Tending trust in the midst of life’s disparities

April 24, 2012

I imagine us all on rafts on open sea.

There are times when the surface is glass and we float as if not floating – as if sprawled out on lawn chairs: stable, still.

And there are times when we rock gently, seeing swells before they reach us, riding their gentle rises, returning back to calm.

And there are times when the waves rise up and pound us. When they come and come and knock us down, wave after wave after wave, and we wonder whether there’s anything BUT waves. Anything but this relentless gasp for rest and breath.

And this sea is so strange, too, since while some of us are sipping cocktails languidly, rafts not ten feet off are thrashing and crashing on stormy sea. Which, when observed by the sippers, can instantly shift THEIR peace into thrashing sea, too.

I’m personally feeling wave after wave of change inside. Some of it is conscious and attached to many implications – for my work, my relationships, my sense of myself. Some of it I’ve yet to understand or name.

And all of it feels beautiful and awkward and important and uncomfortable.

I’m simultaneously observing dear friends and acquaintances and family members pounded by wave after wave of challenge – spiritual, physical, relational, emotional, vocational. Hospital stays and court appearances and children passing and marriages disintegrating and jobs becoming thin air. The lot of it feels apocalyptic, almost. Like What in the world is HAPPENING, people??

My peripheral vision alone is enough to make my heart race.

But then I’m talking and emailing with person after person who is…who are…beautifully blossoming – launching new businesses and websites, stepping out from behind protective walls, shedding unhelpful stories, manifesting dreams.

I received Reiki last week from a woman whose light and peace floored me.

This sea! This crazy, crazy sea. It’s surreal.

And I ask myself: What does trust look like here? What does tending trust from this rocking, unsteady vantage point mean? – this place where I’m awash in salt and spray, and others can barely breathe, and the sun is shining, and the air around is kind and temperate and folks nearby are actually RESTING. Appropriately so. And even I feel capable of doing so sometimes.

I think tending trust from this place is a lot about naming what we see:

I see joy
I see suffering
I see hope and healing
I see sadness and despair

Naming our observations makes them feel less like swirling tornadoes in our hearts and minds and more like unsurprising descriptions of the human condition.

And when it comes to naming what we see inside ourselves, it becomes a form of magic that can shift us, over time, out of stuckness and fear into greater movement, strength, and trust.

If a listening ear might help you in your moves to name such things, I’d love to offer mine.

I think it’s about learning to surrender to the strangeness of this sea – learning to stop resisting and recoiling from its many guises.

Resistance is assuming it should be otherwise – it owes us to be otherwise.

Surrender is taking it as it is, learning to look it in the eye with recognition, no matter how strange and conflictual its current display.

Surrender isn’t about not working for change when we recognize that’s what we want or need to work toward, but about a posture toward life that isn’t scandalized by the darkness and the light of it – that looks at the things we seek to change with a, “yep, this is here and I’m doing something about it” mentality, rather than, “WHAT THE F@%#??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???”

I think tending trust from this place is about finding some small daily ritual that, done consciously, and intentionally, gives our frightened animal-mind/animal-body the comfort of being present to something known and concrete.

Cleaning and refilling the bird bath.
Making porridge.
Making the bed.
Walking the dog.
Lighting candles at dusk.

A ritual like this isn’t to numb out to the waves crashing in or around us – since numbing out tends not only to perpetuate our inner dis-ease, but also to deaden our capacity for things like wonder, deep healing, and joy – but rather to give us a hand-hold in the midst of the waves, a little buoy to hold onto to catch our next breath.

I think tending trust in times like these is about consciously stepping into a self identity as one-who-learns-to-ride-the-waves-of-challenge-and-change.

Without this conscious move, most of us more naturally, and unconsciously, heed the voices of our egos, which tell us the goal, always, is to get to stasis and then protect that – to “finally settle down”; to arrive at a certain level of healing, income or success; to find a mate or have children and live happily ever after.

There’s nothing wrong with such desires, but having our ultimate goals be to arrive at and protect them is a flashing neon invitation to suffer at the powerful, predictable hands of change.

Finding ways to pursue, love, and appreciate life’s joys and successes while also seeing ourselves as people with the guts and will to learn to ride the waves of challenge and change seems like a balance that trust asks and invites us to find.

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These are all such current practices for me. And aren’t all coming easy. But I sense they’re doing good things.

What moves do YOU make to tend trust when life feels surreal? How do you find equanimity in the midst of its disparities? I’d truly love to know.

If you’re new here, welcome! I typically post 1 to 3 times each week with my longer articles on Wednesdays. This post is a great distillation of the “why’s” behind what happens here. And for a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Trusting when we don’t understand the changes happening within

April 18, 2012

When we’re honest with ourselves, most of us know that life = change – that there’s no such thing as stasis. Our inner and outer landscapes are constantly in flux.

Our experiences of that change, however, are myriad and after a weekend full of emotions I still can’t understand, I’m moved to talk about our less straight-forward experiences of it.

Changes we don’t understand

The murky shifts I have in mind are no less real than the ones we can readily identify (e.g. I moved. I got a job. I got divorced.), but often tear at our trust in particular ways. They cause us to question our self-awareness and feel a bit, well…crazy. They challenge our ego’s wish to name a “problem” and try to resolve it. And they elicit fear (in us and, sometimes, in people we love) that they’ll drag on forever.

So I want to talk about them. I’ve found that with greater consciousness, I can experience them with more cushion around my inner state of trust than is otherwise present – more ability to ride their discomforts, rather than constantly, flailingly be thrown by them.

No-name Change

The name I want to give these murky shifts is “No-name change”. Because, truly, they mystify.

No-name change is what I experienced this weekend. I attended Tara Mohr’s Playing Big Workshop and it was a fantastic experience. Full of wonderful content and dear, supportive companions. I left there FULL of inspiration and practical tools for navigating the inner and outer aspects of playing my freest, most authentic game.

On a level below my cognition, however, something was up. I felt intense urges to cry without the ability to name their root emotion. Grief, fear, shame, anger, nostalgia – none of these felt like “it”, and I was at a loss to come up with alternatives (I couldn’t even blame PMS!).

I engaged whole-heartedly in workshop and social time, and then walked the trails of Green Gulch alone, mystified, tears streaming down my face.

Riding no-name change with grace

As I reflect on these experiences and similar ones from elsewhere in my life, it seems clear that riding no-name change doesn’t usually look graceful on the outside. On the outside it can look like:

  • Awkward attempts to act “normal” when everything inside feels strange
  • Slow or blubbering tears
  • Emotional flat-lining as you work to keep intense and/or inexplicable emotions in check.

On the inside, though, grace can be simultaneously present. Here are some of the ways I’ve discovered it can look:

  • It can look like a kind and knowing nod to yourself that says, “It’s that no-name change happening again, isn’t it? Yeah. That’s hard. And awkward.”
  • It can look like giving yourself space – in the form of inner permission, conscious surrender, or literal chances to cry, be alone, walk, sit in the bath, etc. – to let it do its thing for as long as it needs to.
  • It can look like a reminder, taped to your inner or literal fridge, that says, “No-name change is happening. Welcome, again, to the human experience.”

Life is change, so no matter how intense you experience your no-name change to be, that, too, will change. With time and curiosity, you may get insight into its true nature/name (you may even sense it’s time to press in toward this end – to ask questions, to seek therapy). But then again, you may not.

My deep and deepening trust, however, is that whether or not we ever get a more specific name for it, no-name change isn’t a sign that we’ve failed on some enlightenment or self-awareness test. It isn’t a sign of immaturity and not likely a sign that we’re losing our minds. ;)

It’s simply one of the more awkward and mystifying ways that we grow.

If you’re new here, welcome! I typically post 1 to 3 times each week with my longer articles on Wednesdays. This post is a great distillation of the “why’s” behind what happens here. And for a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Notes to self

April 11, 2012

The fancy article I wrote to post today felt too distant from the trust-work I’m personally doing right now, so instead, I offer you these: notes to myself, written from the edges of my trust and fear. I’m fully inside the human condition, so trust that one or more of these might speak to you, too.

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  • Everything belongs.
  • Stop running from the thing you fear. Even though you don’t know what it is exactly. Even though you don’t know how big or small it’ll turn out to be.

    Stop running especially because you sense it actually isn’t a monster, but a threshold beyond which is freedom.

  • Your impulse to be saved by something outside yourself – named, reassured, told what to do: unlearn it. Notice it at work as often as you can. Imagine yourself at a fork in the road each time, turning a new direction. Do this because:
  • You know way more than you think. Though you’ll surely collect more, your toolbox is FULL. Your role is not Amnesiac about this. Your task – your great adult responsibility – is to remember.

    Remember how capable you are when you put your heart and mind to something. Remember that hard work ≠ bad or evidence the universe is unkind. Remember how great your questions are, and the beauty you find in the places they take you.

    With practice, remembering gets easier.

  • Owning your life is necessary for the inner rest you want to know.

    It has nothing to do with becoming an island, or closing your ears to good advice, or not asking for help when you need it.

    Owning your life means reserving a quiet space inside yourself for The Last Word to arise from within you – The Last Word about your worth, your opinions, the action(s) you want or need to take, the questions you most want to guide you.

    The “easy way out” of looking to others for Last Words is, in actuality, a long life of graspy desperation.

  • Respect your ego, but don’t fear it. The worst it can do is guide you down paths you decide, after all, not to take. And good heavens, those paths are fantastic teachers anyway. Either way, you win!
  • Your public persona can be complex. No need to flatten it. Find ways to fold in the pieces of you that feel important, regardless of how slick they appear to be.
  • BIG is not always better. But neither is small. Both have great value. Discern which applies when, and where you might inadvertently short change yourself or others by valuing one over the other.
  • Fast is not always better. But neither is slow. Both have great value. Discern which applies when, and where you might inadvertently short change yourself or others by valuing one over the other.
  • Nihilism is usually unexamined fear. In your moments in the shadow of “what’s the point of any of this?”, try to name what you’re fearing. Better yet, find someone who loves you to whom you can speak your fears out loud. Regardless of anything being said or done about your fears specifically, turn your antennae toward the feeling of being heard and not alone. See what happens to that shadow.
  • Sleep is precious. Strategize how to get more of it. Put that plan into action.
  • You are fantastic.

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Lot’s is going on in my inner and outer worlds these days. I look forward to sharing more of it with you soon! I’m heading out of town for a few days and will see you here again next week.

In the meantime, check out the wonderful work around “Place” that Helen is doing at Dixon Hill. I’m delighted to participate today in her Changing Places series, talking about how Los Angeles has changed me.

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April 3, 2012

I wish I had a potent line to share about power tonight – a little gem to take your smallness and your fear and your fatigue to brighter places.

I wish I had the Universe figured out, and could state with surety my stance on when to listen/wait, and when to use your own guts and grit to go lasso the moon.

I wish I knew better how to navigate the community that lives inside each of us – inside me – with its adult personas, and all of those children: the ones that insist the sky is always falling, and the ones that trust with unguarded hearts, and the ones that know chocolate could save us all.

I wish I could know and do so much!

Instead, I sit here with my questions, and my fears, and my fatigue. I sit here more aware, tonight, of the weight we all carry than of our wings. And the streak in me that has refused since early childhood to lacquer the rough and the raw with saccharine platitudes digs its back feet in.

“Won’t do it,” she says.


Here’s what I can say:

I’ve suffered greatly in my life, knowing darkness so deep I forgot the look of light.
That theodicy speech that Ivan gives in the Brothers Karamazov? I could have written it.
I’ve known existential angst better than the backs of my hands.

And yet. Or, rather, nevertheless.

I see light spilling through the cracks of my life and our world now.

I see it creeping under closed doors and walled off hearts.

I see it cascading with spilled milk and the blood of war and the tears that fall from our faces.

I see its flame now, right now, as I stare at this screen, typing through my own feelings of smallness.

The light doesn’t answer questions or lasso any moons, but its a thread that I watch, weaving us all together. Weaving something soft I can rest my cheek against in the darkness.

Weaving a net that can catch us, repeatedly, as we fall and fall and fall into what my subjective experience can only trust is love.

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Choosing a mantra

April 2, 2012

If you’re new here, welcome! I typically post 3x each week with my longer articles on Wednesdays. This post is a great distillation of the “why’s” behind what happens here. And for a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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