Love Can Help Me Know My Name

Open Up to Love
Open Up to Love

Today in the car, this song came on  and I got the chills – literally! Apparently, it was precisely what I needed to hear.  Which song? It was Love’s Divine by Seal, who is one of my favorite mystic songwriters:

Then the rainstorm came, over me
And I felt my spirit break
I had lost all of my, belief you see
And realized my mistake
But time threw a prayer, to me
And all around me became still

I need love, love’s divine
Please forgive me now I see that I’ve been blind
Give me love, love is what I need to help me know my name

Through the rainstorm came sanctuary
And I felt my spirit fly
I had found all of my reality
I realize what it takes

‘Cause I need love, love’s divine
Please forgive me now I see that I’ve been blind
Give me love, love is what I need to help me know my name

Oh I, don’t bend (don’t bend), don’t break (don’t break)
Show me how to live and promise me you won’t forsake
‘Cause love can help me know my name

Well I try to say there’s nothing wrong
But inside I felt me lying all along
But the message here was plain to see
Believe me

‘Cause I need love, love’s divine
Please forgive me now I see that I’ve been blind
Give me love, love is what I need to help me know my name

Oh I, don’t bend (don’t bend), don’t break (don’t break)
Show me how to live and promise me you won’t forsake
‘Cause love can help me know my name

Love can help me know my name.

by Seal

My Box


I  live in a box – we all do. It may be a sacred box or a profane box… either way, it is still a box.

I have created a box or a “comfort zone” in life where I spend my days and feel safe. It is a mental box that I created from all the rules and habits that define where I live and work, who I interact with, what’s acceptable, “safe” behavior, what’s allowed in my family and my culture, what’s bad or wrong behavior, etc. And all those things that I have decided are off limits, too big or too scary to be part of my life, create the walls of my box.

Pain and Boredom as Catalysts

Ultimately my box defines how much of my true self I will share with the world. It’s very hard to be a big presence in the world if I choose to inhabit a tiny little box. But my little comfort zone of a box provides continuity and safety for me – no one wants to live in a completely unpredictable world where everything is new and unknown all the time. And my little box may be beautiful and fun for me. But as time passes my comfortable little box of a life may come to feel constrictive and limiting; I may begin to feel caged up and ache for something new.

The most amazing box can ultimately become downright painful; mine certainly did in the months before I decided to get divorced from my first husband. Or maybe I inhabit the same comfortable box for so long and come to know every corner of it so well, that I find myself bored to tears by its predictability. That was the case for several years before I chose to completely shift gears and change careers.

When I am bored or in pain, I am way more willing to stretch and embrace a little of the unknown. And I am way more likely to seek out change. I may decide to take a class, go on a trip, change jobs, start exercising, change my diet… 18 years ago I took a huge leap and got divorced – but only after aching for a change for years. I am only human; change, big change is most likely to happen when my box becomes too painful or too boring to bear for another second.

Pushing My Limits

Every shift or change I have ever made, involves expansion; I end up pushing against the limits of my old comfort zone. And like most people, I am willing to wait a long time and put up with a lot of boredom or pain before I try to change my life. It’s great to feel safe and comfortable. And change can be very uncomfortable and scary. But when my box becomes too painful or restrictive, I eventually reach an internal tipping point. Then I am willing to swallow my trepidation and make a change in my life.

With every change, I inevitably run up against my old limits; I push up against the walls of the safe and known box I’ve been living in. Or if I shift fast, I may even completely blow through the walls of my box before I realize it! When I run into, or completely blow by my old familiar limits, I feel fear – it’s not very comfortable to be outside my old box at first. And I am likely to find ways to contract again and sabotage myself. I get shaky and try to talk myself out of the shift. Or I decide I can’t handle the change or don’t know how to change. Ever insecurity of mine rears its ugly head!

Craving and Sabotaging Change

When I feel shaky, it’s natural to want to to crawl right back inside my old box; to run back to my old comfort zone, even when a huge part of me is still aching and crying out for something bigger, something more. But I’ve learned that it helps me immensely to remember that whenever I grow and expand, I will knock up against the walls of the comfortable “box” I’ve been living in. And when I do, I will feel quite vulnerable and fearful. It’s part of the process.  I find it comforting to realize that I am just being human whenever I get scared and sabotage my own growth and change. I may even give myself a little slack if I can remember that all of us tend to do stupid, self-defeating things when we’re in a new world and feel off-balance and scared.

Realizing that it’s human nature to both crave and fight against change, helps me relax and give myself some grace. When I can own that part of me that fears and fights against change,  I find it’s easier to pay attention and catch myself whenever I start to contract back into my safe little box. So, when I catch myself sabotaging the change and growth that I actually crave, I have a choice; I can berate and verbally beat myself up for being so dumb. I can give up and jump back in my old box and forget about every changing. Or I can try to treat myself with loving kindness; I can realize how vulnerable it feels to be outside my comfort zone. And do it anyway.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt

How I Expand and Start Living Outside My Box:

1. Breathe and pause. Look around at life outside my old comfort zone; try to explore a little. Allow myself to take baby steps into the new world outside my old box. If I push or rush myself, I only trigger more fear and confusion and upset.  Eleanor Roosevelt suggests doing one thing a day, not 20! Easy does it. There is no need to muscle through all my fear and confusion at once.

2. Own my fear and shakiness and confusion. Just allow myself to FEEL it all. Try not to stuff it or run from it. Remind myself again and again that it’s completely normal to feel this way when I jump outside my old comfortable box and land in a new unknown place! Chaos, fear and confusion are normal after any change – especially at first.

3. Breathe and ask, “is this fear – or curious excitement – or both jumbled up within me?” When I ask this, I usually find that a big chunk of what I am feeling is actually excitement at being in a new place outside my box. And curious excitement is way less loaded with negative charge than fear is. 🙂

4. Do things that blow off stress and give me physical comfort; exercise, get a massage or energy work, take long soaks in the bathtub, dance. Get my body grounded and moving in my expansive new world. I have learned that as soon as I get my physical body grounded, I start to feel 1000% better.

Breathing and owning my fear and confusion at being out of my comfort zone is key for me. If I can breathe and stay with those big hairy feelings of vulnerability and exposure, then the fear dissipates. And I can slowly calm down and ground in this new space. I can feel my way into how to get comfortable and embrace my brand new, exciting and scary, more expansive box.

Finding Ground

Foggy Foothills
     Yesterday the dogwood tree in my yard was covered with green leaves; this morning all but two low branches are deep maroon. Amazing how fast that shift happened. Autumn has been whispering its way towards Kansas City for weeks. The wild rainstorm yesterday seems to have signaled its official arrival. The air is cooler, crisper today. And I notice leaves turning yellow, orange and maroon everywhere I look. Changes in my personal life are like that; little hints of change and subtle shifts happen that I often miss or ignore. Then, wham, a storm blows through and in the aftermath I look around surprised to see profound changes in myself or those around me.

I took a walk down the creek path this morning. The day is gorgeous; sunny with a cool wind and high wispy clouds in a bright blue sky. Jacket weather is here. Quite a contrast with yesterday’s cold gray skies and hours of torrential downpour. The heavy rains left the creek high, very high. And the storm water has noticeably altered the creek in just one day. In one spot, long hairy orange tree roots dangle in mid-air over the far curve of the creek bank. Yesterday the roots were encased in dirt; today they dangle free and unsupported. I have had days like that – I wake up to discover that the very ground I have been rooted in and attached to is suddenly gone.

Most humans are not very good at handling change and I am no exception. With change comes fear; that feeling of the world shifting out from under me, of dangling in mid-air without support is very scary. Sometimes I get stuck in that state of fear and I start to worry that problems and instability are all I have to look forward to.

I say that I believe in a benevolent God; a God who takes care of the earth and all living creatures; a God who it omnipotent and all-knowing; a God from which all of life flows. And yet when my path gets rough or the world seems dark, I have trouble trusting that God truly does know what she is doing and all is well.

Any change or shift in my life can trigger the fear. The shift can be something as simple as a change in my schedule or diet, or as profound as divorcing my first husband. The size or importance of the shift does not necessarily determine how well I cope with the change. Any shift, big or small, can be difficult.
The trees on the creek bank seemed to handle change better than I normally do. Trees instinctually know to lean away from instability and sink new roots into whatever ground is left to support them. In contrast, I flounder for days, feeling angry and off balance, bemoaning whatever changed in my life. I grieve for the support I lost. I forget to breathe and lean into the support I still have.

Trees have a visceral trust in the Universe or Earth to support them and provide for them no matter what happens. I have trouble trusting in the good of the Universe that profoundly in the midst of change. I get caught up in grieving what I have lost instead of opening to what is now possible. I forget to pray or meditate and I lose my connection to ground.

Faith and trust in the good of God is my ground, the core bedrock that won’t shift out from under me no matter what. For me, faith and trust come from cultivating my internal KNOWING sense of God as good and benevolent rather than mean or indifferent. That loving essence of God is always with me, around me, within me. I sense it when I work with clients, when I pray, when I watch children play, when I hug someone. And yet I also forget it again and again. I lose my connection to God and I flounder.

Buddhism tells me that I suffer when I cling and grasp, when I try to keep things from changing. Nothing is permanent except Buddha or God. And Christianity tells me to build my faith on the rock of Christ. Judaism implores me to trust in the Lord. Peace of mind comes from letting go and trusting that God or Buddha is in charge. Letting go and trusting in God to handle the affairs of the world is the only answer.

I find that I must tend to my trust and faith like a tender young seedling in my garden. My faith needs to soak up the sun of other people’s loving, positive energy. And then I must water it with prayer and meditation; and trust that it already knows how to grow;

I must feed my faith by actively noticing the good in people, the love in the world. Water and feed, water and feed until my tiny bit of faith and trust in the good of God grows stronger, more resilient, more certain. Water and feed my seedling again and again until one day I discover that my seedling has grown bigger and stronger and is deeply rooted in all directions. Then every little shift no longer throws me into doubt and fear. I can be as calm as the trees on the bank of the creek. I can remember that all is well.