It’s been an unsettling time. A time when unpredictable acts of violence make it hard to make any sense of things. The mind can’t comprehend, and I notice myself caught up in the detailed accounts, trying to figure it all out. Trying to find the kindness in the Universe that I have come to trust. There are times that Grace seems like a highly abstract concept. I turn to words of wisdom and poetry during times like this.
Today I came across one of my favorites, a poem by Wendell Berry that has always given me deep comfort when I was ready to settle into it, like a warm bath. And then these words emerged, like very irritating instructions: “Rest in the Grace of the World.” What? Impossible. Where’s this so-called Grace right now? My mind raged.
And then. Then. The day-blind stars reveal what I’ve been missing all along. Peace has once again become possible. From within, from that place where all wild things reside: inside. From the place that holds this poem.
The Peace of Wild Things
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
In my determination to crack open the safe that holds my Real Self hostage, I keep noticing I still have beliefs about what could be different “if only…” This usually implies an argument with my current life because of something in the past: If only…I hadn’t been hit by that car, hadn’t broken my ankle and then proceeded to ignore it and push on for years. If only I’d lost that extra 20 pounds I’ve been carrying around for too long.
It’s often subtle, but at the root, it’s always there: a dissatisfaction with life as it is. A belief that there’s a Big Problem in the Universe. A problem that (usually) I created, through some shameful personal inadequacy. My resulting reaction runs the gamut from depression to a general malaise and discouragement. When I try to act, to get momentum for a change I truly want to make, there are these weights around the ankles. Why try, with my track record? Then I either give up or cut myself off from the Source of vitality. The last option is infinitely the most painful, but this can go by unnoticed.
Another “if only,” trap also robs me of life energy. It goes like this: I could do this, (or that or the other) If Only I had more time, more money, or some other limited resource, like energy. How do I react when I’m under this spell? Discouraged. Stuck. The exact opposite of motivated. Lacking a vision or hope. The resulting lethargy blocks the creativity necessary for the change process.
One of the great things about being Of a Certain Age is the perspective it offers. I’ve long known that I don’t want to let the “if only” machine rule my life. I’ve done many things, taken many risks because I’ve been aware of its power and foug
ht the good fight against all the limitations it imposes. But, as it is with most universal truths, I now see in bold relief what I only glimpsed before. I had thought of the If Only of limited resources as something that could be understood intellectually, which would mean that I had it licked. It turns out this was just the first step.
As I’ve live longer, with the reality of life (and death) breathing down my neck, I simply don’t have time to get caught in the old self-sabotaging traps. The freedom of each moment seems more and more delicious. And when I see myself limiting me, I want to bust free from the whole trance imposed by the belief. Immediately, if not sooner.
If only I could, chants the part of me who resists change.
But when I hear this, in the nanosecond that I catch it, I have a choice to disbelieve the Resister. I can ask it (sometimes known as the ego) to move over, to take a back seat. Something else is driving now. Something intent on living into each possibility. It’s kind and willing to share the vehicle, but not the steering wheel. Because the If Only’s are too small, too insecure for that job. There’s a certain aliveness, a vitality, an immensity of life force that knows the way. And it is this that I trust.
I found these words jotted down in my inspiration file, sandwiched between quotation marks. I have no idea who said it or how it arrived there. I couldn’t even find it on Google. So I decided that this doesn’t matter. Wherever it came from, it was Right on Time, and it was for me. Because I’ve been thinking about strategizing a whole lot lately. For one thing, I notice that it’s a favorite activity for me and for many of my friends (and clients). After all, when people call me for coaching that’s often what they have in mind.
And it just so happens that strategy is one of my mind’s favorite things to do. It’s very good at it. There are many perks. My life is richer because of it. Way richer.
But when I look closer, I notice that it almost never works out when planning, strategizing and implementing come too early. Then they become the masters of the soul, not its servant. And masters, like captains of certain star ships, are totally dedicated to Making It So. They really don’t have the time required to listen to the inner directions of the shy soul.
If there were Ten Commandments of a life dedicated to success, the first three might be: thou must take charge, thou must plan things, and thou must make them happen. Again, it’s not that these aren’t excellent in their own place and time. They just belong a little later on the list. But the planning mind doesn’t like this. It can’t waste that time, after all, and the enemy of getting things done quickly is checking in with the soul.
It does take time to look inside, to find sabotaging habits, to unpack old beliefs, to clear the way for change. Checking in with ourselves was never the plan of our inner Efficiency Expert (first cousin of the Strategizer). This involves slowing down, sleeping on it, sitting with it. And this takes valuable time away from Making it So.
The Strategizer Within is chomping at the bit to just get going.
But first there’s that procrastination or resistance thing to overcome. Most of us have experienced the pain of getting caught in that bog. Sometimes the fear (or experience) of delaying action makes a bully of the strategizing mind. Its worst fear is confusion, which can come from believing those limiting thoughts that lurk below the surface.
The key to moving through the confusion is to check it out with the body. As Thomas Moore advises, this is where the soul usually speaks. If there’s urgency there, it’s the Bully. But f there’s hesitance, there may be a reason. Check with you. See if your quieter soul-self can tell you what’s stopping you, what limiting beliefs are keeping you from acting. Then question them. Ask you if they’re true.
This can take courage, but the soul knows courage. It also knows truth. And truth is kinder than the fiction that has created the beliefs. There may be still be fear, but there’s also a readiness, an exhilaration. This is the soul’s way of speaking, the still small voice of inner freedom. This you can trust.
As you follow the directions that come from this deep listening, the Strategizer becomes a servant of the soul. And action comes Right on Time.
What I notice is that there’s an undertow that will take us out and keep us from simply acting if we haven’t asked a good question or two to clear the way.
Ask yourself this: Have I asked me yet? Often as not, the answer is “sort of.” Because there’s a big rush of impulse to Just Do It, right? Take a dive into your body and listen some more. What feels like freedom? What lie am I believing that would keep me confused? What is truer? Then listen. Because the path to a freer and more juicy life lies in the stillness and the quiet answer.
There’s a little thing that has been going on with my heart these last months. They call it A-Fib, and without the boring details, let me say it’s been irregular. And sometimes a tad scarey. After having my heart stopped and started a couple of times, it’s now regular once again. Really. That’s what they do about this thing. My heart stood still. Stopped. And then it was rebooted. Literally (and I do mean this word as it was intended. It’s not a figure of speech).
That in itself is kinda amazing. But there’s bigger juju going on here. During the past year, my daughter Johanna was completing her fourth CD, the first one devoted entirely to sacred and inspirational music.
Some back story. My daughter and I are quite different. From the very beginning I understood this child would teach me what I needed to know about the world outside of books and thinking and being a brain. She’s one of the most intuitive people I’ve ever met and has been through at least as much hard stuff in her life as I have. And I am (literally) twice her age. We attended the School for the Work of Byron Katie together ten years ago and have continued to disbelieve our thoughts and clear up our thinking on a regular basis.
So about the juju. Just as I am recovering my heart rhythm, she’s released a CD entitled Heart Beats One. The title song is quickly becoming an anthem because it’s so beautiful and catchy. She wrote it to describe what happens when humans come together; say, when we’re in a yoga class or listening to music. Our hearts (again, literally) begin to beat as one. Scientists call this entrainment. I call it the magic of belonging.
In the last few weeks I’ve been working with a biofeedback device on my phone (it’s called Inner Balance, and it’s from the HeartMath folks). But I’ve also been going to yoga, singing in groups, sharing meals and music with friends. Each one of these things can bring me to that Happy Place called entrainment.
But Johanna’s song “Heart Beats One” takes me there immediately. I know this because I’m measuring it. Here’s a link if you’d like a listen. (Warning: it’s addictive and you might want to add it to your collection).
I also talked about some of this in a radio interview, which you can listen to here:And there’s even better news. If you’re one of my dear ones living on the West coast, Johanna may be at a yoga studio near you in the next couple of months as she launches the CD and teaches Lullaby Yoga from Seattle to LA and back to Oregon. I love it that my heart can beat again, in rhythm with yours, as we connect.