Sometimes I feel like Woody Allen lives inside my head: “You’re a good person, Cathy, but are you good enough? Could you feed yourself in the event of a disaster? Do you have a rainwater collection system in place? Are you getting enough sleep, are you making enough time for exercise, what happened to your meditiation practice? Sugar isn’t really helping. Is TV binge watching a form of relaxation?”
While worrying about what I think I should do, I distract myself from an honest assessment of reality. It is a way of avoiding the responsibility for the choices I do make. But it is easy to get overwhelmed and it is when I am feeling overwhelmed that I am least likely to care for myself. It is then that I lose my ability to be clear about the choices I have. I am not alone in this.
The world moves fast and in our hurry to keep up it seems we sometimes abandon our selves. We start looking outward rather than inward. By relying on external knowledge without testing to see how it aligns and resonates with body knowing, we lose a sense of sovereignty for ourselves. We can feel disconnected and not only do we stop trusting ourselves, we forget that trusting ourselves is an option: we relinquish responsibility for our lives and give power to someone or something that we think knows better.
If we want to trust ourselves, we need to learn the subtle language of the body. By paying attention to how we respond; by noticing sound and movement and breath and pleasure, maybe we won’t need to chastise ourselves with a litany of “shoulds” and “should nots.”
It is in the marriage of our consciousness and our biology that we begin to understand our role as stewards, not just of our individual selves and our species, but of our lifeblood: the sands and soils upon which we trod, the plants and animals that provide our food and shelter, and the very atmosphere responsible for the breath of our lives.
As politicos and activists we complain about our disappearing freedoms, but how many of us acknowledge that we will be unable to hold on to legislated freedoms if we do not exercise the most precious freedom we do have: the power of our attention? Eckart Tolle calls it “The Power of Now.” The Buddhists call it Mindfulness. How can we rein in our distracted minds and bring the authenticity of our being to all our experiences, whether it be chopping the celery or witnessing the birth of a human?
It takes practice, but we can learn to pay attention and how to know what to pay attention to. There is real work involved, the kind that requires us to move out of our comfort zone: to be able to sit still and notice things as they are without racing to fix them. It involves a kind of caring for the self that develops real intimacy: Being rather than doing.
We have plenty of opportunity to learn about ‘doing’, but not so much opportunity to understand ‘being’. As a result, sometimes it seems that just below the surface of our collective awareness, there is a fear that we are being catapulted into a future for which we are ill prepared. Like in the story of the emperor who had no clothes, we are being forced to confront denial. The way we thought things were might not be how they really are. In this age of information, knowledge is vastly available: like money, billions of notes are printed. But just like my unproductive inner dialogue, more is not always better. Sometimes it is not the “what” but the “how” that can unlock doorways of perception.
Join my colleague, Carrie Lafferty, PT and I at our retreat in January as we explore some of this. How are being and doing related and how can we find the internal rhythms that support the how of our knowing? We will move and breath, we will listen to nature and practice awareness. We will remember how to care for ourselves and how to support one another.
Consider this opportunity for retreat as a way to align with the energies of winter: find your own ways to hibernate and discover what it is you long to germinate.
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