Authenticity, Awakening, compassion and trust, courage, Mindfulness and Meditation

This is what I learned in my kitchen about my fear of the future

I have spent the last year trying to develop a compassionate awareness of what triggers some of my behaviors around consumption. This includes all kinds of consumption or consuming: everything from shopping sprees to drinking wine, from mindless eating to escapist Netflix watching.

This has required mindfulness, a willingness on my part to bring awareness to situations that I am trying to avoid thinking about (because it’s painful), and sometimes to stop in the middle of reaching for the glass of wine or that third brownie and tune into the emotion that’s driving me.

This is what I’ve discovered around food:

My desire to open the fridge and mindlessly inhale in large quantities whatever looks good (which is everything) has to do specifically (for me) with fear of the future.

It has to do with those times when some aspect of my future life looks uncertain and me being so very uncomfortable with that.

That’s when I find myself standing in front of the fridge.

And I know I’m not alone in this fear.

Because, frankly, the future IS uncertain; elements of both our own personal futures, the futures of those we love and the world’s future – if the climate change crisis has anything to tell us – are uncertain.

So many of us want the future to be predictable – we want to know the how, when and why of the next day, week and year.

All of it.

We want it all spelled out in a memo from the cosmos. “Just put me out of my misery and tell me how it’s all going to be fine,” I say to the sky.

Of course, the future remains unwritten and the present moment, here in my kitchen, is all I have.

And in fact, it’s all I need.

Because now, after a year of practice, if I am gazing into my fridge with an anxious heart I can stop myself and say: “Good, good, you are afraid. It is excellent to know this.  You will not be eating the rest of the leftover lasagna right now, you will go to your laptop and write about exactly what you are afraid of.”

And so here I am, I have just left my refrigerator and write here now about my fear.

And as I do so it occurs to me that I really want to cultivate the ability to deal with my fear mindfully because I have an inkling that this year, more than ever, I am going to do things I am afraid to do, I am going to try things I’m not good at and possibly fail (or succeed, which is also scary!), I am going to push myself to my edge, take risks,  and walk through my fear.

And I mostly feel excited about this — and I definitely know that I do not want to compromise my health and well-being by mindlessly over-consuming anything and everything in the process.

So probably this year I will continue to walk through my kitchen to the pantry where the cookies are kept.  And then laugh at myself and walk back out again empty handed (usually) and write it all down.

And I have also noticed that whenever I am mindful in the face of fear, that I become free to explore the other side of fear, which is trust and ultimately love.

In those moments, which are more and more frequent this year, when I am accepting the great design of things, when I am operating from a place of trust (you could also call it faith) I feel each moment so full of potential and fluidity and vibrancy– which can only be true when there is uncertainty.

Which can only be true when we are in the present moment, and not projecting ourselves into an unknown future.

When we step forward in trust to meet that which is not yet in form. When we remember that we are powerful, that we can take inspired action that leads to a future we have dreamed of.

That the road will rise up to meet us if we take that first step.

This is a lot like taking a leap off a cliff, a way of living always on the edge of our comfort zone, a way of life that takes practice. And compassion.

And so I do practice because I want to live.  I really want to live fully, energetically, and with purpose.

 

“Where your fear is, there is your task.” C.G. Jung

Living is not for the faint of heart.  If I am to live in total trust, I have to remind myself over and over that whatever comes (the love, the joy, the triumphs and even pain and catastrophe) that I will be held, that I will find a way through, that I will be connected and reunited with joy over and over again.

And I know that I have to have compassion for myself in this process. It’s so terribly easy to berate myself for all my mindless consuming while my brain was in the grip of fear and my heart was feeling so anxious and my hand just kept dipping into the chip bag.

So before I eat something mindlessly, before I try to stuff down my fear with whatever is at hand, I try to be mindful.

I ask myself: what is the emotion behind what you are doing in this moment? Are you being kind to yourself, eating all this, drinking all that? What are you afraid of?

I don’t want to be afraid of the future anymore.

Perhaps you feel the same.  Perhaps you too know that right now you have everything you need and that the future, our future, is bright.

And it’s not hiding in my fridge.

Xo Shona

 

 

Authenticity, Awakening, gratitude, Mindfulness and Meditation

On being rubbed the wrong way in the Florida Keys

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” – Rumi

I recently went on a glorious, one-week trip to the Florida Keys, where I was “polished.”  And by that I mean that I spent the week with someone I did not know very well, and who at almost every turn was difficult to have a conversation with. She was abrupt, all-knowing, careless with her comments and supreme in her confidence that her opinion was the final say on the matter…any matter.

In short, there were many times that week when I was on the verge of allowing myself to be openly irritated by her behavior. But even as it was happening, and even more so now in retrospect, I can see that I was being polished, that I was being shown something, a reflection of myself, – my past, present and perhaps future self.

I can admit that in the not so distant past I would have allowed this person to grate on my nerves, to send me into paroxysms of righteous anger and indignation, into roadside sermons and coffee shop insights, I would have fully embraced and vocalized my sense of irritation. Convinced that the fault or problem was all hers. When clearly, the issue (my reaction or response to her) was mine.

But somehow, someway, on this trip I was able, from time to time, to laugh at my fuming self and the whole situation. As much as possible, with as much presence of mind as possible, I sat back and observed.

And that’s when I had an insight that was both wonderful and awful at the same time:  this person was just like me, she was in fact a near replica of an earlier, younger version of me. I can see how in the past I have been just like her.  I have been a know-it-all. I have been impatient with slower mortals, I have glibly dismissed topics that didn’t interest me and opinions that did not align with my own.

It was even possible, as this person/mirror was showing me, that I could still be that way.

I have been an irritating person, I can still be irritating and I am sure I will be irritating again.

But in the meantime…

I remind myself that this time, I am being polished, that it will take some hard rubbing to smooth my edges and get the tarnish off, that I have something in particular to learn from her because here she is, in an Airbnb condo with me for a whole week.

Her impatience, her dismissive remarks that halted all dialogue or discussion, her insecurity disguised as arrogance – “polishing! polishing!” – I tell myself.

All of this also served to ask me: are you really calm and centered, even when life is difficult and people are irritating? Or just on your meditation pillow?  Are you really as Zen, kind and compassionate as you’d like to believe?

Here she is, a gift from the Universe to confirm if I’ve really got it, sweeping away the hard edges of my practice, of my understanding of my self, stretching my sense of patience and compassion to it’s very limits. Showing me something about myself, about how I am like her and can choose to not be like her, about how I respond is always up to me, about how I am calm and sometimes not calm while being “rubbed” the wrong way.

And perhaps this situation was also an opportunity for me to consider how far I’ve come.  To see how I used to behave and understand with hindsight why people responded to me as they did, and to see how I can choose the way I respond now.

How now that I know better, I can do better.

I can have compassion for the person I was in the past and for the person before me now…polishing away with all her irritating might.

And I have to remind myself that it’s also not my job to change her. That if I cannot love her I can at least accept her as she is.

And that is healing for all.

Certainly, I do not have to bestow my unsolicited wisdom upon her like some holy offering…tempting as that may be.  It is just my job to accept her, and my issues with her, with compassion.

And then I can laugh.  Now I am laughing! Because it was a long week of irritation in Florida which in the grand scheme of things is not so bad. What is important is that I am having exactly the experience I am meant to be having, because I’m having it. And thanks to her, I am being polished to a shine…and for that (and perhaps only for that) I can thank her.

 

 

 

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Women's Work

How To Be Beautiful…And It’s Not What You Think.

The swan has been haunting me. Coming to me in images, conversations, paintings, cards and books, in synchronicities.

While an actual swan has not flown out of the sky and landed on my lawn, her energy has come forth in other ways no less powerful, to teach me about the true nature of beauty.

How To Be Beautiful

One of the best-known stories about a swan is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, the story of a signet born into a family of ducks, who is cast out because the other animals believe such an “ugly duckling” doesn’t belong with them.

Wherever he goes, he encounters others who question his appearance and shun him for being different.

After encountering a group of elegant white birds, the ugly duckling longs to one day be as beautiful as they are. At the end of a long cold winter, he sees his reflection in the water and realizes that he never was a duck, but that he is in fact a swan.

As Leta Greene reminds us: “The story about becoming beautiful isn’t about the ugly duckling becoming a swan; it is about the ugly duckling realizing it was a swan all along.”

This is an integral part of the energy of the swan.  In essence, she calls us to acknowledge our own inner beauty that was always, already ours.

But more than that, it is in this realization and re-claiming of our inner-beauty where the swan’s transformative healing power awaits.

The Power of Witnessing Our Real Beauty

To be clear, I am not talking about the beauty that comes from plucking, peeling, painting and pushing our bodies into an external ideal of beauty, but about the white-gold beauty that lies within.

In order to access or remember this inner beauty and light, we have to trust and accept what is. That is, we have to accept the body we have been given AND accept the light that lives inside us as our true selves.

Our culture teaches us, especially teaches women, to view our bodies as imperfect, and many of us have in fact been led to hate our bodies as though a body is all we are.

We become transfixed in front of the mirror by what is “wrong”, and we are so busy trying to improve and change our physical appearance that we have not time or energy left to improve or change the world with the power of our own true light.

In their Medicine Cards, Jamie Sams and David Carson tell the story of Swan’s journey into the dreamtime through a black hole where “I learned to surrender my body to the power of Spirit…because of my faith and my acceptance I have been changed. I have learned to accept a state of grace.”

Only when we witness and acknowledge this innate internal beauty in ourselves can its power transform us and come forth for all the world to see.

And I promise you it’s not just in some of us, it’s in all of us.

Once we know this, once we look beyond the surface and into the deep waters of our soul and see reflected there an image of our own true beauty, only then can we claim the power and the gift that Swan offers.

How We Come to Know Our Inner Beauty

What if, instead of attending to the outer, you attended to the inner you?

Entire industries have been built on the backs of our insecurities, on our belief that we are not beautiful just as we are.

We have spent fortunes on gym memberships, control-top panties, creams and lipsticks and all the while ignored the sweet internal call of the swan – drawing us to look at the beauty within.

Recently I have been experimenting with hearing and answering this call.

I worked in the cosmetics industry for many years, and during that time I wore lots of makeup everyday, I used a lot of creams and toners, I worked out, a lot. I groomed, all the time.

Now I sometimes dream about what I would do if I could get back all the hours I spent in front of a mirror.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy, fit body or taking care of your skin and hair. But for too long we have believed ourselves to be imperfect, that what makes us unique makes us ugly, that in our natural state we are not enough.

When We Let Our Light Shine We Give Others Permission to do the Same

And so with the swan’s help I am slowly remembering who I really am. I am returning to a more “natural” state and it feels like coming home.

I no longer insist on perfectly lined lips or perfect hair or a perfectly flat tummy because I am remembering that true beauty comes from a source inside.

And the more I know this and feel it in my core, the more it shows.

It shows in the light shining out from our eyes, our faces, and our words and even from the rhythm of our walk, from our easy smile, from our very being.

And with this light, you can transform the world, for “as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same” (Marianne Williamson).

Do not be obedient to the world that tells you that a thin body and flawless skin are all that matters, and do not believe the self-help industry that tempts you to believe you are broken beyond repair.

Answer the swan song in your heart that asks you to give up your life as a performer and be your true eternally beautiful self springing from a light that cannot be dimmed.

You may feel that I am romanticizing or over-stating the medicine of the swan, but Ted Andrews reminds us that “many tales involving swans end tragically, hinting at the primal life-changing power of beauty when released freely.”

Such is the case in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and in the term “swan song”.  As you may know, a “swan song” is the metaphorical phrase for a final gesture or performance given just before death or the end of a career. The term is based on the legend that a swan sings as it dies, this beautiful sweet song her final creative gift.

Swan asks us to die to who we think we are in order to become our true selves.

We Are So Much More than Our Physical Bodies

Regardless of how we may judge our physical bodies, we posses an inner radiance that attests that we are so much more than we appear to be.

Let Swan remind you of how beautiful you are, of how all else will fall away in the presence of your true, authentic, internal beauty.

She will show you how to be beautiful – how to transform into what you always, already are.

I would love to hear of your own encounters with swans and your own experiences of beauty. And, if you feel called to explore and express you inner radiance, I am here to witness and hold space for your transformation into your own beautiful, authentic self.

xo Shona