I have a confession: I make mistakes. I know, that doesn’t seem like much of a confession because everybody makes mistakes, but with the amount of shame and fear that comes up from admitting it, you’d think I killed a man and buried his body in the backyard.

I notice the intensity of shame and fear shifts according to my perception of safety around making a mistake. If I make a mistake and the only person affected is me, for instance, the shame and fear levels are low. If I make a mistake at work, the shame and fear levels are high. The levels spike because my brain starts telling me the story, “I’m going to get fired! I’ll be destitute!” In my mind, the only way to stay safe at work or in my relationships is to be perfect. If I’m not perfect, something bad will happen. It’s not entirely logical but when are emotions ever logical?

When I typed in “perfection” this is what came up. Photo by Bill Williams on Unsplash.

This week when I made mistakes, I gave myself the basic mothering and fathering messages I learned in therapy: “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not ever going anywhere. I’ll protect you. I’ll meet all your needs. Nothing about you will keep me from meeting your needs.” It helped. It also helped reminding myself security doesn’t come from other people or an external source. Security comes from me and from higher power. Money for instance doesn’t come solely from a job. It can come from an inheritance or the government or whatever. If I lost my job tomorrow, I could borrow money or start a GoFundMe campaign or any number of things.

When I’m stuck in perfectionism, my perspective shrinks and I think in black and white. However, the world is in color and much more nuanced than I remember. When thinking about perfectionism, I was reminded an early definition of perfect is, “Brought to consummation or completeness.” That’s coming from the 1913 Webster’s Writers’ Dictionary. As a one on the Enneagram, I’m all about finding holy perfection, and the practice for me is to remember “perfect” doesn’t mean without mistakes, rather, it means completeness.

Completeness ultimately means unification with a power greater than myself, according to my spiritual tradition. I meditate and live my life in such a way that I’m moving closer and closer to a divine entity. I’m trying to unite and merge with something much subtler than I am. When I’m stuck in perfectionism, I lose sight of my journey and instead focus on a snapshot in time. I forget I’m learning and growing. I forget mistakes are an integral part of the process.

Will I still make mistakes? Yes. Will I still beat myself up about them? Probably. But more and more I’m using tools to come out of it, to love myself, and to be in the space of seeing holy perfection.

I dream of a world where we remember in our quest to be perfect, really we want safety, peace of mind, and completeness. A world where we realize we are all moving toward something whole and unified. A world where we remember it’s OK to mess up and even perfect in its own way.

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

For the past two weeks family surrounded me. First in Seattle visiting my immediate family (minus my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew) and then in Ojai visiting my spiritual family. I loved it. I felt warm and cozy, filled to the brim with care and affection. And at the same time, I dreamed of going home, being alone, and eating cookies while watching Netflix.

This weekend I did just that. And while eating cookies and watching Netflix, I felt an ache in my heart for last week when family surrounded me. I can’t win. I suspect it’s similar to being a parent. I’m not a parent, but as an auntie, I want my nephews and nieces to stay the age they are now and also get older so I can relate to them as adults. I want something old and something new at the same time. Humans are funny like that.

Loved the juxtaposition here. Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash.

Will I ever be satisfied? Probably not. In my spiritual tradition we say human beings have a thirst for limitlessness. We want unlimited happiness, we want unlimited love, we want unlimited satisfaction. We are all seeking this. It’s the very nature of what it means to be human. To use a Sanskrit term, it is our dharma, or the essential characteristic of human beings. Pretty sure that means I’m screwed then because I’m never completely satisfied. Just kidding.

The only way to quench the thirst for limitlessness is to drink something infinite, so to speak. For me, that means Cosmic Consciousness, or God, or Infinite Love, or Source. When I touch that Cosmic Entity through meditation, I feel satiated. Full disclosure though, it was during a yoga and meditation retreat I wanted to eat cookies and watch Netflix. So. Just in case you thought every time I sit down for meditation I fall into a state of rapture and deep peace, I want to disabuse you of that notion.

However, I’ve fallen into a state of rapture and deep peace often enough to convince me meditation is my answer to the question, “How can I feel satisfied?” Thus far it’s the solution I’ve found to wanting something old and something new at the same time because Cosmic Consciousness is both very, very old, and very, very new. And also because I’m human I know I’ll remember and then I’ll forget and then I’ll remember again. But I keep trying and I think that’s the important thing.

I dream of a world where we realize ultimate satisfaction doesn’t come from material objects but rather from something infinite and unlimited. A world where we realize we can have something old and something new at the same time if we turn to spirituality. A world where we realize we won’t engage “perfectly” but as long as we keep trying, that’s what is most important.

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

Sea Wall

When I thought about what to write this week, the image that kept coming to mind was a sea wall battered by waves. That’s a lot of what 2018 felt like to me – ceaselessly buffeting an immovable object until finally the object disintegrated. That’s what happens to sea walls – they must be replaced every 30 years or so depending on how well they’re constructed.

I haven’t fully processed everything that happened to me this year. It still feels surreal that issues I battled for so long are suddenly gone. It’s strange to no longer feel the weight of them like an anchor around my neck. But obstacles are like that – if we keep battling them, eventually they evaporate. When people said that to me at the beginning of the year, I didn’t believe them. Instead I rolled my eyes because it felt like my obstacles were insurmountable, that I’d be dealing with the same things for years to come.

Eventually all walls come down. Photo by Alfred Leung on Unsplash

And now here I am at the end of the year and I no longer wake up feeling like a zombie. That probably doesn’t like a big obstacle, just go to sleep at a decent hour, right? Except as I wrote in Minor Miracles, sleep wasn’t so easy. I consulted Eastern and Western medicine seeking help for sleep and it wasn’t until late August I found out I have upper airway resistance syndrome. I spent seven solid years with brain fog, low energy, and dread about going to bed. Now, the brain fog is gone, my energy levels are steadily increasing, and going to bed doesn’t fill me with as much trepidation. The obstacle I thought I’d be dealing with until I died is suddenly gone.

I can imagine my spiritual teacher giving me a knowing smile. He is a Pollyanna type and says difficulties can never be greater than our capacity to overcome them, and that we’ll overcome all obstacles. He doesn’t allow for any possibility of defeat, even if it takes lifetimes. When I consider a sea wall, I wonder if perhaps his view is more realistic. There’s no way a sea wall can withstand the constant pressure from the sea, the wear and tear of salt, sand, and sun. There are too many elements at play.

Maybe we human beings are like that. Maybe there are multiple unseen forces at work in our lives, acting like the salt, sand, and sun that mean we, too, will be victorious. I don’t want to make it seem like overcoming obstacles is easy, because it’s not. But this year has given me new appreciation and a new understanding for scaling them. When we do the slow and steady work, eventually the obstacle must collapse.

This is likely my last post of 2018 and as we come into the new year with many challenges ahead of us, I’d like to offer and maintain that perspective. Sometimes we think things won’t change, or that impediments are too vast, but if we keep doing the work, if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually the sea walls come down. May we all remember the power of persistence and carry it with us in the months to come.

I dream of a world where we recognize the power we all have. A world where we understand the truth about obstacles. A world where we remember if we keep chipping away at whatever is before us, eventually it will crumble and vanish into the ether.

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

I’m a big believer that the universe is always communicating with us, but it’s up to us to pay attention. A perfect example is with my driver’s license. On Wednesday, I renewed my driver’s license and the only reason I had all the items I required is because of a “coincidental” conversation with someone.

Days before my DMV appointment, a parent came into my office and told me about her DMV woes – how she forgot to bring her social security card and the DMV almost didn’t issue her a new driver’s license. California recently passed a new law requiring people to get a REAL ID for travel within the U.S. by October 2020, which necessitates showing a social security card or similar document. I had no idea a social security card was required and would have waltzed into the DMV with just my passport, thinking I was all set.

The universe is speaking. Are we listening? Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The universe is conspiring with us, communicating with us, but are we noticing? Are we paying attention when a random stranger shares information we might need? Are we observing the book titles people keep recommending to us, or the locations people keep mentioning?

Some people brush that off as a mere coincidence but I don’t believe in coincidences. My spiritual teacher says nothing is coincidental, rather everything is incidental. But why would the universe communicate with me or care? I choose to believe in a loving world where I am co-creating with the universe. Where we are partnering together to create something that otherwise would not have been birthed. If that’s true, then of course I would receive signs and communications.

I also want to acknowledge here things are not always sunshine and roses. That sometimes life throws painful things our way and then the question becomes, is the universe still a loving one? If I’m in pain, how can the universe be beneficent? What I’ve shared with people recently is sometimes we have to step into darkness to confront our demons and sweep them out. I know for me, the painful experiences in my life forced me to deal with things I would have kept bypassing. I very easily could have continued to skirt around issues and pretend they weren’t there. Instead the universe said, “No. You need to deal with this.” And now, being on the other side, I see how true that is.

I think I’m going on a tangent but my point is the universe cares about us, loves us, and communicates with us. It’s not always pleasant and it’s not always easy, but if we’re paying attention, the path will be smoother.

I dream of a world where we realize the universe is always communicating with us. A world where we understand things come into our lives for a reason. A world where we realize even when circumstances challenge us, they’re still ultimately for our benefit.

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

I am thoroughly exhausted. Almost overnight, my entire schedule changed – when I go to bed, when I eat, when I go grocery shopping, when I do laundry. Everything has been upended and I’m working to recalibrate. Starting a new job is no joke. And even though I’m so tired I could double as a zombie, wisps of inspiration are floating around in my brain that I feel like blogging about.

For many years, a good friend of mine spoke to me about resilience and the ability to bounce back from hardship. Another good friend of mine mentioned the book Grit by Angela Duckworth who writes about the power of persistence. Something happened to me in the past month to solidify both adjectives in my life. I have a new sense of confidence in my ability to handle whatever life throws at me. I truly feel I can weather any storm. Even saying that I start to get choked up.

I’m feeling confident I can handle any storm. Photo by Ju On on Unsplash

How did it happen? How did I get here? The answer is I faced one of my greatest fears and I survived. I’m no stranger to facing my fears, I do so regularly, and each time my confidence grew a little more. This last fear was no different. I added another brick to the wall of self-confidence. What’s interesting is I’ve also given up on the notion I can thwart terrible things from happening. A part of me has worked tirelessly to prevent terrible things. It’s a lot of where my anxiety comes into play. If only I can control every possible outcome, if only I can plan a little bit better, I’ll feel safe. Except this year demonstrated to me how laughable that really is. This year brought flood, fire, death, and destruction both close to home and far away.

I realized more deeply all I can do is take care of myself and let go of the rest. When the wildfires came, smoke billowed over the horizon. I watched it from my window, seeping across the Bay. I did the only thing I could – I wore a mask and purchased an air filter. I accepted the situation and took care of myself; I signed up for emergency alerts in case of evacuation. And then I waited for more information.

I read a piece of literature recently that said, “We have each other and we have a higher power. We’re going to make it.” Reading it, I felt an internal zing radiate through my body declaring, “Yes!” It’s not that terrible things cease happening, it’s rather we support each other. We extend a helping hand to one another in whatever ways we can. We trust in the universe, and we let go.

Trust is a big thing for me. It doesn’t come easily and it certainly doesn’t come easily when it involves a non-tangible entity like Spirit. Asking me to trust is like asking a person to step out of an airplane without a parachute. And yet in the past month, that’s exactly what I did. Instead of falling flat on my face, the universe lifted me up and I flew.

This is likely one of the most rambling posts I’ve ever written, but to sum up, I’ve learned I can’t prevent terrible things from happening. All I can do is keep picking myself up when I fall, take care of myself, support others and vice versa, and trust in the universe. When I do that, I can weather any storm and I have that wish for everyone.

I dream of a world where we keep bouncing back when we get knocked down. A world where we practice perseverance. A world where we take care of ourselves to the best of our capacity and help others do the same. A world where we trust the universe and understand sometimes instead of falling we’ll fly.

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

It’s been a whirlwind of a month – leaving my job, finding a new one, adding more than 42,000 words to my novel, Thanksgiving, freelance writing, catching the flu, and then December 1st was my birthday. I haven’t had time to process it all. I’m still recovering so needless to say, my creative capacity right now is zilch. The only post that came to mind was this one from almost exactly a year ago. The circumstances are different but the message is still valid. Enjoy.

It doesn’t happen to me often that I’m up most of the night, wide awake, unable to sleep, but it’s happening as I write this in my journal. It seems only fitting for the topic of this post, dreams.

The other day I pulled an oracle card and it was called “The Retriever.” The Retriever is a fairy who retrieves that which is lost, including dreams. The Retriever will hold onto the dream until the person is ready to pick it up again. Drawing the card I felt comforted. A sense of ease washed over me. I visualized my dreams as an orb off in the hinterlands.

So often we talk about our dreams as something to pursue, to constantly work toward, like they’re a marathon to train for. The Retriever reminds me my dreams are out there, ready and waiting for me, when I can attend to them. I don’t have to worry about them disappearing like a soap bubble if I’m unable to focus on them – they’re not going anywhere.

Each of these “dreams” is earmarked for a person. Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash.

Right now as you likely know, I’m unable to pursue my dreams to the degree I’d like. All I have the capacity for at this time is focusing on my health. I mean, obviously because I’m writing this post in the middle of the night instead of sleeping. While I could heap on further disappointment by telling myself my poor health is evidence my dreams will never come true, and I’ll be stuck here forever and always, I’m reminding myself my dreams are out in a field somewhere, earmarked for me, waiting patiently.

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, otherwise it is a sure failure.” That’s a long way to talk about divine timing, but I also think it’s a message that I can focus on other things, like my health, knowing one day my desire will match the Cosmic desire, and my dreams will manifest. I would say I can’t wait, but that’s not true. I can wait and I will, because my dreams are out there somewhere with my name on them. There’s no rush. And that means I can take all the time I need.

I dream of a world where we realize our dreams are earmarked for us. A world where we realize our dreams don’t disappear if we’re unable to focus on them when and how we’d like. A world where we have peace of mind, recognizing when we’re ready to retrieve our dreams, they’ll be there waiting for us.

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

Stored Emotion

This topic has come up in at least three conversations with people in the last week so I’m taking it to mean it would be a good topic to blog about. It’s a bit of a departure from what I normally write, but that happens sometimes.

Approximately 10 years ago I learned of EFT, also known as emotional freedom technique, or tapping. The process combines the use of acupressure with psychology. Tapping with the fingertips on specific meridian endpoints of the body helps to calm the nervous system, rewire the brain, and restore the body’s balance of energy. I found the practice to be sort of helpful. I felt better after tapping, but nothing really changed for me. I still carried around a lot of fear, my health didn’t improve, my finances didn’t change, I remained single. It wasn’t the magic pill I was hoping for. So I stopped tapping.

Sometimes we store emotion in places. Photo by Olliss on Unsplash.

More than a month ago, I heard an interview with Jessica Ortner, one of the big names in tapping, and decided to try again. I picked up the book by her brother Nick Ortner, called The Tapping Solution, and read his section on pain. He asked the question, “Is there an emotion associated with the pain?” As someone who is extremely psychosomatic, this question is a game-changer for me. At the time, I had painful menstrual cramps – that didn’t abate with painkillers or a heating pad or any of the things I usually try. I asked myself, “Is there an emotion associated with this pain?” and the answer was “sadness.” I started tapping all of the acupressure points while I said out loud, “All this sadness in my uterus, all this sadness in my uterus. I’m releasing it and letting it go now.” Tears streaked down my cheeks as I cried over something that happened to me a long time ago, that I thought I was over.

I kept tapping until I felt better, and wouldn’t you know it, no more menstrual pain. I tried it for other things too. My feet swelled up due to poison oak and the healing process seemed to stagnate. I asked myself the question, “Is there an emotion associated with the swelling in my feet?” and the answer was “anger.” So I tapped through that too, and then the next morning my feet returned to normal size. I think most of us are aware of the mind-body connection, but I was surprised at how a specific body part can store an emotion, and how that emotion can linger in place for years.

I share all this because perhaps the recurring back pain or rash that won’t go away, or whatever, is your body telling you something. Maybe there’s an emotion there asking to be felt and the pain or symptom won’t go away until it’s been addressed. I’m a stubborn gal so it’s no surprise my body is too. The beautiful and magical thing though is with just a few minutes of tapping, we can feel the emotions, release them, and let them go.

I dream of a world where let go of stored emotions. A world where we recognize sometimes pain carries a feeling and we can take the time to feel the emotion and then move on. A world where we use all the tools at our fingertips to help ourselves heal.

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

It’s been a crazy whirlwind of a week and the only thing that comes to mind is this post I wrote nearly two years ago in January 2017. I’m sharing it again now.

I asked a friend the other day how he maintains hope and faith when the whole world seems to have gone mad, and he told me he views life as a drama – there will be happy parts and sad parts and scary parts. He doesn’t expect life to be a smooth ride where nothing happens.

He also told me a particular scene we find distasteful could be pivotal to the story – in hindsight we may find certain actions were crucial.

I like his perspective – it helps me to detach a little and not become quite so dismayed at the events in the world. I’m not saying I no longer care, nor that we should sit back and do nothing. Rather, his perspective reminds me this is reality. I want everyone to be happy all the time. I want life to proceed in a straight line improving day by day. I want rainbows and sunshine and kittens prancing through fields all day long. But that’s not what we’re living in, and that’s never what we’ve lived in. Life is a series of ups and downs, twists and turns. And furthermore, there are good people and bad people, just like in any riveting tale. There are heroes and villains, and I hate to admit it, but the villains usually prompt the heroes to leave the house. If the villains weren’t engaging in some nefarious scheme, the heroes would twiddle their thumbs and maybe knit a scarf. Personally, I’d find that kind of story dull and would ask for my money back.

So melodramatic.

Similarly, real life is the same way. There are heroes and villains, there are wise advisers and fools. We all have our parts to play, but unfortunately, no one handed us a script or fed us our lines.

My spiritual teacher says, “When human beings bring something within the scope of their intellect, and by perceiving and observing it closely, can understand the cause behind it, this is called kriidá; and when the cause is beyond the scope of their thinking it is called liilá [or play]. Whatever the Macrocosm does is beyond the periphery of the human intellect, and that is why whatever He does is His liilá.”

My interpretation of this quote is a lot of stuff happens in this world. Some of it I will understand and some of it I won’t, and maybe never will. The stuff I don’t understand is liilá or play. My point of view is instead of agonizing over why this happened or why this didn’t happen, it’s better for me to take the mindset that life is a play, life is a drama, something I get to witness unfolding.

What I also believe to be true is ultimately the arc of civilization bends toward the beneficent. Ultimately things improve for all of us. However, getting there sometimes requires clash and conflict. Sometimes things get crazy and bizarre, like any good drama, before they are sorted out. It seems to me right now our society is in the middle of an important and intense scene, one that I’d like to believe is leading us somewhere better, but it won’t make sense until later on when the story plays out.

I dream of a world where we view life as a drama. A world where we realize the ups and downs are a part of life. A world where we understand we all have our part to play and we play it with gusto. A world where we keep doing our part trusting eventually the story will resolve.

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

Keep Going

Right now wildfires besiege California. Tens of thousands have lost their homes and many more have evacuated. Where I live, the weather forecast this weekend was “smoky.” Firefighters are working around the clock to contain the conflagration. The only thing that comes to mind is that quote from Winston Churchill who said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” It applies to the people working tirelessly to keep us safe, to the people fleeing for their lives, and to the people unaffected by the blazes.

I’m not a firefighter, but I’m also fighting some battles. Somehow I picked up poison oak on my feet. How that happened is a mystery – likely the one day I sat outside barefoot on redwood leaves they previously touched poison oak. What that means is my right foot in particular looks unhappy. I’ll spare you the details because I get grossed out by those sorts of things, but my doctor assures me with poison oak, it gets worse before it gets better. Right now I don’t really believe her. It’s hard to see my skin returning to normal when things look so bad right now.

Sometimes life is a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Similarly, with my novel, I don’t believe I’ll hit 50,000 words at the end of the month. Every day I’m meeting or exceeding the daily word count to reach that goal, but it still seems nigh impossible. Why is that? Because I’m in the thick of things. I’m continuing to battle and the tide hasn’t turned yet. I could stop. We all could. We all could give up, surrender, admit defeat. But where does that leave us?

I also want to acknowledge here it’s difficult to keep fighting. It’s difficult to continue moving forward when the task before us seems overwhelming. I don’t envy the firefighters in California right now, nor do I envy anyone confronting a battle of their own. But I support them, and myself, and everyone else. I will keep cheering from the sidelines as many are doing for me. And I will hold out hope for the fire to die and the smoke to clear, just like it has where I live. I don’t know what the future holds, but on Sunday morning, I looked out my window and saw a blue sky above the smoke layer for the first time in days. May we all see blue skies literally and figuratively sooner rather than later.

I dream of a world where we keep fighting when the situation calls for it. A world where we understand sometimes it takes a while before the tides turn and victory is in sight. A world where we cheer each other on as we all go through our own versions of hell. A world where we keep going.

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

This month I’m participating in NaNoWriMo – that’s National Novel Writing Month for the uninformed. It’s an internet campaign that encourages people to write 50,000 words during the month of November. That’s roughly 200 pages in book land when you take into account formatting and page size. It’s approximately 75 pages single spaced in a word processing document.

Writing this much during the month of November, or any time really, feels nigh impossible for me. I used to say with sincerity that I can’t write fiction to save my life, and now here I am writing fiction. Some people might scratch their heads upon hearing that. Aren’t I a professional writer? Haven’t I been, you know, writing, for nearly my entire life? What’s the big deal with fiction? Isn’t it all the same? In brief, no.

Yep, I’m writing one of these. Photo by Mahendra Kumar on Unsplash

As a journalist, I write about the world around me. I summarize and synthesize information already available. I don’t create anything, I merely convey information. Writing fiction is the complete opposite. The novelist must create an entire world and have it make sense. Even fantasy and science fiction conforms to certain rules manufactured by the author. Characters have to seem like real people with real emotions and motivations, otherwise we deem them “flat.” As someone who has spent decades reporting on real people and real events to suddenly switch gears and report on imaginary people and imaginary events is no easy task. And yet, here I am, doing the thing I think I can’t.

This post isn’t altogether profound because, well, I’ve already been writing for two hours every day outside of my writing job, but there’s something important for me here about mentioning we’re capable of more than we think. We place limits on ourselves and what we presume we can accomplish, but maybe that’s inaccurate. When I hear about incredible things other people do my first reaction is usually, “I could never do that.” But could I?

My spiritual teacher says something to the effect of exhaust all of your own strength and energy and then if you’re supposed to continue, the universe will give you more strength and energy. That’s not a recipe for burnout, by the way. It’s not an invitation to run ourselves ragged. Rather, it’s the acknowledgment that if you’re lost, wounded, and starving in the woods, for instance, if you’re meant to live, somehow you’ll find the reserves to crawl 200 miles on your hands and knees to civilization. That’s not an exaggeration, by the way. It’s the true story of Hugh Glass, who Leonardo DiCaprio depicted in the movie The Revenant.

What I’m saying here is we are all capable of more than we think. Will I be able to write a total of 50,000 words by the end of this month? I’m not sure, but I’m working toward that every day. I’m tackling something seemingly impossible for me and doing the thing I think I can’t. And even if I fail, this process is stretching me in ways I never anticipated and that in and of itself is valuable.

I dream of a world where we do the things we think we can’t. A world where we realize we are stronger, smarter, and more capable than we are aware. A world where we realize if something is meant to be, the universe will lend us a hand.

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

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