choices and behaviors.

How does each of us create and move towards or away from comfort in our lives? What role, if any, does predictability/the familiar play in this? To what lengths will we go to maintain and sustain our ideas of comfort?

That last question in particular really feels significant to me. I find myself so curious about what comfort means to us and the affect each of our own personal choices for comfort has on one another and the world…..the simultaneous blessing and challenge of it.

Comfort and creating patterns of predictability in our lives can be a way to create security perhaps especially in times when we feel a lack of it. This can take many shapes but some of the more obvious ways we design it is through the work we choose, the friends we keep, choices we sustain or emotional reactions and scenarios we play out. (We can also see within groups of people and communities how they seek to maintain the familiar and levels of comfort…..sometimes at the expense of others)

I think we have developed many different ways of how we relate to and design comfort for ourselves and it is truly a vast and nuanced realm. I feel our human condition strives for comfort and quite often we have found and maintained through more easily accessible and perhaps culturally conditioned patterns. We choose the familiar on many levels even when it might not nourish us on the whole. Along with this, I also believe our concepts of comfort are deeply informed by societal ‘norms’ and status quo in ways that are both obvious and imperceptible.
In what ways do you maintain your own level of comfort? Can you notice any ways that your ideas are shaped by society and social environment?

Comfort and the familiar somehow allow us to feel safe and offer stability (think of the phrase ‘going outside your comfort zone”). The flipside of this I find interesting…..it is the place of feeling discomfort or insecurity and it is not a place we like to linger. We generally find ways to move away from these experiences, sometimes by extreme measures and many times by maintaining patterns of familiar and predictable behaviors. Again, even when they might not nourish the whole.
(And sincerely I am always amazed at how resourceful and brilliant we each are in our ability to create a sense of safety and ‘survival’ through different techniques both conscious and unconscious.)
Generally speaking, I don’t see people consciously seeking out and moving eagerly towards ideas, emotions or places that might bring their world into question or put them in a place of discomfort. This makes sense as I think there can be a certain amount of fear that accompanies change. We like to rest assured that some things are ‘matter of fact’ and cannot be questioned. We count on these things as our foundation to build upon since we believe our foundation needs to be unshakeable. We learn that change, permeability and sometimes not having any answers are not typically desirable qualities of basic human security and comfort. These things are not synonymous with comfort.

But life and being human is truly filled with mystery and discomfort ……by nature they are inseparable. And to be honest I think we have given ‘discomfort’ a bad reputation, perhaps overlooking the potential within it if we can meet it with curiosity and openness.

We will all have times in our lives where we find ourselves in uncomfortable circumstances of upheaval or change without knowingly inviting any of it. Sometimes these are small blips on the radar and we can push through by holding steadfast to our patterns…..but other times they really wallop us and cast us into deep waters. During these more oceanic events, each of us will have our own unique experience. But the journey will likely include variations of trying to stay above water, finding familiar shores and returning to our pre-existing ideas of comfort.

Have you ever experienced something like this? Can you relate this to different times in your own life? How did you meet these events and where did the journey take you?

I know what it was like for myself during the most potent time of upheaval in my life many years ago. I felt like I was drowning and I would have grabbed at anything to stay above water and hold on to my designed concepts of safety and comfort……ideas of ‘me’ and life. But circumstances (and my unconscious self) conspired to challenge me on every level. I fought hard for my constructed ideals and at a certain point I realized I needed to try something radical. I had to surrender to the unknown. I had to stop clinging and allow something truly new to emerge. At first I was afraid of drowning….but the surrender that came gave permission to let the waters transform me and to make ‘peace’ with the unknown. The darkness of this unknown felt like ‘death’ but sometimes that darkness or what might feel like a ‘death’ is simply some part of us changing or evolving…..shifting.
(And just to be honest……while I was in this process it was unbelievably uncomfortable and not easy by any means. But through practice and time it has gotten easier to be with discomfort and the inevitability of accepting the unfamiliar.)

Those shifts are not always comfortable and quite often we are eager to get out of this sensation and jump to the next landmass or stable concept of self and life. We very quickly construct a new familiar and fill it with answers more often than questions. We sidestep the ‘void’ or mystery in our intricate map of creating ‘safety’ and avoiding vulnerability.

I know that if my circumstances hadn’t been a ‘perfect storm’ I would have gladly sidestepped and played it ‘safe’……probably not even gotten my toes wet. I would have totally chosen ‘comfort’ and the familiar……
………and I would be living a perfectly lovely life right now……just a different one. But there was no choosing at the time as I was thrown into the middle of an ocean with no land in sight. So here I am now and what unfolded for me was a new relationship to mystery and the unknown…..a personal landscape of questioning and being present with both elements of comfort and discomfort equally.

Which is what brings me to wonder……what would happen if each of us chose not to avoid discomfort or feelings of insecurity? What would happen if we chose to move towards our fear and simply be with our discomfort and the unknown? What if we moved towards vulnerability?

Well, it would simply be a different way of living our lives……not better or worse….. but different.

In many ways it is easier to continue with what you already know……to create and maintain comfort and a sense of security through holding on to what is familiar. We are quite skilled at distracting ourselves just enough to avoid addressing things that question the familiar and perhaps invite discomfort, insecurity or vulnerability

The interesting thing in taking this route is that we cannot deny the ever-changing nature of the world around us and the evolving nature of the self. When we try to maintain and stay attached, not allowing space for change, this resistance can create a tension that ironically generates more discomfort even though we were trying to avoid it.

So I have become curious as to how we might create core comfort……the comfort of being You in the world (and in your own skin), a relationship to the unknown and having a sense of fundamental security within yourself. This is a comfort and security that is not based on anything tangible since we know that all things change and are permeable. This different form of ‘comfort’ might actually allow us to simultaneously be with discomfort and the unfamiliar as we realize they too have something to offer us.

Questions and curiosities…..
In what ways do you notice you might avoid discomfort?
What would be some practical ways to move towards discomfort or invite change or the unfamiliar as a path of nourishing yourself?

Perhaps a place to start is to gently take a look at some of the ways we create comfort and security in our daily lives as a means for avoiding change and vulnerability. Can you meet these with curiosity and non-judgment?

Whatever the circumstance or unique quality of you, how does this self -awareness and un-conditioned love offer even more possibilities in this amazing journey of the self?

Thanks for connecting…..
blessings,
Jacqueline

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

Memes

PART 1

Memes……have you heard of them?
There is a whole field of Memetics (http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/memes.html) that studies memes and it is vast and complex.
By their definition they are something that is acting upon and within us all the time….. and yet I also find them elusive.

Here is some history and definition (drawn for the work of Susan Blackmore and other sources)

The term meme (it’s pronounced like dream or cream) was coined by Richard Dawkins, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. As examples of memes he suggested “musical tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches”.

Memes are habits, skills, songs, stories, or any other kind of information that is copied from person to person. Memes, like genes, are replicators. That is, they are information that is copied with variation and selection. Because only some of the variants survive, memes (and hence human cultures) evolve. Memes are copied by imitation, teaching and other methods, and they compete for space in our memories and for the chance to be copied again.

The word “meme” has recently been included in the Oxford English Dictionary where it is defined as follows “meme (mi:m), n. Biol. (shortened from mimeme … that which is imitated, after GENE n.) “An element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, esp. imitation”.

According to memetics, our minds and cultures are designed by natural selection (the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring) acting on memes, just as organisms are designed by natural selection acting on genes. A central question for memetics is therefore ‘why has this meme survived?’. Some succeed because they are genuinely useful to us, while others use a variety of tricks to get themselves copied. From the point of view of the “selfish memes” all that matters is replication, regardless of the effect on either us or our genes.

Some memes are almost entirely exploitative, or viral, in nature, including chain letters and e-mail viruses. These consist of a “copy-me” instruction backed up with threats and promises. Religions have a similar structure and this is why Dawkins refers to them as ‘viruses of the mind’. Many organized religions threaten hell and damnation, promise heaven or salvation, and insist that their followers pass on their beliefs to others. This ensures the survival of the memeplex. Other viral memes include alternative therapies that don’t work, and new age fads and cults. Relatively harmless memes include children’s games, urban legends and popular songs, all of which can spread like infections.

At the other end of the spectrum memes survive because of their value to us. The most valuable of memeplexes include all of the arts and sports, transport and communications systems, political and monetary systems, literature and science.

Memetics has been used to provide new explanations of human evolution, including theories of altruism, the origins of language and consciousness, and the evolution of the large human brain. The Internet can be seen as a vast realm of memes, growing rapidly by the process of memetic evolution and not under human control.

(All of this taken into consideration….the field of memetics is still a new science, with many critics, and many difficulties to be resolved.)

PART 2

The curiosity for me is exploring where perhaps a meme ends and ‘I’ begin (or vice versa). It all gets a bit slippery and I am not sure there is ever an ‘I’ that simply stands by itself as each of us is a composite of experiences, influences and ideas (or memes).
But I believe that, with practice, we can begin to notice the influence of ideas, memes, conditioning and environment upon us. From there perhaps we can step back just enough to broaden perspective and find new choices available to each of us.

All of this leads me to continually explore the ways in which this dictates our behaviors, memories and stories as an individual but also as a society/community. Basically, the things that shape who we are. And simultaneously I am ever fascinated with this ability to expand our awareness, perspectives, ‘choices’ and possibilities.

Truly, all of this feels like a lifelong exploration to me as there seems to always be more layers of the self. Just as science continues to discover new dimensions and possibilities about our universe (and beyond)………..so it is with the inner universe of our mind & body complex. Like the universe I feel we are infinite and always expanding/contracting.
I think what makes it more tricky is that unlike the universe we are not unbiased or neutral. We have constructed our world with distinct parameters and social systems to ‘make sense’ and create ”order’ from what is infinite within and around us. These systems dictate how we measure ourselves, view the world and the concepts by which we live. And since this world is also filled with so much human diversity…. these measurements, views and concepts can both be helpful and harmful.

So much of what I explore in myself and through my life is how to simply reveal more layers (that are equal ‘truth’) in and around me. I am not content with looking through the same glasses my whole life with lenses (conditioning) that perhaps I know limit my vision. Who would want to keep wearing those glasses knowing it diminishes their sight?
All of the practice and ‘exercises’ help me to switch out the lenses and keep finding the ways my vision can grow and adjust.
(I remember hearing about a young friend who they didn’t know needed glasses. When he wore his new glasses for the first time he was talking about things he was ‘seeing’ that he had not been able to see before in his everyday environment. I am feeling a metaphor here.)

I hear people invoke the phrase ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’. If your sight seems perfectly acceptable by standards and it isn’t giving you obvious headaches……why change the lenses? Besides, it’s a hassle….right?
In fact, I had someone recently read my post about ‘Choice’ and say it sounded amazing but it is ‘asking a lot of people’ and that what I am suggesting is probably ‘too difficult’ for most.

I understand all of that.
Again, for me, there is truly no ‘right or wrong’ way of living or seeing the world (Although we each can have our own opinions). None of what I suggest is about ‘shoulds’ or ‘right’…..it is simply offering possibilities through awareness and curiosity. It is offering tools for how we might continue to meet (and perhaps adapt) to this ever evolving world of people, diversity and complexity.  And to also invite new insight about ourselves previously ‘hidden’.
That is where it gets interesting for me. Not in maintaining how I see myself and the world…..but in allowing it to open and evolve.

That is when I feel potential unfolding.

Thanks for reading……….

(and if you are ever wondering why I put quotation marks around so many words it is because those words feel quite subjective and more like concepts than definitives. What I suggest is more exploration than ‘answer’ or definitions.)


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