Join me if you will in a new vision of love for 2019. As you read this to try it on, 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 for 2019—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 without believing 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 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 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
The short version of this post has already appeared on my Facebook page—that glorious cyber-venue that has kindly forced me to cut to the chase and just say it in 849 characters or less (or they amputate with a hacksaw and plug in “See more” plus those three dubious dots that most who live with dignity and purpose won’t touch).
Right here. Facebook post/cut-to-the-chase version:
I'm fascinated by the outright aversion people sometimes feel toward the concept of self-love. Like it's a weird, freaky, even shameful thing to indulge in. If this is you, I invite you to the least gushy version of self-love you can scooch into. Don't imagine a beatific face beaming at you & telling you you're a perfect divine nugget-beam of love & light. How about just sitting kindly, even neutrally, with what you're hating right now, whatever you disapprove of or think isn't okay about a sensation inside you, a story of you, a cringy glimpse of yourself someone else tossed your way when you weren’t ready to duck? Could you just watch that dispassionately & tell yourself, “Hey, typical human stuff, Self. It's okay. There’s nothing wrong with you.” The beginning of the end of self-abandonment.
I could now go for more brief instead of expounding. Haiku anyone? (Zee?)
Dabbing my heart clean--
Fool to have poured honey there.
Damn tissue in shreds.
Bullet points, then (because there’s always more to say, isn’t there, especially about what it means not to abandon yourself ever again, and bullets can make a bunch of brief points in a row):
What does it even mean to abandon yourself?
You’re in self-abandonment when
Simple antidotes? In a nutshell, stave off self-abandonment by living in self-honoring ways and responding quickly when something feels off.
Catch yourself in self-abandonment—kindly, not harshly. Appreciate that you’re getting conscious about what needs your conscious attention. This allows you to course-correct quickly.
Don’t allow momentum to build where bad feelings are concerned.Respond to them more quickly at ever more subtle levels. Interrupt what doesn't work for you and go for what feels truer and better.
Tell the truth to others. Have boundaries and speak them to others whether they’re thrilled with them or not. Don’t drop your boundaries when people push against them, and don’t freak out, either. That’s what people do, so someone will; no need to take it personally. But there’s a great need—your own well-being and authentic living are at stake—for you to hold any boundary that you’ve gotten clear about needing to draw. (Need a coach for boundaries? Well, I could be that coach. There’s also my amazing friend and colleague Kelli Younglove, who has a special gift with this topic.)
Put yourself to bed kindly, so you can wake up trusting life, and trusting that you’re on your own side.
Remember who you are, and don’t buy old stories from others. (Watch the family-of-origin definitions coming at you, and duck! When you need to, stay away entirely. You get to define you.)
Be willing to show up for whatever's happening. I'll close with an illustration of this point from Facebook, posted last May:
I refuse to carry around the feeling that this shouldn't be happening, this day shouldn't be going how it's going, this snafu is such a detour or setback, etc. etc. If it's happening, here it is. I want to align with it. I know I'm not aligned if I feel frustrated, I'm frowning or tensing, I'm getting irritated with human beings. Catching any of these is my cue to pause, reset, allow. What's happening is what's happening, never mind how unpleasant, unexpected, unwanted. I trust that whatever life hands me is worthwhile for me to give myself to. What could I benefit from letting go? The illusion of control, the religion of efficiency, the expectation customer-service people should make it all better at once? I want to show up for that. I want to show up for my life, wherever it takes me right now.
Keep showing up for yourself, whatever’s up, however you feel: self-abandonment no more.
Love & blessings, Jaya
Put yourself to bed kindly, lovingly, as you would put to bed a beloved child.
Would you put a child to bed hissing in their ear about what’s wrong with their face, how scary the world is, why they won’t amount to much? Just a guess, but you might instead go with a lullaby, maybe a good story, sweet murmurs of love—anything kind, gentle, and comforting. I invite you to put yourself to bed that way too. As someone who used to struggle with insomnia and take all my woes to bed with me, I’ve loved coaching others in making bedtime truly kind and likely to promote the rest we all deserve. Five easy steps follow, including in step 2 the ABC’s of addressing what needs addressing so you can put it all down for the night!
1. Sleep is the best reset button: make conscious, intentional use of its power.
Take sleep very seriously as the most fabulous (and free!) reset button at hand. Part of what sleep does is pause your current sense of identity and your preoccupations with your life’s conditions to date. If you let it, it can clear the slate every day, allowing you to come back to the truth of who you are—which has nothing to do with these current conditions. By not taking today’s batch of woes, fears, critiques to sleep with you, you allow a new opening each new day, upon waking, to the truth of who you are, and all that this can translate to in the realities of everyday life.
Go to bed with the intention to release, rest, and rejuvenate—intention is powerful. So don’t stumble to bed in a cloud of whatever’s-on-your-mind when you’re ready to drop. Be conscious about what you put down and let go, and what you take to bed with you.
2. Do not admit worries or to-do lists into the bedroom: Easy as ABC.
It’s typical to lie in bed reviewing the worst of today and fretting over tomorrow. Maybe throw in a slo-mo replay of that awkward misstep at the dog park, flash to your favorite childhood humiliation, then take another spin around the globe as bleakly highlighted by the news industry. Ready for something kinder? Make it a rule (or a grand experiment) to take none of that to bed—not admitted.
Here come the ABC’s for minding before bedtime what actually needs your attention. Ideally, consciously give these your time earlier in the evening, then let what occupies you for an hour or two before bed be what you enjoy, what nourishes you, what you love to do and think about. However, if five minutes at the tail-end of the day is all you’ve got sometimes, take five before bedtime grooming. Just sit with paper and perhaps a calming beverage to give a nod to today’s completion and jot down a few notes for tomorrow.
Address practical matters.
If it serves you, glance at tomorrow and write down to-do lists and priorities. Put the thing thrice remembered and forgotten on the calendar so you trust you’ll get to it. (Now forget about that oil change or IRS call in good conscience.) Dash off the text that’s really not so hard to write—but does crack the ice that keeps you stuck. In other words, if you can do one quick thing to begin or complete a task (rather than make a note about it), do that. Now you’ve done what you’ve done for this day: it’s enough, and it’s all good enough.
Be with emotional stuff.
If something emotional from the day needs processing, journal it, talk it out, or take it to a bubble bath. Set up future bolstering by sending the scheduling email to the right support professional or making a date with a friend. Since you’re (absolutely) not going to take it to bed with you, do make it worth your while in the evening (your heart is worth your own time and attention). Set yourself up to let tender matters go during sleep hours by letting yourself know they’re being tended to.
Consciously be done with today and open to tomorrow’s total potentiality.
Go to bed with nothing in tow about today or tomorrow: you’re done. You can reinforce this on the physical level by moving slowly and deliberately as you groom and change for bed. When thoughts of this day or the next offer themselves (and you know thoughts—they will), don’t engage. Just say, “I release you” or “Done!” or “Shop is closed.” There’s nothing more to do, fix, or figure out. Things in flux? Feeling like a work in progress? Of course. That’s how a human life goes. Your day is still complete; your mind has no more job to do beyond aligning with rest.
I like to start watching my breath as I head bed-ward so I’m already cultivating a meditative mindset. This, too, supports treating sleep as a full reset, entered into consciously. As you step into your bedroom, make it a ritual by saying out loud, “This day is complete. Tomorrow, all things new, all things possible.” As you say this (or your own phrase that sings to you), believe it as much as you can. Feel it, as much as you can. (It’s enough.)
3. Only good thoughts allowed in bed, and only briefly.
Lying in bed, if you must think at all, only review what you love about your life, what feels good, what went right in your day. (Remember, you’re putting yourself to bed as you would a beloved child.) Flash to moments of loving the beauty and brilliance of people, plants, and critters in your daily world—your own bright, shiny moments included. Honor your completions and notice what was satisfying or glorious. Review hugs and hilarity, easy connections. Whatever nice things you pull out to polish mentally, please keep even this kind of thought to a minimum. Some people love a good gratitude list, so reel off a few gems, if you will, but get in and get out.
4. Drop into love, and let love drop you into sleep.
For whatever conscious time you’ve got left (whether seconds or hours, depending on your tendencies or the day), give your full weight to the mattress and to gravity, releasing every muscle to all that supports you. You are held. Give yourself to love.
Think in terms of lying in the arms of love. You are a child of the Universe: see yourself as Source sees you as you drop into the unconscious realm. Call on whatever you know of love right now and let everything else go. Love is ever-available, as it’s the essence of who you are. (If this trips you up on a bad day or through a hard era, create spaciousness here by looking away from being loved or receiving love—hard pass on a life review of love, please. Just hold the feeling of love in the easiest, most innocent way—even your love for an animal, if that creates no resistance, or for your favorite painting, tattoo, or tree—and allow that to be enough.)
5. Use the breath to support your intentional letting go.
Make a lying-down meditation of your last conscious moments by watching the breath. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. I call the breath the only balm you can apply from within: feel it as a healing salve moving through you, easing you into sleep, or simply supporting your rest. (Don’t worry about how much or what kind of sleep you’ll get—breathe into full rest.) Following the breath will help you keep out of your head, too. Remember that the mind does what it does, so it’s not about staying with the breath or staying out of thoughts—just come back to breath right now, one more time, now, and now, and now. It’s working if you’re willing to find the breath one more time in this moment, as many times as it takes.
Sometimes if there’s something compelling or tricky in my world and I catch myself thinking about it in bed, I just remind myself it’s not time to think: it’s time to lie in the arms of love; it’s time to follow the breath and appreciate how it calmly ushers me into rest and sleep. I often then notice that I haven’t even felt the mattress yet, so I tune in to the physical sensations of giving myself to gravity, and this allows my return to these reliable and nurturing bedtime tactics.
Rest well, dear one.
Love & blessings, Jaya