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Including Neutrality In Our Direct Experience

By Lisa Meuser.

This is the fourth part in my blog series on discomfort. You can find the first one here, as well as a YouTube link to all of them being read here. In this post I’ll be writing about the topic of neutrality, something I wrote a bit about last year.

Sometimes we humans get lost in two speeds – immersed completely in something, or avoidance of something. Sometimes these two are related: we get lost in a feeling, it overwhelms us, and then to cope with that we turn off.  Feeling pleasure, or pain, involves a lot of body engagement, and let’s be honest, we’re not a culture that has a healthy relationship with body engagement. Even while we may say we want to feel pleasure, or would rather feel pleasure over pain, we may not know how to be comfortable with the body engagement that comes with pleasure. And, as much as we may not like pain, we may be more familiar with managing pain, than opening up to pleasure.

There is a lot of possible territory to explore with all that. I’m not going to go deeper into those specific areas – instead I’m going to write about how we might learn to navigate difficult territories – pleasure, pain, or other expressions – by also noticing and including resonances we’ve not yet become familiar with.

Moving Beyond Binary Traps
How often have you spent time contemplating your neutral experiences – the experiences that exist outside the bounds of enjoyable, or uncomfortable, for example?  For some of us, we can’t help it – the moment we feel discomfort, it feels like ALL of us is uncomfortable. For some of us, we can’t help it – we are driven to pay attention only to that which feels good. Our attention, and the way we think, can be exclusionary like that.

That makes life really narrow and limited, however, because it’s very unlikely that ALL of us feels good, or that ALL of us feels uncomfortable. It’s impossible for all of our sense receptors to be feeling the same thing, and it’s impossible that X <insert that which is being focused upon > is the only experience that is happening. This binary kind of thinking – this, OR that – is very dominant in our culture, and it contributes to how we oppress ourselves, as well as others.

Let’s explore this using temperature. If you scan your body, head to toes, I wonder how many variations of temperature there are. For me, I feel very warm in some areas, while other areas are quite cool, while other areas are a range of “in between.”  From this we can learn that in lived experience we are AND creatures. We experience warmth AND coolness simultaneously. Our binary-trained minds often go against our experiences, however, focusing on just one aspect of our experience, as if that is all that is there.

When it comes to discomfort, or pleasure, our minds are even more trained to focus on just one, or the other. When we focus in such a binary way, we have to exclude everything else. An effect of that is that our world gets smaller – as we become reduced to just that which is being focused upon.

Have you ever felt afraid, and in that state felt very small? This presents a similar dynamic. Parts of our brain are being utilized, and parts of brain are being excluded. Parts of our experiences are being included, and parts of our experience are being excluded.  We often feel small because we’re experiencing life as our child-self did – our child-self who was indeed small, and who was often un-resourced, overwhelmed, and without agency. It can be very disempowering to be a child because of the lack of control we had.  When we become afraid as adults, even though we have more resourcing and agency than we did when we were kids, we can easily forget that we are safe and resourced when fear states come over us[1]. We can easily feel disempowered.

Now, let’s imagine being afraid, and, as we’re aware of the discomfort of the fear, we’re also aware of other things. Imagine being able to acknowledge the discomfort and/or fear, AND also being able to notice that there are sensations in the body that are actually quite fine. Imagine being able to name that we may feel unsafe, but that we can look around the room and notice that we are physically safe.  In that moment, we may escape the binary world of either/or, instead enter the world of both/and. We BOTH feel unsafe, AND are safe. This very quickly changes the dynamic, and we can go from feeling lost in a sensation state, to being in relationship with all that we’re experiencing – the “good, bad, and ugly,” or as I like to say, with what I don’t like, AND what is also ok/fine.

It can feel counterintuitive to take the time to include the AND in our experience. And, at first, it may not seem like it’s changing anything in our experience. It takes time for the AND neural pathways to form, but once they do, the practice of inclusion both becomes easier, and shifts our reality. Just like any practice, it is a process, and it requires time and engagement.

Learning to Expand our Attention
Because we’re trained to think from a binary lens, it takes effort to include the full range of our experiences, rather than just focusing on one aspect. Because we’re trained to think in terms of good or bad, it takes effort to include aspects of our experiences that are neither good, nor bad, and instead neutral (or are “ok” or “fine”).

A profound part of my journey has been learning how to make friends with the territory of neutrality. As I wrote in a past blog post, because I’ve been drawn to highs and lows, and because I have had so many false ideas about waking up and healing, it took time for me to even be interested in what I call neutrality – the space in between “good” and “bad.”

When we’re used to the intensities of “good” and “bad”, neutrality might feel strange at first. For some, it may feel boring, or empty. It may be uncomfortable or unsettling. We may feel “twitchy”, or like we’re doing something wrong. We may feel like there is “nothing here.” It can take time to know that just because something is different, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad, or that we’re in danger. Our entire sense of identity can be threatened when we start to engage the territory of neutral. As another client said, “who even am I if I’m not feeling my usual X  <intense feeling>?”  For them, it seemed that meaning and even vitality was gone when connecting to neutrality. It can take time for the nervous system to reorient towards health when we’ve grown used to the rush of pain or pleasure chemicals. It can be unnerving to not be caught in the binary.  And, it can be strange to be connecting with our bodies in direct experience.

We are laden with ideas of what we think we should be experiencing, and when we, even for a moment, give them up and consider what we’ve not yet been including, we can become very insecure. This is a normal part of change, evolution and growth. AND, yes, it can be uncomfortable. Said another way: including neutrality can bring about discomfort.

Experiential opportunity:

Notice, when you feel discomfort, you will likely also be experiencing “not discomfort.” It may not be comfort that you experience, but you will likely be experiencing something other than discomfort. For example, I may feel a tightening in my solar plexus, which may feel uncomfortable for me. Nearby, I may feel neutrality in my pelvic floor, ease in my chest, and even some comfort with the support that is behind my back. When we pause and explore, we may discover there is comfort, neutrality and discomfort happening simultaneously. It is important for our well-being that we learn how to include more of our experience.

Not everyone is challenged by neutrality. Neutrality might feel like a welcome relief after spending much of their life on the rollercoaster of life:  the erratic ups and downs can be exhausting! For many, including neutrality can be a combination of sorts: challenging AND relieving.  One client shared, “First I thought neutrality was nothing, and the place where I felt the trigger (in my body) was everything. And now I see the neutrality as something full, and “strong.”

As we continue to practice including the full range of our experiences, in the simplest ways that we can, we will slowly learn that there is great vitality in all moments. In each inhalation, there is aliveness. In each heartbeat, vivacity. In each movement of our body, liveliness. In engaging in any of our sense receptors, engagement with life.

It takes time to move from living from our imagination, to living in direct experience. Please be gentle with yourself, and make sure you have loving, compassionate and consensual support. I have recorded many rest meditations that focus on inclusion – here is one, and here is another.  Others can be found on Insight Timer or here.

As always, please let me know what questions or observations you have! If you are interested in these topics, you may be interested in my 10-month Exploration coming up. More details to be released this week, or email me for more information: [email protected]

[1]  I’m obviously not talking about a situation where our life is in real or immediate danger.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

The Exhaustion of Inner Oppression

By Lisa Meuser.

Here is the second piece in a series of blog posts exploring discomfort and disconnection.  

I have been noticing in clients, in myself, and perhaps everywhere: tension (and discomfort) goes up when a sense of connection to well-being goes down.  It’s not the tension or push-pull that’s the problem, in fact tension is a normal part of the human experience; it’s the constant lack of well-being amidst the tension. Could you imagine us being a culture that communicated from kindness, that operated from a sense of “we-ness”, or that was rooted in curiosity? Even amidst tension, we could be in connection, supporting one another. But we are a culture rooted in dominant/oppressive narrative[1] behaviors and mores, a culture that is rooted in disconnection, and so along with tension we also feel disconnect, and that changes everything. 

When I think of tension, I think of a “push-pull.” There is something pushing, and another thing pulling, and this creates a tension. We may have literally experienced this in our families of origin – where we perhaps found ourselves in between our mothers and fathers, or, as was in my case, in between my mother and my brother. We may have experienced this in our circles of friends, or in other kinds of engagements, where, for example, there is a sense of pressure to be a certain way. We may have experienced this from groups of people, or from culture itself, particularly if we are from a marginalized population (as deemed by the culture in which one lives).  We often don’t have good skills to navigate these tensions, and we often aren’t with others who have these skills either, who can support us.

Survivors know this territory well, on a variety of levels. Instead of being raised with loving and kind voices and a compassionate culture, we were often raised with external narratives filled with supposed tos and shoulds, as well as other judgements, and sometimes even hatred. We tried so hard to “be good,” but we still got treated the way we were being treated. 

It hurts to be rejected, to be excluded, to be othered, to be harmed, to be left out… to not belong. We so desperately want to be accepted by others, included by others, valued by others, loved… and it can be devastating when we are not. We try so hard to get that approval so that we can belong. Over time we innocently internalize those external judgmental narratives, and they become our own narratives. In the process we begin to turn ourselves into pretzels – fighting with ourselves to be certain ways – still trying to get that approval, to get that belonging. 

We can literally feel this push-pull in our bodies when we are involved in conflict, with ourselves or with others. One part of ourselves may be pushing one way, while another part may be pulling in another way. It can show up differently for each person, based on the context. I often experience it in my solar plexus, but it has showed up in my throat, heart, lower belly and other areas of my body. It is usually very uncomfortable and can create distress in our bodies. You might think to a time when you weren’t sure what to do. You wanted to X, but you also wanted to Y. Maybe it was your belly in that push/pull, and it felt like there was a knot there.  Maybe it was in your heart, with a clenching. Maybe it was in your throat, with a tightening. Or maybe there was overwhelm, and so a sense of numbness came over you. Not knowing how to navigate the discomfort of our bodies, this push-pull often takes us to our minds, where an internal sense of fighting comes alive – a fighting and a franticness in our thoughts, as we’re convinced that we’ll be able to figure it out from there.

Feeling Exhausted?

All that pretzel-making is such burdened, hard work – in an innocent attempt to feel safe, we turn to fighting with our self through our thoughts.  We so badly want this discomfort to end, and we attempt to rely on our thoughts to do it. The unconscious internal narratives may look like, “If I do X, things will calm down,” “If I do Y, they will stop yelling at each other,” “If I do Z, this knot in my belly will go away,” “If I am XYZ, I will be included.” The thoughts can morph into “I should be better than I am”, “I should be like I was when XYZ”, “I should be like XYZ person is,” “I am supposed to be XYZ, not as I am.” The variations are endless.  Hidden within all these unconscious narratives are shoulds and supposed tos and have tos, that we hope and believe will lead us to relief and safety.

Phew. Is it any wonder why we experience so much anxiety, and why we are so exhausted? 

This frenetic state of being is perhaps the biggest clue that we are out of well-being, and that we need to get some clarity. We know that our revved-up thoughts are not helping, and so we must slow down and pause. As we do so, we will be able to step back from the franticness of our minds and start to get conscious with the subtext/subconsciousness of our thoughts by simply asking ourselves, “What thoughts am I having right now about XYZ/myself?”  Having a healthy relationship with our somatic presence is an important part of this process. There are some simple practices to develop this relationship mid-way through this blog post.

Shifting into Well-Being

While this slowing down and becoming familiar with our thoughts is a necessary part of shifting patterns, we may not at first appreciate what we find! For example, we may have considered ourselves to be a rather peaceful person, only to discover this inward fighting and conflict going on! Discovering what had been out of my attention has often been difficult for me – it may bump up against a kind of arrogance I have about who I am and/or my place in the world. Said another way, it often didn’t feel good to my personality to realize how many blind spots I had about myself! Shame and humiliation often surfaced first. After the sting wore off, usually with the help of some loving people in my life, I moved from humiliation to humility, where I could wake more fully to the learning part of being human. Once I re-remember I am a human here to learn, I find the discovery aspect of my human journey less threatening, slowly becoming grateful for the opportunity to unlearn the innocent yet harmful patterning. 

I didn’t have support to help me be aware of my subconscious narratives early in my journey and so it took me a long time to learn that often it wasn’t others who were harming me anymore. Over and over I thought it was other people. To clarify, yes, people had harmed me tremendously in my past, particularly when I was a child. I had minimal sense of autonomy or ability to choose with regards to my predicament. As I matured and was able to make choices for myself, those internalized oppressive narratives followed me, and over time I realized that as an adult, no one was harming me as much as I was harming me through the subconscious mental fights going on in my mind in attempts to feel safe. 

When we argue with who we are and when we are constantly comparing our self to others/imagined selves, it is we who are rejecting our self, berating our self, other-ing our self, excluding our self. What once began as others not being loving towards us and others rejecting and judging us, becomes us not loving our self, rejecting our self, and judging our self. It becomes us who abandon our very self. 

Spotting that internal fight, rather than focusing on the external fight, can be a first step in putting a cog in the wheel of self-violation. It can also be a huge step in moving towards empowerment, because while we can’t control how others respond to us, we can slowly over time learn how to be kind and loving and accepting of ourselves. And for the record, self-compassion is something I had to learn as an adult, because it was never role-modeled to me as a child or even into my 20s, despite my years in a spiritual community.

Loosening the Grip of Oppression 

Naming this happening may seem like no big deal, but naming is one of the most important components of shifting a habitual pattern. A pattern runs at its strongest when it happens without consciousness. As soon as it becomes conscious, it immediately starts to lose power and it will lose more power if there is less judgement associated with the naming. In other words, if I beat myself up for being conscious of the pattern, it will hold it in place. But if, upon recognizing I’ve participated in the pattern, I can factually say to myself, “Ohhh, I just did that. Ok, I can see how that is the pattern of X,” that simple awareness will start to shift the pattern. This is where getting support was helpful for me in shifting the patterning, as I did not know how to treat myself with patience or kindness until it was modeled to me through somatic practitioners trained in trauma healing.  

Once you are able to name the patterning without judgement, you might start to notice it more. As kindly and compassionately as you can, keep naming the pattern as it arises, without trying to fix or change it. The kindness and compassion itself can be profound in shifting the pattern. I found journaling to be useful, in addition to exploring with supportive practitioners and friends. 

Although it may take time, all of this plays a role in shifting the oppressive tendencies we have with regard to how we treat ourselves, as well as others. 

Keep exploring, and please let me know what questions arise for you as you get to know yourself!

[1]  I’ve written about the dominant narrative here and here

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

A Journey of Connecting with Discomfort

By Lisa Meuser.

There’s something huge going on right now that is freaking people out around the globe, within almost every person: discomfort. 

Whether it’s Covid 19, or the great awakening with regards to racism, or something in between, this is a time of uncertainty – and for most humans, that ushers in dis-ease, restlessness, anxiety… discomfort.  

If we could clean up our relationship with discomfort, the world would be a lot different. Yes, the world.  Really. And, yeah. It’s not that easy. I know. Discomfort and I were enemies most of my life. I did everything I could to negotiate with discomfort  – I maneuvered, manipulated and managed life in such a way that I became an expert at avoiding discomfort. On levels I was not conscious of, I thought discomfort (1) defined who I was as a person, and (2) would kill me if I felt it. Hidden within both (1) and (2) was a rather significant belief: if I’m feeling discomfort, it’s because I’m doing something wrong. Or worse yet, if I’m feeling discomfort, it’s because I am wrong (or a derivative – bad, for example). 

This belief is a pretty limiting belief, yeah? It is a belief that promises pretty much only one thing: a life of suffering. There is no way around it. If one believes that discomfort equals wrongness, or any derivative, there is going to be suffering – eventually. 

I tried to hold off “eventually” for as long as I could. To avoid it, I spent my life trying to control, fix, adapt, manage, figure out… and when that didn’t work, or exhausted/overwhelmed me, I rotated between being numb, dissociated and disembodied.

Survival Strategy: Going Mental
Why would I choose such a belief if it’s guaranteed to bring me suffering? Why would anyone? Well, no-one would choose it. But life experiences and various contexts will innocently lead us to this belief. 

For example, if we’re in a family of origin that does not talk about feelings and sensations, and how to be with them…. or if we’re in a family of origin where the adults are causing us harm… or if we’re in a family of origin where our siblings or other young people are harming us, and the adults in our lives aren’t helping us… or… (there are countless possibilities).  As a young being, we will experience shock when we are harmed or disconnected[1] from a sense of/our sources of safety. Without guidance, without people to safely re-connect with us, and without nurturing instruction, we will quickly become overwhelmed, and then we will innocently turn against ourselves.   

We won’t be aware of it at the time, but we will subconsciously blame ourselves. We are literally at the mercy of the adults in our life, so we need them to be good in our eyes. It is not safe to blame the adults, so we blame ourselves. We will assume it’s us, and then we’ll try to find out how to please our caregivers, figure out who they want us to be; we’ll try to manage the situation and our own behavior, even try to control what’s happening, control our caregivers and/or ourselves through our behavior, or to fix what we think is wrong. Or we just keep adapting to their wants and needs while losing contact with our own.  

In thinking that it is our fault, in an attempt to figure out how to get out of such a predicament, we will disconnect from our bodies because it’s too overwhelming to be with what we’re feeling without support. Instead we will turn to our heads to help us manage, fix, figure out, fantasize, and/or control.  We will literally go mental, in an attempt to feel better, to feel connected, to feel whole.  

Until we learn how to safety include our bodies, we will live the rest of our lives from this very mental-oriented strategy/adaptation. A friend of mine created this diagram to describe the (mostly subconscious until recently) process that she has been reliving over and over throughout her life:

discomfort =>

belief: I’m doing something wrong/I’m wrong =>

I’ve got to: figure out/manage/control/fix/adapt =>

overwhelm/exhaustion –> numbing/dissociating/disembodying =>

more discomfort…

…and the cycle continues

This is 100% “normal” in our culture: I’ve not met a person that hasn’t done this in one way or another. Some people unconsciously live their whole lives from this disembodied place so as to avoid what they innocently fear: discomfort.  They don’t know from lived experience that discomfort is normal, and actually a necessary aspect of evolvement, and instead conflate it with personal lack, I-am-wrong-ness and even danger.

Befriending Discomfort, So That We Can Know Love

So here we are – and I’m noticing something interesting. As I’ve been journeying with so many during this time of Covid-19, which then flowed into a world-wide awakening into the naming of systemic racism, I notice the most resilient people are those who have made “friends” with (or, re-connected with) not just their bodies, but also with discomfort. For various reasons, some of us have learned – by choice or by circumstance – how to be in our bodies while there is discomfort. Others of us have not been given the opportunity to learn this, or are very slowly learning this with the support of experienced practitioners. This territory will feel extremely counter-intuitive for most, so it is a journey… a learning that will re-create a life anew for us. 

I am going to write a series of posts about this curtailing

  • how and why this is particularly relevant now
  • the importance, and *necessity*, of befriending discomfort
  • how this is linked to racism (and Covid 19) and white supremacy
  • how this is related to waking up, Love, and unity consciousness
  • how this is connected with self-love, trust, and a life of well-being
  • how to unweave and unlearn the belief that discomfort is bad/dangerous. Or, in other words, how to put a cog in the wheel of oppression. 

Yup, it’s all related. If you’ve read my past posts about awakenings over the years, you might already get a sense of how it’s all related. The giveaway: in order to open one’s heart and reside in Love, in order to truly be as unity-consciousness, in order to sincerely be in well-being: one must have an inner resilience to be able to feel all that comes with such territory. The territory of our humanity is wide, expansive and deep. Befriending one’s body – reconnecting with one’s body – and discomfort, is key if one is to be with this territory. 

This is not easy territory. It requires us to be well-acquainted with the depths of compassion and presence, the somatics of trust and allowance, and… the wisdom of Love. 

I will be moving into more context in the next piece in this series. Please feel free to email me with feedback or questions at [email protected]

[1] It’s crucial to name that underneath our struggle with discomfort, is disconnect. As young beings we feel whole and loved when we are with loving and kind people. When we experience a lack of love and kindness as young beings we experience disconnect, which can be terrifying. Unless there is repair, that sense of disconnection will live on, and we will crave and try to “get” wholeness by any means possible moving forward.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

Evolving Through Learning

By Lisa Meuser.  

This is an excerpt from a larger piece…   shared the day I graduated from a conscious leadership training.  I look forward to sharing more.

An intention – which became my motto – whispered deep into my ear and into my heart as 2019 was being birthed: Be in the world and Be of Love.

Let me first say, phew. And let me second say, PHEW.
What an intention. Surely, I will be journeying to embody this for the rest of my life.

2019 was a year where 3 different learnings converged, and where I became their constant student.

Learning number one came early in the year through a BTCC (Building a Thriving Compassionate Community) think tank. Stephanie Solomon presented something she’d recently learned from a Crossroads anti-racism conference.

Stephanie shared something that stood out to her from the conference: the difference between values of dominant culture and the values of transformative culture[1].

The tenets of our current modern day culture are rooted in values of dominant culture: scarcity mentality, based in competitive and individual preservation, focused on outcome,  either/or and us/them thinking (ie binary narratives of good, bad, right, or wrong) and a hierarchy of power which is exclusionary and immersed in secrecy. Many of the institutions that we know and love are rooted in values of dominant culture. They are our “normal.”

Then there are the tenets of transformative culture: a resonance of abundance, collaboration and shared power, transparency and accountability, both /and thinking, a focus on the process/the journey, and an inclusion of history. Transformative culture is alive with paradox. WWFaC[2] is rooted in transformative values. In our current culture, this is the exception.

Learning number two started to drop in not too long after Stephanie’s think tank through Angeles Arrien’s The Four-Fold Way[3]. In this book she reveals the ways of the shadow, and the ways of ancestral wisdom.

As I was reading, I discovered that the ways of the shadow often mirrored dominant culture, while the ways of ancestral wisdom often mirrored transformative culture. The overlap was remarkable.

Angeles Arrien helps us connect to these different gifts and shadows through the study of 4 archetypes – the teacher, the healer, the leader and the visionary. In short, the four archetypes invite us to:

  • Show up, and choose to be present.
  • Pay attention to what has heart and meaning.
  • Tell the truth without blame or judgement.
  • Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.

When we lose our way, as we tend to do as humans, we find ourselves in the shadows. Willingly learning all the while, we eventually make our way / take ourselves back to sacred wisdom. And so it goes while we are engaged in the journey of conscious embodiment.

The way learnings 1 and 2 swirled amidst each other was immensely powerful for me. In their own profound ways, they both revealed various narratives we’re taught in this culture, and at the same time showed us that there is another way, if we are willing to courageously move into what’s possible. To do so truly is a radical happening in today’s culture, which encourages and rewards the status quo, and punishes and belittles those who dare to do, or even want, something different.

Throughout this year, it was constantly humbling to discover how deeply entrenched the dominant narrative and the shadow were woven into me in so many unsuspecting ways. And at the same time, it was deeply inspiring and hopeful, as there were very real tools and practices shared which could be utilized alongside other practices I already have in place. In the true nature of transformative and ancestral values, these learnings carried a spirit of compassion and spaciousness throughout them.

These two learnings were the backdrop of a third learning– the most encompassing learning I’ve ever known – Love First[4].

There is less to write about with this learning, because Love is an experiential happening. It’s not an emotion, and not a feeling: it’s a Presence, one which is viscerally and unquestionably  Known. The first two learnings laid a profound groundwork from which I could more deeply employ Love First.

Over the course of this year I persistently asked myself questions: am I employing the dominant narrative in some way? Am I stuck in shadow territory? Am I drawing from transformative values and ancestral wisdom? Am I moving from Love First? These questions, and all their tenets, became my rubric for how I moved in the world.

I got support from trusted embodied guides as I dove into those questions. We often found deep layers of dominant narrative/shadow patterning interwoven into my personality. While my support team was instrumental in helping me reconnect with clarity, it was up to me to be willing to ask these questions, and then explore how I would participate with being in the world, as well as if that participation would be of Love.

No one could answer these questions for me. No one could give me the right answer. No one could tell me if I was in direct alignment with my intention for the year, be in the world, and be of Love. It was up to me to constantly pause, reflect, feel, and most importantly learn. It was up to me to tell the truth, first to myself, and then with those I was participating with. I stumbled over and over and over. And just as many times I found a truth that no one could sway me from because it was from a place that was between me and God, between me and Love.

These questions are now a part of who I am, and I am grateful. Thank you, Mary Ann and Beth for your wisdom and mentorship. Love First, is embodied here.

 

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

 

[1] I’ve blogged about this a few times, mainly here and here.

[2] A local organization, where I completed the consciousness leadership training.

[3] We studied this extensively throughout the course. A short synopsis, or to order.

[4] I wrote about this in 2019 here.

Climate Change

By Kristy Johnsson.  

They march the articles out across our newsfeeds: pictures of the Statue of Liberty submerged in water up to her chest, horrifying headlines reading “Are humans going extinct?”, images of forests on fire.

When I’m in a certain emotional space around this topic, I’ll sometimes walk outside and sit in the tall seeding grass, beside the conifers, willows, and aspen. I just sit there, feeling my body pulsing under me, the subtle river of sensations cascading through me, my attention hanging close to my breath, and to the movement of the brush around me. I feel suspended in time, this precious moment.

The teeming world around me feels alive, mysterious, other-worldly. It hits me that we used to see trees as people, that some cultures still do, and I feel why. I sense a subtle beingness in those trees, and then think about how old colleagues in the sciences would have had a coronary over that statement. I used to not be able to stay this still; the pain inside me was like a never-ending torrent overwhelming and drowning me. These days it’s different. I settle more easily, these barely perceptible undercurrents of life around me more noticeable as I do.

I feel a quiet begging inside, too.

‘Please. Where do I belong in this? Is this what it will come to? After everything, is this how it unfolds? I’m scared, but I’ll do it. What do you want me to do?’

I start to cry, my core heaving, noticing the sensations in my body as I feel a gentle insight (or a response?) that I don’t need to do anything. I’m okay, sitting here, right now.

Ah, the sweet spot.

Every time I meet these feelings of desperation and fear, and yet still honor and witness the protest in me, the thrashing and chaotic thoughts, without losing contact with where I am, something magical happens:

My embodiment of the dying culture that got us here becomes palpable. Those thoughts and beliefs, and the pain that tends to be associated with them, pop out in my awareness and I can see our culture manifest in my body-mind. I don’t fight any of it. I don’t berate it for killing our world, countless people, our bodies and souls. I see it play out, and in the space of seeing it, there’s room for new life: I realize that I don’t have to do anything to save this planet, or other people, or even myself. Nor do I have to do anything to be good or enough.

And then something even more beautiful happens, effortlessly and naturally: I find that feeling my good enoughness – including my pain and struggling – transmutes into motivation to step out into this holy mess anyway. Because I’m grateful to be alive. Because I’m in love with this wild planet.

To read more about Kristy Johnsson, click here.