"Your way begins on the other side. Become the sky. Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape. Walk out like someone suddenly born into color" -Rumi
Using the spiritual wisdom of Rumi as a springboard, this blog is dedicated to diving into practical explorations of what it means to be the complex, amazingly creative, achingly vulnerable and remarkably resilient human being that you are.
What does it take, day by day, to truly step out of the busyness, out of the self-doubt, out of the endless things that hurt you, confuse you or occupy your mind into YOUR wondrous life?
How do you stay open to continually discover, express and stand for that which makes YOU extraordinary and unique? To have the adventures YOU are called to have? To contribute that which YOU are moved to contribute? To reveal that which emerges through YOU when you allow your creative juices to flow freely?
GLASS CEILINGS AND THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON
I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul - Rumi
Many of us have had the experience of feeling thwarted, again and again. Finding ourselves bumping up against the same old stuck places - who we are, what we can or can’t do, what we can or can’t have, how we are destined to be in or out of connection with others and what is this life all about, anyway?
We collide with very persistent and tangible experiences of lack and limitation in a variety of areas, or maybe just one in particular, such as health or money or relationship. This familiar and unyielding barrier could be called our personal glass ceiling. A limitation we identify with that we just can’t manage to free ourselves from.
Now and then, we peer through the glass into a bigger, more colorful and remarkable future. The promise of a more authentic self beckoning us toward a distant tomorrow where we will be free and fully expressed. This serves to remind us that we should be different, better, more valuable, more. That we will never measure up.
Crossing the gap between perfect us in a perfect future and our present reality can feel daunting or completely baffling.
It is possible that we don't even look up at the burden of our glass ceiling but renounce integral parts of ourself in order to fit beneath it's pressing weightiness.
As highly sensitive persons, we can be more susceptible to the tyranny of the glass ceiling. For example, the tendency to think and feel deeply makes us extremely aware of subtleties and consequences. Mix that with an unhealthy perfectionism and tendency to be easily overstimulated, we often lack the confidence to act on our own behalf. ( To understand the genetic trait of the HSP: take Elaine Aron's test Are you Highly Sensitive?, listen to her speak in this brief video or read the Huffington Post article The 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People)
You may have heard and believed that you need to bulldoze your way through with large doses of willpower, force or struggle. For those of us who are highly sensitive, it actually isn’t about grappling or amping up in strained or inauthentic ways. It's not about fixing yourself, believing that your finally fixed up self will have the confidence to boost you to the other side.
It's also not about slinking away from the perceived DO NOT ENTER sign and playing small beneath its confines.
What is needed is developing the habit of checking in with yourself. Realizing what you are telling yourself. Trusting your body and your senses. Allowing all of your complexity, all of your sensitivity, all of your uncertainty. Owning and aligning with your natural strengths. In other words, getting more clearly connected to YOU.
From this settling into YOU - you can begin to see the glass ceiling for what it is. A self-imposed constraint. You don't need to be fixed. You can meet whatever experience comes your way. If you bump up against that ceiling, you can assess, refocus and recommit to your own full becoming.
As highly sensitive persons, we are often propelled from the inside to consciously evolve ourselves into all we are capable of being and more.
We have a strong desire to contribute to the uplifting of people, circumstances, systems, even the planet - to bring meaning and possibility to where it is needed.
And because we download so much information, because we naturally see the connection of all things, we also sense that transformation CAN happen and that we can be an integral part of that change.
We have plenty to do. We have plenty to be. The only way we are going to breakthrough and thrive is by understanding our genetic makeup and learning to relax - into a lifestyle based on our own rhythm and timing.
VALUING YOUR INTROVERT SELF
Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth, without complicated explanation - Rumi
What if the entire gist of our life purpose is to simply be who we are?
Why is expressing our true self, which should be the most simple and natural thing in the world, so troublesome and challenging?
Introverts have often been subtly or blatantly shut down from a very young age. There are measurable differences in how they spontaneously engage with the world and certain tendencies - to respond in slow, thoughtful ways, to be on high alert, to have the courage to make decisions at odds with the crowd - have served to keep them repeatedly feeling intimidated, criticized or judged. The need to find their own instinctive rhythm in a fast paced, unsympathetic world, has not been given wide berth but rather has often led to just enduring the status quo or totally shutting down. Regularly receiving the message that honest, genuine self expression was not ok, lack of confidence was seeded and self-judgment harvested.
There has been a lot of press about the benefits and blessings of those who are hardwired to dive deep, those who recharge and rejuvenate surrounded by peace and quiet. Are introverts finally getting their due in our culture, or at least some accurate understanding? Respect for the introvert sensibility got quite a boost thanks to Susan Cain and her book, Quiet. In the notable Ted Talk, The Power of Introverts, she reclaims the trait of introversion as a gift and an asset.
Whenever a part of us is split off, not valued or deemed irrelevant, we cannot be whole – as a culture or as individuals.
Whether you are an introvert or someone who would like to understand the introverts in your life, we all are granted this life, for this time, in this body, with this temperament. Can we can trust ourselves, risk feeling different or out of the ordinary, pursue and enjoy what calls to us?
Self-discovery is imperative in this process. It is also the playground of introverts. What is important to you, what do you marvel at? What are you moved to create? What inner impulses prompt you? And how can you take action on those impulses? Listening for these answers provides you access to the essential and vital spark with which to create your uniquely perfect and totally unprecedented life story.
Let's step into who we are with our whole heart. Let's begin with the knowing that there is room for every individual way of being; that we all enrich this great tapestry of life. Let's commit to the practice of allowing everyone, including ourselves, to show up and adventure in our own exceptional ways.
If you knew yourself for even one moment, if you could just glimpse
your most beautiful face,
maybe you wouldn't slumber so deeply in that house of clay.
Why not move into your house of joy
and shine into every crevice!
For you are the secret Treasure-bearer,
and always have been.
Didn't you know? - Rumi
Appearance and health, relationship with family and friends, work and money, creativity and expression. We are often battered by our own internal 'shoulds' and the striving to be perfect in every aspect of our lives. Self-doubt can show up in any of these places fueled by a deep-seated fear that something is wrong with us, that we are defective and therefore unlovable. We are afraid to be found out and so we hide or struggle to appear completely flawless. We don't have to look far to find the thousand and one ways in which we criticize ourselves as 'not enough'.
Brene Brown in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection , talks about the “hustle for worthiness” that spurs us into no end of self-judgment, addiction or unhealthy distraction.
What if we could stop the endless negative evaluation of ourselves that finds us always lacking and, instead, know on a deep level that we are intrinsically valuable? What if we could let ourselves be seen even in our vulnerability? Perhaps then, we would discover self compassion, stop punishing ourselves for being human and get on with our vital work – to connect with that which supports, encourages and inspires us to uniquely and authentically sparkle.
ANXIETY AND SURRENDER
Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are. You have been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender – Rumi
Anxiety is extremely uncomfortable. The driving force being fear, sadness or anger. Those pesky, deep emotions that we just flat out don't like and don't want.
Most of us have not been taught to 'be with' negative emotions. We stuff them down, pretending they do not exist. We run scared and desperately try to distract from them in any way we can. And the ways to do so are endless.
Sometimes we identify with our current emotion, believing that it is the entirety of who we are. Sometimes we react impulsively, completely at the mercy of whatever reigning emotion is in the driver seat frantically prodding us on.
Because we lose sight of what these emotions are - temporary signals that eventually pass, not something to be dreaded and avoided at all costs - we relate to them in unproductive ways rather than consciously tending to them.
So how do we avoid becoming desolate and jagged rock where nothing wild, creative or abundant can grow?
Life is brimming with people, information, circumstances and unknowns that constantly stir us up and push our anxiety buttons. We can always jump on the treadmill of what is wrong and not to our liking. It's easy to do. But it keeps us jagged.
Life is much more difficult when we are regularly focused on what is amiss and spend our precious energy resisting it.
Mark Nepo, in his book, The Endless Practice, says, “Waiting for the noise of fear to settle, can be the bravest thing we do.“
How do we wait for the noise of fear to settle and thus quell the roar of anxiety?
Rumi invites us to surrender. Be with what is. And in so doing become fertile ground rather than the barren rock of resistance or defensiveness.
Surrender is a choice. It does not mean letting emotions run rampant over us. It does not mean wallowing in them and being forever miserable.
Surrender means choosing to listen, notice, be curious and nonjudging - until the emotion just passes or leads you towards a certain course of action.
It means slowing down. It means creating some space. Space where it is actually possible to relax, acknowledge, accept and trust. To stop fighting with or withdrawing from our lives. Give yourself the gift of time. Don't begin your day with a chaotic joyless hurriedness and continue to rush from one thing to the next until your head hits the pillow. Give yourself in between times. Time to savor. To look for beauty. To be kind. To laugh. To be still. To move. To stir up gratitude and other positive feelings.
"There is a fountain inside you. Don't walk around with an empty bucket" - Rumi
In keeping with the theme of pressing the reset button, tapping, or EFT, is a powerful self-help tool that is easily learned.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) can be used whenever tension of any sort occurs. You begin by identifying the negative belief, memory or symptom that you want to clear. Following a certain protocol, you tap with your fingers on ancient Chinese acupressure points which stimulates the feel good hormones and results in unhooking from the body's stress response. These techniques create a much needed space in which daily strains can be lifted, giving both body and mind a break. As pressure is relieved, there is an opening for the natural healing resources of body, brain and nervous system to appear on the scene and do their work.
You may have heard about the effectiveness of EFT in neutralizing symptoms of trauma and addressing the limiting beliefs that accompany that trauma. Intense and overwhelming feelings that flood us during moments of trauma cannot be processed at that time so they are stored away as emotional charges. Those beliefs become linked to constrictive body states, keeping us easily triggered and steeped in negative feelings. Especially for childhood, or very intense traumas, it can be helpful to do this deep work with the support of a trained practitioner.
While trauma can take a devastating toll on our lives, ordinary, ongoing stress is also extremely detrimental. We end up being in constant 'fight or flight' arousal, living in a soup of self sabotaging beliefs, body tensions, and over reactivity.
EFT is an empowering practice. A way to set up or release your day. A way to notice and honor what is actually happening in the moment. A way to gently clear away any jagged edges. A resource that you can call on at any time.
There are many resources online to learn it for yourself. Some good places to start are Gary Craig's free tutorial or manual or the EFTUniverse free manual.
Many videos abound online and these can often be helpful. It is important to make sure that the video or tapping script that you choose is not focusing solely on the positive. To get the full benefits of EFT, we must first address all the gunk that is affecting us.
Having a session or two with a practitioner can give you a jump start on truly embodying the how of effective EFT. A little research may even turn up workshops or meetup groups in your area.
MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION
'Let silence take you to the core of life' - Rumi
'When I am silent, I fall into the place where everything is music' – Rumi
Jon Kabat Zinn calls mindfulness 'presence of heart' and 'living your life as if it really mattered'.
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, moment by moment, to where you are and what you are doing.
Every spiritual tradition espouses some type of mindfulness practice – whether that is meditation, yoga, centering, walking meditation, contemplation or prayer.
Science is finally catching up. There continues to be much research about how mindfulness increases immune function, decreases stress, slows the aging process, increases attention and memory, diminishes inflammation, increases resiliance, encourages feelings of contentment and more.
The term meditation includes multiple approaches to stop the incessant mind chatter in order to give yourself and your nervous system a much needed break.
Read some of the science in this article on just one type of meditation – loving kindness meditation.
The verdict is in. Simply spending a short time on a regular basis changes your brain, boosts your physiology and promotes your sense of wellbeing.
You may already have a practice that works well for you and are already noticing the many benefits.
It is quite possible, though, that you are not convinced or you have tried to meditate before but just don't get it.
Perhaps you are quite sure that you just don't have the time.
With very little effort you can find ways to begin to be mindful now.
For some very doable guided meditations that can get you started, try one of these.
It is all about making mindfulness a part of your daily life. You can best do that by finding and then incorporating some simple practices that really speak to you.
"There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then, there’s another way: a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity” - Rumi
So let's take an individual look at some specific ways to reset starting with BREATH.
Breathing seems simple enough. In fact, we take it for granted. It is not necessarily glamorous or enticing as we are all breathing all of the time.
Perhaps, without even having to think about it, breathing is the most important thing that we do. Inhale and exhale. In breath and out breath. It just happen spontaneously, continuously. Whether our breath is soft, constricted, heavy, rapid, erratic, it reflects much about our emotional or mental state and therefore our physical state. We often breathe shallowly or hold our breath without even noticing.
During times of stress, our nervous system revs up. All kinds of processes go on tilt. We all know what this overstimulation feels like, in fact we seemingly get used to it, but we may not truly understand the long reaching effects on our physical and psychological health. Some of the big ones being inflammation, high blood pressure, digestion issues, poor circulation, poor sleep.
Conscious breathing can be a first line of defense. We've all noticed that before or after certain experiences, we automatically take in a huge gulp of air or let out a big sigh of relief. This is our body naturally balancing our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
We can actually use our breath intentionally to rebalance, rejuvenate, give ourselves a break.
How about when sitting in traffic or standing in line at the post office? Setting the tone for our day before getting out of bed in the morning. Releasing the day right before sleep. Just about to take an exam or have a difficult conversation with someone. Sitting in the dentist chair. The possibilities are endless and the rewards are unmistakable when we use this tool that is always available.
There is a ton of information to be found on breathing. You can read the science or the get all mystical with it. There is much wisdom that has come through the ages, for example the yogic tradition.
You could also just jump in and take up breathing as an easy, effective gift for yourself. If you practice it regularly you will more easily be able to reset when you most need to.
Very Basic, Easy and Effective Breathing Techniques
Square Breathing – You can do this anytime, anywhere. Begin by inhaling through the nose to a count of three (or more), hold for a count of three, exhale to a count of three and hold to a count of three. Continue this cycle, breathing deeply. Even for a moment this can actually soothe and relax you on many levels.
Abdominal Breathing – You can do this anytime, anyplace. Lying down is best. Do whenever you can't stop your mind racing or you are experiencing tension of any kind. Place one hand on your chest and the other on the belly. Take a deep breath in through the nose, pushing your stomach out, allowing the hand on your abdomen to rise. When you've inhaled as much air as you comfortably can, pause. Then exhale through your mouth by pulling your belly in. Pause again. Repeat cycle.
“Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” - Mary Oliver
PRESSING THE RESET BUTTON
"Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being" - Rumi
The following actions may look familiar from frequent articles that abound about how to be happier, stress free, healthier, more creative, more successful, etc., etc. The reason that they consistently show up is because they do work. They provide us with something important that we need as human beings yet forget that we need – a rest, a restart, a refresh, before the next thing.
Take an enjoyable 'time-out', short or long (have a cup of tea, read something inspiring, create your own ritual, take a nap, light a candle, stare at the clouds)
THE POWER OF THE PAUSE
"But listen to me. For one moment quit being sad. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you" - Rumi
Life can be hard. Up and down. Ebb and flow. Twist and turn. Through a dark tunnel. And that could all happen in just a normal every day.