Saturday, December 25, 2021

How well did I love?

It is so easy to take for granted that tomorrow will come, that another opportunity will be given to bear witness to a sunset, take a walk in the forest, listen to the birds, or share a moment of connection with the one in front of us. But another part knows how fragile it truly is here, how tenuous, and the reality that this opening into life will not be here for much longer.

Before we realize it, we can so easily fall into the trance of postponement. The spell of tomorrow looms large in the personal and collective psyche.

At the end of this life – which is sure to come much sooner than we think – it is unlikely we'll be caught up in whether we accomplished all the tasks on our to-do lists, played it safe, healed all the wounds from our past, or wrapped up our self-improvement project.

Inside these hearts there may be only one burning question: how well did I love?

One day we will no longer be able to look at, touch, or share a simple moment with those we love. When we turn to them, they will be gone. One moment will be our last to encounter the immensity of one more breath, experience awe at a color or fragrance or blooming of a violet, or to enter into union with the vastness of the sea.

It will be our last chance to see a universe in a drop of rain, to have a moment of communion with a friend, or weep as the light yields to the night sky.

One last moment to imagine, to feel an emotion, fall in love, or listen to a piece of music. To know heartbreak, joy, sorrow, and peace – to behold the outrageous mystery of what it truly means to be an open, sensitive human being. To know firsthand the preciousness and rare, unique opportunity to have a human body and nervous system.

What if today is that last day? Or tomorrow? Or later this week?

Knowing that death will come, how will we respond to the sacred and brief appearance of life?

Perhaps our “life's purpose” has nothing to do with what job we find, what new thing we will manifest or attract for ourselves, or what new belief system we take on. But to fully live, to touch each here and now moment with our presence and with the gift of our one, wild heart.

And do whatever we can to help others: to hold them when they are hurting, to attune carefully to the ways they are making sense of a world that has gone a bit mad; to meet them with empathy and kindness, and listen to what keeps them up at night and what brings them alive.

To speak kind words and not forget the erupting miracle of the other as it appears in front of us. To companion them and be an open, warm, spacious vessel through which love can come into this world.

Perhaps this is the most radical gift we can give.

Photo by Joe Plenio

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Saturday, December 18, 2021

The encoding of new circuitry

The path of opening the heart is not the same as becoming an unboundaried, leaky vessel for the unloading of another’s unlived life. It is to the degree that we are attuned to our own grief, sadness, shame, and rage that we will most skillfully navigate within the we-space of the relational field.

Most of us were not trained in the art of embodied attunement as we live in an increasingly disembodied world, where the capacity to hold unfolding emotional experience was not encoded into a tender developing nervous system.

But despite early relational trauma, inconsistent empathic mirroring, and transgenerational narratives of dysregulation and insecurity, you can embody and practice this now. You can experience reunion with the disavowed inner other and play with him or her, weaving together emotion in the body, story and image in the mind, resting and exploring in unstructured states of being.

While appearing “compassionate” on the outside, being an emotional doormat involves the re-enacting of early, unconscious organization. We learned that devaluing ourselves was the most reliable route to get our needs met, fit in, receive attention and affection, and maintain a precarious tie to an unavailable attachment figure. This activity was not neurotic, but was lifesaving, creative, and intelligent from the perspective of a little one wired to connect.

But the inner passageways are luminous and ache for reorganization by way of the slower circuitries of empathy, curiosity, wonderment, and awe. Look carefully and see the ways you may habitually place others’ needs over your own – not out of true compassion for them, but as a re-enactment of early interactional fields of shame and unworthiness.

Inside, something is stirring, a longing being awakened to return home, for new circuitry to encode, for a new pathway to light up and come alive.

Slowly, one moment at a time. Safe. Connected. Open.

Raw. Tender. Sensitive. Embodied.

There is no urgency on the path of love.

Photo by Tamal Roy 

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Saturday, December 11, 2021

The weaving of new cloth

At times, the wisest, most skillful, and most compassionate action is to establish a boundary with another person. To stand up and assertively say No. To move in an empowered and swift way to protect our own integrity. To privilege our own autonomy and interiority. To meet narcissism, abuse, and neglect with a fiery, fierce, and direct response.

This is not only the case with “external” others – other people in our lives – but also with the multitude of “internal” others who surge out of the psychic underworld and take form as voices and figures of the interior landscape.

You might recognize them by their predictable refrain: “There is something wrong with you. You have failed. No one will ever love you unless you change and become someone different. You are not okay. You have fallen short. You have done life wrong. You are no good. You are uninteresting. You do not belong. Your sensitivities and eccentricities are not welcome here.”

These are the voices of the past, the shadow of a culture of materialism and greed, of the lineages of transgenerational trauma and trance. The voices of disembodiment, insensitivity, of a societal and global ego that has fallen out of communion with the natural world, the body, and the imaginal realms.

These internal visitors to an open, sensitive nervous system must also be met with the boundaries of discernment. To realize those moments when we fall out of the wisdom-presence of the here and now and into the time machine of the “there and then.”

To engage in dialogue with these figures and to proclaim our own basic goodness. To stand on the rooftops and declare that sensitivity is not pathology, that the shaky tenderness is not pathology… but path.

To not merely accept their conclusions, reality tunnels, and the lenses through which they have come to see things. But to cleanse perception with clear-seeing and the wildness of love.

To take the risk of telling a new story, dreaming a new dream, spinning out a new tale, weaving new cloth. And to allow ourselves to be turned by the great Weaver Herself… as new vision is revealed, as we become that vessel in which she can come alive here again.

Photo by James Wheeler

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Saturday, December 4, 2021

If you want to help someone, help them to feel safe

So many of us feel shame about our trauma and wounding, as if it is evidence that we’ve failed, it’s our fault, and that we should be able to “get over” it and heal on our own.

Even if we “know” that these conclusions are not accurate, these schemas live implicitly in our sensitive bodies and nervous systems, where they remain open for neural revisioning when (relational) conditions are ripe.

These heartbreaking lenses of perception are reflected back to us by an increasingly disembodied and left-brain dominant culture, giving rise to the contemporary fantasy that I “should” be able to do it all on my own.

The tribe has broken down, replaced by the device and the slow cortisol drip of a sympathetically aroused collective. And we wonder why it’s all falling apart.

The emotional pain is tragic in and of itself, but underneath it is the underlying shame and deep sense of being alone, which is really at the root of trauma.

At times, it can be overwhelming to hold and metabolize fear and anxiety on our own. But with another nervous system, our windows of tolerance expand as they come together. This alchemical blending allows us to integrate experience that outside the relational field would otherwise send us into unworkable states of fight, flight, or collapse.

As relational mammals, we are wired to co-regulate. We are not meant to “do it all on our own” and it is not an indication that something is “wrong” with us if we cannot always contain our own wounding.

Rather, it is evidence we are alive, with an open, sensitive, majestic, and sometimes achy human nervous system.

We can do so much for one another, to help hold and transmute both transgenerational, biographical, and collective trauma. To slow down, with our presence and miracle mirror neurons, listen deeply, and be with another in a way that they feel felt and understood. Our world so desperately this needs right now.

If you want to help someone in your life, help them to feel safe.

Instead of “I am alone” with this fear, pain, and grief, “We are here together, and healing is possible.”

And then transmit this embodied realization into the neural circuitry of the world.

Photo by RitaE

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