The Mindful, Vulnerable, Connected Life

Mindfulness is about being intentionally present in a moment, observing one’s experience with nonjudgmental acceptance, releasing attachment to outcome, thereby releasing suffering. Vulnerability is about allowing yourself to be seen for exactly who you are, thereby allowing true intimacy. Connection is the marble arch. It is the thread. The lifeblood. Whether we are talking about attachment that begins in utero, or about neural connections, mind-body-spirit connections, connection to a friend, to a loved one, to a pet, to nature, to your yoga practice, to your breath, your higher power, or to your wallet, that drug, that store, that abusive relationship, that job, the past, the inner critic, the self-sabotage, your fear, the control; within all of it there is a the central tenet of connection and relating, and all of it has a profound effect on your life.

So how do we manage our mindfulness, vulnerability, and connections and strive to embody our core healthy self?

By shedding masks, being honest, being present, accepting yourself, living consciously, letting go, connecting to yourself and others. And how do we do this? By taking one small step at a time to change the little things. To follow through. To complete something. To be consistent and meet your needs. To be willing to change the narrative that accompanies your life and write a new story. To forgive. To ask for help. To be ok with not being ok. To hold hope or let someone hold it for you for a while. To engage contrary action against the actions that do not work for you or that keep you too comfortable or too destructive. To say the thing you are scared to say. Do the thing you are scared to do. Ask yourself the following: What are you connected to? What defines you? What preoccupies your mind? Which inner voice do you listen to and stay mindful of? What defines your sense of yourself? Your sense of others? Your sense of this world? Your place in it? Do you feel safe? Do you feel that you belong? Do you know that you are inherently good and that you are not only defined by your actions and mistakes? Your answers will give you information as to what you need to better understand and what you need to change or surrender. As you illuminate patterns, themes, unmet needs and begin engaging healthy behaviors and communication to meet them, you will start to experience shifts in your self-experience and your experience of the world. You will begin to affirm your place in this world.

We often dismiss the power of affirmations. Yet negativity has so much power. How could positivity, hope, and affirmation not hold the same power? When we are in negativity, when we are not at ease, we are at dis-ease. When we are not in some kind of realistic, reasonable balance, when we are not in sync, we are unbalanced and we are not centered in our lives. So we operate from a faulty operating system. When we do not accept ourselves, when we do not live or speak our truth, when we live in our traumatized split selves, our masks, our internalizations from long ago, we create a tear in the fabric. We are susceptible. Whether you choose to call it the mind, the body or the spirit, they are all connected and it all leads to the same place. What happens when we live in conflict? Maybe we become addicts, workaholics. Maybe we become perfectionists, pleasers, or become angry, frustrated, depressed, impulsive, anxious. Maybe we try to control others, or get our sense of self from others. Maybe we get sick. Maybe we hide and avoid. Maybe we stay comfortable. When we are disconnected from our true essence, our authenticity, our realness, our belongingness and safety in the universe, we live in conflict because our true needs go unmet. We end up trying to meet needs from another time, another place, a falsely constructed self that was once necessary. And the spark inside gets extinguished. We remain starving. And we look to fill that hunger by any means we can.

This conflict is often interpreted as threat by our brain. This is how we can see that thoughts and beliefs can truly affect our body and biology. Dr. Lissa Rankin speaks of the scientific evidence around the truth of our body and our ability to heal ourselves. She describes that when we do not speak our truth our brain communicates threat with the body through neurotransmitters and hormones. The amygdala picks up threats and tells the hypothalamus, the pituitary, the adrenals and they release stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine; the body lives in an ongoing stress response. And without the body’s relaxation response, self-repair and self-regulation are not permitted. How we think, how we feel, and how we act reverberates within our bodies and within this world. So do we set up a negative cycle or a positive one?

This is why we speak of integrated medicine and psychology, holistic therapies, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathing. We have to stop, get present, get conscious, become awake. We have to go beyond correcting thought and behavior, to transforming our self experience in our bodies, in our transactions with people and this universe. That requires vulnerability. It requires strength. It requires assertiveness, action. It requires experiencing. How do we experience? Do what makes you uncomfortable or happy or inspired or at peace. Sing, dance, act, draw, create, travel, be of service, meditate, move your body, be silly, play, make a bucket list, do the bucket list, create a 30 day challenge, do the 30 day challenge, start a course of therapy, do some body work. As awareness comes it often times requires a rigorous healing process and radical acceptance of all the parts of who you are, what you have done, where you have been; being true to our most authentic selves. And it requires connection. We are not islands. And becoming awake can feel painful. The light can sting our eyes. It can scare us to think we might fail, which means we are human, and we have to get up again. It can scare us to think we may actually make it, we might actually succeed and have to continue to be accountable, to own our mistakes and faults, to stretch into discomfort, to show up for ourselves and others. It can seem overwhelming to have to experience and move through feelings and trust that they will not kill you. It is how we respond to our temporary feelings that makes the difference. It can scare us to think we have to let go of whatever it is that may have defined us for so long. The climb can get long and exhausting, but we keep going. Moment by moment you begin to recognize your choices, yourself, and that you can make a choice to weather the storms and navigate your struggles and survive the mess and chaos. You then get to surrender moment by moment into the bliss of this beautiful life.

And for those who are in crisis, who have survived trauma or are in traumatic situations, this may all seem unachievable, unrealistic, perhaps almost insulting. I validate your pain. And to you I say this:

There is no way around this. There is no reconciliation. No explanation good enough. And it is this that must be accepted…the mess just as it is, with no way to clean it up. But still you move on. You have to. And you get stronger and you work at happiness, it is your heart’s job. You improve your life in some little way every day. And a piece inside, that will get smaller but never disappear, will feel like you have scratched and clawed your way up a sheer rock face to the top of a mountain, and your nails are jagged and bleeding, your body bruised and battered, your clothes torn, causing the manicured and pretty image you portray to the world to leave you sometimes feeling fraudulent. And it is this that must be brought into wholeness. And there will be a dull, aching, nagging pain that calls upon you once in while. But you will learn where it stays dormant and you will become bigger than the pain. And when it calls upon you, you will sit with it, a reluctant visitor, like the opening scene of Wuthering Heights where Mr. Lockwood visits Heathcliff to get out of the raging storm, and he becomes a witness to Cathy’s ghost and the story of their tortured love. And you will tell the stories that need to be told until they don’t need to be told anymore. – Georgina Smith, ‘Waiting to be Collected’.

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