The List

Living ‘List-free’, as told by Liberty Bain!


While away on a girl’s trip a few weeks ago, my phone broke. After the shock of the shattering subsided, I accepted no access to my online world, and experienced one of the best weekends of my life.  On the drive home my sister and two sIL’s commented on how different I’d been during our stay.  As we talked we realized not having my phone played a huge part in being totally free to experience whatever the weekend brought.

And it held a ton of goodies waiting to say yes to:

Reading and sun? check.
Plenty of time to float in restorative salty water? yes.
No time limits, have to’s or should’s? yep.
Oyster shooters? I’ll take another.
Then I got home and encountered my nemesis: The List.  The List decrees what’s important and what needs to be accomplished in a day.  And after being at the beach for several days Everything Item on The List Demanded my Full attention.  There’s only one problem with my to-do list: it doesn’t make me happy or help me stay present at all.  It keeps me active and spinning, co-dependent and Super Busy, but not happy or free.   And I noticed it all because of the broken phone.  Because of all the space created by not having a phone I actually felt how bad and rigid having a list makes me feel.  When I remain tied to that to-do monster and stuck in accomplishing  and performing mode, I stay disconnected from myself, from others and from God.
Having the very recent data about how much I thrived without the tether of my phone, I chose to take it one step further and break my to-do list.  The seed began as a suggestion from my therapist and is blossoming into a a whole new awakened way of life.  No more check lists, grocery lists, any kind of list.
My desire’s to be connected to my own heart throughout the day, and what the day has for me is much more at the surface now.  When I have a thought like “today would be a great day to go pick pears and make a pie…” I don’t immediately try hard to fit it in somewhere on next week’s to-do list.  I just pull over and pick.
Not having a list is also making me way more human.  No more super-woman I can do/remember/be everything. I actually told one of my children, “I really don’t know if I’ll be able to pick up the bread, because my list broke.  But I will try.”  Doesn’t that sound healthy and human?!?! Also – it’s surrender.  If it’s important it will happen, and if not, then it will come around again. Or not.  What is ‘it’anyway? Without a list, I feel like I have more choices and choices equal possibility and possibility equals expansion for life to be something I cannot anticipate, control or explain!
Here’s how it played out in real life on Wednesday night:
I had picked the pears and I was enjoying peeling them, sampling them and singing!  I noticed how juicy each pear was from all the rain we’ve had this year, when I heard my 10 year old calling me from outside.  His voice was distressed as he pointed to the field where we keep the chicken pens.  “Mom, Look! all the chickens are out!!” As I squinted into the almost-setting sun, I saw countless white and brown birds pecking their way through the field. Un-contained chickens are not my specialty, so I called my super farmer brother, Justin.  He said he’d be over in 10 minutes so I whisked thru my pie making, sliding it into the oven just as he fishtailed into the driveway.
I walked quickly out to the field and noticed that he’d thought to bring a helper too: his 2 1/2 year old son, Henry. We figured out that herding the chickens into the lanes created by the line of pens made catching the birds pretty easy.  I love birds in general,  but am a bit squeamish about touching live chickens, so it was a stretch for me.  At first I was just a herder, getting them into position for West and Justin to catch.  But towards the end I got much better at grabbing those quick creatures.  We caught  1 bird, then 2, then 5, 10 (there were well over 200 to catch and re-contain)  as we worked, Henry began calling out from his place in the field.
“Look, Dad! Look, Aunt Liberty! Look, West! The Sun! It’s going away!  No I mean it really look!! Look! Look, Dad! it’s going down! Look! Look! Aunt Liberty!” Every few minutes another reminder to check out the flaming orange, purple and fuscia sky.  Every few minutes calling out his heart’s desire for us to join him in enjoying the beauty we were standing knee deep in.
After we got done with the catching and before we had all the tools to repair the pens, I took a break, sat down and just listened.  I heard West and Henry wrestling in the deep grass. I heard the soft cheeping of all those birds we’d just caught. I heard the symphony of crickets and cicadas and I marveled the last sprays of a stunning sunset. I felt myself really alive and connected to this valuable moment.
Being dialed into my heart, I recognized that without a list I was savoring the entire experience. I was truly present.  Not busy spinning and wondering how I would get everything else done, in fact I wasn’t thinking of ‘everything else’ at all.
The interruption, the great chicken escape had turned out to be an evening I couldn’t quite explain.  The evening ended up full of connection to myself, to West, justin and Henry and the One who created all the beauty around me.  It ended up being more positive data on living without a List, without all the (supposed!) have to’s and should’s.  So many goodies to say yes to!!
West and I walked home at dusk thru tall grass and the oven timer was going off – the pear pie was ready.  And one of my best friends was standing in my kitchen waiting to know where I’d been.  After I explained the chicken adventure, she asked if we could take a walk together. I felt so happy to be free enough to accept her invitation.
Liberty

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Perfectly Imperfect

Perfection. That unattainable goal that dangles in front of us and slips through our fingers just as we think we have a grasp on it.

It’s kept me grovelling, on my knees, reaching out like a beggar on a street. Please! Please! Let this time fit the bill!

Perfection has been my nemesis. It will either take over my actions, trying to force a flawless outcome. Or it will stop me from taking any action, because there’s too much risk of failure in the attempt.

I’ve been aware of this for awhile and so have slowly been embracing the imperfect. I’ve started to change how I live… evident by the mess in the kitchen, the garden that needs weeding, and the business that could have more of a financial cushion.

I’ve written about it here.

And while I thought I had put to bed my struggle with perfection 18 months ago, something’s been niggling at me since then.

Sometimes letting go of perfection feels like settling. Shouldn’t I strive for better? Shouldn’t I be working harder to get the results I know I’m capable of?

And so this tug of war between getting it right and letting it go continues on.

A week ago I opened an email that stopped me in my tracks. One of Richard Rohr’s daily meditations. They hit my inbox roughly around 7:12 am, just in time for my 2nd alarm of the day to go off (my imperfect start to my day).

I read this:

“If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially in ourselves.

A “perfect” person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection.”

I’ve been reading and re-reading and re-reading this over, letting it all sink in.

So basically, thinking that I bagged the ‘perfectionism’ mountain, actually isn’t the point. Declaring to the world, I’m not perfect and I’m OK with that, sure that’s a start… acknowledge and accept, right? But had I forgiven and included imperfection?

Not sure I can say I have been. I’ve still be trying to find the Override button.

So what exactly is the freedom RR is offering me?

Today my answer came in another email of his, this time at 7:15 on the dot:

“The only perfection available to us humans is the ability to include and forgive our imperfection. But the ego doesn’t want to believe that. The ego doesn’t want to surrender to its inherent brokenness and poverty. Yet the truth is, realizing your imperfection is the beginning of freedom and grace. There is such freedom in no longer pretending to be something we’re not.”

Here’s my word for that: Vulnerability.

It’s beyond ‘Hey world, I’m not perfect!’. It’s spelling that out a little bit more.

I have flaws. I make mistakes. I don’t get it right all the time. I need help. I have no clue what I’m doing sometimes. I’m the blind leading the blind. I’m giving it my best shot. Sometimes my best doesn’t reach the mark I was aiming for. Sometimes my best tires me out and so I need to take a nap.  Sometimes my best is so far below the world’s standards that I ask why try in the first place.

My ego fights hard not to admit all that. My ego wants you to think I have my act together 100% of the time, (even though ‘I know’ I’m not perfect…)  and the blips are only there because ‘It’s not my fault! I didn’t know better!’. Sometimes my ego likes to play the victim.

I find it’s hard for me to shake the perfection when I’m looking around me, comparing my best to someone else’s, assuming that I should be further along.

It’s even harder when pesky little fears sneak in… what if they find out? What if my best is never good enough? What if I am doomed to always get it wrong?

But that’s not the picture that got painted by Richard Rohr. What he pointed out to me is this:

I am doomed to get it wrong.

But that’s only a big deal when I can’t accept the fact that I will get it wrong.

Accept the fact that I will get it wrong? Now I can relax, stop fighting it, melt into the sweet grace that I am whole anyway.

That gives me permission to give it all my best shot AND be OK with my best is not always getting the ‘perfect’ result…. It’s going to get the perfectly imperfect result instead.

For some reason the only way I could understand this seeming contradiction was as I contemplated the existence of Black and White Cookies.

You know those cookies? They’re big and round with chocolate icing painted on one half and white icing painted on the other?

Perfection is like wanting a 100% black cookie or a 100% white cookie.

Perfectly Imperfect is saying, that the cookie is still a cookie with only half black and half white. Heck, it’s still a cookie with a 75/25 split. It’s still a cookie with jagged icing edges instead of smooth ones. It’s even still a cookie with a bite taken out of it.

And a damn good one at that.

We all have our flaws, our imperfections, and our egos that work really hard to cover them up AND want a guarantee of safety before taking any action outside the comfort zone of ‘I know I can land this one’.

Maybe it’s time to accept I’m a black and white cookie… you’re a black and white cookie…

Even with bites taken out …we’re still pretty awesome just as we are.

Be Now. Be Here. Be with Me.

This was written by Kendra a few days ago and is a great example of mindfulness. Enjoy! 

Two Sunday’s ago I was doing a 2 hour virtual yoga class in my backyard. 2 hours! I hadn’t done anything for me for 2 hours straight, in I can’t remember how long. But something told me that morning to carve out the time for me.

Here’s what happened:

For 1 hour and 45 minutes of the yoga practice all I could think about was what I wanted to be doing for the rest of the day.

The laundry, clean the kitchen, file my nails, paint my nails, pluck the dark hairs from below my navel (the one Italian gene I inherited that is a ‘no thanks’… if you’ve got them too, I’m with you), plant the rosemary sprigs, replant the tomatoes, scrape the grass off the path.

And that list was just for me. There was also the social media plan to create, the newsletter to send, the facebook shares about upcoming workshops, and finding the code for the anti-virus software for my mother-in-law’s computer (crucial!).

For 115 minutes that was where my head was at.

Be Now. Be Here. Be with Me.

I was not in the Now. Sure my body was in upward dog, downward dog, and feebly trying to morph into other animal shapes, but my head was with my growing To Do list. Most definitely not Here.

Be Now. Be Here. Be with Me.

This is what I heard, sensed, crawled out of my subconscious, showed up as a spiritual nudge… whatever you want to call it… as I sat there in double pigeon (birds are animals, right?).

My hips were screaming at me. Ugh!!!! Aaaaggghh!!

They knew they needed this pose, but why so strenuous??

Be Now. Be Here. Be with Me.

Noooooo!!! My body wants to be doing something else! My shins don’t want to be neatly stacked on top of each other parallel to the front of my mat with my right ankle on top of my left knee. My hips don’t want to be finding the sweet spot of spaciousness as I sit with the burn.

My hips want to be in their comfort zone of go-go-going. I want to be ticking off the to-do list!

Be Now. Be Here. Be with Me.

And then it clicked.

Be Now. Be Here. Be with Me.

In this pose.

In this pose that stretches you, pulls apart what you’ve been holding onto, as you create a new edge where effort and relaxation meet. Lean in, support your feet, your Self, and fall. Just Be.

Be Here. Be Now. Be with Me.

Let it go.

The go-go-go. The To-do-do-do.

What if you had time for everything and more?

Nooooo!!!  An audible groan.

Aaaaagh! A stomach lurch that mirrored the tension in my hips.

It Can. Not. Be.

This could be easy. Why are you making it so hard?

Be Now. Here. With Me.

Now. I am on a yoga mat.

Here. There are birds chirping. Beetles buzzing in the tall grass.

With Me. The sun is warming my back. I am calm. I am cared for. Everything is in its place. I am in the space I wanted to be. Now. Here. With Me.

As I continued to surrender into the pose, let go of the pattern of consistent and hyper-action that conditioned my mind and my body over the past 35 years, I found the sweet spot.

That To-do list… let it take care of itself.

Be Now. Be Here. Be with Me.

Be Present. Present to the desires of your heart. The inspiration for your soul. The pleasures of your body.

That is Me. Be with Me.

Stop thinking and worrying about the schedule.

Be with Me.

What you are looking for is right here. Next to you. Sitting here.

I gave you this. ENJOY it.

You will know when to act. When to be still.

Just be with Me.

———

I recorded this in my journal after I morphed from Pigeon to Corpse. What wasn’t lost on me was the fact that in the next 6 hours, I ended up accomplishing more than I normally do in my typical 12 hour day.

The peace and presence I experienced in the final minutes of that 2 hour class, stayed with me and guided me throughout the day. I kept checking in. What is on my Heart? My Soul’s Desire? Right Now. Right Here. Right with Me.

The rosemary and tomatoes got planted, the path cleared, my nails done, social media inspired, kitchen cleaned. I even got to work on my tan.

There was no list. No plan. No schedule. All I did was check-in. And I never felt so relaxed in the doing.

You can read this story and interpret the Me that is begging for you to be with it, however you wish. Your Body, your Soul, your True You, your Higher Power.

My encouragement to you is to listen. Listen to the nudges. Wherever they come from.

And just for today. Be Now. Be Here. Be with Me.

Coaches Cry Too

This post was written by Liberty and originally published a few days ago. Enjoy!

I cried in a coaching session last week. A client shared about a situation close to her heart and as I expressed how easy I could relate, I started crying. Because of a handful of relatively recent experiences I let my tears fall and unabashedly grabbed a Kleenex before asking another question. I felt my own humanity – all of my hopes and fears were just as much out on the table in that moment as hers. I felt incredibly glad to know I could be so vulnerable without feeling embarrassed.

In the past I’ve assumed that people who help others professionally (coaches, doctors, therapists, mentors) have already figured out life’s big secrets. That they’ve somehow figured a way off the bell curve of learning and growing, and are in the promised land of only minor life issues and small (almost insignificant!) inconveniences.

Thankfully the people who I am privileged to receive care and nourishment from practice radical honesty. A doctor who opened up about her on-going struggles with chronic illness and stress. A pair of counsellors who got real about processing their on-going relationship issues. And people who’ve been in 12-step meetings for years opening up about their own continued character defects and slow progress.

Turns out what connects my heart to others is the same radical honesty I take in. I realized as the tears rolled down my cheeks, I get the privilege of being human with people. That there’s a spark in me that’s being brought into full flame by my desire to be real, vulnerable, and totally human. As I receive encouragement and support from others who are honest about not having it all figured out, I get to bring reflect that same light to those in my life and care. And it’s not because I’m a coach – it’s just because I’m another human.

A Lesson in Receiving

This was originally published by Kendra a few weeks ago and it really is a great lesson in receiving.

I was at my cousin’s wedding this weekend, having fun with my phone’s camera, when I saw one of the bridesmaid’s bouquets lying on the bride and groom table I decided to take a shot. It looked really pretty and the colors caught my eye.

Next thing you know, the wedding photographer came up to me and asked if I wanted some help taking the photo.

I politely declined.

Nah, I’m OK.

What I was really thinking in 0.5 of a second:

Help? Why would I need help taking a photo? I know how to work the camera on my phone.

What, does he think I’m not taking a good enough photo? I am doing this wrong?

I can’t let him help me because I have nothing to give him in return and I don’t want to be in his debt.

Hence the No Thank You.

Seeing right through me, he insisted, and proceeded to help anyway. In less than 30 seconds, he set up his portable lighting, used some focus feature on my phone’s camera that I had no clue existed, and proceed to create this work of art.

And he didn’t even want anything in return. My thanks, gratitude, and the smile on my face was apparently enough.

This whole interaction probably took about 2 minutes tops. Yet it taught me something I’ll carry with me the rest of my life. Aside from having a photo that now popped instead of just looking nice, and learning a new trick with my camera, I had a lesson in receiving.

It dawned up me how closed off I am to freely receiving. It comes relatively easy when I can logically justify it. I’ve done X, so sure, I can receive Y. Or, it’s my birthday, or Christmas and so that’s just what I’m supposed to do… get presents. Or, OK I’ll give in this time, but I’ve got it next time.

But is that really free? If you think about it, I’m still playing by a set of rules that doesn’t really feel good. Pride, worthiness, and guilt comes into the picture, and wining that game doesn’t really feel like a win.

I had to ask myself, what if I just didn’t play that game in the first place?

What if I don’t need to earn it, prove my worth, or be able to reciprocate a gift. What if I could trust, and act from a place within where I believed that I am enough as I am to receive the gifts that are there for the taking. Just because I am.

What if I leaned in to the nuggets of Truth & Love that give me permission to open my arms and my heart to the assistance that is right there in front of me. Willingly, without resistance.

Without worrying about whether or not I #deserve it, or what it means now that I’ve received it. To know that I’m not in anyone’s debt.

That feels free.

To let myself be delighted in. To have my smile become someone else’s joy.

Here’s a Truth for you: You were made to receive. Your existence in and of itself is a testament to this. You didn’t have to do anything to be fed, clothed, or loved. You are, and always were, worthy.

You don’t have to do anymore to deserve what it is you desire. All you have to do is say yes, thank you. Yes universe, higher power, Creator, God, and even Camera Man. Sure, you can help. Yes, I will receive with open arms the gift you have for my life. I will trust you know something I don’t and that you can really make the picture of my life pop. Here’s my camera. I’ll let you do your thing.