Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Better Way To Go

I ran in the woods this week for the first time in two months. I've been waiting for the snow that has been so solidly packed down into ice on the trails to melt. There were still white, icy stretches that interrupted the flow of my pace (you know on a summer day when the ice in your drink mostly melts, but there are still pieces floating that just won't give's like that), but it was good to be in the woods again, which feel like my second home. We should all have a place like that. Somewhere familiar we go which, by its sheer nature, gives us space untainted by anything or anyone (and yes, it's usually not our childhood home). A neutral place that holds no judgment, where we can bring any feeling or thought and just be.

On this day, I came upon a stretch of trail that looked slippery for too long, so I veered up a more rugged side trail, thinking I'd catch up with the main trail in a very short while, but I found myself confused when that trail intersected with another wide trail, which wasn't the one I was familiar with. I quickly understood that I was heading on a new path and rather than turn around, I decided to keep going, that maybe this was, unknowingly, the better way to go this day.   

It went uphill for a long ways and eventually I saw ahead of me a man walking on paved ground. I knew instantly that I had arrived at a part of the reservation two towns over where there is a loop of paved road. I was delighted. I finished on the easy paved loop after having made a mental note of where the trail was that I should get back on to head home. What I didn't realize was that there was a fork in the path. I didn't know which way I had come. I made a guess and after some seconds, I didn't recall certain trees down or stumps or ice and so I went back to the fork and tried the other way. After 30 seconds that way, I also didn't recognize the landscape. I really had no idea which way I had come.

I was even more delighted that this didn't bother me. I didn't know which way to go and it was fine. Why in this instance of not knowing was I okay and in other circumstances of not knowing in my life do I tremble? The path is going to lead somewhere, no matter what. There is comfort in that. It is not as though I took off  into some vast and strange forest somewhere, unfamiliar with the landmarks and without a map. In my life that is also the case. I might not know where a path is leading, but I know enough of what is around me to be safe. If I could remember to rest in that knowledge, I can enjoy the path and not miss it in my fear that there is a better way to go.

It sounds nice, but how do we really do that in the moment of having to make a decision or change? If I think back to that moment at the fork, I'd say that unconsciously there was trust, fearlessness, surrender and playfulness. I trusted myself to find my way if I got lost. That I could, in fact, handle it. I trusted the universe to bring me somewhere or to something I might need to know, learn or experience. In trusting, fear dropped away. Isn't that true? When we trust in something, fear has no weight. Surrender, which I equate with acceptance, is a willingness to be in the experience. There was no use resisting the fact that I didn't know which way would lead me home. I had to pick a way and go. Had I beat myself up for not knowing, or worried about it, or blamed something, I'd be creating more difficulty. It's so easy to do that. Instead I can say, "ah, I am here; interesting; I wonder how this will work." And then, playfulness has its part on stage. There has to be that moment of laughing. For me it was the fact that I carefully noted the tree and rock where the path started so I could find it again. I felt smart and confident in doing that until I got there and stopped in my tracks realizing that I didn't notice the fork. That was funny. I felt humbled in that moment. It's like when you're feeling good about yourself, strong, sexy, confident and then you get home and realize you have a piece of chocolate on your cheek. You know what I mean. It's best to laugh. The alternative is no fun.

The better way to go is to enjoy whichever path I am on and when there is a fork and unforeseen possibility opens up its doors again, I may find myself going in a new direction. I can then enjoy that journey with its ice, mud, and its smooth parts, too. And, when there is chocolate on my face, I will be sure to laugh.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fish Out of Water

I know a considerable number of people courageously (though they may not feel it) braving a whirlwind of financial and/or career upheavals, adjustments and transformations. Though I am not in a career shift, I have been in a life shift and it has required a stepping up in what I have needed to do, but also, in what I have wanted to do. It is both a necessity and an aspiration to change. There are moments when I panic thinking about the very near future or the more distant one, wondering how it is all going to work out. I feel like a fish out of water, at these times, losing all sense of being at home in myself and in my surroundings. There are other days where I feel at a standstill and cannot connect to the larger picture that holds meaning and purpose. The lines and colors are hidden behind frosted glass. There are days where I long to rest and to not figure out how to make something happen. And, there are times where I wish I could get a shot of confidence. Something that runs a dose of "yes, you can do this" through my whole being. And, though I have never been of the nature to imagine my life a certain way, there is a part of me that wishes for stability, security, and a sense of knowing that I will be okay. I also know what the wise teachers share, that getting comfortable with not knowing is the greater gift to attain.

I write this post not having any answers. What I can do is put together what has gotten me through thus far and what I know will continue to help me swim and to find the current that moves me along, even when the waters are low.

Patience. It is a word kids don’t really like or understand and when I am in a certain place I, too, don’t respond to it very well. Luckily there is also an adult in the room who knows the wisdom of the word. These paths of change inevitably feel like they take longer than they should. Having patience is the only way to bare it. And of course, it is not an ending that the path is coming to, but just an intersection with another path further along, but either way, when it feels like I've been walking along the same gravel road for too long and my shoes are wearing out, I can remember that it must feel that way and that it is still the “right” path. What if, when I awoke in the morning, I started by saying, “may I have patience today.” There is something comforting in remembering that I can choose that state of presence. I can still be fearful, but patient in my fearfulness.

That said, if I really am trying to swim in rough waters, patience alone is not enough. I have learned that it is not my nature to ask for unpaid help on the more serious aspects of life. I can ask for movie recommendations on facebook or where to take my kids for soccer lessons, but to really ask for someone’s help produces a good head shake and a stop sign hand out as if I am going to start singing, “Stop In The Name of Love.” But actually, I do need to stop in the name of love and ask for help. Of course, I need to ask the right people, but if I know who they are, they are most likely wanting to help. We all like to feel like we have something to give. If I can get past myself, I might actually be doing someone good in calling upon him/her. And if the feeling of shame should arise, I can take care of that voice, acknowledge its presence with compassion, and kindly remind myself that I can’t do everything alone, that we are interdependent. The only way I can give is if I also receive. There is an art to receiving. When we learn it, we start receiving so much more because we see the gifts that were right before us. When we see only our difficulty, it is as if  we have blinders on and don’t have the wider vision to take in what is being, or has been, or will be extended toward us. I need to be humble enough to ask and grateful enough to receive. So the morning wish goes on…”may I have patience, may I remember that I need others, and may I be grateful and open to receiving.”

But, despite those intentions, I can still slide down that slippery slope and find myself stuck in mud at the bottom. When that happens, I pull out the most reliable safety rope I know. A couple of summers ago, I heard the expression “what else is true?” Much like asking for help, this question helps me to see that there is more to the story. I might wake up on Monday morning and know that my work schedule is too light for the week and rather than enjoy the space, I do the flailing fish out of water thing or have one of the other unpleasant feelings. When I stop flopping along the riverbank or on the hard wooden planks of a dock, and remember to ask myself, “what else is true here,” I might slip back into the water and recall that I actually have a new client at the end of the week, or that I reached out about teaching a workshop and received a favorable response, or that I may not have paid work, but I did do all my bookkeeping and that is part of my business. I might remember that I actually had a good impact on someone last week and that I do meaningful work, that I am valuable despite what I currently feel. I might remember that I may not be reaping in the money, but that I was able to run in the morning and made it up all the hills while taking in the sounds of water flowing through the drains on the streets and the gutters on the houses and that birds were singing. I might recall that I couldn’t take my eyes off my child as she ate breakfast, her perfect, innocent face and delicate lips utterly precious to behold. Or I might remember what a friend reminds me…that I do have enough for today and that I have always been taken care of. What else is true is that my life is rich.

I can’t see the future and it is frightening at times, but for all I don’t know, there is an equal and some days an even greater part that trusts that I don’t need to. This is where faith comes in. For those of us who were brought up feeling the need to control our surroundings lest something bad should happen, faith is not an easy concept. Faith asks us to let go of the reigns and trust. Trust who or what, I can’t say -- that would be a very personal understanding, but I know it rings true in my whole being that having faith is an essential ingredient to finding peace with our very uncertain lives. The nice thing is that if I don’t know how to have faith, I can ask for help with that. “May I have help in finding faith.” That’s all I need to ask and then let it go. And so, the morning wish concludes: 

May I have patience
May I remember that I need others, just as they need me
May I see what I have and remember gratitude
May I be open to receiving
May I have faith, or at least,
May I have help finding faith.