The potency and power of the pause-place

Or how to drop the worrying when we are waiting for big news

The pause place. Sometimes we find ourselves betwixt and between, waiting for: news, for a decision, on an offer we have made, to hear on an application, for results of something, or for a nations to process paperwork in line with its rules and regulations, and many more possible permeations of watching and waiting- feeling some sort of stuck….


It can easy to feel that we are at the mercy of something outside of ourselves in the time. We can feel like life is the villain -making us a victim, with nothing to do sit and sweat it out until something outside of us shifts.


In someways that is true – we cannot control life. We get to do our best, try hardest and then life will do whatever it does. We are ultimately powerless over people, places and things. Yet I know that sometime those times can feel stressful. It can be hard to let go and let life do what it does. It can be hard to trust in the proverbial process, or ti give it over to something great than us to handle it. Sometimes patience is preset and we can wait graciously, yet at other times we may be itching to get somewhere. To be on our way to “over there” On some level we know that trying won’t change anything – yet we do it anyway. We somehow feel that by ruminating and running over scenarios, time and time again, then maybe we might change something!! For sure, occasionally we do come up with good solutions yet mostly we just waste our life energy away and cause ourselves a whole heap of suffering along the way.


It’s a core truth that our life is still happening- even when we are anxiously waiting for something! We each only have finite number of days and we’d be wise to live them all fully- even when it feels like we are in holding pattern until we hear. How can we drop down into the moment, feel our feet on the earth and walk well thorough this day? Yes- even – or especially- if we are waiting on news outside of us or things that we can’t yet see the outcome of.


In these tricky times we have to learn how to develop trust in ourselves. We have to figure out for ourselves that we will always find a good way though, however the outcome goes. In these moments We get to consciously choose to see that we will find ways to be happy.


Sometimes getting what we want will be an amazing gift. Sometimes not getting what we want turns out to be an amazing gift too- sometimes in some way that we couldn’t possibly have seen at the time!


This moment is a mystery, we don’t know how it will go. We never really know how our lives will go.


It is a peculiar paradox as we are both powerful- we can shape our lives, train or re-train, take action steps, get going, make things happen and move metaphorical mountains! Yet at the same time sometimes reality throws some mighty wondrous wild cards our way and we simply cannot control it all.


As Rachel Naomi Remen writes “We have not been raised to cultivate a sense of Mystery. We may even see the unknown as an insult to our competence, a personal failing. Seen this way, the unknown becomes a challenge to action. But Mystery does not require action; Mystery requires our attention. Mystery requires that we listen and become open. When we meet with the unknown in this way, we can be touched by a wisdom that can transform our lives.”


So find some goodness in this moment feel into the heart, look up at the sky. Maybe place you hand your heart and whisper you got this. Make a clear choice to put down worry.


I once worked with mentor who made me write a specific future fear that I was wresting with down on a post-it note. He coached me via a potent technique that taught me to get clear on how much time I was worrying each day, When I was fretting about how the situation would turn out he made me hold the post-it note, physically hold it in my hands- so as to be clear I was consciously holding on to it and worrying! I was totally allowed to worry all day if I wanted to- I just had to make sure I was holding the post it! If instead I decided to trust life, to let go for a while -and to trust in how it would all unfold and then to focus on fun, of joy or doing something that inspired and nurtured me instead, then I could stick the post in in a special sacred space in my house- physically set it down. Acknowledging that I was trusting in life to handle it. That practice taught me so much about the habits of my mind and how often it went towards worrying about the future. Sigh!

There is much medicine in knowing how our own mind moves and in choosing to place our attention on what uplifts and inspires us instead. Post-it’s hold much wild wisdom. So does going and doing something fun! let go and let life….

#perhapsitistimetopracticewhatipreach

The Beauty of Boundaries

We are only truly at choice when we can say yes and no as easily as each other and do not stray into the terrible territories of people pleasing. 

No is a fierce force that will protect life.  It will serve us to know what we do not want, as much as what we do want. Sometimes no is reclaiming a boundary that has been buried and stepped on that we haven’t had the heart to uphold.

Sometimes a no is mandatory, a mantra, a momento-mori to remind us that there is more to life than whatever it is we are currently doing that we need to shift up.

If we are wise we will no as call of the wild. It is a call that too much has been asked of us an start tit is time ti go tend to ourselves.   A battle cry for better times “ I’m sick of this shit: something has to change here. And soon”

Deep feeling caring types may all override their no- until it come out like a lions a roar in midlife. Back off, I’ve given to much and there are resentments coursing through my blood! Like Pele the Hawaiian volcano goddess who both flows regular rich red lava and occasionally explodes, wanting to purge the layers of heavy lava that is holding her down and keeping her trapped in.  No ideally happens befor the fiery explosion, so it can come as a kindly spoken thing! Speaking (politely or passionately) will surely relieve the pressure- maybe it was no big deal to whomever was asking anyway.

 No is what happens when we finally give ourselves enough empathy to acknowledge that enough enough and however much we can self care our way through whatever it is – that SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE! 

Sometimes our no is  a simple- “meh I don’t fancy it”

 And somedays it is fierce thing that caps lock is entirely appropriate for in order to crown its own sovereignty….

No is a threshold, a choice point, a crossroads. It is an ode to change, to not stay still with the current status quo. It is a potent protection of our own life energy.  It is a knowing that we have our own backs, and that therefore we can be trusted as truth tellers. It is taking a stand – somehow next to ourselves.

Walking with grief

If you are walking with grief then let this time take you down, let it season you and scar you, let your skin feel the rawness of real life, trust that you are being made in these fierce fires, that good things are coming through.

Grief can be like a lead insole in the bottom of our shoes. It’s thin yet heavy. After a while we don’t notice we walk around with it anymore. Yet there’s a sense of increased gravity, that lightness and levity are harder to reach than they once used to be; that we are somewhat dragging our feet through our days.

Trust that although this time is unchosen and unbidden, the broken-heartedness will make you in the end. Trust that your humanity is increasing, your mortality is bringing what matters most to the fore-front; that your ability to deeply live your love is coming through. Trust that although this time is uncomfortable that you will be held, that your heart can stretched to sustain you in all of this, that your are being initiated as an individual. Trust that you will come through with something to offer- a depth, a delight in life, a deliberate intention to live and love more fully.

Let’s face it- feeling fully from time to time is a precondition of living life as more than a prefrontal cortex attached to a meat based operating system!

We will get to feel the deeper currents under the surface busyness, we will notice the beauty more too- the moss in the crooks of the trees, the way the wind moves through the leaves.

When we grieve we will come into deeper contact with what is. More here- seeing what is now missing in our loss, yet also seeing clearer what is now here too… the gifts that we have been given and how precariously precious it all is…

Intimacy with the Wild Within

Many of us remain a mystery to ourselves. Our inner landscapes can remain unchartered for decades until some great outer experience suddenly summons us to deeply question what it is that we really feel about it all.  Personally I reckon that becoming intimate with the wild world within us is the most important journey that we can possibly take. 

I’m not talking intimacy as a sexual thing here (that’s a whole other article…) 

I’m talking about touching and being touched by life. 

I’m taking about knowing and being known by life-  by that subtle sweet thing that animates us. 

I’m talking about coming into close contact with the somatic, subtle sense of our own body.

I’m talking about being with the tender beauty of being with our breath, our body and the place in which we sit/stand/dance/meditate/move; as we stay with it all for a series of unfolding moments. I’m talking about the sweet serenity that comes with being soaked in the sensate. Think of when you’ve danced hard, or jogged or made love -and how at home within yourself you generally feel afterwards. 

There are so many landscapes within us that we can come into closer intimacy with.  The terrains of the body’s inner experience. The fecund and flowering things within us; the tight buds that want to blossom. And the pockets of death and decay from the things we overlooked to tend to- they will need  their honouring too.  

We may well need to consciously cultivate an intimacy practice with our own inner experience, invite ourselves in deeper. Take time to explore the wild places within us. 

The tempo of our times is fast and much draws “us up and out” of ourselves. A million mundane things are demanding our daily attention with persistent push notifications, buzzes and billboards.  It is no good imploring ourselves to harridly hurry up and connect! To become  intimate with our inner experience we have to give ourselves time- thick, rich, velvety time! 

We can start with shifting down a gear. When we slow down we  will get to see the subtleties of life. The way that the wind is blowing the trees outside, the flicker of the candle flame, the movement of breath in the sleep in cats body next to us. There is much beauty in being with these micro moments of life. Life is really made up of a series of snap shot moments anyway- I believe that it serves us greatly to build our ability to be present for and with them.

When we practice staying with the somatic/felt senses, then we are building our own ability to be present with ourselves. We are putting aside distraction technology and talking and coming in closer to the sense of life within us. Sometimes for me, my awareness practices see like they are just another task to do. A way of maintaining wellness that has to be slotted into my schedule. A perfunctory pause. I know that it is way more delicious when it feels like a space to unfold into. A gift that is given. Some unharried moments when I can be and be in good relationship with myself. 

We can then consciously invite ourselves into intimacy with our own experience. Cultivate curiosity. Lean in and learn about ourselves. 

Intimacy and being known requires a deepening,  a dropping in, a providing a sweet, safe space to see what unfolds. We give so much of our life energy to those around us and to all the tasks of our days that need doing. It can be deeply replenishing to bring all of their energy back into ourselves and let it sit and settle for a while. Intimacy is a tender thing that we will need to give ourselves time to cultivate.  Intimacy with our own experience will show us what is so. Why not write from the body? “I am your thighs and I want to tell you…… “ or  “I am your spine I’ve been wanting to say…..”

Seeking spaciousness

Like any good wildlife observer when we get to our sit spot we simply take a seat, back off and make space and allow the curious creatures inside us to enter in! If we are always busy crashing and bashing the wild things we hope to see may not come in close! 

If we are so upfront, eager and up-close anyway, then there is literally no room for things to come in the closer- be that to another person, or our own inner world….

By simply making space to be with our inner experience we are creating space to know ourselves deeply. When we know ourselves we are clear on our own motives we have space to be skilful and we can act wisely, as we are in touch with our own good guidance. 

The nuances of noticing.

 Being intimate isn’t something that we can do with our mind. It’s a subtle thing- sensed in the body. We need to be located in the here and now in touch with all of her senses in order to be truly intimate with life. In intimacy with our experience there is allowing of our somatic sensations-the beating heart, the buzzy belly, the muttering mind.

We are both supremely strong and simultaneously vulnerable, vital, porous things underneath all the protective layers that we have built up on top. When we stay with ourselves – simply the somatic sensations of the body- without believing the accompanying story; then we make a space to be able to be with ourselves.

 We can learn to listen in so much closer into the body over time, to focus on the felt sense. We can even explore how much can this physical form flex inside without me even moving a muscle? What happens to my heart if I breathe in deeper and slower?  What is the “internal weather system” that is moving through me right now?

Hide!

Birdwatchers go to hide to see their favourite creatures, We may need to find our own form of hiding too! Switching off our phone, blocking out alone time in the schedule and giving ourselves a languid and lovely few hours to unfold deeper into our own feeling body. 

So sit still in this hidden secret spot and see what shows up at your door….

Allowing the animals to enter in

If we were to speak in metaphor we could say that the psyche is full of curious creatures, they shape shift and show us strange signs. As we sit still in our hide these curious creatures may well show up from within us. We get to watch them as they enter in.

When these creatures of our consciousness show up may we not judge them. May we simply observe them, staying still and seeing what happens if we offer them the spaciousness and graciousness to shoot at them (with camera or gun!)  but instead to let them roam free and show us the habitual move that our mind makes.

May we trust that if something in our mind is growling then it’s probably because it’s hurt or afraid underneath. May we compassionately see the thorns in these creatures paws that make them angry or angsty.  May we see the unseen creatures too that we can vaguely sense the outline of in our lives- the wise old owl within that has some oversight on the whole thing.  Or the shaking mouse who may think we’ve forgotten to see him and jut wants to know that there is somewhere safe to go where he won’t be stood on or chased by the cat.

In allowing all the animals within us to approach us then we are actually coming into  closer contact with our humanness- in all of its feeling-full experiences. 

Socialising with the unseen.

There our times in our lives when we will crave company and it will simply not be easily evadible to us- be that because of covid or crazy schedules.

There is something important in the aliveness of nature. In the fact that it has a physical life force that flows through it. We can see how plants are- blooming or dropping, growing through cracks in the sidewalk or rising above the city.

It can be immensely reassuring to hang out in nature. To know that they world around us is a living breathing thing. To feel our reciprocal relationship with the trees as they take inner carbon and breath out oxygen as we contribute the opposite process.  Nature provides a sense of living “otherness” – an intelligent animate world around us that can do a great deal to lessen our aloneness.

“I never really understood the word ‘loneliness’. As far as I was concerned, I was in an orgy with the sky and the ocean, and with nature.” – Bjork.

We can literally speak to the sky, or to the fire.  To call out to the winds or to lay our weight down on earth and ask that she deeply holds us. The Buddha reached down to touch the ground to call on it as a witness to his moment of awakening. 

It is radical in this day and age to be resourced. To not be bonkers busy and depleted. 

It is almost counter cultural to feel well and happy here. 

May we be radical rebels and feel part of it all:

Connected, 

Curious, 

Choosing to continue to cultivate intimacy with our inner world.

Freedom and fierceness

For years I’ve followed freedom
As my true north
A compass in my core-
Yet something also gets lost if we don’t commit to showing up day after day. Form can bring phenomenal things. A practice is a potent way to change our lives.
Forever freedom has a shadow- if we always get what we want and follow this whimsical thing or that one, then we never get to work with the trickier places in our own lives.
There is fierceness that gets cultivated when we must knuckle down and sustain showing up. A warrior is not a bad thing- it’s simply a way of moving through the world in service of an aim. It’s a badass way of being. Sure sometimes we must surrender and at other times we must set our sights on some target and push through every.single.thing.that.blocks.us – be that a barrage of words inside our internal world or a some substantial barrier in the outer world. Seen or unseen, internal or external blockages sometimes we need to hustle a little in service of our heart.
Politeness is perfectly important. Yet sometimes directness is important too- our nervous systems may feel more safe if all of the subtexts are on the surface.
We may need to fight- and by that I mean fighting for ourselves, rather than aiming to be against anything else as a psychological standpoint.
These days more and more, I want to be the belle with the balls more than the belle of the ball….

The regalness of wrestling

We get made by the things that break us. I know, I know, it sound like some pathetic platitude for when times are tough. But really, we so get made by the things that we just can’t  seem to find our way through at the time.

Sometimes we will  seem to be locked inside of ourselves unable to get out. Sort of stuck, floating  in some murky swampy soul-soup. Sometimes we will be distant and disassociated even from ourselves, struggling to get back in touch with ourselves. Sometimes we will need to work hard at the qualities that will sustain us and see us through-the grief, the fear, the furious what-the-actul-fuckness.

I know some of you will have the kind of nice nervous systems, or good parenting, or privilege that means you don’t  get to go to these places. If that is so then good for you!!!! Keep doing what you are doing!

And yet others will need to work at balance, they may have histories or biochemistries that means the dark swings by from time to time.

Yet there’s good in the dark. I know my dears it doesn’t feel good. It feels shitty and hard to sustain yourself through. It feel bleak and barren sometimes there. These are the places that you don’t want to touch. These are the times that  you simultaneously long for someone to walk beside you. And it may  also be the times when your shame my come calling for you, stopping you reaching your to the near and dear ones whom would be with you. That culturally-conditioned inner voice that says  “I don’t want to be seen in this state…Society says I must feel fine all the time or else it means I’m really fucked up…” Don’t listen to those voices my darlings.  Their names are doubt and despair. Yup- they are part of this human experience too.

Yet the dark is where things grow. It is where the seeds germinate. It is where the baby gestates. It is where the big-bang of existence comes from and goes back to -inside the big black hole of space-time. After all, we too are the mystery of matter materialising and de-materialising.

Theres is doorway in this a darkness. a threshold. A radical rite of passage. A way though that maybe isn’t one that we are particularly pleased to see!!! Nonetheless it is the path underneath our feet when the moments come.

A rite of passage traditionally had some element of near death experience in it -something in us dies. Something that wasn’t working – be that on a personal level – or some part of global society that was a shambles held up by  the monumental momentum of consumerism and capitalism. Maybe this is what these Covid times are teaching us.   At times life will touch us terribly. It will take it’s toll. We will get humbled by our own humanity, both personally and as a global society and economic system.

Sometimes we get to be on top. We learn things, work thorough them, work them out. At other times life throws us down, mounts us and forces us to surrender to being there in the dust, face down amidst a chaos that we can’t control!

Maybe what gets made in these moments is that we get super skilful at surrender- at ways of finding good grace with the things that don’t go our way.

It’s like aikido- if you soften with the blows then you can use that energy of attack coming towards you to turn things around for your own good.  We just have to get super skilful at working with energy- our own and that of life coming towards us.

Maybe what we wrestle with is just what is needed for building our metaphorical mental-muscle mass.   Our soul-strength. Our capacity to hold and contain the multitudes within us.

The key to the things we believe we can’t handle and the things that we think we can, is generally the resources that we have available- internal, external. Our perception of potency matters often more than our abilities or intellect (think of certain world leaders that have reached the top with a lack of either it seems!!!)

In these times we may have to work harder at trusting, at finding faith. If we take the fairy story of the children that find their way home via the trail of  breadcrumbs back through the woods that glistening under the full moon and guide them safely him again. It begs the question what is our personal bag of breadcrumbs? What thread can we follow when we feel lost and like we don’t know how to get out of it?

Find that thread and follow it my loves… Relish in building your  inner-resources. Call in the qualities of the heart that will sustain you.

So why not place your trust in trust my dears. Have fierce faith in faith. Hope for more hopefulness.

I say this not as some glib exercise in semantics- but as the mental muscles that we can exercise when there’s nothing else left to “do” in the material world. Qualities of the heart get grown in these times.

Fear has a voice that generally says “I can’t”.

Resilience builds up a tool belt that says “you so can…”

Cultivate your “can” in those times when it’s all that you can do. Believe in your being bigger than whatever fear or doubt is wandering through you.

Trust in trust my dears. Have faith in having faith. Hope for more hopefulness….

-Copyright Tess Howell 2020

“Last night a DJ saved my life…” why movement matters

“Last night a DJ saved my life…”- a catchy little line conveying a common experience (hopefully an over-exaggeration)- yet all too often the dance does so substantially enhance my experience of reality. The real joy of going for refuge in something of substance- which in the case of both of the dance and the dharma is no physical thing that can be held on to. yet I’m pretty certain both will help hold us through a helluva lot more than some other options..

So maybe let’s skip the i-need it now electronic emoti-conned; stay buying some more sh*t, stuffing it all down inside, shopping on high street; just shoving all that innate intelligence way down under, fawning over flat screen TVs and imbibing taco-bellshit…. let’s cut back on the “consume, conform and don’t even consider what might actually matter to you” media weapons of mass induction, let’s not even go there…

Here listen, lean in together, come home within you. We got this. Stay still with it, the grace, the grief, the glory, the guts of this thing. Hold it all in heart, hear it, here we can find a good way through… face it. Feel in to it, find out what you want, what actually means something, how we might show up in life and somehow serve each other.

For me the dance floor remains this space for grace to come through. A crucible for community and coming to greater consciousness. Space to be bold, brilliant, broken, fierce, furious, feisty, jaded, joyfilled, sober, surrendered , soulful, sassy and sweet.

To roll with whatever rocks us.

The dancefloor, dharma hall, dojo- s’all same, same different. I’m pretty clear I will continue to devote my life to being on this dancing path … Perhaps we can all be bodhisattvas in some small way just by being in the body and being together. Show up, sink in, stay with it. together we got this…

Allowing Aliveness

There is a mystery that moves us, literally that unseen thing that animates us -the breath that is so involuntary and so necessary. That first in breath at birth and that out-breath at death, and sure we can slow it down or speed it up or get more mindful of it in between – but ultimately while that mystery keeps moving through us we are still here. …. involuntarily breathing – how beautiful and how bizarre! it is the unseen that sustains us – surely so with qualities like soul , or silence, or nature – they are the things that for many of us recharge and re-inspire us…

That spark of life that we are born with may take some tending to. As children we naturally shine and as teenagers we may seek to burn bright. As adults we are solid coals that can be used to start other fires. All of that is age appropriate – we will all go back to ashes and dust when the time comes.

And yet at times we pull be wise to seek to fan our own flames, to dare to burn bright, to show upon and serve something outside of ourselves.

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.”― George Bernard Shaw

Don’t seek you aliveness some second rate priority my darlings. Don’t seek your passions and artistry as a way to make a living, use it as a way to make a life. Shine as way to make life brighter, dare to be here, to reach others to reach into yourself and to reach out.
Dare to show you beautiful beating burning heart to the world.

I know, I know, I know, you have a gazzlion things too do, the laundry, the emails, the this and the that; the endless to do’s…

Yet please prioritise your aliveness my loves.
Please don’t leave it for later.
Take the time today to savour something
To speak something
Tend to the spark of your aliveness my dears.

Let us let life in whilst we still can. Let us lean in. Let us reach out and tell those that we love that we love them whilst we can. Let our lives matter, let us burn bright and dare to do something that will make a difference. Let us rise bravely above the small stuff that bothers us so we can keep the focus on what matters.
Keep taking away that doesn’t serve. Get passionate about dropping the bullshit.
You may need to get fierce about finding faith amidst the mess of it all sometimes – you may need to delve deep into doubt. let it be utterly, immeasurable just as it is. the tears, the fury, the brilliance, the creativity, the generosity, the truth-telling. Let those impulses of life occurs through you when they come. This too will pass….

Tend to your own aliveness. take up space, step out, step in… show up. become who you are my darlings. Our aliveness and noticing what is needed will matter, our ability to forsake apathy for aliveness is an aptitude this planet needs plenty of right now.
have you seen the news lately?(!) This world is a terrible and wonderful place…. our own personal contribution can count….you are needed here…