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Personal Natural Resources

How do you measure individual success? Is it money in the bank? Educational achievements? Fame or Notoriety? Happiness? Perhaps some magically balanced combination of the aforementioned? Because we are each so different in our approach, I think it’s valuable to understand that we all take a unique view on that ‘standard’. In most cases, we aren’t even using the same types of rulers! Being keenly aware of this fact could save us all a lot of trouble when it comes to our vast array of judgments. The places where we begin to judge others has everything to do with what WE view as successful, and very little to do with how the individual in question might see it.

Think about it. A guest is invited into your home for dinner, and fails to impress. Questions about why they weren’t raised better will inevitably surface behind their back, and they won’t often get the chance to explain their own ways and means. If they did, the owner of the judgment would likely have dialed it back, and in many cases, dropped it altogether. Given the chance to know someone better, we will almost always soften our opinions about the things we don’t agree with or like about the person. We begin to see their dimensions, not just our initial picture.

When I was a kid, there was a girl named Julie Grego, and it seemed like everyone in our grade was mean to her. I have some seriously ugly memories of participating in a game we called Julie’s Germs (it’s as bad as you’re imagining). I say her actual name, because if anyone reading this knows her now, I’d love the chance to apologize for being such a jerk back then. There may be legit reasons why I was acting out at that point in my life, but that doesn’t mean it’s cool for me to just leave it there. In this particular case, I believe the universe (or god, spirit, higher self–whatever you choose to call it) stepped in to alter my course in a way that I was not able to recognize real time, but is now crystal clear.

My mother overheard me talking/bragging about how we were treating Julie, and was understandably rattled by my pride in the matter. To my horror, she called Julie’s Mom and asked if Julie could come spend the night at my house. I’m not sure how that call went, but Julie’s Mom probably said something to the effect of, “There’s no way I’m sending my daughter to your house so your daughter can torture her, but you are welcome to bring your daughter here where I can keep an eye on things.” Next thing I know, my mother was forcing me to spend the night with Julie Grego! By myself. No other friends to help me gang up on her–just me. And there was no way out of it. Here’s the part that stands out to me:

Julie’s house was really cool, and – to my surprise – so was Julie. I am still amazed that she didn’t let me have it for how rotten I had been to her. She graciously welcomed me into her room, showed me her prized possessions, and we had a great night playing with her stuff. I learned that they had just moved into the house (which was out of our district) and she wouldn’t be attending our school the next year. Afterwards, my mother made me acknowledge Julie as my friend to the other kids in my class, and as much as I didn’t want to at the time, I know now that it was an invaluable lesson and experience. I find myself wondering now how school might have been different for her if she’s stayed with us a little longer. Collectively, we have definitely gotten better with age (This is only my opinion, and not based in any fact, whatsoever).

Hindsight and imagination have a way of shifting our view of history and how things went down. I like to imagine that Julie made a lot of great friends at her new school. Ideally, the stupid shit we did wouldn’t have any kind of lasting negative effect on her self esteem and how she carries herself today. The ideal playground lets us imagine the best for situations we have no control over, but it doesn’t absolve us of the deep need to move through our sticking points, physically. I hope I didn’t leave her with any, but I know that if it were me, I would still be attending to the scars. My 8 year old self wants to pull in the shame of it all, but my soul knows that I need these experiences to value the way I treat the people around me. I am generally sorry for the repercussions of my adolescent mis-steps, but I’m not holding onto the shame.

I find great power in forgiveness, especially towards the self. When we remember the specific behaviors and judgments that we aren’t proud of, we are being given the chance to examine the circumstances that made us act that way in the first place. Our minds/brains create our many different judgments, but our bodies have the ability to counteract those thoughts and actions. Our own breath is the only real tool we need to make lasting peace with both the things that have harmed us, and the situations where we have caused harm, blatant or indirect. Breathing with intention clears the energetic debris and heals us.

Connecting to these individual moments might be challenging emotionally, especially in the beginning, but the unlimited, universal benefits begin to show up immediately. As you become a soul-centered practitioner in your own energetic environment, it becomes easier and easier to make peace with the provocative memories evoked. As we learn to let them move through our bodies with ease, rather than try to escape them entirely, we open up the playing field to include everything we’ve got. Only then can we begin to develop a true concept of the meaning of success. Often, our perceived failures create the conditions that turn into body dis-ease. Wholeness is the key to self healing.

Physical ailments, illness and injury are all possible outcomes when we deny our feelings before we have a chance to process them through our bodies. Our bodies are here to absorb the shocks and jolts that we encounter through the natural course of living our lives, but we find ourselves too busy trying to protect them from harm to use them to clear our minds. Somehow we have gotten it backwards, believing instead that it is our mind that has the power to clear our bodies.

In 1999, while pregnant with my daughter, I encountered the book Breath Sweeps Mind, and it saved my sanity. I was angry and bothered at several things out of my control, and I was about to have a baby. She was born at the end of July and it was extremely hot that summer. I remember taking walks at midnight when the temperature dipped below 95, and still coming home drenched in sweat. (Did I also mention that I was actively angry in general?) It was an unsustainable way to live, but I didn’t know how to let go of what I considered fair and just without feeling compromised. My judgments were way out in front of my ability to listen from within, and my need for ‘fairness’ was standing in front of all of my other values and I could barely see them.

I bought Breath Sweeps Mind on a whim and to this day, remain, all fascinated by the way it made me feel to simply breathe into my negative thoughts and feelings, while multiple Zen masters offered their best advice in one place. As much as I’ve seen it work for me since then, I still marvel at how such a simple, natural thing like breathing has so much power.

Parenting, all by itself, provides ample opportunities for testing our ability to clear the unresolved emotions from our bodies. The mixed bag of conflicting emotions that goes along with being responsible for the care and feeding of another human, as well as how prepared they appear to do the same in 18 years, can be deeply unsettling. Even scary. Unless you find a way to connect to the simple resources we were given when we entered this world. Our bodies and our breathing are valuable resources that were specifically intended to support our human creativity. The sooner we let them do the job they were meant to tackle daily, the sooner we find ourselves in a much happier place, collectively speaking.



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