Believe in nothing, no matter who says it, even if I say it, if it does not agree with your own experience and your own common sense ~ Buddha

My new site is up, after many months of frittering around, the art and discipline of realizing I need help, and then, you know, asking for it, and ginormundo soul-searching. (How come no one ever tells you how much soul-searching is needed for writing your website?)

 

I am ever so excited, and I hope you will all follow me over to shannamann.com (What? It had to be easy so my mom would remember it), update your RSS or your email subscription (the handy toolbar on the right) AND if you hang out here (or plan to hang out here, or want to hang out here, always mean to comment but then don’t get around to it) go to the Principle Characters page and leave a note introducing yourself!

See you there!

I am a confident person. The last post might have given lie to that, but for the most part, I am sufficient unto myself. I don’t worry about the opinions of other people, I don’t ask for guidance or direction, and in short, I’m almost always intrepid and fearless.

Except when I’m not.

Not much to say about that, really. You can’t be all one way all of the time, or the term ceases to have quantitative meaning. Light requires dark, and all that.

I’d pretty much just come to the conclusion that every now and then, I’ll wake up in a nightmare where I’ve lost my internal compass, my wit, my equilibrium and suddenly I question everything. Nothing is safe, nor so solid that my faith in it cannot be jostled.  I question my motives, my abilities, my passions and my virtues, as well as those of the people around me. It really is like a dream, where I stumble around blindly, hoping to find my way out.

I always do.

But the whole process sucks.

But what else are you going to do when you lose your Pole Star?

Friends

I don’t know if it’s a function of getting older, or a true testament to online friendships, but I have better, stronger, more supportive friendships now than I ever have before. Perhaps it’s because I know that we’re not friends simply due to proximity and habit; friendship online has to be a priority for each participant, because it’s so easy to let drift get the best of you.

Suddenly, when I had voiced my concerns, I was inundated with support and encouragement. Wtf? This had never happened to me before.

Apparently, I give off the vibe that nothing much ever bothers me….which is mostly true, I suppose, but my friends were castigating themselves for not seeing my discomfort sooner.

Credit to Beau-foto

Best of all was that without exception, they echoed my inner voice. It was almost like they’d found it, submerged, muted, drowning under the weight of all that indecision and uncertainty. They found it, magnified it, and reflected it back on me, so that I would hear my truth.

And soon I was free of my nightmare.

***

I suppose this would be the part where an ordinary blogger would tell you how to go about getting friends that amplify your truth. This is not that kind of blog. Realistically, I would just be blowing smoke up your ass, because I have no idea how I got so lucky.

But I’ll tell you what I learned from this whole experience. Maybe it’ll help. I know I’ll probably refer back to it later, anyway.

  • Share yourself. Even if it’s hard, even if it’s scary. My friends could never have helped me if I hadn’t been open about my experience. Not just when I was in need — but when I was in my power, too. One friend re-sent me an email I had written in January telling him about a profound and humbling experience I’d had, connecting with a stranger online. “How can you doubt yourself, when you do things like this?” he asked.
  • When they tell you something that resonates, write that shit down. For some reason it takes on greater weight when someone else sees your strengths. For me, that goes a long way towards defeating the sapper in my head. Write it down, because that shit is gold.
  • Ask for a narrative. What do they see going on? When you’re stuck in the nightmare world, you’re caught up in a story of your own creation, and they are so hard to see outside of. Asking for an outside perspective creates an alternate narrative for you to choose. And often garners some incredible insight. (I found my THING!)
  • Cherish them. They are your candle in the window, and though you are deserving of help and support, never cease to be grateful for that gift.
Above all, this was an exercise in trust, a leap of faith. When I couldn’t trust myself, each treasured individual held out a hand and said, “You can do this. Not only can you do this, you have to. You’re dying on the wrong hill if you don’t.”
Thanks, guys.

Recommended Reading:

I wrote some time ago that I was scared nearly all the time in this space. (For the record, I don’t count this as a bad thing.)

In a forum that mostly exists as a way to explore my world, both inner and outer, I feel compelled to be as exposed and authentic and vulnerable as I can possibly stand.

Because, on the internet, when no one knows who you really are, the only hope you have for authentic connection is to be brutally, excruciatingly honest.

It was hard, but I didn’t really give it much thought. What’s the point of even showing up if you’re not going to put some skin in the game?

***

I was going to give this up. Set it aside for a while, I told myself, concentrate on something else. But I’m sure we both know that was just a comforting lie. I was giving it up because I was scared. Afraid people thought I was a loser for spending all my time on a going-nowhere “hobby” while my husband made sure the bills got paid. I told myself I was only going back to work in order to maintain a little equilibrium… maybe I was taking this “transforming lives” thing too seriously. I really needed to get out of the house… I needed routine… It would be just until my practice grew to full time.

It was seductive. Oh my god was it seductive. I could go back to my old industry, almost like I’d never left. There was status there, an easy answer to “What is it you do?”, the certain je ne sais quoi that comes from being a woman in a man’s world.

I just wanted to feel like I’d made it, y’know? Like I was worthy of respect.

I felt my way into it. Shared my plans with a few close friends.

En masse, they rose up and slapped me down.

I’ll never forget the words of one friend, a vociferous skeptic. “You’re right where you need to be. You help so many people.” I scoffed and said, “You don’t even know what I do. I could be poking pins in voodoo dolls for all you know.” He shot back “I do know what you do. You change lives.”

I do believe I may have burst into sobs at that point. Possibly.

I forgot that part. I change lives.

Oh, yeah…

 

I’ve had clients tell me that. And at least once a week I will get a note in a similar vein about something I said or wrote.

My friend continued earnestly, saying, “A lot of people don’t make any kind of profound difference in the world. Oh, they have their families, and the people who love them, but you don’t seem to realize how rare it is to affect strangers the way you do. To be able to touch a stranger on that level, where they feel so heard and understood, when they hardly even expect that understanding from their children or spouses. That’s an amazing skill, and you don’t seem to realize it. You’re so disarming, so guileless, so fresh. People feel safe around you, because you make them comfortable. You have no expectations for how they should act or who they should be.”

Maybe this was when I started to cry.

Damn, I have smart friends. That’s my “Thing!”

The ephemeral, mythical “Thing”.

Goddamn, you guys. I found my Thing.

They always say it’s something you take for granted.

***

So I’m not going anywhere. This is my THING, people!  I’m not going to let an inconsequential little detail like insecurity stop me from doing my Thing. 

pphhhht. Perish the thought.

I’ve got skin in this game. Let’s go win this thing.

Breathe Deeply

The others are peanuts compared to this one. This is the toughie.

In fact, I’m pretty close to convinced that I am going to have to reprogram myself and my relationship with stillness and quiet and breathing before I’m going to make any meaningful progress with this.

I am graceful under pressure. I cope very, very well. I have a strong action bias, a weakened aversion to pain, robust problem-solving skills, and a true gift for perspective.

But the better you cope, the harder it is to get around to fixing the underlying problem. My problem is that I do, as a function of being, that I can hardly conceive of how to be without doing. And to be honest, the functionality of being without doing is not self-evident. In other words, there’s no clear reason why that would be a good skill to have, and I tend to be pragmatic.

So why am I spending my time on this?

To be honest, I’m not completely sure. There seems to be a couple aspects that have potential. First of all, it’s a powerful reset device, that is, a very good method of challenging assumptions.

Second, nature abhors a vacuum, and creating and maintaining a void seems to practically dare the universe to knock your socks off by producing something really fucking awesome to put in that space. Which you do, for a while, I think, and then you take the space back. The space feels crucial to me, and I’m not quite sure why. More meditation is needed, I guess.

Give Freely

See the start of the series here.

This one is kind of a struggle. I can always tell where I feel a lack, because that’s where I hoard. If I’m broke, I hoard money, if I’m pressured I hoard energy, if I’m under-appreciated, I hoard love.

The problem is that hoarding essentially kills what was useful there. If it’s hoarded, it rots. It has to be used, and used freely, not in metered doses.

As weird as it is, releasing whatever it is you don’t have enough of frees you from its thrall. So I try to notice when I’m hoarding. (Stifling might be a better word.) Teasing out what the hoarded material actually means to me is pretty useful, since there’s usually a better way to get it than what I’ve been doing. Asking for things, instead of just trying to arrange the entire universe to my liking. It kind of helps that I’m inclined to be generous, so when I’m not, there’s a slight alarm buzz in my brain. 

The Phenomenon of Stuff

As I was packing to move over the last month, I noticed as I never have before the sheer psychic weight of ownership.

I was reminded of  JRR Tolkien’s poem “The Hoard,”

There was an old dragon under grey stone;
his red eyes blinked as he lay alone.
His joy was dead and his youth spent,
he was knobbed and wrinkled, and his limbs bent
in the long years to his gold chained;
in his heart’s furnace the fire waned.

The weight of ownership is taxing; as difficult to maintain as slavery or worship. That is not to say that my things don’t bring me joy; but they bring sorrow as well. They demonstrate security, but demand commitment.

I imagine my things as Lilliputian cords– they might not stop me, but they can slow me down.

I realized, as I packed, that I wanted to honour the gift that each of my things represented. I held onto many things that were given to me, not because the gift was esteemed, but because the person was. Some things I can’t even use anymore, like the beautiful hairclips from when I had masses of heavy, thick hair that had to be practically lashed into place.

I gave away two sets of silver earrings to my sister; unicorns. I have never worn them. I don’t have pierced ears. But they were beautiful, and had meaning to me. But I was fine with giving them to her, because she would love them too.

In a curious twist of fate, we wound up with a trailer smaller than we ordered and wound up leaving half our things behind. It’s been a week, and the only thing I miss is my desk. I love the spaciousness in our new place. I wonder how it would feel to give more things away? Not simply dropped off for donation, but given mindfully to someone who would adore it? I do have beautiful things– but these beautiful things have me, too.

In retrospect, I think this instruction needed punctuation:

Give. Freely.

Generosity is not the point. Freedom is. Stepping out of the gilded cage, no matter how beautifully furnished, and allow those lovely things to find their way to other hands. Honouring the gift, and the giver, ad infinitum.

Other posts in this series:

The Labours of Heracles

Engage Fully

Accept No Limitations

Give Freely

Breathe Deeply

Read the first entries in this series here.

I thought I had that down.

Except when I told this to the healer that I didn’t understand why it felt it had to pointed out: I almost felt this dreadful burden of potential, that understanding I had no limitations made me almost cringe with the enormity of it all. If I could do anything I must be a failure for not having done it already.

Ah– yes. I see that that’s a tad dramatic now.

But what I can accept is that all limitations are fear-based. They are based on the fear of what would happen if the impossible was actually achieved. Would others resent me? Would standards suddenly reset to something I can’t maintain? Would I be able to handle it, whatever it is, without it turning me into someone I don’t like?

What I noticed is that those are all external markers. When I turn inward, and look at what I what to accomplish, and make, and be, it becomes so straightforward to get started– as long as I don’t try to manage the reactions of the world at large. I have to ignore them. Because first they’ll scoff, then they’ll actively try to dissuade me, and finally, whether I succeed or fail they’ll say they knew the outcome all along. Clearly, the world is not worthy of giving me input.

Limitations are Protection

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  ~ Marianne Williams

I like Drew Jacob’s Religion of Heroism. However, I find that when I look too hard at what the heroic vision would be…well, I get a pretty bad case of stage fright. In fact, the only way I can get anything done at all is to do what makes me feel most amazing to do. It’s not the most graceful of methods, and it involves a certain amount of feeling my way into things, but when I full the pull of the gulf stream, I know I’m tapped into something that makes me larger than life. And that is my religion.

The hardest thing to remember is not to look around for validation, to see if other people are doing the same thing I’m doing. This is completely stupid, and I have to stop doing it. I can trace every single crisis of faith to looking around, seeing that I’m by myself, and completely losing my shit.

I know that I’m “gorgeous, talented, fabulous,” and I’m also a trailblazer. Looking around and NOT seeing anyone, ought to, if anything, be a good sign. When I stay centred, I’m completely in tune with the power that guides me.

Now I Know

A medium recently gave me this message, “If you meet the Buddha on the path, kill him.

Until this very moment, I didn’t know what that meant. But now I know. When you’re following your own path, and your own dharma, any distraction from it, no matter how profound or wholesome-seeming, is actually a grave misstep, along the lines of a moral failing. Only I can be me, and do the things I was meant to do. To allow myself to be distracted from that means I’ve limited myself, diminished myself, denied my own birthright.

And that’s not okay.

 

 

Other posts in this series:

Labours of Heracles

Engage Fully

Accept No Limitations

Give Freely

Breath Deeply

Engage Fully

See the first post in this series here.

I have a tendency to be outside myself. While I am being, enjoying, doing, there is generally some other part of me that is simply observing.

While this certainly grants me perspective, there is also the self-protective aspect of it. If I’m not fully present, I can’t fully internalize any conflicts. If I’m not in the moment, engaged with my whole heart and mind, failure doesn’t hurt so bad. If can withhold just a little of myself from the world, I will never get sucked into a maelstrom of misery and suffering.

On the other hand, there are many joys that I am too cerebral to appreciate fully. I am sometimes too cool to attract exciting possibilities. I am too distant from the process to engage in wild success.

I am working on that.

It seems so simple

I am an enthusiastic person, engaged in pushing my boundaries. But.

There seems to be a firewall. Some sort of failsafe.

Something that says, “Look here, dear one. I know you love to throw yourself into new challenges. I know you don’t always look before you leap, and sometimes stubborn pride and misplaced sense of responsibility digs you deeper than you ought to go. It’s great that you will still push those limits, even though it seems a little dumb. After all, some really cool things happen sometimes after all seems lost.”

I think the of the firewall of kind of a big sister. She’s the one who watches dispassionately and lets me screws up, but then also helps perform the debriefing.

“So, what went wrong?”

“What could you have done differently?”

“Did you learn something here?”

“Was there something you overlooked that was important?”

“What are some other ways you could interpret the data set?”

These are good skills. There’s no disputing that. Goodness knows people come to me to help them learn how to do exactly this. But ^those^ skills? I’ve got them nailed. Now I have to learn the skill of giving over completely.

How about you? Do you have a certain skill or set of skills that you know people would kill for, but you actually need to develop the opposite? Share in the comments!

Other posts in this series:

Labours of Heracles

Engage Fully

Accept No Limitations

Give Freely

Breathe Deeply

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