Click above to listen to me reading aloud this blog post (Updated: April 2018).
Hi Dear Ones!
I wrote this piece last year after not having blogged or emailed for a while. I was traveling for conferences, consultations, meeting with friends and all the while working on content writing and website building… and that wasn’t all. When I got back I crashed into a bit of a crisis of faith—faith in my ability to pull off the global movement that is calling me. This was immediately followed by a crisis of body! Part I of this piece begins with my journaling, musing about hymns, my relationship to Jesus, and my relationship to myself. While I intended to revisit the topic to share my new understanding of Easter, this rewrite below serves as the first installment.
– Shawn, April 2017
For now, I’m back IN LOVE, thinking of you all with gratitude as I listen to hymns on my I-tunes while I type, after hosting a family-and-friend dinner at my house. I’ve always loved hymns, and I loved the intent behind what was being said in church, but the part about Jesus didn’t totally make sense to me—actually it was lovely when I was little and he was just a kind, safe figure who did wonderful loving things, and God was good there was no pressure involved at our church to turn our lives over to Jesus.
But I got confused when I ran into evangelism in Jr. High. I wanted so much to be able to “give my life to Jesus” as others were so gleefully doing, but I just didn’t get it! I just couldn’t go kneel at that alter —clearly others were FEELING something that I just wasn’t feeling, and ‘GOT’ something I didn’t get! I kept wondering what was wrong with me.
I couldn’t see how it would work for Jesus, as an intermediary to the big guy upstairs, to be in charge of my life or make me feel safe and happy. I longed to do that—to have something to reply on in that omnipotent way—but it just didn’t make sense to me. I felt jealous of those who could surrender in this way, and tried to force myself, but it just didn’t take. I decided I must be bad or simply rebellious, and put my energy elsewhere…. namely boys!
Not long after that, I regularly began putting my life and my heart in another’s hands—but instead of putting them in the hands of a power greatest than myself, I put it in the hands of other humans (which sometimes rolled over into food when the humans let me down)—for much of my life.
It’s called co-dependence and it TRULY failed to sustain me; it was a miserable excuse for a higher power–and it left me living my life as an absolute ‘candle in the wind.
The ROOTS of Co-Dependence
I don’t think it was a choice to surrender my will and my life to another human rather than something greater; it was part of the programming we all get to varying degrees. As children, we look to those in charge of us for everything related to our survival and love, and yet we start out being completely inner-driven and in love with our own process—not needing anyone’s approval, not worrying if we inconvenience them when we cry, not holding onto stories about ourselves or others when they don’t meet our needs. But then, something happens where we decide their reaction to us has something to do with us! They are somehow intertwined, and we can get more of what we need from them when they are happy and feeling close to us, and less of what we need when they are unhappy and distant from us. Our juvenile brains think we are the center of the universe, so we start to become vigilant for what makes our caretakers respond favorably to us. We begin a life-long quest to do what our young minds discern they want us to do, and be what our young minds discern they want us to be. Having made those decisions, EVERYTHING starts to be seen through that lens, and reality appears to reinforce that need for the love, appreciation, and approval as a path to our own peace, freedom, and Joy.
But it turns out to be the opposite. We are SO dependent on others as the source of our happiness that we are prisoners, tied to their every look, word, or action. The definition I love of co-dependence is: I decide what I’m going to say, think, do, and feel based on what YOU say, think, do, and feel. After being an expert in co-dependence (my own drug of choice) and in helping myself and others recover from this addiction that underpins all other addictions, I got an even more huge AH-HA about this painful state recently.
In studying Defensiveness and writing about the rage that can come up when it happens, I finally saw what is really going on. When we make those early decisions about the behaviors and identity we believe we need to project in order to thrive, or at least be loved and cared for in basic ways that relate to our survival, our only barometer for judging whether or not we are on target in what we do and how we show up, is other’s reactions to us. No wonder entire lives can revolve around trying to please others or control what they think of us (esp. if it is derogatory)!
In my case, that life-practice brought enough emotional and physical pain—and relationship dysfunction and dissolution—that over time I returned full force to the spiritual journey. I began to get more and more of the pieces that fit for me as I got further away from my strong church upbringing, and I started to not feel so bad about not ‘getting it’ all those years. There was still so much that didn’t click for me, and while Buddhism and other ways of looking at it seemed to fit much better, I still wanted to reconcile what was going on around Jesus and his message, and still didn’t feel I had ‘gotten God’ for real–for myself. Then, I heard Byron Katie referring to ‘REALITY’ as God (which I have since also taken to calling LIFE or LOVE or THE GREAT WHAT EVER’S HAPPENING), since I had come to see that it shows up so completely out of our hands and yet so completely perfect in ways we can’t predict or know.
A Major Turn-Around
With that interpretation, things FINALLY started to click, and I also became OK with not knowing. Suddenly everything—Jesus, Buddha, Judaism, Hinduism, 12-Step Programs, and non-duality—all seemed to be saying the same thing from differing perspectives. They started making sense FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE as I became more and more able to USE my own pain, and follow the thread of it—reversing it to wake myself up to the thinking that had been telling me reality should be X (something other than it is in any given moment).
While I had started writing a book called, “DO the OPPOSITE: The Ms. Pacman Guide to Emotional Freedom in Relationship,” long before I found The Work, and had developed many of my own strategies (now some being published as my “Happiness Hacks,”) I finally REALLY knew how to start with whatever hurts and from there turn it all over and let the thinking that had led to so much struggle re-wire itself. [It was no longer in the hands of something outside me; I saw that the whole story of existence had been created in my own mind so that was where I needed to look to ease the pain of living. I can’t find anything here but ‘the way, the truth, and the light’–as I ‘think’ Jesus was saying. We just can’t know our infinite SELF because we simply can’t wrap our finite, binary, accidentally-programmed-over-centuries-of-misconception monkey minds around it. They can’t go there. Learning to love them just the way they are, but vigilantly questioning the illusion they promote (that we are in charge) is the best we can do.]
Finally knowing how to turn around the pain of comparing the reality I had to the reality I thought I needed, I began to live in a radical kind of reality-based faith I had never known or even seen others implement throughout my very Christian upbringing. I called it ‘GETTING FAITH FOR REAL, faith that brought with it new-found healing and energy that had previously been poured into regret or worry–the past and future versions of LACK of faith. I started to fall into absolute trust that what I have is what I need (and when I DIDN’T know that, it was just my calling card to inquire into what I was believing to return me to a place where there was ever-more dependable peace and love.)
Consider the Lilies….
It became possible to just check in with what I call “the great what’s happening” and turn myself over to whatever in life I found showing up–including the way my own and other’s behavior is unfolding (even now–I thought I would be done with this hours ago… it’s almost like I’m watching something carry me along and I finally get that I don’t know what’s coming next). While more accepting, I also became more–not less–proactive and at the same time: less ‘pushy’ (mostly–my x-husband may not agree), since I was trusting rather than arguing with the reality that is showing up, and from there can act more efficiently from a place of clarity and love, and far less fear. Suddenly it was (is) all OK. After all those years of striving to make sense of it, I now GOT, and naturally started to live, in ways Jesus talked about–turning my life over, not to Jesus, but to LIFE ITSELF:
Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on…. Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them…. And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto [a]the measure of his life?…. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.