welcome the chaos

not too long ago i read an article in a parenting publication that IMG_0736got me thinking. the format was more question/answer, the question coming from a distressed parent seeking help from the expert. the mother wrote about her 2-year old son who was getting fussy every time he’d go down for his usual nap. she said he seemed resistant, and couldn’t figure out what was going on for this boy. it was stressful and challenging, and just didn’t make sense. i loved the expert’s response.

the expert wrote back saying that her son was likely going through the process of letting go of one of his naps because he no longer needed it. the fussiness and resistance to the nap was her son going through a process of disorganization as he naturally opened himself up to a new schedule, as he let go of one of two (or more) naps and adjusted to a new way of being in the world each day. things needed to fall apart a bit before being put back together. he had to go through the inner turmoil to once again reach a state of peace.

and isn’t this what we go through anytime we’re making a change of any kind? it feels like our world is falling apart, we feel out of control and messy and disorganized and don’t understand why. we torment ourselves because we think we’re supposed to keep ourselves together, that change should somehow be neat and tidy and orderly. but it’s not.

change is supposed to be messy. let me say that again: change is supposed to be messy. and perhaps most important: THE MESS IS A SIGN OF CHANGE! we’re supposed to metaphorically dump our bag out so we can see what we’ve been carrying around all this time that’s been causing us pain. and sometimes the contents of our bag need to sit on the floor for a while. maybe that big ‘mess’ needs to just take up some space. we can learn to live amongst the chaos. it won’t last forever. it’s only when we know what’s been in our bag that we can consciously choose what we want to continue holding. 

our problem is that we judge ourselves, tell ourselves there’s something wrong with us for not being able to hold it together. imagine if we naturally entered our chaos, like the 2-year old, and allowed ourselves the full expression of all we feel during times of big transition. if we cried when we needed to, pounded a pillow, let ourselves fall out instead of staying strong and proud.

we must trust the duality of life. that we’re self-organizing creatures that will naturally return to a state of peace, that at the very least we long to return to a state of peace. just as there can’t be day without night, there can’t be chaos without order.

when we find ourselves in the chaos, it’s our natural inclination to want to escape what’s painful. but when we can be in the chaos (with the use of tools like mindfulness, compassion, etc.), open to the swirl of thoughts and feelings, even physical mess in a home, we can learn to be with a different side of life that has just as much value. this side of life offers us the opportunity to really release what is too heavy, even completely unnecessary. we can relax our defenses and our shoulds and know that life will take care of itself. that the natural process is to move through disorganization back to organization, and that there’s not much we have to do to enable the process other than allow it to unfold naturally.

embrace the stillness

thstillnesse snow rests like a pillow for our thoughts.
it sits with arms open, the soft “shhh” whispering from its lips,
guiding us to sit next to it in gentle silence.
the snow guides us into hibernation, into our warm spaces we call home
where we do the hard work of turning inward during the
season of darkness.
the snow says, “embrace the stillness. be quiet with me.”

it’s during this season, the season of darkness, that we can come
into contact with the places gone hidden. it’s a bit ironic that
it’s only when we shine our lights in the dark can we see what’s been
there all along.
that it’s really in the dark we begin to uncover. to see. to know.
to embrace.

and in order to embrace, we must grow still enough to
hear the plant growing, the spider crawling, the snow falling.

may you allow yourself this time during this frenzied pace that has
become the holiday season. may you learn to embrace the stillness all
around and inside you.

delayed gratification

earlier today i was outside plantingIMG_0702 some daffodil bulbs and was struck by how so much of this healing work is related to gardening. as i was digging the holes, putting some bulb food into the hole, placing the bulb, only to cover it all up again and then water the soil, i thought about the healing process. how we dig and dig, plant a seed, and then it seems we just wait. i personally know how frustrating that can be because we just want to feel better. we want the relief now. sometimes even yesterday.

perhaps what’s interesting is that if anyone were to look where i just planted it doesn’t look any different than before i planted. at least not on the surface. what’s important, though, is that i can remember what’s now in the earth that was never there until i put it there. the work, now, is to water the soil and then protect it as it gets colder and colder. i protect those little bulbs by putting leaves over where they’re buried. i’ll leave the snow there to insulate as well. and then the long, hard waiting of winter. while it looks like nothing is happening, new life is incubating so it has the strength to push through when spring comes. there’s a process without it looking like much of a process.

now, i’m not encouraging to just sit back and do nothing. no, that’s not it. what I am saying is that sometimes, most times, we have to trust that the seeds have been planted and live inside us. when we go through years and years of believing false beliefs and acting from a place of fear and the need to protect/control, it’s going to take time and patience for those processes to be replaced with love. just like with the bulbs sometimes we have to wait, we have to trust that new life will come in the springtime (which can happen any time of year when it’s our internal world growing). we have to nourish and care for the bulbs, seeds, potential life inside us. we have to trust and allow the process to work on us after we’ve done the hard work of digging and planting new life (replacing false beliefs, challenging fear, etc.).

it’s an ongoing and nonlinear process; there will be periods of deep digging as well as periods of sitting and trusting, seemingly waiting for what feels like forever. but then, it happens. when there’s enough time, patience, space, and love, those little green shoots poke out of the ground and reach for the sun. and so, too, will you grow. you already are. keep trusting. keep nourishing. keep incubating. keep growing.

a poem

there is a pIMG_0008lace you must go when you find yourself in no place.
this place doesn’t exist for those who already have a place.
no. this place is special.
it’s where alchemy is born. where dark is light and light dark.
where nonsense is sensical.
where whispers are songs and walks dances.
it’s the place between places.
where clothes come off and all is exposed. where the wounds of the
heart receive tender attention. where the sheep in wolf’s clothing can
reveal it’s sadness for having to pretend to be another. where fear
becomes a friend and love your biggest ally.
this place between places is where you’re stripped clean of all you
knew to protect. armorless, you begin to realize your own words
have been your strongest weapons, most likely trapped behind your
shield and forced back upon you.
whether willing or forced, finding yourself in this place between places
is your greatest gift. to get out, you must work. work can be slow or fast,
arduous or simple. but work you must.
because to be in this place forever is never the plan. just as day turns to dusk
turns to night turns to dawn turns to day again, so too will you transition
in and out of this place.
the world needs you to report back that all is not lost when the lights go out.
that it’s actually in the dark one develops night vision.
that the dark is only as dark as the light bright.
that sometimes the life wanting to be lived lies in the shadow.