I can trace the roots of my perception of a very limited world right to my birth. Born two months premature, my twin brother and I made a precarious entry into the world. I was small, 3 pounds 13 ounces, but would survive. However, my twin brother was even smaller with undeveloped lungs. So, it seems that right out of the womb, I had a profound understanding of the fragility of life, at the least that life was precious, and potentially short.
The framework carried with me from as young as I can remember, and went something like this. Cleave to those you love, for they may be gone in an instant. There is no time to waste not loving. Now is the time to love.
I worried obsessively, about losing those I loved. I used to startle my parents when I'd go to a sleepover, or away with a friend for a few days, leaving long notes, (yes, even then I had a propensity for long:) that were alarming, as they read more as goodbye letters.
Just in case, was my motto.
My poor twin. How I worried for him, that somehow he didn't have what it would take to survive this harsh world. He resented this worry, because it was very disempowering to him. I treated him as fragile. I saw him through a mental construct that saw him as limited. He was anything but weak, but the poor kid couldn't break free of my perception of him as thus, from my worry, from my putting him in a box!
For me, life was to be taken very seriously. If you only had one chance, you better just focus on what was really important. This focus has come to serve me now, but I am accessing it from a very different place, one that is not rooted in fear.
Life was an uphill battle as early as I can remember, wrought with confusion at all the contradiction and insurmountable problems, at the appearance of love, but a feeling that it wasn't the real thing--not to mention all the warring. The world felt beyond repair.
I absorbed all of the disasters and difficulties, and with it a sort of paralysis. I saw the world and the people in it as ultimately condemned to a life of pain and destruction, unable to break free from their shackles, whatever they may be.
What I've been led to discover over the years, was that my fear and worry, and valiant attempts to bring it all to love, from my fear, did more harm than helped. It created more separation, perpetuated more fear. My feeling of it all being broken and needing to be repaired, kept me from being able to see what was working. My fear was dooming me to more fear.
Fear of my twin's ability to make it never helped him, but rather pushed him away, and kept him from feeling seen by me.
Even when he was successful, there was a tendency for me to wait for the other shoe to drop, to think--well, he did this, but how will he do that? I expressed this fear to my parents, as a sort of watch dog. As you can imagine, this only created more of a divide between him and my parents. I can imagine how enraged I would have become had the roles been reversed. Frankly, he was gentle with me, compared to what he should have been.
All of this fear only made me more fearful, because more and more he just shut me out. I was no longer privy to his experience.
This was the best thing he could have done, however, because everything was pointing me toward letting go, so that I could experience peace without it being contingent on the well-being of those around me. It was a relief that he pushed me away.
He was giving me breathing room. He was loving himself. Perhaps the first real feeling of love I felt, even if I did not understand it or could not see it as such at the time.
My relationship with my twin, and letting go of needing to be afraid for him was but a stepping stone in a whole series of breaking free moments in my life, leading me toward letting go of other gargantuan belief systems that left me powerless.
At different points the contradictions and the sufferings became so great, that I found myself letting go, even if just a little. And a new pattern began. Little by little I began to reclaim the power drained by fear, by my perception of an out of control world, finding myself moving past the fear and into the unknown.
I share this, because the pain of my experience has been monumental in shifting my perception from seeing the world as a scary dangerous place with victims, to a world that is naturally showing me possibilities that just weren't compatible with fear-- helping me to recognize the power and potential of people, and most of all of myself; to break out of such a limiting construct as, the world, and all of its inhabitants are damned to life.
Healing this way of thinking is yielding a simultaneous healing within my own experience, of trusting that all of us have vast potential to move in the direction of our dreams, experiencing the richness of our journey toward them. That this is essentially what the essence of life is all about, to heal our perception of the world, and in this, experience our own healing. To let something begin to work through us, that doesn't exist within our construct of the world, and begins to build something new for us.
I realized that my greatest gifts have always been empathy and sensitivity, but they've needed to be tempered and reconfigured, to be used in a way that would heal rather than hinder, that would empower rather than perpetuate more fear and limitation. And the key to this was what my empathy was rooted in, whether in fear, or possibility.
As I continue to cultivate a view of the world outside of my old perceptions, as I surrender to something determined to show me what is underneath the surface, beyond face-value thinking, the world just naturally doesn't look so broken and dying, and so, yes, it feels less and less that there is something to fix.
This has opened me up to be able to help, rather than harm.
Let's see if I can give you contrasting examples. In this case, my daughters, and how different the experience becomes when you are sovereign, able to work from your own beliefs that resonate with you, to lead with love and trust, free to work from a construct of trust and wholeness, vs. a construct of limitation, fear and dread.
Working from Trust:
My 5-year-old daughter has a terrible fear of dark spots on the bottom of the pool.
On vacation there were little blue tiles peppering the pool, and she was terrified of them. She wouldn't venture past the sides. She wouldn't admit her fear, however, because she didn't want anyone to make her face it.
She convinced herself that she was content to stay to the sides of the pool, and she did her best to believe it. I watched her for a while, and I could tell that she felt very limited by not being able to take full-advantage of the pool, but still she stayed tethered to the sides. She made up excuses to her sister, who was beckoning her out to the middle of the pool to play games.
I could feel her disappointment, and her valiant attempt to SETTLE. In the past, this would have made me feel fearful for her. I would have gone down lines of thought, just like I did about my twin brother-- if my daughter is afraid like this, how will she ever function in this scary world? I would have felt the need to overprotect her thinking that she was fragile. But because I had been able to release fear, I knew that she could too. I was inspired to help her because of this faith, and because of my love for her, not because I felt my daughter was broken and needed fixing, but because I knew my daughter had the potential to move past her fear.
In the past watching her would have been heartbreaking and full of pain and fear. But because of my shift in perception, I saw this as an opportunity for healing and empowerment. This is a very different way of approaching helping someone. One is from a place of fear, the other is from a place of wholeness and trust.
Now I must say here, that I would be lying if I said I had zero fear. Of course, it was there, but it was coupled with a profound trust that if I could move past my fear and uncover my braver parts, so could she. This part was stronger.
This part becomes stronger and stronger as my perception shifts. This is why when I throw around the phrase 'infinite possibilities' now, and it feels new to me, because my experiences have deepened the meaning of this too, into a fuller comprehension of what the words point to--like those pictures where they focus up really close and you can barely tell what it is--maybe a flower petal, and you have to conceptualize how the part belongs to the whole--only now I am getting the full picture--or at least what feels more like a full picture.
And even that seemingly full picture might just be a part of a bigger picture! Perhaps, just a flower in an entire magnificent garden of them! And if one flower is this magical, imagine a whole garden of them!
That day at the pool, I felt inspired to get into the pool with my daughter. I took her in my arms and asked her if she was afraid of the tiles. She said no, quite emphatically. I asked her to venture out into the pool with me if she wasn't afraid. She said NO. I insisted gently. She became angry and defiant, (always the perfect mask for fear). I could see that she didn't want to face her fear. She was too afraid. She certainly didn't want to be forced into facing her fear. But I was focused on her potential to move through it.
She became very angry as I walked just a few steps out with her. She writhed in my arms. But I didn't match her fear with my fear. Instead I remembered her potential to move past the fear, and I felt gentle compassion for her, not that she was broken.
I began to tell her how unfair it was that she was afraid of the tiles on the pool. It is really so unfair that you are afraid of these tiles, isn't it? It keeps you on the side of the pools unable to play games with your sister... And you see all these kids that are even younger than you, and they aren't afraid. That must be so hard.
I felt this deeply as I said it. I felt her pain deep inside of me. I could fully empathize with her, but I didn't share the fear that this was a problem. I didn't feel the fear, which in the past might have appeared less than sympathetic--easy for me to dismiss as being very irrational, mostly so I wouldn't have to deal with it.
I let myself feel her fear as big as it was for her, being in tune with her.
At my telling the truth in a non-threatening and empathic way, she began to sob--a loud, deep release of a cry. Her anger softened to pure, deep, sadness at the unfairness of her being so afraid, and her utter inability to deal with it.
She let herself feel how it robbed her of being free to play to her heart's content in the pool. She let the fear be worsened by the fact that she was seemingly alone in her fear--nobody else was afraid to go out into the middle where the tiles were.
After the huge release, something in her was different. I continued to hold her, telling her to let herself feel the sadness of it, the unfairness. She cried harder, and I could feel something dislodging, like she was finally surrendering to her fear. And then I could tell that she wasn't as afraid of being afraid.
When I talked to her after that, something besides her fear was listening and responding, something that had been opened, I believe, by my empathy, compassion, and understanding of her fear; of joining her in her pain, but not believing in her stuckness (or believing as I would have under my old template, that she might have a grave problem adjusting to this world, being afraid of something so irrational).
She started to respond to the depth of her powerlessness, and this is where I think she found her power. Intuitively I made a step toward the middle of the pool towards a tile. She resisted, but I talked to her gently, asking her if she could open to the possibility that she didn't have to be afraid, that she could let go of her fear.
I talked about old things she'd been afraid of, and was no longer afraid of. She mentioned some too, now clearly engaged in the process. We got closer and closer to a blue tile and she pulled her feet up high as to not touch one, but she was calm enough to just be with me seeing the tile just under her.
Then, I showed her how I touched the tile with my foot. We laughed that it didn't bite me. Then the darnedest thing happened!
She reached her little toe down and touched the tile. And that quickly, she was free, really free from her fear of the blue tiles!
The rest of the vacation, she was in the middle of the pool, and no longer afraid of the tiles.
I was holding the space for clarity and release, she was able to access that place with me--drawing on her gentle power. Because of my clarity, I was able to access my intuition, to read her and know what was best--whether she needed just a nudge, whether some discomfort was appropriate, or whether she was so blinded by fear that we needed to let go of trying.
Without a focus on fear, I could also monitor myself. Was I more attached to her releasing her fear, because I was afraid of her being afraid? Or was I free to help her move through her fear because I knew it was possible, and could be there merely as a sort of guide.
In the end, I was able to hold the space and nudge her ever so gently through her own process of overcoming her fear, but it was she who got over it, making her experience direct and important to her.
She was able to recognize for herself the pain this was causing her, to feel it, and to let it go.
All that was important for me, was to follow my heart, access gentle intuition, seize the moment. To reach out to one in pain and limitation, but out of love, not out of fear.
On the same vacation this same daughter was also afraid of the water slide, which she avoided until the last day, because there were giant dark shadows on the bottom of that pool cast by the rocks of a waterfall. I didn't push this, because I could sense that she needed time with this one.
I could accept where she was, even though she had already gone down the water slide hundreds of times on previous vacations. It was only this vacation that she had noticed the dark shadows, which terrified her.
However, the last day of our vacation I took her with me and we ventured up the stairs to the top of the water slide, feeling intuitively that she might be ready. I gave her the choice whether or not she was going to go down the slide or not, but I didn't give her the choice of at least climbing the stairs to the top, where she would make her decision.
I kept reminding her of the blue tiles, and how she had worked herself through her fear--how it was possible for her to move through this fear too. I asked her if she could open to the possibility that this was no different than the blue tiles.
She agreed to climb the stairs with me.
On our way to the top, she turned to run back down, but I held her in place. She laughed at me catching her. I told her she had to climb to the top, and then decide. Again, I was focused as best I could on her potential to release her fear, not on my fear that she was going to be afraid her entire life. When she got to the top, she looked at me and said. I am going to go down. And she did.
She swam like a rocket away from the dark shadows, but she did it! And she did it again and again.
Working from Fear:
Now a very contrasting experience pushing someone out of their fear! Ugh. This is very vulnerable for me to share, but was very important in my learning.
A contrasting experience that I am not proud of was with my older daughter-- one of many experiences which would inspire my awakening, as my world was feeling so broken, so empty, so out of control, I could barely breathe.
I was paralyzed to move, in fear that I was destroying everything I touched.
My older daughter must have been about five too. We were at an amusement park and had waited in line for two hours for a ride. When it was finally our turn, my daughter said she was too afraid to go.
I was not a sovereign being at that time. I had pressure to act quickly, coming from the ride workers, the audience of people waiting in the hot sun, and from the people who were there with me, who probably didn't best understand the workings of a little one's fear--who told me to put her on the ride. I had my own pressure knowing that my daughter would love the ride if she gave it a chance. I felt pressure that she would feel disappointed in herself if she didn't face her fear. I guessed that she would likely want to try again later, and frankly, I was not about to wait for another two hours for her to get another chance!
I ended up forcing her next to me onto the ride. It was one of those instances where I always regretted my decision (until I realized it was a profound gift to help me wake up!) I just shoved her on with me, and told her she would love it. She screamed the entire time.
I think I won the worst mother of the year award from the huge audience of people hearing her screaming her head off the entire longest two minutes of my life. Not to mention the battle wounds from her teeth and nails.
But mostly it was the pain of having pushed her into something when she was not ready-- I was met with deep resentment, distrust, pain, and more fear.
I felt a guilt beyond belief that I was sure I could never repair. I was seized with fear that I might have ruined my child and our relationship, for good.
The decision to push came out of a lack of clarity, a fear of others, and of making them wait, a fear of my daughter's fear, feeling forced to act rash in the moment, out of pressure, stress, and feeling completely out of tune with my daughter and her fears. Being completely out of tune with myself and my fears.
I'd like to say that this was a one-time event. Yes, it was perhaps the most dramatic, but this was our pattern. Not a lot of love happening, but plenty of fear. Painful disconnect, and me helpless to change it.
I think my daughter wanted to run away after that, and many times since.
But at the same time, something has been showing me how it has all been perfect--even with all of my 'mistakes'.
There has been so much healing with my older daughter and my relationship. I no longer feel she wants to run away. Instead, she makes me laugh my head off as she gives me her view of the world--tells me about teachers she doesn't like, and why--and I find myself laughing at her characterizations, and can listen, instead of needing to steer her into seeing the positive to make me feel better.
I am trusting that she has the ability to walk through this life-- and she is showing me that she does. I am finding myself able to meet her in a place of love and acceptance.
She has lately been sharing joys and sorrows. Like boys calling her almost fat!!!!!!!!!!!! or putting herself down compared to her friends. I am meeting these revelations with empathy and sensitivity, but not with an idea that she can't make it, or deal with what comes up for her. And the funny thing, it is opening her up to share with me the bitter and the sweet, because she knows I can deal with it. She is no longer sensing my fear of her and her abilities to live her life from her own power!
I know that if I hadn't had the difficulties with my daughter (and all those blessed others), where she resisted all of me--if I had actually been able to gain control of my little one in the way I'd set out to, I know that I WOULD NOT HAVE THE CAPACITY TO LOVE IN THE WAY THAT I DO NOW! There is something about this profound realization.
And the message I've been getting from both of my daughters ever since I could be aware of one, is that they want me to believe in their potential for moving past their fear. They want me to hold the space for their well-being, but they want to follow their own path, at their own pace, and in their own time. And the best way I can love them is to respect this.
Funny that this is the same thing I want for myself. This is the same thing my mother wants!
We all want this.
Funny that this is the same thing I want for myself. This is the same thing my mother wants!
We all want this.
This journey has been rich, and it has done nothing more than help me to see what is right in front of me, without the fear in the way.
This is the way I want to be in this world. This is flying, with no bounds!
My darker experiences have raised the stakes, made me pay attention, and kept me working on becoming clearer every day of my life.
Looking back I see these moments were always part of the duality of the whole, being a twin was part of the duality of the whole--pointing me to the fact that the world isn't broken, people aren't broken--that experiences dark and light work hand in hand to help us grow--to help us meet each other in strength and trust-- and love is the glue.
In the end, even this concept that we need glue falls away.
There is only love.
This leads, and always has been leading.
My entire life experience has been instrumental in helping me to shift my perception that relationships aren't so fragile as they seem, but within them are deeply hidden treasures in the painful moments, and the aware moments, that hold the keys to setting everyone free.
The process of moving through fear is essentially the same for all. And being a parent has made this a technicolor expeirence. As far as I've experienced there is no relationship that gets closer to loving unconditionally than that of being a parent--perhaps the closest connection I've found to model all my relationships after, to let people grow and expand at their own pace, and to honor their way.
I believe that even if these examples may appear simplistic, that the essence of these experiences can be extrapolated to working with any relationships, any people, or any looming global concern, for that matter. Moving past a place of fear, letting the fear show what deep beliefs are active underneath, creates release, connection, and prime conditions for collaboration.
It allows access to thinking outside of a confined space. Solutions come from a space of possibility, and not from old constructs born out of the problems--out of fear of change, or tradition, even superstition.
The connections forged in this place naturally open people up to a more joyful way of being, of listening, and of contributing.
And when something comes up in any of us that resists the process or thinking of another, it is an opportunity to see what fear is active in ourselves, letting it further show us our templates, and free us from it.
And all of life, all of work and play, becomes engaged, deep meaningful work; our lives and own experiences are never taken out of the equation with regard to any aspect of our existence. We continue to learn as much about ourselves and our perceptions, as we do about another's--
And little by little, we truly find that only love is real.