Tag: Letting Go

Independence and Suicide (Reconciling my teacher’s death)

Independence and Suicide (Reconciling my teacher’s death)

 

Sunday morning, an hour before opening Inner Sanctuary, I checked my email and found a note from my PSYCH-K® teacher. He was saying goodbye.

 

Over the last year and a half, he had shared with me his 13-year struggle with chronic fatigue, and his inability to connect deeply with his human existence.

 

In this time, I too had my private moments of struggle with fatigue and the penetrating frustration that ensues when it seems nothing you try is working.

 

He was near the abyss. I was too some days.

 

He was nearer.

 

*********

 

Some say suicide is never the answer.

 

*********

 

Independence Day is this week. The death of my teacher has me considering what freedom is, if at its most fundamental, it does not mean freedom over your own life. (Or freedom over your own body.)

 

Autonomy. Sovereignty. Self-government. Self-determination.

 

Our culture has strong taboos against suicide. Philosophers have grappled with suicide for ages. Camus writes, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.”

 

My punk rock, anti-establishment perspective concluded years ago that society declares war on suicide because the person who checks out can no longer pay taxes, or be a cog in the machine.

 

Schopenhauer had a similar idea. “It is an extravagant demand that a man who no longer cares to live for himself, should still go on living as a mere machine for the benefit of others.”

 

It’s no small irony that the vast majority of philosophers contemplating the moral, ethical, and societal questions that suicide poses were themselves somewhat immune to suicide’s siren song. Schopenhauer, whose own father may have drowned himself, lived to see 72, dying peacefully on his couch of respiratory failure in 1860.

 

*********

 

When spouses and children are left behind with diminished resources to meet their needs, is suicide wrong?

 

*********

 

Is refusing chemotherapy suicide? Somehow we understand that it isn’t. (On good days, at least.)

 

*********

 

We met three and half years ago, when I took my first PSYCH-K® workshop. I was stepping away from the edge of my own abyss. At the time, I was receiving energy healings and my healer encouraged me to learn the tools she used to become my own healer.

 

I thought she was crazy, but the healings had been so profound in their ability to provide quick relief to the heartache and mental madness I was experiencing. My curiosity won out.

 

This guy was is a really great teacher. The perfect combination of playful and serious. He understood timing, and as a great communicator, he delivered content in ways it could be most easily assimilated. You knew without a doubt that he knew his material inside and out, backward and forward.

 

Through his classes and teachings on PSYCH-K®, you came to know that you could really change and free your mind. And help others to do the same.

 

He introduces his workshops this way:

 

Celebrate life by learning PSYCH-K®, freeing your mind, and sharing it with others. The processes facilitate attainment of whole-brain thinking subconsciously, the level where our responses and reactions to life situations (real or imagined) happen automatically. Whole-brain states, the outcome of all PSYCH-K® balances, result in expanded thinking and perception. More practically, whole-brain states offer significantly more available options with which we may respond to life’s situations. This includes how we respond internally to past events (including trauma), current situations, and opening pathways to move toward or attract desired experiences and goals.

 

*********

 

Some say suicide is the biggest Fuck-You ever.

 

For what it’s worth, I hope his suffering is lessened. I’m holding him with compassion, curiosity, and loving-kindness. I hope he learned something useful for his continued journey.

 

*********

 

I never knew if he wanted me, or any of us, to tell him it was ok to die. Or if he wanted someone to talk him off the ledge. (I tried. It was received with anger.)

 

*********

 

Who am I to say you should live, to try again, to keep going? To celebrate life?

 

Who am I to say you should die?

 

Who am I to say that you didn’t do enough, or explore other alternatives to the fullest extent, or simply try harder not to die?

 

*********

 

(What does it mean when your teacher, who knows the change processes better than anyone, cannot use them to find meaning, balance, or a will to live?)

 

*********

 

Should I have tried harder?

 

*********

 

This teacher’s death is complicated.

 

He says it was the result of a serious and lengthy deliberation. He says he felt he had learned everything he could. He says we should cheer him on. True to form, he even makes a joke using language. You can hear him smiling through the words.

 

And so it goes.

 

And so he went.

 

*********

 

Independence is self-rule. It is the ability to choose your own destiny. It is authority and control.

 

How can anyone else say that “there must be another way” when we do not know the way for another?

 

*********

 

Yet we do this. Every day. We expect others to live. We expect others to be the best they can be. (Or sometimes the worst?)

 

His death is not what hurts me. It is his pain. It is all of our pain. It is our disconnection at a fundamental level from each other.

 

It is the personal and collective abyss of isolation and separation upon whose edge we humans tread.

 

*********

 

It would serve us well this week to remember that American Independence was not won by hundreds of thousands of individuals acting of their own accord.

 

It was won through forging alliances, putting aside our differences, and coming together for a single aim: that of self-government and self-rule.

 

*********

 

In his death, as in his life, he is still teaching. The results of his actions are here now with us, rippling out, affecting many. As the butterfly flaps its wings in China, a storm has hit our shores. A storm of emotions, memories, laughter, and love.

 

*********

 

Our work now is multi-fold: to find our own meaning and our own will to live. To understand this event in the context of his life, his experiences, his inner workings which we will never be able to know.

 

Our work is to take his teachings – all of his teachings – with us as we grow, heal, and continue to serve.

 

To show up fully at the edge of the abyss and decide if we shall cast love into it rather than ourselves.

Finding Balance on The Full Crow Moon

Find Internal BalanceWhy is finding balance so challenging sometimes?

 

Like now, for instance.

 

We’ve been cooped up for months.

Long nights. Cold days. Hibernating, watching Netflix, drinking and eating more. We’re stir crazy.

And beneath it all, there’s this feeling of new beginnings. The equinox is today, and it is coupled with a rare full moon to boot. We are marking the beginning of a new season.

Metaphorically speaking, we can use this time to launch into creative mode. Springtime is for planting our seeds; what  do you want to plant right now? What do you wish to harvest later this year? What are you bringing into your life, into focus, into the flesh?

The equinox is the balance point. No matter where you are on the planet, it signifies the point where the light and the dark are equal match to each other.

The dark is where we go to dream, to plan, and to prepare. Similarly, the light is where we go for action. To make good on those dreams and plans.

In the Northern Hemisphere, where I sit, I’m feeling the urge to shift from resting and planning. I want to spring into action. (Couldn’t resist!)

I’ve got so many passion projects on my winter dream list. When I sit quietly with myself, I feel them stirring inside me. This stirring wants to compound, to become more than a healthy drive that propels me. It wants to take over.

More than anything, I crave balance.

Balance between planning and creating, between thinking and being, between my old habits of pushing hard and my new habits of letting things happen organically.

My little mind says, “Hurry up, we gotta get all things going at once!” 

My higher mind says, “Pause. Reset. Breathe. There’s enough time for everything.”

I’m betting you’re a lot like me. You’re a doer, a mover and a shaker, you make stuff happen. And like me, you can flirt with burnout when your passion is too much for your physical body to keep up with.

Balance isn’t always physically possible, though, is it? There are times we must push, and times we must pull, and times we must rest in the middle. 

So how do we go-getters go about creating from a balanced perspective?

It all comes down to paying attention to our inner direction, and the signals our body is sending us.

Like the stirring I mentioned above. I know this feeling to be a cocktail of excitement and creativity, with a jigger of not-good-enoughness. The shame of feeling like an imposter, or the fear of being found out that I’m no good or less than has fueled more creative endeavors than I care to admit.

So when this Full Crow Moon sits on the Spring Equinox, and I feel that old familiar pulling and stirring, I slow down. I place my hands over my solar plexus and I take a deep breath.

I remind myself that there is plenty of time. I’ll be able to get done everything that needs to get done, and probably a lot more.

I create internal balance with my breath. With practice, I speak to myself with kindness. What results is self-compassion.

And maybe tonight I’ll howl just a little, shake a tail feather, and welcome the light.

 

 

 

 

How do YOU find internal balance? Please share. I’d love to hear from you.

 

Don’t Be An Ass

Why are we so silly sometimes, insisting on schlepping our burdens for months, years, decades? When, unlike this poor beast, we have the choice to simply set them down?

Why do we struggle?

I’d say that by the time I was 11 years old, I was definitely a little ass. My folks had moved us from rural New Mexico where there was one socio-economic class (poor as shit but content as hell) to the suburbs of New York City, where things were, um, just a little bit different. I was riding the bus home from the 6th grade one day when another kid asked me if I was a hick. (What? Did my hand-me-down Wranglers give me away?)

I felt totally humiliated and can almost feel the burn on my cheeks when I think back on it.

My parents split when I was two and both started new families. I spent my time living in two worlds, and never feeling like I fit in either one exactly. And now here I was in New York, still feeling poor as shit, but somehow not content at all. In fact, feeling more like an outsider than I had ever felt before.

No Preppies Allowed Protest T-shirt
My dad helped me draw the original with Sharpies on a white t-shirt.

That little ass wasn’t even remotely able to express that pain of not fitting in anywhere, even at home, but she did have the brilliant idea to protest.

I couldn’t stand how preppy everyone was in my middle school (the clothing was a visual indicator of my outsider-ness), so I made a T-shirt that read “No Preppies Allowed” with the Izod alligator behind the red crossed circle. (I wish I still had that shirt for posterity’s sake.) And yes, I wore that shirt to school. Imagine all the new friends I made!

I look back on that with a curious mixture of pride and shame. I’m proud of that little ass for campaigning against an obviously unfair class system, but I’m saddened at the way she did it.

That little ass was protesting, but she had it wrong.

Because it’s a little awkward protesting against your feelings – against that sense of not belonging.

‘Cuz it’s not like those 12 year old boys and girls were actually asking to be dressed like baby yuppies. Sure, maybe they liked the alligator (I mean, who doesn’t like those terrifying prehistoric creatures), but they were just wearing mostly whatever their parents told them to. (Remember, this was the 80s, it was different then!) And their parents were doing what most parents did in those parts: trying their best to send their kids to a really great public school and earn a decent living in nearby New York City.

I belong
It feels warm and fuzzy to belong, to fit in, and be part of a group. Even a group of asses.

I have often wondered what the other kids thought of that shirt, or of me the wearer of it. Did they see it as an arrow aimed right at them? I don’t recall a single classmate or teacher ever asking me about the shirt, or why I had made it.

Part of the shamey feeling comes from me knowing that it took me several decades to put down that burden of not belonging, of not being good enough to be in the group, of being the perpetual outcast. And in those many decades, I carried this burden that I could have so easily laid down, and had I done so, life would have been a lot more fun, ease-ful, and well, less shitty feeling. I might have made many more and deeper connections with awesome people.

But I also take great heart in realizing that over these years, I have gathered my tribe of people who have continued to love me even when I’ve been an ass. And now as I evolve faster and faster, and break out of the tired old constraints I used to call ‘home’, I have the honor and privilege of intentionally collecting my misfit tribe, who as it turns out, are perfect, just the way they are.

To all the Flourishers among us, rejoice in these burdens for all the lessons they bring us, and then lay that shit down. It’s time to run free. 

Emotional Freedom
Run free, you adorable little ass.
Perfectionism Kills

Perfectionism Nearly Killed Me

Perfectionism KillsPerfect isn’t just the enemy of the good – it’s the enemy of YOU.

I used to describe myself as “particular” or “detail-oriented.” I was steadfastly focused on the big stuff and also the minutia. Everything mattered. To say I was tight and controlling was an understatement. I’d tweak out on every aspect of an art project, and grant or exhibition proposals were the worst. I’d spin and spin in my head, wrestling with each and every decision, and weighing the pros and cons of my choices. You can hardly say the work was inspired. Rather, I had a chokehold on it.

My deliberation would lead to procrastination and analysis paralysis. But then the stress of looming deadlines would kick in, giving me laser-beam focus and everything else would fall away. I’d forget to eat, or pee, and I’d put in ridiculously long hours to make sure that my work was nothing short of perfect. (Can someone please remind me how perfection is actually measured?)

Perfection mattered most in the areas of my life where I felt the least secure. I would never tweak out while chopping veggies for a pot of beans. (I make kick ass beans.) But in my artist life, I never felt secure about my work or even my identity as an artist.

I always knew there were much better, smarter artists in my world. Artists who were much better connected. And who were much better craftspeople than me. And deep down, I believed that there were people – maybe almost all the people of the whole entire world – who were less insecure than me.

And on that deeper level, I knew that if anyone found out about who I really was inside (as in, who I saw myself to be), it would be over for me.

So I worked hard. Really hard. Struggling through video production. Sourcing the “perfect” materials for an installation. Obsessing over which images to choose to represent my project and at what sizes should they be printed? And sure, these are all important and necessary things to do when creating art exhibitions.

But since I was so busy unconsciously worrying that someone would find out how shitty I was on the inside, or that there were so many other, better artists around, I wasn’t having very much fun. In fact, I was miserable.

It’s wretched and painful pretending to be something you are not.

I was pretending to be confident, and pretending to be enjoying my work. But inside, it was all Fear and Loathing. Fear of being found out, and Loathing myself for not being better.

Perfectionism nearly killed me, because in its name, I worked myself into the ground. Instead of doing my work out of love and joy and respect for the process, and myself, I was doing it out of fear and so much shame. I was unconsciously using my art practice to get the healing and catharsis I needed.

It all broke apart in February 2014. Total collapse of body, mind, heart, and spirit. Everything came to a snail’s pace. I wanted to call it quits. I prayed for mercy.

I found guides to hold the flashlight for me. Bit by bit, I did the work; sometimes reluctantly, sometimes exuberantly. The old patterns came up for review. I revised. I edited.

I learned how to accept myself, even when I wasn’t perfect, or the best in town. I learned how to care for myself. I learned how to lovingly sit with my shit. Which was itself a revolutionary act.

And lo and behold, all that stuff I used to feel, it got a lot lighter. Life got a lot easier. My thoughts and I are no longer adversaries. (OK, sometimes we still argue.) But those voices that drove me to perfection, that told me nothing was ever good enough, that I wasn’t good enough, well, they quieted way down.

I won’t lie; I’m still pretty “particular” about some things. I own that and am working on it. But that shame I used to feel that drove me so hard, it’s been dismantled piece by piece. I’m confident now, instead of just pretending to be. (You’ll know it when I’m not feeling confident because I’m much more comfortable being vulnerable now.)

I can be grateful now for that sickly shame that compelled my hard work. If it weren’t for that drive, I wouldn’t have produced some work that I really am proud of. That drive allowed me to do some pretty cool stuff, some of it rather herculean, even.

But I’m ready now to do it another way. I’m ready for my work to be inspired by love and truth, compassion and wisdom.

So Perfection, old friend, we’ve walked a long way together. I’d say I learned a lot, and for that I’m grateful. But I think it’s time to part ways.

If you have a chokehold on your life, or are compressed by the downward forces of perfectionism and self-doubt, have a convo with me. It’s free and I’ll share resources to help you find your way out from under it.