Happiness continued

Still swishing this ‘happiness’ thing around within me……

After writing the other post I began to bring even more attention to the moments, thoughts and sensations that support, enhance or cultivate what I call ‘happiness’. As the ‘list’ grew I came to more clearly verbalize within me that it is not a thing, person or event that makes me happy per se…..the happiness or contentment I feel is as I described in my previous writing……a constant light and ‘pillar’.

And….. there are also those moments when it becomes more radiant and sensational…..

So I had an ongoing ‘list’ yesterday of these moments that stood out to me…..and I was having so much fun with it I thought I would share. It also made me wonder about other people’s ‘lists’……..what would your list have on it especially if it included all the small routine moments that bring satisfaction…..not just the ‘wow, beacon of light’ moments……

Here are some of my happiness supportive moments of the last 24 hrs……

~driving with the window down and a song I don’t know comes on the radio and there is a melody line that takes me in
~drinking goat milk from the jar
~driving and the traffic feels perfectly synchronized and everything is in flow
~sitting on the porch and improvising with my voice a song across the street to the trees
~reading an excerpt from Herman Hesse
~the smell of the apple as I am about to take a bite
~watching 2 teenagers sitting on a street bench talking
~talking with the cashier at the grocery store
~seeing the light on the mountain tips
~a moment in a song where I hear an instrument for a brief second and then it is perfectly gone
~witnessing an older couple walking together
~a street filled with kids shuffling in costumes and people sitting on their front porch with candies
~firelight
~a night of restless sleep
~homemade yogurt
~laughing with a ‘stranger’
~tenderly stroking the head of my sweetie
~the quiet of early morning

….it goes on and on……

I also wanted to share this excerpt from Herman Hesse’s “Wandering”……..

“A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts. Trees have long thoughts, long breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

The pursuit of happiness

I reflect on and sit with the nature of happiness frequently and recently had the topic come up a few times …. I saw a movie about happiness, a TED talk video and also listened to the perspective of a friend on the topic…….all of which made me a bit more curious.
How do we each feel happiness? How do we express it and do we need to express it outwardly? Culture seems to affect the definition or packaging of happiness on some level but does it change the nature of it?
Can we become dependent on certain things in our life for our sense of happiness? Can happiness simply be a constant flow within us marked with highs and lows?

I know that in places like Bhutan they have found a way to assess ‘Gross National Happiness'(GNH) and focus there instead of ‘Gross Domestic Product'(GDP)…..

When I read about GNH this is what I find:

There is no exact quantitative definition of GNH, but elements that seem to contribute to GNH are subject to quantitative measurement. For example, low rates of infant mortality correlate positively with subjective expressions of well-being or happiness within a country.
GNH refers to the concept of a quantitative measurement of well-being and happiness. The two measures are both motivated by the notion that subjective measures like well-being are more relevant and important than more objective measures like consumption. It is not measured directly, but only the factors which are believed to lead to it.
A second-generation GNH concept, treating happiness as a socioeconomic development metric, was proposed in 2006. The metric measures socioeconomic development by tracking seven development areas including the nation’s mental and emotional health. GNH value is proposed to be an index function of the total average per capita of the following measures:
Economic Wellness, Environmental Wellness, Physical Wellness, Mental Wellness, Workplace Wellness. Social Wellness, Political Wellness

I found many other assessments, scales and behavioral models that have been developed in the past couple decades focusing on this perhaps immeasurable thing called ‘happiness’. And what strikes me most is that what we are talking about (and measuring) is incredibly and truly subjective.
Even the critics of measuring GNH state that because GNH depends on a series of subjective judgments about well-being, it is open to much interpretation (and manipulation) as far as results…..not to mention cross-cultural differences.

If you ‘google’ happiness…there are infinite sites containing explanations, thoughts and ideas on this highly sought after subjective sensation. I was amazed and I suppose not totally surprised.
I know that there are endless books written about how to ‘find’ happiness or attain happiness…..as it seems everyone is ‘looking’ for it….or more of it.

I am wondering if our perception of what happiness is has gotten a bit narrowed or confused……it seems that it has become more like something that can be packaged and defined, bought and sold…..or perhaps like the ever dangling carrot on a stick…..

In the Declaration of Independence I find the wording to be fascinating…….

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all ‘men’ are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Why is happiness not stated as being inherent but as something to be ‘pursued’?

Does this offer an indication that we cannot be complacent with our ‘happiness’ and that it is ever evolving, shape-shifting and needing caring attention? Or were the authors of this document going with the ‘grab the bull by the horns’ mentality of you have to ‘earn’ your happiness……nothing is free.
Or have people always been trying to attain a sense of happiness and that is why they are being reminded they have the right to pursue it?

Here are some definitions I found online……

Happiness is an adjective….so it describes……

1. State of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
2. Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase.
3. Cheerful; willing:
4. Having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction .
5. Feeling pleasure or contentment.

When I read things like ‘contentment’, ‘pleasure’, ‘joy’, ‘satisfaction’……even ‘happiness’…….these are things I find to be very subjective and personal. We might find things in common for sure….but our experience of them cannot truly be compared.

I believe ‘happiness’ is in fact free and, most often, already inherent in our design. I think the confusion for most of us has been how we have come to define and idealize ‘happiness’ (it is almost seen as a ‘cure-all’…..and an ‘if only I had it’ reassurance). There seems to be a defined idea of how it should look and feel across the board….and I don’t think that is how it actually comes to exist for many of us….especially in our diverse biology and culture.
I know that I personally needed to rewire and reframe what ‘happiness’ was as the ‘pursuit’ of the ideal was making me miserable.
I needed to realize that ‘happiness’ was right now…this moment…even if I was agitated, frustrated or sad. That my happiness was not at the expense of the other emotions of living a human life and vice versa. That it never went away even when a different emotion was exerting itself within me. Even when I am feeling sadness or challenge, which ebb and flow in their same beautiful ways as happiness, it doesn’t defeat or replace my happiness. It is not ever a question of ‘either/or’ for me…..they coexist and are a part of this complex matrix of being alive and being human.
I learned that my happiness was part of each and every bit of all things I feel and was inseparable. And I could experience it in so many nuanced ways and express it outwardly in just as many different ways (from effusive joy to contemplative wonder….from ecstatic bouncy-ness to mundane contentment). It didn’t matter what it looked like on the outside…..only that I was able to bring awareness to the presence of it….that it was woven throughout my days.

hmmmmmmmm……..
Some random examples…..
Happiness is in the birth and the farewells of my goat friends, it is in the wonderment I feel when I sit with my black and white photography, it is when I prepare vegetables, it is watching dust specks in the sunlight, it is in how the Kung Fu master beetle walks on the wall, it is in the crying child at the grocery store, it is every random connective moment I share with a stranger, it is sitting on a back porch quietly with a friend, it is in my discerning opinions about the political system, it is the rabbit hole of humanity in which I dive, it is in making hot water in the morning, in the laughter and tears with my sweetie……all these every day moments are my happiness. And sometimes they become more gushing moments like when I am adventuring with Asa, surfing in the ocean, frolicking with Lark or having found myself with a magical group of playful people and we can bounce and pounce and sweat in a physical whirlwind……
but as much as I enjoy these ‘highlights’ (so to speak) they don’t take away from the happiness that breathes within me as a constant ebb and flow……the happiness and gratification that is being alive in this wondrous world……even when I might feel a discontent with my geography, daily presence of playmates etc……I am grateful that this happiness I feel is steady and reliable. It is my lighthouse in any storm, the pillar in my temple.

Happiness for me is a personal dance and intuition……a place of observing when my cells expand or contract. It is not a goal or focus….but a way of simply allowing……’being’. And it looks and feels (internally) so different for each and every one of us….it is brilliant like that. It is a personal, subjective and continuous unfolding that quite possibly might feel different than anything we have imagined.

In the same way I needed to reframe and open to Love and loving myself…..I discovered a constant friend when I allowed my experience of happiness to expand…..to let go of definitions and a desire for it to look a certain ‘way'(or for me to behave a certain ‘way’)…..the truth is that when I stop thinking how things ‘should’ be…..I realize I am living happiness every moment.

I will finish with this quote……not sure who wrote it…..
For me….. you can insert any quality in there…..’love’, ‘happiness’…….?……

“Love is there if you want it
you just have to see it’s wrapped in beauty
hidden away between the seconds of your life.
If you don’t stop for a minute, you might miss it’

Thanks for visiting……
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

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.)

History~memory~choice -Part 1

I believe we can find our personal empowerment in choice. Over time and/or through conditioning we sometimes narrow our perspective of ourselves and life situations, limiting our ability to see the myriad of choices in any given moment. Why not widen our scope (through awareness and curiosity) and discover the multitude of options around us for how we might feel, perceive, think and act in relation to situations and people.

I realize keeping our choices limited might feel easier at times. (Some people have expressed to me that having more options can feel overwhelming and that keeping it ‘small’ brings a sense of safety or control.) But I am only suggesting you become aware of the possibilities…….ultimately you don’t have to choose to feel or act differently. Even when we continue to choose what is familiar, the practice of expanding our awareness of other possibilities is a profound tool in our complex world as humans.

I imagine this can all sound a bit vague……so I will try to offer some examples.

Here is a possible scenario…….
Let’s say I am having a disagreement with a friend and I walk away feeling committed to the perception that they are wrong and I am right. I perceive the situation in black or white terms. (I can certainly stay in this perception and whatever happens will happen.) And……I can also begin to question elements of the situation without placing blame or sense of right & wrong. If I allow myself to soften I can begin to see more options of perspective and viewpoint that lead me into a a wider circle of possibility. These new possibilities of thinking can help shift me out of my old conditioning and limited perspective.
Again, when I let go of my attachment to the familiar ‘I am right’ then suddenly anything is possible as far as my ability to choose a new reaction, response or even become more compassionate.
(I know that I certainly feel more vulnerable when I let go of attachment and open up to other perspectives…..but ultimately I grow and in that there is greater freedom.)

When I find myself in any situation like this I often walk away and then begin to ask myself questions as if I were a neutral bystander. I ask gentle and probing questions into my behavior and also look to uncover as many ideas (without knowing which might be more valid than another) about the other persons behavior. The key for me is always just being curious but not attached to an ‘answer’ because in the alchemy of human interactions I have found there is rarely a single answer or ‘reason’. (And I know that when I describe it here it sounds so neat and tidy….but believe me…..sometimes my process might be a little messy as I sort through my emotions & protective ego along the way.)

This method of ‘black or white’ thinking (‘one or another’ as the only possibilities) is a prevalent form of human assessment. I think we take comfort in having an answer as opposed to seeing the many possibilities and not really knowing what might be ‘true’.
And yes, sometimes we have past experience that informs us and this is a fundamental way in which we learn. (I touched the hot toaster, I burnt my finger and now I know not to touch it again.) We come to know our world through this process and it often works quite well. But there is a whole realm of non-black or white (or hot/cold) situations…… remembering this can be liberating.
When we limit ourselves to only seeing things as ‘it is this way or it is that way’ or ‘they are this or they are that’….how does that truly serve us, others or the world?

Another example of limited perception is how we might feel about something that has happened in the past. We often unknowingly ‘assign’ a particular emotion to an event and perhaps don’t take the time to notice there might be a multitude of other possible emotions that are also true. At any point we have the power to choose how we feel and perceive. Even if the predominant emotion is ‘sad’ or ‘happy’ they are most likely accompanied by other feelings all interconnected. It is unlikely to have any of these emotions exist in a vortex on their own.
(All emotions have overtones of the others and we are able to find variation in our emotions when we change from thinking in singular and narrow terms alone…happy, sad, anger, fear).
When we open ourselves to a greater range of possibilities, we might discover new information about our relationship with an event and gradually begin to integrate what we discover, therefore shifting how we label and relate to it.

Any time we simply react or follow our habitual emotional response to a situation or memory, we minimize our personal potential because we forfeit choice.
Each of us is amazingly complex and has a continuous system of thoughts and feelings flowing through us. Due to conditioning we might end up having the same perspective, thoughts and feelings time after time.
A great analogy might be comparing this constant stream of thoughts to something like a river.

In this sense we are immersed in a river constantly (the ‘river’ being these thoughts/feelings) and you see the same rocks (perceptions) over and over again along the banks of this river. You might also attempt to cling to the same branch at a certain point. But through practice (opening our focus and letting go of attachment to ‘right or wrong’) we may begin to see the sky, trees, colors and even the horizon. Why not open our personal lens and practice taking in all that is possible? Why not allow a little bit of surrender while in that river of thoughts and emotions and see where it takes you? You can always return to the safety of the familiar rocks or branch…… but what if you choose to expand the landscape of possibility?  What if you could also perceive other thoughts, feelings and perspectives in the landscape beyond the familiar?

History~memory~choice -Part 2

Try this…….
The next time you find yourself in a situation of challenging emotions, conflict or conditioned reaction…….try to imagine everything you are thinking and feeling as this river. By this I mean let go……. try to consciously allow it to flow over (or through) you without getting stuck on one thought or feeling. Let all possible thoughts, ideas, perspectives flow without limitation as you choose to look around and see what else there is.  Remind yourself you can always choose when you want to narrow your vision and grab that familiar branch or rock….. but see if you can surrender. For just a few moments see if you can sense that there are other possibilities for how you might choose to see, feel and think.
Notice how it feels to let go of ‘right and wrong’, certainty or the attachment to feeling or thinking a specific way. Let the river take you and see if you can notice something new for however long you are in it. Just notice what you see and feel and perhaps allow the waters to soften you. (I have found when I feel myself soften…..I am able to be with my past conditioning/responses but can also open to a new landscape in the present.)
**Perhaps think of it in metaphors you would enjoy…… maybe a fabulous crossword puzzle, a challenging piece of music, a math problem or an incredibly satisfying organization project. A place where you bring your attention and slowly reveal that which was not seen or known before.**

I want to share a personal story that is an example of what I am trying to describe.
This story is probably one of the greater defining stories in my life and had such impact on so many aspects of who I am.
My grandmother died when I was 12 and there was a consequent chain of significant events which contributed to her death being emotionally and psychologically complex.

I have spent quite a bit of time in the past few decades unfolding the layers of this grief, the loss and the story.
This time of year it is ever more present as a certain tangible melancholy seems to invade my cells starting around my birthday in early March.  And so it has become like a pilgrimage of sorts each year at this time……honoring my birth, the coming of Spring and my grandmother’s passing.
Perhaps that all sounds so clear and tidy……but it can be pretty messy along the way wrestling with so many ghosts of thought and emotion.

So…….now that you have some back ground let me share how this particular story of me connects to what I am writing about.

The other day as I was talking to a friend about how things unfolded with her dying (overflowing with all my years of personal reflection and insight). I realized again almost for the first time, as memory is sometimes conveniently attached to certain perspectives, that I was still choosing to perceive her dying  as ‘tragic’ and negative. There was only ‘black or white’ and I chose ‘black’.
As I softened and allowed myself to be curious I discovered (and remembered) so many other truths.
The truth that life unfolds with unknowable blessing and challenges. That it is up to me as far as how I carry those memories, how I tell those stories and how I let it permeate my sense of being in the world.
As a child I couldn’t do that….the only choice I knew was grief and deep loss and that was what I carried with me unquestioned into adulthood. This seemed like a fair assessment…….so why would I question it?

I choose to question it because I realized that only feeling the ‘grief and loss’ perpetuated the perception of ‘negative’ or ‘tragedy’ in some way. And when I allow myself to be in the river of thoughts and emotions and let all perspectives wash over me…..that is when I see there are so many other elements to the landscape other than the rocks of grief and loss.
The other day I wasn’t clinging to a branch where all I could see was the story of this as a ‘sad tragedy’. When I allowed myself to keep moving through the waters of possibility and not remain stuck in one perspective,  I could recognize I am amazingly who I am because of her passing and all that followed.
That it is absolutely possible to be with the grief, honor her life (and death) and also recognize that there was so much beauty that also grew from it. That her dying was not just an ‘end’ …..it planted seeds of beginning within me. From here I am able to both feel appreciation for her life and her death….as well as the other things that followed.

Arriving in this perspective has taken curiosity and permission (and still there are times I ‘forget’). I could easily stay attached to the familiar perspective of ‘sad tragedy’ but through practice I have found other ‘truths’ and through this I have found greater love, appreciation and freedom.
I believe this is true with most aspects of our stories, memories and lives.
Why not be curious? Why not gently unfold layers and discover new possibilities of how you feel and think in your skin and in the world?

We have this possibility every day…..every moment……..perhaps just pick one and see what you find……
why not?

Thanks for reading……..
blessings
jacq

fear

All I do is type that word and then sit here with the cursor blinking. Is it an emotion? A psychological state? A survival tool? All of these?
I am thinking about fear this morning as the ever elusive player in emotional relationships. (Not exactly the same fear that comes when you sense a physical threat but certainly connected through survival instincts). The fear that doesn’t necessarily serve us anymore and perhaps never truly did. The fear that was developed as a form of protection and has integrated itself so seamlessly that it is challenging to know where it begins and ends.

Fear is an amazing force that has depth of power which can dictate behavior and choices. It can be used as a conscious tool of manipulation, be running the show unknown from behind the scenes and it can also be any variation in between. It is a great motivator and sometimes a tireless adversary.

I personally watch how fear moves for me and I can honestly say it has often been an amazing barometer encouraging me to pursue things in my life. If I am afraid of something (like a gig, opportunity or trip) it typically means it is important to me and I choose to not shy away from it.
There is also the fear that comes up in emotionally charged situations that can narrow my vision or perspective and influence my behavior in unhelpful ways. It is these moments I am putting my attention towards more and more these years. Trying to lift layers of ‘me’ and understand the root of the fears because they are rarely about the situation at hand. There is a complicated art form of knowing these fears under the surface and what is the perceived ‘threat’. It takes a bit of reflection after the moment to ask questions and bring a gentle curiosity.

Whether with a friend, family or lover we all experience these moments of fear and how they can derail us. Next time you have had an emotionally intense exchange or argument perhaps take the time afterward to ask yourself what you were afraid of. Just continue to gently ask and see if you hear any reply/answers. The more wisdom and insight we have around what we are afraid of……. the more we know where to guide our love towards and within ourselves. Sometimes the best way to meet fear is by simply acknowledging it and holding it close with loving arms. This approach worked when we were kids……..and I know it still goes a long way when I am able to hold myself now.
The power of reflection and curiosity is there for each of us to grow our personal wisdom. Sometimes it is less about the situation itself……. and more about what we can learn for ourselves about love and fear through it.

Thanks for reading…and loving
jacq