the one thing there is plenty of

After nine months, I’d had enough. Every level of life felt like a challenge—for what seemed an eternity. I needed a distraction. The image of tying a knot at the end of a rope, as the expression goes, and just hanging on came to mind. What I saw from that vantage was plenty of trauma: Sexual assault or abuse; accidents, or injuries to self or other; natural disasters; or being in a life-threatening situation. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2017/PTSD-and-Trauma-Not-Just-for-Veterans#  I have been traumatized. I have sat with others experiencing trauma. I’m quite sure there is some trauma stuck within me.  Doesn’t everyone know trauma?

Racial injustice had escalated throughout 2020, as other circumstances—the pandemic, global warming, and political manipulation and unrest—became more widespread. As it turned out, a December book study featured My Grandmother’s Hands – Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. Was this the diversion I craved?

Before signing up, I watched a few YouTube interviews with the author, Resmaa Menakem, whose calm and sincerity simply ooze through the screen. A trauma healer and psychotherapist, he is also a Minnesotan. Plus, I felt like he was someone I could trust. Hooked! Reviews praise this book of mending soul wounds (trauma) as the essential change needed to bring all bodies together—something this country desperately needs. As a healer, I wanted to know more about the author’s new approach to healing suffering. My mind was filled with possibilities for healing all kinds of trauma. Imagine the exposed space after the release of all that negative energy.

In his book, Menakem specifically addresses the history of racial trauma and steps in the individual and collective healing journeys surrounding white body supremacy, black and brown bodies, and blue bodies (law enforcement). His main idea is that trauma is not of the thinking brain but lives in the DNA of body cells and is passed down from generation to generation. Trauma happens to someone. “When something happens to the body that is too much, too fast, or too soon, it overwhelms the body and can create trauma…Trauma is the body’s protective response to an event—or series of events—that it perceives as potentially dangerous. This perception may be accurate, inaccurate, or entirely imaginary.” My Grandmother’s Hands, pages 6-7. The author shares examples, questions, and exercises that offer healing of individual racial trauma, creating more room within the nervous system and confirming that trauma can be healed.

My lifetime experiences with black or brown bodies have been relatively few, but positive and accepting; however, my family of origin casts some shadows. This book has increased my awareness of white supremacy and the stark effects of it on all bodies. I am shocked at how much more I need to broaden my understandings and actions. Committed to investing time and energy in healing my personal racial trauma, I begin.

Up until the time of reading Resmaa’s book, I thought any ancestral trauma I might have had was linked to my 100% German heritage. Scientifically, I now know some of the persecution and murder of European Jews and other minorities as well as Hitler’s strategy of an Aryan master race during the WWII era was passed down through the DNA of my generations. For example, whenever I watch a movie like Kate Hamer’s “The Girl in the Red Coat,” I have strong empathy, am moved to tears, and have difficulty emerging from scenes. Not proud to witness those actions, I condemn this senseless price that humanity was forced to pay. I wish there had been less tyranny and greater inclusion.

Menakem offers five tools to counteract familiar, reactive behavior patterns to life situations: fight, flight, or freeze. Paraphrased, these translate to 1) A struggle is coming, 2) That struggle is picking up traction, or 3) I sense a growing uneasiness in my body. For me, a growing uneasiness in my stomach signals trauma over a part of my heritage that I was not responsible for, yet somehow, still lives in me. The five anchors’ tool suggests ways to stay with the discomfort of my inherited trauma and move through it. Besides the trigger of movies, my senses have a way of creating scenes from historical readings and my travel experiences.

As I close my eyes, it’s as if I can feel, hear, see, touch, and taste the despair and fear of the Jewish prisoners and the arrogance and cold-bloodedness of Hitler. Sadly, it is part of who I am, how I act and react, and how I interact with life. I always wondered why I had such intense emotions relating to the Holocaust or to Hitler. Now, however, I know that I can set an intention to heal from my ancestral trauma.

Anchors 1-5 are paraphrased to show my experience of self-healing from trauma. See My Grandmother’s Hands, pages 167-175, for complete explanation.

Situation:

A billboard about a Holocaust exhibit at the Minnesota Institute for the Arts (MIA) triggers uneasy feelings in my body. I sense a tightening of my stomach muscles. I set an intention to work with my ancestral trauma, to heal from it.

Anchor 1

The discomfort of guilt, shame, and fear loom over me. I stop thinking. I begin to soothe myself by humming, rocking, or rubbing the area just above my navel. After about ten minutes, my mind and heart are quiet and calm.

Anchor 2

Then I notice sensations in my body. My stomach is clenched, a headache targets my temples, and pain attacks my left neck area. Guilt, shame, and fear accompany the pain. I try not to react to what I am feeling, so I repeat the names of the areas of my body that house the discomfort: stomach, temples, left neck area. Over and over.

Anchor 3

I accept the guilt, shame, and fear (discomfort) of my inherited trauma and stay with it as long as I can feel it. I do not fight, flee, or freeze. Reacting does not help me work through the trauma. Instead, I allow the discomfort to enter my body. I feel it and remain with it, no matter how unpleasant. I do not analyze it or think of strategies to overcome it. I don’t think! It is a natural inclination for the body to want to maintain stability. I focus on my body to accept, experience, and move through the discomfort—until it changes. It will change. It always does. However, it may take some time. I commit to waiting.

Anchor 4

I continue to stay with the guilt, shame, and fear (discomfort) and feel my way, moment-by-moment, as things unfold. I also allow uncertainty and doubt, knowing they are just passing feelings. I respond to discomfort (guilt, shame, and fear) from my highest Self and deepest truth. I don’t judge or expect others to help. Healing is instinctive. I continue to trust the process. For me, it takes about forty-five minutes before the discomfort lifts.

Anchor 5

I clear any remaining energy surrounding the discomfort by doing one of the following activities: shaking my body or yelling for three minutes; dancing or brisk walking for twenty minutes.

I am so excited to experience the lifting of some of my ancestral trauma. I feel more resilient and empowered, with a more expansive (and relaxed!) nervous system. If guilt, shame, or fear start to rear their ugly heads when my life connects with people who are Jewish, with documentaries about that era, or with readings on a similar topic, I will not fight, flee, or freeze. I’ll calmly repeat the five anchors’ exercise. Having this tool gives me a choice to privately identify my own trauma, to reduce trauma at my own pace through tools and exercises, and to become a more empathetic and loving family and community member because I have done the work of change. Now it’s time to heal white supremacy.

From a higher vantage: Reduce trauma overload—it’s holding you back! Take plenty of opportunities in the new year to send trauma on its way. Seize Resmaa Menakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands. Listen to your body. Learn from its wisdom. Experience healing and ease.

@ 2020 in the thick of things

light up the dark!

For just a moment, close your eyes. Imagine these global-reaching gifts for the holidays…

  • Awareness of individual ancestry and culture
  • Respect for nature
  • A place to call home
  • Access to clean water
  • No person or animal left unfed
  • Simple lifestyles and expectations
  • Enough sustainable income
  • Coexistence of differences and inclusiveness
  • Love and harmony exchanged
  • A united, inclusive governing body

Now you open your eyes, and everywhere you turn, you are immersed in the negative column of duality. None of your reverie seems real, even possible, let alone attainable. You may feel angry, hollow, cynical, or in denial. Perhaps your attitude toward people and the world has changed.

Yet, attitude is one characteristic over which you have control—a present to yourself.  Consider this quote from Viktor Frankl, Austrian Holocaust survivor, neurologist, psychiatrist, and author:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Having visited the Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich, Germany, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington  D.C., I remember the haunting feeling of distinct limits on human life, of profound struggle, and of hopelessness. Being a deep feeler, it was difficult for me to shake the sight of young children’s worn shoes and clothing, the scratchy feeling of a lone, crinkled and discolored photograph of a loved one that I imagined placed next to skin, and the dark, heavy energy of the palpable emotions that reached to me through the displays. It took me several days of “sitting with” my psyche before I could balance my heart and thoughts. I have never forgotten, although I do not dwell on those scenes. Changing my attitude to embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly lets me be in the world, but not controlled by it. Ways of thinking and behaving are up to me.

In some ways, today’s circumstances seem to engage the senses similarly. The pandemic, racial frenzy, denigration of nature, a broken economy, and egocentric and dictatorial government leadership ebb and flow during this time of unusual holiday celebrations. Although not always easy amid the surroundings, choose your attitudes.

Practicing a different perspective is another characteristic of choice. Since you don’t know what the next six months hold, better to be prepared, observe, and resonate with an offering of voice.

  • Are you short of toilet paper? You might try using crepe paper. It conveniently displays well on the roller, and the party stores are fully stocked. ~Terry Terrones, journalist for “The Gazette,” Colorado Springs, CO, April 22, 2020
  • One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers. ~Gwendolyn Brooks, In the Mecca, poetry, 1968
  • “…Being a good person and being the coolest can come in the same package….” ~Norma Johnson, writer and performer: A poem for my white friends, “I Didn’t Tell You,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UVIgjuovt8, December 29, 2013

Believing in the impossible—a cousin to developing resiliency—is a third characteristic that you can control. Irradicating world hunger may seem like an impossible reach, yet, in 2019, donations to Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization, gave 17 million people in 46 countries access to clean water, food, education, and healthcare. This is wonderful, astonishing progress. Each year, we give our adult children and grandchildren a holiday gift of experience (along with requested books or movie tickets). This year we will be supporting Action Against Hunger with a gift in each family’s name. https://www.actionagainsthunger.org/

Since the holidays have traditionally held magic for those who believe in the impossible, reading is another pleasure that warms the hearts of both reader and listener. My five-year-old grandson and I use FaceTime to read books from Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Treehouse series. #8 Midnight on the Moon tookthe protagonists, eight-year-old Jack and his seven-year-old sister, Annie, on an improbable moon adventure. The kids were challenged by Merlin’s spell that turned Morgan le Fay, their librarian friend, into a mouse.

Despite trials and encounters, they persisted with the assistance of a fact book and Annie’s intuition. My grandson loved repeating the “M” word clues and joining in their emotions. Annie believed in the impossible: forget the flashlight, the moon can light the way; a moon base functions as a space hotel; and it is perfectly safe to talk to and get help from a moon man whom she believed was really an alien from another galaxy. Also, Annie could feel things in her body as positive or negative. She trusted these feelings, allowing them to guide her. At one point, Morgan le Fay thanked Jack for his love of knowledge and Annie for her belief in the impossible. The 28+ book series continues to hold the hearts of children (and adults!) as NY Times best sellers.

Sometimes the impossible is all you have to go on. No supporting facts. But if the impossible is your only option, why not trust it? I once stopped at a vendor booth that was selling hand lotion. I removed my engagement ring at the time and applied the lotion. I got caught up in the feel, the smell, and the purchase of it—and went on my way. I probably spent a half hour or so looking at other vendor booths. I returned to my car and all of a sudden, I noticed my ring was missing! I frantically checked my pockets and parcels. My heart and stomach were screaming, now what? Racing back to the booth, I kept believing, It has to be there. It has to be there. Breathlessly, I inquired. The smiling vendor had discovered the ring and put it in her apron pocket. I knew someone would be back for it, she said. Crying tears of joy and relief, I thanked and hugged her.

Believing in something that seems impossible starts with turning to your inner light—your consciousness—that works with your body and reflects your thoughts and experiences. You feel instant clarity and resilience, sometimes adrenaline, sometimes calm. This simple act of opening to your inner light joyfully leads to possibilities that bypass the chaos of your environment. This light of a higher level of thinking and feeling, in itself, is a beautiful, powerful experience. Sometimes an individual’s light may be dusty or hidden, yet it never goes away. Regardless of your circumstances, engage the gift of your inner light.

From a higher vantage: This season offers ways to support, love, and imagine. Envision changing just one of your attitudes, perspectives, or beliefs, allowing a brilliant inner light to shine. Maybe it’s time. Maybe not all at once. Maybe incrementally. Light up the dark!

contribution, not credit

We are witnesses in constant crossfires. Extended months and days of the pandemic and the calamities in its wake. Obvious social, economic, racial, and leadership contrasts across continents, but particularly during and leading up to our country’s ongoing presidential election. The crucial impact from people and businesses not taking Mother Earth seriously echoes increasing weather disturbances, wildfires, species’ relocation or extinction, and other natural disasters. And, more. We can ignore the statistics, or we can change our mindset, reach from our hearts, and passionately set a personal intention to shape an inclusive, responsible, and respectful world where all energies thrive harmoniously.

Shifting old paradigms and beginning new conversations with “wiggle room” that welcomes different perspectives from our own is what is needed now. A paraphrased concept popularized by author, teacher and dot.com marketer, Seth Godin, shines light in our darkness: It’s not about receiving credit, it’s about contribution. Contribution through spontaneous acts of making life better for others; through individual creative perseverance and determination that strengthen and sustain us, making us more compassionate and resilient members of humanity; and through voice and actions that engage heightened awareness of the environment and honor sustainability. It’s about connecting, consciously or unconsciously, with something greater than we are, to inspire the well-being of all.

This past week in Terre Haute, Indiana, Ben Boardley, an 18-year-old high school cross country runner participating in the state finals saw a competitor, Faizan Khan, fall, just a few feet from the finish line. Ben slowed, reached out to Faizan, and helped him to his feet. They continued running and, together, crossed the finish line. Spectators and reporters were impressed with Ben’s sportsmanship. To him, it was nothing unusual. I just kind of saw it and did it, he said. It’s the way my parents raised me. They taught me to treat others how I’d want to be treated and to be helpful when I can. Someone tweeted an eight-second video, catching the selfless act for all to see. Ben spontaneously aided a fellow runner, and, in doing so, also contributed to strengthening humanity. https://news.yahoo.com/high-school-runner-helps-stumbling-173617448.html

How might we become more compassionate and resilient contributors to society? Starting with ourselves, we recognize that we are part of a greater energy—one that wants us to succeed, to experience excellent health, and to live fully. Mindfully, we practice slowing down and taking time to create space for nudges from an unseen energy. Hurrying and personal agendas have no place here. Adversity, silence, and observations often show us a way to welcome inner thoughts. Often, when we pay attention, we are guided to share our abilities, talents, and purpose with others for the benefit of the larger community. However, sometimes this happens unconsciously.

Meet 14-year-old Kyler Nipper who, three years ago, was stabbed with a pencil by a classmate who bullied and teased him about his uncool, creased and cracked, black and white tennis shoes. As a result, Kyler was hospitalized and on a breathing tube for three days. After returning to his home, he developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the event. At the time of the incident, Kyler had just had orthopedic surgery and his feet were in casts. The surgery corrected a condition, idiopathic toe-walking. He had shorter-than-normal Achilles tendons that did not allow his heels to touch the ground when he walked.

After the incident, instead of focusing on himself, Kyler decided to help other kids who were bullied or ashamed because of their scruffy shoes. He started “Kyler’s Kicks” out of his family’s apartment to collect new and gently used shoes, clean them, and redistribute them to those in need. Several city businesses assisted his efforts as collection and distribution sites. He collected so many pairs of shoes that one business donated the monthly use of a party bus to drive through and distribute his shoes to low-income neighborhoods.

A year into his project, his family had to move to another state because of overwhelming medical bills. They relocated to a studio apartment in a community for homeless veterans. Despite his family’s financial difficulties, Kyler continued his altruistic efforts. Since then, “Kyler’s Kicks” has collected and distributed over 25,000 pairs of shoes, mostly to at-risk children, teens, and people who are homeless.

Recently, Kyler saw a man he thought was homeless, walking down the street barefooted. He gauged that they had a similar shoe size and gave the man his shoes. It’s the best feeling ever, he said. Clearly, a greater energy worked through Tyler without his knowledge. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/09/30/he-was-stabbed-by-bullies-who-mocked-his-shoes-he-now-collects-shoes-gives-them-those-need/

How might we come together, regardless of our culture or race, to gain greater awareness of solutions that honor and sustain the environment? Keeping our egos in check and practicing inclusion, we are more willing to see others’ viewpoints and engage in flexible conversations. We all want the same things. Our voices and actions inspire each other as we look forward together, generating sustainable solutions that benefit all.

Sam Grant, a longtime Minnesota educator and social justice organizer, is the executive director of MN350, a local growing movement to protect our climate. “MN350 supports stopping the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and shifting to renewable energy and sustainable agriculture, all while giving power and relief [food and first aid] to frontline communities most harmed by the climate crisis.” https://mn350.org/news/climate-group-mn350-hires-executive-director/

The New York Times climate team interviewed black climate activists and learned this basic premise: “Racism makes it impossible to live sustainably.” With this background, reflect on Sam Grant’s comments about how the climate movement can also be one of anti-racism.

“I believe part of our challenge as an organization focused on the climate crisis is to honor what’s primary for people and through dialogue and through relationships, help people see the connection between that issue and the broader climate crisis,” he said. “So it’s not choosing this or that. Or this, then that. It’s this and that.”

After May 25, 2020, on behalf of MN350, Grant was one of the first climate activists to call for the prosecution of the police officers who were linked to the killing of George Floyd. Later, major environmental organizations like Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund joined with their solidarity. Grant suggests, “Police violence is an aspect of a broader pattern of structural violence*, which the climate crisis is a manifestation of. Healing structural violence is actually in the best interest of all human beings.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/vlimate/black-environmentalists-talk-about-climate-and-anti-racism.html

*Examples of structural violence include health, economic, gender, and racial disproportions. Additional spinoffs of structural violence include cultural, political, symbolic, and everyday violence. https://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Flexible and accommodating conversations contribute to the well-being of humanity and Mother Earth. This is the higher path of compassion, softened hearts, and unity. We came to learn our purpose and share our contributions freely in ways that promote harmony.

From a higher vantage: Let us not be diminished by living for competition, for violence, and for choices that undermine others, so we can feel good. We are not entitled to anything while here and will take nothing with us but our memories—the stories that have defined us. May those stories speak to meaningful contributions.

© 2020 in the thick of things

do you look and see?

I can see it in your eyes, my Grandma Millie said. Let’s find something else to do. How did she know that I, at the tender age of eight, was bored with playing dominoes? I wasn’t interested in building necessarily and setting up a chain reaction with the thin, black blocks was entertaining for only so long. Clearly, my grandma was not only looking, she was also seeing. Directed by ego, looking is taking in and processing surface information through what can be seen (form). Seeing is relying on a higher vantage to interpret the information taken in and to understand the spaces between words and pauses accompanying actions (formless).

It has been said that your eyes are mirrors of your soul, your inmost thoughts and feelings. Your eyes reveal what is true for you. Researchers say that your eyes are the only part of your brain that is directly exposed to the world. Pupils can dilate or constrict, yet you cannot control that process. It is a natural reaction that is dependent on strong feelings or reactions to something that is said or seen. The limbal ring, the dark circle around the colored iris, likewise is affected by strong feelings or reactions. You may also position your eyes in a certain way as you speak. Gazing upward may mean you are thinking or creating mental images. When you glance sideways as you are talking, you may feel uncertain about what you’re saying.

And while your eyes are unconsciously showing your inmost thoughts and feelings, you are also learning about the feelings and thoughts of others. From a noticeably young age, as early as seven months, babies tune into social expressions, conveyed mainly through the eyes and mouths of their parents and those around them.

Through socialization, you learn to read emotions from another’s eyes and surrounding muscles. Examples include eyes that narrow, meaning questioning or doubt about something said or done and eyes that widen, indicating surprise or disbelief. Many other emotions are also revealed. Additional research verifies that when a person is near another like-minded person, tandem dilation or constriction of pupils occurs. This eye language is a way to gather information—a filter—when you’re looking. Keep in mind that the language of the eyes also applies to animals and nature.

Now, more than ever before, being together while wearing masks and remaining physically separate poses many challenges. It is essential and valuable to look at people’s eyes as windows to the soul, whether they peer over masks or are part of a Zoom interaction. What can you learn about their thinking, emotions, and preferences? However, there is more to it. Do you just look, or do you also see?

I have had many opportunities recently to look at eyes and collect information. These first examples are from my extended family. I looked as glee registered in the eyes of my youngest granddaughter (2) as she ran from her papa who was trying to corral her for a diaper change. Or, notice the ease, yet determination, in my middle granddaughter’s eyes as she (nearly 8) sang “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music.  Or, watched the enthusiasm and pride emerge from my oldest granddaughter’s eyes as she (11) offered an interpretive reading of an early chapter of her original manuscript, Dueling Diaries. I gathered the information and mentally tucked away the emotions in my heart.

Going deeper—seeing—to interpret what was behind those emotions in running, singing, and speaking, I saw so much more in their eyes. I witnessed the spirit of freedom, the challenge and poise of getting to know your own voice and sharing it, and the gratification of creativity resulting in form. Do you just look or do you also see?

Outside of the family, I recall looking at the unmasked, yet safe-distanced eyes of the candidates of the first 2020 presidential debate.  I looked and gathered information from Joe’s eyes: honesty through direct gaze, indicating  America has “gotten more divided, sicker, poorer, and more violent” under the current administration; substance rather than force, yet backed by experience and a plan to expand Obamacare; and compassion, focusing on Americans’ guaranteed right to vote in-person or by mail-in ballots.

Donald’s presence offered mixed messages: As he looked sideways, rarely at the audience, his voice was forceful, out-of-control and condescending. His words were sweeping generalizations: “weeks away from having a vaccine,” “schools are teaching students to hate America,” and “I left the Paris Accord because it was a ‘disaster.’” His eyes narrowed as he leaned on the podium and began his flippant ridicule of Hunter Biden being kicked out of the military due to cocaine use, and the later military reference to Joe’s deceased son as a “loser.” I also saw false innocence and contempt in his eyes as he spoke fear-inciting words, refusing to denounce White Supremacists’ actions even when given an opportunity to do so. He also insisted that voters watch for fraud at polling places.

Again, seeing by going deeper, I understood the emotions underlying Joe’s honesty, substance, and compassion. I sensed truth, direction, and capability. In the case of Donald, the underlying concepts that emerged because of his lack of leadership details, accusatory positioning, and consistent bullying allowed me to see only fear, mockery, and lies.

It would have been interesting to be in closer range to observe any changes in the candidates’ pupil size and the size of their limbal rings as they spoke. Clearly, they were not like-minded, but they may have had tandem pupil reactions to the frustrations with each other and the process.

From a higher vantage:  Look, yet also see. Deeper understanding helps you to build more stable relationships at all levels. Faces, whether masked or not, are dependable sources of eye language. Look at someone, further seeing that individual. What resonance, insights, or connections do you experience? Interpretation is furthered by intuitive tools. May you sense that there is always something beyond physical appearance that leads to greater awareness of the whole.

© 2020 in the thick of things

a new path is unfolding

So many losses! Deaths. Vanished livelihoods and businesses burned to the ground.  Misunderstood and thwarted equal human rights for every individual. Food and product shortages. Upended finances. Waning health insurance. Evictions, fear of rioting, or living out of cars on a Walmart parking lot. Uprooted rules due to COVID-19. Weather calamities. Presidential election rhetoric. Truth, support, and dignity? Amidst all this chaos and upheaval, this impermanence, this uncertainty, how do you live from the perspective of your higher Self?

By definition, higher Self is that unseen, inner voice that has been with you and loved you throughout eternity. It is valid, but not necessarily understood. For some, acknowledging the existence of a higher Self may take a lifetime, if it happens at all. For others, believing in the power of this energy is too risky and might upset the status quo, so only minor attempts are made. Then there are others who have accepted their higher Self, learning that this decision is not for the faint of heart. Trusting the unseen is not always comfortable and involves choosing to face all aspects of your life, especially the undesirable. However, should you choose this courageous quest, know that the more you engage with your higher Self, the more stable and content you feel. Acknowledging, believing in, and accepting your higher Self increases personal inner strength, happiness, and resilience. A stronger, happier, and more resilient society and universe follow. As the saying goes, What do you have to lose? Think of the gains! Right now, you are at a vital crossroads.

Start by getting comfortable, slowing down your breathing, relaxing your entire body, and setting an intention to welcome your higher Self. Rise above the layer upon layer of racing thoughts that continuously try to consume you. Ah, your heart rate begins to drop. Although you believe that you need to control your life to avoid worry of not surviving, fear that there will not be enough, or loss of entitlement, that is not the case. Control is simply an illusion. Remember the times when you thought you had everything planned to the smallest detail—only to encounter a circumstance that altered everything? Your decision to sense an energy greater than you are—to be more than you can be on your own—bolsters confidence and lessens resistance. Trusting the unseen becomes plausible. Senses that you relied on for decision-making can take a break.

Your higher Self knows what to do when you allow it to lead you. However, this is not the norm; people are used to being led by ego. At  first, opening to the unseen may seem counter-intuitive, feel strange, or strike you as insane. Of course, others may label you as daft, but no matter. That’s only a word. How can you compare that to the opportunity to invite an energy that is all-powerful, proven, resides everywhere, and is always available to work on your behalf? Has any other invitation satisfied so many dilemmas? With your higher Self, live the moments. Do not insist on immediate answers or fulfillment of specific expectations. This change in thinking will take trust and commitment. Seek or create harmony where you are. The “how” of a new path is unfolding.

A sampling of questions, based on current observations, that may lead to engaging your higher Self…

Question:  Given the last six months have heightened your focus on death as part of life, has your thinking changed?

Comment: Yes, there is no denying that death is challenging to face and carries with it a void that changes your life. Death has always been with you, but how have you responded to it along the way? Death is more prominent now because of Covid-19, and unfilled time magnifies death’s impact on your mortality. Yet, this opportunity to ponder your own death could be beneficial. Working through options gives you peace of mind and makes decisions easier for your surviving loved ones. You may not have all the answers, but keep patiently exploring the moment at-hand without resistance—fear, hate, doubt, denial, or complacency.

Question: Since you had no control over the pandemic or rioting and looting, how can you move on with life despite altered or destroyed livelihood?

Comment: There are no easy answers. People pull together. Out of times of monumental change, new community and business models emerge. Ponder the possibilities for greater potential at all levels, in all things, leading to a reframed and interconnected, thriving, global society. 

Question: How can I live (hear, see, do, say) a “just like me” platform with no retribution?

Comment: As a human, being, you are deserving of functional living rights, dignity, and love. It is up to each of you to look inward, persevere, and do the right thing by others. And you know what those things are.

International Bill of Rights

  • The right to equality and freedom from discrimination.
  • The right to life, liberty, and personal security.
  • Freedom from torture and degrading treatment.
  • The right to equality before the law.
  • The right to a fair trial.
  • The right to privacy.
  • Freedom of belief and religion.
  • Freedom of opinion.

~https://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/human_rights_basics

From a higher vantage: Acknowledge your higher Self. Listen, speak, think, and act with all things from your true nature of positivity. Initiate harmony, inclusion, and good will beyond familiarity. Hold yourself accountable. Be love in all circumstances. Love. Allow yourself to be loved.

©2020 in the thick of things llc

facing the “vir”us

It challenges my core being:

All that is meaningful to me,

            All that I love,

            All that I am.

It strips me to basics and less, while insisting on more.

            Reminding me of my vulnerability.

            Revealing my dependence on the external.

            Reframing my thoughts about community.

It is at once primitive, yet sophisticated.

            Carrying with it ruthless lessons,

            Defying medical knowledge,

            Creating opportunities (when taken) for being and sensing differently.

Virus, you depend on me to thrive. And I am designed to thrive also!

I consider its layered impact, the sound of it. I feel expulsion on my breath. Virus. 

Based on the Sanskrit word “vir,” the meaning is to overpower.

“Vir”us: overpower us.

NO!

            I use common sense and follow health mandates, overpowering statistics.

            I turn toward uncertainty and release panic, overpowering trends.

            I embody love, I love, and I am loved, overpowering fear.

Each day I set an intention to flourish as I…

            Align with an energy greater than I am.

Know that I am safe, no matter what life brings to the moment.

Love myself as I am, including the parts I don’t like, transcending illusions.

Soften without insistence of “my way.”

Notice when and where I tighten, so I know relaxation.

Observe my ingrained habits with patience and kindness.

Realize that the virus is not discerning: it wants what it wants.

I always have choices that help me feel comfortable and connect in community.

Do I live realizing that life consists of both pleasure and pain? Then my heart is big enough to comfort others.

Do I own and work with my unresolved issues? Then I can help others with resolution.

Do I accept that life is unpredictable, and that resistance makes things worse? Then I am ready to encourage others to flow.

I face the “vir”us, a transformation of life.

From a higher vantage: Five months have challenged me to ponder what really matters in life, to weigh if my values and beliefs on all levels are true or out-of-date, to cherish all connections, and to seek shared aspirations in social and community issues. And that’s a good thing. 

© 2020 in the thick of things

appearance or fact?

Higher Self, the inner voice of wisdom in each person, notices that Ego, the inner voice of habit and self-preservation, is aligning with fear based on appearances.

Ego: I just can’t stop thinking about Covid-19. If body contracts the virus, it will be the end of me. I want to live forever!

Higher Self: Everyone has an expiration date.

Ego: It seems like everyone my age who gets the virus, dies!

Higher Self: Sounds like you are identifying with fear based on illusion.

Ego: Well, it seems true to me.

Higher Self: Remember the big teddy bear you played with when you were younger? Some days you played with him only a short time and then plopped him on a chair in your room.

Ego: Yes, those daytime play hours were happy.

Higher Self: Then came bedtime and lights out. Suddenly, your teddy bear became a big, scary monster. You lay there with wide eyes and a vulnerable, pounding heart. You could taste F E A R.

Ego: Ohhhhh, I couldn’t get that monster out of my head. I was certain that something dreadful was going to happen.

Higher Self: Well my friend, that was an example of fear based on illusion or appearance. Moonlight shining through your window played tricks on your mind, creating shadows that deceived you. The monster was not true. It was an illusion you believed was true.

Ego: I was sure that monster in the chair was real and would devour me. But how did you know? Were you there?

Higher Self: Of course, I was there. Remember, I am a voice within body, just like you. Getting back to what you reasoned was a monster…thoughts, feelings, or actions also can be misleading. For example, maybe you thought a negative look was intended for you. Or, you felt a family member was not telling you the truth. Or, you believed that someone was trying to take something of yours, like heirloom jewelry or a favorite memento. You must decide if what you think, feel, or see involves fear based on illusion (appearances) or fear based on truth (fact). They are quite different.

Ego: I think I know the difference between appearances and fact. I’m not stupid!

Higher Self: All I’m saying is that when you are emotionally upset and experiencing an uncertain environment, day after day, it is easy for fears to creep into your mind—illogical fears, ones based on appearances. For example, maybe you read something on FaceBook that mentioned new symptoms of the virus. Suddenly, you felt all those symptoms! Certainly, something dreadful was going to happen. Are your feelings based on appearance or fact?

Ego: I hate to admit that you’re probably right. I guess my fear is based on faulty reasoning, the illusion that what happens to others will happen to me.  So, how do I begin to override fears based on appearance?

Higher Self: Approach your fears, rather than run away from them. When coping with something that you’re worried about based on illusion, recall this simple sentence: Face everything and recover. Face the reality that the virus is part of your environment, that you are not immune to it, and that, currently, there is no vaccine for it. Yet also remember that the virus does not kill everyone who contracts it. These are facts. Although many have died, and it may appear that you are next, this is an illusion. Continuing to follow safe protocol minimizes risk, a way to recover or keep your health and sanity, one moment at a time. Think of fear as an acronym: F.E.A.R. and what each letter represents: Face everything and recover. This is the place to start.

Ego: Well, what comes next?

Higher Self: Think about past situations in your life that you have overcome. This sets your thinking on a positive track. How did the circumstances of the events unfold? Even though you may have thought you were alone in these circumstances, an invisible energy guided you. Trust your connection to an ever-present energy greater than you. Have confidence in scientific research that confirms your body’s amazing capacity to heal. Care for yourself with gentleness and unconditional love.

Ego: I understand that looking at my past can be helpful, but what if old stories haunt me?

Higher Self: Ask whether the old stories, beliefs and values are meaningful to you today. If not, let go of them. Beginning with yourself, heal the emotional hurts of relationships with forgiveness and patience. Honor your truth by turning to understanding, rather than criticism, when faced with conflicting opinions.

Ego: Your suggestions seem challenging, especially when uncertainty is all around me. It is tricky to separate appearances from fact. I don’t usually pay much attention to you, but somehow, after listening to you, I feel soothed. When one is calm, another feels it. I’ll give you that.

From a higher vantage: You can find fear in all circumstances. Knowing if your fear is based on illusion (appearance) or truth (fact) is key. Avoid relying only on your ego for answers. Open to the wisdom of your Higher Self to experience greater calm.

© 2020 in the thick of things

overriding the undercurrent

You cannot ignore the shocking events of the last weeks in the Twin Cities. Responding to police brutality in the death of George Floyd, protestors looted, started fires, and challenged as the National Guard was deployed. Already faced with exasperating circumstances created by COVID-19, everyone has felt an added layer of fear and frustration with the unknown. Desire for stability on both fronts is intense. The undercurrent is surging.

Some of us feel helpless. Some of us look to state and national government for leadership. Some of us have taken matters into our own hands. All have been touched by shattered hopes and dreams resulting from the virus or explosive emotions. Now is the time for deepest understanding, for bringing light to the undercurrent.

All want to be understood. Each says: I am the center of the universe; yet, more importantly, all need to understand:  I am not the center of the universe. This sensitivity begins with questioning your motivations and values, examining and eliminating your judgment of others’ motivations and values, and finally connecting inclusively on all levels. Where do you start? With yourself—through individual reflection and self-care. The result is you become a balanced and thriving member of the community and use your influence for the greater good.

Anxiety and uneasiness are a constant undercurrent within your psyche, resulting in stress, nervousness, and irritability. This is understandable, considering the uncertainty around you. It seems the same questions and situations are always in the back of your mind. Will I get the virus?  If I do, will I die from it? When will I see my family? When can I be with my friends? When can I move around without rules? Will I have enough money? Is the sky falling? How will this end? Globally, all are concerned with these questions.

No one, not even the experts, can provide answers with certainty because everything in the universe is temporary. Meanwhile, you must do the best you can to live with your questions and circumstances.

Three strategies could help you invite more ease and stability into your life. First, begin to change your perception. Consider a single moment, rather than the sweeping past or the unknown future. An example is when a lighted candle is placed in front of you. You begin to watch it, moment after moment. After a while, it appears as if the flame offers thoughts. However, these thoughts mirror the meaning you attach to the moment. Will you create anxiety or stability? The flame, itself, is neutral. You can change your perception by changing how you approach each moment.

Say you have a cough. Your choice in that moment is to jump to an immediate conclusion that you have the virus and panic, inviting more worry and fear. OR, to step back and notice calmly, Hummmm, right now I have a cough, inviting ease and soothing awareness. Staying in the moment allows for greater clarity.

When you control your approach to moments, stability follows. You develop a habit of remaining neutral to circumstances as they come to you, allowing space for an informed opinion. This wider perspective—a choice—balances your feelings and tempers urgency.

Another strategy that has the potential to bring ease and stability to your life is to use your imagination. For example, imagine a scene that is very restful, like telling stories with family while watching a crackling, smoky campfire. Or, perhaps sitting with friends in front of a fireplace of muted flames and quiet embers while you share thoughtful conversation. You feel warmth, a sense of safety, and bonding. This is a type of self-care. These comfortablememories can bring a smile to your face and relaxation to the cells throughout your body. These positive images can get you through challenging times. They help to override the undercurrent.

A third strategy that could help you invite greater ease and stability to your life is to recall a common practice and give it expanded meaning. You are familiar with lightning-generated woodland or prairie fires. If you have seen the aftermath, your humanness may cause you to doubt any benefits. Yet the ground has been imprisoned by layers of plant material and stressed by competition with other plants and animals for nutrients. Higher wisdom knows these naturally occurring blazes eliminate invasive plant growth, restore nutrients to the soil, and encourage positive plant and animal diversity—in a sense, a type of self-care for balancing the land. An unspoken trust in the circle of life is part of the universal eco-system. This is the larger meaning!

Like the land, your body is also an eco-system. Weathering the pandemic, you are bound by unusual restrictions and stressed by the uncertainty of what will happen regarding jobs, money, food, relationships, or education. Anxiety and uneasiness gnaw at you. External circumstances constantly bombard. During a time of personal reflection, higher wisdom nudges you toward self-care, calm, and balance. The undercurrent responds to light.

Self-care is slowing down and turning inward to acknowledge how all parts of your body are feeling. With love and kindness, you breathe into those areas that cry out for your attention. Fewer sharp edges surround your body, mind, and consciousness. All aspects of your being begin to connect. Deep inside, you find a greater degree of acceptance and understanding. Working with that, you feel alignment with an energy greater than you are. Only external circumstances have caused you to feel disconnected. Self-care helps you to reclaim stability. With a balanced body, mind, and consciousness, you feel stable. This mindset enriches your community. Any undercurrent dissipates.

From a higher vantage: This is a heavy time of uncertainty, anxiety, and stress for everyone. Life is decidedly uncomfortable. What can you learn from these times? Offer kindness to yourself and others. Look beyond anxiety, as uncertainty will recede. A more expansive plan is in place, regardless of appearances. Recognize the stability and ease deep within you and call upon it now.

© 2020 in the thick of things

positive outcomes are approaching

Non-discriminating. Futile resistance. Complex. COVID-19. Separation and isolation have flattened the curve for the spread of the virus, yet our humanness is left confused, caught and confined. The virus has forced us into situations we could not have imagined. However, we may gradually understand the upshot of slowing down, pondering topics we have been avoiding, or appreciating the smallest things in life—all lessons in flow.

Many of us spend  much of our time resisting. Complaining. Pointing fingers. Denying. We want things to go our way, all the time. We want guarantees: No surprises. No directives. No changes. We want to be in control. However, this is not how life comes to us, and, when we are honest, we realize that life has never been this way. The pandemic underscores that life is continuously in flux. 

When we trade control for flexibility in mind and heart, we trust beyond what we can see. Allowing our hearts to be truly softened and open leads to feeling more balanced. A higher vantage shows life to be a swinging  pendulum. With patience, we stay out of fear and remain steady. We wait. In due time, the pendulum returns. Realizing that our circumstances will not remain in adversity, we hold to the confidence that positive outcomes are approaching—for all of us. Before we know it, we emerge from the chaos, intact, yet wiser.

It is undeniable that we may feel isolated, lonely, or separated from life as we once knew it, but these are external circumstances, ones that are visible.  An invisible force, Source, is in and around us. Source—also known by other names such as God, the Universe, our Life Force, or Love—is with us.

Let us trust the invisible—something that is difficult for us to do. To help with this, we look back on the milestones of our lives, circumstances that tested our existence, resilience, or relationships. More often than not, we discover that a presence we could not explain, yet one we definitely felt, was with us. Often hindsight is the perspective needed to truly recognize the influence of divine guidance. We came to this world to learn. Open hearts and minds encourage a sense of “knowing.” Recalling that Source was with us at earlier turning points in our lives, it naturally follows that Source is here with us now and will continue to be part of our journey.

Fears can hijack the best of intentions, causing us to waffle. We hold steady and trust that there is a greater purpose at hand, regardless of how things appear. During quiet moments, we allow the depths of our hearts to “speak” to us. We can handle more than we think we can. Inner strength gathers, and miraculously, we are able to bear chaos, dis-ease or other difficult circumstances.   

This is a time of calming, healing, and loving ourselves, of sending these vibrations to family members or friends, and of wishing the same to those within our community and beyond. This is hope in action.

From a higher vantage: Our relationship with Source gives us stability. Add to that, collaboration within a loving community. This is how we get through chaotic times.

© 2020 in the thick of things

root to rise

Put all the chaos in a huge drawer. Stop mourning here, yet wishing you were there. Use the present moment as a time to explore root to rise. In the yoga community, this phrase refers to becoming firmly planted in the foundation of a yoga pose so that the full posture can unfold in the most stable and solid way possible.

I first heard root to rise some years ago as a beginning yoga student in a workshop conducted by Matthew Sanford. A renowned yoga instructor, author, and inspirational speaker today, Matt was paralyzed in a car accident when he was thirteen. He broke his spinal cord, back, neck and both wrists. Although his father and sister were killed, his life miraculously was spared as a quadriplegic. He turned to yoga because he needed a way to unite the mystery of mind, body, and spirit. “It was accepting and staying open to whatever it [my body] produced – little or small, subtle or loud.” http://www.matthewsanford.com/sites/default/files/Biographical%20Interview%20with%20Matthew%20Sanford.pdf?phpMyAdmin=4qrRaMSfaJdSKnrro9UtvUEcrT1

Isn’t that where we are today during the pandemic? Staying open and accepting (to the degree we can) whatever developments are beyond our control. Allowing our bodies, minds, and spirits to adjust in ways of their own. Overriding our own fears by offering practical support to others.

Our world has been turned upside down, only this time, everyone, everywhere is affected. Many of us feel paralyzed or increasingly tightened parameters. We fear for ourselves, our loved ones, our jobs, our retirement savings, and the future. We don’t like being told what to do. Everything seems surreal. Discouragement. Despair. Defeat. How to co-exist with the global mystery that changes daily, yet is still so far from comprehension? Root to rise.

As in strengthening the foundation of a yoga pose so that the final posture is unwavering, we turn inward to develop stability, confidence, and trust in a greater energy so that we can weather chaos. The stronger the foundation, the greater the stability.

We intend that our hearts will continue to soften as we face life as it comes to us. As we remain steady, I am reminded of my grandmother’s favorite saying during challenging times: This, too, shall pass. We have time to slow down, get quiet, breathe, and rest in our sacred inner space, that deeply rooted core of  dependable comfort. This is our foundation, our offering for a stronger diverse and loving world.

It is up to us to explore the possibilities of what if during what is, in order to discover what might be—a new direction of being and relating. It is these possibilities that we bring to the collective and, ultimately, will enable us to rise together.

The pandemic is a wake-up call to look beyond ourselves to all members of our community. How can rooting during our sheltering in time help us to see differently our dependence on and need for each other? A common bond of talents, gifts, and expertise emerges as we shift to an inclusive perspective. United in hope and committed to a new way of interacting, we move forward, shoulder to shoulder. It is about community.

Why not rise above the chaos, relax fears, stop blaming others, and thank those in medical leadership for their courage, quick thinking, and selflessness? As we root to rise, we understand the wisdom in the value of the present moment and in the increasing openness of hearts and minds. We are not distracted.

From a higher vantage:

© 2020 in the thick of things