Looking for Our Child-Like Selves

 

We-are-all-stillHave you ever looked at a baby photo of someone and realize that there are still parts of that youthful innocence still within that person?  Or perhaps, you gazed into your own eyes as an adult looking back at the younger, more vulnerable and child-like you?

Sometimes I think about what it would be like if my younger self were able to speak to the future.  I recently did a piece as my older, wiser self sending a message into the past, but what about the reverse?  Think about what it might be like to get a message from your younger self,   what would your younger self say to your adult self?  Would you remember to play?  Would you remember to see infinite possibility as opposed to all of the things that just can’t work because of silly things like impracticality?  Maybe it would be a message about keeping the shine in your own eyes reminding yourself to see a certain inextinguishable magic of life?

Child-crowned-with-flowers-on-BridgeOr perhaps it is something more simple.  More or less a reminder to not forget the younger version of you that saw the world as magical and adulthood as a certain sense of simple freedoms.  Perhaps you will want to tell yourself that it is right about now that you wanted to have the ability to take middle of the night walks with peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth as if there were not responsibilities of tomorrow.

Perhaps seeing our younger selves and not forgetting that which is still very much child-like could expand compassion for ourselves and also each other.   We’ve grown in size, but we have not left behind that children we once were.  They still very much live within us.  The question is whether or not we remember them.

The Myth of Closure

“Our teachers are not the sunshine but instead our storms. Why?  Because they teach us how to best swim the rough waters, fashion a safety net, or dance them with grace.” (S)

imagesClosure is something that can not be given but is a ritual we need to create for ourselves by ourselves.  Sure, individuals can participate in being part of a process that is needed to give peace.  At the same time, the individual connecting the puzzle pieces is the main catalyst for such a process while delicately balancing/releasing fantasies tied to outcomes.  In other words, closure is not a gift that can be given yet we mistakenly say that people need to “give” us closure.   For this I will share what happened recently to illustrate my point.

I reached out to a former lover to congratulate him on a move.  Significant time passed between our break-up-not-really-break up (only because it was the relationship that was not supposed to be) and the point I decided to communicate.  More time passed and I decided it was safe to invite him to a party.  This was not just any party, but a regular event we attended in the past as the couple-not-really-a-couple, couple.  During this period of light and somewhat hesitant communication between both of us, we had a couple of phone conversations.  During one of those moments, in the middle our phone conversation, he started talking about our break up.  At this point, we did not say anything about it nor discuss our feelings about what happened.

When I heard the words fall out of his mouth through the phone, I jumped on them like I was hopping a train.  Afterall, he was once someone that I  named Storm because he did not know the depth of the damage he caused after leaving me behind.  Now,  after some time and one difficult three hour conversation later, I realized that he also caused damage to himself.  Yet, I was still unclear about the why of all of this as his words tumbled forward and I caught phrases like “it seemed easy” and “it always seemed easy for the person who decides to leave.”  I let him continue his short story he’d started in response to my blurt out, “I was really hurt by what happened.  Really hurt.”

Silence never had a chance after my words escaped.  He started down a path of telling a story while I paced my kitchen puttering around from the stove, to my table, sitting down in one of my chairs, standing up again, etc.   He ended with, “That is my long winded way of saying I was also hurt.  Very hurt because I lost my friend”  At that point, it was like someone puncturing a water balloon, the tears streamed as I admitted that I was going to cry while throwing a joke filled with playful sarcasm, “Gee, it would’ve been real useful to know that last year.”

Our conversation continued and I fought the urge to use a project or another phone call coming in as an excuse to walk home.  I rode the wave of my sadness letting the tears dry up as our discussion continued to take more spirited twists and turns.  At the end of the three hours, we both had enough of our entertaining ride and hung up to continue our irregularly scheduled lives.  I continued to pace my kitchen before deciding to sit in silence for a bit contemplating what I’d just heard.  He was hurt and he missed me in his life while the question “Why didn’t he tell me?” echoed in my head in response to this confession.

This is where the myth-busting about closure comes in.  Would’ve made any difference, me knowing any of that information in the middle of our break up? I could envision that past that would’ve involved me calling him a liar for that type of admission of “This is hurting me more than it hurts you” sort of thing.  When we parted ways, I made my choice to discontinue any talking or contact with him while making decisions that contributed to me moving on.  Needing or wanting him to participate in that process would’ve taken me down a path of 1) Envisioning his specific role in my closure; 2) Unhealthy connection to all of the ways that I would’ve expected a scripted response to our break up versus our real response.

As I thought about this, I realized that everything (included the time taken separately) happened as it was supposed to.  I focused on my projects and myself, he moved on with doing some things in his life.   At this moment, I could enjoy him detached of needing a role to be fulfilled because I focused on navigating my own closure.  And sometimes, this process helps you realize that it is not about creating a tidy closing but the art of creating peaceful space for the questions that just can’t be answered in regards to why or how things fall apart.

Death and Seduction by Familiarity

“Familiarity is seductive and also begins our journey along a slick road of complacency.” (Shanta)

“I forgot how well I knew this area.  Forgot tiny things like certain streets, the buildings I would pass by but not pay attention to.  I’d been in this area for 12 years and it is not until I moved out of it, I realized that there was a familiarity that I was missing now that I was in a new area.”  (A Piece of a Conversation with a Friend)

That is a quote from my friend within our conversation about the newness of moving and the things you don’t realize until they are out of your immediate or most familiar environment.  His vivid brief description of realizing that he was not in the place of familiarity after 12 years and now in a new geographic location speaks to something that we all forget from time to time.  Familiarity arguably lulls us into a false sense of knowing while providing a certain sense of comfortable intimacy.    While this may be terribly obvious, just ask yourself,

□   How many times did you realize that the abandoned building was something you missed until it was no longer on the street corner of that familiar street either from a natural disaster or for other reasons?

□   Is there something that has shifted in the landscape of your home (like a missing piece of furniture or a broken item that has to be discarded) that you did not notice until the shift happened?

□   Think back to the last time you woke up the next day after your first night of being away from home either due to being on vacation or while staying at a friend’s house.  What did you notice after it became glaringly obvious that what you know as home is not there?

Perhaps there are other things through other senses  (like touch, taste, or smell) that you take for granted until something different is introduced.  I will give you an example.  A few months ago, I was at work, took a restroom break, and washed my hands just before coming back to my desk.    Upon sitting back at my desk,  I started to arrange papers and folders with my hands moving fast with the motion of my arms.  While doing this, I caught a whiff of a scent from the hand soap that seemed to mix with the residue of the lotion on my hands.  I was immediately transported to the busy and crowded streets of Alleppey (in Southern India) as I recalled the route that led to a restaurant that I frequented everyday for two months.  I would go there almost every day around brunch to order sunny side up eggs and toast.   I instantly saw the red walls, the simple menus in clear covers with a black border, and recalled the smell.  During my stay in Alleppey December –early February, I became accustomed to the restaurant, the smell and my regular order of eggs and toast.

During my 5-month stay in India, this restaurant was not the most notable or memorable place on my list.  I had many other fond places none of which included this place tucked along a busy street in Southern India.  Yet, on this particular day while at work, sitting in my office back in America a few years later, a smell reminded me of this non-descript restaurant, the one I’d taken for granted for 2 months!  However, I realized that this restaurant that was once so familiar was now glaringly missing from my daily experience.

Familiarity slips into our mouths when we eat our favorite dish, imprints itself upon our fingertips with a familiar touch, and transports us to what is known yet comforting. At the same time, familiarity causes a certain blindness, subconscious ignoring and nurtures complacency as our bodies and minds get lulled into that moment of remembering or feeling familiar.

To what extent is the act of being so familiar with something (like our jobs, our relationships, intimate environs, etc.) actually our undoing?  In other words, can the familiar be detrimental or toxic for growth?  It is not really a yes or no answer but both depending on the specific set of circumstances.   Sometimes it is impossible to know what has become familiar until we are swimming in an ocean of unfamiliar very similar to the experience my friend spoke about in the earlier quote.

Thus, dwelling in the realm of familiar must be handled with care and balance while introducing things that challenge what we think we know so well.   In other words, stay cozy with your world of the familiar while making sure you introduce doses of that which you don’t know.

To Love and Be Loved….That Isn’t the Question But The Human Imperative

“Here is the deal, life is really all about love.”  Billy Ward

So in addition to many things that I adore, the Ted Talk presentations has been added to that list.  In this particular video, Billy Ward presents something the concept that we are here to  “love and to be loved.”

This statement is simple yet invites complexity.  The challenge or presentation of loving and being loved transports me back to my Senior Year in high school during a moment when we had to memorize the famous soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Even if you did not have such a task, I am sure you can guess which one, the famous “To be, or not to be–that is the question.”    In the case of love and what is presented in this particular video, what is being offered up is not a question but perhaps something that should become something of an imperative for humanity.

So ask yourself, are you loving?  Are you allowing yourself to be loved?  Sometimes the mistake we make in trying to answer these questions is by identifying love with a certain image of what we have envisioned.  In a world surrounded with many unknowns, maybe the one piece of wisdom that we can take away is by allowing ourselves to love and be loved with ease and surrender even when it does not look like we’ve imagined.

Looking at Yourself Versus Looking For Yourself

“In a true mirror you don’t look at yourself you look for yourself”

I have many friends across the ocean and one friend in particular is always full of nuggets of wisdom and things that leave me with a lot to ponder.   During one of our exchanges she referred me to a Tedx Talk in which Caroline McHugh talked about truly being the best YOU that you can be.  During the course of this TedxTalk (see posted above), McHugh, who has spent many years working with organizations and individuals to help them discover their best selves, talked about the true mirror which allows you to see what the world sees when you look at your reflection.  Within the description of the true mirror, McHugh states, “In a true mirror you don’t look at yourself you look for yourself.”  This statement struck me for many reasons and of course has lead to many questions all centering around whether or not we are spending our lives looking at ourselves versus for ourselves.

American society is well immersed in the pool of self-help in which everyone is encouraged in “dig deep” and use introspection to think about ourselves/our thoughts/our actions in relationship to the world and others.  On the surface, our introspection is a form of looking at ourselves.  The world essentially becomes a mirror as we learn various practices of stepping back and viewing ourselves.

Then, there are moments we are looking for ourselves in many places, some of which are dead-ended alleyways.  We look for ourselves in our titles, our roles as mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, friends, lovers;
We look for ourselves in what we see reflected back from others;
Sometimes we think we find ourselves in a compliment or pejorative statement;
Then there are the stories, or better yet, our stories.  Our stories serve as our blanket or quilt of pieces found and pieces gone missing from our attempts to look for ourselves.

As I think about Caroline McHugh’s statement of looking at ourselves versus looking for ourselves, I feel like we are see-sawing between both worlds. Just consider that maybe the next time you are looking at the reflection in the mirror, you may be searching out pieces of yourself while wondering about the blemish, wrinkle, or some other mark of imperfection that has landed upon your physical body.    You, like everyone, may in fact be walking in between the worlds of looking at and looking for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

Not So Much About Being Careful What You Ask For….

dreamsIt is not so much that we have to be careful about what we are asking for.
It is more about:
1) Do we have the full knowledge and understanding of what we seek?;
2) Can we allow for the package or delivery to look very different from our imaginings?;
3) Space to to accept the outcome of what we have invited just by doing the asking.

Sometimes we even lack a full understanding the asking goes beyond the use of the voice to seek what we want but includes the ask that is silent, in our actions, and/or other things around us. While it is key to ask the questions, we don’t have to know any of these things. In fact, it is just best to let your child-like self do the asking in the most simple and most open of ways that encapsulates a wisdom of what is needed.

Why I Won’t Be Taking the Shanghai Maglev to Spirituality

Today, I came very close to signing up for a webinar with a well-known spiritual figurehead.  I excitedly clicked the link to explore more and came to the following line (and I paraphrase, but pretty much on point): “Spiritual beginners can move six levels FAST.”  I stared at this lines and the rest of the description as if it were in a foreign language.    Since when did the spiritual path enter a fast track program?  And six levels of what exactly?

indexFast spiritualism in the culture of ‘All Things Now’ is not novel and has been brewing for some time.  For example, if you wish to teach yoga, you can choose from arrangements of 200+ to 300+ certification hours, then you can call yourself a Yoga teacher (just google it, you will see what I am referring to).   In this age of “Have It Your Way” (the famous Burger King line) or I would revise, “Have it your way as of yesterday” that includes not just orders for food or securing items online, but also human relationship as well.  Online dating, for instance, brings you tons of options for establishing quick connections and instant conversations right in the privacy of your own home.

So why wouldn’t this extend to fast-tracking the exploration of one’s spiritual self?  Perhaps this would appeal to most, but it is troubling to me that both human relationship and the  cultivation of the relationship with oneself has been placed upon (a) a track of any kind and (b) a fast track.  I can’t deny that our American society is plagued with deadlines but all the more reason to opt out of taking the Shanghai Maglev to your spiritual life.

What became of the webinar after reading those lines about “FAST” spirituality?  Well, obviously a blog post but also some level of disenchantment and surprise.  I closed the website and sat in a state of both upset and perplexed.  I wonder how many people saw that webinar opportunity and felt that their needs could be properly met through a serving of fast soul-food?  Or how many others were like me, read that and decided that it was best to venture along a spiritual path at a slow, steady and sometimes arduous pace?

Power By Default v. Power That Just Is

Power_Opening_TitleLately I have been thinking about power and the various dynamics within it.  Specifically, the aspect of power that has always been intriguing is focused on the power dynamic that exists between individuals.   How and why is it given or perceived?  Does having power by default (either by being in charge of an organization, overseeing a project, etc.) automatically mean that you truly have power?  Also, if you have to do any convincing to others that you have power or that you are in charge, are you really?
lead_largeThe best way I can describe my recent thinking is by sharing a trip down memory lane.  I was 18 years old, a senior in high school and also enrolled at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts with Creative Writing as my focus. During one of my sessions there, our drama teacher took us through an exercise as a part of illustrating how to perform poetry.  In this particular instance, we were each paired up and given the following instructions, “Walk pass each other at first.  Then I want you to do it again, but as you do, one of you is going to take away power and the other is going to give it.”  We did this several times each of us having a chance to either be the “taker” or “giver” of this so-called power.  We were then asked a series of questions  in regards to what we noticed either in giving or taking power away just by physically passing another person.
That exercise was about 18 years ago and even as I move about town or indulge myself in people watching, I still ask myself–are we taking power, giving power, or equally sharing space as we pass each other?  I have had the good fortune (or misfortune depending on how you define it) of being the leader.  I have managed many projects, directed staff, and created many things on a small and large scale.  This involved securing buy-in, gaining respect, and due to the power of the positions I have held, there was also great responsibility.  These were all things I did not take lightly, but instead in my role as leader, director, or manager, I viewed myself as “being in service to” as opposed to everyone being in service to me.
indexMy thoughts around this have filtered into the different types of power that exist-power by default and power that just is.  Power by default may come about through promotions, titles, or other similar types of things versus the power that just is which may not be expressed through a job/career/life given title but it is just within you.  The types of power I have witness throughout my life fall into the category of power by default.  I have encountered many, for example, who go out of their way to scream their titles and roles either through voice or the use of their body (in other words, they asserted power by physically illustrating they were in charge).  They also defined being the leader as synonymous with being the takers of power.  Very rarely have I encountered the individuals who just carried the power but when I have, I had more respect for them.  And while I recognize that my power came from hierarchical positions within organizations, I recognized the opportunity to just carry a certain type of knowing as opposed to having a need to remind everyone of my so-called title or role.
390ASP322558Thus, being given “power” or the power by default does not make you such a thing.  In fact, in my mind, it is a default setting on an organizational chart but it does not mean that you truly carry it within you.   If you have to say you carry the power, and loudly express that you are a leader, then it displays your insecurity and is an attempt to convince yourself and others of your validity.  It also means that you are the taker of power (like in that exercise I mentioned earlier) as opposed to being inspired to share space or inspire others to tap into their own wells of power.  I have done this many times in the past and it was indeed born out of a need to 1) convince, (2) assert, and largely (3) insecurity and lack of safety within my own position.  However, if you just are and give people an opportunity to recognize you just by being…you can gracefully lead by example.
As you share space with others from day-to-day either in career, leisure, or in life–do you give, take or share power?   Do you feel the need to convince others that you possess such a thing or will you just be?

 

No as the New Imperative for the Self

“What am I saying ‘Yes’ to that gives people the permission to treat me a certain way?”

_DSC0720_newThis was a question someone brought up as we talked about navigating the murky world of “Yes” and “No.”  If you haven’t noticed (perhaps like me, you sometimes hide under a rock) there has been a lot about saying ‘Yes’ in regards to inviting good into your life.  Some even go as far as supporting the idea of saying ‘yes’ because it will open doors and invite opportunity.  I am personally one of those believers.

But with this particular conversation, we were discussing the concept of ‘Yes’ gone wrong.  When does saying ‘Yes’ become toxic or harmful to the self?  When does saying ‘Yes’ jeopardize the ultimate good for yourself?  As much as ‘No’ has been seen as a negative or the “bad cop” of the Yes/No dyad, it has its uses and in some ways becomes the erotic or taboo invitation.  For example, ‘No’  invites a challenge (depending on the context, agreements between various parties, etc.)  or negotiation of sorts.  While ‘Yes’ signals an open door, lack of challenge, open invitation.

_DSC0719_newIn the context of the conversation and quote that I opened with, ‘No’ becomes crucial in navigating our relationships with our friends, family, lovers, and various other circumstances.  Many times, it can be seen as a negative especially as we are seeing a lot of “pro-Yes” language but I would like to offer up ‘No’ as another type of invitation:

-An invitation to the world to meet you on your terms in a way that is safe;
-An invitation to yourself that it is okay to advocate  for your own boundaries and terms.

A lot of times we sometimes feel guilty for saying No, I am in that category.  When I have said ‘No’ instead of a ‘Yes’ at various times in my life, I felt more guilt for not meeting  the needs of another, yet I did not think of it as a tool for meeting and communicating my own needs/wants.  No is just as empowering as the Yes and both are needed given the proper time, place, context or circumstance.  So here are my questions to leave for you to ponder:

-What are the labyrinths of power, boundaries and understanding you have created around the uses of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’?
-What invitations have you given to others or opportunities through these words and why?  For example, was a ‘Yes’ used and did it invite a certain level of disrespect to you?

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