Friday, April 5, 2019

❓What if...⁉️

What if crashing my car last month and narrowly escaping death combined with an almost comical (in retrospect although certainly not the time!) cluster of misery inducing events was my choice?

I am not saying that it literally was my choice, either consciously, subconsciously or on some metaphysical level*, but merely posing the question causes physical, mental and emotional changes (many of which are scientifically measurable). And each one of these changes affects my ability to respond to what ever I need to address in any given moment.

When I say "ability to respond", that is also the meaning of responsibility. Not to be confused with blaming myself for attracting "negative" experiences. There are some people (such as those referred to by Jeff Brown as "New Cagers") who might tell a person with cancer that they chose it and they're responsible for healing it with higher vibrations and a positive attitude. The implication being that if they don't heal, they're doing something wrong and it's their own fault.

I don't agree with that, nor do I believe in spiritual bypassing, where I might tell myself, that no matter what happened, I just need to have a beatific attitude, showing the world only Love and Light and proclaiming to myself and anyone who will listen that "it's all good" --rather then fully feeling all of those uncomfortable, "negative", messy emotions and/or painful sensations.

I do not have all The Answers, I don't even have all the questions. But I'm finding more and more that the questions are way more important than The Answers.  When I am able to ask from a place of genuine curiosity, and compassion without expecting the reassurance of certainty, the mere act of asking opens up new possibilities that offer me totally unexpected gifts that are nowhere to be found when I'm focused on figuring out The Answers.

There were tinkling wind chimes and a little treasure chest with tiny gifts tumbling out of it in the crook of this magnificent tree.  The tree was itself a totally unexpected gift that I discovered when I recently stumbled on a new trail with a surprise Fairyland right in the middle of an area I would have sworn I had thoroughly explored. I found it exactly 4 weeks from the day of my car crash, when I asked the question : "I wonder where this goes...?" And then (one baby step at a time) I faced the fears of pain from my injuries/ticks/Poison Oak that had been keeping me on only the most familiar and safe trails for the previous month.

On 3/22/19, I listened to the beginning of a free workshop from Jamie Catto entitled "Monster Hunt and a Bit of Death" --part of his Academy of Sacred Fools program. He suggested asking something like "what if I had planned this as a training to teach myself valuable lessons? Why might I have chosen this and what are the gifts and how might this ultimatly be beneficial?" 

I didn't get the exact quote and may have mashed up a little with some other teachers who have suggested asking similar questions, but the point is that reframing something like a seemingly random crisis or series of unfortunate events has the power to transform to what will happen next.

  • Like my car crash/tick bite/allergic reaction/poison oak/virus/plus a bewildering array of related chaos 
  • OR my previous life implosion nearly a decade ago, of losing my husband/ best friend/family members /adored children/home/dog/community/"secure"future/identity 
  • OR insert your own "clusterfun" from your life

But don't take my word for the power of asking questions; try a little experiment for yourself. 

First, imagine either a crisis or loss (minor or major)  from your past, present or something you dread that could happen in the future. Take a quick dive deep into the feelings that accompany this scenario.

Tell yourself that this is not fair. It shouldn't be happening. Consider who is to blame. If someone else, ruminate over their culpability and what makes them wrong and bad. Possibly consider how you might make them suffer for the pain that they have caused you. 

Think about how you might have caused or contributed to the situation, castigate yourself thoroughly for having screwed up. Ponder the many ways in which you are wrong and bad. 

Consider the worst case possible scenarios that could result from this terrible thing that is happening to you. 

Doubtless you could find other ways of continuing this probably all too familiar process, but take a moment to pause and pay attention to how you feel in your body. Do you feel tightness and constriction, shallow breathing, a furrowed brow and frown, concave chest, hunched shoulders and/or perhaps a disturbance in your digestive system. 

Now, as you pay attention to your current physical, mental and emotional state of mind, think hard and fast about how you need to figure out how to fix this problem or how desperately you need an addictive fix of some kind to deal with the pain of these stressful thoughts, emotions and sensations. 

How likely do you think you will be to take effective action which will result in a favorable outcome from this place?

Now activate your imagination and switch to curiosity.  What else is possible?  

What if I play with the idea that I chose this challenge --like if it showed up as an obstacle in a game I had designed or a plot twist in an adventure story I had written? 

Or what if I imagine I was planning what I most needed for my evolution before I came into this life and decided this experience would be perfect --what valuable lessons could I learn from it?

IF I had on some level, chosen this, what unexpected gifts (even if even if small or slightly silly) could possibly come of this? 

Let your imagination run wild and and ask more "what if " and "I wonder" questions involving best case scenarios and at least somewhat plausible, happy repercussions. 

Once again, assess how you feel physically mentally and emotionally as you ask these questions and contemplate what your imagination offers in response. 

You are likely to feel more relaxed, breathe easier and maybe even smile a little. Both curiosity and smiling will release dopamine, endorphins and serotonin to help deactivate your fight or flight survival conditioning and also help with discovering unexpected solutions. 

Research (from numerous studies) shows that when we focus on a happier or more successful outcome, it is far more likely to happen. Just a simple reframe of how we perceive stress, for instance, changes the physiological effects on the body and performance.

Plus when we feel like we have some kind of agency (even if only imagined) it gives us a sense of sovereignty. And this level of confidence helps with moving forward.

AND we just make better (and more "responsible"!) choices when we feel better. 

I wish I could tell you that knowing all of this will help you navigate your "perfect storms" in life, with total grace and ease. 

That has not been the case for me. 🙃Although I am way more functional (not mired in suicidal depression or frozen in anxiety, numbing with alcohol, cigarettes and drugs) and kinder to myself,  I still resort to addictive fixes (junk food, novels and DVDs) when it feels like too much. 

I still struggle with embracing the mystery as I ask questions while trying not to demand immediate definitive answers. Part of me still believes I am entitled to certain outcomes if I follow what I think are the "correct "steps that a "good girl" "should" take.  

And yet, despite my imperfect results (it is so humbling to be human!), being willing to show up, ask different questions, try new behaviors in the middle of all that mess gets easier for me each time I practice, and I AM becoming more graceful in my responses to stress. Given my history, I am pretty sure that if I can do this; you can too!

Stressful times tend to be messy times. It's not comfortable to peel off layers of old conditioned behaviors. But it is way better than keeping all those layers! 

Shedding another layer, having an opportunity to practice what I have been learning, a renewed layer of gratitude and joy for my life, learning how to receive more gracefully, and feeling bathed in love and support from friends family and community, and cool insights are just a few of the gifts I got from my most recent catastrophe.  So whether or not I actually chose it on some level, it was beneficial for me in many ways. 

This Eucalyptus I encountered last week (photo by 7 year old boy --5 year old hidden in the tree --have I mentioned how much I love my job?!) peeled off swaths of outer bark and was beautiful to behold.

* although I am not completely ruling out this possibility. There are many fascinating philosophical theories.  I do not have the definitive answers on how the universe works, so I keep an open mind.