Some people know that I am in a ministry program, everybody else guess what! I’m in a ministry program. I started it about a year and a half ago, and will be done next May. It’s not with any particular religious group and in fact the program seeks to incorporate a wide range of disciplines and belief systems. The Center for Sacred Studies and it’s staff is closest itself in it’s practices and beliefs to Native American traditions, but everything they do takes care to honor the sacred in all. Each month we have a new assignment, book, teacher, subject, etc. I won’t go through all of it with you but this last month I thought the assignment was really good. It was a series of questions which you were supposed to answer in written form, and then figure out what actions you were going to take to actualize. What I loved about this assignment was the throwing stuff away. This is so much more liberating than you can imagine. I actually started this process sort of on my own, intuitively a year or two ago, and this gave me an opportunity to finish it up. There were so many things that I was keeping, carting around with me, that I had because I thought they were cool or funny, but had long since actually enjoyed or laughed at. Things I kept because they were gifts at one time, from the family, I was going to fix it, or make something with it, or whatever. Give it to someone else, donate it, recycle it, throw it away, or give yourself one week to do something about it, then get rid of it. Stuff! We have too much stuff in our lives. This practice also leads to not accumulating as much. When I look at something now, a brochure, a magazine, something someone is trying to give me, I know immediately whether I will actually use it or whether it will accumulate dust in a pile on my desk, and I don’t take it!
The relationship question is harder to look at, but just as good. This was something I started years ago too, letting things go that were drains on my energy or didn’t make me feel supported or accepted. So this time around it was more about letting my baggage go from these relationships that I had already let go of. What this meant too, is to stop telling myself the stories where I was the victim of some slight or wrongdoing. Beautifully, as soon as I made this list of people who I wanted to let things go with, I caught myself telling a story about someone who never seemed to accept me and always wanted me to change and never and always… and I said, stop telling yourself that story! Change that story! You don’t have baggage, you’re just retelling a story to cast yourself as the victim! Let it go. And I did. And then I stared at the moon in peace. Amazing how profoundly powerful it is to set an intention and see it immediately change how you see yourself, those around you, and your stories. We all have stories, we just need to realize that we invest them with power because we think they communicate something about who we are. When we are the victim in the story, the story says we are blameless and innocent. We don’t need those designations, they’re false anyway.
So the vision goes like this; 1) If your back is against a wall you need to turn around and look at it so that you can see what the nature of the wall is. 2) What stops you from going forward? 3) What support do I need to turn around and face that wall? As you face it it will turn into a plate glass window through which the future can see you. Then the next part begins. 4) What do I need to throw out? Clear out the clutter, clothing, relationships, ideas, stuff, etc. Now you can prepare for a new beginning. You will see new applications of better skills, polished skills, new skills. You will feel a lot of energy freed up for listening better, writing better, working better. 5) What relationships do you keep? 6) What skills do you already have, or that you want to develop, that you can reach out for? Finally, how you are going to maintain this is by taking care of yourself. so, 7) How are you going to be good to you?
Go through each of these questions and write out your answers, it is not as effective to simply think about these questions. I’ve included my responses.
Is my back pressed up against a wall?
It doesn’t feel like it right now. When I think back to how I felt living in my last place, with a group of four other people, I would have said yes at that time. The ceiling in my room was slanted down, there was one small window in my room, I felt kept in a corner. And that mirrored how I felt emotionally there too. Trapped by the way that some of my more powerful yet unaware housemates felt about me. It felt like my actions were interpreted in a way that I didn’t identify with, like I couldn’t be myself with them because I had to explain myself so as to not offend, or “intimidate” them. It was not infrequent that I had to explain that an action like going straight to my room when I got home did not have to do with them, i.e. it wasn’t personal. I also felt trapped by the job that I had. I really believed in the work, the film, but my relationship with it needed better boundaries. I felt more responsibility than was manageable. The pressure of that made it difficult for me act. I took on too much of my colleague’s anxieties too. Both of those situations I have removed myself from. I’ve moved to a new location where I live by myself, but within a community that I talk with and share garden space with. Here in this new space I started up my morning practice again almost automatically, and added to it aspects that have really opened up a flow of energy for me. I am looking for a new job, and also starting graduate school and moving forward with the things I want to learn more about. After I find a job I hope to be able to return to the film and work to complete it, but with better boundaries around what my responsibilities are, how much time I will spend on it, and where it sits in my list of priorities.
Are there other walls in my life?
I have to say that right now, I feel some anxiety around the work I plan to do, but without so much doubt around whether it is right for me, more like anticipation because I feel I have enough energy freed up now to attempt things that I wouldn’t have were I still living at the other house, or working full-time on the film. I am a little worried about finding a job…but I haven’t been looking long enough to be really concerned or to feel truly limited by the search.
I have been taking active steps to pursue dreams and passions. Writing every morning makes me feel I am moving forward, there is a narrative to my learning and my days that is both grounding and liberating. Deciding to surf and going to do it felt great. I had been held back by fear for a long time; fear of cold water and the intimidation of a new sport that I’ve heard can be territorial. After going twice, I feel much more confident about doing it, excited about it, really enjoying the time I’ve had out there, and looking forward to doing it more and sharing it with friends. It awakens a challenge in me, a sense of fun and play, a new relationship with nature, a new community, and a renewed relationship with water which has been important to me my whole life but markedly missing from my life up here in the bay area. I also decided to take singing lessons this fall. I’ve always loved singing, and the prospect of being able to perform music is really exciting to me. I want to learn how to write music, how to think in music, and develop my confidence so that I can really enjoy that mode of expression. I’ve wanted to take classes for a while, so I’m not waiting anymore, and that feels very empowering.
What do I need to throw out?
Everything in my car! The last bits of stuff from moving have languished in my car for weeks, can I really need anything in there if I haven’t missed it, don’t know what it is, and haven’t desired to bring in to my house? Some clothes I should go through, though I’ve been pretty cutthroat recently when it comes to clothes, erring on the side of selling and giving away rather than keeping. I could go deeper. Perhaps old photos. Most of those are at my parent’s home, but I have a few boxes full up here, and I’m not sure I really need to keep most of those.
What relationships do I keep? What do I let go of?
The energy I want to have around this is not rejection, closing the door, or shunning. I want rather to let go of negative energy or thoughts about these people that I’ve carried and allow these relationships to pass from intentionally maintained relationships to a more neutral, non-judgmental, open way of relating. These are already people I don’t spend time with really any more for one reason or another, I just want to let go of whatever I’m holding on to from them that is negative. This also means not telling myself or anyone else any stories about these relationships anymore. Stories of this kind are boring anyway.
What skills do you want to reach out for?
Surfing, singing, art, meditating, writing, maybe gardening and growing things, developing my vision of what I will do to bring value to this world and grow abundance.
How are you going to be good to you?
- Prioritize my morning practice because it makes me feel good, more like me, etc. Not allow my practice to be interrupted and make every effort to schedule things around it, not the other way around.
- Get enough rest. Going to bed between 10 and 11 is really as late as I’d like to be going to sleep on week nights, this means I can get up earlier and complete my practice without it taking til noon, which in turn makes my practice more sustainable
- Eat well, shop at the farmers market for everything I can. I feel good about food I get from the FM and it supports the world I want to live in. Buying here feels good, and it’s a way of grounding in with my community. Eat more vegetables, with each meal. This gives me energy and is good for my body, it also improves my mood
- Work to maintain balance between work, physical activity, introspection and introspective activities, friends, social/play time. Listen to what I am feeling and use discernment to create a day that maintains balance rather than pushing me further into the stress of either playing too much or working too much.
- Being protective of and taking responsibility for my schedule. When I look at my schedule and feel over-committed, it’s time to back off and prioritize what I need to do, perhaps reschedule a dinner or coffee date for a day that is open in the future.
- Spend time with people who support me and accept me, with those who lie somewhere else on that line be intentional about when you spend time with them, and how much, and what energy you go into it with.
- Always act with intention, integrity, and love in interaction with self and others, even when it demands courage and facing discomfort. I’ve heard it said that all virtues when taken to their extreme manifest as courage, and I believe that to be true. So have the courage to be the person you want to be in challenging circumstances, whether that demands extreme honesty, patience, perseverance, or humility. Through this you take care of your true self by staying present, reifying your beliefs, and strengthening your foundation.
- Practice of gratitude. Whenever I am feeling unloved, alone, judged, it is a good opportunity to reach out and give love and appreciation. This raises the feeling of love inside of you and puts you in touch with the fount of love that springs up in each of us and never runs dry. By reminding us that love is not something we run out of a feeling of richness emerges and we come in contact with the true source of our energy. It is a step that confirms also the value of our love, and the value we hold in ourselves. All love we receive comes from the same universal source, so it is unnecessary to receive it from outside sources, that is really in essence what this practice validates.
- I always capitalize the first letter of my first name, as a simple symbolic act of taking myself seriously and respecting myself.
- I want to continue to look at my boundaries and be very intentional about how I relate to the new things coming in to my life, what place in my order they are ascribed.