One year older. In anticipation of my birthday, I got a facial chemical peel, doing what I can to trick the aging clock. Or at the very least make myself feel a bit better as I elevate into another year.
Day three, I looked a bit like the Walking Dead. Skin cracking with every smile and grimace. And, peeling. Ay caramba. Peeling. Peeling off the dead and used skin to make room for the new. I tried helping it along, but the last bits seemed to be gripping on for dear life. Finally shedding when they were good and ready.
I took myself for a massage and afterward ran some errands where I got into a lengthy conversation with an adorable bud tender at a dispensary. I had a fleeting thought about the fact that I wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup, something I would have never done not too long ago, not to mention the fact that I was still peeling like an orange.
And, it hit me. I didn’t care. In the past I would have gone out of my way to explain the peeling, etc. To explain and apologize for myself.
I was undone.
And, have to say I felt pretty damn good about it. As I approached this birthday in my 5th decade, I thought, isn't that kind of the goal, to be gloriously undone? That all of the work we do on ourselves as we mature in life, is really about becoming undone? Peeling back the layers of all of the various conditioning we’ve spent a lifetime applying. Because what is revealed, or left, when we’re peeled, undone, is nothing short of our true self.
As I noodle on my annual birthday post, culling shareable lessons I’ve learned, I’m thinking about what I’m shedding, what I’ve let go of at this point in my life, things I just don’t care about anymore, that no longer trigger reactions, internal nor external. And, also what I’m still gripping onto, old paradigms that still feel safe or patterned, no matter how stale and old they might seem. Some are new discoveries and all of them are snippets of truth.
It feels cathartic and appropriate, and at once welcome and dreaded.
Paying attention to how our body reacts. It’s often the best clue to our truth.
I’ve noticed that sometimes the first clue telling you whether you’re done with something, or not - whether it’s a habit, fear or behavior - is when you see it others. It got me thinking. When you see it so loudly in others, is it because it's echoing loudly within you as something you need to pay attention to, to work through? Or does it mean, seeing it so clearly play out in another, that you’re done with it in yourself, you’re ready to move on?
I would posit it’s both. If it’s a feeling of internal discomfort, like a stomach ache or feeling of agitation, then it’s likely a trigger telling you that it mirrors something in you, either something that you do or something you don’t. If you just feel done and it doesn't trigger a reaction, then you've processed it, moved past it.
A fellow meditator in Insight Timer had this quote next to her name: “Seeking and finding all the barriers within.” Indeed.
One that came up for me recently happened when I was with a friend who was asking for help in promoting her upcoming course, a course I’ve taken three times so really believe in. This woman is a very powerful asker. She easily puts it out there and asks often. It gave me a stomach ache. I shared this with her because that’s what we do with each other, putting it out in the open to examine.
Because, what this was, was a gift of discovery. I was uncomfortable with her powerful ask because I’m not comfortable asking. This isn’t new information. But, what was new is the first big lesson this past year I want to share.
Some Lessons in Un-ing
Not in an I’m-sorry-I-hurt-you kind of an apology. But, in the deep-rooted apology that we sometimes carry in our energy. Where we’re apologizing for ourselves. Do you catch yourself saying “I’m sorry” when it wasn’t really warranted? I’ve done it at times. And I cringe now when I see others do it as well. I see how it diminishes them, like they’re apologizing for their very existence.
My big aha came when I realized there are times when my ask has an apology built into it. Where I don’t say the words, but my energy is “I’m sorry, but do you have time to meet with me?” “I’m sorry but can I send you my script?” “I’m sorry, but do you have time to talk?” It’s disempowering and paralyzing. And, not an ask that requires a powerful positive response.
It’s apologizing for yourself in a way that hits one of the most basic core fears. I’m not enough. It’s fulfilling early conditioning of not wanting to impose ourselves on others.
My friend, the powerful asker, said that when she asks, she’s not thinking about herself, she’s thinking about what she’s sharing and how much it’s going to help the person or groups of people she’s asking. It’s a much more powerful intention behind the ask. It’s not a question if she’s enough.
So, no more apologizing. BTW, I have a stomach ache as I’m writing that. Hey, I’m working on it… Understanding it deeply, acknowledging it outloud, is the first step toward letting it go. Be unapologetic.
Releasing the need to prove yourself to anyone, including yourself, that’s being undefended. It’s truly shedding all pretenses and language that are used in defending yourself or proving your position.
Next time you feel the urge to say something like, “I’ve known that for a long time,” or “I’m the one who told her/him about that/to do that long before this person said…,” or “I’m better at…” take a closer look.
Here’s an invitation to take a look at your motive for saying it. Even if it’s the truth. Ask yourself, are you asking it to prove something? To defend yourself? Are you looking for some kind of validation? If so, try not saying it. Be undefended. Remove your guards. Can you imagine how much more real our relationships would be, as undefended? Be undefended.
“With an undefended heart we can fall in love with life over and over, every day.” Tara Brach
“Enmeshment is a description of a relationship between two or more people in which personal boundaries are permeable and unclear.”
When you put yourself in the middle of someone else’s situation because you want to help, it’s easy to get emotionally entangled. It can be hard to extract yourself once you’ve placed yourself there. A dear old friend is in town this week and we got in a great discussion about this. She's the one who shed a powerful light on this notion of enmeshing and its ramifications. The process of becoming un-enmeshed starts with setting emotional boundaries for yourself, where you are still compassionate and helpful, but with a healthy detachment. Be un-enmeshed.
When no is just a no, or a yes is just a yes, without feeling the need to explain why you’re saying no or yes, that’s freedom. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. Try it. Thank you, but no. No more unnecessary explaining. Be unexplained.
Where you feeling burdened? To be unencumbered is to be burden-less. When something is burdening, look at what you’re receiving from it, because you’re receiving something or you wouldn’t be doing it, or allowing it.
If it’s unhealthy, unburden yourself. If you can’t, if it’s very real obligation, sometimes it’s a simple shift in feeling or intention. Are you providing a service, something that’s serving someone else’s highest good? Unencumbering is either releasing the burden or reframing it in a way that serves. Be unencumbered.
I really felt this one at my class reunion this year. I found it fascinating to hear about what old classmates have done in their lives, and while the launching pad may have been “what do you do?” it became, for me, about their passions and what still brings a sparkle to their eyes. I didn’t care in the least about what some may have perceived as labels, or accomplishments that came with labels.
I had a slight trepidation heading into the event as I wore one of my labels across my forehead - childless - as so often the discussion would turn to family. But, I quickly realized that I was the one who placed it there and I was the only one focused on it. Letting that go and just being present erased the label. The truth is, I am, but it’s not a label. It’s a important part of me that has shaped my path.
I also noticed how some, one in particular, fell back into old labels. “That was my nemesis in high school,” dredging up old resentments that clearly still weighed. That one was really loud, as in I’m so done with that. Let it go, it was forty years ago! So, be unlabeled.
“Supposed to” is passive, as in it’s a directive that’s happening to me, rather than a directive I’m helping navigate. It means ”I’m not the one in charge." As if someone or something else is dictating. It reflects the feeling of "required to", as in, follow the rules. It's confining, rigid. You’re not “supposed to” do anything. Making it more about your intention or deep desire is empowering and self-directive. Be un-supposed.
So, on my birthday I’m embracing the un’s. Because, what’s left, shining and fresh and real as a resulting of the un-doning, is the feeling of true self-ness, that of self love.
It is the best gift you can give yourself. Any day. Any time.
Embrace Your Pace: Life Lessons from the Turtle
“I’m procrastinating,” I said. “It’s my inner nemesis.” As soon as I said it, I got a stomach ache, like I was revealing and also judging an integral part of myself.
And, my brilliant writer friend said, “Process is tricky.” Ah, you said a mouthful there, sister.
A few days earlier I'd received an intuitive reading from the wise Dina Strada. One of the hits she got was that “things are going to take longer than you think.” And, I thought, Grrr. How much longer? It feels like it’s taking forever for things to happen, as in career, love, body health, etc.
Then, she said, “Keep doing your work and surrender to your timing.” Ah. “You can’t rush it.” Double ah. It literally made me exhale. Rather than feeling more frustrating, it felt true.
I believe in divine timing and it’s something I discuss often with friends, colleagues and clients. And, I also often find myself trying to beat the clock, divine or otherwise.
Interestingly, the moment after Dina said it - you can’t rush it - the image of a turtle, a grand old tortoise, popped into my head. I mentioned it and it brought the intuitive message to a whole new level for me. Embracing my pace. Just like the tortoise.
Some lessons from the turtle
It sent me discovering, to see what kind of guidance the wise turtle has for me and other tortoise-like folk. Ted Andrews, in his book “Animal Speak”, says turtles symbolize longevity and wisdom. They’re in it for the long haul. “Long life and groundedness…on some level, the turtle knows it has all the time in the world.”
Lesson: She teaches us to look at our relationship with time. Where to slow down, to speed up, to surrender to the pause. Sometimes the pause is the best thing to serve the pace.
Turtles carry their homes on their backs. They never leave their home, but more importantly their home never leaves them. They already have everything they need to survive and thrive.
Lesson: Read previous sentence.
When a turtle gets flipped onto its back, everything gets tossed askew. But, the turtle literally uses its strong neck and head to lift and flip itself upright again.
Lesson: Trust your own wisdom and knowledge when in a bind. Use your head. And, don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t.
A turtle is opportunistic and takes her time to notice when an ample opportunity crosses her path. In the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare,” sometimes the hare is moving so fast, with her eye on the prize, that she misses opportunities as she whizzes by and she’s so busy trying outwit and outrun and to be the best, that she exhausts herself.
The tortoise is at her pace so she can slow down and seize moments to explore. She goes within herself, literally, to assess. The tortoise doesn’t try to be the hare or to buy into the hare’s latest online program, “Six Simple Steps to Win the Race Every Time.” That may work for the hare. This is not a judgment on the hare; the hare has a different process which works for the hare. But, it doesn’t work for everyone. The tortoise has the goal to cross the finish line too, but in a way that works within the tortoise framework. In a tortoise lane. On the tortoise clock.
It's funny, I often say, "I gotta light a fire under my butt," as way of motivating myself to move faster. Hmm, I wonder what would happen if you lit a fire under a tortoise's butt. Turtle soup? I'm just saying.
Lesson: It’s not about winning, because that often becomes about someone else’s race. Following someone else’s get-rich-quick scheme or shortcut to success may not work for you, at least not until you slow down enough to know what resonates and what feels right. For you.
The turtle is low to the ground and feels the vibrations of all that’s around her. It’s in that place that she trusts her pace, whether to speed up, slow down or pause.
Lesson: listen to your own vibrations and when you do listen to other's input, pause to listen to your own decision. Don’t be rushed.
There’s a shadow side to the tortoise energy. It’s using all of this as an excuse, relying simply on this knowledge that things happen as they happen, resting on laurels with the hope that somehow your brilliance will be discovered.
A wise healer said to me one time, “There’s no shortcut to enlightenment.” The same goes for trusting your own pace. Divine timing isn’t esoteric. It’s doing the work that pulls you, that’s in your heart, that’s in your lane. And, trusting that the next levels of enlightenment or success or completion will unfold at the right time, your right time.
Then, when it does happen, it’s deeper and richer and more meaningful, as well as being authentic.
I’ve experienced this over and over again in my lifetime. My family has always said I march to the beat of my own drummer. Yes, that’s true. That’s because I’m a frigging tortoise! I’m a slow build, in it for the long haul. And, what’s interesting, when there have been times of fast success or a quick leap up, I often have to pause to catch up with myself. Gotta say, the turtle does that too!
Watch the work, not the time
I recently watched a documentary about artisans in France, designers who create and supply the design houses with very specialized elements, like pleats. An entire company and all they make are pleats.
Or an outfit that creates only the tiny artificial flowers that adorn a larger design. This artist said, “It’s under my skin, this work. It takes a lifetime. And, there’s history behind it.”
One atelier, a milliner, who makes the most beautiful couture hats, struck me. He created a wooden mold in its completion in order to build the perfect hat. He said, “You don’t watch the clock. You watch the work. Every one takes the time it takes.” I’m guessing he’s a turtle too.
Embrace your pace
So, back to my friend’s comment about process being tricky, it’s so true. You can’t judge it. Sometimes, it isn't procrastination, it's a necessary element, part of the project or work's unfolding.
The freedom, the permission, is knowing that pace is part of the process. We turtles take our own sweet time, but we always get there.
What's Through That Portal?
What's behind that door? Looking at these spectacular doors it's kind of a delicious mystery.
When I was in France recently, I found myself taking numerous photos of doors. Doors that were weathered by history and by the lives of those who had ventured through them. Some wandering aimlessly, some with direction and purpose. Some opening to welcome in weary travelers and others entering with the relief of being home.
Doors that seemed to be portals to other times, certainly to other worlds and memories of other worlds.
The doors in these photos were in seemingly frozen-in-time villages in the French countryside and Loire valley that I simply fell in love with. I could see myself there, passing over one of these thresholds, creating a life there.
Portals fascinate. What lurks on just the other side and beyond? What answers lie in waiting? Are there secret codes or keys that unlock their gateways and life treasures?
There are so many great portal stories in literature, where the hero or heroine passes through one and finds a whole new adventure, a new way of being where choices made change lives. Think of Dorothy's front door in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or the wardrobe in Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. There's something powerful about the sense of wonder that takes over, a freshness of spirit and Vivre, as one embarks on life's new direction.
I'm thinking about portals and pathways a lot right now. As various life choices present themselves.
And, as it so happens and as I write this, we are in the midst of a powerful cosmic portal. It's all the more timely, this notion of doors or gateways or portals opening. A dear friend shared this with me this week and I've become a little obsessed with it.
It's called 8-8 Lion's Gate. It happens every year on August 8th, but this year it's auspicious because three days later on 8/11, the Leo New Moon partial solar eclipse takes place, the most extraordinary since the powerful lunar eclipse on 8/11/99. And, in the meantime, there's a massive convergence of planets taking place that "brings the potential for healing your relationship with your essential self."
So, on 8-8 the Lion's Gate cracked open, which signifies a huge cosmic shift, change coming, and invites an opening for transformation and manifestation. There are a bunch of articles on the internet that explain it much better than I could.
Like here, where she talks the meaning of the numerology too: "8 is the number for the balance of power and infinity. 11 is a gateway for transformation. A powerful combo."
And here: "this can be an influx of divine wisdom."
And here: I love what he says, "The positive energies combining 8-8 Lions Gate with the Leo New Moon Eclipse create a groundswell of heart expansion, creative pursuits, and explosive new growth. Deep dive into the spiral momentum of rapid ascension."
Basically, the time window between the 8/8/18 Lionsgate and the lunar eclipse on 8/11/18 provides a portal for deeper understanding, letting go of what doesn't serve you anymore and calling in your higher purpose.
Sign me up!
Portals are also internal openings into your own truth. In other words, a phrase or thought can crack open an opportunity for growth.
“Vulnerability is the portal to feeling. Feeling is the portal to strength.” ― A.D. Posey
A portal of communication is also an opening for open-hearted discussion and relationship.
Transparency is the portal to real authenticity.
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." ― James Joyce
So, how about taking a bit of time this weekend, while in the midst of Leo the Lion's Gateway of transformation, and ask for what you want in life.
Light a candle. Feel the energies in your body. Interestingly, you can feel it if you get quiet and still enough.
“Praise is the portal to the presence of God.” ― David Brazzeal, from Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed Your Soul
Meditate and pray to let go of what isn't working in your life and then to receive your higher calling. It's a powerful prayer and one that's worth repeating. A lot.
Then, release it all under the new moon.
Enjoy this portal. I'll see you on the other side. It's a wonder what awaits!
Freedom From Labels is Where it Begins
Recently, around the US Independence Day, I got into a discussion with a friend about the problematic divisiveness that permeates the world right now. And, we agreed that so much of what drives the discord comes down to this:
Labels are what define a thing, or a person, or a group of people. It literally means to “identify” or to attach a meaning. A label is a “descriptive phrase or word” placed onto something.
But, when a label becomes de-meaning is when assumptions are made and rash categorical biases are formed against an entire group of people. Based on the label.
We walk around all day long putting labels on people, based on religion, political party, sexual orientation, male/female sex, socioeconomic status, body size, education, illness, profession, credit rating, etc. Most often, it’s by way of fleeting thoughts, but more and more in this socially brash society, it’s become vocal and viral, and way too common.
It got me thinking about how we also label ourselves, and how what that does to either help or hinder our own self-growth. And, how easy it can be to start to believe the labels put on us by others as well. Politicians get elected by hammering away about labels. Marketers sell products by categorizing and labeling groups of people by demographics. They call them things like “early adopters” and “baby boomers” and “millennials”.
The second you’re born, labels are pronounced about you. What sex you are, what physical markers you have or don’t have, what kind of family you’re born into, what color you are, the area of the world you’re in.
Even, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” starts the labeling process right out of the gate, so to speak.
Eventually, we start to believe the labels and it becomes part of our story. The labels become who we are. If we let them.
What if all of those labels were stripped away?
What if we strip down to our barest humanity, down to the soul level, and treat what happens to us as mere life experience. Or it's a physical characteristic but doesn't define who we are as a person. Or it’s something we’re going through, not who we are.
My dear friend was just diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. It’s not curable. But, is manageable. So, we talked a lot about not allowing the disease to define her. She’s a healthy spiritual human being going through an unhealthy experience.
Yes, it’s going to be a challenge and yes some things will have to be different in her daily life, but she knows she could either allow the disease to drive her, to define her, or she can do whatever she can to drive and diminish the disease. To recreate her life. In other words, she can decide not to be burdened by the label.
It goes that way with any label.
Who are you without all of the labels? I mean all of them. The labels put upon you by society, but more importantly by the labels you place on yourself.
Is that a frightening notion? Or a freeing one?
To my way of thinking, it’s probably both. Life without labels is full of possibility. As in flying without constraints while also free-falling without a net. Freeing and a bit scary too.
But, once you start removing the labels, the easier it is to trust your own volition, your own self-worth, your own humanity.
Start with removing your own labels. Then, remove everyone else's.
Can you imagine what a different world it would be?
A Bit of Midyear Perspective
Perspective can either keep you present, or not.
Since I chose “Perspective” as my word and theme of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to check in on things, at midyear. So, I'm reviewing, dialing in on meaning and expanding views.
Perspective can make you lighten up and not take things so seriously, while at the same time Perspective can help you get really serious about the most important things.
“I realized I can find my way to the MRI room by the ceiling tiles and the exit signs.”
This is what my dear, dear friend said to me during her hospital stay. Her perspective is reeled in, tight and small, exactly as it needs to be. Her perspective is, as with all of us very close to her, laser-focused on what is happening in the moment. Pain management. More IV needle prodding. More meds. Code calls. More questions than answers. More doctors/specialists/surgeons being added to team. More note taking. Then, more answers. More prayers. Finding humor in the tunneled view.
And, more trips to the MRI room, "go 20 ceiling tiles and turn left at the exit sign."
We talked about how what was and is happening to her is sharpening her perspective. Making her braver. Cherishing deeply her sister who is steadfast by her side. Receiving love and support as true medicine. Raising her self-advocacy to a level she didn’t know she had in her. I’m in awe of her strength and marvel at her capacity for continually falling back on her inner work, her spirit.
It's true that Perspective gives you a helicopter view of things, the big picture, the long stance.
But, sometimes all you can handle is what's directly in front of you. Moment to moment. Conversation to conversation. Tile by tile. And, that's exactly how it should be in that moment.
I found I was beating myself up because I wasn't meeting my writing goals, things that are a part of my helicopter perspective. But, when I reeled it in, got really honest and acknowledged that my view is on my friend and that is my intended perspective right now, I was able to let it all go. It’s perspective that starts the process of letting go.
This is where I am.
I had referenced in the earlier post that "Perspective is your canvas," meaning that on the grand canvas of life, your wise and knowledgeable prospective is the base coat and then is augmented by the various colors with which you use to create your story and pave your path.
Sometimes, the canvas shrinks, out of necessity or out of choice. And, you feel like you're out of paint, or you've turned the paintbrush over to others, as information and input bombards you. This could be as lab test results keep rolling in. Or by incessant news coverage of depressing world events.
For me, I need to shrink the canvas so I don't lose sight of myself. For starters, for me that means turning off the news. Perspective gets wonky when it's clouded by frustration, anger and sorrow over what's happening.
And, shrinking my canvas means being present with my friend.
That's when inner perspective takes over. Inner perspective is moment to moment. It's trusting that more will be revealed in the right divine timing. It's the white space on the smaller canvas.
In time the larger canvas, the glimpse of the helicopter perspective, the wider lens will be beheld again.
Until then, this is it. Tile by tile. And, it's enough.