May 2, 2015 · 2:20 pm
We all have personal stories that we hold close, because in some way we feel they function as the storehouse of who we really are. These stories are our history, some from long ago and others perhaps from as recent as yesterday. While they do influence how we see ourselves, we tend to give them a solid and immutable status in our lives. I believe there is some comfort in that.
There is also pain. Some of these stories are not the ones we would have chosen had we been able to select those that match the idea of who we want to be. But we carry them with us all the same. Somewhere in our collective upbringing, we learned that because we can’t change history, we cannot change our stories. This isn’t necessarily true. It may not be easy but exists as a possibility for even those of us with the biggest, darkest stories.
Sometimes the story that appears most solid is not so much a personal one but how we live our day to day lives, how we make decisions about what’s good and bad, right and wrong. Consider the following two examples: The earth exists primarily as a resource for us to use. New and improved technological/economic development allows us to use and dispose of objects so that we can continue to demand more, newer, better products. These are just two of the shared collective stories that support both our social and economic structures. They and others have become part of our everyday reality.
I believe we can change these stories if we discover that they no longer serve us. But beyond recognizing a need to change, there must also be the sense that we do really have a choice. Otherwise the prospect of letting go a familiar way of being can be terrifying. This applies to personal and collective stories alike. And if one has the experience of letting go a personal story, realizing that it may not reflect the whole of who you are or is based on a wound that no longer has to define you, then it may be easier to accept that a collective story may also be exchanged for a different one.
What is needed for these larger societal stories is a tipping point, where the number of people who understand that change is possible come together. They don’t need to all come with the same idea of what is needed. Better if there are diverse thoughts about which way to go, better if there is dialogue, questioning and open listening. Better if what they share is a commitment to each other in moving forward, not remaining in the status quo. These are the same qualities needed for oneself in taking on a different personal story but broader and more inclusive. Above all, in both cases, it really is a matter of choice.
November 22, 2013 · 11:31 am
Welcome change! Where would I be without you? Well, think about it – I wouldn’t be alive, that’s for sure. Yet looking in the mirror, I find myself wondering who this is looking back at me. There is some part of me that must have expected that I would continue to look the same. It would be the familiar face of me, the one I’ve become used to over my adult life, always. Interesting that now I think back to adolescence, which was certainly a time for changes in my body and appearance. But not the same as now. I believe the difference then was the sense of excitement that accompanied what was happening. Even if I wasn’t pleased with a particular change, the overall sense of it was looking forward to what was to come. There were plans and goals and new experiences to be met. Changes then may not always have been greeted with open arms, but the energy in them was about moving forward. Why is it that, in the later years of life, what lies ahead can often feel more like sliding down a slippery slope than rising to meet challenges?
There seems to be more attachment at this point to what was. And perhaps years of perfecting the voice of judgment within. This voice is the one that is not liking what’s happening, wanting the body to stay the same, considering desperate measures or placing blame for what’s changed. All as if these shifts in one’s body could be avoided.
Where are our role models for growing old, for aching joints and sagging skin? Even if a role model exists for us it isn’t his/her body that is the focus of inspiration. It is more likely what he or she is accomplishing in spite of the physical body. Maybe the bigger question is how to show up fully human with all that’s shifting and changing and be ok with that. We are a culture that relies on reflection – not the inward kind but the mirrored image of who we think we should be. It’s generally a full screen representation of who we want to be or the image we desire to project to others that drives the ability to accept changes in our bodies.
So how do we turn the mirror back on itself? Would it even work? Imagine a world without mirrors – where the only option to “see” oneself is in someone else’s eyes. We might then have to accept a new level of vulnerability – the reality of being seen by another. Mask – less. It may seem more difficult than what we do now, but somehow I think not. This could be a practice that leads us to the wonder of feeling connected to other human beings in a way that doesn’t easily happen now. It might help us realize that we are all the same, we all change and that change has the capacity to reveal to us who we truly are. How bad can that be?
December 7, 2012 · 10:11 pm
You might think it easy to determine whether you are moving forward, stepping backward or captured in the stillness that lies between. It may be, however, that your ability to do this depends directly on how you are connected to your surroundings. The quality of the threads that attach you to the people, objects and events in your life make it more or less possible to know what kind of movement is happening for you in the moment. A strong attachment to something or someone outside of you, by its nature, pulls you off center, and the strength of that connection affects the energy and effort required to remain centered. Weaker sensations may not sway you one way or the other. They may not even figure in your movement consciousness; perhaps their influence is so subtle that it bypasses awareness altogether. In either case, we may not be as independent as we think we are.
What really determines our spatial orientation? Isn’t movement, after all, always in relation to a central point? You can be moving toward or away from this point or even staying in place, where movement is happening without having committed to a particular direction. What’s most important here is that movement is relational. And, in many respects, we truly are relational beings.
Once you acknowledge whether you are moving forward, stepping back and remaining still, do you find yourself accepting of where you are on that continuum? Would you rather be at a different point? This stage is often where the “shoulds” show up, sometimes masked as nagging perceptions of others who seem to be further along than you. Have you ever picked up the energy from the people around you – finding yourself swept up in the momentum of wants or needs that are driving others? How difficult or easy is it to step aside, let them run past and follow your own path?
It can, especially during times of great upheaval in our lives, require extraordinary energy to hold your own ground, to tap into our own inner wisdom. It can sometimes be impossible to hear the voice inside or even be aware that it is there behind the louder, more insistent voices outside our own. Especially difficult is when we find ourselves in a situation that is new, for which we lack the framework of experience. At times like these, we often feel the need to look elsewhere to find the expertise or experience to help us find our way. Not a bad choice, however, how might it possible to remain grounded within ourselves in the midst of looking outside ourselves?
How would it be to take a deeper breath, focus on what’s happening now in the present moment as if it’s the most important time for you? There you are within the stillness of a mindful presence – perhaps only for the very briefest of times – but might it not be enough to notice what direction you are headed? Maybe the surge is interrupted long enough to allow the element of choice to surface and help determine whatever movement follows. And perhaps, in that brief experience, is the opportunity to realize the possibility of carrying the stillness with you as you move, knowing that forward and back are all part of the changing journey that we take.