Normal is a lie. What a relief, right? As Jonathan Mooney (2013) says, “…the only normal people are people you don’t know very well” (47:59).
We need to be challenging normalcy. Why? Because normal is a lie, and yet this myth of normal is keeping so many of us locked into a belief that we are less than, that we are failures, that we are deficient. Especially those of us who are defined as cognitively or physically different. We need to be challenging the current pathology paradigm, which has always sought to isolate and pathologize every variance that veers too far from the fabricated standard of what is acceptable–mentally or physically–and what is not. If you think about it, our entire society, the whole Western Anglo-Saxon world and beyond, is built on an ideal of normal. And because of this, everyone, every single one of us, we lose. yes, even if you are so-called “normal”. Because what happens when you fit in to the normal bracket, you end up othering everyone else. This unknowingly perpetuates the stigma of normal/abnormal. But guess what? Not one single one of us is “normal”. Think about that. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have some kind of struggle and it always comes back to what we are supposed to be living up to. Happy, healthy, successful, powerful. Even the people that the media props up as pinnacles of perfection, they show up years later with booze problems, sex addictions, abuse scandals, gambling debts. They confess to depression, to childhood trauma, to attempted suicide, to cancer, to heart disease, diabetes. The list goes on. Somehow we are always surprised by this. OMG, can you believe that so and so has such and such? They put a crack in the grand facade…yet we still keep clinging to the myth of normal.
I propose that we crack this facade right in the clunker. Why not embrace the truth: we are all unique. Regardless of brain type, blood type, gene type, each and every one of us is different. Rather than let this separate us further, I believe that acknowledging our quirks, our kinks, our weird, our geek, this will actually bring us closer. Because if we don’t have to be so normal and by extension perfect, that takes a lot of pressure off. Suddenly we don’t have to measure up to anyone. AND we are free to just be ourselves. This leads us to finding our gift!
If you are alive, then you have a gift. Are you someone with a unique brain that is cognitively different? Autistics, add’ers, dyslexics, I’m talking to you. You may not know what your gift is yet, but that is okay. But more likely, you do know, in fact, you may have been aware of your gift all along, but dismissing it, thinking oh no, that’s not good enough, not marketable enough. That’s not perfect enough, normal enough…? I say to you, nonsense! Society has done a great job making you believe that you are not worthy, because you are not normal. And as you may have guessed by now from the tone of this article, that is just not true. Normal is lie and you are beautiful. Shine that wild light, you glorious diamond. Shine it bright and big and may we begin to shift this societal paradigm towards one of Love, kindness, and inclusion. Remember: difference isn’t a deficit–in fact, difference is the norm.
Give Jonathan Mooney a listen and tell me what you think…
In childhood, we often learn coping mechanisms that help us adapt to our environment. This is especially true in situation of early childhood trauma. These early efforts at adaptation which served us so well at one time, can become hinderances later on, manifesting in adulthood as addiction, attention deficit, tuning out, defiance… According to Dr. Gabor Matè, such neurodivergent traits that society labels as abnormal are not genetic flaws, they are a human process which results from growing up in an environment that did not meet our developmental needs.
My final paper for the class, Listening to Earth, CIIS, Summer 2021
A deep ecology mind-set of thinking like a mountain has brought me peace. I have been reminded of things I know, deep truths that are often clouded by the temporality of this life. I am already whole. The African concept of Ubuntu—I am because we are—collides gently with thinking like a mountain, and they are like brothers, forming a peaceful union, a way to be, and act, and move through the world.
Then this morning, I woke up to find the tree in our backyard had been chopped into by our neighbors with whom we share the fence. The tree is on our side, but a section of the bough extends onto theirs. The tree is always shedding something—leaves, flowers, berries, depending on the season; there is always sweeping up to do. It is an annoyance, to be sure. And yet, the tree did not deserve this! Such an inelegant execution. Not the carefully pruned attention and forethought of a professional tree trimmer, which this tree has been used to during the seven years we have been caretakers of this little spot of land. No, this was a poor and unfortunate hack job; like a home haircut gone tragically wrong. Walking out through the back door, I am rudely greeted by a giant hole, where there was once branch and leaf and shade. There was privacy! Now this slicing and dicing act has left a swath of exposed area along the top of the fence; and there is a clear line-of-sight to an apartment building one street over, and several rooftops that do nothing for me.
Aside from my personal irritation, I am saddened for this Tree. Such lack of style, such disregard! I begin to feel a different respect for this Tree being, one which I admit has been absent till now. Tree stands proudly in the face of rain and heat, in the face of humans cursing his mess, and even when he has been made to look his worst, Tree still stands as though nothing of this world commands him.
I am undecided as to whether I will confront the neighbors. In the meantime, I question, what would Mountain do?
Breathing To Listen
The wind murmurs outside, flitting about, humming through the leaves of Tree across the street. She tells stories all but few pause to hear. Tonight I listen, watching her chatter from just inside our garden. She is lively, wired, nervous; then calm, placated; then wired again. She speaks a language I used to know, a tongue of old wisdom and mystery; she recalls a time of strength. But what of the destruction on the horizon, I ask. She reminds me to breathe, that even in the midst of chaos, of flitting about, calm, tenured tones always arrive in between the notes. Take them when they appear, inhale, exhale. The steady solid ground is at my command. Tree is here to remind me that nothing is set in stone. Remain flexible. Move with the wind. Even destruction has a purpose and there is a gift in all things that happen. Let the wind whip with wild, searing, wonderous love. Tree and me, we are believers, light bearers. Tree is strong; I know now I can lean on Tree. She dances and flits about, the wind playing in her tangled hair, telling ancient stories of future memories. Nothing is set in stone. Surrender, be here now; inhale, exhale.
Dreaming to Remember
Today is a day of kindness and care; and love, to be sure. I woke in some tears, upset by my terrible haircut. As I lay there and probed deeper: yes it is just hair, yes my hair grows quickly, and all is OK. But the experience hurt my heart. Sitting there, my hairstylist doing so many things all at the same time; doing nothing well. Totally not present with me, washing her car and running after her son, while I sat under the dryer. Her little son, playing in the water, wasting water, so much water! I spoke up finally when it came to the water! Yet, I did not advocate for myself.
This morning I lay crying because I did not speak up, I forgot to protect my inner child, my little Libra, the part of me that gets frozen in the most random of situations…the ones that conjure up my mother, strung out. Naturally, I felt betrayed. Betrayed by my hairstylist, whom I trusted, or at least I had in the past; but also betrayed by myself, for not protesting as she kept cutting.
If wish I had said, hey, you’re cutting too much! I had booked highlights, not a haircut, but she was on a roll. I only wanted her to clean up any unevenness in my cut. It is a fact that I do my own hair shaping quite often and I do it well; much to the surprise to all my hairdressers over the years, yet they all concur. Yet because doing this myself has its limitations, I tend to require a “cleaner-uper”, someone with technical knowledge who can clean up any stray bits and strands.
I gather my bearings and go make some tea, searching for the exact moment that I forsake myself. I had been sitting there in her chair, post-color, post-washing, just watching her snip and snip, and I sat frozen and scared to speak up. But, why? Because I trusted her and now suddenly, I no longer did? Because the signs of her chaotic energy had been there from the start? Yes, and yes. So, indeed I share some of this responsibility and this admittance hurts more than the haircut.
As I stir the honey in my tea, the notion of Ho’oponopono comes into mind. This is the Hawaiian healing prayer that is about balance and making things right; it is ultimately about forgiveness…especially for oneself. And I took my tea and my journal and went out to my special place, to sit and speak my mantra prayer in the morning light.
I’m sorry, Libra, please forgive me, Libra, thank you Libra, I love you Libra.
I whispered these words in several rounds, and then I wrote down my dreams from the night before.
I am driving on Laurel Canyon, a well-known, well traversed road in Los Angeles, a road I have driven on many times. Up the hill, down the hill. I was driving a very sturdy car like an Oldsmobile; no I think it was an old Caddy; it was steel blue. It was not fast nor was it slow, but perfect for the terrain. The steering wheel had a square attachment of some sort, basically an edge that allowed me to cruise, not having to grip hardly at all, just easy to drive. The brakes were good, and I was in the flow. Driving was downright pleasant.
This comes as a lovely reflection, especially given the distressing car dreams I have had in the past. Oh, how those car dreams have vexed me! Always so difficult to shift gears, to brake or steer, always a car from my past, tedious, and at times even physically painful.
It is wonderful to observe that it takes just one good dream to have a new memory, a new baseline for which to imprint a new way of thinking.
Oh yes almost forgot! In the dream, I saw myself in a mirror and my hair was cute; longer and shaggier, just enough to have a pair of pigtails. I had a big smile on my face.
The ironic connection to Tree in our yard, and the synchronicity of both of our unfortunate hacked-off haircuts, this is not lost on me. Perhaps I can adopt the royal stance of Tree in all of this? I am more than my hair. My worth is not determined by exterior forces. I am beautiful because of my insides. Thank you, Tree. You are growing on me.
The Mystic Redwoods
Last year at this time, before I had enrolled in CIIS, we rented an Airstream and camped in Del Norte Redwood State Forest, at Mill Creek Campground. My love affair had just begun. While reading Obi Kaufman’s The California Field Atlas this semester, I made it a point to look out for his mentions of Del Norte Campgrounds, or Jedidiah Smith which is just north of Del Norte. We are headed there again, this Saturday in fact, for six glorious nights. Perhaps we will see some of the Perseids meteor showers?
This region in the upper northwest of the state is a dense collaboration of mostly state Redwoods parks and two forest reserves of the national level. On one of Kaufman’s maps, this area is painted densely black; it is a carbon sink. Yet the forest is wise, and while it produces all this carbon, it also has a means to remove it, a process called carbon sequestration. Because of the density and the forest’s high functionality, this upper northwest Redwoods region (as well other areas, including Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges) are considered working carbon sinks. Talk about bio-efficiency in action!
Del Norte County is home to the tallest trees in world, according to Kaufman (and I have no reason to doubt him). Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park has 4 square miles of old-growth coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), which is cousin to the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum); and Jedidiah Smith State Park has 14 square miles of old-growth. The coast Redwoods is a species that has been living for 2,000 years. There is something so celestial and magnetic about the wisdom contained in these trees. It is a language that I can feel in my body and words do not seem to capture the magnitude of manna I feel when I am in the forest with these gentle giants. They are striking, ancient beings that have much to share and offer; we only need to pause and listen.
As a child my mom said I was very moody; she was not wrong. While it took me a while to find my footing, today at 46 (almost 47) I feel like I am just hitting my stride. What was once moody, has become balanced and I have found acceptance in the truth of it: that I am an empath. This word has become somewhat trendy, so I tend not to use it. I just say I’m sensitive and leave it at that. But in the scope of this paper, it feels right to claim this. What was once a heavy burden—I felt everything! —has now, with training and diligence, become something of a superpower. Through the tender and powerful coursework of this class, Listening to Earth, I was able to touch once again the little spritely part of me, the one who can communicate with the elementals, and sense into the beingness of a tree or flower. I already marveled at the butterflies, pausing to watch their flight; or a hummingbird in mid-air, who seemed to be watching me, watching her. Yet, I credit this class with giving me a much-needed confirmation that in my sensitive nature, I am not alone. There are many like me. Even if we don’t always speak of it. In the thinking like a Mountain, I found my strength. In the role model of Tree, I found the grace to be me. Bad haircut and all.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk; the 30k plus, 5 star reviews on Amazon say it all.
Dr. Gabor Maté is on the same wavelength as van der Kolk, brilliant, truthful, science-based, leading with heart. Maté approaches trauma, ADD, addiction, and disease with kindness and compassion, and aims to de-stigmatize mental issues. His new book is coming out in Oct 2022, called The Myth of Normal. His website is below.
findings about distanced self-talk build on decades of research showing that psychological distance – taking a perspective beyond the ‘here and now’ – is an essential ingredient for aligning our thoughts, feelings and behaviour with our goals.
Last semester in social psychology, I wrote my final paper on the topic of belonging. Today I needed to find a clip of a speaker whose speaking style I want to emulate (for my Art of Communication class). I knew Brené was my gal because I have always admired not just her content, but her speaking style as well. She is relaxed and engaging whether she’s having a one-on-one conversation, like in the video clip above, or on stage in front of a big audience. Her mannerisms–eye contact, thoughtful pauses, facial expressions–all work to convey that she is present, she is at ease, she is listening, and she is genuinely interested. Plus, she a good laugher. Brené is coming out with a new book and is clearly making the interview circuit of late, which is how I happened upon the piece above. The fact that she talks about belonging to ourselves first, and this is the very thing which I wrote my paper about, I was like, Whaaaat! Yes! Sure, it’s a bit of an ego boost, I won’t lie. But more importantly, it is a beautiful serendipity, a confirmation that what I am putting out in the world is being reflected, and not just in my reality, but into the world at large. These healing vibes are catching on. There is a wave of change that is happening. Yes I live in California, in the Bay Area, and there’s definitely some confirmation bias as a result. But a wave is a wave, and they have to start somewhere!
This video clip is one of those uncanny coincidences, the kind of which give me hope for the future, even in spite of the despair and bullshit that we are seeing in the news. Maybe the astrologers are right after all, and we are moving out of the Piscean Age, which has been marked by deceit and darkness, greed and control. Maybe the Aquarian Age is finally working her magic slowly but surely, using the higher frequencies of love and kindness, equality and justice.
Earlier this year in the Spring, in my first semester at CIIS, I wrote my neurobiology final paper on the topic of ADD and Sound Healing, and used HeartMath Institute and their research on coherence as a resource. Then two months ago, Pam Gregory astrologer, whom I follow on YouTube, mentioned HeartMath in one of her videos. And now I’m hearing many others use this word, too. Coherence, vibration, frequency. What’s so cool about coherence is that the more we practice coherence with our own heart-mind, and others do the same, an exponential effect begins to happen, as we all begin to increase our resonant field and this in turn effects the Earth’s energy field, too, creating positive healing global coherence. When we are in coherence, our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is activated and we feel calm, focused, centered. It is the opposite feeling of being in fight-flight-freeze. I will post my neurobiology paper at some point. In the meantime, read about coherence and HeartMath here: https://www.heartmath.org/science/
“Light is the game changer, and love is the checkmate”.
This is my final paper, submitted for Social Psychology, CIIS, Summer 2021.
Facing the Problem
When something intended as metaphor is believed as literal, it is called ontological confusion, and we see examples of this when people take biblical stories at face value. Similarly, there are some who are convinced that our reality on planet Earth is a computer simulation. This kind of thinking is not as harmless as it may appear; it is a setup for disappointment and failure because even if it were a screen that could be cracked to reveal the ‘real world’, if there were a man behind the curtain, or what not, there is one problem that remains- us. We are still the same person inside the simulation or outside of it, inside the matrix, or not. It might also encourage a nihilistic mentality, as in we’re not really here, so let’s burn it all down. Yet we are here. Our brains, our neuroses, our problems, our monkey minds, jumping from one conclusion to the next. Wherever you go, there you are. Simulation or not, we remain. From an existential perspective, the solution is often contained inside the problem. The answer may not be outside of ourselves at all, but within us.
Last night I received two dreams about facing my shadow, and I believe they speak to this topic at hand. In the first dream it is nighttime, and I am holding a clear plastic bag in my left hand, the kind used for fruit or veggies at the market. The bag is not tied or knotted, just gathered tightly at the top. Inside is an extra-large, other-worldly spider. My grip lessens and the arachnid will soon be released, set free. I can only protect him for so long. His long, limber legs paw gently at the opening. The focus is on this spider—my spider—and he looks scary, but in truth he is a gentle being. It is my perception of my fear that I am most afraid of. I tell myself I have sequestered the spider to protect those around me. But I am the one who holds the bag. I want to embrace the younger me, the girl who holds him. There is nothing to fear, I want to say. My shadow is only scary when it is Othered.
In the second dream, I am in a house. Someone has left me there. Many people coming and going, strangers, chaos. Why is my house not my own? I’ve misplaced my medications, my things are not where they should be. There is discord and disharmony, and I am so tired. Finally, I stand at the mirror, ready to be myself. I remove the false fronts from my teeth, the veneers. They are plates, front-facing coverings, adhered with glue or something to just the fronts of my real teeth. They come off easily. I stack these cover plates on the counter, running my tongue against my original teeth which have been covered up too long. There is nothing wrong with my teeth. It feels good to shed the layers, such relief to be my real self.
This semester in our Social Psychology class at CIIS, we confronted the many ways that humans engage in social behavior, and the resulting dynamics that occur from being the social animals that we are. Conformity, dissonance, relational aggression, propaganda. The research brought to bear in The Social Animal (Aronson & Aronson, 2018) was at times confounding and, in all honesty, depressing. More than a few times, I found myself wondering, are we truly this predictable, this limited…this hopeless? When I examined my own life, I found evidence of these unconscious mechanisms at work in my life, which is exactly what made it so humbling to face. Yet, just as in my dream, to accept my shadow spider, i.e. my dark, disowned parts, I would have to face myself in the mirror, without the veneers, without the false face and just be real.
When we abdicate responsibility, we also abdicate a solution…of course we must accept that there is a problem first. And this brings us to said problem: humans at large, avoid self-inquiry because it is too shocking, too painful, too vulnerable. Looking at ourselves truthfully is not glamorous; without filter, without makeup, without our social masks to hide the many flaws we have deemed unacceptable. This honest self-examination might be one of the most difficult, painful, bottom-of-the-barrel tasks we are ever called to do…which is exactly why we must do it.
According to Aronson & Aronson (2018), the need for belonging is the strongest of the five central social motives of human social behavior humans (the others are understanding and prediction; control; a need to matter; and trust).
What does it mean to belong? The desire to belong drives so much of our behavior that we rarely think about it. Yet, marketers, propaganda, and mass media most definitely do think about it. If fact, they use this central social motive to sell us their wares, get us to see issues a certain way, use their apps and products, and influence us in myriad ways. Most people are unaware of how often we are played on a daily basis, just like puppets in a play. The average person has never thought about how we are being manipulated, how everything that is competing for their attention—billboards, apps, pop up ads, targeted facebook ads, mailing lists, politicians, movies, tv shows—they are all selling something. And they are using our need to belong against us.
Yet, what about belonging to ourselves? What about facing ourselves in the mirror and being honest about our own humanness. Whatever is hurting and eating at us inside, does it not also deserve love and kindness? What are the thoughts going through our head when we engage in our destructive behaviors, our repetitive thoughts that keep us stuck. What are we thinking about when we are binge eating, or drinking ourselves to sleep, or pushing away anyone who tries to loves us, or sabotaging new opportunities, or having a hard time speaking honestly to our partner, or getting defensive every time our partner gets that tone in their voice, or cutting ourselves to feel better, or ignoring sensations of pain, or never allowing ourselves to cry? We are not weak because we engage in these things, although they do harm us. We are made weak only by never examining the backstory of why.
Belonging to ourselves is not something that is taught, nor are we given examples of what this looks like. Our capacity to be our own protector, our own best friend, it is a superpower we give away when we give into thoughts, emotions, behaviors that have never been examined. We may be told that in order to love another, we must first love ourselves. But how many of us berate ourselves cruelly when we make a mistake, or forget a date, disappoint another, or do something we swore we wouldn’t do again?
If we are to become aware of these social motives that are unconsciously driving us, especially our need to belong, we must learn to love ourselves fiercely, more than we ever have before. This is not selfish; it is the most compassionate, kind thing we can do. As Ghandi said, and I paraphrase, to see a change in the world, we must be that change we wish to see. To love ourselves is a daily experience of opening up to acceptance and then letting go of control. It is about learning what feels right and what does not, what we are okay with and where the line must be drawn, creating boundaries and then being vulnerable, sensitive, honest, and present within that.
While therapy can be incredibly valuable, many people may be skeptical. Or they may feel self-conscious about how they would be perceived if a family member found out; many see therapy as a demeaning, that they are not enough. However, every human on this planet feels some measure of pain if for no other reason than that we are all connected. It is not shameful to ask for help, but it is a tragedy to carry a burden as a point of pride, or a medal of honor. It is no secret that the Earth is in pain and we humans along with her; we are all experiencing some level of dis-ease. We may be struggling right in this moment.
One way to address this problem of self-avoidance is through practicing forgiveness and self-love. Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian healing prayer which offers a unique opportunity for addressing the pain we carry. The word Ho’oponopono roughly translated means, to put things right, to move back to balance. It is a tool for connecting to self-love, belonging, and forgiveness. Meant to be said in repetition, like a mantra, it can be said to yourself, or direct it outwards to someone whom you seek forgiveness from. The prayer goes like this:
I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.”
I’m sorry serves to recognize there was a wrong done (by you, or to you). We can only change that which we acknowledge. Please forgive me is the sincere contrition. Thank you serves as appreciation for the recognition and the apology. I love you completes the circle, offering wholeness and closure.
Ho’oponopono is a balancing practice to facilitate mental and emotional release and connect you to your heart center. Recite the prayer in your head, or speak it aloud, at any time of the day. To do this exercise in front of a mirror is especially healing; this is because a mirror does not lie. For instance, if we say this prayer in our head, but at the same time we are thinking of other things, then the energy of the words are blocked because we are distracted. Yet, in front of a mirror we must gaze into our own eyes and there is nowhere to hide. We might say I’m sorry and wince, or I forgive you and begin crying. This tells us there was something there inside of us that needed recognition, which was tender and hurting.
Love fosters belonging, which in turn allows for understanding and trust. When we trust ourselves we are better equipped to look honestly at the disowned parts of ourself and decide if we want to integrate them or discard them when they no longer fit. It is only when we keep them “safely” contained in a bag, unacknowledged and unexamined, that they do us harm.
Pledging allegiance to ourselves in earnest is not something that has been modeled in our society. We have been a culture that looks outward, avoiding our insides at all costs. We have only recently seen evidence of people on the world stage, like Simone Biles, being courageous enough to honor their inner knowing, trusting their heart and their boundaries.
We do not need to try and change our driving social motives extrinsically; for in truth, there is nothing wrong with these motives in and of themselves. In fact, they often serve good purpose in the social nature of groups and community. What is wrong, however, is to continue to move blindly along in life, remaining in pain, remaining asleep, when we have the tools available to wake up.
In 1995, David R. Hawkins’ wrote about the Map of Consciousness in his book Power vs. Force. According to Hawkins, emotional states produce an energetic value. I’ve heard a couple astrologers that I follow on youtube talk about gratitude being above joy, but I could only find one image that mentions gratitude. (See third image below). It is interesting to see where the emotions sit on the color spectrum, too. Shame, guilt, and grief are practically black, which I guess makes a lot of sense. While never ever feeling the black and blue emotions seems improbable, it is when we stay in those spectrums it becomes destructive and painful. For me, I have found that a gratitude practice helps me hover the higher emotions on a more consistent basis, but also when I do go into the blues, I don’t stay there as long as I used to. Pain is an excellent teacher, but we’re not meant to build a house there.
Hawkins, D. R. (2014). Power Vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior. United Kingdom: Hay House, Incorporated.
Anyone that knows me, knows I am a big time dreamer. I keep a daily journal, and find great insight and guidance from my nightly adventures. Many times I’ve found myself writing a dream down and the words, time traveler, a straddler of worlds, shapeshifting come tumbling out of my pencil and onto the page.
When I discovered the author and dream teacher, Robert Moss a few months ago, I found a kindred spirit. He spoke the same dream language that I do, and his books have opened me up to a new way of working with my dreams.
Moss has written many books and it can be hard to know where to start. Dreaming the Soul Back Home is where I began; now I’m into his newest, Growing Big Dreams on Audible, which is wonderful! On his blog, Moss says that the linear answer to the where to begin question is go for Conscious Dreaming, his first and still foundational, book; then move onto The Three “Only” Things.
Go here to read more about how Moss’ recommendations. But the short answer is, read the descriptions, see what speaks to your soul, and dive in.