by Lisa Boinnard in , ,

Honesty can be a beautiful and sentimental cape we like to put on when we apply it, a heroic and moral act. It can also be a bitter pill when we have to be honest in order to face ourselves, when we discover a blind spot and have to come clean. 

I wanted to explore this topic because I think most of us want to be honest human beings, and we oftentimes believe that we are always honest. But if there is one common theme in self discovery, it's that we often uncover places of self-betrayal, where we have hidden truths from ourselves and others. We become dishonest when we don't want to sacrifice an image, an identity, a fantasy about who we are, what we represent. 

Stories, whether honest or not, create webs over time. In time, these webs, or structures, are hard to see beyond. You come to believe your own tales. Or your stories have a genesis well before you had conscious choice. 

Honesty gets wrapped in good and bad, in judgment and morals. I think it would be easier for us to practice honesty if we take away the judgment, and pour in compassion along with healthy boundaries. Bad and good judgments lead to shame. Compassion and boundaries create lasting and positive change. 

Compassion means that we create a space of understanding for dishonesty. There's always a reason for why you or someone else does not tell the truth. Judgments aside, just stay open to the reason. Then, create healthy boundaries for truth-telling. Firm, assertive boundaries can also be kind. 

Living from a place of love and awareness means we must create room for paradoxes. To discover dishonesty and not judge. To have compassion with boundaries. Lies come from confusion, mistakes, and even manipulative intent. Honesty comes forth more easily within a space of compassion and clarity.

The Paradox of Commitment

by Lisa Boinnard in

Commitment is a practice. Commitment is a continual renewal in an agreement and action, moment to moment. When we are challenged by commitment, when we cannot fully commit and our practice is disrupted, commitment then turns philosophical.

Within the act of commitment, there is devotion, faithfulness, dedication, loyalty. There is also obligation, duty, responsibility – qualities that can create a sense of restriction, of less freedom. Commitment can be a paradox, and we can avoid it entirely when we don't accept the paradox.

Paradoxes require expansive acceptance: this and that. We need to create the space for seemingly negating qualities to co-exist. I am loyal to this person and I accept the obligation to commit. I am devoted to this purpose and it requires much of my time and attention. 

We come into resistance with commitment when we yearn for one aspect but not the other. When we are not willing to agree to all the terms of engagement. 

Where do you yearn for something but are not willing to pay the toll for entry into relationship with it? The effort. The duty. The devotion. This requires honesty – to look at how we actually show up. 

Don't waste your energy on shame or guilt here. Just go gentle, be honest. Get curious. And once there is clarity, once you know that you have actually chosen to not fully commit, you actually have the freedom to choose otherwise. 

Then commitment again becomes a practice.

Stillness and Space

by Lisa Boinnard in

Life can often feel like white river rafting, the rush rush of the currents overwhelming everything, no matter how great or poor the adventure. At this pace, life crowds. If the ride goes on too long, we can't sustain the energy, focus, stamina required. 

I am a very extroverted person, and I like life to dance, to move. But all of this activity requires balance. I suffer when there is not enough stillness. I suffocate and feel drained. 

There are many acts to create stillness. Any meditative act, whether a sitting practice or a moving one. Just something to experience stillness, silence. An easy one is to go into nature, even if it's just your backyard. Sit. Be still. Entrain yourself with the plants, the birds. Just be with nature, because nature's profound rhythm of stillness and presence will synchronize with you.

Stillness is a practice. The more you experience it, the better your access point. VIP access to stillness is like gold. 

Here, you will find space in the stillness. And space is what freedom, clarity, creativity crave. 

The Journey Inward and Beyond

by Lisa Boinnard in

There are two worlds. At least. Simply put, there's the physical world we can all attest to, the one that is easy to touch, see, taste, hear, smell. And then there is the invisible, unspoken world. The one alive within each of us. The one swirling around us that most of us no longer have the ability to notice and understand.

I'm talking about the dreams you have at night. The thoughts, conscious and unconscious that swirl around your mind. The feelings that beat in your gut and heart. The energy that runs through the world. 

Unconscious, subconscious, mystical, ephemeral, existential...we give names to this second world that make it beyond reach, beyond access, foreign and alien. Perhaps a little terrifying. But what if it is simply a world we have forgotten to talk about, over the thousands of years of left brain domination?

I consider my university degrees and my consulting days at places like the New York Stock Exchange and tech companies in Silicon Valley. And I often wonder, what place does this second world have within a first world context? Yet, it's a time when I believe it is most critical for each of us to have a more intimate relationship with this other, yet ever-present world. It just may save us. 

The unseen may be unfamiliar and foreign, but it is not unreal. It is not inaccessible. Carlos Castaneda wrote about the second attention, a different level of awareness to be cultivated that provides us access to the unknown. A second attention for the second world, so that we stop living divided and asleep to the other realities of our existence. 


Presence Through Your Body

by Lisa Boinnard in

There is an intelligence that many of us have little awareness of – the wisdom that is constantly in communication with us from our bodies. Bodies speak the language of truth-telling. Unlike our trickster minds. 

In my coaching practice, I've come to notice how many of us are numb from the neck down. Sometimes illness or physical trauma has caused our attention to flee from our bodies. Sometimes painful emotions make us focus upward. But most of the time, I think it's because we live in a culture of headiness. We use "I feel" much less than "I think."

Culturally, bodies are also intended for the gym, the beach, the bedroom, but not the office, at dinner, in deep conversation. This separation causes deep rifts in the psyche, in moments when we need the truth and reality of our bodies the most. 

Emotions express within the body, and if left unfelt, they get trapped there. Instinct whispers from the gut. Desire and love emanate from the heart. Who knows how your knees reveal themselves, or what your hands have to say. 

We are a culture of body-objectification. But we are hardly ever in relationship with our bodies. I believe this is why so many of us get sick. We have forgotten how to listen, how to be in deep and intimate conversation with the wise animal-bodies that are so able to care for us.

Let Transformation Be an Act of Self Care

by Lisa Boinnard in

When nature goes through transformations – caterpillar to butterfly, tadpole to frog – it is an act of creation and becoming. Too often, when humans engage in an effort of change, we make it an act of destruction and self-criticism. We want to change from a place of shame or guilt. I must change because who I am presently is not good enough.

If you notice shame or guilt within your motivation for change, then what needs to be transformed is not you, but the beliefs that hold you to these feelings.

Radical transformation has to come from a place of self care, for it to take you towards yourself. Otherwise, you end up changing for everyone else. This kind of change will not free you. It will have you waking up one day, wondering who you are, as I once did.

The pull to become more of yourself has a promise of freedom to it, a feeling of deep familiarity, it tastes of inspiration and joy. It may have a dash of fear, as the unknown often casts shadows, but it will not crush your sense of self. 

Get curious about why you yearn for change. If the feelings squeeze at your sense of self, then tend to this first. Let transformation safeguard, honor, and elevate your true nature.


Wonder and Awe

by Lisa Boinnard in ,

Remembering how to be curious about the world is a practice of cultivating exuberance and creativity.

Not questioning the reality of our existence, the meaning of why we are here, the vastness of the universe and the microcosm, not facing any of these questions by pretending we know exactly what this life and reality are all about – this is a condition that creates anxiety and low-grade malaise in all of us. 

It's not about finding answers. To understand everything is not possible. Reality is too vast. But to question. To wonder. To be in a state of awe. It's the way we came into the world as children. To retain, to cultivate this innocent state is to stay connected to the beauty and mystery of our reality. It is how we can live life with a sense of openness.

To ignore existential questioning is to pretend to be in control. To isolate our lives from the greater mysteries and focus entirely on our immediate needs, desires, worries, our individual selves, is to be cut off from the grand ecosystem of life that sustains us. I believe this causes neuroses because a part of the self thirsts and starves from being so cut off.

Wonder, awe, and appreciation of beauty allow us to stay in a state of heightened creative potential. These feeling states are the access point to creating, innovating, making...from a place of belonging and connectedness. 

Life Outside of the Cave (a.k.a. Everyday Reality and Dirty Laundry)

by Lisa Boinnard in

Recently at a dinner party, I was being intensely irreverent as I said something challenging about monks, or the monastic life. I think it was, "I'm so over monks. It's so much easier in a cave. They should try sex and kids." It was in the midst of talking about my new life as an "insta-mom". My fiancé's three children entered my life this past year and out went my ivory tower spiritual idealism. Shit just got real.

Before going on, I want to point out that I have family members who've chosen the monastic life, and yes, I'm aware that my generalization of monastic life was facetious. Time spent deep in contemplation, free from the world, can be beautiful and full of awareness, and holds its own challenges. 

Prior to meeting my fiancé, I spent a few years living on my own. I lived in a tiny little cottage by the ocean, with my tiny little dog. We had long walks on the beach. We had luxurious evenings curled up with personal growth and spirituality books. I meditated all the time. I could choose social time or quiet time. I had broad expanses of time to integrate life and to be with myself. 

I look upon these years as important "cave years." I tasted the nature of myself without much influence. I wandered shadowlands and dreamlands. I came to know myself without the other. And that is one part of knowing the self. The inward path.

The outer path is to come to know yourself through the other. Through your love for them, and your resistances. Four new people in my life has been quite the initiation. This family has offered me a deep engagement with the Self, as I've come to experience myself through my interactions with each of them.

I have come to understand that you can only truly learn through direct experience. During my time in the Cave Years, I explored concepts and theories. I dreamt of what I yearned for. But direct experience takes you, forces you into the present moment, if you are willing. It's in this present moment reality that you come to truly see how you show up in the world. What you hold as beliefs, truths, fears – these will surface in the direct experience of your life, especially through relationship with others.

The enlightened life is probably somewhere between the intensity of doing and the emptiness of nothing. It is a place where you can be yourself in the midst of doing, in the midst of others. It is being able to hold presence, a sense of openness and relaxation, as life revolves around you. A place where you can observe as you interact, so that you can act with conscious choice instead of react. A place with broad expanses of space, even as you share this space with others.

I am nowhere near this nirvana! But as I jump into the wild terrain of learning how to be with younger souls, I can use my years of inner work and contemplation to track myself, to track how I show up, where I lose my presence, where I am triggered, what is easy and what is not. This is my deep practice, to track how I am being, to develop awareness. Then to do the work of balancing the self, mapping out new territories of my inner world. 

The ideal life is probably made up of caves, sex, work, partners, people, kids, whatever you want to create. It is in the balance of things. Let experience in to help you gain self awareness and growth. And seek out cave time to breathe, to see. 

Find the Transition in Change

by Lisa Boinnard in

Change is the single absolute in our impermanent reality. But when change comes, especially the shifts that alter our sense of identity and day-to-day life, it can feel final rather than a transition into something else. In fact, if we resist the change, we miss the transition entirely and wind up stuck in the deep end.

All change is challenging, whether positive or negative, because it alters our sense of identity – "Who I am" is changing. In the midst of change, there are moments where we cannot find ourselves, because that part of ourselves we are looking for is no longer the same. 

In times of great transitions, we are learning to see ourselves as never experienced before. Change gives us new experiences, and new ways of coming to know ourselves. It requires an "I don't know" mind, and the willingness to lean into fears and anxieties that arise. 

The gold in change is actually fear. Most change will deliver a healthy dose of fear, because the ego prefers stasis and generally dislikes the unknown. This is why our reactive response is usually resistance to change, even in the best of times. But if during change cycles, we welcome fear and simply sit with it, and learn to name the fear, we find the key to transitioning through the change. Naming the fear lets us release it and come into flow.

Developing presence in the wake of fear is the practice. Don't try to fix your fear. Ask yourself to sit with the fear, feel the emotions, and in time, more and more space will wrap itself around your fear. And within this space, clarity will often deliver itself. If the fear is truly a humdinger, then have someone else hold space for you. I have many people in my life who can do this, and their help has been the true grace that has helped me embrace change.

Surrender to the dance

by Lisa Boinnard in ,

Tonight, at the end of my 5 Rhythms dance practice, a powerful moving meditation, I came to realize that I had surrendered, in dance, into a space of love and trust.

Surrender had always been a dirty word, because my victim usually lives in my act of surrendering. I surrender only at the end, when I’m exhausted, humiliated, hurting, frustrated, fried, bewildered, lost. The controlling ego within me snarls and cries out at the idea of surrendering, giving up, being a victim. It wants to fight, not give in. It wants to resist, with its amazing might. And so I hold out, until I can no longer.

But love, love asks us to surrender to the flow of the current, the movements of emotions, the push of the tides. Love wants me to lean in to unknown spaces, to lean forward, with my honeyed and abrasive emotions, lean in as if the gravity of love were at my back.

How much do you resist? When we resist being ‘weak’ and unbalanced, it actually makes us just more weak and unbalanced. We resist not knowing. We resist feeling, expressing, allowing whatever comes up to come up. Always editing, controlling, curating our experiences with strict rules that become increasingly sneaky, lurking in shadows the more we hunt for them. Tension and control masking as balance.

The fierceness of love says, just turn it into a dance. Create movement with it. Allow it to come into our experience, be willing to see what arises. Take the energy and let it be.

The rhythms of dance are teaching me to BE: present, honest, fluid. When we surrender in the dance of life, we are always moving. We can’t get stuck. So there’s nothing to fear. Everything will evolve, everything transforms and moves forward.

Let the act of dance be a metaphor for living.

Dance makes us surrender the mind, dive into the body, be led by the heart and the pulse of rhythms around us. It asks to trust our magnificent feet. How we walk the earth matters. Let the feet dance often. They know the language of our hearts and understand the cadence of the flow around us, much better than the mind can.

In the dance, we can surrender, knowing that the force and pulse of love is behind us, the threats of fear diminished. 

This post is inspired by and written with deep gratitude for my 5 Rhythms instructor, Eugene Hedlund of Shedding Skins.