This past Tuesday was my birthday, my first in my new homeland of the Northern California coast. I kept the day deliberately unscheduled. I woke up not knowing what I would do, but trusting that if I followed my emergent impulses, beauty would unfold. This is my practice these days—listening to the moment. Sometimes I’m better at it than others. Moving here, letting go of everything I had known, and shifting from leading my life from my mind to following intuition has been my greatest teacher.
Most would argue that empathy is a good thing, and of course it is. When we’re hurting and a friend acts in a way that communicates that they know what we are going through, we feel loved. Empathy is an essential part of the development of healthy attachment in babies and in strong adult relationships as well. Most studies on empathy, therefore, look for how we can develop more.
For empaths, developing more empathy is not the problem; managing our overwhelmed nervous systems in the face of others’ suffering, is. As it turns out, most of us are not very good this.
7. This is Who You Are
In 2010 I remembered again. It was one of those “burning-bush” moments when God revealed itself to me—the kind that I tell my students not to look for.
Why? Because the Divine doesn’t usually speak to us this way, and looking for it is a distraction. The Sacred lives in the subtle. The quieter we become, the easier it is to hear the “small, still voice” within. But we’ve become conditioned to ignore the small, still voice, and look for the sonic boom. We expect our spiritual experiences to mimic the pace of adrenalized movies. Our brains want jump cuts and dopamine hits, and those of us who are spiritual seekers sometimes become addicted to peak experiences, breakthroughs, and intensity. We expect God to crack us over the head with a 2 x 4, and sometimes it does happen that way. Usually when we are too stubborn to pay attention to the small, still voice within.
In the shower this morning I remembered who I am.
Funny how we forget. And remember. And forget. And remember. It’s designed that way.
I often remember when I am in the shower. Something about the water. And the non-linear focus. And the letting go.
As I’m writing this, it’s mid-November, 2017. I am sitting on a plane at 30,000 feet on my way to San Francisco. My entire life is about to change.
As most of you know, I am moving. The guidance that led me here was undeniably clear. My heart swells with joy every time I am on the Northern California coast.
I’ve been procrastinating writing this post for a while.
Some of you know this already but for some of you it will be news:
I am moving.
Or, more accurately, I am migrating to the ocean. Muir Beach, California. To return to the Mother for a while. To listen, and write, and pray, and teach, and see clients, and walk on the coast. And to let the whales dream me into the next phase of my life.
There is no keeping yourself safe; there is only choice. You will lose something and you will gain something. Something you love will be taken away and something you never knew was possible will find you. You will grieve and you will dance. You will celebrate and you will weep. There’s no need to take it all so seriously.
I have a confession to make: I still have a paper calendar. I’m not a luddite per se, I just like the physicality of it, and being able to see the whole month at once, and the pretty orange inkblot design on the cover.
I have a ritual that I perform every January. I go through my calendar and map out what’s important to me. I put in my vacations, my yoga classes, my self-care time, the days I’ll be working on my dissertation, the hours I’ll be with clients, and the weekends I run my trainings. Of course I leave room for spontaneity and the element of surprise as well (who knows when I might be whisked off to Brazil by a new lover :)). But there’s something about attending to the structure of what’s important that relaxes me and creates space for the magic to unfold.
I captured this photo up on Katie Asmus’s land after teaching our Soul Medicine Mastery group last week. It seemed like everyone, including me, was falling apart that day.
Sometimes I think of it as sacred disorientation–when nothing seems to make sense anymore and everything feels upside down. Most of the time, I just think of it as humbling.
Years ago, when I first learned the Medicine Wheel, I found myself in a kiva in Utah, staying up all night and praying to the 7 directions. Sometime in the night I earnestly pledged myself to serve what I thought was the North–in this map a representation of adulthood, and coming into one’s true purpose. In the morning I realized that I had built the wheel upside down, and instead of committing myself to my purpose, and instead of committing myself to my purpose, I had committed myself to the South, and the healing of my heart.
If you are living in a body on the planet right now chances are you are feeling it–the chaos and reordering of the liminal time. We are in the “not yet,” between summer and fall, between what was and what will be. Astrologically, it is eclipse season, where the shadow gets brought into the light. There is also, astrologically speaking, a cosmic re-ordering of the relationship between the masculine and the feminine (both within ourselves and in relationships). And in the Jewish calendar we are in the 10 holy days, between the end of one year and the beginning of another. You get the picture, it is a potent, potent time.
It is also a heightened time of loss for many of us, with sudden deaths, the endings of relationships, and letting go’s that we hadn’t anticipated.