About Celia McBride

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http://www.celiamcbride.com

Posts by Celia McBride

Resisting Love

This blog post is the last issue of The Healing Journey, the letter I send out to subscribers. You may subscribe here to receive the email.

Dearest Readers,

‘Love’ gets a lot of air time as the final solution to the world’s problems.

All you need is love. Make love not war. Whatever the question, love is the answer.

I do not disagree. In fact, I would march in any protest holding a One Love slogan high or chanting it loud and long for all to hear.

Why, then, when we are so good at touting this truth, do we still resist love? And not just on a global scale, as a peaceful solution to mass discord, but on a personal one as well?

How many people do you know who hurt themselves or reject goodness or resist love? A few? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? Billions?

For your separation from God is the hardest work in this world.

This line from a poem by Hafez (or Hafiz) says it all. Why are we working so hard to separate ourselves from That Which We Already Are?

Lots of reasons. Trauma, addiction, mental illness, low self-esteem, self-loathing, desire for power and control, fear.

In short: because we’re human.

In evolutionary terms, it could be argued that we are still at the very beginning of our journey toward full, conscious awakening. There may be a few awakened beings walking around but most of us are still dragging our knuckles and clubbing each other.

Why?

Because we don’t realize Who We Really Are.

I think I’m Celia. And I am. I’m also the Evolving Manifestation of the Mysterious Energy Creating and Sustaining All Things at Every Conceivable Level of Physical and Non-Physical Reality.

(I know, it’s a lot easier to say ‘God’ but the word divides. You’ve heard me say it before, we need a new word. Or we at least need to come to some kind of agreement on what the word means. Until then, I’ll create variations.)

Being Celia, or human, means I am subject to human experience. Human experience includes wrestling with ‘the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.’ I am going to get hurt and rejected. I am going to suffer. Because I’ve suffered and been hurt and rejected, I’m going to identify with these experiences. Naturally. And this identification is going to lead me to believe that I am unworthy, unloved and unlovable. Hence, when love comes my way I’m going to resist it. Or even before it comes my way I’m going to make sure it doesn’t arrive. Cut it off at the pass.

This is the wound of separation, which leads to the hardest work in the world. So how do we heal?

First of all, there is no cure for being human. It is what I am. No matter how hard I try, I will not outrun my humanity and the fear that comes with it.

In the same way, I cannot outrun That Which Makes Me Human. I may be able to resist The Force Behind Human Existence but extricating myself from It? Not a chance.

This is why separation is ‘the hardest work in the world’. Because we literally cannot do it.

Resisting Love because we’re afraid of being hurt or vulnerable or rejected is the expected human reaction. Understanding that it is impossible to resist That Which We Already Are is the evolved and awakened response.

Still, resistance persists. I may know intellectually that I am the Cosmos Looking at Itself or a Child of God or Bliss Absolute or however you want to say it and yet there I go again, pressing the self-sabotage button, rejecting Love before it rejects me.

It’s okay.

We can’t annihilate our separation work any more than we can outrun our humanness. Because our separation work is our humanness. This is how we are made. If we didn’t have the veil of separation we’d be God. Or the Thing That Makes All Things Possible. That veil is what enables us to be here.

So, if you are in the resistance, if your separation work is generating or perpetuating the suffering, be gentle with yourself. We’re still evolving. We’re not getting it wrong.

I recently asked a 105 year-old woman what her secret was. “I just live,” she said.

May we all just live, as we are, trusting that Evolution or Divine Love or Cosmic Oneness is doing Its good work in all of us, even now, and even now, and now and now…

From the fires of love,

Celia

Oh My God

Dearest Readers,

One of the things I enjoy most is having meaningful discussions. Small talk is okay but I’d much rather have Deep Talk. Why chit-chat about the weather when we could be talking about the Meaning of Life?

My all-time favourite subject is God. Whether we talk about ‘God’ as a word that soothes or rankles or ‘God’ as a deity who exists or doesn’t, everybody is going to have something interesting to say on the topic.

On a recent outing with a friend, he mentioned a phone call he’d had with his mother, a spiritual person who relies on God for guidance.

“She’s always talking about God and I’m like, Mom, I don’t believe in God.”

I’d previously had all kinds of spiritual conversations with this person so I was curious as to what he really meant. Did he mean he didn’t believe in a man with a beard directing human activity? Did he mean he didn’t believe in religion? As I’ve written here before, language is key, and finding the right language can open the door.

“You don’t believe in God and yet I’m wondering if you experience the Universe as participatory,” I asked him.

He thought about it for a while and then said, “It’s my experience that sometimes it feels like I’m getting kicked around and other times I feel like I might be being guided.”

At that moment we passed a church with a banner that read, “What about God and Science?”

“I think it’s worth noting the appearance of that banner right now,” I said, pointing up at the oracular question looming above us. Hmmm…

Another conversation with a friend who identified as a ‘militant atheist’ in one breath and a ‘very spiritual person’ in the next prompted me to interview him to ask him more about his dichotomous stance. During the interview he ended up saying, “I am God. You’re God.”

I knew what he meant. He didn’t mean that he’d made the world or that I had but rather Whatever Made The World was currently operating in us, present in us. We aren’t It, per se, but we are of It. The Quakers have an apt way of putting it: “There is that of God in Everyone.”

Later, the friend who’d said he didn’t believe in God but did feel, to some extent, that the Universe is participatory, texted me his appreciation for our conversation.

“I think it’s cool that you are constantly expanding your definition for the human journey beyond any spiritual/religious lexicon,” he wrote.

He’s right about my ‘constantly expanding’. There was a time when I was positively evangelical in my views, which made having any kind of meaningful spiritual dialogue near impossible. Coming up against my own rigidity has forced me to move beyond language and labels because I’ve learned the hard way that the more I cling to my own beliefs as ‘right’ and my own labels as ‘true’ then the less any kind of real connection can take place.

And that is what I am looking for. Real Connection. Yes, it is much easier to dis-connect. To hide away and disengage. Even when I’m in the presence of others I can cut myself off. Because it takes real effort to make a Real Connection. Being Present requires a certain amount of letting go and a certain amount of waking up. Either way, it’s work. And sometimes I don’t want to do the work.

But I do it anyway. And I keep on doing it. Because if the Universe is participating in my life then I’d like to participate right back. We are still evolving here. Our current experience is just a blip in the Evolutionary Time Span. If the God conversation lands us in a debate about religion or embroiled in a dogmatic argument then we have missed out on an opportunity to find our Common Ground.

What is our Common Ground? It’s pretty simple. We all belong to one species: Homo sapiens and we are all made up of trillions of atoms. All of us. We are all made of the same stuff: Energy.

What is Energy? Why does it exist? We don’t know. But we all get to decide our own answer. We all get to interpret Energy or God or That Which is Beyond the Intellect however we darn please. And as long as we don’t get caught up in thinking we have the right answer or the best interpretation, then we should be able to unite in our Common Ground and move forward together. I can think of nothing more pressing in today’s world.

From the fires of love,

Celia

D-Day

This blog post is the last issue of The Healing Journey, the letter I send out to subscribers. You may subscribe here to receive the email.

Dearest Readers,

Language is meaningful and I’m careful about the words I choose, whether I’m posting them online or pronouncing them in speech. Watching my words is a mindful practice requiring constant awareness and committed intention. For example, I used to swear like trucker and I hated a lot of things. Now, refraining from saying “I hate” something is a way for me to transcend and transform the judging mind and not swearing upholds ahimsa or the practice of non-violence.

I can still drop the F-bomb on occasion and my mind still judges but the Healing Journey has given me a better understanding of where my feelings are really coming from and why I react harshly to certain people or situations. Looking directly at my fears and attachments has helped me to untangle them and recognize how they will continually motivate my actions if left unchecked. This inner work has naturally resulted in a more intentional way of speaking and behaving.

Finding alternative words to shift my attitude and energy has meant that I would never say I was ‘depressed’ even if I was. Instead I might tell you that my energy was very low (or completely depleted) or that my spiritual condition was not at peak. This refusal to name ‘depression’ as such felt like a way to conquer it or rise high above its lowly depths. But it never made it go away. So, recently, after a stretch of working hard to overcome the funk, something in me decided to call a spade a spade. “I’m depressed,” I said to a friend. It was freeing to finally name it with such frankness.

Years ago, I watched a TV movie adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge. The Mayor, played by Ciarán Hinds, has made some terrible decisions, most of them while drinking. His protégé, Donald Farfrae, on the other hand, seems to have had all the luck in the world. One evening, the Mayor confides in Farfrae and shares honestly with the younger man about his deeper troubles.

 “…I sank into one of those gloomy fits I sometimes suffer from… when the world seems to have the blackness of hell, and, like Job, I could curse the day that gave me birth.”

Because I knew exactly what the Mayor was talking about I fully expected his friend to answer him with a knowing “aye, mate, I hear ye.” But Farfrae has no idea what the Mayor is talking about.

“Ah, now, I never feel like it,” said Farfrae.

His response knocked me over. You mean some people actually have no idea what the blackness of hell feels like? What it is to experience utter hopelessness? To wish for death to come swiftly and end it all finally and forever?

“Then pray to God that you never may, young man.”

The Mayor’s retort is right on because no one who knows that kind of mental suffering would ever want anyone else to go through it. It’s brutal.

“So what are you using to overcome it?” my own friend asked me.

“All my tools,” I told her. “I pray, meditate, do the next right thing, change the thought, watch it, repeat a mantra, have mercy on myself, share it, help someone else to get out of myself, work on my defects and assets, whatever it takes, WHATEVER IT TAKES to not succumb to the pit of despair and to move through it and beyond. In short, whatever I am capable of in the moment.”

“Wow,” she replied. This sounds very effortful.”

Well, it is. And it’s effective, too.

One of the least effortful and most effective tools on that list is to ‘watch it’. While requiring a certain level of vigilance, watching the mind doesn’t require a lot of effort. Stepping back from what the mind is doing (or not doing, as the case may be) has taught me that I am, in fact, not my thoughts. I am not the D-word. I am not even the brain, which seems to be misfiring and malfunctioning in the D-state. Like watching my words, watching my thinking creates a shift in energy. Eckhart Tolle has cornered the market on this idea and it’s life-changing.

That life-changing shift in energy enables me to respond to the D in a more enlightened capacity. I can even welcome it, saying, “Hello! You again. Thanks for the visit! Off you go.” I can also view D as a brilliant spiritual teacher who has led me down the path of humility, shown me how to surrender and how to soften, how to respond with compassion to myself and others and forced me continually let go of my attachment to what I think so that I may dwell more comfortably in That Which the Mind Cannot Grasp.

What is That Which the Mind Cannot Grasp? It is the Energy Behind All Things. It is God. It is no god. It is Light and it is Dark. It is depression and it is freedom from the D word. There is no thing that It is Not. I like Maya Angelou’s word for It: All.

So this is what I rely on to overcome the blackness of hell. I rely on ALL. And it works. For me. And whatever works for you is good, too. If you are working with D then I am with you. And if you’re not, I pray to ALL that you never may.

May we continue to watch what we say and how we say it. And may we each learn to tell the truth about ourselves to others without shame.

From the fires of love,

Celia

The Agony of Nothing

This blog post is the last issue of The Healing Journey, the letter I send out to subscribers. You may subscribe here to receive the email.

This past August my parents and our family suffered the loss of Maggie, our beloved Great Dane, to bone cancer. A few weeks after Maggie died my mother announced that she was getting a new puppy. I was surprised. When Maggie was deteriorating my mum had stated very clearly that she would never get another dog.

“You said you weren’t going to get another dog,” I reminded her.

“I know,” she answered, “But I can’t bear the agony of nothing.”

“The agony of nothing,” I repeated, impressed by her ability to name so aptly our existential human emptiness, “That’s it. Right there. That is what it all comes down to. If we cannot learn to bear the agony of nothing–”

“We’re doomed!” she interjected.

That wasn’t exactly what I was going to say. I was going to say that if we cannot learn to bear the agony of nothing then we are destined to get a puppy to make the pain go away. But what happens when the puppy dies and we are once again left with that “deep-down, black, bottom-of-the-well, no-hope, end-of-the-world, what’s-the-use loneliness”? (Thank you, Charlie Brown.)

Well, we can always find something else to temporarily relieve the dread. There is no shortage in today’s world: shopping, sex, TV, booze, dope, chocolate cake. On and on it goes.

Eventually those things stop working, too, and the Black Hole returns. What then? How do we bear the Agony of Nothing?

By spending time with it.

Yup. When when we stop trying to a-void the Void, when we make friends with the thing we fear most, it becomes transformed. Solitude is no longer lonely and Silence is no longer empty.

It takes great courage to do this. Exploring the foreign territory of our inner lives can be terrifying. It is the Great Unknown, after all. I myself have uncovered a hundred forms of fear living inside of me. By getting to know these fears intimately and confronting my terror head-on, their power has been massively reduced. And I’m happy to report that I have been liberated by at least eighty-seven of them. Maybe eighty-eight.

This is how healing actually happens. Interior freedom occurs when we walk through the fear rather than run from it, work with the pain rather than alter it. Entering fully into the Agony of Nothing creates, miraculously, the Possibility of Something. That Something is better than a puppy. Because it is, in fact, Everything.

Thus begins the astonishing process of living from our Everythingness instead of from the agony of our nothingness. And it is a process. And puppies are most definitely allowed.

From the fires of love,

Celia

Good Lock

Recently, I got locked out of the house. It wasn’t my house so I did not know all of its little intricacies including the one about the front door bolt sometimes slipping down into the catch on its own. So I went outside to do a chore and when I came back the door was bolted shut.

At first I didn’t believe it. It was impossible. The bolt had to be physically turned from the inside to lock the door. In my disbelief I began to pull on the door shaking and rattling it to force it to open. It was definitely locked. Then I growled and noticed the panic rising. I had a full day that included a list of other chores before making my way to the airport to catch a plane.

Going around to the back of the house to see if I’d left the back door open was futile because I knew I’d locked it five minutes earlier when I’d let the cat out. I did it anyway. Then I checked all the windows and found one that could be opened if I forced it. I stopped trying when my arm began to bleed.

As I returned to the front of the house to escape the burning late-morning Florida sun I said a prayer. Well, barked one, actually. “Okay, what am I supposed to do about this?” Maybe I even said, “What the hell am I supposed to do about this?” I was highly aware of my resistance and lack of calm.

With that awareness I took a seat on the shady front porch and started to listen for the answer. I was locked out. What could I do? Not much. Did the rage help? Not a bit.

A lizard about the size of my hand sashayed out of the shrubbery and stopped a couple of feet away, watching me out of the corner of its eye, its tiny sides expanding and contracting rapidly with breath. That lizard did not have a big agenda. It moved again, stopped, moved again. Each time it stopped I stayed with it, with the power of its total presence, its utter lack of agenda. The lizard eventually moved on and I thanked it because it had brought me into the here and now.

Reflecting on my anger I saw that it had come from the fact that I was not going to be able to fulfill my agenda. My agenda had not only been meticulously planned (go inside, finish chores, accomplish tasks, eat some food, take a spiritual direction call, get to the airport and fly away), I was counting on the fact that it was all going to take place. I was upset because the future I’d planned was not going to happen. But that future was not my actual life. My actual life, my unfolding life in reality, was sitting on the porch, locked out of the house in +35C heat, learning life-lessons from lizards. There was nothing else. All the other stuff was just a bunch of thoughts that I had allowed to become expectations.

To commit to the spiritual journey means that when any challenge comes our way we stay open to the transforming opportunity being presented. I closed my eyes, went within and listened.

Let go. Wait. Trust.

Letting go of all my plans and seeing that the world would not come to an end by doing so, I went and picked some starfruit from a tree in the yard, thankful for the moisture it provided my thirsty mouth. With that action came an intuitive thought: Maybe I could knock on the neighbours doors? Fear rose up. I sat with it and then followed the prompt. Within minutes, two generous men were walking around the house with me looking for a spare key or a way to get in. Then one of them got a screwdriver and jimmied a window open. Hallelujah! I climbed into the cool, air-conditioned house, relieved and dripping with sweat.

As the rest of the day unfolded and the agenda got accomplished I kept meditating on a deeper question that came out of the experience: Where am I “locked out”? Or what am I “locking out” of my life?

Exactly one week later, while leading a retreat on the ashram in the Bahamas, I went to leave the little beach-side room where I slept to go to a yoga class. But when I turned the door handle and pulled, the door remained shut. I tried again. Nope. I was locked in. You know what I did? I smiled.

After trying a couple of tricks to jimmy the latch I pulled the screen off the window, lifted myself up over the sill, did a modified handstand to climb out, and went to reception to tell maintenance. Later, after the local man who repaired it explained that the salt-air had corroded the latch (happens all the time), I had the opportunity to do some more spiritual inquiry. Two episodes with locks in one week? Kinda hard to ignore.

Okay, so where was I “locked in”? Or what am I currently “locked into”?

There was temptation to go into shame. I’m doing something wrong. I’m being punished. This attitude will only keep me from looking deeper. A gentler approach prevailed: How did I respond to what unfolded?

My reaction to being locked out was rage, which came from being overly attached to my agenda. Fair enough, I had a flight to catch. But to assume I’m going to get to complete my plans at any given time is to deny the unpredictability of life. When I am attached to an agenda I am locked out of being present to life’s unfolding and I am leaping ahead of reality.

My reaction to being locked in was to smile. Made easier by some free time, certainly, but also by a willingness to accept what comes with an open mind and an open heart. When I am detached from my agenda I am locked in to reality. Life is unfolding before me and I am following with curiosity, presence and interior freedom.

Inspiring Message of the Day: May we all open ourselves to following the unfoldment of our lives rather than trying to leap ahead.

Spiritual Bushwhack

During a recent Centering Prayer retreat at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, I ventured forth on an afternoon hike, scrambling up a steep cliff to check out some rock formations that had enticed me from the ground below.

After exploring the ancient outcrop where birds nested and faces appeared in ghostly patterns, I made my way down the steep incline in the mid-afternoon heat. As I got closer to the bottom I found myself in the middle of a dense thicket of scrubby trees and realized I had no choice but to make my way through it to get out. This is when it hit me: the Spiritual Journey is a bushwhack.

Maybe you’ve been there yourself? It goes something like this:

You are in the thick of it and you can’t see the path and the branches are in your way and you’re getting scraped and scratched and you just want it to be over.

But it’s not over and you’ve got a long way to go before you get to the clearing. So the only thing you can do is be where you are as you move each branch out of your way, carefully avoiding the thorny and prickly ones, crouching down low to avoid poking your eyes out, pulling up your pelvic muscles to support your legs as you take each tortuous step, one at a time.

There is no rushing this.

And you’re parched because you didn’t bring water (you didn’t want to carry it) and you’re bleeding a little from the thorns and it’s hot and you wonder if you’re going to die. But you don’t die you take another breath and move the next branch and then… you’re out.

You’re out and you’re grateful. So you turn back to look at where you’ve come from and give thanks.

Now you’re safe and you walk on the clear path for a while and you meet a friend who was smart and stayed in the lowland and you smile at each other with recognition but you don’t stop. And then you come to the crick and you wonder if you have the energy to jump it and you do. And you’re still not home so you keep coming back to each step because you are not really there until you get there.

And when you do get there you rest because tomorrow… you will go again.

Inspiring Message of the Day: May we all support each other no matter where we are on the path.

What, Me Racist?

Yesterday I posted a video on YouTube in reaction to the question asked by 2016 Oscar host Chris Rock during his opening monologue: Is Hollywood racist? In the video I’m asking a deeper question, “Am I racist?” and making a point about coming to terms with our inner racism and healing the shame that stems from inheriting the crimes of our ancestors. My sense is that the inheritance of unhealed shame is a large part of our inherent racism and a core reason why full equality has not yet been attained between white people and all persons of colour in our “integrated” societies.

The dictionary on this computer defines shame as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong behavior.” When shame goes unaddressed, when I am unable to bear the humiliation and distress caused by my awareness of wrongdoing, when I do not know how to reconcile the inner pain, then the painful feelings turn outward. They become resentment, anger, judgment, and, in extreme cases, pure hatred. My shame has turned to blame. Instead of not liking myself I start not liking you.

To the best of my knowledge my own personal family heritage does not include any slave owners and yet it was my collective ancestors who participated in the slave trade. It was my collective ancestors who participated in the genocide of the First Nations people. It was my collective ancestors who participated in countless crimes against non-Caucasian people here in North America and all over the world. Their blood is in my veins.

As a white person today I have unwittingly inherited all of these sins, or crimes, or wrong actions of yesterday. I can deny that this causes me deep-rooted shame or I can accept it. If I deny it then the unhealed guilt and shame breeds inner racism: contempt and fear and, ultimately, a felt sense of separation. If I accept it then I must be prepared to participate fully in my own healing and the collective healing of our wounded culture.

Because are we not all wounded people? Do we not all have dis-integrated parts that have gone unhealed and remain broken and fragmented due to the trauma of wounds from our personal past? Collective wounding works the same way.

In order for true reconciliation to take place, the trauma of the wounded must be healed and the shame and guilt of the perpetrators of that trauma must also be healed. This healing work needs to be done both individually and together. Full integration happens for the individual when I admit I’m wounded, confront my shame and begin the inner journey to wholeness. Full integration will happen for our societies when injured parties and perpetrators come together as one to address and take responsibility for all sides of our shared global-historical-cultural trauma.

Inspiring Message of the Day: There is, in actual fact, only one race and if I am human then I belong to it.

 

Take Care

I recently posted about making a major life decision and how difficult it can be when perfectionism or the fear of making a mistake is a dominant, controlling factor. Another element that hinders my own healthy decision-making is the desire to protect other people from their hurt feelings.

The decision I made to return to Canada directly impacted a number of people, and one person in particular, whom I shall call Maura, was especially affected. She and I had been living together in community for 8 months and I knew that if I left she would be alone, hurt and even betrayed by my choosing to go. The thought of inflicting these feelings upon Maura was enough to make me stay. The voices of dissent were pretty loud: How could I do this to her? Leaving her was totally unconscionable; an unforgivable, selfish act.

These negative thoughts plagued me and I wavered, thinking it would be better to sacrifice my own well-being to save Maura from her pain.

Red-flag moment. Save Maura? When I get into saving someone else I know I am in big trouble. I have moved out of the relative safety of taking care of someone and into the dangerous territory of care-taking. There is a big difference between the two.

“Taking care” involves looking after someone’s needs, being of service, helping out. Care-taking is about looking after someone else’s needs at the cost of my own and serving the ego’s desire for approval and esteem. It is not helpful. To anyone.

If I had stayed to protect Maura from her grief not only would I have been compromising my own needs, making me emotionally sick (and possibly even physically), I would also have been depriving Maura of her own life process. Not my job.

Care-taking is controlling behaviour at its most subtle. I tell myself I am protecting Maura therefore I am doing a good thing. I am noble. I am a saint! In fact, I am simply trying to orchestrate an outcome over which I am entirely powerless. I cannot save Maura from herself.

The consequences of care-taking can be dire because in trying to protect the other person I eventually become angry and resentful. If I had stayed in community with Maura I would have begun to see her as the one now keeping me from living my fullest and best life. And even though she didn’t ask me to protect her, even though I took it upon myself to save her, she would have been the one to blame for my faulty thinking. See the insanity? I sacrifice myself and it’s her fault.

Leaving Maura was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I wrestled with the question of what was right and agonized over whether I was wrong. In the end, I chose to put my own well-being first. (Even writing that sentence feels uncomfortable.) Doing so required an enormous amount of trust that my own liberation would somehow mean Maura’s liberation, too. Even if it caused her pain.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Am I able to embrace the concept of self-care? Do I attend to what is life-giving for me? If I am putting myself last on the list and it is costing me too much I will begin to trust that my own deepest needs can come first.

 

Decide

It is just before 5 a.m. and there is a ghostly bird whistling somewhere outside in the dark. I am not able to identify a bird by its call. Some, like the chickadee, are obvious. I got to know the sound of a baby coot because there was one living on the nearby lake and it peeped incessantly. The bird I’m hearing now could be a wood pigeon or an owl. Its sound is almost a cry, somewhere between a hoot and a coo. A hoo.

I was awake at three, possibly because of jet lag, having arrived back in the UK after 3 weeks in Canada. But it’s been a few days now so it is more likely the mind unable to fall back to sleep after being woken to go and relieve the bladder. I was dreaming of giant crocodiles and Steve Irwin, bless his Crocodile Hunter heart.

The mind is also being kept awake by its desire to ruminate further on a major life decision. The decision has been made but how it loves to go over and over the details! I employed all meditation techniques to no avail. Finally I got up to write.

Making decisions at the best of times let alone major life ones is never easy for the recovering perfectionist. I once stood in the linen section of a giant store trying to decide which sheets to buy. I was probably there for an hour before I left empty-handed. If I struggle to decide whether the cotton-striped or the plain flannel are right for me you can imagine what happens when I have something really important to discern. Total mental chaos leading to eventual paralysis.

I have gotten better. There is hope. Change is possible. And yet I still seem to have to go through a certain amount of turmoil before I actually decide what to do. Sticking with the decision is also difficult. Depending on the level of impact on others I can experience all kinds of guilt and shame and remorse. Ridiculous but true.

So I’ve made a major life decision. I’ve decided to move back to Canada after 19 months abroad, leaving the community I’ve been living in and the job I’ve been working at. It is the right thing to do and yet the fear comes at me in myriad ways threatening to pull me back and keep me down. I need every resource at my disposal to remain steadfast in the peace that came with the final decision. Because believing the doubt does not bring peace. It just sets me back in indecision. And indecision is really just another form of control.

Control is the perfectionist’s drug of choice. Getting off it is a lifetime journey of letting go practiced one decision at a time. Luckily, or unluckily, depending on your view, Life itself is the rehab centre. We’re given countless opportunities each day to release the fear and trust in the Unknown. Like the bird singing in the dark trusting day will come.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Despite my fear of making a mistake I will stick to my decision. I will surrender perfectionism and let go of trying to get it right. I will practice trusting the Unknown.

Humble Pie

“O Lord, it’s hard to be humble/When you’re perfect in every way…”

This old country song by Mac Davis has been running through my head lately as I have recently experienced a newfound humility borne out of an old way way of behaving.

The word “humility” is often confused with the word “humiliation” and yet they are not the same. When I am humiliated I feel bad or ashamed about myself. When I am truly humble I am teachable, right-sized and grateful.

When I am trying to be perfect “in every way” I am hardly in a teachable frame of mind. What can I learn when I already know everything? I am not the right size for my skin because I am ten-feet tall and bullet proof. And how can I be thankful when I am judging everybody else for not being as perfect as I am?

I often say I am a recovering perfectionist. Perfectionism is its own form of addiction. I am consumed by the need to be right and I will go to any lengths to sustain the illusion that I have the power to control others and outcomes. Like many addictions perfectionism is coming from a deeply wounded place. I’m not a perfectionist because I’m an exceptional person I’m a perfectionist because I am a broken person.

Last week, after trying to win my way through a discussion and coming up against brick wall after brick wall I was finally confronted with my own self-righteousness. It was not a pleasant feeling. The worst part about it was that I thought I was being very spiritual the whole time I was engaged in the battle! That sounds frighteningly similar to the terrorist who attacks others in the name of God. (I’m being hard on myself. And yet if we are not examining our inner assassins we are hardly in a position to condemn the “real” ones. I feel another post coming on…)

After it became clear that I had been acting like a hypocrite I had no other recourse but to admit I was wrong and make amends. The response from the other side was silence. No more fighting. The interior response was peace. I am dumbstruck by the complete paradox of this simple formula: We diffuse the bomb through surrender. (Would this work as a tactic at the political level? Declaring peace? There’s that other post again…)

As the shame from my humiliation gradually transformed into humility I began to see a wider view. I remembered that my self-centered behaviour is not actually who I am. It is merely the action that comes forth from my woundedness. I reconnected to the unbroken, untouched Sacred Centre that is the True Core of Who I Am and what do you think emerged? Gratitude.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Accepting my imperfection is an ongoing process. I will give thanks for my humanness, which allows my Whole Self to continually emerge.