DRUNKTODDLER

I’m afraid of abandonment. I’m not talkin’ like a little fear either. Most people are afraid to be left, or at the very least they don’t like it, but this shit for me, is the biggest fear I have. To be honest, I wish I had another biggest fear. I wish I was terrified of snakes or heights or…pretty much anything other than abandonment.

 
You know when you’ve had too much to drink (like wayyy too much) and you slur your speech, say things you seriously don’t mean and won’t remember later? Maybe you throw a fit, maybe you get kicked out of a bar?

 
You know when a toddler doesn’t get their way and they lose their minds, ransack your home, scream indecipherables, and basically go ape-shit?

 
That drunktoddler combo is pretty much the reaction I have when I feel like I’m going to be abandoned.

 
This fear makes it hard for me to trust people and to be completely vulnerable with people and to let go and to oh, I don’t know, act like even a remotely healthy human being at the end of a relationship.

 
You see, fear of abandonment might seem like a fear that only pops up when someone physically leaves you, but that’s not so. It’s one of those awesome (thumbs up!) fears that permeates your life, because it dictates the way you interact with all people. As an extrovert, who is both fascinated and enamored by humans, this is a really, really big pain in my ass. It has taken a lot of determination to tryyyy not to surrender to the gnawing fear inside me that repeats things like:

 
“Don’t trust them.”
“Don’t let them all the way in.”
“You take the dominant position. If you’re in control, you’ll be less likely to get hurt.”
“If they see all of you, they won’t get you, and they’ll leave, so protect yourself.”

 
Sadly, these repetitions weave themselves into a cloak that too often covers the softhearted, gregarious, beautiful woman I really am. To be fair to myself though, that cloak can’t hide all of her. The heart is magical and persistent so despite this fear, I have figured out how to have deep, meaningful, and even vulnerable relationships with many people.

 
Here’s the deal though: this fear isn’t who I am. That’s really important for me to say. It’s also really important for you to hear. Your biggest fear isn’t who you are either. We are not our fears. We are so much more than that. And I am disclosing this with you today, so that you know you are not alone, that it’s OK to be afraid, and that there is strength in vulnerability and honesty.

 
Our society generally does not define strength correctly. Strength is not force and control. Strength is being yourself in a world that makes it far too hard to do so. Strength is showing your weaknesses and getting back up and trying again. Strength is being empathetic to others when they are hurting or lashing out with hatred. Strength is forgiveness, of ourselves most importantly. Strength is learning to accept yourself and love yourself despite your fears, despite what you think are flaws.

 
Not loving and accepting myself exactly as I am is what is at the core of my fear of abandonment and what is at the core of most of our greatest fears. I’m afraid people will abandon me because somewhere I fear I am unlovable. That doesn’t mean that I hate or despise myself. There are many qualities I love about me, but there is often this nagging backbeat of “I’m not good enough.” I’m prettttttty sure I am not alone on this one. (I think we have an epidemic happening)

 
We each have our stories to validate our I’mnotgoodenoughs and all of them should be torched. Seriously, buhbye. Time to tell a new story.

 
I’mnotgoodenoughland can cause emotional hurt that cuts your insides up like a paring knife to a napkin, but when it eases up, there is a sacred love that arises within. And it inspires us to somehow help alleviate that pain for someone else. The best way I know how to do that is to honestly share my story and transmute heartache into pep talk.

 
When we speak our truth about our fears, we deflate them. When we hear others share their fears, it reminds us that we are all in this together. It reminds us that as a team, we can support one another to not only face what scares us most, but to also learn to love ourselves unabashedly, unconditionally, like a mother to her child.

 
We cannot love others the right way until we love ourselves. And we cannot love ourselves until we are honest with ourselves about our fears. When we name our fears, we begin the process of taming them. Notice how I didn’t say deleting them. That’s the trick. The fears are probably not going to go away. We cannot eradicate them, but we can sure as hell befriend the shit out of them. We can look that motherfucker I’mnotgoodenough in the eye and politely be like, “wanna come over for dinner?” We can treat what we think are defects like badges of honor instead. Because if we ever want to move beyond the pain that’s manifested from our fears, we have to learn to love ourselves where we are now. To move beyond drunktoddler, I gotta love drunktoddler.

 
Love. Duh. It was always it. It will always be it. And that love has gotta start from within. What I have learned is that you do not have to wait until you have this and this and this and this done before you are worthy of love. You do not have to hide yourself away or protect your heart so fiercely. You do not have to be embarrassed about your fears. And even if you are, you are still fucking worthy of love, right now. I don’t care what you did, who you did it to, how you said it, whatever you’re beating yourself up about, who did what to you that makes you think you’re a crappy human…

 
You are worthy of love right now.
I am worthy of love right now.
Forever. Always. It’s our fucking birthright.

 
Obviously I am still learning how to love myself. I am still learning how to become a whole, empowered, integrated person so that I don’t turn into a drunktoddler when people exit my life. I didn’t figure out all of that just now, but I am going to and you are going to work out your fears as well. (Hopefully not the drunktoddler part, unless that pertains to you too…in which case, call me? We need to discuss!)

 
My mom always says, “We teach best at the apex of our own learning.” I think that’s true. The best teachers are the ones that are IN IT or, as Theodore Roosevelt put it, “in the arena”. They’re all bloody and bashed up and maybe not even that interesting to listen to, or watch, but man…are they brave. I strive to be that brave and I will dedicate my life’s work to encouraging that bravery in others and being a voice (even if it shakes in fear) in the name of raw self-love.

 
So, be raw. Own your mess. Share your fears. Or talk directly to your fears. Or invite your fears over for a cookie. And when they get the best of you? Trust me, you are STILL worthy of love. And I promise you, you’re not alone. Even when you feel like you’re the only one in the eye of the shit storm, the truth is: you’re never alone.

 
You’re the bomb.com – I’m the bomb.com
THE END.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisement

LOVE IS SPACE

“But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides.” – Artur Schnabel

Some of the best relationship advice I have ever read came from one of Eckhart Tolle’s email newsletters. He said that if we want to check and see how our relationship is doing we can ask two simple questions: 

1.     Is there space in this relationship? 

2.     Are there only thoughts and emotions?

He went on to say:

“Access the stillness in yourself while you look at your lover. Together, you are still. Be spacious together.” 

I love that. “Be spacious together.”

We live in a world that doesn’t give much attention to space. For many, the concept of having a spacious relationship feels unreachable or confusing. In a culture that is so addicted to doing, this idea seems almost absurd. Doing requires thinking, moving, processing and emotional bandwidth. It requires a space to fill. In other words: when we are always doing, we are always filling  space. What would happen if we just allowed space to be…space?

Stillness is the source of unconditional love. Silence (space, stillness) cannot be divided; it cannot be separated. It is the universal thread that connects all beings. (The magic comes from the pauses between the notes, not the notes themselves.)

We often try to keep ourselves busy, both externally and internally so we do not have to experience the intrinsic spaciousness of who we are. We are afraid to see and feel ourselves without “what we do” and “what we think” because we don’t want to lose our individual identity. So we create stories and dramas around those identities. Our media reflects this process.

The current human “love story” is often just a tale of two people using one another as one more “thing” to hide behind or use as an outlet for projecting emotional baggage. Much of what we see in TV and movies is a very shallow kind of love, even if it is shown as a deep and intense bond. That bond would usually be better defined as an obsession or infatuation, not a spacious, unconditional love.

We also frequently begin relationships because we feel lonely, confused, or scared that we won’t find anyone else. This causes an uncomfortable kind of settling which in turn can cause us to lose sight of our inner purpose. When we lose sight of that inner purpose, tensions and resentments build between us. 

The funny thing is that the more we practice feeling stillness within, the more likely we are to choose a compatible partner. That’s because the choice comes from a higher place of awareness; it comes from that inexplicable place of unconditional love. 

When we honestly, quietly focus on ourselves and listen to our inner conflicts, dreams, and body-happenings, we organically begin to attract spacious, authentic love. We literally create space for a supremely-awesome-kind-of-love to come over and visit.

Love is not doing.
Love is not craving.
Love is space. 

Song of the day (from Deval Premal’s album – “Love is Space”):

EMPATHY, ECSTASY, & YOUR FREAKFLAG

to-be-yourself-in-a-world-ralph-waldo-emerson

EMPATHY
When I was in high school, I drank and did a lot of drugs to try to hide my extremely empathic nature.
I learned how to have a front.
And I learned how to favor my mind over my heart.
And ultimately, I learned how to suppress my true self.

I wasn’t always successful at hiding my freak flag though. All you had to do was hang out with me a few times, and you’d see how bizarre I was. So, I made it a point to not hang out with people for too long. In middle school, one of the jokes about me was that I “changed my friends like I changed my socks”. This was hurtful for me to hear, but it was true that I ran through friends quite quickly. The tactic was, that if nobody could really get to know me, then I would be safe. That tactic was laden with perfect portions of the class-clown-archetype and often totally abrupt oscillations between feeling like a worthless-piece-of-shit and an ingenious-golden-god. That’s the problem with shuffling too many identities; after a while, you can’t find yourself anymore, and the truth is, that can make you feel crazy.

I was very young the first time I felt the pangs of abandonment and judgment for being “different”. I was a spiritual child; interested in talking with trees and rocks and myself. I loved music, but not always what was popular on the radio (Tchaikovsky was my main jam at like age 8). I always wanted to talk about the world and all the strange details of everything, with special emphasis on verbalizing feelings (I found out later, that this would become wildly unpopular with most people). I was super deep, intensely curious, and keep-you-up-at-night obsessed with people and their stories. Perhaps as an introvert, I would’ve fared better, but people have always been my greatest love affair and my most challenging obstacle. Any extroverted empath understands this struggle. And among other things, that is what I am…an empath.

This is first time I have been vulnerable, aware, and brave enough in my life to publicly share this (and more importantly, own this) core aspect of who I am.

**For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “empath”:

An empath is a person with a paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state(s) of another person. There are different kinds of empaths, all with varying levels of skill, but my basic explanation goes like this:

Imagine your body is a house. An empath is born in a house that is made entirely of windows. Even the roof is a window, and those windows, are almost always open. They are open to all of the zillions of emotions flying around the world. Whereas non-empath-people have a better ability at opening and closing the few windows of their homes (that are presumably made of wood, or brick or something more protective than a god-damned window), an empath has to work very diligently at somehow dodging the uninvited shitstorms waiting outside. We have to persistently learn the appropriate emotional regulation necessary to navigate our very sensitive and fragile homes.

This ability causes us to accidentally absorb an abnormal range of emotions. You know you are an empath if you cannot function in this world without maintaining a unique, consistent practice(s) that keeps a hold on your abilities. All “out” empaths (and many other clairsentients, clairvoyants, and clairaudients) understand that the alternative to that maintenance is grim. It is much easier to feel constant hatred within the self when all of the self-hatreds in the room have full reign of our personal homes.

That being said, my biggest issue was (and is) that I could feel very deeply the people around me, the objects in my environment (clairsentience), and the emotional vibrations in people’s words and body language (hence the dire need for a front). My M.O. thought loop went something like this:

I’m not OK, so I need to find someone out there who is OK, and act just like them. Then, and only then, will I be OK.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon issue in our world. In fact, self-hatred/denial has actually become an epidemic that manifests in a plethora of horrible-terrible-awfuls.

ECSTASY
It can be an exhausting job covering up one’s true self all the time, so as a teenager, my favorite drug quickly became ecstasy (AKA MDMA or molly), the love drug.

Rolling on molly equaled such a safe space for me; a space for me to let my heart out, in all it’s glory and not give a shit. This was exceptionally freeing in the high school world of gossip and backstabbing. High school is like one of those survival reality TV shows; not only is it every human for herself, but it is also a public display of things you really wanted to remain private, so the self-actualization needed for giving and receiving love is not terribly common.

Let me be really clear: I am in no way condoning drug usage, but the truth is, some of my favorite memories of high school are from my experiences on ecstasy. Once, I left my friends and stood in the bathroom at a club and talked with the girls who were coming in and out. They all picked themselves apart, focusing on how ugly they looked. I genuinely ensured them all that they were beautiful and fantastic. I listened to them. I hugged them. I connected with them. I can remember the feeling of my intention while I was doing it. The MDMA had taken away all of my inhibitions, and without them, I was a powerful beating heart that desperately wanted to be shared with others. On molly, I wasn’t afraid to use my empathic abilities for good.

That night, I was there to give love and mini pep-talks to dozens of girls who all mistakenly thought they looked like shit. There wasn’t the awkward push and pull that is so present when we want to be ourselves but feel too afraid. That’s the paradox: when we embrace who we are, exactly as we are, we become beautiful beacons of light; we become magnets that people flock to…because somewhere, everyone has the deep desire to be beautifully themselves. And when we see someone like that in our external world, it is almost intoxicatingly pretty.

I still struggle with my “window” situation, but I have heard from empaths/other psychically gifted people I have now connected with (a healing endeavor in itself), that the goal is not to shield the heart. We are not to board up the windowed walls of our homes. Instead, we are to to leave them wide open and learn how to allow emotional energy to pass right through, like a soft breeze. Empaths are intrinsically wired to feel people, to the extent that we become unified with them in a state of love and forgiveness, without absorbing their energies. (You know, like, ya’ll can come over for a little…but cha can’t live here.)

THE FREAKFLAG
So, whether you are an empath, or you like to participate in live-action-role-play (LARP), or you love dancing naked in your living room to Dolly Parton’s greatest hits, or you like to wear mismatched socks to work, or you want to transition from one gender to another, or even though you went to years of school to be a doctor, you truly wish to live alone in an igloo at the North Pole, or you think you just might have something to say/offer this world, but you’re completely chicken-shit to do so, here’s my advice:

Please just fucking do it. Because what we need in this world, is people being who they really are…even if it hurts; even if we feel like total weirdos; even if we get rejected, (and believe me, we will). And you’re gonna suck at being yourself when you first start. It’s awkward. It’s new. It’s vulnerable. Because shedding our fronts is scary. But it sure beats that other life we were gonna live instead.

I shared some of my truth with you today, with the hope that this disclosure might inspire even just one other person to contemplate the uncomfortable process of what I like to call: freakflagging.

We all suffer at least a little inside because of our fears of being seen, and feeling heard, just exactly the way we are. And that’s too bad, because you, exactly the way you are, are an absolutely exquisite, unprecedented, badass, fucking miracle.

For the first time in my life, I am starting to believe this about myself and all I want to do is encourage others to believe it too.

Here’s to the mad ones; to the ones brave enough to slough off the layers and find their true selves; to the freakflaggers.
Let’s do this.
Let’s do this together.
Let’s do whatever it takes to embrace the extraordinary freak that lives inside us all.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Robert Thurman

#freakflaggersunite

 

Song of the day: 
https://www.youtube.com/watchv=3j4I0PqNzKE

GAYMOM

When I was 13, my mom unexpectedly told me she was gay. This did not go over so well; not for me, my 8 year old brother, or her husband at the time, but I can’t speak for my little brother or ex-step-dad. I can only speak for myself…

It was 1999 (or 1998, I’m not great with years). I was confused and already brainwashed by the status-quo-societal-blahblah to think that being gay was an absolute abomination or, more importantly, to my 13 year old brain, totally not cool. Also, even though I was far, far away from being able to articulate it, I was pretty bajiggity inside about my own sexual orientation.

At the time, it was impossible for me to even remotely acknowledge my own “gayness”, however, I was capable of relaying the hatred we can feel toward ourselves (and others) when we are ignorant and afraid. So I did that. I told my mom that I hated her and like a perfect 13 year old American girl, I wondered aloud (dramatically through sobs), “how could you do this to me?!”. After I wore that tape out (along with an array of other choice ones), I begged her to permit me to move in with my not-at-all-gay-friendly, extended family (AKA my moms parents and siblings).

Heartbroken about, I’m sure, a zillion things, she reluctantly allowed me to leave. I moved across the country to a new school and a new home, occupied with people who thought my mom had made an unacceptable and disgusting “choice”. And I agreed with them.

Being 13 sucks anyway, so that year was a real doozy for me. My brain could not compute all of the information coming in and handle new school/friends/life. After a couple months of living with my “new family”, I realized that maybe my mom wasn’t such a weirdo after all. Spending time away from her forced me reevaluate my opinions. Was it necessary to shame someone for who they loved? Could it be OK to be gay? No…well, maybe? Wasn’t my mom my best friend? No…well, maybe?

The situation gave room for a lot of these WTF?!-thinking-loops and a colossal amount of alone time listening to sad music. Eventually, after too much of all of that, I decided I needed to move back in with my gaymom and her new girlfriend even if I didn’t really understand much of what was happening. There was a moment when my heart told me that my mom was not “the bad guy” and she was who I needed to be with.

I wish I could say that it was uncomplicated from then on out, but it wasn’t; at least not right away. My mom’s first girlfriend was not always the easiest person for me to get along with (OK…understatement) and there was a lot of other mess to clean up. But that’s not at all what this little story is about. This story is about accepting ourselves and those who are different from us; it’s about the ability we have to expand our minds and open our hearts. My mom taught me that being gay doesn’t mean you are evil, or wrong, or embarrassing, or unlovable. She taught me to be accepting of others and most importantly, she taught me the value of being true to yourself. It took a lot of courage to tell me and her entirely unsupportive family that she was gay.

My mom stood up and chose to be the black sheep of her family in order to live an honest life.

Many may think that what she went through wasn’t worth all the stress and heartache. They might think that causing such pain and sadness for your 13 year old daughter and 8 year old son wouldn’t be worth it. They might think that the possibility of losing your husband or almost all contact with your family wouldn’t be worth it.

Like I said, I can’t speak for all involved, but I am the 13 year old daughter who endured pieces of the pain, confusion, and heartache of that decision made 15 years ago. And I have watched my mom grow and thrive since then. So I can confidently say that it is always worth it to fight for who you are, even if it’s awful timing and it causes a total ruckus. It may have looked like the most selfish thing in the world for my mom to speak her truth to my 13 year old self, but to my 28 year old self, it looks to me, like an act of sheer bravery. It can be almost impossibly difficult to live a truly authentic life and I am proud and grateful to have witnessed such an amazing act of courage.

Here’s to standing up and being who we are, even if the road is uncharted, long and super-duper-bumpy.

Thanks mom.

Song of the day:

CRAPTASTIC THINKING LOOPS

I have read that the average person thinks about 60,000 thoughts per day and the majority of them are the same thoughts over and over again. It’s not impossible to check if this is true or not. To do so, you have to act like a scientist and constantly observe what you are thinking. Yeah. Right.

It would be quite a feat to have the discipline to count every-single-thought, but what we can do, is observe enough to at least record reoccurring patterns. I recommend trying this, but I have to say: It’s some crazy shit and almost hilariously difficult. When we actively face our internal dialogue (monologue-whatever), the rules completely change. It’s a whole new world, and not in the cute Aladdin/Jasmine way. No. More like the scary Madhatter/AliceInWonderland way. If you know what I mean.

In this new world, I guarantee you will find a bunch of what I like to call craptastic-thinking-loops. These are not happy discoveries. These are the cyclical thought patterns we have that generally make us feel anxious, lonely, worthless, hateful, violent, nervous, and/or depressed. You may be familiar with them to some extent. I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t have at least a bucket-full of these stupid loops.

It seems to be pretty common knowledge now that what we think about directly affects how our bodies respond. This of course absolutely includes our emotion regulation. Guatama Buddha once said,

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” 

So, if we think roughly 60,000 thoughts per day and the majority of them are these craptastic-thinking-loops, can you imagine how that is making us feel? And how that is affecting what we attract into our lives? How is it that we unconsciously spend so much of our time thinking the same bullshit on repeat? This human behavior is almost unbearably fascinating, but also just plain maddening.

Annnnd…the million dollar question is: 

How do we tackle/address/delete craptastic-thinking-loops?

The short answer: I don’t entirely know. I mean, I am still learning. #lifelongpractice

The long answer: One way is what some people call state changing, or what I like to call “busting up” patterns.

A huge part of the problem is we become unconsciously addicted to the thought patterns that we have. So, “pattern busting” is basically just interrupting a pattern (or loop) of thought before it can emotionally take us over. If we do this repeatedly, we can actually re-route our emotional responses.

Here are two personal examples:

1. One time I was out to dinner with my girlfriend and I felt myself heading into a craptastic-loop of anxiety and stress. At the time, I was just learning about busting patterns, and like a complete crazy person, I decided to abruptly throw my silverware onto the floor. I know this sounds absurd, and it kind of was at the time, but the act confused my brain. I busted up the craptastic-loop and in that moment, (even though I startled my girlfriend) I broke the pattern. It was worth it. My brain couldn’t continue on it’s habitual trajectory because I shocked it into a new one.

2. Years ago, I was co-running a teeny-tiny publishing company with my best friend. We used bicker quite a bit and one afternoon we got into an exceptionally emotional verbal-battle. It had happened. We were stuck in a carefully-crafted, monumental, craptastic-loop and there was no end in sight. Suddenly, I grabbed a full cup of water from my desk and dumped it all over his head. He was angry for a moment and then there was a pause and then we began to laugh. The water was such a shocking behavior that it busted up the loop. We tricked our brains. The fight ended. We moved on.

We can literally do this all the time and it doesn’t always have to be such a dramatic display. These are just memorable examples from my life. You can also pinch yourself, yell, go dancing, turn up some good music, go for a walk, jump in a lake, make up a new language, do 30 jumping jacks…the sky’s the limit. The more far-fetched the act, the higher the probability of complete interruption. That’s the trick; whatever the action, it must be shocking. If it isn’t shocking, the old pattern will win and you’ll just keep on miserably trucking through the bullshitty loop.

As far as I know (and that’s not a lot), this is a neuron thing. Scientists and physicists often say “neurons that fire together, wire together” which means that if we think the same thing over and over again, an actual real-life relationship is created in our brains (ie. a loop). This is why people sometimes have intense emotional reactions to seemingly ordinary experiences. The neurons in their brains have fired together so many times that they are now wired together and the connection (and addiction) is so strong, that they cannot help themselves from acting on it.

The more our minds react emotionally, the thicker the neurological pathways can get. The good news is: the neurons work both ways; neurons that don’t fire together, don’t wire together. That means if we stop our craptastic-thinking-loops by shocking them out of their conditioned groove, the neurological pathways are able to break apart. (I feel like this is an appropriate place to yell, Eureka!)

The coolest thing about this is that it is for-real-possible to re-wire our brain’s neurons. I mean come on. That is badass. Think about it. What could be more powerful than having the ability to re-route our neural pathways? What could be more gratifying than having control over our thoughts (and therefore, emotional responses)? Pretty much every sage, guru, and spiritual teacher of our time has said (in one way or another) that taming the mind is absolutely necessary for our sustained joy and wellbeing.

Now, I am naive. For sure. However, I am not so naive that I believe simply dumping water on your friends heads and throwing around your silverware are the keys to enlightenment. But the world is kind of a hot mess right now, so I’m pretty much interested in every tool available for discovering and further developing the self. Because that’s how we change the world. No matter what way we spin it, the truth is, it’s all an inside job.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi

Song of the day: 

JURY GIRL

A few years ago on St. Patty’s Day, I got arrestedTwo officers asked me to get out of the car and put my hands on the trunk. My friend got out of the passenger side to see what was up and one of the cops pulled a gun on him and demanded that he get back in my car and to drive it away from the scene after I was cuffed.

I was totally freaked out. My brain was frantically searching to find something that I had done wrong, but it kept coming up blank. I was completely sober. I had paid all my parking tickets. My inspection sticker was current. What could it be?

I asked. They told me they didn’t know. I wasn’t read my rights. Instead, I was yelled at and shoved into the back of a police car with zero explanation.

They drove me to a station where I was handcuffed to a table in a small room. I was left alone and told that all of my movements would be recorded on camera. Over 2 hours passed before another officer came in and un-cuffed me. I tried again to demand answers. In response, he too yelled at me and made it clear that it was best to keep my mouth shut. Not gonna lie…I cried. All I got before I was put into the backseat of another cop car was that my arrest “might have something to do with jury duty”.

“Where am I going?” I asked. 

“Prison.”

Prison? Seriously? WTF?

I kept asking why I was being sent to prison and in response, I was loudly and repeatedly told to “shut the fuck up”. Every time I asked a question it was an opportunity for the guards to call me a name; to intimidate me into shrinking back; to intentionally try to make me feel worthless. They were not only unbelievably rude and aggressive, but also scary.

It didn’t matter that I hadn’t done anything wrong. It didn’t matter that I was a person.

After more waiting, I was taken into a tiny, closed-off room. A woman came in and told me to strip naked. I desperately refused. I already felt so violated. My nervous system couldn’t handle it.  She left me for a moment, and returned with company.

Not good. A big dude quickly moved in about an inch away from my face and screamed at me to take all of my clothes off immediately or “he would take them off himself.” So, I stripped. The lady touched my whole, naked body and afterward I was given a jumpsuit, shoes, a tiny pencil, and a postcard with a pineapple printed on it.

Somewhere in there, I was brought to a room where my photo was taken and my fingers and palms were dipped in ink and documented. I remember wondering why it was necessary to have my whole handprint. (Are fingerprints not enough anymore?) My picture was awful. I felt so ugly and worthless, my face red and swollen from tears.

Finally, I was taken to what is referred to as “the hole” which is just an area of small, single cells where prisoners are taken when they act up or need to be separated from the larger prison community. Just as the guards walked away, the woman in the neighboring cell, who I couldn’t see, started asking me questions. Through sobs, I told her my story. She decided my name was “Jury Girl” and that I needed to get a girlfriend ASAPThis made me cry more.

I was so tense and confused that sleep was not an option. My body couldn’t relax. So, I laid there feeling sorry for myself, intermittently crying, and pathetically writing on the pineapple postcard. Eventually I got a phone call and called my mom.

My parents shelled out all of their savings to hire a lawyer who could expunge my record and get me the hell outta there. (I was told that if I hadn’t been helped that I could have been in there for a month or more!) I never met the lawyer. All I know is he told my mom that I had been sent a letter to serve Jury Duty, but it was sent to my previous address and because I didn’t respond, I was arrested.

The next evening, right after they told me I was moving into a new cell with a cell-mate (AKA time to get a girlfriend, like now), I was released. Phew. As I checked out, the man behind the counter looked me up and down. His face softened and he looked exhausted and apologetic all at once.

“That’s all you were in here for?”

I nodded.

“I’m sorry kid.”

Now, there is a lot to learn from a situation like this. I sure had one hell of a time processing it. The most obvious lesson is that injustice is real. In these circumstances, those who I thought were there to protect me, made me feel unsafe and ashamed. There is absolutely no reason for me to go to county prison for not responding to a Jury Duty letter, even if I was aware that I received that letter.

Wasn’t there a way to, I don’t know, pick up a phone and call me to remind me that I was scheduled to serve? Or do a minute of research in the system to find out that I had moved and send me a new letter? Or hell, if they were too busy to do all that, couldn’t they have just figured out a way to fine me? And even if there was a bench warrant out for my arrest, couldn’t they have just kept me overnight at the station instead of prison?

It makes you think about all the people who get treated like shit, who don’t have the parents or privileges I do. What I experienced was an absolutely uncalled for and inappropriate control tactic. What I experienced was injustice, but only the tiniest sliver compared to what so many others have endured.

There is another lesson though, and it’s one that I find more compelling…

I completely allowed a shit situation make me feel like shit. I let them devalue me and in turn, I began to aggressively devalue myself. I absorbed the shame they spewed at me.

If I was arrested in the same way today, I would act differently. I would not cower down like a beaten puppy. I would not let them define who I am.

People cannot take our power away unless we give them permission to do so. Which I totally did in this situation

I had no choice when it came to force. There was nothing I could do about being handcuffed to a table for hours or being berated and yelled at or having to strip naked. All that was forced onto me.

What I could have had control over was my inner power; my ability to hold onto my heart, my self-esteem, and my dignity in times of external stress. That power is impenetrable and beats sheer force, every.time.

Straight up, even though I learned from this experience, I still give away my power in small ways quite often. It’s something we do so frequently, so unconsciously, as a species. Anytime we allow someone or something to define who we are, to make us feel small, or stupid, or ugly, or worthless, or not enough, we have given away our power again.

But we can practice. Everyday, I try to remind myself that I am everything in the whole world. I am the most beautiful, spacious, creative, unstoppable, endlessly-kind, badass me, there ever has been. And so are you. The more we train ourselves to remember this Truth,  and to maintain our spiritual center, the more strength we gain. Not like bulky biceps strength, but deep, deep soul strength; an internal confidence that is unwavering, no matter what kind of hatred is thrown our way.

The truth is:

The body can be beaten and berated and attacked by all the world’s injustices

But the spirit simply cannot be broken. 

Song of the day: 

KARMAYOGI

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Gandhi

A few years ago, I went to India, alone, in search of my “true self”. This was possibly (no, definitely) not the smartest idea I have ever had. It was a 2 month spiritual adventure/epic, emotional disaster. I did not have an easy trip, but I did have some unbelievable experiences that I will never forget, and honestly, now I would love to go back.

A spiritual trek through India wouldn’t be complete without spending time with a guru, right? But how to find one? Well that’s the funny thing about India. I’m just gonna say it, the place is magic. I mean for real, for real. People there say that the true guru is the country itself, and when you arrive in India, the hectic egoic unraveling begins (with or without your consent). And trust me, that is an almost entirely agonizing process, but gurus always know what you need and deliver, matter-of-factly, even if (especially if) you are not ready.

The delivery:

I met a girl named Kat in a cafe who just so happened to magically be from Delaware. She said she was on some kind of wild-goose-chase to find a guru. Perfect. So, I stopped what I was doing (which was trying to figure out my ass from my forehead, nbd) and followed her on billion-hour bus rides to the strange land of Rishikesh (AKA a good place to find gurus).

Rishikesh itself was jaw-droppingly unfamiliar. The streets were lined with gurus and swamis with long, knotted hair and orange or white one-piece garments. These men do not have jobs or posessions and it is culturally acceptable and appropriate for them to receive their food from street vendors or passersby because it is considered noble to choose the spiritual path. It is said to be one of the most spiritually charged places in the world.

Once there, we spent a whole day wandering the dirt streets asking random people where to find this elusive teacher. Finally, just when it felt like a lost cause, we found a little man selling hand-woven gloves in what I thought was actually the outskirts of the real middle-of-nowhere. But somehow, this man knew how to get to the guru’s ashram. Success

When we entered the gates of the old ashram, the guru walked slowly to us and looked us up and down. He told Kat that she must come in – it was her karma, but he just stared at me, which of course, made me feel very uncomfortable and confused. After a long pause, he said something like, “She can come too. She is here for another reason.”

Now this guy freaked me out big time and even though Kat was down for meeting with him, I really wasn’t terribly fond of Swamiji (what he asked us to call him) at the time. He seemed very powerful and I felt like he could see right through me/read my mind/turn me into a pumpkin or something. Not to mention, while him and Kat would run off into the sunset, and do yoga and meditate and all these other wonderful guru-ish things, I would have to clean the ashram and organize his belongings for him. I mean, I guess I didn’t have to, but I did go to India to learn from spiritual teachers, so I reluctantly followed his orders.

Every day I was with him, I was instructed to clean. And every day I bitched about cleaning under my breath. I felt jealous and annoyed. I childishly wondered why I had to clean while Kat got to do all the cool stuff? I felt like he was just using me as a temporary cleaning lady, but I kept coming back. Something got me there everyday, even though I had so much resistance to the entire experience. I knew I needed to be there. I mean the man literally lived in a cave in the jungles of Rishikesh, only wearing a loin cloth, for something like 13 years. He was the real deal. I wasn’t going anywhere. No matter how un-fun things got.

Not only did I clean all the time, but Swamiji  was also kind of hard on me. He called me out a lot and at the time, I didn’t know that was the way gurus worked. They push you. They are tricky and sometimes very harsh teachers. Once he told me not to speak the whole day and then took us to a friends house to eat. The experience was so frustrating because these wonderful people made us such a nice meal and I felt like I couldn’t speak a word to them – not even a ‘thank you’. However, Swamiji was proud of me for keeping quiet and for some strange reason, I liked that he was proud of me, even though I feared him.

It wasn’t until later that I understood what he was doing to me. He was challenging me, humbling me, and cutting my ego, which was much bigger and more protective of itself than I thought. Each student gets exactly what they need. He was so literal about the idea of cutting the ego that in one of the last conversations we had, he actually pulled out a knife to show me that my mind needed to be sliced.

Over time I found out that Swamiji wanted me to learn to be what is called a Karmayogi, which is one who serves people from the heart. Karmayogis do all services without bitching, complaining, judging, or bringing attention to themselves. They are to remain humble and focused on the act of service. I know this sounds simple but we (especially Westerners) often automatically corrupt the initial, innocent act of selfless service in pursuit of (usually unconscious) egoic pleasures.

I still bitch, complain, and judge sometimes when I have to do things I don’t want to do, but now when I do, I have an awareness of it and I often think of Swamiji. That awareness eventually snaps me out of it, helps me cut my ego faster, and remember my very deep and real desire to be a Karmayogi.

Swamji taught me how controlling my mind can be. He taught me how it never wants to be told what to do and how it misuses it’s power by getting stuck in cycles of aggression and passivity internally and externally. He taught me that we must learn to control our minds so that we can use them for the greater good.

I remember coming home and thinking that I didn’t want to be controlled by my ego anymore. It was a glimpse of awakening.

I wanted to become a Karmayogi. I still do. Because the core state of a Karmayogi is pure, unconditional love, for all beings. Karmayogis are the ultimate friends of the world.

They infuse all of their projects and tasks with the breath of love and dedicate their lives to heartfelt service. They forever work with, and for the people.

I am so not there, but I heard it’s good to have big dreams. For now, I will just be a Wannabe-Karmayogi.

#karmayogirevolution

Song of the day: 

FORGIVENESS IS UNDERRATED

“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.” – Indira Gandhi

Once, at a silent meditation course, I was told a story about a very violent and hateful man who traveled from city to city just to murder people. He was so gratuitous that he would take off a body part (I think it was a finger) from each victim (of which there were thousands) and fasten it to a rope that he wore around his neck. One day, Guatama Buddha came to this man because he realized he needed spiritual guidance and love. The light of consciousness (pure love) was so strong in Guatama, that the murderer did not act out violently toward him. Instead, he felt compelled to learn what Guatama knew, and so he became a student of Vipassana meditation.

During his practice in Vipassana, he went through an intense purification process, which  allowed him to face his internal hatred and eventually forgive himself. After much practice, he became a fully liberated man who emanated pure peace, tranquility, and love. However, when he entered back out into the world, most people remembered him as the murderer who collected fingers. He was spit on, stoned, and beaten many times, but all the while, he maintained his state of peace.

Because he was so full of love, more and more people eventually forgave him and asked him to teach them what he had learned. He knew there was nothing he could do about his past. He did not shame himself for his previous actions because the energy of shame would not allow him to maintain a feeling of peace.The best he could do for the families of those he had murdered was remain in a state of liberation and share with them his pure unconditional love (oh and I guess teach them how to meditate). And that is what he did with the rest of his life.

At the end of another meditation course, we watched a documentary called “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana” that proved that forgiveness at this level can actually happen. Goenka (one of the main teachers of Vipassana) went to  prisons and organized 10day, silent meditation courses for the inmates. It was unbelievable to see hardened criminals and murderers crying in Goenka’s arms at the end of the course. But what was more unbelievable was this: Because of the intense meditation practice, one inmate actually became friends with the family of the person that he murdered. That’s some serious forgiveness! It was deeply moving to witness on screen.

These stories have stayed with me and made me realize: 

All human beings are essentially good and it is a sickness of the mind that makes us violent and hateful toward ourselves and others. This sickness can be eradicated, because it’s essential nature is non-reality. It’s not necessary (or productive for that matter) to shame ourselves relentlessly for the stupid, rude, hateful, embarrassing, and/or violent things we have done in our lives. Unfortunately, because of our current state of collective consciousness, that shit happens. The best, and most powerful action we can take after those awful moments, is go within, honestly face our own inner demons, and forgive.

The man who collected fingers had hatred within him that he had not addressed and so it manifested into external violence. We may not wear garlands of pinky fingers (well at least I don’t), but we all share this man’s same internal sickness to some degree. And the better we are at forgiving ourselves for our BS, the better we are at forgiving everyone else for theirs. Plus, it’s super humbling to admit our own hot messedness.

So, here’s to purification of the mind (or a consistent wisdom/awareness that we are already pure), and deep, deep forgiveness of the self so that we can remember, once again –  nothing matters but love.

Song of the day: 

STORY TIME

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” – Maya Angelou

Humans are storytellers. It is in our blood. It is who we are in this manifested form. And for wayyyyyy too long, we have been unconsciously allowing old, dated stories to run our lives. But we are in charge. We are the tellers of the stories. We don’t have to let stories tell us what to do. We can always re-write.

All of our beliefs are just stories. All of our habits. All of our societal structures. Advertising. Culture. Norms. Trends. You name it. All of our everything is just bundles of stories and we become physically and mentally addicted to them.  Stories are our mind’s way of creating a linear construct of what we perceive is happening in this reality. They help us to understand and they are extremely powerful, because they literally define our realities. We are defined not only by the stories we hear from other people or the media, but mostly by the incessant stories that live inside our heads. 

What you believe in your life is what is real for you. The average person thrives on the same detrimental stories all day, everyday, feeling powerless and victimized. Advertising companies use this fact to their benefit. That is why giant media conglomerates control so much of how our current world operates. Media basically creates the largest (like gargantuan), most complex, storytelling machine. We are told that we are no good without certain products, or certain jobs, or certain hair styles. We are told what to eat, how to dress, how to fit in. We are told that life is a rat race and we need to just accept how difficult and miserable it can be. We are told one thousand million other things, but the most detrimental story we are told is that we are powerless. 

We are taught that we do not have the creative genius to concoct our own beautiful lives. We are taught to forget our intrinsic artistic, playful, and communicative nature. We are taught that we are small, ignorant, inadequate and absolutely incapable of recreating ourselves again and again. These stories are just stories. But they are dangerously popular and we have given them too much power.

Let’s become detectives in our own lives and listen to the stories we tell ourselves. And take notes. And find patterns. And actively re-train ourselves to take back our power as unstoppable, infinitely creative, storytellers.

And if the old stories sneak back in, let’s just try to patiently work through them. Give em’ love and let em’ go. No matter how horrible or persistent they are. We have to remember: They are just stories and we are the storytellers. we choose the perspective, the focus, the angle, the character development…all of it.

WE decide. If we can learn to sanely navigate our own internal storylands, we.can.do.anything.  

At any point, we can stand up and literally change the direction of our lives. All we have to do is be brave enough to believe in ourselves. We are so much more expansive and powerful than our brains can currently comprehend.

Life is an experiment. We are supposed to do weird shit to learn lessons. I say go all-the-way-weird. Don’t hold back. What other people think of you is none of your fucking business anyway. You’re in charge of your life. You’re in charge of your story. Right now. New story. Go. 

I am a great creator.

You are great creator.

Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Song of the day: 

NOT THE HAMMER

“The central act of ignorance is false identification”- Patanjali

We live in a material-based, mind-dominated culture, where things, thoughts, and emotions are given an extremely high priority. We are so taken over by a false sense of reality that most of us can’t even sit alone quietly, without our minds cranking out a litany of cooky thought patterns.

Because most of us have no control over our minds (really, they control us), we get lost in them and become blind to the beauty of our world. Instead, we’ve given so much value to thoughts, they have actually completely taken us over. The mind is only a tool, but we have collectively (and individually) identified with it. Now we believe we are that tool, and act accordingly.

Imagine if you had a hammer and you loved it because it was a badass hammer (and obviously an important tool). And you kept giving it all of your attention and using it over and over and over and over again, until one day you actually believed you were the hammer. You got tunnel vision. You completely forgot about the big picture. Nothing mattered but hammering. Hammer. Hammer. Hammer. And now, where did you go? That is the insanity, and it is so prevalent in our species, that it is actually considered normal. Our madness has become commonplace. 

We have to remember (and constantly remind each other) that the mind is like a hammer. It’s just a tool. It does not define who we are. The most amazing-peaceful-happy people I have ever met all have the ability to control this tool. They all know the difference between themselves and the hammer and they train to differentiate between the two, multiple times a day. They actively re-train their minds. 

“You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” – Albert Einstein 

Einstein was right. We can’t become aware that we aren’t the hammer while we are completely identified with it. That old pattern has to be broken. We have to move beyond the mind to bring the light of awareness to this crazy-ass situation.

If you think this doesn’t pertain to you, perhaps you’d like to try this fun test I experiment with sometimes:

Turn your phone off. And your computer.

Find a completely quiet space and sit.

Don’t bring anything. Not your iPod. Not your Kindle. Not your journal.

No music. No books. No people. No noise. No nothing. Just you.

Just sit. 

Listen to your thoughts. Try to just watch them and focus on your breath.

See if you can glue your ass to the ground or the floor for 10 minutes and see what happens.

Make a pact. Tell yourself: I can’t get up until the 10 minutes are over. 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-Were you able to sit still?

Were you able to focus on your breath the entire time without getting interrupted by disjointed thoughts?

Did you feel in control of those thoughts?

Did you feel in control at all?

Were you mildly to intensely obsessed with thinking about all the shit you wish you were doing or should be doing?

This is happening all. day. long. 

Our thoughts and correlated emotional patterns run us over all. day. long.

And we have no idea it’s even happening! But think about it for a second, if we can sit and watch our thoughts, there must be something more than just all that mental noise, right?

Who’s doing the observing?

Well, I know this for certain:

It isn’t the hammer. 

Song of the day: