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The Trees Remember

All over the world, beauty is breaking the rules. Love is stretching the boundaries. Riots are expected and block parties erupt. There is a force that lingers beneath all that we see and works to turn all events toward beauty and regeneration. On Earth death is not an end but a turning toward new life. The forest remembers this truth, and the scientists at HeartMath Institute are learning new ways to read the language of the trees.

Interconnectivity Tree Research Project

Leaving the Cave

In Plato’s Republic he tells the Allegory of the Cave. There is a band of prisoners chained to the wall of a cave. The entrance to the cave is behind them and so the entering light projects shadows onto the wall in front of them. The prisoners watch the shadows play and begin to see this as reality. They have forgotten the world outside, the world casting the shadows. One prisoner is freed and is momentarily blinded by the brightness of the light outside the cave. His eyes adjust and he is able to see the source of the shadows. He enters the world, but his joy is incomplete knowing that his comrades remain chained in their cell. He returns to free them and is momentarily blinded by the darkness of the cave. The prisoners mistakenly judge that his momentary blindness is a deficit caused by being out of the cave and they refuse to go with him.

Those who seem blind to us, or seem to be seeing the world in a way that is absurd, perhaps they have just been outside the cave?

Shame

I really can’t write, talk, blog, comment, joke or jeer about this topic enough. It is our achilles heel as American’s-and maybe as humans.

Shame is the emotion that removes us-separates us-makes us feel unworthy, different, less than. It feels impossible to overcome and lurks beneath the surface all of the time just waiting to POUNCE and sabotage any forward progress that we make. Shame lures us into the oreo bag and then punishes us for our indulgence. Shame is born of self-hate and a feeling of defectiveness and it is THE major driver of the western consumer culture.

In my work with Super Utilizers-a term given to our friends and neighbors who use a disproportionately high amount of healthcare resources without the expected positive outcomes-we see shaming behavior every day. As health care professionals, we believe that shaming motivates behavior change. “If you would just quit smoking, your emphysema would get better.” “If you would just lose 50 pounds your diabetes would improve.” A nurse friend said to me “I had to use my Mommy Voice with him.” These are all examples of shaming behavior-and it only makes our patients retreat further into themselves and perpetuate the cycle of blame, self-hatred and sabotaging behavior. And we don’t like shaming people-but we have been indoctrinated into the shaming culture and we think it is what we are supposed to do. Shaming someone, or using scare tactics (another form of shame) is seen as better than doing nothing in the face of poor choices  or the dreaded non-compliance. I disagree-I think that doing nothing is far better. In fact, offering a smile or a compassionate comment could be FAR more helpful than the shame language that we frequently use.

I am not the only one who thinks this. Now famous shame researcher Brene Brown feels the same way-and she has lots of data to prove it. Please check out her TED talks at http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html

Anytime you say something, or think something, that devalues the person you are perpetuating shame and the machine that keeps millions of people enslaved and in the trenches of self-loathing. Please stop shaming yourself, your children, your co-workers, your students, your patients, your customers. Compassion, understanding and empowerment are the new language of our world-if we are going to pull through these times.

Thanks for reading…much love.

Going Down

Several months ago I made a promise to myself to be honest, congruent, authentic. To live from a deeper place than the shallow surface of masks and roles and expectations. This promise seemed simple enough and it stroked my ego’s desire for integrity and purity. I had no idea what this promise would ask of me. And I still don’t.

 

What I know….I cannot transcend my life. I cannot rise above my humanness. I cannot overcome my imperfections. I cannot conceal my fears, my anger, my irritations and endless compromises without paying a price. That price is very high and, in fact, the full cost is my life. I think you (especially you women-my sisters) know what this feels like. Anxiety. Sleeplessness. That sick fat heavy rock sitting right on your guts. The headaches. The bone aching fatigue. The knowing that something isn’t right but the confusion about what “right” even means. And the shaking, shifting ground that this indecision creates in the deepest places.

I sense that fully choosing life and continuing on the road of this deep congruence is going to demand a level of humility and courage that I have not yet developed-but I have desperately needed my entire life. In my work at Bridges to Health we often say we are building the plane while flying it. This feels more like supporting the tunnel while digging it.

The more I sink in to this essence of me that I am learning to feel deep inside, the more I encounter the dragons of fear and anger that circle the tower holding my most precious treasures.  Encountering these dragons and learning to tend them is requiring much of my energy these days. And so it is. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not for one more day

Through my long winter illness I was faced with many learnings and turnings. I was asked to look closely at my life. Which seeds shall I water and what needs pruning? I realize that this tending to the inner life and the outer choices is never-ending and will go on for the rest of my life. I will never reach the “end.” I will never be finished. That is no longer the goal. There is nowhere I am trying to get to. No other place to be. Instead, my hope is to live this moment as skillfully and honestly as possible.

I have committed to myself that I would not spend even one more day being dishonest. Not with myself (most important), not with those that I love, not in my work, not in the grocery store, not anywhere. I am willing to risk that someone cannot receive what is true for me. I am willing to be judged or disagreed with. I am finally ready to hold the pain and discomfort of not being “right” or “good” or “nice.” At least for today. At least in this moment.

Being honest doesn’t mean saying everything I’m thinking all of the time. I have adopted a filter for my words (one that I am also teaching my daughter). 

1. Is what I am about to say helpful?

2. Is it necessary?

3. Is it true?

4. Is it mine to say? Do I have the relationship and full background on the situation to be the one to speak this truth that may be helpful and necessary?

If I cannot say yes to all 4 questions, then the truth I hold is silence. The silence that acknowledges that I don’t always have to offer something in the form of words to a situation. I can offer a calm and loving presence. I can offer a smile. I can offer love to myself by getting up and leaving the interaction or situation. I can practice breathing and centering to stay in my own space instead of feeling what someone else is feeling. There are many more ways to be honest and true to myself than I had ever imagined. 

I am still having trouble with feelings of resentment, anger and betrayal. I’m not sure how to honestly express these feelings in a way that honors my 4 questions. Sometimes I feel like expressing these feelings is necessary for my healing-but I can’t be sure that it will be helpful to the other-or even to me. The good news….I have the rest of my life to practice this and I don’t expect to ever achieve perfection. But I do expect to become more fully myself and to be ever more willing to take risks in exposing that self to those around me. 

Thirty Something

I am experiencing what a lot of people talk about as they age-the mysterious rebellion of the body. I feel like I’m too young to have health problems, but American’s are being diagnosed with chronic illnesses at younger ages every year. So what is going on here?

For me, it started with vague viral symptoms on November 20th after a wonderfully refreshing Yoga Nidra class. Sore throat, fever, diarrhea. That old chestnut. Instead of running its course in the usual 7-10 days, I got sicker and sicker. I developed a secondary sinus infection and then bronchitis. The bronchitis wouldn’t clear up-even after three antibiotics, two courses of steroids and an inhaler. So the next step was a “long=acting” inhaler used to treat asthma along with some pulmonary function tests.

The inhalers and steroids worked to loosen my tight lungs, but they also loosened the top valve of my stomach causing terribly painful gastric reflux as the acids crept up into my throat. This is a common side effect of asthma medicines-and the big risk is breathing in tiny  droplets of acid from the stomach which further irritates the lungs. A real catch-22.

What usually happens next-a medicine for acid reflux. Pepcid or protonix or zantac or another of the wildly popular reflux medicines. The problem with long term use of anti-reflux medicines is that it changes the pH of the stomach acid making it less able to fend off foreign invaders and less able to digest the food I eat-meaning that bacteria and viruses will pass into the intestines where they have direct access to my bloodstream. Hooray! Also-foods that are not properly digested in the stomach end up in the small intestines in a “too whole” form and the small intestines don’t have the enzymes and acids in the right quantities to break them down-so the food ferments there growing yeast and producing ethanol. Sounds like a brewery, right? That’s because it is! As this change starts to happen I will feel tired, sluggish and with dulled thought processes-like I”m drunk-because I am!

So then-back to the doctor-I’m feeling sluggish and like I can’t think straight. Blood tests. Maybe an antidepressent? You can see how this unfolds. And it is really scary to me. It feels like the body is unraveling. Like things just aren’t holding together in there. Or should I say, in here. And all from what seemed like a harmless winter virus.

My story is not uncommon. We go along living our normal healthy young lives until suddenly we have a setback. A virus or bacterial infection or a minor accident and the whole body gets thrown off balance. For some of us that balance is never restored. The side effects of the medications used to treat our symptoms creates further imbalances in the body and we start to feel like there is no firm ground to stand on.

I don’t have answers for this because my body is still presenting me new symptoms. In the first few weeks of my illness I went to the doctor frequently to get treatment for these symptoms. There was no talk of treating the cause of my problems-which is probably a weakened immune system from the stress of a new job and new schedule as well as some other life changes. Now that the acute phase of my illness is over, I am taking responsibility to put energy into unearthing the causes that lead to this experience.

The bottom line is that no doctor, no matter how skilled (and I really like my doctor) can heal this imbalance in my body. Only my body can pull itself back together. I can help by creating conditions where optimal health is possible. And my doctor can help by teaching me what optimal conditions for a healthy body are. Once I have established these conditions the rest is up to the collection of cells and tissues imbued with the breath of spirit and the wild unique mind I call Erin. There is a wisdom in the body that knows how to be well and is always stretching toward wellness. I have to trust in that wisdom. It’s the wisdom that heals the skin back together after I cut my finger chopping vegetables. It’s the wisdom that took Mike’s sperm and my egg and weaved Ashlyn together. It’s the wisdom that draws the mighty oak tree out of the acorn. I trust in this wisdom. But, just like the acorn needs the right amount of light and moisture and warmth to begin it’s journey toward being an oak, my body needs the right amount of nutrients, rest, laughter, hydration and trust to restore itself to wholeness. My doctor cannot do this for me-and I haven’t done a very good job of doing it for myself.

So the task at hand, to listen in to this body of mine for what it needs. How much of what kinds of foods? How much rest? How much play? How much work? Who are the people in my life who are healing to be around? Who are the people who cost energy to be with? What do I need to say no to so that I can say yes to something else?

I am grateful to my doctor and to western medicine for what was offered to me in the acute phase of my illness. I think we do a good job of that in modern medicine. But the long-term care and rebalancing of my body is up to me. That responsibility is mine. I hope that I can do what needs to be done to feel young and vibrant again. I hope I have the willpower and the courage to prioritize the things that give my body energy to knit itself back together. I realize I am at a fork in the road and which path I take is up to me. I can keep going into the dark wood of an unravelling body. Or I can take the mountain pass toward vibrant health. Neither road is a stroll in the park-but the dark wood ensures that I get to give responsibility to someone else and I get to be a victim of my body and of our healthcare system. The mountain pass requires me to take ownership and to invest my time and energy into myself. I know which road I believe in taking-but can I walk my talk? Time will tell.

A light to walk by

I let myself feel the pain of the deaths of those children and teachers. And that gunman. I allowed the horror and the absurdity to play with my thoughts and to twist my intestines into knots. I sat under the stars and I looked at our pain, the pain of our People. We are a wounded people. This tragedy points to that place of brokenness in us. Why? The question we are asking ourselves. Why children? Why take other lives besides his own? Why the violence? Why don’t we know what to do for people like Adam? Why don’t we know how to keep our innocent children safe? Why do the leaders of our media stations lack senstivitiy and drag us all through the sensationalism and fear-provoking hysteria with endless images of this horror? Why do we so quickly turn other’s pain toward feul for our own agenda? We all know better, don’t we? Why?

As I followed the Why’s down my own private rabbit hole, I found that the Why itself is my light on this path. I don’t have the answers to these questions. But I do care enough to keep asking why. And to keep looking inside to the place where I am choosing a world that generates such pain that a 20 year old man would claim the lives of innocent children. How am I contributing to the fear, the isolation, the desperation and the separateness? How am I creating the conditions in my own life that generate this type of pain? And how can I create a balm for this pain in my heart? In my home? In my neighborhood and workplace? How can I be with Ashlyn as she goes back to first grade on Monday-full of trust and hope and faith in her teachers and in our world. How can I protect her faith in us-the grown ups? How can I live up to her trust? How can I as a healthcare professional soothe the pain and the chaos and the separateness in the people I interact with every day? As someone who is “supposed” to have answers-how can I be a source of love for our People who are in pain, desparate, hopeless, afraid?

I pray for the strength to lean into these questions and the humility to never believe that I have the answer. And also for the courage to keep trying-to follow the path that the heart opens before me. I know that I can’t change the world, but I also know that I can make a contribution. And I am committed to doing just that.

Please join me. Please look inside your own heart and into your choices. Are you putting your energy into creating a world of safety, inclusion and trust? If not yet-how will you start? Can you start today? Can you put down the weight of being “against” something and instead turn your thoughts toward being FOR a world that is safe? A world that knows how to help? I believe in us-I believe in you.