I thought the work would be WORK. In some way, I’d fortified myself in preparation for the gathering, metaphysical pick axe in hand, because I know how diligently we cling to the stories that have supported us — and protect us, even, from the lives, and from the ease, we want to step into.
And yes, it happened; I heard the stories get retold because there were new ears to listen, and this is what we do when we introduce ourselves to the world (or a room full of women we’ve never met): we say who we’ve been, who we’ve known how to be, and what represents the space we’ve been occupying — because we almost (almost) don’t know who we are if we aren’t a character in the narrative we’ve learned how to create of our lives.
As I looked around at the women, and listened to their laughter from the next room, and watched them untangle themselves from the old stories, I asked (I am constantly asking):
What does it take to bring us home to ourselves?
What is required to soften into who we REALLY are?
How do we recognize ourselves for the first time, or again, when the returning is both the beginning and the homecoming?
It seems simple, but it’s not, really. Not when we consider how long the protection process has been reaffirming itself.
It actually takes quite a bit to step into the current of your readiness, which is why most of the time, it’s pain that does the opening — cataclysmic events, illness, violence and self-injury — and even though we despise that suffering, we’ve come to know it as the most common way to recognize what and who we are; in light of pain, we discover we’re resilient, life-seeking, and capable of healing. But so often, the pattern has been set, and we relent to understanding through suffering, and recreate it, and stay in the pattern of pain-bargaining because we’re “learning something.”
When you’re ready to know yourself, it begins.
I think this is what I saw in the women of Burn over the last few days: they were ready to know, and even armed with all their previous knowing, they were ready to un-know, too.
I don’t mean “know” in the familiar sense — it’s one thing to know our narrative, and how we fit into it, and another thing entirely to EXPERIENCE ourselves in true knowing, outside the narrative. It’s the space where the narrative starts to be questioned, released and rewritten.
This knowing confronts the limitations we’ve acquiesced to, and abided by. There is grieving, yes, but there is the acquisition of a completely different kind of power, and a newfound lightness of Being that empowers you with a sense of your innate worth, and all that lies in the possibility of being who you are and what you’re here to create — truly, finally, free.
So yeah, it was “work.” But not the work I thought it would be. I saw how much collective longing existed among the women of Burn — to be free, and to know the unequivocal Truth of themselves. My work, I realized, was to lay down my pick axe and instead position myself in the light:
Torch-bearer, protectoress of the flames, guardian of the embers, fanning them gently, persistently, with unrelenting clear-seeing.
Each woman holds both the embers and the breath necessary to fan them to life. The burning is not so much about pain, but about purity. It may take a few rounds (or decades) before the life in you starts to ache to be lived, and that’s okay. But the gnawing ache won’t relent — I’m telling you.
You will not be free until you decide to be, and dare to open to the exploration of all you might be behind the narrative.
The longing is the place where the whisper begins: the in-breath, the beginning of a sound just loud enough to be heard, and listened to, and spoken on the wind.
A client and I had a coaching call scheduled. About an hour beforehand, she sent me an email telling me [life stuff] had happened, plus [more life stuff] and she wasn’t sure she was up for talking and what did I think…?
Here’s how I knew she wasn’t actually avoiding doing the work she’d decided to invest in: She told me what was going on, and invited me into it by asking what I thought.
Real avoidance (the kind that paralyzes you into suffocating fear and inertia) just avoids. It gives not one shit whether or not you are betraying yourself; it just climbs into bed, turns off the light and holds a steady middle finger up to the Universe and everyone / everything that might come knocking at the golden door of opportunity.
The story ends with her thanking me for calling BS and both of us learning what her “avoidance” actually looks like: asking for help.
ASKING FOR HELP IS STILL SHOWING UP, AND SHOWING UP IS HOW YOU TELL YOUR ESSENTIAL SELF — AND THE UNIVERSAL FORCES ALIGNED FOR YOUR HIGHEST GOOD — THAT YOU’RE STILL IN BUSINESS.
When you don’t show up (for life, for coffee dates with your friends, for the work you know it will take to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be), you’re saying to your most Essential Self, JUST KIDDING I’M NOT LISTENING HA HA HA!!! And then you go on about your ho-hummery, or your un-processed grief, wondering why nothing is changing and you feel like crap about not reaching your fullest, most life-giving potential.
There’s a difference between the stuff we genuinely don’t want to do, and the stuff we aren’t giving ourselves permission to explore, because it scares the ever-loving shit out of our protective mechanisms, i.e. ego, inner gremlin / critic, etc.
When you’ve invited transformation into your life, you have also invited all your patterned responses to death (hear me out) to rise up and rally against death. Death of what? Ego. Old Self. Stories. Unconscious (or conscious) roles you’re playing in your family, relationships, business, body…. the list goes on and on and on. Your lizard brain is like ALL ABOARD and you can count on something / everything going wrong as you attempt to reach for your highest, most powerful manifestation of Self.
Those mechanisms are like a confused army: super stellar at protecting the kingdom of your heart, but dumb AF when it comes to allowing transformation.
The ONLY way to get the confused army of your ego on board is to stare every soldier down, one by one, and saying (and acting) with resolute not-fucking-around-ness: YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME.
You will have to show up. You will have to not cancel. You will have to hire the coach, go to the therapist, the doctor, the lover, the family member and tell the truth — most importantly, to yourself.
In order to create a life reflective of who you know yourself to be, you will have to let the old you die.
Which, can we talk about this for a sec? It’s painful. Anyone who tells you it won’t hurt to change into your most badass self is full of poop. You will literally feel layers of belief and pattern and lies tearing themselves away from you as you re-align with truer patterns, relationships and actions. People you love will leave, or YOU will leave. And there will often be a pause, an incubation time, where you feel completely, emptily, what-the-hell-was-I-thinking… alone.
Keep going. Show up. Place your precious feet, one at a time, in front of the other, over and over again. Don’t look back. Hold your Highest Self at the center of your being, and TRUST it. You wouldn’t reach for what’s impossible; in fact, the only impossible thing is staying stuck in a life that doesn’t fit.
I spoke at an event for young people. Teenagers. I got on stage, shaking a little, but duty-bound to tell them about vulnerability and trust: the two most important ingredients on the path to figuring out who they might really be (and how who they are at their core is the answer to every question they’ll ever ask about what they want to be when they grow up).
“Don’t worry,” I told them. “I know forty-year-olds who are still trying to figure it out. Stay vulnerable, tell the truth, and you’ll be way ahead of the curve.”
At the end of the talk, a young man came marching straight toward me, arms outstretched, ready to bring it in for a hug. “I love you,” he proclaimed. “I LOVE YOU.” He was wearing a blue metallic jacket and had streaks of pink in his hair. “No, I love YOU,” I told him. “YOU ARE FABULOUS.”
We talked a bit. He told me he’s a painter. He gave me 8 more hugs. I gave him my email address and told him to keep me posted on his art. I don’t think I’ve ever met a human more unabashedly themselves; articulate, bravely affectionate, funny as shit, and straight-up HONEST in every facet of his being.
He was 12 years old.
I recently got included in a group email from him letting everyone know that his name is now Melody. “These are my pronouns now,” he wrote, “so I’d appreciate it if you’d address me as such. Right now, my parents aren’t supportive, which is something I’ll have to work out with them on my own; it’s a process. Anyway, nice to meet you. I’m Melody.”
I put down my laptop, did a happy dance, and wrote Melody a quick note to tell her she’s my new spirit animal, and then sat down to write all of you to say:
IF YOU’RE NOT ALREADY GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE 100% YOURSELF, START. THE WORLD CANNOT AFFORD FOR YOU TO HIDE YOUR BRILLIANCE.
KNOW THIS: NOT EVERYONE WILL SUPPORT YOU.
Whether your proclamation of Self-hood is as small as deciding you’re no longer the person who has to always host the family gatherings, or as big as calling bull-nana on a relationship that just doesn’t do it for you anymore — or deciding you will now be called by a different name — telling the truth and asking for support is an empowered act.
Melody not only claimed her right to be who she feels she is at her core, AT TWELVE YEARS OLD, but is tackling the hefty task of asking her people to support her.
When it comes time to claim who you are — and your right to be that — there is no hiding in the shadows of your victimhood. Not really, not if you want to thrive. You will have to accept people’s limits (even if temporarily) — and you cannot take them personally.
Say what’s true, ask for what you need, and then get on with living your life.
As you venture into your day, consider this truth bomb from old-timey mastermind, Wallace Wattles:
“You can never become a great man or woman until you overcome anxiety, worry, and fear. It is impossible for an anxious person, a worried one, or a fearful one to perceive truth; all things are distorted and thrown out of their proper relations by such mental states, and those who are in them cannot read the thoughts of God.”
You might thrash against this idea — especially if you have a history or anxiety, worry or fear. (Which, unless you’re Buddha, is everyone.) But before you write to me to tell me to suck it and that I have no idea what you go through and how awful it is and All The Hard Things, let me ask you:
How’s the anxiety / worry / fear going for you?
Do you feel empowered by it? Capable? Does it make you rise out of bed, excited and ready to create a life that feels real, honest, and meaningful?
No? No. Of course not. Of course, is your answer is YES, then I hope you’re currently writing a book on how fear wins and is awesome and YAYYYY anxiety! (Because some people have managed just that, and are killin’ it: observe.)
Know this: you have a choice. I’ve worked with people who were told they were a lost cause, should be heavily medicated and would likely not amount to much else in the name of their chemical imbalances and emotional (or substance) addictions.
I have seen those same people say FUCK THIS and rise, hell bent on feeling good about themselves and their lives. They’ve created businesses and heart-based realities that are a far cry from what they felt capable of before they decided:
My life is valuable.
I will not waste it.
If Melody can do it, so can we all.
I’m the youngest of five daughters, 12 years younger than next oldest to me. Growing up, it was just my mom and me; my older sisters were mostly off being wild, out of the house or doing their own thing. What dots my memory the most about my childhood is how much time I spent alone.
Also, that we were poor. I knew it bone-deep. Mine wasn’t a family where things were swept under the rug, and though it was probably a heavy thing for a kid to bear, my mother talked to me a lot about money. Or, um, the lack of it. You’ll know what I mean if you also experienced this as a kid: I grew up with not-enough weaving itself in the fabric of my being.
Nothing was purchased without there being a sense that it was dangerous to do so; even trips to the grocery store inspired a shrinking feeling. I felt constantly in a dance between EAT ALL THE GOOD FOOD NOW WHILE IT’S THERE (meaning: Doritos), and EAT AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE SO IT’LL LAST.
It wasn’t conscious, of course. I don’t think I realized Not-Enough was a part of my every move until one afternoon, post-college, in the kitchen of my host family in Dublin, Ireland. I was making coffee and reaching for a few of these insanely addictive little biscuit cookies that were always kept in the cupboard. (I chalk my sudden awareness up to the fact that I’d recently developed a meditation practice, so I felt hyper-aware of everryyytthiiinnng.)
Placing my little cookies on a little plate next to my coffee, I felt an anxiety creep up into my body. It’s a feeling I call my Hungry Child: Soon these’ll be gone. Better have more.
Have you ever known or worked with children who’ve been neglected? One of the most common symptoms of neglect is hoarding and hiding; children who’ve endured this kind of abuse will often hide food under their beds or in secret places only they know about, or they’ll wake up in the middle of the night, to be found eating on the kitchen floor at 2am.
My feeling standing at the kitchen counter that afternoon I was twenty-three was similar. It meant I was not only a solid 30 pounds heavier than my frame really warranted, but I was also wracked with an anxiety, I realized, all the time. Fear that when I wanted something, there wouldn’t be enough.
The fear of not-enough will keep you wound up so tightly that you will either hoard your resources or else spend them wildly for the sheer thrill of having — and the anxiety of having to take care of anything of value.
There is rarely peace. Money is spent before it’s earned. Clutter accumulates. Relationships are often polluted with fear — or even abuse — because the function that tells our brains we are safe and worthy is riddled with anxiety chemicals and adrenaline.
You don’t have to have been neglected or abused as a child; you don’t have to come from a family where money was in short supply. All that’s required for the fear of not-enough to be toxifying your capacity to feel safe is that fear was present, and something was withheld.
Was it love that was withheld? Patience? Actual physical resources like food or clothing? Was your freedom in jeopardy? Was there a fear that if you did or didn’t do something, you’d be punished? Or rewarded?
As children, our brains are nowhere near developed enough to discern the behavior of our major support system from our basic okay-ness. We cannot compartmentalize. Everything we experience is the truth, and it lodges itself in our cells, laying the foundations for what will become our patterns for connecting and creating for the rest of our lives.
WHERE IN YOUR LIFE ARE YOU LIVING IN FEAR OF NOT-ENOUGH?
Is the connection you share with your partner always falling short of what you expect or hope for?
Does your creative work (or the idea of it) stem from a fear of annihilation — or destitution?
Does money feel like it slips through your hands, or avoides you completely?
Answering these questions honestly is a mighty task. It’ll be painful going back into the catacombs of your memory to dig up what about your current state of not-enoughness feels familiar — which is another important question to ask yourself:
Does [current sucky not-enough situation] feel familiar?
Chances are yes, it does. We create our lives out of patterns — until we become conscious of them, and train ourselves to think and expect differently. Easy? No. But a lot easier than a constant fear of not-enough.
What to do will also seem, ironically, not enough
to tackle such a big fear: Compassion.
Become so gentle with yourself that you can see your fears for what they are: impressed patterns of expectation that you inherited. That stuff’s not yours. What is yours is what you create out of awareness and deep, DEEP self-love from here on out.
Every morning, between the ungodly hours of 4:30 – 5:30am, I get up. I put the coffee on (two parts coffee, one part chicory), step out into the dark morning with my pup for a few breaths of crisp mountain air, and then crawl back into bed to meditate.
Don’t misunderstand me: I love sleep, and place it high on my list of self-care priorities. But sometimes losing sleep is the result of saying Yes to something in your life that’s higher on the list for you, at least for the moment.
This morning routine is a good routine, mostly because it’s a routine; something I’ve found hard to create for myself in the past, but feel so good about when I execute it.
This is something I’ve said Yes to for myself, because I can’t fathom how every other person has the same amount of time I have (though I am assured by scientists this is true). For me, creating intentional time in the morning to connect to the Motherland that is Spirit, and commit to a creative practice, is life-saving.
I’m not being dramatic. This time keeps me from feeling like I’m stuck on a treadmill of doom when the monotony of life (paying bills, somehow remembering that I need to go to the dentist and that the dog needs a walk), as it does every day.
But last night was different.
After thrashing around manically in bed for what felt like 27 hours straight, I looked at the clock: 12:47am. I’d been attempting sleep for not even two hours. It pained me, but I turned on the light.
These middle of the night wakings have been happening more often for me, and again: one of the things I’ve said Yes to for myself, is to follow their rhythms. (While also muttering multiple fucks under my breath.)
Meditation seemed like a laughable response to my anguished state, so I grabbed my journal, my old friend. I wrote and cried a little, then worked a little, and finally at almost 3am, attempted sleep again. And here I am, with the sole purpose of helping shepherd you into your morning.
When you’re committed to living authentically, you’re willing to be uncomfortable for a time, because you recognize that it’s more uncomfortable to be living a life that doesn’t fit.
What are you avoiding feeling because it’s bound to be uncomfortable?
Don’t answer right away. Sit with it. Get honest with yourself, and give yourself permission to not be the dang Buddha with this one, unattached to your emotions and set free by the impermanence in all things blah blah blah.
This will seem like a simple question (and it is). But answered honestly, it can give you some much-needed insight into where you might be stuffing yourself into a too-small space, which, actually, is keeping you from feeling — and therefore living — authentically.
Your feeling function is linked to your intuitive center, which is the main way you will feel your essential self saying NO to something not right for it. No is the first point on a map that inches you closer to a life that feels joyous to live. It’s only by fully feeling the complete shittiness of your No that you can understand the way it’s impacting your YES — which often gets buried in a pile of have-to’s and shoulds and duties of all kinds that are very real and need your attention… sometimes.
We have to know what No feels like all the way down to our guts before our Yes feels urgent enough to follow. And it is urgent; it is the MOST urgent. It’s probably going to be uncomfortable, and you will likely learn some unsavory things about yourself, but this isn’t cause to run and hide; it’s a sign that your soul-self is peeking through, ready to guide you.
I’d really love to hear from you. The uncomfortable feeling that something in our lives is saying No — but we’re not sure what or what to do about it — is one of the most common symptoms of living a life that’s not yours.
What’s your No?
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