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What would it be?

I think mine would sound like this:

Have you found your soul-sound yet?  Share it with me?  Let me know you in the place beyond words.

All my love,

Tabitha

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no-new-years-resolutions

 

I’ve never really understood the whole New Year’s resolution thing.  Maybe it’s not the setting of resolve that baffles me, but the way in which we go about setting intentions for ourselves that has me confused.  As the year comes to a close I witness more and more people stepping onto their soap boxes and proclaiming a long list of things that they WILL accomplish in a year, so help them God.

I WILL:

– lose 50 pounds by following the (fictitious) Iceberg Lettuce Diet

– go to the gym 5 times a week (when I haven’t worked out at all in 25 years.  Do yourself a favour and book some space in the ER for day 3, k?)

– practice yoga every day and become enlightened (I’ve never done yoga a day in my life.)

– quit smoking

– quit my job and follow my dream of becoming a pipe cleaner statue artist

-etc., etc.

REALLY?

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we heap such pressure on an already overly pressurized life?  Why do we proclaim enormous lists of unrealistic things to the whole world?  Why do we set ourselves up for failure?  The University of Scranton estimates that 8 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions (approximately 45% of the population) succeed (Source:  http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/).  8 percent, folks!  That’s dismal.

Don’t get me wrong (I say that a lot, don’t I?  🙂 ), I’m all for dreaming and goal-setting.  My dear god, how dreary would life be if we just sat there, striving for nothing?  Be whimsical.  Imagine.  Dream.  Create.  Push your limits.  And be realistic about where your life is at.

Humans, generally, do not like change.  Like our pet cats who all seem to know when 5 a.m. rolls around and demand to be fed (and don’t you dare move their favourite pillows!), we like routine.  I think it gives us a sense of safety in an unpredictable world.  Change, even when it’s positive, creates stress; there’s an upheaval in our nervous systems and we need time to settle down and find ground again.  Trying 15 life changes at once, just because the calendar reads “Janary 1”, is chaos!  It’s absurd.

How about 1?  Pick one.  One thing that means so much to you that you’d like to make it a priority in your life.  Put that carrot ahead of you and see what happens as you begin to grow towards it.  And leave the door open to the possibility that, as you move towards your desire, your desire will change or it won’t seem so desirable any more.  By all means, quit smoking if it’s that important to you, and understand that you may discover you’re not quite ready to go there.  Love yourself enough to allow that to happen.

Maybe we can all let go of our inner Drill Sergeants that insist on long lists of “must dos” set at the beginning of the year and simply open up, quietly and gently, to the life that unfolds before us.  It’s the difference between blasting your way through rocky mountains using dynamite, and moving slowly through a forest, pushing undergrowth aside using your hands.

May your life open up to you like a flower blooming in the sun.  May you take the time to slow down enough to watch this unfolding and unfurling of the complexities of your beautiful life.  May you continue to grow (gently), to plant seeds (consistently), and to change course when that’s what your soul really needs.

Happy resolution-free New Year, dear readers!

Love,

Tabitha

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Santacopter

For me, it starts with the Christmas letter, a generally American tradition that we Canadians are slowly picking up (and I wish we weren’t  🙂 ).  The one I read this year was all gushy-gushy, filled with a sense of “our lives are perfect over here”.  It stumped me.  This letter was set to go out to the sender’s closest people and it was filled with only half the story.  The other half goes along the lines of, “My business is struggling and my partner has been laid off.  We’re pretty scared because there’s not much money coming in and we don’t quite know how to pay the bills.  Still, we’re not giving up.  The kids are okay in the sense that they’re physically healthy, but X is extremely depressed, almost suicidal, and refuses to seek counselling, while Y, I think, pretty much hates me.  Admittedly, I’m not too fond of Y myself.”

Of course, reading that, no one in their right mind would send it out.  Who wants to spread that kind of negativity?  Still, it lends balance to the story.  Balance is what is so needed at this time of year and it seems to be so hard to find.  The holiday season is full of contradictions.  You have chipper, syrupy music tinkling over loudspeakers in stores as patrons smash each other in the face with doors and scream at store staff.  Christmas movies portray a snowy time of miracles, tearful reunions, and quality time with family sitting around the perfectly trimmed table.  Meanwhile, in reality, the miracle never happened for “Aunt Trixie” who gave up the ghost and died in December leaving a hoarded house for the family to grapple over.  “Cynthia” had too much to drink again and ended up causing a fuss at the dinner table.  And the Joneses next door, the ones with the 3 children, put up a good front but had to visit the food bank to put anything at all on the table; there was nothing left over for gifts.

Unlike those movies, Christmas is messy.  It’s like a soup:  all kinds of scraps and gnarly things are thrown into a pot, everything gets heated, and, if all things go well, sometimes something nourishing and magical emerges.  A long lost friend shows up again and heals that wee tear in your heart.  You may be estranged from a parent but, somehow, this helps you realize how precious everyone is who remains in your life.  Maybe you couldn’t afford extravagant gifts this year but, if you have a roof over your head, food in your belly and people who love you, you’re pretty damned rich.

As we all prepare to get into the soup pot together, and as it starts to heat up, I’d like to share with you some of the things that make my end of this world special:

– the sweet client who just showed up at my door with homemade pickled beets and a card

– snowflakes

– squirrels flinging themselves at bird feeders suspended from the clothesline

– human smiles

– our capacity to love

– the blessed face of a baby and the blessed face of an elder

– the many, many people in my world whom I love and who love me right back.  How lucky am I that there are too many to name?

The list goes on…and on…and on.  So many things to be thankful for.  This is the healing balm for the shit that goes along with the season.  So maybe you’re feeling a bit down at this time of year.  Perhaps you can love yourself enough to list the things that warm your heart.  They are there, even if they’re not obvious. I have faith in you.  I believe that each and every one of us has SOMETHING that makes our hearts sing, no matter how dire the situation of our lives right now.  Even if it’s only one thing, one miniscule thing, it is everything.  Sing that one thing to yourself.  Sing it over and over and over again. Allow it to crack your heart open.  Allow that one thing to fill you with love.

This will be Twisted Positions’ last post of the 2012 season as I prepare to take time off during this soupy time of year. I will miss you.  May your worlds be filled with magic.  May the tears cleanse your eyes and your soul so you can see the bits of gold strewn throughout your life.  May you be healthy, happy and whole.  And my favourite blessing of all:

May you be happy.

May you not suffer.

May you know peace.

All my love and see you in 2013!

Tabitha

 

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Check out this video!  🙂  And for the darling people I’ve met who try to convince me that they “can’t dance”, as you can see, we can ALL dance when we get out of our own way!!!  Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaTZ5gAzkCY

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I have always been a person who is particularly sensitive to sound.  In fact, many sounds drive me to distraction and bring up feelings that are, perhaps, less than savoury—anger, tension, a need to pull my hair and hiss in a most unfriendly manner, “SHUT…UP!”   Crinkling bags, heavy breathers, the persistent tapping of a pen, someone chewing her food, all of these things raise my blood pressure. Today it was the sound of someone who was feeling impatient and displeased with the inaccessible internet.  I snapped.  I wanted the sound to end.  I wanted the other person to change.

Ah, and there it was—the lightbulb moment.

I wanted the other person to change. I felt put upon and interfered with.  The mindset?  Your impatience is imposing upon my peace. Stop that!

How unbelievably egocentric!  And how rude do I become in the face of such things?

While I did not stick my head under the tap to cool off, as was recommended by the perceived transgressor, I did take a moment to venture into the coolness of the basement to further investigate my feelings.  I did, indeed, want to cool off in body and mind.

I never like the way I respond to such irritations.  The question has always been:  What to do?  My past attempts have been completely futile as my focus has consistently been in the wrong place.  It is not for me to focus on the Other.  It is not for me to influence the Other and, in my arrogance, show him the error of his ways and suggest a possible remedy.  No. The only solution rests within me.

As I lay on the couch, I was reminded of a practice used in Buddhist monasteries.  Many times throughout the day, a bell is rung with the expectation that all practitioners will cease and desist all activity, find stillness, and breathe.  Over and over again that bell is rung, and over and over again, people stop their movements and become quiet; they practice.

I have always imagined that the sound of a bell rung on a regular basis would fray my nerves, and this brought me back to my current situation.  The bell rung at a Buddhist monastery is a constant reminder to WAKE UP!  Be mindful. Practice.  It is not meant to be a lulling, soothing sound.  It is meant to be jarring, to wrest people from their sleepy movements through life and encourage them to pay attention.

What would happen if I used the noises that annoy me in a similar manner?  What if these sounds that rile me become my everyday bells of reminder to WAKE UP and be present to all the facets of this gift called Life?  The idea felt revolutionary.

So this is my new resolve:  Whenever I hear a noise that makes me feel annoyed and inspired to change another, I will stop all movements, and become very, very still.  I will take 5 clear, deep, full breaths.  I will offer my thanks to the sound that helped me wake up. And I will move on, hopefully, in a more peaceful manner.  In other words, I will practice. 

I’ll let you know how it goes.  😉  And if you decide to try it, let us know how the experience works for you!

(Question of connection:  What do you use as a reminder in your life to pay attention to all things around you?)

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During my muscle release session yesterday with my yoga teacher I learned that tense muscles are not necessarily strong muscles.  Unable to relax, rest and rejuvenate, a consistently tense muscle exhausts itself, begins to stagnate and becomes toxic.  In the long run a persistently tense muscle weakens, opening itself up to disease and atrophy.

In order for a muscle to be strong it must take into itself life force—energy. It does so by contracting and increasing tension.  A muscle exerts power by releasing this pent up energy, by lengthening, moving outwards, expending itself fully, and returning to a state of rest.  It recovers.

In contrast, a muscle that is constantly holding tension has nowhere to go.  It can contract no further.  It is unable to draw life into itself.  The muscle locks up, unable to move forward, unable to take action, unable to expend, and unable to relax and recuperate.

 (Try this:  inhale as deeply into your lungs as possible.  Exhale only half of the breath you have stored in your lungs.  From this halfway point, inhale again.  Exhale halfway.  Inhale and begin to notice how you feel in your body.  It is likely that each time you are able to take less and less breath into yourself.  There is less and less capacity for new breath, new air, new life to infuse itself into you. And at the same time, that initial breath has never fully been expelled.  It sits in your lungs, stagnating, taking up space, diminishing your capacity to live and breathe fully. How does this make you feel in your body?  In your mind?  This is like a muscle in a constant state of tension/contraction.) 

Day after day, year after year, a locked muscle remains in the same position, weakening, dying.

Wise ones throughout the centuries have noted that “as without, so within”; therefore, as our bodies, so our communities.  Recently, I have watched as our city has prepared for the G20.  We began to harden the heart of the city by erecting concrete and metal structures that create separation and polarity.  Us and them. An increase in tension. We’ve armoured ourselves.  Less space and ability to move.  Police are donning Kevlar riot gear and are prepared to use force to beat back any threats, threats that amount to the soft flesh of other human beings.  Increase in tension. Tension on top of tension.  Less capacity to breathe and move.

I hear the echoes of my partner’s voice in my ear, “PEACE DOES NOT WORK!!!!!”  How do we know? Historically, in this country, we have never tried it. (Gandhi used peace to create some of the greatest social change in his country.  Peace, clearly, has some tremendous transformative powers!)  As settlers we forced our way onto this land and have torn through it ever since creating separate communities, separation from the land, separation from ourselves—creating tension.  More and more tension.   Greater and greater weakness.

What truly would happen if we softened towards one another?  What would happen if, today, as that police officer raised a club to strike the 18 year old girl in front of him who only wishes to express herself, a lightbulb goes off in his head and he thinks, “That is somebody’s daughter.  That could be my daughter.” And he put down his club and refused to strike.  What if that rage-filled anarchist protestor thought, “That horse feels fear and pain like I do,” and “That store was built by the blood, sweat and tears of a person who hopes and dreams like I do”?  And she put down that rock, refusing to throw it.  What would happen if the leaders who are here right now said, “I can no longer stand knowing there are people in my country whose basic needs—food, clothing, shelter—are not being met.  It breaks my heart and I can stand it no longer.  Let us all use this money to feed, clothe and house our community members in healthy and more-than-adequate ways”? 

It is much more challenging to speak and act from a soft and tender place.  We have been trained to believe that hard is strength and soft is weak.  But, like a healthy muscle, remaining soft and pliable allows for the drawing in of energies that lead to greater strength and more efficient movement. It takes far more courage to soften, to speak from a place of vulnerability, to listen with an open heart, and to solve difficulties in a tender way.  Chogyam Trungpa writes that through sadness and tenderness,” …the warrior can be very brave…Without that heartfelt sadness, bravery is brittle, like a china cup.  If you drop it, it will break or chip.  But the bravery of the warrior is like a lacquer cup, which has a wooden base covered with layers of lacquer.  If the cup drops, it will bounce rather than break.  It is soft and hard at the same time.”

We don’t need more tension and force in this world.  Our society is locked up like a tense and stagnating muscle.  As a community we are accumulating toxins.  We are stagnating.  We are weakening and we are growing evermore diseased. 

Perhaps it is time to try something new.

*  Trungpa, Chogyam.  Shambhala:  The Sacred Path of the Warrior.  Boston:  Shambhala Publications, Inc.  1984.

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