Archive for June, 2009

Jun 24 2009

Mirror-cle at the Grand Canyon – Issue #17

Tom and I spent last weekend at a family reunion with my mother’s side of the family at the Grand Canyon. There were 31 of us, many I had never met before, converging from all parts of the world. We traveled together in our own private rail car on a 2-hour train ride from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon. At first I felt nervous and shy and apart from everyone. Eventually as I looked at them and saw familiar features, the same mouths, similar eyes looking back at me, I remembered that we are all a part of each other, and I began to relax and enjoy the journey.

My mother died 3 years ago but I could imagine her traveling with us, reveling in this family gathering. I was also aware of her within me when a singing cowboy moseyed onto our train car, and I began to sing along with him. When I was a child, my mother would do something like that, and I’d be so embarrassed. I also experienced my mother in me when some personas that we had in common, Miss Bossy Pants and Nervous Nell, showed up the day before on the 9-hour car drive with Tom to Arizona – and The Incredible Sulk was about to make an appearance later in the day. On my refrigerator I have a magnet with a picture of a woman from the 1950’s and she’s wearing a little kerchief, a pretty pink sweater, and red lipstick and the caption reads, “Despite years of personal development, she still turned into her mother.”

Yup, it’s true. What I’ve discovered is that everything I ever judged about my mother and everyone else in my family (and in my life) is in me. That’s the interesting thing about self-awareness; it’s like turning on a light in the attic and seeing all the cobwebs and creepy crawlies very clearly and seeing that they are mine. Everything I’ve been judging and projecting onto others is in me. Life is a mirror -  becoming aware of that is what I call a mirror-cle.

Despite my many years of personal growth, I still get stuck – I get carried away on a run-away train of thought, hijacked by my defensive reactions. The big difference now is that mindfulness, my compassionate witness, observes it all and sees how my stuckness originates within me. Standing above the Grand Canyon and observing the twists and turns below, is similar to mindfulness, observing the twists and turns of thoughts and feelings within. It’s pretty much a given that defenses will be activated occasionally, especially in times of stress.

When we arrived at the Grand Canyon I asked Tom to hold my purse, with my jacket draped over it, while I was getting my picture taken with my cousins. My sister Carol saw this and thought, “Isn’t that nice. He’s holding her purse and jacket for her.” Tom has what he calls a Mr. Wonderful persona. When I went to get my purse back from him, my jacket was gone. “Where’s my jacket?” I asked him. “What jacket?” he asked, oblivious to it’s having been draped over the purse. He had lost my jacket! Tom also has a self-acknowledged Mr. Blunderful persona, who, to his dismay, often follows close on the heels of Mr. Wonderful.

I could feel my adrenaline hornets start to swarm as I descended into an emotional ravine, and began turning into the Incredible Sulk. “He lost my favorite jacket!” As I stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking out over the panoramic view, I could clearly see the overview of my inner descent. My internal witness took it all in – the buzzing adrenaline hornets, the huffy wet hen thoughts, the Incredible Sulk, the powerful pull of this physical/emotional hijacking; and in that moment I felt compassion and understanding for myself, for my mother, for all of us who get stuck in our defensive reactions. Like gravity, they are an extremely compelling force. From atop the Grand Canyon I viewed this all unfolding within me…then I took a deep breath, smiled, and took Tom’s hand as we walked along the edge of this vast overview, consciously making the choice to shift from my snitness to my witness. Now that’s a miracle! (p.s. The jacket eventually was found!)

When I feel apart from others, I am learning to remember that I am a part of them and they are a part of me – we are all connected, we are all on a journey together, at a family re-union, here to witness the grand overview, seeing how it all fits together, seeing how we all fit together, and discovering that life is one big mirror-cle.

I’ve written a poem about this:

REFLECTIONS OF ONE

What I think are enemies

are really just the many me’s

projected out identities

for me to see and love.

Some will shout obscenities,

some without amenities,

all seem to be them, not me,

yet all are mine to love.

Mirrors, mirrors all around, 

reflections of myself abound.

What most wants to be loved is found

in what I judge in you.

Loving is the alchemy

that transforms you and me to we,

the mirror-cle that helps me see,

that we are really One.


What is your life reflecting back to you? What is showing up to be faced and embraced? Are you ready for a mirror-cle? 

 In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

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Jun 10 2009

All Life is an Experiment – #16

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions – all life is an experiment.” That quote keeps coming to my mind lately as I am faced with changes in my life. I take a deep breath whenever I think of it: “All life is an experiment.” – “Therefore,” I tell myself, “relax, accept change, be willing to take risks and make mistakes for the sake of living your fullest life.”

When I was a young girl in grade school a teacher once wrote on my report card, “Janet will one day learn that it’s a waste of time to worry so much about making a mistake.” It was about the same time that I was taking sailing lessons at the Mystic seaport. The other kids would be sailing all around me on the Mystic River, tilting, capsizing, having great sailing adventures and playing with the wind, while I just sat there, stalled, afraid, playing it safe, unable and unwilling to catch the wind.

The winds of change have been huffing and puffing around me this past year; a ruptured appendix, cancer, and a wind-whipped voracious fire in our mountains have reminded me of the impermanence of this earth life. I feel my soul urging me to fully live my life while I am alive – to let go of the safety, security, and stagnancy of the known and to follow my dream and concentrate on writing. My mind says cynically, “Yeah, right, follow your dream to the poor house!” My mind is like an anchor, resisting the wind, trying to keep me moored in the familiar. But the winds of change are blowing my mind, rocking my boat, and exciting my soul, who is joyously singing “Anchors aweigh!”

Someone recently sent me the story of Phoebe Snetsinger, a 50-year-old woman who was diagnosed with cancer and given a year to live. She decided to forgo treatment and use some inheritance money that she’d received to travel around the world as a birder. She ended up living 18 more years (she died in a van accident) during which time she became legendary in the birder world for having seen and recorded more birds than anyone else in the world. She threw caution to the wind and followed her bliss and it led her to a rich, rewarding life.

Sometimes when our world is blown apart, we are freed from the safety and inertia of the familiar, and are challenged to make changes, take risks, and follow our hearts desire. However, we don’t need our world to be upended in order to do that. For the last two years my husband Tom has been committed to concentrating his time and resources on developing and marketing his ingenious right brain math system (he’s Mister Numbers on youtube with over 60,000 views). He’s excited and tail-wagging happy every day to be living his dream and making a difference in people’s lives. He inspires me to do the same, as does this excerpt from “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer:

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living

I want to know what you ache for

and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

 

It doesn’t interest me how old you are

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool

for love

for your dreams

for the adventure of being alive.

 

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…

I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow

if you have been opened by life’s betrayals

or have become shriveled and closed

from fear of further pain.

 

I want to know if you can sit with pain

mine or your own

without moving to hide it

or fade it

or fix it.

 

I want to know if you can be with joy

mine or your own

if you can dance with wildness

and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your

fingers and toes

without cautioning us to

be careful

be realistic

to remember the limitations of being human.

My soul is urging me to take a leap of faith – to open my heart like a parachute and jump into the unknown, trusting the direction the wind is blowing me. I know that many of you have taken great leaps of faith, risking it all for your aliveness. You have inspired me!

Maybe some of you are feeling the urge now to take a leap of faith and follow your heart’s desire? “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions – All life is an experiment.” Have a wonderful adventure!

In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

 

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Jun 03 2009

An “Emerge and See” Story – #15

We are all on a hero’s journey of awakening. We have been entranced by the stories we tell ourselves about our lives, ourselves and each other. Convinced that our stories are true, we are spellbound to only see and experience our life from that limited perspective. It is a great triumph on our hero’s journey to awaken from our trances and discover that we are the authors of our life stories.

One of my prominent story lines used to be “Poor Janet”. I was a captive of and captivated by that story. It was a part of my identity. I received attention and validation for being “Poor Janet”. I remember once when I was about seven, I was at a birthday party and I wasn’t winning any of the games or prizes. I then played a game of my own; I sulked in my best “poor me” demeanor, and the mother hosting the party took the cue and gave me a prize! Though our stories confine us, they also define us and reward us in some way. That’s why we stick to our stories and they stick to us.

For many years, when it came to relationships, I felt the lingering imprint of my “Poor Janet” story, the main theme being, “Nobody wants me. I will always be alone.” There’s a Snoopy cartoon in which Lucy is lamenting, “Nobody loves me.” Snoopy is standing next to her, lips puckered and says, “I love you, sweety.” She doesn’t even see him. She says, “No one cares about me.” He says, “I do, I care about you.” She continues to be oblivious to his presence and says, “Probably no one will ever love me.” Snoopy finally gives up and says, “You’re probably right, sweety.” Like Lucy, I wasn’t able to see love even if it was there because it didn’t fit my story.

Eventually the pain and boredom of my story awakened me from my trance and I saw how I was perpetuating it. I was then ready to create a new story. I had a breakthrough moment during the first week I met Tom, almost exactly ten years ago. He was at my house and we were massaging each other’s feet and I was in oxytocin heaven, and thought, “I’d like to have this in my life long term.” A Bonnie Rait song began playing and I was singing along with it, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t.” That song activated the neural pathways of my sad old story – “I will always be alone. He won’t want me. I can’t have this.” I caught myself slipping into the sweet melancholy of that story, and I stopped and thought, “Wait a minute – why can’t I have this? It’s just habit programming. I’m just as lovable as the next person. I can have this!” In that moment I had a clear awareness that this was MY movie; I’m the star, director, casting agent, and writer of my movie – I can chose to do a conscious rewrite!

I decided to change my story. I once read that Barbara Streisand said early in her career, “I have decided to be beautiful.” I decided to be loved! I backed that decision up with actions that eventually helped to completely revise my story line. Now, ten years later, I’m continuing to share regular oxytocin moments with my husband Tom.

I find that old neural pathways and story lines can be re-stimulated in times of stress. This past year “Poor Janet” (and the fear and sadness that fuel her) has been tugging at me, saying, “First my appendix burst, then cancer, then a hysterectomy, then fires blazed through the Santa Barbara mountains, and now my beloved cat is dying! What a horrible year!” Or, as Queen Elizabeth once said, it’s been “an Annus Horribilis”.

This year has challenged my sense of safety. It has confronted me with the fact that anything can happen. Anything. I really don’t have control. A hot sundowner wind can suddenly appear and whip up a fire that burns scars into the beautiful mountains and peoples lives; cancer can scar and take away parts of my body, or even my life. Fear asks, “What if my story turns out to be a tragedy after all?”

Fortunately I have a larger part of me now that keeps me from being seduced into that old trance; I know that our stories are shaped by how we choose to interpret what happens. Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said, “The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” My choice now is to bring compassion and loving presence to Whatever is happening. Compassion is a great awakener and unifier. Bringing compassion and loving presence to “Poor Janet” (or any other trance state) whenever she shows up comforts and calms her and integrates her into the whole of me.

From this vantage point I can see that the events of my life this year have created an ‘emerge and see’ situation; I am emerging to a higher perspective and seeing clearly what I want to do in my life: to align with my souls purpose, to be fully present here and now, and to reinforce the awareness that love is the answer – loving what is, loving all my feelings about what is, loving myself for not loving what is. It’s all about love. That’s my story. It’s a Love Story.

What’s your story? Is it a tragedy? A comedy? A love story? A story of despair? A story of triumph? Are you in an “emerge and see” situation? Once we awaken from our trances and see that we are the authors of our stories, we can create a new story. Here’s to living Happily Awake Ever After!

In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

 

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