Tag Archives: peace

The antidote to crazy

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This isn’t just about talking down crazy, as those on comment threads would say to diminish this as an alternative path to arming ourselves to the teeth.  This is about connecting with another human being and not only not being afraid of the depth of their pain, desperation, and despair, but being courageous enough to share it with them.

Isn’t that the only thing that makes any of us crazy? Disconnect and pain and how no one wants to really face it, let alone connect to it?  Yet, facing it and connecting to it is the only cure for crazy.  Being allowed to be fully human.  Being loved through all the beauty and the agony that is being human.

video interview: Woman talks down gunman

That this happened in Atlanta, Georgia and that Antoinette is a black woman and the gunman a white man takes the depth of this beauty and courage to an even more expansive place.  It is  powerful testimony to the power of embracing our own shadow so that we’re not scared of others’–even those that persecute us, that see us as the enemy and treat us as such.

I can only imagine that her tale was one of betrayal, heartbreak, bad luck, disappointment, and the forgiveness that inevitably followed, the hope that strung each event together and kept her life from completely unraveling in those places where there didn’t seem to be any options or chance of the future being any different…

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Fleeing failure

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Perusing through my old blog this morning for writing samples for a spirituality column and found this goodie from 04/19/09:

“Yeah, so the article said that when it comes to failure, there are two types of people;” my friend told me as she popped a piece of sushi in her mouth. She’s degreed in biology, and is forever feeding me fascinating tidbits on the wonders of creation. “There are those that deny failure. They blame, they avoid, they insist it wasn’t their fault, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, they’re being picked on, you name it.”

“Right. Prison is full of those.” I replied.

We laughed. “Right. Nothing changes for these deniers. The brain stays the same- no development.”

My eyes were wide, eager, as I dipped my roll in the wasabi-soaked sauce. Dichotomies, or dividing issues into two opposing categories, always make me suspicious. Not only is Life typically more complicated, thinking in dualities polarizes and divides us as people- pushing us to abandon middle ground and move to the extremes of left or right, this or that, for or against. I was ready to try to expand the two categories; to diversify.

“Then there are those that accept failure. They face it. Facing it and accepting it changes their brain. It opens neural pathways and pushes development forward.”

I lowered my chopsticks and sat back in the booth. “SubhanAllah.”

“Yeah, ’cause they’re looking to see ‘What did I do wrong?’ asking themselves ‘How can I do better?’ It changes you.”

So we don’t just learn from our mistakes, we need mistakes to learn.

For more than a decade, I have meditated heavily on the story of Adam and Eve. Indeed, the Qur’an’s insight into them was tremendously affirming for me and certainly played a role in my conversion. I had long seen the doctrine of Original Sin as being inherently evil in the way that it distances us from God, pushes us to identify with our egos instead of God’s Breath as the Truth of who we are, and justifies corrupt behavior (after all, if we are corrupt at our core, can we really ever hope to be anything other than corrupt? But if we have God’s Breath at our core, then evil is something we can win over and leave behind). I did not see any justification for Original Sin in the story of Adam and Eve. In fact, I read that story very differently from how I’d been taught.

The real problem was not so much that they ate the fruit- surely God knew that they would- the problem was that they did not take responsibility for what they had done. Adam blamed God and Eve, Eve blamed the snake. No one admitted to what they had done, no one repented.

When we refuse to acknowledge our mistakes, we begin engaging in all sorts of behaviors to justify ourselves, and this puts a distance between us and God. It affects our relationship with ourselves and with others. The word “Eden” means “Bliss”. So we can see that the story is showing us how we remove ourselves from the Bliss of God’s Presence when we refuse to take responsibility for our actions, when we don’t accept our failures. Blame blocks Bliss.

To return to the Garden, we need to face Truth and undergo purification. In the Genesis story, this is symbolized by the angel with the flaming sword guarding the gate. The Qur’an is very straightforward: Adam and Eve repented and were forgiven. They continued on to Earth, as was always the intention, and God provided sustenance and guidance.

The way the lines of Genesis are colored in by the Qur’an relieves us of the guilt attached to living on this planet, and assures us that it was always meant to be so. The stigma of making mistakes is lifted; “They slipped” is all that is said. We are assured on a variety of levels: making mistakes is part of being human, the Earth is not a prison but was always our intended dwelling place, and forgiveness is ours for the asking.

I had understood for quite some time that making the mistake was an integral part of the story- that, somehow, they could not go to the Earth until they did… but I didn’t understand why. In hearing the role that facing our mistakes and accepting failure plays in our brain’s development, so much falls into place.

Failure is necessary. We need it to grow. No wonder God tells us that if we cease to make mistakes and repent for them He will create a people that will… that we all make mistakes and the best of those that make mistakes are those who repent: to accept failure is to move forward. To move forward is to come closer to God. To become rigid, immersed in blame, afraid of change and failure, and convinced of our own piousness is to halt our development and begin moving away from God towards spiritual and intellectual death.

Failure is necessary. We need it to grow. How gloriously liberating! What a smack in the face of the Whisperer that is forever telling us how damned we are because we are not perfect. We needn’t ever be ashamed for making a mistake- only in not ADMITTING that we have made a mistake. Failure is not the problem, denying failure is the problem.

Failure is necessary. We need it to grow. What a demonstration of God’s Grace woven so intricately into our creation. God is indeed Greater- greater in Mercy and Forgiveness than we can even imagine.

As I saw in an article title: “Failure is not an option–Its Require

Walking through a Vulnerability Hangover

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home keyI’d had an amazing day.  Spent the morning in a Wise Woman Herbalism class where the teenager inside of me was giggling the whole time about how cool it was that I was sitting in the middle of the desert learning about deepening my healing relationship with plants.  Hard to imagine a place farther away from my fundamentalist WASP background.  The class and the women in it had been so affirmative of the body of knowledge growing inside of me throughout my life.  A confirmation of intuition’s power to train us up in the way we should go, and the collaborative support of Life around that.

Afterwards, I met some friends for a late lunch.  We’d laughed about how the only way we seem to be able to get together is when one of us calls 10 minutes away from the other’s freeway exit and a cascade of calling and coordination whirls us into the closest locally-owned gathering spot where we while away the hours over pitchers of sangria or pots of tea.

Got back home to melt into the couch and my sweetheart’s arms as we enjoyed the evening of “doing nothing” that we’d promised each other in the bridge of one fast-paced week and the next.  Made a phone call to some friends that had amazing news, and tossed around an idea I got about doing “storybook weddings” where I work with couples to find their totem animal, then write a folktale about it for their ceremony.  Flipping through my class binder, I got the idea to do a series of creative classes where we’d explore the different chakras and what feeds them and do craft projects based on that.

A beautiful day.

Pretty late, this voice began to streak through my head.  It told me that I hadn’t been as supportive of a friend going through a rough spot as I should have been. A bit later, it ran through again, dropping another bit of evidence of my unworthiness as a friend.  Another message came through.  At this point, I knew that the Saboteur was around.  It seems these ideas I’d had were really good ones, and the Saboteur showed up to undermine my confidence and convince me that no one wants what I have to offer.

When the Saboteur shows up, grab your flashlight. Whatever you do, don’t let it keep the lights off and hide in the Dark.

 

I used to call it “Splash Back”.  You know when you’ve finally realized you’re stuck in the mire, gathered the strength to get out of the mire, then found a bank to pull yourself up on-  once raised out of the muck, there is this splash back that laps up against your legs and knocks you off balance a little bit.  It feels like its trying to pull you back under.  Knowing that its there and what it is helps me to find my balance and stand firm.  Brene Brown called it a “vulnerability hangover” in her TED talk.  Love that term.  I knew precisely the space she was describing, and her giving language to it affirmed my experience that it was a means of pulling us backwards- and a natural part of the process.

Brene Brown: Listening to Shame

I’d had an amazing day.  I’d started something I’d always wanted to do- the Herbalism class- and the creative energy unleashed from that brought some ideas that’d been simmering under the surface to the boil.  I’d spent the afternoon in the warm, healing, glow of deep, authentic, emotionally intimate friendship.  The evening sinking deeper into that space on an even more intimate level.  And here it was.  This shame-laden voice flashing through my mind building a case that I’d fallen short of so many important tasks that I’d moved from doing a bad thing to being a bad thing.  As I’ve learned to do, I spoke it out loud.

If dark, shamed-filled voices are running through your head, speak out loud what they’re whispering.

 

Doing this in the presence of someone that you love and trust is even more powerful.  Speaking the shame-laden whispers aloud brings them in to the light.  They grow in the dark.  Bring them in to the light.  I’ve learned to do this in my relationship with my partner.  I know that he loves, respects, and honors me, so when I have some thought that suggests otherwise, I say it out loud so that I can see the look of surprise on his face and see just how untrue that thought was.

So I spoke it out loud.  I said what I was hearing, and J asked me where that was coming from.  The thoughts stopped then, but the feeling persisted.  I felt heavy.  Sad.  Lonely. Worthless.

Are you well-nourished, hydrated, and have you had enough rest?

 

I didn’t feel like I was tired enough to go to bed, so we pulled some stuff up on Netflix.  The feelings continued.  Part of me didn’t want to go to bed, but I began to realize that the feeling was likely feeding off my being tired.  I’d woken up earlier than usual that morning for the herbalism class.  I remembered the line in Vasilissa when the doll repeats “The morning is wiser than the evening”  so I decided to get ready for bed.

Go into gratitude

 

By the time I’m getting ready for bed, the feelings have spread from thoughts critical of my new project ideas to totally knocking out my present ones.  I breathed to create space around the thoughts and detach from them.  They’re not doing me any good, and clearly coming from a place that is not my friend.  J dropped off the minute his head hit the pillow, so I commenced to name the things I was grateful for that day quietly to myself.  I began with being grateful for the recycling trucks that came an hour earlier than usual and got me up just minutes before my alarm, to the amazing opportunity to study Wise Woman traditions, to my wonderful friends to my taste buds, and the dear man sleeping next to me.  I could feel the energy shifting more intensely with each counted blessing.  I fell asleep humming with a feeling of contentment and happiness.

Before waking up, I had a dream where I was working on a video project to expand education.  It was promoting a festive event we were doing.  The video was done- and was absolutely beautiful—but so serious.  “Look ya’ll, “ I told the team, “we’re promoting this fun event to help folks—we should show that first- let the fun get folks’ attention.”

What a great way to move through life!  Have fun and help people! Clicks so nicely into the messages I’ve been getting about not taking things so seriously.

Writing this as we’re on the road to Payson to enjoy nature and be able to take a hike in the shade. Gonna turn this idea around and see how I can bring my life better in alignment with that…

(post script: dropped my phone in a pool under the natural bridge and my car overheating meant driving back at 40mph with the heater blasting moving through the Arizona desert back to Mesa. But more on that later- wanted to get this up before I take my car in.  It was a beautiful day all the same.)

He Stood Right Here

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I thought my old blog was lost– I’d done some reflections there on stories from the Abrahamic tradition that I wanted to reprint here- I found it today searching for something completely different….

Here’s a post I did about my DV activism from 2009.  I’ve come a long, long way since then, but the story of where my passion for the work I do with folktales is still just as powerful:

 

“He stood right here, in this spot,” Brother Alakoum emphasized pointing at the ground next to where he stood as he looked out over the massala, “stood right here and asked for money for Bridges TV.”

Earlier in his portion of the presentation, Br. Alakoum had told the story of a man from our community that was such a tyrant that his family celebrated his death at Chuck E. Cheese. He wanted to stress that the issue of domestic violence is real in our community, and its time to move to Zero Tolerance. “You think its being a man to have your house afraid of you, but then your family celebrates your janaza at Chuck E. Cheese.”

The panel discussion entitled “From Domestic Violence to Domestic Peace” was held during the Friday night halaqa spot at ICC in Tempe. I’d printed 40 of each of the flyers we had to give out. We’d run out. 50 – 60 people were there, many new faces. Panelists were Dr. Aneesa Nadir, Founder and President of ISSA-USA, Ahmad Daniels, Executive Director of CAIR-AZ, Ahmed Alakoum, Executive Director of MAS-AZ, and Jacqueline Freeman-Ennaffah President of AMWA-AZ and founder of I AM: American Muslim (that would be me)

I’d spent the afternoon trying to untie the knot in my stomach. Each event I’m involved in concerning domestic violence brings an onslaught of feelings of insecurity and helplessness, inadequacy almost to the point of despair. Each of these attacks serves to prove to me how important this work is- how much Darkness would stop it- but staying on top of the wave instead of being crushed under it takes tremendous effort and God’s Grace to get through.

Women’s Studies professors aren’t generally well-recieved in any religious congregation, let alone a mosque. Talking about feminist theory and women’s emancipation will likely repel this audience even more than the average American. Yet, I am convinced that the issue of domestic violence will not be significantly reduced until faith communities become proactive in preventing abuse and intervening when it does occur.

Why is this issue so important to me? Why should anyone listen to what I have to say? If being a Women’s Studies instructor has no authority here or even arouses suspicion, what can I possibly say to this audience that would matter to them?

I was raised in an abusive home. My father sent my mother to the hospital a few times. We learned very quickly not to talk about it. Dad convinced us with his screams, Mom with her tears. My extended family knew mother’s stories about broken bones and bruises were lies. They tried to get my brother and I to tell them what was happening. We merely regurgitated the half-truths we had been trained to tell. I remember so clearly the suspicion in my uncle’s eyes, the pleading in my grandmother’s face, but my tongue was tied in a knot I didn’t know how to loosen.

A hostage, a puppet, my mouth bore the words that had been planted there. I hoped as much as I feared my eyes would tell the Truth. No one ever acted on what they saw in my eyes, only what they heard come out of my mouth. I thought they didn’t see. I realize now they must have felt as tied and helpless as I did.

I learned there is no safety in the world.

I am a product of both my mother and my father. Growing up with the violence, the distrust, the lack of respect, the lovelessness, ripped something inside of me. That hole would yawn wider and wider as the years went by. I would try to fill it with just about anything. Nothing worked. It seemed too big even for God.

My parents were not just at war in our house, they were at war inside of me. There was not communion between my male and female sides, there was competition. There was not communication and comprimise, there was name-calling, ultimatums, and threats. I was not given a foundation of trust, respect, love, dignity, equality upon which to build my relationship with myself, with God, with the world around me. Instead, I was raised on the rim of a volcano, never knowing when the ground beneath my feet would crumble or explode.

My dad never hit me, but hearing him hit my mom, listening to the way he talked to her, seeing how little respect he gave her, taught me about being a woman. Woman was something despised, sometimes pitied, but seldom loved. She was an object. A slave. Not really human. She was not appreciated, she was not respected, what she contributed was not important.

My mom clung on for years. For the kids. We all wish she hadn’t done that. It would have been better to not have Dad there. It would have given us the chance to be a family, instead of a collection of refugees, each huddling in their own corner, hoarding supplies, listening for signs of the next raid.

It has taken me a long time to learn to forgive my parents. Both of them: him for doing it, her for staying.

I haven’t forgiven myself yet. For the cowardice I exhibited huddled in the dark on the top of the stairs while they screamed, while he hit, when she was chased. For being the reason they were still together. For getting sick so they would fight about him not giving me my medicine on time. For being alive and the reason they would argue about money or later, visitation. For needing anything ever from my mother who was clearly struggling to stay alive herself. For continuing to love my Dad even when he’d caused my Mom so much pain.

I haven’t forgiven myself yet. I don’t know how to loosen the knots of emotion and the guilt-ridden consciousness of a child that takes all blame upon themselves. My intellect cannot comprehend it, and my heart is afraid of feeling it fully enough to let it go.

So I do this work. I hope that parents will hear, that they will listen, though the arc of change is slow and incremental. I hope that leaders will pay attention and take this problem for being the real threat to the community that it is. I do this work in the hopes that fewer children will grow up carrying the same burden that I do. That fewer children will have to work so hard to trust God and believe that they can experience love. That fewer souls will be ripped in quite this way.

I do this work so that more children will have fewer barriers in their relationships with themselves, with God, with the world around them. That more children will be brought up on a foundation of equity, justice, trust, honor, dignity.

And today, humbled and in awe of the immensity of God’s grace–of the enormity of what happened last night in that mosque, faces turned upward, next to the projector screen–I am so grateful for the plowers and planters like Dr. Aneesa Nadir. Those constant and patient souls that have banged their hearts, minds and souls against the hardened earth of this community, who have spent their years breaking up the surface, dropping seeds, praying for the right balance of rain, sun, and temperature to bring the seeds to fruition…

Oh Lord, hear our prayer

Dark places and hard times

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Was listening to a webinar yesterday led by Fabienne Frederickson on the breakthrough mindset of successful people, and she said something about “those times we’d rather not re-live.”  I was struck by her very careful word choice…  We all know the times she’s talking about: those times that squeeze and even pinch us.  The ones where we’re struggling to get a breath.  Where our sources of comfort turn brittle.

The places that show us that we’re still not over those abandonment issues. Where the sense of betrayal is so intense it becomes physically palpable.  I remember one such time, I literally heard my heart breaking.  It made a sound- like cloth being ripped down the middle.

I noticed that she didn’t say “those times we all wished had never happened” or “those times we’d rather forget”.  She said “those times we’d rather not re-live.”

There is an acknowledgment here.  A nodding to the difficulty, of course, but an awareness of the role that difficulty played in making us who we are today.  Like bones that need the muscles to pull on them and create resistance to keep them strong, so too do we need those difficult times to lengthen our souls so we can reach to the sky.

Remaining in that awareness keeps our heart and mind open so that we can effectively navigate the rocks and choppy waters when we’re in them.  In the tale of Vasilissa, the little doll in her pocket often replies “Say your prayers. Get your rest.  The morning is wiser than the evening.”

When we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis, stepping back to surrender to the moment brings us peace.  That peace enables us to see solutions we would be blind to if we let anxiety and fear take over.  When anxiety reaches a certain level, it literally severs dendrite connections in the brain. When the anxiety levels reduce, the dendrites will reconnect- like a game of Red Rover.  Its easy to understand how rising fear and anxiety levels diminishes our ability to find the solutions right in front of us.  We need to find our rest.

Once rested, it all seems to fall in to place.  Things don’t seem as terrible as we’d thought. We’re on the other side; we got past the trolls under the bridge. We’ve made it through the night and find ourselves in the light of morning.

So was all that really necessary?  Did we have to go through all that to get here?  As Joseph Campbell would ask, what is the gift in that dark place?  (I love how this post handles that question!  I mean, what do you do when your hood pops up and smashes your windshield while driving down the road??  I got all kinds of messages from my closet collapsing, I can only imagine how much she was able to mine from that experience).Baba Yaga crashing through the forest

Returning to the story of Vasilissa, at first glance, it’d be easy to say that the work she’s forced to do for her step mother and step sisters and the work she does for Baba Yaga are equally soul-crushing, yet both are freeing her in different ways.  Both are teaching her vital lessons about who she is, who others are, and how the world works.  Both are teaching her about power- though in different ways.

It is because of this work, because of this hardship–not in spite of it– that Vasilissa is able to return home with the light of Wisdom gone before.  Because of having worked through the difficulties that this light- scary though it is- is her helpmate rather than an adversary.

For Christians, today is a yearly reminder of the power of those hard places and dark times.  Easter morning is a celebration of the triumph of the light, the return of spring after a hard and long winter–a theme in religions and cultures round the world and throughout recorded time… yet there would be no celebration had there not been the cave.  No heart-expanding world-shifting forgiveness had there not been such deep betrayal.  This is where the Christ figure paves the way and shows the example– release of bitterness when faced with persecution from those he’d helped.  Forgiveness at the hands of betrayal.  Reaching for connection in times of abandonment.

The tendency to close down and harden in such times is fierce.  To choose instead to open up and soften –after a period of solitude– unlocks a deeply transformative power into our lives and in those around us.

How do we do that?  Release our grip on resentment and bitterness.  See how we contributed to our relationship with the metaphorical step-families in our lives.   Look past our fear of the Baba Yagas to see what they gave us.  Choose openness and dialogue instead of walls and defenses.  Practice looking past what makes us afraid to the Love it has to offer.

What does it all mean?

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Monday evening, returning from one of my partner’s performances and setting my alarm for shortly after 5am the next morning, I sighed heavily at the prospect of so few hours of sleep only to have to fight traffic to get downtown for a  University of Arizona public lecture on Healing Ceremonies.  In business for myself, I do my best to avoid traffic as well as appointments before 9:30 am.  Had I not just seen a FB post touting “Most people miss out on opportunity because it shows up wearing overalls and looks like work”, I may have just skipped over the invitation that landed in my inbox.  The loss of sleep would be worth my while in this instance, though, I was sure.  An MD giving a talk about the healing power of ceremony and the blend of science and mysticism it would likely cover is my favorite place.

It was well worth the short night and the long drive.

Japanese Woman Performing Tea Ceremony

There are many things that Howard Silverman, MD  covered in the lecture that were affirmations of the experiences I’d had with the power of ceremony and ritual.  One of the comments that he made that was particularly insightful was in his discussion of the material component of a ceremony– specifically the sacraments.  He defined sacraments as those things that affect the senses: incense, candles, scents would all be examples.  Due to the heightened awareness and imbued meaning created within the context of the ceremony, he explained, very little is needed to achieve the desired effect.  Ceremonial tobacco or even peyote used in a ceremony is minimal.  “When we lose touch with meaning, we need more and more of the material to achieve the same effect.” he explained, and went on to reflect on the impact this has on social issues and addiction rates.

Imbuing meaning is one of the primary functions of healers, he shared.  I couldn’t help but reflect on how many of our ills–emotional, physical, and societal–can be traced to a lack of meaning in our lives, or even worse- a connection to a meaning that is degrading and demeaning and erodes our dignity and honor as human beings.

Stories are the oldest tool I know of to imbue meaning- which is why they are the center point of both religion and (popular) culture.  Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t know how stories work anymore.  We teach them to our children when they’re in concrete operations- the stage where they are interested in learning character names and plot lines.  Yet when they reach the age where their thinking begins to develop, when they have the capacity to truly start working with stories and turning around the characters, asking questions, delving deeper into emotional drives and the symbolism of the story’s elements, we call them “fairy tales” and shelve them.  Instead of teaching our children how to use the stories to help them navigate the difficult places in their lives–as they were intended–we call them fantasies (or buy into Disney-ized or overly simplistic versions/interpretations) and refuse to engage with them on any real level.

storybookProblem? The meaning we took at the time isn’t erased from us.  Stories are powerful and are the key programming agents of our subconscious.  They’re baked in to us on a very deep level and that meaning continues to drive the patterns we repeatedly find ourselves in.  Ever moved/divorced/changed jobs just to find yourself in the precise situation you worked so hard to leave behind?  That’s those unconscious patterns at work.

I’ve seen that if the stories we tell ourselves increase our shame, reduce our sense of self-worth, disconnect us from the world and those around us, they feed addiction.  Shame is the fuel of addiction’s engine.

How does that fit in with Dr. Silverman’s insight about how little of a substance is needed within ceremony, and how we want more and more outside of that space?  How does our sense of meaning in our lives interact with our levels of shame? How does connection with our community affect meaning in our lives?  What in our lives, in our society erode that connection?

One of the first things that comes to mind for me is how we as a culture eat: alone. Disconnected from the preparation of our food. Eating while watching TV (both mindlessly). How much farther away can we get from the elements of healing ceremony where there is a shared/meaningful purpose, shared/meaningful preparation, and community? Is there any wonder that our portions are getting bigger and bigger? Our sense of satisfaction less and less?

The stories we tell ourselves

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The stories we tell ourselves have a phenomenal power over our lives.  They shape how we interpret events, how we experience our relationships, even what we pay attention to.

There is an reflective writing exercise that I do with my clients to close out my Success Skills Set session.  ”The problem with the mind is that it believes what it thinks” is the Byron Katie quote that lays at the top of the page.  How seldom do we challenge our thoughts? Our perceptions? Our beliefs?  Yet how we think about the world around and inside us dictates how we feel about it.  How we feel about the world inside and around us determines how we behave, and how we behave determines our future, our character, our integrity.

Examining our assumptions about ourselves and the world around us is worth some consideration.

Shortly after bringing home my new kitties, my son and I were watching them stalk, pounce upon, and wrestle with one another.  Sometimes its hard to imagine that they weren’t going to hurt one another- or that they despised each other- yet they’d be curled around one another in the blanket basket an hour later grooming one another and settling in for a nap between each others’ paws.  ”Well, that’s how you learn about the world, right? From fighting with your brothers and sisters” my only child remarked.  It struck me speechless at the time.

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When they’re not shredding each other, they’re quite affectionate.

Later, I was watching the kitties going after each other again- much stronger now, their tactics much more refined.  It was clear to me that as scrabbling siblings, they would be much more able to find their way in the wilder world than if they didn’t fight as often and as fiercely as they did.  They were more nimble, more cunning, more strategic because they were being perpetually challenged in a way that a human caretaker wouldn’t be able to imitate.

Indeed, it seemed that the natural world testified that fighting with our siblings is one of the many ways the young are prepared for the world they’ll have to navigate as adults.  So where did we get the idea that there was something wrong with our families if we fought with our siblings? How did this idea that there was something wrong with us, with them, with our families because we fought–ironically enough–intensify the fighting?  Take it from the realm of playful but informative parries & thrusts to soul-wounding experiences that damaged our sense of security and self-esteem?

Mind you, I’m not advocating parents leaving children to rip each other to shreds– managing conflict and dispute and moving to forgiveness is part of the skill-set we need to be effective and productive adults.  What I am saying is that shifting our perception of the role of fighting would enable us to manage that conflict better.  Forgiveness would be almost unnecessary–do you need to forgive the people that you see as being integral to helping you develop the survival skills that have brought you this far?

How different would our lives be if we expected this to be a part of childhood? Saw it as perfectly normal and natural, and even a part of our education and preparation for adulthood?

Shifts things a bit, doesn’t it?

The stories we tell ourselves deeply effect our lives; our motivation, our sense of esteem, our confidence, our optimism.  Motivation, confidence, and optimism deeply impact our performance and outcomes.  Oftentimes, the answer to our performance issues doesn’t lie in getting more hours of contact with the information, or more organized with our schedules, but in addressing the stories we’re telling ourselves about our capacity and capabilities.  About what success means.  About what failure means.  How many “this always happens to me”s are you carrying around? Sure, getting enough contact with the information in a way that works for us is crucial, as is developing an organizational system we’ll actually use.  But if we have these things and we can’t manage to stay on track, its time to look deeper.

Do we think success will call us to leave something we cherish behind? Are we using failure to protect our self-esteem?

What stories are you living by? Are they serving you?  To find out, just start paying attention to the stories that run across your mind.  How does your body feel when you’re in these narratives? How do they impact how you see yourself? How do they impact your relationships with others?  Just watch and see what happens.

Are there other options? Is  the story you’ve been telling yourself the only interpretation of what’s going on? What could be some other interpretations?

Paying attention to what we tell ourselves is a very powerful way to put ourselves into the driver’s seat of our own lives.  Mind you, I’m talking about paying non-judgmental attention here: to judge, we’re likely telling ourselves another story. Try non-judgmental observation of your stories for a week.  What do you notice?