Reflections From My True Self

Remembering Who I Really Am


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My Inner Saboteur

This is what I do when the saboteur grabs hold of me and I lose myself in self-doubt: I wrap myself in a thick quilt of silence and walk backward as far as I can until I find a big, dark shadow to stand in, a large, tall tree to hide behind, and I sit there, far from anyone, and listen to the volume rising on the voice within me telling me I am not enough.

It would take so little to keep me from going there, so little to mute the voice of my saboteur. All I need is the proof that I have done something meaningful, or have someone look me in the eye and tell me, with clear conviction, that there is no means to measure the enormity of my worth.

But by the time I need it, I don’t allow myself to seek this proof, I am too far gone to look anyone in the eye. Shame keeps my sight locked on the ground.

And then I inhabit the shadow, and waste away my gifts, until a miracle, a sliver of sunlight, hits me and gives me just enough strength to remember I have a tool box. And I reach in with my last ounce of strength and have to pull myself along, out of the darkness, inch by inch, using every last resource, every last tool to save myself from my own self-doubts.

And I know this is exactly what happens for my clients, although they may visualize the process differently: they retreat into themselves, where the voice of self-judgment is loudest, and spiral into depression and paralysis.

But we don’t have to do that! And, just because I have the tools doesn’t mean I should create the conditions in which I need them. I can choose another way. I can recognize the voice of my saboteur, and lower the volume on it immediately! I can take the wisdom from its message, without having to accept the self-hatred and vitriol as well. And I also teach my clients how to do that, because none of us has to live in the shadow.

A thick tree trunk creates a shadow to hide behind

We take to the shadows, with the saboteur at full volume, until sunlight hits.
Photo Credit: Andreas Krappweis

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Knowing, Awakened

It is early in the day and I am returning from dropping off my children at their before-school activities. So early, I am already carrying a lead weight of anxiety in the bowl of my belly, my mind racing between “shoulds” and my heart hardening with each breath. It is a grey morning, after a rain, with small puddles still gathered in pockets of asphalt. But I am moving too fast to notice.

And that would be my state on this day —this mindless, slightly panicked energy— but for an unexpected interruption. A robin’s chortle breaks into my self-absorption. Suddenly, I am aware of the veil curtain of mist, hanging close to the ground, and the cool scent of soil rising through it. New bird song rings, further away, then closer. I can feel the contours of my body, trace my breath through my lungs.

I am alive! I am here.

And I can see! I see the crabapple tree next to me, in the fog’s embrace. I see a tiny nuthatch hopping up its trunk. And I see the nubs of leaves, waiting to unfold, gathered on spindly branches.

I am here, in the damp mist and the echoes of bird chatter, and I am also home, hurtled by my senses through time and space to the landscape my Soul loves best: the contours of the mountainside on La Finca. And the awareness awakens this knowing in me, again: here, too, I am home.

When I stop to see, when I feel with my senses that I am alive, then, wherever I am, I am home.

Photo by Jay Simmons

Photo by Jay Simmons


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Spacious

I sit before Helene, observing, as she moves her familiar, old fear out of her body. Softly, my voice guides her. She pours the energy out with ease. Then she speaks of a new experience of inner spaciousness. 

I feel a thrill, hearing a change in her voice, a new lightness. I ask if there is a word she will be able to return to later, that will remind her of this process, bring her back to this moment of creating new space within her.  

She closes her eyes, quiet, attentive to what arises.

And when she nods, I request that she spell it out loud. Her voice is lilting in its response: U.R.N.  I think, “Urn.”

But her sudden laughter startles me, and she chortles, “Make it a long u, like saying: you.” Then, laughing, Helene says the word. And, hearing it, I laugh, too!

Her Self extends, as a reminder of spaciousness, the spelling of this word that sounds exactly like “yearn.

Together, we laugh gratitude and joy, for the Wisdom that offers this gift!

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski / RGBstock

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski / RGBstock


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Unseen

All around me are bare trees and, as far as I can see, blue ice and snow sparkling.

With each step, I sink halfway to my knees. The wind from the lake bites my earlobes and makes my nose run.

But, beneath my feet and that thick layer of white, beyond what I could see, are the bulbs of bluebells and crocuses, already growing.

 

Photo Credit: Hanspeter Klasser

Photo Credit: Hanspeter Klasser


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A Gateway

There is a pain wedged beneath my ribs, radiating like heat into the rest of my body. My heart rests on it. Together, they make a formidable weight.

I want to banish the pain. Obliterate it. Erase it.

All of my energy turns towards it, intense and focused. The rest of me is left feeling tired, weak, drained.

I drag myself around. Then I remember this is also a gateway, this pain. It is a gateway into discovering, as I have so many times before, only to promptly forget anew, that there is no separation between that pain and me. There is no me versus it.

I pass through the gateway, armed with all of my “going on an adventure” gear, including my curiosity. And the pain begins softening, dissolving into my tissue.

And my heart, it is floating free.

Photo credit: Kevin Tuck at RGBstock.com

Photo credit: Kevin Tuck at RGBstock.com


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Another World

I stand on this familiar bridge, looking down through the spaces between the steel, at the place where it seems so recently I spotted a lone turtle swimming through the unnaturally green river water. At the time, I was surprised that anything could survive in there, and I can still feel the warmth of joy spilling through me at the realization. Not long after, as I paused on my way across the river, I saw a great blue heron poised at the water’s edge, still as a statue, unblinkingly observing the flow.

Today, as I look down, it is another world. There is no sign of the electric green water. No sign of birds or turtles. Looking through the steel grid, my stomach does not quiver, there is no inkling of the vertigo that comes of gazing into flowing currents from such heights. There is no sign of movement of any kind. There is only a thick crust of white ice.

It is another world: static, cold, hard.

I yearn to see movement, a turtle surfacing gracefully or a red leaf swirling in the flow. Instead, the only sign of life is the cloud of my own breath.

The hairs on my arm rise, under all the layers of clothes, as the wind rises against me. I cannot stay here any longer, searching.

As I turn away, I remind myself: if I wait long enough, the water will flow again, and the trees alongside it will grow leaves, and, if I am quiet, and patient, I will find wildlife here too.

Photo by Christine Landis

Photo by Christine Landis


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A Reminder

Even though I work this way with others, I have not gone into retreat for a long, long time. I am inspired by the effect of retreating on those for whom I am companion and guide. But I forget how vital this work is for me.

I determine that it is time again, to go into retreat, in preparation for the turn of the year. As is to be expected, this feels inconvenient to do now, hard to find time for, requiring too much from me.  Still, I persevere, and sequester myself in silence, light my candles and bring out my rattle.

The past year floats under the glare of my gaze, and I rescue forgotten blessings, feel my heart tighten with unresolved pains and fears.  I honor all of the energies I find, witness them wholly.

In the smoke of the incense, I release what does not serve me, and feel lightened, heartened.

Then I remember, one last thing.

This year, too often, I have felt disconnected; disconnected from Nature, from the cycles of the year and my body, from awe and from what is sacred in my daily doings.  As this recognition comes to me, along with the question of how to release this large, heavy energy, a movement outside my window catches my eye.

It is a great bird, with powerful wings, gently coasting past, and my mind is slow to grasp, to process, to return to me: owl.  The bird alights in the high branches of a towering tree, the tree that I gaze on as I do my daily practices, the one that reminds me that trees are also my relations.

It can’t be an owl, I think. This is the city. It is broad daylight. Could it be?  The bird is still, imposing, enormous, unblinking. It is indisputably an owl.

My mind is startled into stillness. I remember the thought of disconnection and, immediately, a new thought arises: I could never be disconnected from Nature, from what is sacred, from my Self.

No sooner does this thought rise in my awareness, as the great owl takes flight and coasts away into the white sky, disappears from my view.

I could never be disconnected from my Self; Owl has come to remind me of it.

Photo Credit: Jay Simmons

Photo Credit: Jay Simmons