Monday, July 24, 2023
Either choice was likely valid, but I chose to stay at home. Experience has taught me that when something gets in the way of my plans, then maybe I need to revise my plans.
In the past I might have pushed through to meet an obligation or a promise. Or if I was afraid of missing out on something. Or if it would cost me something I wasn't sure I could afford. These all carry emotional loads which add an extra layer of stress. It's stressful to go against the flow, and more stressful when there's something emotionally at stake.
The hood latch didn't have an emotional charge so it was a great time to practice my intuition. What do these choices feet like in my body? Stay? Everything feels smooth. Go? The gut feels a bit tighter. When I pay attention to these signs, I can act on them more easily when the stakes are higher.
I may never know why the hood latch broke when it did. But I do know that by choosing to stay at home, my action aligned with the flow of life. If those errands were meant to be run at all, there would be another day for them. A better day.
Lao Tzu said, "The world is ruled by letting things take their course."
By letting life show us where to go next, we can make smoother choices. By leaving the fear out of the equation we can make wiser choices. By allowing ourselves to move with the flow of life itself, we may find we don't even need to choose at all. Instead, the choices seem to make themselves.
Others are designed to be more free flowing so that we can be aware of the habitual thought patterns that dominate our thinking lives. This deepens awareness of what we are - and what we are not, and opens us to more paradoxical thinking. This is great, too.
Most of us start to meditate because we just want to feel better. We start with guided journeys because they can help us relax, many for the first time in ages. But after a while, many of us yearn for something more - or we have seen things or experienced things in that relaxed state that are interesting or new or have opened us up spiritually. That's when we make the switch to the sitting, silent, watching-the-breath type of meditation, although most of us will bounce back and forth forever.
If we are lucky, at some point, the desire to sit so that we feel better falls away and we start to sit for the sake of sitting. Not because it feels good or feels bad, although being joyful helps to keep us sitting. But because we feel curiously at rest or peace when we do.
Saturday, July 22, 2023
I saw my first earwig in 1976 when we moved to Dufferin County. It creeped me out. I just saw one in the kitchen. They still creep me out, but not as violently. I can pick them up now with a piece of toilet paper, and escort them outside. Most of the time.
My aversion escalated in 1977 when while rolling up sod to prepare for a driveway, the overturned earth squirmed with hundreds of them. It escalated again in 1978 when we put the basement in. They were getting in. Too many of them.
I used to keep a shoe by my bed to swat them when they showed up. That's when I discovered they eat anything, even their own kind. You can imagine how deeply I wanted them to go away. How desperately.
They seemed to come in, unfortunately, in the basement corner where I'd moved my home office. I looked for openings and found none. I sprayed with that awful insulating foam. That didn't slow them down a bit. I sprayed bug spray - the stuff that likely isn't legal any more. That slowed them down a bit but didn't stop them. I could hear them sometimes landing on the concrete floor under the window as I worked at the computer. I looked inside and outside to see if I could see any openings I'd overlooked. It all looked fine.
So this went on for SEVENTEEN years.
I'm a spiritual person and I knew it was a big lesson. I knew I'd have to find a way to make peace with them, that my aversion was just making things worse.
Over time, I gradually did. I never really warmed up to them - come on, the pincers - but over time my energy didn't rise in aversion any more.
One day, I caught a glimpse of one walking across the carpet in the office beside my foot. I didn't quite feel affection for it, but maybe a hint of friendliness. I got a kleenex and took it outside. While out there, I had an urge to look yet again at the window in that basement corner. We had bought two identical windows for that end of the house when we put in the basement. I took my time and compared them board for board. And I found a gap in one of them.
I wouldn't say I ran to find some putty to fill the gap, but I might have. After I filled that gap, the main earwig problem went away. We still get them inside now and then in the years when there are lots of them. This summer there are lots of them. My spiritual lesson in July on years like this is to make peace with them again. As much as I can. They still creep me out.
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
Bugs Bunny is standing under a waterfall, singing "April Showers" as he bathes, when suddenly the flow of water stops. (I remember this cartoon. It was released in 1962.) His first thought is that it is just that "pesky beaver" that stopped the flow of water. But then he imagines something worse. And then something even worse. He gets more and more frightened and panicky - not because of the waterfall, but because of the stories he's spinning about it. After letting it all escalate, he stops all the anxious mental chatter and goes back to his original thought. "Naw, it's probably just that pesky beaver."
Even as a kid I could see the wisdom.
Worry tricks us. When we worry we like to think we are "thinking through a problem," or "looking for ideas", or "asking ourselves if there isn't something more we could do". We like to think that all that mental activity is what we are doing to solve the problem.
It's not. It doesn't work. And we know that. Bright ideas and solutions don't come when we worry about them. They come in quiet moments, or they come when our minds are occupied with something else altogether.
I was awake through the night the other night with a thing. Worried. I knew worry wasn't going to solve things or get me back to sleep. So I rested there and let it feel kinda awful, knowing the feelings would pass, that the thing wasn't mine to solve, and that it would all look different in the morning. (It did.)
That isn't always possible. When worry becomes pathological, we may need medical help. When the discomfort is too much, we may need to deflect until we are ready to process it.
But we humans do worry.
Why? A lot of reasons.
Feeling helpless sucks. We'd rather spend mental energy on something we can't fix than let ourselves live with the discomfort of helplessness.
Worry is socially acceptable in my part of the world. Crying in public is not, even if tears might be a more honest response. Worry can even be encouraged. A neighbour was horrified that I wasn't as outraged as she was about the proposed local gravel pit.
Worry is exhausting. She was exhausted.
It escalates. The more we worry a problem, the worse it gets. Yet even still, we may convince ourselves that holding a problem in the back of our mind is a healthy thing to do. We wouldn't want to forget about the problem if an opportunity to assist came up, would we?
But really? If there was something we could do, we'd be doing it.
Yet we persist. It's a comfortable habit. It can feel like a familiar friend.
I heard a definition of worry a long time ago that stuck with me. "Worry is praying for what we don't want." It stops me in my tracks whenever I remember. But it also offers me a choice. Our thoughts creates our reality. Do I want to manifest more of the problem? Or put my precious energy somewhere better?
For those of us who are chronic worriers, letting worry go can take practice. And persistence. And patience. But it's worth it. There's relief and release in letting go.
Here are a few things I try:
- I take the bigger perspective. Rather than thinking “I have this problem,” I can say to myself “I’m having another worried thought about this thing.”
- During prayer, I pray for something I want, rather than something I do not want. For example praying for peace is better than praying for war to end. I want the energy to go to the peace part, not the war part.
- If the worry is really sticky, I try to move myself to another location. Like rolling over in bed when we want to change the energy. Sometimes our worry sticks to the place where we worry.
- Find a way to remember it’s normal to feel kinda awful now and then, and notice how it passes.
- Learn to accept that there are things in life we do not have the power to fix. That’s a good time to give it over to my angels.
- Share it. As I rest there feeling kinda awful, realize that there are a million (or more) people in the world right at that moment who feel kinda awful, just like me. With that, my heart softens towards us all.
I like to be like Bugs when it comes to worry. His waterfall problem hadn't yet been solved, but when he noticed how he was letting the worry spin, he put a stop to it before it got ridiculous. This freed his energy up for him to plot his next step. Clever bunny.
Thursday, May 25, 2023
One of the men of the group said, "In my experience, when someone introduces a new idea, women tend to believe other women before they'll believe men."
My immediate response was, "No, we don't."
And he said, "See?"
His challenge stopped me in my tracks. My immediate reaction was to dismiss this idea. Was this because he was a man or because I didn't feel the idea had merit? Or did I feel it lacked merit because as a man he may not understand the problems that impact women?
"It's the same with men," he said, letting me off the hook. "They'll believe men before they believe women."
It gave us all food for thought.
What struck me the most was not the theory, but my immediate "No, we don't." That wasn't just denial, it was rejection.
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Friday, April 21, 2023
I couldn't do that when I was younger. It felt like a guilty pleasure. Since as a kid I'd been accused of being lazy, I took my schedules, deadlines, responsibilities seriously. I put simple pleasure at the bottom of my list of priorities.
Now I'm a bit older, I can't think of anything more important.
I had a friend who told me she never used to stop long enough. She'd be drinking coffee while folding laundry and thinking ahead to the 17 other tasks she had to finish before bed. But she changed. She found that by taking that short break to enjoy her coffee, she felt refreshed not just in body but in spirit, and better able to tackle her responsibilities.
Taking a moment to enjoy the melody of church bells carried across the fields, or the warmth of clothes fresh from the dryer is important to me. In that timeless place, thoughts and worries have been put aside. I have no need to control anything. It lifts me a little out of my self and reconnects me with the grace and beauty of spirit.
In that moment, it's all I have. And it's all I need.
A joyful intention:
Today I'll stop to smell the flowers, and the cinnamon buns and the coffee.
I rush in to reassure them if I want to smooth the way. "I'm sure you are good at this too," I said to the banker. "I imagine there are times when you sit here at this desk across from someone who has all the right paperwork, but something feels off. Do you trust your gut?" "Yes," he said, visibly relieved. I continued, "Same thing. I just specialize in that."
I'd disrupted his comfortable position. It challenged his beliefs and his position of power in the room. I didn't intend to disrupt his day, I just wanted a new credit card for the business. So I was willing to soften the challenge by reaffirming his status.
Monday, March 27, 2023
Strange how some days, things just open us up. We could be walking down the street and suddenly find ourselves struck by the play of light on the side of a building. Or stopped by the scent of coffee, freshly ground. Our energy just stops in those moments and our hearts open a crack. We become available to the joy of life.
Other days, not so much. These are the days when we scroll social media, or find our way to the fridge to try to feel better. We know strategies like this don't work, but what to do? Where do we find joy when we don't feel joyful?
In a newsletter years ago I made a list of some things can can soften the heart. Here are a few of them:
- Stroking a dog, cat or loved one.
- Appreciating a delicious food.
- Lighting a candle for a departed friend.
- Letting music or art fill us.
- Remembering a kindness.
Notice how these are all actions. This is important:
- I'm not taking a picture of the dog, I am stroking her.
- I'm not evaluating the music. I'm listening to it.
- Appreciating a delicious food is, literally, enjoying it. En-joy-ing.
- Remembering a kindness isn't mental exercise. Like the word itself says, we are re-membering it.
We are taking it into the body, incorporating it and letting the energies infuse us. The heart may be sad when lighting the candle, but the softening and allowing opens us to a deeper underlying joy.
The "stopped" part of this is important too. While walking in the forest my mind was going a mile a minute. Knowing I was working on this story, I thought "Ok. A real world example." So I stopped. "How do I soften when the mind is just running on and on and on? And on?" I took a breath and relaxed. I listened. Not to specific sounds. I just listened to allow the sounds into my very cells and nerves and body processes.
In stopping, I let down my guard. I relaxed. My heart softened.
The way to live more joy is to, well, to live more joy. I might be all stressed out by something, but if you plunked a puppy into my lap, my world would right itself.
Friday, February 24, 2023
"Nothing's happened," Ajahn Sucitto said, when speaking about worry, "and I started to feel all crinkly about it all."
I like the word "crinkle" to describe energy.
The first few times I heard the phrase it just sounded poetic. But then one day, I realized it was literal.
I'd been scrolling on social media. I noticed how I got a bit juiced up to hit That Link about That Awful Thing, even though I knew it wasn't going to make things any better. As I watched the desire rise, I felt my energy actually crinkle. For real. The energy near my forehead, right hand side kind of crinkled up like a cotton shirt that had been slept on. I stayed with it while the impulse faded, and my energy smoothed out again.
Smooth is what we want. Crinkles are all right, and mostly inevitable, but smooth is what we are shooting for. In that smooth relaxed open state, we are at our best: our most creative, most open to insight or perception, most accepting. It feels good.
So it's worthwhile noticing what the energy is doing and finding fresh ways to describe it:
- a little numb mid-back
- weight above the right shoulder
- a vague congestion near the jaw
- a little burble or flutter at my back left ribcage (some of them are fun)
I wonder if they have better words to describe these sensations in other languages? English seems so limited at times.
I might feel a bit knocked around or crumpled, or feel sensations like heat or cool, pressure or weight. The energy could be bristling, sinking, lifting, pulling or expanding.
These are are worth our attention. As I was writing this paragraph and getting stuck on some of the wording, I could feel the tension rise in the back of my neck. I relaxed the muscles in my neck deliberately and then watched the crinkled energy follow suit. There was no point in pushing through the effort when my energy's all rumpled up.
How is it now? Well, at the moment, my energy seems pretty relaxed. Maybe a bit fluffy over there, in a nice way.
A mantra: "What does this feel like in my energy?"
Bonus: Following what the energy is doing rather than getting caught up in the drama or mental knots themselves can give a busy overactive intellect something more useful to do.