Maybe I Know Too Much

Sometimes it feels like my brain is stuffed to the gills — if a brain had gills, of course. In my work, there are certain times of the year that feel like the seven seconds of a bull ride, except the seven seconds goes on for two weeks or even two months.  A life that not all that long ago felt quite manageable and even easy-going has suddenly morphed into a juggling act of meetings and deadlines and unavoidable tasks.  And here’s the kicker — not one of these responsibilities, taken by itself, is all that difficult. It’s the combination, the conglomeration, the complicated stew of stuff that becomes a little, well, crazy-making. 

When you were a kid, did you ever get a jar, poke holes in the lid, and then run around outside at dusk collecting fireflies — maybe you called them lightning bugs — and put them in the jar like a natural lantern or a neon entomology exhibit? Well, if you can remember what it looks like to have 25 bugs desperately searching for a way out with their emergency flashers on, then you have a sense of what my brain looks like during these bull-ride moments.  

And I know I’m not alone. Perhaps you, as well, face these times when it’s all you can do to stay barely ahead of the closest looming deadline. 

During these intense times, we shift from our heart to our head. It feels like a matter of survival. I stop listening to my intuition because I frankly don’t have time. My daily devotional is a to-do list. My meditation is the monotonous hum I enter into while grading paper after paper after paper. My prayer is the plea I give to students to get their work in on time.  And, truth be told, I know they have their own jar of fireflies to deal with. 

At this stage, I know what my calendar says I have to do, and I know what my to-do list says I have to do, and I know what my internal chore-minder says I have to do, and . . . well, I think I know too much right now. 

So, I’m going to take the only time I have, this moment here with you, to unknow some things. I’m going to steal this time, if you will be so gracious as to allow it, to set aside every deadline, and every item on that to-do list, and every piece of writing waiting to be created. For you see, even writing this was one of the fireflies bouncing on the walls of my spirit all week.  I pondered and struggled and tried oh so hard to think my way into a heart message. And it really can’t be done. 

When it comes to the life of the spirit, it is possible to know too much, to know so much that you become ineffective. From an overwhelmed brain we receive stress and frustration. This stress and frustration can lead to depression or anger or even illness. The antidote for an overwhelmed brain is an overflowing heart. 

Now, let’s be clear, I’m not anti-intellectual. The brain has skills we need, and I’m glad it knows things. But the brain is a tool, not the boss.  When it becomes the boss is when we have problems. In our busiest times, it’s easy for the brain to feel so indispensable that it thinks it’s the boss. And because our heart doesn’t blow its own horn as the brain does, it just sits there quietly waiting for us to remember it, waiting for us to realize that maybe we’re knowing too much and not feeling or being or loving enough. 

So for this moment, I’m going to trade my to-do list for beingness and my deadlines for awareness. I’m going to sit here in this moment, with you, and let my consciousness expand into awakening. I’m going to release my stress and frustration and for just this moment feel only love and peace and joy. I’m going to remove the lid of the jar and let my light shine freely into the world, sending that love, peace, and joy to anyone with a willingness to receive it. 

Do you feel it? 

Yeah. Me, too.  


I See You

If you’re a fan of the film Avatar, then you recognize the greeting of the Na’vi. “I see you” was both a literal acknowledgment — I see you standing before me — and a spiritual one — I see your heart with a seeing that is also knowing. 

The Maori people of New Zealand practice a traditional greeting known as the hongi. When two people meet, they press their noses and foreheads together. It is the literal act of the breath of life being exchanged as a symbol of unity.  This greeting may be performed by both Maori and non-Maori. You are welcome to participate in a hongi greeting with no fear of unintentional cultural appropriation.  For the Maori, unity can only be unity if all are included. 

In Malaysia, there is a particularly lovely greeting.  You take the other person’s hands in yours for a moment, then release their hands and bring your own hands to your heart while nodding slightly to symbolize meeting with open hearts and in good faith. It would, of course, be considered polite for the other person to do the same. 

Many Asian countries greet others with a bow. In India, you take on the posture of the anjali mudra, or prayer hands in front of your heart, and you say “Namaste” as you bow.  Namaste literally means “I bow to you.” The Indologist Stephen Phillips suggests the essential meaning as it is practiced is “salutations to the divine child in your heart.”  Namaste is a bow of recognition, a bow of acknowledgment, just as the Malaysian heart-hands, the Maori hongi, and even the fictional Na’vi “I see you” are all something more than a simple “hello.”

This acknowledgment, being seen, is something we all desire, and beyond that even, something we all need. It is comforting, affirming, and empowering when we feel seen by others. 

But when was the last time you were seen by you? 

Sometimes acknowledgment from others doesn’t come. Perhaps your life has become rather insular and the encounters with others who might see you as a whole and valuable person have become rare. Or perhaps you do experience acknowledgment from others, but it doesn’t seem to be quite enough. There is still a void in you that cries out to be seen.  What we seek from others is often an indication of what we withhold from ourselves. 

Brene Brown said, “Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love.” This is simple advice, but the kind of wisdom that can change everything if we put it into practice. 

The act of fully acknowledging yourself, spending the time to talk to you as if you were someone you loved, might need to begin with a greeting. 

You can make that look however you need to, of course, but here’s a suggestion, in case it helps. I recommend taking time with each step:

  • Stand in front of a mirror. 
  • Make prayer hands. 
  • Lean forward slightly in a bow until your forehead and nose touch the mirror. 
  • Take two or three breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Feel your own warm breath bouncing off the mirror and returning to you.
  • Lean back and put your hands one on top of the other over your heart. 
  • Speak these words out loud to the person in the mirror: “I see you, divine child of my heart. Namaste.” 

Whatever happens from there, let it happen. You might cry. Let yourself cry. You might feel compelled to say words of affirmation or comfort. Speak them. You might just want to continue staring into your own eyes. Then do so. 

It’s possible even that nothing will happen. You may have no real reaction. But at the very least, you’ll know you were seen. I hope it was by someone who loves you. 


I’d Like to Thank . . .

. . . my producer, my director, everyone in the cast and crew. 

Who hasn’t, at some point in their lives, practiced their Oscar acceptance speech?  Or maybe yours was a Grammy or a Tony or an Emmy. This seems to be a fairly common undertaking, almost a rite of passage for many. We see people receiving great acclaim and being celebrated, and then we daydream about having that experience. We roleplay. We practice it.  

Humans like to win. We like to be celebrated. We seem to be hardwired for desiring acknowledgment and recognition and appreciation. We are primed and ready to accept our award. 

But most of the time when we use the word “acceptance,” it is not followed by the word “speech,” and it is not thought of as an opportunity for celebration.

We most often talk about acceptance as the reluctant agreement to acknowledge aspects of our life we don’t consider desirable.  Learning to accept our situation, whatever it may be, is often seen as a type of emotional maturity. Acceptance is the final step in the five stages of grief as outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. It is the first step in the Serenity Prayer — God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. In other words, acceptance is what we do once we’ve tried everything else. We realize we’re facing a situation that we can’t avoid or alter, so then, and only then, we step into the practice of acceptance. 

What if we treated the acceptance of life-as-it-is in a similar way to how we might accept that Oscar?  

If I was an Oscar nominee sitting in the audience and my name was called as the winner, I would stand up and walk on stage.  That is, in essence, a “yes.” You want to give me an award? Yes, I will accept it. The word “yes” has a transformative power. What if in the process of learning to accept something more unpleasant, we found a way to put “yes” in somewhere. 

“Yes, I am experiencing this situation.” 

Even before we have passed judgment or determined outcomes or engaged in any analysis, we can acknowledge with a “yes,” and that “yes” can signal to the brain and the body and the spirit to prepare for that which is good and positive and “yes.” 

After I walked on stage to receive my Oscar, I would deliver a speech.  This speech could be crafted in many different ways, but almost always its main ingredient would be gratitude.  When life hands me a challenge rather than a trophy, gratitude becomes even more necessary.

“Yes, I am experiencing this situation. I’m so grateful for every resource, friend, and belief I have to help me through.” 

In the moment of struggle, what we’re experiencing might not feel like a gift or an award, but the act of acceptance can have the same vibration in either situation. Accepting my present moment exactly as it is can be an act of gratitude and a moment of “yes.”