[A breath before beginning]

Our culture places an obscene amount of value on facing fears, confronting what is terrifying.

In fact, we often act as though the only breakthroughs of understanding and healing that are meaningful (hello, month of meaning) are the ones that come from these hard, painful, deeply uncomfortable moments of LOOKING THE SCARY THING IN THE FACE.

I have a lot to say about how this is nonsense, extremely dangerous nonsense.

And I am going to talk about this by intentionally not-talking about it, or at least not directly, and riffing on an 18th century toast instead. Toast!

To ease and play.

We are doing this because it will bring ease and allow us to be playful, we can explore potentially difficult moments with light hearts, and I am a big believer in doing things in whatever way is easier and more fun.

This is because I have witnessed and experienced the powerful healing that comes from applying [Ease + Play] to the scary, or, even better, around the Scary.

Or — even better than that! — we can maintain a very reasonable and comfortable distance from the Scary, playing at the margins, instead of either forcing ourselves to march right into it, or feeling terrible about ourselves when we can’t bear to go near it.

This healing that comes from play goes deeper, and it ripples outward in ways that are mysterious and beautiful, like fractal flowers.

A few quick explanations first

  1. To be clear, I am not saying do not ever face fears. That would be silly. Of course there is tremendous value in looking at what is, making room for it to be as it is. We talked about this last week.
  2. No, I am saying this: Sure, that’s one possible way to deal with a scary thing but not necessarily the best one, at least not for a lot of us a lot of the time.
  3. And I am saying that our culture puts unnecessary weight on the value of fear-facing as THE ONE RIGHT WAY when in fact it is at best one possible way, but really not a particularly fun one, and guess what, we have other approaches available to us that are not only more fun but also safer, which is important, and we might even be more likely to use them because they aren’t so terrifying!
Okay haha I do actually more to say about this and will say it at the end, maybe you can channel some extra [Trust + Patience] to play with me a bit with this 18th century toast thing for a bit, or you could skip to the end and read that part first, whatever is right for you because People Vary and we need different things at different times!

A TOAST!

During the week leading up to American Thanksgiving, I read a wonderful thread on Twitter by someone who had the excellent idea of bringing 18th century toasts to a dinner party so everyone could toast old-timey but extremely relevant and appropriate toasts, like “The United States of America, may they never be subject to foreign influence!”

My favorite toast on the list was TO THE ILLUSTRIOUS TRAVELERS, and I decided to make this my [mantra/theme/filter] for the week, a container to hold everything else I’m working on.

I like to use a phrase, image, story or clue as a theme, investigating that instead of the Scary Things.

Not only do I receive all the intel I need from the stand-in, it invariably applies beautifully to everything in my life, not just the particular Scary Thing I didn’t want to deal with.

A toast to this, the magic of play and proxies!

Want to play?

Here is the form my glorious toast-investigation took last week, yes, I am a Toast Investigator and an Illustrious Traveler…

To The Illustrious Travelers

Setting a stone-path for today, what do I know about being one of the Illustrious Travelers, what do I know about being someone who toasts TO THE ILLUSTRIOUS TRAVELERS?

Illustrious contains [lustre] which shines, like a star, and my current secret identity is Stella who Stars.

Question: Am I starring in the video game illusion (maya) of the Illustrious Travelers? Or is Illustrious Traveler the truth of what it means to be, as they say, a spiritual being having a human experience. In other words, is illustrious travel or shining while traveling, is this the work of soul?

As always, I can choose the most light-hearted proxy to play with, and almost immediately it goes deep, fast. Okay, I can live with this.

If I am someone who a) SHINES and b) TRAVELS, how can I bring more shining to my travels? Or what happens if we reverse the question to ask how I can bring more travel (trajectory, power, circulation, movement) to my glow?

Clues via the dictionary

Illustrious:
+ notably or brilliantly outstanding because of dignity or achievements or actions,
+ shining brightly with light
+ clearly evident

Traveler:
+ one that goes on a trip or journey
+ an iron ring sliding along a rope, bar, or rod of a ship (!!!)
+ any of various devices for handling something that is being transported laterally –> WAIT, WHAT ARE THE SUPERPOWERS OF TRANSPORTED LATERALLY / AM I BEING TRANSPORTED LATERALLY AND IF SO WHEN AND WHAT ARE MY DEVICES!

Giving it time.

I took a break to have some yoga, and received so many clues about Illustrious Travel and Illustrious Travelers and what this might mean!

  1. ILLUSTRATE / BE LUSTROUS / ILLUSTRATE WITH LIGHT / BRING INTO LIGHT
    (in Hebrew to bring something into light is the word for publish, so just this is like ten different clues…)
  2. my body said I NEED YOU TO BE LIGHTER, and this one hundred percent was not about size/weight bullshit, this was light like lighthearted + agile + glowing + flexible, moving with instead of against, portable, have way less stuff — in the physical but also oh wow a lot to drain out and let go of in terms of emotional/energy stuff as well
  3. communication and connection are about LISTENING + TOUCH, which are about taking time for presence!

This is also basically a summary of my breakup heartbreak situation and why it is so painful, to have loved someone who would not make time to talk with me about what broke or how, because they never have time for life, I perceive this as disrespectful to me and to the love we loved, which I know is a misunderstanding but is also still painful.

And! I want to prioritize taking time for love! And I want to expect that from the people I am in connection with, new Illustrious Travelers, may we find each other in right timing.

Also when I listened to my body, my ears told me that they are in pain, I am listening, we can investigate this more.

Listening.

I took time to wait for a delicious meal, and time to listen to C’s stories from his recent visit home, and time for a real conversation with the guy working at the co-op, and time to smile a lot with someone else’s baby, because I am an Illustrious Traveler, illustriously traveling through this day.

I brought leftovers to Jenny and practiced feeling like an Illustrious Traveler, perching on her couch and drinking wine while she got ready to go to a party.

Can I be an Illustrious Traveler by being someone who brings light but is also headed towards a point of light (a beacon?) and doesn’t really need anything, someone who is here for this moment of Companionship but doesn’t necessarily need to be involved in the future plans?

Jenny and I are both currently in the illustrious travels of healing broken hearts and taking care of our bodies and undoing culture, which means she is my fellow (illustrious) traveler and I am not alone, in this or in anything.

Receiving/Hearing Decisions.

I was walking down the alley and met a group of people listening to music, one was the barista at my cafe, he just moved into the basement of my former neighbor, the life of an Illustrious Traveler is full of coincidences just like this, I am sure of it, and he invited me to their thanksgiving festivities.

It is interesting that I am being invited to festivities even though I am not a festive person, this seems like something that might happen to an actual Illustrious Traveler!

So maybe I really am one, maybe I am Stella who stars.

But also I want to introvert and hide.

Illustrious Traveler, tell me what is next please!

Illustrious Traveler me says:
Clear out the extraneous
for new beginnings (all beginnings begin new)
say yes to full yes
know what is important (purpose and intent, why are you here, how are you here)
be okay with being temporary
breathe peaceful breaths
trust in this wild life
everything has both more and less meaning than you think it does
so go easy but also pay attention!

(We talk it out some more!)

Me: I am having some fear of missing out etc
Illustrious Traveler: Whatever we do is the most awesome thing obviously, we don’t ever miss out because we are LIVING LIFE
Me: okay but [noticing that I want someone to solve this for me, etc]
Illustrious Traveler: What do you want?
Me: Someone who thinks snuggling with me is THE BEST THING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, hmmm I maybe know people in this category but none of them are in the same state, haha, literally and otherwise! Why are my snuggling companions far away? Where are Illustrious Travelers who are also in close proximity?
Illustrious Traveler: Truly an excellent wish. What are the qualities you crave in this? What is the essence?
Me: WARM & WANTED
Illustrious Traveler: Can you get some of those things from a slightly different experience?
Me: I worry that no matter what I choose, I will either feel Bored & Overwhelmed, or I will Do Nothing & Be Sad.
Illustrious Traveler: What if these are not the only options?
Me: Tell me more?!
Illustrious Traveler: Do you want to experience things? Can we summon an adventurous mindset of Maybe One Beautiful Thing Leads To Another Beautiful Thing and if it does not we get to triumphantly retire back to cozy bed with all the points for having explored a spark of tiny adventure? Really, whatever you do is filled with Lustre, because you are me.

Reflecting.

I did crash the neighbor’s thanksgiving deal briefly and they were warm and welcoming but it was not the right source of Warm & Wanted, more like a reminder of Warm & Wanted, but then I was able to give myself a different form of those feelings under the stars.

And I received some more clues about [Illustrious + Travel] as well as letting light move, so I am going to take that to yoga and breathe it and see what comes.

Let it.

Oh, and here is another clue from my friend Jenny, my fellow Illustrious Traveler in the lands of heart-healing after betrayal:

What if LET IT GO can morph into LET IT COME?

Even more clues!

Ohmygod yoga was nothing but clues about Illustrious plus Travel and letting light move.

The teacher was a substitute and she is anatomy-obsessed. We spent the entire hour feeling for our actual heart and noticing when/where it travels because apparently the heart travels a lot more than you’d think. Are you with me?

THE HEART ITSELF IS AN ILLUSTRIOUS TRAVELER! MY HEART IS A TRAVELING LIGHT SOURCE!

And then in shavasana cocoon she asked us to talk to our hearts and ask what the heart craves, what its burdens are, and what would fill it with joy about life.

My heart told me that it craves more writing time (this was surprising), it’s burdens are all my burdens but mainly its burden is worrying about me, and what fills it with joy is when I DANCE AND AM MY ANIMAL SELF.

I can do this. I can give myself time for writing and righting, I can be my animal self, I can release worry. Thank you, beautiful heart. You are the most illustrious of all the travelers I have known, you are my light as I travel.

You are my traveling companion, heart.

You are my traveling companion, heart.

So how can I be heart-broken when my heart is always with me?

Answer: I am not, it is an illusion. My lustre is real. The pain will pass, my glow will stay.

What are (some of) the superpowers of being an Illustrious Traveler?

  • Glowing Fire Boundaries aka edges`that act as gatekeepers, receptive to what is yes and not even visible to anything no, if it’s not yes it gets burned as it approaches
  • My Glow Is A Beacon / My Glow Lights My Way / My Glow Is Blinding When It Needs To Be Because Sometimes I Need To Not Be Seen / My Glow Just Is / My Glow Travels As Does My Heart But I Am Always Held In Love
  • I respect my space and so does everyone else
  • I fill my space (internal and external) with love, while staying rooted and agile in my steady grounded power
  • Follow What Is Inspiring
  • Change Your Place Change Your Luck
  • Blank Space Has Power!
  • Haha happy Fill In The Blanks Giving to me!

    And that was my thanksgiving of being an Illustrious Traveler,

    It all came from a toast that was not a toast, and I learned about my broken heart and my healing heart without spending the day working through the breakup, because I was playing with light and travel and toasting instead.

    Yes? Can we feel how and why this is powerful, valuable, and a more loving, compassionate non-violent approach to working through our stuff (our pain/fear/anxiety/hurt/distress) than direct confrontation?

    Okay back to talking about the thing.

    I could have been dealing directly with all the big scary life things, the heartbreak and loss, the fear of being alone and the fear of fear. But I had more fun learning about what it means to be an Illustrious Traveler.

    The work was still being done UNDER THE SURFACE, and in a way that is curious and receptive, loving and intentional.

    And, this is important, I was able to receive all this cool intel without tightening up at the thought of approaching the pain because it was just play. I was just playing with a toast, looking up the origins of words, trying on the identity of a traveler who is illustrious and possibly also light-filled.

    This kind of play is powerful and meaningful, but also it is a much safer way to learn about ourselves, and I feel so strongly about Safety First when it comes to self-inquiry, because we all carry trauma, and being able to tread gently with or around our pain is a very loving way to be human.

    Okay, I am going to try not to get too ranty here, I have some strong feelings about our cultural obsession with Facing The Fear, here we go.

    Here is the problem with our cultural obsession with facing the fear.

    I think about the secret agents I play with*, these wise, thoughtful, creative, loving-hearted people, and my heart hurts because they get so stuck so fast each time they force themselves face something that did not need to be directly faced.

    * I believe in the outside world, the term is clients or students or whatever, but I play with people as equals, and so I like to imagine that we are all secret agents in the agency of Agency!

    I see these people I love and admire trying to dive into the fear to come out on the other side because they have been told that this is how it works, that this is supposedly the only way it works, and guess what, they are not having fun, and all this fear-facing just ends up being traumatic and generating more fear, more pain in need of healing.

    For example.

    Maybe they saw a video with an author who thinks vulnerability is the best thing in the world, and they’re like YEAH I AM GOING TO BE VULNERABLE AND LOOK RIGHT AT ALL MY SHAME RIGHT NOW, which lasts maybe a minute before they are, quite reasonably, overcome by hordes of monsters, then depression paralysis for months.

    Or they had a massive epiphany in therapy but thinking about it scares them so much that they’re panicking about exploring it.

    Maybe they read a book by some dude who thinks the best metaphor for making art is war, so they fight their resistance and internal criticism every day, which (surprise!) is super exhausting, because when we fight with something, there is always a possibility that it might win, and also resistance is strengthened by resistance, that is the nature of resisting, what you fight gets stronger.

    [Side note: PEOPLE VARY! So if war metaphors work well for you, rock on, or if putting your shame under a lens is a good and non-traumatizing technique for you, I am happy for you and happy that you know this about yourself!]

    Clarity.

    I am not saying we have to set these techniques on fire or stop going to therapy.

    Vulnerability is a beautiful spiritual quality. Warrior mode can be transformational. I am only pointing out that there are less violent/confrontational/terrifying ways available to us that let us work on our stuff without being in our stuff.

    And even work on the stuff we don’t yet know is our stuff!

    I have seen too many people I love go into complete shutdown from fear-confronting techniques. And yet this approach is consistently rewarded in culture/media, even though it mostly dredges up more fear and pain.

    This is so painful and so unnecessary and I am tired of it.

    There are other ways and there are better ways.

    This is what self-fluency is about.

    Look how much I learned about my heart and what it needs from me, what if fears and what it desires, all through exploring an 18th century toast.

    Can we bring more kindness into our healing process, can we make it a refuge instead of a place to confront demons? Can we turn self-study and self-work into play?

    And yes, I feel so strongly about this! This is what I have been doing here since 2005, this is why I get up in the morning, this is what I care about. Also good lord, can we find a metaphor that doesn’t involve demons? Let’s do that.

    Some brief final points to end this!

    Point! Self-fluency is a creative, compassionate, curious exploration of who we are, what we need and how to best take care of ourselves. We solve mysteries and challenges through this loving approach of exploration, without trying to force the solutions. And yes, we play.

    Point! People Vary, and some people (and I am willing to bet that the art-is-war dude and examine-your-shame lady fall into this category) get a thrill or a high from doing things that scare them, which means that some part of the methodology they sell is joyful for them. Facing the fear at some level gives them pleasure.

    But then they tell everyone else to push through fear and face the scary things, except maybe it is not joyful for you, there is no high in it, just more fear. And that’s where we get this nonsense culture of forcing and pushing. Not everyone is high sensation seeking!

    And even those of us who are (hi, I’m high sensation seeking and highly sensitive!) can still benefit from more metaphor, more play, more dancing at the edges.

    Point! Play Is Magic. And yes, definitely tell your therapist or other allies about proxies! You can do all the same work investigating a story or a metaphor (even and maybe even especially) without knowing what it is a stand-in for, and without the intensity of being in anxiety and pain while exploring whatever needs to be explored.

    Point! The expectation that we have to face our fear in order to heal it is violent and also not true.

    I have written about this before (hello, 2008), facing fear is not necessarily the most helpful approach to fear and the value of a good comfort zone.

    Point! We can train ourselves to be way less impressed by the Scary Things. but there are lots of ways to do this and diving into the scary is not actually required.

    Point! Safety First. Let’s take care of ourselves.

    Come play with me, here.

    With a toast, with a story, with a superpower, with a new identity you’d like to try on. We are here. Safe space.

    Also, welcome to the month of Ease. Everything we did in the month of Meaning just seeded more Ease. So let’s play with Ease.

    Yes, ha, let’s play with ease. Let’s play, with Ease.

    Let’s add [Ease + Play] to everything because this is how we subvert culture and rewrite our patterns, finding better air to breathe.

    I have so much love for you.

    Invitation for companionship and play, come be an Illustrious Traveler with me.

    You are invited to share !!!!!! about what is here, or anything sparked for you while reading.

    You are welcome to explore any exploration (a toast, or something else), to travel illustriously with me, to play with these concepts or techniques as you like.

    Safe space for creative exploration asks us to let go of care-taking and advice-giving. We meet each other with kindness and appreciation and awe.

    And of course it’s always okay to comment under a made-up name, whether for play and delight, or in the interest of Safety First.

    I hope you can feel all the love here, because there is a lot of it.

    p.s. If you want me to write more on this and related topics, I do too! Come join Operation Follow The Clues and I will write all the things that are asking to be written. You also get to drop in suggestions and I’m extending the November bonus which is the amazing Book of Salves which I am currently editing and it is so good and I want everyone to have it. All the details here!