THE LISTENING SEED
Today was french toast. Today was meditating in the sun. It was practice in the outdoor altar space, kitties standing guard, and the Great Pyr snuffling in her sleep.
Yesterday was a beam of blue light shooting through the frame like an omen only apparent upon reflection.
The day before that was the path to my house, welcoming the new day like a visiting friend.
And the day before that: Frustration and Impatience, teachers of letting go and divine timing.
Every day is new, every day has a story— a feeling— an essence.
How do you be present for that essence?
Commit to every day.
For instance, I’ve got a new personal practice: Moving qi, filming the practice, sharing the video, and doing it daily.
I film myself practicing tai chi, qigong, or kungfu and I post it online, once a day, every day.
Everyday Tai Chi Film, Day 21, film still by Brea Fisher
There’s a potency in doing something daily as opposed to doing something once in a while, or even often or regularly. The daily ritual has a quality of affecting your life in an incredibly deep way.
When you take part in a particular activity every single day, that activity changes you, for better or for worse. The routine makes up a significant part of your life, depending on how long you do it daily.
In a way, your everyday practices help define who you are.
There’s an idea I’ve heard about what deems something spiritual:
A practice becomes spiritual when it is done every day.
This is one of my favorite ways of thinking about spirituality.
To me, this idea unlocks the big golden door to Spirituality and opens it up to anyone and everyone. You don’t need to be of a certain religion, faith, or belief system to be spiritual.
You are spiritual simply because you wake up each day.
You are spiritual because you breathe, because you blink, because you drink, sleep, and pee.
You are spiritual every day you exist.
I believe to be alive is synonymous with being filled with spirit. However, for most people the idea of being spiritual suggests something one attains beyond existing.
Perhaps spirituality is cultivated when one holds a specific practice every day, and does so with love, care, and intention.
Penning a short poem every morning upon waking becomes a way to connect to one’s sense of the greater whole.
Dedicating each midday meal to someone you love takes lunch to a new level of consciousness.
Committing to a daily set of stretches, feeling into your body, and becoming present even just a few minutes can make an ordinary day extraordinary.
When you start a daily ritual and infuse it with love and intention, it’s like planting a seed.
The daily care you put into your personal practice is the water, sunlight, and soil, giving that seed all it needs to germinate, sprout, and grow into whatever beautiful plant it will be.
Everyday practice creates a sacred space for magic to happen.
On the day I write this it is Day 17 of the Everyday Tai Chi films. I’m still just a sleeping seed below the surface of the earth.
But already the practice has opened me up, given me inspiration, and allowed me to reach deeper into myself.
There is a universal feeling that comes from successfully completing something one sets out to accomplish. I highly recommend giving yourself the opportunity to get this feeling every single day.
Plus, even though your personal practice may be the same thing done over and over again, it isn’t stale, or rote, or the same old thing when you do it with focused intent and love.
Every day is a secret.
There exists a mystery in the new day. A daily practice can offer you a method of becoming present to the hidden themes, lessons, and gifts each rising sun reveals.
An everyday practice done with open eyes and an open heart opens you up to experiencing life in a deeper, more profound way.
When you take on your personal practice with a sense of awareness, your everyday routine becomes sacred.
As part of the Everyday Tai Chi films, I’ve let go of my perfectionist attitude when it comes to making lesson films to publish online…
Which means I’ve got one for you today!
It’s about four minutes, and I’d like you to follow along.
The idea here is to give you a short practice to do daily. And I do mean that. Every. Single. Day. Try it and see what happens.
This particular form is called Lung Cleansing, an autumn form that uses the metal element to balance and support you during the fall season.
If you don’t want to practice this form every day, your challenge is to find something else you can commit to doing daily, and with awareness. Or maybe you already have a daily ritual. Perhaps you could take this opportunity to infuse it with more love.
What you do does not define the totality of who you are; however…
What you do helps who you are express itself.
In the world today there are many things people do on a daily basis that are not necessarily born out of inspiration and joy.
We have jobs to go to, families to care for, and chores to do. We do our daily routines to get by, because we feel we have to, or simply to survive.
It’s powerful to find something you actively choose to do daily just for you.
Create for yourself an everyday practice and do it because you like it. Do it because it feels good.
Do it because it helps you connect with the deeper Who You Are, every day.
The ghost of my lost chicken, Holly, came to visit me last week.
She came running around the side of the house, feathers ruffled and wings spread out. Coming in for a landing. She was bawk-bawk-bawk-ing, braking her run right before me. She swiped her beak left and right in the dirt over and over again.
I thought it was Penny, the other Australorp. Both are black, but Penny’s comb has taken a pecking and she always seems to be right out of a dust bath. Holly, on the other hand, is sleek black with a perfectly formed comb on top of her head, deep red, and without a nick to be found. She’s clearly higher up in the pecking order of the flock.
I stooped to pick her up, but she fluffed, squawked, and ran just out of my reach. Upon closer look I realized it was not dusty Penny, but missing Holly!
I grabbed some kale, tore some pieces off, and threw them to her as a welcome home treat. Usually a snack she sprints to me for, she ignored them, drinking from the duck’s bathing pot instead.
I called her sisters over thinking maybe she’d eat with the gang and have a reunion. She had been missing for two weeks to the day, after all.
She made a bee line out through the front gate, but by that time I had attracted all the other hens, plus all three ducks, who enthusiastically gobbled up all the kale leaves as fast as I tossed them.
Less than a minute later I was off in the direction of my elusive bird, with a line of humming chooks behind me, and further back a slower-moving trail of quacks. Holly Hen was nowhere in sight.
Rooftop, Searching for Holly, Photograph by Brea Fisher
I searched all over: under trees, behind rocks, under scrap pieces of corrugated metal roofing. I found a cat, but no hen. And by the end of my hunt I had not only all the birds inline behind me, but also one great beast of a dog and a three-membered pride of cats who bounded from tree to tree keeping the dog in clear view.
I figured the parade was sure to keep Holly hiding, so we all gave up and went about other homestead business.
Although I wasn’t expecting to see Holly that day, I wasn’t totally surprised. When she didn’t return to the coop at dusk two Sundays before I had had a feeling she was around somewhere, holing up, choosing not to come home. She had never been a broody girl before, but hens are known to sometimes get the urge to sit on their eggs until they hatch.
I had seen no sign of foul play, no feathers strewn about, no odd, defensive behavior by the other hens. And I had a story that kept coming to mind, which kept me calm.
When you feel a little fear creeping in, call upon your brigade of positive-outcome what-ifs to sweep your worries away before they settle in for the long run.
A friend had told me the story of her parent’s chicken who had gone missing. Apparently their hen had been gone weeks and they had come to terms with the conclusion that she had perished by predator.
But one fine spring day, out of the woods came marching the missing chicken, with a line of tiny peeping chicks in tow. She had been brooding in the forest all that time, had made it through nights of storms and possibly close calls by foxes on the hunt, and had been able to hatch her babies safely, proudly bringing them home to join the flock.
The difference between that flock and ours is that they had a rooster. Our flock is all ladies, which means all of the eggs they lay remain unfertilized.
An unfertilized egg that gets sat on for weeks, is a very futile practice.
Heartbreakingly so, Holly Hen had been out there in the chilly autumn nights, two storms, and any number of close encounters with predators. And there she continued, sitting, waiting, being a good mother to babies that will never emerge from their eggs.
Certainly a rooster-less flock was not what nature intended. But does that mean my modern mama hen was out there braving the odds for nothing? Was it all in vain that she sat, brooding, patiently keeping her eggs the perfect temperature and level of humidity by pulling out her own breast feathers?
I’d like to think she gained something in all her hours of nurturing those eggs out there.
The next handful of evenings I thought about Holly, especially at dusk, when I was closing up the coop. It saddened me to imagine her out there alone all night and all day, for weeks.
However, what bothered me more was the thought that she was out there working to hatch chicks that would never be. How could her struggle be for nothing?
And with this hopeless thought, I inevitably thought of my own life, and all the struggles I had endured, seemingly for nothing, at the time.
In the thick of one’s suffering the mind wants to belittle the hardship by refusing to see its significance.
Over time we can understand the importance of having experienced the things that challenged us most, but up close, when we’re right in the middle of it all, it’s easy to fall back on the perspective that our struggles happen to us as opposed to for us.
There is meaning in the process of struggle, challenge, trouble, and suffering; choose to see it that way and its messages become available to you.
The body has a wisdom that can override the mind’s tendency to form opinions and judgements. Move the body in a way that finds balance and flow, and it will naturally create harmony between the internal and external worlds, the yin and the yang.
In this Qi Challenge I created a tai chi lesson film for you. Give yourself some space in which you’ll be uninterrupted for about five minutes. The film is only about two minutes long, but it would be most beneficial for you to follow along at least twice.
There is no audio narration; however, notes are included on the screen as the movie plays. Please feel free to ask questions; just leave a comment below the blog.
Take a moment before pressing play. Notice how you feel in your body.
Identify something in your life that you want to relate to with more harmony, something you may have been resisting, or something that has been causing you strife.
Set the intention that you will find peace with this particular situation. You can use the following resolve, or make your own:
I will harmonize myself with this challenging experience to find its hidden meaning.
After you’ve followed along a couple times, notice how you feel. Check in with your body. Use ting jing, listening power, and listen with all your senses.
Last week I had three surprises, on three separate occasions, upon my return home.
The first was on Monday, and I came home to find a new hothouse, built by my love with salvaged materials and filled with containers ready to be planted for year-round herb and vegetable growing.
On Tuesday he surprised me with a beautiful hand-built rocket stove made out of stone and mud. Wikipedia’s definition of a rocket stove is “an efficient and hot burning portable [or permanent] stove using small diameter wood fuel.”
Both of these two new additions to our homestead are featured in the tai chi film posted above, by the way.
My third surprise came after I got home from teaching my Saturday tai chi classes. Holly was back! She had come out of hiding that morning and seemed to have wanted her nest to be discovered. She led the way, revealing a very secret stash of eighteen eggs, completely hidden beneath that heap of corrugated metal roofing.
Although I felt relieved and happy to have her safely reunited with the flock, I couldn’t help but simultaneously feel that same old sadness when thinking about her chicks that didn’t come to be.
I’ll never know what Holly’s trip was regarding her experience, what she might have gained by going through it, or how she felt about it all. But I do believe that the animals closest to us have the unique opportunity of helping us learn things about ourselves.
When your dog repeatedly runs away, or your cat has a peeing on your bed issue, they just might be fulfilling a teaching role for you, helping you see more clearly something about you that needs attention.
So if Holly had something to teach me, maybe her message was this:
Hardship is only futile when you disregard its significance.
My wish for you, and for me, is that we decide to get into harmony with both the ups and the downs that make up the circles of our lives.
May we all find the hidden stash somewhere deep within ourselves.
What do you do if you know you could be doing better— better at being you, expressing yourself more authentically, being true to you, living your life more fully— but despite all your desires, you are still not doing it?
This is a question I am asking right now.
Like, right now. I’m asking it here, right at the start of this article.
So here I am page, give me the answer. I’m ready.
Well, Brea, the answer is clear:
Hm. Somehow that’s not quite helpful. I was looking for something more concrete. Maybe a set of steps I can take to get to where I can begin to “do better.”
Ok. A set of steps:
Three Steps to Instantly Start Doing Better
Um, ok. Do I need to do this, like, right now?
Yes. Right now. Unless you want to keep not doing it. Then wait. Hold off on deciding. Tell yourself you’ll write on that silly piece of paper later. See what happens.
Oh. Right. That’s why I keep mentally beating myself up, huh. Because I know what I need to be doing in order to be “doing better.” I know I need to make time for it. But I don’t. So I get angry with myself. I criticize myself for it. And I end up feeling worthless and weak, with no energy left to actually do those things that will make me feel like I’m being a better me.
Ok. Here I go. I’m doing it. Let me get my piece of paper.
(Hey, you reading this, you might want to do this, too, otherwise we’re both going to be stuck in that old dance… and yes, I’m assuming there are things you’ve been putting off that you know will be good for you, but you have not put into practice.)
Ok I’m back. I did it. I didn’t know what to do with the paper, so I put it somewhere I knew I would see it every day.
I feel oddly better. Like I totally trust that now I am doing better. As if the words I wrote were empty as I wrote them, but upon re-reading them they became truth.
I thought it would be more complicated than that.
Look. The reason it’s so simple is because it’s not complicated. Your thoughts want to make it harder than it is. The more you think about how much you could be doing better, the more you feel you aren’t.
The truth of the matter is, you are doing the best you can, all the time. If you could see yourself from outside yourself, from the perspective of someone who absolutely, 100 percent, unconditionally loves you, you would think you were doing awesome, all the time, no matter what.
Yes, sometimes you do have the potential to do “better” than you do. Sometimes you don’t challenge yourself in ways you would benefit by. Sometimes you let fear get in the way of experiencing something valuable, life-changing, or just plain fun.
That doesn’t mean you aren’t doing a good job being you. It doesn’t mean you’re not expressing yourself, not being true to you, or not living your life fully. It just means you have an opportunity to do it differently next time.
Without that “I can do better than this” feeling, you would get pretty bored, pretty quick. Imagine a life in which you never felt called to do something different, something more, or something new.
Don’t let that “I can do better than this” feeling make you think you’re not doing it right; that feeling is the very essence of what keeps life going!
If you always felt like you had mastered every single aspect of being you, you would never feel the urge to seek new ways to grow.
Life purposefully sends us down roads that give us epic landscapes that delight and surprise us. It also throws in plenty of wrong turns, mud pits, and cranky travel companions.
Life gives you ways to say, “Yes, please, I’ll have more of that,” and also, “No, thank you, that’s not what I like,” and both are valuable.
All those No thank you’s aren’t presented on your path in order to turn your smile upside down (or eff-up your sh*t). They’re given to you so you can know more clearly what you really do want.
So when you feel like you’re not doing as good of a job at life as you could be, take that as another sign post on the road. Do you like feeling the way you feel when you do life that way?
Oh, no? Well then, you’re in luck, because you’re at another intersection. Camino Paradiso, on your right. You have the choice to make that turn! Decide to take it and find out where it leads.
Not ready yet? Perfectly fine, you’ll get another turn-off down the road soon enough— Better Street, Next Exit.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
I am going to get vulnerable with y’all for a minute.
I almost didn’t write this week’s article. I thought I might just skip it and do one next week instead. I just didn’t feel up to it. I’ve been sick with three different ailments during the past three weeks, which I feel embarrassed about and frustrated by. I was feeling like a failure, a fraud, a hack. I didn’t know what to write about. I thought y’all wouldn’t care either way. Maybe you wouldn’t notice if I missed this week and slipped one in next week.
And then I imagined how I would feel if I didn’t write the article. It didn’t feel better; it felt worse. Writing these bi-weekly articles are a commitment that helps me feel like I am being the best me I can be. It is a dedication I take seriously, not only because I promised y’all I would do it, but because I made that promise to myself.
Consistently showing up, even when times are tough, is part of what gives me the feeling that I am doing what I need to do to do the best I can.
Which brings us to the fourth step in How to Instantly Start Doing Better.
When you decide to commit more fully to You, you begin to see the ways in which you’re already in a habit of being fully You, right now.
In other words, when you decide You Are Now Doing Better, you remember all the things you’re already doing that count toward you Being Better.
Because what you’re really getting by your decision to do better is a shift in perspective. You’re not broken, lazy, or stupid. You don’t need a kick in the pants, or to sit in the corner. All you need is a little confidence that you’re doing fine, and you have every opportunity to make the changes necessary to do even finer when you’re ready.
What do you have going on in your life right now that you wish you were doing differently, more, less, better?
If you didn’t do the Three Steps to Instantly Start Doing Better, get ready, because that is your challenge.
Here they are for your review:
And one more thing.
4. Notice at least one way you really have been “better” all along. Something you’re already doing that your inner critic conveniently skims over every time you get down on yourself for not doing the other things you “should” be doing.
Now check in with yourself. How do you feel after making this decision?
Make a mental (or physical) note to check in with yourself tomorrow. I wrote this a day ago and I’m now in tomorrow land. For me, I have already noticed myself doing little things (that feel like big things) that I’ve been putting off for a long time.
I am now doing better!
It’s crazy how simple and effective those steps are. You gotta try it!
There will always be things you can do to be more healthy, gain more experience, or broaden your world. Don’t let the fact that you haven’t done them yet get you down on yourself.
The fact that you’re wanting to do better means you’re alive— and that desire is what keeps this Life thing rolling.
So here’s to doing even better than the best you are already being!
Thanks for reading. I really do want to know if this is something you can relate to. Do you have things you keep telling yourself you should be doing? Maybe you want to start running again, or start a meditation practice, or stop eating sugar. Have you been beating yourself for not starting or stopping those things? Please share with me below. I’ll be your witness like you have been for me. I bet you I’m not the only one who could use the moral support right now. All this stuff is human, and we’re in this boat together.
And just one more thing. If you know someone who might be doing this human "I should be better" thing, please do them, and me a huge service by sharing this article with them. Thank you!