2018’s chapter has come to an end and we are turning the page to 2019. The hype is here and we are all thinking or have thought about our New Year's resolution, hoping that it lasts longer than the first two weeks of January. Many New Year’s resolutions involve a new addition into our daily lifestyle, such as going to the gym or picking up a new hobby. What if this year we changed our thinking about resolutions, passing up the opportunity to add a new activity, and decided to declutter, make space, and create a hopeful void?
Consistently I see us all pursuing the phenomenon I like to call “add plus,” where we continually add more items, activities or pursuits into our daily lives without taking time to realize the true limits of time or what must be removed in order for that to actually be accomplished. Whether the activities involve truly productive pursuits or a mixture of ceaseless procrastination, there is no meaningful difference when it comes to the phenomenon of “add plus.” Moving beyond the simple concept of “removing to replace,” what I am really getting at is the recognition that the deeper work we must all pursue is one directed inward, one of removing physical, emotional, and spiritual barriers to one’s flourishing. Put into more artistic and poetic imagery, what this task is calling for is the re-creation of a void, a margin, a womb in which beauty, creative endeavors, spontaneity, and love can all grow and eventually come forth into this miraculous world.
In practical terms, this practice of removing, of creating a void, of re-incubating the soul takes many forms. The first is in my daily interactions with patients. Despite my cognitive desires otherwise, what I am seeking now more than ever in my preparation to sit with my patients is not more research, knowledge or notes, but emptiness, receptivity, openness to what they truly need in that moment. Seeking to let go of my own distorted thoughts and put down the needs of my other patients, I breathe and listen to create a womb and void in which we can collectively rest as we walk on the path to wellness and wholeness.
Outside of the clinic, I am ruthless about removing distractions, needless tasks and items that remove me from my creative endeavours, my time with my fiance and our dogs, and my space to engage in self care. As I continue to grow in my greater spiritual practice, I have begun to see that my intention must be to acknowledge the shear volume of thoughts, beliefs and experiences accumulated by my presence in this world, and seek to empty myself of these “things” so that I may rest in the persistent awareness of who I really am: love.
While I offer a glimpse of my practical and spiritual pursuits in the greater effort to create the hopeful void, there are many other ways one can begin the intention of removal or re-incubation. You may find that simply writing down a list of daily activities in your life and marking which are truly essential and which are perhaps at best “a maybe,” is one of the most productive practices in this greater pursuit. After making the list, go through the maybes with a careful eye and reflect on which activities would require or take the most energy and act from this new place of mindful understanding. Having less on our schedules allows us to do the essential tasks at hand with a clear mind and healthy heart and create space for the new opportunities of growth and nourishment we could not have seen previously.
As productive beings, we will always feel inclined to fill every free hour with something, anything to do. We will often forget that even though we are motivated by efficiency, we are not robots and need time to de-stress, to declutter. Having a busy schedule is one thing, but teetering into having an overwhelming and impossible schedule is another. Mental health and spiritual growth are not realized by the addition of an activity or a pursuit, but by the removal of one. Let 2019 be the year of the edit, the void, the margin, the creative womb and perhaps you will forget there was ever such as thing as a “New Year’s resolution.”
With the craze of the holidays and end of the year feelings, we would like you to take a minute to reflect on your achievements, improvements, and future goals with our special ebook “Make Love With Joy”. With five insightful chapters, we hope this ebook provides a space of healing and reflection. Beginning with an exploration of the concepts “meaning” and “purpose”, we dance on through to uncover the real truth behind joy. We gratefully share this with you as we all collectively find our purpose, make meaning from our service and through it all: find joy!
As a child, I was taught that God gave humans the ability to choose.
Free will they said.
As a young adult, I have learned that even if that choice is God given, it is still mine to make.
With this ability, I can choose where my future will take me or where it won’t.
It is easy, however, to get seduced by free will and its allure of control.
Free will, you see, is not control. It’s simply the illusion of it.
If it was, why would humans feel such trepidation, anxiety, and angst when making certain decisions? If we had control of the outcome or certainty about the end result, would there be such a thing as anxiety? doubt? worry?
When we mistake free will with control we are asking to be hurt, disappointed, for our expectations not to be met.
But before I get too far astray in the esoteric, I want to bring this back to the real purpose of this message.
To illustrate the hauntingly beautiful truth about free will and the power of choice.
You will always have a choice, even when you have absolutely no control.
Now when it comes to choices, it is clear that not all choices are easy.
In another paradoxically beautiful truth, the most challenging choices, and even the choices we get in every way “wrong” are the ones that are the most profound and life changing.
Which begs the question:
How do we even come to the feeling that a choice needs to be made?
Some choices that require immediate action are obvious as to how they arise, I needed to pick out a shirt before I walked into work entirely naked. We can all agree that a clear choice needed to be made at a very precise time..
But what about the not so clear, time independent choices, the ones that seem like there may not even be a choice in the first place?
What prompts us to feel like we need to make a choice?
Or should I say
Need to make change?
Is it because we feel that we cannot keep up with our current situation and the pieces are falling left in right?
Is it the universe speaking to us to say it’s time to do something different?
Is it because we know things can get better, even if we don’t really know what better looks like?
In my experience, all of these reasons, and many more are also true.
Choice, you see, implies change. Now you may argue that choosing not to chose doesn’t result in any meaningful change, or choosing to delay the choice in question also resulted in net no change, but I would argue this is far from the truth.
Ever heard the expression it took a hundred times until ***
What if I stopped asking my patient after attempt number 3 to try to incorporate meditation into her life?
Would I have ever have gotten to the 57th time when she said, I actually tried it and wasn’t so bad, and I actually found it rather fun.
Free will does not mean control.
But choice is always change, even if you can’t see it and realize you actually made a choice.
But coming back to the main question again
What compels us to make a choice, make a choice when it’s not 8 AM and we have to put on a shirt?
For that my friends, I share with you the story of my “sister” Rhett.
In her very own words.
Recently, I started to feel a deepening anxiety and a feeling that “something was just not quite right”. I recognized and acknowledged that I was incredibly fortunate to pursue my education in Germany and I could not be happier with my life here.
I have great friends, a sweet little studio, and am in the center of Europe.
I started noticing I was asking myself a million times, “how could you want to change when everything is going well?” “when you have everything and more than you could have dreamed of?”
But the feeling would not go away and I knew that I needed to change something.
I needed to make a choice. A choice that ultimately lead me down an entirely unexpected path.
I decided to embark on a new journey of changing universities. The German education is one of the most confusing things I have tried to tackle. There are a plethora of different forms I need- not to mention they are all in a language I do not speak fluently, and since I am an international student; my highschool diploma does not allow me to study directly at a public university. In a practical sense me, this means I will have to take a semester off to enroll in intensive German courses and then take one year of further preparatory courses.
When I started to contemplate this scenario. I wasn’t so sure I was willing to take a year and a half off school. I mean, I originally wanted to finish by the time I was 22, like a “normal” college student.
I wanted to be working by the time I was 23 like a “normal” young adult.
I wanted to begin my masters by the time I was 26, like a “normal” young woman.
Then, I looked around me and realized that normal was actually just code for
Someone else’s choice.
People all around me are not “normal” because they realized that normal was someones else choice to not understand their free will.
I know people who are 30 and just starting their bachelors, I know people who never got their bachelors and are undoubtedly successful, I know people who finished their degrees in three years and some who finished in six.
Who wants to be normal? Who wants to be someone else’s choice?
Life moves fast, almost too fast. But, it can also move at your own pace. With choice, we are allowed to slow down life or speed it up to what we can handle and what we want.
For me, I realized that my degree would be on pause and I would not be on a “normal” track, but it will be going the way I want.
I have the world to look to for advice and for comfort; everyone does their own way and it all seems to work out.
I read a quote once by John Lennon when I was about 12 years old which has stuck with me till this day:
“Everything will be okay in the end and if it’s not okay then it’s not the end.”
Free will is not control.
Choice is change.
Normal is somone else’s choice.
I will take my free will, to choose and change, knowing that normal can never be the end.
What a wonderful evening in DC meeting so many passionate souls in the world of integrative and functional medicine. You can watch the whole show with this video. If your pressed for time and want to watch Angie and I’s presentation on the power of the autoimmune paleo diet to reverse chronic disease and out current collaborative research project you can go to the 43:00 mark in the show.
I cannot emphasize enough how groundbreaking and important it is for you to explore James Maskell’s work with KNEW health, a radical paradigm shift on how we pay for and receive truly supportive healthcare. A huge thanks to James and his entire team for making this possible.
It is hard to remain peaceful or hopeful when your mind starts to wander, recalling all of the times you have been disappointed and let down. Let down by life, by the people in it, or even by yourself. We tend to turn to anger when things do not go our way and we will even lash out at the people we actually care about the most when the anger starts to emerge. When it comes to anger, we, as a general society, seem to feel the need to “release” it, and even promote ways to do so. But why can’t anger just be felt, contained for a positive purpose and then let go? Do we need to yell, kick, scream, punch or blame someone for what has happened, for what “made” us feel angry or for the feeling of anger itself?
Come to think of it, while we are here, why do we even “let” people “make us angry?” It’s a common expression, so and so, made me so …, but have you ever stopped to think how ridiculous and disempowering this is? Perhaps, we as a society, don’t have an anger or frustration problem, but a problem with impermanence, human connection and the capacity to self regulate.
Perhaps what we need is not anger management or punching bags, but “self management” and the willingness to feel upset without the thought of a punch or kick.
Even if someone's actions, or your own, have caused suffering, blame will only continue the cycle of pain and not bring any relief. We can choose to let go of the blame and turn instead to something much more meaningful, to the power of forgiveness.
To accept is to forgive. We should first accept that something bad or wrong has happened to us and realize that we cannot change the current situation or outcome. We can change, however, how we move forward from it and how we react. A negative retaliation will not help solve the problem or ease suffering. It is difficult to accept what has happened and choose to forgive especially when it comes to yourself. We tend to be harder on ourselves than anyone else, berating and taking ourselves down, when what we actually need is to realize that we are first and foremost: human.
We need to be gentle with ourselves because we are doing the best that we can. The same goes for others. If a loved one, or close friend, or even a stranger causes harm or makes a mistake we cannot turn to unkindness. Unkindness will not only burn the other person, it will burn you as well. We must remind ourselves that the people we encounter, loved ones or strangers, are simply people at the very basic level. We are all doing the best that we can.
The pain we are feeling is the hardest part to overcome. We become narrow focused on the “I can’t believe this has happened” or the “How could they have done this to me?” which is where the anger first comes to life. We then think “I would have never done this to them” or “I am so stupid for letting this happen” when in reality, this is not the case.
Instead of remaining in this anger circle, we can refocus our energy on thinking about what this person might have been thinking or doing that led them to this action or what similar situation we previously might have been in that can bring clearer wisdom to the present moment. By doing this, we may be able to piece together how things happened the way they did and even how we can start to accept and forgive.
This is not to say, however, that we shouldn’t have boundaries, because we can forgive someone and ourselves and still let them know that this behaviour was hurtful and unacceptable.
It’s why I don’t believe in compromises. Compromises are passive. Compromises construct no boundaries.
What we need instead are resolutions. Resolutions to not make a similar mistake again, to engage in a more positive behaviour, to be more willing to accept and forgive, to become more gentle, but in the same moment, more resilient.
You see, we don’t need a country full of violent, angry compromisers needing to escape acceptance or the feeling of anger in the first place.
We need a country of gentle, but angry resolvers who are willing to acknowledge and accept hurt and anger, yet transform it into something transcending the circumstances in which it was created.
Anger and hurt is not an opportunity to maim or blame, it’s an opportunity to accept and forgive, knowing that yes, indeed, through this we shall live.
Dedicated to the flourishing of your being