In this week’s installment of ‘Shiny Sparks,’ I spoke with Meredith Myers (The Majestik Lioness). Meredith is a heart-based healer and teacher of metaphysical wisdom, meditation, and self-worth. I asked her how she maintains her connection to spirituality.
This week’s inspiration highlight is provided with awe and acceptance by Miranda Chop. She takes us on a short but no less profound journey into her creative process as she answers the question, What Inspires You?
I’m never short on inspiration. It is everywhere, all the time, if you know where to look, but more importantly, if you know how to see. I find it in all the usual suspects: new spring growth, the stories our friends tell, our lived experiences, the waxing and waning of the moon. Life seems to conspire to inspire us. While the messages are prolific and constant, they are easy to miss in the chaos of every day living. No matter what shape our lives take, we tend to bury ourselves into them. The appointments, chores, errands, surviving and staying afloat take so much energy, there is often little time for grounding or conscious awareness. In these moments, when I’ve finally reached my limit of outward motion, I take solace in the inner stillness of “what is.” Sometimes this means accepting completely the idea that, in this moment, washing the dishes is my highest spiritual path. I focus on the movement of the broom as I sweep the floor, or on the pock-marked and fading wood, scratched and in desperate need of re-finishing. If the temperature is right, I immerse myself in nature. Walking barefoot in the dirt and grass, planting my feet firmly, I imagine strong roots coming out of them and burrowing deep into the earth. Even sitting with a green houseplant and crying it out when necessary. Plants are great listeners, never interrupting and always holding space for evolution. Nature is the perfect spiritual guru because it accepts where it is in every moment and recognizes the cyclical nature of the universe. It helps me to remember no matter how bad things feel, or even how good they feel, this too shall pass, and return. Ride the waves, the ocean says. Dig deep while reaching higher and higher, chime the trees. Sit in the stillness of the everchanging flow of life like a river stone, letting the water flow under, around, and sometimes through us. All the magic we could ever need is hidden in the plain sight of present moment awareness.
Miranda Chop is a lifelong writer from Texas intent on using her innate pioneering spirit to initiate change and transformation in her own life and others’. Follow her on Twitter @MirandaChop and see more of her work here:
I want to talk about community.
The dictionary defines community as:
- a unified body of individuals
- a social state or condition
There is an implied consciousness behind it.
And the word togetherness:
- warm fellowship, as among members of a family
- the quality, state, or condition of being together
They are ideas that sound easy enough on paper, but I’ve found that actually creating community and togetherness takes tremendous inner transformation.
Sometimes in my enthusiasm, I come on strong in relationships. I go full force, straight forward with no pause to think if the other party needs or wants that amount of energy. Sometimes I make a mistake in thinking that because we have common interests or are members of the same community there is an automatic bond. I forget that things take time to build. The same applies to personal interests and challenges: it can be all-or-nothing.
People that I admire or look to as examples tell me to “let go.” Let things flow. Don’t try to always have the answers. (Insert a sigh, eye roll, or scream.) This is a challenge for me. The cycle of negative tape plays in my head, where I imagine the worst case scenarios of what will happen “if”…
My chest tightens, my energy gets small and trapped and I feel like I can’t breathe. My brain plays the common trick of convincing me that if I can control everything, I won’t have anything to worry about.
This approach doesn’t yield good results, so my focus in the past few months has been to take the hard advice: let go, let things flow, and don’t try to always have the answers. It requires constant vigilance. It’s baffling how quickly I slip back into trying to do everything myself and the chaos that often follows the decisions made in this state of mind. I have some challenges in my life that are so familiar: old patterns, old thinking, all of it the same old garbage that I can’t seem to break free of. I feel broken, helpless to change myself.
This is where I think community and togetherness come in. This is the energy behind the contemporary trend of crowd-sourcing: we can do it alone, but we’re so much stronger when we do it together. When we invest in something as part of a group of like-minded people, we want to contribute instead of expecting a return.
My life is crowd-sourced. People who love me more than I deserve at times contribute to my potential. They look past my flaws and over-sharing and child-like enthusiasm and see my light. My parents accept my out-of-the-box lifestyle and support me in more ways than I can write in an essay. Sometimes I’m so committed to my own point of view that I can’t even receive this love. People in my life show me their heart and I reject it. Or I twist it to fit into my own understanding of what it means to share and miss an opportunity to experience the growth that can only come from admitting that I don’t know.
As I write this I’m in the middle of a situation that has an open ending. I don’t know how some of the challenges will resolve. But in the past few weeks, I’ve had people step forward to offer a hand up in ways that I would have never imagined. And it seems to happen in the blink of an eye. Somehow, I’m in the right place at the right time and an opportunity is presented through people and places that surprise me. So far, the results have been far better than my original plans. I’m humbled by my small perspective. I limit my reality if left to my own devices.
My crowd-sourced life is a wonder. I am in awe of what we can accomplish when we set our egos aside and commit to a common goal. My relationships are stronger when I step back a bit and let things build organically. My fears of not being loved are replaced with the knowing that sometimes love shows up in minutia, but is no less grand. If I get out of the way, I don’t miss it.
I’m working on the second book in my children’s book series. It’s about our mouth: our sense of taste and our teeth – the material world aspect of our mouths. It’s also about the power of words – the spiritual world aspect of our mouths. I write about how to use our 5 senses in a deeper way in daily life. So, it’s no coincidence that I’m writing about words. I started my books in early 2017, and because I illustrate them myself, and I’m a SAH mom, the process can take longer than I would prefer. I started working on the second book late in the summer, and soon after, I began to see the deeper lessons in our speech reflected back to me, practically at every turn.
We’re in a moment with words. Our collective experience of #metoo and #timesup have offered a safe harbor for people to share their stories of abuse and harassment. Personally, I am glad it’s happening. Whether it is Hollywood, sports, religion, or business organizations, it’s time to let it all out. It isn’t easy. I see myself as a compassionate and supportive purpose, yet I see my prejudices and judgements pop up. I must examine where they originated. I read testimonials that trigger my own victimization and must ask myself why I haven’t spoken up. We’re all being forced to look at the ugly side of some intense issues, and my hope is that by doing so, we can truly begin to heal.
But speaking up and speaking out is a lingering challenge. I don’t think we’ve been trained to use our words. Our society doesn’t accept a survivor’s tale at face value. We’re not surrounded by encouragement.
I have an entire folder on Pinterest that’s nothing but pretty words against pretty backgrounds. Sometimes when I need a pep talk, I’ll go there and read and read until the heavy feelings lift. I have images that remind me not to compare myself to others, quotes about honoring your truth, poem excerpts I find lovely, and many other examples. I consume a substantial volume of positive words because I want the words I say and write to be beautiful. I keep thinking that if I hear and read elegant artistry as much as I can, I’ll quiet the societal brand. It takes a tremendous effort to undo the negative things we see and hear. Think about it in your own life for a moment: how many years has it taken you to let go of the negative things you heard as a child?
I was never trained how to use my words. I became a people pleaser. It’s easier to tell myself that I’ll just let it go instead of speaking up because I don’t want to rock the boat. But if it’s a big enough issue, it will turn into resentment. Then, there are the times I’ll muster up the courage to say difficult things out loud, but my delivery is harsh because I feel insecure. Or I spend so much time apologizing for what I’m about to say that all the energy behind what I had hoped to express gets deflated. Sometimes I feel nervous, and that insecurity turns into lack, so I’ll try to fill the space with chatter. My messages get lost in my tone or delivery. I can see a lot of personal growth in this area, but it takes work on my part and there are times I still fall back to the old pattern of thinking I, and therefore my experiences, don’t matter.
Honoring my own truth as a writer has primarily been about changing negative thought patterns. It’s an ongoing process of letting go. I’ve let go of the fear of feeling exposed, or the need for every person who reads my work to fall in love with it. All I can do is write in my truest voice about things that are valuable to me and hope that it helps those who read it. Sometimes I think it’s all been said before. Why bother? Get a real job. Then, I’ll remember that I haven’t said it yet, and therefore it’s inherintely valuable. Speaking as honestly as I can becomes paramount.
A line from my little book keeps running in my head as I write this: When you use your words, think of all the love you feel…
This is my dream for the future of words. That whether we have to say something painful, or we’re offering a sincere compliment, our words will remain heart-opening. That our words will continue to be a catalyst for positive transformation. And I know it begins with me.
The anticipation of your arrival has given me pause. Here we begin another chapter in which we all make grandiose promises, hoping and wishing that this year we’ll really stick with to our goals. This seasonal paradigm is an invitation to disappointment and failure, and I just don’t think I can do it anymore. I don’t like making promises to a year. So, I want to let you know that I’m resigning from resolutions. Effective immediately.
I’ve decided instead that I want to continue.
I want to continue my personal trajectory of growth and expansion. To continue to choose to bravely face and do hard things: to create new art and have new experiences, even though I don’t know where all the resources will come from, or how it will all work out. To use my words with all the love I feel, especially if I have to say something hard. To push myself beyond my own limitations and try anyway. As Samuell Beckett said, “Ever tried. Ever fail. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
I want to continue to say goodbye to believing in failure. And judgement. We’re all just doing our best. I hope we all make it.
Enough with dangling the promises of major life changes just because the calendar changed. Enough with the idea that growth and change can’t be a daily endeavor. I, we, can all do this life thing with grace and love if we choose that.
What would it take? What would that be like? And how does it get better than this?
The darkness takes over
Some mornings I wake up in the black
fetal under 3 layers
I feel safe and swaddled until I uncover an arm or a leg
I’m hit with a stinging chill and remember that it is Winter
My dreams are different during shorter days
In them, my teeth fall out
or the house burns down
my plane leaves the airport because I went to the wrong gate
my party invitations get lost in the mail
My uncertainty is highlighted
the stories, little dramas magnified so that I will see them
They ask me to remember what I know: I can turn on the light!
And then, I shine
Dream dramas are revealed as impostors
Warmth is my own creation, eternal
Love is a choice
Surrender is freedom
In Winter, the darkness illuminates
And I am closer to Whole.
When I began to create my life, when I was younger, I set out into the world with the understanding that there is a “happy life” formula. The rules go something like this: get through school, preferably by making as few waves as possible. Go to more school, especially if you have big dreams. Find your soulmate and marry them. You’ll need to have some kids, and buy a house, and have a cute car.
Your life will be amazing. Cue dreams!
The rules are presented as a successful formula, but the formula is ultimately flawed. They forgot to teach us that we have to learn how to create our little reality in a conscious way. The idea of creation implies, maybe demands, consciousness. I assert that part of the reason we humans experience such profound suffering is that we are largely uneducated about how to actually CREATE. The majority of us follow the norm, unconscious. Our external societal chatter is so strong, it’s like death metal played at unsafe decibels for hours straight to a sleep-deprived, starving, suspected terrorist during an investigation. It will break you. I know I sound harsh here, but I am passionate about the subject. Our environment can do a number on our self worth.
Creation demands consciousness. You have to pay attention. Constant vigilance. Often we are shaken up from our societal stupors by a life-altering event. Think about it. How many inspirational stories are told about how a divorce, bankruptcy or a medical diagnosis push a person to realize they’ve been living an unsatisfactory life? Some of us have this realization after smaller events or milestone birthdays, but the effect is the same. The shake-up causes the change. Then, those lucky enough to see that they have another chance will attempt to create a life that’s closer to their personal truth. Consciously. They feel, as the kids say nowadays, “woke.” Gone are the days of blind conformity.
So, how do we skip the pain and trauma part and just start creating what we want the first time? Husband and I are in a lengthy process of re-creating our life together. A few years ago we had the stark realization that we had created our life according to the “happy life” formula. We didn’t regret everything we had done, but we weren’t happy. We felt trapped, unfulfilled, and the pressure of changing our situation was less stressful than staying where we were. So, we are re-creating everything. It’s hard. It’s no joke. Every choice we are presented with requires that we ask questions. Is this congruent with what we’re trying to create? What will it take for _______ to happen? Then, we have to be assassins of our own negative self-talk. Fear is actually not only not an option, but it isn’t a luxury we can afford. We can’t go back to the way it was before.
To have a different reality you don’t burn down or rally against what you’ve already created. You try to view it objectively, like an uninvolved observer and see how it can be transformed. You have to create a new way, not choose between either-or. This is the part of the formula they forgot. It’s isn’t a pass-fail system. There are, in reality, an infinite array of possibilities and you, me, we – can transform anything. I’m not going to present this as though this is easy. It actually really sucks to go against an established paradigm. Uprooting your old beliefs and choosing different things opens you up to judgment, jealousy, and potential isolation. People don’t really want to change, and they don’t want to be confronted with the need to truly transform. It’s uncomfortable.
But, there is such incredible power in being able to choose. To choose consciously…I think that’s a closer definition of creation. The willingness to bravely acknowledge the lies we tell ourselves, the lies we buy into, and the lies we perpetuate. And when we recognize something as an illusion, to have the courage to ask: what else is possible?
I challenge you to try it. See where it leads you. I’ll be here, waiting to gleefully receive your tales of new adventure.
“I said that’s enough!”
“You’re not listening to me!!”
“I told you I needed a minute. You’re pushing me!” my husband yelled before he ran up the stairs and slammed the door.
I sat on the bottom step and cried. I looked for a way to escape the profound discomfort I was experiencing, but there was nowhere to run. Leaving in the car would only make the situation worse.
It was the early days of my marriage and I had taken a small disagreement and expanded it to door slamming and tears. Back then, I was exceptionally good at this.
My husband and I have changed a lot since that day. Knock-down-drag-out fights rarely happen now. When they do, we are both embarrassed and after we have calmed down, will sheepishly wonder how we even got to that point. How had the argument even started?
For a long time, I thought that these passionate quarrels were a sign that we had passion between us. That we were fiery soulmates destined for greatness. Now, I see it differently. And because I am a person who wants to keep the peace, to create peace, and who always (at least) tries to see many sides of a situation, my ability to take a volatile event and make it worse has always bothered me. Why can’t I just stop? Why must I always poke the bear?
A need to be right.
Fear of abandonment.
A lack of healthy boundaries.
Like I said, we have both changed a lot since those early days. I have learned to let go, to be ok with being wrong, and I have worked hard to transform my rage into allowance and patience with myself. I’m better at not needing “closure.” I’ve learned that I don’t need to understand, or even know, every second of my husband’s inner life.
We have also changed because we chose to have children, which inherently changes everything. My kids are the two best teachers I’ve ever had. Children are a wild paradox. They are experts at letting go. They are also experts at poking the bear.
It must, therefore, be a human impulse, illustrated through a common and overused joke: “Don’t press that big, red button! Whatever you do, don’t press that button!”
So what do we do? We press the button and act surprised when disaster unfolds.
How and when did we learn to poke the bear? To disregard blatant consequences and give it one final shot, just to “be sure?” I did it as a kid and younger adult, and now I watch my kids do it. Just the other day my daughter spilled some paint during a craft project and I asked her not to touch it for fear that the paint mess would only spread. So what did she do? She ran her fingers through it and got paint all over her new t-shirt, and became so upset about her new t-shirt getting stained that she actually spilled more paint. I didn’t say “I told you so.” I just cleaned her up and told her we’d get the stain out, and to be more careful next time. And I thought about myself at her age because I see that we are remarkably similar.
The first time I remember hearing the phrase “poking the bear” was when I was about 8 years old. I grew up in the 80s and early 90s – a simpler time when parents left their kids alone in the car while they ran into the dry cleaners. A simpler time when cars had built-in cigarette lighters. I knew those things were hot. I had seen my grandparents fuse countless cigarettes against the gray coils inhaling until the lighter burned hot-orange and tobacco smoke wafted into the air.
This time, at 8-ish years old, I just had to be sure. My mom was inside the dry cleaners and my sister and I were in the back seat. I leaned forward, yanked the lighter out of the dash, and poked the gray coils with my right pointer finger. I burned myself so bad that I screamed, dropped the lighter, and cried. Then my sister started crying because I was crying. And needless to say, when my mom returned to the car, she was exasperated and worried.
“What happened? Why is everyone crying?!”
I showed her my finger. I didn’t have to explain what happened because the built-in car lighter had branded the coil shapes into my finger pad, and in the painful moment of contact I had flung the lighter onto her seat.
“Well, why did you do that??? You know it’s a hot lighter!”
“I just wanted to see if it was hot when it was gray,” I whimpered.
“Well, it is, Christi! Why do you always have to poke the bear?”
Upon reflection, I giggle at the story. I defend my younger self and push it off to curiosity and the childlike ability to be so in the present moment that consequences are not considered. My mom was right though. I think about all of the times I wasn’t, or haven’t been willing or able to let go, and find I’m more contemplative.
I think it’s something we can all choose to change, but maybe we are addicted to physical confirmation. We don’t trust. We have to “be sure.” We can’t help but poke the damn bear.