Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tend Your Garden

The world can be overwhelming. Just the management of our lives: keeping gas in the car, people fed, our jobs attended to, bills paid, taxes in, get to the doctor, mow the grass, rake the leaves, change the oil, the dentist, am I consuming enough Omega-3’s. And if that weren’t enough, we’ve got ISIS beheading people, Ebola terrifying people, Russia threatening, the environment deteriorating, pervasive sexual assault, and mean-spirited public discourse. Take a glance at all of this at once and it is a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning. We are left feeling powerless. Where do we even begin? The feeling of powerlessness can be so huge that we end up doing nothing, further contributing to our feelings of being disempowered.

So what can we do? Marianne Williamson writes that “we’re all assigned a piece of the garden, a corner of the universe that is ours to transform. Our corner of the universe is our own life—our relationships, our home, our work, our current circumstances—exactly as they are.”

Where do we begin to tend our garden patch?

It’s always an inside job. If peace begins with me, it must begin in my own heart and mind. The thoughts I think matter. If I get caught up in stewing about what an egomaniac Vladimir Putin is, how like Hitler he seems, how narrow and narcissistic, I am contributing to the atmosphere of fear and distrust already polluting the world. I am living in fear, radiating it out into the larger world, disturbing the peace, so to speak. But if, instead, I choose to pray for and shine the light on Putin and on the Russian people, I contribute to the solution, adding to the healing of the world. Then, I’m radiating light and love all around. Perhaps it doesn’t change Vladimir’s mind today but I’m not living in fear and my loved ones aren’t exposed to my fear. I’ve changed something by tending my own little garden patch.

Yes, we are that powerful. I often encourage people to shine the pure, white light of love on others. This is a simple practice of visualizing a great column of light, pouring down over the head and body, around and through, the person. It actually does something, both when we receive this light for ourselves and when we shine it upon others. We do have the power to intervene, if we will but do it.
Transformation comes closer to home than Russia, too. We bring peace into our homes and workplaces when we focus on ourselves, our purpose, our business. When we relinquish the need to control, all kinds of magic is unleashed. Just think about the idea of transformation as tending the garden. We dig, we weed, we water. But the seeds must do the work.

Releasing the need to control others is a big part of this. One of my sons is a smoker. I’ve always hated smoking and educated my children from an early age about the health consequences of smoking. This is a kid who knows his stuff. And has since a small child. When he was four or five, I was taking both boys to the pediatrician’s office. There were three people standing outside the office building, workers on a smoke break, and he marched up to them and started explaining to them why they shouldn’t smoke. He knows. And yet he smokes. And I had to let that go. He has all the information he needs. He is making a choice and at this point it is none of my business. My choice is to not sacrifice my peace of mind by worrying about my son’s choice.

A friend of mine sent me this quote not long ago: “Worry is a prayer for chaos.” I love that. Worry is a prayer for chaos. If I choose to worry about my son smoking (and I am good at this), I will spin out an alternate story line that goes something like this: He’ll smoke for years, develop lung disease, throat disease,  and gum disease, along with chronic sinus issues. After I spin out the details of that story (think lots of phlegm and cancer), my anxiety level will grow to such a degree that I will start looking for relief. In my search to get comfortable, I’ll start nagging him, mentioning his smoking every time I see him, which will (spinning out the story again here) affect our relationship, we’ll become alienated, he’ll avoid me, start using other substances, end up homeless and dead. Even if none of these things happen, I have plenty of chaos going on between my ears and am creating my own suffering.

Best to leave him alone. And leave me alone. I don’t have to DO anything. I shine the light on him each morning and go about my business. Which is to tend my garden today.

The older I get the less I think I can do. What I mean by this is that I am capable of many things, I write, I work with clients, I teach, I tend my home, nurture friendships, love people. But I used to think I could DO stuff. Like fix things. Fix things for people. I got way too much into other’s business. I used to offer advice. Or “intervene” on other people’s behalf. Do stuff like pay someone’s electric bill for them when they were struggling. Or feed people. Or come up with solutions (that they didn’t ask for) to problems. I tend to not DO stuff now. I like the idea of bearing witness. I listen. Sometimes I have to coach myself to listen, to shut up and just listen. I really understand problems but I don’t need to solve any of them. And in this quiet restraint, I allow others’ to have their own journey, instead of imposing my version of their journey upon them. I allow others to weed their garden. I’ve plenty of weeds of my own to work on.

I do want to say a little bit about energy here. We live by the energy we allow in. If I meditate, if I get outside, my spiritual energy will be more reliable, abundant and powerful than if I do not do these things. I am more likely to worry my way to chaos if I am not attentive to my own spiritual needs. This is a big part of tending my garden. I’ve got to let the light shine on it if I am to be able to do the tending. This love energy is a thing. When we sit in meditation together, I feel energy moving around and through us. It is the energy of divine love, available to all of us, if we will but pause and allow it in. This energy calms and heals us. It is the source of peace of mind and heart that I’ve been talking about tonight. It is real. The only thing that is, actually. So we turn first to it, the source of love, when we begin to tend our garden. The garden of our heart. The garden of our mind.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Follow your heart

Yesterday morning I received a call from a friend who was wrestling with a decision. She explained the situation and my first, instinctive sense about it was, "she already knows what to do but isn't trusting herself." When I expressed this to my friend, she confirmed it.

And I've run across this several times in the last few weeks, people doubting themselves. Why do we do this?

This self-doubt is a fear-driven thing. We fear making a mistake. We fear being wrong. We fear vulnerability. We fear not being good enough.

And the truth is the opposite of this. Whatever you are, at any given moment, you are enough. Our lives are filled with endless opportunities to learn and to create. What we call "mistakes" or "wrong" are truly opportunities. When we fear we are lacking, we are blocking our true selves from blossoming.

We fill our minds with things we should or shouldn't be so much so that we stop ourselves from becoming.

How do we move past these fears? By noticing our true desires, our true longing, our true self. What brings you pleasure? What are you good at? When do you feel afraid? Whatever pleases you, whatever you are good at, whatever interests you, whatever frightens you, that is who YOU are. Learn about yourself. Receive the truth inside of you. Follow your heart.

If you'd like help with this, I'm available. You can book a session with me and we can get started together.

© 2014 Janet Tuck

Friday, June 7, 2013

It's time for some selfishness

I see it with clients again and again. Relentlessly putting the needs of others before their own needs resulting in spiritual exhaustion and resentment. There seems to me to be an epidemic of the belief that one’s needs do not matter. Self-denial then leads to weariness and, often, depression.

For a nice southern girl like me, this argument is counter-intuitive. We are taught early on that self-denial is a virtue. And, in some circumstances, it is. But when we consistently do for others what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves, self-denial is a soul sickness.

A few weeks ago it was a mother seeking to manage the family schedule, earn a living, teach Sunday school, be of service to some young women she mentors, get exercise, and work on her spiritual disciplines. The result was that she felt she wasn’t doing anything well. Over-extended, she sat in my office feeling depleted. “Is it okay for me to say no?” she asked.

This week it was a middle-aged father, providing well for his family, participating in the activities of his children, addressing the lengthy honey-do list handed him by his wife, and caring for his aging parents. “Is it wrong for me to want a little attention for myself?” he wondered.

At times like these I’d like to raise my voice and shout: Please say no! Please ask for what you need! How can we possibly give with any fullness of heart or any sense of joy if we are consistently putting the needs of others ahead of our own?

It is time, friends, for a little selfishness here. There is a vast difference between what I call “productive selfishness” and pathological, or morbid, selfishness. Productive selfishness is about developing one’s gifts and embracing pursuits which bring pleasure. These pleasurable experiences are really about living into the authentic self, developing creativity, and expanding natural gifts. Joyous selfishness is about living into the fullness of who you are.

Many of us have spent years taking care of the needs of others: our children, our parents, our spouses, our employers. While responsibility and accountability are necessary, there seems to be an over emphasis on self-sacrifice and a vacuum where self-fulfillment should dwell.

It is time now to receive the full self, in all its wonder, while embracing a kind of selfishness which our work-driven culture doesn’t recognize. This productive selfishness enhances who we are, giving us energy, vision, and hope. Ultimately, it enables us to give of our best self. This is very different from morbid selfishness which leads us to turn in on ourselves, always wanting more, a stranger to wonder and joy.

A bold embrace of self enables us to truly offer the whole self, from the heart, in service and love in a most freeing manner, unconnected to duty or guilt. Take some time, friends, for selfishness.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Live like a dog

I’ve written about living in the moment before and most likely I will again. It is a spiritual practice with rich rewards but it does take practice. The happiest people I know are those who have cultivated this skill, leaving the past in the past, forgiving themselves and learning from mistakes, and not projecting too far into the future. Sometimes I call this ability to live in the present, “living like a dog.”

Dogs are truly remarkable creatures. Loyal, non-complainers (unlike my cat who is capable of maligning my character to anyone in the vicinity), quick to forgive, I find they carry life lightly. My little dog Toto truly lives in the moment. If I ask him the time, he says “now.” Same food day after day? He’s delighted. Only water to drink? He’s grateful. Going for a walk? Best activity ever invented. On the occasions when I can take him off the leash to run, it is pure bliss for him, echoed in the electric activity of his little body.

When he is naughty and I scold him, he has forgotten the whole thing in ten minutes and is back to adoring his people. He makes friends easily, is slow to judge, and holds no resentments.

He even asks for what he wants (to play), and lets me know when he needs something (when he asks to go out).

For him, this all comes naturally, because he lives in the present moment. For me, most of this takes effort. The thing is, though, that I have a choice in how I will live and can choose to practice this living in the moment.

A few days ago I was with a client who was making himself miserable over something that might happen. What Buddhists call “the monkey mind” had taken over and he was obsessively thinking about scenario A leading to scenario B leading to scenario C and so on until, in his mind he had met with complete financial ruin. Was any of this true? Not so much. He has several successful small businesses, lives in a nice home, and provides well for his family. So I asked him if he was all right at this very moment. And he said yes. He was more than fine at that very moment; he was well taken care of. I reminded him that the singular moment was all he had.

And that is all any of us ever have. This very moment. I have the power to choose to live in each moment of each day. To notice what is around me. To choose to not go down the “what if” path and to choose instead to delight in what is. Just like Toto.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Here we are again

Here we are again. A stunned nation, mourning innocent lost, unnecessarily wounded, the stripping of our freedom to gather and safely go about our business. The images have become sadly familiar and this fact, too, offends deeply.

So many thoughts have been going through my mind since hearing the news from Boston yesterday. I am a little familiar with the running community, not because I run but because my brother does. Paul has done several marathons. One of the things he loves about them is the running community. As he says, “runners are just good people.” An assessment from someone who would know.

People run for all sorts of reasons. Some run for their health. Others to raise funds for research. Or because someone they love runs. Or simply because they find joy in running. Another because they are good at it. For every one of those 23,000 runners making their way along the course yesterday, there is an engaging story.

But beyond the runners is the community of support around them. Family and friends turn out to cheer their runner, to replenish water, to feed them “goo.”

The atmosphere is festive, celebratory. People run around in tutus, rabbit costumes, as Elvis. I’ve seen multiple Dolly Partons run down the road during the annual marathon in Nashville. It isn’t easy to run 26 miles with balloons for breasts.

Nashville’s Country Music Marathon is in ten days. I can only imagine what the organizers are going through right now. The city turns out to line the streets; it is one big festival with countless opportunities for someone with an evil intent to act out. Fear looms.

And that is the point, isn’t it? The thing about acts of “terror” is that they have a vast ripple effect. “It could happen here,” we think as we look at our children. We close in, we look with suspicion, we pass unwieldy, expensive, and ineffective laws. We become smaller.

I long to see us collectively defy fear-driven behavior with love-driven choices. Celebrate community. Participate with joy. Choose kindness toward neighbor. This is the response to acts of such senseless violence which defy everything these acts are meant to provoke. Choose senseless kindness. Choose senseless joy. Acts such as these lead to real freedom and a nurturing of the kind of community worthy of the Boston marathon.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Time for receiving

I stood on the lawn with friends as the woman approached. She was tall, thin, and wearing a colorful scarf to cover her baldness. Undergoing cancer treatment, she remained energetic and dynamic. I’d spoken with her a few times over the weekend but standing there then, with the spring sunshine pouring over us, was the first we’d really engaged.

We were attending a retreat in Sewanee, up on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. We had just come from a healing circle. Standing, connected by our hands, the group of fifty or so formed a circle. As we sang an ancient Hebrew prayer for healing, a person would step into the middle with the circle closing around them. Encircled, the person was bathed in the song of healing.

As I stepped into the circle, I felt my own heart full of love. Instead of quietly receiving, I raised my hands, “beaming” the love from my heart over those circling me. I paused on those that I knew to be struggling physically, emotionally, or spiritually. This was quite powerful for me. I felt myself open and receiving divine love and I sent it on to others around me.

Afterward, when we were outside, the woman quietly approached me. She told me she’d been so moved and that she had felt loved in that moment. I spoke quietly to her, “you have no idea how profoundly loved and cherished you are. It is time for you to open your heart and receive it.” As a tear crawled gently down her cheek she said, “ but I thought we are supposed to love, not seek love.”

What I understood in that moment, and tried to convey to her, is that when we open ourselves to the enormity of God’s love for us, when we bathe in it and truly soak it in, then all we need do is show up. This love will pour out of us, radiate from us, naturally. We spend so much energy trying to figure out what we are to be doing, grasping at living up to some expectation of who we are supposed to be, we often don’t stop long enough to take in who we are. And that is this: a precious, deeply loved child of God. We don’t have to DO anything. Take it in and show up to give it back. Receive and be, in radical acceptance. The rest will flow from there.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A little perspective, please.

My friend Ginna is a spitfire. Shy of five feet tall, she has white-blond hair, wears black eyeliner, and speaks her mind. She’s from Lebanon, Tennessee (pronounced Leb-non) and speaks with a Tennessee twang. She is kind, has a heart for serving others, and is a warm, companionable friend. But when she is angry or indignant at an injustice, watch out. She is going to tell it to your face, just exactly as she sees it.

Ginna has, to my mind, been going through a rough patch. She’s just been through a difficult break up, struggled with a drawn-out sinus infection, and yesterday faced an emergency root canal. “Worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” she drawled last night as she rested in a cloud of antibiotics and Lortab. What did she do after the root canal? Went back to work. I would have been home on the couch with a bag of frozen peas on my face.

As I talked to her I said, “Wow, you’ve really had a rough time lately with the break up, needing to move, being sick, and now this.” This was Ginna’s reply: You know, I have had a little bit of a tough time but I have this friend who is going through treatment for breast cancer. I bet she’d take a sinus infection and a root canal any day. I have and will have a roof over my head. I have the means to pay for this root canal. And doctors who can help me get better. I’ve got nothing but gratitude.”

That, my friends, is a spiritual life. It really is about perspective, living in the moment, and gratitude. And I thank Ginna, in her energetic way, for reminding me. I’d still be home, horizontal, with the frozen peas on my face if I’d had that root canal. But I hope I’d follow Ginna’s example into gratitude for the peas, for the doctor, and that my tooth could be saved. And the couch I’d by lying upon, and the roof over my head, and the loving little dog by my side. Gratitude. And perspective.