pain

A Real Pain in the Ass

ASS-PAINI woke up this Tuesday morning, stepped out of bed, and within my first couple steps, I was staggering in breath-taking pain. WTF. Sharp, intense, shooting up my back and down my leg, and centralized in my ass, right side, this pain has made a rude and unexpected appearance back in my life.

I am immediately filled with anger, resistance.

NOT NOW. NOT welcome. NOT okay. TOO BUSY. Too much going on. I immediately began my hip and back stretches, Matt helping me, though it hurt like hell and some stretches literally were impossible.

May I repeat, WTF.

See, this sciatica and I have a long history together, but so much time had passed, three or four years, and while I am always in some level of daily pain and soreness in my back and hips, not like this.

NOPE. I’m not having it. I resisted. I complained. I argued. I felt disappointed in my body.

Here’s the worst part. I felt betrayed by my body. As you may know, body acceptance, embodiment practices, body awareness, they’ve been my thing lately, and me and my body, we have a love affair going on. So more WTFs. I’m not pleased with this, not one bit.

All day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, going through the whys, through the questions, What have I done to bring this on? Why now? What’s the lesson? What’s the message? WHY? WHY? WHY?

Thinking of my calendar, my life ahead, remembering how a few years ago, this situation was chronic, for many, many months, and it shut my whole life down, so now, I’m scared on top of everything else. The implications. I can’t stop working. Fear, anger and disappointment, more resistance, all creating a mad, spiraling tail spin.

And then one of my dearest friends, my truth-telling sister Angela chats me up on Facebook. I tell her I might need to cancel her birthday date night tomorrow. It’s too painful to sit, drive, stand, move. She sympathizes, gives me love, asks what she can do and encourages me to ask for prayers and healing energy from my support system. (I’m asking for them now, please. Whatever you’re into, whatever you believe in, I’ll take whatever you can spare!)

Then, she helps me remember how futile resistance is, and how surrender is always a better choice. As a7LdaP9Fzr-8stubborn as I am, as difficult surrender can feel at times, it’s always the best choice. Because here I am, in a vicious, unexpected pain cycle. YOU ARE HERE, the mall map of my life would point with a big red X, right here, in this pain.

Today, in my morning reading of “A Year of Conscious Living” daily meditations book by Gay Hendricks, wouldn’t you know it? The entry for today is about physical pain. About resisting and surrendering, and I’m stunned. I feel held, seen, cared for by the Divine. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Shaking my head at divine perfection and the way we get what we need, exactly when we need it, I read these words…

“I know what to do now. Stop resisting the pain. Flow with it instead of fighting or fleeing from it. Just breathe. Just flow.”

And now, I remind myself, I don’t have to know “WHY.” I can just be with what is.

I have two choices here. I can focus my energy on being with myself, taking care of myself, tending to this uninvited guest like a good host. Or I can resist.

So I treat myself tenderly, giving myself the utmost attention and care. I immediately begin doing the things I’ve learned to do, through trial and error a few years ago. I’ve earned this wisdom through pain. I trust these practices. I do the things that help.  I clear space on my calendar, to make time for rest and recovery, to make a welcoming place for this surprise guest.

I feel the surrender, as it shifts from resistance, and it feels like freedom.

It feels spacious and loving, and I can feel restoration already happening within me.

If there is a lesson for me here, it’s surrender.

If there is a message here, it’s tend to yourself.

There is no need to find fault or blame. My body hasn’t betrayed me. This pain is a set of responses, facts and data, signals. My body is not at fault. She is hurting.

My body is loving me through this. Can I offer her the same?

So with my breath, I return to flow. Even with this pain, I return to my BodyLove Affair. Is this pain an invitation to love my body better? Ohhh… Well then. So shall it be.

I will love my body better.

I will love her through this.

I am on her side.

The Pretending is Killing Us

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Artwork credit: Hozier “Arsonist’s Lullaby” record art
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.”
– M. Scott Peck

There is a certain sadness in us all…

We walk around in our day to day lives, pretending it isn’t there, doing what we need to do to move through our routines and rituals, duties and motion, but it’s there. Hovering just beneath the surface, like a thin grey fog. Or a thick black cloud. A sadness that could bring us to our knees, if we let it.

There is a certain emptiness in us all…

We all walk around, trying to fill it, trying to cover it, this void, this hollow ache. We give and take from one another some temporary relief, in our smiles, and touches, in our words and hugs and presence, and orgasms and comedy and gossip and cigarettes, but it never goes away. We find other ways to fill the hollow, some so dark we don’t even talk about them. And the hollow is a vacuum, and we are always hungry there, in that spot. We are always empty, in that spot.

There is a certain devastation in us all…

The pain of what we have lost, the pain of what we never had, the pain that was inflicted upon us, leaving internal bleeding, we are permanently bleeding, the pain of what we turn our heads away from, the pain is too big, we can’t look directly at it. Like the sun in an eclipse, it will cause our eyes to singe. So we smile, we pretend, we work so hard to be okay. I’m okay. You’re okay. Okay?

There is a certain terror in us all…

Mine shows up in dreams. Last night, in my dreams, my only daughter was shot nine times by a drive-by shooter. We were all shot. We survived, but we were injured, and traumatized. I woke up terrified, I put my terror away so I could get out of bed.

Isn’t this what we all do, every single day? We put our terror away, so we can get out of bed?

We work so hard to be okay, to seem okay, to resist the ache, the sadness, the devastation, the pain, avoiding the intense sting of the burning sun of our humanity, our aching hearts.  Too bright, too intense to experience it directly, so we cover our eyes, we cover our pain, we bury. We stifle. We hide. We numb. We lie. We smile.  We do what we do to survive.

And sometimes, we are brave enough to share it. To unbutton our shirts and show our bleeding, aching, pulsing hearts, and sometimes the one we show it to then unbuttons their shirt and shows us their ache.

Sometimes we meet in the shadows and whisper “me too.”

If you tell me you don’t sometimes struggle with pain like this, if you tell me your thoughts are all so positive all the time and that’s why you’re just so successful, I will think you to be hiding. And I won’t believe you.

At the very least, I will not trust you.

Perfect people cannot be trusted.

If you tell me I am wrong for allowing the darkness to come over me, that I am wrong for sharing with my readers that, “Yeah. Me too.” because somehow it will diminish my shiny persona or murk my message with reality (oh no!) I will tell you fuck off.

We do more damage to one another by pretending.

We cause more pain to ourselves by pretending the pain isn’t there.

We’re all walking around with a certain sadness, devastated, with our wounds, our triggers, our aches. Maybe you’ve gotten really good at hiding. There are no awards here for the best actor.

Find someone to whisper your shadows to. Find a way to tell the truth. Find a way to expose your reality. Find a way to say “I’m in pain.” Find the ones who deserve to hold you in your grief. Find a way to show us your blood. Your tears. Your reality.

The pretending is killing us.

I will not pretend in order to protect the veneer. The veneer is suffocating and toxic. The veneer has been peeling for a long time anyway. I’m cracking open, I’ve peeled so much away, and I want you to see what’s real, what’s true, and I want that from you.

Don’t give me perfect. Give me real.

I commit to doing the same.

That is how we will survive this common ache, this collective pain, these private wounds, these lonely devastations.

That is how we will get through.

The Healing Power of a Crappy Mood

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Art by Baby Ryan Rockwell, a perfect depiction of my crappy mood.

Why is it we say we are “in pain”, when really the pain is in us?

Why is it we say we are “in a mood”, when really the mood is in us?

It’s not out there.

We contain that world of hurt, in us.

We contain the crappy mood, it’s in us.

More and more, I am remembering this important distinction. Not always, but something happens when I remember to practice this small shift in thinking. I don’t feel consumed by the pain. I don’t feel consumed by my emotions. I can hold these experiences inside me, tenderly, knowing that I contain everything, not just crappy moods and pain, but within me lives everything and I am spacious enough to hold any and every feeling.

I’ve spent so much of my life trying to avoid crappy moods and pain.

Wanting to just skip them, like fast forwarding through commercials, back to my regularly scheduled program.

And oh, let me tell you, I have devised some creative, clever, dangerous and dulling ways of avoiding, escaping or numbing myself from these feelings.

I also think many spiritual methodologies do us a damaging disservice by convincing us that somehow pain and shadowy emotions are somehow less spiritual, and should be blown past as quickly as possible to return us to our higher vibrations. Avoidance in spiritual costuming.

I am learning, year by year, day by day, a new way of being with pain and discomfort, whether physical or emotional. It’s presence.

Of course, I’m not saying I will avoid naproxen when I have a splitting headache, but I am learning to sit with myself better, to stay with myself.

I will no longer abandon myself. I have retired my tricks and tools for numbing, for racing through or resisting emotions.

I’m become my own expert at feeling, at allowing, at being.

I’m becoming a trusted friend of my feelings.

This has been no easy path. In fact, it requires more courage and boldness and devotion than I ever thought I had.

Yet, I contain everything. So I’ve been able to access these inner resources, more and more.

Here’s one little trick I use. When I notice myself experiencing a crappy mood, like most of us, I first think “Ugh, I’m in such a crappy mood.” Then my wise, loving self says “You are not in a crappy mood, the crappy mood is in you, my love.” (Yes, wise loving self speaks that sweetly to me.)

She directs me to locate the feeling, inside of me. Where is it? In my stomach? In my neck? In my chest? In my hips?

What does it look like? This part takes a little extra imagination. Often my painful emotions look like pencil scribbles, moving frenetically in a scribbly, jumbly mess. Sometimes they look like blurry reds and browns, like someone took oil paints on a palette and smeared the colors all together.

Then I direct my focus to that part of me where the feeling is hanging out, and I just look at it. Sometimes I ask it what it wants. Sometimes I just create some space around it. But mostly, I just allow it to be.

And the funniest thing happens when I allow it to be. It shifts on its own. It diminishes, it shrinks in direct proportion to my willingness to let it be. In its own natural time. It doesn’t like to be rushed. But it really just wants to move through me.

I can be with myself when I’m feeling crappy. I can stay with myself when I’m hurting, when I’m scared.

It’s taken me a lifetime to learn that when I can turn to what’s inside me with allowance, with curiosity and compassion, healing happens.

Self-trust happens.

I become a safe place for my feelings.

I’m still learning, in fact.

I’ve learned this lesson, these practices again and again, in fact.

The path of learning and healing and growing is not a linear journey, but a deepening spiral, and each time I learn and re-learn, I change. I heal.

And I am grateful for the journey. Everything uncomfortable, everything painful is an invitation to heal more deeply. And I accept the invitation. Sometimes with resistance. Sometimes with trepidation. But I accept.

Of course I prefer a cheery disposition. Who doesn’t?

But I’ll tell you, learning to be with myself in any disposition is changing everything. And it was time for everything to change.

 

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Author’s post script: If you have persistent pain or crappy emotions that won’t go away, no matter how hard you try to allow, create space around or let them move through you, ask for  help. You don’t have to go it alone. Relief is available. Talk to someone.

 

Go on. Have Your Moment.

jealousy
Self-pity.

Anger.

Neediness.

Victimhood.

Sadness.

Jealousy.

Abandoned.

Hurt.

Rage.

Heartbreak.

Defeated.

Depression.

Darkness.

If you’re like me, this list might be titled “My Least Favorite Feelings.”

Truth be told, I’d rather feel nothing at all than feel any of these.

If I were allowed to choose my palette of feelings, they’d be bright and sunny, deeply joyful and radiantly happy, all the time. But that’s just not the way this living thing is designed.

Whether it be our religions, our families of origin, our feel-good society or our metaphysical or spiritual readings or seminars, we get the message loud and clear: Feeling “negative” feelings is trouble. Feeling these feelings lowers your vibration and stops the Universe from blessing you. (Gasp!) Feeling these feelings is ungrateful. Feeling these feelings is not spiritual. Feeling these feelings is unenlightened.

I call bullshit.

It is not the feelings themselves that get us into ruts, or block our capacity for joy, as much as our resistance to them, as much are our judgment of them.

In the last week, I have heard my clients say things like…

It’s stupid but ____.

I know I shouldn’t feel this, but ____.

I should be grateful for the good things in my life, but ___.

This is ridiculous, but ____.

I’ve also had three or four clients this year talk to me about their strategies for getting through heartbreak as quickly as possible. They usually have the word “more” in them…

Work more.

Drink more.

Eat more.

Spend more.

Date more.

Sleep more.

All in efforts to avoid the pain of their current experience, to avoid the reality of their current feeling.

In the short term, this may seem to work. I don’t have time to feel my pain if I am overextended, or hungover or have a new purse to get excited about, right?

In the long term though, what is buried alive never dies.

What we resist persists.

The wounds transmute and find a way to show up and be felt in a completely unique and unrelated, though painfully familiar situation.

One way or another, these feelings must be felt.

Is it fun? Hell no.

Is it necessary? Hell yes.

And unless there is a chemical imbalance or an actual physical condition that requires treatment, most of the time our feelings just want to move through us.

They just want to be acknowledged and felt, so they can move on.

You are a safe place for every feeling.

And when your feelings learn you are safe, they are not afraid to move through you. They stop for a while, engage you, consume you, exhaust you, drain you. But then they trust you. And they move on.

I urge you to watch the way you moderate and allow or disallow your emotions. Which of them are you most judging?

Catch yourself in the act of resisting your less-desirable emotions. Then find a healthy, loving way to feel them. Express them.

Here are some tried and true methods…

  • Journaling (saved my life a time or two, or thousand.)
  • Smash, burn or rip something. (your own property, of course.)
  • Talk to a friend.
  • Write a sad poem.
  • Dig in the dirt.
  • Swim, run, bike, hike or dance it out.
  • Spend a day or two wallowing.
  • Clean something.
  • Take gloomy selfies.
  • Wear black for days.

Some of these physical expressions of emotions can become healing rituals in your processing, a tactile, sensory experience of energy in motion (emotion = energy in motion!)

Allow yourself to have your moment. Feel your feelings. All of them, even the less-savory. Let them move through you. That’s all they ask of you.

I read recently “It’s a full-time job, avoiding your feelings.” Ha, isn’t that the truth? Ain’t nobody got time for that. I want my full-time job to be a life fully felt, fully expressed, fully experienced.

Life is for feeling. So go on, feel it all.

Allow it all, for you are vast, and mighty and brilliant and contain multitudes.

Own Your Story or It Will Own You

free-from-the-pastWe are composites of our stories. All that has happened to us, good and bad, are threads, woven into the fabric of who we are. Our strengths, our weaknesses, our gifts, our struggles all have our stories to thank for their existence, and when we can embrace and own our stories, they become testimonials for healing, for evolution.

Our battle scars become our medals of honor.

However, there is a huge difference between owning your stories and being owned by them. Let me explain.

For example, you may have been raised in a dysfunctional home. There may have been abuse. Addiction. You may have grown up frightened, unsafe. Your child’s heart may have been wounded. You may have had to fend for yourself, or devise strategies of protection to survive.

As you grow and mature, this story of growing up a wounded. frightened child becomes an important part of the fabric of who you are. Until it doesn’t work anymore. Until you are no longer being served by the tools and tricks you learned to get through life. Until the self-protection strategies begin to leave you isolated and unable to experience true intimacy. Until the methods of your survival become weapons of self-destruction.

When this happens, Life is calling you to create a different story. And if you accept the invitation, you can transmute the pain of your stories into your most precious assets.

You are where you are, you are who you are, because of your stories.

You cannot change the past. But you can change your relationship to it.

That is how you own your story.

But here’s where story owns you: If you are aware of characteristics or traits you have, or unhealthy patterns or limiting beliefs that are deeply rooted in the events of your past, and you continue to blame your story for the way your life is now, your story is owning you.

If your story is your justification for why you just can’t this or just aren’t able to do that, your story is owning you.

If your story has cemented you in a mindset that causes you continuous suffering, it’s time to bring a sledgehammer and bust your way out of that story, to transform the relationship you have to the story, so you can go about the business of living an amazing, beautiful life.

When you are ready to release the power your story has over the way things are now, you own your story.

When you can bless your story for the lessons and healing opportunities it has gifted you with, you own your story.

When you can say “I used to ____, but now I ___,” you own your story.

When you own your story, your relationship with the entire world changes.

You are no longer cemented. You are no longer bound. You can proudly advance your life from a healing, healthier place. You can bravely face your demons, to discover they are actually the most fragile, vulnerable parts of you, in need of deep love and radical acceptance.

When you own your story, Life opens up to embrace you, and says “Welcome home.”

Then, your victim story becomes a warrior’s tale.

Then, your shackles turn to dust around your ankles.

Then, others are enlightened and inspired by your redemption.

Then, you are truly free.

 

Getting the Support You Need

As an occasional offering, I invite you to write with your questions or topic suggestions. I will answer all either privately or in this space. It’s my intention that my words will bring hope and new clarity. Here’s one…

a-alone-1530422Dear Lisa,

I could use some perspective on how to reach out for support when that isn’t my usual M.O., without freaking out the people I am reaching out to.

Generally speaking, I am mostly level-headed and together and don’t typically ask for moral support from my friends or family.

They will either freak out that I am “not completely fine and normal” or won’t have any perspective that would actually help me.

How do I overcome my resistance to asking for help because I’m fearful of upsetting the people that I would reach out to or I’m already predicting their reactions as not helpful.

For instance, I wouldn’t want to call my mom and be like “I’m not dealing very well” cause that would burden her for weeks that somehow the possibly most together person in her life isn’t “okay”. I can’t call my BFF cause his reaction would be “that sucks.” Knowing that my husband is managing enough with his current struggles and burdens, I cannot turn to him.

Signed,
Need It, But How Do I Get It?

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Dear Need It,

I relate very well to your resistance and struggle reaching out for help, all too well! It ain’t easy!

Especially if over the years, you’ve owned the title of “The Strong One,” because the Strong One handles it all herself. The Strong One needs no support, and is the one doing the supporting. The Strong One has her shit together, carries on with valor and courage and is Teflon tough and ugh… being the Strong One is exhausting.

I used to joke, and actually still do, that one day, I will start hosting clandestine meetings for the “Secret Society of Strong Ones.”

We will meet monthly to cry.

It’s actually not a bad idea.

Some of the best advice I ever got was from my therapist, Bob, many years ago.  It happened like this. I was in trouble, but I couldn’t fathom turning to anyone for support, not even my husband at the time, Johnny…

Bob: How would it feel to you if Johnny came to you and said “Look, I’m not doing so well. I’m struggling and really need your support right now.”

Me: It would touch me deeply. I would feel honored. And I would do everything I could to support hin in the way he needed. It would feel like a gift, to be able to show up for him during a difficult time.

Bob: Right. So when you hold back asking for help, you deny others the gift of being able to show up for you, you cheat them of the opportunity of being there for you.

BAM. Changed my perspective, instantly, completely.

I’m not going to say it suddenly became easy to reach out for help when I needed it. It’s still incredibly difficult.

But I trust my needs for support as part of this beautiful cosmic dance of intimacy we get to share with others.

We give. We receive. We need. We offer. We hurt. We help. We heal. We heal each other.

And this dance relies on vulnerability for its rhythm.

I’m going to suggest three things to you.

1.Resign your position as Director of Protecting Others from What is Really Going On. It’s an unfulfilling, lonely gig, and you deserve to be supported in the same way you support others. I repeat: You deserve to be supported in the same way you support others.

2. Get clear on what type of support you are needing. Let your intimates know, very specifically, what you are needing. That right now, you need a compassionate ear or a shoulder to cry on or a place to vent or a safe space to be real with what is current without their advice or fixing. Or maybe with their advice or fixing. You decide.

Sounds scary because it is and it requires vulnerability, but like a muscle, when you practice, it gets stronger.

3. Broaden your circle of support. I love the saying “Stop going to the hardware store for milk.” It sounds like you already have determined that the type of support they will offer may not be helpful. There is support all around. Make a list of other people you know truly care about you– even if you’ve never “gone there” with them– this could be a perfect opportunity to deepen those relationships.

If that doesn’t work, check out 7 Cups of Tea. They offer free, confidential and professional counseling online.

We are wired to need one another.

Sure, you could “get by” without reaching out. But by risking your own reputation of being the Strong One, by deciding that you will no longer shoulder these burdens alone, by opening your heart to telling the truth about what is current and real for you now, you become more YOU, more authentic. You will experience deeper intimacy in your relationships, and you will gift others with the opportunity to show up for you in a new way.

You can find the support you need.

It’s there. It rarely comes knocking.

We ourselves must do the knocking.

So start knocking, sweet sister.

I wish you courage and send you love,
Lisa

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The suggestions and opinions offered on this site are not meant to dissuade any reader from seeking the advice and care of his or her own appropriate and licensed health care provider. The reader is strongly encouraged to seek out and establish a meaningful relationship with such a provider who will have the opportunity and responsibility to examine him or her and offer individualized health care suggestions and services.

The Painful Truth About Passion

artworks-000002421955-rof9qx-t200x200“I just want to feel passion… I don’t think I’ve ever felt it.” She said, looking at me with pleading eyes.

At that moment, I wished I had “passion wand” I could wave over my coaching client to instantly imbibe her with the ability to feel the energizing, intoxicating and empowering effects that passion has. But instead, it’s a private quest.

If passion is what we want, and we’re not experiencing it, we must dig, we must get to the bottom of whatever walls we have built that are in the way of the passion we so long to feel.

At lunch with friends, we discuss the waning and wavering currents of passion, of the longing to feel more, to experience more. Without it, we are dry, crusty, dull, like winter skin. The colors of our lives are dimmer, the texture may be smoother (easier to swallow, like oatmeal, or chicken broth), but the flavor is bland and tasteless.

In another conversation with my passion-seeking client, we come upon the topic of how she handles grief, pain, and how she has created a very structured and reliable way to get through any hardship or devastation. “I feel sad for a little while, then I tell myself, okay, that’s enough. It’s a waste of time to spend my energy feeling sad or hurt.” Bam, I realize. We have hit pay-dirt.

When you shut off the valve of feeling “bad” feelings, when you limit yourself as to what emotions you will permit yourself to feel or not feel, and for how long, when you are monitoring and controlling any feelings,you are also limiting your ability to experience the powerful and life-affirming juice that passion provides- extreme joy, intense desire, consuming sensuality, perhaps even mind-blowing orgasms.

When you disallow yourself to feel anything, you disable your ability to fully feel everything.

Imagine having a beautiful, large, crystal blue pool, with a ‘kiddie’ side, where the water is crisp, refreshing and shallow. You can hang out on that side all the time, lounging, floating on a raft, splashing around. But there’s so much more pool for you to enjoy.

Going deep, exploring the width and the depth of your beautiful pool is what makes life exciting and rich. Sure, the shallow end is nice. But you have so much pool to experience.

How do you experience passion? Some of us take new lovers and live for days of stolen moments and melancholic longing. Some of us create art. Some of us channel passion through our heart-centered businesses, or gratifying work. Some of us dance. I think it matters less how you feel it and more so that you feel it. Just feel it.

If you’re not experiencing passion, there is a chance you may have shut off a valve deep in your soul, to protect yourself from feeling painful feelings, and in doing so, you have cut yourself off from your very own life-blood, the power and beauty that passion creates.

You turned off the fuse box. No wonder the house is dark.

It’s also likely you are not plugging into the things that turn you on. Ever go nuts trying to figure out why your lamp won’t turn on, to finally realize it wasn’t plugged in? Or wander around the house flicking light switches when the power is out, and continuing to be surprised that the lights are not going on? Same thing.

Passion is fuel. It’s power. It gets stuff done. It can be intoxicating. It’s the best drug available to wo/mankind. It’s the electricity that lights your life, it gives you vision and courage and might. It flavors all areas of your life and transforms the mundane into artistry, magic, adventure.

If you want to experience more passion, you must do two things:

  1. Ask yourself “what makes me come alive?” and then do more of those things, whenever and where ever you can.
  2. Ask yourself “where in my life have I created a wall between myself and the depths of my feelings? Where have I cut myself off from the range of feeling it all?” Then do the work to deconstruct those walls.

These acts are not for wimps. The second one, especially. But even just one brick taken from that wall will create a path for passion to seep through.

You will feel more. That means the sting of rejection. The enveloping pain of sadness. The fiery fury of rage. Passion is intensity, and you can’t just feel some of the intense feelings. You’ll have to feel them all.

My life without passion is nothing. I don’t want any part of my life shut down or closed off. I don’t want any part of my experience limited by my fear of feeling too much.

It isn’t always easy. But it’s always worth it.

We have so much pool to experience. Let’s experience it all. Let’s dive and swim and play in the deep end. And watch passion come pouring in.

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My favorite song/video about feeling it all, I Feel it All by Feist. Enjoy!

To Feel or To Numb: The Always-Question

TDT_Feeling Your FeelingsIt happens to all of us. There are none of us immune, or above it. So-called “enlightenment” does not protect us from this very human, primal, lizard-brain response. As long as we are walking around in these skin-suits, we must acknowledge our totality– and that totality includes being very, very human.

When faced or filled with an experience or feeling we don’t like, there are three responses we might have—it’s ancient programming. It’s about survival: fight, flight or freeze. We certainly won’t die from a feeling a crappy feeling, but these feelings can feel dangerous, or at the least, uncomfortable. And we prefer comfort.

I think the act of numbing is so subversive, automatic and common, that oftentimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it. There are a thousand ways to numb. Here are some common ones:

  • Scrolling through Facebook to cheer up when grumpy
  • Drinks after a tough day
  • Netflix in bed, to quiet the mind and fall asleep
  • Shopping online for stuff we don’t need, to feel happier, knowing something is on its way to us
  • Smoking pot to escape a crappy mood
  • Making spontaneous plans with pals, to avoid being alone with our feelings
  • Having a cigarette because we’re stressed
  • Flirting with a co-worker because we feel lonely or unattractive
  • Bingeing on ice cream because we’re bored

Even some of our healthiest tools can be used for numbing- exercise, prayer, meditation, reading self-help books. If we are trying to escape a feeling, we’re numbing, regardless of the activity.

I’ve been finding myself with uncomfortable feelings lately.  Sadness. Restlessness. Grief. Fear.  And I’m noticing that I have a choice, with every feeling. I get to decide how I respond. Sometimes I can stay with a feeling, feel it, deal with it, heal it… and sometimes, I admit it: I just want to numb.

Yikes… There’s a certain vulnerability involved in being a Life Coach and teacher and admitting to numbing at times to escape a feeling. Shouldn’t I be so evolved that I can stay perfectly present with every feeling? What will people think when they realize that I’m not perfect? Silly, I know.

I don’t think perfection is what you’re looking for. And if it is, I am not it. My promise to you is to stay current and real with what’s really going on. I am more mistrusting of the coaches and teachers who pretend they have it all together than the ones that admit to experiencing human struggles. The illusion of perfection is dangerous. We are human. Our desire to numb, our survival instinct, our animal instincts of fight, flight or freeze are about as human as being human gets.

There’s a certain vulnerability to being human, period. And yes, I am still in progress. I still am working on myself.  I am in constant communication with my Higher Self. And she says to ease up on myself, and give up my attempts at perfection and instead, embrace my totality. In fact, today, she wrote me a love letter…

**************

Breathe.

You’ve been here before.

You know this place, you know this feeling.

Just breathe.

Notice the feeling.

Name it.

Where is it residing, in your body, right now?

Can you create space around it, with your breath?

Yep, there it is: A feeling.

And now, you get to decide what you want to do with it.

The choice really is yours.

Feel it?

Numb it?

Fight it?

Avoid it?

Talk to it?

Hold it close, like a small infant…

There, there…

Or take cover from it,

like a fierce and frightening storm…

Get me out of this…

Or put it away, tucking it out of sight,

I’ll deal with you later.

You get to decide.

Decide.

Choose.

I like it when you choose.

It’s when we don’t even know we’re choosing,

when our behaviors and coping mechanisms are automatic

and mindless

that we get ourselves into trouble.

Today you might choose to numb it.

Tomorrow you might choose to feel it.

Can you love yourself, even when you’re numbing?

Even when you’re fragile?

Even when you’re not as grand

as you would like to be?

Even when your choices seem less enlightened

than you thought you were?

I love your glory, your high and noble aspirations,

your striving for Higher Ground. But remember…

I think you are beautiful and divine all the time.

Even when you’re human.

Or maybe especially so.

**************

I’m not advocating a life of mindless numbing. I’m advocating a life of being mindfully human. Choosing what feels like the best way to take care of ourselves at any given moment, even when it’s not necessarily the most enlightened response. I’m advocating a life of awareness and honesty, and of doing the best we can. After all, what more can we do?

Can you be with this feeling?

depression

Can you be with this feeling?

This is the question I hear, in my mind, in this moment, when I am in a lousy, cranky, hormonal, bitch-on-wheels mood. The sun is shining, it’s a perfect autumn afternoon, there is much to be grateful for, I know. But sometimes crankiness happens. I don’t like it. I want relief. I want to escape this feeling.

Can you be with this feeling?

The inner voice asks again. I prefer being happy, of course. But what if I surrendered to this crankiness. I did have a terrible night’s sleep. My back aches, my head hurts, my moon storm is in full force, and I decide, in this moment, yes. Yes, I will be with this feeling.

It will not destroy me. It will not last. I will not get swallowed.

Yes, I am always at choice. And in this moment, I choose to be with this feeling.

I have spent years of my life trying to escape unpleasant feelings. Fight, flight or freeze. That is our human condition, after all. And in this moment, I embrace my humanity and allow this feeling to be what it is. A feeling inside of me. I am not the boat, battered on the waves of an angry, restless ocean. Can I be the angry, restless ocean, in this moment? Yes. I can.

I, like most people, find it easiest to be present when things feel good, when I feel good. I have no trouble being present for joy, bliss, peace. Easy-peasy! The real practice of presence becomes a true practice when I can become fully present to those “other” feelings, the ones that live on the opposite side of my wide and vast emotional landscape. I will not die. I will not be swallowed.

I am the ocean, not the boat.

I become present to the sensations in my body. Some unpleasant. I notice and observe what is happening now. The sun is warming my body, as I sit on my breezy balcony, typing away, noticing the warmth of the sun on my skin. Noticing the aching in my head. In my body. Noticing. Being present to what is. There is nothing else, after all, except what is.

When your darker moments come, can you stay with your feelings?

Can you not abandon yourself in attempts to feel something different? Can you be a safe place for every feeling? Even the unsavory ones?

I am learning how.

My busy mind wants to label, identify, sort, find cause, pinpoint reasons, organize, define, correct.

My spirit says “relax into the now.”

I consider what I can trust.

I trust in the temporal nature of all feelings. I trust that this will pass. I trust that I am safe. I trust that I can be gentle and kind and avoid the desire to flee this feeling.

I trust in the larger, more broad perspective. I trust that this is not “who” or “what” I am. This is simply a feeling. Who I am is larger, much larger, than any feeling.

Oddly enough, miraculously enough, when I surrender to what is, when I allow myself to be present to this very moment, something starts to shift, subtle and small, something starts to lift, and I am reminded that even the darkest storms eventually dissolve and pass.

It is the dark that defines the light. How can I know pleasure, if I never knew pain? How can I know peace, if I never knew unrest? How can I know joy, if I never knew this funk? Is it not then a gift, an odd one, in strange wrapping?

I unwrap.

Yes. I can be with this feeling.

Coming out of the dark: dumb mistakes and lovely little miracles

Sunday evening,  I was driving to my fiance’s place. Like I’d done a thousand times. I know that route like the back of my hand. Which is why I must have thought it was okay to text while driving.

Yes. I was texting. While driving. Suddenly, a high curb came up to meet me, I drove into it, onto it, off of it, my car flying out of control on a usually busy street, which thankfully at that moment was empty. My two passenger tires were shredded in pieces. I drove on my rims to a place to park. I cried.  I finished sending my not-so-important, SO-coulda-waited text message. Called Matt. Went straight to his couch, to nurse my trauma and guilt with a bottle of Reisling.

Then I sank into a dark place. The money I’d been saving for more important things was now being eaten up by repairs. The repair shop found more problems, engine stuff, brake stuff…  hundreds of dollars of my hard-earned money, washed away, in a matter of a couple of phone calls.

Even worse was the shame I was feeling for having “known better”… I could have killed someone. I kept picturing a mom and a baby in a stroller in that spot. I could have killed a baby. I don’t know why my imagination kept wanting to take me there, to a baby in a stroller.  It hadn’t happened. Sure, it could have. But it didn’t. But my imagination wanted me to feel, really feel, the shame and guilt that it thought I should be feeling.

What a waste of money… I could have killed somebody… I know better… What the hell was I thinking? How many times do I have to be taught the same freakin’ lesson: be present. Lisa. Be here.

I wallowed. I whined. I bitched. My fiancé kept calling me Grumpy Cat. And in the privacy of my own mind, I shamed myself, quite relentlessly.

Then, on the third day, I decided I was done. I was ready to leave my dark cloud of self-pity and self-flagellation, and I was ready to return to love. But how? I felt so stuck. I sat in front of my blank journal and could not muster anything nice or pleasant to write. I cried out to God on the pages of my journal.

“You have the tools.” Is what came out.  Bah. Tools, schmools.

Start with a gratitude list.”  I sat there for a moment, gratitude the last thing on my mind. I was feeling SO ungrateful. Pissy. Bleak. Self-pity and gratitude don’t like to play together. They just don’t have very much in common.

I forced myself to write. I ended up listing twenty things I was grateful for. And I’m serious, right then, I felt the clouds begin to part in my heart. An openness began to reveal itself. Damn, this shit works.

Then, I tuned in, I asked my Higher Self to write me a love note, another powerful tool, one I’d picked up from SARK.

Hey Sweetheart,

You’ve been pretty hard on yourself. Do you not know that as a human being, you are allowed – not just allowed—invited—to make mistakes? You are exactly right on track. Money comes and money goes and everything will be alright. It’s just money. Thank goodness you have money saved! Doesn’t it feel good to take care of it yourself? I love you more than anything in this world. You are precious.

I got on Facebook and ran into a couple of super inspiring posts, including Jim Carrrey’s minute-long pure love manifestion… it made me cry! It returned me to my essence. And the lovely image I posted here for you at the top of this blog showed up. Then, a friend (aka, angel) posted this magical playlist, “A Springtime Love Letter” on my FB page. Little miracles, one by one, returned me to love.

And as the dark gave way to the light, as I returned to pure perfect love, as I looked beyond the form, of cars, mistakes, money and whatnot… I was able to find in the folds of my soul a greater capacity for self-compassion and gratitude.

As joy returned to me, and I returned to joy, the world suddenly became a beautiful place again.

As a human being, I am invited to make mistakes. It’s part of my soul’s journey, for its evolution. My ego, however, HATES mistakes.

My soul learns from them.

As I return to my pure essence, which is love, I am also invited to appreciate the very human experience I am having. It’s all me. It’s all learning. And I have finally been cured of my urge to text and drive. Long time coming.  I’ve seen the light. And I’m alright. Yeah, everything is quite alright.