“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”– Frank Herbert, ‘Dune’.
Our analytical self tends to feel more calm and at peace when it has knowledge or understanding of a situation. When we feel prepared for presentations, competitions, performances, then we are calm, maybe some butterflies, but excited and at peace. But what happens when our best laid plans go sideways? What do we fall back on then? Is it Plan B or something more profound like faith?
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Hope you are all doing well and staying safe as the weather changes and you see an end to the year with a slower routine and some peace of mind. For many of you, holidays are coming up very quickly so I hope you are able to set aside work and focus on the beauty of your celebration soon. Me, being Catholic, today, December 8th, is a holy day of the Immaculate Conception, a day of devotion for a billion and a half people in the world. This day personally is at the core of the story in this episode and probably not in the way you think.
It is a perfect time of year to take a moment and assess how much of your life revolves around work and how much of life is devoted to something more meaningful that revolves around people. It’s also a time when we reflect on self, faith and the world as a whole to bring peace into our lives.
That’s what we are focusing on today in this podcast: bringing peace into our lives, both from our brain and our soul, from a place of knowledge versus faith. Our analytical self tends to feel more calm and at peace when it has knowledge or understanding of a situation. When we feel prepared for presentations, competitions, performances, then we are calm, maybe some butterflies, but excited and at peace. But what happens when our best laid plans go sideways? What do we fall back on then? Is it Plan B or something more profound?
We are going to get into these ideas today but first I hope you all had fun with the November Newsletter recipes and the special story available for our newsletter subscribers. It’s up on our website but password protected still so our subscribers have a chance to revel in it. The December newsletter is going to be filled with Peruvian recipes for the Christmas season and another story available to our subscribers. I really appreciate you signing up at thelnxx.com and getting in the mood at this time of year.
Focus of the Holidays
Besides the gathering of friends and family, the holidays, in all type of celebration and beliefs, have a base story in overcoming struggle by banding together in faith. At Hanukkah, the story speaks of fighting against oppression against all odds of succeeding, yet having the faith to endure and ultimately persevere. At Christmas, the story speaks of traveling far to pay honor to a newborn at the risk of being killed, yet having the faith to follow an unknown path to success.
Now, both stories speak of divine intervention but it may be less about divine intervention and more about the personal faith of the individuals who would risk their lives for the benefit of others. They were acting from their souls, far outside their comfort zone and disregarding what their brains had laid out. They believed in their convictions, made deliberate plans and set out to complete them. But when they hit the infamous bump, the challenge, what did they do?
They didn’t panic or quit but instead held fast to the belief that all would work in the end. Now, these stories may have been altered to bring more dramatization for people but even that is compelling us to consider what would we do in the same situation. The stories acknowledge the difficulties we face on any given day, no matter how prepared we think we are, and encourage us to dig deeper within ourselves and carry on.
Honestly, if you were to retell the stories in today’s terms, I feel the outcome would be completely different. I won’t even go there now but I’m pretty sure SNL has done their version on these stories with today’s behavior.
Faith in Many Forms
Faith has become a prickly topic. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, faith is viewed either as a hocus-pocus concept of make-believe or a weak man’s need for lack of knowledge or, a construct’s attempt of control over people. Oftentimes, faith is tied solely to religion and religion can be off putting because of the demands it places on us. We also tend to assign the people representing the religion as the core of the belief. Not so much. Somewhat like our Presidency. We can have some real doozies. But one person is not the sole representation of an entire entity that has endured thousands of years of human struggles.
Besides, humans have always searched for something to guide them through life; everything from crystal balls and taro cards to meditation and religion. Humans from the beginning relied on the constellations and Earth to help them survive and in return, they gave homage. Other eras of humans kind of made bets with their gods. More like, “I’ll give you all this gold if you make me king.” I think that’s just Vegas. And others have embraced religion to form their faith and find refuge from the harshness of the human condition.
The premise is that humans do not want to be alone in their struggles, alone in their fears and hopes. We tend to want others to have sympathy towards us and we want comfort. But, when we are asking other humans to give comfort when they themselves are struggling, then things can go sideways and we find ourselves alone in our problems. At that point, we might want to quit and understandably so. There’s is only so much we humans can take on and still keep our minds at peace.
Superstition vs. Faith
So what do all these forms of seeking comfort or knowledge really mean? I like to view them as either comforting the brain or fueling the soul. Things that comfort the brain tend to be what is learned either from others or ourselves. The more knowledge we have, the more confident we are at making decisions, either in the present moment or for the future. But knowledge is actually equally limiting, too. The further you go out of your comfort zone, the more knowledge you have to learn in order to feel ok with that. This doesn’t work at all in spontaneity and keeps you on an indefinite planner of assignments and schedules.
Thankfully, this works well for most of us and organizing chaos by scheduling our time does bring a lot of comfort. But, soothing the brain, calming the mind, has a long history in superstitions, too. You witness them still everyday. Maybe they are out of habit or humor but still, there is some remnant that brings comfort to the person following the superstition.
Performers on stage still say, “Break a leg” in order to ward off catastrophe. Football players have their pregame routines that if broken or overlooked would bring a pall on the game and don’t even get me started with the spectators. If we say something wishful or tempting the Fates, we quickly utter, “knock on wood”.
Are you superstitious? Even a little bit? I think we all have a little bit in us as an extra salve to our fear of the unknowns.
Knowledge also is our attempt to place understanding on something we truly don’t understand. Much of our lives are spent trying to explain phenomena beyond our comprehension. People dedicate their lifelong careers towards understanding the inexplicable. And the funny thing is, if we can’t explain it with our human brains, we tend to assign it to aliens, as if humans couldn’t be moved to do something beyond human capacity or comprehension.
Here is where faith lies. The belief that moves us outside our comfort zone, beyond our knowledge, beyond our head, to accomplish amazing feats for ourselves and others. Faith fuels the soul into power and with that power it leads us out of the known and into the unknown. That’s where the answer may lie. Without faith, the answer remains out of reach.
Superstition in Action
I was raised with a lot of superstitions from my mom. It’s really funny now that I look back on it but something I also picked up from her. Both of us are deeply religious, complexly spiritual, yet will spin off some old school superstitious response if we feel threatened. There’s the typical knock on wood moments, and the quick silence when making condemning remarks that would tempt the Fates into action. But then there are the more subtle ones that border on wishes rather than superstitions.
One of my favorites is the Peruvian wish you make when the last drops of a bottle are poured into your glass. This is a perfect thing to learn right now before the holidays. You’re going to have many opportunity to make your wishes. Now, the bottle has to be substantial, bigger than 12 oz, and of course, the fermented type is preferable. If the last drops of the bottle are poured into your glass, then you take the bottle, make a wish to yourself, blow into the bottle and cover the top with your thumb. In that moment, when you want that wish to happen, you release your thumb, and with it, release the wish out into the universe because that wish isn’t happening if you keep it to yourself.
But the superstitions from childhood were the scariest because it took awhile to outgrow the fear that they would come true. There was the one regarding my behavior: if I was breaking the rules, then the gypsies would come in the middle of the night and take me away. Who tell’s that to their child before bedtime? Do you know how many times I heard wagon wheels and horses because I thought they were coming to get me? Or, another one was, if I didn’t wash my face and brush my teeth, then spiders would kiss my face at night. Obviously, I am sleep deprived.
I didn’t pass these on to my kids so, I don’t know if it was parenting skills or lack thereof. Another one is if you stared into the fire, because we all were allowed to have fires back then, if you stared into the fire at night, you were going to wet the bed. I have no idea what that one was all about, I don’t see any threat from staring into a fire.
Which wins out, Superstition or Religion?
It’s a fine line between superstitions and wishes. But, for me, the lines get even more blurred between superstition and Faith. This was in full play throughout my life with my mom and I only recently began to understand it better. In general, I realized that she relied on superstition when she was afraid, when she needed to ward off evil. But she turned to her religious faith when she was asking for a positive outcome.
Now, these may sound the same to you and I have to agree. That’s the blurry line that I didn’t understand when I was younger and I’ve thought a lot about it over the years so I could settle it, because I kind of live within it.
That blurry line really put me in a difficult place my freshman year of college. If you listened to Monday’s bonus episode, ‘Turn Double Standards Into Double Wins’, you heard that I blew out my knee playing volleyball when I was 17. This story picks up from there because stubborn me didn’t want to stop playing volleyball and since the medical professionals had misdiagnosed me with just a dislocated knee cap, I went on to play in College.
Well, that was short lived because it took all of 6 weeks to land badly on that knee and Bam! Locked it. Couldn’t move it at all, not from pain or swelling but from literally having a piece of cartilage blocking it. Basically frozen.
Again, stubborn me, I didn’t want to go home since it was my first quarter at school and right before finals. So I hobbled on crutches for a couple of weeks. This was actually insane and I don’t know what I was thinking except that probably I was afraid of being seen as a quitter, someone who couldn’t handle it. Definitely a spinoff of my upbringing.. the ‘you can’t because you’re a girl’ thing.
But I lived on the 3rd floor of a dorm with no elevator and that dorm was 2 flights of stairs above the street that was at the top of the hill at campus and of course I had classes at the bottom of the hill… does this sound like the old person describing how they walked to school in the snow uphill both ways? It was like that; it was nearly impossible.
Needless to say, I was eternally grateful that my orthopedic surgeon agreed to repair my knee the day after finals, December 7th. Now, that day may not resonate as strongly with you as with my generation or my parents. My husband and I actually won at trivia because we knew this answer. December 7th is Pearl Harbor Day when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and brought us into World War II.
When my mom heard that I was having surgery on December 7th, she came racing down to stop it. Never mind that I had blisters under my arms the size of pillows and was exhausted and in pain. In her mind, having surgery on that day was doomed for failure. She was afraid that all bad things happen on Pearl Harbor Day. You might want to check in now and reflect back to yesterday. Did anything go a little sideways? I don’t know, maybe she was right.
So instead, she convinced all of us to postpone one day to December 8th, the holy day. There she could place her faith in a positive outcome. There she felt safe to ask for intervention and positivity. There she was not alone in her fear of apprehension or in devastated sorrow if something did go wrong. It planted the seed of how to give myself over to something greater in pure faith and to let go with what I could control. It was the start to what has become my deep and profound faith.
Of course, we also had to go to the Church the day before and pray for my health and safety. Up more hills, up more stairs and sitting on wooden benches. She really put me through it that day. You’re supposed to rest the day before surgery. I wasn’t completely sold on this faith thing back then. It took a lifetime to come to this point.
Faith Takes One to a Deeper Level
I think meditation could have gone far in that moment. Taking some time to calm the fear building in her thoughts. Mindfulness and deep breathing offer respite from the chaos of our day. The methodology is valuable and helps keep our bodies and minds balanced and at ease. Somehow that deep breathing really introduces some head fuzzies that makes everything ok in the moment.
But this deep breathing is purely for ourselves. It does make us feel calm in the moment, but does it prompt us to go beyond our comfort zone or just manage our current moment? To me, this methodology keeps you in the shallow end of the pool. A calm sense that yes you are in water but as long as your feet are on the ground, you won’t drown.
Now, if someone needs you at the bottom of the deep end, that could be outside your deep breathing calmness, especially if you don’t know how to swim. That’s when hesitation and fear disrupt the calm, when knowledge is limited or you aren’t prepared. But in the time that you may be worrying what to do, the person who needs you is in peril. That’s the threat of operating only on knowledge. This is when you rely on faith to move you spontaneously; to hold your breath and have your lungs aching in order to help them.
You have heard the stories of people lifting cars to free someone trapped underneath, or saving someone on a battlefield and remaining unharmed. My personal favorite is of a professional football player that went out off the coast of Florida with friends but then their boat capsized and he clung to it for safety. And I remember listening to this story when I heard it a couple of decades ago and really putting myself in his place because for as much as I love the ocean, my nightmares are rooted in those open ocean moments, of which this was probably one.
During his nightmare, he told himself that he had to survive because he didn’t want to bring pain to his mother if he died. He survived, his friends did not.
That, that is the faith that is needed to rise above what is known and be there for others so that they are not alone in this struggle. And in doing so, you rise in confidence, realizing that you have a deeper capacity than your brain gave you any credit for.
Even Media Teaches Us Faith
Have you ever thought about how much books and movies, regardless of genre, are filled with teaching faith? I’m not talking about the Hallmark movies, more like Star Wars, Dune and every Holiday Rom Com. I probably shouldn’t put Frank Herbert’s, ‘Dune’ adjacent to Rom Coms… But you get the picture, no pun intended. Ooof, pun done!
Each creative has come up with their vision of what it would take to overcome struggle; good vs. evil or confidence over fear. They create a higher source to convey the message: Let go and rely on a deeper sense. Turn your brain off and trust your faith to overcome.
In Star Wars, when Luke says to Yoda, “I can’t believe it” he quickly responds, “that is why you fail”. But, more seriously, he says, “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” I love that.
In Dune, it’s Jamis uttering in a vision, “The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve. But a reality to experience. A process that cannot be understood by stopping it. We need to join it. We must flow with it.” Nothing in that statement of empowerment is saying, “if only you knew more, this would not be difficult”.
Each protagonist journeys through frustration and struggle in his attempt to do what he thinks, emphasize think here – as in the brain – what he thinks is right, only to fail. Unknowingly he is limiting himself to work within his fear, his known. It’s when he let’s go, gives in to whatever will happen, has no control of the outcome, then he rises to a success that he could not envision with his knowledge.
And in the Rom Com’s? Well, it’s definitely have faith in the dorky guy to be the perfect partner when your brain is screaming, “but he’s a dork!” I love my dorky guys. Always have. They are the best. I know you’re listening out there and I love you.
Now you might be saying, Consuelo, these are just about little green men and a cool fight with blue eyed warriors, and bad decisions by the girl… and that works, too. But, you could venture out into the deep end a bit and reconsider.
Who’s Better For You?
What I learned in life is that I could rely the most on people who had endured struggle with a calm sense of a deeper faith. Whereas others may be really organized, truly disciplined or a little frenetic and still successful, if I needed help in the moment, those people probably would not show up because I hadn’t been scheduled into part of their plan that day.
Instead, it was the people that understood the chaos of life, lived through the chaos of life rather than organized themselves away from it. They were the ones by my side in a heartbeat. These treasures live by empathy and they relied on faith to guide them through the chaotic unknown moment of my need. Without them, raising my daughters would have been so much more threatening because rarely will someone schedule additional work into an already impacted life.
I don’t think I’m on anyone’s planner right now with ‘Go help Consuelo for three hours’. Of course you can always add me in. Or, you could say, “take Consuelo out for three hours”.
I’m game I’m spontaneous. I rely on faith. I’m available.
Enduring struggle to overcome life’s worst challenges or our own worst decisions is evidence of faith that allows life to be lived at a more complex level. It’s like I mentioned in Episode 14, for all things in life, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more struggle you embrace by facing what is before you, the more joy you will experience. Joy that would have been beyond your reach because of the limitations of the knowns and fear of the unknowns that you were living within.
We may be able to reach high achievements by training ourselves through will power; training our brain to persevere beyond pain and exhaustion, beyond fear. I think of Navy Seals and ultra marathoners in this sense. They are able to do things beyond typical human capacity. They have willed themselves to complete the mission and shut out doubt. Because if doubt were to creep into their thoughts, the brain could short circuit. All that methodical wiring could start unravelling and stop one in their tracks, get stuck.
It’s happened to even the most prepared, most successful performers. The brain is a finicky, organic, and ultimately uncontrollable thing. Our empathy, based in faith, helps us share their struggle, helps us understand the moment so that they are not alone in it. This is not a moment of failure or defeat. Instead, this is a moment of faith, of stepping off a path that was so well planned and orchestrated and moving into the unknown with a deep belief that it would be okay. It’s just leading to a different path.
Faith Defined Beyond Religion
In a conversation of exchanged emails, I had the request to define faith for someone who did not follow religion and didn’t quite understand the calmness behind faith. He was in search of strength to endure life’s challenges that too often we face alone. The struggle is intense and turning inward with some type of numbing compound rarely relieves the fear and anxiety that begin to take hold.
It truly scary to revel in this life without a sense of accompaniment, let alone have the accompaniment of only our most vulnerable selves.
Faith allows us to feel that we’re not alone with our struggles that we are handing it over, letting go. of The control. We try to maintain in our lives to avoid catastrophe.
So this is how I describe faith.
“Faith is the release of one’s intellectual definition of reality so that a freefall propels one into the vast unknown with the comfort that he will be caught, cradled and soothed.
Faith is the joyous revelling in the epiphany that all man has created is temporary, passing, pissy, phony, imitated, initiated, ended, forgotten, yet our immediate world immerses us in that which is beyond man, this glorious blue sky, the crashing of the ocean tides, the emotional kick in the gut, the euphoric orgasmic pinnacle, the returned gaze of innocence and vulnerability.
Faith pushes us out of fear, manifests a godliness to create beauty, induce laughter, soothe sadness, garner strength from that which we can conceive, in order to endure that which we cannot.
Faith is beyond human definition, comprehension. it cannot be taught, but lived; it is personal, yet divine; the voyage is surreal, yet constantly passes through that which we comprehend and accept.
Faith is baring oneself to his passions, prepared to receive the ultimate sacrifice, celebrating the sublime strength in vulnerability, sobbing from the release of trying so hard to make right.
Faith is lack of gravity. faith is the desire to fly, to float, to soar untethered, undirected, relying on the current we cannot see.
Faith is the ultimate power to our freedom from all man has created.”
I hope that resonates with you a bit and softens the days ahead. I really appreciate you listening, and joining in the effort to bring comfort to this world at this time.
Step into your truth, ladies. Ciao!
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