[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.
A few quick explanations first
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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?
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
+ notably or brilliantly outstanding because of dignity or achievements or actions,
+ shining brightly with light
+ clearly evident
+ 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!
- 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…)
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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!]
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.
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?
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.
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!
Thank you for this post, which I will re-read many, many times.
Here is a thing that I have learned, both from you and from personal experience: we use metaphors and myths all the time *anyway*, often unconsciously. Why not be conscious about it? Why not choose — and as long as we’re choosing, why not choose beautiful, lustrous stories, instead of heavy ones that hurt?
Oh, and there are doubtless times for the heavy stories as well — and I want to tell myself *those* consciously too, remembering my power to be the storyteller.
I am very much ready for the Month of Ease — and I am so grateful to be an Agent of Agency with you.
Yes! The metaphors/images/stories are in play all the time anyway, so true. I think I probably first realized this with Suzette Elgin’s change the metaphor technique (?), which lit me up with really if we can identify what we are using, why not play with something better, because we can, which is like the ESSENCE OF AGENCY! I love Agenting with you too, glad we are in this orbit of ease + exploration together! <3
“Not Facing Your Fears” is one of the posts that went supernova in my dimension. I have saved it.
Riffing. That word. I was am doing it on “crux”, the Play that was given to me at Rally X, and adding to insights and knowledge that Play is giving to me. Crux is the center of my compass, now and forever. It is heart and “cross my heart”. (Although it might be stomach, which seems closer to the center of my body.) I want to play with a 3D compass like a bubble around me which forms a force field/boundary that is transparent, unless I want to be invisible, and just let light pass through.
Planet comes from the Greek Plan S, which means Wanderer. But they have orbits. So they are always carrying out their plan, which looks like wandering if you don’t know their plan. This is a fun clue for me.
Please continue Travelling Illustriously.
I loved your Play presentation on the mysteries of X at Rally X, CRUX is truly a wondrous word that feels magical and tingly for me too, and I love the clue about planets and orbits, a wandering plan in motion! <3
Much to take with me here!
I am still so intrigued by the idea of the Illustrious Traveller, especially as someone I can send to the front of the V if needed, or who can be a useful Negotiator. Thank you!
Also, this trio of questions for my heart: what do you crave, what is your burden, and what would bring you joy? As I am oriented towards Chinese medicine, not least as a source of Extremely Useful Metaphors, it turns out these can be great questions to ask any part of the body. And they can also work for dialog with any Monster, especially the ones that are always there. Thank you!
Yes! I think the Illustrious Traveler could be a great Negotiator, can’t wait to learn more about Illustrious + Traveling, and same for the heart trio, so much more in there too. <3 <3 <3
The heart questions that can be used on Monsters are helpful. I asked King Anil, (nicknamed King Butt) who keeps telling me better ways I should be doing things and found out his burden is telling me better ways I should be doing things! His joy is moving excrement.
That is the best joy ever
So much love for this post. There is so much here. Proxies are one of my favorite of the many, many things I’ve learned from you – they work, amazingly and magically and incredibly deeply, every single time. Like breathing, I have to *remember* their power, remember to use them, so thank you for this reminder.
<3 <3 <3
Same, it really is hard for me to even remember that there is this other better way, especially when, again, everyone acts like anything other than marching right into the pain is avoidance and bad. <3 <3 <3
a toast! “To the lesser of two weevils!” (Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey, from Master and Commander, a movie I can watch again and again and again.) A billionty sparklepoints and heaps of gratitude for reminders of the countless other options besides “just do it”.
I love that scene! There’s nothing like an 18th-century dad joke!
It took a while for Play to click with me, but when it did, it was life-changing. I’m so grateful that you’ve showed us alternative ways to work with our Stuff.
I’m very literal-minded, so proxies don’t always work for me, but I think they’re a genius idea.
I often think literal-minded people actually often do better with proxies! Maybe harder to try one but easier to focus on it? For me it’s hard to turn off the part of my brain that wants to guess what everything might mean in a hundred other parts of my life, but I have seen people who HATE proxies and just want to work on the thing itself focus on investigating a secret mission for eight days on retreat until they are EXPERTS in every aspect of it, and only then try to apply it to their life, and it is like, the most amazing thing in the world.
Mmmm! <3 <3 <3
Again, so many sparks, but especially that I could emblazon “PLAY IS MAGIC” across every doorway and on every wall of my home and be happy to have the reminder for every moment of my life <3
I love all of this so much. I super especially love that December is the Month of Ease, because I have recently realized that not only is Ease super important to me, it is actually the most important – my true north. Also, December is the Month of Me (aka the month I was born in), so yay for clews and synchronicity!
Ease is an amazing TRUE NORTH! Happy month of Tapley! <3
Thank you! ??
The ?? was supposed to be <3
Of course, Illustrious Travelers illustrate.
ILLUSTRATIONS!!!!! Depictions! Showing the way! <3
I am up against a monster called Blaming Me For Everything in my LIFE and I am playing with the idea that my good Fairy Godmother was ousted by my BAd Fairy Godmother and I had wicked Stepsisters and a wicked Stepmother who handed me a broom to sweep with and THEN my Good Fairy Godmother Turned it into a Magic Broom and swept away all the cobwebs of Guilt, Shame and Blame and we turned them into Blooming flower Sparkle Dusties that scattered to the four winds of the Compass, NOrth South East West and then gathered Bouquets of Magic Flowers from the Seeds that blew back and sprouted into Ease, Joy, Self-LOVE and Worth and My Fairy Godmother gave me a permanent place to live in her house!!! My very own Playful Room to play in Whenever I give myself Permission to that’s the Secret Key she handed me lol
So I wrote this story today and my Compass flowers for today are Gentle and Warmth.
Thank you Havi for Proxies Big Heart with arrow can’t make question marks lol