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

 

 

Awakening, courage, gratitude, Joy, Mystery and Magic

This is what happened on my way home from Mexico.

Last April I was in Puerto Vallarta for 5 days for my cousin’s wedding. The trip had been filled with the usual family joys and tensions, and while I enjoyed the beach and the pool and the margaritas –  I was at the same time having incredibly vivid and strange dreams, and was missing my husband and daughters, who had not been able to join me on this trip.

On my last day in Mexico, a feeling of foreboding had been haunting me, but I made it to the airport and had no sense of trouble when I got on my flight home to Toronto at 3:30pm that Sunday afternoon.

We knew at takeoff that there was stormy weather in Toronto. For whatever reason, our plane arrived early in Toronto air space, just in time to catch the tail end of the storm.  And so, since we were early, we had to circle the airport in rough turbulence the likes of which I have never experienced.  I am a seasoned flyer, and turbulence does not generally upset me, so perhaps it was because the turbulence went on so long (I think about 10 minutes although it felt like hours) and was so unrelentingly rough that in the midst of it, I started to cry. Not just a few tears, but hot streaming tears down my face and quiet gasping sobs I tried to pretend was coughing.  I buried my face in my book to hide my tears, embarrassed for anyone to see how upset I was.

As the turbulence went on and on, I took a moment to look around and I saw white knuckles clenched on arm rests and people with their eyes closed and their lips moving, and I heard people using their air-sickness bags.

So in that moment I was actually afraid for my life.

And I knew at one point that it didn’t matter to me if I died, I just wanted to see my children and my husband again, to tell them I loved them and hold them in my arms.  I knew they were waiting for me on the ground below…and dramatic as it sounds now, I didn’t want my girls to grow up without a mother.

It may not surprise you to hear that in that moment I started talking with God. Praying.

Mostly I hoped he would help me to stop crying.  And I promised him anything if he would make it possible for me to see my children again.  And then I heard these words in a loud, clear, almost booming male voice:

“Write the words, speak the words, write every single word.” 

And I heard this over and over again as the plane was tossed through the air. With every plummet and creak on the plane, every jolting movement I heard: “Write. The. Words., Speak. The. Words., Write. Every. Single. Word.  Hear my roaring words in your heart and write the words.”

So loud and clear and so unexpected were these words that I looked up and down the aisles to see if someone was speaking, I looked around to see if others were hearing what I was hearing.  They were not.  These words were for me.

And so, as you do when speaking with God on a storm-tossed airplane over Pearson, I promised him everything.  I whispered to him through my tears that I would write the words, write every single word, that I would speak the words, that I would hear and write and speak the words he has placed, like a roaring storm, in my heart.

And so I write…because this is not a directive that you ignore.

Certainly, when we landed (and everyone on the plane with me clapped and cheered when our wheels finally touched the runway) I was overjoyed to see my family, I laughed and cried to see them and I hugged them so tight they couldn’t breathe.  And they laughed at me because it had only been 5 days. But I have a renewed sense of gratitude for them.  I am less willing now to be parted from them.

And I wasn’t sure that I was ever supposed to write about this experience, which happened 8 months ago.  And perhaps today as I post this I will be able to laugh at my fear of writing about the very experience that drives me to continue writing. And since that day in April, in my moments of doubt, in moments of meditation, when I ask the Divine how I can serve not myself but a higher purpose, the answer is always the same: write. Write every single word. Write what’s in your heart.

I do not get the sense that I am supposed to write fiction or poetry although I am certain that I could.

I am supposed to write what’s in my heart because someone, somewhere is supposed to read it, to hear it…perhaps it’s you.

Perhaps you too have had a direct encounter with the Divine, and your purpose or the way forward has been revealed to you in a beautiful and transformative way.

Perhaps you have made changes, small or sweeping, to your life based on that encounter, so filled with wisdom, truth and love.

And perhaps, like me, you know how blessed you are, you know you have been changed by your encounter with the divine storm. In a moment of terror or grief or pain you were cracked open, and the light got in.

And so I strive to remain open to further direction and guidance.  Whether flying through a storm, or safe on my meditation cushion, or walking the forest trails…I listen. I write. I speak.

Every word.

And I am so very grateful that I can.

 

 

Animals and Nature, Awakening, Mindfulness and Meditation

There is No Way to Push the River

“There is no way to push the river…” Ralph Blum

This is the story of how I tried too hard to push the river. And how the river brought me back to peace.

Recently I have been insisting, waiting, really impatiently waiting, pushing myself and others to meet self-imposed deadlines that seem important.

I am guilty of trying to show the universe my calendar: “here’s my plan and my timelines, are you listening?” I have been praying with expectations, asking “when will I get?” instead of “what am I called to give?”

And so I have upset and hurt people, I have missed opportunities, I have insisted when I could have assisted.

On a larger scale I have blocked the flow of natural insight and opportunity that the universe always provides.

My default when I am upset is to get outside. I love to be out in nature, and I especially love to walk by the river that flows near my home and listen. Next to the river, I was able to quiet my desperate, grasping mind and gain insight into my dilemma.

I realized that because the work in front of me feels so important, I thought that I had better be in control, in charge of it, to guide and ensure the outcome. My need for control was so strong that an image sprang to my mind of me trying to hold back and redirect the river with my bare hands, my feet planted in the muddy riverbed, straining and pushing.

This made me laugh and as I sat watching the river flow by me I understood the great lesson of the river: I don’t need to try to control how this unfolds and carry it all to conclusion. I don’t need to strain and force and insist.

I cannot push the river, but I can instead “give it up to God” and let the river carry me.

I had forgotten how a river always takes the easiest, most obvious path to the sea.  Water knows that there is time and water does its slow and methodical work, cutting crevices and canyons out of mountains, turning boulders into beaches. Such is the slow power of water.

All in good time, water says. 

If you let go you will find that you have this power too. You have influence, you create ripples and you cannot know whom they will touch or when.

“…control is impossible. We stand in the world as in a great ocean. Who could manage or possess such power? The only way to keep from drowning is to ride the currents. The ocean will support us as long as we swim with the flow.” -Joan Bunning

One of the pitfalls of wanting to trust in the river and go with the flow is getting stuck in a place of inertia.  There are areas of the river that can flow in a dangerous circular motion, places where we feel apathetic and stuck and we can’t see the new horizons waiting for us further downstream.  We must meet the universe half way.

Trusting the river, the flow of life, doesn’t mean you don’t have dreams and goals and aspirations.  It doesn’t mean you sit back and wait. You do the work that is in front of you; you work with love on what needs to be done, with no expectation of the how or when or where the ripples of your thoughts and deeds will wash up on a new shore. This takes profound trust.

If you listen, you will hear the river inviting you in to play. To give up the stifling, heart-closing work of control and jump into a place of trust and freedom and joy.

We too are made of water; in fact, over 60% of our bodies are water.  The river can help you know that you are part of nature and its innate flow, to understand that everything will happen in its own perfect time and that the “work” of fulfilling your purpose will not be difficult.

You do not need to push the river.

If you let it, it will flow through you like a song in your veins and guide you to receive the promise of cool, fresh, undiluted love.

If you’re struggling to let go and jump into a new way of life, a new purpose, I’m here to help.

Together we can explore the joy of swimming in the river.

Shona

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

Quiet the Voice of Fear

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear” George Addair

This week I have been a true student of procrastination.

I recently embraced minimalism and decided that before I can possibly be expected to sit down and write something meaningful the kitchen drawers must be de-cluttered.  The linen closet pared down (how many hand towels do we really need?!).  I asserted that a clear and uncluttered work space opens the door to clear and uncluttered thinking…yet I knew I was just avoiding the hard work of putting my butt in the chair and writing.

You could argue, as I did for all the hours I spent cleaning out my walk-in closet, that “this is good – I am making space for creative energy, I am letting things go so that new ideas and opportunities can enter into my life, my mind, my soul….so it must be ok then, right?”

What I was doing this week was in fact a mini version of what I have been doing for most of my life.

Working at jobs that seemed “good”, productive, especially when I worked for a not for profit, I told myself “I am doing good things, how can this be bad?”.  And yet all the while there was this nagging feeling, growing more and more powerful in me, that I was avoiding the real work that needed to be done.  Work that only I could do and yet it seemed so hard to turn myself to it.

If you listen to the voice of fear you’ll hide from the real work of your life and miss out on the challenges and the joy awaiting you, just on the other side of fear.

The work I’m talking about is this work, the work of embracing my true calling and helping other women to awaken to their own true life purposes.

The reason I clean and de-clutter is out of fear.  The fear of using my gifts, however humble.  The fear that no one will understand.  The fear of failing in my work AND the fear of succeeding.

Thanks to this week, my fear is now crystal clear, with a honed edge, it has become a weapon in my hands.  In the face of this fear, I have in fact been incredibly hard on myself, heaping criticism on myself, berating myself for a lack of commitment, lack of discipline, lack of work ethic and vision.

I am lazy.

I am a coward.

As I scoured and scrubbed the surfaces of my home, I left myself not one measly scrap of compassion.

Then, in a moment of quiet clarity, I was reminded of what Byron Katie says in her book Loving What Is: “No one can hurt me, that’s my job”.  I seem to be very good at this part of the job.

I suspect you are too.

No one has ever said to me out loud the hurtful things that I have told myself in my head. We are our own worst enemies – and so the house is clean, and I feel like a turd.

All around me though, if I remember to look, is the calm, grounding support of the natural world.  All week, in my yard (more de-cluttering) or on walks, I was joined by one or more raucous blue jays.  The blue jay is noisy and hard to ignore.

So finally, I listened.

Blue Jay presents the challenge of not showing up as your authentic self, or in fact of not showing up at all.  So the Blue Jay, with his blue crown of feathers, asks if we want to be a pretender to the throne, or to develop the innate royalty that was always, already ours.

Our “royalty” lies in the unique, divinely given gifts we each have and are asked to take up and gift back to the world.  That’s where our true power lies, in authenticity, and he reminds us of the proper use of our power.

He shows you that the choice is always yours to make.

For years I was a pretender and the sight of a Blue Jay would create a kind of anxiety in me…as if I could hear him loudly telling the world that I was an impostor in my own life.  This lasted only so long as I denied the true expression of who I was and stifled the desire to do the healing work I yearned to do.

There is always another closet to clean out, another pot to wash, another task that needs doing.

In stillness, and especially in nature, you can quiet the voice of fear and hear the call to awaken.

Hear the voice of love speaking to you in birdsong…asking you to bring forth your authentic power for all to see.

If you’d like to explore how self-criticism, doubt and compulsive de-cluttering may be keeping you from answering the deepest yearnings of your soul, I am here to help.  We can walk this path together, I’ve been there, and I’m ready when you are.

 

Blue Jay

Lend me your fearless flight, your confident power, your startling blue

Lend me wisdom to take on the responsibility that comes with walking a path with heart

The path that calls from a higher self, a divine wisdom

Lend me your laughing heart, your bounding joy as you soar from branch to branch with your brothers

Lend me your voice in blue to tell of the way

To tell of the one who will be crowned in all her glory at the end of the day

When the choice is made to take up the gifts we have been given and gift them back to the world

Our power made manifest in service to our souls

 

It’s time to quiet the voice of fear,

Shona