Above: That’s me on the left, at age four. She’s still inside me. (And my brother is still happy-go-lucky).
I’ve been on vacation, and the space that opened up made room for some interesting events – high highs and low lows.
After the first incident, I thought, “I’ve got to blog about this.” But more things happened, and I wondered how I would choose. I started writing about each one and saw what connects them: my belief that things – including uncomfortable things – happen for my betterment.
It is far above my paygrade to declare that belief a universal truth, and you don’t have to agree with me. But since I’ve claimed it for myself, the universe feels friendlier, which helps me to relax and trust. I still get upset, but after a good cry, I find my power in the search for meaning and insight.
Here are three vignettes – two humbling, one joyful –
and my processes for insight.
1. If you ask yourself a rhetorical question, answer it.
I was in a group. We were all invited by the leader to share a story. The leader interrupted me mid-sentence to tell me to wrap it up. I flushed with anger and clammed up. I was embarrassed by the treatment, but more so by my reaction to it. Why couldn’t I just laugh it off?
Answer your own rhetorical questions. They are a path to insight.
I couldn’t laugh it off because being silenced triggered a childhood fear that I’m boring and nerdy.
Once I identify a thought that has an emotional charge (an ouch) I do The Work on it.
I’m boring and nerdy.
Is it true? Yes.
Can I be absolutely certain it’s true? No.
How do I react, what happens, when I believe it? I feel ashamed, humiliated, offended. I stop breathing, shut down. I remember other times my speech has been sidelined – always in masculine environments – and feel pathetic.
Who would I be without the thought? I would say, “You are missing out on a great story!” All of a sudden, I am full of light-hearted responses that poke gentle fun at the leader’s incuriosity. I can be myself – as nerdy as I want to be – and boring only to a dull audience.
Turn it around to the opposite: I am interesting and relevant.
What is the evidence that I am interesting and relevant? Specific to the moment I was silenced, I was talking about being “in the room where it happened”: where books and art that changed the way people thought and saw were created. That’s interesting! In general, I am always learning so that I can know and do better, and what is more interesting and relevant than the art of living well?
Insight: the belief that I am uninteresting is outdated and does not serve anyone. Time to update my program and stand in my power.
2. Treat a charged object as a metaphor.
The other thing that happened is that I left something, a suitcase, behind.
Once may be a fluke, but twice is a pattern.
When an object becomes charged in this way, treat it like a metaphor.
This a right-brain exercise, so it helps to close your eyes, release the tension in your muscles,
and feel your body. When you’re relaxed and present –
Become the object: I am suitcase.
As the object, describe yourself in three adjectives. I am old and tired, held together with twist ties, stuffed and heavy.
Object, what is your message? I am a servant. How could you forget me? You take me for granted, focus on others who are noisier and bossier, when I quietly serve. You’re so concerned about performing for them that you don’t think about me. Pull back. Appreciate, value, what you have and who you are. Slow down. Don’t rush. Stay centered.
Insight: When others try to rush and boss you, don’t fall for it. Slow down. You can do this – in your own way, in your own time.
3. When effort isn’t working, surrender.
My weight had crept up, and I was trying to lose it, but my usual methods were not working. Not only that, I was also suffering with indigestion.
I felt frustrated by my body and declared war: I treated food like an enemy and attacked the indigestion with pharmaceuticals.
No change. We were stalemated.
So, I surrendered.
Surrender is my go-to when I finally notice that I’m fighting and that effort and control are getting me nowhere.
As soon as I surrendered, it occurred to me that the weight and indigestion might be evidence of a problem that I should try to solve instead of fight.
What if I need to add something, rather than restrict?
Eureka! Everything I learned from a women’s health course I took a dozen years ago rushed back to me: eating fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchee, as well as grains, legumes, and nuts that have been soaked and sprouted, adds enzymes to the food that aid digestion.
A trip to the naturopath confirmed that I was deficient in digestive enzymes. So, I started supplementing with those, too.
I am delighted to report that these additions have solved the problem.
Insight: Sometimes to get results, addition works better than subtraction.
I was on vacation when these events and insights happened. But what enabled them is available to me, to everyone, every day: spaciousness. In ordinary life, I’m often rushing from one thing to the next. This makes me attentionally blind to what is all around me and deaf to the whispers of intuition and the invitations of a friendly universe. But the more I slow down, the more I become enchanted with what is, instead of what I can force.