Author Archives: Martina

The Personalization of Truth

I have had some interesting conversations recently that gave me pause. You see, I have friends on both sides of the proverbial “aisle” with others who choose not to engage in a system of duality. In other words, I know a lot of people with differing perspectives… and they all believe they’re right. But they can’t all be right, can they? No. And yes.

It’s an age-old conundrum proven time and time again in various experiments: show two people the same thing and you’ll get two different explanations of what they saw.

(This is my favorite illustration of this concept. I don’t know who created it, but it’s genius!)

I remember seeing a video on this concept when I was in school. They had 9 “witnesses” to a crime on a street corner. They told all 9 people that they would be witnessing something before it ever happened. Then they asked all 9 people to share what they saw. Big surprise: there were 9 different versions, with a hint of overlap. But who was wrong and who was right? Was anyone a liar? The short answer is: they were all “right” and nobody was lying.

We all – all – have our own versions of the truth. Truth and fact are not the same. Fact is objective and verifiable or quantifiable. Truth can be subjective. Ask two people why they broke up or ended their relationship, and you’ll get two different answers – both correct. The “fact” would be that the relationship ended. The “truth” is dependent on who you’re asking.

So, what does this mean? Should we trust liars? Or… is nobody actually a liar? No, that’s not how it works. There are facts, and facts are verifiable. If someone lies about a fact, it’s not their “version of the truth,” but a lie. This is clear, and everyone can make up their own minds on who they want to trust and why.

What the personalization of truth means is that we are each responsible for understanding what’s true for ourselves, and listening to what’s true for others, and then seeking out the facts. The problem arises when we put forth our own “truth” as “the” Truth. Yikes!

If we have an agenda, or a “side,” then we are in our own personal truth, not a higher truth. And that’s okay; in fact, I see it daily. Everybody’s truth matters… as long as it’s not espoused as “the” truth or being imposed on others.

If, however, we want to go beyond facts to wisdom or a higher truth, then we need to be incredibly clear. Because Truth and Wisdom are found only when we are free from judgment, free from invested belief. The Truth carries no subjectivity, only neutrality, and always exists… usually just beyond our belief systems and comfort zone. And yet, it’s one of the most comfortable places you can ever find yourself, because it wants nothing from you – it’s neutral. And, subsequently, empowering.

Shifting Perspective

A bit of inspiration on a Friday morning. “It’s just up to how you see things.”

100% true. About practically everything. This isn’t some trite platitude about the glass being half empty or half full. This is about perspective, and ultimately about the things anyone can do to shift their perspective, for the better (or for worse).

This is why not everybody with a camera is a professional photographer. This is why not everybody with a pen is an author. This is why not everybody with a kitchen and some pans is a chef.

It’s all about how you see things. And, perhaps more importantly, how you choose to see things and whether you’re open to changing that. 🙏🏻

What I Learned Watching Ants

Today, during my fitness session the coaching assistant said to me, “You’re really stressed. Your body is tensing in random places, while you’re trying to isolate other areas. I think you need to figure out how to get everything to just… be.” Followed repeatedly by: “Relax, relax, relax,” as she jiggled my thigh muscles.

She isn’t wrong. There are, of course, many reasons why this is true, not the least of which is the significant gait change I had over the last 3-4 years from a hiking injury (more on that another time, but did you know how INCREDIBLY impactful something as small as a gait change can be on the rest of your body? I do now! But I digress…)

Where was I? Oh yes, she isn’t wrong. I carry stress throughout my physical body, and my major muscles (quads, especially) work to compensate for everybody else. They’re the superheroes of my muscular system, always stepping in to save the day – which also means that they rarely allow any other muscle groups to get in on the action anymore. At least not properly. Compensating muscles are the worst enablers of the human body. 

So, here I am with significantly weak muscle systems and overly built-up other muscles, and working to bridge the gap in between. As it turns out, it’s not easy. Just trying to get my foot muscles to do basic moves on their own proved to be an exercise in simultaneous multiple-firing synapses in my brain, causing chaos and confusion. It was weird!

I have to give it time. And, perhaps more importantly, I have to give my system some downtime. I’m not the best at that. I use Yoga Nidra meditations – especially at night – when I need some external help. They work well, but it’s not the same as figuring out how to allow my body to take space and time to rebalance on its own. Admittedly, I’ve figured it out for my spirit and my brain (for the most part), but the physical stumps me. I’ve always just “pushed through” when I needed to, and laid back when I didn’t. Not very balanced. Also leads to a lot of injury. Unfortunately.

Then today, when I got home from my appointment, the skies had cleared, there was a gentle breeze, and the temps had dropped to just around 70º – in other words, it was perfect. My kind of weather. So, I took my water, went outside with the dogs, and sat in the lounge chair for a bit. As I was sitting there, I noticed the ants on the patio going about their business. One, in particular was carrying something two times bigger than itself, and I watched as it maneuvered around obstacles and climbed over others. It was impressive.

My body started to relax and quiet. I began to notice other things, like the iridescence of a fly that came to land nearby.

Then I saw the other ants moving around the patio floor, and they were all different sizes. I learned about ants in school and knew that they each had different roles in the colony, and that their size would relate to that, but it was different to see it in action. Eventually, I decided to just lie down and watch the ants. For about half an hour. Thirty minutes of doing nothing but watching ants go about their day.

Perhaps some would see this as wasteful, or lazy, but it was one of the more self-healing things I have done in a while. My heart rate slowed, my breathing grew deeper, and the best part: my muscles relaxed. All of them. I didn’t have to do anything, or think about anything to get them to relax, they simply did. It’s their natural state. 

Now, as I’m typing this only thirty minutes later, I can feel the sense of calm that I acquired outside wash over me. It’s quite profound, actually. It’s a physical peace that is starting to come close to the inner peace I have already cultivated.

Nature is one of the greatest gifts we have. I’ve taught almost all my clients to use nature to restore their inner nature, and it works. Today, I got to listen to my own advice and use it to restore my outward – or physical – nature, and it’s wonderful. 

I’ll definitely be watching ants again. Along with the birds, bees, butterflies, and any other small creatures that allow me to witness their comings and goings. Of course, the ants are wonderful because they’re so small and you can get lost in their world in only a few inches of space. I think that helps, actually.

The symbolism of the ants and their hierarchy isn’t lost on me either. Each member has their job to do, and if just one ant starts taking over someone else’s job, the system will fall apart. My compensating muscles need to re-learn their roles (and stick to them, like these industrious ants tending to the colony’s front door), while my weaker muscles need to remember how great they are at what they do. All in good time…

Ants moving grass

The Law of Karma and Wishing Harm on Others

When is it ok to wish ill on someone?

Well, the short answer is: never.

And the long answer is: never.

It’s never ok to wish harm on anyone else. If you do, you’re actually inviting that bad energy back into your life tenfold. Karma doesn’t discriminate in that regard – what you reap, you will (eventually) sow. Always.

I actually know of several “spiritual” teachers who have given clients invocations of harm toward another person. Every time I hear of it – I shudder. (Seriously, yikes!) Thankfully, my first brush with understanding this simple truth came from my Reiki grandfather who taught me a very simple lesson: You never impose your will on anyone else. Ever. To do so is to practice black magic, and it will always rebound onto you. Always.

I learned this within the first week of studying Reiki and beginning to uncover my own gifts, but millennia of history in other traditions teach the same message, most commonly:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you don’t want someone wishing harm on you, don’t wish it on others. It’s really that simple. We only choose to make it more complicated by employing the three most dysfunctional attributes of the mind: justification, generalization, and rationalization.

Perhaps, though, rather than getting mired in the teachings of the past, or the simple truths that echo through their wisdom, it might be more practical today to think of it this way:

You can’t cast a negative net and expect to catch anything positive.

Nothing good comes from sowing or spewing venom or toxicity in the world. Even though it might “feel” good in the moment, it will ultimately cause more problems in the long run. Of course, the long run could be your next lifetime, but that still doesn’t make it right.

In this age of instant gratification and guarded consequences, it’s increasingly more important for us to remember the simple truths and the wisdom of the ages. They’ve lasted as long as they have because they’re as pure as it gets. Time can’t tarnish them.

As for what to do when you feel wronged by someone? It’s 100% natural to vent, cry, get angry and experience all of the emotions running through your body… stopping just short of desiring harm on the other party. Not only will you be properly managing your karma, you’ll also actually feel better for not having created more toxicity in the situation. That’s a win-win if ever there was one.

Or, as another great teacher once taught: turn the other cheek. Which can either translate as 1) allow yourself to be hit again, or 2) (as I prefer) turn and walk away, removing yourself from the drama of the other person, and staying true to who you are.

There’s no shame in disengaging. The only real loss is when you choose to engage in something destructive and negative from a place of hurt or fear, because it perpetuates the cycle of harm – a cycle you’re standing squarely in the middle of. Yikes!

We Don’t Have Three Feet

We don’t have three feet – so it’s time to stop acting like we do.

I run into this all the time with clients, friends, family, acquaintances  – even in the mirror. We seem to think we have three feet… but we don’t.

Three Feet. (This image reminds me of My Three Sons (the TV show), but I digress.)

Too often, and we’re all guilty of it, we live life trying to keep one foot in the past (resentment, grudges, hurt, blame, shame, anger, etc.), while also trying to put one foot in the future (hope, manifesting, daydreaming, planning, preparing, making goals, striving, wishing, etc.). But this strategy leaves nothing for the present. And it’s the present that allows us to move into the future with more ease, while also allowing the past to heal with grace.

You only have two feet – where do you want to put them?

12 Years Today – 4,380 Days

I’m glad I’m not French. No offense to the French, I actually love the country, the food, and the people… but twelve years ago on Bastille Day, our lives changed forever. If it were any other normal day, I maybe wouldn’t remember the anniversary (which is a weird thing to say) of my dad’s stroke. But it’s Bastille Day in France, and I remember hearing the Marseillaise on the news in the airport as we waited for our flight from Dallas to Chicago. Now the Marseillaise is forever associated with my father’s stroke (hence, I’m glad I’m not French), which means every July 14th – I remember. Extreme crisis can do that: take one thing and affiliate it with another unrelated thing – forever. I’m just glad it wasn’t pizza.

In the back of my mind, I’m writing a book about this experience, I’ve tentatively called it 4,092 Deaths and Counting. The title is a work in progress, because today is officially 4,380. Four thousand three hundred and eighty mornings of “different.” Of love, of loss, of joy, of heartache, of gratitude, of patience, of frustration, of fear, of anger, of relief, of hope. 4,380 days of being human and living alongside dying. It’s not for the faint-hearted, I can tell you that.

Almost exactly a year ago, dad transitioned to a care facility. So, we’ve now had almost 365 days of a different kind of “different,” one that requires both more and less fortitude. Easier, in some ways, and more challenging in others – overall, though, this doesn’t get easier. I think there was a time when I thought it would. Alas, I was wrong. I wrote about it in an article a few months ago: Trapped Out of Love. (If you haven’t read it – you can read it here.)

For his part, Dad seems to be doing well. He enjoys the activities and commotion at his new residence, something that was sorely lacking here at home. The staff love him and call him “smiley,” because he is always smiling. Some call him “Judge,” because he was a lawyer – which, as you can imagine, he gets a kick out of. Mom goes to visit him several times a week, and I am able to get there every weekend – usually bringing him his favorite contraband in the form of lunch. (The pizza gene is strong!) In nicer weather, we take walks outside where there are ponds and wildlife galore. Dad also really enjoys plane-spotting, as the campus is somewhat in the flight path of two airports. All in all, it’s a simpler life for him, one with a grace and ease that accompanies living in a care facility.

For us, it’s a relief to know he’s being looked after by medical professionals 24/7, while still causing some guilt over not being able to keep him at home. That’s the conundrum of aging and illness, isn’t it? Deciding on what’s best for the patient, as well as what’s best for the family. Often times, those needs don’t match up. And even though he’s not physically at home, he’s still here in some intangible way, every day.

So, each time I think of counting the days, I hear the lyrics from Rent in my mind: “525,600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year… how about love?” I’m pretty certain we’ve measured 12 years in love… alongside all the other emotions that come with the territory. And so, we continue to do so – for how many more days, nobody knows.

Now, perhaps, there’s a reason for the Marseillaise after all, with it’s simple echo of: “Marchons, marchons!” And so we do.

Afternoon walk with Dad on a summer day

Three Days (a writer’s journey)

In three days, I wrote close to 38,000 words.

In three days, I navigated the white water of words pouring forth at a pace that was near manic.

In three days, I became exhausted (and it didn’t help that I wasn’t sleeping well for reasons unrelated).

In three days, my writer’s boat capsized, and I felt I was drowning in the jumbled web of words that spilled out over 72 hours.

It took three days for me to release the pressure of the book that had built up inside me over months. The dam had burst, and after three days, the water shifted from a torrent to a lull.

I found myself looking around, unsure of what to do and where to begin anew. I considered tossing it all aside, walking away, shutting down. I questioned my worth, and the worth of my work and words. And then I reached out to a friend.

In three days, I manically wrote (for better and worse), and then I stopped. In three minutes my friend helped to refocus the most important element of any writing, of my writing: truth.

It took three days for me to run, fall, scrape my knee, and stand up again. And it took a friend to help treat the wound, so that I could walk forward.

I now have three days left of my writing escape at my friends’ house, and in three days I will write from a place of calm, of confidence, and of focused truth.

The word count doesn’t matter. It’s a false trophy in the writing world. What matters is the words themselves… and the energy behind them.

Every writing is a journey of discovery, even when you’re writing about something you know intimately. Because every piece of writing is a creation. It’s the process of giving birth to something that will have a life of its own. A long life, if you’re lucky.

I went through three days of labor, only to find that the true birthing will be in nurturing this new work into creation, slowly, calmly, and peacefully… for however many days to come

It’s never boring, being a writer. At least there’s that. 🙂

The Importance of Simple Pleasures

Like many people I know, over the last month I have felt emotionally inundated with one shocking headline story after another. My sympathetic nervous system felt under attack, and I needed to do something about it. It’s the old “oxygen mask” rule of taking care of yourself before assisting others, because otherwise, you’re no good to anyone.

So, one day, I decided to snap a pic of my silly face enjoying some olives… because they made me so happy! They were a new discovery at my local grocery store, and they were DELICIOUS!! So, I took a picture. Then another, and I found myself laughing and smiling and, most importantly, emotionally lifted. I shared it with friends, and they, too, smiled at my goofiness. I hashtagged it #simplepleasures and didn’t think about it again.

Original Post: With everything going on in the world it’s SO IMPORTANT to find little joys. And today, I did! My local grocery store has THE BEST olives!! #simplepleasuresmakelifebetter #iloveagoodolive

Then, a couple of days later, another small thing made me wonderfully happy: A new pair of fun earrings, and I thought: Hmm…. there’s something here. So I wrote another post, played around with a fun new photo app, and shared it.

Original Post: Remember my post about simple pleasures making life better (or some days, just bearable)? Well, the other day it was olives… whereas tonight it’s shiny new baubles!! What do we think?! I LOVE them! They’re like glistening mandala ornaments for my ears. <3

And with that, I started doing a daily #simplepleasures post for about a week just to see what would happen. What I noticed was that I was pausing more and taking better note of my daily life. I watched insects crawl and fly around on flowers, I listened to rain on the roof at night, and I sipped my tea more consciously, rather than guzzling down the morning caffeine.

While the world continued to spiral all around me, I felt more grounded and better able to remain emotionally-balanced. Subsequently, I also felt more more discerning about where I focused my energy and time. And that’s what’s important here: we have to be discerning about where we focus our attention.

With everything vying for some piece of our time or focus, it’s increasingly more and more important to be thoughtful and deliberate about how we move through our days. While our news stations seem to primarily focus on the “bad” things that are happening (see my “PS” below), it becomes increasingly more important for us to take pause in our lives and identify the good things. An awareness practice, like #simplepleasures, is a perfect example of how to do this.

Here are the rest of my week’s posts using the #simplepleasures hashtag. I invite you to try this out for yourself. Make a game out of it with friends and family. It doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the “bad” that’s going on in the world; it means that you’re choosing to keep yourself healthy, grounded and balanced, in order to be able to create positive change with more energy and focus. That’s a win-win, in my book.

(PS: Seriously though, if you’re not sure what I’m talking about with needing to be more discerning about watching the news, try this: try not actively watching the news and instead sit in a room nearby listening in order to count the number of “bad” things they share as compared to the “good” things. I’ve done this. It’s even worse than you might imagine.)

 

Thoughts On Suicide

This morning, I learned of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. On Tuesday, I learned of Kate Spade’s suicide. Over the past week, I have also had friends lose loved ones and acquaintances, some of natural causes, but a surprising number to suicide. In fact, the majority, sadly.

Thankfully, because I am surrounded by social workers and other thoughtful people on social media, there have been many posts about mental health, coupled with the suicide hotline number.

Not surprisingly, as I read through some of the comments on the celebrity deaths, there were people who chose to speak out without compassion… or understanding. They couldn’t fathom how somebody who “had it all” (aka: wealth and fame) should be mourned for being “stupid enough” to take their own lives. One even said, “boo hoo… not!” *sigh*

But here’s the simple truth about suicide:

One of our most basic and primal drives (in fact, it might be THE most basic and primal drive we have) is self-preservation. It’s biologically hard-wired into us. It’s hard-wired into every living thing in nature to survive.

Therefore, for someone to complete a suicide they would have to override the most basic biological drive they have. How bad do things have to be for them to do this? Pretty bad.

Overriding self-preservation has nothing to do with wealth or fame, nothing to do with gender, age, race, faith, or any other superficial “category” we assign to other human beings. To think that any of those “things” should be enough to protect someone is ridiculous, because none of them compare to the most primal drive we have: self-preservation.

As I mourn the loss of a person whose work I truly enjoyed, my heart aches more for the friends who are mourning the loss of family and loved ones. It’s often said that “suicide is never the answer.” But unless you have been in their shoes, living with something so dark that you can override your most basic need, I don’t think we should judge. I think we should only offer them love that their souls may heal and be free, and surround those left behind with strength and grace. 💖

The ‘One Size Fits All’ Myth

Life is not “one size fits all.” It never has been, and never will be… thankfully. Our health, our bodies, our faith (to name a few) – they’re all beautifully individual and unique, as they were meant to be, despite Madison Avenue’s best efforts to convince us otherwise.

Where we have found overlap and commonality, we have created fellowship or community. But those communities survive (and thrive) not because of our similarities, but because of our differences.

Unfortunately, so many industries are built up (and thrive) on this notion of convincing us that we are all meant to be the same, or “within normal limits.” [That’s actually a term used in medicine: WNL, and that’s what it stands for. But the internal joke among medical professionals is that it can also mean: “we never looked.” Sigh.]

We strive for “normal” because it’s what we’re told we should be. Normal height and weight, normal mental health, normal eating habits, normal exercise routine, normal grades (which, interestingly, translates to “above average”).

But what if you don’t fit into the “normal” categories you’re inundated with on a daily basis (and most of us don’t, in one way or another)? What if your genetics, DNA, pant size, skin type, or blood type don’t follow the guidelines for “normal?” What do you do then?

Well, if you buy into the paradigm of “normal” or “one size fits all” thinking, you begin to bend over backwards to become anything that fits the mold. Unfortunately.

Because humanity is anything but “one size.” It’s not meant to be. Just like no tigers have the exact same stripes, humans are meant to be as diverse as possible, with as many expressions and combinations we can have. We’re meant to flourish and grow, ever-expanding… exponentially. In fact, the only “normal” thing about being human is being unique.

Being uniquely you is what creates the diversity that allows communities to thrive. If everyone were a doctor, we’d fail. If everyone were a teacher, an artist, a banker – we’d fail. We need each person to be who they are… to be the cog in the wheel they are meant to be, and there’s nothing “normal” or “one-size-fits-all” about that. Being unique is healthy, striving for sameness is not.

More importantly, it’s the very nature of the Universe to be expansive, to continually be changing and growing. (Look at evolution!) So, to subscribe to a notion that promotes sameness is to go against the very nature of our being, and makes life so much harder. And who wants that? Yuk!

The connections we create in our overlap is what makes the journey more rewarding. When you find someone who loves the same things you do, you celebrate and form a bond. Hooray!But it’s the differences we get to experience in one another that actually makes us human.