the risk of trusting

two stories : one moral

#1. lately, i’ve been thinking about trust and how hard it can be, especially after we’ve been hurt. i’m currently breastfeeding my almost 14 month old daughter, who now has some teeth. and teeth, you know, are good for biting. she hasn’t bitten me much, or too hard. thankfully. but, in one of the most sensitive of spots, and during an act that is quite a vulnerable experience for me, it hurts. it hurts when it’s unexpected. and it hurts because i’m feeding her and it’s a real shock to the system to be bitten when offering so much love.

i began to think about this experience, and how it’s now tinged with the slightest veil of fear because i don’t know if she’s going to bite me again. even though she rarely bites, and only does so playfully, there’s still fear on my part because i don’t want to get hurt. so, i’m on guard more. a little more tense. a little more weary and on edge. i’ve been hurt a couple times now during breastfeeding…could i be hurt again?

i went to a mom’s group for a little while when my daughter was younger and ran into one of the moms in a restaurant a while back. i chatted with her and her husband, and she was telling me how her son was growing some teeth and how nervous this made her feel as it related to breastfeeding. her husband chimed in and said that his mom stopped breastfeeding the first time he bit her.

just like that.

it’s so easy to give up on something after we’ve been hurt, isn’t it? it’s safer, feels like we’re in more control. as least we have the guarantee that it won’t ever happen again. right? to go back after being hurt puts us at greater risk. at least ego would have us believe that. yes, we’ve been hurt before. but really, it doesn’t spell doom for our future. every time i breastfeed i could be bitten, but i’m not bitten more than i am. and still, it would be easy for me to want to run with the fear.

i’ll admit that i don’t really fear being bitten every single time. but i will say that it has changed the experience. i’m aware of the “danger” yet choose to risk it. i have to choose to trust that my daughter isn’t going to make a meal out of me (well, i guess she is, but i’m assuming you know what i mean) every time she nurses. i choose to trust because the alternative is constricted fear, an avoidance of something so special because of the what if lurking in the recesses of my mind.

*****

#2. today my husband and i took our daughter to the library to play. it’s an easy play area. and free. win win. at the library was a 15 month old little boy who became an instant friend. at least friend in the sense of sharing space together and interacting as toddlers do: staring at each other, babbling at each other, getting a little curious about each other’s faces and clothes. they parallel played for a bit, each doing their own thing. coming together and moving apart fluidly. then out of nowhere this kid just walked up and pushed my daughter in the chest, knocking her over.

she cried a bit. my heart ached and wanted to lash out i’m sure. and then again, it got me thinking. thinking about a lot of things, actually. it made me think about how little control i have over bad things happening to my daughter. there was nothing i could do to prevent this, aside from never letting her interact with other children. i didn’t see it coming. nor did my husband, or the kid’s mom. it was impulsive, toddler behavior. he probably felt like pushing, so he did.

after a short cry and time spent with me, she was ready to get back in the play. she went back to playing with him. back to looking at him, open to engage. perhaps it was resiliency in the making. i thought about her willingness to risk again, despite this kid having just pushed her.

*****

the moral:

life hurts, and there’s not a whole lot we can do to prevent it. in order to love and live fully we have to risk getting bumps and bruises, heartaches and heartbreaks. we can choose trust over fear, even if fear tells us to run or hide or bury because we can’t bear to feel that pain again.

and that’s the lesson: just because we’ve been hurt before doesn’t mean we’ll be hurt again. it’s the heart of vulnerability. to open despite the scar. to wakefully walk into the fire, knowing our heart is on the line. to trust that we’ll be loved, that we can risk the pain to live fully, openly.

start where you are…

to start where we are is to admit
we’re not where we want to be.
things aren’t pretty
or fully complete.
they’re not done yet.
not ready.

to start where we are is to admit
that there’s so much more we want
to accomplish.
it’s the fear of judgment meeting
the need for visibility
that sends our message out into
the world.

starting where we are is the only option
sometimes. most times?
we can wait and perfect,
stalling our momentum in the process.
i hope starting where i am
offers a view into my own
humanity.
imperfection.
perhaps lack of skill or enough care to
make everything sparkly and ‘done.’

i suppose the point is to just
start.
to get pen on paper, fingers typing.
that’s the point. to start.
to get moving. turn inaction into action.
your heart may hurt with the longing
to be known. let the opening be
the pull outward, into the world.

lessons from labor

near the end of September 2016 i gave birth to a little girl. a baby. a child. and on that day, through the hours of pushing and screaming and crying and sleeping, i was born with her.

we birthed each other on that day. she wouldn’t be born without me, nor i without her. it’s a relationship like i’ve never experienced. this symbiotic, perfect, little relationship that has been growing from seed to bud to blossom. the roots are deepening each day, each hour. each smile as we meet eyes across the room. each little chuckle and gurgle as we communicate through spit and sounds. through words that us adults have forgotten. when will google translate tackle baby talk? oh, but the magic would be lost then. i prefer the mystery of the wonder. when we don’t get lost in the meaning of words….

only recently have i started to sink into the reality that yes, we birthed each other on that day. we did this, together. through giving birth to her something was born in me, too. and i don’t mean me as mother was born. no. while yes, i technically became a mother on that day, the mother in me wasn’t hatched overnight. or over 3 nights, for that matter. it’s been a slow awakening, an even slower deepening and revealing.

what i write about now are the most poignant details of my labor and delivery. because, true to form, everything is metaphor.

push. then push some more.

when my water finally broke, i suddenly felt the intense urge to start pushing. it happened unexpectedly and quickly and there was no questioning what i was experiencing. my doula, Sierra, encouraged me to go with what my body was telling me to do. so i pushed. for 3.5 hours. at one point, my midwife, Sarah, told me that i would have to keep pushing after my body stopped giving me the signal to push. that was hard to hear. i thought my eyes were literally going to explode. but i did it.

this was important to me, especially upon reflection, because we often talk about listening to our bodies and only doing what our bodies want to do. to a certain degree, and in certain cases, yes, that’s true. but sometimes we do have to push ourselves beyond our perceived limitations, beyond the signal to stop. this is true whether we’re laboring a real or metaphorical baby. it’s the ego that uses this “only do what your body is saying yes to” as fuel for resistance. because i can tell you i was not eagerly wanting to force myself to push, probably because i didn’t think i could do it. and there’s the gold: the “i don’t want to” or “i don’t feel like it” is really, “i’m scared and doubtful in my ability.” that glorious soft underbelly known as vulnerability.

waiting and doing: a dance

so, while Sarah was encouraging me to push, and then push some more, she was also patient as my body revved up to push again. i would push, and then push some more, and then wait. there was nothing i could do, and sometimes i wondered if the urge to push would even come back. but, we all waited. sometimes i fell asleep (Sarah and Sierra were full supporters of this, the body being the strange wonder that it is). sometimes i just laid there, wondering, waiting. and sure enough, i could feel it as one can watch a wave rolling in to shore. the slow build up, that little inkling of something on the horizon. and i was fully in it again. this dance continued: push and wait. push and wait. it was one of the biggest lessons from labor – there’s a time to push and a time to wait.

in the waiting is the trusting. it’s a total surrender. to not know when the next urge will come. or the next heart opening. or the next cry. if i had pushed when i didn’t feel the urge to push, i may have done more damage. or worn myself out completely. or who knows what. it could have gone just fine. but, that wasn’t my way. i had to wait for my body to give me something to work with, but once that ball was rolling, only then could i push it a few feet further. it was the most beautiful dance of masculine and feminine. doing and being.

it’s all about choice. even when you think there isn’t one.

after it was all said and done, one of the nurses said, “you were so in control.” to which i responded, “i’m glad i have experience with meditation.” really, i think meditation got me through with most of my sanity intact. (thank you Susan Piver!) i was able to direct my attention on to something that helped my mind not go completely bonkers. sometimes it was on my breath, mostly it was on counting through the contractions. but, the ability to focus attention truly is a superpower. when i could have shut down completely out of fear i was able (though not each time, not going for perfection here) to choose to lean in.

i talk about meditation here because in these moments i could have easily chosen to focus on how scared i was (meditation has taught me otherwise, hence the connection between meditation and choice). how much i didn’t want to feel the pain. how i wanted to run from it. how doubtful i was i could even go through it. of course i voiced all of this, somewhat reluctantly (my own issues were surely present with me, too – didn’t want to scare anyone else by saying i was doubtful about going through labor while in labor), but at various moments i clearly remember stepping into my strength when most of me wanted to shrink into the bed.

and so, i say this to myself and to anyone else terrified about change: it’s okay to be scared. it’s okay to not know if you can do it. because you’ve never done it before. you don’t have to know how it’s going to play out (this was another big lesson from labor). in fact, there is no way to know how it’s going to play out.

life is a beautiful evolution. the future is something we live into one day, one minute, one breath at a time. we are stronger than we think and softer than we acknowledge….all worthy of love just the same.

shadows

the shadows that chase you in the night areshadows
merely cast from the glow of the light.
they can’t hurt you. they’re not to be feared.
they’re the places we tuck
ourselves into when we’re not quite ready to be known.
to be seen.
to be heard.

the shadows that chase you in the night are
not actually chasing you.
they’re connected to you.
they are you.
sit down, next to the shadow. ask for it to open.
and revel at what’s revealed.
it won’t all be comfortable, and it won’t necessarily be easy.
but it’ll be worth it.

because the shadows that chase you in the night
hold treasures. they’re the little and big and giant
suitcases we store our unwanted parts, our tender
parts, our soft hearts and weary, passionate souls.
the shadows are often guarded.
they say, ‘turn away. it’s too scary here.’
the guardian will do whatever it takes to protect.
but befriend the guardian to gain entry into the darkness.
because in the darkness is where you will find yourself.
all of you.

into the forest, into the darkness

img_0228i stand here, on the edge of tomorrow. on the brink of entering the woods that will take me away from this world, this world as i’ve known it.

i wait for the signal to enter, knowing that when the time comes, i’ll rise to the occasion, step forward without looking back. i trudge quietly without asking where i’m going, or when i’ll get there. the point of this trip is truly the journey, not the destination. i feel this in my bones.

i don’t fear the forest. she’s safe.

i wait for it to call me in.

i feel the doorway opening, the invitation to enter is now.

it’s magnetic. there’s only one way: through. and to get through, it’s one step at a time.

she calls to me in quiet whispers. she sings to me in birdsong and dancing leaves. she is exciting. and excited.

i don’t fear the forest. she is my tunnel of transformation. she is my container, my guide, my lost connection to myself.

standing in the beginnings of tomorrow i take a look around and don’t know what i’m seeing because it’s so dark. i can’t yet know. it’s not a knowing i even long for. it’s in the being that feels best right now.

to be covered in darkness and yet moving so freely. liberation.

this is birth. to be invited into an unknown space fully trusting everything is okay. there are no monsters here. no bright lights to cast shadows.

it’s in the darkness we find ourselves.

it’s in the darkness we find ourselves.

nature as guide

IMG_0804over the years, as i have continued to traverse through more and more transitions, i’ve found the one thing that always works to bring me back to center: Nature. while there are other resources that bring me relief and peace and guidance, nothing speaks directly to my soul the way Nature does. when I’m lost in the storms of change i can rest in the arms of Mother Earth, knowing she’s supporting me, my lighthouse in the hurricane, always with a sense that whatever is happening is happening just as it should, as it must.

when i’m stuck in a place, whether it’s a place of confusion or grief or despair, when i can eventually drop the story and connect with Nature’s energy i’m able to grasp something much bigger than whatever is happening in my tiny bubble. i can see, almost viscerally feel, that the strife and pain and hurt is just a part of the package. there’s a sense that yes, life is difficult, yet so, so beautiful in it’s challenges all at once. this is what i hear, “look what we go through in order to survive, to thrive. look beyond the stuff of the human world and watch the trees moving in the wind, recognizing that some have become casualties to a force stronger than their roots. look how green the grass is after a good rain.” the beauty and the pain hold hands.

lately i’ve been pondering Nature and all its wisdom. what has bubbled up are these 5 teachings that have been helpful little reminders:

1. The wind is no compass (we can’t follow our feelings)

*If we were to use the wind as a compass we’d be lost who-knows-where. The wind can’t guide us; it can inform us of what’s happening on the planet, in our worlds. The wind helps us know what’s going on, but it’s always changing. The wind (our feelings) provides information, but the wind (our feelings) will never be a reliable compass.

2. The weather is all over the place during seasons of transitions (change is messy)

*Transitions are messy. When winter shifts to spring, one day it’s warm, the next it’s snowing. Some days consist of rain, then snow, then it’s suddenly sunny and then warmer at night than it was in the afternoon. The weather is messy, and we expect it to be. This is true for our inner transitions, too, and we need to expect the same mess that we tolerate (however begrudgingly) with the weather. Some days are going to be better than others and some are going to a whole complicated mess. Such is the nature of transition, of life. When we can see it for what it is – that things are just shifting and recalibrating – we can soften to the experience and allow change to happen.

3. A frozen ground thaws (our hearts naturally open after closing)

*The Earth freezes because the Earth freezes; it’s just what happens. But when it does eventually thaw, as it always will in time and with patience, we find life. Flowers bloom, insects and earth creatures make their way through the soil. The same is true with our hearts. We go through periods of being frozen, closed. But when we eventually thaw and reopen, we find what comes out is what’s been there all along, just waiting.

4. Change is happening, even when we can’t see it (trust the process)

*When flower bulbs are planted, the Earth is different than it was before the addition of the bulbs. Something has been added, and yet there are no visible signs of change on the surface. Before it even reaches the light of day, the seed breaks open, moving toward the sun until it eventually breaks ground. This is how it works for us, too, when our inner landscapes are changing. Seeds (little inklings of new thought patterns, beliefs, habits, etc.) are planted deep into our psyche. Nothing on the outside is different, yet there’s something new present, something that wasn’t there before. In time, what’s been planted will grow. What’s been present for much longer in the deeper, hidden layers will bloom on the surface.

5. Dress for the weather (wishing for things to be different than they are is what creates suffering, not the situation itself)

*Fighting against what we can’t change creates suffering. So often people wish for heat when it’s snowing, wish for sun when it’s raining. We complain. Moan and groan about how we want things to be different. Yet all the complaining in the world won’t part the clouds. All it’s good for us making us miserable. The weather will do what it does; it’s how we adapt that makes all the difference. The same is true for our inner worlds. When something is off inside we can either try to will it away or put on our metaphorical raincoat and welcome the downpour, maybe even, eventually, dancing in the rain. Instead of willing our thoughts and feelings away we learn to be with them, trusting that, like any weather system, our moods will eventually shift. Misery is born from fighting what is.

to know that life, Mother Earth, is supporting us no matter what, that She goes through much of the same as we do, i hope provides some relief. she’s not always the most gentle in her teachings (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc), but she’s always wise. it’s easy to feel lost in this crazy world, but when we can find that ever-present wisdom available to us at any moment, we can rest knowing we’re not doing this thing called life all alone. for me it’s Nature, for you it might be something different. either way, this wisdom that lives within and around you is probably much closer to the surface than you might believe.

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.

remember the quiet

IMG_0698in today’s world we are constantly bombarded with news, media, advertisements…noise. in a typical day, there are fewer and fewer moments when we’re afforded the opportunity to sit in stillness. and even when we find ourselves there, which is generally more involuntary than chosen, it’s become so foreign and unfamiliar we often turn to whatever device or distraction is closest so we don’t have to be with ourselves. being with ourselves has become scary. it’s uncharted (at least forgotten) territory for many, and when there’s an element of unknown and uncertainty, there’s often fear.

as much as i have been in that frightening place of being alone with myself, there’s a deeper part of me that breaks in grief over how afraid of ourselves we’ve become. how afraid of me i’ve been. “there is nothing to fear,” my inner wise one knows. “it’s in the silence we can hear our song.” only recently have i begun to truly let myself do completely nothing. to lay on the couch or the bed or the floor and just do absolutely nothing. sure, there’s a part of myself that urges me to fill that space in with something, however quiet that something might be (i.e., drawing, reading). but, there’s a stronger part of me that knows i’d be disconnecting from that part that just wants to purely be.

consciously connecting is where the gold lies. it’s where the rivers meet the oceans, where we truly begin to see the vastness of ourselves, our psyches, our hearts, our souls. to be in the silence is to say yes to the small spaces inside where the quiet lives: in between the breaths, blinks, beats.

most of us have experienced a prolonged time in our life where we were submersed in, surrounded by, quiet. (i say most because, unfortunately, for some being in the womb wasn’t a time of quiet and peace. that’s another article, though.) it was when we were in the womb, tucked away in our dark little home, hearing the heartbeat of our mother, the sounds of blood coursing through body, and later the muffled voices of others, that we had few distractions, no other choice to be with ourselves. this is the place of quiet. this is what we need more of.

so, what does that mean in a day-to-day life? obviously we can’t go back to the womb. that time has come. we can, though, remember the quiet that a part of us has always known and cultivate environments in which we’re able to go back there safely. perhaps it means we take an afternoon and curl up under a blanket. maybe we sit outside in the morning or evening, when life hasn’t yet woken or has begun to slow down in sleep. maybe, we lay down, in the middle of our lives, and stop. we notice the urge to do, and then get back to being. we let ourselves remember the quiet.

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.