Blue Dot Blog
We all get down sometimes. There’s no escaping it. Life suddenly goes grey, and nothing feels quite right. What looked perfectly fine just a little while ago now looks sad, depressing, frustrating or maybe even unbearable.
It can happen because we’re tired, or because we’re coming down with something. It can happen because we haven’t taken time to exercise, or because we’ve been moving at warp speed for days (or weeks, or months or, gulp…years?). And it can happen for no reason at all, simply because we’re human and that’s what humans do.
But we really don’t like it. We don’t like the feeling and we want it to go away. So understandably we ask ourselves: How do I fix this? How do I pull myself up out of this “down”? What do I do?
When you start to understand the inside-out nature of our experience of life, relationships get a whole lot easier.
You start to see that you’re creating your own experience with your thinking and that your thinking changes as often and as capriciously as the weather. You become skeptical of your own thoughts, about yourself, about others, about your partner.
It becomes second nature to disregard those insecure and judgmental thoughts that spring up unbidden when you’re tired when you haven’t made time for those long runs you love, or when they just do for no reason at all.
They no longer mean much of anything. They’re just transient, ever-changing, and usually profoundly unhelpful.
The real magic unfolds when you look away from thought altogether and find out that the stuff that’s actually real, the stuff you can count on, comes from a different part of you entirely.
There is so much hopelessness and despair in these strange times.
Young people are looking ahead to a future that looks bleak, seemingly stripped of opportunities and possibility. Older people have been deprived of time with their children and grandchildren, living in constant worry about contracting Covid. And then there are the parents, especially parents of young children, trapped at home, having to wear so many hats, with precious few opportunities to take a breath and find a quiet moment of ease.
Hope seems to be in short supply. And so we’re invited to ask the question: Where do we look for hope?
If you get only one thing from this article let it be this: We need to look for hope inside, not outside, of ourselves.
We humans seem to be quite good at living our lives. Unfortunately, We’re less good at “thinking” our lives.
When we’re living our lives, we’re fully engaged in what we’re doing, whatever that may be. Maybe we’re engaged in our work: moving forward on a big project or participating in that conference we’ve been planning for months. Maybe we’re taking care of a loved one who’s sick, injured or aging. Maybe we’re living with an unthinkable loss, going about our day and doing the best we can to carry on. Maybe we’re simply snuggled up on the couch with our spouse or kids enjoying some shared time watching a Netflix show, or taking a walk in the sunshine with an old friend. Whatever it is we’re doing, we’re often quite good at it when we’re simply in it, simply doing what it is we do, fully engrossed in whaterver it is that right in front of us.
Then there’s the thinking about it. That, I’m afraid, we’re not so good at.
About once a year I need to take steroids for a sinus condition. My family finds this quite amusing, as the effect the drugs tend to have on me is that I go into hyperdrive, doing all sorts of long-neglected tasks around the house. And, inevitably, I end up organizing the cupboards and the pantry. Perfectly.
The decluttering of these spaces has a peculiar effect. There’s a spaciousness. A freshness. Contentment.
Recently, fueled by curiosity rather than steroids, I decided to undertake a decluttering of my mind. And I can hardly believe how good it feels.
I’ve read about digital detox before, and have admired those who could put their phones away for weeks at a time, even if I wasn’t so envious of the circumstances that often brought them to that point. But, I reasoned, I’m not that badly addicted to my phone, and so maybe detox was taking it too far. So when I heard a podcast recently about a more pragmatic approach that recognizes the role of technology in our work lives and family lives – he called it digital decluttering – it sounded like something I might be up for.
Here’s why I was ready to try it…
I am sitting in a camp chair in the middle of a corral with a horse named Spirit.
For two years, he has been my greatest teacher and guide, guiding me over and over to powerful, life-changing insights.
Within minutes of sitting down near him, Spirit walks purposefully over to where I’m sitting. He stands right in front of me, his legs up against my knees, his powerful chest across from my face, and his head above me.
He bends down and puts his nose gently, oh so gently, on top of my head.
He has something to share, something he wants me to see. I can’t explain how I know this. It’s something that is beyond reason. But after years of being guided by Spirit, I’ve come to trust it. To trust him.
So I sit and melt into the moment. I have no idea what he wants me to experience, but I know I will only see it if I quiet down and go beyond my thinking, go to that space of knowing and insight that lives in the silence at the core of my being.
I feel myself being drawn deeper into that silence, starting to feel myself expand beyond the limitations of my thinking self to somewhere more expansive. Spirit waits patiently, his nose still lightly touching the top of my head.
That’s when I feel a surge of something powerful come up through me. It’s a deep knowing, an insight beyond words, beyond language, beyond all concepts:
I am love.
I am made of love.
We are all made of love.
Maybe you’re brand new to The Three Principles. Maybe you discovered the Principles not long ago and have already felt their powerful, life-changing impact in your own life. Maybe you’ve been living the Principles for years or decades and are even sharing them as a coach.
Wherever you are on that journey, I bet you recognize this line of thought:
If I really get the principles, if I really get that my experience is created from the inside-out not from the outside-in, then I should be able to handle anything.
I shouldn’t be tired or overwhelmed by my work. It’s just thought.
I don’t need time for myself or time to recharge. That’s a story I’m telling myself.
I can handle my negative, exhausting family members for a whole week. I should be able to stay grounded and loving around anyone.
I can take on one more client or project even though I feel like I’m going to collapse. If I have access to infinite energy and wisdom, I should be able to do it.
If I’m grounded enough and “get” it enough, I should be able to handle it all, right?
In Part 1 of my letter to my younger burned out self, I described how an understanding of how our minds work points us away from effort and struggle. (click here to read Part 1) Here’s Part 2…
Something about less effort sounds good right about now. But what does that have to do with mental speed?
Burned Out Jason
I’d always wanted to start an innovative school. So I did. And it’s an amazing school. But after 10 years of blood, sweat and tears, I was so burned out that I couldn’t recognize my life anymore. I felt isolated and alone, totally exhausted, and nothing I tried...
Last night my 15 year old son told me he wants to flee the country.
He said he saw the statistics about the number of mass shootings per year in the US vs the number of mass shootings in other major developed countries. The US had more mass shootings than the next ten countries combined. In 2018 alone, we had 268.
And here we are again, faced with two more unthinkable tragedies. There’s so much pain, so much loss, so much senseless loss of life.
And as we feel that pain of it all, there’s an inevitable pull towards fear and anger, towards a feeling of hopelessness and powerlessness. It sometimes feels like pushing play on an all-too-familiar toxic stew of feelings that look something like a big black tornado, waiting to suck us in everytime one of these senseless acts of violence happens.
So my question is: how does the inside-out understanding guide us as we watch the approaching tornado, or even after we’ve already been sucked into it and are trapped in it’s vortex of fear and anger?
How often do we hear about the value of “slowing down.”
It’s a really important part of starting to invite a new experience of life. It’s a beautiful thing to invite ourselves to slow down our minds, slow down the crazy pace of life, slow down our frantic doing, long enough for something new to emerge: a new thought, a new experience, a shift in our perspective on something that’s felt sticky for us.
My husband and coaching partner Jason and I often talk to clients about mental “gears.”
When we’re in 5th gear (or even 6th or higher!), we’re revving at super high speed and life can look and feel frantic, overwhelming, out of control, even impossible. When we slow down any amount towards 1st gear, we often experience a positive shift in how life looks and feels. Frantic becomes interesting or “full,” insurmountable becomes challenging or even fun, we go from stuck to unstuck and life seems to flow again.
Shifting to a slower gear can be truly life-changing, but what if there’s an even bigger shift available to us, a shift that people rarely talk about, but definitely should?
It’s high school graduation season in America. If you have a graduate or are close to one, you know that it’s an exciting time of gratitude, hope and celebration. And fear. For many parents, it’s one of the scariest days of the year. Because graduation night in many places means graduation parties. Big graduation parties.
Our little town is no exception. Our high schoolers head way out into the woods and have a big, all-out, rowdy party to celebrate the grads. They’re out of cell phone range, there’s alcohol and marijuana involved (at the very least), they make a big bonfire, and they all spend the night in the woods. You can just imagine the scene.
As I was chatting with another mom about all this, she shared with me just how gripped with fear she was about the party. Her son and mine, both seventeen, were planning on being at the there and she seemed truly terrified by the prospect of what might happen. She was already planning a miserable, sleepless night.
What really struck me as we talked was not that she was so worried, which seemed pretty standard, but rather that I surprised myself by not being worried at all. And I mean really truly not at all.
I’m grateful to all the Paleo pioneers for leading us down the path of greater understanding of how our bodies really work. Because of them, millions of us no longer waste time and energy on health and fitness strategies that are based on a misunderstanding, and many of us have discovered a level of wellness that we didn’t even know was available. So it may not surprise you to learn that there is also a huge misunderstanding of stress in our culture. The way we currently think about stress leads us all too often in the wrong direction and causes us to spend far more energy than is necessary trying to cope with, or manage, our stress. A deeper understanding of how our minds work has the potential for a life-changing shift and will dramatically change the frequency and amount of stress we experience. And if a Paleo lifestyle advocates a life of less stress, then it only makes sense that we would strive to understand the real source of stress.
I just came back from a three-day Three Principles conference in Manhattan Beach, CA. It was a magical three days, spent soaking in the presence of some of the most grounded, loving and beautiful humans I have ever met. On the first day of the event, I listened to a deeply moving description by Jack Pransky of a profound experience he had where he saw that life as we experience it every day is simply an illusion, just a game that we’re playing. The experience had affected him very deeply and his account of it was truly moving.The next day, I got up early, borrowed a bike from my hotel and set out to find my way to the beach. It was 2.5 miles away through congested CA neighborhoods, I had no helmet, and the bike had no gears and only foot brakes. But somehow, I managed to make it to the beach. And I was so glad I did. I rode down the bike path along the edge of the beach, taking in the ocean, the sound of the waves, the cool salty air. This mountain girl was loving every minute of this ride. I was grinning from ear to ear.
Horses have always captured the human imagination. As early as 30,000 years ago, early humans painted horses on cave walls. That love affair with the horse has never abated. For much of human history, however, horses have been beasts of burden, seen as dumb animals to be used for human needs, human work. More recently, the horse was replaced by cars, trains, tractors, planes and chainsaws, which has freed up humans to start a whole new relationship with the horse. For most people, that relationship still falls into the category of “use.” While most horse owners love their horses, they are still beasts of burden, used for human recreation and pleasure. A small but growing community of people around the world are finally seeing the horse in a whole new light, and partnering with horses in a whole new way. A way that does not involve “use,” but partnership. I am one of those people.
It’s the middle of winter at 8885 feet in Colorado. A snow storm has blown in and is slamming our ranch with howling winds of 50–60 miles per hour and temps in the single digits. It’s snowing sideways and the conditions are miserable by any standard.I watch my horses standing out there in the storm. They’ve chosen to stand downwind of a stand of trees rather than under their shelter. They stand with their back to the wind, side by side, motionless.The conditions are unpleasant and the horses uncomfortable. But here’s the most important thing I’ve learned from them: they’re uncomfortable, but they’re not suffering.
Have you ever noticed how often people use the word “busy” when you ask them how they are? You run into someone you know at the grocery store, the bank or the post office and inevitably the word “busy” emerges almost immediately when you ask the simple question “how are you?
“I’ve been so busy”
“It’s just so busy right now”
It’s seems to be a badge of honor. If you’re not “busy”, you’re not trying hard enough, or achieving enough, or working enough. It seems you have to be busy to show your life is worth something.
It doesn’t seem to be a red flag for most people, but it should be.
Sometimes the circumstances of our life just look dark. Sometimes even really, really dark.Like earlier this week, for instance. For the last few weeks, a nasty flu-like virus has run amok through our household. We first caught it on a wonderful family trip to Barcelona a few weeks back. One by one, we have succumbed to the sniffles, sneezes, chills and coughs. It has been so utterly nasty that we’ve fondly given it its own special nickname: the Spanish bird flu of 2019. For weeks of sore throats, stuffy noses, aches, chills and coughs (not to mention travel), Jason and I have mostly kept our sense of humor. We’ve stayed connected, graceful through the low, supporting each other to keep the household and business up and running.Until last Sunday. Sometime around mid-afternoon on that day, we both were hit by the low-mood gremlins. At the same time.
Seventeen years ago, I was in the midst of the most challenging stretch of my life. I had just wrapped up a Ph.D. in education and my husband Jason and I were co-founding an innovative middle and high school in Boulder, Colorado. The school was definitely the first “child” we birthed, but we also had two real babies in the midst of it all, both boys, both humans that came into this world with absolutely no interest in sleeping. Ever.
Our first child, Owen, seemed incredibly challenging to us in the first year of his life. He was completely content so long as he was being held or nursed. But when we put him down, Mr Hyde turned into Dr. Jeckyl and just howled. And he wouldn’t stop until he was picked up again. The only other time he was content was when he was in some sort of conveyance that was moving, e.g. a stroller or car seat in a moving car. So we held him, and I nursed him, and we took him for walks in the jogging stroller and took him for car rides. And then we held him some more, and I nursed him some more, and took him for another walk in the stroller and then another ride in the car.
And he was mostly content.
And Jason and I were completely exhausted.
A little more than 7 years ago, after a lifetime of privately poking fun at picky eaters, I became a very picky eater. In response to some unusual health issues that had surfaced, I jumped on the Paleo Diet bandwagon. Lots of protein and fat. Very low carbs. No sugar. No dairy.
I loved it. I had tons of energy; I could ride my bike for hours at high intensity; and I could eat truckloads of food and be as trim as I was in high school. And, despite a long history of being a kitchen nincompoop, I was so excited about my new diet that I became the go-to guy for most of the cooking for our family of four.
Recipes, it turns out, can make anyone look pretty good in the kitchen. My coup de grace was the full Paleo Thanksgiving that I made a few years ago for friends and family. My mom still talks about that as if I might have my own cooking show someday. (There were low points too. Like the barely edible spicy meatballs, that I resorted to covering in chocolate sauce to get my boys to try a few bites.)
But a funny thing happened along the way.
“How about this one?”
“Ummm… licorice maybe? Kinda earthy. Not sure.”
Here I was, a few weeks out of sinus surgery, hoping to regain my sense of smell, which had gradually dwindled over the last few years until it was completely gone. With it, my sense of taste had left as well. At times, this was an advantage, as I no longer minded dealing with the garbage and the dog poo cleanup. Sometimes it just sucked, as the joy of eating good food has diminished, and some of my favorite smells – the moist autumn leaves under my bike tires, and the sweet aroma of the Russian Olive tree in the springtime – had become merely memories. And at times, it was awkward, since farting in my office while I’m alone didn’t really register with me, but seemed to have a different effect on my clients who might cock their heads a bit as they entered.