There is a belief among the Lakota people, of a very powerful and important person called the heyoka or as they were called by early European anthropologists, “clowns,” who misunderstood their contrary behavior and role.
Because they use their powers to help their people, they are held in great reverence. The heyoka is a lightning bolt that cuts to the truth in an uncomfortable way by inspiring confusion or anger by not following the rules and asking difficult questions. Ultimately their role is to inspire others to a higher place. Being a heyoka is not an easy path, and someone does not “become” a heyoka but is so from birth, they are essential to the sustainable functioning of a tribe.
Essentially by doing the opposite of what is accepted behavior, it teaches the tribe moral behavior by achieving a better understanding of their own foolishness, hypocrisy, and ignorance.
I have been thinking about the heyoka a lot lately, and their role to help us confront our own demons so we may reach a higher calling. I see so many people in disbelief that we are in such a confusing time in our world. Where the social norms we used to follow no longer seem to have a place in our society. People are focusing on what divides us, particularly by using labels. In Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” Alice walked through the wood of no names, where there are no individual names and no awareness of qualities that set them apart from others. Alice loses her identity and meets a fawn who also forgets its identity and accepts Alice completely and fearlessly. There are no distinctions in this place between human and animal, self and other. The eradication of distinction allows their universe to expand.
Rather than apply labels to dehumanize others’ unconventional behavior, or to make us feel “right” wouldn’t it be magnificent if we used this wisdom to recognize our connectedness. Recognize what we are feeling when we see, read or hear a message by another and how it relates to our own fears, beliefs, and misunderstandings. Labeling is extremely divisive and distancing. Instead of our tendency to separate from each other by applying labels, what if we listen to each other and our unique perspectives. Labels smear your glasses so you will never be able to see the person or their perspective clearly. When we label or base our opinion of a group based on religion, race, gender, sexual identity or political affiliation we have merely stunted our own growth which stunts our collective growth. It is powerful when we can discuss ideas or approaches without labeling or deciding the worthiness of the person in the discussion.
We are barraged with messages of what to think and believe. What is true. Who is good or bad. May I suggest instead listen to your intuition, your gut so we can learn to trust our instincts again rather than seeking from others what is true. And our truth may not conform to others and may have aspects that conform to those who despise each other. Heyoka’s are a powerful teacher and while they taught through contradiction and satire they were honored because of the value they brought the tribe.
“I am a fierce combination of confusing contradictions that add up to magical possibilities.” ― Unknown Author
There is a fabulous quote by German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.” I believe that is why so many people do not fulfill their goals.
Recently I was talking to a friend I had not talked to in a while and mentioned I was writing a book and she commented, “wow you decide you are going to do something and you just do it.” I felt such immense gratitude when she said that, because I have to confess this is new for me. I started working with an ontological coach, Lynn Erlinger, and she has helped me to see possibility and then take action from there. Our sessions are all about taking action, creating plans, achieving goals and best of all rewarding those accomplishments.
Some people reading this will know me from my engineering world and may think this is not new for me. It’s interesting, goals and actions related to securing my family’s well-being or “bringing home the bacon” were never the difficult actions or goals for me to take. However, actions related to my well-being are the actions that, not only did I not take, I would not have had the courage to admit I even wanted to do those things. I mean really, that’s pretty selfish to want to do something just for yourself. Now I see things very differently.
Since I began working with Lynn I completed my first full marathon, started this blog, began writing a book, and improved my connection with my husband and kids. The most important goal I have reached since working with Lynn is I now embrace Marsia, I have compassion for my quirks, I show up me, not a reflection of others, or trying to be what I think others want me to be. It is so easy to worry about what other people will think that we lose who we are and what is important to us. Dr. Suess best described this, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
We all create our own reality, we can blame others for causing us to feel a certain way, but in reality we chose how we feel. There is so much power in that understanding, that we truly create our own reality. I have learned as part of my work with Lynn which actions empower my choices and which do not and most important that sometimes life is just messy. Through empowering myself I have in turn empowered my family and the results are amazing. I realize by “taking care” of things for everyone I was actually taking their power away. It’s difficult to understand how choices where you are sacrificing for others actually hurts them and you as a result, but it’s true. When the people who love you see you living your life to the fullest you empower and inspire them to do the same and it encourages us all to use the gifts our creator has given us.
While many aspects of my life are in alignment, there is always more work to do and more action to take. I think the biggest difference in my state of being now is that I really do trust my journey and taking action from there is so exciting. I have come to understand that fear will always be there but intention is the focus of my action now. I am more excited about the possibilities of life now than I have ever been in my life.
A great quote from Mark Twain states: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
I could not agree with Mark Twain or Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ more, throw off those bowlines, cast your doubts and fears, trust the waters, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the wind in your sails, and do it for the thrill of it. Explore you goals, dream big and discover yourself.
If you suffer from analysis paralysis or lack of trust and action is never taken or is particularly painful, remember what you are up to, what is your intent? Get exhilarated about your life, about your choices. You are given this one life to live what do you intend to do with it? What do you need? Do you really want indecision or distrust to keep you from living the life you deserve. So what’s next? Get clear on what you need and take action from there, go for it, create what you desire. The difficult part of taking action for me was overcoming my own inertia. My inertia was mainly fueled by fear, its ok to admit your afraid or you don’t trust. So again I ask what’s next? If you know what’s next go for it, if you’re still filled with anxiety, I would suggest working with an ontological coach. I feel my purpose it to share my story and my experience so others can shine. So take action and be the light our creator intended.
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything you gave me” – Erma Bombeck
Last year during a very difficult time in our family I had an encounter with a member of my extended family. She was very angry about not being told right away about my stepmother’s cancer diagnosis. Why she was not told is not germane to this discussion but there was a reason, right or wrong. While she was very crossly explaining to me why her anger was justified she told me “we will forgive but not forget, ” the we referring to herself and her husband.
That statement has stuck with me since, I remember saying to her, “that doesn’t sound like forgiving to me.” There was no response to that statement only a continued diatribe justifying why she was right and we were wrong. I do believe it would be very difficult to absolutely forget a situation where someone feels wronged. I have forgiven a very painful situation from my past and while I haven’t forgotten it, when I do remember it, there is no bitterness or resentment attached anymore so I guess I remember it with grace.
Today a friend said she was contemplating the words forgive and forget and how both words have give and get in them and how interesting that is and what does that tell us. I thought how profound her observation was, to forgive is in essence giving, when you forgive someone you are give-ing a gift to those you forgive. When you forget you really are get-ting peace of mind.
Of course I flashed back to the encounter I shared with my extended family and I remember when I was talking to her I felt an overwhelming sadness for her and her husband. I knew at that moment no matter what I said they were choosing this path of not forgetting and I believe not forgiving. Regrettably they no longer speak to any of us.
So what does it mean to forgive and forget?
Well the interesting thing is forgiveness and let’s say graceful forgetting has very profound health benefits according to recent studies published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine and the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. I think the biggest obstacle people have with forgiveness is the feeling that if they forgive they are saying whatever the other person did is ok with them. Actually I do not believe that is the case and truly the act is not what is forgiven. In my case I connected with our creator and said I have been wronged but I trust you, you got me through this and now I need to continue on to do your work and unburden myself of this resentment. In a way if I had not forgiven it was as if I was now perpetrating an ongoing wrong against myself.
In my own situation the act that resulted in my forgiveness was quite grave. So I did not condone the behavior then, and I do not condone that kind of behavior today, but I still forgive the person. I can also give testament to the health benefits of forgiveness and graceful forgetting. Immediately after I truly forgave the person I felt lighter, as if weight was removed from my shoulders. Occasionally I have had to be near the person that wronged me, and while I generally choose not to, because they are a member of my family there are rare times it would be very complicated to avoid. So I make sure it is a safe situation, but I no longer feel any resentment, anger or dread.
I noticed right away after this act of forgiveness I was able to “get” more in my life. My relationships benefited because my interactions were no longer clouded by this haze of umbrage. I began to notice that I could more fully engage in relationships, it was as if, until I could forgive the one person that wronged me, everyone else was being judged as a potential co-conspirator. I know forgiveness is not easy and forgetting with grace is even more challenging.
Consider this, what if I told you that if you trained and ran one marathon you could add ten years to your life, you would have stronger relationships and you would feel better about yourself; would you take on that challenge? Interestingly I think many would feel more inclined to run a marathon than let go of a well entrenched injustice. I believe you can add years to your life through practicing authentic forgiveness, and it’s not just the quantity, it’s the quality of those years that you will be adding.
We get so caught up in drinking the right water, taking the right supplements, eating organic, or not eating this or that to improve our health and I happen to be one of those people who does all these things. But I also look at the other side of my well-being, my mental health. Many of us focus on exercise and nutrition but overlook the most accessible way to improve our health and station in life, a well-balanced mental health.
Give the gift of forgiveness, forget with grace and receive love, peace and expand your universe beyond your wildest dreams. What are you holding on to that its time has come to let go? Where does your power lie, in the keeping or the getting?
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” ~ Paul Boese
I find it so interesting the mixed messages we receive in life and from the most well-meaning and well-intentioned sources too. Curiosity is one of those traits that we seem to have a love-hate relationship with, it is both celebrated and rewarded, yet it can also be feared and punished.
We have all heard the saying curiosity killed the cat, yet Albert Einstein was a fervent believer in the power of curiosity, one of his famous quotes, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” I love his description of his gift as passionately curious.
I was sharing with a trusted advisor that I want to focus on bringing more joy and happiness to others through a mission at work I call the Bucket Brigade. I am enlisting others at my office to commit to filling other’s buckets at work. Bucket filling is a concept I learned from reading the book “How Full is Your Bucket?” The basic idea is that everyone carries an invisible bucket and when you spread good feelings, hugs, compliments, and love, you fill others buckets, when you criticize, complain, or condemn you are dipping in other’s buckets. Also when you fill other’s buckets your bucket is filled, when you dip in other’s buckets your bucket is also emptied.
She encouraged me to crank up my curiosity through all of this. Curiosity is an amazing thing, it is another way to expand your universe. She explained when faced with dilemma, disappointment or conflict you generally have a couple of ways to respond, with anxiety or curiosity. Truthfully there is a mixture of both, but the secret during those times, she said, and what I am trying to do, is crank up my curiosity faucet and turn down my anxiety faucet.
She explained to me how curiosity will naturally allow more room for bucket filling. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Think about a time when things did not go your way, maybe plans did not work out or someone responded in a way you did not expect. How did you feel? Frustrated, impatient, hurt, defensive? Next time stop in your tracks and ask yourself what would happen if I see where this leads? That’s right expand your horizon. If you have already gone down the road of frustration, impatience, hurt and defensiveness, what about curiously exploring another path.
I love the idea of responding with curiosity. It feels like being child-like again. I was watching my kids playing with the neighborhood kids this weekend and was so struck by their unfettered curiosity. They discovered many things together, a strange new bug, an interesting cocoon, the variety of leaves in the yard and we all collected a sample of each one. I realized how curiosity is instinctual, and through programming, conditioning and most of all ego, our tendency is to minimize our own and other’s curiosity.
Curiosity is another way to expand our lives and in a good way. No one wants to get excited about an expanding waistline or behind, but we all can get behind expanding our lives. I have really experienced such profound expansion in my life over the last two years, thankfully of the latter and not the former kind, that I am very aware and present to my own experience of contraction or witnessing contraction in others. It makes me sad to see others in a spiral of contraction and it makes me feel uneasy to be in my own contraction.
Think of it this way, when you are bit by contraction think of it as a poisonous snake and think of curiosity as the antidote. Many people are uncomfortable with too much positivity or over the top niceties, at times it doesn’t feel genuine or authentic, but curiosity is hard to fake, and it accomplishes so much.
I asked my son, what do you think curiosity means? He said it’s someone who is always asking questions? I thought about that and how wonderful that is to respond to life with questions instead of thinking we already have the answers.
“Curiosity endows the people who have it with a generosity in argument and a serenity in their own mode of life which springs from their cheerful willingness to let life take the form it will.” – Alistair Cooke
A friend once told me, “sometimes it takes some discomfort to make a change”. I felt like a golden retriever with my ears perked up and sitting at attention when she said that, like she was readying me to throw a bone. I always find it interesting how certain things will really resonate with me and today that did. So I did as I always do I jotted it down. Hmmmm I need to reflect on that, there is something there for me to “get”.
I was having a particular unsettling day which I was sharing when I was given the aforementioned advice, the why doesn’t matter, but the what now does. That’s where this sage advice I received comes in to play. The issue that created this discomfort has been occurring and then reoccurring for some time. I have tried several things to “fix” or “be at peace with,” I have prayed it will resolve itself, and I have tried to ignore it. And guess what, for some reason the creator and the universe is either not satisfied with my approach or I need more patience because it’s like the game whack a mole, just when I think I’ve got that pesky mole taken care of, he pops up through another hole.
Part of my problem is I need someone’s assistance with this problem and they have not reached their boiling point with it, only a simmering, uncomfortable, uneasy point. You know like the frog in the pot of water where the heat has been slowly rising so he doesn’t jump out, and he ends up getting cooked. Meaning it’s just uncomfortable enough to squirm a little but not jump to decisive action.
So when I heard that change requires some discomfort it really hit me, so that’s what’s going on. The discomfort is there but it is growing in small enough increments that there is no inclination to act. I know I am not alone here. I think many of us fear conflict, stress or change and, therefore, we will squirm and complain but not take action. I will admit it, taking action can be risky or at least seem risky. I used to thrive on change but I find as I am getting older, I do not find change as sexy as it used to be, at least not just for the sake of only change. But change is still very necessary and natural, just as the seasons change, it’s ultimately part of our survival.
So back to change, or not to change, that is the question. What is the risk to change? What lies ahead with change, I know what the current conditions are, what if it’s worst after change? And what if my request for change is met with defensiveness and hurt feelings? The irony in all of this is that I am dealing with a situation where someone else is resisting change. So here we both sit in an awkward situation and neither wants to change. We are like two Zax, and what happened to the two Zax, the world went on around them and they missed out because neither would budge not to the east, not to the west. And because those stubborn Zax wouldn’t change their universe shrank down to a very small size.
I have noticed that as I experience change in my life, most recently that which I had no control over, my life has really expanded in ways I could have never imagined. However, I have also recognized that a resistance to change creates contraction in my life. I know if I continue to do things and experience the world in the same way, I am not growing, while the rest of the world goes on around me, I am contracting. If you are experiencing contraction in your life look seriously at what change you are resisting.
So that’s where the discomfort comes in, my friend also went on to say, “look even when your pregnant you get to the point where there is no where else to go in your belly and that baby has to come out and there is a lot of pain and agony, but what a beautiful result.” As parents we go through the birthing process with our children many times, when they go to kindergarten, when they go off to college, when they leave home. And while it is agony for us parents this change expands our children’s lives as well as our own.
Another important person in my life always refers to the paschal mystery, dying and rising, as holding the key to life. Again it is about expansion and growth, and the catalyst is change. As we celebrate Easter we celebrate change and expansion and deep love.
So now I have drawn on the wisdom of whack a mole, a boiling frog, two figments of Dr. Seuss’ imagination and Easter and I don’t know about you, but I am actually gaining some clarity here, scary isn’t it.