One way to define love is “sustained, compassionate attention”. These words came from John Muir Laws, a naturalist, educator, and artist who inspires stewardship of the land by sharing his practice of nature sketching. When I read these words, I began to see the importance of my own art practice in developing sustained, compassionate attention for myself. I have noticed, in just a few years of deliberately making art daily, that my well of self-compassion has grown wider and deeper. And gradually, my capacity for compassion toward others — even the ones it would be easy to judge or dismiss quickly — has become more of a habit. Continue reading
Fear has been up for me lately. I’m stepping into new unknowns and therefore a new level of courage is required. And in order to function, I’ve woken up to a new way of greeting fear. Instead of trying to beat it down, or conquer it, which both contain the quality of resistance, I practiced this: “It’s OK, fear. Come on in. You are welcome here. Sit down at my table.” The subtle practice here is being with, but not believing in, or becoming consumed by, the guest at my table. Just loving my guest – fear – exactly as it is. Not “falling in love with” it, but being OK with it. More importantly, feeling OK with it being there. Not trying to change it in any way.
This is entirely new for me. Only when I actually heard the words “it’s OK” did I realize how much resistance I had felt towards fear. I never said to my fear, “It’s OK.” Two simple, comforting words that were not an automatic response in my internal dialog.
I like to “get over” things, conquer them, put them behind me, become better at them. But simply and sincerely saying, “It’s OK”, had never occurred to me.
I played with “It’s OK” two nights ago before going to bed. Instead of trying to talk myself out of the fear I was feeling, I repeated, “It’s OK.” I made it OK that I couldn’t get rid of my fear. I made it OK that fear was what I felt. I made everything about me in that moment OK. And I really meant it. I woke up the next morning feeling noticeably different. More relaxed. More at ease. Without effort.
Later that day I saw three new books being released by bestselling authors with “Fear” in the title. Martha Beck and Deepak Chopra are doing an event called, “Turning Fear into Fuel”. Lissa Rankin’s new book is called “The Fear Cure”. And Elizabeth Gilbert’s fall release is subtitled, “Creative Living Beyond Fear”.
Apparently I am not the only one for whom “fear is up”. It’s the subject of a larger conversation. It seems the collective call is to look at our relationship with fear, and create a new way to dance. When we choose to step into new territory, or when life hands us an unknown, fear will come knocking on our door. We can respond with the automatic arsenal of fight, freeze, or avoid. We can fight fear with fear. Or we can greet fear with love.
Whichever we choose, “It’s OK.”
We live in a world of outrageous pain. In order to get through most days, we have learned to choose numbness. Even though we have great capacity to feel, we have chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to “not feel”, in an attempt to survive.
And we have survived. If you are reading this line right now, you have survived.
But does your heart know that there is more to your life than what you have previously accepted as survival? Have you been searching, asking, running, sitting, and “trying” to move beyond getting by, making do, and struggling?
One of my favorites of the many amazing speakers at the Success 3.0 Summit last October was John Gray. He was hilarious, truthful, profound, and practical. And he said this: “The more conscious you are, the more pain you will feel. When you can actually feel pain, you should receive its gift of telling you that your heart is open to feeling.”
We are now able to directly witness, through instantaneous video images, so much pain in our world. We are able to invite it into our homes, our living rooms, our workstations, in living color. What do we do with it all? Where do we put it, between our ten o’clock meeting, our eleven thirty lunch appointment, and picking up the groceries after work?
When, in our daily lives, do we permit ourselves to feel?
What I’m learning in my own experience is there is no such thing as thriving above the line of suppressed feelings. I’ve tried. I’ve got my masters’ degree at least – and perhaps another doctorate – in trying to live above it all, only feeling so-called positive emotions.
And the result of this, in the past, was I only offered a tiny fraction of my true shining self to my world. I only allowed myself to experience a tiny sliver of my brilliance.
Just this week I had an experience of profound awakening to this. I was walking out my front door in order to film a video for an upcoming new offering. I was taking a big step into “feeling my fear and doing it anyway”. I was committed and resolved to do it finally. Continue reading
In the weeks since returning from Boulder, I’ve been spending more time with the idea of the Unique Self teaching of Marc Gafni and the Center for Integral Wisdom. For me it was deeply integrating to hear a story that finally enabled me to bring together both the parts of me I had discovered and cultivated during the last five years – namely, wordless presence, connection with the Oneness, and recognition of egoless identity – and the parts of myself I had “divorced” from – namely, the rules of classical training, the linear reductionist thinking of mechanical science, and the ignoring of subjective experience.
How refreshing to hear someone say, “You can’t meditate your ego away. You can’t meditate your story away.” This was part of my experience as a meditation practitioner! I wanted to put certain chapters in the past, as “the way I used to be”, believing that in order to become who I knew myself to be – both creative and spiritual – I needed to forget who I once was. No matter how many relationships I walked away from, no matter how many new practices I adopted, no matter how many new communities I joined, I could not completely ignore my prior experience and stories, and the curiosity I felt about bringing my new learning back to my old communities. I could not pretend they were not in me. Oh, I tried. But I never felt complete in my expression, or full in my generosity of sharing. It was as if there were problems I knew existed, in distant parts of the world, that I was deliberately ignoring for the sake of elevating myself beyond them, transcending them by trying not to pay attention to them anymore. I kept my eyes forward, visioning my ideal life over and over again. And still I felt there was a connection I was not making.
The image of my Unique Self “plugging in” to the infinite mesh of the One via a radically unique shape – not just a generic plug into a generic outlet, but a unique contour fitting in like a puzzle piece perfectly matching in every subtle turn of form – is supporting me to integrate all of my stories, all of my prior and current experiences, and to show up as me. I am now opening my vision to include all the parts of me I would rather hide and avoid, the parts I would rather not have you see, AND embracing my brilliance and light and infinite creativity at a level previously unrecognized….not as opposing sides of a coin, but as different and equally essential points on the same sphere of my wholeness.
So what makes YOU unique? What are the points that constitute the unique shape of your piece of the mighty jigsaw puzzle of all that is?
The invitation of our times is to hold this paradox: what you think you are is not who you really are, and exactly who you are is all you need to be.
When you show up as all of exactly who you are, you heal, transform, and create a world in the way that only you can.
Join in the dialog!
The Creative Conversations series in 2014 will be a *FREE* monthly gathering place to dialog about living creatively and awakening to your own creative potential…one moment at a time.
Whether or not we openly acknowledge it, we each live within a creative process that is constantly in motion. We may alternate between wanting to “stop time” and wanting to “get it all over with as quickly as possible”. Within that turmoil is a space of observation, acceptance, and mindful movement within the eternal present moment.
Each of these one-hour conversations will begin with a space of silence, a moment to experience yourself in creative process right now. Call it “meditation” if you like.
From that space, we invite what wants to blossom.
Bring your questions, your own adventures in creative process, your requests for encouragement, your works in progress. There may be guest interviews, webinars….who knows what the harvest will bring?
This is a virtual meeting on the path we are all on….let’s take a moment to walk together!
Wednesdays at 10am PT/1pm ET
Dial-in: (605) 477-2100
Access Code: 958748#
Can’t make it live? Register to receive the recording by e-mail.
Dates for 2014 Creative Conversations:
In The Wisdom of No Escape, there’s a chapter where Pema Chodron talks about three useful qualities for life and for meditation: precision, gentleness, and letting go.
I’ve been consciously living with the nine principles of Breema lately, and I’ve noticed how precision, gentleness, and letting go are a useful way to greet any practice, old or new.
For example, one of the Breema principles is “No Judgment.”
When you begin to study and practice “No Judgment”, the first thing you notice is how much judgment is in your mind already.
“No Judgment” brings your attention first to the judgment that’s there. Which means, you begin to identify judgment as judgment. That’s precision. You may notice as a new student of something, you like to be very precise. So every time you see your mind judging, you say to yourself, “Damn it, I’m judging again! Why am I so judgmental? I need to stop judging so much.” And you feel the assault on yourself beginning to happen.
This is the moment when gentleness can enter in. You have an opportunity to practice gentleness, or to continue the assault. Gentleness gives you the opportunity to take a different attitude toward yourself, even as you see, with precision, what is going on. Gentleness encourages you to just see, without extra attacks or criticism or labeling. In other words, no need to judge your judgment. Be gentle with yourself as you begin to see clearly. Just see what is, with no extra.
Letting go is the final practice, and it is the result of practicing both precision and gentleness. Letting go is not something to achieve or do, but is a natural unfolding of both precision and gentleness practiced together. When you play with these qualities of precision and gentleness, dance with them back and forth, and then gradually see that they are both happening all at once, there is a feeling of letting go. Neither precision nor gentleness has to “win”. There is no final state to achieve. There is no superior way to be.
Letting go is a sensation of relief. That it’s not all such a big deal. That we definitely need to practice, but part of the practice is also to let it all go. Letting go is not a “Forget about trying, I’ll just give up” kind of feeling, but rather a smiling recognition that no one needs to win or lose, not even the more or less enlightened parts of your own mind. It’s a kind of relaxation into the present, a return to what is, and a feeling that our attached thoughts are not who we are. A knowing that our true essence is something much lighter, and also more timeless than any thought or practice.
I am a recovering perfectionist.
I’ve been practicing various antidotes to perfectionism quite consciously for about three years now. That makes me – the real me, the innocently imperfect me – about three years old. I’m walking, I’m talking, I’m eating with my plastic miniature utensils, insisting that I’m a big girl now. But the real big girl in the house – the house of my mind, my body, and my soul – is Miss Perfectionist. She is the one who grew up inside my house, the house of me. She became the big one without my knowing it. She got all the praise, all the money, all the polite smiling conversations at cocktail parties, all the “wow”s and “ooh”s and “aah”s, all the framed diplomas and plaques on the wall. She was surrounded by people she kept at an arm’s length distance, so they wouldn’t touch anything close to her.
She thought she liked it that way. She thought she preferred it that way, because her attention could be focused on making her hair perfect, her face perfect, her nails perfect, her shoes perfect, her outfits perfect, anything that would attract the attention of perfection praisers, which seemed to be everywhere.
Miss Perfectionist was so busy doing the things she defined as perfection – which always involved something other than the way things were – that she ignored the real me, who by the way, happened to own the house the whole time. Continue reading
About two weeks ago I bought a bike. Brand new, cute as can be, even with a name, “Fiona”. I also got the cutest panier ever, with a lime green flower and orange straps.
On my very first ride, I got a flat tire. A complete blow out, requiring me to walk it home for about two miles. Luckily it was a particularly beautiful sunset on the ocean, and I got to look up, twisting my head slowly to savor the powder blue sky and cotton candy pink clouds spreading in all directions around me.
Still, I was a little shaken by the fact that the road looked so innocent – no broken glass or bed of nails in sight. Just smooth blacktop for as far as the eye could see. Except for whatever jumped into my back tire that evening.
It turned into a perfect opportunity to have one of my coworkers show me how to change a flat. Somewhere around step 9 of the process, my eyes started to glaze over, but I kept taking notes as he explained and demonstrated patiently. He taught me about tire protectors and now I own some. If you don’t have them, go get some!
I’ve been riding almost every day since. On the sunny ones, I’m riding chin up, smiling from ear to ear, and taking in the sounds of the rolling waves and the expansiveness of the ocean stretching out to the horizon. I note the particular shade of blue in the sky and on the water each day, because they are never repeated exactly.
Riding my bike has transformed a routine errand – hopping in my car to drive two miles to the local market for food each day – into a celebration of life. I breathe in the scent of cypress, I feel the warm sunshine on my cheeks, and I experience my own body propelling this amazing machine beneath me.
I wonder, “How the bicycle must have transformed human experience when it first appeared on this planet!”
And then I think, “What made us dream of a bigger machine that would multiply our speed of transit even more, but not require us to move our bodies at all?”
When I’m sitting on my bike, gliding along the paved path near the ocean, I think about these things. I am relaxed and confident, because this is a bike’s territory. Pedestrians and dogs must yield.
A different story begins the minute I cross from the path to the road. The very last stretch of ride between my house and the market involves crossing a major intersection with a stoplight. Four lanes of traffic, three strip malls, a gas station, a high school, all converge at one point. I have two streets to cross each time I reach this intersection. I walk across one way, and ride across the other, my body often tense with resolve to “get through” without any close encounters with cars or mishaps with my own machine beneath me.
One day last week, I was feeling particularly vulnerable. It was drizzling lightly. I liked being alone on the path, feeling the cool breeze in my ears, and the tiny fuzzy droplets of mist gathering on my eyelashes. I was cautious, using the brakes a bit more on the turns, controlling my speed, as I had no idea how Fiona would respond in wet conditions. Continue reading
Is your creativity dead?
I honestly believe that few of us – regardless of whether we work as “creatives” or not – intentionally set out to kill our own creativity.
We may just gently turn our backs on it, dismissing it as something reserved for children, or as something only “irresponsible” adults indulge in, or as a waste of time that could never serve a purpose in society (ie, getting paid money for it), or as something only “talented people” get to do.
I’m here to say that none of those is absolutely true.
Creativity is not limited to art…
So, let’s say you’re longing for a more creative life. That could mean anything from having more freedom and flexibility in your current job, to finding a way to support yourself while expressing your own creativity.
I don’t define creativity as being limited to “artistic” activities like painting, dancing, singing, or sculpting pottery. I define creativity as our innate human ability to connect with the unseen. By this definition, I see every human being as creative, by virtue of our brain’s ability to spontaneously form images that are only seen in our mind’s eye.
How you choose to use your creativity is a different story.
And this is where many of us have killed our own creativity, or least left it for dead. Continue reading
I was reading the website of a prominent life coach the other day, and was feeling myself getting seduced by the promise of change. For me, this feeling is a little tug in my chest, accompanied by a little voice that says, “You could be like her! Why don’t you just try harder? You could be successful like that! You can have everything you want in your life! Just try harder!”
I was getting pulled in by her clarity, and her certainty, and her artfully written course descriptions and “How I Work With You” page. I was dreaming of what my life would like if only I were “as on top of things as she was”. I was reading through her punchy blog posts, which boiled everything down into three simple categories, a numerical scale, and a “toolkit” for achieving the state of bliss that she has apparently created for herself.
In her “About” page, where she introduces herself and tells her story of why she became a coach, she talks about “having been there”. Having been broke, miserable, in a rocky marriage, and not living her best life. Continue reading