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?
The smoke has a sweet smell: sap burning. From where I sit, the fire sounds like a strong wind blowing — not rustling leaves so much as the sense that it’s right inside your ears, like a firm whisper. Here and there it pops and crackles; this must be one of the most ancient sounds for human ears — maybe even the first man-made music.
It’s likely that fire was experienced before it was created; nature has a way of spontaneously setting itself aflame, which has the miraculous effect of purifying the land, teasing seeds open so that they can sprout, and carrying all kinds of organic material miles and miles away, ensuring the propagation of life forms that would have otherwise been destroyed by the heat of a land set ablaze.
I like imagining the faces of the first humans witnessing a lightning bolt striking a match against the earth — the awe they must have felt, the gods they must have thanked or feared. How miraculous to have seen something, felt its warmth, and then setting about to re-create it with the hunch that it could prove useful down the line when little Tom-Tom got a cold from staying out too late tipping wooly mammoths over in their sleep, and would obviously a little warming by the glow of the cave fire.
At least that’s how I imagine it. It helps me to remember that creative acts — often taken for granted — have helped shape the world we all strive to find joy in. Keeping the fire in my home is a constant meditation on the power of imagination and determination, coupled with a reminder that it’s Nature’s way to (literally) light the path for us.
But what if earth’s first people had seen that lightning strike, watched a fire start to consume a huge swatch of land and felt so overwhelmed by the holiness of this magnificent natural wonder that they shrunk back, figured they were probably not good enough to re-create it and went back to the Dark Ages equivalent of scrolling through social media, which was probably, I dunno, looking at everyone else’s cave paintings. We’d be without the magic of self-made warmth, engines, jet planes, trains, ovens, lava lamps and anything at all that is warm to eat. I’m incredibly grateful to the one guy who stood there, loincloth-clad, spear in hand, fire dancing on his skin and thought, “I can totally do this.”
Harnessing fire may be man’s first and most magical creative act, one that is responsible for the survival of our species. They couldn’t have known then what a massive gift this would be to the world, nor were they focused on their perceived shortcomings or droning on about how they didn’t have time. One moment sparked a very clear knowing in the bodies of those who would eventually capture this magnificent tool: I need to make this happen.
You’ve probably had a moment like that. Or several. Armed with your particular aptitudes and skill set, the gift of your awareness and hunch that you’re capable of great things (you are descended from the folks who harnessed fire, after all), you’ve probably stood in awe of something wonderful, or felt a bone-chilling knowing of your own. Something in you probably shouted, “MORE OF THIS!”
You may have followed the MORE OF THIS feeling to the love of your life, or the city that finally feels like home, or a creative act of your own that makes you feel alive and capable and whole. It’s also likely that you’ve ignored this feeling more times than you’ve gone with it. It’s hard work to follow such immediate instructions from your Original Self — the part of you that is still connected enough with your instincts that, like my dog when he sees a squirrel, doesn’t stop to think about whether or not he can catch it or if this is something that will please the other dogs or make him money — he just chases after it, propelled by an ancient instinct to hunt. As an animal, he can stay in touch with his Original Self and not worry about the consequences, the only real consequences being A) cars and B) rabies. In that moment between he and the squirrel, he is harnessing fire.
What’s your fire? What do you feel so compelled to chase after that, if you’re honest with yourself, makes you feel a little like Bodhi and his squirrel fetish? For a just a moment, forget the perceived limitations and consequences. Ask yourself the following questions:
- When do I feel most alive / peaceful / whole / content?
- What activities or experiences do I see other people doing or having that make me jealous?
- When I hear about or see other people _________, it brings me to tears.
Tears are an excellent way to gauge what really matters to you; they are literally the energetic conduit between your outer-world-being and your essential self. Follow them and you’ll have yourself a really accurate diving rod; what we weep to know or experience contains traces of our potential joy, and you are hereby instructed by your soul-self to follow those traces like your life depends on it. (Because it does.)
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