Feeling small? Here is some Mid-Week Inspiration to remind you how magnificent you are!
While waiting in line at the grocery store the other week, as the checkout lady was scanning my cauliflower and eggs, I noticed this funny feeling. It was a small, almost imperceptible, but insistent. I felt weak and uninspired. I started counting the numbers of evenings I had recently spent in my room, doing little of anything. My moral character felt floopy, like a Gumpy figure with no bones or spine to hold me up, like I was drifting listlessly through life with no where to go.
Unsure of what was going on– was I getting sick? Was I simply bored? Was I secretly upset about something and avoiding it?– I took myself out on a walk. And, as I was dragging my lethargic body along the familiar trail, something literally stopped me in my tracks.
“I know this feeling!”, I said to myself, resting my hand on a nearby park bench. I absolutely know this feeling, all too well.
In fact, it is something I have felt for most of my life. It is what I call the “Not-Good-Enoughs”, that insistent feeling of insecurity that drags through many of our lives like the drone note in bluegrass.
It is the gnawing feeling that something is secretly and inextricably wrong with me, that, somehow, be it hidden or in plain view, there is something that simply comes up short. My insecurities are completely cliche, fearing that I am not smart enough, pretty enough, or loveable enough. But these insecurities are completely gripping in their power. They hold me back from boldly doing the things I feel called to do, instead leaving me in the limbo of taking half-steps towards my dreams, half-steps towards deep connections, half-steps towards the life that is calling me.
Luckily, I have sat through enough weekend workshops to know that I am not alone in this feeling; in fact, deep insecurity seems like a silent pandemic that has infected Western culture, an insidious invader that has gripped our minds and hearts.
And really, if you think about Western culture, it is no surprise. Our entire economic system, which is fueled by a feeling of malcontent that keeps us buying more, is fueled by our insecurity. So maintaining that insecurity through materalistic values and weak community connections are great for maintaining our role as fervent consumers.
But theories aside, this feeling of insecurity is a real problem. It’s grip is tragic, holding us hostage to our smallest feelings about ourselves, preventing us from moving towards our biggest possibility.
This clearly wreaks havoc in our own lives, but it is also toxic to our world: we are not able to give our bigger contributions, to fully be players in ushering in the Great Turning, working towards a life in service to all beings.
It seems like, then, our lives, and whether they are half-lives, or whether we dive in fully, has everything to do with this question: What do we do with our insecurities?
It reminds of me Rumi’s poem, The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
I will do that. When the Not-Good-Enoughs come knocking, I will welcome them in. I will great them with reverence and prepare for them a lofty bed and fetch fresh towels for the morning. I will talk with them and share my finest wine and my heart, we will feast on rich dishes of meat and deserts of honey and dates and will listen attentively to their woes. I will love them and promise they can stay for as long as they would like and even bring their cousins.
But, at the end of the night, I will not take my insecurities to bed with me. They will have their own room where they can rest separately. Instead, into my intimate chambers, I will invite the lover I have choose for myself, the “Do-It-Anyways”, the wild and bold part of myself that, amidst all the reasons not to, amidst all the insecurities and opportunities for failure, takes one small step, then another step, and then another small but courageous and clear step towards the that life the world is dreaming for me.
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It’s Thursday! If you are looking out the window at what I am looking at– blue skies, chirping birds, mid-70’s weather– then it is possible you are also counting down the hours until the weekend starts. But there is still plenty more week to live, plenty more opportunity to keep acting as agents of change and love and the Great Turning (and of course, this is not a 9-5, weekdays only position). So, in the case that you need a little Mid-Week Inspiration to keep you feeling juicy, here it is…
The natural world, be it amidst thousands of acres of rugged wilderness in Utah, or that patch of daffodils in your backyard, is nothing short of magical. And, taking the time to sit regularly with that magic is purely transformative. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the way that having a sit spot, which is intentional time sitting in nature, has changed me. Here is how you can adopt the practice too.
In nature, mycelium is the vegetative portion of a fungus; it is a complex interwoven tapestry that connects the organisms it touches. In the human world, The Mycelium School is an educational organization that “opens up new pathways for change-makers and business leaders to affect the world”. I got to speak with Matthew Abrams, co-founder and vision keeper, and Dana Pearlman, lead facilitator and coach, not just about their innovative educational model, but about big topics like transforming education, authentic leadership and working across difference.
“It’s the story of men and women who said to themselves, ‘I might not fulfill my dreams, but if I march, if I stand strong on this bridge, if I endure another night in this jail cell, then maybe my children will fulfill their dreams. Maybe my grandchildren will.”
It’s foggy this morning. The thick cushion of clouds hangs low, wrapping the earth like a down blanket, and the rising sun is trying to emerge from behind them. Seagulls dash from one edge of the sky to the next, and the dedicated surfers are suiting up for their ritual early morning plunge into the icy pacific ocean. Despite the fog, which typically brings chilly air to this corner of the central coast of California, this morning is warm. The humid air rises and surrounds my body huddled on the dewy grass at dawn, reminding me of my childhood in the south and of every spring I have spent there.
This is the choreography of the morning, the unique dance of clouds and birds and humans and winds that the world is doing in this particular place, on this particular day. I imagine that, for centuries, my ancestors, upon waking, did this. They took stock of the day, greeting the morning with an account of what was where. How are the winds? Is it a good day for fishing or for hunting? In what field will the berries be ripening today?
On a good day, I join my ancestors in this practice. Before doing anything else, I go and greet the morning. It goes like this: I wake up, pull on a jacket and shoes, walk across the street to a public park, climb over the painted blue metal, and climb down a ledge and I sit.
My sit in nature, which is a part of a practice I have kept for many years, is like a mindfulness meditation, but done outside, with my eyes open, my ears attentive and my heart as wide as I can allow it to be. Sometimes I sit for a half an hour, sometimes just for a few minutes. I sit and breathe with some of the biggest questions of life. Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is the next step on the path to fulfilling that purpose? I also just sit there and wonder what I’m going to have for breakfast and has it been 15 minutes yet?
Going to this same spot, sometimes religiously, sometimes sporadically, but steadily over time, is one of the most essential things I do as a change-maker, someone who is trying to affect positive change on behalf of future generations, in the world today. There are the obvious outcomes: the peace, the stress release, the better listening and compassion.
But it has done something far more profound in my life. It has allowed me to find a place of belonging. Belonging that is beyond fitting in, or finding my people or vocation. It is belonging to the Earth, finding that deep and ancient sense of belonging to in our matrix of life. Belonging to the web of life, belonging to the ecosystems and streams and air as much as a toad or rock or chirping birds.
Wouldn’t we interact differently with our world if we saw ourselves as a part of it? Wouldn’t we treat our water systems and soil and all the flora and fauna differently if we knew we were not separate from them, but instead intricately intertwined?
I think so many problems in our world today stem from seeing things as separate: groups of people, ourselves and animals, ourselves and plants, ourselves and the rest of the world. What would it be like when we start seeing ourselves as interconnected again? The decisions I make, the courses I have taken, is so much different when I move from a place of understanding my life embedded in a web of interconnection with all creatures.
Thank you, sit spot, thank you to this little edge of world, thank you for the opportunity to belong, and for the understanding you have granted me.
Can we actually stop climate change and find a way out of this mess? Yes, according to the Buddha and the Third Noble Truth.
After attending a workshop about engaged Buddhism and climate change, I reflected on the way our attachments– which the Buddha names as the cause of suffering in the world– are making both us and the planet unhappy. Read More