Within the past couple of weeks I started reading a life-changing book. I don’t use the phrase “life-changing” lightly. Very few books embed themselves so deeply into my psyche that I find myself irrevocably altered as a result. I’m not even finished with the book yet but already I’m behaving differently.

The book is Tosha Silver’s It’s Not Your Money. I mean, even the title tells you this is something different, right? Instead of the mindset “It’s mine! What can I do to get more?” Tosha instead asks the reader to offer up money (and everything really) to the divine beloved. To recognize nothing on this planet is truly “ours” in a permanent way. We are merely caretakers for the time being. For instance, eventually the computer I’m typing this on will get donated or recycled.

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Gorgeous, right? Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

What Tosha invokes in her book is the reminder we aren’t operating in the world alone. I’m not the one solely responsible for making money or finding a romantic partner or whatever. I listened to a podcast she appeared on and she said people often say, “You’ll never find a parking spot in that area,” or “You’ll never find an affordable place to live in that neighborhood,” etc. She recognizes the person is right – if they don’t invoke the divine beloved. So in her mind she tacks on “without God.” So for instance, “You’ll never find a parking spot in that area, without God.” It’s not so much a trick to manifesting everything we desire, so much as recognizing with God/source/the universe anything and everything is possible. If something is in our best interest, if it’s in our highest good, the Supreme will make it so.

I know that to be true in my own life. Many years ago a friend counseled me about finding a place to live and he said there are three factors to housing: cost, size, and location. And then he said, “Now pick two,” meaning, nobody gets all three. In the extremely expensive rental market of the Bay Area, I did get all three: an apartment in my price range, the size I wanted, and in a good location, which was truly an act of grace. I’ve seen miracles in my life, and now I’m consciously inviting love to take charge of all aspects, including finances.

This week after reading a line from Tosha’s book I immediately burst into tears and then wrote it on a piece of masking tape by my doorknob so I see it every time I enter or exit my apartment. She talked about letting go of old stories and no matter what happened in the past, we can do things differently and live a new reality. She said, “This life now belongs to love and anything can happen.” Wow y’all. That line. I hope you can feel the power of it, the recognition that love is here and when we open up to the divine, anything can happen. Bills miraculously get paid. Our soulmate knocks on our door. Opportunities abound.

What Tosha is talking about here is surrendering to something greater than ourselves. It’s about letting love into our lives to lead. It’s about letting go of control and recognizing there is a divine presence here, in this moment, in every moment. That a loving force moves through me and through you. And furthermore, we can consciously invite that loving force into our lives. I’ve been on the spiritual path for a long time and I still need the reminder that surrender doesn’t end the minute I leave my meditation cushion. Real surrender means saying, “Hey God/higher power/universe, I want you to take care of this. Please guide my actions. I trust where you are leading me,” and then we let go, knowing whatever needs to come, comes, and whatever needs to go, goes. Because truly, this life belongs to love.

I dream of a world where we recognize the power and the presence of a loving force in our lives. A world where we’re able to surrender and let go of our micromanaging tendencies and fully trust all true needs will be met, and often in amazing and wonderful ways. A world where we realize we never walk alone because this life belongs to love.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

On Friday, I came home and found my plants had been cut. My jasmine, lovingly tended to for the past three years, was reduced to a wisp. My long, woody-stemmed wildflower vanished. Shock, grief, betrayal – I felt all those things. I realize some people might be scratching their heads saying, “They’re just plants. They’ll grow back.” But like I wrote about last week, I operate under the belief all living beings have souls. My plants are like my pets – I talk to them, they have names. I care whether they live or die. I’m very attached to my plants.

The experience also has me contemplating what many black and brown people are undergoing right now. They come home from work or school and find their loved ones just gone, vanished. If I felt this way about my plants, how much worse must it be with a family member? How can we do this to one another? The answer? We have an identity problem, in my opinion.

When children are ripped from their parents, some people will say, “Well, they’re not my children,” and leave it at that. Or they’ll spout rationalizations for why inhumane treatment is justified: “They broke the law,” or something similar. It’s a way of cutting themselves off from others. People who don’t seem to mind children sitting in cages have a boundary to their identity.

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Where does your identity stop? Photo by Amol Tyagi on Unsplash

Let’s talk about identity a bit more. When you ask someone, “Who are you?” They’ll likely state their name and then other labels like gender, age, ethnicity, etc. If you ask them to go a little deeper, they might start talking about their family or nationality. Maybe they’ll mention their political affiliation. All of that is fine – I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with identifying in that way, but can identity go further than that? If we stop our identity at a certain point, when I talk about “my” children and “your” children, it’s easier for me to put “your” children in cages.

My friend gave a talk about this last summer and he asked, “How is it we can celebrate and protect human diversity while seeking to transcend divisions so we can socially cohere into something deeper, truer, to who we are on the inside rather than how we project on the outside?” Meaning, how do we keep our labels but also go beyond them?

Because that’s the truth, isn’t it? I’m not just my name, age, and gender. If you took all of those things away, wouldn’t I still be me? In various types of meditation, the point is to get in touch with the unchanging “you.” The “you” that’s calm and ever present. The “you” that’s unaffected by superficial trappings. And the more we touch that part, the more we realize everyone has that part. That Self exists universally. I see myself in others and others in myself. It’s why I get upset about dying plants and children in cages.

Some people might say I feel that way because I’m so openhearted. That’s true, I am, but I would also argue it’s because of how I identify. I identify with plants, animals, children. My identity is one of inclusion rather than exclusion.

Everything I’m talking about is the philosophy of neohumanism. Truthfully, neohumanism is more than a philosophy, it’s a worldview that guides every step. It allows me to sink into who I really am at the core. If we all practiced that more, I doubt we’d have children in cages or environmental atrocities because we’d recognize we are more than the bodies we inhabit.

I dream of a world where we recognize who we really are. A world where we identify with more than our limiting labels, not as a way of discarding them, but rather recognizing we are also much more than our labels. A world where we tap into an unchanging, eternal Self and see that Self in others. A world where we remember I am you, you are me, and we are one.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Re-Souling

It’s gusty where I am right now and outside my window I can see wisps of plant matter floating through the air. It feels like a metaphor for my life right now, and not just mine, but our society in general. Strong winds keep unsettling us, thrusting us in new situations. As I check social media, I see a lot of disbelief and dismay regarding the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. (And also some jokes.) Did any of us think we’d wind up here? I sure didn’t.

As I ponder the “why” of it all, I think about a conversation I had with dear friends of mine. I told them I noticed there’s a tendency for men who mistreat nature to also mistreat women. For instance, Trump continues to rollback environmental protections and he’s on record saying he can grab women by, well, you know the quote. Unbeknownst to me until recently, my observation is the premise of ecofeminism – a movement that sees a connection between the exploitation and degradation of the natural world and the subordination and oppression of women.

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A woman in nature. Seemed perfect for this post. Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

It makes sense because both the mistreatment of women and the plundering of Earth start with objectification. I don’t think Trump views women (or minorities for that matter) as people and instead reduces them to neatly packaged labels and harmful stereotypes. For instance, “Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers.” He and others like him view people and the environment in transactional terms: “What can I get?” They think about how they can benefit the most financially or in terms of acquiring power.

When Trump was first elected, I heard many people remark that they wanted a businessman at the helm of the United States. That aspect appealed to them. What people neglected to factor in is businessmen usually care first and foremost about profit, and when profit is the bottom line, people and the environment get reduced to objects. Soul is taken out of the equation. And “soul” is not limited to humans, in my opinion. I think even trees have souls or consciousness because more and more research emerges that trees talk to each other, support each other, and behave in ways that we never imagined. The same is likely true for other animate and inanimate objects.

To tie in my spiritual practice here, an ethical principle I live by is brahmacarya. It means “to remain attached to Brahma,” or Cosmic Consciousness, or Source, or whatever term you want to use. My spiritual teacher says, “Whenever people do some work or think of doing any work extroversially, they look upon the object, with which they come in contact, as a crude finite entity. Because of their constant aspiration for material achievement their mind is so engrossed in material objects that their very consciousness becomes crude. The meaning of practicing brahmacarya is to treat the object with which one comes in contact as different expressions of Brahma and not as crude forms.”

I know some traditions define brahmacarya as abstinence. I think that’s a definition that evolved over time because if you think about it, a lack of brahmacarya means objectification, and that can lead to sexual misconduct. To avoid sexual misconduct and to simplify matters, people started equating brahmacarya with abstinence.

To go back to Donald Trump, there’s nothing I can do to encourage him to “re-soul” the people and things in his life, but perhaps I can spur the people around me to engage in brahmacarya. It’s hard to constantly think of something as an expression of an infinite loving consciousness, but it’s more than a mental exercise. It’s also our actions. When you see a moth fluttering inside your house, do you kill it without a second thought? Or do you try to trap it and put it outside? When something breaks do you try to fix it or do you immediately throw it away, thereby increasing the environmental impact? All of these actions matter because it’s our way of saying plants, animals, people, our environment, are sacred, and it’s our way of reintroducing soul into what often seems like a soul-less world. And I’m all for more soul.

I dream of a world where we treat everything as a different expression of Cosmic Consciousness. A world where we stop objectifying everything and everyone because we see there’s more beneath the surface than we previously imagined. A world where we “re-soul” our planet by recognizing everything matters and we act accordingly.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

A month or two ago I heard on a podcast I listen to that the wound is also the gift. It’s a phrase that’s stuck with me because it rang true, but I couldn’t quite grapple how. This week provided me clarity on the subject.

I’ve always been a sensitive person but growing up I didn’t know how to handle my emotions. I tried to shut them down or numb out in a variety of ways. Those two strategies run rampant in our society and it’s why we see such high rates of addiction and insensitivity. Emotions can be scary for people, especially when the messages a person receives are, “Don’t be sad, don’t be scared, don’t be angry.”

Speaking from experience, it’s impossible for me not to feel sad, scared, or angry, and trying other means to NOT feel my feelings only harmed me. These days I’m taking a new tactic which is to feel my feelings and use them as information to guide me in my life. But because I’ve been on both sides it means I can use my wound and make it a gift. It means that now I live and breathe empathy. In fact, I taught an empathy workshop at a retreat recently. I never thought I’d be a person who is helping other people process their emotions when I was so unskilled, but now, people regularly call me when they’re upset or scared or sad. My emotional wound turned me into someone with high emotional intelligence, and my gift is now I understand how to set and maintain healthy boundaries so I’m not overwhelmed by emotions anymore. Not always, not in every circumstance.

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I know it’s not a wound, or a gift, but I liked this picture. Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

I still try to numb out sometimes, or push my emotions away, but the frequency is less and the duration is shorter. My own experience is helping others. Do I want to be a therapist? Absolutely not because I’m too introverted for that, but I’d love to ghostwrite for therapists. And even without parlaying emotional hygiene into a career, I’m helping myself and my community through modeling and acting as a resource. I’ve come to understand the only way out of anything is through, and that means my feelings too.

My spiritual teacher talks about this as well. He says regarding the innate propensities people have, for instance shyness or cruelty, “You shouldn’t check the flow. You may check the flow to check the flood, but you are to divert that water through different canals. Here also you are to check the flow of your baser propensities and divert it unto that singular propensity, toward the Supreme Self … The mind is moving toward so many unrighteous activities. Withdraw those activities and guide it toward the singular righteous Entity.”

You can’t direct the flow of something if you avoid it altogether. And you might find the things that hurt you become assets later on when helping others. We all have wounds and sometimes those wounds become gifts that foster connection, love, and support. You never know, but it’s an interesting question to ponder.

I dream of a world where we recognize sometimes the things that wounded us also become our greatest gifts. A world where we take what we’ve learned and use it to help others. A world where we come to terms with our past hurts and use them to propel us forward.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Divine Matchmaking

I am a connector. For those of you who’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, you’ll know what I’m talking about. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, in essence it means I’ll say to someone, “Oh, you have Lyme disease? I have a friend with Lyme disease. Do you want me to put you in touch?” I do this all the time with everyone. It’s not just platonic connections, it’s romantic ones too, although those are more rare. Connecting people comes so naturally to me I briefly entertained the idea of becoming a matchmaker. I even interviewed with a matchmaking firm and made it through their interview rounds before I decided it was too much pressure to ensure a person went on a certain number of dates every month.

An ex-boyfriend noticed how much I connected people and he said, “But who does that for you?” A couple of people return the favor, but my biggest matchmaker is the universe. I find there’s a divine intelligence at play that somehow knows just who I need to speak to and when, as well as vice versa. For the past week I’ve been in the “matchmaking flow” and it excites me, inspires me, and reminds me the world is magical.

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Isn’t this a great picture?!? Photo by Christopher Beloch on Unsplash

I’m trading services with my chiropractor and she recommended I interview a couple of people regarding their experiences. I called one of the people and we got to chatting. It turns out she lives literally a block away from me! And on top of that, she told me she’s been looking for a writer for her business. We both laughed at how I’ve been looking for clients and she’s been looking for a writer. I don’t know if we’ll end up working together, but just the fact she’s a potential client is thrilling. I didn’t orchestrate that meeting. It completely came out of the blue as a result of praying and asking the universe for help. As an important caveat, I want to mention this stuff is not on my timeline. It’s not a math formula. For instance, I have single friends who yearn to be partnered and they pray and ask for help all the time. But they’re still single. And then there are other people who have crazy miracle stories.

For instance, I read a news article about a woman who dreamed of a telephone number. When she woke up, she called it and a man answered. They got to chatting and over time developed such strong feelings for one another they got married. How does that happen?

My spiritual teacher says that “whatever happens in this universe of ours is nothing but an expression of Cosmic desire or Cosmic will … when a human desire and His desire coincide, then only does the human desire become fruitful.”

I view matchmaking as an act of Cosmic will. To me it means the universe is pushing me in a certain direction. My life works better when I believe there’s a benevolent force guiding me and for the moment, it’s coming through in the form of matchmaking, for which I’m grateful.

I dream of a world where we recognize the magic and the mystery in the universe. A world where we realize not only are people matchmakers, but the universe is a matchmaker too. A world where we realize sometimes the universe wants to give us a helping hand and that comes through people showing up in our lives out of the blue.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sometimes when I encounter an obstacle I sit down and say, “That’s it. I’m done. Thwarted.” I treat challenges like a 50-foot brick wall with no handholds – insurmountable, daunting, and immovable. However, lately the new metaphor I’m working with is a rock in a river.

Have you seen boulders in rivers? The water just moves around them, changing direction, perhaps slowing down a little, but it keeps going. That metaphor is pertinent to my life right now because as I’m starting my business, I hear a lot of “no’s” or rather I don’t hear anything at all. Instead of wallowing – OK, I’m wallowing a little – I’m moving on. I mean, I have feelings about it. Every “no” stings, but I also say, “On to the next one.” Not only am I hearing “no’s,” but I feel a bit blocked because I want to show people an example of my service, but it doesn’t exist yet online. However, in order to entice people to work with me, I want to show them a sample so I’m in a bit a catch-22. What did I do? I interviewed a friend of mine who is under chiropractic care and as soon as she approves the text, I’ll post it to my own website. Moving around obstacles baby!

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Look at how the water moves around this rock. Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

My spiritual teacher says obstacles are helping forces. I don’t know if I believe that, except I notice obstacles keep my mind sharp. I’m flexing my creative muscle and becoming more resourceful, so there’s that. I’m also learning and growing in ways I never anticipated so maybe obstacles are helping forces? My spiritual teacher also says, “When one sets out to complete a great task, innumerable difficulties must be confronted. The greater the task, the mightier the obstacles. That is why the person who wants to perform noble deeds must be ready to face opposition from the very outset. Those who are not prepared for these mighty obstacles begin to falter and ultimately surrender in the face of opposition.”

I certainly understand that. It’s easier to give up, to give in, especially when the obstacles are vast. I told you at the beginning of this post sometimes challenges feel like a 50-foot brick wall. But again, what I’m learning is how to circumnavigate obstacles, and I think we as a society are learning the same thing. The government not providing enough money in the form of aid? Start a fundraiser. Too much trash on the beach? Clean it up yourself. I could write pages and pages about the delinquency of government and how individuals and nonprofit organizations stepping in demonstrates the government’s inefficiency, but that’s another post for another day. What I want to focus on today is how nothing is as insurmountable as we think.

I read stories all the time of people accomplishing seemingly impossible things. A quadriplegic painting using their mouth, for instance, or a mother lifting a car to save her child. Living beings show their resilience every day as well as their cooperation and that’s something I find inspiring in these challenging times. May we all learn to flow around our obstacles and help one another when it feels too great.

I dream of a world where we flow around our obstacles like a river around a rock. A world where we realize obstacles are temporary stumbling blocks, and when they’re not, when they challenge us for too long, we link up with others and ask for help, or push to make greater changes in society. A world where we understand sometimes we move past an obstacle quickly and sometimes slowly, but in the end we do move past it.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Many things are on my mind and heart right now. Watching Australia burn, I feel powerless and scared. It’s destruction of epic proportions and my heart breaks for the people and animals affected by the fires. I also feel powerless and scared as I watch President Trump’s aggressive actions toward Iran. What really freaks me out is that neither he nor many of those in power seem to care one iota what the vast majority of Americans want. He’s hellbent on marching toward war in order to stay in power.

The whole thing makes me want to burrow under the covers and tune out the world. In fact, I did a little bit of that today – I stayed in bed two hours after I woke up meditating, reading, and endlessly scrolling through facebook and instagram. The book I’m reading, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, is by a therapist who realizes she needs therapy herself. In it, Lori Gottlieb writes numbness isn’t absence of feeling, it’s overwhelm at having too many feelings. That’s sure the case for me.

Where do I, or we, go from here? How do I navigate the deluge of information and emotion spewing my way? Chani Nicholas, an astrologer I follow, said: “We maneuver around despair by focusing on the little wins, the quality of our connections, and the blessing of second chances after we’ve made a mess of things. We have to live out our potential, our dreams, and our destinies one caring act at a time. Like our life depends on it. Like our future is waiting for it. Like it is what we were born to do. Anything that derails us from this aim doesn’t deserve access to our days, nights, or rituals.”

Little by little adds up to something, and something is better than nothing. Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

Little wins. Right now the majority of people around me are caught up in the fervor of the new year – excited for a fresh start, amping themselves up with resolutions and intentions and things they’re claiming for this year. People are making plans, envisioning how they want their lives to go. Awesome! As for me, I’m reminded I can start over at any time. It doesn’t have to be the new year or a Monday or even the morning to start fresh. I can start my day over at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday. This year I’m retreading my goals from 2019 – the ones I put on the back burner because I chose to focus on other things, rightly so. For instance, I opened a retirement account for myself. I’m not sure I’ll be able to contribute much every month, but I decided something small is better than nothing. And at this point, it’s important for me to just start, even if I don’t wind up where I’d like to be.

That mindset feels like the wisest thing I can share right now: just start. Will my $10 donation to a firefighter unit make a vast difference in Australia? No, but my donation plus your donation adds up to something, and something is better than nothing. Will I single-handedly be able to stop a war with Iran? No, but my voice plus your voice still matters, and even though I don’t have a lot of faith in many politicians right now, it’s still important for me to try.

I’d like to end with a quote from my spiritual teacher. He says, “There are some people who are pessimistic. They say that the society around us is very bleak … Pessimists say this because they have never made any detailed study of human history, nor do they care to. Had they done so, they would certainly be optimistic, because if they had looked carefully at the symptoms of pause, they would have realized that significant preparations were being made for the subsequent phase of speed. So under no circumstances should human beings be pessimistic. That is why I am always an incorrigible optimist, because I know that optimism is life.”

It may seem naive and foolish to be optimistic right now, but for me also, optimism is life. I don’t function well without optimism and what the world needs from me and from all of us right now is function. We need as many high-functioning people as we can get, and if that means being optimistic, if that means celebrating little wins, if that means focusing on the quality of our connections, so be it.

I dream of a world where we realize something is better than nothing and we act accordingly. A world where we celebrate small wins and keep putting one foot in front of the other. A world where we do whatever it is we need to do to make it through challenging times in a way that’s loving and caring for all living beings.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Right now it’s Hanukkah, which is a holiday I celebrate because I’m Jewish. There’s a part of me that feels nervous publicly stating I’m Jewish given the current rise of antisemitism. But then I remind myself people already know I’m Jewish. I’ve never hidden that before so why would I start now? And in fact, that’s precisely the story of Hanukkah.

Some people think of Hanukkah as the “Jewish Christmas” because hello, we live in a capitalistic culture so it’s all about the gifts, right? Other people vaguely know Hanukkah as a celebration of oil lasting for eight days. That legend was tacked on later to make Hanukkah seem more miraculous. In actuality, Hanukkah is the celebration of people unifying against oppression and winning.

Judah and the Maccabees revolted against Syrian King Antiochus who enacted a series of harsh decrees against the Jews, including forcing them to give so much of their crops to the Syrian ruling class, the Jews had trouble feeding their families. Jewish worship was forbidden; scrolls were confiscated and burned. Sabbath and the dietary laws were prohibited under penalty of death. The small group of Jewish rebels fought against an army of thousands of men and won. How did they win? According to my rabbi, Michael Lerner, they won in part because they believed there is something about the universe that makes such struggles winnable.

dreidel

In case you didn’t know, this image shows a dreidel. It’s used in a game Jews play on Hanukkah. Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

In a Hanukkah message, he wrote that “something,” that force, is celebrated when we light candles for Hanukkah or when Christians light candles for Christmas.

“Hanukkah is not just about having a response to the consumption craze around Christmas, it is about affirming a different worldview, a hopeful worldview. [It’s] about replacing cultures of domination with a culture of love and justice,” Rabbi Lerner wrote. “[Hanukkah is also about] recognizing that alternative is not yet fully articulated in the Jewish world and needs all of us to make it clearer not only to the larger world, but to our own communities, synagogues, and Jewish organizations.”

This Hanukkah I’m reminded of what it means to be Jewish: to struggle and to overcome. To be a minority fighting for justice. To join other minorities in doing the same. This Hanukkah I’m also reminded we can win. It seems grim or even impossible that we can wrest power from the wealthy elite hellbent on destroying us all for their own gain. It seems daunting to dismantle racism, sexism, homophobia, and other prejudice, but it can be done. A small but mighty few can accomplish just that.

To paraphrase my spiritual teacher, the strength of five good people is more than the united strength of a hundred immoral people. It also echoes the famous Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Let’s continue to be thoughtful, committed, organized citizens changing the world. Let’s remember battles that seemed unwinnable have been won, and in fact, that’s what Jews across the world are currently celebrating.

I dream of a world where we recognize there is a transformative force in the universe that makes liberation possible. A world where we recognize a small but mighty group of organized people can overthrow authoritarian regimes. A world where we band together, letting our collective light shine and say “no” to the people who try to keep us down.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

As you know, we’re rounding the bend on 2019. Where did the year go? I know there’s that 10-year challenge floating around social media but I can’t contemplate that we’re about to enter a new decade because I’m pretty sure my mind will explode. No, I’m only thinking about this year and I’ve cried a couple of times this week because 2019 is not at all what I expected; nor did I accomplish what I thought I would.

I remember starting off this year feeling buoyant and enthused as I flew back from LA to the Bay Area, the sun peeking through the clouds. I took it as a good omen, that the universe shared in my optimism. This year I looked forward to financial abundance, to possibly dating again, and also finishing my novel. None of those things happened. Instead this year was like landing in a new city only to be greeted by wildfire smoke – something unanticipated and I didn’t even know I should check for. (That actually happened to me by the way.)

Entering a tunnel of light

Not quite what I was looking for, but it works! Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

This year my accomplishments cannot be enumerated. They are more of the internal variety: setting boundaries with toxic people, demanding what I’m owed, determining what I’m worth, etc. They cannot be shared at a holiday party – except for the fact I started my own business. That I’m telling to everyone who will listen. So yeah. I’m disappointed about this year. I’m literally crying about the gap between my dreams and my reality.

This is the point where I’m probably supposed to talk about how dreams can be deferred, about how things can change on a dime, about how there’s still time as long as I’m alive. All of that is true, and I don’t want to gloss over the grief. There’s nothing to fix here. There’s nothing to change. This year was what it was. I showed up like a champ for the challenges life presented me and that’s also something to celebrate. Was it a good year? No, but it also wasn’t a bad one. It was a year. An exciting, boring, happy, sad, easy, hard, wonderful, terrible year.

What comes to mind right now is a concept underpinning my last couple of posts: surrender. My spiritual teacher says suppose Cosmic Consciousness wants you to become even greater than what you are praying to become. What if Cosmic Consciousness finds greater potential in you than you’re aware of? The best thing to do is surrender completely, to be a conduit instead.

This year has felt like that to me – and also that I’m getting polished. All the things I learned this year, all the things I endured, have been necessary to create an even better version of me. I would have been content with not learning hard lessons, with not undergoing hardship, but then I wouldn’t be where I am now – able to protect myself, to take care of myself, and not let anyone thwart me, including me. So maybe I’ve accomplished what I wanted this year after all.

I dream of a world where we mine for gold in the darkness of our lives. A world where we recognize a year can be both good and bad, even if didn’t go according to plan. A world where we let go of internal “shoulds” and instead embrace what’s here, recognizing maybe we accomplished more than we thought at first glance.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Creative Envy

This past week was stressful and exhausting. I didn’t have the energy to write a new post, but when I searched for one to share again, this one from December 2017 came to mind. Enjoy.

I envy other people’s success. Not in a mean or spiteful way – I don’t begrudge people their accolades, I think they deserve them – rather a part of me burns with yearning to have what they have. I’ve tried all the things I can think of to deal with envy – feeling it fully, using it as fuel for my own work, seeing it as an example of what’s possible, etc., but nothing has made a lasting difference.

This week the green-eyed monster struck again and I sincerely asked the universe for help. I don’t like feeling envious, it’s not something I enjoy, or how I’d like to respond to the success of others. The universe stepped in, as it always does, and I contemplated a prayer I say every morning. Specifically, that I act as an instrument for my higher power, that I may be of service to others, and that I’d like to be used as my higher power sees fit. This week it occurred to me my creative endeavors also apply.

paint colors

Photo by russn_fckr on Unsplash.

On some level I already know this and it’s the main reason I have this blog, to use my words in service of others. I already believe my role as an artist is to establish a link between the finite and infinite, the mundane and the transcendental. In terms of creativity, it means I’m working with something more than me. Talk to any artist and they’ll tell you at some time or another it felt like they were channeling something, that something moved through them. Indeed, Elizabeth Gilbert has a mega-popular video on creativity saying exactly that. If that’s true, and I believe it is, it means I’m an instrument for my higher power. I’m the violin, not the violinist.

When I look at envy from this perspective, it means I’m not to blame for any success or failure. I’m the violin, I’m not in control of the music the violinist plays, nor am I in control of how well the music is received. I don’t know why certain things are popular and others languish in obscurity, but also I don’t know the mind of God. However, I’ve experienced enough synchronicity in my life to know I am a piece on God’s chessboard, that there is a greater intelligence at work. That means art too. It means perhaps certain things I write are supposed to reach a small number of people, and that’s it. I want to write a wildly popular book that lands me on the New York Times bestseller list, a segment with Oprah, and a prestigious award, but maybe every book has its own purpose and trajectory, and sometimes that means only six people will read it.

Envy pops up when my ego has gotten the best of me and I start thinking about my plans instead of the universe’s plans. Envy pops up when I think of myself as the violinist, not the violin. I have to take certain actions, I have to keep my instrument clean and my strings taut, so to speak, but the rest? It’s not up to me. Almost every successful person talks about a “lucky break,” being in the right place at the right time. I don’t think it’s luck, I think it’s grace, and that’s something I can’t manufacture no matter how hard I try. Nor am I supposed to. I’m the violin, allowing myself to be played, not the violinist.

I dream of a world where we realize we are not solely responsible for our creative successes or failures. A world where we recognize we are instruments for something greater than ourselves. A world where we take our egos out of the equation and merely allow ourselves to be played.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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