I spent all of August (and some of this month) in bed.
Some combination of burn out from months of heightened devotion to my business, intense withdrawal from Zoloft (tapering in advance of trying to get pregnant), physical ailments (a persistent rash on my face, debilitating periods, and a polyp in my uterus), and yes, a daily diet of heart-shattering news of a world in the midst of destruction and eventual rebirth.
It would be easy to simply call it depression, but I’ve been depressed before and this was different.
Then I read something that named it perfectly: soul fever.
The thought of bringing a child into this world is heavy, and I’m exploring that from a lot of angles. Last week I picked up the book Simplicity Parenting and couldn’t put it down. It’s a powerful and useful read regardless of whether or not you have children. The value of the book, though not intended by the author, is in the roadmap it provides for parenting not just children but our adult selves in today’s overwhelming world.
Soul fever (just one of the book’s insightful concepts) is an inflammation, overheating, and overstimulation of the self. Soul fevers might not register on a thermometer, but you know when something is chronically not right. You know when ‘too much’ has driven you to your most unsupportive habits, dimmed your light, intensified your emotions, and thrown you off-kilter. Recent news of hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes (never mind the raging inferno of white supremacy and toxic masculinity) is enough to make anyone sick on every level.
For most of human history, we didn’t have television or the news. Reports of what was happening around the world took time to travel. There was no 24/7 play-by-play of natural disasters or moment-to-moment death counts. We’re not designed to handle this much human suffering in real time.
I keep thinking about the documentary film Paper Clips that details one school’s effort to help children comprehend the human loss from the Holocaust. Knowing that it’s nearly impossible for anyone, not just children, to grasp how many six million lost lives is they set out to gather six million paper clips. This was an ingenious solution to working with the limitations of the human mind, and these days I feel my limitations acutely.
Perhaps you do too.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve come down with a soul fever.
Soul fevers don’t come and go in a day, but like a body fever, linger until proper rest and care have been given. Soul fevers won’t be ignored, they get worse and get louder.
According to the book, soul fevers arise when chaos and unpredictability, a lack of grounding, and intense pressures to go faster, do/have/achieve more — all drive one to be unwell.
Soul fevers manifest differently in each person. We know a soul fever when whatever is a person’s homeostasis is thrown off and the discord persists.
It’s safe to say the whole world right now has a sort of soul fever. An arrhythmia of earth and of humanity.
It took me weeks to get quiet enough to hear where my heart is beating out of rhythm.
And it’s challenging if you’re a helper, a committed citizen, an aspiring ally, an empath, a highly sensitive person (HSP), or a conscious human — to juggle the pull to do something, anything, to help the suffering and threatened people ‘out there’, while also tending to yourself. It’s a delicate balance for many.
I saw this floating around the internet this week and it really stuck with me:
What if we right now we didn’t try to be heroes?
What if we focused more on long-term ‘chronic empathy’ and caregiving—starting with ourselves, our experience, our minds, and our bodies?
Healing soul fever looks different for each person.
For me, it looks like not watching the news (I love Rachel Maddow, but the nightly dosage was making me ill) or deep diving into news commentary. Yes, I like to know what’s going on and thankfully, that’s relatively unavoidable, but I don’t need to know more than that right now.
It looks like getting offline, closing screens, and focusing on simple activities: a jigsaw puzzle, an embroidery project, or a walk around the neighborhood (without a politically-focused podcast to keep me company).
It looks like regular therapy sessions and truth telling to my kinfolk.
It looks like laughter — intentional, radical, unapologetic laughter. It looks like patience and a slow, wide-eyed stance as I, like everyone, navigate these choppy waters. It looks like doing what has to get done and nothing more.
It looks like going out into nature — not just so she can restore me — but so that I can feel into my relationship with her; something she is clearly asking each of us to do.
I invite you to step into a plane of expansive permission and curiosity:
Does this soul fever I speak of sound familiar?
What, in your life, is making things worse? What’s inflaming the fever? (hint: pay close attention to screen-time, news, and social media.)
What would you do if you had a body fever? What’s the equivalent of that for your soul?
What can you trust?
Can you trust in your own essential goodness?
Can you trust in your capacity to awaken, evolve, and hold contradictions?
Can you trust the pace that feels best to you?
Can you trust that other people can take the reigns if you take a break?
Can you trust in mother nature’s wisdom?
Can you trust that out of destruction and collapse, eventually, comes a new birth?
As I look ahead to the rest of 2017, my focus is on creating stillness, grounding, and breathing space for myself and for you. I have no doubt that with these things in place an engaged citizenship will rise, but without them, soul fever, paralysis, and disconnection set in.
If you’re suffering from your own acute soul fever do whatever you need to heal. If you are needing a break, a full stop, or a time-out please know that the permission is there for the taking and no irreparable harm will come of it.
Play the long game.
Listen, listen, listen for what is needed now.
Even in the darkness our hungers light the way forward.
A few ways I might be able to support you in moving through your soul fever:
I have a few spots that opened in my practice this month. Coaching is actually where I feel my most grounded and powerful these days. If you could benefit from a strong container of love, practical strategies, and guidance through these uncertain waters reach out.
There is nowhere I would rather right now than secluded in a canyon in Tucson, Arizona, sitting around the fire pit at night, listening to the owls, seeing the stars, and filling my cup. If a getaway is just what you need, consider hopping a flight to the desert in October and joining in for a long weekend of deep self-tending.
November will be here before we know it and I’ll be bringing back my daily audio meditations with a handful of new guest contributors. There has never been a year we have needed this more. Stay tuned.
Recently I started an in-person writing group—IT’S AMAZING. The first run ends in mid-October and I’ll be opening up spaces for a few new folks beginning in November. If you’re in the Bay Area and interested, send me an email.
Image Credit: Evelyn De Morgan
Before a fully formed theory comes a hunch.
Before a hunch comes a question.
Before a question comes curiosity.
I’m curious and I’ve got a question:
What if the same lack of self-worth that contributes to white men being violent towards others, women turn into violence against themselves?
A few disclaimers:
- These issues are multifaceted and any question I pose won’t illuminate some grand, pure truth. This stuff is messy and heavy with history and trauma and real-world impacts.
- I’m not excusing the racial violence perpetrated by white supremacists by drawing connections to poor self-esteem. Even if there is a connection it doesn’t make it okay. Not in any way.
- I’m not saying that white women aren’t also outwardly violent. They are.
- I’m not saying white men aren’t also inwardly violent. They are.
- I fully acknowledge that the way I’m framing this is rooted in the gender binary. I welcome your constructive critique and reframing.
What I want to get at is the thread of violence and othering. What I want to feel into is the ways in which what we are seeing out there that shocks us—in Charlotte, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, at the Dar Al Farooq mosque in Minnesota— also lives inside each of us. Not just in our implicit biases, unclaimed racism, or our white privilege, which it certainly does, but in how we are in relationship to ourselves.
When we aren’t connected to our innate enoughness and our place in the family of humans our pursuit of enoughness and belonging too often turns violent.
For some white men, this violence turns outward.
For too many women the violence turns inward, toward the self.
Through perfectionism, loathing of the body, suppression of hungers, silencing of voice, denial of pleasure, dismissal of intuition, resistance to rest, and constant comparison to others, we are violent to ourselves.
Yes, all of these behaviors are conditioned, encouraged and rewarded in a patriarchal society attempting to subdue the power of the feminine. After all, when a population of women is distracted and busy fighting a war against themselves they don’t have near as much fuel to resist and oppose real threats. AND our spiritual illusions foster us being complicit in this system.
This is the toxicity of the illusion of separateness. This is the danger in being asleep at the wheel of human living. Women must commit to stopping the inner violence and turn their peacemaking efforts not only outward but towards themselves. Women must take the anger and hatred that fuels self-criticism and redirect it to its rightful places.
So I ask us to explore these questions:
How are you violent towards yourself and what are the real-world implications of that?
What are the tools of violence you use towards yourself and do you know why you do it? Is it your tone? Your voice? Your words? Is it withholding permission? Is it physical torture?
When do you punish yourself?
When are you at war with yourself?
Where do you imprison yourself?
Where do you diminish yourself?
When do you starve yourself?
How do you beat yourself up and over what?
What within you do you denigrate?
What part of you do you guard yourself against?
Do you have such Stockholm Syndrome that self-inflicted violence feels comforting and safe? Do peace, softness, compassion, and kindness feel dangerous sometimes?
Are the ways that you’re violent towards yourself subtle? Are they easy to explain away? On the surface, do they appear benign and yet have impacts that tell of their harshness?
I realize I come to you with many questions and no answers. I’m not sure though that you benefit as much from my certain knowledge as you do from my directing you back to yourself as I go inward too.
What are your questions? What are you wondering? Where is your curiosity taking you and more importantly what actions are growing out of your questions?
As we see such horrific, intolerable incidents of violence I hope it inspires many things in us. I hope we are are raising our voices in whatever ways we can. I hope we’re talking to family members. I hope we’re physically showing up at vigils, rallies, protests, marches, the voting booth, and the offices of our representatives. I hope we are signal boosting non-white voices. I hope, if you’re white too, you’re doing the work to see all the ways you benefit from white privilege. I hope beyond anything that we are putting financial resources behind people and organizations that are on the frontlines of change.
In addition to these important responses, I’m adding that I hope we examine the places we have turned violence inward.
Peter Schroth, Trees, Tall Pine III
“…and your very flesh shall be a great poem…”
— Walt Whitman
Growing up just outside Washington, DC resulted in my childhood having it’s fair share of visits to historical sites, such as Civil War battlefields, like Gettysburg.
If you’ve ever been to a memorial site, especially one where great loss actually took place, you know that you can feel it. What you’re standing on at these places is sacred ground and each has a powerful energetic fingerprint. Perhaps you’ve felt it while visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, Auschwitz in Poland, or The Killing Fields Museum in Cambodia.
Sadly the world is full of sites where atrocities took place and left an imprint, physical or energetic.
In my early twenties as I was emerging victorious from my own battle with anorexia the only way I could relate to my body was as this sacred ground. While not visible to the eye, my body felt like modern day Gettysburg battlefield.
This flesh—my flesh—was where a war had been fought and won.
And what this meant to me was that anything less than sacred awe was not good enough.
In the years since then I have encountered in my life and in the lives of those I work with serious trauma. Childhood abuse. Sexual assault. Mental illness. Loss of parents and children. Battles with cancer. Amputation.
And it doesn’t take catastrophic incidents like these to leave trauma. Life is traumatic.
Life is traumatic and our bodies bare the brunt of it. They are our sensory input tool and they are where we experience (or repress) emotion. Our bodies are the tools or fight or flight…or freeze. Our bodies are the recipient of heinous cultural norms. Our bodies, depending on where we live in the world, aren’t even always considered our own.
Life is also miraculous. The ways in which our body heals, allows for connection, creates new life, and enables our lives is marvelous.
All this is to say: feel the sacred ground you are living in.
Feel that you are sacred in every cell of your body.
Stand in awe of not just what has happened on your ‘land’ but on what you have survived and created.
Consider reverence as a new template for how you inhabit this flesh of yours.
Like Whitman says, your “flesh shall be a great poem”.
Imagine there’s a knock at your door right now.
You go and answer it.
It’s your mother.
How do you react? Not how should you react, but how would you really react?
Now imagine that happening all over except instead of your mother it’s your ex-lover.
How do you react? Feel it. What is your knee-jerk reaction?
Now imagine it again, instead of your ex-lover, it’s a policewoman.
How do you react? Really. What would your first reaction be?
Now do it again.
You walk over and it’s a singing telegram with balloons, flowers, and a box of chocolates.
How do you react?
The point of contact with anything is the most important moment.
Two objects collide and whether they shatter, ricochet, or merge all depends on the moment of contact and what happens there.
I’m utterly fascinated with the moments of contact with our hungers.
There is so much to learn about what happens when one of our hungers knocks on the door and we answer it. Or maybe we don’t. Maybe we peer through the keyhole and decide to remain silent and still. Hoping it thinks we’re not home and goes away.
Maybe we answer and with tears of joy pick up the hunger and spin it around in our arms as though Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes has just bestowed a windfall upon us.
Or we might open the door but as soon as our hunger speaks we plug our ears and say “Lalalalalalalala” in attempt not hear what it has to say.
It could be as simple as opening and shutting the door, with a quick ‘no thank you’ in between.
I offer you this meditative inquiry:
What is happening at the point of contact with your hunger or hungers?
If it played in slow motion, could you see and feel the moment of contact? Could you feel what happens next?
I offer you this thought: the air between you and your hungers has so much wisdom. almost as much as your hunger itself.
I used to teach a course called Ease Hunting: Six Weeks of Discovering Every Exhale.
This powerful journey included lessons, live calls, an ease scavenger hunt, expert interviews, and two guided audio meditations all aimed at supporting the huntresses in discovering an easeful way of being, no matter what life was throwing their way. It was truly beautiful. One participant described it as “A yoga class for your mind.”
Spring is here and while the flowers may be blooming and the warmer weather lifting our spirits, I know that life is still challenging for many of us.
I woke up today wanting to support you in finding ease in your life right now. The Ease Hunting course isn’t currently on offer, but today I’m giving away the two Ease Hunting meditations.
These recordings, one for morning and one for evening, are simple 10 minute opportunities to recenter and rest. They were among the Ease Hunters favorite parts of their experience. Here are a few of their words:
“I’ve been using the PM mediation every day, and I’m going to keep using it. I loved that I could download the meditations onto my phone. That made it easy to listen to them on the go and also as I was falling asleep. Doing 15 minutes every day has definitely impacted my ease levels.”
“I liked having the meditations as a go-to if I needed them…when I did need them, they were both helpful and I’m grateful to have them as a tool in my toolbox. There was one morning in particular where I was fretting, and I said “ah, we have a tool for this: AM meditation.” I did it, and the fretting subsided and made way for some ease.”
If you’re needing a little more ease in your life or a supportive, simple way to start and end your day, here is my gift to you. To listen online, simply click the links. To download, hold down the option key and then click the links.