Words of Wisdom
Blog by Christine Upchurch
Echoes of the past can be particularly loud during the holiday season...
Maybe it’s the decorations, or the aromas coming from the kitchen, or the familiar music. Perhaps it is the stories that get repeated, or the sacred rituals, or connecting with family and friends for purposeful celebration.
Any of it can trigger a sense of fondness for times past, a familiar feeling of anticipation, or a bittersweet longing for something either now gone or never manifested. And strangely, sometimes ALL these feelings can arise at once, which can create a type of emotional layering that fills the heart in a paradoxical way.
When you hear these echoes, it is an opportunity to reflect on life as it was then, juxtaposed with how it is now. It can be a great time to clarify what is important to you, not only during the holidays but during the rest of the year as well. It can also provide a wonderful backdrop to reflect upon the past—offering you an opportunity to release the pain of old wounds and nurture gratitude for the thread of joy which has stitched its way through your life. It also is an opportunity to use that thread to weave a new type of fulfillment.
During this holiday season, may you embrace those echoes of years past in a way that opens your heart.
The other day, my dishwasher began to misbehave, creating a bit of kitchen mayhem.
Now one thing you should know about me is this: even though I have a very logical mind, I am not mechanically inclined. That means when something is broken and it has contraptions and doohickeys, it’s as though I’m in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. But there I was staring at a malfunctioning dishwasher, filled with dirty dishes and sticky dishwasher detergent which was quickly turning into hardened sludge. So, I was motivated.
I consulted YouTube videos, checked the owner’s manual, and convened with the spirit of the dishwasher. Don’t get me wrong; I really don’t think the dishwasher has a spirit. But I figured if I could think like a dishwasher and respect the nature of the dishwasher, then perhaps I could become a dishwasher repair shaman. I tried all sorts of things, and after each attempt I would run it through a partial cycle. After a few minutes, I would open the dishwasher door with anticipation and peer into the dark, metal box—only to see steam rising from the sludge below, emitting the odor of last night’s dinner. My many attempts had been futile.
Then I decided to try one last thing, not based on any external advice but rather coming from a place of curiosity. I repositioned this thingamabob and tightened that whatever-you-call-it. And guess what? It seemed to fix it. I was thrilled! Mystified, but thrilled. Was I curious about how it worked? Yes. Did I want to learn more about the inner workings of a dishwasher? Absolutely not! I’d rather leave the contraptions and doohickeys to those who like them.
Next came the true test. I ran the dishwasher through the complete cycle and found that it worked great. In fact, it not only washed the dishes, it also dried them quite thoroughly—for the FIRST time since I inherited this dishwasher upon moving in six years ago. Again, I was mystified, but oh so grateful. I took out dish after dish with towel in hand, prepared to mop up puddles and drips. But the towel stayed dry.
I pondered what had happened. Getting one thing into alignment seemed to create alignment in another, unexpected way. I thought about how this can happen in life, sometimes much to our surprise. For example, leaving a toxic relationship might lead to your chronic heartburn disappearing; standing up for yourself at the office might lead to greater work efficiency; moving your body in new ways might improve your mood. It’s as though one doohickey is connected to another, so fixing one part can improve the function of the whole. It’s as if by magic, although from above I’m sure it makes perfect sense.
Life can feel overwhelming sometimes, with many different areas begging for attention and repair. Whether you are on the sacred path of plumber, professor, or parent, the lesson of the dishwasher is the same: focus on the problem at hand and fiddle with it in various ways. Then see what shifts. And don’t be surprised if fixing one problem leads to another one falling away.
During this past year, have you felt as though the universe gave you more than your fair share of challenges? Have you experienced unexpected loss, anticipated but difficult transition, inner turmoil, frustration over not manifesting your desires, or perhaps even deep sadness with no apparent cause? If so, you’re not alone.
What you might not realize is that through this process—as painful as it may be—you are being given an opportunity to develop one of your “superpowers.”
I know what you’re probably thinking about now. Superpower? Are you crazy? What power can be derived by being tossed about by an unpredictable, sometimes stormy sea of circumstances and emotions? The power I am talking about arises when we learn to navigate in a new way. Instead of consciously determining our course and motor boating to that distant shore, we are being forced to go where the wind takes us, all the while learning to read the winds well enough to remain afloat.
This isn’t about mere survival; oh no, it’s far more exciting than that. Rather, it is about understanding that the wind will bring us to beautiful, uncharted destinations which have never yet been explored.
In a spiritual sense, the energy on our planet is transitioning from a dominance of the divine masculine to a greater influx of the divine feminine. The divine masculine reaches outward for connection and manifestation; it stands courageously, with steadfast and protective power. The divine feminine energy on the other hand is about receiving, and then nurturing and honoring that which is received. Analogous to the movement of energy between male and female in love-making, the flow of these two types of divine energy are opposite: the masculine flows outward, whereas the feminine draws inward.
Currently the winds of the divine feminine are blowing strongly through our lives, both individually and collectively. Although sometimes challenging, this serves us in several ways. First, it redirects us to new and unexpected opportunity. Second, like the wind blowing shriveled leaves off a deciduous tree in late autumn, the divine feminine serves to remove those aspects of our lives which no longer support the wellbeing of our soul—relationships and life circumstances which, on a spiritual level, we are ready to release.
When it comes to welcoming and integrating divine feminine energy, our true power lies in our ability—and willingness—to let go. The more we surrender, the more we receive power, wisdom, and direction from the universe. As life circumstances force us to let go repeatedly, it is like we are exercising a muscle so that it can become stronger and better prepared to activate whenever necessary.
Ultimately our most potent co-creative power will come from a balanced interplay of the divine masculine and feminine. As we become more open to the moment-to-moment flow of inner guidance and energy, we will become more spiritually deliberate about our intentions and actions as we move that divine energy outward into the world. But before we can dance this conscious dance, we must first become better at allowing the universe to take the lead.
As you navigate upheaval and loss, recognize that by letting go you have an empowering opportunity to clear out the unnecessary and receive an inward rush of divine feminine energy. These challenges are offering you the potential to develop a new kind of superpower. It’s not to be confused with the masculine superpowers we have read about and have seen in films, because those relate to the outward movement of energy, of doing. Rather, this is quite different. It is the feminine superpower of receiving.
Anger can be very illuminating. It can identify traumas which we need to examine and heal. It can illuminate the deep pain and grief within us which are screaming out to be seen and heard. It can also clarify where we need to set new boundaries. Anger is a powerful energy which, when directed appropriately, can provide momentum to create significant change.
Right now, many women are angry. Here in the United States, the recent Supreme Court hearings and the confirmation of a judge who has been accused of sexual misconduct have essentially re-assaulted millions who have been victims of such things. Rape. Attempted rape. Molestation. Groping. And the political powers-that-be responded with a condescending pat on the head, indicating that our pain really doesn’t matter. In many cases, this process has reignited the painful embers of our past and has turned them into angry flames of the present.
Women have been socialized to avoid, suppress, and even feel shame about our anger. Yet it is there regardless. Despite the deep inner work many of us have done to heal our past wounds, that anger still exists. It might be remnants of our own woundedness or the pain of the collective, but it is there. Whether smoldering embers or an outright flame, this reignited anger is now an opportunity for us to come together in sisterhood to create a bonfire of change.
If you are a woman who feels comfortable with the status quo for women, I urge you this: If you smell the smoke of this bonfire, please don’t close your window to it or insist that the fire needs to be put out. Come stand beside your sisters. Consider adding your own fuel to the fire. Your own sexual assault or that of a loved one. The unwanted catcalls and sexual objectification. Being talked over repeatedly when in conversation with men. Being told to “smile,” understanding implicitly that keeping others happy is more important than expressing your authentic feelings. Condescension or mistreatment merely because of gender. Rearranging your life to ensure your safety: from walking to your car with keys interlaced between your fingers, to avoiding eye contact with men in certain situations; from worrying about how what you’re wearing will affect your safety, to being compulsive about locking doors and windows; from being careful what you drink, to making sure that you always walk with others at night—knowing full well that a woman walking alone can become an easy target.
If you are a woke man, please don’t stay away. I urge you to come join your sisters around this bonfire. Add the fuel of your compassion to this fire. Allow yourself to be angry on our behalf. Bear witness to our collective pain, a pain which runs so deep that it resides within the DNA of humanity. Acknowledge any complicity you have had, and vow to change it. Help stoke this fire of transformation.
The bonfire created by this circle of anger is huge, and it is growing. There are some who are afraid of this, and rightly so. But for most, this raging fire is nothing to fear. We must understand that the ultimate purpose of this fire isn’t destruction. Rather it is here to save us, to remove the old wood and dying patriarchal trees which are negatively impacting the health of the entire forest. Its ultimate purpose is to bring more light so that a diversity of life can thrive.
[Originally published 11/4/2018]
Does this photo look off kilter to you? It's funny, this was my view while lying in bed this morning, and it felt perfectly normal. As I lay there looking at something on my phone, the camera inadvertently came on. It was only when I saw this same view through the lens of the camera that I recognized how sideways I was.
First, let me say how grateful I am that our brains have the capacity to compensate for this sort of sensory input. Being much more than a lens, the brain and body can create a sense of normalcy from chaotic input. So sideways can feel as normal as upright.
Yet I want to underscore something I just said—our brains have the potential to compensate for regular sensory input so that something which might be "off" can begin to feel normal. Which in some cases, may be to our detriment!
You know what I mean. The difficult relationship which we somehow misinterpret to be love. The sluggish feeling in our gut we have come to interpret as healthy digestion. A continual sense of feeling overwhelmed during our workday that we eventually accept as being a necessary part of a fulfilling career.
Dysfunction can eventually feel normal.
Perhaps it is beneficial to occasionally look through a lens at life. Become the observer. See if what feels normal—when observed from a distance—is, in actuality, a bit askew.
So, you might want to occasionally ask yourself the following question: "What in my life is actually off kilter, and how might I reorient it to create a better 'normal'?"
[Originally published 5/17/2018]
While preparing for my TEDx talk, I dreamt that I was standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking a beautiful sea below. A man standing next to me—I'm not sure I knew his identity—was encouraging me to jump. "Go ahead," he said. "Others have done it and have really enjoyed it." He didn't seem to be pressuring me, but merely stood beside me as I decided.
It was a long way down, to a sea I had never swam in before. As someone who has deep respect for heights and who would never be described as a rugged outdoorswoman, considering doing such a thing was totally out of character. I felt a surge of anxiety, as my mind began to rapidly assess the various possibilities. If I jumped, could I leap outward enough to avoid hurting myself on the rocks and brush jutting out? Were there boulders in that blue green water below? How deep and how cold was it? What if something goes wrong?
I finally came to the conclusion that there were no guarantees. And then I simply jumped.
After landing in the water and resurfacing, I was momentarily blinded by the brightness. As I looked around I began to see that there were others beside me in the water who had previously jumped, and I sensed that they had been waiting for me to join them. Treading water there in the sunshine, we looked at each other and smiled with unbridled enthusiasm. We spoke no words, but rather simply basked in the exhilaration of the experience.
The symbolism of my dream was clear. Jumping off that cliff represented choosing to do a TEDx talk. The man at the top? Perhaps he represented a conglomeration of my wonderful speaker coach and the welcoming organization of TEDx Wilmington. My fellow cliff jumpers, for whom I had such deep appreciation and respect, were the other TEDx speakers.
And what a thrilling jump it was! I'm so glad I did it, and I am truly grateful to have connected with my fellow adventurers who also made that proverbial leap.
So, I'm now wondering: where shall we swim to from here?
[Originally published 5/17/2018]
My TEDx talk will focus on something I have discovered that is rather counterintuitive: that feeling like an outsider at some point in our lives can ultimately be beneficial. I’m not talking about it being beneficial in a general “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” sort of way. But actual, identifiable gifts which we can gain from the experience, if we choose to accept them.
My understanding of this has come partly from my professional experience with clients and workshop attendees over the years. My understanding has also expanded through a rational evaluation of what I have come to learn from others. However, my deep knowingness about this truth has emerged out of my own personalexperience. Which means that to do this topic justice within the structure of a TEDx talk, I need to get very personal—not only with the live audience, but with some nebulous, unknown future YouTube audience which will someday watch the video of my talk.
Feeling vulnerable about sharing certain aspects of my personal story, I have repeatedly questioned the wisdom of doing so. I have asked myself several important questions: Am I ready to discuss this so publicly? Have I healed enough to so that my motivation for sharing is not in the hope of getting something I need from the audience, but rather for the purpose of giving something of value tothe audience? Is my story an essential piece of a more complete puzzle?
The response to each question has been “yes.” It’s time. I am ready. It’s pertinent to the lesson I am sharing within my TEDx talk. By offering my own story, I am also inviting others to connect with their own vulnerable experiences which have led them to feeling like an outsider. It is in that place of vulnerability—combined with the wisdom of new perspective—where there is great potential for meaningful transformation. If I can offer that to even a single viewer, then the risk which comes from sharing in this way will have served an important purpose.
[Originally published 5/17/2018]
It’s funny how ideas are born. Sometimes they come about after a step-by-step, dogged approach to solving a problem. Other times they spontaneously arise, seemingly out of nowhere. And then other times the ideas come into conscious awareness, and you recognize that they have been ruminating under the surface for years. The idea for my TEDx topic fits into the latter category.
While working on an upcoming book, I was searching for the perfect approach to my first chapter. For any book, the initial chapter is quite important; it can either draw readers in or it can alienate them. It’s a risky bit for an author to write. Engaging the readers early on means they keep reading. If not, readers may never hear the message contained in the book.
In my case, that initial chapter has felt even riskier. You see, my book challenges some widely accepted concepts, contending that those beliefs are merely myths that many of us unwittingly accepted as truth. The very audience I want to engage is the very same audience which may initially be most resistant to my perspective. So how do I bring the reader over to my side, helping them to understand the importance of even questioning the assumptions?
Then the words for the title of that first chapter came to me: ”on the outside looking in.” On the outside looking in. Yes. Before I ever began challenging these beliefs, I had had to first step outside of the box where those beliefs are considered truth. On some level, I had to become an outside observer. Outside is a place of neutrality. Outside is a place of natural curiosity. Outside is a place of new perspective. In my first chapter, I just needed to convince the reader of the wisdom of joining me—at least for a while—on the outside.
It has taken me much of my lifetime to have enough courage to stand in my “outsidedness” in this way. By sharing some of the insights I have discovered on this journey, I hope to inspire others to do the same.
Mind. Body. Spirit.
For the past couple of decades, many of us have become accustomed to viewing life in this way. We want to make sure that we honor each part of who we are. We want to ensure that we give adequate importance to our spiritual component. We also hope to find balance between these parts.
However can looking at life in this way have its downside?
Although viewing ourselves in this manner can have its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. For example, it can encourage us to compartmentalize life, and view who we are merely as pieces of a whole. It can lead to a dysfunctional separation between these parts. It even has the potential to invite self-judgment based on our perception of how those parts should be balanced.
You know how that inner rant can go...
Didn't quiet the mind and body in meditation today? Inner judgment may say, "Well that will diminish your spiritual connection!" Yet in actuality, some of our most inspired and connected moments can occur on non-meditation days.
Feeling angry? Inner judgment may say: "Well that's not very spiritual!" However, the truth is that our anger can guide us toward important healing and change—mind, body, and spirit.
Reaching for a piece of cake while at a birthday party? Inner judgment may say: "That’s going to hurt the body!" Yet it’s possible that enjoying a few bites of that carb-loaded treat may help you to feel more socially connected to the celebration, which in turn could bring you greater calm when making future food choices.
Looking at ourselves in terms of "mind, body, and spirit" has served an important purpose, helping us to understand the importance of each piece of that sacred triad. However, we need to recognize that the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.
It's time to stop compartmentalizing our lives and integrate all parts together. It's time to let go of the training wheels of categorization and embrace the navigational freedom of integration. It's time to welcome the power which comes from the synergistic, beautifully complex combination of these pieces.
In. Every. Moment.
Instead of myopically assessing the state of our mind, the health of our body, or our connection to spirit—or even evaluating the balance between these three parts—perhaps it is wiser instead for each of us to ask ourselves the following question:
"Am I honoring the wholeness of who I am?"
Many of us have a deep desire to create a better world. Yet if we pay any attention at all to current events, we observe the antithesis of our ideal: from political bullying to hate crimes, from animal cruelty to the destruction of the environment, from the neglect of those in need to mass murder. Many of us are becoming disillusioned by what is happening on our planet and are mourning the elusiveness of our precious goal.
If so many of us care about creating positive change, then why is this happening?
As we bring our light into the darkness, we illuminate what has been lurking within the shadows. This can provoke erratic, fear-based reaction from those things which cannot survive within the light. So in the midst of this global movement toward a peaceful world, we are seeing and experiencing horrific things—things which break our hearts, things which represent the opposite of our ideal world, things which may make us feel defeated.
But keep in mind that what has been hidden until now is not new, but rather is getting exposed in new ways. It’s not appearing in spite of our light, but rather because of it.
When we are feeling discouraged or disempowered, what steps can we take to help make the world a better place? We need to keep in mind that the most effective path to change doesn’t necessarily travel directly to our desired outcome. Rather to get there, we often must pass through the deep pain within our hearts. The pain within our individual life may or may not seem significant, but I guarantee you that the pain of the collective is huge. And I assure you that on some level, that collective pain affects you.
Many in the consciousness community say that we should somehow bypass the pain and instead merely focus on our goal. While I agree it is essential to imagine an inspired vision as well as to take action toward it, that is not enough. If we try to circumvent the pain, it weakens the power of our manifestation. Why? Because the energy of the heart is an important part of the engine which drives our manifestation. With unresolved grief residing there, it’s like a car having clogged spark plugs. If we try to accelerate onto the freeway, our vehicle sputters and hesitates instead of reaching the full, consistent speed we need to reach our desired destination.
An important step in creating a more peaceful, loving world is to allow ourselves to experience the pain we feel about the world not being as we want it to be.
Instead of resisting, avoiding, suppressing, or bypassing our grief, we can choose to welcome it. Because it is there, waiting to be seen and experienced. It is a part of us, both individually and collectively. Accepting it and loving it helps release the disempowering blockages caused by not having allowed it to flow through us. Recognizing the depth of the collective pain also helps connect us with the collective love and desire for a better world. Being present with “what is”—combined with a heartfelt connection with what we want to create—can turbo-charge us forward toward our desired goal.
If you choose to take this courageous step, know that there is no need to process all of the world’s pain, or to keep yourself immersed in the grief. Rather, notice which situation in the world triggers you deeply. It may be a senseless murder, or cruelty towards animals, or separation-based prejudice, or something else. Whatever it is, focus on that for a few moments. Allow what you feel to move through you. Welcome its presence, its movement, and its release, which may come layer-by-layer. Understand that this release may very well help release your grief about a myriad of other things. Remember to be gentle with yourself through this process, and seek support if you need it. You are not alone.
If we are willing to let go of our pain about the state of the world, it doesn’t mean we don’t care to change it. It just means that we are being true to our hearts. Our acceptance and release of the pain will help free up more energy of the collective heart, which is a very empowering place for us to be for creating a more heart-centered world.
Like you, I am on a journey--a path filled with joy and sorrow, expansion and contraction--with beautiful lessons and fascinating insights each step of the way. Thank you for joining me for a small part of my journey. I look forward to connecting with you on yours.