Posted in nature, search for meaning

The Eye of the Storm, or Jeff Corwin’s Foot

Last week I took the kids to see the premier of a new IMAX movie, Galapagos 3D. Jeff Corwin narrates this film and was at the IMAX theater in Chattanooga to introduce it. After the movie, he shared an experience he had while researching in those islands. He had been swimming with penguins, got cold, and climbed out of the water. A Sally Lightfoot crab crawled onto his foot and began nibbling at the dead skin flaking off of his toes, only to be snatched off and eaten moments later by an octopus… life doing what life does, revolving for those few minutes around Jeff Corwin’s foot. Seriously, no one could make this stuff up.

Moments like this seem to float outside of time, paused, as the rest of the universe, hinged on that point, revolves and swirls around it. The eye of the storm. How many moments like this do we get? I find myself considering what tools to employ to notice and really immerse in more of these moments. Surely we swim in a river of these moments, but how does a fish notice the water? This story sounds rather exceptional, but so are our ordinary moments, when viewed through the right lens, the lens of awareness.

How do you shift your focus to notice the extraordinary, the exquisite, in the ordinary? How do you change your lens?

Posted in armchair psychology, search for meaning

Good Enough

What does it mean to be good enough?

To be a good enough mother? Partner, spouse? Human being?

Welcome to the mine field! Our brains are wired to evaluate our actions and the actions of others. We make decisions in microseconds based on these evaluations, but there is no absolute, no yardstick of truth to measure by. Most of the time we aren’t even aware of this process, already immersed in the actions that arise from our subconsciously made decisions, but it happens just the same. Awareness is not required.

What if we bring awareness to the table? Instead of plunging headlong into action based on judgments unquestioned, what happens when we pause and question our assumptions first?

I begin each day like every other primate on the planet: I wake up. My evaluations of my day and myself in all the roles I play and the jobs I do begins immediately. I’m so lazy or I shouldn’t have stayed up so late follows on the heels of What time is it? at lightning speed. I may find as many as five or seven judgments against myself before my eyes are all the way open. What happens next takes form out of these thoughts. If I decide I am lazy I may rush about attempting to compensate; I may burn myself with my coffee or break a dish or hit my head on a shelf. I can then turn this into evidence to support my story that I am, effectively, an idiot.

This topic is difficult enough for me that I began this post three weeks ago, only to hit a wall, unable to wrap it up. Rather than judge that, what if I apply awareness here? One interpretation could be that I did not work hard enough or I was inefficient with my time. What else might be true? Perhaps the ideas needed to incubate a while. Perhaps other ideas bubbling to the surface in the meantime needed expression. Maybe this delay has brought this piece to light at a perfect moment for someone else. Who knows? And what use is it to believe in some fault, some irreparable weakness in me, about it?

What cruel stories do you spin about yourself? Can you imagine a different possibility? How will you respond to your thoughts with a new, kinder story?



Posted in armchair psychology

Permission to Feel Bad

Some days are better than others. All days are not the same. It is physically impossible for all days to be. If we buy in to certain cultural messages we can easily slide into judgment of these different days, and it’s a mere breath of thought away from a judgment of ourselves: this good day means I did it right, let me try to repeat that (which is impossible); this bad day means I did something wrong, what can I do to avoid this in the future?

I don’t mean to say that we should never use discernment. Sometimes it is simple like that, as in, I ate some crappy food and consequently felt ill, I think I’ll resist that next time. And I also don’t mean to say we aren’t responsible for our own actions: if a person drives drunk, no one did it but him/her, and that needs to be owned. But frequently some days are just “off.” We can’t ever put our finger on any particular why or how. Maybe we catch a cold, maybe we wake up in a funk or have a difficult night’s sleep. Some days just feel wrong. We cannot begin to feel better if we are striving to resist admitting we feel bad in the first place.

I see this as a major failing in the self-help and New Age movements. A lot of talk gets spouted (and a lot of books sold, a lot of seats in workshops filled) with the promise of feeling great NOW and ALL THE TIME, and while that’s just dandy, the shadow side of this is that we can feel like we’re “doing it wrong” when we don’t feel great. “Be extraordinary!” quickly turns into “I am nothing when I am not extremely successful.” The nineteen-year-old who recently shot six people at a Fed Ex facility before killing himself is reported to have said, “A life lived in infamy is better than being a nobody.” Sometimes we just have to sit with our less-than-stellar feelings. Sometimes we may be bored or irritated with some aspect or aspects of our lives. We may be depressed or anxious. We can use these feelings to guide us toward something better, to learn something about ourselves, or to heal, but judging ourselves for having these feelings just adds to our pain. Running from these feelings or trying to escape them can have dire consequences. Or, as I have learned from Lynne Forrest, when we argue with Reality, we always lose.

What feelings are the most difficult for you? How can you strengthen your ability to sit with those feelings as an observer, without running away?