This is BRIEF—not because it rhymes so nicely with RELIEF, but because—springtime.
So take it in like a big clearing breath, then run play outside. (Addendum: Or in the time of Corona, carry on in the best way you see to LIVE YOUR LIFE.)
You know that when the mind is chewing and belching in a rambling rumination, you can't be fully present to the brilliant buzz and birdsong (or to WHATEVER'S actually going on here and now).
Let's cut through the illusions that keep rumination in place:
Try these 3 steps toward getting OUT of rumination:
One more metaphor to illustrate those 3 steps:
To go with gum and hamsters, let's add a dog on a leash. Notice (witness) when it goes for the disgusting random foodstuff, interrupt it at once (no need to think anything through!), and redirect—head ANY other way. (Argh, canine, was that even ever edible? Argh, mind, aren't you so disgusted with this endless review of what needs no reviewing?)
May your communing with all things spring unfold in glorious presence.
Love & blessings, Jaya
Join me, if you will, in a new vision of love. As you read this to try it on, you might put many faces & kinds of relationships to the word BELOVED. I invite you to stretch yourself in love, stretch your ideas around love, stretch into new behaviors in love. I invite you to a love overhaul--a grand experiment, if you will.
My aim, which I may grope toward gracelessly & will only achieve imperfectly, is to love as purely as I’m able at any given moment. I love myself at least enough to let love be pure perfection in the imperfect ways I give and receive it as I evolve. I love others by appreciating and accepting the gorgeously imperfect love with which they grace me. I am willing to grapple with, to keep meeting, what challenges me in the realms of love.
Toward the beloved, I seek to be in a state of ongoing discovery (awe, curiosity, joy!), instead of holding to all I’ve decided so far about who they are (and worse, letting that become an accruing list of here-we-go-again grievances). My love gets to allow their becoming, and to acknowledge the journey that they’re on beyond me and sometimes (I am wowed by this privilege daily) with or near me.
I allow the journey of the beloved to follow its own timeline, not the one I would draw up—as if I had such drafting skills!—and not the one my impatience or discomfort would demand. When I require others to make me comfortable or to pander to my fears or to fix what’s unhealed inside me, I have stepped out of love. I accept this. I must and I will step out of love; others must and they will, too. It’s madness to expect anything else. I aim to witness with no judgment when either of us slips off-track—or to witness the judgment of self or other, and start there, soothe that first. I aim to simply call myself back to love.
My ongoing intention is swift course-correction back to love. I am in love with this very intention!
Maybe I don’t instantly feel love in such course-correcting moments. I know there’s no problem. Sometimes simply reversing the direction of my focus is all that’s needed to get me back to love (and eventually the feelings always follow): I shift the focus away from changing, correcting, instructing the beloved (even with the innocent motive to help them get me!) and bring the focus inward instead, toward soothing and perhaps better understanding myself. (The conversations with the other can follow, from a more grounded and kinder place.)
If something in my interactions with the beloved pushes a button or rubs up against a raw, unhealed place inside me, I am not shocked or dismayed; I do not believe something has gone wrong. I do seek to soothe myself. I do deconstruct the old, wrong decisions I made about myself or about love or about the way life works. I will bring love to myself first. I will love the beloved so much that I will take care of myself first, so great is my clarity that my well-being is no one else’s job and that my purest love comes from a place of self-love, of wholeness within myself. (I also allow my self-love and wholeness to be works in progress, dynamic entities or energies that wax and wane.)
I understand that it happens, in love connections of all kinds, in both directions, that buttons are pushed, core wounds are triggered, pain arises. It is not the job of love to prevent this. It is not a failure of love when this occurs. In fact, it’s the opposite at play: the job of love is to expose what needs to heal, so the hand of love will brush against every available bruise without meaning to, without trying.
When it’s my button pushed or my pain prodded, I well know the tendency to make that about the wrongs of the other: what they do wrong, how they don’t show up for me, the maddening way they phrase it, the way they’ve done this before and have failed to hear what I said about the impact on me. I aim to make it about me instead, my greater self-understanding, my healing and evolution, my expansion into greater love.
I aim to hear in my own mind and speech anything that resembles: Correct yourself faster for me, see what you can’t yet see because I insist that you see it for me, do the impossible to please me and make me feel loved, be who you are not—so I can relax. I know how to course-correct. I can come back to I release you to your life; I release myself to mine. I can and will come back to love, even if all that means at first is feeling the pain, soothing myself, loving the beloved for a moment from afar, as best I can, coming close again with nothing understood or just a fragment of wavering light to tender.
I will sing with Iris Dement, Just because I’m hurting, that don’t mean that you’ve done something wrong. I am willing to apply that going in both directions. People hurt on planet Earth. People hurt in human relationships. Sometimes I hurt in mine; sometimes the beloved hurts in relationship to me. Still, I’m willing to love.
I love myself so much that I’m willing to let the beloved be mad at me or disappointed in me --and I won't use that as an excuse to believe there’s something wrong with me. In those moments, I go after my pain to soothe it--I do not go after the beloved to see who they want me to be now. I go after love to embody it. I don't go after the beloved when I’m unclear with myself. I will not abandon myself. I will not think I’m bad or wrong when their pain is called forth, when their buttons have been pushed (as they must be; as they will be).
I am willing to hear them talk when they’re ready and to listen carefully, to listen with love. This does not mean that I rush to fix their reactions—never mind seek to prevent them! I allow the beloved to be in their process. I invite them back to connection, to communication, and to love in right timing. I may get that timing wrong. I’m willing.
I am willing to listen to the beloved and I am willing to look at myself, but I am not willing to automatically think that I’m wrong just because another thinks I am. I will always feel compassion when my phrasing or timing—or whatever—came in the wrong package for them and brought up their pain. I am sincerely sorry when my reactivity or wrong interpretation or personality tendencies got played out in a way that was hurtful to the beloved, and I want to make it right however I may be able to do so.
But I will not grovel. I cannot be sorry that their stuff comes up with me: it must, it will, and I trust they’re equipped to meet it; I trust we’re both equipped to find love again together. I will not be sorry when my stuff comes up with them: it must, it will, and I trust I’m equipped to meet it; I trust we’re both equipped to find love again together.
Love & blessings, Jaya
(Practice during the holidays, REV IT UP DURING A PANDEMIC, carry on year-round!)
Could it be true that NOTHING IS INHERENTLY STRESSFUL? Whoa, what?
The thing is, if something MUST be stressful, then stress is the only thing possible once you’re in that something. If the holidays are stressful, then, stress. If work this time of year is stressful, then, stress.
If, however, that same something is not inherently stressful, then … what else is possible?
It’s been almost 15 years since I encountered that idea through Byron Katie. This writing is not about Katie or her inquiry process, but hey, I love to give credit where credit is due. Um, and I used to be ridiculously quick to declare stress, overwhelm, exhaustion, and ultimately how very depressing it all was. I’m still stunned that I live with so much ease, that I have for more than a decade. It’s kind of amazing that I’ve made a motto of There’s no problem.
Here’s what I did: I launched an experiment to test the idea that nothing is inherently stressful.
I wasn’t convinced of this no-inherent-stress thing. I’m still not. (The experiment is ongoing.) My visual imagination can conjure up scenarios that would seem to me inherently stressful (how about a war zone, or my kid in ICU?).
But it takes much less for most people to agree to obvious, automatic, absolutely warranted stress: moving, for starters, or divorcing. Or getting together with family of origin (or your partner’s!) over the holidays. I’ve stopped considering such things stressful. In fact, declaring stress seems to me a deplorable waste of my life force, which I’d rather use to be present to any situation I find myself in and get myself through it with as much grace (clarity, humor, kindness) as possible.
So I invite you to your own experiment. And (at the distinct risk of repeating myself), if you’re going to bother experimenting at all, make it a grand experiment!
Here are some things you might try in order to play with the possibility that nothing must be categorically stressful. Really (really) try them on. Keep coming back to them. Keep practicing. Leave no scenario or individual out of the reckoning. When you think, No really, this, STRESSFUL, ask yourself, What if nothing-inherently-stressful could work here too? It’s a great way to open to new lenses to look through.
There’s nothing to lose and plenty to gain. If the experiment makes a fool of you, you’ll be a more open-minded, more present, less stressed-out fool. Not half-bad, right?
Start with this basic premise:
So with a basic acceptance that life does what it does and people do what they do (oh, and you’ll have to keep coming around to accept that again and again, now and now and now), and that you’re in charge of you—not of other human beings and all of life--then you can get present to any situation (whatever its comfort level) and go about the business of creating the greatest possible ease in the context of reality.
From there, go into and/or be in any tricky situation with a mindset of not-inherently-stressful. Remind yourself:
Go in expecting to keep bumping up against your old beliefs of STRESS!—as they’re likely to kick in as quickly as you feel discomfort. This will serve you much better than imagining that an open mind going in will translate to freedom from old stories. Oh, no no no. So if you don’t need it to mean that, now you get to simply keep your eyes open and show up for what’s actually happening. (That’s a whole chapter in my book, Scooch! You’re already doing much better in the ease department if you’re willing to show up for what’s actually happening, not what you wanted to have happen or thought should happen.)
Stay in witness mode while you’re in the potentially (not inherently) stressful situation. I love to remind people to reach for the compassionate, dispassionate witness once you’re consciously witnessing. That is, witness with compassionate eyes that will look upon the scene (and you in it) with loving kindness; witness with dispassionate eyes that can hold a neutral gaze no matter what’s going on, that won’t get sucked into any story. The compassionate, dispassionate witness does not judge!
And know that the witness is a part of you, sitting right next to the scared kid, the teen who wants them all to fuck off, the escape artist who’s eyeing the emptying wine bottle. It’s fine: witness all of it, judge none of it (which means, drop out of judgments as you notice them, and get okay with their lingering presence if they won’t just march on command).
Let me point you to a couple of free resources. In November, I sent out recipes for going through the holidays with ease, and there are some great strategies there. (Use the headings to read what’s relevant to you. They’re all given near the top as well as throughout the text.) I’ve also created a 3-page pdf that lays out a clear formula with clear examples for staying firm (boundaried!) in difficult conversations. (It’s great to use with manipulative people or convincers.)
I’ve also got an audio program with written and audio supports that’s chock-full of super-helpful, clear, applicable mindsets, tools, tactics, with stories and examples. I taped it this December with so-called holiday stress in mind, and I’ve gotten fantastic (and sweetly grateful) feedback from takers. Check out the (Before they drive you crazy) Take the Wheel Program, which puts you in charge of your well-being in any situation, no matter how others are behaving ($55). (This means you can’t be a victim of what they do or don’t do, or of any circumstances, or of some concept of inherent stress!) This program, by the way, will help you apply the concepts in this writing and take them further.
Finally, to work in an ongoing way with this simple idea of nothing-inherently-stressful, you can learn to witness and monitor your feeling states and thoughts and use the information they give to point yourself consciously to self-care in the moment. You’ll also get swifter at course-correcting from upsetting thoughts to ones that feel more peaceful and empowering, and from your own powerless reactions that you disapprove of to quick shifts back on-track. Monitoring your feeling states as you go, you’ll also catch thoughts more quickly and stay out of what creates spiraling momentum you can’t get out of! All of this is laid out in my $33 Expansion program, along with lots on resistance and making your way with the greatest ease along a path of least resistance, one available step at a time.
For the record, these offerings are part of a current intention to offer affordable programs full of hefty, deep, nuanced content (sprinkled with humor and, um, occasional profanity) for those looking for solid, low-cost support that doesn’t require a one-on-one coaching process. You can listen to them at home, in spurts, in your right timing. (I always welcome interactions with real people—I'm happy to get your questions by email. The expansion program includes a custom-made audio for you, which I create and send along once you send me the optional homework.) I’m excited about this new programming, and the feedback that keeps coming in tells me it’s on-point. I invite you to these great offerings to support you now (in the stress season) and anytime.
Love and blessings, Jaya
Part of trusting your guidance system is trusting in your capacity to course-correct: not to get it right!
Course-correction is a power—may even be a super-power. You have the power at any given moment to simply course-correct toward what feels better to you than where you find yourself to be or what you thought you were aiming for. Isn’t that kind of amazing?
Sound too easy? Here are some typical ways you might hamper your innate ability to simply and swiftly course-correct anytime.
You’re too attached to the course you’ve set--so you’re not open to guidance about where to head NOW.
Maybe you need to be right or you believe you have to finish what you started or you really really want that thing you were heading toward. But guidance comes in now, for now. You may be guided to Santa Fe and find yourself called to Seattle midway. Santa Fe is just what got your attention and sent you roughly heading the right way! Will you let go now and head Northward as new information comes in?
Reminder that the Universe can provide the general thing you’re after in multiple forms. A great way to counter attachment to a specific form is to remember the general thing you were after: a fulfillment, a compatibility, a connection; a sense of place that felt like home; a new, heightened level of expressing your intelligence or artistic vision—perhaps your entire being. Name the general intention and open to how many specific forms could fulfill that.
You have too many bad feelings about where you find yourself right now.
What if you didn’t judge the status quo? You may have regret or self-recrimination about what got you here. You may feel defeated or discouraged because of how someone else or your own body or life itself seems to have betrayed you. You may categorically hate where you are and be embroiled in the very real complications of your current reality. What if you entirely accepted where you are right now?
Invitation back to nonresistance! I just read words from inspired pelvic pain coach Lorraine Faehndrich saying that her healing began when she stopped fighting her body and everything seemingly wrong with it, and from that space of acceptance simply started listening to what it was telling her. (And her body did not withhold! Inner guidance!) Likewise, my sleep class kicks off with an invitation to nonresistance—hence its name, Give It a Rest: Get Your Sleep Back by Letting It Go. Participants begin by accepting sleeplessness and sleep deprivation, and end up resting better and … sleeping! Byron Katie’s first book is called Loving What Is because she invites readers into nonresistance—or as she puts it, out of an argument with reality. “Argue with reality and you lose,” she loves to say, “but only 100 percent of the time.” You’re fine wherever you find yourself at any given moment, and the course-correction asked of you is within your skill set.
You think course-correction requires knowing exactly where to go or what to do next.
No no no no no! Just think of it as always good enough to head roughly in the right direction. The tweaks (and radical shifts) are made along the way as you keep paying attention! Trust that.
You’re having trust malfunctions!
You don’t trust life to show you the way. (For life, plug in Source/the stars/Higher Power—you name it for you.) Guidance has always been forthcoming and always will be.
You don’t trust yourself—what? To read the signs right? To stay the course? Pause to tune in to what you fault yourself for or expect yourself not to get right. Even if you’re right (and you probably are) about your history or tendencies, whatever you lack or whatever flaw you perceive in yourself will never be fully true. Identity is not fixed, your limitations are ready to become your new strengths, and you get to recreate yourself and your life as much as you care to do. You get to keep course-correcting toward more of what you want and who you most want to be.
You’re confusing letting go with giving up.
They feel really different. Letting go can feel downright good. If not, it will certainly bring relief and probably some sense of new possibility. At the very least, here comes a question like Now what? or What’s possible now? Some part of you can begin to feel the breeze from the open window now that you’ve shut that troublesome door. Giving up feels awful. It feels like defeat, heavy and contracted, and inspires self-loathing or at best instant regret and second-guessing. It feels like failing yourself (sometimes others—but see the next point for where worrying about that can get you!) Trust what brings relief and lightness: that’s part of your guidance system.
You’re listening to someone else’s opinion or advice instead of what’s coming from your inner guidance.
Hey, some people will quickly, and for years, default to failing themselves—as long as they never fail others. That’s always misguided. What’s right for you will be right for them, even if they fight you on it initially. Could be their weak self (or attached or unclear or unhealed self) calling you selfish for following your path. You must nonetheless follow your path. Make your guidance system more important than their unhealed stuff!
By the way, if you go to what someone else wants from you (or deems best for you) because they’ve called you a name or brought forth your worst fear, you’ve just succumbed to manipulation (which obviously isn’t coming from their highest self, and may or may not be conscious on their part). DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR PATH BASED ON MANIPULATIONS FROM OTHERS. (And hey, if you think you’re being manipulated but aren’t sure, I know a good coach. I’ve walked more than one soul out of confusion on that point—funny that being confused is a sign of being manipulated!—and back to clarity about their own knowing.)
Risk being selfish—or irresponsible or bad or all over the place or whatever they’re calling you that cuts you to the quick--and just go when everything else but your fear calls you elsewhere.
A few more things that could hamper swift course-correction:
Love & blessings, Jaya
P.S. For more on advice (and when it's right or wrong for you), See Want inner muddle? Seek outer guidance.
My invitation to you here is to practice ongoing self-forgiveness so you can live free and clear!
Have you noticed how we human beings bind up our energies by getting stuck in small and large ways we can’t forgive ourselves? In other words, in not forgiving ourselves, we're not free. It doesn’t much matter whether it’s some seemingly huge, shaming event—the affair, the ugly breakup, the fiasco at work—or something minor that’s been blown up in our minds—the rampant p.m.s. the other day, the rude moment with a customer service person on the phone: either way, we get all tied up with some past vision of ourselves that we allow to define us. We give it the power to limit how we can show up here and now and who we can become next.
Simply put, we can’t be present when we’ve got feelers out to some old story we think we have to keep checking in with and referring to. If that past story involves something unforgiven toward ourselves, we walk around feeling like a bad person, like there’s some wrong in our lives that colors everything else, like we're not worthy of better than this. We can't dance with our potential. We can’t even be at ease!
At the School for The Work, I heard Byron Katie talk about moving without a trace from one moment to the next. Her words struck such a chord inside me. I felt like I never did that—like it wasn’t in my repertoire! It was as if some Velcro or another always kept me stuck to something or many things that should be bygone. I saw for the first time how this kept me from being fully present—or fully free, fully me, fully anything!
Just try to get through a human life without having done some(sizable)thing, that could bring on shame when put under a microscope. Just try to get through a month—sometimes a day or an hour—without some little moments that just aren’t the most sterling examples of the levels of lovingkindness and serenity you’re capable of. What if you gave yourself full permission to be human? Can you let yourself witness your bad moments without judging or attacking or shaming yourself? You might learn from your observations if you just allow those moments and get curious about them. You might also simply course-correct into the next moment and be fully there (with no sticky finger pointing back to what went before).
I had one of those, um, not-so-shiny evenings with my children recently. I growled at one kid (really, I felt so frustrated that I just let out this warped, oversized feline growl), and I railed at the other, overriding the look on his face and the knowing in my gut that I'd completely departed the realm of clean communication. I'm sure I said what I needed to say three times over, instead of the once that would have done or, better, instead of waiting for a calm moment another day—like most space-sharing issues, it was nothing that wouldn't keep. And I'm sure I didn't speak sweetly. Okay, you know that harsh-Mama off-key strident tone that you just don’t want to hear coming out of you? When I went to bed, I felt all disturbed. I felt mean. Mean and rotten.
Lying in bed, I said my forgiveness prayer, which is a reconstruction of something I heard Marianne Williamson teach some time ago. Let me be clear: I have no idea what her words were, but I learned the concept from her. Also, because she elucidates A Course in Miracles, her language is full of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. My version drops all that. I have people send it out to whatever God or Higher Power they connect to, the Universe, the Force—whatever: God or current resident.
Here's the prayer applied to the self: “I forgive myself. And where I can't or don't know how, Universe, you forgive me for me, and hold that while I catch up to it. I acknowledge that it is done. Somewhere beyond time and space, the forgiveness is complete.”
After I said the forgiveness prayer that night, I witnessed my behavior in my head retroactively. I saw very clearly that I had simply exhausted myself that day by walking far more than my body was ready to walk in the wake of hip surgery. That failure in self-care cost me my patience with my children. (It's very good to notice what your lapses in self-care cost you and others.) I looked at the good reasons I had walked so much (the innocent motive* for the lapse: my son and I were on a joyful mission to find him some boots) and I told myself I would be more careful henceforth to figure in my limitations—because that works better and is kinder for all involved. What follows is important: in the name of not telling myself lies, I put specific application to this broad concept. I decided to check in with myself on school nights (this could mean lying down!) at least half an hour before time to cook dinner. After that, I felt as caught up to the forgiveness as I was going to get that night, and I slept well. The next morning, when I woke one beautiful son, he was just my son: he wasn't the boy I'd been mean to the night before.
Thanks to The Work of Byron Katie and the School for The Work, I no longer tolerate holding on to grievances against myself. It's too painful, and I don't like unnecessary pain. And it disrupts the peace that I love to cultivate on an ongoing basis. I'm stunned at the self-loathing people allow to take hold in them, to take up the air waves in their heads, to fill them, body and soul. Actually, I recognize it quite well, and for years never imagined it was possible to be without it.
It's possible. It's even imperative. Do whatever you need to do to question your thoughts about any punishment you deserve, anything that's proof you're not worthy, anything that you must hold on to—perhaps to make sure you never do it again. Find (or at least notice that it's possible to find) a way to manage what you do or don't do again without the stress of never forgiving yourself. Forgive yourself daily for everything large or small you or anyone accuses you of. Because when you can move without a trace from one moment to the next, you can feel free and clear; you can spend a whole lot more time in peace and love; and you can do a whole lot more good both to yourself and to others on the planet. Practice it! Make it something to experiment with.
Love & blessings, Jaya
*Note that my friend Jude Spacks, a talented personal-growth coach, especially for creative types, is the one who taught me to think in terms of innocent motive. Whenever I use this term I think of her, and I'd like for you to think of her as well.