#365 Retired?

I want to share this email I got recently: “I know that you’re retired, but I could really use a reading. Is there any chance you could make an exception for me?”

RETIRED? I don’t consider the work I do a job from which I’d want to retire. It’s an ability I have, an ability that I have honed into a skill through many years of use—a skill I intend to keep using.

Every day I am grateful for my skill, and it is the purpose and the passion of my life to use my skill in service to others. I cannot imagine not being available to people, and animals and plants for that matter, who want my assistance.

Not only am I not retired, I still welcome referrals!

And in case you’re wondering, I’m about to celebrate my 75th birthday. 😊

#364 Resiliency

It’s been a rough few years for many of us, what with COVID and all that has entailed, including loss of jobs and even death. And of course the greater cultural rhetoric—anti-woman, anti-Black, anti-all people of color, anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-immigrant. Etcetera. Yes, it’s been a rough few years.
I’ve been wondering about what has made me resilient over these years, about what makes any of us resilient.
My working definition of patriarchy (this is not an aside!) is the assertion by a certain group of people that they have the right, they would even say the duty, to have sovereignty over another group of people. Historically, the assertion that men have the right, yes the duty, to have sovereignty over women. (It’s the long reign of that particular patriarchal thought, man over woman, that made possible the invention of the theory of race and white supremacy. But that’s a conversation for another time and place.)
Let’s get back to resiliency, which I’ll define as my ability and my willingness to be sovereign over myself. Even in a culture that says otherwise, even in relationships that say otherwise, even within a family that says otherwise, even as a member of a religion that says otherwise—the truth is that I and I alone have the right, yes the duty, to be sovereign over myself. When I understand that truth, when I know that truth in my very marrow, then I am resilient.
And a corollary truth—I and I alone can surrender my sovereignty. It cannot be taken.

#362 Let Go

From Clarissa Pinkola Estés

A Prayer to Open Doors.

I would ask you to do this one thing. I would ask you to heal your wounds completely, to the best of your ability, and to let the rest go.

I would ask you to heal your wounds completely, insofar as you can, and to let the rest go. You have suffered long enough. If you look, the expiration date is long, long overdue. To be able to speak of the wounds, you have to let them go. To be able to speak with wisdom, you have to let the wounds go. Do not sit in them and relive them. Let them go. Let them go.

And you’ll say, how do I do that? Honestly? It’s as easy as unpinning a fresh, sunshine filled sheet from the clothesline, folding it, bringing it indoors, making your bed with it, lying down on it, taking in the beautiful smell. It’s that easy. It’s focusing where there is beauty and cleanliness and goodness, and letting everything else go.

There’s no consequence. There’s no ocean that backs up that creates a tsunami that will come and punish you if you let go of everything that has hurt you, and say, I understand. it was for my learning. Or say, I don’t understand, and I will never understand, but I do understand this, that I learn something from it. But I let go now. Now I let go. 

The prayer is to let go, so one can be a competent Elder and pour toward others without dragging—may I call it crud? may I call it detritus? may I call it effluvia? with us. To make as clear and clean and as beautiful and powerful as possible, the transmissions we have to give to others about how to mend from life, how to live life, how to live intensely creative life, how to take the hits we get in life, and how to stand together with the soul and with the spirit.

#361 I’m in Love!

I’m in love! Yes it’s true, I have fallen in love. 74 years old, and I am completely enthralled.

Some of you may know that in the past year I’ve had two total knee replacements. I love my new knees. In fact, I feel about my knees the way you’d feel about a person you’re blissfully, passionately in love with.

One day I was sitting on the couch, feeling the thrill of love for my knees, when I realized that I had never felt anything like that for any other part of my body. From then on, whenever I was suffused with that thrilling love for my knees, I would deliberately spread it out, so that it encompassed all of my body. Such a very nice feeling.

Twice a week I attend an exercise class at the senior center in my small town. “Motion is Lotion.” The instructor is brilliant, in every sense of that word. It is her brilliance that has made the class at least somewhat enjoyable for me, enough so that I keep attending, even when it’s so hot out that I only want to stay in the house.

Then I had the great idea to love each part of my body while we were focussing on it in class. Love each part with the passionate, thrilling love I feel for my knees. My biceps! My core! My spine, ribcage, ankles, calves. Oh my, my heart! Oh, my lungs! My amazing shoulders! My brain! How awesome my body is!

Am I exaggerating? No. Nope. Not at all. Maybe this shining wondrous love will lose some of its glow over time. I suppose that’s possible. But for now, I am blown away by the love I feel for my body. I am blown away by the very fact of my body! What a remarkable thing it is. What fun it is to have fallen in love.

#360 Bodies

I was with a friend when she started talking about her body — it was too fat, her breasts were too small, her hair was too thin, her skin too wrinkled. I interrupted her, crying, “You must stop! I cannot stand by and let you talk about my friend that way!”

That got us both to thinking about how often our relationship with our bodies is one of denigration.

I’ve been paying attention, and I’ve found that I mostly notice things about my body that I don’t like. (Aren’t I an enlightened feminist who let go of all that cultural crap about how women should look a long time ago? Ha!)

So I’ve made a rule — when I catch myself not liking something about my body, I then must name two things that I do like. Wow! There is so much to like! So much to celebrate!

My body is a wonder. Our bodies are amazing. Why did we ever get in the habit of being critical of them?

If my friend’s body is my friend, then so too must my own body be my friend. In fact, she is my very best friend. From the beginning, she has allowed me to do so much!  And I must defend her every bit as fiercely as I defended my friend’s body. I must especially defend her from myself.

#359 Be Brilliant

I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt that said, “Let That Shit Go.” I smiled.

You were born luminous. You were born gifted. You were born brilliant. You were born one-of-a-kind. You were born all of that, and you are all of that.

And you were born into a culture that does not tolerate uniqueness; that extinguishes brilliance; where the idea of a one-of-a-kind human is anathema. A culture determined to squeeze you, to shape you, to control you, to make you believe that its lies are your truths.

No doubt some of the cultural assaults on your brilliance have taken up residence within you. Maybe you think that the lies you were taught (and there are so many!) really are your truths. Maybe you’ve lived your life believing that your brilliance is somehow out of line, that your uniqueness is something to be ashamed of, that you are inadequate.

But you were also born with free will. So let that shit go!

I know, I know — easier said than done. But yet, it must be done if you are to get through life with your uniqueness intact, not to mention with your brilliance shining. Using your gifts is essential to your own well-being and to the well-being of all — you were born to guide Life’s evolution with your brilliance. But how can you shine your brilliance when you are rubbed all over with cultural crap? Let that shit go!

#358 Assumptions

Here’s something else I’ve discovered is worthy of stalking—assumptions. I’ve been stalking my beliefs for 30 years, and I thought I was pretty good at it. Lately, however, I’ve been inspired to stalk my assumptions.

Oh my goodness! Gadzooks! Crikey! Assumptions galore! I wonder what percentage of my thinking has been taken up with assumptions. Not an insignificant percent, I can tell you that. I’ll tell you something else—I’m discovering that a lot of my assumptions are negative, as in judgmental and not nice. Here’s an example: I’m driving, and another driver does something unsafe. Say he passes me in a no passing zone (an all too common occurrence where I live). I automatically assume he’s a jerk. A dangerous, self-righteous jerk. An arrogant jerk. You get the picture? (and you sing, “Yes, we see.”)(Granted, many of you won’t get the musical allusion. Here’s a clue: vroom, vroom.)

Of course, I could make the assumption that he got confused, or that he’s racing to the hospital, or… But all assumptions are false narratives that serve to insulate us from something that makes us vulnerable—the truth of our felt emotions. And as you know (because I’ve told you!) vulnerability is our birthright. To insulate ourselves from vulnerability is to insulate ourselves from ourselves.
I’m learning, instead of making assumptions about anything, to instead say, “I feel _____.”
And here’s another gift assumptions offer—they rise out of beliefs. In that way, my assumptions serve as signal fires (!) guiding me to beliefs I haven’t yet caught. They help me uncover beliefs that can be released. Of course, releasing beliefs takes us again to vulnerability—which is a topic for another day.

#357 Stalk! Pounce!

A  reader called my attention to this Signal Fire, published 10 years ago. I like it, so I’m sending it again. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have a followup before very long.

I stalk beliefs. I lurk around the corners of my mind, listening to what I think and to what I say, ready to pounce when a belief appears. When I catch one, I investigate it. Becoming as open and undefended as I can, I try the belief on. What is its purpose? How does it feel in/on my body?

By and large, their purpose, it seems to me, is to make me feel safe, to make me feel less bewildered about the situations of life. But when I feel my way into beliefs, they almost always feel something like being encased in cotton batting, sticky cotton batting. They inhibit my breath, they cling to my skin, they make me feel energetically murky.

Safety takes up space that could be occupied by glory, by wonder, by awe, by curiosity. Glory, wonder, awe, joy, endless possibility — they feel spacious, airy, bright. There is no contest — they feel way better than sticky cotton batting.

So I stalk beliefs. I lurk and I pounce. And when I catch one, I celebrate. Because then I have a choice to either keep it or release it.

#356 Deserving Joy

This is a follow-up to the most recent Signal Fire, which engendered some interesting conversations.

First, joy. People often ask me what the purpose of life is, and what the purpose of their life is. I will posit that, simply put, the purpose of life is to experience joy.

Second is the idea of deserving. Specifically, deserving joy. How does one become the kind of person who deserves joy? One doesn’t become that person, one is that person. You are born deserving joy. You are born with all the deserving you’ll ever need. You are and always have been 100% deserving of joy.

Joy is your birthright, deserving is in your very nature.

But it’s a journey, isn’t it? You’re born fully deserving to experience joy. But you’re born into a family, into a culture, into belief systems, into a time and a place—some or all of which may hinder you in fulfilling your life’s purpose to experience joy.

Remember the question from the last issue? “Is this life-giving to me?” You could just as well ask, “Does this enhance my experience of joy?” Does this belief, expectation, thought, experience, action, self-talk, perspective, interaction, emotion, idea, etc. enhance my ability to experience joy, or does it hinder?

Two guides on this journey recently died. Desmond Tutu and bell hooks. But they left behind important bodies of work to support you as you travel this path of fulfillment. Enjoy hanging out with them.

Joyful new year to you!

#355 Ask the question

So many holidays! I hope some of yours have been happy.

I have, however, been aware that people are experiencing emotions other than happiness—anxiety, fear, and even angst. Maybe having nothing to do with all the holidays.

There’s a question I’ve been keeping close, and I invite you to use it, too: “Is this life-giving to me?” Ask the question and receive the answer.

Try it. Ask it about what you eat, what you drink. Is this life-giving to me? Receive the answer, and honor the answer. If the answer is yes, great. Enjoy. If the answer is no, then you get to make a decision. What can you do that will turn this into something  life-giving? Maybe the answer is to not eat or drink the thing. But maybe it’s something else. Ask. Receive the answer. Maybe the food needs your blessing first. Maybe the time of day is wrong. Maybe the preparation needs to be different. You don’t know until you ask.

Ask the question and there will be an answer. Maybe the answer will come as word in your mind—yes! no! Maybe it’ll be a sense of rightness or wrongness. Maybe it’ll be a smell, a sound, some kind of sensation in your body. If you ask the question, the answer will come.

Is this life-giving to me? Ask it about what you think, what you believe, what you want. Ask it when you’re grocery shopping. Ask it about the news program you’re watching, the magazine you’re reading, the conversation you’re having. Is this life-giving to me? Ask it about ideas you have. Ask it about your attitude towards yourself. Is this life-giving to me?

Ask it about everything. Ask it all the time. Make it a habit. The results may surprise you.

As an added bonus, you’ll strengthen your ability to receive information; you’ll strengthen your intuition. I’ll give you an example. Many years ago I wanted a new whistling tea kettle. I happened to spot a particularly delightful one in a store, but it cost $100. Way, way too much. I was disappointed, but there was no way I could justify spending that kind of money on a tea kettle. Pretty soon I forgot about wanting a tea kettle. The one I had was really just fine. But some months later, I was driving around town, running errands. Suddenly, a voice in my mind demanded, “Go to the PPL thrift store!”  I said, “Heck no. That’s way across town. Why in the world would I go there? Besides, I’m tired. No.”  But the voice was insistent. “Go to that store!” Well, after a bit more arguing, I gave in and went to the store. Maybe you can guess what I found there. Yup, that very tea kettle, that $100 tea kettle. How much? $5.00.

I heard the message because I was accustomed to hearing messages. I was accustomed to hearing messages because I was accustomed to asking, “Is this life-giving to me?”

Try it, you’ll like it! And happy new year.