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Cycles

For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom.

In this day and age it’s easy to believe we are the masters of our fates and the captains of our souls. I mean, heck, I can buy a pumpkin year round if I want to. I don’t have to ascribe to a growing season, and I can take a pill to regulate everything from bowel movements to babies. However, I’d like to suggest that we are perhaps unknowingly moving toward, or with, something greater than ourselves.

It’s officially the Jewish New Year (l’shana tova people!) and in addition to being a palindrome, 5775, this is also a sabbatical year. When I read that I literally laughed out loud. Traditionally, the sabbatical year applies to forgiving debts and leaving land fallow, but the spirit of it is rest and release.

I may be the captain of my soul but I'm floating on something. . .

I may be the captain of my soul but I’m floating on something. . .

I laughed because today I am flying to Missouri, or “the sticks” as my mother lovingly says, to have my own sabbatical. My primary purpose for uprooting myself for a few months is to rest. To sleep every day until 10 a.m. when I’ll start work, to take walks in nature, and remove myself from all stimuli. It may turn into a whole year, but the plan is to have my hibernation last for a few months. How perfect that my own sabbatical is coinciding with that of the Jewish sabbatical year! I didn’t plan it that way; I didn’t even know it was a rest year until two weeks ago.

What I love about this is my body, my brain, my something, is syncing up to a natural rhythm and cycle that I have no conscious knowledge of. My body, my brain, my something are taking care of me, are looking out for me, and I didn’t have to try at all. There’s an unseen force that is moving me. As much as I am the captain of my soul, my boat is sitting on water that has its own ebbs and flows. I’m being swept along with something massive and beautiful and poetic.

How refreshing! How relaxing! To not have to be in charge all the time and still be taken care of is a gift. It’s kind of exhausting being a captain isn’t it? To worry about where to steer and how fast you’re going and if you’re veering off course? It’s nice for me to take a step back and realize even when I stop trying I still end up on land. I’m speaking metaphorically, but did you know this also happened literally?

In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl constructed a raft called Kon-Tiki to cross the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands to show it was entirely possible that Peruvians settled the area in the pre-Columbian times. He wanted to show by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so. And he did it. On a freaking raft. He smashed into a reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947. Sometimes all that’s required of us is to turn our sail in the direction we want to go and let the current take us there.

I dream of a world where we honor the cycles we may be knowingly or unknowingly syncing up with. A world where we understand there’s a cosmic intellect that’s like an ocean current pulling us. A world where we set our sails and allow ourselves to be carried along.

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

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Bit by Bit (with audio)

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This whole week the concept of bit by bit, of doing things in small chunks, has been on my mind because I’m again in the midst of packing, so I’m reposting this blog from about a year ago.  

I’m sitting in my cottage surrounded by boxes — although not as many as last week! — and what I want is to unpack everything now. I want to be settled now. I want all the organizing to be done now. I want my big payday right this minute, not little by little.

I quite often forget this concept of bit by bit, baby steps, slow and steady wins the race, etc. because I’m attracted by the big and bold, by pomp and circumstance. I love hearing about seemingly overnight success and Cinderella stories because, well, I’m impatient.

Bit by bit adds up to something grand.

Bit by bit is important for me to remember because more often it’s the case someone is wealthy because they know how to save — they sock away money a little bit here, a little bit there. More often it’s the case an actor has been auditioning for years before they become an “overnight” success. Truly it’s the baby steps, the hard work along the way that builds up to something great. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor will my cottage be unpacked in a day. I want to be a best-selling author this minute, but when I focus on the big goal I forget about selling one book at a time to one person at a time.

For someone like me who’s melodramatic and makes big drastic changes quite frequently, doing something bit by bit is crucial. When I look at all the things that have stuck with me — my meditation practice, my yoga practice, my recovery from addiction — it’s because I did things little by little. They’ve become permanent fixtures in my life because I took action every single day — not because I made one grand sweeping gesture. Sure, the grand gestures are fun and exciting, but it’s the little actions everyday that have made the most lasting impact.

I don’t know that anyone else will get anything out of this blogpost, but I guess I’m saying for today I realize there is value in the small things. In doing things one day at a time, bit by bit. Yes, I’m impressed by vast canyons, but that’s because I’m seeing the end results — many canyons are created by water wearing down rock little by little, day by day. Bit by bit adds up to something beautiful and grand, and right now is the time for me to practice that, knowing eventually I’ll see the results I’m looking for.

I dream of a world where we value doing something bit by bit. A world where we understand constant and steady pressure adds up to something amazing. A world where we have patience with ourselves and each other. A world where we cherish our baby steps.

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

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Let it Be (with audio)

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I want to be happy all the time. I don’t think I’m alone in this. What I’m noticing lately is whenever I’m scared or anxious I turn into Judgey McJudgerson and tell myself it’s bad to feel what I’m feeling. I make myself feel worse because I tell myself it’s stupid for me to startle at every noise or to have a fear of driving. Mostly I tell myself I shouldn’t feel the way I do.

Even if I don’t explicitly tell myself I shouldn’t feel scared or anxious or unhappy, I do so tacitly whenever I try to change my feelings. When I use affirmations, yoga, meditation, tapping, self-talk, going to my happy place, etc. I’m not saying these are bad tools, they’ve been very helpful, but this week I’ve been trying something new, which is to let myself be. To let the anxiety spring up without judging it, without trying to change it. Just noticing it and seeing what happens.

let it be

Let it be! I’m not sure why this image says “let it be” to me but it does. Image by James Douglas.

Ever since I was hit by a car in November, I’ve felt a little panicky every time I cross the street. My heart starts to race and I have to psyche myself up, triple checking where the cars are to ensure my safety. When I’ve tried something different, i.e. neutrality and self-compassion, I’ve noticed my fear of crossing the street has abated.

I don’t know this will work all the time, but it’s a bit of a relief to not try so hard to feel a certain way. To not judge myself and criticize myself for feeling something I don’t perceive everyone else does (i.e. being afraid of crossing the street). When I treat myself with love and self-compassion, the anxiety doesn’t fight back nearly as strongly.

Why am I telling you this? Maybe you can relate. Maybe you try to coerce yourself into being happy all the time or believing that if you’re not it’s your fault. That you’re not thinking the right thoughts, or meditating enough, or affirming enough, or eating the right food. And while those things may be true, what’s also true is that you and I are human. We are made to experience emotions. We are made to experience highs and lows. It’s unrealistic to expect that I’ll be happy all the time, and placing that expectation upon myself only makes when I’m unhappy that much worse.

How much easier would it be if we let our emotions pass like petals floating down a stream? If we didn’t expect that we could control our emotions with such exactitude? If we practiced radical self-acceptance and were kinder and gentler to our internal selves? I, for one, am finding there are a lot of emotions I’ve buried beneath my anxiety, and I wonder if I excavate them and allow myself to feel them, if my anxiety will disappear.

I dream of a world where we don’t try to force ourselves to feel one way or another. A world where we practice neutrality and self-compassion instead of judgment for our inner selves. A world where we let ourselves be.

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

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Kindsight (with audio)

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“View your life with kindsight. Stop beating yourself up about things from your past. Instead of slapping yourself on the forehead and asking, ‘What was I thinking?’ breathe and ask the kinder question, ‘What was I learning?’” – Karen Salmansohn

I love this concept of kindsight, of viewing my past mistakes with compassion, but I’ll be honest, it’s soooo hard. Far easier for me to beat myself up for eternity. For instance, I still think about a mistake I made in 7th grade and burn with shame and embarrassment. I think it’s because in a weird way I believe by beating myself up about it over and over again I’ll keep myself from repeating it. Like that saying, “If you don’t remember the past you’re doomed to repeat it.”

View your past mistakes through the eyes of love!

View your past mistakes through the eyes of love!

Well, I’m so desperate not to repeat the past that I remember it and remember it and remember it . . .  I have the “remembering the past” thing down pat so perhaps it’s time to move onto, “What was I learning?” If I ask, “What was I learning?” that means I can cut out the self-flagellation bit and focus on the lesson. Although, I have to be honest, at the moment I’m self-reflecting and beating myself up. One step at a time I guess.

On Friday, a friend asked me to speak about self-compassion (go figure) and it occurred to me the most compassionate thing I do for myself is let the mistake go. Not justify, not say, “Mistakes are human,” not remind myself I didn’t know better or nobody’s perfect, or any of the million things we say to ourselves and each other when we make a mistake. Just let it go. Say to myself, “OK. That happened. Let’s move on.”

To me, kindsight is about integrating the lesson to a degree I don’t have to constantly remind myself what I did wrong because I’ve already taken corrective measures. And it’s about trusting myself that I won’t make the same mistake, or at least I won’t in the exact same way, and if I do, I can forgive myself.

Ah forgiveness. That’s another tough one. I find it about a bajillion times easier to forgive other people, even people who’ve been mean to me, than to forgive myself. When I look at my character traits I see that lack of compassion for others isn’t one of them, but I certainly lack compassion for myself. I have such a big heart; perhaps it’s time to turn all that love, affection, forgiveness, and compassion inward. It sure beats the alternative.

I dream of a world where we have more compassion for ourselves. A world where we practice gentleness about our past mistakes. A world where we integrate the lessons we’ve learned and let go of the harmful deeds. A world where we view our past with kindsight.

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

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