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HOW TO FIND YOUR OWN PATH
Dear Ones –
At every stop on Oprah's The Life You Want Tour, I've found myself saying these words, to people who are looking to create their own journey of self-transformation:
"Don't do what I did. Ask what I asked."
I've been reminding people that they don't need to get divorced and move to India, just because I did. I've met several women over the past decade who have literally followed in my exact footsteps, trying to recreate the entire EAT PRAY LOVE journey for themselves — step by step. They went all the way to Naples to eat the pizza I ate, and they tracked down the same Ashram in India, and they found their way Bali to meet my healer (and to look for a nice Brazilian man, while they were at it.)
I recently met a woman who did all these things, and then complained to me, "But it didn't work! I didn't find myself and I didn't find love!"
Listen, don't get me wrong — I am not protective of my story. I do not own the rights to Italy or India or Indonesia, and I LOVE it whenever anybody makes an effort to seek adventure….but still: Never forget that your path is not mine.
For a journey of self-discovery to work, your path must be your own. And you will find that path not by eating the same pizza I ate (though it is awesome!) but by asking the same questions I asked. These questions: "Who am I? Who is God? What have I come here to do? What brings ME to life?"
Those questions — I promise you — will lead you to your very own quest.
At the moment, I am in love with this poem by David Whyte , called START CLOSE IN, in which he beautifully unfolds the truth about how to begin your journey — your very own journey.
You start with the first step, Whyte tells us. Not the second, not the third. Not someone else's. You start "close in" — with that vital first step, close to home, close to where you live, close to the earth…the step that you do not want to take, because it will change everything. But that's where it must begin — with that first baby step, close to YOU.
But what I love most about this poem is the ending, where Whyte reminds us not to try to follow in anyone else's heroic path, but to forge our own. Do not go walking on paths that are not yours, he warns.
"Don't mistake that other for your own."
Forge on, dear ones! Forge on.
And if you would like to watch a beautiful video of David Whyte reading this entire poem (in his delicious Yorkshire accent), click here:
Dear Ones –
I haven't shown the book trailer for THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS for a while, and I thought you might enjoy it!
So here it is…the backstory of the making of Alma!
Happy Day, All!
I have something so very special for you today, quite out of the blue. As some of you know, my new novel "The Signature of All Things" is coming out in Octob…
…a final (humbling/inspiring) thought for the day, care of our dear friend the Dalai Lama.
(Working on it, working on it, working on it…)
KNOW WHERE YOU HAVE POWER, AND WHERE YOU DO NOT HAVE POWER…
Dear Ones –
During Oprah's speech at the Life You Want Tour, she quotes Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz, in that fabulous moment when Glinda banishes The Wicked Witch of the West with this line: "You have no power here."
Oprah was talking about how important it is in your lives to be cognizant of where you have power, and where you do not. She said that so much of the stress and pain we bring into our lives comes from trying to interfere in other people's energy fields — trying to meddle in domains where we simply have no power.
The truth, of course, is that the only energetic domain in which you have any power is your own. You don't have power over your spouse, over your parents, over your neighbors, over your co-workers. Even regarding your own children, there will come a moment when you realize that you no longer have any power over their energetic domain (and for most parents I know, that moment comes a lot sooner than they are expecting it, and is often a shocker) And trying to hold power (even with the best of intentions) over other people's lives will bring you — and them — nothing but suffering.
Then I heard Pastor Rob Bell speak about the same topic last weekend, when a woman in the audience came to him for advice, asking, "How can I bring my mother along on my spiritual journey?" This woman was in obvious distress, saying that she'd had such extraordinary breakthroughs in her own spiritual growth, and how she desperately wanted her mother to experience all this grace and liberation, as well, but her mother was stuck and depressed and resistant to change. You could see it was breaking the daughter's heart, and all she wanted to do was bring light and goodness to her mother's life somehow, but clearly it wasn't working. And it was making the daughter suffer horribly — just when she should be enjoying her own growth and evolution.
Rob Bell spoke to this anguished woman so eloquently about how — again — you do not have power in other people's domains. You can love them, but you cannot fix them or control them. Rob said, "I think 75% of the problems and suffering I see in people could be alleviated if they could just be made to understand that they cannot change others — indeed, that they are not even SUPPOSED to change others."
Ask yourself how much of the pain you suffer in life is because of something you wish somebody else would be, or do, or fix, or transform. Your friend who needs to stop drinking. Your brother who needs to get a job. Your mother who can't let go of her bitterness and rage. Your father who can't open his heart to love. Your daughter who can't stay in a relationship for more than six months. Your son who needs to change his diet and move to a new city and find a good church and get away from those bad-influence friends of his. You best friend who needs to discipline her unruly children. Your neighbor who needs to realize how her own unresolved emotional pathologies are causing her to stay miserable and broekn. Your nephew who needs to leave that horrible woman. Your cousin who needs to get counseling for her gambling. Your college roommate who needs to stop letting men use her. You boss who needs to learn how to meditate. And so on, and so on and so on and so on…
The fact is: You're probably right. All those people may indeed need to make exactly those changes. Obviously, their lives would be better for it. Any fool can see that.
But it's not your domain.
And meanwhile, you're leaking energy, when what you really need to be focusing on your own power, your own life (which is hard enough to manage, and has its own set of problems that really require your full attention…as any fool can see.)
I have been guilty of this forever. I have a history of getting deeply, profoundly, aggressively over-involved in other people's energy fields — losing sleep and peace over my worry and judgment about other people's lives. (Or, rather, I should say, losing sleep and peace over MY PERCEPTION of other people's lives.) Getting involved where I have no power. Neglecting my own growth and development because I'm too busy minding somebody else's business. Making myself sick with anger or disappointment or sorrow or frustration over how somebody else has behaved. Often destroying relationships because I go around messing where I have no right to be messing. (I don't care if it's out of love and concern — I still have no right to be making myself crazy by getting involved in somebody else's energy field.)
But now I have this new mantra in my head, one of the best lessons of the whole Oprah tour: YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE, LIZ.
You have no power in their domain.
You have no power in their energy field.
You have no power over their choices.
You have enough trouble (I remind myself) managing your OWN energy field. So focus on the one person in the world you can somewhat control (YOURSELF) and stay the hell out of their business.
And if somebody is trying to mess around in your domain, gently but firmly remind them (or at least remind yourself): "You have no power here."
Then go on about your way, in peace.
We must love each other. We must be kind to each other. We must be generous in act and spirit with each other. But for the sake of grace and sanity, WE MUST LET EACH OTHER BE. (Or else somebody might drop a house on us, too — as our friend Glinda would warn with a smile…)
IN PRAISE OF THE INNER CRONE!
(Somebody asked me the other day if I would re-post this message I wrote last year on Facebook, so here it is….)
Dear Ones –
OK, we all know about the "inner child", right? The innocent being who still lives inside of us, who needs and deserves love and care, and whom we sometimes have to channel in order to learn self-compassion?
I'm a big fan of the notion of the inner child. It can be a really healing construct. Once, when I was going through a particularly dark season of self-loathing, I taped a sweet photo of myself (age 2) on my mirror, and taught myself that any harm I did to me, I also did to HER. It made me kinder and more tender to myself. Imagining other people's inner children makes me kinder and more tender to them.
So the Inner Child is a good thing.
These days, though, I find myself spending less time thinking about my Inner Child, and more time focused on my INNER CRONE — the old lady who lives inside me, whom I hope to someday be.
Because she's a serious bad-ass.
The really old ladies always are bad-asses. I'm talking about the real survivors. The women who have been through everything already, so nothing scares them anymore. The ones who have already watched the world fight itself nearly to death a dozen times over. The ones who have buried their dreams and their loved ones and lived through it. The ones who have suffered pain and lived through it, and who have had their innocence challenged by ten thousand appalling assaults…and who lived through all of it.
The world is a frightening place. But you simply cannot frighten The True Crone.
Some might consider the word "crone" to be derogatory, but I don't in the least. I honor it. The crone is a classic character from myth and folklore, and she often the bearer of great wisdom and supernatural power. She is sometimes a guardian to the underworld. She has tremendous vision, even if she is blind. She has no fear of death, which means: NO FEAR.
I keep a wall of photos of some of my favorite crones, for inspiration. The photo below is of a Ukrainian babushka named Hanna Zavorotnya who lives in (get this) Chernobyl. There are a group of about 250 such women — all tough elderly peasants — who have all recently moved back to the radioactive area around Chernobyl.
You know why they live there? Because they like it.
They like Chernobyl because that's where they came from. They are natural-born farmers, who got kicked off their farms when disaster struck. They hated being refugees.They resented being shunted off their land after the catastrophe. They hated living in the shabby and crime-infiltrated and stress-inducing government housing in the city, and much prefer the independence of living off the land.
So they moved back home — illegally — to the most contaminated nuclear site on earth. They have formed a stupendously resilient retirement community there, in what some would call the world's most terrifying landscape.
Is it safe? Of course not. Or, whatever. After 90 years of hard living, what does "safe" even mean? (If you survived World War II and Stalin and famine and communism's ravages, how worried can you be about "safe"?) They drink the water. These women plant vegetables in that radioactive soil and eat them. They butcher the wild pigs that scavenge around the old nuclear power plant, and eat them, too. Their point is: "We are old. What do have to fear from radioactivity? At this age? Who cares?"
All they want is their freedom. So they take care of themselves and each other. They cut and haul their own wood. They make their own vodka. They get together and drink and laugh about the hardships of their lives. They laugh about everything, then they go outside and butcher another radioactive boar and make sausage out of him.
They are living longer and healthier lives than their peers who stayed behind in refugee housing in the cities.
I would put these women in a Bad-Ass Contest against any cocky young alleged Bad Ass you've got going, and I guarantee you — the Chernobyl crones would win, hands down. Put the lady in this picture in a survival contest against any Navy SEAL; she will endure longer.
We live in a society that romanticizes youth. We live in a culture where youth is considered a real accomplishment. But when you look at a seriously powerful classic crone like the woman in this photo, you see how foolish we are to obsess over youth — to imagine that the young offer much for us to aspire to, or learn from.
No wisdom like the wisdom of survival. No equanimity like the equanimity of somebody who plants a garden right on top of a nuclear disaster and gets on with it.
So these days, when my Inner Child gets all fluttery with the panic of living, I just ask myself: " WWMICD?"
"What Would My Inner Crone Do?"
Ask yourself that same question. See what she tells you.
One thing I can promise you she will never say? She will never say: "WORRY.
She will more likely tell you this: "ENDURE."
So listen to her, and get on with it — get on with the powerful act of LIVING.
Hang in there, all you future awesome crones!
ps — and if you want to read more about Hanna and her fellow bad-ass Chernobyl crones, and see more photos, here is a really wonderful article: https://bit.ly/1wa9hT7