I used to think I was afraid of other people. Then I realized how much power that gave away, and remembered a deeper truth - I am way more afraid of my own wild, uncontrollable self than I am afraid of what anyone can do to me on the outside. And, even more true - I have the power to heal this fear, this pain, every time it comes up. Now I heal myself bit by bit, every day, as this fear rears it's head. And return myself to freedom, to power, to love.
And that's way better than requiring anything to change on the outside of my life.
One place external strife, abuse of power, a lack of integrity, disharmony begins is inside of me, and inside each of us. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. While the world is rising up to address abuses of power in our political structures of power (which is awesome!), there is also an opportunity to heal the cycles of pain, abuse of power, fear, lack of integrity, etc inside myself. Because anything that creates a disturbance to my internal peace is a barrier to peace, to love, to harmony...a place where I am blind, controlling, out of integrity, abusive, deaf, within my own life. Places where I am (potentially) acting out a mini-drama of the external world.
And unless there is freedom, peace, love, harmony inside of me then I will not be truly free on the outside - no matter what the external circumstances.
For example, last night I had an experience that activated a cycle of fear within me. An exchange with two strangers that left me feeling vaguely unsafe, especially on behalf of my children. I noticed that I *thought* I was afraid of the people - and the fear was that I thought I couldn't protect my loved ones. That was the thought, "I can't protect my loved ones from evil."
I believe that everything is a projection, and what I fear "out there," I fear even more within myself. And so, an even deeper truth was that, "I can't protect myself from evil." I felt vulnerable and unsafe for my own personal safety. The risk that the strangers presented wasn't an overt threat of any kind, more a vague sense of fear that I didn't know what they wanted - which left me feeling vulnerable to "evil" that I couldn't see or understand.
(I'm leaving this intentionally vague because the point is the cycle of fear it initiated, not the specific events.)
And then, an even deeper extension of fear: I'm afraid of myself, of the "evil," or uncontrollable, parts of myself, within myself. The places where I hold barriers to love, to peace, to harmony within myself. The places where I judge another, and especially where I try to control another - like my kids. The places where my response to an event is outsized to the actual event. And I suspect that the desire to control another person - like my kids - is always an outside response to an event.
This is an opportunity to heal the fear and pain at the root source:
1. When the fear is active, feel it as it relates to another - whatever/whoever I'm assigning externally as the disturbance to my peace.
2. Turn it inward - I fear those exact same attributes within myself.
3. Feel the fear within my body. See the blocks created within me that prevent connecting with the person. The feelings of a barrier between people, of a block, of a narrowed focus.
4. "I take complete responsibility for my internal peace, my integrity, my internal health, and for healing myself."
5. Turn this fear, this pain, this block, over to the Divine. Just turn it over, ask the Archangels to deliver it fully to the Divine, ask to release it from my body.
6. Allow the feelings to move, until humility and peace and connection and tenderness return.
7. Thank the external person, event, etc for allowing me to see myself more clearly and returning myself to my humility, to my neutral state of love.
If I were to stop controlling her.
She would burst into flames of her own
beauty. Of her own free, wild self.
Control keeps her safe.
But it doesn't keep her tender spark alive.
And so. I trade her freedom for her spark.
Alive. But not fully living.
Trust. And lay down the fear. Choose the wildness.
What is being born. Is alive.
We had a rough patch this weekend. It didn’t last long, but in the course of events my son’s energy got small. And then he retreated to a story of a recent disappointment that had nothing to do with the experience at hand.
This was interesting to watch, because attaching stories to feelings is a very natural coping technique. In this case the trigger was unrelated to the story, though. He was clearly feeling badly about what was happening within our family, and then seemed to fall into a victim mode of saying he was feeling bad about a recent event.
This got me thinking: What if the opportunity is to simply see the pain and acknowledge it for what it is - a feeling of fear or pain - and then taking great care to acknowledge the feelings flowing happening in the body, rather than using the head to assign a story. Or, perhaps to see both: the pain and the story, if it arises. And then, to see that they are unrelated.
Because sometimes fear simply cycles. Pain cycles. It’s like the weather - on a random Monday morning sometimes fear is activated in my body. It is deeply uncomfortable when it happens, and I retreat to my head and the stories in order to avoid the feelings in my body. But instead, maybe it’s enough to honor the pain cycling through my body without my mind getting involved, trying to figure something out, assigning blame, or creating a story of the meaning.
I was thinking about this experience as I was walking through the woods this morning. And then I noticed that my fear was cycling and that there was a fear, or a story, attached to the feeling of fear.
Aha! An opportunity to practice what I had just observed in him.
And so, as I walked I narrated what was happening in my body: I feel fear. I feel pain. My pain cycle is activated. I feel puny, I feel vulnerable.
And then: I take complete responsibility for honoring this pain. I take complete responsibility for honoring the feelings present in my body in this moment.
And then: Archangel Sandalphon, help me know my personal power to turn this pain over to the Divine. To transmute this pain into wisdom.
And then: Archangel Sandalphon, I see that I am taking the actions of another person personally. Remind me of the times I have behaved blindly, out of my own narrow gaze and pain. Allow me to see everyone involved in this situation (the story) with compassion. Compassion and wisdom. Allow me to see what within me is ready to be healed, that enabled me to take someone’s behavior personally.
And finally, something very interesting happened. As I walked the feelings within my body transmuted into something else: sadness.
As I walked and acknowledged the feelings cycling in my body, honored the fear, and then handed it over to the Divine, it somehow began to change. Underneath the fear was a deep sadness. A deep and ancient sadness of the world. This sadness calibrated to all the pain of all the experiences of all the people of all time. Sadness for the pain we have caused others. Ancient sadness, so much more than my own story.
It resonated deep within my belly, and I somehow knew that it was ancient, not mine, and resided below the human plane. It was perhaps what triggered my pain, it was the original kernel that found a pathway to my fear. This pain elicited a tenderness and compassion within me. Tenderness for the universal pain experienced by all.
This, too, I turned over to the Divine.
And somehow, witnessing the universal human pain at it’s source and opening it up to the Divine somehow healed it. A channel felt created between the subterranean Universal pain of the ages and the Divine, and once this channel was opened up the pain was healed at its source.
And then, just like that, it was over. My awareness returns, slowly, from the experience but it is now restored, clean, and peaceful. I felt as thought I took the deepest to dive into universal pain, witnessed it, opened and connected it to the Divine, and then healed it.
This feels like a divine power, to heal myself.
Here’s the thing. I love my mother. Deeply. My father too. I am blessed beyond measure to be of them, from their lineage, and their home and values. And, sometimes, I feel judged. Similarly, I expect that sometimes my children feel judged by me, as well. This is not about how we come together to love each other so imperfectly. This is about how we move beyond the limitations of human love dynamics and take complete responsibility for our own unmet emotional needs. We are completely responsible for our own unmet emotional needs. The more we honor this sacred responsibility, the more free we are. We remove the hooks from our relationships, and are free to simply love and be loved. Here’s what this means: Whatever we wish others, in particular our parents, would give to us, we must take complete responsibility for giving to ourselves, or receiving from the Divine.
For me, I simply wish I experienced more of the raw love, awe, and delight that I know they hold for me. And so, that is what I must give to myself, in collaboration with the Divine. To do this, I face my fear and choose to open my heart and mind to the love, awe, and delight that exists all around me. Dropping the walls and stories, shifting my perspective, and choosing to interpret all the experiences this day brings in this light.
Wow. I’m that powerful.
When a system is out of balance, every part of it is out of balance. Disequilibrium is disequilibrium. Dis-health is dis-health.
One place I always have power is in my own world. I take complete responsibility for every place I am out of balance, or have exerted control over another. It is far easier and more culturally validated to feel like a victim to external forces - but not for taking responsibility for the places in which I am a victim, or even a perpetrator, to internal forces. I make far more decisions every day that affect my life than anything anyone can do on the outside.
What voices, truths, do I exclude, reject, ignore, steamroll-over in my own heart every day? This reckoning is as important, if not more important, than that in the outside world. I have far more control here, and I make far more decisions and actions every day that could have more integrity. I have far more ability to exert and change my own life than I do the outside world.
Today: What is one place I am out of integrity in my own world? What is one place I have steamrolled over my own truth in pursuit of an agenda? Sometimes I fail to see the entire reality of the people in my life. My focus zeroes on to an agenda that is urgent ... but not important. Sometimes I miss the important in my own life.
I allow a clock, a device that sits on a wall, to exert extraordinary influence over every part of my life. I allow a clock - a mechanical device - to tell me how much attention and time to give my beloved children. This is madness. The clock makes me a blind victim.
I can go deeper still inside. Sometimes I view the beloved in my life with low respect. Even if it’s only in my head, I judge and narrow them to a few particular traits rather than seeing the whole person. These are my most beloved people, parts of my soul. I can do better.
Going deeper, I am possibly harshest on myself. There’s no need for this. This is out of integrity, out of wholeness. Wholeness means seeing myself in a less narrow, more broad comprehensive lens.
All that narrowing of focus, minimizing to one or two dimensions, judging of motives, seeing with fear, reducing, that I do in the external world begins within myself. I do it to myself first, then I do it to my loved ones, then I do it in the outside world. If I want to get to the root cause of my powerlessness, it begins inside.
When I feel powerless on the outside, it is a good time to find my power on the inside. In truth my power doesn’t exist on the outside anyway, it only exists inside me.
These are things I only remember in the woods, in the quiet, still, peace of my true nature. When I return to my life, it’s noisy. It has clocks. It has news, and social media, and commitments. This time of listening is part of the cycle. The return to balance. May we all have the places in our lives that provide this return.
I used to think that doing great things in the outside world mattered. And so I misused myself physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally in order to bring about significant change in rural Ethiopia, and elsewhere. I somehow trusted the opinions of other people more than myself. And, on the outside, the work that I offered created change for millions of people. As much as I contributed to the world, though - and it was everything I had - it never healed me, and I ultimately became so empty and depleted on the inside that I could no longer work on the outside.
This is backwards. There is no act on the outside that is worth depleting myself on the inside. There just isn’t. That is not an act of integrity, to do something from a unhealed or broken place inside. There must be integrity on the inside before there can be integrity on the outside.
This is what I have learned through the experience: we reap what we sow. Acts that come from an unhealed place on the inside carry the energy of that unhealed, dis-integrity into the world. They carry that energy deep inside, and plant that seed in the world alongside the offering. And because of this, they cannot have their full healing impact.
Because of this, I have not yet done anything that is great in the world, because the place that my actions came from inside were tainted by my need for external approval. The need, the hole, was as big, or bigger, than the offering.
Wholeness on the inside precedes every act of wholeness on the outside. Our ‘jobs’ on this earth are to love each other. We can only do that in integrity when we love ourselves. Without self-love we have an agenda for others - that they must be a certain way or do a certain thing in order for us to feel safe. They have to approve of us, or give us love in trade. But when we love ourselves completely we are free to love others just as they are. This enables us to break free of the childish need for approval and love that marks a victim, and to delight in ourselves.
This is not about ‘raising my vibration’ or being overly positive. This is about growing up, and taking complete responsibility for my emotional integrity. It is about living in a state of contained love for myself, of approval for myself, of truth with myself. Every act that comes from a place of wholeness, of integrity, of love, of truth, creates more wholeness, integrity, love and truth in the world. Every act that comes from a place of need, of pain, of separation, no matter how beneficial, brings that energy to the act.
Living this way requires slowing down. We cannot do this at warp speed. We have to listen first, and take complete responsibility for any pain or unmet emotional needs before we can act in integrity in the world. And so, this is a manifesto to slow down, so that we can take complete responsibility for our creations in the world. To be intentional. And to take complete responsibility for healing ourselves.
This is the process:
It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it. Whatever my unmet emotional, physical, spiritual or mental need is, it is my job to see it, honor it, and fulfill it within myself. It is the act of a child to splash it out into the world and demand others to fulfill it. It is the act of a grown up to see it, honor it, contain it, and tend to it in collaboration with the Divine.
As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” My needs and wounds cannot be met on this plane, they are deeper and more ancient than that. They can only be handed over to the Divine to be healed together.
In truth, I thought that my greatness came from the outside, from an external recognition of my contribution - from my boss, from our partners, from people of influence. It doesn’t. What I learned from the rural poor in Ethiopia is the difference between dignity and deference. Human dignity is available to all of us - because it is the internal knowledge that we are worthy of love. Deference does come from the outside, but it is not a foundation on which to build. My greatness is unrelated to the size of my contribution on the outside. It comes from the truth in my heart, the love in my cells, the integrity in my body. It comes from how I do things, not specifically what I do. And I have the ability to heal and love everywhere I go, in everything I do.
What do I want for others to give to me that I am unwilling to give to myself?
What I believe right here, right now, is that the point of life is to simply know and love myself as thoroughly as possible. When I feel filled with that love within and for myself, I take right action in the world. It also takes the hooks out of my relationships. When I take complete responsibility for my unmet emotional needs I are free and clean in my interactions with others.
You missed the point - just love me.
Our truth is holy. Our deepest truth is the holiest thing about us, because it is the closest to the Divine. This means that everyone is an expression of the Divine. Loving ourselves completely and fully, and trusting the truth in our hearts, enables us to delight in the truth of others. Especially our children. And that is the point - to simply love them.
And now, I see that my deepest truth has a larger home to fill. The home of the earth, of all creatures, all beings. And that my love matters greatly to this greater home. And it is expressed in every interaction I have: I can live in greatness simply by being in integrity with myself with everyone I meet.
And now, I am free. Free to create as only I can create. Free to put my creations into the world freely, that they may swirl around the planet, in and around, freely moving. And to speak my truth simply because it is true, and as such, important. It matters, because it's mine. It is the product of my experiences, my perspective, my culture, my truth. To paraphrase Martha Graham, if I do not bring it to the world, if I do not share it, the world will not have it.
I have not yet begun to tap into my deepest truth, and bring that healing to the world.
As James Baldwin says, it is our job to find our own north star and to live by it.
And so, today it is my intention to do the very best that I can, in every area of my life, using all of my skills and abilities, for the highest good of everyone, including myself. That is it.
This is my simple commitment - to connect intentionally with myself, and to listen, so that I may take complete responsibility for my unmet needs. To turn the unmet needs over to the Divine for healing. And to bring my more contained, more whole, and more integrated self into the world. To give to myself everything that I desire and need on this plane, to live in that joy and fullness and peace, that I may allow others the same. And in doing so, create Heaven on Earth.
The more I love myself, the more I bring that love into the world. And that is my legacy.
Norma Van Horn