The more I observe my moment to moment choices in life, the motivations behind my choices, the more I realize it’s all about ONE choice really. It’s a choice between LOVE or FEAR. Every automatic choice, or carefully decided upon choice – behind them ALL is either Love or Fear. But it gets pretty tricky sometimes because, as we all have experienced, fear often masquerades as love. The classic wolf wearing the sheepskin. And so we learn not to trust ourselves, and our judgements because we fell for the ruse at one point or many. But then fear is winning, because it has a justification for not trusting, ie. fearing. And then confusion takes over and we don’t know what to do and this paralyzes us. More fear. The paralysis is a form of hiding. Fear again. So sometimes it helps to boil ALL the ‘complicated problems’ or ‘issues’ that we encounter daily, or even hourly, down to two root choices. Simple. The action that will feed the fear. Or the action that will feed love. Discerning what is truly the love decision takes great honesty with yourself. Love takes risks. Love doesn’t worry about getting ‘hurt’, doesn’t need to ‘protect’…love isn’t afraid to go into the darkness. WHY? Because love is indestructible. Love is free. Love is what remains when all objects, all bodies fall away. Love. Yes, love IS the ultimate answer, so just leap. Just try it out for a while even. Give yourself up to love for just one DAY…or one week. Just for a test run. Why not experiment with yourself? See what happens when you open up to love. Start by what you indisputably love (eg. your dog, kids, flowers) and then work your way IN. And love ALL parts of yourself, the ugly, embarrassing, hateful, fearful and judgemental human parts. Just love it all, even if you don’t even know how to begin, just wing it…and see what surprising decisions you make out of love, see what shows up in front of you, see what happens… I guarantee, you won’t get bored.
Just got back from camping around Lillooet mountain lake/river. No internet or phone access..logging roads, lots of men in trucks. First Nations land, specifically the In-SHUCK-ch Nation. Very raw land. My husband’s joy, basically. This time up there, we had many encounters with an animal species called the May-long-weekenders. Destination: a spot we’ve camped at before on many occasions, previously in complete isolation, by a slower part of the river where the fishing is good. We set up camp. There was already a tent set up there, but no biggie. We like people.
Then the dirt bikers arrived by the truckload. Lots of trucks. Lots of dirt bikes. Then they pulled out the chainsaws. And then the discotheque. They were camping way behind us, but their LOUDNESS was insane. I drank a LOT of Jack Daniels to try to muffle the noise pollution…It was actually making me feel claustrophobic; very trapped. Grant was freaking out just a tiny bit because the campers next to us had built a fire that was 6 feet high. Serious forest fire hazard. He has witnessed too many forest fires in his tree planting day. Then they built 5 more fires, all in a row. So …basically we were in hell. Mountain camping riverside HELL. It was into the wee hours…like 4 am…when they finally quieted down. I was near tears from exhaustion and anger. Then Max woke up. At 6 am. We were FREEZING. Not enough clothing. Grant and I raced out of the tent, built a fire, and he went fishing. I made my way down there to the good spot by the river where it slows down a bit. Grant and Lula had already spotted a river otter. Some men were setting up a white teepee and had a fire going. I lay down on a log and soaked the sun with my face. I was in and out of sleepy meditation, listening to the river. I heard the intermittent plop of fishing weights hit the river. Plop, went a line. THAT’s the one. A deep knowing hit me in my gut. It was warm, almost hot, and unmistakeable. I saw in my imagination, a fish biting the hook. Then I was off again, listening and flowing with the river….A few moments later: ‘HEY NAT!!! MAX CAUGHT A FISH!!!’ Yup, I know. I got up and watched as Grant took over Max’s rinky dink cheapy fishing rod, reeling in the shiny silver fighting trout. We thanked the fish. Grant stayed back to continue fishing. Me and the kids collected fallen branches for firewood and I got a good bed of hot coals going by the time Grant got back with the gutted fish. We ate that little trout with great relish, with salt and lemon, occasionally shouting out ‘Thank you fish!’ YUM. Then we packed and we were outta that spot by noon. No way we were going to put up with asshole noise again. No thank you! Already someone had their chainsaw out.
So we drove up to the Skookumchuk Hot springs. A regulated designated campsite, not something Grant generally agrees to do, as he is MISTER Wilderness, but at least away from where great groups of drunken dirt bikers can convene. At the hotsprings, we got one of the last two campsites left. We took the little one, riverside, next to the roaring river. It was LOUD and it ripped through me. All remnants of resentful anger about the previous night pulled clear out of me. Totally cleansing. I was drunk with exhaustion. We set up the tent and Grant and the kids went to the hot springs while I lay down and listened to the fast river, felt it pulling my guts out of my body…all feelings and thoughts, I just let it all go…and all I could do was allow it. When they got back we went on walkabout. On one side of our camping site, there was undisturbed forest….a sign saying it was a First Nations archeological site…we walked through it, through the old deep energy of that magical spot. The trees were incredible. One cedar in particular was sooo big and beautiful. And when I put my hands on her, I was flooded by love. Mother love. Right across my chest, love opened instantly. I can still feel her. Yes I talk to trees, and yes, I told her how beautiful she is. I imagined all that she had seen. So much. The Douglas Firs bark were deep and grooved, they were so old and silent. It was so silent in there. So peaceful. We found a tiny little beach where an almost dry creek met the raging river and saw tiny fish swimming amonst the decomposing branches and leaves. It was completely alive. I sat on the beach in between little patches of grass and soaked in the warmth of the sun on my face. The river had so much to tell me. So much life. So fast, so ruthless. Truth is ruthless that way. It’s not sentimental. It is not precious. It doesn’t balk at ‘unpleasantness’. Such judgements do not even exist. It’s ALL life. Everything that is fiercly true has this fast, ruthless quality about it. This is how truth sets you free. Grasping is futile. The ideas you hold onto so desperately will be ripped out of your grasp so fast, by LIFE. The force of life is like that river. It IS that river. So the best way to enjoy is to let go. Let everything go. Flow with it. It’s unknowable how far you’ll go, or what obstactles you’ll meet, but it’s an adventure and life is being lived right now through you. Through the river that IS you. Yes battered and bruised you may get, but regret will never taint you. And oh! The sights you will see!
As soon as it got dark we got real sleepy. And then…the karaoke began. Yes. KARAOKE. I don’t know who, what, where or how, but a camping party next to us had karaoke. I laughed at myself. I laughed at the how ridiculous humans are. And fell asleep to the roar of the river.
Overall, this trip was about what I am hearing, what I am listening to.
First night, the noise of crazed humanity brought me to my knees. But in the moments when the chainsaw stopped, and the dirt bikes were idling, there came through, the loving, piercing, cleansing sound of rushing water. It was always there, that river of life completely unaffected. Simply flowing. And I could feel my being just drink it up with joy. Yes, us humans, we do a lot to cover up this loving presence, but it’s always there, flowing, moving, moving. Maybe we fear it to be lost, because the noise we create has gone on for so long, but that is just a silly idea. Maybe we fear getting lost IN it, because the journey is so unknown. And yet…it’s always there and no matter how much we try to control it, we ARE always in it. Just stop. Just stop the constant doing. Just stop the need to constantly cover up. Just stop the need to control every moment. Just trust the life that is US. We just need to be still for a moment, and we can so easily feel our roaring life. Life feeds us, just as that fish Max caught. If we can flow with life, it feeds us, in just the right amount, just when we need it. We didn’t need more. One fish was the perfect amount for lunch. Just stop. Just stop the constant doing. Just stop the need to constantly cover up. Just stop the need to control every moment. Just trust the life that is US.
Second night: After we were compelled to move; no need to torture ourselves with the noise of human insanity. And we ended up where the river was loudest, the most ruthless. We finally got a good rest where the silence was deafening.
Here’s today’s aha for ya’ll:
So there’s this Buddhist term called Bodhicitta.
Bodhi= Awake Citta= Mind or Heart
And of course, we all aspire to be awake and open. Feels a hell of a lot better than fearfully shut down and closed in.
… what what? waitasecond…REWIND! Mind OR heart? How can it be mind OR heart??!!! They are clearly varrry separate things!
Are they? What if they aren’t?
Actually, they are one. Inexorably, inexplicably one.
So in other words,
Try not to make your ‘ego mind’ the big bad ass wolf.
Simply watch it.
And watch the consequences of your behaviour.
And the resulting emotions of your thoughts.
Paradoxically, on an absolute level, your ego serves a higher purpose, which is to wake you up. Yup, you read me.
Our dear dear ego (our closely held identity and beliefs, our comforting habits and addictions, our thoughts and stories that we so tightly cling to) creates so much suffering, that eventually, the suffering is so great that we wake up. Sheer desperation. And with tenacious courage and determination we find a way out of the maze of delusion, out, out into open space and back home into our expansive heart and mind.
Just experiment and watch what happens if we let go of the storyline a single thought may trigger.
Just let it go and watch it float away like a leaf on a river.
Stay with magic quality of the present breath.
A moment of respite.
And lo and behold.. we’re cultivating bodhicitta!
What the hell, give it shot!
Huge insight lately about children and love.
Do you think children are born empty of love and our job as parents is to fill them up with love them to make them feel loved ? No! This makes no sense does it? We are so backwards sometimes! Our job as parents is to actually open ourselves up enough to receive their love and all their fantastic expressions of it. That’s true acceptance.
Children need to love. And they need to have their love received. Maybe even more than they need to be loved by others. Children already have a deep infinite source of love and joy that they are connected to because they are children and it’s innate in them. They need to have their love and bouncy joy accepted and taken in. They need to have their love and all their creative expressions of it appreciated with gratitude. They need others to receive it with full presence.
Recently I read a journal I wrote when I was eleven years old. It was poignant, funny and full of longing. Longing to love. NOT longing to be loved. I was struck by the distinction. From my adult perspective it’s easy to think that children simply want to be loved, but this is actually not the whole truth. When children see suffering or pain around them, their natural instinct and desire is to love and to try to help. This reading of my own eleven year old perspective really reminded me of this.
I remember feeling sorry for my parents as a very small child. I remember not so much the feeling of needing their love, but I wanted them to stop suffering. SO BADLY. Children can see their parents suffering. It’s as plain as day to them. I saw how stuck in their heads they were, trapped in the self imposed suffering of their worrisome doubts, thoughts and fears. I tried everything to get them to feel better. Cuteness, loving kindness, servitude, being funny, being loud and silly, being rambunctious, being quiet and good and eventually being BAD, to try to get them to snap out of it. Rarely did they have the willingness to peek out of the window and see me, to see how hard I was trying to make them feel better. They were blind to me. I was just an annoyance and I’d get a reprimand, and back into their heads they went. Lost. In the cocoon of misery.
So what if you are a parent who (let’s face it) is grumpy a lot of the time or worried all the time, lost in thought and just not really there? Do you think you can accept their love when you are so focused on your miserable thoughts? Do you think you are capable of enjoying them, or truly seeing them and appreciating them?
Are your children already angry and acting out because they feel so invisible? If so, then sorry, it may already be too late. They may already have learned that their energy is useless, worth nothing and not important to you and therefore the world. Their love was not received. God knows they tried, but you were too stuck with your head up your ass to notice them. They were powerless. That hurt. So they hate you. Maybe, I don’t know. But this is how children learn to loathe their parents and to feel worthless. Can you see this now?
And when those children grow up and eventually feel so desperate to be accepted, and decide having children is the best way, they soon repeat that lovely cycle of not being able to take in their own children’s love. Their hearts were shut down and locked up long ago. YEP. Around the misery-go-round we go.
Stop the cycle. Please. Start by being willing to learn how to love yourself. Be willing. That’s all that it takes. And then some baby steps. Be willing to listen to yourself. Be willing to take care of yourself. Be willing to be present with yourself with loving kindness. Yes it may feel really unnatural at first, but as an act of will, it will actually begin to feel more normal and actually good. The more you love yourself, the more present you will be for your children and their open expressions of affection and adoration of you. Yes you.
And when our children see and feel that their love is valued, good and important because we are willing to take it in to our hearts, then they feel worthwhile. They feel like they can contribute something useful to humanity. And they can be free to explore and enjoy their world and not constantly be burdened with worry about their unhappy family members.
Can you see this? Can you see how important it is to learn to love yourself?
Signed up for my second parenting course run by the Adler Centre here in Vancouver. First time with the ‘Adlerians’. Sounds like an alien species. A bit scary for some people who have never experienced any kind of therapy or pschology stuffs. They should really not use that term “Adlerian” in my opinion…not the best marketing strategy, but whatever. The Adlerians strongly encourage community support for people, particularly parents. But any kind of therapy is really just about being honest about our feelings, or non-feelings if you happen to be numb, looking at our history and our actions…and piecing it all together…all to create more self awareness and therefore choice in how we can act in the future. First day was really awesome. I’d forgotten how inspiring it is to be amongst a group of people who are willing to speak about difficult things, like when we aren’t being the best of parents and in what ways we want to get better. This is a very touchy topic in our business. Many parents wouldn’t touch a parenting course with a ten foot pole, because it would be an admission of having ‘issues’. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s still so much judgement and lack of real compassion out there amongst parents in general. In my experience, parents are very very defensive when the topic of parenting comes up. It used to make me confused as a young parent, how this ‘profession’ of parenting created such frightened people, but then it dawned on me, that most parents are afraid to admit any wrong doing, poor choices or any difficulties because the worst case scenario is that someone may report them to social services and they may get torn apart from their children. It’s very much a protective mechanism. Also, if parents are in some kind of a custody battle, then any admission of having any kind of challenges, no matter how small, may seem like evidence that they are unfit. So I get the need to protect, I really do, but also, I see the real detriment of not really examining our unhealthy patterns. If parents aren’t willing to look, well, then, neither are their kids, a feeling of shame and isolation follows and the power of addiction to any kind of behaviour and substance is thus strengthened, why?… because it’s a good way to numb out the feelings. And round and round it goes.
Maybe another reason why it’s so hard to talk about parenting for some is because most people had absolutely no previous training!!! Fakin’ it till they make it, perhaps. Think about it! If we were to HIRE someone to take care of babies and young children we would want them to have some kind of basic training, RIGHT??? No no, it’s just pretend everything is FINE. That ‘it’s innate’ bullshit. And if you don’t know the acronym yet, FINE stands for Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. So it is so comforting to be amongst other parents in our parenting group who are willing to share and who are willing to learn. It’s the human need for relation. It’s the human need for empathy. And growth. Especially growth. Yeah, yeah we can all say, it’s normal, I can handle it on my own, I can read some books on my own, but that’s a big ol’ trap. A trap of isolation, and DON’t DO IT!!! There’s something really special that happens in group work. There’s a special energy of non judgement, of empathy and really being listened to. It’s a magical thing, having some basic rules layed out, where we don’t give each other unsolicited advice and we just listen with to another share their lives. Plus there’s that implicit thing about group work, where it’s not at all about judging others and their choices, but it’s about calling forth some DIRECT reflections of ourselves to learn from. Well anyways, as always, my constant recommendation is: therapy is an awesome way to support yourself, particularly if you like freedom and joy. Group therapy specifically is an amazingly immersive tool in learning how to move from judgement to compassion.
You know when you do things that you don’t understand why you do them? But you have to? Or when you begin to behave in an addictive manner…ie. smoking, eating, drinking, working, etc. to stop feeling something? Sometimes you can’t even identify the feelings, but you know they are there, simmering below the surface? Or when you think you aren’t afraid of something, but somehow, you can’t bring yourself to do it? Well, that is the quintessential push and a pull between our conscious minds and our unconscious minds. And whether or not we’re willing to pay attention, there’s always a subconscious agenda running your behaviour, there is always work being done in your subconscious that is going on, carrying on, sorting out, and attempting to reconcile and resolve. There are layers upon layers under there, like all those layers of the earth over the millenia, with stuff frozen in that particular time and space.
For myself, art is a simply profound and amazing way to connect with my subconscious. Art is my portal. Particularly paint. My truest art comes from that non-thinking mysterious place that just surprises me. What’s more, the work I create actually has a life of its own, it morphs, it changes and it becomes a feedback system for me to go to. Even if I’m not in the act of creating my paintings, they still ‘speak’ to me. There are hidden messages in it if I am willing to be still, listen and feel. And somehow, miraculously, I created them! If I can do work purely from a feeling place, being aware of the feelings in my body and how they change, and my own areas of resistence and the thoughts that pop into my head, well, wow, this is the beauty of really communicating with myself. My subconscious becomes conscious, little by little, and I learn about myself. My deepest hurts and fears, the parts I didn’t know I even had, the memories I’d resigned as lost but most importantly, the gifts are also there. The gifts that bring me indescribable joy. The amazing unique gifts that are as unique as my fingerprints. It’s there. Just waiting to be discovered. It’s that part of me that deeply knows the answers I am looking for, the wise one. We all have a wise one within us. Every person has a sense of intuition that they can develop and learn from. It’s intangible, though, so it’s difficult to teach logically or rather, perhaps it’s only understandable to those who are exactly in the right place in the right time. It’s worth learning though, I’m telling you, this skill of communicating with our subconscious. And if you can be gentle with yourself and stay the course, it’ll be the beginning of trust. Trusting yourself. Trusting ‘timing’. Trusting that your gifts are worth knowing and that perhaps, you may inspire others to look for their own.
Thanks to the genius that resides next to Elizabeth’s pen and mouth for this helps me, helps me so much with the fwightened twisty bits in me.
Watch (link below) and be comforted….and then listen for that cute American lady at the end with her twangy Spanish.
On Nurturing Creativity
I’ve been thinking a lot of conflict lately. More like the good aspect of conflict rather than the fear of it. Unfortunately we live in a culture dominated by fear of conflict, we’ve all backed down from our truth in order to avoid conflict at some point, and then felt badly about it later…realizing we kind of betrayed ourselves. I hate that, but I know it’s an inevitable reaction sometimes, because I’ve been so conditioned to avoid anything remotely resembling conflict. As a child I often witnessed unconcious conflict that was mean, vicious and hurtful, it left everyone who was in its path shattered and raw…there was never any healthy resolution, only a heavy painful silence afterwards…and so I learned to fear it, and do anything to avoid it. That totally backfired, because I learned to distrust myself, because I had stopped living my truth, and was just trying to appease others in order to avoid conflict. Now after more than a decade of digging deep, weeding out old systems that had been learned by such experiences, I’ve had the profoundly healing experience of learning how to have healthy conflict, how to stand strongly in my truth, tell my truth, push and pull with another person and yet still be loving. It’s with utter gratitude when I say that conflict can be empowering…to both parties. Conflict usually comes about from anger, a feeling that a boundary has been crossed, a need to say ‘That’s not ok with me!” And if I am willing to express that a boundary has been crossed I have an opportunity to learn about myself. Why I have this boundary in the first place; where it came from. What needs to be healed in that particular spot. Conflict = Contact. Human contact. And when we share who we really are on a deeply personal level and really are able to listen to another person on a deeply personal level, we have the magical experience of understanding ourselves and another through genuine empathy and compassion. Learning healthy conflict gave me the door to learn amazing things about the people I love. It requires a certain kind of power and it builds power in each person who is willing to stand in their truth. I see their own passion, the ‘why’ behind it, and the gifts that come out of it. In my little family now, we conflict often and conciously, shout and cry loudly and in front of each other and anyone who happens to be around…we know it’s nothing to be ashamed of, not something to do behind closed doors. Anger is often expressed. But the distinction that is always clear to me is that it’s anger to express our own stance, not anger meant to hurt another back. And always in the midst of it, I am conscious that I need to model loving resolution to my children…so I always search for that percentage of responsibility I need to be accountable for and we all get to apologize, make amends, resolve and problem solve it together and end with a loving cuddle and tickle. Conflict = contact people!! Learn it and love it!!
I got the school jitters big time! Just a little coaching needed for how not to get too involved in school politics but stay closely connected to Lula. It’s a tricky thing, this parenting school aged children. I don’t generally like being around large gaggles of parents, but then all of a sudden, I’m there, talking about mediocre non-stuff and feeling like the plastic mask has somehow melted back on my face and I’m suffocating. Yes, we went on a little vacation. Summer was great. Oh thanks, I bought those at the Gap for her. Oh yes it WAS unseasonably cold this summer. Really not looking forward to the day to day polite chit chat about the weather. And every year actually after every break, I resolve to do no more of this kind of energy wasting, but there it is again. Social norms pushing up against me. And sometimes I give in, and sometimes I hide and sometimes I show up, just the way I am and ask really intrusive questions. Heya ____ what’s new and exciting with you? Working on any kind of personal projects? How’s the marriage?! Speak much? Are you in therapy? Oh meee?? Yes, actually, I’ve seriously been fantasizing about joining the circus, singing, clowning, then the trapeze…in that order I think. No not Lula! She’s into classical violin, I’m talking about ME!!! No, really, I’m not joking whatsoever. Then I’ll hopefully gain the reputation of being the nosy mom who asks really personal direct questions and to avoid me at all costs unless you’re willing to get right into it. God willing.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for…. I’m sorry that I….
Apologizing is powerful. Apologizing instantly raises the energy of the interaction, so long as it’s sincere and not meant to manipulate. ’I'm sorry’ is something I pretty much use every day all throughout the day. There is always an instance where I was insensitive, there is always an instance where I spoke sharply, there is always an instance where I made a mistake. Apologizing leads to truth, truth of why I behaved a particular way, what I was really reacting to on a deeply personal level. Apologizing lets me see past all the ego based justifications and posturing and allows me to see through the other person’s eyes. Apologizing to children is simply not done enough. It’s usually in the guise of mental rationalization of adult hypocrisy, but if we can get past the bullshit we tend to produce, and apologize from your heart, your child will look you straight in the eyes and you will know that they see you. Not just ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, not just ‘my parent’, or ‘the grownup’, but human to human. And every time you do this, and meet them on this level, you will know that they are our own special little gurus come here to teach us about ourselves and not the other way around. They inspire by constantly pushing the envelope for what we think is possible, they inspire through their resilience, their open hearts and their easy ability to achieve. And when you demonstrate fallibility to your children, it doesn’t set them up for years and years of self flagellation if they themselves make mistakes in the future. It teaches them the perfection of imperfection; the joy of the journey.