Every little thing

March 30, 2012

With love and ever-deepening trust,


P.S. If you’re having a hard time hearing yourself, I’d be honored to listen with you. Read more about Deep Listening Sessions here.

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In contrast to what news shows and bosses and commercials and your own dear ego might be telling you, and for the sake of us all

March 26, 2012

I’m taking a break this week from the typical posting routine. I’ll be back on Friday with another stand-alone sketch.

Until then, and with so much love,


P.S. Is Deep Listening something you might need? My heart is wide open and I’d love to listen to you.

P.P.S. My warmest welcome to all who are new! This post from last week is a great distillation of the reasons behind everything that happens here.

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Trust Tending Kindreds: Amanda and Steve Soule

March 23, 2012

This week’s theme at Trust Tending is “I believe”, and I couldn’t think of better kindreds to join us for it than Steve and Amanda Soule. Amanda is the creative force behind SouleMama, a blog devoted to noticing the beauty and goodness in her every day. Steve writes there too, from time to time, and does so beautifully.

Amanda and Steve live with their five children on an old farmstead in Western Maine. They keep bees, raise chickens, turkeys, and pigs, tend enormous gardens, and tap their trees for syrup. Their kids are un-schooled, and in between all of the above, Amanda knits, sews, cooks, and cans like crazy, and, with Steve, writes best-selling books:

Their latest print project is a wonderful quarterly magazine called Taproot, which is “a collection of curated stories written by and for people living fully and digging deeper; people who are interested in deepening their connections to their families, communities, and themselves as they strive to live locally and closer to the ground.”

I’m incredibly moved by the lives that Amanda and Steve are living. Their list of accomplishments is impressive, but that’s not what moves me most.

What moves me most is the ways they’ve taken action, again and again, year after year, on the things they believe. And more than that, I’m moved by the ways their “I believes” have become powerful forces of change and of trust-nourishment in our world not by means of speeches, bullet-point lists, or sermons, but by their embodiment of a way of life. Their lives are their testimony.

If you haven’t or don’t already, spend some time at SouleMama.com. Get a sense for the gentle, clear force that is Amanda sharing about the beauty of her days. And if you’re so moved, begin to imagine what might happen if you took small steps week after week, year after year, to fully embody the things you believe. Imagine what gifts that might offer us all, whether words are involved or not.

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On Trust and Fear: 8 things I believe

March 21, 2012

My life’s calling and the work I do at this site are rooted in these 8 beliefs. I offer them with the heart-felt wish that they catalyze much in the broader conversation on fear and trust. If they move/challenge/ruffle/inspire you, please pass them on!

1. I believe fear is the root of every problem we create.

Fear disconnects us from compassion and clouds clear thought. It compels us to run, fight, or go limp in the face of perceived threats, and display all the subtler versions of these things (drivenness to do or to fix, compulsive rumination, savior complexes, stunting co-dependency, inability to commit, jealousy, suspicion, defensiveness, clinging, isolation, despair).

Name a human-made problem, and fear is at its root.

2. I believe aggressive attempts to get rid of fear only increase its power.

Fear, at heart, is not a monster. It’s a vulnerable child. So while metaphors that “slay” or “tame” or “control” or “whip it into submission” may silence its overt displays, they cannot transform it into true security or peace. In fact, when overt displays of fear are silenced, its subtler, less conscious forms are forced to surface (e.g. anger, irritability, compulsions, physical illness), wreaking just as much havoc, and in many cases, more than overt fear itself.

You can’t scare the hell out of anyone. You can only scare it into them.

3. I believe trust is the antidote to fear’s effects.

Trust is the opposite of fear, and has its inverse effects. Where fear separates, trust brings together. Where fear blurs and enmeshes, trust clarifies and untangles. Where fear disconnects us from compassion, trust ignites and re-engages us with it.

Fear hardens, breaks, tightens, and embrittles.
Trust softens, strengthens, emboldens, e x p a n d s.

Trust is not blind reliance on everyone or everything, but rather a posture toward people and life that assumes good can come from, and may be infused in, all things. It assumes that life is a benevolent and mysterious teacher, and that there isn’t a person, a circumstance, or even death itself that can diminish the goodness available to us when we open to it.

4. I believe trust-tending is a choice.

No matter the cards we’ve been dealt, no matter the personality, wounds or life experiences we carry, we are not destined to a fearful, hopeless, or even agnostic story. We can’t know definitively whether life is worth trusting, but we can consciously turn our bodies, minds, and spirits toward the possibility of life’s deep goodness and move, with large or small and faltering steps, in that direction.

Trust-tending itself is not an obligation, nor is it a “should”. But those who choose it as a practice walk lives rich in hope, joy, wonder, and increasing peace.

5. I believe trust can be powerfully cultivated by small steps over time.

Though nourished by daily choices, trust is not best grown by force of will. (See #2 above. Bullying our fears into trusting is oxymoronic.)

Instead, trust is best tended like a garden. Start cultivating anywhere (in a relationship, a hobby, a vocational pursuit) and watch, with time, the wonders that ensue.

Like towering trees that started out as seeds, trust grows.

6. I believe trust and fear can coexist.

Though trust is fear’s opposite (and feels really good in isolation), the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Human hearts (and egos…) are complex, and capable of holding both simultaneously. Our bodies are, too.

Our challenge is to act from our trust, rather than our fear – to consciously put trust in our driver’s seat, again and again and again (and again). The more we do this, the more it happens instinctually as fears arise.

7. I believe tipping points can happen, where trust increases exponentially.

As with those who meditate or do yoga, those who cultivate trust can experience huge spurts of growth, where fear-based patterns and beliefs seem to fall away and open out into new vistas of trust. These are periods where the slog-slog-slogness more typical of the practice bursts into “A-has!” and the feeling of getting downloads from the universe.

These aren’t the norm and even those who experience them experience far more periods of incremental growth, over time. But they do happen.

8. I believe trust is contagious.

When you tend trust, you’re never alone. The seeds of trust you personally tend (in your thoughts, your writings, your work, your relationships, your lifestyle, in what you create) affect everyone: your partner, your kids, your friends, your colleagues, policy-makers, the bagger at the grocery. They create powerful ripples that make tangible differences in the world we’re all creating.

On the flip side, when your trust wavers and your fears loom large, spending time in the presence of those whose trust runs deep is a powerful form of self AND world care.

In the presence of trust, we are like flowers, opening toward sun.

+ + + + + + + + + + +

What do you believe about trust? What has been your experience with it? Which of these points resonates for you and which feels most challenging? I’d truly love to know!

P.S. Did you like this and want to share? Here’s a short link: http://bit.ly/GDtkjT

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Rounding the roughness, making us shine

March 19, 2012

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Trust Tending Kindred: Dyana Valentine

March 15, 2012

Sometimes the people who elicit trust most are teddy bears: soft, predictable, comfy.

But sometimes they’re Dyana Valentine.

Dyana is a lion-lamb. She’s fierce, energetic, and untamed, but just as capably gentle when her lion-sized heart directs her to be. My first introduction to her was this video – an excellent example of her character and worth the 2.5-minute watch.

I worked with Dyana last summer as a coaching client and a client of Woke Up Knowing, and have since come to know her as friend. I’ve been struck the whole way through by her fierce love of people, her willingness to risk for the sake of saying YES! to the universe, and her uncanny gift to see and call out people’s power.

Trust gets grown in SO many ways, and I love the break-the-mold ways that Dyana does it (and has done it for me).

Dyana joins us today for a 20-minute interview about where the rabbit trails of her calling are taking her (“calling” is the theme here this week). My favorite segment begins at the 12-minute mark.

Check out Woke Up Knowing here (in the sidebar you can listen to a podcast of a Woke Up Knowing Experience if you want to get a feel for how they sometimes go), Dyana’s coaching business here, and the live, immersion experience of Woke Up Knowing here.

Also mentioned in the interview is Tara Mohr’s elucidation of the two Hebrew terms for fear.

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Redefining what it means to be called

March 14, 2012

Whether or not you’re religious, chances are you’ve been exposed to the idea of calling – this notion that someone or something or some myriad of circumstances have singled you out for a purpose: a lifestyle, a job, a relationship, a vocation.

Sometimes this idea sparks joy or curiosity and is a source of great strength through the rough and tumble that every life, no matter what our conscious sense of calling, contains.

But more often than not, and particularly when it’s experienced unconsciously, “calling” becomes a deadening force at the roots of our trust.

Because if I believe I’m called to something but I don’t know what that is, or if I have a sense of it, but continue month after month, year after year, to see mostly only fog in its regard, I can begin to feel like I’m failing. Like I’m missing my own boat. Like there’s this thing I’m supposed to know and do already, and everyone else who so beamingly figures theirs out has passed me up.

Even when we aren’t thinking about calling, though, or when we actively eschew the idea, human nature itself comes into play, with the hopes and expectations of parents or other respected adults (or society itself!) getting deep inside our bones, shaping how we feel about ourselves by how well (or how poorly) we’re measuring up to our internalized views of their wishes for us.

“Being called” comes in many forms, and often discourages us greatly.

Shifting “Calling” Trustward

But what if we set aside our deadening views of calling, consciously, and sought out some alternative?

What if instead of seeing calling as a riddle to decode, or a treasure to hunt, or a train to try to catch, we understand it as a conversation we’re uniquely positioned and feeling drawn to join?

Conversations – at least like the ones I have in mind – are less about getting something “right” than about being present, participating. Shaping.

And WOW! – can we shape them! Individual people are changing the conversational landscape on so many fronts! – truly, are changing our world.

Conversations can be with institutions. They can be with industries. They can be with cultural norms or nature itself. They can be private, or part of the public domain.

And they can and do take us (as individuals, as groups, as a planet) to new and never-known-before places.

Wherever your thoughts, your impressions, your feelings, your knowledge, your stories intersect and have “dialogue” with another’s, you’re in conversation. Conversations might be literal, but might just as well involve other forms of action (writing, making art, coaching, organizing, falconing…).

What sets “regular” conversation apart from the kind that’s a calling?

I’m still parsing the answer to this one, but “called” conversation seems to be what emerges when we listen to our lives deeply, and over a length of time.

It emerges when we listen past the surfaces to what we wouldn’t necessarily put on a resume: to the questions we ask ourselves in the night; to the ecstasies and heartaches we know in love; to the longings and scratchiness we experience and the satisfactions that we’ve known.

It emerges when we listen to what our lived experience of our resume (rather than the resume itself) says to us about what we value, what we despise, what we know, deep down, we want.

When we listen to our lives like this, we begin collecting impressions that form around ideas. From these impressions, we begin to recognize patterns of deep and deepening conviction. And we begin to see holes in “conversations” (e.g. the world of art; the justice system; power structures; the lives of the kids in our care) that only we, with our particular perspective, can fill, and that we’re drawn to fill.

These holes are our invitation to step up and in. These, I suggest, are the beckoning, enlivening voice of our call.

And they are as varied as there are people.

But I don’t see any holes!

Some people seem conscious of a calling from early on. But the majority of us come to our callings over time. The epiphanies we occasionally experience and the “writings in the sky” come not in vacuums, from out of no where, but after periods (months, years, decades…lifetimes…?) of built-up impressions.

They come when the time for them is ripe.

So if you haven’t felt one – if there isn’t a conversation you feel uniquely positioned and drawn to join – maybe you’re somewhere in the midst of a listening season.

Maybe you haven’t been listening, and your boldest, most courageous move right now would be to stop, as often as you can, to do so.

And maybe you have seen such a hole. Maybe it’s been in your line of sight for some time but you haven’t been ready to…see it.

Maybe the conversation I feel called to join and shape – about fear and the power of trust to free us to live and thrive beyond it – can grow your trust enough to get you ready.

I hope it can!

Because with all my heart, I sense that the more that we listen to our lives (<--this poem is fantastic), and the more that we cultivate the trust required to see and step into our called conversations, the more all of us will thrive.

What conversation, if any, do you feel called to join? What’s freeing you to do it, or, conversely, what obstacles feel in your way? I’d love to hear your answers!

Related posts:

  1. You Are Enough
  2. Seasons are universal. Treat yours uniquely.
  3. A Lesson I learned while staring at a stranger
  4. Everything Belongs
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The Invitation

March 12, 2012

The Invitation

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Trust Tending Kindred: Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens

March 9, 2012

Rowdy Kittens Sketch

This week kicks off a new series here: Trust Tending Kindreds. Each Friday I’ll share an inspirational sketch that introduces a blogger whose work is kindred to my own and expands on the theme I explore on Monday and Wednesday.

Today, Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens is with us. Tammy is a writer and tiny house enthusiast who blogs about living simply and taking small, daily steps to live a happy, healthy life.

I love Tammy’s work, and even more so the icon her life has become for all of us. She and her husband live in a 150 square foot home, and got there not through some dramatic, over-night purge of possessions, but a years-long process of asking again and again, What makes us happy? How much [clothing, appliances, books, furniture, you-name-it] do we really need?

By asking their questions and acting, day by day, on their answers, their lives have become a larger-than-life…or, in the case of their home, smaller-than-life :)…demonstration of where happiness is and isn’t truly rooted. By their very presence, and the writing Tammy offers through her books and blog, they inspire our own question-asking, shake up our assumptions, and hold space for us to move incrementally in their direction. (Jen Lee has a great little video exploring this service that icons inherently offer.)

More often than not, trust is grown by means of small steps over time, and Tammy’s work is a wonderful reminder of that.

Recently Tammy joined Courtney Carver of Be More With Less to create a resource called Your Lovely Life – all about cultivating beauty and joy every day. Part of that venture is to offer 3-week mini-courses on a variety of related themes, the first of which is called Create Space, and starts March 19.

I hope you’ll check out Tammy’s (and Courtney’s!) work and find it as trust-nourishing as I have!

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Sustainable Living

March 7, 2012

College was a fan for every idealistic flame in my body. I loved it. I left there eager to roll up my sleeves and take my theories to the streets. My husband felt this, too (we married at 20).

With great delight we took jobs at a small non-profit after graduation, doing community development in low-income areas of Fresno. We lived in one of the neighborhoods where we worked, and voluntarily ate beans and rice for most meals, shared a car between us, and netted 14K combined. To our hearts and minds, life couldn’t get more romantic.

I loved some aspects of that season. Topmost was the chance (I’m an adult! I’m out of school!) to go whole-hog on putting my values to action.

What I didn’t love, however, was the wistfulness I felt sometimes about living more comfortably, and the twinges of condescension and jealousy, both, that I felt around friends whose values and lifestyles were different from mine. These feelings became a weight that I carried, goading me to keep working at my all-out life for fear of a) losing sight of my ideals and b) being judged by others in my field (i.e. people trying to live simply and do social good) in the same way I judged those outside of it.

That was 1998, and since then American culture – at least huge swaths of it – has shifted dramatically toward more sustainable living. “Living simply” has become much more mainstream, and the notion of spending less on “things” and giving values-based thought to the stuff we DO buy a given in many subcultures.

The nature of human egos hasn’t changed, though. And I’d venture to say that the same ego-weight I carried as a young adult is weight many of us carry to this day.

Whether you live in poverty or material wealth, chances are that your efforts at living well in a values-based way – whether that means giving time or money to those in need, eating raw or meatless, riding bikes instead of cars, maintaining a spiritual practice, shopping used rather than new – whatever values-based living means to you, you probably know its joys as well as its shadows.

And as I think on this, I want to call out an entire system that our egos bolster every time they turn our joys to weights – a system that’s all about rights and wrongs and grades when it comes to living well – or even just when it comes to defining what living well means (we all have our ideals, even if we don’t live them out, and are that skilled as to turn the mere existence of them heavy).

That system is a zero sum game. It rests on the fact that there will always be people “failing”, always people “failing more than me” and always people doing far better. It’s inherently stressful, and fills us with shame when it isn’t loading us up with the weight of pride and condescension or, conversely, the fear-based drive to do better.

In short, it’s a fear-based game. I’m far more interested in what it means to trust. When it comes to fuel efficiency, trust burns FAR more cleanly.

So I propose the following. These apply to those trying to live sustainably, but just as well to any values-based life:

I propose we shift our sights entirely from a good/bad spectrum, stepping off of that tightrope as often and as nimbly as we can. Falling on our butts as we dismount (e.g. disappointing or scandalizing people; losing status among the elite in a given group, etc.) is entirely acceptable.

I propose we step onto a wide open plain of being human together, growing at different rates, learning lessons that aren’t always the same. A plain where we live out and intentionally share what’s important to us without assuming everyone else needs or wants to or even should become more like us. Others’ roles in The Big Scheme of growth, or even just their own path of it, may be shockingly different than what you or I might script for them. Humility is absolutely called for.

I propose we call out fear every time it drives us to do anything – from recycling to meditating to social action to anything at all that’s values-based – and do the (sometimes challenging, sometimes exhilarating) work of learning what trust would do instead.

I propose that as we seek to live more sustainably, we simultaneously find ways to unburden our inner selves, again and again (and again!), from the weight of our egos – and the jealousies, judgments, shame, and condescension involved with that weight. I propose that we ask what it means, again and again (and again!), to live, in all ways, from places of trust.

My hunch is that, if we learn to do these things – replacing our ego weight with a lighter and more sustainable state of trust – we’ll create internal sustainability for the external sustainability we’re working so hard to create.

Have you experienced ego-weight in your efforts to live well? Have you discovered helpful ways to unburden yourself from it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. Seasons are universal; treat yours uniquely
  2. Small steps into the wilds
  3. On Interconnection
  4. How nature heals us
  5. Living outside the lines
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