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Self-Care Is Your Job, part 3

Episcopal coach and writer“It turns out that the more intimate we are with what we want, the more self-aware we will be about how we spend our time.” –Elle Luna, The Crossroads of Should and Must

When we take ourselves seriously and really begin to care for ourselves, we become more ourselves.

When we become more ourselves, we recognize how to take care of ourselves better, and we become even more ourselves.

When we become even more ourselves, we can, with integrity, fully take our place as unique whole/parts (aka “holons”) in Creation’s mysterious cosmic building project.

As we become more intimate with what we yearn for and what brings us joy, we become less tolerant of making choices that waste our time.

As we become less tolerant of making choices that aren’t in alignment with our values and desires, as we begin to choose real self-care, two apparent problems arise:

  1. The ways we’ve been propping up other people become obvious, and we’ll need to stop because we’re no longer willing to treat ourselves badly and waste our time for the sake of someone else’s supposed welfare.
  2. The people around us will probably feel threatened by our choices. They will perceive our decisions as judgmental of them, and unloving. They will feel scared and will try to get us to stop. They will call us “selfish.”

This is where boundaries come in. Boundaries are simple, but not necessarily easy. Boundaries say, “This is me. That is you. I’m responsible for me. You’re responsible for you.”

Simple, but not automatically easy, because most of us, women especially, haven’t learned to set and keep good boundaries.

We’ve been taught that giving ourselves away is love.

That’s false.

What’s true is that we love better from a place of integrity. We love better from our intact, deep, strong, intentional hearts. We love better when we choose our “yes” and our “no.”

Boundaries aren’t selfish.

Boundaries are a gift we give ourselves, our families, our friends, and our world.

Boundaries allow us to love as only we can love.

And I’m firmly convinced that healthy boundaries and good self-care make Jesus happy.

Coming up: how to handle the inevitable conflicts that arise when we’re acting with integrity and self-love.

(Check out weeks one and two of this blog series on self-care for discussions about why self-care is your job, and how to tell fake self-care from the real thing.)

Cultivating Curiosity: “Re-Camino” Week 5

“Give up caring about being right. It’s time. Major barrier to love. Probably the only real barrier.”

I wrote these words in my journal one year ago today, in Salceda, Galicia, Spain. Jed and I had completed Day 35 (of 37) of our 500-mile journey across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago. I’ve been revisiting my journal and the many photos Jed took as we walked the Way of Saint James – my Lectio Camino. Here’s today’s Lectio Camino page:

Galician House and Deep Thoughts, 9 June 2014, Spain

Galician House and Deep Thoughts, 9 June 2014, Spain

Last night here in Bend, Wings facilitator Sherrie Frank shared her “Ten Steps to an Authentic Life.” Step Nine is to cultivate “child-like curiosity and openness.” This morning, as I was rereading my Camino journal from June 9, 2014, I noticed a congruence between being curious and not caring about being right.

Being curious is easy for me, as long as I’m curious about other people and processes outside myself. But staying curious about my own beliefs, and the beliefs of friends and family, is a lot harder for me. I love being right. I love knowing things. I enjoy the feeling of superiority and self-righteousness I get from believing that I’m right and I know how things work.

Here’s the thing, though. Being curious feels a lot better in my body than being right. Curiosity feels open. Curiosity feels free. Curiosity feels worshipful of the wonders and surprises around and within me. Most of all, practicing curiosity means I can access the resources that are present to me right now, right this minute, rather than living in my past. When I’m simply curious, I’m free to be who I am today, here and now.

(Important note: Cultivating curiosity does not mean staying silent when bullshit is afoot or cruelty is happening. It does mean we respond respectfully and humbly, I think.)

My husband will tell you that I’m still working on giving up my attachment to being right. I’m grateful for the reminder from Sherrie, and from the Camino, that being curious is a more peaceful, enjoyable way to live than being right. Curiosity is a cure for many mindsets that cause us suffering: attachment to outcome and fear of failure among them.

I wouldn’t claim that I’m right about this, though. I’ll stay curious and see what I find!

Camino Journal 4 June 2014

Camino Journal
4 June 2014

Camino Journal 5 June 2014

Camino Journal
5 June 2014

Camino Journal 6 June 2014

Camino Journal
6 June 2014

Camino Journal 7 June 2014

Camino Journal
7 June 2014

 

My Mind is a Lying SOB

Whychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Oregon is cougar country.

Oregon is also black bear country.

Neither cougars nor black bears typically attack people. Nevertheless, hikers in Oregon are wise to know what to do if they come face-to-face with a cougar or a bear.

Yesterday I was hiking with a church group – sixteen people, mostly in their 60s and 70s – along Whychus Creek, just south of Sisters. Whychus Creek is a peaceful, beautiful place. Clear, cold aquamarine water runs at the bottom of a canyon over water-sculpted volcanic basalt. The trail winds next to the creek, through ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. Occasionally one of our local Cascades volcanoes peeks through the canopy. Turkey Vultures soar high above and forest birds sing.

Whychus Creek is perfect cougar habitat.

There I was, ambling peacefully along, listening to the water and the birds and the wind in the pines, when I heard it.

Crunch, snap, grrrrrrr.

I froze, gasped, and turned up slope toward the source of the noise.

There he was.

A 76-year-old Episcopalian named Dick, who had stepped off the trail to use the facili-trees and decided to scare the crap out of me.

After he was done apologizing and I was recovered, I noticed how different real fear is from the fake fear that results when our minds spin stories.

Almost all the fear we feel is a lie. Unless we’re in the presence of a bear or a cougar, we’re almost certainly victims of our mind’s bullshit. It’s good to be reminded of that – to be reminded of what real fear feels like.

Real fear is short-lived and intense. Fake fear lingers. We feel it as low-grade anxiety, tension, constant vigilance. Fake fear keeps us stuck, not safe. Fake fear causes all sorts of harm to our bodies.

So if you’re feeling fear and you’re not being stalked by a cougar, look inside your mind, under the hood, and identify what you’re thinking that’s causing you to feel afraid (aka “bullshit”). That thought is a lie. It’s not true. Use Byron Katie’s four questions on it, and feel your freedom expand.

Lily Pad Moments

Frog on lily pad, larry ostbyI am blessed with old friends. We’ve been friends for forty years or more, since elementary and high school in Arizona. We get together every four or five years, and this summer we met in Ashland. We cooled off at the coast, reveled in the redwoods, experienced Shakespeare, grazed at the Rogue Valley Growers’ Market, and contemplated Crater Lake. But mostly we were just together, peacefully and exuberantly reconnecting and basking in our comfortable, deep friendship.

Our lives have included pain and suffering. One of us lost her husband to ALS two years ago. Another’s son died from suicide in 2008. We’ve all grieved parents’ deaths, some way too early. We have ailing brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers. We have had to learn how to “swim in the deep end” these last ten years, especially.

So it’s really important for us to choose to rest occasionally. As one friend put it, “I like to climb up on a lily pad and sit in the sun every now and then.” If we try to swim in the deep water too long, we drown. We require lily pad moments.

My friends and I made two commitments before we dispersed yesterday. We promised that if we all survived our husbands we would live together in the same nursing home. And we agreed to increase our reunion frequency to every two years. We treasure each other, and the water we swim in will continue to be deep. We need our lily pad moments of relaxed basking in the warmth of our love and shared history.

Photo credit: Larry ostby

Five hundred miles later…

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Jed and I arrived in Santiago de Compostela yesterday morning around 9 am. I feel immensely full of gratitude and awe. We did it!

I am confident that the end of the Camino is the only the beginning of something amazing. People who have walked this Way before us say it takes about six months to feel like they’ve processed their experience, so — more to follow! Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers.

Love,
Barb

“The Sweet Confinement Of Your Aloneness”

Today is Day 29 of our Camino. The Way has felt hard. And I feel so blessed to be here. This poem of David Whyte’s has bubbled its way to awareness these last two days as I have walked through western Spain — over mountains, through tiny villages and cities, and among vineyards and cherry orchards.

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

— David Whyte
from The House of Belonging
©1996 Many Rivers Press

The Camino has provided space and opportunity to realize that I have cluttered my life with things and people and activities that do not bring me alive. The Way is so huge that the smallness I have allowed is starkly apparent. I am seeing into my heart — seeing glimmers of the things and people and activities that are life-giving for me. I am learning in my innermost being that my heart, Earth’s heart, and God’s heart are one and the same.

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Experiences On the Road

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We slept last night in Carrion de los Condes in an albergue provided by the Hijos de San Vicente de Pablo. The sisters were lovely, warm and welcoming and highly huggable. They offered an oracion in their chapel last evening that included this composition. I offer it to you in the sisters’ charming translation:

EXPERIENCES ON THE ROAD

The Camino de Santiago is considered a WAY INSIDE, especially for those, who do it for religious reasons. For this reason there are prayers performed during the course of what is considered the Way of Life:
*Look hear, breath deeply, find tracks and wonders contact with nature, the peoples and their people, art history, the other pilgrims the hospitaleros That’s the beauty!, Something unique! footprints
Creator
*Enjoy the silence, solitude, seeking look. Pilgrim, Friend and Companion: Jesus walks with you. He is “WAY TRUTH AND LIFE”. Sit by the slowly…
*Read his word carries inside yourself and ruminating a passage along your way alo. Jesus offers what you get in the way, what you carry in your heart, you’re looking crave, talk to your loved ones, for those who suffer … We hear each other, share the word.
*Eat your bread of life the Eucharist
*Arise with joy, pilgrim march back to “home” now begins for you the true way, the daily life, consider what you have experienced and live in gratitude on the road … The road has operated profound changes in you, live with the right and necessary, greets and smiles, serves shares help.

I think their translation is spot on, and I will carry it with me on the Way.

Poppies on the Meseta

Today I walked 20 kilometers (around 12.5 miles) with relative ease, for which I am profoundly grateful. Our Burgos rest day was healing.

Today we walked up onto the vast central plateau of the Spanish peninsula, the Meseta. I am glad to be out of the city and back in the Spanish countryside, where the silence is profound, the sky is immense, and the choices are limited. Red poppies are everywhere.

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Cherubs and Skulls ( More Lessons from the Camino)

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We are in Burgos. Today is day 14 of our Camino de Santiago walk. The photo above, of a sweet little angel cradling a skull, is from the nave of Burgos Cathedral. It reflects how I feel perfectly.

The Camino is so much harder than I expected. I have been tempted to bail. Then, as I walk, I reflect on the hard things I have done in my life, and how glad I was and am that I did them. These hard things include being married, being a parent, learning to teach middle school, writing a thesis, moving… I’m not saying that just because something is hard it’s worth doing. Sometimes the right choice IS to walk away.

A few days ago I was sharing foot pain stories with a pilgrim from Ireland.
Kieran’s words, “You’re a pilgrim, not a martyr,” have helped me, and a few others, on the Way. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is yet. In many ways I feel more muddled up by the Camino than clarified.

Here are a few things I DO know:
1. Don’t squat in nettles.
2. Rural Spain often smells like wood smoke and sheep dung, a surprisingly lovely combination.
3. It’s possible to feel profound intimacy with people I’ve only known for a day, and with whom I don’t share a language.
4. There are some really loud snorers in the world.
5. I will indeed be one of those people that get out the albergue door at 7:00, walk fifteen miles, check into the next albergue, shower and do hand washing, and be sitting in the “plaza mayor” drinking a well-earned beer by 3:00. I find this incredible.
6. Forty people sleeping in a room can be pretty cool.
7. Community alleviates physical pain. At least a little.

Tomorrow we walk onto the Meseta, Spain’s central plateau. It’s raining as I write. Thank you for your prayerful support and positive mojo. Ultreia!

What I’ve Learned So Far on the Camino

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Only 36 hours on the Camino and I have learned so much already! Jed and I are in Zubiri, in Navarra. Yesterday we crossed the Pyrenees from France, a day that I have been worried about for months. We spent the night in Roncesvalles, in the Albergue Provincial at the foot of the Spanish Pyrenees, a monastery since medieval times. Here’s a little of what I know so far.

1. Transitions can happen when I’m not looking. We crossed from France into Spain and I didn’t know it because I missed the border sign, which I had been watching for. It didn’t matter. The transition happened anyway.

2. Mass in Spanish may still be incredible moving, probably more so than in English. I understand why people miss the Latin mass. “Esta noche, Espana es el mundo.” I cried. Of course, I was VERY TIRED.

3. What I think will be the hard part might not actually be the hard part. Twelve miles of interminable climbing yesterday was a piece of cake compared to the last two downhill miles, which hurt like a son of a bitch.

4. The oddest things evoke a visceral response. In the old church last night in Roncesvalles, there was a simple statue of St. James that spoke to my heart much more clearly than the gilded Virgen de Roncesvalles that dates from the 1400s. My response has nothing to do with my ego and everything to do with my heart.

5. Sometimes good advice is to “get up more times that you fall,” and sometimes good advice is “enough is enough.” Wisdom is probably being able to tell which one applies at any given moment. I hope I learn how to do that.

Less profoundly:

6. I really like waking to the serenading of volunteer Danish hospitaleros strolling through the dormitory singing “Wake up, little Suzy,” and “Morning has broken” at 6 am. This is a thoroughly charming ritual and I want more of it.

7. There are gigantic slugs in Spain, also.

8. Basque macaroons and pate are delicious, as is red wine from Navarra.

Most profoundly of all:

9. I am learning that I can walk farther than I thought I could (fueled primarily by cafe con leche and toast) and that I am so blessed, especially to be here with Jed.

Thank you all for your prayers and positive juju. I am grateful.

More lessons to follow.

Buen Camino!