Are you finding yourself questioning a LOT right now?
Are you finding it hard to trust your next steps because there is still so much uncertainty?
Here in NJ, things are opening back up across the state, and across the country, people are venturing out of their homes, and going back to places that have been closed for months.
And there is still this GIANT question looming,
Is it safe?
Tomorrow in the United States, people across the country will be celebrating the fourth of July, which has always been synonymous with the word Freedom.
Choruses of voices typically ring out,
I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free!
And yet, the recent events around George Floyd, anger over protests, and division over personal liberties has left a giant open GAP where we actually have a very stark and REAL opportunity to LOOK at our history as a country.
What has typically been a holiday filled with large crowds, now has a real element of fear attached, plus it’s as if someone tore down the curtain, like in Wizard of Oz. We are seeing behind the machine….
So, what is there to celebrate this year?
Are we free?
When my life burned to the ground, and in one year’s time I lost my home and marriage, I found myself on my knees asking for help.
At the age of 37, this was a first, as I had been too embarrassed to actually admit I was a mess. I had an act going that I had it all together, and was grateful for all the makeup and coiffed hair my performing career required. I could dress up, put on my makeup, and just pretend.
That was far easier than actually looking at what was going on in my life.
Until I lost it all…and then I finally decided to look at it.
The biggest reason?
I didn’t want to repeat it. In fact, this was my greatest fear. I was terrified of finding myself in the same situation again.
I desperately wanted to have a family, and I didn’t want to end up with another man who was terrified of being a father. I felt my age, I felt a deep urgency, and I knew it was time to make a change.
Therapy was the sweet relief I had been waiting for. I could finally say ALL that was in my heart. I could finally release all that had been pent up inside me, all the rage, shame, and anger…..and all in a safe space.
For the first time in my life I was looking at my own history.
In order for me to NOT repeat and attract another Peter Pan who just wanted to stay young, I had to understand WHY I attracted him in the first place.
And I started to ask the most important questions I could,
How did I get here?
What did I believe?
And because I was in a safe and non-judgemental environment, I was actually able to gain clarity. I found answers, and because I now had a daily meditation practice that gave me a space of silence for the first time, I was able to really SEE and understand my actions.
I remember my Zen teacher saying to me,
You’re in the same room you were always in, but now the lights are on.
And I FELT that. For years, I had kept the light switch off. I didn’t want to LOOK at my actions, I just want to stay blind, but when I lost everything, I turned the lights on.
It was actually a matter of life and death. I wanted my life to change, and I was willing to do whatever was necessary. It was that important.
And as he said this to me, I responded,
I don’t even know where the light switch is anymore. I couldn’t turn it off even if I wanted to.
Because taking the time to look at my history and come to understanding allowed me to make very different choices and bring real compassion and care to my actions. And those actions led me to a deep love and finding my life partner. And this was because now I could SEE what I was doing and make different choices than I had in the past.
In 2018, I joined an anti-oppression group at my Zen temple called What is Whiteness. I had avoided it for several years, thinking, “I’m not racist”, and finally went to a meeting.
And I realized for the first time, I was actually taking the time to look at the history of my ancestors, and not in the way I had before. Not in the way I was taught in my schooling, but actually stopping and seeing our collective history.
And it was sobering.
One of the senior monastics asked to read a land acknowledgement at the beginning of the meeting:
I’d like to acknowledge and pay my deep respect to the Lenape people, elders and ancestors—past, present and future. I offer deep gratitude to this Lenape land and water that supports us, and I invite you to join me in that acknowledgment, respect, and gratitude.
And I stopped. Almost 20 years of living in New York City, and I hadn’t taken the moment to look at the history of the land. This beloved Brooklyn I was physically sitting in, I realized,
This land was taken.
Taken by my European ancestors.
And I vowed to join the group as a member, and do the work, so that my actions moving forward could be very different.
In a recent article that Dharma teacher Cheri Maples wrote on Mindfulness and the Police, she shared:
“There are two things that we are asked to be. One is a good curator of the museum of our past, and the other is a good gardener. If we’re a good curator of the museum of our past, we can reframe our past, we can understand it in the service of our own freedom. However, if we carry it too far, we get attached to the wounded self, because then we’re constantly taking bus tickets back to our past. We’re also learning how to be a good gardener. We’re learning what to incline our mind toward, how to water the seeds of joy and kindness and understanding and compassion. But in order to be able to do this, we have to understand our experience…”
Answering the questions,
How did I get here?
What did I believe?
This clarity around your history is what ALLOWS you to take your next step.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
So, turn the light on and lose the switch.
This year has shown us in spades what hasn’t been working, and that has been overwhelming and scary.
It’s also been an incredible opportunity for change.
Which is what we are seeing.
So, for wherever you are around the world, taking stock and asking these questions is your gift.
Your point of power is the present moment. All you have is now, and understanding your NOW has been formed by the karma of all the steps and actions before, is what frees you to make a new choice.
Curate your museum to the life you want moving forward.
Today is a new day, one that you have never lived before, and you can choose to garden your life and use your work, your words, and actions to nourish growth.
Garden your presence and all you touch.
And create your next steps in this historical moment.
Now, that’s worth celebrating.