Making space for fear

I spend days feeling fear.  Today I decided to make a big list of all my fears and burn them.  Byron Katie  author of Do the Work says to write your fears as if they are happening now in order to release them.  Ok here goes.

I am afraid I am running out of money not working in the USA.

I am afraid that I am bored and isolated here in the mountains.

I am afraid that I am a sloth, that sleeps and eats, and lays around just passing time.

I am afraid that I am not enough for my partner.

I am afraid  I have nothing to say, nothing to contribute.

I am afraid I am wasting my life in Colorado.

I am afraid that I have no friends here.

I am afraid we are driving each other crazy in this gorgeous house.

I am afraid to have sex on the new 750 thread count sheets.

I am afraid of losing myself.

I am afraid I am becoming someone else for my partner.

“We have to be careful of how we handle our fear-because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process.  So I don’t try to kill off my fear.  I don’t go to war against it.  Instead, I make all that space for it.  Heaps of space.  Every single day I’m making space for fear right this moment.  I allow my fear to live and breathe and stretch out its legs comfortably.  It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.  If I can relax, fear relaxes too.  In fact, I cordially invite fear to come along with me everywhere I go.” Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic

“The professional tackles the  project that will make him stretch.  He takes on the assignment that will bear him into uncharted waters, compel him to explore unconscious parts of himself.  Is he scared? Hell, yes.  He’s petrified.  So if you are paralyzed with fear, it’s a good sign.  Steven Pressfield The War of Art

So feeling my fear is a good thing.  It means I am onto something big, meaningful, important.  It is the opposite of what my ego tells me, that fear is a warning sign.  Henry Fonda, the famous actor, used to throw up before each performance out of fear.   But he still went on the stage.  He did not stay in the wings and let his fear rule him.   Many people who don’t know me well have said “you are so courageous”.  Perhaps that is true. I am not sure there is such a thing as a fearless person.  It is a matter of making space for my fear, but not letting it rule the action.

As  the author Elizabeth Gilbert says, she takes her fear along for the ride as a passenger, but she does not let her fear drive the car, touch the maps, or even change the radio station.  Fear sits in the back seat, and looks out the window.

Fear does not drive my car.

 

 

 

awe ô/ noun

How Awe Makes Us Generous

 

awe  noun

A feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder., wonderment; admiration, reverence, respect, esteem;
“we watched in awe”
“capacity to inspire awe.”

I am so intrigued by the role of awe in our lives.   It is not something I have generally thought about.  I think about eating right.  I think about exercising. How often do we think about getting a few minutes of awe each day.

I have been thinking about the benefits of activly seeking  daily awe.

I believe it is an essential key for inner happiness.

Consciously seeking awe in nature fills up my soul in a way that exercise never could. Stopping and noticing nature once per day is a conscious act.

“What we’re finding is that brief doses of awe move us from a model of self-interest to really being engaged in the interests of others. The preliminary data are showing that it starts to break down this us-versus-them thinking.”  A new study by Adam Hoffman at Berkely, finds that feeling awe in nature makes us more generous to other humans.

For me, awe creates a momentary sense of peace.  Within me, for me.  It is the act of opening and making space for awe that is miraculous. Researchers suggest that experiencing awe moves us from the “I” identity to the “we” identity.

Awe can change us as people, it can rewire us to feel something beyond ourselves.   The only other thing that can shift us into “we consciousness” is being in love.  Love opens us up to a flow.  We feel more relaxed and content when we are in love.   Awe experiences travel along similar pathways as love does in our brain.

The awe practice:  Seek out nature in all its forms, even if it is just an aspen tree rocking in the winter breeze. Stare up at it for 3 minutes, feel the awe, feel the inner happiness.

______________________________

Manchester by the sea

We just saw the film “Manchester by the Sea”.  What a deeply moving movie.

It’s a story of a young man who just can’t forgive himself.  My heart broke for him.  He was on strike with life.  Leaving a place where everyone knew him at his home by the sea, to go live in a one room basement in a big city away from his past pain.  Every time he went home he was reminded of his past, reminded of his pain and his heartache.

How often have I run away from pain, changed locations and thought that I was leaving my pain behind.

The irony is that we take the pain with us, inside us no, matter where we are physically.  We can change locations and get new partners. But still the heartache is kept alive inside us.

As I watched that movie my heart ached for the character played by Casey Affleck.  When he meets his ex-wife in the street, she wants to forgive him, and love him, but he could not receive the love, as he could not forgive and love himself.

This movie was a moving portrayal of an extreme circumstance of loss.  How often have I played out situations or circumstances where I don’t forgive myself. My unforgiveness is being on strike with life and it becomes a habit or a stance.

Is there anything you have been stubbornly hanging onto from the past, that you are  in unforgiveness around?

There are many benefits in not forgiving ourselves.We get to continue to punish ourselves and play the victim in life. We get others to feel sorry for us and justify our backdoor behaviours, like being cruel and impatient with ourself and others.

Right now as I wait for 90 days for my immigration permit I tell myself that I am “trapped”, that I don’t have choices.   I feel frustrated and impatient, as if that official piece of paper will give me permission to shine.   Someone asked me what would a spiritual leader do in this situation?  A spiritual leader would be disciplined and use this time to expand, write, meditate and create.   Time is something that people crave and associate with abundance.  Rather than see myself as being punished I can see myself in abundance, in a time to be me, to flow to shine, to listen to my spirit.

 

 

Flashbulb memories

“Flashbulb memories are nearly photographic recall of paticularly shocking events. The specifics of flashbulb events can change in our minds, but what is nearly impossible to erase is their emotional impact”   Michael d. Lemonick- The Wall Street Journal.

For me being in a new relationship I have constant flashbulb memories of moments in my past marriage.  When someone dies it is not the big romantic moments you remember, it is the small silly details.  This morning my new partner who I am living in the mountains with went to the fridge, and grabbed a slice of baloney.  He smeared it with mayonnaise.  I sat there entranced watching him roll it up, and pop it into his mouth with such glee.

I was in a complete flashback to my previous husband who loved baloney, he used to make bread, butter and baloney sandwiches and freeze them.  He would take a stack of them to work.

When his doctor told him to cut back on fat due to high cholesterol, I nagged him about his baloney habit.   Flash forward to now, watching my fiance, pop baloney into his mouth made me feel warm and sad, there was a bittersweetness to the memory.

Memory is an interesting thing.  I was thinking about what causes us suffering in life, and I believe a lot of it has to do with hanging onto memories.  Hanging onto the past, investing life force energy in past experiences.

Recently we went to see my finance’s mother who has alzheimers, she was joyful, happy, living right in each moment because that is all she has left.  Is this not what we strive for in enlightenment?  To live in the moment?

What is the purpose of our memory?

Researchers tell us that our memory is designed to help us accumulate knowledge to make sense of the world and to navigate it better.

I know my memories are not exact, they are my interpretation, and from my perspective, and speak to the emotional impact the experience had on me at the time.

How often do we have “relationship flashbacks”?  Where we notice something our new partner does, and it triggers a past memory postive or negative from a previous relationship?

Northern exposure

Near our mountain home there is a redtail fox.  He comes to our door and glares at us.

One day he came upon my fiance who left a bag of dog poo near our back door, left over from the dog park.  The fox glared at him, picked up the dog poo in his mouth and dragged it 3 feet away and peed on it as if to say “you are on my territory”.  We told this story to a shop owner in town.  She said the red tail fox  in her neighbourhood steals her New York Times.  She said one time she found the fox sitting in the middle of the road sitting on two Denver papers and a New York Times.

I asked around to see if other residents had experiences with the red tail fox.  I heard all sorts of wild experiences.   From foxes stealing shoes from a guys feet while camping in the mountains to a fox that would come in the house and let the occupants pet him. It seems they are used to humans in this town.   One woman told me she heard a noise on her balcony which faced Main street and went out to find 2 foxes mating. It appears she startled them. They just moved over to the other side of the balcony and continued their business. One local told me he trained a fox to ride the chairlift with him…

According to Ted Andrews the “Fox teaches us how to remain unnoticed in crowds, to come and go without being remarked upon. A person can learn much by just standing in the shadows and listening. Invisibility is a powerful medicine to cultivate in life. The Fox has very acute senses of smell, vision and hearing. Smell symbolizes the power of discrimination; so fox medicine offers us the power of clear thinking and decision making to keep us safe, healthy, and prosperous”.

The fox reminds me to stay alert and not get too used to my surroundings. When we visit a town as a tourist, everything is new and exciting.  After living here for 3 months I can see how easy it is to get used to the town, to stop going into the cute stores, to see the hordes of tourist as a burden.  The fox also reminds me to get clear about who I want to be in this place.  Do I let time just pass by while I wait for immigration or do I capitalize on this time to get clear about what I want for my life.  Do I continue to allow myself to enjoy this place, to experience daily awe, or do I take it for granted?

Having these foxes around are a good reminder to observe, discriminate, get clear about what I want.

Last night we saw a 2,000 lb male moose standing on our neighbours driveway grazing on something in the snowbank.

I went out on the deck and called to it.  It was not fazed.  Then the police pulled up and put bright lights on the moose.  He just stood there.  I was shocked at seeing this moose in town, and amazed he was not concerned about humans or bright lights

This reminded me of the tv show I used to watch in my 20’s called Northern Exposure.

At the time I was living in the city of Toronto, Canada with 4 roomates; one an actor, another a corporate executive, a community worker and myself.   We used to order chinese takeout and watch Northern Exposure.  We loved the wacky characters and the wildlife.  I remember one episode where the towns folk built a catapult to fling a piano just for fun.  Now I feel like I am living the experience rather than watching it.

How often in our life do we view experiences like a tv show, where we watch all the stories and sit back as a passive viewers of life rather than engaging in it.

Is it time to get off the couch of life?

Viking energy at ULLR festival

Getting from the Denver airport to Breckenridge at an altitude of 9,600 ft  in the mountains has been a real challenge.  The highway was shut down going down the mountain, and closed returning from the airport.

There was no snow in Denver, but the highway up the mountain was closed due to an avalanche.

My fiancé was determined not to spend yet another night at the Econolodge by the airport, so we braved the back roads returning from the airport along with all the other locals.  A two hour drive turned into four hours with speeds of 40 mph.

We followed a mountain shuttle driver who picks people up at the airport.  Thank god we were able to follow his lights in the driving snow.  It was the kind of snow that hypnotizes you over long periods of driving.

When we arrived home our cars were buried by 2 feet of snow. Our  plough driver said he needs to bring in a front loader to remove the snow, as there is too much to just plough.

They closed the ski area at “A Basin” because there was TOO Much snow.  Who ever heard of that happening?  The local radio tells us there has not been this amount of snow since 1917, over a hundred years ago.

I started to wonder how men and women survived 100 years ago in this snow.  We had ordered home-chef delivery and our box was somehow at our door buried in snow.  It reminded me of the miners who had groceries delivered by mule train once a month, and often found boxes of frozen food in the snow bank in spring – and the food was still frozen.

My fiancé shovelled for 2 days straight and we are expecting another storm this weekend.

Now we find ourselves saying “what have we done moving here”?

We arrived and stopped at the store for eggs. Inside there were 5 or 10 people wearing viking helmets.

They told me today is the start of ULLR festival.  ULLR is the god of snow.

We were told to go into town and get our viking helmets for the parade.

My fiance ran to town and came back with two viking helmets covered in jewels and fur, with only 5 minutes to spare before the festival began.

We put our helmets on, grabbed our dogs and headed down to the main street.  There were 1,000 people lined up to do “shotski”.  That is a series of skis bolted together the length of the town, with 3 shot glasses per ski velcrod to the ski.  Everyone had viking helmets on.  There was a master of ceremonies counting down.  Everyone took their shot of whisky off the ski at the same time.

This was followed by a viking parade, where they chanted “ULLR, ULLR, ULLR”

Then there was a huge town bonfire where they burned all the old christmas trees.

It was great to return to this crazy energy.  We went to the irish pub and had fishbites and listened to live music and danced in our viking helmets.  Where else could you do this?

This gold rush town is true to its roots of wildness and self-expression.

My fiance said this is a town where you can be yourself.  I reflected upon the accounts of women in the 1800’s who said that they were able to be themselves, no longer confined by society’s expectations.

This bubble  in the mountains called Breckenridge is a unique town, with unique energy.  It just makes you want to stay up here in the mountains until spring. Who knows what summer will bring.

What a crazy adventure this is!

The benefit of daily awe

I was reading the Saturday Wall Street Journal, and saw an article which told me that if  I experience one minute of awe in nature each day, it will make me happier, kinder and more compassionate**.

Today, as we drove down the mountain, we saw people ice climbing.  I screamed out loud “holy mother of god, pull over”.  I have never seen a person climbing up a frozen waterfall on the side of a mountain.  I asked my fiancé, “Why would they want to climb frozen water or ice- it could break off any minute.”  He said, “because they can”.…talk about awe!  I stood there and watched them repel down a frozen waterfall with such ease and grace. At any moment a piece could break off and they could slide down.  I looked up to see where they had tied off the rope, it was to a small aspen tree at the top that was leaning over with the tension of the rope.

Risks.  Something we crave,  something we avoid, something we assess in life.

Some people believe that we have acceptable time periods of our life to take risks.  It is o.k. to take risks in your teens, or your 20’s because that is what youth is for. We tell ourselves later in life that we have done all our crazy stuff, now we have it all together.  The truth is that risk is always something that is present at any age.

In my 30’s and 40’s I had everything.  I had a great career, a wonderful lake front home, a great couch that you could sink into and disappear.  I would read the Saturday paper for 3 hours.  It was a high back tufted couch which I had yearned for 3 years and it cost $6,000.

For years in Toronto, Canada I had dreampt of owning a lake front home and having a great career.  We moved out to Scugog lake area and bought a cottage that was “lifted up” so it could be a home.

I was a driven professional, ambitious.  Then my husband died at 44 years old— and everything was meaningless.   Suddenly the couch was meaningless, the panoramic view of the lake was meaningless.

Eight years later I have found more meaning, but the couch is long gone, sold to a single mother for $100 who left her abusive husband.  She deserved to have time reading the paper against the high back tufted curve of my designer couch.

Now I live in the mountains and have very few belongings…. but I have love, and great dogs.  It feels like family.

Life is full of risks and the p0tential for awe at any age.

** In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that after gazing up at tall trees for just one minute participants in Berkeley California behaved more helpfully to others than people who looked at an unremarkable building.   The reason,  Momentary awe it suggests. The University of California Irvine psychologist Paul Piff, who co-authored the study  says “I think we can say pretty certainly that having a little bit of awe everyday in your life would make you happier, kinder and more compassionate”.

Your church?

Our favourite bakery is the french bakery on main street in Breckenridge.  My fiance gets the almond croissant.  It reminds me of Montreal, Canada.  I was living there in my 20’s. I would get a bol de cafe o’lait and a chocolate croissant.  I would sit there and smoke my Gauloise filterless cigarettes and pretend to be Simone de Bovoire in Paris while I wrote in my journal.

Well here in the mountains there is a little bit of France.  Excellent Baguette, incredible authentic crepes.   The pastry chef said that he could not find housing for him and his Newfoundlanders dog, so he lived in a tent when he first came to the mountains.   After four months in a tent he found a studio apt that would allow him and his dog.  What determination!  Living in a tent in the mountains to make his patissere dreams come true.

What would I be willing to do to make my dreams come true?

The song by Peter Tosh comes to mind, “get up, stand up”.

Am I willing to get up and do what it takes?

Some days I find I don’t go out because of the cold or the snow.

How can I reframe the winter to be something that is fantastic.

This is a place where people spend thousands of dollars to come here for a few days, to ski and be in this incredible scenery.

I have talked to many people who came for a year in their 20’s and still live here 12 years later.  I asked my accupuncturist what makes a girl from California stay here in the mountains?

She said most of California is so congested, in this mountain town, within 5-10 minutes she can be in the woods in the silence.

She calls the wilderness her “church”.

“Its most important to create a church within yourself, where you are the minister of the temple in your own soul”.  Paramahansa Yogananda

So what is your church?  What do you do in your life to bring about peace and silence?

I know my church is meditation and prayer.  I meditate and connect with divine love.  I pray to my ancestors. Each day I take one hour to open my heart to divine love and be still.

What do you do to create stillness in your life?

Life grief

 

Have you ever experienced any grumpiness or grief as life changes?

Have you ever gotten what you wanted and then found it wanting?

Whether it is a new job or a relationship,  you have reached your goal.

I believe as humans whenever we have any change, wanted or not we experience a levels of grief.  Even if it is a change that we have dreamed of.

Eckhart tole tells us “There are two ways of being unhappy. Not getting what you want is one. Getting what you want is the other”.  Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth.

I believe we all experience this grief to differing degrees. Is it acceptable to acknowledge this grief in change?

In America I can see this in a bigger way with the turnover in presidents.  There is a grieving of what is known and familiar, along with the excitement of the unknown.

Being a foreigner in America, I find I grieve small things that I took for granted in Canada.  Such as HP sauce that I had with my eggs in the morning, which is not available here. These small familiar things act as markers for home.

Even if home was sometimes predictable and boring.  I believe my mind wants to cling to the familiar to protect me, to keep me safe.

In the mountains of Colorado the scenary is unfamiliar-and I am unfamiliar. My identity is changing, and my ego wants to cling to the old me.

For years I prayed for love to find me, I asked my dead husband to help me.  Now my prayers have been answered and I am in a push-pull relationship with all the good that is coming into my life.  Being in a new relationship and living together is a big change after 8 years of living alone. When you live alone, sometimes the loneliness vibrates throughout your very being.

When I was living with my good friend Pauline, we each did our own thing.  We watched the news and ate dinner together, but that was the limit of the togetherness.  We always did our own thing.

In this new relationship we sleep together, we wake up together, we do things together.  We process our feelings together.  That is a lot of togetherness.  Currently I am not able to work, as I wait for my immigration to be processed for  residency. This gives me a lot of time at home.

I feel like there are two parts of me, the old grumpy widow who is stubborn and is used to doing her own thing, her own way.  The other part of me is the excited tender part of me that is so grateful to have love in my life.  To cuddle, to cook together, do yoga together.  I feel that the old self, and the new self are trying to cohabite but are in conflict, like difficult roommates.

There are times when I stay up until till 12 midnight when my fiancé goes to bed at about 930pm.  I stay up and watch British tv shows, and tell myself I am doing exactly what I want to do.  This feels like me time.

He has expressed an interest in going to bed together at the same time.

Why am I so resistant?

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

A sheltered oasis

 

For the past 6 weeks I have not driven my car.  Instead I have walked the mountain town.  Shuttling on foot from yoga, to the coffee shop, to the grocery store, the dog park and back home .  One of our goals was to live somewhere where we could walk everyday.

During the week between Christmas and New Years there were 160,000 visitors in a town that has 4,500 permanent residents.  I was glad to walk everywhere as drivers were impatient and the traffic was bumper to bumper.  In this mountain town, the sidewalks remain clear and walkable due to hot water pipes running under the cement.  Quite brilliant.  It’s too bad Canadian cities have not done the same.

My favourite “date” with my fiancé is to get a soy caramel late, and take the 20 minute free ride in the gondola up the mountain.  It is so silent riding the gondola. We glide above forested wilderness. From the gondola we have seen moose, red foxes, and bears. There is marshland, and frozen water that has nothing but animal tracks. It is like a moving meditation in the wilderness with no effort exerted. All in the comfort of a glass cabin in the air.

Heading down the mountain range to the Denver airport is a trek.  We got the car warmed up after 6 weeks of sitting.  We dug it out three times as it was snowing constantly.  We left Breck and drove an hour at 35 mph, getting about 15 miles to Silverthorne.

The I-70 on-ramp was closed, and the Eisenhower tunnel was closed.  We were turned back.  Only then did it dawn on me how isolated we are in the mountains.  There is only one way down, and if that is too dangerous to pass you are turned back.  We took it for granted we would be able to get to the airport and travel down the mountain with ease.  This time we missed our flight.

A simple trip down the mountain becomes a two-day voyage due to the mercurial weather storms that blow through the mountains suddenly.

The next day we got through the pass, my ears popped 3x on the way down the mountains descending from 9000 ft to 5000 ft altitude.  There were two air masses interacting half way down the mountain that caused a pounding headache for us both.

As we descended, the wilderness of the mountains surrounded us. What a blissful bubble the town of Breckenridge is. Only 15 minutes outside the town there is no phone reception, no clear roads, no gas.  At any moment the visibility could be zero, with snow falling off the mountain cliff or an avalanche that shuts the highway.

Imagine being in this mountain town in the 1800’s gold mining halfway up the mountain. Imagine living in a rough wood cabin built from the surrounding trees with the snow blowing through the cracks in the walls creating a snow carpet onto the floor.  I watched a documentary called the Ladies of the mines. It depicted the life of women who were wives of the gold miners.  Their job was to cook, wash and educate the kids.  One woman’s diary from the time period said that “she felt free in the mountains to be the woman she wanted to be.” In one photo she is shooting a gun with her husband and wearing pants and a cowboy hat. Written accounts from the time talk about breaking with convention of what was expected of women at that time.  In this mountain town women rode horses, set up schools, took in the miners laundry, and had their own income.  One women referred to missing the mountains when she went back to normal society, as women led aimless lives “with calling cards and an invitation to tea”.

Were these 1800’s women feminists before the word was coined?  Were they bucking the traditional role of women at that time.

I guess that is why so many people come to the mountains, to reinvent themselves without conventional roles or expectations put on them.  Is that what I am doing here?

What would you do if you had no expectations put upon you? How would you re-invent yourself?