Tag Archives: mindfulness

Burying the Too-Good Mother

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June whisking up some self-loathing for the rest of us.

I was raised in the South.  My mother was completely in love with American Camelot, so my brother and I were named after Jackie O and JFK.  The programming to be the perfect, June Cleaver, mom was baked in with a fried onion crust in lovely Cornel servingware. My mom so wanted to be June– but found the weight of being a single mom in the 70s to heavy for June’s apron strings and high-heeled vacuuming.  I’m becoming increasingly convinced that her inability to let June go fueled her alcoholism and many other (self)sabotaging behaviors.

In preparing for the upcoming e-course on using archetypes for emotional alchemy,Getting to Know YOU, I’ve been doing some work around the Too-Good mother that dies at the beginning of Vasilissa.  Many feminists have bemoaned how the mother is always dead before the curtain goes up in so many folk tales, and it can look pretty misogynistic if you don’t understand the deeper meaning…  Read more

The Wild Woman Within

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I’ve been working with the story of Vasilissa for almost two years now.  I’ve never worked with a story that long before, and its been an amazing journey.  Its one thing to know in my head that every character in a story represents a different aspect of ourselves, its another thing to experience it fully.  Over the past two years, I have been the step-sisters gripped by jealousy and suspicion when I was focusing on others’ work rather than my own.  Lord knows I can identify with the father who ignores what he’s being called to see and instead focuses only on the words that sound so nice.  I have been the scared child wandering in the forest, I have faced fierce, wild, power and held my own.  I worked for Baba Yaga, the Old Wild Mother who lives deep in the forest, by going to the river and examining the patterns of the persona, by sweeping the floors of my psyche to keep them clear of clutter, but it wasn’t until last week that I actually found her inside of me.

I had been reflecting on Baba Yaga.  On her house deep in the woods, far away from the structures and planning of the city, far away from the rules of civilization.  The forest stands for our subconscious world or unconscious world in folk/fairy tales.

Why is she so frightening to us?  Why is she so frightening to me?

I closed my eyes and dove inside of me.  I went swimming looking for the place in me that is far removed from society and its rules.  Appetites emerged as a door.  In the story of Vasilissa, Baba Yaga has a fierce and ravenous appetite.  You wonder if she will eat you up- consume you completely and still want more.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her book Women Who Run with Wolves, attributes Baba Yaga’s appetites with her need for creative activity, her desire for Life, for living fully.  The pot of ideas should always be simmering on the stove to make sure there’s something to feed her when she gets home.

Indeed, many of the appetites that we fear- food, sex, belonging- will become unhealthy when we’re not feeding those creative fires.  When I did the evening program for the Am I Hungry? retreat, I came home with a sign I’d made during the day program for my refrigerator door that reads: “If I’m not hungry, what I *need* isn’t in here.”   It is a call to travel the dusky forest path to Baba Yaga’s hut and see what she’s cooking for her nourishment.

What is it that I *really* need?  Forget what society says I should or shouldn’t need.  Forget what others may say.  Drop the story about what it means that I want this or want that– let alone need.  Just drop in and listen earnestly.  Listen as a witness. Listen to understand.  Listen with compassion.  This is the only way I can find myself.  The only way I can even approach authenticity, let alone live there.

This is what Baba Yaga calls us to do.  This is where she draws her power from.  And it scares us silly.  Especially in women.

I swam deeper inside of me to find her.  To the places in me that I push down and away.  The parts of me that I want to tame.  The parts of me that I’m afraid of.  The parts of me I’m scared will take me over if I even admit that they’re there.  The part of me that yearns, longs, open-mouthed and gutterally. That rages and rattles my cage.  The part of me that won’t scrub out.  That pushes back.

I found her in my hips.

Georgia O’Keefe’s “Pelvis with Moon” has long been one of my favorites, and not only helped me finish my 1/2 marathon training, but be able to stay at my mother’s deathbed. Have I told you that story?

My most womanly part.  The part that won’t fit in “boyfriend jeans”.  That stretches any shirt cut too narrowly.  The part of me that I catch myself clenching a thousand times a day.  The part of me that has been so wretchedly violated.  The part of me that ushered my son into the world.  The part of me that keeps the rhythm.  My seat.  My frame. My physical foundation.

In the story of Vasilissa, Baba Yaga’s house is surrounded by a fence made of bones.  There are skulls atop the bones that light up when the sun goes down, making her yard as bright as day.  The skulls stand for the wisdom of the ancients, of our ancestors.

Lamarck’s theory about parents passing on adaptations through the genes, as well as more recent studies are demonstrating that we really do inherit our ancestors’ wisdom, stories, and even hang-ups.  I am struck with the realization that those that have gone before me live within me.  Their knowledge and stories are in my bones.  The root chakra or tribal chakra, is located at the base of the spine, sheltered by the hips, and connects us to our tribe, to the earth.  When there are imbalances, they often manifest as issues around physical and financial security.  When I’m working with clients that have difficulty connecting with their feelings- particularly uncomfortable ones- I teach them to ground themselves, to breathe into the root chakra and sink in their hips, connect to how the hips support them, then connect to the earth supporting the floor beneath them, and the earth supporting their body in so many ways, which supports their life in so many ways.

Baba Yaga’s house is on chicken-legs, and it dances and twirls around–so full of life, it is.  I see my hips as her bone-surrounded yard, and feel the lightness of my legs and body spinning and twirling around when I’m at my best.  In many tales, Baba Yaga’s house has an elusive door.  Those not invited would walk around and around the house and not find it.  It only appeared when she called it.  What a marvelous metaphor for sexual agency!  It certainly speaks to our ability to close ourselves off to unwelcome visitors.  One thing that I’ve learned in my healing journey is that no matter what the situation is, it impacts us the way we allow it to.  As children, our thinking is so limited, so we’re much more vulnerable, but as adults, we decide who we let in, and who we don’t.  We decide how we are influenced, and what we’ll do with those influences.  The door only appears when we call it.

We deny this agency, then we fear our appetites.  We view ourselves as victims in our own bodies.  Is the prevalence of domestic violence- where we are victims in our own homes- a reflection of this? Recovering from DV certainly requires that we claim our agency over our lives, and that begins with how we view and relate to our bodies, our emotions, our drives and our appetites.

Claiming our purpose and passion in life does the same.  Indeed, in the work I do to help people discover their passion, much of it is following appetites.  What can’t they get enough of?  What have they tried to move away from and can’t?  What things do they love that society or their family has told them they should shew or avoid? What do they love that they’ve pushed away because it rails against societal views of what it means to be a woman?  Or because pursuing it would mean laying down ideas of being “nice” or conforming in other ways?

How does it call them to move away from society and its rules?  To heed the winds that brush through the forest trees deep in their subconscious? To go find Baba Yaga’s house and learn to feed her to satisfaction?

 

No instruments. No people. Just crickets.

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I love folktales, fairytales, comparative religion, comparative literature– just about anything heavily laden with symbols and deeper meanings.  I first got into it when I realized that stories from different parts of the world were using the same symbols.  How can that be?  It must be coming from the same place, I decided.

Jung’s theory of the collective consciousness touches on it, but still… it doesn’t fully answer for me where it comes from– how have these symbols gotten their meaning?  How did they come to hold that meaning in the collective consciousness in the first place?

Some animals make sense- their physical presence explains their meaning.  The lion is very majestic and strong, so its symbol as king is easy to come by.

Hey Jiminy, how’s choir rehearsal going?

A cricket as being the voice of the conscience in the West or a symbol of luck in the East is a little less obvious.  Myths place crickets to symbolize communication and heightened intuition.  They call us to find our way through the dark via sound. This got cast as Jiminy Cricket in the West and “personified” as the voice of the conscience.  Like that still small voice in the dark forest of our subconscious, the cricketsong calls us to slow down and listen.  To take the time needed to nurture our relationship with the Divine within.

If you follow your conscience and deepen your connection to your intuition, you’ll have good luck and prosperity, I’d reasoned, always looking for a way to connect the two interpretations.

In China, the emergence of the cricket signaled time to plant the crops, and their leaving meant it was time for harvest.  The Chinese deeply revere the cricket, and they were traditionally kept in little cages so that people could take them home and listen to them sing.  They didn’t hear annoying chirps, but  beautiful music.

Today, I heard this recording of cricketsong. 

Go ahead a listen for a couple of seconds.  I’ll wait.

 

Amazing, right?  Talk about a literal example of how much beauty and solace is to be found if we just slow down and listen. It sounds like a heavenly chorus of angels.  Beautifully soothing and inspiring.  Turns out the Chinese are really on to something!

And now its got me thinking about the practice here in Arizona of exterminating crickets if someone has a scorpion problem…  where do we eliminate love and light in our lives because we’re afraid of and emotional sting or the chaos of passion?

My body is not a problem to solve.

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When I was still living in Memphis, there was a woman, Barbara I met through the International Education  department that I bonded with immediately.  Neither of us were stick figures, and often complained to each other about the unsolicited “helpful advice” we got from strangers.  Both of us ate healthily and went to the gym at least 5 times a week, yet people made assumptions and felt compelled to shove metaphorical pamphlets in our hand about eating and exercise like those fundamentalists that stand on the corner on Bourbon Street and tell people the error of their drunken ways.  

One of my friends, T, never got such advice, though she was one of the most unhealthy people I knew.  I parked in the farthest parking lot so I could get at least a mile in just walking to and from my car, while she got several parking tickets a month for trying to park as close as possible to her classes.  She would have driven her car into an elevator if they’d let her.  She smoked 2 packs a day, had double cheeseburgers for dinner regularly and never exercised.  But she was a size 5 or something, so no one ever gave her a lecture about how they were “concerned for her health”… she met the beauty ideal, and that was all that mattered.

 

One night at a party, someone started their health-preaching at Barbara and she replied, “My body is not a topic of conversation.” When they kept on, she walked away.  I was stunned. And in awe.  How did she do that???  As compelled as people were to give me health advice, I was compelled to tell them all that I already did– far more than they suggested.  I did not sit on my butt all day eating twinkies, as they seemed to think.  It is not a simple formula- bodies are complex and far more goes into metabolism than most people care to think about.  

It bothered me deeply that people walked around thinking I was lazy.  That they insisted on holding on to simplistic ideas that don’t really work in the real world.  That they were judging me unfairly– based on a beauty standard that is only attainable with photoshop, rather than the health concern bullshit they claimed was their primary motivation.  It really, really REALLY bothered me.  So I was stunned that Barbara could shut them down that quickly and not set them straight.  That she could take her body off the table completely and not even engage in the topic.

As much as I resented that my body rather than my writing, my painting, my cooking, or my intellect were the focus of so many people’s view of me, I couldn’t drop it any more than they could.  I didn’t know how to take it off the table.  Three years in hijab would teach me how many years later, but that’s another story for another post.

What Barbara understood all those years ago that I’ve just picked up recently is articulated beautifully by Michele Lisenbury Christensen in her work on the elements of Masculine and Feminine Power.  To listen to her speak on the topic, check out the Shero’s School for Revolutionaries.   Regardless of our sex (or gender for that matter) we need a balance of the masculine and feminine to be healthy and truly functional, yet our society is heavily swayed towards the masculine.  

One of the paradigms she discusses is Providing  (masculine) & Nurturing  (feminine).  This pertains to the way we relate to others.  I would add that it also applies to how we relate to ourselves.  In explaining, Michele asked: “Do I hold you as a problem to be fixed, or a person?  

“Are resources needed here?  Or listening? Holding?

She went on to discuss how distorted Providing is that mean voice in our head that provides perpetual commentary, criticism, and “suggestions for improvement”.  I realize that it was my full identification with that mean voice in my head in my 20s that compelled me to engage with people in a topic I didn’t think should be brought up to begin with– my body.  Interesting that for the decade I was in The Netherlands–where its considered incredibly rude to talk about someone’s body or presume about their personal habits– no one talked about my body and weight came off.  I no longer felt fat, I no longer focused on the fat, so the fat went away.  I often wondered- in this land where I was on the short side of average instead of a looming Amazon woman 3 heads taller than most other women– if I’d grown up there if I ever would have developed the body image issues that led to the weight gain.  I thought I was fat, so I eventually became fat.  A little weight gain in my pre-eclampsic pregnancy, and others began to agree with me.  I took that on, and the weight came on even more.  The harder I worked to get rid of it, the more my metabolism slowed and the more stubborn the weight was.  Like the child told they will go nowhere losing all ambition, my body resolved to the fat label put upon it. 

 

We are so trained to do something.  All the time.  With everything.  We have great difficulty just being with something.   It bleeds into every area of our lives, and damages our relationships and erodes our peace of mind. Our Puritan heritage preaches that its not okay to let things just Be.  Its lazy.  Its permissive.  Its the door to chaos.  Anarchy.  Society will totally crumble if we’re not ever-vigilant.  If we don’t judge often and quickly, and condemn accordingly.  The papers are full of it, the news is full of it, and our heads are full of it. 

Thing is, its a lie.  A big fat hairy puss-filled seething boil of a lie.  It doesn’t make us better.  It deepens our shame and makes us worse.  It is the thing that takes us away from what we want directly into what we say we won’t tolerate. Pounding on a treadmill because we think we’re fat will keep us fat.  Loving our body and moving it in ways that bring us joy will bring us to Health.

Its work learning to be with your body.  Learning to be with your emotions.  Not analyze, not fix, not work on or improve, just Be.  Whether or not you were raised in a religion, bad churching has informed every part of our society.  We have this idea that if you’re doing it right, life will be easy.  If your life has difficulty, then you must have done something wrong.  I don’t know how that idea came from a religion with a guy being persecuted by both the fundamentalists of his own religion and the colonialist government in place to the point of dying the death saved only for traitors and terrorists, but it did.   So we pathologize all sorts of things that are perfectly normal, and in fact necessary for our development.  We think if we’re uncomfortable, there must be something wrong.  We numb by analyzing, diverting attention, eating, drinking, -holicism– anything really to avoid just being in our bodies and just feeling our emotions. 

Its caused a deficit of empathy in our society.  We don’t want to feel bad, so we default to distorted Providing instead of Nurturing.  We view everything and everyone– including ourselves and our emotions–as problems to be fixed rather than creatures to be held.  Its backwards.  Maybe there is a problem, maybe resources are needed, but if the connection isn’t made with the Being first, then the solutions applied will be oppressive rather empowering, and they will eventually backfire. 

My body reminded me of this in its latest letter to me.   Its voice is the exact opposite from the voice in my head: its loving and supportive.  There is a gentle strength that is so soothing and enlivening. Though I was raised in an environment where we went to church 5 times a week, my relationship with my body is my first real experience with agape.  At the time of the letter, I’d been focusing too intently on the symbolic meaning of things and it was getting stressful as I strove to figure it all out. “I appreciate your commitment to listening to me and learning my language” she said, ” but I am not a puzzle to be solved.  I am not a problem to be fixed.  Just love me. Listen to me, and we’ll figure it out as we go along.  You’re smart and you’re listening.  Don’t worry that you’ll miss it. I’ll let you know.”

Remember the same in your own walk and development.  As you’re learning to listen and working on the relationship you have with your body and your emotions, release the drive to do something with what comes up– create space where it can just be first.  So often, just allowing it to Be is the solution…

 

Healing from Betrayal

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Six months after I divorced my last husband, he was married to a friend of mine.  In one swoop, my social circle, activism, and religious home were taken from me.  I was completely devastated. Particularly by the way it was handled by those I still thought were my friends.  “I didn’t think it was my job to tell you” one friend said in an email, “You divorced him, so what difference does it make?”  I was completely stunned.  All the more because when this happened in my 20s, people had been so much more adult about it.

Oh, yeah.  It happened in my 20s with my first husband.  Not married 6 months after, but he seriously dated a dear friend of mine.  Then another friend from high school- then another.  It had been handled totally different by the dear friend and by our mutual friends.  She & he came to me and asked permission.  They’d kept running into each other and were developing feelings, but they’d pull the plug if I said so.

I lied and said I was fine with it.  But it hurt.  A lot.  Especially since the things he’d always complained about me that made me feel so unlovable were things she had even more than I did.

Once they made their public appearance, my calendar was full with friends taking me out to dinner.  “Honey, we love you so much and wanted you to find out from someone that loved you…”  Each of them had the news I already knew.  But I loved them for it.  It was a difficult time, but I felt supported through it– by everyone involved.

Around 30, it happened again with my Dutch partner.  They were not adults about it and made it much much harder than it needed to be.  I laid it on their respective lack of character.

For it to have happened again in my late 30s was really devastating.  This time it took everything with it- my friends, my spiritual tribe, my activism.  That it was handled so poorly and callously when we were in a mystical spiritual community (I belonged to a Sufi group) and all old enough to know better made it feel particularly personal and hurtful.

It had been hands-down the worst relationship I’d ever been in.  He reminded me of the shadow side of every relationship I’d ever had– my first husband, my partner in Holland, my mother, my brother, my grandmother, my father… and only their worst qualities and ways of making me out to be completely unlovable, worthless, bothersome and tedious.  It was so bad, in fact, that I could not blame him for it, really.  I had to take responsibility for attracting that into my life.  I had attracted it.  I had attracted it so intensely that it proposed to me, and I had accepted.  I spent the entire relationship working to release whatever it was that had brought him to me.

I didn’t talk a lot about what I was going through to others.  I was ashamed.  I felt like I should’ve known better.  I beat myself up for ignoring signs that seemed so obvious after we were married that I rationalized away before.  Indeed, I spent the first 6 months of the marriage rolling the tape in my head of all the things I’d explained away or told myself that I was being too nit-picky or bitchy or unreasonable about.  I didn’t talk a lot about what was going on, but those close to me knew that it was bad and that I was incredibly unhappy.

When you’ve had the 3rd major long-term relationship in your life end with them running off with a friend, you can’t help but ask “Why is this happening to me??  Again??!!?”

IT ALL STARTS WITH ME.

I’d learned enough about how our relationships with others reflect our relationships with ourselves to know where to look.  I sat down and wrote how it was making me feel—  Betrayed. Dishonored.  Tossed-aside.

Where and how was I doing this to myself?  Where and how was I devaluing the voice that warned?  Where and how was I betraying those that I’m supposed to love and support that have done nothing but love and support me?  Where and how was I putting myself in a bad situation by not believing those that I should?

RECOGNIZING WHAT WE DO TO OURSELVES

I found the answers in how I treated my emotions.  They gave me good information– that is what they’re here for, but I didn’t listen.  I didn’t honor them.  In doing that, I betrayed myself.  My emotions are what make me human- but I belittled and ignored them– if I didn’t outright scoff them.  I did not honor the basis of my humanity.  I misread them, then blamed them for things that had little to do with them.

I ignored them.  A lot.  Much like H had done to me.  When they did catch my attention, I took swift and typically harsh punishment against them.  They were locked up, pushed down, covered up, blown-up, buried.  I did all kinds of things to numb them out when they were unresponsive to my strikes against them and attempts to starve them out.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

I had to take responsibility for what I was doing to myself.  I was in an abusive relationship with myself.  My family may have taught it to me, but I had continued treating myself that way 2 decades after leaving home.  I did that.  To me.

Now I understood why I would see a child running away from me in dreams and meditation sometimes.  Children live through their hearts, not their minds.  To denigrate and beat up on my emotions was harming the Child Within me. No wonder life felt so flat! No wonder I hadn’t painted or written anything in so long!

MAKING UP AND STARTING OVER

The beautiful thing about our bodies and emotions are how loving and forgiving they are.  At any moment, we can start over.  They’re more than happy to begin again.

Not that there’s no mess to clean up , mind you.  That remains.  But there is no resentment on their part about the mess- only joy that the willingness to clean up is there.  They have taught me what agape means.

I learned to apply the golden rule to my relationship with my emotions.  I learned to listen to them.  I learned so many things:

  • To just feel my emotions instead of try to make them mean something.
  • To accept that emotions have energy, and that energy cannot be destroyed: they will either pass through me and make me more human, or I can throttle them and stuff them and make myself less human and more ill.
  • Emotions are nothing to be afraid of.
  • Emotions themselves don’t hurt me–even the very uncomfortable ones– the thoughts I have about them and the actions I take as a result of those thoughts do.

My emotions are not interested in kidnapping me and dragging me into a pit for weeks on end.  My thoughts may be, but my emotions are not.  They, like me, just want to be heard. They want to be acknowledged and honored.  That is all.

BEING HEARD IS THE ROOT OF THE SURVIVAL INSTINCT

I’ve long been convinced that the desire to be heard is the beginning of the survival instinct.  It is so powerful, that people will do all manner of silly things and follow atrocious leaders if only they feel heard.  Being seen is not as powerful.  Objects are seen.  Think of the saying “Children should be seen and not heard.”  Its painful and hurtful and scary– especially if you’re trapped in an abusive environment.  Silencing objections is the most often employed tactic by abusers and other despots, so it makes sense that the need to be heard is so powerful.

Yet I wasn’t listening to myself.  I didn’t give my emotions the opportunity to be heard.  I talked about them, but I didn’t listen to their story.  They were not allowed to represent themselves.  I did not treat them as living beings, but as nuisances to be dealt with.

I treated them the same way I’d been so angry at others for treating me.

Recognizing this has changed my life and is the basis of the work I now do.   It has helped me release so much baggage from my past, because I see that there is nothing someone has done to me as an adult that I didn’t do to myself first.  The people around me are simply agreeing with me and treating me the way I treat myself.  The Universe is a very agreeable place, after all. 

 

Getting to the root of it

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Last night during my weekly Mood Management Mondays class, we worked with Patchouli, an oil that addresses body shame and body judgment.  Considering the WASP body-shame culture the hippies emerged from, it makes sense that they relied heavily on patchouli to shake off ideas that the body is evil, sinful, and disgusting.  In many ways, we haven’t shaken this idea off as a culture.  Though we now use the language of fitness/image/beauty instead of religion, the puritanical emotional m.o. is the same.  (Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth draws this metaphor out exquisitely)

Even though I’ve done research for the class and had my own experiences with the herbs/oils we’ll be working with, I’m always struck with the power of doing a plant meditation in a group and sharing our experiences with one another. Last night was no exception.

Though patchouli is a low bush, everyone had visions of the forest.  Of eating the forest, of being the forest, of being a tree, branches held high to the sky. Root Chakra GoddessWhy would an oil that addresses body shame and body judgment have us turning into trees?  What is it that trees understand that we need to learn?

When I was living in Utrecht, I kept getting these images in my meditation of trees spinning around because they weren’t grounded.  The roots had no soil, and they were in a spin- not knowing where to build out to gather sunshine or bear fruit.

Last night, I really connected to the awareness that if I wasn’t in my body, I wouldn’t be able to keep my heart open.  If my heart is not open, I’m not going to be able to bear fruit in my life.  Contentment will be hollow and short-lived. Relationships will visit authenticity, but not live there.

Patchouli supports the root chakra.  If the root chakra is unbalanced, it can result in financial insecurity issues.   Affirmations for the root chakra are “I have a right to be here.” and “I have a right to my needs.”  It makes sense that if we can’t receive the truth of these statements fully, manifestation will be blocked, money problems will seem to always surface, and feelings of connection and belonging will be elusive.

As we moved deeper into conversation with the oil, the grounding feelings intensified.  I was reminded of an experience I had at a 5 Rhythms workshop earlier this summer on Yes & No in the body where  I realized that I had been experiencing grounding feelings as sadness.  The doTERRA book I have on Emotions and Essential Oils describes patchouli as “balanc[ing] those who…seek to escape the body through spiritual pursuits.”   Up until about 4 years ago, my spirituality –regardless of what house it practiced in–had been about trying to find the escape hatch out of my body.  Not surprising for someone that has experienced physical and sexual abuse, but last night I became acutely aware of how bracing myself against my body was also preventing me from letting that unconditional, transcendent Love that every religion preaches truly flow through me.

After the plant meditation, we did a writing exercise that puts you in touch with the voice of the body.  I am always amazed at how loving the voice of the body is. It is not harsh and judgmental.  It does not criticize.  It does not shame- even in areas and about issues you’d think it would.  It speaks of my neglect and mistreatment of it in the most compassionate and kind way you could ever imagine.  When it shows me how I’ve taken advantage of it, it is not in the resentful voice of the victim, but simply showing me how I’m hurting myself by doing so.  It shows me these things by praising the thing- no matter how small- that I’m doing right.  The way it lifts me up is so humbling. It is an amazing, miraculous role model for agape. It really honestly only wants what’s best for me.  its job is to support me and it does so  gladly.

Most of my life, I’ve braced myself against fully entering my body.  I didn’t trust it.  Grounding felt heavy and sad to me and I wanted to feel light and floaty.  What was I bracing myself against?  I asked myself last night. Why was I afraid?

I didn’t trust being in my body.  I didn’t trust what would happen there or how it would make me feel.  My conditioning, both religious and cultural, told me that the body is not to be trusted and listened to, but to be held suspect and denied.

Why?  What has it ever done to me?  I’ve done much to it, but what has it ever done to me?

I’m reminded of moments when I felt betrayal- when it responded to things that were abhorrent to me or even traumatizing psychologically.  I can count these moments on one hand. Why do I weight them more heavily than the millions of times that my body supports me through every day moments or even times when I’ve pushed it to the edge? Why do I forget all the ways it tried to warn me of danger and I didn’t listen? Why don’t those times count for anything? If I was in a relationship with someone that brushed past the things I did for them every minute of every day to hold on to isolated incidences, what would that feel like? If I was being blamed for something happening that I tried to stop, how would I respond? How cruel is that?

I still have healing to do.  Everyone does. I need my body to be able to do that.  I need to be in my body to keep my Heart open enough to let the blood flow and cleanse and nourish.  All the incessant circling in the sky above my body just landed me from one frying pan into another fire.  Its been coming in to my body that’s gotten me as far as I’ve come.  Its time to fully step in now and chant “There’s no place like home.”Dorothy's red slippersJoin us for Mood Management Mondays every Monday in NC Mesa.  More information and tickets are available on my website at http://www.lifelinedevelopmentcoaching.com/mood-management-mondays1.html

Abrahamic Space

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I love the Islamic depiction of Abraham. Though the Christian tradition portrayed him as so sure and certain, I had come to know Abraham through my prayer and meditation as a figure that struggled perpetually to find the Truth. One who wrestled and agonized, who God continued to challenge throughout his life.

“Get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” is the beginning of God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 12. This pushes him to continue to spend his life in that space in between… finding solace in neither This- not yet knowing where That is, he must negotiate a space somewhere in the middle. Though he loved his father dearly, he could not abide with the idolatry that was not only a part of his society, but had put food in his belly and a roof over his head all of his life. He literally becomes a voice in the wilderness- leaving his family and society behind to go find God.

The rest of the promise in Genesis 12 is that of making him a great nation. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, beginning the story of Abraham with this great promise lays a foundation of certainty. Yet though the promise gave him the strength and courage to leave behind his home and family, surely he wrestled with it. The idea of him puffing his chest out with pride and arrogant assurance, pushing the villagers aside as he set off to establish a nation is absurd.

He left with a heavy heart. The Qur’an tells us in many places of how he continued to pray for his father over the years.

The Qur’anic depiction in Al-An’am beginning at 6:74 of Abraham’s leaving home and beginning his search in the desert is so poignant, so tender and human. There were likely many who did not believe in the idols, who saw the vanity of the practice, but did not act upon it. In acting in line with his convictions–despite the social consequences–Abraham is shown the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth. The veils are dropped from his eyes so that his heart would be strengthened.

There is the certainty of knowing that the idols are false, but when darkness falls, he searches for light- only to be disappointed when faced with the temporal nature of the stars. His repulsion for that which sets sends him to expand his search- to look beyond, to look under, to find that which is bigger. He turns to the moon, only to realize that he’s made the same mistake. “Surely if You do not guide me I will be of those who go astray” he calls to God. The search and the struggle of the search help him build his relationship with God. Each verse indicates hours and days watching, questioning, nights awake searching the heavens. Questions, answers, questioning the answers…

Though frightened and unsure, Abraham pressed on. He left all he’d ever known–the physical “certainties”–to search for something that existed only in his heart. He was scared, but still he went. This is what makes Abraham so inspiring as a religious character, and so prescient as a role model. This is where his faith and bravery lies: though he was scared, still he followed. Though he had no physical proof, still he had faith in that to which his heart alone attested. Though his mind fluttered and whirred, still he did not leave the tree that had sprouted from the convictions of his heart. Each time his mind returned to the branch, the tree strengthened, the roots deepened, and he was brought closer to God.

Abraham’s relationship to God is marked by great sacrifices: to ask a tribal desert-dweller to leave their family and society is worse than death. Indeed, what makes Abraham’s story so relevant to our lives today is that even now we still find this to be a terribly frightening prospect. We define ourselves by our families, our culture, our geography, our language, our food, the religious practice we were raised with… Abraham left all of these things and embarked on a unique path. He would not lose that rugged individualism and continued to live and act in ways that were far from the societal norms, but were in alignment with the convictions of his heart, and his relationship with his Creator. Abraham shows us that questioning does not necessarily mean the dissection and death of faith, but is rather the basis and edification of True faith.

In working with Muslim immigrant families while living in The Netherlands, I saw these children and youth- who others saw as caught between two worlds- as living in Abrahamic Space. Little did I know at the time that 5 times a day they asked God to help them follow the Path of Abraham as part of their daily prayers. I often wonder if Muslims ever think about what that really means… to leave not only your country, but your father’s house… to wander in the desert-exposed to every danger imaginable- in order to find God.

I wonder how many believers of any faith think about the amount of questioning Abraham engaged in to become so close to God… If we really consider the magnitude of the actions that he took as a result of the answers he received… If we ever wonder how religions founded by someone so unique, intellectually curious, and individualistic could become so rigidly conformist and anti-intellectual… how we could ever come to fear that space in between- that Abrahamic Space of the Middle Way.

Walking through a Vulnerability Hangover

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home keyI’d had an amazing day.  Spent the morning in a Wise Woman Herbalism class where the teenager inside of me was giggling the whole time about how cool it was that I was sitting in the middle of the desert learning about deepening my healing relationship with plants.  Hard to imagine a place farther away from my fundamentalist WASP background.  The class and the women in it had been so affirmative of the body of knowledge growing inside of me throughout my life.  A confirmation of intuition’s power to train us up in the way we should go, and the collaborative support of Life around that.

Afterwards, I met some friends for a late lunch.  We’d laughed about how the only way we seem to be able to get together is when one of us calls 10 minutes away from the other’s freeway exit and a cascade of calling and coordination whirls us into the closest locally-owned gathering spot where we while away the hours over pitchers of sangria or pots of tea.

Got back home to melt into the couch and my sweetheart’s arms as we enjoyed the evening of “doing nothing” that we’d promised each other in the bridge of one fast-paced week and the next.  Made a phone call to some friends that had amazing news, and tossed around an idea I got about doing “storybook weddings” where I work with couples to find their totem animal, then write a folktale about it for their ceremony.  Flipping through my class binder, I got the idea to do a series of creative classes where we’d explore the different chakras and what feeds them and do craft projects based on that.

A beautiful day.

Pretty late, this voice began to streak through my head.  It told me that I hadn’t been as supportive of a friend going through a rough spot as I should have been. A bit later, it ran through again, dropping another bit of evidence of my unworthiness as a friend.  Another message came through.  At this point, I knew that the Saboteur was around.  It seems these ideas I’d had were really good ones, and the Saboteur showed up to undermine my confidence and convince me that no one wants what I have to offer.

When the Saboteur shows up, grab your flashlight. Whatever you do, don’t let it keep the lights off and hide in the Dark.

 

I used to call it “Splash Back”.  You know when you’ve finally realized you’re stuck in the mire, gathered the strength to get out of the mire, then found a bank to pull yourself up on-  once raised out of the muck, there is this splash back that laps up against your legs and knocks you off balance a little bit.  It feels like its trying to pull you back under.  Knowing that its there and what it is helps me to find my balance and stand firm.  Brene Brown called it a “vulnerability hangover” in her TED talk.  Love that term.  I knew precisely the space she was describing, and her giving language to it affirmed my experience that it was a means of pulling us backwards- and a natural part of the process.

Brene Brown: Listening to Shame

I’d had an amazing day.  I’d started something I’d always wanted to do- the Herbalism class- and the creative energy unleashed from that brought some ideas that’d been simmering under the surface to the boil.  I’d spent the afternoon in the warm, healing, glow of deep, authentic, emotionally intimate friendship.  The evening sinking deeper into that space on an even more intimate level.  And here it was.  This shame-laden voice flashing through my mind building a case that I’d fallen short of so many important tasks that I’d moved from doing a bad thing to being a bad thing.  As I’ve learned to do, I spoke it out loud.

If dark, shamed-filled voices are running through your head, speak out loud what they’re whispering.

 

Doing this in the presence of someone that you love and trust is even more powerful.  Speaking the shame-laden whispers aloud brings them in to the light.  They grow in the dark.  Bring them in to the light.  I’ve learned to do this in my relationship with my partner.  I know that he loves, respects, and honors me, so when I have some thought that suggests otherwise, I say it out loud so that I can see the look of surprise on his face and see just how untrue that thought was.

So I spoke it out loud.  I said what I was hearing, and J asked me where that was coming from.  The thoughts stopped then, but the feeling persisted.  I felt heavy.  Sad.  Lonely. Worthless.

Are you well-nourished, hydrated, and have you had enough rest?

 

I didn’t feel like I was tired enough to go to bed, so we pulled some stuff up on Netflix.  The feelings continued.  Part of me didn’t want to go to bed, but I began to realize that the feeling was likely feeding off my being tired.  I’d woken up earlier than usual that morning for the herbalism class.  I remembered the line in Vasilissa when the doll repeats “The morning is wiser than the evening”  so I decided to get ready for bed.

Go into gratitude

 

By the time I’m getting ready for bed, the feelings have spread from thoughts critical of my new project ideas to totally knocking out my present ones.  I breathed to create space around the thoughts and detach from them.  They’re not doing me any good, and clearly coming from a place that is not my friend.  J dropped off the minute his head hit the pillow, so I commenced to name the things I was grateful for that day quietly to myself.  I began with being grateful for the recycling trucks that came an hour earlier than usual and got me up just minutes before my alarm, to the amazing opportunity to study Wise Woman traditions, to my wonderful friends to my taste buds, and the dear man sleeping next to me.  I could feel the energy shifting more intensely with each counted blessing.  I fell asleep humming with a feeling of contentment and happiness.

Before waking up, I had a dream where I was working on a video project to expand education.  It was promoting a festive event we were doing.  The video was done- and was absolutely beautiful—but so serious.  “Look ya’ll, “ I told the team, “we’re promoting this fun event to help folks—we should show that first- let the fun get folks’ attention.”

What a great way to move through life!  Have fun and help people! Clicks so nicely into the messages I’ve been getting about not taking things so seriously.

Writing this as we’re on the road to Payson to enjoy nature and be able to take a hike in the shade. Gonna turn this idea around and see how I can bring my life better in alignment with that…

(post script: dropped my phone in a pool under the natural bridge and my car overheating meant driving back at 40mph with the heater blasting moving through the Arizona desert back to Mesa. But more on that later- wanted to get this up before I take my car in.  It was a beautiful day all the same.)

Center stage: Storm. Healing: enter stage left.

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Went to go see Oz, The Great and Powerful last night. Came in this morning to write some of my musings– (J and I had a great discussion comparing Oz with The Artist. Or rather, he was defending the cad-ish qualities of the main character, and in my insisting that the differences in this cad and that cad were significant, I realized that the films are actually quite similar in theme and talked about it –out loud–to myself for a while as he looked on with a sometimes inquisitive, sometimes confused, sometimes irritated look on his face)– and I saw this in my FB feed: Thanks to Elict the Greatness Within for this story!

I couldn’t have put together a better Thursday morning post if I tried.  Thursday does mean “Thor’s day”, after the Nordic god Thor.  Usually when we think of Thor, we think of giant, mountain-crushing hammers, and hot blondes (though legend usually ascribes him as a ginger), thunder and lightening, and terrible, terrible storms.

What we don’t usually think of is how Thor, being the son of the head-god Odin and the earth, is a protector of humanity, a healer, and one who makes things sacred.

I remember sitting in my etymology classes in high school thinking that gods & goddesses had the most random collection of things they were associated with.  God of storms & protection? Healing & hallows? What the hel?  But as so beautifully demonstrated in the life of James Harrison, above, the storms or sicknesses in our lives lead to the healing that enables us to make life hallowed for ourselves and others.

This is a fact of being human.  Its why its represented in stories like Oz, where the storm brings opened perception for the Wizard and for Dorothy, and why storms and healing are so often coupled in the religious stories of the world.

How have the storms in your life opened your perception of the world?  Moved you from silence to sound, from black & white to full color?  How have your hurts and trauma enabled you to help others?  How could they?

Dark places and hard times

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Was listening to a webinar yesterday led by Fabienne Frederickson on the breakthrough mindset of successful people, and she said something about “those times we’d rather not re-live.”  I was struck by her very careful word choice…  We all know the times she’s talking about: those times that squeeze and even pinch us.  The ones where we’re struggling to get a breath.  Where our sources of comfort turn brittle.

The places that show us that we’re still not over those abandonment issues. Where the sense of betrayal is so intense it becomes physically palpable.  I remember one such time, I literally heard my heart breaking.  It made a sound- like cloth being ripped down the middle.

I noticed that she didn’t say “those times we all wished had never happened” or “those times we’d rather forget”.  She said “those times we’d rather not re-live.”

There is an acknowledgment here.  A nodding to the difficulty, of course, but an awareness of the role that difficulty played in making us who we are today.  Like bones that need the muscles to pull on them and create resistance to keep them strong, so too do we need those difficult times to lengthen our souls so we can reach to the sky.

Remaining in that awareness keeps our heart and mind open so that we can effectively navigate the rocks and choppy waters when we’re in them.  In the tale of Vasilissa, the little doll in her pocket often replies “Say your prayers. Get your rest.  The morning is wiser than the evening.”

When we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis, stepping back to surrender to the moment brings us peace.  That peace enables us to see solutions we would be blind to if we let anxiety and fear take over.  When anxiety reaches a certain level, it literally severs dendrite connections in the brain. When the anxiety levels reduce, the dendrites will reconnect- like a game of Red Rover.  Its easy to understand how rising fear and anxiety levels diminishes our ability to find the solutions right in front of us.  We need to find our rest.

Once rested, it all seems to fall in to place.  Things don’t seem as terrible as we’d thought. We’re on the other side; we got past the trolls under the bridge. We’ve made it through the night and find ourselves in the light of morning.

So was all that really necessary?  Did we have to go through all that to get here?  As Joseph Campbell would ask, what is the gift in that dark place?  (I love how this post handles that question!  I mean, what do you do when your hood pops up and smashes your windshield while driving down the road??  I got all kinds of messages from my closet collapsing, I can only imagine how much she was able to mine from that experience).Baba Yaga crashing through the forest

Returning to the story of Vasilissa, at first glance, it’d be easy to say that the work she’s forced to do for her step mother and step sisters and the work she does for Baba Yaga are equally soul-crushing, yet both are freeing her in different ways.  Both are teaching her vital lessons about who she is, who others are, and how the world works.  Both are teaching her about power- though in different ways.

It is because of this work, because of this hardship–not in spite of it– that Vasilissa is able to return home with the light of Wisdom gone before.  Because of having worked through the difficulties that this light- scary though it is- is her helpmate rather than an adversary.

For Christians, today is a yearly reminder of the power of those hard places and dark times.  Easter morning is a celebration of the triumph of the light, the return of spring after a hard and long winter–a theme in religions and cultures round the world and throughout recorded time… yet there would be no celebration had there not been the cave.  No heart-expanding world-shifting forgiveness had there not been such deep betrayal.  This is where the Christ figure paves the way and shows the example– release of bitterness when faced with persecution from those he’d helped.  Forgiveness at the hands of betrayal.  Reaching for connection in times of abandonment.

The tendency to close down and harden in such times is fierce.  To choose instead to open up and soften –after a period of solitude– unlocks a deeply transformative power into our lives and in those around us.

How do we do that?  Release our grip on resentment and bitterness.  See how we contributed to our relationship with the metaphorical step-families in our lives.   Look past our fear of the Baba Yagas to see what they gave us.  Choose openness and dialogue instead of walls and defenses.  Practice looking past what makes us afraid to the Love it has to offer.