(NEVER MIND ALL THE SENSELESS HUMAN VIOLENCE BASED ON VILE BIASES THAT IT DOES SEEM WE MIGHT HAVE EVOLVED BEYOND BY NOW?)
LET'S MEET IT TOGETHER.
I made one of those wee-hours decisions early this morning, launched by mama grief.
Right before bed, I talked to my 20-something kid who lives in NYC. He was recounting a harrowing adventure in rally and rioting in Brooklyn the night before. He told me he couldn't stand being a white person not taking part in the protest launched by George Floyd's death. (You've surely heard about the senseless murder by a police officer of this man who deserved no violence directed his way, except the cop was white and the dude was black—and wow, whoa, mystifying though it is, though we've gotten all the way to 2020, that can still be all it takes.)
So during a pandemic, my kid was out there holding space with and for other protesters, chanting, looking out for vulnerable people, running for cover sometimes, taking part in protectively surrounding someone spray-painting a message sometimes, dodging rubber bullets and getting pepper-sprayed—and continuing to breathe the stuff because he didn't want to remove his face mask (both for virus and identity protection)—witnessing aggression between police and people, watching NYPD officers do things like drag protesters over the don't-cross line to throw them on the ground, beat them, arrest them, and more. He watched a scene in which he saw police ask a bus driver to surrender the bus so they could use it to transport those arrested (already there were vans standing by, my son reports, to throw people into like cattle), but the bus driver refused. You can see a brief video of that very scene right here.
So forgive me for the flaky, bad-business aspect of this, but I've changed the topic for my first Monday night of an ongoing zoom-program series to happen at least through June 2020. The promised Enneagram program on the 3 instincts—so helpful for deeply accepting your or anyone's version of the human journey—will happen the second Monday (June 8).
This Monday (June 1!), I want to sit with you, whoever wants to come or request the audio replay to go into later, and be with this pain. I've been carrying it around as you have, in my case since my other son called to unload his distress because he had watched the video of the murder and needed to recount every detail. I would not have chosen to watch that. I did solidly choose to hear about it for 2 reasons: 1) I don't want to look away from this reality; 2) I wanted to hold my son's heart with him (as I wish to do with you on Monday night). This was a sort of next death of innocence for him. He's had a dream of being a good cop since he was small, and had held out believing he could be a force for good with others who actually care. In a flash, he sees it differently: not even possible.
I've got mama grief for George Floyd too, because what happened to him might have been his mother's worst fear, certainly not what she ever wanted for her boy. He grew up to be a man people spoke well of, a big-hearted human being who cared about those coming behind him enough to make a video with a plea for an end to gun violence. (Scroll down on linked page for that video. Go ahead. Hear his voice. Look at his face.)
What I'll be doing with anyone who comes (or asks for replay) this Monday night (June 1, 2020, 6:30 pm ET to 8 pm ET):
much love & many blessings in these tender times, Jaya
Oh, dear ones, how normal is it for big feelings to sometimes hit hard as we navigate Corona times? Stomach-dropping fear anyone? Roiling, buzzing anxiety? Chest-gripping grief? I invite you to judge nothing—by which I always mean NOTICE that you're judging it and seek to release judgment: welcome yourself to the human race; meet whatever you're experiencing now knowing you can be feeling it only if millions of others feel it too.
I offer you 2 resources here:
1. The HEART MEDITATION is truly helpful (and has gotten some strong feedback from a couple of trusty wise ones I use to gauge effectiveness). You can do it either in the actual moment of meeting a strong emotion or when you simply choose to settle into the heart realm and find what's there. The meditation invites you to keep dropping in where perhaps you haven't yet—or never as you are right now in this fresh, all-things-new-all-things-possible moment.
2. The written part follows.
STEP-BY-STEP TACTICS TO GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY when strong emotions hit and you feel disconnected from love.
1. NOTICE AND MEET RESISTANCE.
This really means notice it and let it be there. You will resist. So get okay with that. But know that if you run with the resistance (otherwise stated, ignore it and let it dictate what you do or don't give attention to), you can't sort of reach around it to stroke and soothe what you're feeling. Resistance will take many forms, and may look like:
2. LOCATE YOUR WILLINGNESS TO MEET WHAT YOU'RE FEELING.
You don't have to make resistance go away! Once you notice it, accept that it's here; accept that we all resist. Then you can pause with it, breathe into it, and find your willingness to meet the strong emotion itself. Beyond your resistance is the thing that will set you free. Here, that means that beyond resistance is the emotion for you to meet directly by dropping in with it and feeling it fully.
You might simply tell yourself: Something feels awful here. Because something that feels awful is here, I'm willing to meet it. I'm willing to feel it. I can't just will it away, so I'll drop in to see what it has for me. I'm willing to feel bad, for now. I'm willing to feel whatever any human being might feel. I'm willing not to abandon myself here and now.
3. FEEL WHAT YOU'RE FEELING AS YOU INTEND CONNECTING TO LOVE.
Every emotion carries with it a call to love. Wow.
No matter how painful a feeling, no matter how close to the fear or hate end of the spectrum it may register, it only wants to call you back to yourself, back to self-acceptance, back to love.
It's actually amazingly easy to feel what you're feeling—as opposed to analyzing it, thinking about or mulling over the related story and all its gory details, or letting it engulf you in a toxic way.
You know what I mean by that toxic engulfment? You're there if you feel wretched with it; if you're despairing (even to the point of questioning your life's worth or declaring yourself hopeless for living it well); if you're steeping in your worst beliefs about yourself, others, your prospects, life itself. You're there if you feel all alone.
So how do you feel a feeling? This post will take you there (This is what X feels like), even as it connects you to all the other beings who feel it too, so you don't get lost in being alone or in feeling singular in or singled out by what you're feeling. Chapter 3 of Scooch! offers a lot on that topic in the Mind the Pain Body section (ch. 3 covers Mind the Pain Body, Tend the Mind).
More than anything, you drop in. You give yourself to locating IN THE BODY the specifics of what you feel:
Be a scientist collecting data on the body. See if you can do that without a lot of words or naming (or work up to that as you experiment with this method). Ultimately, all you're trying to do is FULLY feel whatever you're feeling, and feel it where it is—in the body.
Call on the breath as you do this. FEEL the movement of the breath as it already registers in your body. Then gently direct your breath to the place of pain.
That's all the pain body wants: awareness and breath. So drop in. Fully. Drop into the pain as you would something that feels great, relaxed, letting it have you: think of easing down into a jacuzzi and letting go, releasing all resistance.
4. SEEK TO LOVE WHAT YOU'RE FEELING—AND LOVE YOURSELF FEELING IT (HINT: neutrality is a great support).
This heart meditation (mentioned & linked above) will walk you through. Read on for some words to explain it.
Start with simply intending love. Remember that love doesn't need ANYTHING put on or forced. It doesn't need you to try to locate some approximation of feeling love. Love doesn't necessarily come with any particular feeling attached. You don't need to rev up inner flavors of sweet or kind or whatever loving means to you—or rather, to your disconnected self. Just let love be a powerful, neutral force that doesn't need you to cough up anything in order to show up and make itself known. It's already who you are in your essence. It already drenches the entire Universe. So simply intend connecting to that.
Since you're already dropping into the feeling and breathing it (if you've followed instructions in #3), now bring your awareness to your heart center and invite love. Relax muscles you don't need on the out-breath so you stay out of effort, and simply breathe in the intention, the invitation, the truth of love's inherent location everywhere—accessible from this specific area of the body (aka, the heart chakra).
You've JUST been exploring a feeling. See if you can head from that feeling/sensation to some neutral acceptance, even expectation, of love. Love as ever-present, inherently yours, beyond any need to earn it. Scooch that way and don't worry about getting there.
But let me stress the idea of NEUTRAL. It's powerful to just let love be, call it in, let it come as it will as you sit here as you are: you need ask nothing specific of love; it asks nothing of you except the letting go, the allowing.
You'll love yourself better if you cultivate some connection to neutrality inside yourself, especially in painful or self-disapproving moments. It's neutral, in fact—because these are normal human things—to feel strong emotions, to feel out of control, to be confused and in the dark, to have a bad taste in your mouth, to have a wildly beating heart, to fear you won't be okay, to disconnect from your best self, to lose track of all hope, to not know what to do next. It gets easier to drop self-judgment if you can hold a neutrality toward anything you've habitually disapproved of (in yourself or others).
So I'll leave you there. This is a practice. Make it an experiment (perhaps a grand experiment while you're at it). Let it take you wherever it will. Come back and seek to meet yourself, your emotions, the heart space again and again and again. Especially during intense, hard times of collective fear, grief, and letting go, as we find ourselves living in now in the time of Corona.
Love & blessings, Jaya
4 Things to remind yourself early & often
(which will connect you to self & to guidance)
1. Bring it to now: Come back from the future (quit predicting what you don't want) and come back from the past (quit accruing towers of one thing stacked on top of another so it's all too much) and don't try to figure it all out. What can you do right now to align with this moment? Notice that you're equipped for this one moment.
2. Come back to the breath: Breathing is a felt, sensory experience, but we typically don't feel it. I love to invite people not to breeaaaaathe or even to take a deep breath, but to simply drop into the breath; follow it; stay with it; feel it. Feel its soothing, its kindness, its calming capacity. Feel how it brings you to the core of your being and brings your whole nervous system down a notch or two. It's powerful to take some moments dropping in with the breath and come back to yourself.
3. You don't have to figure it all out right now: This is a great thing to tell yourself to get out of your head, out of fix-it mode, out of believing you're not okay till you have it all sorted out and see the way forward. Actually, if you don't see it all clearly, then you don't have to figure it out right now. Soothe yourself instead (see Come back to the breath above).
4. You are guided: Life wants to get you where you're going. It wants to feed you, provide for your needs, heal and evolve you, keep bringing you closer to love. When you think you need to know what the future will hold, or insist on a blueprint for getting there (when there isn't one), or--yuck--fault yourself because you must be doing something wrong if you don't see the way forward: STOP. Quit thinking you're all alone and it's all up to you to find your way through the dark. You're guided. Connect to guidance.
Love & blessings, Jaya
heyyyy. LOOK RIGHT for CORONA SUPPORT label under CATEGORIES. Find posts most likely to support you as you move through the fascinating challenge of a pandemic. You're equipped to meet this, and to meet yourself kindly on this journey!
ppsssssst. LOOK RIGHT for CORONA SUPPORT label under CATEGORIES. Find posts most likely to support you as you move through the fascinating challenge of a pandemic. You're equipped to meet this, and to meet yourself kindly on this journey!
This post was originally written in 2013. I'm bringing it back because here we are collectively pushed to our walls during this pandemic. This offers guidance to use it all for growth, healing, walking ourselves through kindly — not making it harder by believing we should be gliding through in the sweetest, most unflappable version of ourselves. Let's get the gifts that are in this for us.
(this polaroid is a pic of one of my sons photographed by the other: courtesy of zwalshphotography)
I SHOULD BE BEYOND THIS
Why is it that the very people who really show up for their personal-growth work are also the ones who love to lay trips on themselves about how they should be further along than they are? The more they get a handle on the equanimity thing, the more they believe they should be unflappable. The more they clear their judgments and divest themselves of should, the more they believe they should never judge. They're downright horrified when something really throws them off, especially if any reaction on their part makes them feel mean, judgmental, disconnected, unforgiving, sad, hopeless, despairing — go ahead, name your ugly. The shame they then feel (and doesn't shame feel bad enough?) packs a double wallop because they're ashamed of feeling shame. They've been completely bamboozled by this crazy thing they tell themselves, “I should be beyond this.”
If you have any capacity for questioning your negative, critical, judgmental thoughts about others, then please don't believe the thoughts that would dictate a list of shoulds requiring you to move consistently through whatever life brings in the most serene and blameless way. If you've eavesdropped on your thoughts, you know how your version goes. I'd like to make a case that you shouldn't be beyond anything (except, of course, whatever you're actually beyond, and you may forget what that is because it won't be showing up anymore). And if you're capable of ever laying the I should be beyond this trip on yourself, join me now in considering it carefully so that next time you find yourself there, you may see how to show up differently and actually benefit from the experience. (It really helps to look at what we do while we're not doing it.)
It's my belief that life's job is to throw you off and push you to your walls. It will use all manner of creative innovation and maddening redundancy to do this. Listen to yourself go over the evidence (out loud or in your head, again) of all that happened before you lost it. (And then I was going to run back in to get it, even though there wasn't a second to spare, and that's when I learned I'd locked myself out. Of course, this was the moment he had the gall to say. ...) Didn't it take a fascinating sequence of happenings or several things rushing in all at once for you to blow your fuse or let something so important fall through the cracks or go back to feeling depressed or otherwise forget yourself in such a spectacular way? Didn't it involve people or events pushing up against some major button — otherwise stated, something unhealed inside you that's tender and vulnerable and oozing with something ugly that you don't know — haven't yet known — how to clear?
Life's job is to clear your unhealed places. It will do this by creating whatever situation or sequence of events you need in order to have it all brought right up to the surface. When this happens, chances are very good that you'll sometimes React. You'll sometimes behave as the worst version of yourself — the one you may have thought your spiritual practices or personal-growth work or even the simple fact of time made obsolete. This is where you might feel horrible about your response and take it as evidence that you're a bad person after all, that you're not worthy of being a parent (friend, lover, spouse, teacher, mentor, therapist, boss, coach — whatever), that you're a complete failure.
Here's another possibility: welcome the whole experience. This includes catching (but not believing) the thoughts that judge your behaviors and emotions and tell you you should be beyond this. Please don't confuse welcome as meaning bright smiles and joyful feelings. This is not a Tupperware party or a picnic of any kind. But it could be your liberation.
To welcome it, start by simply saying, “I am willing.” If you're not there yet, make it a question: “Are you willing?” Here it is, like it or not. There's not a thing you can undo about this moment or the ones that preceded it and landed you right here. It's good to get to I'm willing in those moments when there's nowhere else to go. And I'm willing can certainly coexist with I hate this and This is not what I wanted. Still, it acknowledges, Here I am.
(Here's a quick illustration in case you need one: If you're walking in the snowy cold and you're not home yet and there's no one stopping to offer a ride, what good does it do to tell yourself the lie that you're not willing? Of course you're willing: here you are, walking in the snow. I am willing puts you back in alignment with reality, it's honest, and it reconnects you to choice — because it certainly is an option to choose that moment to lie down and die.)
Why should you be willing? Because when life pushes you to your walls, those are the moments you get to move closer to the very thing you most want for yourself, speaking on the soul level. It's interesting and maybe ironic that those are also the moments when you feel farthest away from that, and the times you potentially like and believe in yourself the least and see a bunch of evidence accruing all at once for the likelihood you'll never get there. But will you take in this radical thought? This very scenario, all of your reactions and self-judgments included, is precisely the thing to get you where you want to be.
What is it that you most want? Maybe you want to be and live love. How can you do that unless you're willing to show up and love yourself when you feel hideously ugly after you've screamed and yelled at your kids or your lover? Maybe you want to stand consistently in your power. How can you do that if you don't encounter the person or circumstance that makes you wilt and clam up and fail to draw an important boundary? Maybe you want to be and live peace and practice tolerance and forgiveness. How can you do that if you can't pardon your murderous self on death row? Do you want to be self-sufficient? Then don't you need to face the thing that makes you abandon yourself? Then there are those who actually want to reach enlightenment. Wow. Well, if that's you, if there's even one thing left that could make you drop that intention in favor of attacking someone else or yourself, don't you need to bump up against that thing? Wouldn't you welcome it? Are you willing?
Whatever you're trying to get to in this life, all of life will help you get there. It's a blessed fact that this sometimes looks like loving faces beaming at you, things falling into your lap, helpers showing up right when you need them — that's the good stuff. And it's just as true (and truly, just as good) that it sometimes looks like you weeping on the hard stairs or putting a hole through the wall or speaking hate to the one you most love. Sometimes it looks like you all wrapped up in the cloak of shame with no idea how to peel the thing off, and suspecting you deserve it as a permanent outfit. Maybe you could find some nice scarlet letter to embroider on for a nice splash of color. ...
So when you lose it or behave badly or get hopelessly confused; when you go back to whatever version of angry, jealous, mean, vindictive, clueless, or spineless that you thought was way behind you; when you react in any way that feels mean, judgmental, disconnected, unforgiving, sad, hopeless, despairing—go ahead, name your ugly—can you make space for that, too, instead of then turning all of that on yourself? What if this too is admissible as part of the growth process you know you're showing up for? What if your essential beauty is still intact? And what if exactly what's happening, including the worst of what you feel about yourself in the moment, is your one-way ticket home?
love & blessings, Jaya
Okay, I know the thing these days is succinct posts with practical bullet points and sound bites. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m going with
My object here is to invite you to use the holidays for your becoming, not for a habitual replay of old stories and bygone identities. Use this time of festivity, connection, and sacred renewal to honor your healing and evolution.
A Story of My Hapless Mother and Holiday Misery
In my growing-up story, the woman who played the mother character was both beautiful and flimsy. She had no concept of her own beauty, no solid grasp on her own goodness and inherent worthiness. (Both of these had always been constantly, in clipped comments and spiteful tones, thrown into question by her own mother.)
Once, when we lived in France (I was maybe seven), I remember creeping into the living room during a gathering that featured grown-ups speaking French and English with more accents than I could track. My eyes flashing across the room, I captured a live snapshot of my Arkansas mom taking a drag off a cigarette. My mom didn’t smoke! But hey—in 1960-something, just anyone can reach for that prop in a smoky social scene and get away with it. I was struck in that unforgettable moment by her beauty. She could’ve been a movie star, from where I stood in semi-hiding.
There were other such moments of brief, dazzling light shone on the subject of my mother, but they never stuck. She would always go back to her fretting self, probably jerked into that known place by the mother an ocean away whom she kept close in her mind, whose worn voice played in shrill loops over anything new my mom might try to tell herself. No certain opinion, no clear creation (she sometimes stripped old furniture and infused it with new life), no authentic laughter startled out of her in an unguarded moment ever ushered in the woman she wanted to be.
Nope, she reverted every time to the frazzled mom who could cry for days or scream for hours, because it was all too much for her. Dad’s work called him away, a lot, to spend two and three weeks at a time in Spain, Portugal, Italy—wherever; wherever the women were sexier and stronger than she was. She was stuck in a small Normandy village, alone and adrift among the Frogs, inept in every way, challenged even to ask the grocer a question.
She didn’t trust her capacity to hold her husband’s attention, to be a good mother, to put any kind of beauty into the world, despite the fact that she could and often would do all three—or dabble at least, till her insecurities ridiculed her in my grandmom’s voice into getting small again. (If she were really so small, she wouldn’t have felt so trapped and miserable there, but she didn’t have that interpretation at her disposal. She didn’t have tools for moving from her habitual thoughts to something kinder and truer.)
Holidays during the years in France actually still glitter in my memory. I believe these were actually fun events, with warmer-than-normal family feelings infusing the festive scenes, and a smattering of gifts wrapped in gold and doused in magic. But then, just before I turned ten, we moved back to the U.S., and that put us in driving distance of my mom’s childhood home, or what she still simply called home (not yet having been able, with all the corporate moves, to truly make her own).
This launched years of dreaded and dreadful holiday events. There was no choice, or any concept of possible choice, in the matter of what we were doing for the holidays. That decision was made by cultural expectations upheld with a vengeance by upright human beings: we were going to be with family. This would include predictable church scenes, predictable meal-preparation and meal scenes, predictable gift-opening scenes. Some of these things were just fine on the whole, or seemed to be, but for my mother, it all represented nonstop encounters with her demons. I learned to discern, over the years, the constant subtext in things said by her mother and sister and the increasingly obvious preference given by the one to the other. My mother always paled in comparison to her more glamorous, more confident sister.
Once returned to our nuclear-family reality, we then cycled through the predictable scenes of my mother processing the self-esteem trauma reactivated by holiday events. First, she was just pissy, peevish, prone to small explosions. As the pressure built, she started giving my father hell for all he didn’t do for her—and not that she was wrong, especially with Uncle Pill and Aunt Glam so freshly in view. As with the glaring contrast in the love my grandmom doled out between her two daughters, no one could miss how the diamonds and finery Aunt Glam uncovered from her husband's gift boxes put to shame the not-much and not-memorable stuff my mother pulled from hers.
From there, she moved to giving her kids hell for all that we thought of her (we thought she was our servant; we thought she should do everything for us that we would never have even an ounce of gratitude for; we thought that she had no right to any happiness of her own—actually, all wrong, and all very confusing to the kids involved, stated as trembling facts, punctuated with slaps). There were predictable scenes of her going silent, crying over slow, morose ironing or tense chopping of onions and slapping together of casseroles. There were the quiet moments she got lost in a book—an activity that allowed her to pretty much disappear and maybe feel only half-bad about it. (I liked the books best, feeling maybe only half-anxious about them.)
In the culture my mother grew up in, stepping from ill-favored daughter to hastily taken wife with no transitional time to know herself and choose her path, she certainly had no choice over how to spend the holidays. She had no concept of her guidance system that let her know which way to head through inner tugs, through sensations of contraction versus expansion, through emotions to pay attention to for the information they bring. She knew only rules in a punitive Universe, embodied by a paternal white-bearded God figure that she was not allowed to question, and wouldn’t dare re-envision.
I’m so fortunate for where I am in time. I’ve noticed a million times over, throughout my adult life, that I’ve got a wealth of resources my mom didn’t have. I even smoked freely for a brief time and inhabited my own beauty guiltlessly, if not with total comfort. I rejected the religion of my childhood categorically and took years of trial-and-error experimentation to rebuild a belief system that honored the spiritual truth of my being—something I was entirely and effortlessly in touch with as a child. (It helped that the France years meant virtually no religious constraints, as there was no Baptist church in spitting or driving distance, and my parents trusted no other religion.)
My Invitallenge to You.
If your holidays are miserable and your holiday choices are based in obligation or some lie you tell yourself about having no choice, I want to sweetly ask: what are you doing? This is not 1960-something.
Please gauge the evolution. Like me, you have healed and evolved beyond your parents. Would you like to keep evolving? Are you willing to use anything and everything to keep coming closer to your guidance system, holidays included? Will you practice presence anywhere and any time of year, especially since presence is simply about tuning in to what’s here right now, and the here-and-now still exists during the holidays? Reminder that presence allows you to access choice, because your connection to the felt, sensory experience of this moment, as it actually is, allows you to bypass autopilot tendencies; question antiquated assumptions and stories; and reach right now for a choice that actually makes sense (to you).
Actionable Bullet Points.
I just talked to a brilliant and beautiful friend who's staying away from family of origin this year during the holidays. It took her years to get to this level of self-permission. I invite you to it. What I invite you to, more specifically, is just the level of permission and boundaries you need. And if you choose to engage with anyone at all who brings up stress for you or in any way makes you question your goodness or well-being, please get lots of supports in place. (Here's a solid holiday support I offer, an audio program with written supplements, priced at $22 for 2019 Holidays.)
Why not use this time of festivity, connection, and sacred renewal to honor your healing and evolution?
Love & blessings, Jaya
Seriously: Check out my Holiday program, Before They Drive You Crazy, TAKE THE WHEEL. It's chock-full of spiritual-meets-practical supports.
And here's my free pdf that offers a formula and script for holding your boundaries during hard conversations with difficult people.
Get the free pdf lays out the premises for an experiment in conscious dating.