family time


Puffer Fish

Last month I had the opportunity to watch a live stream video event that was taking place at The Omega Institute. It was called "Find Your Own Strength" and it featured a conversation with three women that I totally dig: Brené Brown, Joan Halifax Roshi & Elizabeth Lesser.

There were some brilliant insights shared that night but this one thing that Brené Brown said really struck me. I wanted to share it with all of you because I think it might be helpful especially as the Holidays draw near.

For many people, the Holiday season means getting together with family. Depending on the kind of relationships that you've had with your folks, your siblings and the rest of your extended kin, this can either be a super fun or super challenging time - especially in cases where there may have been an abusive, addictive, neglectful, combative, or competitive history.

Being with family sweetly puts us face to face with those we love - but it also often places us in close proximity to those we regard as our biggest PITA (pain in the ass). Even though PITAs are ultimately our greatest teachers and a gift on our spiritual journey - sometimes we just want to get through a meal without feeling bad about ourselves and without throwing insults or in some cases, plates of food.

What Brené said that night - can definitely help us to navigate the awkward, irritating and annoying situations that might come up. She told us about an encounter she'd had with a woman who always ruffles her feathers. A bona fide button-pusher who'd mastered the art of asking seemingly innocent questions that were not so secretly disguised as personal digs.

Brené said that she could feel herself about to react to this woman's latest poke at her mothering skills but she caught herself. She paused and what happened next is what A Course in Miracles would call, well, a miracle. Brené didn't use ACIM language to describe her experience but from what she shared - I could clearly hear that there was a shift in her mind from fear to love.

Before uttering a word back to her antagonist PITA, Brené started to silently repeat her authenticity mantra over and over again: "Don't shrink. Don't puff up. Just stand on your sacred ground that God gave you."

She said that doing this helped her to diffuse the situation and kept her from reacting in an equally unkind way. This was friggen' brilliant! It totally summarized and brought together many of the ACIM teachings that are already so near and dear to my heart.

Let's break this awesome message down:

#1 - Don't Shrink:

A Course in Miracles - Lesson 153 tells us - "Be not afraid nor timid."

My spiritual mom Marianne Williamson is known for her famous quote that starts: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond all measure..." In that quote she goes on to say - "Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you."

 # 2 - Don't Puff Up:

It's kind of a natural animal instinct that when we feel threatened or attacked, we either try to make ourselves small (shrink) - or big (puff up). Even if the threat is a mental one and not a physical one - we either cower, run or come out swinging. (Which one do you do? I think it's important to know this stuff about ourselves.)

However, A Course in Miracles - Lesson #153 teaches us - "In my defenselessness my safety lies."

To paraphrase, it says - "This world gives rise to defensiveness. For threat brings anger, anger makes attack seem reasonable and righteous in the name of self-defense. Yet defensiveness is a double threat. For it attests to your perceived weakness. Defenses are the costliest of all the prices that the ego mind would have you pay.

Defenselessness on the other hand is strength. It testifies to recognition of the Christ/God/Goodness/Love in you. Defenselessness can never be attacked, because it recognizes strength so great - that attack is folly, or a silly game a tired child might play, when he becomes too sleepy to remember what he wants. We will not play such childish games today for our true purpose is to save/serve the world and we would not exchange for foolishness the endless joy our true function offers us."

#3 - Stand on Your Sacred Ground that God Gave You:

OK - still kind of paraphrasing here - but Lesson 153 continues, "We recognize that we need no defense because we are created unassailable. We cannot fear, for we have left all fearful thoughts behind. And in defenselessness we stand secure, serenely certain of our safety now, sure of salvation; sure we will fulfill our chosen purpose. Be still a moment, and in silence think how holy is your purpose, how secure you rest, untouchable within its light.

In time, with practice, you will never cease to think of God, and hear His loving Voice guiding your footsteps into quiet ways, where you will walk in true defenselessness. For you will know that Heaven goes with you. 

We rise up strong in the Beloved, and let our weakness disappear, as we remember that Spirit's strength abides in us. We will remind ourselves that God remains beside us through the day, and never leaves our weakness unsupported by His strength. We call upon this strength each time we feel the threat of our defenses undermine our certainty of purpose. We will pause a moment, as He tells us, "I am here."

So, if we've been created "unassailable" - knowing that we cannot be attacked or defeated. If we know that God remains beside us through the day and that Heaven goes with us everywhere. Then what could we possibly have to defend, attack or fear? When we find ourselves faced with a person that is not acting their best out of their own fear - we don't have to react, we don't have to shrink or puff up - we just have to take a few deep breaths, use our spiritual tools and practices and stand on our sacred ground of Love.

When my ego mind gets triggered out of Fear - it's of great comfort for me to remember that I can always choose again. I can always choose Love. I can make a conscious decision to Forgive My Humanity and Stand in My Divinity.