Get Low

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Fear has a way of shackling our souls – tying us down with invisible tethers.  Finding a way to rise up out of the darkness must happen in small increments.  There are ways to move into it – taking tiny steps toward the light.  Or just tiny steps, walking anyway – moving slowly and gingerly, stabbing at the air even when there is no light.

To be successful we must find a way to bring balance to ourselves, bringing our centre of gravity low against the earth.  Shifting our centre of gravity allows us to feel our way through on all fours.  We can be more centred and toppled less easily.  That way when we inevitably do make contact with the immovable, we may come up against it skillfully so as not to lose our stability to it.

So get low.  Go underground and root.  Find the ways through the darkness.  Through the mess…combat crawling on all fours.  Get low.  The way things are isn’t working.  The point has been made clearly.  Surrender to the chaos and find a way.  In the darkness we can make something. From the roots up we can build what we desire.  The tower is crashing down.  It is time to find shelter.  Get low.

Be one with the earth.  She knows no mess.  Her refuse becomes life – death reborn into fertility.  Send down your roots.  Create what you desire by choosing it.  Fumble in the darkness to feel the obstacles…not with your hands – but with your heart instead.  Echo locate.  Send out love and see what comes back.   If it is not returned, find new shelter.

There is no clarity.  There is no way to plan.  Only by clambering about in the darkness will we learn how to feel our way out.  Creativity cannot be underestimated.  Its full power is unleashed in extreme circumstances.  The way might not be easy, but it is there.  Brace yourself.  Get low.

Get smart and reconnect with your mammalian side.  We know how to do this.  The constructs of humankind have clouded the waters.  But we can remember.  We will remember.  We are being pushed with increasing force toward change.  Toward a destiny we’ll never be ready for.  But we are more prepared that we give ourselves credit for.  Get low.  Touch the earth.  We are earth.  Remember.

Keep moving through the darkness.  Keep looking for the light.  The stillness of paralyzing fear mark you for prey.  Camouflage.  Stagnation also breeds decay.  Find small ways to keep sanity.  Keep moving.  Stay sheltered.  Look for beauty amidst the darkness.  Find the beauty.  Be the beauty…recognizing you already are.

The marks we are making are lasting.  But we get to choose whether they’re marks of destruction or creation.  Both are necessary for change.  Both are needed to move forward.  Find ways to move through the mess.  Get low.  Establish roots.  Connect.  Know when to strike.  Remember.

 

Be Brave

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There are days where it feels like I’m not getting things right.  Days when I wonder what it is exactly that I’m offering this world.  There have been a lot of these since we moved.  I wonder how to share my gifts as I’m trapped under a mountain of work.  I think about how I can help myself to be present to the things that are happening around me.  The pace feels too fast for me to hold on to.  I have twinges of regret and a desire to be perfect worrying that I’m letting people down.

I am working hard to be true to myself.  I am trying so hard just to be me.

I want to be strong enough to weather these days.   And I am.  And I do.  But the pain of feeling my way through this cycle again and again feels so very hard.  I am working hard to be true to myself.  I am trying so hard just to be me.  Sitting in the journey.

I have such a deep desire for things to be different.  I crave community, meaningful relationships and work.  Some days I don’t feel like its possible and I want to run and hide, doing as little as possible to engage with the outside world as I can.  I don’t understand how our culture can be so dysfunctional and yet function.  And I don’t really know how to be within it’s dysfunction.  I want to find the right people.  I want to make room for myself to be.  I want to be strong.  I want to be self-assured.  I want to choose joy.  I want to live my truth.  I want to be someone who makes a difference.

Ironically it is my feelings of unworthiness that indeed make me so.  If I can be strong within myself and steadfast in my convictions;  to respect others, to respect nature, to be true to my ethics, to be honourable,  to be honest, to love, to choose joy, to be the best I can be, to be kind to others and myself, to be courageous enough to stand up for what I believe in, to uphold integrity, to show that I am capable, even when I make mistakes, to accept mistakes as learning, to let go of what other people think of me, to be patient, to show gratitude, to connect, to be me…then I will be living the life I’ve always wanted!

Don’t be perfect.  Be brave.

Change Contortions

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“To put it concisely, we suffer when we resist the noble and irrefutable truth of impermanence and death.  First, we expect that what is always changing should be graspable and predictableSecond, we proceed as if we were separate from everything else, as if we were a fixed identity, when our true situation is egoless.  Third, we look for happiness in all the wrong places. The Buddha called this habit ‘mistaking suffering for happiness,’ like a moth flying into a flame.”

~ Pema Chödrön

A lot has happened in our lives over the past months.  As of the last time I posted, we had an offer in on the farm of our dreams and were waiting to sell our house.  About a month ago, the owners of the farm took another offer, meaning we had 48 hours to turn our conditional offer into a firm offer to buy the farm or let it go.  This set about a huge change for us.  I was hoping that we would sell our place at a good price with the perfect closing date and no restrictions on the offer.  That way we would be able to firm up our offer on the farm and move when we were ready…just like I had pictured it in my head!  Unfortunately life doesn’t work that way.

It seems that it is the darkest hours that bend us into our new shape, forcing us to face our ego and the unrealistic expectations that can come along with it.  We found out about our 48 hour time limit at 9pm on a Tuesday night.  The following two days remain in my memory as a blur of crying, anxiety, fear, anger and shame.  We wanted that farm so badly!  We had been visioning our lives there and considered it to be an upgrade from our current life on all fronts.  With every other property we had looked at, there would always be at least one thing that was a ‘downgrade’…but not this place!  This was the one.  I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t coming together easily.  I have always put faith in the idea that if something is meant to be, that it will happen.   During those 48 hours as I stressed and paced, Rob was working tirelessly to figure out a way to manage financing the purchase of the farm without first selling our house.  We were scrambling.  Our agent called all the people who had recently  viewed our home and also those who were about to view it.  The number of showings went up and  I was out of the house with the children for over 12 hours, adding to the already long list list of days the children got to bed too late.  We were all feeling it.  After our hustle to sell the house in a hurry, all of the potential buyers fell away, and we were left with a tough decision to make.

In Canada, if you purchase a house and cannot secure financing as of the closing date, you are taken to litigation.  You are responsible for all incurred financial damage to the sellers of the property, and subsequent roll out of financial damages to any properties they are unable to close on due to not having the capital from their property.  This risk was unbearable to me.  For the first time in my life I was awake all night long.  I couldn’t get off the toilet, was having anxiety attacks, couldn’t stop shaking, and would burst into uncontrollable fits of sobbing every so often.  The scene was not pretty.  It reminded me of labor.  And a labor it was.

The following day, Rob found a farm lender who provides bridge financing for new farm purchases.  This meant that it would be alright, although costly, for us to own both properties at once for up to a year.  We had to jump through several hoops in order to secure financing with them, including contacting Rob’s parents who were leading a nature tour in Yukon and Alaska.

Everything about that 48 hours felt like a fight.  We were fighting so hard to get the farm.  We were fighting so hard to get the financing in order.  We were fighting so hard to make it work.  Every time we thought we had made progress, we found another hoop we had to jump through.  But we didn’t give up.  I stayed with my horribly uncomfortable emotions.  I took time to talk to my spiritual teacher, seeking guidance for what to do with ‘all of it‘ because my emotional rawness was overwhelming.  I took time to get myself grounded.  I took time to go for a walk in nature.  It was a wild ride, and one I hope to never take again!

When I talked to my in-laws on the phone from the Yukon, they offered 110% support.  They wanted us to get the farm as badly as we did!  The day we needed their help to gather information happened to be the only day they could have provided it .  They spent that day of their working vacation running around to find internet, talking to their financial planner, getting the hotel to print forms for them to fill out to send back to the lender.  They worked so hard for us.  But all I could see were the road blocks.  All I could see were the ways in which things weren’t going to work out.  I couldn’t see past my fear.

15 minutes before our time deadline, we heard back from the lender that with Rob’s parents as co-signers, we had been approved for the loan!   We bought the farm.  The same day, we significantly dropped the price of our house to try and sell it to avoid the costly endeavour of owning two homes at once.  Then…we got excited!  I celebrated for about a day…imagining all that moving to the farm would mean for our lives.  I felt genuine excitement for the experience of packing and moving.  I was dreaming about all the things we were going to do and accomplish in our ‘new life.’

The day after, we got an offer on our house.  A very low offer.  An offer that was less than we had paid for our place when we bought it 8 years ago.  All of the ways we had spent money to improve our house came rolling through my consciousness…Don’t they know we put on the most expensive and best warranted steel roof?  Can’t they see that we did so much to improve the insulation in this place?  Don’t they love the granite counter top I won in an radio contest?  Do they not put any value to the water distiller we installed after we inherited it from my grandparents?  Don’t they like the new pine floors we put in upstairs?  The offer felt insulting.  We said no.

Two days later the same offer came in again, slightly higher, but still lower than what we paid for the place.  They were going to give us our closing date and the offer was firm.  Knowing the showings would be over and having certainty about the deal closing in time made the offer very tempting.  The only outstanding question for us was whether or not our initial lender would still finance us with less capital.  There was also an outstanding appraisal of the farmhouse and 20 acres that needed to be completed to be sure they could finance our deal.  We were going to accept the offer, we just needed some time to make sure things would work out on our end.  We asked for a few days to consider it.  They withdrew the offer.  I felt like my heart was being put through a cider press.  “This should be easy,” I said to myself on repeat, “Why isn’t this easy?”

The following weekend we had committed to working on a natural building project that we helping to orchestrate, well actually we’re teaching a course on it in a couple of weeks (which is another post all together).  We were going to help out at a ‘work party’ on the Sunday in order to get the foundation underway for the project.  After the events of the week, and because I just plain felt exhausted, I decided I wasn’t going to worry about the state of the house when we left for the day, despite the quantity of dirty dishes and laundry that had been flung about the place.  It was nice to just be able to walk out of the house without worrying about what it looked like for the first time in weeks!

At the work party, I got a text from our realtor (I’d like to write another post about my personal experience of the impact of having a cell phone on me at all times…).  The text came in late morning to request a showing that afternoon.   Rob and I were supposed to be guiding the work that day at the building site.  My children were all there as well as my in-laws who had since returned from their trip and were now helping with childcare and the building project (they are amazing people!)  We decided that any opportunity to sell the house was worth a shot, so I left the work party and shoveling rubble into a trench to rush home to clean the house.  I worked harder in that hour and a half than I had at the building site…to the point where I was relieved to return to the rubble trench in the afternoon!

The following day, we had a flurry of showings, 4 or 5 I think.  In the meantime, we asked our lender to do an appraisal on the farm, just in case we sold the house before closing.  The day after, another Tuesday, the low offer returned for a third time.  This time, they returned with the same offer except the closing date was a week later…but still no concession for us to secure our financing.  Then the offers started to come.  We got a total of 4 offers that day and all of them left that first offer in the dust.  We accepted a firm offer with our farm closing date.  The heart wrenching had finally come to an end…or so I thought.

Part of the process of ensuring we got financing was to prove we had enough income to pay the related bills.  I have been on a leave of absence for over 2 years.  Lenders usually consider your previous few years of employment as proof of what is to come.  In order for us to proceed, I would need to be bringing in some income.  I had applied and been approved for a leave of absence for the coming year as well, hoping to maximize my time with my young children.  A call to my union confirmed that I am able to return from an approved leave, even though they have already done staffing for next year.  The postings for the year had already gone to external hire, meaning that they were interviewing people not already part of the school board to fill the spots.  As a result of putting in my request, I had to go through the interview process with the external applicants!  Luckily, after learning I would need to participate in an interview process I was working on updating my resume during the children’s rest time because a few hours later I was siting in front of a principal and vice principal interviewing for a primary/junior arts and kindergarten gym position.  The following morning I interviewed again for a junior/intermediate science and social studies job.  I got news the following day that I had gotten the arts position!

It has been a whirlwind.  I am left feeling a bit up-swept in the whole mess, and like I am still processing all that has happened in the past month.  There is a lot of processing that still needs to happen, including some reconciliation with the idea of returning to a teaching position.  I am very grateful to have a spot in kindergarten gym and the arts, and hope to be able to bring some of what I’m working on to that venue.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but I feel it needs to be acknowledged that as a homeschooling family, our children were with us through it all.  They saw the ups, downs and in-betweens.  I’m sure they learned a lot about emotional processing.  They were amazing through each and every showing.  My sons worked hard to keep their toys tidy, picking up every piece of Lego and sitting quietly on the sofa reading books on the sofa until we were ready to leave the house.  There were a couple of occasions where they watched an excessive amount of a DVD while I cleaned the house, or fielded an important financial phone call.  What I can say for sure is that my children are resilient.  What a blessing amidst the storms we’ve weathered in these past weeks.

I wanted to share the journey with you.  Because it was hard.  Because we made it through.  And most importantly because it matters a lot to where we are going.  As we move through the actions of relocating, juggling homeschooling, returning to the classroom, and becoming farmers, I will have lots to share.  I love writing and have not had space to do it.  This post took precious time out of my day that could have been used to pack more boxes…but I needed to write it out.  I needed to share it.  I wanted my readers to know I haven’t forgotten…about you or how important this work is to me.  I will return.  After the dust settles and we find our new rhythm.  I am bursting with ideas, excitement, ponderings and the like.  I want to write.  And I will when I can.  Thanks for riding alongside me…

Parenting Community

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I have been thinking about what skills I might need in order to live in community.  I have thought about what would help to make me feel safe and comfortable.  What would allow me to feel fully present and myself?  Thinking about these questions made me realize that the times when I’m most comfortable are when I’m alone and don’t have to worry about anyone else.  Clearly, this defeats the purpose of community!  Second to that is when I’m with my family.  When we’re together, everything is as it is.  We mess up, we make it right.  We know that we will be loved and held even in our darkest times.  Family is forever.

Reflecting on time spent with my children, I can’t help but acknowledge the difficult times we’ve had.  There have been many things said and done that I wish could be taken back.  But they can’t, they can only be learned from.  Working to be a respectful parent, is actually working to become a more respectful person.  The time I sit and reflect on what I could have done differently, in hopes that next time I will do something different is reconditioning my mind.

Being detached from the outcome.  Being able to sit with difficult emotions.  Not trying to fix other people’s problems.  Using non-violent communication.  Sustaining judgement while solutions are found.  These are the skills I need for community life.  I already am learning what I need to know about living in community because what I will bring is who I am.  In community, I will make more mistakes, and say and do things I wish could be taken back.  And I will learn.

The challenge now is to apply what I’ve learned to adult contexts.  It is easy to fall into old patterns, and to expect more of adults, because, well, they’re adults.  Children’s responses are just closer to the surface because they’ve had less conditioning pushing them to conceal their innate responses.  But we are all people.  And all of us are at the mercy of our inner child and the stories we continue to carry with us.  Adult or child, we all want to be treated with respect, to be understood, and to be truly heard.  No matter what age, we want to feel valued.

Choosing Joy Over Fear

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“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed.”

-Albert Einstein

There is a difference between intention and our emotional attachment to our intentions.  One can still have the intention for something to come to fruition, while detaching emotionally from it turning out in a certain way.  Although it is difficult to do, nearly impossible at times, the natural world and the unfolding of the mystery of the universe will take us along for the ride whether we concede to it or not.  All the while we must continue observing and interacting with the shifting and unpredictable landscape.

Someone said to me recently that although our emotions are real and an important piece of the puzzle, they do nothing to change the outcome of any situation.  Seeing them as separate from the event somehow makes it easier to feel emotion in its intensity, and let it pass through, knowing the situation will advance regardless of how I feel about it!  In my opinion, getting caught up in the emotional mess of life usually pulls me away from my intentions.  ‘The voice of reason’ – which is a lovely placating way to describe fear – pulls me back from living out what I feel innately called to do.  When I find myself working my mind around the ways to figure out the final outcome, the destination, I know I have hopped back on the ride.  This mental wandering into the unknown, the unknowable does nothing but fuel emotional fires.

Having our focus set on the end result is effectively driven by our consumerist society, where we get instantaneous results and gratification, served by the invisible hands who have done the hard work of bringing us cheap consumer goods.  This illusion that we create for ourselves, over and over again, sets us up for malcontent in all other areas  of our lives.  We expect the same results, ease and unseen support  and are left feeling marooned instead when it does not spontaneously appear.  Seeking joy outside of ourselves and removed from connection is enforcing a message that cheats us out of enjoying the journey and ultimately trusting that everything will work out as it should.  The consumer gears have sped up to the point where our culture often sees work as undesirable, which is an attitude that robs the joyfulness available to us in the process.  In focusing on the destination alone, I have missed the journey.  I have missed life.

We have found the farm of our dreams and our conditional offer has been accepted.  As a result, I have been fixating on the sale of our home.  It has not happened.  I am stressing myself out by trying to find ways to make our home more appealing.   I wrack my brain about how things might work out, or how they might not.  While the inner storms rage, I try to keep everything ‘together’ – an approach to life I thought I had left in the dust until we put our house up for sale.  Not only is it stressful to maintain a visage of perfection, but it isn’t real.  The more my life looks great from the outside, the more I realize what is lacking on the inside.  What happens when I strive for external perfection is that my internal self becomes bound.  I am no longer able to ride with the flow of things.  I try to control.  Once I unleash that beast, it seems to lash out at anything and everything it has a hope of affecting.  Feigning control is a joy thief.  I feel like I’m ruining my current life because I’m so worried about my future life.  My fear about what may or may not happen is causing me to lose sight of what is and sits right in front of me.  A loving husband, three amazing and adorable children, a beautiful house we still call home, a wonderful and supportive group of people we have the pleasure of calling family and friends.

When I can refocus and see all that I have from a place of gratitude, when I can really see that I am living in fear, I open up to the possibility that I can choose joy.  If I want to actually have control in my life, making the choice to pursue joy is the best way to achieve it.  I hereby release all that is bringing fear into my vision…at least for this moment.

 

Inner Buoyancy

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I have found myself indulging many of my deepest fears lately.  As we make the conscious choice to step out of our conventional life and into the murkiness of something completely uncertain.  Selling our home without a new one to inhabit has been pushing my edges with intensity.  Most days I feel convicted.  But lately, I’ve been swirling around in puddles of ‘what if’ and regret.

I have chosen to jump into a deep pool without being prepared and have been here for quite some time.  There are times where I’m able to stay calm enough to tread water and wait for the way out to appear.  My recent feeling has been more like I’m drowning; thrashing around looking for something, anything to grab hold of.  I remember from my lifeguard training that when someone is drowning, they are fully under the influence of their amygdala gland, scrambling toward survival.  Writhing around is not only an abundant waste of energy, it creates a situation where the people around the victim need to worry about keeping their head above water too, since saving oneself might be achieved by pushing another beneath the surface.

We choose joy.  It is clear now that what I choose to focus on contributes greatly to my perception of the world.  My emotional landscape is correlated to my ability to meet the world with myself.  It is often that I am drawn into feeling like an external object can solve a problem.  I have been seduced by our culture into thinking that it is the ‘thing’ – in this case my home – that will bring me happiness.  Feeling between things means that I am forced to find inner security.  We have created a situation where we are forcing ourselves to grow beyond materialism.  I know from my experience over the past weeks that there is no room to indulge fear in my new landscape.  I am happy to acknowledge it, thank it for it’s messages of warning, then to put it into perspective and ultimately set it free…at least temporarily, in favor of joy.  Deep joy that is only possible from within.  I just keep bringing myself back to the surface…again.  and.  again.

12 Ideas for Rebuilding Connection

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It happens every once in a while that I find myself at odds with my children after several months of getting on so well.  Somehow we lose our connection and end up trying to control each other in some way or another.  We fall into the trap of making our lack of connection about ourselves rather than recognizing it as relational.  When undesirable behaviours amplify and begin to take a front seat in our home, I know it’s time to take a step back and look for a way out.  It is in these times where we’re all feeling tight and frustrated that we need to revisit how we are exerting our power.  We need to refocus from ‘power over’ to ‘power with.’

Every time I find myself in one of these phases of disconnection, I try to think back to the previous time, thinking hard about how I managed to resolve it.  But I am never quite sure how it was that I got out of it the last time.  It seems that simply drawing attention to the problem as a lack of intimacy and placing some conscious effort on rebuilding it seems to do the trick…with slow but steady results.

I feel like restoring connection is rather like a slow cooking stew.  I know some good ingredients to put in the pot, but almost never follow a recipe.  Sometimes it turns out great while other times it ends up a mediocre meal.  But at the end of the day, no matter how stellar the meal turned out, we have all eaten.  Not only that, we can cook up a new stew the next day and hope for a winning combination.  Once we get the hang of it again, we seem to be able to knock out great tasting food day after day…that is until we’re missing some essential ingredients one day and find ourselves needing to revisit the recipe.

I find myself just on the far side of one of these disconnected states now…on the heels of birthday week – my three children were born on April 6, 8, and 9 – which throws us all for a loop.  So I have been reflecting on how it is that we are steadily climbing our way up out of the darkness.  After some reflection, I realized these strategies are great for parents, but can work for any relationship in need of more intimacy.

So here are some ideas I’ve thrown into my stewing pot of re-connection:

-spending lots of time outdoors together, especially in unstructured environments.  We took a lot of hikes in the woods this past week!

-spending a day (as often as possible) doing what they want to do.  If my children can’t agree, thy each get one choice.  Yesterday we baked muffins, made a huge outdoor fort, had a picnic and spent some time creating with Play Dough.

-giving more hugs, kisses and snuggles.

-going out of my way to notice and respond to positive interactions that are happening in our home.  For example, my sons were trying the comfort the baby while she was upset during dinner.  They came up with many creative ideas and games to help her through it.  They ended up calming her down and helping her through the meal.  I made a point of telling each one separately just how helpful that had been and how grateful I was for their creativity and compassion.

-looking forward to things yet to come by talking about them in advance.  For example, we have been making a plan for the coming day at bedtime, each telling something that we are looking forward to the next day.

-taking genuine interest in what they’re working on.  I get them to tell me about what’s interesting them, encouraging the conversation with probing questions to deepen it.  This includes making space for just that child, including eye contact and physical contact if possible.

-play with my children by joining into their games.  This week I’ve been building Lego creations alongside them on the floor.

-roughhousing.  This is more my husband’s forte, but I’m pretty good at instigating tickle fights!  A note on this – it is key that everyone involved is enjoying themselves.  Consent is a huge part of feeling connected.  We stop all roughhousing and tickles at the first ‘no.’  Teaching consent, even at a young age, is imperative learning for all relationships that happen outside of our home.

-being mindful of making connection a priority.  This commitment changes my body language, tone of voice and general response to my children.  It also reminds me to slow down and patiently wait for the storm to blow over.  We are not a family who uses computers/cell phones/etc. while the children are present, but during disconnected times I make extra effort to further reduce all use of technology.   For example, my blogging time during rest time is reduced to ensure the children do not see me using the computer at all.  This really brings the focus back to the people, and they can feel it.

-remembering it is more important to listen to understand than to respond.  Releasing my need to ‘fix it’ allows me to roll with the waves of emotion a lot easier.

-taking time for myself.  I let go of things I think I should do in order to pursue things that feed my soul and try reduce my own use of technology which I find allows me to ‘escape’ but doesn’t actually refuel myself.  If I can treat myself with compassion, I will have more of it to give my children.  In order to be mindful, I need to be connected to myself.  To make space for this, I re-prioritize how I use the times where I am not normally with my children, like rest time and after they’re in bed.

-lighten up!  I look for ways to focus on joy.  I look for ways to have fun, laugh and find opportunities to turn a situation around.  I share statements of gratitude, and encourage my children to do the same.  Life always offers more than one perspective.

 

What ideas do you use for re-connection?