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How Full Is Your Well?

By Lisa Meuser.

Almost daily, I journey with clients who are beating themselves up during these Covid-19 times for not being more productive, so I thought I’d write a little about it.

I think it’s worthwhile to consider why we might not be as productive as we think we should be. I think it’s useful to be reflective and ask ourselves questions…

  • What do we need in order to be productive?
  • What helps us to be able to be productive?
  • What gets in our way or diminishes our abilities to be productive?
  • Why does it matter to us if we’re being productive?
    and
  • How full is our internal well?While I love the terrain of the first questions, I’m mainly going to be focusing on that last question: How full is our internal well?

For most of the individuals that I’m speaking with, we have noticed that before COVID-19 came around, their well was already dry, or mostly dry. This is really common because we live in a culture that overworks, that over-thinks, that over-demands, and underneath it all, doesn’t value self-connection, self-awareness, self-love, nor the nourishment of our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. In fact, many in our culture won’t even have the luxury of considering their internal well.

When our wells are dry and then a pandemic strikes, we might immediately ask ourselves: “is this really the right time to think or expect ourselves or others to be productive? Does that really make sense?”  While it’s hard to counter those dominant narrative[1] thoughts that we hear all day in our own heads, and from the collective, it’s essential for our well-being that, if we are able[2], we slow down and ask ourselves questions.

Again I ask, “When our wells are dry and then a pandemic strikes, is that really the right time to think or expect ourselves or others to be productive? Does that really make sense?” Or, might it be a time to instead slow down and acknowledge that our well is empty, and first we need to, at least, begin to fill it. Perhaps it would be a radical act to get clear and name this, if at all possible, before we take on anymore: we need to tend to our depleted wells.

Yep, I know, easier said than done – those internalized, dominant narrative thoughts are strong, and scarcity fears and realities are intense at the moment. But, if you are someone who is wondering why they’re not more productive in this time, and if you are able to slow down… I invite you to ask yourself how full your well has been. Was it full before Covid 19? Was it full for a year leading up to Covid 19? Has it ever been full? If your well has not been full, please know this isn’t your fault. Please don’t think it’s one more thing to beat yourself up about. This is an outcome of the systemic, dominant narrative that we are all a part of that ignores our wells.

If you are beating yourself up for not being productive, or for having an empty well, I have an experiment for you. If you are able, choose to consciously decide to not be productive in all the ways. See what is possible to walk away from for a few weeks. Put the X away. Put Y aside. Acknowledge that this just isn’t the time. Give yourself permission not to be productive as you think you should be, knowing that any other expectation would just be a set up for more self-judgement. Additionally, give yourself permission to ask for help from friends, family, and/or from local service providers who are working in mutual aid.

As you put X aside, take up this curious question: what is it that fills your well, just even a little bit? What happens as you put aside X, and take up Z instead?? I took this question to heart. Slowing down to connect to the micro within moments, has been filling my well – watching the beak of a bird eating bird seed, examining the unfolding of a leaf or flower bud with my eyes and nose, experiencing a micro movement of breath within a breath, watching the tongue of my cat, feeling the aches of my heart, the growth in my garden, hearing the witty and wise comments out of my daughter’s mouth, taking part in community meditations, listening to the movements of leaves, the sound of feet on the floor…   All of these various “Z”s have been contributing to my well. What about you?

If your well is not full, the time of a pandemic is not the time to push yourself, judge yourself, pressure yourself into being a more productive human being. Instead, if you are able, gift your mind, your heart, and your entire being, the nourishment needed to let your well begin to fill[3].

When your well begins to start to fill again, it may be the time to take on some of the questions I posed at the beginning: What do you need in order to be productive? What helps you to be able to be productive? What gets in your way or diminishes your ability to be productive? Why does it matter to you if we’re being productive? Once your well starts to fill again, you will be tempting to engage in the very same behaviors that empty your well, so before you do that… I invite you to go slow, and stay connected to yourself.

I came into the pandemic with my well mostly full, as I had just taken four days off with practices and people who fill my heart, mind and being. After those four days, returning back to life as I had known it was tempting – my caregiving and fixing conditioning can be loud, and the dominant narrative seductively started blasting through organizations I was a part of, through my Facebook newsfeed, and through my very own psyche as the pandemic hit full force.

Fortunately, I am committed to seeing through the destructive ways of the dominant narrative and how I partake in them, and are surrounded by others who are too, so I immediately started to ask myself the questions I posed above. I keep returning to those questions and continue exploring whenever the “productive bug” gets in my ear.

In the spirit of tending to my own well, which I am being very mindful of these days with regards to how full (or empty) it is, I will resist the urge to share more, and instead keep this blog short.

I invite you to stay curious, stay connected to your well, and reach out for support as needed. These are challenging times for most, and you do not have to muddle through it alone.

To all my survivor friends, I love you, I care about you, I see you. You are worthy just as you are. I imagine us breathing in Love together and letting that breath be enough, knowing that we too are enough, just as we are.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

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

[2] Unfortunately, many may be in predicaments where, due to a variety of reasons, they do not have the time/space to slow down, ask such questions, or even consider their well.

[3] Again, it is important to acknowledge that many people will not have the privilege to consider their own well. If this is you, or someone you love, please look into your local area’s support services as many communities are forming mutual aid groups to help care for those who are in need.

Just a thought…

By Luke Hey.  

Do you know what I love? Finding new ways to inquire!

And being a facilitator of the Living Inquiries has afforded me the opportunity to find many different and interesting ways to unhook the velcro of thoughts.  I want to share with you some of these ideas to use as techniques during your own inquiry. Think of this as a tips and tricks guide to keep the mind on its toes.

I hope to write this within the context that inquiry can be used in other ways, and at other times, rather than just when we are suffering. It seems more often than not that inquiry is something to pull out when we are in the throes of suffering, rather than as an interesting perspective to see daily life.  Using inquiry in this way has some unexpected benefits, but I will let you find this out for yourself.

I am not claiming ownership for any of this, nor do I imagine that all of this is new to you. Most of the insights about this have come through self-inquiry and inquiry with clients. I am also happy if you want to comment or email and tell me what you think and what your experiences are. So without further ado, here’s the first inquiry.

Where is the ‘my’ of my hand?

When I was younger I used to stay at my aunty and uncle’s house. They have a son the same age as me and we got along very well and went to the same university and work.  Their house was much closer to both places, than my parents’ house, so I stayed there most of the week.

Now this family is a very Christian family, with very strong values and ideas about Christianity.  This was evident in the way they lived and their reference to the bible and Jesus through daily life. On Sunday evenings around the dinner table they would bring out the bible and discuss passages together as a family. It was very interesting to me, although not, I guess, for the reasons they would have hoped.  I would stop them at times, asking various (and probably very annoying) questions. Some of the ideas put forth didn’t make a lot of sense to me (and still don’t) and at the time we would have some interesting discussions.

This came to a head one evening when I asked my uncle how it is he knew there was a God. He looked at me a little exasperated, then looked around for an answer. Finally some recognition came to his face and he beamed at me. Just look around, he said. Look at your hand. And we did. He continued on about how God gave us the use of this wonderful appendix, but I had stopped listening. I had taken what he had said literally. Of course! Why couldn’t God be found in my hand! If she is somewhere here at all why not there. Needless to say, I spent lots of time from then on just staring at my hand, looking for God.

So…sitting here now, I look at my hand. It seems to be my hand but what is it that tells me that? It seems familiar, small like a hobbit’s with stubby little fingers. I recognise the lines on the palm, the fingernails. But all of these are just thoughts that come through the mind. When those thoughts fade away, what do I see? Where is the ‘my’ of my hand?

Maybe they aren’t my hands, but God’s hands.  Maybe not.  But it’s probably worth a look at least.

Just a thought…

To read more about Luke Hey, click here.

ENOUGH

By Sumitra Burton.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of “enough” lately. What would it take to make me feel safe on the planet, to be able to relax and feel at ease with daily life? How much money would it take? How much food? When would I feel I have given enough, that I am enough?

My parents were young during the Great Depression and learned to be very frugal, both with money and other resources. I also grew up with frugality – only so much food, a few clothes, very few luxuries ever. We didn’t waste anything. Our homes didn’t contain as many things as homes do now, and life was simpler.

I started working early in life, babysitting from age 8 and then other jobs as I learned new skills. My siblings and I were expected to buy most of our own clothes starting in middle school, and to supply our own money for entertainment, makeup, etc. Money was considered “precious” in a way – and very much respected as essential for survival.

One of my inherited beliefs has been that money is not easy to come by. And sometimes it feels like money is a kind of god in the sky, looming over me, that I am trying to appease, seeking a way to gain its attention so that my pleas for success and safety can be heard.

This morning I did a self-inquiry session in which I asked myself how I felt about my relationship with money. Right away I noticed a tightening around the surface of my belly. The word hollow was there and a corresponding sensation of hollowness in my belly, and then the words unknown / unsafe. These words resonated as true in my body – what was unknown felt unsafe. I can’t see the future; it’s all unknown and can have an unsafe quality about it when I try to imagine what the future will bring.

I live at the mercy of Life happening. Again the words brought a sense of being out of control, of not having control over my life and resources. How can I be at ease when I have no control? Therefore, the tightening of my belly was making great sense. Hold on tight, don’t let anyone convince me to let go of this tension in my belly. I could feel my belly tighten a bit more and my eyes squeeze tightly shut, as if the tightening would make me safe, hidden.

As I felt into the tightness in my belly and eyes, an image arose of the internal belly – a tan-colored box with the texture of bricks. The words alone – tight – hiding were there. I stayed with the image, and it began to change shape, almost as if it felt embarrassed to be seen, as if its fraud had been caught, simply by being seen. Staying right with the image, I watched the boundaries of it shatter and dissolve, allowing the contents to spill out into open space.

As the image dissolved, I brought my attention back to the sensation in the belly. There was no tension there now, and it felt safe to be open. I rested there for a while, absorbing the wonderful sense of safety and trust.

Out of that openness another image arose – this time a moving image of me in a meadow filled with flowers on a sunny day. I very much enjoyed the scene of gathering and tossing flowers, as if tossing/ spending money with ease and delight. No worries about whether there was enough; only a sense of ease around trusting the direction and flow of the universal order in my life. Trusting – safe – respectful were the words that resonated with the scene.

I’ve found that I can drift along for periods of time in a constant state of light anxiety around money or other issues if I don’t stop and take time to practice inquiry. Just taking a few minutes sometimes – to notice what’s here, to turn towards the feelings and words that are hanging around, to watch and listen and feel what comes up – provides the magic of returning to peace and calm, coming home inside my body. What an amazing gift. When I feel at ease, at peace, there is no question of “enough.”

 

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

Longing For Love

By Sumitra Burton.  

While looking back over my life recently to see what kind of “credentials” I had gathered along the way, I recognized a core thread that has permeated my experience from the very beginning: a passionate longing for love.  Somehow I had never been aware of it in quite this way before.

As a little girl, I was deeply moved by a picture in our church’s entryway of Jesus in his long robe with children around his feet.  Jesus was looking at the children with deep love.  I can feel now the sense of longing that arose in my heart to experience that kind of love in my life.

Early on I somehow got the idea that pleasing others was the best way to find the love I so dearly wanted.  I tried to make them happy, so that they would love me.  My mother once said to me that I was selfish, which struck me deeply as I took this to mean that “I” was selfish, rather than simply my behavior in that moment.  The desire to not be selfish translated in my young mind to mean that my own personal needs and desires must be subdued in deference to others.

I married very young (19) and was excited to feel loved by my young husband and the support of a dream that we would somehow live happily ever after, loving each other unconditionally (those were the vows we took when we married – through sickness and health, joy and sorrow, etc. – right?).

It wasn’t long, though, before this dream started falling apart as I often experienced a lack of love in our relationship.  We were both so young, and my husband had had a traumatic childhood and needed lots of support.  Neither of us had the skills to communicate our feelings and work through the difficulties that arose.  Over the years we had four children together, were separated many times, and actually married and divorced twice.

By the time of the second divorce, I was totally devastated – confused, grieving and alone.  I had tried so hard to love him, and had failed, and my longing for love (still very strong) seemed to have reached a dead end.  The harder I tried, the worse things became.  I had given my all, and it wasn’t good enough.  Something was deeply wrong, and I was convinced there was something deeply wrong with meI must be unlovable!

I stayed alone for the next 30 years after the second divorce, practiced yoga and meditation as best I could while being a single mother, eventually living and working in an ashram retreat center for many years.  I found a sense of peace while I would sit to meditate, but in my daily life there was still much confusion and even desperation as I tried to make others happy so that I would feel loved in return.

One day I remember so clearly, a spiritual teacher remarked, “We have to love everyone, including ourselves.” I was shocked to hear the part about “including ourselves.”  Of course, this made perfect sense, and why had it taken so long for me to realize this?

From that moment I began wondering what it would mean to love myself – and very gradually began to explore how to do this. There wasn’t much support in those days for this kind of endeavor. I found myself eventually gravitating towards a philosophy of relaxing more into who I already am, rather than the old paradigm of disciplining myself to become a better person.  I began to have glimpses of being okay as I was.

When I finally discovered the Living Inquiries and the tools of resting and inquiry, the old beliefs of “unlovable” and “not good enough” arose dramatically to be explored, and slowly began to unwind.  It’s been a dynamic process over the past seven years of working to unravel these old beliefs and learning to relax into my natural sense of being-ness.  A main component of this quest has been the gradual shift from looking outside myself to looking inside for the love that I long for.

While there is a sense that the inquiry process will always be needed (no end in sight!), there is also a deepening awareness that innately I am okay and lovable.  Any time I notice I am looking for love outside, I recognize the old feelings of unworthiness creeping in.  Deep inside there’s a growing understanding that not only am I lovable, but that I am actually Love Itself. No separation.

This morning I am taking time to simply allow the longing to be felt.  The intensity of the longing is immense, filling my whole inner torso like a vacuum in a cavern.  It feels like I will be engulfed by it if I allow it to be fully felt.  Go ahead, I say.  Let me be consumed by that longing!  As I sit with the sensations, an image of a gate appears.  And as it opens, Love is Here.  Love is calling me Home.

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

Exploring “Should Energy” As A Way To Increase Self-Awareness

By Lisa Meuser.  

I’ve been exploring “should energy” over the last month. Well, way longer than that. Shoulds and I go way back. Maybe you know what I mean, as it seems it’s a common feature of being human.

Should energy used to be imperceptible to me, while at the same time running my life. As I slowly developed a relationship with myself and my experiences through mindful practices and embodied inquiry, my system started to notice when should energy was running in the background. That noticing changed my life. Some invisible force no longer was pulling me along. Noticing that should energy was like shining a light on something I had often felt, but couldn’t see.

Naming the shoulds then took me another step forward and allowed me to ask questions of myself and engage in self-inquiry: Was it true that I “should” do X, Y or Z? Did I **have to** follow the should energy? What was really going on?

 

Push-Pull Dissonance

Many years ago I was doing inquiry on a conflict I was having with someone. I could feel this push-pull inside my gut. I did not want to speak with this person, and yet I felt like I had to because he was in my circle of friends. I was so twisted up inside until all of a sudden, I noticed that there was should energy running the whole show. As I stayed with it, more specifics were revealed: “You should get along with him. You should talk with him. You should work it out.” The second I named the shoulds, my entire system collapsed in relief.

As I allowed time for my body to feel that relief, I discovered that I could name both things as true: I did not want to speak with him yet and he was in my circle of friends. In that moment it was ok that both were true.

I was able to be with the discomfort of there being conflict, without the debilitating dissonance caused by should energy. That was a new experience for me. The increased awareness or noticing, and then naming the should energy, gave me the ability to be more of a conscious participant in my life, and the empowerment that came with that was something my system never forgot.

Since that experience, should energy has been recognized fairly easily by my system as it has a certain signature or felt expression for me, often through a sense of push/pull. However lately I’ve been studying should energy with closer conscious attention, as the shoulds in my life seem to keep getting more subtle and subtle, and access to my cellular memory has been becoming more and more available.

 

Disguised as Restlessness

I noticed a really subtle should sneak in one afternoon a few weeks ago. I had been looking forward to that afternoon all week, excited to have time to write about so much that was bubbling up inside me. When the afternoon came, and my house was quiet, I found myself tired. I wanted to just rest, but I had these nagging thoughts of wanting to take advantage of my time, using it to produce and create. I slowed down and as I felt into what was calling to me, I was able to honor my system’s need to rest and not produce. I took it easy that night, but I couldn’t quite shake the restlessness.

 

Family of Origin

The next day that unsettled energy/restlessness was still there, and as I did some embodied inquiry it took me right to should energy.  I took my time to feel more deeply into the energy, and the context from the night before. Just saying the word “should” led my whole body to tighten. That let me know that there was a lot of Velcro, or meaning-making connected with that word.

I stayed with my contracted body as I said the word over and over. Eventually some content started to arise. I saw images of my grandparents’ house, which led to images of my grandfather. As I continued to stay with what was arising I was able to see that my grandfather, who lived and breathed by rigid should energy, had passed his should beliefs on to me. It was like I was able to see a whole matrix of conditioning. I curiously studied all the should energy and corresponding beliefs that I took on from him, and as I did, they slowly started to release and I was able to get clear on what beliefs were his, and what were mine.

It was amazingly freeing to notice the various belief systems and their energetic tendrils that had been passed onto me, and that I now had a choice to be my own sovereign person, different than that of my familial lineage. This was not the first time that I had studied how my family of origin’s belief system had been imprinted upon me, but this time I was able to see the whole web in an even more profound way.

 

Family of Origin, Take 2

The topic came up again in an inquiry session the following week, and this time it was my other grandparents that showed up. Two different memories arose. Both contained un-integrated emotional events – one with my grandfather and one with my grandmother. As I slowly processed through each event it was powerful to connect with the different parts of me that were struggling, when, as a child I interacted with my grandparents. The thing that stood out with both memories was the lack of guidance I received then that I so needed. As I journeyed back, revisiting the emotional relationships between us, I was able to see the disconnect I felt. With that a well of grief arose that I had never known was there. Allowing myself to grieve allowed me to have compassion for myself, as well as them.  When the tears subsided I was left with clarity that nothing needed to be different. There was a sense of simplicity, ease and understanding.

 

Curiosity Begets More Curiosity Begets Clarity

Over the next week my system continued to study hidden resonances of should energy that were coming up from within and which were also coming from various people around me. I was able to see with increased clarity that others’ expectations and should belief structures were exactly that – theirs. Being able to make that distinction gave others permission to be them, and me to be me, leaving me without dissonance or push/pull energy.

 

Noticing, Naming, Navigating

I’m not sure if the energy of shoulds will ever fully dissipate. Our culture feeds on expectations, obligations, and should-type energy and our families of origin often reinforce them, passing them on to us. We can stop the cycle, but it takes willingness to be mindful about our experiences and then inquire into them.

Freedom comes as we are able to notice the beliefs that bind us, name how they’re in place, and then navigate their release. But we can’t do any of this if we aren’t willing to look at what motivates/restrains us, or what is underneath the cognitive dissonance and anxious discomfort so many of us feel throughout our lives that are tied to should energy and belief structures.

For me, just asking myself “Are there are hidden shoulds here?” started to increase my awareness as to their existence. I also found it useful to ask about should energy coming from others, and then the should energy in me that showed up in response. “What should energy is X person coming from? How am I responding to that? Does it bring up my own shoulds? Do either of us need to be different than we are?”

Keep asking questions, keep being curious, keep noticing and keep naming. The clarity will come as a natural byproduct to that, as will a shift in your relationship with your experiences, yourself, and your world.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.