Don’t Gaslight Yourself

A friend and I have been discussing the experience of facing the truth – in relationships, in the world, in how we show up as ourselves or not as ourselves, in how we treat our bodies, in how we treat those close to us, and in how we experience the inner-voice.

First of all, any message – within our own minds, from the media, from a lover or a friend or a group or a cause or a family member or a psychic or a guru or a teacher or a guardian – any message we receive that tells us we are inherently bad, or “they” are inherently bad  – is bullshit.

In so many ways – we must re-learn how to trust our gut.

If the message feels bad, that’s our first cue to check it out.  

Why does it feel bad?

Before having another beer or going shopping or watching porn or yelling at someone or going cold inside or eating too much or driving too fast or having disconnected sex or making another compromise or going after more money or proving your point — pause for a minute and ask:  Why do I feel bad right now?  What is the feeling inside that I’m trying to get away from?  What is it, and what is it telling me? 

Is it uneasy?

Is it hard to pinpoint?

Is it grotesque?

Does it contrast (at all) with the feeling of being inherently OK?

Does it derail me (even a little) from knowing that I am good?

What is this feeling that is telling me to escape?

Don’t feel this this.

What is this feeling that keeps me from letting myself pause?

Rest.

Feel.

For many of us, pausing will feel uncomfortable, especially if we’re out of practice.

Pausing can feel downright irritating, painful or even horrifying.

Like the whole house of cards might come crashing down.  

These illusions about what we are chasing and what we are running away from….they might not survive the fire of awareness that exists in one singular pause.

Pausing  and noticing will often sound like a terrible idea (or even a terribly boring idea) when there is inner work waiting patiently for us to show up and buckle up.

For me personally, I don’t know how I would be able to handle the inner work at all without the experience of Guru, without my beloved chant teacher, without the healing love from family and a few close friends.  Although I have been blessed with my share of struggles, I also recognize that my soul was drawn to certain experiences to lead me to Guru, which I understand as Supreme Consciousness and Bliss.  Less of me and more of That,  please.  

And yet, I continue to find myself faced with experiences of needing to create boundaries, dealing with ego, finding out how to become more truthful within myself, how to change patterns, how to pause when I feel angry, how to pause when my heart is closed, how to pause when I feel doubt.

When we follow any train of thought that derails us from knowing that we are (inherently) OK, that we are (inherently) good, and that we are (in fact) the embodiment of pure love — we naturally want to escape.

Because want to feel better.  

And because somewhere, deep inside, we know that those self-destructive thoughts are simply NOT TRUE.

Even our subconscious mind is pulling us back to recognizing our essential nature, and even in our ignorance we are chiseling away at uncovering the true brilliance that is our birthright.

Even self-sabotaging behavior is another way of trying to feel better.  We want to distract ourselves from the real pain and the real feelings by creating alternate overwhelming feelings or numbness to feelings.  We are pulling the wool  over our own eyes.

The common self-sabotaging behaviors that are discussed widely include: remaining in abusive relationships, seeking out abusive relationships, food/eating disorders, cutting, alcohol/substance addiction, gambling addiction, porn addiction, you-name-it addiction, etc., etc.

But it can also look like not speaking our truth in our relationships, and even in our day-to-day dealings with people. It can look like all the little transgressions that we don’t speak up about, that we settle for, that we perpetuate.  It can look like staying on the surface of things and sweeping important issues under the rug.

Smiling when we feel like shit inside.

This kind of self-sabotage, or what I call “self-gaslighting,” can look like experiencing jealousy and not talking about it because I’m not supposed to feel jealousy.  Because feeling jealous is not very cool or evolved or hot or sexy or mature or kind or whatever it is I’m supposed to be.

If I hold that energy inside, I don’t feel good.  If I go into denial about having jealous feelings, I’m suppressing my own awareness.  The more I attempt to numb out to that feeling, the more I am derailing myself.  The mind will likely chip in a few thoughts of condemnation (like “wow, you are so weak for having this feeling” or even “you’re so self-absorbed for feeling jealous; someone more evolved wouldn’t have that problem”). This kind of situation can become its own catch-22, full of feeling bad about feeling bad!  

Anyone who has allowed self-defeating thoughts to derail them a lot or a little will relate to the rabbit hole of self-criticism we can wander into — the checklist of failures appears and suddenly the proof is all there for the various ways that we have somehow not measured up.

In a situation that happened earlier this year, an experience of Grace occurred when I was staying out at my friend’s house on the island.  I had gone there to clear my head and my heart and reground.  It was late, and I was lying in bed under clean sheets in a room that is filled with my Guru’s energy.  Suddenly, I was prompted to energetically pull all of the love that I had been giving back into myself, and I could reach back for years or even lifetimes and pull all that love and all that effort into my current self, the one experiencing the suffering of jealousy.

The love of my ancestors was also present, like love attracting more of itself and pulling even greater love into the receptive vessel that is my heart.  My Gurus and my Angels were in the room, as well.  It was truly bright, and I have never felt so protected.

I suddenly realized: I can trust myself.  

I can constantly turn to this Love that is completely free and ever-available.

All I have to do is open my heart to receive it.

I went to sleep content that night, knowing I didn’t have to be or do anything to be cradled by the Infinite experience of Love.  Knowing…in truth….I am That.

And when I woke up, guess what?

The work was still waiting for me.  It was still necessary to deal with that icky feeling.  It hadn’t quite left yet.

Jealousy.

Dammit.  Gross.  

I feel ugly.  

I feel less than whole.

 I feel less worthy.  

I feel unloved.  

I feel abandoned, rejected, lonely, scared.

I feel out of control.

I feel blah blah blah.

It doesn’t matter if I’m in a relationship or not.

I don’t actually need another person to fix this for me.

I need to hear an inner voice (the voice of Truth) say:

I love you.
You’re OK.
Your outer identity is not you.
Your experiences are not you.
Your feelings and thoughts are not you.
The life within you is good.
The life within you is sacred.
You are more than OK.

*

And if you ARE in relationship, having these feelings – hopefully both you and your partner have the bandwidth to hold space for each other when jealousy or other sticky-tricky emotions come up.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to share our truth, however awkward and shadowy it may be, we are honoring the is-ness of our state of being.

When others receive us with love and kindness in our vulnerability, they are also honoring the is-ness of our state of being.

Most likely this comes from their ability to honor themselves.

*

For me personally, telling my shadows to be quiet and invisible has never actually worked.

Telling my uncomfortable feelings and my intuition to shut-up was the self-gaslighting that let me stay in more than one shitty relationship.

It is quite possible to drive yourself mad through self-gaslighting.

*

If you have forgotten that you are OK, don’t run and don’t go numb, just pause and feel for a moment.

Most of us don’t transform our lives and behaviors overnight.

It becomes a series of remembering, bringing our attention back to the truth of our nature, which is goodness and effortlessly deserving of love.

If I am full of bad feelings, I can pause.

I might cry or breathe or cuddle my cat or pray or call somebody or go into a process of self-inquiry, with real curiosity and non-judgement.

From a more loving place, I might still drink a beer or eat more ice cream.  But I might enjoy it more.  I might have less desperate and escapist feelings about it.  I might even consciously free myself of any thought that is not compassionate, kind and loving toward myself.

Eventually, I might not even go for the ice cream or the beer.

But that won’t make me a better person.

The objective is love.

If I can love myself more, as I wake up daily to this thing called life…then I know I am on the right track.

*

Grace be with you.

Namaste.

*

 

 

 

Creating Space

The room was very, very hot today. With almost 40 bodies and 45% humidity, we were cooking as we made our way through the 90-minute Bikram Yoga practice. I’ve been slacking with my attendance, so every class has felt like a marathon recently. As often happens, during Pranayama Breathing (which is the very first “posture”) I was asking myself why I came. Why do I do this? I would have loved to have just stayed in bed this morning. What compelled me to come here?

But with each deep breath, slowly but surely, my thoughts began to drop off. Some other will and excited power began to generate within my muscles, and I just did the practice along with the rest of the class.

One of the things my thinking brain loves about yoga IS the decluttering of the mind. The “I don’t wannas” fade away. The self-conscious thoughts cease to matter. Even the striving to do the posture perfectly stops being helpful. There’s just one thing to do and the great Teachers and Masters have always said it: be . here . now .

In this quieter space, I notice things. I notice how very Sagittarian the Standing Bow Pulling pose is. We become the archer pulling the bow, holding that expectant moment for as long as we possibly can. “If you fall, fall forward” says the instructor. Don’t fall out from being afraid, dive in, take yourself to the edge, and HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD.

I AM the bow and arrow in this posture; my left fingers reach forward and my arm becomes the arrow, while my right toes are shooting up behind me and my legs become the bow. The subtle power of this pose lies in creating the exact suspension that the body needs to be the human bow, and in that suspension we pull our limbs apart like taffy. I am taffy, I am muscle, and I am thinking of the qualities of Sagittarius: fun, bold, adventurous. Shooting for the Moon and stars, full of faith and light. Full of humor. Sometimes when I fall out, I laugh.

There simply is just not such a thing as failure, not when we are reaching for the very light within us. There is only practice. “If you fall out, get right back in. You still have time. You can even end in the set-up for the posture. Stay in the posture.”

As a recovering perfectionist/self-defeatist, I really need yoga. It has taken me years to slowly gain perspective about who that rigid voice demanding perfection really is. The voice that is dangerous when taken seriously. That voice has gotten quieter over time, less demanding. When the voice does cry out to me, I can usually hold space for it and give it some love, like a “you’re ok, kid”. Or a “what do you need, beloved self?”

When the voice is quiet, or asleep, or absent — my mind thinks in a different way, and I see possibilities where before there were none. When I fall out of the posture, I might chuckle softly as I get right back in. There is a curiosity about mistakes: “Oh, that was a little too far forward, let’s see if I can lean back into my heel more this time….”. With a relaxed face, I go for it again. There is nothing to lose! There is no need for pride; pride is totally boring now. What’s interesting is THIS! What is happening RIGHT NOW.

There is a secret that’s not a secret, but we keep calling it a secret because it’s so obvious, we have to create a veil to even see it.

The secret is that we are the ones dreaming the dream of our existence. There is no separation between us and the Source of that dream. So go for it. You are perfectly held, even when fall out, fall down, or appear to be screwing up. Try again. Follow your strength. Do the thing that makes you say YESinside.

These are the thoughts that appear when the “noise thoughts” are abandoned. They are still thoughts, it is still thinking….but there is a different quality, a different flavor….it doesn’t take me to the same place of unnecessary suffering.

I keep following the instructor’s voice.

Eventually, even the inspired thoughts drop off. By the time we finish the Spine Strengthening series on the floor, my thoughts are like wooden blocks sitting a few feet away from me. I have retired them completely. Less is more in these moments of heavy breathing as we recover for 20 seconds in Savasana between postures.

I begin to think of class being almost over when we catch our breath in Fixed Firm pose, but we still have Camel to do. And Camel is the ultimate re-calibrator. In between the two sets of the deepest back-bend of the class, we are just existing, maybe floating, maybe feeling nauseous. Emotions can swell — anger, sadness, gratitude, love. I have shed tears during the Savasana more than once, and I have known that I am releasing old wounds, stagnant energy and fear. There is a presence all around me during those times, a presence that is rejoicing in my release and celebrating my freedom.

A spaciousness occurs.

I carry some of this open space with me when I leave class. Buffering the noise and stress of the outside world feels a tiny bit easier because I am aware of the strength that I just tapped into, the energy I played with, and the gratitude for a practice that can fill me with life. There is a lightness and slight euphoria after getting all that sweat out.

I return home to my teenage children and my messy apartment. I don’t have more money in my bank account. Nothing has been solved as far as my “problems” go. But my mind and my body are connected again. My worries aren’t running me. There is a little more space.

*

This Is Now

 

Now that both my boys are in therapy

Now that the right medication has been prescribed to the one with mood swings and depression

Now that the one who was recently diagnosed with ADHD is finally qualified to receive extra support from the school district, and he might actually be college-bound after all…

Now that the weight of “fixing it” has been somewhat lifted

Now that I’ve ended the year-long romance that was always only temporary anyway

Now that I’ve successfully scared off all new potential suitors

Now that, day by day, I care less and less about outside opinion

There is a certain beauty in unpopularity, you know.

Now that I am actively forgiving my father

And the father of my childhood best friend

And the rapist

And the stalker

And the one I loved and almost married, who wrestled with demons, who

lost control that one night and gave me the end I was seeking

in spades.

Now that I have grieved and healed and forged on and barely made rent at times

Now my thought is this:

Fuck, I’m tired.

*

And I know the show’s not over, and there is more brilliance than my weary mind can imagine waiting on the other side of this valley.

There is a place to fill my cup, replenish and dance with vibrancy and fearlessness again.

And there will be more valleys, surely, the further into time I walk in this body.

When I reach them, it is possible that I will carry new and powerful tools with which to navigate that terrain.  My dormant talents will have further awakened.  I will be that much more practiced in the art of love alchemy.

This is now.

Not what was, or what will become.

And now, thanks to this stupid sinus infection, I’m forced to rest and miss work.

My task is to care for this body, in its sickness and health.

My to-do list is this:

Rest

Love

Forgive

Repeat

 

 

 

 

Addiction to Stress

I am chronically late.  I was even born two weeks late.  It is a flaw in my DNA, for sure.  I’m not trying to be rude.  I’m not trying to control other people by making them wait for me.  I am being selfish with my time, and reluctant to enter the whirling speed of the world, yes – I admit to that.  My speed is island-time, Solana time, roly-poly puppy time.  Forgive me!

The younger son teases me and says I’m going to be late to my own funeral.

But I’m realizing, although I’m a peaceful woman, my pathetic time-management skills have something to do with my own version of stress addiction….

As humans, we seek stress.  We crave the adrenaline, the cortisol, the inflammation response.  We crave the irritation, the distraction, the “What the FUCK?!” feeling.  Give it to me.  I want it/need it/got to have it.

So many ways to fulfill our addiction to stress.

The things that gives us a rush….

Do we really want to give them up???

Somewhere inside of us (I’m not the only one), a little maniac is freaking out – screaming “Stop me!”

And once in a while, or as often as we like, we can breathe deeply into that tumultuous chaos, and we can give it the break it is begging for.

Stress wants more stress.  It doesn’t want to die.  But what it “needs” is a break.  Longer and longer breaks, and someday maybe a permanent vacation.

Instead of banishing stress and punishing stress, we can reassure it that we are okay without it, and we can hand it that ticket to paradise.  Be sure to wave goodbye with love, for if it senses you are missing its company, it will come running back to fill your false needs and set both your nervous and endocrine systems out of whack.

As in everything, as always, we remain at choice.

Like me, for example.  I can stay set in my chronically-late ways as long as it takes.  I can blunder about, fighting with Time and plying myself with guilt for my addiction to tardiness.  But whenever I’m ready, I can allow Time to take my hand and teach me how to waltz.  Giving myself space between obligations.  Developing a willingness to be early. Drinking the moments in and finding the pause.  Letting go of the need to rush.

Anything can happen….

Now excuse me, I need to hurry up to get to yoga class!