This is what holds us back. This is what keeps us from growing and adventuring, trapping us in playing small: the instinctive feeling that we need to grasp tighter, hold back, bound ourselves up in limiting ideas and identities. Our fear-based egos keep us terrified of investing ourselves and our energies in anything not “safe” or guaranteed to “work”, which means that more often than not we do virtually nothing new at all.
Yet, nature gives us the opposite teachings. Nature consistently demonstrates that it’s only in spreading energy in all kinds of places, in all kinds of ways, with no attachment to any one seed in particular that energy and life is regenerated and growth actually can happen.
“nor·mal/nôrməl/ : conforming to a standard; usual, typical, expected.” – Could there be a less inspiring sentiment?
The true meaning of “normal” has no life or vigor and yet our fear-based egos desperately watch, measure and assess how who we are and what we are doing compares to everyone else. It tries to hide the parts of us it fears deviate from the norm because we are too sensitive, messy, complicated, challenging… or not motivated, creative, humorous or successful enough. In front of vulnerable truths ego would prefer to place shiny facades and carefully crafted PR blips.
There are so many heartbreaking problems with this form of defense. It keeps us terrified that we aren’t truly worthy or lovable because no one knows the REAL us. It keeps us alienated from meaningful connection because no one can reach us behind all the cover up. And perhaps most persistently problematic, it maintains the groupthink that there even is such a thing as “normal”, which perpetuates misunderstanding of what is honorable, honest, raw and meaningful about the human experience.
So I beg of us, if not for ourselves (though I want for that to be the greatest motivator), then for each other, let’s give up trying to be what we think we should be and start wholeheartedly being—simply being. I am certain we will find greater peace, energy, love and fulfillment liberated from the chains of assumption about other people’s expectations of us.
Your brain is a constant meaning maker. It takes a stimulus and attaches to it the nearest narrative it can grab hold of. The problem is that your brain’s fastest association with a feeling, urge or idea isn’t necessarily the most helpful or accurate.
For example, every so often I become exceptionally preoccupied with rescuing another animal. This impulse usually comes when life is bursting at the seams, and so as much as I feel compelled to go to the animal shelter, I try to resist. I’ve come to realize that this sense of urgency will pass with time but it wasn’t until this weekend that I realized why it happens in the first place.
When I feel the call to care-take during chapters of stress, it seems my brain most often interprets that urge as the desire to care-take for another. The drive to act on love for others is a neurological pathway well developed over the course of my life, so my brain quickly links “care-take” with “another” and off to the shelter I am inclined to go. However, when I stopped to reconsider what might more appropriately be motivating that feeling, I realized the urge to care-take when I feel depleted is meant to be a call to take care of MYSELF, not someone or something else. Since consciousness about self-care hasn’t been practiced as often as other-care, my brain hadn’t been trained to make that interpretation as readily.
Even though loving and connecting with others is healthy and fulfilling, it was worth slowing down to realize that some of the energy I was eager to give away needed to be given to myself.
I see inaccurate associations between feelings and meaning every day in my practice, ultimately trapping people in old stories and patterns. As a consciously growing and evolving person, you’re bound to have new ideas and experiences your brain doesn’t yet have the programming to interpret. Vigilantly challenge narratives written that may no longer hold value.
What if we trusted life enough to let it surprise us? What if we believed in ourselves enough to be fluid in evolving and adapting? What if we released our assumptions about what should be and more often celebrated the miracle of what is?
These past several days the notion of “surrender” keeps presenting itself—in guided meditations “randomly” chosen, in newsletters from people I admire, and in an email from a dear soul making sure I knew about Michael Singer’s latest book (even if it’s a couple years old).
Singer’s “The Surrender Experiment” artfully unravels the ways in which our fear-based thinking arbitrarily preconceives what is safe, what is acceptable, and what is a life we can relax into living. And as is the case with virtually all our defenses, these efforts to protect our tender egos end up causing needless suffering and hold us back from our greatest potentials.
Each call to surrender—surrender—surrender echoing through my week compels me to relax deeper and deeper into the flow of life. This repetitive messaging, often referred to as synchronicity, is one aspect of the magic of life I’m most intrigued by. When I’m aware enough to notice it happening, it tends to bring both clarity and peace of mind.
Watch for subtle (or not so subtle) synchronistic calls for your attention. I find they usually hold timely and pertinent information to help break free from the limited perspective, or “plans”, our fear-based narratives cling to so dearly.