Cultivating Resilience – Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

“Without purpose, meaning, and perspective, it is easy to lose hope, numb our emotions, or become overwhelmed by our circumstances. We feel reduced, less capable, and lost in the face of struggle. The heart of spirituality is connection. When we believe in that inextricable connection, we don’t feel alone.”

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

In my classes: Wednesday 5/20 and Saturday 5/30

Note: This Saturday 5/23 I have a sub who will teach on his own theme, and next Wednesday 5/27 I am cancelling class to celebrate my birthday. So we will do this theme, Guidepost #3, this Wednesday and next Saturday 5/30, and then we’ll be back on track!

The third Guidepost on the Journey to Wholehearted Living is a rich one. At its most basic, it addresses the topic of resilience: the ability to overcome adversity, to bounce back, and to stay centered come what may. In addressing resilience, the chapter touches on a diversity of profound topics such as hope and hopelessness, addiction, powerlessness, entitlement, critical awareness, and a timely reminder of the fact that we can’t shut out the bad without also shutting out the good.

I certainly need much more than one class…one week…one chapter to explore the topics covered here.

While there are many important factors addressed in this discussion of resilience, I think the one I am connecting with most is Brown’s bold and surely controversial (at least to some of her peers) assertion that spirituality is an essential component of resilience. She states that in the face of the full range of human emotions including the ones we love to avoid like fear, pain, discomfort, vulnerability, and hopelessness, “the only experience that seems broad and fierce enough to combat [these emotions] is the belief that we’re all in this together and that something greater than us has the capacity to bring love and compassion into our lives.” (Brown, pg 73)

This is the essence of any true spiritual path: to take refuge in Something Greater that can provide support and protection, can bolster and buoy us in the face of things which get us down, can remind us that we’re all connected by and to that Something Greater. That which can help us keep opening…keep opening…keep opening.

Embodiment is a lesson in fluctuation and pulsation, light and dark, concealment and revelation. Living with eyes and a heart wide open means that we are bound to experience not only shame but sheer joy, not just depression but also delight…not just sadness but also celebration. We cannot shut out the bad, cannot take the edge off the challenge without also shutting out the good, depriving ourselves of the opportunity to also truly feel things like excitement and joy and amazement. A spiritual path is one that helps us keep things in perspective no matter where we are on the spectrum of emotion, sensation, intensity.

Whatever your spiritual path or practice, it serves you if it reminds you that you already have what you need to weather this and any storm. Regardless of the words you may or may not use, regardless of whether the space you feel most connected to that greater energy is under the majestic dome of a cathedral or the magical canopy of a forest, whether singing hymns or sitting in silence…your ability to connect with something greater is an essential component of resilience.

I invite you to join your community in taking refuge in your breath and in your heart. You are always being held.

Cultivating Self-Compassion – Letting Go of Perfectionism

[Those who embody Wholehearted Living] spoke about their imperfections in a tender and honest way, without shame and fear…and they were slow to judge themselves and others. They appeared to operate from a place of ‘We’re all doing the best we can.’” – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

In my Wednesday and Saturday Classes

What would it look like to give yourself a break sometimes? To cut yourself some slack? To give yourself permission to try (and maybe “fail”) but recognize that in trying you’ve already succeeded at so much?

In this chapter on Cultivating Self-Compassion, Brené talks about the important difference between perfectionism and striving to be your best. Perfectionism is ultimately rooted in a desire to prevent yourself from feeling certain “negative” aspects of embodiment, namely shame, judgment, and blame—it is about shying away from your nature rather than living into it. Striving to be your best is a natural expression of your inherent nature of expansion and wisdom, of your nature as a whole being engaged in the Dance of the Divine, willing to open yourself to the full range of the human experience and find growth and transformation therein.

Perfectionism is about the illusion of control and omnipotence, while striving is about actually doing your part and leaving space for Grace, mystery, and Something Greater. Perfectionism is about shying away from the fullness of life, while striving is about opening yourself up to it.

In this chapter, Brené notes, “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. Life-paralysis refers to all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out into the world that could be imperfect. It’s also all the dreams we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others. It’s terrifying to risk when you’re a perfectionist; your self-worth is on the line.” (emphasis mine)

Perfectionism, as a tool of the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, can show up anywhere: our queer spaces and political movements are not immune to its toxic effects. I think this is where the important lessons of those living Wholehearted lives comes in: talking honestly about our own imperfections and limitations, and being slow to judge ourselves and others.

When we have decided that what is valuable is authentic and compassionate interactions, we will start from the assumption that we’re all connected and all doing the best we can. When we have decided that folk are guilty until they can prove themselves sufficiently politically correct or radical or leftist or what-have-you, that scarcity thinking and endless critique/judgment will isolate us “good” fill-in-the-blank (queers, feminists, white people, radicals) from the others, we are playing into the perfectionist hands of patriarchy and hegemony, acting as internal police forces which censor and limit our behaviors in our own home spaces.

What we need is more folk taking risks, bringing their whole imperfect (yet divinely perfect) selves to the table—whether in intimate partnership, within organizational or movement structures, or within families and communities—and bringing the full weight of our complex realities and lived experiences to bear on the issues which plague our relationships and communities. What we need is more striving together for our collective best.

But we cannot give each other a break if we are not giving ourselves one. Self-compassion begets compassion, but not the other way around: we cannot offer what we don’t have. If we are not willing to cut ourselves some slack, to recognize that trying is half the battle and that knowing our limitations and places for growth affirms rather than diminishes our humanity, we have very little to offer to others in this respect.

What kind of impact do you want to have on the spaces that you’re in, in your relationships, and in the depths of your own heart?

Brené reminds us: “Perfectionism never happens in a vacuum. It touches everyone around us. We pass it down to our children, we infect our workplace with impossible expectations, and it’s suffocating for our friends and families. Thankfully, compassion also spreads quickly. When we’re kind to ourselves, we create a reservoir of compassion that we can extend to others. Our children learn how to be self-compassionate by watching us, and the people around us feel free to be authentic and connected.”

This week: Cultivating Authenticity – Letting Go of What People Think

Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.” Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

In my classes this week: Wednesday and Saturday.

This week marks an important moment in our journey towards Wholeheartedly Living: we have arrived at the long-awaited “How-To” part of the process (or at least, as close to a “How-To” as Brené offers us).

We have looked at Wholehearted Living and what it offers us. We have looked at courage, compassion and connection, the endless gifts and essential tools on the path towards Wholehearted Living. We have looked at Love, Belonging and Being Enough, and examined the difference between those who experience Love and Belonging and those who don’t.

This week we will move from why we need love and belonging to how we create it. Brené reminds us that those who experience love and belonging do so for one simple (but not easy!) reason: they believe they are worthy of love and belonging. What makes them different, what makes it so that they believe? They practice shame resilience. [There it is: Shame. The dirty word that Brené tells us we must confront and discuss if we are to make this journey. After all, she arrived at this work because she studies shame and shame resilience.]

Shame is what stops us from being vulnerable, from taking risks, from being true to ourselves in the face of challenges. So the “how-to” part is all about how we can practice shame resilience and make it the rule and not the exception in our lives and relationships. This is the essence of Wholehearted living.

The first guidepost she offers is authenticity, which she defines thus: “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

She goes on to clarify:

Choosing authenticity means

  • cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
  • exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
  • nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.

This is a tall order. That’s why this is a journey, and that’s why we need each other to do it. “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection,” Brené says. And authentically expressing ourselves is the way to foster true and meaningful connection.

Everyone has a potential, a svadharma–your unique life’s work. My Ayurveda mentor once told me that in order to be truly happy, each person must realize their potential. Our authentic selves do not go away just because we choose not to express them; there will be costs to leading an inauthentic life.

Join me this week in finding an authentic expression of yourself on the mat and in your life. In my classes this week: Wednesday and Saturday.

Love, Belonging, and Being Enough

The next stop in our systematic exploration of Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.

In my classes this week: Wednesday and Saturday.

Choosing Love, Belonging, and Being enough. If you ask me, it doesn’t get much more counter-cultural and revolutionary than this. In the inherently alienating rat-race of what bell hooks calls the white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy, choosing to thumb your nose at what other people think and embrace your own set of values, your own measures of “success,” your own notion of happiness and fulfillment is truly radical, truly liberatory.

As I sit with the implications of this in my own life, I am reminded of two poignant aphorisms: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” And–perhaps more importantly for me right now–“Those who mind don’t matter; and those who matter won’t mind.”

Choosing to believe you are worthy of love and belonging has extensive implications off the mat, in your daily life. For me right now I am reflecting on how it requires me to choose *who* I want to belong with, who I want to feel at home among. Which leads me to seek out and build community with folks who are valuing similar things as I am, who are using a different measuring stick to evaluate both their successes and their growth edges, and who are choosing to love themselves in the process. And in so doing, I am making a choice to reduce the isolation and alienation characteristic of dominant culture, and choosing with whom to cast my lot and invest my whole self.

You are the company you keep, so keep good company.

You are the company you keep, so keep good company. That applies to your innermost thoughts and also to your friends and companions. Choose to keep the company of those who lift you up, who support you and who encourage you to find and reveal what is full and true for you. Choosing to believe you are worthy of love and belonging is a choice that will permit you to naturally fall into the company of those who are doing the same. In this way you create a supportive container of mutual expansion and upliftment, co-creating a sense of belonging to a chosen family. This is the work that we do together, each week.

Join us.

Connection is your nature.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from relationship.” -Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection (emphasis mine)

In my classes this week: Wednesday and Saturday.

illusion of separationWe are continuing our collective journey to and through the Heart with Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection” as our guide. We have looked at courage and compassion.

Tomorrow we will look at connection, the third tool and principle gift of what Brené refers to as Wholehearted Living. Brené reminds us that we are hard-wired for connection, and that we need it to thrive emotionally, physically, and holistically. The connectedness we experience in our relationships–or don’t experience, as is sometimes the case–has a direct impact on the way our brains and bodies develop.

Examining the definition of connection noted above, it is important to reflect on whether your daily relationships and endeavors fit the criteria: are your primary relationships life-giving? Do they nourish you emotionally? Is your whole self acknowledged, recognized and welcomed, without judgment?

The clincher in that honest evaluation is this: a fundamental precursor to connection with others is authentic connection with yourself. First and foremost, you must value yourself and work to cultivate a meaningful relationship therein; you must work towards recognizing your whole self without judgment or reprisal, making space for the whole of your emotional/intellectual/physical experience; and learn to be nourished and sustained by that relationship. Grounded in the lived experience of what such a relationship can feel like, you’ll know what to look for in that type of connection with others. And you’ll be a much more authentic and informed participant in the journey of cultivating such connections.

Connection also requires letting go of the oft-reinforced notion of “going it alone” and equating success with not needing anyone. The world cannot be divided into “those who need help” and “those who offer help”; the choice to open to true connection requires that we recognize that we fall into both categories, and when we reach out across the illusory divide between the two, we create the connection that makes possible a more expanded and life-giving definition of “success.”

As Brené notes, “The Wholehearted Journey is not the path of least resistance. It’s a path of consciousness and choice. And, to be honest, it’s a little counter-cultural.”

Join me this week as we continue our counter-cultural journey, exploring connection and its inherent relationship to Wholehearted Living. See you soon.