Sacred Humans

I saw Fran Liebowitz speak live to a Toronto audience recently. Fran is New York author, actor, and public speaker who famously does not own a computer or smart phone. When asked her thoughts on a certain global event, she said she wouldn’t comment because she wanted everyone to feel safe and didn’t want to start a riot.

I’m not yet ready to give up my devices, although every day it’s more tempting. But I do plan to adopt Fran’s “Don’t want to start a riot” response for myself when it comes to political issues that provoke strong feelings in me but that I can’t personally change. It’s probably for the best to sidestep arguments about world events I can’t personally fix and channel my energy into something more concrete. Besides, all that anger out there just seems to feed the misguided egos of bully leaders who love doubling down on their opposition with a scornful, “Just watch me!”

Most people dedicate their lives to building, fixing, creating, improving, supporting, and all those other actions that humans are so good at. Quietly creating positive change from the inside out. We are sacred humans when we do this sacred work. Imagine a world where we all got on with doing our work and sideswiped the bully leaders.

Sacred Work

I’m told
I live in Dystopia
There’s no escape
It’s foolish to try to fight
The bad and dreadful things.

In the quiet moments I dream
That humans live together as one.
They honour the world around them.
They learn and love and care and grow.
They steward the land and its creatures.
They create beauty and harmony and ease.
They find magic solutions to vexing problems,
Even if the magic solution is to just help Nature be.

I start counting these Sacred Humans, they’re all around me,
Quietly holding the center, standing in place, tendrils tightly entwined.
I forget the bad and dreadful things. There’s too much sacred work to do.

Mind

The human mind, the brain ego, is a curious thing. It never stops. It is capable of amazing ingenuity to push the world in new directions (Shakespeare, Einstein, Galileo, da Vinci, Mozart). Or it can languish in a dark place of circular logic, negative thoughts, and imaginary dragons—until the human it’s attached to is convinced of defeat and gives up.

Some people are blessed with a Rolls Royce mind that just gets things: processing data and weighing options without emotional attachment to come to the best conclusion, given the circumstances. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes is a metaphor for that type of superhuman. Then there’s the rest of us, muddling along, overwhelmed with all that brain static.

Exercises to calm the mind are helpful. I’ve tried them all. Self-help books. Yoga. Meditation. Journaling. Spirituality. Philosophy. Altered states. Sleep (yay sleep!). Talk therapy (it’s fun to pay to drive people crazy, haha!). Any of these can work, with persistence and openness and patience. But you can’t really change deeply until your heart tells you it’s time.

A breakthrough for me came a few years back when a friend told me to personify that ego voice inside me, that organizer that tells me what I should/n’t do, could/n’t do, would/n’t do. Did you know that the English language specializes in these conditional tenses? When I asked a Parisian how to translate “I would do this” to French, he huffed that the French language had no such thing. English, he added, was la langue du diable.

Anyway, I was asked to personify this creature, this inner voice who always brings up conditions and limitations and defeats. I was asked to give it a name. I called it Igor. Yeah, the mad scientist’s assistant, not so original. Then they told me to shoe Igor away. Poor Igor, I thought.

The first chapter of Untethered Soul (Michael A. Singer) does a nice job of helping us understand our inner voice, what Singer calls the inner roommate. If Igor were my roommate, I wouldn’t tolerate his droning on for more than three minutes. But I can’t shoe Igor away, we are too attached.

I’ve even come to appreciate Igor. He can get annoying, but he’s the one who tells me to stop for traffic lights, pay my taxes, get my deadlines done, stay out of trouble. I need him to navigate the complicated human world, to keep me safe, to edit my words and thoughts. So I’ve accepted Igor as my inseparable roommate. I just try to make him relax when I don’t need him. I love you Igor, now go take a nap.

Body

The body

I didn’t really know my body at all until my 30s, when I hired a personal trainer. My body was something I relied on to get me from point A to point B, to house a brain, to enjoy a drink or five. I can’t speak for others, but I wonder if this attitude might be the case for lots of people even today.

The trainer (thanks Martin!) taught me that if I focus on (“isolate”) one muscle group, I could get to know it, help it flourish. I’m blessed with some robust DNA, so expanding those muscles was easy for me, once I stopped protesting about how much it hurt and how I couldn’t possibly do it.

Fast forward decades later. My body is no longer a 25-year-old machine that can take any amount of abuse. I have to watch what I put in it, and move it around to keep those muscles from seizing up. But I’ve come to honour my body and listen to it, because it’s my temple. It’s the thing that lets me function in this world.

Our bodies are incredible machines. The muscles and sinews perfectly align to propel us, perform our will. All those sensing organs work seamlessly for us to engage in the cosmos around us. The DNA at the base of it all replicates, heals, advances, cheers us on with a happy feeling when we accomplish things.

The body’s magic is that it just does this stuff without our even needing to be aware of what it’s doing. Most of us just ignore our body. Put whatever into it, deprive it of sleep, muddle along. For some unfortunate people their body rebels, but for the majority their body just goes on and on without much more protest than the occasional hurt and pain. Until one day it stops.

It’s so hard here not to give glib advice. Get to know your body! Watch what you eat! Get moving! You’re bombarded with this advice I’m sure. Problem is, for humans the mind games sabotage the body. In my view, it starts by working on the mind …

Obstacles

Obstacles

Behold! This is a blog post that stopped my blogging in its tracks. Ironically, it’s about obstacles. I’m going to just publish and move on …

Many months ago, back when the grass was green, I had an errand up at the Eglinton West subway station. For those of you not living in Toronto, the Eglinton Street corridor across the entire city is a giant construction site, as they work on a new transit line. At this station, there was a big detour where I had to cross an intersection three times, walk down a sidestreet, and then across a parkette, all to get going back in an easterly direction.

I’m not the type to complain about necessary detours. But what I did find annoying was the portable fence the City put up along the sidestreet to discourage people from shortening their route across the parkette. As you can see in the picture, the fence blocked a path already well worn, the grass long gone. What possessed the City to put up this fence? To protect the rest of the grass? Maybe to protect the tree roots? To force people to use the paved path they were supposed to use? It’s a mystery.

The moose is an animal known for taking a straight line to its destination, and typically just climbs over (or through) obstacles in its way. I confess I like to “moose it”. So if there’s a parking lot or lawn or any sort of open space, I automatically use the shortest path to cut out the corner. I’ve even been known to climb a fence or two, if I feel sprightly that day. I guess you could say I like to “cut corners.” Luckily I’m not building buildings or bridges, or living in France where they insist you keep off the grass.

My inner moose was deeply offended by this fence. It was just a bit too tall and flimsy for me to climb over gracefully. Luckily I could just walk around the fence, unlike so many other fences in the world. It wasn’t a big deal in the scheme of things. But it struck me as an odd thing, and I took the photo so I could think about it and maybe grumble about it later to others.

To me, this fence is a good example of all those obstacles that push us into following the expected path. Not in this case, but often, it boils down to protecting private property, and that’s the system we live in, to discourage moose like me. Some obstacles are essential for our safety and peace of mind (railings, online banking signins, red lights). And sometimes they are just in the way (like this fence, or those lineup control barriers when nobody is in line). We grumble, walk the path demanded of us, and carry on.

The main point I guess is to not let obstacles get in your way. Like I let this blog post get in the way of my blogging. I had lots of fancy concepts to add here, and many more references to “what would the moose do?”, but all those additions just seemed to take away from the message.  So I’m cutting my losses here. Sometimes obstacles teach us to just move on.

Here I Am

My first blog post. (Deep breath.) I’ve been thinking about blogging forever. I put up a technical writing blog site over 6 years ago, but bots brought it down. I had a full-time job and didn’t feel the need to start it up again, and then the world went big-time crazy and I wondered why I would ever want to put myself out there anyway. But the stakes seem higher now. It’s time I spoke up. It’s time we all spoke up.

This blog will not be focused on politics and grand opinions about how to save the world. That’s not to say I keep my head in the clouds. I have STRONG opinions on lots of things, and can fall into fits of despair at how insane it all is. I admire the warriors out there who are speaking up and trying to stop the insanity. Fight on!

For me, I find that dwelling on the negative and on anger draws me into pointless battles, keeps me preoccupied with insignificant arguments, works me up and wears me down. Then I need to check out, lick my wounds, get centered again, before I re-engage.

We all need to get centered again, and that’s what I want to focus on. We need techniques to heal our wounds quickly, so we can get back out there. And the biggest part of it is simply learning to be OK with ourselves. When we learn to be OK with ourselves, then we can work magic on others and on the world.

I’ve mapped out some survival strategies that have helped me, and will share them in future posts. I don’t claim to be an expert on how to sort out anyone’s life (even my own). But I have discovered that all of us (me too!) must speak out with confidence and listen to others with empathy. I hope some of it resonates with you.

We each have our own journey, and parts of that journey are lonely and hard, yet so rewarding if we stick to it. That’s why I take the road less travelled.