Oftentimes when I hear about terrible news events – fires in Europe, flooding in the U.S., mass shootings, etc. – life feels like too much. There are too many things wrong with the world and how are we possibly going to fix them all? It’s overwhelming to contemplate and easy to fall into despair and cynicism. I see a lot of that online: “We’re all screwed! The world is going to end!” I get it. I’m tempted to fall into that place myself, but then I remember something Rabbi Tarfon, who lived almost 2,000 (!) years ago said: “It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to abandon it.”

A more poetic way to phrase that courtesy of Rabbi Tirzah Firestone is, “You are not expected to complete the task of repairing the world. But neither are you allowed to put it down.” We’re not here to fix every problem, tackle every big issue. We can’t. It’s impossible. What we’re facing is too vast, but what we can do is be one part of the human relay race.

Have you seen that track event where one runner has a baton and then they pass it to the next person? That’s what I think humanity is like. We’re each carrying a baton that we give to the person ahead of us. We do that over and over again until eventually, humanity is in a different place than it was before. But if we don’t hold up our end of the bargain, if we don’t run with our baton, how can anything change?

woman running with a baton

We are each carrying a baton, passing it forward. Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash

I’m reminded of a quote from my spiritual teacher who 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.”

I’m not Pollyanna over here, I know what’s happening in the world and I know it’s incredibly challenging. But I also recognize it’s my duty as someone who is alive right now to not put down the task of repairing the world. What that means for me is different than what it means for you, but we are all here for a reason. We are all alive at this time in this life not merely to take up space but to play a role in this great drama.

Hafiz said it so beautifully in the poem “The Place Where You Are Now” that I’m going to quote a portion of:

“This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.

Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and the sky,

The Beloved has bowed there –

Our Beloved has bowed there knowing
You were coming.”

The Beloved knew we were coming to be a part of a giant human relay race where we do one thing that someone else carries forward, that they carry forward, that someone else picks up ad infinitum. But it’s up to us to say “yes” to the task.

I dream of a world where we recognize we aren’t going to solve all the world’s problems ourselves. Instead, we are only one part of the solution like a human relay race. A world where we maintain optimism in the face of extreme difficulties because we’ve studied human history. A world where we understand we all play a part in repairing the world.

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

Body Messages

My body has been through the wringer in the past week. I was in Zion National Park until Wednesday and wow was it grueling for me. I don’t sweat easily or profusely and as a consequence am prone to heat-related issues like heat stroke and heat rash. Luckily, I avoided the former in the 104-degree weather but contracted the latter. My forearms and upper thighs are covered in tiny, angry, red bumps.

Also, I hiked the Narrows, which is a gorgeous trail through a slot canyon. The trail requires hiking through a river upstream and maneuvering large, slippery rocks. I rented hiking boots, neoprene socks, and a hiking pole to help me navigate but I injured my right big toe, despite my precautions. It’s not broken but it’s swollen and I can’t walk properly. In other words, I’m not in the optimal physical condition right now.

I’ve written over and over again about how the universe is always communicating with us, but something I talk about less frequently is how our bodies do the same. Sometimes I roll my eyes when I hear that because I don’t always know what my body is saying and it feels too irritating or complicated to figure it out. However, as someone who is extremely psychosomatic, meaning someone with a very close mind-body relationship, I know my body communicates with me all the time whether I’m listening or not.

woman sleeping on a tree

This image looks so dreamy. Photo by Saltanat Zhursinbek on Unsplash

I want to mention here I know bodies are complicated and mysterious. As much as we’ve been told, “Eat right, exercise, and you’ll be fine,” that’s not the whole truth. There are so many factors that affect our physical bodies. Diet, yes, but also sleep, stress, lifestyle, trauma, genetics, and more. Because of that, it can be SO HARD to figure out what the body is communicating. Sometimes though it’s easy. In the case of my sprained toe, I think the message is, “Slow down, rest.”

I have a tendency to cram as much as possible into the day and week, perpetually going to my limit, but injuring myself means I can’t do that anymore. Last week I wrote about how the body is a road map of our lives, but it’s not only that. It also acts as our canary in a coal mine. Just a reminder to underscore my point, I think it’s helpful to remember how this idiom came about. From about 1911 until 1986, miners used to carry caged canaries into the tunnels with them, and if dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide accumulated in the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners. If the canary died, the miners were warned to exit the tunnels immediately.

That’s what our bodies are like. They give us signals like rashes or twinges or soreness to say, “Hey, something is going on here.” Sometimes it’s easy to figure out why – like developing a rash due to a new skin lotion – but other times it’s not. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself and say I know my body is always communicating with me. The question is, am I willing to listen?

I dream of a world where we pay attention to our bodies. A world where we understand oftentimes the body is talking to us, communicating without language. A world where we do our best to decipher those cryptic messages and act accordingly.

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

Lately, when I look at my body, I notice it’s the road map of my life. I see the scar on my right arm from when a swing collapsed with me on it. I notice the poison oak scars on my left forearm and the discoloration under my chin from car accident number one.

Normally I’d recoil from these marks, do my best to diminish them, cover them up, but at the moment, I’m looking at my body with fondness. It shows the story of my life, literally. My body demonstrates events that happened to me, memories I will always keep.

In our youth-obsessed culture, we strive to be unblemished and wrinkle-free. We see that as a sign of beauty, something to aspire to. But right now, I’m appreciating the evidence I’ve lived. Tomorrow I may wake up and scrunch my nose in protest of my scars. I might smear on creams and lotions to give myself a more youthful appearance, but today, I’m marveling at how I wear the story of my life. And if you’ve lived long enough, you are wearing yours too.

old woman hands

I love this lady’s hands. There’s so much here. Photo by Eduardo Barrios on Unsplash

Your body is a vessel not to be controlled but cherished. I know, for some that’s easier said than done. I get it – I’m subjected to the same messaging as anyone else, but for today, there’s something sweet about tracing the lines of my body and recalling this experience and that. In some ways I feel like a soldier recently returned from war, recounting what happened. You can do that with scars. There is often a story to tell.

There’s an honor to be in this body, to show the evidence of a life with trials and tribulations. There’s physical evidence that I’ve been through things and I’m still here. I’m proud of that.

At 37, I’m still young, but I’m not that young. No one would mistake me for a metaphorical spring chicken. And yet, instead of hiding my age, I’d like to approach each passing year not chasing my youth or lying about how old I am. I’d rather appreciate my age for the unique beauty it gives me. I didn’t think I would ever say that but here I am. Instead of fighting my body, I’m appreciating it for every scar, wrinkle, and fold. This body has been through so much and I don’t want to keep pretending otherwise.

Today anyway, I’m valuing this physical form for the way it currently looks and that to me is a miracle, one that I want for you too.

I dream of a world where we appreciate our bodies as they are. A world where we find our various scars exotic and beautiful because they reveal the road map of our lives. A world where instead of trying to reclaim our youth, we embrace the bodies we currently have with pride.

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

The other night I dreamt I was stuck with a roommate. For some reason, she couldn’t move out even though I wanted her to. She used my things, threw our house into disarray, and then managed to puncture a large hole in the ceiling. In short, NOT an ideal roommate. When I confronted her about the trouble she caused, she said, “It wasn’t me,” which was a blatant lie. Upon awakening, it seemed to me that dream is an excellent metaphor for what’s happening in the U.S. right now.

The Supreme Court is coming into our house and wreaking havoc left and right. I know not everyone agrees with me – they approve of what the court is doing and think the government should have less power, not more. I hear that. I understand valuing freedom and choice, but here’s the thing – that doesn’t work if people are only focused on themselves.

When you’re motivated by self-interest and greed, you make decisions that only benefit you and not the people around you. That’s a shortsighted way to live because as my spiritual teacher says over and over again, “One must not forget that collective welfare lies in individuals and individual welfare lies in collectivity. Without ensuring individual comforts through the proper provision of food, light, air, accommodation, and medical treatment, the welfare of the collective body can never be achieved. One will have to promote individual welfare motivated by the spirit of promoting collective welfare.”

human chain

We are all linked together. Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

We are all linked together but those in power keep refusing to see that. True leadership and a proper, functional government would not prize individual needs over collective needs because they understand what happens to someone else affects them too. Let’s take the company Amazon as an example. Did you know Amazon is burning through its workforce? In a leaked internal memo from June, research stated if the company maintains its status quo, it will run out of U.S. workers by 2024. The turnover rate is astronomical – 150% annually compared with an average of 64.6% in the retail sector, according to the Guardian. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos originally welcomed the high turnover because he feared long-term employees would slack off and cause a “march to mediocrity.” But now he’s worried.

Jeff Bezos and his ilk aren’t playing the long game. They aren’t remembering to study the pros and cons of each decision. Nor are they factoring in whether the decision contributes to the welfare of all. If the Supreme Court was doing that, they would understand that allowing states to decide what to do about abortions means some will outlaw it. And outlawing abortions means people with uteruses will resort to extreme measures to abort the fetus.

If the Supreme Court was factoring in the welfare of everyone, they would understand that forcing someone to have a child they do not want is a bad situation for everyone. Setting aside the abortion issue, if the Supreme Court was factoring in the welfare of everyone, they would uphold the ruling that the EPA can enforce gas emissions because hi, climate change really and truly affects everyone not just in the U.S. but around the world. The Supreme Court is not doing that and neither are many politicians.

There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We are not going to go far if we keep focusing on ourselves alone. We are not going to solve any of our serious societal problems if we’re thinking, “How can I benefit?” instead of “How can we benefit?” It seems to me we’re getting reminded of that over and over again right now. I hope that as outrage grows, more and more people will wake up to this idea of collective welfare because, wow, do we need it.

I dream of a world where we understand and promote the idea of collective welfare. A world where we recognize that if something doesn’t benefit as many people as possible, it should be rejected. A world where everyone starts thinking of not only themselves but others too because they recognize we are inextricably linked.

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

I’m not gonna lie, on Friday I started fantasizing about moving to another country. One where people don’t have the right to walk around with guns in public, people with uteruses can get a safe abortion, and lives are valued in other ways, like with universal healthcare and free education. Yes, I live in a progressive state where some of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions are overruled by local laws, but still. I kept thinking to myself, “Why is the U.S. like this?”

As is often the case when I have a question I want to be answered, I turn to astrology and in this instance, it again gave me more insight. You may not be aware, but countries have astrological birth charts just like people do. There’s some controversy about the time the U.S. was “born,” but even still, I’m pretty sure you can guess the date and the location: July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia.

No matter the time you pick for when the U.S. was “born,” a few elements remain the same: We have a Cancer sun and an Aquarius moon. A Cancer sun denotes a desire to preserve your roots and cares about home and family. Cancer is the archetype of the mother and typically doesn’t embrace change readily and wants things to stay the same.

abortion rights

I liked the combo of life and abortion in this photo. Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

With regards to the Supreme Court decision on reproductive rights, also embedded in the U.S. birth chart is Saturn squaring our Cancer sun. In other words, Saturn’s position in the sky is roughly 90 degrees from the sun in Cancer. Saturn is a planet of boundaries and restrictions. A negative integration of Saturn is oppression, which is what we’re seeing now. Saturn, a planet of boundaries, keeps enacting its will of oppression and domination on “mom.” Most recently in overturning Roe vs. Wade.

This makes a weird sort of sense, doesn’t it? On the one hand, we hear a lot about “family values,” which would be the Cancer sun, but we also have a high maternal mortality rate and no paid parental leave, which is the hardship of Saturn. In other words, this is what it means to live in the U.S., to face these issues over and over again.

However, I’d be remiss here if I didn’t also mention we have another energy in the United States: that of an Aquarius moon. An Aquarius moon is the polar opposite of a Cancer sun. It’s revolutionary, progressive, and forward-thinking. In other words, embedded into the fabric of the U.S. is this pendulum swing one way and then another from conservative to progressive. There’s a constant tension in the U.S. between how things were and how they could be.

It’s not only the U.S. that sees this pendulum swing, obviously, but it’s interesting to notice this dynamic play out. Instead of saying to myself, “Didn’t we already go through this? Aren’t we past this already?” to remember we will perpetually have this tension because these are the issues inherent with the United States.

My spiritual teacher says, “Let us fight these divisive tendencies which want to make our life dark …. All human beings want light. One individual human is more luminous and more throbbing than that universal darkness. So human beings should always be optimistic. The cimmerian darkness cannot retard your progress, cannot cover the light of the human heart. The spirit of your heart must move on and on against obstacles. Kick away your obstacles like pebbles from your feet – you are stronger than your obstacles.”

I dream of a world where we aren’t constantly surprised that certain issues keep resurfacing in the U.S. A world where we understand being in the U.S. means dealing with a certain tension. A world where we recognize politics swing one way and then another but we remember our progress cannot be permanently thwarted. A world we understand we are stronger than our obstacles.

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

I’m Different Now

Back in November, a friend told me, “There will always be an invitation to the fear party, but you can decline.” Lately, I’m reflecting on how not only is there a perennial invitation to the fear party, but also the grief party and the trauma party. There are endless opportunities for me to worry about X, to grieve about Y. Some of that is warranted, emotions show up for a reason, but some of it is needless suffering.

I’m reading a new book about intergenerational trauma and the author, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, mentions that some people with trauma in their background have tremendous guilt that they didn’t do more to stop the terrible thing from happening. Like they should have fought back against an attacker, or run away, or whatever. I burst into tears when I read that because I’m quite familiar with second-guessing myself and playing “what if” games. Because of the trauma, a part of me also thinks if I’m hypervigilant enough, I can prevent something from happening. If I’m tracking all the sights, sounds, and other cues around me, then I’ll be safe.

This ties into family trauma because there is a part of me keeping watch for Nazis coming to get me. I’m on the lookout for threatening people and situations, which is an inheritance from my grandparents. They were deeply scarred from the Holocaust and as a sensitive descendent, I’m carrying that load. That means I carry fears that aren’t really mine because I don’t recognize I’m in this body, this life, this time.

hand holding up a tree

This image came up when I searched for “support.” Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

I had a scary, traumatic situation happen the other week that shook some things loose in my psyche. I don’t want to share the details online, but in broad strokes, my sense of safety was disrupted. I wasn’t in any actual danger but it felt like I was. To give you an idea, the police were involved. And because I was so scared, I called a friend in Australia because I knew she’d be awake as it was late in the evening California time. She asked me what would restore my feeling of safety and the answer was, “Not sleeping here tonight.” So I didn’t. I called another friend, stayed at her place, and then another friend offered her place for multiple nights if I needed it. During that time away, I met up with still more friends for a walk and dinner. In short, lots and lots of support showed up for me.

Now that the dust is settling, I’m processing the experience with my therapist but also noticing the hypervigilance hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s gotten worse because I’m not reminding myself of what actually happened or how I took care of myself. It’s important for me not to discount that when I needed help, it showed up immediately. I had people to talk to, places to go, and tools in my toolbox like qigong, EFT, yoga, meditation, journaling, etc. In other words, I did not and am not experiencing what my grandparents did, which was a hard scrabble to survive using only their wits.

Instead, I have choices. I have options. Yes, we’re experiencing a surge in antisemitism along with so many other attacks on minorities, but I have friends all over the world who would gladly take me in if I needed shelter. I have a global community that my grandparents did not have. In other words, what happened to them won’t happen to me.

There will always be an invitation to the trauma party but I can decline. I don’t have to reenact or hold on to family patterns because I can instead embody myself in this time in this world in this situation. I’m not powerless, I’m not helpless. The world will always have threats, that doesn’t change, but I’ve changed. I’m different and that’s something I can hold on to and maybe the same is true for you.

I dream of a world where we take the gifts and lessons from the past and then move forward into the future. A world where we understand we don’t have to keep opening old wounds. A world where we remember we have choices and take comfort in our own self-empowerment. A world where we recognize the environment around us may stay the same but we can change and that makes all the difference.

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

I’m recycling this post from November 2009 so a lot has changed in my life since then but I think the message is still a good one. Enjoy.

There is a quote that says, “Even if a young boy says something logical, it should be accepted, and if the Supreme Creator says something illogical, it should be rejected as rubbish.” It’s a good point. As a friend says, the truth has a ring to it. There’s a resonance when someone speaks the truth and that can come from any source, including yourself! However, before this week I really wanted to follow someone blindly. I wanted to be shrouded in ignorance and let someone else discern the truth for me. I wanted to be led and not have to worry about anything. I wanted someone else to know all the answers and to just tell them to me.

As a child, the people I followed blindly were my parents. It was painful when I learned my parents are indeed human and thus make mistakes. After I learned I couldn’t follow my parents blindly I turned to spiritual teachers. Spiritual teachers must know everything and thus I can accept whatever they say, right? The thing is, the spiritual teachers who encourage blind faith, who encourage their followers to never question anything, have a tendency to be the “drink-the-Kool-Aid” variety, meaning the kind that swindles people or abuses them. Yet, a part of me really wanted that. Not the abuse, but rather really wanted someone else to come along and fill my brain so I didn’t have to think at all.

trust truth sign

Trust your small truth. Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash

I don’t know for sure why people join cults but I think it might be so they don’t have to discern anything for themselves. It’s so tempting to surround one’s self with someone who speaks with conviction and confidence. Someone who claims to know all the answers. Someone who talks about the future and seems to know things. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of, “So and so said” to give authority to a statement. “Well, if so and so said it, it must be true!” I think most people long for an ultimate authority, an ultimate truth, and that’s why people quote sacred texts like the Bible or modern sources like Google.

I am no different. But this week I painfully learned no person speaks the Truth for all people at all times. The guiding principle I must rely on is my own higher self. If I think something is wrong, then it’s wrong for me. No one else has all the answers because everybody is just trying to figure out things for themselves. Besides the fact, as far as I know, all spiritual faiths say divinity resides within. How can I truly honor that notion if I think someone else will be able to tell me how to run my life? Or that someone else knows better than I do what’s in my best interest?

The entire point of the spiritual path is to find God within me, and that means looking to myself for answers. It means tapping into my higher power to learn my own Truth. It means living awake, it means discerning for myself what is in my best interest and what is not. It means trusting myself and also taking what other people say with a grain of salt because I recognize there is such a thing as a small, personal truth and that varies from person to person.

I dream of a world where we honor the God within us. A world where we trust in ourselves and our intuitive ability. A world where we look internally for the answers to our questions while also recognizing consensus reality exists. A world where we allow for multiple small truths, realizing that looks different from person to person.

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

Joy is Our Birthright

There’s a post-it on my bathroom mirror that says, “Remember life can be surprising and delightful.” To be honest, it’s been ages since surprises were anything but terrible. For instance, “Surprise! The water on your street has been shut off!” or “Surprise! You lost your wallet!” I’d kind of forgotten that surprises can be enjoyable and had an experience on Saturday that recalibrated me.

I’d intended to go hiking nearby but because of how my day unfolded, that no longer made sense. Not wanting to be cooped up all day, I chose to walk around my neighborhood instead without a destination or intention in mind. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to see. When I approached a certain intersection, I opened the maps app on my phone and noticed there was a trail nearby. “Great! Maybe I’ll go hiking after all!” What I didn’t expect is the route to the trailhead involved a hidden staircase. That’s right, the staircase was smushed between two houses and if you didn’t know it was there, you might overlook it.

Even now I’m smiling as I think about it because it felt like an adventure ascending those stairs and finding the trailhead, which similar to the staircase, was smack dab at the end of a residential street. Houses, cars, and then boom! Woods. I love that about my neighborhood. The trail itself also surprised me because it was decorated with art pieces. Children and adults alike painted wooden planks with smiley faces, decorated mailboxes, and constructed fairy houses. Not only that, dangling from certain tree branches were swings! In the middle of the woods! I truly was not expecting that although I know it happens.

painted mailbox

A smidge of what I saw on Saturday. Photo by me!

My good mood started to radiate out and inspired me to chat with people I saw on the trail, especially if I passed them twice. “We meet again,” I said to one of them. “Your dog is beautiful,” I told another. The trail wended through redwoods and along a creek. The creek sluiced through concrete tunnels, which were yes, covered with graffiti, but also art. Someone painted two dolphins arcing on either side of a tunnel. Others spray-painted hearts everywhere, which you may or may not know is my thing. In short, hiking the trail was exactly the sort of experience that reminded me life can be fun, that it’s not all drudgery.

I mention that because it’s VERY easy for me to focus on how hard things are, the problems I’m facing, and forget the good stuff. I forget about or overlook the fun stuff, the stuff that makes me happy to be alive. But that joy is the undercurrent of our world. I’ve used this quote before but the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, say, “This quinquelemental world has been born out of joy, is being maintained in joy, and into sacred joy will melt.” We come from joy, live in joy, and return to joy. Joy is within us, which David Whyte reminds us of in a line from his poem that says:

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

For some of us, that great shout of joy takes longer to be expressed. Sometimes the joy is silent for months or even years, but it still exists all the same. Maybe like I wrote about in April with regards to mood, we just have to wait and that joy will return.

I dream of a world where we all experience more joy. A world where we remember joy can arrive in the form of an unexpected sculpture or a flower bursting from the soil. A world where we remember if we’re going through a hard time, joy will find us once again because joy is our birthright.

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

For a long time, I’ve strived to make my home a sanctuary. I want it to be a safe place, free from chaos and aggravation. In my ideal world, you wouldn’t hear a jackhammer, music from a neighbor, car alarms, or any of the other issues that go along with high-density living. Many years ago, I was on the quest for the perfect sanctuary space. I moved on average every three months for three years. In some places, I stayed longer, but in others, I stayed shorter.

I moved to the middle of nowhere Missouri in an attempt to find my safe refuge and even there, a sanctuary couldn’t be found. I heard a train whistle piercing the air regularly. Even in the remote countryside, I was irritated by sounds. Not only that, I worried about snakes, ticks, and wild animals. You would think after searching for so long I would give up the idea that I could ever find a “perfect” place, but I didn’t.

When I moved to my current apartment, it felt like a gift from God. I was living in a quiet place where I didn’t need a car and next door to a friend to boot. For a long time, my apartment was at the top of my gratitude list. That’s not the case anymore. I don’t dread being home, but I don’t love it either. The past month especially has been rough because I’ve contended with construction next door, the sounds of a baby crying, weed wafting through the air, and much more.

orange flowers

We all need a peaceful place. Photo by Masaaki Komori

In other words, home does not feel like a sanctuary. Will I move? My mind is spinning contemplating various possibilities but I haven’t settled on anything. More will be revealed on that one, but what I’m coming to realize is I’ve been trying to control and manage external circumstances to create an internal feeling.

I want everything on the outside to be fine and dandy to feel fine and dandy on the inside. But that’s like telling the ocean to stop ebbing and flowing. In life, nothing is ever perfect. Even if I lived somewhere remote and away from people, I’d have to contend with other problems like wildlife or lack of community. Instead of seeking an external sanctuary, I’m starting to ask the question, “How do I create a sanctuary on the inside?”

I already have a meditation practice, but I’m not taking the time to visualize a beautiful place free from disturbances. I’m not giving my nervous system the chance to learn what that feels like. The brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, which is why everyone and their mother talks about the power of visualization. I guess what I’m saying is perhaps it’s time to seek a sanctuary within my own mind and body.

My spiritual teacher says, “If one has to take refuge in any entity, or has to contemplate any entity, one should take refuge in or think about only the Supreme One because whenever the mind broods on a second entity, it will become one with the latter; that is, if the mind constantly reflects on physicality, one’s whole psycho-spiritual existence will become physical.” He also says, “An individual always seeks out a safe refuge, but no refuge can give lasting shelter. Only Cosmic Consciousness is the Supreme Refuge.”

I want lasting shelter. I want a place I can go to anytime and not contend with reality. That place exists, within my mind, and now it’s up to me to visit.

I dream of a world where we understand sanctuaries exist both internally and externally. A world where we remember if we can’t find what we want in the outside world, we can certainly find it in the inside one. A world where we realize true refuge comes from aligning ourselves with divinity.

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

For a long time, I considered myself safe only if there was no presence of danger. That makes sense if you look up the word “safe” and “safety” in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines safe as “secure from threat of danger, harm, or loss.” That’s how I’ve tried to live my life: not running with scissors, wearing my seatbelt, looking both ways when I cross the street, etc. It’s been my prime objective to avoid danger. However, if you live long enough, you soon realize you can’t avoid danger.

To be alive means to encounter threats. They could be in the form of other people, like a mugger or a drunk driver; a wilderness threat like a snake or a wasp; or a natural disaster like a flash flood, fire, or earthquake. There are more threats, of course, I’ve just named a few, but the point is, no one can live in a safety bubble. It’s not possible. How then do we keep ourselves safe? What does safety even mean in that context?

To go back to etymology, the word “safe” was derived from the Old French word sauf, which means protected and watched over. I like that definition because it means even in dangerous situations, I can be safe because I’m protecting myself, I’m watching over myself. In other words, I’m making good choices to ensure my eventual safety. That could be slowly backing away from a mountain lion, carrying pepper spray to ward off an attack by a person, or evacuating my home in the case of a fire. Just because there’s risk of harm doesn’t mean harm is inevitable.

Mountain lion

Do you know what to do when confronted with a mountain lion? Photo by Zach Key on Unsplash

When it comes to safety, that’s the piece that’s been missing for me. I discount my ability to take care of myself, to show up for myself in dangerous situations. Instead, I’ve believed the worst possible thing will happen and I’m helpless to prevent it. Um, not true. I keep a cool head in stressful situations, choose wisely, and prepare as much as I can in advance, like looking up what to do if encountering a mountain lion. That’s called keeping myself safe.

For someone like me who is perpetually worried about safety, who’s scared of danger, and tries to outsource my safety to someone else sometimes, recognizing the power and ability I have within me is huge. That may not be you. You might be a person who already feels confident in yourself and your abilities, but for the person who identifies with me, the anxious scaredy-cat, I hope you hear me when I tell you: You can do this.

I’m reminded of the quote by A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh who said, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.” Yes. We are. I don’t know about you, but I often sell myself short. I don’t want to do that anymore. Having an inferiority complex is not accurate because as my spiritual teacher says, “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 I absolutely have the power within me to protect myself, to keep myself safe. Not because I’m avoiding danger at all costs, but because I’m making choices in the moment to minimize risk. That matters. A lot.

I dream of a world where we recognize we are safe not when we avoid danger, although that may be a part of it, but rather due to what happens after the threat arises. A world where we remember we have a force within us, an instinct to keep us alive. A world where we understand we are capable people and we create safety for ourselves.

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

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