the place between places

this weekend here in Michigan was a cold one. one witIMG_0858h frost warnings and some sightings of snow flakes. yes, winter is approaching. we’re letting go of warmer, longer days. shedding our summer tans, cocooning ourselves in more clothes.

i had a moment yesterday when i felt so cold. my whole body chilled, i decided to take a hot shower to warm up. when it came time to leave my warm haven, i didn’t want to go. i didn’t want to put myself in the place between places. i didn’t want to feel the cool air. i didn’t want to stand, naked and cold and vulnerable. i just wanted to stay warm. and yet i couldn’t stay in the water forever, nor could i jump out and get right into my clothes. no. i had to be in between these two places. i had to turn the water off, dry off, before i could get warm again.

and then i got to thinking what a perfect metaphor this is for when we’re going through any process of change. there always comes a time when we have to choose to leave what’s comfortable in order to get to the next stage of growth. in order for me to get on with the rest of my day, i had no other option but to turn the water off and get out of the shower. i had no other choice than to feel the air around me. even for a brief moment, i stood there in the place between places. yes, i resisted it. yes, i drew out the shower until staying comfortable and warm was no longer serving me because there were other things i wanted to be doing. this is exactly what we do when we’re going through any kind of change: resist what’s uncomfortable.

for a while now i’ve thought that embarking on any internal process of change is terrifying simply because we’re not quite sure where we’ll end up. we’re not sure what kind of person we’ll be, how the process will change our outer lives. we formulate ideas (i.e., “if i go through this i’ll end up leaving my partner,” “i’ll realize everything i’ve done in my life is wrong and i’ll have to change it all and start over”) to fill in the blanks to help us satiate our need for certainty. these thoughts, though, are usually so scary that it keeps us from leaving what we’ve known. these thoughts keep us in the shower long after it’s time to get out. these thoughts are Resistance at it’s finest.

after this shower experience and thinking about my resistance to getting out of the shower, it’s even more clear to me that the focus needs to be on the place between places. the place where we’re stripped of what’s kept us “warm”: the beliefs, thought patterns, ways of being that are no longer really working to bring us joy and happiness. the place where the cool air wraps itself around our naked bodies and souls. where we’re so uncomfortable, alone and cold. the place where we’re most vulnerable.

it’s difficult, yes, to remove these layers and stand without what the ego thinks is protection. it’s in this space, though, that we can connect to the raw beauty of who we truly are. when we’ve taken off what’s only outer protection as we prepare to put on something new. it’s a necessary, crucial part of the process, this intentional soul exposure. it’s getting in contact with who we are at our core. the cold won’t last forever. we can always count on being warm again, but it won’t be until we can visit the place between places.

soul questions

what are the songs you
long to sing?
the ones whose tunes effortlesslyIMG_0018
drip off your tongue.
whose notes tumble over your
vocal chords like the water of
a babbling brook, or the
low rumble of afternoon
thunder.

what are the stories you
wish to tell?
the ones full of sweet whispers
of truth, beckoning the nods
of strangers and lighting
souls up like lanterns.
the stories for which there are
no words.

what are the dances you wish
to dance?
the ones that move through you,
taking your body along for the
ride. the ones that are slow and
fast and asymmetrical. the ones
that summon the tides of emotion
and sweep away the cobwebs of
yesterday.

what are the dreams you wish
to dream?
the pictures of yearning and
meaning and truth.
the ones whose images infuse
the silence with psyche’s
personal language, the one only
she can speak and comprehend.
the dreams that require no words
and yet reach out to the dreamer with
grasping arms and pleas to be
understood.

from what cages to you wish to
break free?
the ones that mute the song and
stifle the story.
the ones that cripple the dance and
pinch the dreamer by walls
too tight.
the ones without doors or windows
or locks, that are fashioned out of
self-created struggle.

wring yourself out of the cage’s
pores. you needn’t be trapped
any longer.

judgment’s shadow

IMG_0647a couple years ago i went to training about shame. my instructor, a brilliant man, instructed us to listen to that voice in our head that berates, name-calls, hates. he said, “try replacing the ‘i’ in the statement with ‘you.'” so, instead of saying, “i’m such an idiot” i would then say to myself “you’re such an idiot.” this voice, he said, is The Judge.

when i did this exercise, what happened was unexpected. i could feel the sadness underneath The Judge’s cruel words. i could connect to that soft space inside that’s just so sweetly sad. it wasn’t a sadness about what The Judge was saying, it was the deeper sadness that The Judge was working to conceal. after all, if i’m focused on that voice i’m not tapping into the current of sadness running within me.

this is how The Judge works. or The Critic. whatever you want to name it, it’s job in your psyche is to protect. when i’m connected to the sadness, i’m vulnerable. when i’m connected to the sadness, life slows down and i feel the repressed grief from unprocessed experiences and transitions, the grief of a lifetime, the grief of being human. when we can name The Judge for what it is, we become something else. we’re no longer embodying this toxic energy; no, we’re recognizing it as the character that it is.

when we can connect to this place of genuine sadness, there’s a sweetness to it, like i mentioned earlier. i think it’s because it neighbors love, and kindness, and compassion. it’s the home of true feeling, and when we can visit with sadness we’re only a step away from joy, and excitement, and the whole clan of feelings. it’s not the sadness about, but the sadness because. because one day everyone and everything i love will be gone. because one day we’ll have to say goodbye. because this day (hour, minute, second) is over, and i’ll never get it back.

we cling to what inevitably will slip through our fingers. and yet clenching a fistful of sand only squeezes it out faster. when we can open and hold, rest with things as they are while knowing one day the winds of time will blow it all away, will we get to enjoy it all that much more. The Judge would rather keep this knowledge a secret, though, hence its harsh ways and attempts to divert our attention. but The Judge has its own shadow, the disowned part that lies underground, and it’s sadness. the sweet, sweet, sadness that’s deserving of some light.

all it takes

IMG_0511

imagine yourself here. what do you see? smell? hear? this is your space of solitude. your space surrounded by all that one can find in nature. you’ve come to contemplate…what? find something to connect to, to love. these waters are you, the clouds adrift across the sky are your clouds. this is you, you are this.

within you lies the beauty of a thousand sunsets. within you lies the stillness of a million lakes on a windless day. within you lies the truth – that you are beautiful beyond words. even your ugliest parts are worthy here. because they’re just parts; not the you you.

breaking the surface of the water we find the inner, unseen depths. the stories gone untold, the ones working so hard to bob to the surface. again and again we push it down. that’s okay. one day we’ll part the waters and lift the story, wet from years of submersion. we’ll place that story on a blanket, wrap it in our arms, pour love and warmth onto and into it, and then listen. maybe it’s only a few short words that have been longing for voice; maybe it’s an epic tale that wraps and winds its way around us. either way, it’s our story. it’s us. and it needs our voice. it needs our attention. it needs our love.

and when you look up across the stillness of the water, you’re different. you know now that you can never go back. and so you paddle on, keeping your story held tight, giving it all the space it needs to just be. it can rest now, and, having listened without judgment and with compassion, so can you. that’s all it takes.

the beauty of becoming

IMG_0060as we journey toward reconnecting with ourselves at the deepest levels, we must go through a process of becoming. this becoming doesn’t happen overnight, for it’s a process. one in which there is no prescribed timeline, no map, no how-to manual. i felt this process working itself on me the other day, an opening of a moment in which i could feel the layers peeling back, see the painful years for what they’ve been, and allow all that is to permeate. it was a beautiful moment, one in which i knew i wanted to write about, and yet so fleeting it’s hard to put a name to it, difficult to translate in a way that i hope makes sense. it’s what i wish for everyone, always. to be able to bloom.

the beauty of becoming wouldn’t be the same without what we could say is the ugliness of despair, resistance, and fear. i only use the word “ugly” to make a point that there is duality in all things. light/shadow, love/hate, beauty/ugliness. but, when we can set aside our judgment that thrives on labeling anything, we can sit with both sides of the coin and know they are both equally valuable ingredients necessary for the creation of love.

when i was in the throes of my darkest dark night to date, i was soaked in hatred and resistance. covered in it. couldn’t get away from it. which is probably why it hung around for so long – i was doing anything i could think of to avoid being with it. this is why i say that these darker feelings are so crucial. i’ve learned to believe that they’re indicators of growth, of monumental shifts in thinking and ways of being, a sign that the foundation is trembling, making way for something greater to emerge from deep within.

it’s the bulb pushing through the frozen ground, poking its little green head through the dirt to peek around at the remaining snow mounds. it’s time. it’s not waiting until the perfect conditions, and it’s not going faster than it can go. no. and the bulb next to it? while it may be making headway, it still has a ways to go before it reaches daylight. but daylight it will find. in it’s own time.

this is also true for us when we embark on any healing journey: where there is resistance there is growth. yes, resistance is fear. but there wouldn’t be resistance if there was nothing to be afraid of: new territory; leaving familiar ground (physically and/or emotionally); and especially stepping into your own power, pushing through your own frozen ground to find the light of day. so, when resistance is rearing up and working to knock you down, let’s imagine for a teeny second that it’s the coach pushing you to fight harder, to push through the discomfort and connect to the place of raw emotion, of pure presence. it’s working to help you grow stronger. let’s just pretend it really does want you to be all that you can be, despite how convincing it is otherwise.

when i speak of resistance, it may seem i’m saying that the work is to do more despite feeling resistant. the work may be to do less. if resistance likes to make you feel bad for resting, then that’s the work – to rest. it really comes down to tapping into what you’re needing and then pushing through that voice to make it happen.

take the time it takes

take the time it taIMG_0365kes to be ready, to connect, to be. i was practicing yoga when i first heard this phrase, “take the time it takes.” when things stick like that for me, it’s my signal to hold on to it, that this is important. i often think of it like throwing cooked spaghetti at a wall – what sticks is what’s important. this one stuck.

it was savasana, and the teacher said so simply and calmly and as though it was no big deal at all to take the time it takes to connect to my natural rhythm of breath. she went on to say (and i’m paraphrasing here) that for some it would happen quickly (which i interpreted as easily) and for others it would take longer (which i interpreted as struggle). but for her, no judgment. just for some it happens quicker, and maybe even perhaps more easily, while for others it takes more time.

too often we expect and long to be where we just can’t. we want spring in the winter, sun in the rain, five years ago than this time and age. what if we were to drop down into our natural rhythms and connect to the steady stream of childlike awe and wonder as we watch the clouds float by? what if we let ourselves not know completely and went ahead with life anyway, taking the time it takes to live the questions? how about letting ourselves grow into our own skin, knowing that 25, 35, 65 might, and likely will, look different for each unique individual?

i’ve been wanting to begin writing more, to get this website and blog ‘live’ and yet can’t quite seem to just sit down and get it done. so i’m not going to do that. i’m going to take the time it takes to put it together, to make it what i want it to be, and yet not wait until it’s done to engage with the world. it’s akin to saying, “a work in progress.” that nothing is really ever complete or perfect or just right when it hits the ground running. maybe for some folks, but i’m hoping by choosing differently it’ll open up space and permission to connect to what’s true for me and take the time it takes.

 

bridging the gap

bridges are such metaphors. connecting us to different lands, different places, different people. sometimes we’re up high on a bridge or close enough to dip our toes into whatever lies beneath. but we’re still on a bridge, caught between two worlds while in a world all of its own. sometimes what’s underneath is still, like in this picture, and other times it’s turbulent, scary, dangerous.

do you like bridges? what thoughts do they trigger in you? i’d love to hear what you think.