At the Heart of Trust

I tried for many years to follow my bliss, as Joseph Campbell taught.  After a while, though, it seemed I was genetically predisposed to lead an unfulfilled life. Regardless of how hard I tried to connect with what I truly loved and do it, my bliss following would fizzle out before I could turn around twice.  Stubborn Soul that I was, I’d read another self-help book, get another coaching session, take another workshop, watch more law of attraction videos – and pick myself up off the sofa and go at it again.

Then it occurred to me that I had to trust my bliss before I could follow it.  Okay, now I was getting somewhere.  Trust is one of my central life lessons, so this made sense. I wasn’t deeply trusting that what I called “bliss” would lead me to what I wanted – a life of freedom, peace, fulfillment and joy. I read countless success stories about people doing what they loved with money following.  But for me, it felt impossible. That’s when I started this blog and experimenting with trusting what I was led to do – no matter what it was.  I would pay attention to my energy and notice when it would go up and down.  What felt right, or good, or in alignment.  Excellent.  Progress.

And yet, I was still going around in circles.  I’d get clear about what was next, what I wanted to do with my life and work – then that clarity would vanish in a puff of smoke – sometimes before I could finish breakfast.  Then last week I cleared my calendar to make room for clarity – or something – to emerge.  I set up my paints and engaged with the creative force through The Painting Experience.  The process is life-changing and I knew it was just what was needed as I began examining what was leading me back to the same lost, fuzzy place over and over again.  The energy started to flow, and I stayed with it.

Then while I was at the gym on Tuesday working out with my amazing Personal Trainer, it hit me.  The roadblock was self-image.  This became clear at the gym, of all places, because my previous self-image of being fit, strong and attractive has been progressively disassembled during the past few years of life and health upheaval.  At the gym this shift is even more pronounced because my body feels stiff and weak and clumsy and I have no idea what it’s going to do.  The folly of trying to maintain a self-image was in my face – literally – as I saw my reflection in the floor to ceiling mirrors.  All the layers of my past (good) self-image flashed in front of me as I almost laughed out loud at the insanity of trying to come up with a new version that was acceptable in any possible way.

Aha. Without realizing it, I had been trying to reconstruct a career that would reflect the new and improved transformed reflection in mirror“me”, even though I know self-image is just that – an image.  Not real.  Made up.  A lie.  With the way my mind is wired, though, it had been re-conditioned by self-help books, life coaches, personal and spiritual development gurus and motivational speakers into believing that the only acceptable career of a transformed, awakened person was doing what you are passionate about.  Following your bliss.  I had come to believe that even my life’s purpose had to be turned into a career.  And worse, if I settled for anything other than that, I was selling out and short-changing myself, not being true to who I am, and was guaranteed to be miserable.  Oh, and it also had to be wildly successful and provide financial abundance beyond my wildest dreams because after all the law attraction worked if you did it right.

Wow.  No wonder I was paralyzed.  That’s ALOT to demand from anything!  However, oodles of people are doing it – which is wonderful – and I wanted to join that club.  What was I doing wrong?

Only one thing.  Nothing based on a lie (which self-image is) leads to freedom, peace, fulfillment and joy which is what I want for my life.  There’s only one thing that sets you free.

Truth.

So, what am I truly passionate about? What is my bliss? The answer is always the same. Writing about truth and freedom.  And Westies of course. My love of Westies is steadfast and forever.

After the joy and bliss of restarting this blog on Tuesday, everything was clear.  I will write without the pressure of having to turn it into a career by adding coaching services to bring in money (although I like to “coach” and am told I’m good at, but that idea always trips me up – so will have to come back to it).  I will write for the love of it, and if I get published and make money from it, that’s great.  If not, I will write anyway.  Since I’ve decoupled my bliss and passion from making money, what will I do to make money?  There are many things in marketing and business I enjoy and am excellent at doing – so one or more of those.  What I’m not good at and have no interest in is self-promotion (this is probably what stops me from coaching). My hat is off to those who can do it and be successful at it.  So, being a solopreneur of any kind is probably not advisable, although I crave the flexibility and independence.  I also love working with a team.  Doesn’t have to be a big one – even a team of two would be fun.

So we’ll see.  For the time being, I’m writing.  I trust it because it’s true.

Truth, it turns out, is at the heart of trust.

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Round Two

Formally, this is a restart of The Bliss Project.  Practically speaking, however, it never stopped.  Since creating the blog in March 2011, I’ve been completely focused on following my bliss, or doing nothing at all.  There have been many experiments, successes and failures – or rather – learning.  Yes, that’s what we’ll call it.  All this learning leads to one thing, knowing what I love and don’t, what’s true and what’s not, what feels good and nourishes me and what doesn’t.  So it’s all good – literally.  Which reminds me of a favorite song by Alanis Morissette, You Learn from her Jagged Little Pill CD.  Back in 1996 I would listen to this in the car on my way to work.  My alcoholic father had just died, I hated my job and I wanted to die because it was the only way out that I could see. I would cry hysterically and sing it at the top of my lungs, yelling at God for being so trapped.  Oh, what I’ve learned since about being/feeling trapped.

I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone
I recommend walking around naked in your living room
Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles

You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn

I recommend biting off more then you can chew to anyone
I certainly do
I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
Feel free
Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)
Hold it up (to the rays)
You wait and see when the smoke clears

[chorus]

Wear it out (the way a three-year-old would do)
Melt it down (you’re gonna have to eventually anyway)
The fire trucks are coming up around the bend

You grieve you learn
You choke you learn
You laugh you learn
You choose you learn
You pray you learn
You ask you learn
You live you learn

That’s what’s been going on since Round One of The Bliss Project – lots of learning.  But that’s not the only thing.  I’ve actually been having, drum roll please, lots of fun.

And fun is what I want here, plus learning, and continuing to awaken to the truth of myself – and most important – LIVING – fully as consciously and authentically as is possible.

This beautiful quote by one of my favorite poets comes to mind:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver

I have no idea at this point, but whatever it is, I’m going to love it.

Life continues to prevail

It’s now been 7 weeks since the move and the dust is just beginning to settle.  Without going into all the gory details, Life has had it’s way with me.  Oh how I envisioned the flow and glow of moving back to my condo.  Flow it did not.  And the only glow was my anger – no, make that rage – at the state of my home when the tenants moved out.  What I thought would be a simple paint and shampoo the carpet job, turned into a major (and expensive) renovation.  Oh my.  If my sister hadn’t been there with me every step of the way, I’d be writing this from a padded room somewhere.  My sister is an amazing woman and I am forever grateful for her presence in my life.

Then, after being here a mere 10 days, I learn that my beloved 13 year old Westie, Arno, has cancer.  Since he has Westie Lung (aka pulmonary fibrosis), he isn’t a candidate for surgery unless I don’t mind him dying on the table.  After being shocked out of denial about his age and life expectancy, I’m accepting that I have precious few days left with him.  Once again, if my sister hadn’t been here…….you get the picture.  Not a happy time.  

There’s also been an assortment of financial and legal issues that demanded attention.  And today the people upstairs started a major renovation project which involves a new kitchen, bathroom and floors. Talk about noise.  I could hear the demolition with earplugs AND my Bose noise cancelling headphones on.  Living in a condo was never my dream, but apparently it’s an experience Life wants because It’s definitely getting the full treatment!

At times I’ve felt under siege by Life, just waiting like a sitting duck for yet another shoe to drop.  Is this really what my life is going to be like – dealing with one bullshit problem after another?  Am I cursed?  Is my condo cursed?  Does God hate me?  Am I being punished for something?  What the f— kind of karma am I clearing????? 

You can’t believe the deep dark places my mind has been.  Again, I am so incredibly blessed to have an amazing sister who was able to stay with me long past the date she was due to fly home (she left last Wednesday). Without her I don’t want to imagine the shape I’d be in.  For whatever reason, at this particular time, I needed to learn (again) that Life is very much in control.  As I’ve said before, I’m a slow, stubborn, dense Soul and don’t learn these lessons easily.  I could use a 12-Step program for control freaks where the first step is “we admitted we were powerless over Life – that our lives had become unmanageable”.   What I’ve learned is that when I stop trying to control, things become manageable.  When I truly accept whatever happens and am absolutely okay with it, peace and bliss result.  Resist what is and hell is but a moment away. 

At the moment, however, I’m in a surrendered state. Any inkling I might have had of being even the slightest bit “on top of things” or “in charge” was wiped cleaned. I have no idea what’s next.  There’s paperwork, organizing, more clutter clearing, taking care of Arno, taking care of me, and some nice things to do like re-connect with friends and maybe take a quilting class.  Where it will all lead is anyone’s guess.  Life has clearly demonstrated I’m simply along for the ride.  So, my hands are off the steering wheel, I’ve moved over to the passenger seat, and at this point am not even looking at the map.

No need.  Life is going where It’s going without my help. The big question is, can I relax and enjoy the ride?  Stay tuned.

     

 

Life Gets Its Way

I received irrefutable evidence on Thurs. that the charming country cottage I rent is making me sick. Very sick.  And since I am now in the flow of Life and in harmony with What Is, I am moving – immediately – back to my condo where my health improved just before moving here. The condo is in a bustling suburb and high-tech business corridor. But since it now matters if I get well and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get that way – even leave the peace, beauty and spaciousness of the country, my huge fenced in backyard filled with vegetable and flower gardens, and the horses, butterflies, bees, frogs, dragonflies and birds I so adore.  Until recently, I was so depressed and defeated I didn’t care about anything – including whether or not I had an ounce of energy to do a thing, and sadly, whether I lived or died (except I didn’t want to leave my dogs).  I saw no reason whatsoever for my existence (again, except for my dogs) .  What a happy day it is that I actually look forward to waking up in the morning and don’t want to get tired and go to bed.  Never thought this was possible, despite reading zillions of self-help books that promised it was.

Why the shift? My deeply wounded parts are healing through Internal Family Systems therapy, which frees my “system” to engage authentically with life.  I am learning, kicking and screaming all the way, that LIFE lives us.  Yes, I’ve been a dense, willful, stubborn Soul believing I could do it my way. The truth is, Life gets it’s way, one way or another. I got a loud, unmistakable “call” to move closer in 13 months ago, but have been resisting it logically and persistently since.  Life is finally getting it’s way by scaring the sh#%t out of me with the fragility of my declining health. I’m listening to an enlightening CD called True Manifesting by Adyashanti, my favorite spiritual teacher.  He talks about how Life really works and it’s perfect for anyone ready to live a harmonious existence.  In saying YES to what Life wants as he suggests – in this case moving back to the hustle and bustle of life – things are flowing easily and gracefully.  There are some hoops to jump through, but so far it’s been fun to watch how the process unfolds. 

In the spirit of trusting my bliss (which is one of Life’s more gentle ways of guiding us), the path is already appearing to fulfill the country, nature, and gardening needs that are part of my Soul.  Then while journaling this morning I made a list of 32 fun things I can do after the move that are either in walking distance or a short drive away.  And that’s just what I know about right now.  Talk about bliss!

I had been praying for grace, ease and abundance.      

Writing – Part 2

After writing the post last night, I read chapter 3 in Brenda Ueland’s book If You Want To Write.  In it she talks about some of the motivations behind writing that leave it empty, dry and arduous.  One of those, which has been running in me, is wanting the writing to be good, and to then make a good impression on the readers. There are other motivations at work too, such as the love of writing and moving past my fear of putting it out into the world – yikes!  But, being an over-achieving perfectionist all my life, I most want to be good, a success, and I definitely DON’T want to make a fool of myself by putting something out there that I don’t realize totally sucks. 

As a result, when I’ve been writing these posts, I labor over every word and it takes forever.  Hoping that whoever reads it will think I’m really smart and witty, wise and courageous.  Give me a break.  First of all, as far as I know, only 2-3 people read this, and they are close friends who already love me.  No need to impress them.  But more to the point: old habits die hard. The need to get an A+ so that my teacher, mom, dad and anyone else who knows me will accept and love me still operates in the most subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle ways.  I want to live from my heart and follow my bliss, not live in the unrelenting search for love and approval.  It led me to do some really cool things and to accomplish a fair amount, but my heart turned up empty and unfulfilled and my body sick and disabled. 

It is time for a different approach to life and to writing.  I’ve now spent about 10-15 minutes writing this.  I’ll go back and edit for obvious grammatical faux pas, and post it.  Now that takes courage!

Writing

I am beginning to wonder if I really want to write this blog.  The days I write a post, I don’t write what I really want to write – and that’s the novel.  I’m right at the beginning and sort of lost as to how to be proceed, and it feels like I would be better off spending all my writing energy on that, instead of this.  I procrastinate enough already, I don’t need a writing reason to not write.  They – the writing experts – say that anytime you’re writing, it’s good that you’re writing.  That writers write. And that sometimes when you’re not working directly on your Big Project, you’re still working on it because the creative juices are flowing and it’s percolating and formulating below the surface.  I know that’s true for me when I’m cooking, sewing or gardening – especially if I’ve just been contemplating the next plot twist or imagining the details of the characters.  So we’ll see how it works if I’m also writing a post here.  If you don’t hear from me for a while – this is probably why.  I am 1000% committed to writing – being a writer – to telling stories and expressing what wants to come out.  So one way or another – I WILL be writing!   

Dharma, Courage and Bliss

I always resonated with the perennial Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism even though I was never a serious student of them.  One of the teachings I did study but could never quite get for myself, was the question of my life’s dharma, also translated as purpose or truth.  People also refer to this as the Soul’s purpose, or the reason one incarnates during a particular lifetime.  A big question, and one I started asking when I was 5 years old.
Last week put an end to this lifelong quest when my dharma revealed itself quite dramatically.  I had signed up for a 3-day certification class on Leading Organizational Transitions.  My thinking went something like this:  “I want to be a writer.  But writers don’t make money for years, if ever, so I’ll need a way to support myself once I’m healthy and off disability.  I can’t go back into high tech marketing because it almost killed me.  I liked change management when I went to Georgetown, so I’ll go back and study that some more.” 
Seems like a reasonable plan. I’ve picked something I don’t hate and can hopefully make enough money to support myself in 2-3 days a week, allowing me to write the rest of the time.  The only problem is, this strategy was born out of fear.  My intuition told me that my body wasn’t ready for a 3 day class involving a hellish commute from the suburbs to downtown Washington DC.  I did it anyway, believing I could push myself like in the good old days.  After all, it’s mind over matter, right?  Our thoughts control our destiny and my mind is strong (and willful, stubborn and downright dense at times).  I can do this.  I need this. It’s just for 3 days.  How bad could it be?
Pretty bad. By the evening of the second day the friend I was staying with had to call 911 to take me to the ER.  I won’t go into all the particulars since it was a much less than pleasant experience.  Just believe me when I say that since high school, my stomach has provided excellent feedback about the state of affairs in my life, and it did its job brilliantly on Wednesday night.  It was screaming so loud it needed multiple doses of morphine to calm down. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the class.
Besides being reminded – AGAIN – that my body isn’t simply a vehicle to carry my head around, I saw how strong survival fear still runs.  After all I’ve gone through and let go of, the need for security can still land me in the ER.   
There are so many lessons to absorb: humility, listening to my body, being in the natural flow and rhythm of my life, asking for and receiving help, gratitude, and slowing down, among others.  As profound as these are, receiving confirmation on my Soul’s purpose is the greatest gift.  I now know my dharma is to trust and follow my bliss – no matter what.  In the face of survival fears, uncertainty of where I’m headed and how I’ll get there, self-doubt that I’ll have what it takes to be a good writer or anything else for that matter, anguish over the state of my health and when it will improve, and the loneliness and emptiness of being suspended in time and space. 
I am to do it anyway.  I am to have courage.   

Solitude and Silence

Almost 2 months since my last post and much has transpired.  From the surface of things, you’d not believe that all I want to do is write.  What you don’t see, because I don’t like to admit it, is how crazily perfectionistic and critical I am of myself, and how those particular traits keep me hopelessly stuck.  But here I am, vowing to write and publish anyway – despite the possibility that some people could read 3 words of what I’ve written and throw up all over them.  I am told that if I am motivated to write it, there are people who will want and need to read it.

So here we go….

After wonderfully heart-warming visits from my sister and parents, life has settled down. The garden is planted, the sewing room is ready and waiting, the kitchen is as organized for cooking as it’s going to be, the fix-it type projects around the house are complete, closets and cabinets are cleared,  my health is once again on a path of improvement after a major setback, and I am increasingly comfortable with where I live – having reached a new level of acceptance of the apparent fact that these are not my people and I must drive 45 minutes or more to connect with like-minded folks. I am, of course, completely open to meeting like-minded folks out here, and there are still things I can try to do just that.  It feels good, however, to not be constantly online frantically looking for a new close-in place to live, even though I’ve had to budget an extra $200 a month for gas in order to maintain my sanity. 

That’s okay.  The solitude is beginning to feel blissful again, like it did when I first moved to the country almost 2 years ago.  Since I am always where I am supposed to be, I can just relax into the present moment and simply be where I am. Sounds simplistic and oh so elementary on the evolutionary scale of Consciousness.  But there it is. The solitude and silence has put a spotlight on how incredibly restless I am and always have been – either jumping ahead to imagine, strategize and plan a fantasy future, or lamenting the past and all the things I shoulda, coulda  woulda done if only.  And of course with restlessness comes a complete lack of gratitude and acceptance of what is.  Nothing is ever enough.  Ever.  How can one relax and enjoy life with that type of mental tyranny running 24/7?  Impossible. 

I now know from the Internal Family Systems model of therapy that this restless part is trying to protect me from a deep well of hurt and pain experienced as a child.   This very busy protector, as well as other protectors, are just doing their jobs, even though it results in less than ideal consequences. Needless to say, it is crystal clear that part of my job right now, dare I say the most important, is to heal what is being protected. Without this healing, there will be no trusting or following any bliss anytime, despite my most heroic efforts.  And since I am always where I am suppose to be, there is no better way to do this deep healing work than living without distractions and social obligations.  In other words, in solitude and silence. 

So thank you dear, adorable, remote country cottage for providing the exact environment I need to heal on all levels – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and creative.

I want to leave you with a poem by David Whyte that has stayed with me since first hearing it years ago. I am struck that, as much as I don’t want to still be in the dark and alone phase of this major life transition, that is indeed where I still am.  This poem gives me great comfort and hope.  May it do the same for you.
 

When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also.
When your vision is gone, no part of the world can find you.
It’s time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own.
There you can be sure you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your home tonight.  The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.  The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to find that
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.
~David Whyte

 

 

 

Update

Well, I’ve been busy….following my bliss of course. Amazing what can happen.  It’s now Week 4 of The Artist’s Way and I finally admitted that all I truly, deeply, passionately want to do in this life is write.  But wait, there’s more. I:  Started phasing into a new and radically healthy way of eating which will consist of mostly raw food.  Know where I want to live. Found a gym and am joining this week.  Know how I want to support myself while my writing life ramps up.  Started and have made progress on MAJOR spring cleaning.  Made a new friend who lives 5 minutes from me.  Oh, and started on the novel that came to me unbidden one day last summer while stepping out of my car.  Almost forgot to mention that one.

Wow.  Didn’t realize how much had happened.  It might not seem like much to you movers and shakers, but after being so stuck for so long, it’s more than a minor miracle that the energy shifted to such an extent.  Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way) promises surprising things will happen and synchronicities abound once you embrace your creativity and begin living true to who you really are, aka, when you follow your bliss.  

Have to say I’m a bit giddy with the possibility of how this lifetime could unfold.  What might actually be possible, as I write these words at 11:11pm.  The portal is most definitely opening…..and I’m stepping through it.

A Craving for……Chard?

Apparently, following your bliss comes wrapped in many packages.   Even stalks of fresh, organic chard. My dysfunctional history with food makes this a revelation.

(Mom, if you are reading this, please know I don’t blame you for any of my trials and tribulations with food.  This is all part of my path in life and I know you were doing what you thought was good for me at the time.  I love you.  And thanks for all the goodies you still make!  Please don’t stop.)

I grew up in Texas where everything was fried, cooked in bacon drippings, or slathered in butter (well, margarine to be exact).  My mom loved to bake and was good at it.  Cakes, pies, cookies, fudge, pastries, cobbler, pudding, breads and much, much more filled the house every day of the week.  Our primary vegetables were iceberg lettuce, canned green beans, fried okra, and corn on the cob. Biscuits and gravy or Captain Crunch was regular breakfast fare. Then there was the homemade ice cream.  Talk about bliss!  It is a true miracle I didn’t weigh 300 lbs by the time I left home for college.  Luckily, I was incredibly active and extremely concerned with the size of my thighs.

Add to this the exact opposite influence of beauty pageant mania that filled the hearts and minds of mothers across the South.  Mine was no different.  Unfortunately, I inherited  the body shape of my mother’s Irish heritage: a somewhat stocky, athletic, muscular shape with full thighs and hips.  I was never overweight, and averaged 112-115 lbs at 5’4″ but always, always thought of myself as a tub of lard because the standard body types for Miss America did not include my flavor of curves and weight distribution.  Thus began the quest for the perfect diet and exercise plan that would transform me into an acceptable human being that would please my mother and the beauty pageant judges.  Mind you, I had absolutely no interest in walking across the stage in a swimsuit with a push-up bra and false eye lashes and thought the whole idea was absurd, but given the state of affairs in my household at the time, it was easier to go with this particular flow.

The polarization between baked goods and thin thighs, plus the constant state of conflict at home gave birth to using food to deal with and push through life.  It was a harmless enough coping mechanism, especially since I was able to keep off the extra weight with intense physical activity and crazy diets.  Until I went to college, that is.  That’s when the weight started its roller coaster ride.  I finally started smoking, jogging and living on Diet Dr. Pepper and salads at the beginning of graduate school – and the weight fell off.  Life would later intervene and the weight went back up, then down, then up, then down in an insane but faithful obsession with the scales and the size of my thighs.

This relationship with food and my body, trying every diet and exercise program known to mankind in an attempt to lose weight and keep it off once and for all, continued until 2 weeks ago when, for the very last time, I joined and promptly quit Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time.

So I sit here, 35-40 lbs overweight, refusing to diet any more.  I’m not suicidal over it like Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food and God was when she refused to diet anymore, but I’m so very done all the same. What does this have to do with following my bliss?  It’s simple: I’m going to eat what I want and what my body craves.  Nothing is off limits and all foods are legal, which means guilt-free eating. The only “rule” is that I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.  That’s it.  Geneen Roth’s approach suggest you always sit at the table to eat with absolutely no distractions – even music.  I’m not putting that limitation on myself, however, when I do eat at the table with no distractions, the food tastes better (because I’m paying attention to it), I enjoy the entire experience of eating (because I’m actually experiencing it), and I eat less (because when I give myself what I really want and actually experience it as such, I’m fulfilled). 

And, I’m craving chard, of all things.  I just had it for lunch (with a baked potato and piece of rotessiere chicken).  Sauteed with olive oil, sea salt, garlic and onions – the chard was delicious and I can’t wait to have more.  I don’t know about you, but this is not a craving I would have ever expected – especially given my nutritional pedigree.  But it was unmistakable – starting a week ago and getting stronger and stronger until finally, I made it to Whole Foods yesterday and couldn’t wait to get to the produce department to choose between the rainbow, green or red varieties.  Then today when I was preparing it to cook, I spontaneously kissed this amazing vegetable out of pure love and gratitude for its existence.  You heard me right – I kissed it! 

So, fasten your seat belts.  If I can crave chard, anything – and I mean ANYthing is possible!!