I have been waiting to write this post until the perfect time. Now with a cinnamon roll in my belly and a cup of tea by my side, I want to share what’s been brewing in my heart for a couple of months now. It’s about when to stop, and includes a few ideas on how to stop.
I took this photo expressly for you as I had to stop at this one lane bridge. I’ve been across it exactly eight times as I traveled back and forth to a class called: Enchantivism: Changing the World with Story, Myth and Inspiration at Pacifica Graduate Institute. The class was taught by Dr. Craig Chalquist. (Check out his site for lots of free resources on an alternative to in-your-face activism to help heal the world.)
The bridge above is meant for two-way traffic but only has room for one car going one direction at a time. It’s located on a dark and curvy road in the mountains. Each time I stopped at the line, I peered over the dashboard to see if there were headlights on the other side of the bridge. I had a car waiting on the other side only once. I let the car cross over the bridge before me, then I took my turn.
It got my thinking about how in life, I wish there were stop signs more often. As a hypervigilant overfunctioning planner geek, I also wish that I could see what was mapped out far in advance. But this isn’t always the case. That’s why, a few years ago, I created this Made of Stars Meditation to Trust in the Divine Plan.
The bridge experience also felt like a reminder of how far I’ve come in breaking ancestral patterns. Say what? Basically, there are habits that we all learn from our families, living and deceased, which can help or hinder us.
Can you think of anything you learned from your immediate or extended family? Any habits? Here are a couple of ideas:
Fear of...you name it – the dark, spiders, driving on highways, heights – some of these fears may be uniquely yours, but some may be learned. Pause and think about it. When did you first decide to be afraid of that?
Mistrust of...a certain race, ethnicity, political party – some of these experiences are founded on interactions with others and/or oppression by others. These experiences are real and painful. Did you know about Daryl Davis? He’s the subject of the documentary Accidental Courtesy. I learned about him in class. He’s a keyboardist who has played with Chuck Berry and Little Richard. After a gig in an all-white venue, an audience member approached Davis to compliment him on his set. As they struck up a conversation, Davis learned that the individual was a card-carrying member of the KKK who eventually gave up his membership and turned over his ceremonial robes to Davis. Davis now has a garage full of ceremonial robes from a number of individuals who renounced their membership in an effort to unlearn the prejudice passed down from generation to generation.
Even while watching the promotional video for the film, I felt fear run through my body when I saw KKK members and their actions. I’m not suggesting that you go out and befriend Klan members. Racism is real, scary and dangerous. And there are many great and resourceful organizations who are breaking down those barriers.
But what can we do to find common ground with people we encounter who may not share similar world views?
The U.S. is more divided now than ever before. I live in a small town and find myself crossing paths with people who voted differently in the presidential election, for starters. According to Brené Brown’s most recent research in her new book, Braving The Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging, more of us are living in communities with like-minded people. This is a problem. We are no longer asked to find common ground with our neighbors because often, we hold all of the same views.
Do you feel like you belong? Do you feel lonely sometimes? This quote by Dr. Maya Angelou frustrated Brown for years. It was a key piece in unraveling the quest for belonging and the key to standing alone.
You are only free when you realize you belong no place–you belong every place–no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.
One central idea is to belong to yourself. And also also how can we find ways to create real connections with others?
Here are four of the specific research-based steps recommended by Brown:
People are hard to hate close up. Move In.
Speak truth to bull****. Be civil.
Hold hands. With Strangers.
Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.
You can dig deeper on this by reading her book (it’s only 161 pages) or you can watch this great interview with Lewis Howes.
But let’s get back to what happens when we stop and pause. Let’s think about how to break the patterns that no longer serve us. Here’s what I’ve been doing more of in the last few months:
- Observe the story like a movie: I have spent years getting triggered by conversations with someone in my life. Just this week, I saw it about to happen and I was able to watch the story unravel and pause my normal (inside my head reaction, “here we go again”) and instead, just say, “Okay, this is what we’re doing. And I don’t have to let it hurt me.” This keeps me from labeling him a narcissist and lets the moment simply pass. It’s that labeling which adds to the act of dehumanizing. I dipped into compassion and noticed that just listening to him was my act of service. (I still maintain boundaries in the relationship and don’t seek him out if I want to be seen and heard.) As a result, I left the conversation lighter.
- Plug in and recharge: I’ve tapped into Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map approach to creating Core Desired Feelings year after year. She has a cool graphic maker here. Core Desired Feelings are simply feelings you choose to dictate how you want to feel every day. One of mine is “Earth-Connected.” When I go outside and connect with nature, even for a few minutes in my backyard standing still or tending my small container garden, I am recharged. The other thing I do is plug in my sound-activated dance light every morning before turning on my computer. Then I play music and dance if I feel like it. Other times I choose quiet yoga or pull a few cards.
- The Outbreath: I’m a member of Lindsay Pera’s Mystic’s Society and one simple concept I’ve learned from her is the “outbreath.” In between work tasks, running errands, phone calls or any activity, I often pause and simply breathe with a focus on the exhale to signal my body, heart and mind that I’m transitioning to a new activity. This has helped me a lot with adrenal stress and also emotional eating because I’m more conscious of whether I’m actually hungry or procrastinating from the next task by foraging in the fridge or pantry.
- In the dark questions: If you’ve read my blog for some time, you know that I often suggest meditation and prayer as a key to designing your life. Well, we know that sitting still is not always easy. I’ve started a new practice of waking up and in my dark bedroom, and simply asking, “What do you want me to know today?” You can ask that question of your ancestors, whichever God you worship or of your own inner guru, as my yoga teacher and friend, Carrie Hensley, always says. Sometimes I just hear one word like, “shine” or “be free” or “trust.” Though this process may feel uncomfortable when you read about it, just try it when you’re half asleep and see what words come to mind. Then when I lift myself up out of bed and my feet touch the floor, I simply say, “Thank you.” I offer gratitude for being above dirt another day.
An additional frame of reference you may want to consider comes from Brown’s previous book Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. Her acronym for BRAVING has been a source of helping me craft the best boundaries to suit how I design and live my life.
B – Boundaries
R – Reliability
A – Accountability
V – Vault (keeping confidences and not speaking out of turn*)
I – Integrity
N – Non-judgement (ask for what you need and accept what others need without judging them)
G – Generosity (not jumping to negative assumptions about the intention of others)
*A nuance of the Vault which you’ll hear about in the interview with Lewis Howes is that keeping confidences also includes not telling other people’s stories. She doesn’t just mean gossip here, it also means avoiding telling other people’s business even if you have the mask of caring while sharing. Brown refers to that as using other people’s stories as currency.
Finally, I’ve had tons of fun with the stars lately. I love the app called Skyview. It allows me to look at the stars and identify the constellations. Last night, I took a walk alone under the moonlight (to connect with nature) and it was breathtaking. I came across the constellation, Andromeda and after taking the course I referenced above, I had to research her story. Often when we come across myths, they either resonate right away or they may be a bit irritating. When I first started to read her story here, I rolled my eyes. I thought, “Come on, I don’t want another man slays the dragon and saves the princess story!” But then I paused and observed my own reaction and looked a little more deeply. Andromeda is chained to a rock to atone for her mother’s sin of thinking she was the most beautiful. And I thought about ancestral patterning.
I thought about what I’ve been taught to fear and what self-imposed limitations I’ve embraced through the influence of family, tribes of friends or colleagues and culture.
Remember, there are signs everywhere, in story, myth and even as you drive down the road. Here’s a Golden Thread Meditation I made in a sacred grove of trees to tap into your own ancestors and to remember YOU ARE LOVED every single day.
I’ve realized I’m not chained to a rock by my past and I don’t need someone to slay a sea dragon for me. I’ve got my own sword, and it comes in the form of my bold beautiful heart.
Here’s some additional beauty from the mountains of Pacifica Graduate Institute. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to work together to create your vision for the future and map out concrete steps to get there. I’m working with a handful of individuals before the end of the year. For more on how I came to offer this opportunity, check out this post.