i see you

i see you there.
turning away in shame.
afraid of what others will think
if you actually allow yourself to say
what’s really on your mind.

i see you there.
wanting desperately to break out
of the chains that bind you.
the stories wrapped so tightly around
your gentle heart
and soft soul
that you’re not sure, exactly, just
who you are anymore.

i see you there.
in your vulnerability. in your quest
for answers and your search for truth.
i’ll meet you in the forest, and
together we’ll trek our way through
the brush and thorns and stop
every now and then
to admire the hawk above us or the ants below us.

and in that forest, sometimes
we’ll burn a fire, watching in admiration as
the shadows dance together through the trees.
you’ll tell me your stories behind the stories.
you know the ones.
the ones you’ve longed to tell, have been trying to tell.
i’ll help you develop a language for
these tales.
the depths of your beauty and searing pain.
the pain you think is unending. the beauty you think is
gone forever.

i see you there.
all of you.
and you’re glorious.

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.

in the time it takes to surrender

in the time it takes to surrender,
have we missed the boat?
did we wait too long to decide
if we were going to go along for the ride?
perhaps it was the waiting that made the decision for us.
i don’t know.
what i do know is that it doesn’t matter
what would’ve been,
could’ve been.
what matters is what’s here. now.
today.
can we let go of living in fantasy to
embrace what’s…well, real?

in the time it takes to surrender,
what resistances come up to meet you?
what forces try to stop you, or steer you to
move over there instead?
does fear whisper in your ear,
taunting you with sweet lies and brutal “truths?”
only fear will tell you something is 100%.
wisdom knows the nuances, the uncertainty even
in the most certain of circumstances.
that dance with the mystery of life always leaves
an opening for possibility.

in the time it takes to surrender,
have you grieved?
have you followed the crack into the abyss,
that place that seemingly knows no depths?
crying tears of relief and despair,
where we’re brought to our knees and finally give in.
we turn it over to something, anything.
admitting both to ourselves and others
we can’t continue alone. even when no one
shows up, allowing ourselves to befriend
everything that lives inside can create
the inner community before the outer one
falls into place.

in the time it takes to surrender,
i want you to know it’s okay to fight it.
to resist it. to hate it, all the while
longing to let go.
surrendering is simple, not easy.
your tears will carry you along the way.
your cries will call the forces to support you.
your despair will change you.

and then, once you surrender, it’s a
repeated practice.
say thank you to everything that tried to stop you.
it was, after all, only pointing you toward
exactly where you need to be.

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.

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.