I’m sick right now and didn’t feel well enough to write a new post or record any audio. The post that came to mind to recycle is from my birthday nearly six years ago. Enjoy! And just in case it wasn’t clear, I’m grateful for you. <3

Today is my 29th birthday, that is, if you’re reading this on December 1st. It’s been a less than stellar day because I had to work from 8:30 to 4:30, I’m still experiencing pain from the car accident, and I’m not having a big party. Suffice to say, today has not turned out the way I expected. The challenge for me is to find the good in what is.

I think we all have expectations of certain days — birthdays, holidays, graduation, first dates, etc. — and when those expectations aren’t met we’re left feeling disappointed. I know I am. However, even though today hasn’t gone the way I’d hoped and I’m not feeling the buzz I normally do on my birthday, there’s been a lot of good about today too. I’ve received numerous telephone calls, text messages, and facebook posts from friends near and far wishing me well. My mom is at this moment making me a delicious dinner. There’s a lot of love for me in this world and today is the day I get to bask in it.

birthday cupcake

It’s my birthday! Here are some pretty cupcakes.

What’s awesome is I spoke to a friend on the phone and I mentioned that if I was in Chicago like I normally am at this time of year to cover a conference, I’d still be celebrating my birthday with family because my sister lives there. Hearing myself say that I was taken aback because I’m so lucky, I’m so loved, I have a lot of community all over the world, which is amazing.

I’m telling you all this not to brag, but because I’m sincerely grateful. Sometimes gratitude becomes dry as I reel off all the things I’m grateful for like heat and food and a roof over my head because I list those things every day. If something occurs every day it becomes mundane, ordinary, common — at least it does for me. So when something doesn’t go the way I expect, it’s even more important for me to find the good about what is. What’s good about the here and now? What’s true? When I do that I can genuinely pull the feeling of gratitude into my heart because I am grateful for my friends and family, I am grateful so many people are wishing me happy birthday, and I am grateful I chose to come into this world on this day. Thank you for being with me on my journey.

I dream of a world where even in sucky situations we can find something good about what is. A world where we all feel genuinely grateful for something. A world where we not only accept what is, but we find something positive about it.

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

It’s no secret I’m not doing all that well. Applying for jobs is one of the most demoralizing things a person can do, in my opinion. It’s really getting to me. Not in the sense that I’m questioning my own worth and merit — I know I’m talented and I’m clear I’d be an asset to any company. What’s getting to me is the uncertainty. The question mark of when this will all be over.

People keep telling me, “You’ll get a job,” but no one can say, “You’ll get a job in the next month” because nobody knows. It’s hard to keep putting in effort without seeing payoff. The amount of effort I’m making doesn’t translate into results. It’s not like going to the gym after a couple of weeks and starting to see muscle definition. No. Instead the job thing is more random and haphazard, which is the opposite of my preference. What am I supposed to do here, other than what I already am, which is applying for jobs, writing cover letters, asking for help, networking, etc.? After much struggle, the answer I came to is: Have faith.

This is what faith is like for me — light in the darkness. Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash.

“Having faith” is difficult for me. It’s such a trite phrase we throw around but what does it actually mean? This weekend I realized I expect faith to be rational. I want it to be scientific and evidence-based. I want proof before I’ll believe. Not getting any interviews right now? Then why should I believe I will in the future? This cautionary sort of faith and trust in my higher power is not working for me. It’s sinking me into a depression, a place where hope disintegrates. It’s pessimistic and it’s dark. But here’s the thing about faith: it’s not rational or scientific or evidence-based. Faith is the opposite of all those things. It’s belief without proof. That’s not just my definition; the dictionary defines faith in the same way.

What does that mean for me? It means I have to actively, consciously, choose to believe my life will change, that I’ll have a steady job again. It means I have to choose to put my trust in the universe that things will get better for me. It means I have to fight against pessimism and hold fast to something else, which is also a part of the meditation I practice.

A Sanskrit phrase for meditation is Iishvara prańidhána, or seeking shelter in the Supreme. My spiritual teacher says, “Iishvara prańidhána also implies implicit faith in [the divine] irrespective of whether one lives in momentary happiness or sorrow, prosperity or adversity.”

Easier said than done my friends. Easier said than done. I don’t live in implicit faith, obviously, but the alternative is becoming too painful. My way isn’t working so it’s time to try something new. For me that means choosing faith. It’s scary and uncomfortable and doesn’t feel at all rational, but it’s not supposed to. That’s what faith is — belief without proof. And right now, faith is what’s getting me through.

I dream of a world where we choose faith even when it seems ridiculous, even when our rational brain says we shouldn’t. A world where we put our trust in something greater than ourselves. A world where we understand faith isn’t a passive thing but instead something active and conscious. A world where faith is what sees us through.

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

What with the recent Climate Strike, Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN, and the news in general, climate change has been on my mind. Jonathan Franzen wrote an article recently about a new kind of climate change denialism, which is denying how bad things will likely get. He says, “The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.”

Franzen’s essay elicited a lot of ire for multiple reasons. Climate scientists refuted his claims of doom and gloom, and others pointed out the sexism and racism in giving a novelist room to write about climate change as opposed to others who are experts in the field. As for me, I’m teetering on the edge of doom and gloom. I’m thrilled about the passion we’re seeing from youth especially. I’m excited that friends of mine are becoming vegan or vegetarian. It’s incredible to see all the changes people are making. And at the same time, we’re already experiencing the effects of climate change.

Could some beauty come from all this? Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

That’s not news to most people, but I’m repeating it now because there is a sense of loss, of mourning. The world is different now than it was 10 years ago. We’re undergoing another mass extinction. Am I crying about it? Yes I am. And at the same time a different perspective is arising.

I think about how dinosaurs used to roam this Earth and then became extinct. Their extinction paved the way for me, for us. Could the same be true for climate change? Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we should move full steam ahead and kill everything because by doing so a new creature will appear. Nor am I saying people should continue to feed every greedy impulse and use up all the planet’s natural resources. But what I am wondering is perhaps whether good can come from doom. That the changes we’re experiencing on the planet are real and terrible; that many people will die and suffer, and maybe we’ll move into a new era. One that’s more thoughtful, more equitable, more cooperative because we’ve learned we literally cannot live any other way.

My spiritual teacher has said in passing that eventually blue eyes will become extinct. As someone with blue-green eyes that gives me a pang, and it demonstrates to me extinction is built into existence. Eventually maybe everything goes extinct. I don’t want to speed the process along by any means, but it has me wonder about the divine intelligence at play. What if I could mourn the planet, fight like hell to save it, and at the same time believe something beautiful could rise from the rubble? Even saying that right now, I feel more hope and less fear, and that’s a great place for me to be.

I dream of a world where we act as stewards of the planet, caring for it as best we can. A world where we recognize that change is sad and scary but also inevitable. A world where we grasp that something beautiful can come from something tragic.

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

It’s ironic the title of this post is “Stronger than We Seem” when right now I feel weak. Subsisting off of powder and water will do that to a gal. However, when I looked through old blog posts to recycle, this is the one that jumped out at me. A lot has changed since I wrote it in September 2017, but the message is still a relevant one. No audio because I couldn’t manage it.

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.” – A.A. Milne

It seems to me right now we’re all being called to become our best selves. We’re being asked to stretch and grow in ways that are uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Milne’s quote reminds me so often I sell myself short and there is more courage, strength, intelligence, and love within me than I acknowledge.

There is some not-fun stuff going on in the world, as per usual, and the challenge for us is to rise to the occasion. For me personally, that means getting in touch with my inner power. Often I want other people to do the heavy lifting in my life. I want them to “fix me,” to “make me better,” to “have all of the answers,” or in some way allow me to play the damsel in distress. The place this shows up the most is with my health.

There’s more beneath the surface. Photo by Muhammad Shahzad on Unsplash.

I’m writing a long facebook note about everything my chronic illness has taught me, but for the purposes of this post I want to focus on empowerment. The dynamic that has shown up with my health is I approach doctors and healers not as partners in my path to wellness, not as people who help me to heal myself, but rather as wizards who will magically cure me without any effort on my part. I realize awe-inspiring stories of magical healing happen every day, and I so wish I could be one of those people, but thus far the universe has said to me, “Nah gurl, you gotta be your own hero and rescue yourself.”

I came to this conclusion after literally trying all the things Western and Eastern to heal my physical body and not seeing much in the way of results. A friend of mine posted about a book called Energy Medicine on Instagram and even seeing the title sparked curiosity within me to explore deeper. After the eclipse, an intense and passionate desire bubbled up within me to start reading the book. It’s a synthesis of all the modalities I have familiarity with – acupressure, energy meridians, chakras – and describes them in a practical way. The book explains why certain spots on my body are tender, or why I instinctively cradle my stomach. More importantly though, it’s empowering me to heal myself.

It’s early days, but even if I don’t see the results I’d like, it seems like a valuable lesson to remember I have power and magic within me. That I am capable of more than I think I am. That I don’t have to outsource everything to other people. This post is all about me, but the principle applies to the broader society as well. How many of us think what’s happening is “someone else’s” problem? Or that “someone else” will take charge? And how much of that is based on insecurity or inferiority?

My spiritual teacher says over and over again, “You should behave with every created being, every human being, in such a way that neither a superiority complex nor an inferiority complex develops in you, or in those with whom you interact. … A person must not suffer from an inferiority complex, because that person and his or her friends and siblings are all the progeny of the same Progenitor. They come from the same origin.”

That means I’m just as capable as anyone else. That means the same power within others is also within me. And vice versa.

I dream of a world where we recognize we all have inner power and strength. A world where we remember no one is superior or inferior to us. A world where we realize we are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem, and smarter than we think.

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

Certain things in my life feel inevitable. What’s going on with my diet right now feels like one of them. Some of you know I have a long list of food allergies that keeps getting longer. The frustrating part for me is if I eat something frequently enough, I become allergic to it.

The other week I noticed when I eat figs, now my mouth burns. Never mind that I’ve eaten figs for YEARS without any problem. Suddenly, they’re a problem. If you know anything about health, you might be saying, “It’s sound like you have leaky gut.” You would be correct. However, following the leaky gut diet (i.e., no gluten, cutting out carbs, low sugar, etc.) hasn’t made a lick of difference and in fact I’m only getting worse.

Yeah, not eating any of this right now. Photo by Waranya Mooldee on Unsplash

I called my doctor in frustration and she recommended the Elemental Diet. The Elemental Diet is food broken down into its most elemental form. It’s a powdered meal replacement. It’s something physicians give to patients with Crohn’s disease and to recovering anorexics, among others. The recommended procedure is to eat only the powder mixed with water for two to three weeks to give the digestive system a break. That means no solid food. I cried when my doctor suggested the regimen and also freaked out, worrying that I’d feel hungry. It’s only been a couple of days, but surprisingly, I feel good. My body doesn’t hurt after eating. The powder is filling. My mood has improved. Will I do this for three weeks? I don’t know — it’s one meal at a time for me right now.

What’s interesting is in my yoga and meditation group we’re supposed to fast 11 days after the full and new moon. Concessions are made for people who don’t have good health, but if someone can fast, they are encouraged to do so. And fasting runs the gamut from consuming absolutely nothing, including no water, to merely abstaining from rice and fried foods. The reason fasting is encouraged is it gives the body a break and also the time spent eating, cleaning, and prepping can be used for spiritual pursuits. I’m finding the same is true for me. Thus far, I’m meditating more and feeling closer to my higher power.

The reason why this whole thing feels inevitable is I’m finally engaging in a practice that is a big part of my spiritual tradition. My life is oriented around spirituality, around moving closer to something bigger than myself, and fasting is allowing me to do that. It feels like I would always end up here. That I would always see the benefit of fasting for my body, mind, and spirit. Because as I’ve seen with other practices, like yoga, eventually something happens to get me to come around. I’m not sure I’m doing a great job explaining myself, but that’s OK. For me and for everyone there are certain things in our lives that feel inevitable, and that’s what I’m speaking to.

I dream of a world where we accept the inescapability of certain things. A world where we recognize we were always going to end up someplace or doing something specific. That there are some things we can’t fight and instead we give in to them. A world where we feel at peace with the inevitable.

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

A close friend of mine used an analogy the other day that’s stuck with me. She said her higher power has closed a door in her life and hasn’t opened another one yet. So for now she’s stuck in the hallway, waiting for another door to open. Yesssssss. That’s so my life right now. I’m in limbo, in the hallway, waiting for something new, for a door to open, but it hasn’t yet and it’s uncomfortable.

I hate this phase. I think most people do. And at the same time I recognize this is a part of life — it’s filled with speed and then pause. Even when breathing we inhale, pause slightly, and then exhale with another slight pause. When we walk, we put one foot on the ground or we can’t move forward. The left foot makes the next step only if the right foot prepares by being placed on the ground.

I live here now. Metaphorically speaking. Photo by Runnyrem on Unsplash.

My spiritual teacher says, “This is crucial for successful movement. Thus if we wish to say something about speed, or the characteristics of movement, we will have to acknowledge the necessity of the state of pause otherwise it will not be possible to move into the next stage. …  This speed and pause will continue. Pause means gathering momentum for speed in the subsequent phase. If one closely watches the effect of speed on a particular community or the entire humanity, one sees that generally people eulogize the period of speed. However, we cannot afford to ignore the state of pause, because by judging what the previous state of pause was like, we can discern the speed of the next phase.”

A couple of things jump out at me from that quote. First of all, the pause is temporary. It feels like I’m going to be stuck in this hallway forever but I won’t be. Worse comes to worst I’ll get a job at an ice cream parlor or a grocery store or something. Things will change, they absolutely will, even if a part of me doesn’t believe that. I’m reminded just because I may not believe something doesn’t make it any less true. For instance, some people still believe the Earth is flat, but regardless, the Earth is round.

The other point that jumps out at me from the quote is the last bit, about how the state of pause can help discern the speed of the next phase. What I’m taking that to mean is my life is going to go off like a rocket. All of this momentum, this angst, is going to catapult me into the next phase and my life will move at warp speed. I cannot express how much I’m looking forward to it. And at the same time, I’m recognizing the necessity for this state of pause, this place where I’m spinning my wheels, revving my engine, and getting ready to zoom ahead. Pretty soon a door will open and I’m going to bolt through it. But for now I’m here, in the hallway.

I dream of a world where we recognize the importance of limbo periods. A world where we understand in order to move ahead we also have to pause, to gather momentum. A world where we recognize even when it seems like we’re standing still it’s all in service of what’s next.

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

Belonging is on my mind a lot these days. I think in part it’s because I’m still unemployed. I interview somewhere and they assess whether I’m a good fit for them and I assess whether they’re a good fit for me. Thus far nowhere has been a match. It’s tough to be rejected so many times, especially when the stakes are so high. The way our society is set up you have to have money to survive. I realize there are workarounds with bartering and such, but my electric company isn’t keen on receiving an astrology reading in lieu of payment for my electric bill. So. Gotta have that green.

You know how some people talk about eating rejection for breakfast? Or how some authors kept all their rejections from publishing houses as an “I’ll show them” gesture? Yeah, I’m not one of those people. Each rejection stings and with each rejection I take it as a personal affront there’s something wrong with me. “What did I say wrong during the interview? What was bad about my résumé or writing sample?” Everything becomes about me and a reflection of how I’m terrible.

An apropos sign. Photo by Amer Mughawish on Unsplash.

This shame-based place culminates in feeling like an outsider because if I’m wrong then someone else is right. There must be a “correct” way to do things, right? Except what keeps knocking around in my head is my post from last week — how the universe comes to know itself through me. If that’s true, can I truly be wrong or right? Can I really be an outsider?

While watching a youtube video of Charles Eisenstein talking about the burning of the Amazon, he said there’s a larger intelligence that knows where to put you in its healing. As soon as he said that, my eyes welled up because it reminded me my life is so much bigger than me. Maybe I’m right where I am meant to be, even if that’s jobless. And also my placement at a company is not only about my skills and talents, it’s also about where I’ll be of the most use, the most service, the most healing.

Where I fit, where I belong, is not only where I want to be, what I want to do, it’s also about the universe or my higher power. Where does higher power think I should be? Where does the universe think I’ll be of most use in coming to know itself and also for its healing? I belong where I am. If I’m here, now, that’s where I’m meant to be. It’s a hard pill to swallow because sometimes the present moment is painful but that doesn’t mean something is out of sync. After all, just think of childbirth.

I wish I could say after writing this post I suddenly feel completely at home and at ease in my self, my body, my life, but I don’t. What I can say though is I feel marginally better that’s good enough for me.

I dream of a world where we realize we’re exactly who we’re supposed to be and exactly where we’re meant to be. A world where we realize the universe puts us where we’ll best aid in its healing and that means even if it doesn’t feel like it, we still belong.

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

A friend of mine shared a quote recently that keeps kicking around in my brain. In the book Journey of the Universe, Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Pope write:

“[J]ust as the Milky Way is the universe in the form of a galaxy, and an orchid is the universe in the form of a flower, we are the universe in the form of a human. And every time we are drawn to look up into the night sky and reflect on the awesome beauty of the universe, we are actually the universe reflecting on itself. And this changes everything.”

We are the universe reflecting on itself. We think we are separate, apart, autonomous beings — and we are — but at the same time, we are also the universe. We are the universe in the form of a human. I wrote about that a while ago, the notion that we’re all stardust, but my friend takes that concept a bit further. In essence, the tenet of our spiritual practice is that the universe is coming to know itself through us.

I like this picture because it’s cosmic and it shows an unfolding process. Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

I’m not sure how to expound on that concept. It’s not easily explained and instead is more of a feeling or worldview. It’s the recognition I am me — a woman, a writer, etc. — but I am also more than me. There’s a “me” here that will live on after my death. Because I believe in reincarnation that means “I” was once a single-cell organism, then moved up the evolutionary chain to become a plant, then an animal, then a human. As a human, I have made a conscious choice to know the divine, but because I’m already made up of the universe, made up of stardust, that’s another way the universe is coming to know itself through me. I am a conduit, a channel, a vessel for the universe to express itself. We are all of us the universe but we’re wearing different costumes.

I hear frequently that “the world needs the special gift that only you have,” or that we all have our own unique genius. Usually I roll my eyes because it sounds like a trite throwaway, but when I think about the universe knowing itself through me, it takes my ego out of the equation. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense but in essence I become aware of something bigger than me. My life becomes about more than what I want, what I don’t want, what I have, what I don’t have. My life becomes a spiritual endeavor where I’m dancing and playing with the universe as a co-conspirator. And eventually that play will lead me back to the source of all creation. In the meantime, the life I’m living is like a rose in bloom. Each petal, each experience unfolds and contributes to the rose in its entirety.

I dream of a world where we realize there’s more to us than we’re aware. A world where we recognize the universe knows itself through us. That as much as we think we’re interacting with the world, it’s also that the world is interacting with us. A world where we recognize with each experience we continue to unfold.

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

I’ve woken up most mornings this week with swollen eyelids. On Friday I received two job rejections. My unemployment money runs out in a couple of months. I mention all this to set the scene — I’m not feeling all that peaceful, and in fact “anxious” is a better description. Maybe even a little panicked. How is this all going to work out?

When I called a friend and gave him the lowdown, he told me a story about a spiritual master who got caught in a rope while pulling water up from a well. The master stayed stuck for hours until a disciple came by and freed him. The disciple said, “You seemed so relaxed. Were you in pain?” The master replied, “I was in pain, it hurt a lot, but I also felt at peace.”

This picture will make more sense once you keep reading. Photo by Providence Doucet on Unsplash

I spent 20 minutes googling that story and can’t find it so my telling of it is not very adept. What stuck with me though is the moral of the story: that I can still feel at peace in the pain and in the struggle. What does that even mean? I’m not sure but I think it comes down to acceptance, which leads me to a quote I found while searching for the rope story.

Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan said, “Tagore says: ‘When the string of the violin was being tuned it felt the pain of being stretched, but once it was tuned then it knew why it was stretched.’ So it is with the human soul. While the soul goes through pain, torture, and trouble it thinks it would have been much better if it had gone through life without it. But once it reaches the culmination of it, then, when it looks back, it begins to realize why all this was meant: it was only meant to tune the soul to a certain pitch.”

Before I interviewed for the jobs that ultimately rejected me, I felt peace because I said to myself, “If I’m not employed yet it’s because I’m not meant to be. There’s more learning or healing or something I need to go through that wouldn’t be possible with a job.” When I say that even now I feel better. I don’t know why I’m struggling so much right now. I don’t know why things aren’t looking the way I want them to, but what I do know is one day I’ll look back and understand everything. I’ll see how my soul was being tuned to a certain pitch, but in the meantime, I’m still being stretched.

I dream of a world where we understand even pain has a purpose. A world where we sit with our pain, finding peace where we can. A world where we recognize when we’re going through hardship it may be because our soul is tuning to a certain pitch.

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

This weekend held a wide range of emotions from the high to the low. On Saturday I went to a bachelorette party for one of my closest friends. We lounged by the pool, chatted, and generally celebrated her impending marriage. It was a joy to spend time with her and other close friends of hers for the sole purpose of having fun. But I had another event this weekend and it was not a bachelorette party.

A family friend of mine passed away a couple of weeks ago and it’s sent shockwaves through my community. I say that because no one could have guessed he would have passed away. He was one of the most healthy, vibrant people I knew. When I think of him, I see him with a huge smile on his face, beaming out joy to the world. He was the same age as my parents so his death has me confronting their mortality as well. Layered on top of that, I grew up with his daughters so his death hits me in another way that’s hard to express. Sunday was his memorial service and I cried through most of the ceremony.

black heart

Seemed appropriate. Photo by Bryan Garces on Unsplash

But here’s the interesting part: joy and sorrow get to coexist within me, within us. Even during the memorial service we could hear his grandchildren laughing and playing in the background. It reminded me both emotions can be present. That joy and sorrow can be like the yin yang symbol with a little bit of white in the black and a little bit of black in the white. In my experience life is like that. Attending a wedding can bring up grief about being single. A funeral can bring not joy, but appreciation at reconnecting with friends, even if the circumstances are sad. This weekend was a study in that for me — pairing joy with sorrow.

Two years ago I wrote a poem about a similar experience following the death of a coworker called “Big Enough for Both:”

Big enough for both
Grief and celebration
A funeral and a wedding
Loss and gain
Hurting and healing
All at once

That’s what life is like for me right now, maybe for all of us. It’s heartbreaking and heart-gladdening. It’s happy and sad. It’s frustrating and peaceful. It’s everything all at once. I want to parse things out and say, “Now is a happy time and now is a sad time,” but my life isn’t like that. It’s messy and chaotic and unpredictable. As I contemplate how to end this post, I can see my friend with a big smile on his face saying, “Don’t worry, it’s fine,” as in, I don’t have to make sense of it all, I don’t have to try to change life or circumstances. I can be here, in the moment, accepting everything.

I dream of a world where we understand life is messy, chaotic, and unpredictable — not only in terms of circumstances but also in emotions. A world where we realize the yin yang is an excellent portrayal of our experiences. A world where we understand that oftentimes joy is paired with sorrow and vice versa.

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

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