How to navigate external change when you’re already unraveled inside

May 31, 2012

As spring approaches summer in these parts and reaches out to pass its baton, I feel the imminence of change. I feel the imminence of my kids finishing another school year and the changes in MY routine that will bring. I feel the imminence of sports camps and camping trips and summer visits back home.

The earth itself is tilting differently, the sun casting different light and unfamiliar shadow.

And I notice that now, as has always been the case in times of transition, my psyche looks for anchors to hold onto – any sort of “knowns” to use as hand-holds through the whirl of real and anticipated change.

Things as simple as knowing what campsite we’ll be going to (that one from last year that we liked so much), or which week we’ll return to our home town for family/friend visits, or that the patio furniture is out again and dusted, ready for outdoor mealtimes: these ground me in a certain way. They sooth that part of my animal brain that feels restless and a little unmoored when change is underway.

I’m thinking today, though, about times when outer transitions happen at the same time that INNER transitions are already underway.

It’s one thing to feel a mostly-solid sense of yourself and get a little restless when you know you’re about to move or go on vacation or switch jobs, and another thing entirely to have your inner world a shambles when these outer things take place.

I vividly remember walking the stage at graduation from grad school, stocked full to overflowing with information and tools to apply to a field with which I no longer felt resonance. I was trained to teach Christian theology and was above-my-neck deep in a painful loss of Christian identity.

So while my classmates surely felt the awkwardness of transitioning out of the classroom, I’ve a hunch my level of awkward ran laps and laps around theirs.

I didn’t just want to know what life beyond school would be like; I wanted to know what life beyond who I’d always known myself to be would be like.

I didn’t just want to know when I’d visit family that summer; I wanted to know how I’d possibly talk with them about where I’d been and where I felt I was going when ALL of that – every last bit – was shrouded in fog.

Anchors that might otherwise ground us when we face outer transitions can add layer upon layer of stress when inner shifts are already under way.

Whether you’re going through divorce, grieving the death of a dear one, facing health crises, or losing your religion, nothing is known anymore. Activities and traditions that before this time anchored your seasons or years get cast in unfamiliar light, and rather than being sources of comfort, become reminders of how far you feel from “normal”.

So what does this have to do with trust?

When life serves us up challenges like the disorientation of inner transformation happening at the same time as external change, trust is like the supportive hand of a friend resting on your back.

When your adrenal glands are in hyper-active mode and your stomach is in knots and your muscles in your forehead or shoulders or back are holding your tension like it’s that or let you fall to your sure death, trust is like a wise mentor taking your hand and leading you where you know, deep down, you want to go anyway.

(Trust and fear can absolutely coincide.)

And when the view from where you stand includes very little that’s familiar and a whole lot of unknown, trust is like a little stone that’s a symbol of love. You keep it in your pocket to remind you, each time you feel it there, that you aren’t ultimately alone, and that even if everything falls apart and seems to go poorly, in the deepest sense, which is the only one that truly matters, love has your heart and your back.

In other words, trust is an anchor or a hand-hold that doesn’t ADD stress to our plates when inner transitions meet outer ones. It actually peals that stress, layer by layer, away.

And here’s the real kicker of it, which is to say comfort of it, and what my life’s work is all about:

Trust can be consciously cultivated.

It can be cultivated when you aren’t in transition.

It can be cultivated when you ARE in transition.

It can be cultivated when you’re doubting life’s goodness completely.

It can be cultivated when you’re depressed.

It can be cultivated when everything’s falling apart and all hope is gone.

Cultivating trust is about starting wherever you are and turning as much as you’re able – even if that’s just a finger or toe – in the direction of openness to the possibility that this right here (whatever “this” might be in your inner or outer circumstances) can be part of a bigger and beautiful story.

It’s about recognizing and admitting that Fear and Anxiety and Depression aren’t what you want to run your show.

It’s about incremental (and occasionally crazy-fast) growth in your capacity to turn more and more of your fingers and toes in trust’s direction and actually begin to actively do things like:

  • prune away stories and beliefs that aren’t serving you;
  • distance yourself from people and influences that are toxic to your thriving;
  • seek out people and influences that support your thriving;
  • relax more and more (as opposed to tense up and resist) into who and what and where you are.

If you’re new to this concept or need a simple suggestion for where to start today, here’s one:

Imagine yourself literally moving onto your own side.

Imagine the parts of you that have been at odds with you, criticizing or judging you for not being more _______ or less _______ or not doing more _______ and avoiding things like ______ actually dropping their fists and their weapons and their criticisms and stepping with kindness and compassion and contrition back onto your side.

Each time you imagine yourself engaging people or participating in events or facing change through this season, imagine yourself repeatedly stepping back onto your side when parts of you wander elsewhere, being and becoming the firm, compassionate support you most need.

This is a radical move, and likely the single most potent when it comes to growing trust.

And if you want to take this step further, here are more you might try:

1. Spend some time exploring the Free Stuff page on this site. There are wonderful resources there that, taken in succession, can begin to fill you with a quiet and growing strength. If you’re really feeling low, this post might help you sidestep the triggers you might have around too rosey/victorious of claims around what trust can do.

2. Book a Deep Listening Session. These are soul-shifting experiences of naming your places of fear and/or pockets of growing trust, being deeply heard, and having a custom piece of art created by me in response. It’s like getting a massage, but having long-term results.

3. Check out this resource for navigating vacations and holidays with extended family. Those of us in the northern hemisphere are entering into the summer season when opportunities to stand more consciously on our own side…or not…while with family often come in greater supply. Planning ahead to do so can mean the difference between feeling triggered, depleted, and self-critical, or more safely supported by trust.

If you purchased this book previously, this could be a wonderful time to pull it out, dust it off, and make plans to apply some of its practices.

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I’m right here with you on this path of growing trust (meaning: doing what I do here at Trust Tending, but even more so, facing fears and tending trust alongside of them myself). And I hope with all my heart you find the nourishment for trust that you need – here or elsewhere.

I’ve an ever-deepening trust that you will. A deepening trust that, indeed, you already are.


Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Lessons in Conscious Innovation

May 23, 2012

Before getting started I want to say a quick word about innovation. I think innovation ROCKS. Since recorded history began, and surely before that, people have used it to learn, to grow, and to awaken. New thoughts that give way to new questions and new discoveries and new ways of thinking and acting and creating and being human are responsible for so much goodness and vitality!

At the same time, I don’t want to give the impression by this article that I think innovation is always the best route to everything worthwhile. I don’t believe this to be true. There are traditions that stretch well across time – for individuals and for groups; in spiritual and nonspiritual arenas – that are deep sources of nourishment, sustenance and awakening. I don’t want to downplay their importance by the lessons that follow.

I’ve had a slow, visceral dawning over the last year about two related lessons. Both might be as obvious to you as the nose on your face, but I’ve a hunch that you don’t give much thought to your nose most of the time, and more conscious attention to these lessons could richly nourish your trust.

The first lesson is this:

You don’t have to do it like anyone else.

Lots of voices in the online world are saying some version of this these days, but it’s remarkable, to me personally, how possible it is to hear this and agree completely…and not actually live like it’s true.

Living like it isn’t true can include things like:

  • Feeling your energy drain away around certain activities but continuing to assume those activities, or those activities done in that way, are a must.
  • Not actually doing the activities you feel you simply must do, but keeping them on your to-do list anyway and feeling a gnawing dissatisfaction with the fact that they aren’t ever getting done.
  • Being conscious of a dream (Get in shape! Be more peaceful in my parenting! Quit the job I hate! Get the promotion! Find love!) but getting stalled up in pursuit of it because the steps you feel it must involve aren’t ones you feel right about taking.
  • Taking class after class after class (or reading book after book after book) to try to get the right information and the right set of steps to do whatever it is you want to do.
  • Feeling like your real life, the one where you’re living how you want to live and feeling how you want to feel, will finally get started once you figure out how to be a grown-up, how to be a parent, how to be spiritual, how to feel safe in your skin, how to get the right friends, etc.

I’ve had these experiences in relation to parenting, to the clothes I fill my closet with, to my feelings around writing a novel without a writing degree, and most recently with the boundaries I inadvertently set around how to package and sell trust-nourishing content.

I “believe” that I don’t have to do any of these activities like anyone else, but have continued to act and/or feel as though I don’t.

It IS true that there are ways things can be done that can’t and won’t achieve our goals at all. Showing up to an interview in your underwear, for example, in almost every case, will not land you the job.

But there is a wide open field of possibility, around almost everything you can imagine, for how to do it, and succeed at doing it – even excel at doing it – NOT like everyone else.

I’m so inspired by people like Jen Lee, who challenge the common assumption that digital media is the only profitable way to go these days. What if you really don’t like ebooks? What if you can’t bear to put your content into an online course? Get creative about some alternatives.

I’m inspired by people like the Soules who are parenting non-traditionally (check out Amanda’s parenting book list or list of books on unschooling), living close to the earth, and making a living largely through online means without screen time dominating their days. This amazes me!

And Tami Strobel and so many others in the tiny house and simplicity movements – living as though the American Dream of a house, two cars, two kids, and closets crammed with stuff just isn’t their idea of fun. How cool is that to get conscious of what lights you up and then set up a lifestyle that completely supports that?

But take this lesson right down to you, sitting or standing where you are this very minute:

What about your life could lift and lighten if you truly believed that you don’t have to do that thing (that relationship, that project, that landscaping, that extracurricular routine, that sex, that exercise plan, that career, that connection with Source) just like anyone else?

If you can imagine believing such a thing but, like me, can’t always…believe it, this exercise might help.

But maybe you’re already steps beyond that thought and on to a set of fears that can come on the tails of this first lesson.

Such fears might have already flared for you, at times, while surfing the sites of “Do It Your Own Way” types, or entrepreneurs whose creative genius floors you.

Namely: What if I need the guidance of existing models? What if I’m so new at ______ that I couldn’t deviate from the norm if I tried because I simply need to know the very first things about this new-to-me task? Am I somehow less-than if this describes me?…if I’m not ready to shed all conventional skins?

Here’s where the second lesson comes in:

Many of our world’s greatest innovators started by learning from those who’ve gone before. Learning and mastering a particular form is a legitimate and downright helpful means for getting to live and dream beyond it.

Maybe you sit at the feet of a teacher and soak in and imitate everything they know for a time.
Maybe you find a how-to book about something you want to do and follow its instructions completely.
Maybe you pray like your parents or interpret sacred texts like your rabbi or priest or meditate as though that’s your only and sure-fire path to waking up.
Maybe you dress and act just like you think should….

And then you reach a day when you realize you’re ready to take a different path, a sideways step. And you’re conscious enough of what you’ve learned so far to clearly and powerfully make that choice.

Go, you!!

Go all of us!!

This is a world and a time of great innovative possibility and a wonderful era to learn from those who’ve gone before. A wonderful era to learn consciously from what has gone before for you personally.

The more conscious you can become of what you need right now to thrive – whether that be to shed the inadvertent belief that there’s only limited right/best/awesome ways to do _______ (fill that blank in with ANYTHING you’re up to these days), or to recognize your need of concrete teachers of specific forms, the greater your trust will be that where you are, right now, is a wonderful place to start.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Limitations can become your greatest strength

May 21, 2012

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Ten things you may need to (re)hear

May 16, 2012

1. Sometimes the process of unfurling into your best and juiciest public life necessitates stretches of being private and off grid. Your private work might involve intense thinking, creating, and scheming, but just as often it involves gentle recovery (an early bedtime, a conversation with an old friend, washing dishes, staring off into space) from your stretches of being out there, in the public eye. These private stretches are important, and not indication that you’re off your most-desired track.

2. Curve balls happen. A lot. When possible, nod knowingly when they come. And then do your best to fold them into your new sense of normal.

3. You can’t outrun your fear, so why not stop trying? Turn toward it, rather than away, greeting it with whatever courage you can muster. Imagine it a child who needs you to listen. See whether listening doesn’t take away tons of its power. If you have a friend who loves you and can listen along with you, ask for their company. Magic this way comes.

4. Sometimes there’s no way around restlessness. You just have to feel it. And then, in time, it’s through.

5. If you step away from Facebook and Twitter and mark everything in your reader as read, the sky will not fall, you won’t lose everything you worked for, and you won’t miss everything worth knowing. You actually might discover your quiet, clear center. And rest.

6. Don’t worry about what “everyone else” is accomplishing. Listen to your OWN life. Is it calling you to do less? more? something else entirely? Let that be your compass. Could be you’re doing exactly what and how much is right for you right now. And if you are, that’s well worth celebrating!

7. Your gray hair, vein-streaked legs, and belly bulge need not be hidden for you to be magnificently radiant. In fact, you stepping out from under the assumption that they do could be the key of all keys to your magnetic attractiveness. (There is deep irony here.)

8. Grief takes time. It’s hard, and it takes time.

9. Life’s horrors don’t cancel out its wonders and its beauty.

10. You’re fantastic.

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P.S. I have been loving Deep Listening Sessions so much and look so forward to connecting with more of you this way! Beginning June 1st, I’ll be raising my rates to $150. If you’ve been thinking about booking a session and would like to get in on the current rate, book between now and May 31 (sessions booked between now and then can be scheduled for dates beyond May 31). I’d be so honored to listen to you!

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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How to learn to believe what you only “believe”

May 8, 2012

One of my all-time favorite movies is Good Will Hunting.

There’s this scene in it where the main character, Will, is in his therapist’s office. Will is 20 years old and spent his childhood shuffled between abusive foster homes. His therapist, Sean, was assigned by the court when Will was arrested for hitting a cop.

Sean has earned Will’s deep trust, and on this particular day, Will arrives at Sean’s office to see Sean looking at his file. There are records there of all of Will’s arrests. Records of his various foster homes and the reasons for his removal from each one. Pictures of the bruises and cigarette burns he suffered at the hands of each of his “parents”.

“Pretty awful shit in there,” Will says.

Sean nods.

They’re quiet for a time.

“Do you know about that stuff?” Will tentatively asks.

“You mean….did stuff like this happen to me?”


Sean looks at Will thoughtfully.

“Yeah. It did.”

Sean and Will briefly compare notes on their worst experiences. Both of them are standing.

“But you know all this shit?” Sean asks, motioning to Will’s file. “It’s not your fault.”

Will nods like that’s old news.

“No really, it’s not your fault.”

Will says comfortably again, “Yeah. I know.”

“No. You don’t. It’s not your fault.”

Will smiles awkwardly and makes eye contact. “I know.”

“No, you don’t,” Sean says. “It’s not your fault.”

Sean takes a step closer to Will and says it again.

“Why are you saying this?” Will asks, his temper rising.

Sean steps even closer.

“It’s not your fault.”

“Don’t DO this to me!” Will yells. “Don’t FUCK with me. Not you, Sean.”

And Sean keeps repeating, softly, but with deep conviction, “It’s not your fault.”

Slowly, Will’s anger melts into what’s beneath it and he covers his face, beginning to cry.

Sean and he embrace as Will weeps, Sean saying again, “It’s not your fault.”

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I thought of this scene this week when an idea that I’ve heard a thousand times and believed, on one level, finally reached my core and I realized how impenetrably shielded from its truth my heart has long been.

I don’t have to understand the universe, or even all the ins and outs of the human psyche, before I can legitimately lead change.

Part of me has believed that I do need such understanding – has believed this my whole life. And though on the outside I’ve confidently known that I don’t (how could I possibly be omniscient??), every time I’ve taken dramatic, conscious steps to lead the change I feel called to lead, I get thrown into despair. Or more specifically, feelings I can’t make sense of.

Which I finally identified as a deep part of me holding tight-fisted to the belief that my work is all for naught until I understand everything about everything. Which, clearly, means my work will always be for naught.

Dear, despairing girl!

Like Will, she’s needed those thousand times of hearing, “You don’t understand,” before she could know that she didn’t.

But something finally broke in me this week and the message got through and the weight of the universe has been lifted off my shoulders.

I can’t tell you the relief that I feel! The euphoria!

I could move mountains with this stuff!

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As I write all of this, my thoughts turn toward you and I wonder about the stories you’re bearing – “bearing”, because I’m thinking here of the heavy ones that weigh down your living. I wonder whether you could consciously press into those stories, like Sean, with a firm and gentle clarity:

“You don’t understand.”

  • You don’t understand that you don’t have to prove yourself.
  • You don’t understand that your nagging insecurities aren’t flaws but are you being human.
  • You don’t understand that your aging body is beautiful.
  • You don’t understand that everyone’s house is more messy than you think.
  • You don’t understand you’re not failing.
  • You don’t understand that you don’t have to – and can’t – save the world.

Name your own unique line, and see what happens when you tell yourself again and again (I’m being absolutely literal here – do it in the mirror; do it in your journal; say it in your mind): “No you don’t understand” and repeat the thing you know to be true. Over and over (and over and over) again, “No you don’t understand: _________.”

What if the wall you have around that part of yourself – the wall of your unconscious, more child-like conviction – could get cracked just enough by this move to let the conscious truth in?

If my experience is any indication, it could rock your whole world.

And when that world gets rocked, who knows what else could change?

I have more than a hunch you’ll soon be seeing examples of that here.

Related posts:

Living outside the lines
Pathways out of fearing success
Redefining failure until it falls away

If you’re new here, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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As beautifully balanced as birdwings

May 1, 2012

I consider one of the greatest gifts I offer here to be consciousness-raising: about fear and what it does in us, about trust and what it changes, about the grit and the grime and the wonder and beauty of the very real (that is, un-sugar-coated) process of learning to live beyond fear.

So when Julie Daley tweeted a Rumi quote last night, it distinctly caught my attention.

“Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings.”

I’ve been off kilter these last weeks, and have been noticing myself literally contracting – wanting to pull in, go silent, sleep curled in a ball. When I feel this way, it’s easy to assume this is how I’ll feel indefinitely.

But inevitably, as happened last night, the contraction reaches an apex and then shifts. Expansion begins. Trust reaches for light and then surfaces, and I find my body uncurling, the knots in my gut loosening, my arms softening and opening to embrace life’s good things again.

For all of us, this process happens constantly:

We breathe – expanding and contracting.

We engage in social/public life – expanding and contracting.

We create and share creations with the world – expanding and contracting.

We celebrate and grieve – expanding and contracting.

We feel bold and self-assured and, in turn, just as profoundly shy and insecure – again, expanding and contracting.

Ultimately, we move through trust and fear, expanding and contracting.

We expand and contract throughout our days, weeks, and years, circling back to contractions we thought we were done with, expanding in familiar, as well as new and unexpected ways.

And the more conscious presence we can bring to these processes, the less permanent our contractions will feel while we’re in them (even when they last a long time) – the more capable we become of watching for and recognizing the “beautiful balance and coordination” of our winding paths of growth, discovery, and healing.

If you’re afraid right now, contracting around life as a whole, or a specific piece of your experience with it, with my whole heart I hope your expansion comes soon. I wish you eyes to see when it begins and a heart open enough to receive, in the meantime, the help and comfort and courage you need.

With love,

P.S. Here’s that Rumi poem in full:


Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you are bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.

(from The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne)

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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