wave that bubble wand

the other day i was driving around my sleeping daughter feeling rather grumbly about life. i was tired, i was triggered, i was not wanting to drive for hours just to keep my baby sleeping (yet also needed her to nap).

in the past i would’ve enjoyed the chance to explore, to look around at houses and see parts of town (including private roads!) that i normally don’t get to see. but not this day. it was just one of those days when life was getting to me.

until i turned the corner and saw exactly what i needed to see:

a man, at least in his mid-seventies, standing in his open garage doorway wearing nothing but a pair of shorts waving around a bubble wand.

yes!

immediately i smiled and relaxed, remembering that life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. when i’m tired and triggered and just grumbly, life is way too serious. but this man waving around his bubble wand was the antidote to my pessimism. what made it better was that he was all by himself, not caring what others thought (this was on a fairly busy street), and it was the middle of the afternoon.

how random, yes?

play can be such a healing medicine. go wave that bubble wand.

the slow decent into darkness, the return of light

Here in the northern hemisphere, we’re tilting back toward darkness. We’ve reached the apex of light, and now it’s time to return to the cave.

the opposite will be true for those of you in the southern hemisphere. You’ll have reached the peak of darkness, and more and more light will slowly be making its way into your days.

How are you feeling as more darkness or light enter your world?  It’s not that either are new; we go through these shifts year after year, month after month, day after day, and sometimes, it seems, one moment from the next is fraught with fluctuation that leaves us feeling chaotic and out of control inside.

when our souls are calling us into the cave, notice how easily you welcome the invitation or how strongly you resist it.

When our souls want to rush out into the world in leaps of celebration, notice if there’s anything inside nipping at your heels or, like usually is the case for me, grabbing you by the ankles trying to keep you stuck and ‘comfortable.’

Wherever you find yourself right now, you’ll be finding yourself in transition if you open to it. It’s true we’re always in transition, yet there’s something different during the months of anticipation as summer turns to autumn and winter into spring. Death and life looms in the distance, visible now on the horizon. We can see the storm and sense its impending waters and thunderclaps. We can smell the sweetness of the roses making their way through the solid, frozen, thawing ground.

what’s happening inside you right now? What wants to come out? What wants to stay in? We need time to incubate our selves, time to marinate on images and metaphors, insights and wonderings. We also need room for expression, clearing space for new life to grow. All of this involves some kind of stillness, of sitting in the in-between spaces that might feel a little, or a lot, uncomfortable. But sit we must, until what’s next makes itself known.

the season of transition

here in michigan, we’ve lately had some “unseasonably” warm days sprinkled throughout the blistery cold. it’s been much welcomed, and it’s stirring in me the rumblings of spring. it’s letting me know that there’s a transition on the horizon. soon, in the near future, the scales will tip and the warmer days will be more frequent. the cold won’t seem quite as cold. and the snow will melt shortly after falling. we’re not there yet, but it’s coming.

being in this place is tricky, and i find myself longing for the change of seasons to happen much quicker than my logical mind knows it’ll take. rationally, i know that i can’t make the sun shine any brighter than what nature will allow. i can’t turn up the thermostat on the weather. i can’t melt the snow, grow the flowers, extend our daylight hours. but boy do i want to.

a couple years ago i prided myself on not complaining with the masses about how sick and tired i was about the weather. i thought, ‘there’s nothing i can do to change this, so there’s no point in complaining.” instead, i consciously chose to embrace what was and shift my focus to get cranky about a culture that doesn’t honor the natural rhythms of life. and while that’s still generally true for me, i’m desperate for the weather to break. i’m craving open windows and bare feet and being able to go out the door without having to take 20 minutes to get myself and daughter ready. i want to plead with the seasons – won’t you hurry up and change already?!?

and then i’m humbled as i think about how we do this to ourselves when deep changes are taking place within, whether that transition involves a clear life change or not. something inside senses a transformation before we ever really see it on the surface, and yet we want it to come to fruition now, this minute, damnit. maybe we feel restless, or bored, or easily distracted. perhaps we are more irritable than usual, quicker to cry or pick a fight with a partner. these are the signs, psyche sending signals that something is shifting inside. and yet we must sit and be patient, for it doesn’t do us any good to yell at ourselves about something that simply needs more time.

so, the work is to stay with it all. maybe you’re getting glimpses of the spring making its way into winter, or summer to autumn. notice how you grasp and cling and crave the change, yet can’t live it quite yet. can you trust that it’s happening, even without you having to do too much? can you create the space it needs to shift on its own? can you trust that your inner seasons will naturally change, just as winter always, eventually, turns to spring?

gathering the lost parts

go out into the wind
and look up into the sky.
watch the trees
sway
endlessly as the gusts
churn like sea waves.
remember that there was a time when you
were whole.
when all of you sat at one table,
each part welcome because there
was a deep knowing that the parts
comprise the whole.

it hasn’t always been true
that there are parts of you unwanted.
parts that shouldn’t be here.
this is something learned,
the teachings coming in their various forms:
relationships and media specifically.
we learn to shut off what others couldn’t,
wouldn’t,
learn to be with. it’s truly a brilliant design,
until it becomes more entrapping than helpful.

this is when we muster up the courage
to gather the lost parts.
this isn’t always easy,
as it involves feeling the
original pain that led to the severance
of our selves.

each part carries with it a story.
perhaps one of betrayal or abuse,
longing or loneliness.
each part wants its rightful place at the table.
that place where there is safety in numbers.
where it can find solace in simply being
accepted.

each part makes contact
with the others.
a conversation begins that slowly
builds to a soft, rhythmic melody of the
parts working together as a whole.

turn to adventure, seek out the darkness

in my counseling practice and as moderator of the Conscious Transitions Conscious Weddings/Break Free from Relationship Anxiety forum, i’m afforded the opportunity to work with people struggling to find their way into and out of the darkness. in our culture, we’re taught to fear the darkness, to avoid the negative, to push away what’s even remotely uncomfortable. we don’t even have any positive language, at least not in any kind of mainstream outlet, for the darkness and it’s potential to connect us to our truest selves.

many people will talk about this darkness as though it’s a place in which they’re trapped. a place they’ve sort of wandered into and just can’t seem to find the exit. while this may be true in some regards, what i believe is actually the cause of so much despair is the resistance to actually enter into the darkness. we naturally fear the unknown, and in this dark place, where it’s all unknown, we can stop at the entrance and stand there, peering into the shadows for all of eternity. we may know going in will serve us, somehow. right?

when our culture is void of ritual and practice for growing up, we naturally get scared when change comes calling. the change doesn’t have to be external. in fact, it’s often the internal changes that can be the most frightening. when we’ve learned to live a certain way for so long, anything different can feel completely beyond our reach.

so, then, the question becomes: how do we enter into the darkness? what does that look like?

i often think of it as being in a cave. or hibernation. or both. it’s cocooning your soul in such a way that growth can occur. it’s inviting in those others who can hold the container and space for you to fall apart and then rebuild. it’s saying, ‘i don’t know what i’m going to find in there, but i’m willing to risk it anyway.’ this is likely easier for me to say now that i’m out of my dark period, which lasted several years because i resisted it for so long. i get the ambiguity of the darkness, the “why the hell would i want to go there?” thought line. i understand the sheer terror of surrendering to some process that was completely foreign to me. i didn’t know how to walk into the woods of psyche. so psyche dragged me there herself.

when we’re on the brink of making changes in our lives (and i consider learning to accept all that is as it is to be a massive shift from the constant striving to be “different”), most people seem to think there’s a map. and not only is there seemingly a map, but that map only guides us to and through the places we actually want to visit. what we fail to recognize is that the trail often veers off into the wilderness. into the places that, at first glance, appear too scary, too treacherous, too out-of-our-comfort-zone. too unknown. we see the trail on the map that takes us into the mountain range, or the forest, or the deep blue sea. the trail ends at the entrance. the trail ending is the entrance.

it’s here we take fear’s hand. it’s here we rely on our footing, of taking one step at a time. there’s no way to see down the river around the corner; we must trust the water will carry us and that the path will emerge as we float with it. but to not ever get in the boat means missing out on so much.

i truly believe that we find ourselves in the darkness. we meet the parts unknown and hidden. unclaimed and restless. if you find yourself at Forest’s edge, stay there. contemplate entering, and then take a step. that step may look like calling a therapist and arranging a session, or picking up a book that’s been sitting for too long on the shelf, or telling a close friend the thoughts that scare you. it may also sound like, “I’m enough as I am,” or “There’s nothing I need to do or say or become to make me more lovable and worthy.” it could be picking up a paintbrush and taking it to a canvas without instruction. oh, the wonder that awaits…

whatever it is, it’s an opening. it’s the grand adventure of life to travel into the places that terrify and surprise, and to remember yourself along the way. the darkness won’t last forever, that i can promise you. as long as you keep one foot moving in front of the other (and a snail’s pace still counts as movement), you’ll make it. sometimes you’ll sit and wait, other times you’ll run for the sheer glee and madness of it all. but as the saying goes, this too shall pass. turn to adventure, seek out the darkness.

lean in

earlier this week, my daughter and i were in our bedroom. i was getting ready to go downstairs to meet with a client (i work from home, via skype/phone). as we were walking toward the door, i let her know that mommy would be going downstairs soon to work. she said something like, “no, no, no” and came closer to me, clearly not wanting to separate. what i did in the next moment nearly astounded me, because so often i want to pretend i don’t hear her pleas for connection, at least, or especially, when i have something to do or somewhere to be. i bent down, embraced her, and told her, “mommy will be back. i’ll always come back.” and with that we left the room and she easily went to her dad, waving bye to me.

admittedly, these lines were inspired by blog posts i’ve read about how to support the transition of separating. to remind my daughter that i will, indeed, return after being away seems so obvious, but i needed support in getting to that place. this was, however, really the first time i’ve successfully, fully implemented it. the first time i really met her emotion, took it in, allowed it to be there without trying to minimize (even if only to myself), and offered reassurance from a sincere place inside me. i slowed down to hear her. i leaned in toward her and her feelings.

this experience seems so simple, yet it’s struck and stayed with me as being quite profound. i have a history of not listening to my inner children when they’ve been calling out to me, screaming at me, tugging on me in some shape or form. it’s so easy to ignore, although that nagging anxiety in the background never really goes away when we’re ‘ignoring,’ does it?

what if, instead, we stopped to meet that voice? to crouch down to that two-feet-off-the-ground level and look ourselves in the eye and say, “i hear you.” we don’t have to talk ourselves out of feeling the way we do. or offer candy-coated reassurance that lacks any nutritive substance and only contributes and perpetuates the emptiness we feel inside (think, “everything’s okay” or “you’re fine”). to really listen. simply listen. to set aside our own agendas and acknowledge what’s happening in real time.

when we can truly lean in, listen, make space for what’s actually happening and needing to happen, many times we can find a simple solution, or genuinely reassuring word. just a moment of presence, of connection, is all that’s needed.

welcome the chaos

not too long ago i read an article in a parenting publication that IMG_0736got me thinking. the format was more question/answer, the question coming from a distressed parent seeking help from the expert. the mother wrote about her 2-year old son who was getting fussy every time he’d go down for his usual nap. she said he seemed resistant, and couldn’t figure out what was going on for this boy. it was stressful and challenging, and just didn’t make sense. i loved the expert’s response.

the expert wrote back saying that her son was likely going through the process of letting go of one of his naps because he no longer needed it. the fussiness and resistance to the nap was her son going through a process of disorganization as he naturally opened himself up to a new schedule, as he let go of one of two (or more) naps and adjusted to a new way of being in the world each day. things needed to fall apart a bit before being put back together. he had to go through the inner turmoil to once again reach a state of peace.

and isn’t this what we go through anytime we’re making a change of any kind? it feels like our world is falling apart, we feel out of control and messy and disorganized and don’t understand why. we torment ourselves because we think we’re supposed to keep ourselves together, that change should somehow be neat and tidy and orderly. but it’s not.

change is supposed to be messy. let me say that again: change is supposed to be messy. and perhaps most important: THE MESS IS A SIGN OF CHANGE! we’re supposed to metaphorically dump our bag out so we can see what we’ve been carrying around all this time that’s been causing us pain. and sometimes the contents of our bag need to sit on the floor for a while. maybe that big ‘mess’ needs to just take up some space. we can learn to live amongst the chaos. it won’t last forever. it’s only when we know what’s been in our bag that we can consciously choose what we want to continue holding. 

our problem is that we judge ourselves, tell ourselves there’s something wrong with us for not being able to hold it together. imagine if we naturally entered our chaos, like the 2-year old, and allowed ourselves the full expression of all we feel during times of big transition. if we cried when we needed to, pounded a pillow, let ourselves fall out instead of staying strong and proud.

we must trust the duality of life. that we’re self-organizing creatures that will naturally return to a state of peace, that at the very least we long to return to a state of peace. just as there can’t be day without night, there can’t be chaos without order.

when we find ourselves in the chaos, it’s our natural inclination to want to escape what’s painful. but when we can be in the chaos (with the use of tools like mindfulness, compassion, etc.), open to the swirl of thoughts and feelings, even physical mess in a home, we can learn to be with a different side of life that has just as much value. this side of life offers us the opportunity to really release what is too heavy, even completely unnecessary. we can relax our defenses and our shoulds and know that life will take care of itself. that the natural process is to move through disorganization back to organization, and that there’s not much we have to do to enable the process other than allow it to unfold naturally.

embrace the stillness

thstillnesse snow rests like a pillow for our thoughts.
it sits with arms open, the soft “shhh” whispering from its lips,
guiding us to sit next to it in gentle silence.
the snow guides us into hibernation, into our warm spaces we call home
where we do the hard work of turning inward during the
season of darkness.
the snow says, “embrace the stillness. be quiet with me.”

it’s during this season, the season of darkness, that we can come
into contact with the places gone hidden. it’s a bit ironic that
it’s only when we shine our lights in the dark can we see what’s been
there all along.
that it’s really in the dark we begin to uncover. to see. to know.
to embrace.

and in order to embrace, we must grow still enough to
hear the plant growing, the spider crawling, the snow falling.

may you allow yourself this time during this frenzied pace that has
become the holiday season. may you learn to embrace the stillness all
around and inside you.

delayed gratification

earlier today i was outside plantingIMG_0702 some daffodil bulbs and was struck by how so much of this healing work is related to gardening. as i was digging the holes, putting some bulb food into the hole, placing the bulb, only to cover it all up again and then water the soil, i thought about the healing process. how we dig and dig, plant a seed, and then it seems we just wait. i personally know how frustrating that can be because we just want to feel better. we want the relief now. sometimes even yesterday.

perhaps what’s interesting is that if anyone were to look where i just planted it doesn’t look any different than before i planted. at least not on the surface. what’s important, though, is that i can remember what’s now in the earth that was never there until i put it there. the work, now, is to water the soil and then protect it as it gets colder and colder. i protect those little bulbs by putting leaves over where they’re buried. i’ll leave the snow there to insulate as well. and then the long, hard waiting of winter. while it looks like nothing is happening, new life is incubating so it has the strength to push through when spring comes. there’s a process without it looking like much of a process.

now, i’m not encouraging to just sit back and do nothing. no, that’s not it. what I am saying is that sometimes, most times, we have to trust that the seeds have been planted and live inside us. when we go through years and years of believing false beliefs and acting from a place of fear and the need to protect/control, it’s going to take time and patience for those processes to be replaced with love. just like with the bulbs sometimes we have to wait, we have to trust that new life will come in the springtime (which can happen any time of year when it’s our internal world growing). we have to nourish and care for the bulbs, seeds, potential life inside us. we have to trust and allow the process to work on us after we’ve done the hard work of digging and planting new life (replacing false beliefs, challenging fear, etc.).

it’s an ongoing and nonlinear process; there will be periods of deep digging as well as periods of sitting and trusting, seemingly waiting for what feels like forever. but then, it happens. when there’s enough time, patience, space, and love, those little green shoots poke out of the ground and reach for the sun. and so, too, will you grow. you already are. keep trusting. keep nourishing. keep incubating. keep growing.