ushering in the magic

“I am more vulnerable that I thought, but much stronger than I ever imagined.”– Tedeschi Calhoun

Some days I pretty much have it together. And to clarify, pretty much having it together means a sticker on the bottom of my foot (thank you friend for telling me in yoga yesterday), a dress on inside out with the tags whimsically blowing in the breeze and shit everywhere…literally, my baby took off her diaper and pooped on the carpet on Sunday afternoon.

I had it so together yesterday that a young guy walked up to my car and asked me if I was his uber driver. I said no and we both laughed as I drove off with my perplexed son in the backseat and an infant car seat next to him. Oddly, I was flattered which may be something I should explore with my therapist.

But really I am joking, I never have it together. The people that you think have it together probably have odd fetishes and aren’t that much fun.

Really, right now, I am sad. And grateful. And tired, napping in the middle of a sunny afternoon tired. My mom, my sweet, Oil of Olay and Tide laundry detergent smelling mama, is in New Jersey coping with cancer. Again. And I miss her. I miss our almost daily phone chats. I miss her visits. So much has changed these past few months. I want to be with her. I want to be with my kids and husband. I want to be on a beach alone. I want to be helpful. I  don’t know what I want or need or how to be of service. Mostly, I wish we could go back to the way things were. But I know that is not a reality. I try to stay present and thankful for what we do have.

This being human business is hard work.

I am rereading Broken Open; How Difficult Times Help us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser because I love it so much and need it right now. I read this passage yesterday and it gave me chills. I felt sacred awe as Einstein called it. Tears glimmered in my eyes like the soft track of light from the sun’s rays on the water. The presence of soul…

” If our senses were fine enough, we would stand around with our mouths hanging open at the glory and grace of it all. We would sense the presence of mystery everywhere: the angels keeping us safe as we drive home from work; the spirits hovering around our children; the thin waft of light pointing us in the direction of The Road of Truth. All we can do is try to refine our senses. We can try to quiet the noise in our minds, listen for deeper instructions, and leap without fear beyond what we think is so”.

These times call for a lot of checking in and grounding in the soul. The sadness doesn’t dissipate but it is accompanied by a big blanket of love, acceptance, support and appreciation of the universal mystery weaving in and out of every waking moment. I am trying to let myself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what I really love like Rumi tells us to do, and trust that there is something bigger at work here.

And then, in addition to the sadness, I feel warmly alive, thankful, at peace (sometimes) and even happy (most of the time). I don’t take the abundance of blessings and kindness of friends and strangers alike for granted.

Being human is hard but more important than hard, it is sacred.

Connecting to others is a saving grace. And true connection soothes sadness.

Although, right now, I often want to cocoon myself up with a good book, I find when I have chatted with dear friends, over tears and hope, that it feels rich and life affirming  Like an unfurling rose. It leaves me feeling better because we just touched something authentic, sweet, and universal.

So often we want to run in the other direction but when we swim towards what is hard and face it together, magic happens.

Because we all suffer.

But in the fog of suffering, there are angels everywhere. My friends have reminded me in so many different ways of the beauty, joy, laughter and meaning in the midst of it all. No small act goes unnoticed.

Jenny told me to listen to beautiful music because it supports the nervous system and keeps the energy up. So I listen to music I love (when my kids aren’t yelling at our Amazon Echo to play  “Baby’s Got Back” or “This is How we Do It”) and it helps. Because of more music, we have been dancing more too. And singing. While my particular singing may not be beautiful, it does unburden my heart and tether me to something collective, something humans have been doing forever in every corner of the planet during good times and bad. My chest feels softer, more open, and not so achy. Glory, Glory, Halleluja, since I laid my burden down…

Stephanee mentioned grounding, supportive rituals and lighting candles. It too reminds me of all of the abundant blessings all around. All the beautiful light ushering in the magic.

I used to think I needed more time to engage in such rituals. That to meditate or pray, I needed to set aside special time. But now I just do it whenever however in my own imperfect, not together way. The intention is there and intention is big. I burn palo santo and sage. I light a candle while I do the dishes. I pray out loud for all of the people I love and know are hurting while I am driving around in my car. I write in my journal in the pick up line. I say yes to help and food and walks. And no to what drains me. I take a bath with nice salts and probably don’t wash my hair because it is too much work during a ritual!

Meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein speaks to this, saying that we don’t need to set aside time for spirituality, rather spirituality is simply unfolded into our days. The way we fold towels, listen to our children when they speak, and by being honest with one another about our feelings.

Grounding in the soul looks different to everyone and is often the medicine we most need. It may involve simplifying and prioritizing, getting in touch with what we hold most dear, and letting go of countless, energy depleting obligations.

This soul time means perfection has to go while compassion and self care takes center stage. Which for me means I must write this right now. But while I do, my baby girl is using an orange chalk pastel on the stucco wall outside. Sorry, Josh and thank you for understanding.

Engaging in small, meaningful rituals is a way to sustain the soul. Rest is always a good place to start.

Last week, I heard doctor and wife of Paul Kalanthi, author of the beautiful book, When Breath Becomes Air, say that while Paul was alive, he taught her that life wasn’t about avoiding struggle, it was about finding meaning.

One day, we will die but today we are alive. 

And our lives have meaning.

In Option B, Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, she discusses finding meaning during grief and how we build resilience. One activity that helped her after her husband died was to write down 3 things she did well each day before bed. Smalls victories, maybe seemingly insignificant ones like checking email but anything that kept her going, kept her knowing that she was doing what she could to be engaged with living.

We live with losses and grief and the older I get, the more I realize grief is never something you get over. Rather, it is something we learn to live with. And that anything, any small thing that keeps us choosing life, light, and living with compassion, kindness and connection is a good idea. Our souls know that we will be okay.

 

 

Advertisements

Rasta Cowboy Unicorn

vbegod9a5ti-levi-saunders

When I was home for the holidays, I found a letter I had written to my mom. I was 15 and at an overnight retreat with a group of kids from different high schools in the area. The letter was an apol0gy for an argument I don’t remember having. Seems I was a pain in the ass and then felt really bad about it. Not uncommon in those years. (And regretfully, maybe something that happens on occasion now).  But the sentence that stood out most for me was this one, “It is so nice to be here with people who have open hearts and minds and walk around with their masks off.”

I read it out loud to my husband and we both laughed at how it sounded like something I very well could have written in my journal five minutes ago.

Seems as if I have been craving this my whole life.

And it made me think about what I can do or be to keep this yearning alive. How can I bring openness and realness into my life and my relationships with others?

When we were out to dinner for my husbands birthday the day before New Year’s Eve, we were discussing our word for the new year. We also committed to doing one little practice every day for one month. Something the author Lois Hay writes about and Dr. Christiane Northrup talks to Oprah about and that is looking at the mirror every day and saying I love you. It may sound funny but once you do it, it impacts the way you treat yourself and others.

Because when you look at yourself in the mirror with your tired eyes and messy hair and imperfect skin and increasing wrinkles and all the mistakes you’ve made and you love yourself anyway, it helps you to love everyone else out there in the world with all of their imperfections too. Maybe you don’t see their pain in the assness as much. Maybe you see their souls peeking through more.

And more importantly than a word, resolution or goal, what is the energy you want to emit? What is it that you craved as a child that still stands true for you today? How can you bring more of this energy out into our world?

With the help of my son who is really interested in Reggae and Rastafarianism at the moment, to my daughter who declared that 2017 was to be the year of the cowboy, to a game on Facebook that my friend Jules shared, I have decided the energy I choose to bring forth this year is that of the one loving, ass kicking, rainbow making, magical, mystical, Rasta Cowboy Unicorn. Yee Haw and One Love amigos!

together

fullsizerender-12

My last post was about surrender. And this one is too. I haven’t gotten very far. Or maybe I have. Maybe this is where I need to stay. It is no surprise that the collective psyche is unhinged. There is a lot of uncertainty.

But there always is. Things often don’t go the way we think they are going to or should.

I am choosing to believe that I am not meant to know or understand why things happen the way they do. That not knowing is okay and that there is a force, a benevolent one, greater than me out there in the world. 

And then I wonder, can I reject things the way they are because it is not what I want and still move toward progress? Or do we need to accept things fully in order to move through, move on, and forgive?  Can I feel anger and love at the same time? Hope and anxiety? Acceptance and disbelief?

I am choosing to believe that one of the most courageous things we can do is be brave in the face of anxiety and uncertainty. And just show up as our whole big loving and imperfect messy selves.

No more putting on a “game face.” Speaking of game face, yesterday, in fact, my face was adorned in blue marker. Because I allowed my children to draw all over it. That’s right. And then I forgot, totally forgot that I had a bridal shower to attend. So I showed up anyway, late and embarrassed with the remnants of a blue F on my forehead and the word Dad smeared on my cheek. But at least I was there.  God, help me.

I have realized the last few days that we are all trying to do what we think is best for ourselves, our families, our communities and our country.

And our bests differ.

And that is okay.

I am angry that 43% of the people who could vote in this election didn’t. But I am thankful that we live in a country where we can speak up and share our voices and not be jailed or beheaded for doing so.

I feel like I am swimming in one giant paradox pool.

I don’t want to be angry. But I am about certain things. Maybe I can use it as fuel and motivation. Because it just seems to me that it is good to feel the anger and then be constructive with it and not stew in it for long. Let it out for Pete’s sake. I think that is what has been happening. Like everyone is just throwing up anger all over social media. Sometimes it may feel like it makes things worse. More separate. Less harmonious.

But then again honesty is important.

I don’t want to be divisive.

I want to be respectful. And kind.

So I am choosing to believe that fear and anxiety can coexist with love and hope. We gotta keep marching toward the greatest good.

I don’t want to take things for granted. I also don’t want to make light of the fact that there is suffering. Unfortunately, there always is.

We still need to laugh, however, and tell ridiculous jokes and be silly in the midst of it.

Because I believe lightness holds us. Levity lifts us. It is okay to take a break from being serious. I believe we can do both…be caring and concerned and laugh at the movie “Bad Moms” all at the same time.

Where do we go from here? I think of Martin Luther King. Of Nelson Mandela. Gandhi. Eli Wiesel. Viktor Frankl. Anne Frank. Malala. Madonna Badger. Those on the Standing Rock Reservation fighting for what they believe in.

And all of the people that aren’t famous but put their hearts where their mouths are. That do something to bring more love, more understanding and less hate into the world. Despite how very hard this sometimes is.

This is you. You do this. It may be volunteering at your child’s school to help a student learn how to read. Maybe it is taking the time to let someone cross the street with kindness in your expression. Maybe it is as simple as forgiving someone when they spaced a date important to you. Oy vey!

But so much that hurts is healed when we reach out and connect with one another. When we dig deep. When we share what we are scared to share, what makes us feel less perfect, and maybe even unlovable.

All I know is my connections with friends and family are keeping me grounded these days. I cannot do it alone.

So is nature because no matter what is going on in our human world, nature is happening all around us. We are part of this. And the surreal, cobalt blue colored skies have been so incredibly beautiful.

And the moon tomorrow is a Supermoon! It is also called the Beaver moon. And well I am excited about this.

Movement…like dance and exercise and singing and sharing our voices  – this is life saving.

Last weekend, my family and I painted a fence for a local non profit and it felt so healing to keep my hands and mind busy while doing something nice for someone else. This is essential at the moment. To keep moving in the direction of union and generosity.

So does getting back to the basics and taking really good care of ourselves. And this includes being discerning as to what we want to receive and how we want to contribute.

To feed fear or promote peace.

I am choosing to believe there is so much more good in this world. And so much to be thankful for. And I haven’t felt optimistic every moment of every day this week. On the contrary.

But I want to stay hopeful. No need to bypass anything we are feeling. We notice, pay attention, and breathe.

Together.

authenticity

dogwoods

From, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, choosing authenticity means:

  • cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
  • exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
  • nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are enough.

It used to be, that I could not turn on the radio without hearing Seal sing, “We’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy.” In addition to getting a little crazy, which I still think is a good idea, we also need to get a little (or a lot) real.

Being real can feel like we are standing naked in a field with scores of onlookers, shouting, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” (However, in this instance, it is emotional and psychological nudity as well as physical).

Practicing authenticity requires us to be honest with ourselves first. This can be challenging, as most worthy pursuits are, and we all slip up from time to time, because it is a practice.

I learned this lesson (and am still learning it) when a number of years ago, I worked somewhere that never quite felt like the “right fit.” I would walk in and immediately start trying to please the people around me. I felt as if I needed to be something other than I was in order to belong. I kept going, thinking it was all in my head, and that I just needed to suck it up. Until one day when I had a panic attack while being there.

It was as if my physical body created some dramatic situation in order to get me to wake up. It worked. Finally, I listened to what my intuition had been telling me all along. I admitted that I never really liked going there in the first place. I had originally ignored all of the obvious signals, but, thanks to the panic attack, I eventually made some important changes. Next time, I hope it doesn’t have to come to that.

Finally, when I stopped forcing myself to go to a place that caused me more angst than joy, a huge sense of relief brought me home to my heart. The result was that I began to feel great enthusiasm for all of the impending possibilities that lay before me instead of wishing for things to be different and waiting for them to change. I changed. And as we have heard over and over again, change is an inside job.

Serendipitously, while researching another topic, I came across this line from the book, Coaching for Transformation, “Living from the inside out ensures authenticity.” I thought to myself, And living from the inside out takes courage. As Dr. Brene Brown says, “We can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.” And it takes vulnerability to be authentic because sometimes, inadvertently, we may cause others to feel disappointed or confused by our actions. But when we are coming from a place of truth, it is at least an honest exchange, and I believe will turn out for the best even if it is awkward or uncomfortable.

The beauty of practicing authenticity is that it can feel as if life is bursting open right in front of us like a flower in full bloom. It is as if we are butterflies slowly, bravely, and purposefully emerging from our chrysalis, flapping our wings and getting ready to fly. We feel like we are part, not separate from, the mystery of life. We honor our individuality and at the same time awaken to the interconnection of all living things. We are in the flow. We notice an internal vitality and an external vibrancy walking with us and sometimes even carrying us. We worry less and relax more into a place of trust, hope, and faith. We see signs and synchronicities popping up everywhere, helping to steer us in the right direction. Like when we bump into others that we were just thinking about. We feel full, full enough that we can be there fully for others.

I believe the world needs this, and needs us to be transparent, to allow our brilliant and sometimes muddled colors to be seen. Maybe it is even our responsibility. We paint the pictures of our lives with these colors and need not run, hide, or be embarrassed by both their glory, as well as their messiness.

The longer I am alive, the more I realize, that when we are desperate for change, we are also simultaneously yearning for acceptance. It is ironic that change doesn’t usually happen when we are pushing and screaming for it, but rather, when we are surrendering into the space of what is.

Practicing authenticity invites and encourages others to be authentic too. Like those moments when we finally say what has been tugging at our head and heart, and in response, the person whom we are speaking with, gratefully says, “Me too!” We no longer feel alone or different.

When we practice authenticity, we clear out the fog and make way for the sunshine of clarity to break through. We get to be crazy and real together and this may truly be the only way we’re gonna survive.

the only way out is through and the only way through is in

jennycollage

“If we view our bodies as bridges that carry us from our inner life to the outer world, then pain often gives us insight as to where the bridge is experiencing the most stress. Pain lets us know where we might crack, where our lives need to be reinforced and rested, in order for us to keep bringing our inner and outer lives together.” – Mark Nepo

“And I said to my body softly, ‘I want to be your friend’. It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’ – Nayyirah Waheed

I have had no less than an acupuncurist, a yoga teacher or two, a graduate school professor, a random man from Israel on the streets of Amsterdam (this happened before (not after) visiting a “coffee” shop,) and an older woman who I was interviewing for a volunteer position at Hospice, tell me that I was “in my head.” I took this to mean too much in my head and not in my heart or body.

It is true, especially when I am nervous. I tend to forget about my body and talk from the top of my throat and forehead. I also have the tendency to over-think, replaying even small occurrences over and over. (Did that waitress really just slam my glass of water on the table?) All of this over-thinking leads to insecurity and self-doubt. And this gets really annoying and cumbersome.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being cerebral, but it is helpful, healing, and certainly more interesting to experience life from our whole beings.

So what is it that causes us to flee and detach ourselves from the rest of our bodies and operate entirely from our heads?

There have been moments when I have been too scared to be in my body for fear of what might be revealed when I land there. Or moments when I was not aware enough to realize I wasn’t in my body in the first place.

If we have suffered from any kind of abuse, trauma, or illness, it might take real practice to feel secure in the body again. And sometimes fleeing the body is purely a matter of survival. This is why it is essential to be gentle with ourselves and move slowly and softly as we go inward.

Living entirely in the head causes us to worry more, feel less, and become infatuated with the future. However, when I integrate my mind with the rest of my body, I am more in touch with the entirety of an experience; the big picture in addition to the smaller details. I am more connected with what is happening right here, right now. The worry diminishes and the real me has space to just be.

I read somewhere recently that anxiety is really just another thing to do. And most of us don’t need another thing to do! But that is what our minds gravitate towards…doing. They like to be busy and preoccupied with something, anything. Our heads talk, but our bodies listen. And when we listen to our bodies, we experience that feeling, not fleeing, is the way to heal.

The word healing has been swimming in my consciousness a lot recently. The kind of spiritual and emotional healing that is less about a cure and more about creating space for acceptance, compassion, and gratitude for all that is. Knowing that everything we experience, even being in the doldrums, enables us to reach our next pinnacle.

This kind of healing might take a lifetime of practice, patience, and perseverance. And at the heart of healing is the movement towards wholeness and wellness. This is not often a linear experience where we progress from one level to the next and sometimes it may even feel like we are stalling or have taken a giant step backwards.

But we cannot heal or be whole without integrating all parts of ourselves. Our whole selves meaning our minds, hearts, and bodies, are like plants that grow when we shower them with appreciation, light, and kindness. Nothing can reach its full potential in a neglectful environment.

Psychologist, Harriet Goldhor Lerner, writes that body wisdom comes through feeling and sensation, not through thinking and figuring out. And Eugene Gendlin, a psychology professor and creator of a process called Focusing, says, “While we’re making a list of pros and cons to help us decide which way to go, we probably already know the answer in our gut but are not ready to hear it.” He refers to this feeling as a felt sense.

So how do we develop this felt sense or body awareness? How do we take the plunge from our heads to our bodies and get more intimate and more comfortable with this inner landscape? How do we begin to heal in this way?

While healing can be a solo endeavor, I have found that a collaborative effort such as being a part of a helpful and supportive community, class or support group; talking with a trusted friend; working with a therapist, doctor, holistic healer, shaman or spiritual teacher; can help us feel validated, inspired, and certainly less alone.

The author of the book, Snake Oil; The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling by Becca Stevens writes that healing isn’t magic. Healing requires faith and work. And often this healing work requires us to integrate our hearts and souls with our minds.

Our bodies are our allies and can be our greatest signal when something is wrong. When we develop body awareness, we encourage health, creativity, and profound healing. Then we are also more genuine and compassionate friends, listeners, and healers for others.

Below are some suggestions for ways to get into our bodies:

1. Bodywork. Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Acupuncture, and Massage are hugely helpful at alleviating physical discomfort as well as relieving and releasing deeply ingrained tension, stress, and sticky emotions.

2. Move. I have found over and over again that a warm, cozy, and slow moving yoga class led by a nurturing teacher is a most helpful way to get back into my body. In yoga, the instructor often reminds the class to bring awareness and attention out of the head and into the heart. We are encouraged to direct our consciousness to all the different places in our bodies. Yoga teaches us to relax our muscles and our weary heads and hearts. It engages the parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn slows down the heart rate helping us to feel calmer and more at peace in the body. In addition to yoga, physical practices such as Pilates, Tai Chi, Authentic Movement, and Nia (an intuitive kind of dance centered on connecting to the inherit joy in the body) are about moving with prana or the life force in the body. Exercise, in general, as you are likely aware, helps release positive hormones and gives our mood a sure fire boost!

3. Sing! Singing encourages us to be in our bellies and engage our diaphragm, the umbrella shaped muscle in our abdomen so essential to our breathing. My friend and voice teacher, Elisa, teaches her students to “breathe into the pit of your stomach.” When we not only sing, but also talk, from the pit of our stomachs with our feet firmly rooted to the earth below us, the depth of resonance and courage that comes out is a much stronger and more confident sound.

4. Stillness. Sit in stillness, meditate, listen to a guided visualization, or try yoga nidra (yogic sleep) at a yoga studio or online. These practices bring awareness to the breath as it swirls in and out of the nostrils like a cleansing and refreshing breeze. And walking meditation, if it feels too anxiety-inducing for you to sit still, can be a great way of getting out of the head and bringing attention to the feet and legs as we feel the healing earth energy beneath us.

5. Create. Writing has been my personal saving grace when it comes to getting me back into my body. Exercises such as writing to and from pain or joy can bring understanding to what your body truly needs in order to heal. If we are angry, disappointed, and feel like we need to get “something off of our chest,” do it in a safe, therapeutic way by creating with your hands or through your voice. Any kind of creative exercise – whether it is signing or using your hands by sculpting with clay or play- doh, painting, or gardening – can also be helpful.

6. Engage the senses, notice beauty, and experience pleasure! Eat something you enjoy without guilt. Watch a beautiful movie, admire nature, try essential oils, listen to a song you love, wrap yourself in a soft warm blanket – treat your body like a sacred temple that deserves to be lovingly tended to.

7. Professional mental health care. A therapist familiar with somatic techniques such as Focusing is especially helpful when healing from a traumatic experience, depression, and anxiety.

8. Name feelings. Identify an emotion without attaching any judgment or criticism to it. Just saying fear if you feel fear helps bring awareness to what and how you are feeling. It is very hard to have sincere empathy and compassion for others, if we don’t know how to identify what we are feeling first. Otherwise we are too wrapped up in our own stuff to really be able to listen and “be there” for others.

When we live from our bodies as well as our minds, we operate from our power.

And being in our power is living from love. Go with love!