Thursday, December 29, 2016

Yesterday I Was Alive, Today My Heart is Beating Me Awake

How many yesterdays have I had at forty years old? Looking back at yesterday, ignoring the present, smothering the future. 

Yesterday, I went to the rec center pool with my daughter. It was crowded with other parents and children. Winter break, the week after Christmas, and all of us hanging on by threads - anticipating the future return of school's starting bell. Bye, I love you, have a great day. [quiet sigh] 

The indoor pool is beautiful. Mostly clean, open, lofted, ceilings with huge wood beams, and low lights. The din is roucous. Windows from floor to ceiling. On the southwest side of the pool, the windows look out to a wooded area beyond the playground. Yesterday, the sun was brilliant, the sky blue. I rested my arms at the edge and turned my face to the sun coming through the southwestern window. My view all trees and low golden light.  The usual piped-in music was off. The pool water lapping through the deck drain. I could feel the sun warming my skin. 

I was present. I was full. Happy. I marked that moment. Come back to this. Back to this breath, this calm in the wild, this sense of equanimity, this peace. 

We rush to remember all the monumental moments, the births, matriculations, firsts of everything (tooth in, tooth out, potty, crawl, walk, run, swing, dance, sing, knee scrape, birthday after birthday - marking each new year),  holidays, graduations, anniversaries, new births. We like remembering the big stuff. It feels big. Take a picture. 

I want to remember the small stuff. The little finer moments. The unhurried. The uncaptured. To document the undocumented the mundane the ordinary the extraordinary. 

I finally figured it out after all these years. I am special and I am just like everybody else. I am paradox. I am human in the most beautiful denotation of the word, meaning that I am full of feeling, thought, insight, foibles, comedy, desire, life. I am fully alive. I want to remember the moments when I feel alive. 

I will write to this. 

Today I woke to hear my heart beating. The thum-and-drum. Breathe in. Breathe out. I slowly filled up with breath and exhaled. Listening to my heart. Fill up. Let go. Beat. In. Out. Beat. 

Meditation is deep listening. Mediation is not the absence of anything or the addition of anything. Meditation is just listening deeply, acute listening, listening and nothing else. Enraptured listening. What will happen next? I can't stop. I must know. What is happening now? It's a metaphysical cliffhanger. Who knew mediation could be so stimulating?

Beauty in every day, beating me awake. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sometimes it's too heavy for Superman to lift. [replace "Superman" with "me"]

I've been very hard on myself recently. Blaming myself for all that's wrong with this world. As if the hatred and disgusting politics and water wars and racism and sexism and missing pieces are all my fault. As if all the light and love I've sent out was going to be enough to fix all this. My actions cannot be measured by the results. 

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to a pet shop. We fell in love with a puppy brought her home. My heart filled with love and then dread. Another mouth to feed. Another creature to love. Another creature to hold, and help, and play with, and clean up after. A loss of freedom. Another living thing that I am responsible to and for. Dread. Panic. Delight. Love. Despair. What had I done? Haven't we lost enough freedoms this year? 

I knew that I could raise a puppy. I know that I can do anything. Haven't you seen me do everything? Haven't you seen me do anything? Why do I hold myself responsible for all the weights of the world? How can I be accountable for every thing and everyone in it?

I can't. I won't. I'm not. 

I can't get time back and last week I spent time in my head admonishing myself for rehoming a puppy. A puppy that a bought to make my daughter happy. A puppy that I thought would fix something broken in my kid. My kid feels alone in this life. My kid has single separated parents and no siblings and no pets. My kid loves dogs. She loves people. She loves animals and wants to play with one every day. I wanted to give that to her. She is perfect. The puppy is perfect. I am not. 

I am overwhelmed by my living right now. I am overwhelmed by my monkey brain and how the dark the slips in even when I'm working in the light. I notice myself feeling grief and loss and exhaustion, self-pity, self-hatred. I spent too much time judging (thinking) myself for feeling and not enough time feeling my feelings. It's okay. I'm reminding myself. Feel the stuff. See it there? Feel it here? Ok. Then those feelings move on or sometimes just hang around. Can I sit in my discomfort? Yes and no. Can I add in more self-love? Yes and no. 

Keeping the puppy was too much discomfort. Many years of me being alone in my responsibility for a living creature. Re-homing the puppy is yet another source of discomfort. How could I? What kind of shit mother am I? What's the big deal, it's a puppy--can't you at 39 years old handle mothering a puppy?

As I sit in my truth and wear my discomfort like a cute new scarf, I know the answer. I want to give S everything. I cannot. I hate myself when I cannot. I need to love myself when I cannot. I'm practicing that now. It's a tough practice, let me tell you. 

I want the world, this country to be great, peaceful, healthy. I'm despondent when this world is so ugly - hate groups, local terrorism, people turning against each other. I cannot fix it. I'm practicing loving myself knowing that I can't fix the world. It's a tough practice. 

I have been working with individuals and with my daughter to hold space, to give love and light. To have hope for myself, for my kid, and for this world -- or at least for the loving people in it. I'm pouring in the self-love hoping that that alone will drown the self-hate. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What the Fuck, Abdul Razak Ali Artan?

A man named Abdul Razak Ali Artan crashed his car into a crowd of people on the Ohio State University campus and then lashed out with a knife stabbing people until he was shot by police. Artan was known as mild mannered, soft-spoken, and thoughtful. Artan was interviewed earlier in the school year by the OSU student newspaper. Artan was concerned that there wasn't a place on campus for him to pray. He was afraid to pray in the open, afraid he would get shot. He was aware of the world and frustrated by the way it worked, but showed no signs of violence or fundamentalism, only signs of a man looking for a home for his faith. He was concerned about Trump becoming president. 

Now we've proved that anyone can be president. You don't have to be good or a politician or know anything about American history or government. You don't have to like women or be a Christian. You don't have to like "retarded" people or old people. You don't have to go to college or know about making policy. You don't have to be kind. You don't have to try to say nice things. You don't have to believe in God. You don't have to get the most votes. 

Anyone can be president. 

Maybe in four years we should all run. Who would win if millions of people ran for president? Who would win if it was an open market? Maybe if Abdul Razak Ali Artan could have found a safe place to pray he would have found a healthier way to channel his anger and frustration, he could have been a change maker and then become president in 16 years -- probably not, but just maybe.

Remember democracy? That's gone. Remember capitalism? That's gone. Do you know how lost we are? Can you find us on the map? I do not accept this election. I do not accept the candidates or the result. This was a shitshow. The whole thing felt like a badly staged joke. 

I have a light. I have hope. I hold it close and feed it every day.  I have a voice. I give a shit. 

I won't leave this country. I will stay right here. I am your witness. I am your recorder. I am your hope holder. You belong here. So do I. All of us. Trump and Hillary. Artan too. How do we do this now? 

Not that long ago I would have been burnt at the stake or drowned to see if I could float or hanged. I am a heretic, a witch, a hag, a woman who believes in herbs and tinctures and prayer and yoga and the power of women communing. I believe in congregation. I believe in witnessing. I believe in safe spaces for prayer. I believe in safe spaces for education. 

Like all of you, I am trying to figure out just what the fuck is going on. 

What the fuck? 

Today I don't have any answers. Today I have only questions. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Don't Wait. Stay.

What happens when we stop waiting and stay?

We wait when we know something is coming. Looking out of the window as a kid, I would wait for my grandparents' car to pull onto my street. Looking and waiting for them to arrive, I wasn't present in that moment except in my anticipation bordering on agitation to see them, to have their gifts and kisses and rapt attention. But when would they come? What if there was an accident or they were late or stopped for a sandwich?  How long could I suffer anticipation? Until I saw the Oldsmobile pull around the corner, until I was wrapped in their arms. Sigh. I can relax now. 

We are taught to worry, taught to anticipate, so many outcomes to predict that we miss what is happening in front of us.  In life and in practice, what are you waiting for?  What happens to your sense of self if you stop worrying, stop waiting, and stay where you are, stay in that breath, in that moment, in that pose, in the center of your mind, in your experience? 

Worry, anxiety, and fear, my old friends... I was taught by everyone I know how to model my life with your clays.  I was taught that worry is how we show love. Anxiety is what we feel when we look to the future. And fear, well fear is what we see when we look at the past or future. A steady dose of fear for breakfast every day, fear of catching a cold because my hair is wet, fear of dying in  a car crash driving to school or taking the bus, fear for the future world under the next President, fear of going back to a new version of the same unsatisfying past already lived.  No wonder I couldn't breathe. Who could?

Without the past, without the future, stay here in this present, without worry about what is to come, without judgement about what came before.

Instead of waiting, can we stay? Let's hunker down. Find the middle of this moment and stay. Not looking to change the future. Not looking back at missed opportunities, lost moments. Sitting right here in the middle of this word, of this thought, this posture, this conversation, this moment. Can we stay in the discomfort of our impatience as we look forward? And then up the ante and stay in our present and completely skip the anxiety about the unknowns of the mysterious, unpredictable future?  Just have this breath. Fill up. Let it go. Repeat. 

The present is here now. The gift of life is here now. Full stop. 

Can I balance my mind, my breath, my body in a challenging posture and stay in the middle of this experience? Wobbles, discomfort, and all? Can I do this in my life? When life challenges me, can I accept that challenge and sit with the discomfort of it? Without reaction. Without any action. Hold the discomfort. Maybe even welcome it enough to find some ease in it?

Can I stay a little while longer in each moment? Make each breath count. That cliche doesn't sound as cliche to me all the sudden. It's like I heard it for the very first time as I typed the words. I am here in this moment. I am alive. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Center of Gravity

Are you doing the work?

In therapy, in Alcoholics Anonymous, in couples counseling, in tv shows (e.g., Project Runway), in yoga or other energy fields--all puns intended-- there is an idea of work. Personal work, deep work, intuitive work that keeps you alive and healthy, but more than that, work that makes you succeed and thrive and excel. It's work that asks tough to answer questions and the more honestly you answer the closer you get to the real work. 

Who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you want?

I've always been a deep well. Clawing my way to the light (it gets dark down there). I started the work wherever I was. And it came in fits and starts, mini breakthrough, major meltdown, in waves until I committed to the work. I decided to be all in. Really, at this point in my life, what did I have to lose? I lost my marriage and family and had to rebuild another model of family. I lost my old self, that one that I could count on to be a total fun-ruining depressed shit, full of angst and woeisme bullshit, the self who felt entitled to something better because, after all, I am so exceptional, so special that this mundane pain is not something that I thought I needed to feel. I lost my ideas about parenting, my birth plan was flushed, placenta and all. I lost interest. And in all the losing, I found the greatest thing. 

Here I am. Freshly burnt, emerging from the fire, expanding into the person that I've always been. It's so fucking strange when you realize that you've been here all along. I've been here inside waiting for me to drop all the shit. To embrace the mundane pain, to embrace and revel in it. To let it go. To let me out. 

Are you doing the work?

I see patterns emerge. The more I see us, all of us, as being alike, the more I see our similarities, the more grateful I am. I used to think of myself as an outcast, an alien, someone so unlike anyone else, that I was truly, uniquely alone. What a sad idea for a young woman. When I looked up and saw that there were others like me, other uncertain mothers revolting against the mommy-cult, other women who struggle in everyday life with jobs and husbands and kids and wine, that gave me comfort. Maybe I am not alone. 

Then once I started doing the work, I found more than similarities. We are the same. We are cut from the same cloth. We share the same air.  We are one. What separates us? How are any of us truly different?

I'm trying to teach this to my daughter. Of course she is in a place where she wants to be different, special, and unique, and she is, of course, in my eyes the most special and wonderful child who has ever lived. I want her to know that she feels what all people feel. She thinks her own thoughts but others can think them too. That she is deeply a part of all of the wonder and stardust and living, breathing earth and air. That she is part of the fire and light from the sun. That she is as much a part of me as I am of her. That she will always have connection to all of this if she wants that, it's here, in her all along--that deeply grounding sense that you are not alone, but living in the midst of yourself at your most magnificent in each moment you feel alive, supported, connected. I am alive. You are alive. 

Doing the work means that my center of gravity changed, again and again. That I spent years building up a sense of uniqueness because it gave me a wall of protection from emotional pain. If I was alone, no one could hurt me. If I was special, I was exempt from the pitfalls of life, I was different than everybody else. Now, I'm vulnerable, raw, open, exposed. I feel it all. I crave the feeling. I can't not feel. 

I hurt and it is beautiful. I love and it is beautiful. I make mistakes and yell and fart and laugh and snort and it is so honest and so beautiful. I'm all in. 

Now that I'm here, I feel so connected to you, to everyone. I feel us all as one heaving mass of life. Your pain is mine. Your splinter, is mine. Your laugh rings in my ears.  I don't have to sympathize or empathize, because we are the same. You know what I know. I feel you. You feel me too. You do. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Elements in Processing, Part Two: The Demolition Queen Bids You Adieu

My truth is not a condemnation of yours. - Cheryl Strayed

You don't need to eat all the pizza in Italy to find yourself... ask yourself what you are willing to risk or change, in order to find a sense of freedom, joy and reanimation within your own life. - Elizabeth Gilbert

She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes. - traditional folk song, unknown

My path is not for everyone--it's not for anyone, it's for me. I don't recommend divorce. I don't take heartbreak (mine, yours, or anyone's) lightly. Measure for measure each person has to live in his/her own life. Feeling restless is not a reason to fly. Restlessness may be a reason to hop on one foot or take a dance class or practice kundalini yoga or learn the art of beermaking or to try a new hairstyle/color/outfit. I wasn't just restless. 

When you look at your life in the quiet moments, what do you see? 
When you're alone, can you be still? 
Are you happy to spend time with yourself? 
What are you here to do? 
Who are you? 
Do you like yourself? 
Can you stop and stand firmly on the ground and look into a mirror and praise yourself, lift yourself up, love yourself, and breathe? 

My truth is not a condemnation of yours. My parenting is not yours. My love life is not yours. My childhood is not yours. I do not live inside your skin. But you have to live inside your skin. I have to live inside mine. 

I have a new house. My skin is refreshed, reinvented. I burnt my house to the ground, remember? Torched the fucker. I rebuilt, over time---it took so much time and energy and there were pitfalls and I ran backwards and tripped over the beams and hurt myself and others and cried a lot. I was frustrated and impatient, god, I was so, so patiently impatient. It was ungraceful, awkward. But the whole time, I knew. 

I didn't know the outcome of the work that I was putting in. I didn't go in to demolition mode knowing what the new, improved building of my soul would look like at the Grand Opening. I just knew that if I stopped and asked myself really hard questions and answered honestly the really hard answers all along the way, that I would be right. I would arrive. And then i would stay. 

To let something go, you have to stay. 

We have never stayed home long enough to experience the truth about ourselves. -- Enrich Schiffmann

I feel like I ate the shell of my old life and old self and that shell fortified and fostered my growth, my regeneration. I am still here. This is my journey. And my journey took another (totally unforeseen) direction. My footing is sound. I am happy and calm and sure. 

I have so many metaphors. The queen of the dragons, the queen of metaphor, the queen of demolition. The Demolition Queen bids you adieu. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Elements in Processing. Spinning Wheel, or Maybe Progress Bar.

It wasn't one specific day that I woke up and realized that I didn't fit into my life anymore, but that's what happened. It's not because I'd eaten too much and had grown out of my dresses (although that happened, and then didn't, and then did again). It wasn't because I married a man and became a wife (that happened.) It wasn't because I had a child and became responsible for another person's survival and well-being (although that happened, too.) 

I didn't fit into my life anymore because my life was a generic model of life, a distant, but widely accepted version of the American dream. The modern family. The life that we all move toward without question. You want this. Of course you do. Who doesn't? Only sad people and weirdos and people who are terminally depressed or homeless drug addicts don't want this. This is the good life. You have arrived.  You don't want to be a drug addict, do you? 

I wanted to believe. The modern American family was what I wanted it because I had it. I fought for that life. As I inched toward it (once I decided to quit fucking around and get "serious" about my life), I found a person to marry. A person who is kind and easy and good. I made a baby. I found a good job. I menu-planned and grocery shopped and cooked holiday dinners and threw birthday parties and anniversaries and scheduled dentist appointments. In the busy life that I lived, there was this nagging feeling, a tug inside, a voice, a dream that would bubble up to the surface and say, "whoa. whothefuckareyou? do you even like this shit? when was the last time you felt like yourself 100%?"

Once I stopped rushing through all the things that I was supposed to want and supposed to do, and looked around, I was overcome by the ohfuck,thiscan'tbeit. We have certainly taken a wrong turn somewhere, baby, where is the map? I had been striving for a normal life for so long that when I was there living in the middle of it all, I was stunned. I knew I was supposed to be happy (after all, I did it!) but I was miserable.  But that's just the thing, isn't it? When you travel toward a destination that's not truly your own, it's gravely unsatisfying when you get there. This place was not mine to reach. I wanted to be proud that I drank so much less and exercised and balanced my bank account and career and my family and my friends. But it never felt right. 

There I was in the middle of someone else's well-earned dream destination. 

It was a historical dream. A community goal. Goals teethed from my grandmother and grandfather. It was a traditional destination. A goal that most of my friends wanted to reach and were reaching left and right. That time in our lives when every person we know is getting married and/or having children and/or buying a house. 

The collective ticking off of boxes. Job. Check. Marriage. Check. House. Check. Baby. Check. Life. Check. 

In the time it took me to get there, I had changed. Grown out of the wanting of that life. I certainly didn't want things anymore. I didn't want a bigger house or a nicer car or more jewelry or finer clothes (ok, I do have a fantasy about wearing only Eileen Fisher and Sanuks). I didn't want to work more to make more money to buy more stuff. I wanted to work just enough to feed myself and my family and keep my life full of joy and not to be burdened by being the keeper of things. Things feel heavy and cumbersome and loathsome. And I hate cleaning and dusting and washing things. What a huge waste of my precious time. Time is the only thing we can never have more of. 

The life that I thought I wanted didn't serve me. It wasn't true for me. As scary as that was, it was way scarier to pretend that I wanted it. It was like l was in jeopardy of disappearing or disintegrating. If I ignored that sinking feeling, if I turned away from the truth, I would just dissolve. There would be no Heather. She would forever be lost, dusting little trinkets after working seventy hours a week to pay for her extravagant shopping trips to Nordstrom Rack and fancy Cameron Mitchell dinners.  

I didn't want to be lost forever. So, I fucked shit up. Made a big ol mess. And then spent a whole lot of time cleaning that up (ugh.) And now, I live in a very clean soul and house. I am living in my truth and working and reading and laughing and playing and loving myself, my daughter, and my friends. I'm going to bed. More later. As always. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Glass Doors: Finding Compassion in Relationships When You Are Awakening

You all have seen it happening, the riptides of my sorrow and anger and depression gave way to rebuilding and awakening and living again and again, and now again. Those dark waves tore under and over and mixed with the greatest joy of my life (at the time), my only sunlight in that tumultuous sea, my daughter, who was a source of fear/insecurity and perfect wondrous joy.  

As selfishly as I have lived my life so far, I realized today that I am still living selfishly. My compassion has grown and expanded, be sure. My selfishness has turned into disappointment because other people I love are not yet where I am. I feel, for the first time, like a missionary. I want to run around and yell, "Wake up! There is so much more to life than this."  And when my loves are not fully awake, I take that on and take it in. 

How do you tell people you love that they are walking dead? 

My impatience is my enemy. I want it all to happen now. Go. I have spent the majority of my life being impatient. As a young kid always wanting to be older. As a teenager wanting the future to come now so I could live on my own and make my own decisions.  In my 20s I just wanted a real love, a true lover and marriage and to be settled, even though I was not ready for that, I so desperately wanted it. Once I was married, I wanted the hardship of early marriage and childrearing to end and give way to the middle of marriage where everything felt settled and when your kid could make her own breakfast. Until now, I wanted to be somewhere else in my life. Always looking to that place and never looking where I presently stood. 

Now, I want everyone to wake up and be with me in this space, where for once I feel happy and light and free. Maybe this is progress? Maybe this is part of my awakening. I am not looking to the future or rushing into what's next, but I'm impatient for everyone else to come with me now. To grow instantly and meet me here. (It's funny because there are plenty of people in my life who have been "here" all along. Thankfully, they never rushed me. Growing pains, sigh.)  Why am I rushing you, as if this is a thing that could be rushed? What's my hurry? 

I don't want you to miss out, that's true. But, my hurry is simple: I don't want to be alone. I don't want to live in this new space by myself. My old fears of abandonment and being alone are still here, smaller, more tame, but those fears are like lightening bugs lighting up in the darkest night, small but very bright and flitting all over, tough to catch. Can I be ok staying here by myself and then continuing on alone? 

There are many signs of how my growth impacts me and the people in my life. My kid meditates and smudges the house when she's feeling off. She took her meditation CD to school and had them listen to it during resting time. Half of my old friends do yoga now. The other half want to (I can feel it.)  Communication has improved between me and my mama. We are all in this together. 

All of this has been swirling around in my head for awhile. And then I read Mark Nepo today: August 2 from The Book of Awakening 

We want so badly to share our innermost experience with our loved ones, but often, like the mermaid, we forget that not everyone can go where we go. Indeed, we all share this mysterious fact--that no one can go into our depth completely. We must travel there alone. It is where we commune with God.


Never was this clearer to me than when wheeling Anne, my partner of twenty years, to the operating room where she would have surgery for cancer, I went as far as I could and watched her grow smaller through the glass doors. I realized then, that whether it be our quarrel with God or with dead parents or with the limitations of our humanity, each of us must go beyond the glass doors of our experience alone. And the work of compassion is to guide our dear ones as far as we can and to be there when they return. But no one can go beyond the glass doors for us or with us.

Leave it to the call-and-response swirling energy to send me just the thing I need to read today just in time, just before I set my thoughts, words, and actions into the cast of my heart. Mark Nepo made me feel just like him and the mermaid and then I'm not alone. And yet, I can't go where you go. You can't come with me. Glass doors.

Today I will be a student, patient with myself. And then, patient with you. You will be where you are today. I will be where I am. I will love you where you are (haven't I always? My impatience is way more about me than you.)  I will hold space for you in my depths and be here when you return. I'll be the one bouncing up and down with a bottle of champagne and balloons ever so happy to see you. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Getting Down to This Sick Beat (a.k.a., Can't Stop, Won't Stop Grooving: It's Going to Be Okay)

I was driving my daughter to adventure camp and she was singing loud. Joy and emotion bubbled up in me all hot and sweet. She's at the age where she sings the wrong words out of tune with her whole heart. She's at the age where I'm remembering myself at her age. I remember being five going on six. I remember that unwatched, unbridled, unapologetic self, wearing mismatched clothes, having bad hair, playing until I could make dirt rings in the tub. I love that in her and in me. The true joy of being yourself, and more than being, really loving yourself, enjoying your own voice and company. 

I want to give her that forever. To make a soft place for her to always be herself and to always love herself and be loved all the way, no-holds-barred. All in. Love and freedom and living being truly alive and awake and free. 

Sigh. I remember when that ended in my life. When the constant imaginary audience appeared and when I no longer felt free even when I was alone.  My deep sense of self would still allow stolen moments of freedom for singing and dancing and smiling and laughing, but the unfettered moments were very few. When I did sing and dance and laugh it was with that audience in mind. It's like when you trip walking down the street and you look around, and although no one is in sight, you feel like, or you know, you are being watched. Someone saw you, certainly. Someone laughed. You can almost hear it. 

Then age comes. Perspective. Trial. Living through trials. Living in spite of life. Finding fear. Shedding fear. Fucking up. Grief. Remorse. Salvation. You learn that you will die one day, some day, any day. It could be today. You realize that you don't want to die hiding from yourself, being embarrassed because of who you are. You don't want to leave this body, this life, being afraid, you want to leave it being fully alive. You want to leave this life in love with yourself. 

I learned that I won't die from being afraid and doing it anyway. I learned that I won't die from telling the truth, the whole truth, to anyone, to everyone. I learned that I am just like all other people and yet so freaking amazingly special and unique that only I can love myself this much, no one else can do it for me. I learned to love my mistakes and successes. To love the things that make me alike and different. I don't have to be weird on purpose, to shun something/someone because he/she/it is popular, I can like it too. I am weird because I see the world this way. Most of us don't. Not yet. I think it comes to all of us who do the work. 

In honor of my light bringer, who is just learning the words to her own heart's song, let's listen to this and enjoy it. No one is watching. You can dance and sing even if you don't know the words. No one is watching (and if they are watching you will inspire a piece of them to live their truth. I know it.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Trust and the Truth

I used to lie as often as I told the truth. I went through phases where I told the truth and then phases when I would almost exclusively lie and then again meet somewhere with lies and truths woven together to build the story of me. These lies were lies told to others and to myself so indiscriminately that I am still unraveling those stories apart. 

Small lies, big lies, lies about my name, my upbringing, my work, my life, my heart. Lies hidden under a guise of play acting, pretending something is true, hidden behind a sense of "trying it on." Lies to protect my smaller self. Lies to protect raw, abandoned, hurt, tiny, little bits of me. Lies told for so many reasons, but all untrue, all told to wall in my own living truth, to put that truth away for another day or year, to hide my real self from you and from me. I knew sometimes when I lied, that I would have to reconcile that harm that I sent out-- some days, I knew that I would have to answer to myself for the breaks I made in the energy of what's really real. Some days I did not. 

And while I deeply like the idea of trying something on, before committing to the purchase, I see the lie in my life then, for what it is; deep commitment to dis-honesty, but really, a deep hold in my own fear. 

"A lie would make no sense unless the truth was felt to be dangerous." - Carl Jung

In this work that I'm doing now and over the last few years, I tell the truth. At first it was very hard and exhilarating. I was giddy with it. When truth bits flew out, it was a release of my self into the world. There I am. See me? Giddy. Alive. In small parts. One chunk at a time. 

Then, another shift, when telling the deep truth becomes what's normal, and you are almost telling the truth in every single moment in life. Then, when you do lie, or carve out a mini story (usually in mothering moments where I'm not ready to tell the truth), the lie feels like shards of glass stabbing through my skin. I have to make peace with that lie and usually, then, I vow to tell the truth later. Make a note to readdress as soon as possible. 

Living in truth becomes the norm. Resonating truth in each breath, in each word, each thought, each action. 

This week my honesty was challenged. Challenged in a very new way for me.  I was threatened by someone that I gave a courtesy of trust to. I engaged in a trustful way. Very open and ready for the work to begin. I showed up. I stay present. I did not run.

My truth was telling me to run. To hide. To not show up to begin with. To find a way out. To protect myself and others in the circle. But, I stayed, I fought against my own truth. I was so afraid of falling back into the me that hides and lies and can't sit still, that's when my voice said old words in a new way, I fought. I forgot to listen in. 

What happens to truth when there is no trust? 

Can I hear the same words with new ears? 

Is it ever okay to hide and run? What other ways can I protect myself now? 

How can I hold space for something and someone who rings wrong? 

This made me angry. Anger is my shit. I know that. Reaction is true. Emotion is an indicator of where the pain-points are in this process, journey, life. Resistance is part of the truth, just as acceptance is.  I'm taking in the information now. Coming down from the anger and panic. Moving through to optimism and hopefulness again. Working on trust again. This time the lens is on me. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Mother of The Phoenix: Truth Teller, Truth Teller, Whole Body on Fire

Little bits of truth bubble up in all of us all the time. I'm blessed with gifts of knowing when those bits are coming beforehand, recognizing them when they arrive, and gifted with a depth of expression to put those bits into words. Maybe that's why I'm drawn to words and reading. Maybe it's the opposite drawing words to me. 

We've all been told to do something every day that scares us. It supposed to help you grow or challenge us to live differently to shake up the normal life ruts that we fall into. Well surrendering all the crap that you do and think and emote and fuss about every day, and leaving that crap behind, is the same sort of thing. It shakes you up. There are no ruts. There is more happiness, much more freedom, because, I think, you live with less and less baggage. Lightness is an easier load to carry, no?

My practice isn't about doing poses or sitting on a meditation pillow or wearing tight pants or lighting incense. My practice is about finding my truth again and again and again and again. My practice is about walking the walk. Truth and non-harming are two the the yamas that I'm working through now. I am living truth and non-harming. I cannot levitate. 

Practice is one of those words that means by all definitions that there is no mastery. I am not a master of truth. But I will throw myself into the fire over and over again to see what is left of me, to see what rises from those hot, stinky ashes every single day of my life. Each day I practice, whether it's on the mat, or in my conversations, or while cooking for my kiddo, I'm there in my truth because I want to be there. I am going back to the fire every day so I can be clean and so I don't get stuck living some stale lie of a life that doesn't serve me and my practice. 

Leave it behind. Let that shit go.  The past is always there. But it's so interesting what happens to the past when you leave it there. The future seems so much more accessible and the present, well, that's the real gift. I'm so alive right now. I'm glowing. I radiate light and power and honesty. 

I am the mother of dragons married to a bit of the Phoenix. I'm the rightful queen of this life of mine. I own this fire. I practice in fire. Ashes are air. All of my little truth bits have space to bubble up and be heard because I'm not stuck focusing on some lost moment in the past, some ancient fear or wrong. The yuck is burnt off every day. All what's left is the truth. It's all me. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Acts of Will, Acts of Grace

I used to say and think that love was an act of will. It came from Shakespeare and the concept was appealing to me. That if you wanted love badly enough, that you could will it to be and could will it to last, just by the act of will--an act of commitment. Maybe the idea that love wasn't some big romantic thing that floated into us from a divine source through magical faeries and dancing lights, made me, at the time, feel comfort. If love is so magical and divine then, I (feeling unmagical at the time) would not qualify for the star treatment.  Why would the fates divine to give me the magic of love? 

Love being an act of will, rooted in the practical, being available to any of us who wanted to put forth the effort, well, that sounded like a better deal, something that any old human could muster. 

Since then, a billion things have happened in my life, things that I have summoned up through sheer will alone, and more divine, magical things. 

Acts of will are divine. The will is as divine as grace. Grace comes directly from god. Will is not the opposite of grace but a part of it. Our will is part of our spirit, that living thing in you that is not like anyone or anything else on earth. Your will is the drive you have, the mental focus, the mettle of your spirit to preserve when challenged. Grace is all of that and more. Grace is the light in you. It's divine and unique.  

Love is an act of grace. Love is seeing the best in others and in yourself. The power of positive thinking. Grace is also loving yourself enough to know when to protect yourself and when to be fully vulnerable. Love is not all you need, but it sure is wonderful and helpful in life. 

The more I grow to love and honor myself, the easier it is to love other people, even those who I love the most like my daughter, my mother, my friends, my yogis. I see their faults and weaknesses. Loving someone for exactly who they are is the highest love. Loving without asking. 

I keep trying to finish this but it's not finishing. I need to put a pin in this. I feel like I was going somewhere and then...not so much. Stay tuned.

Yoga is not an act of will. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Paradox Time: Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

My favorite paradox in yoga is creating a pose with ease and effort. Finding a place to soften, to have ease, while simultaneously finding strength in that ease to build, with effort, strength somewhere else. 

I'm a bit too tired to write about this but I just have to. 

If I created my yoga practice with only my ego, it would be like creating my practice out of only effort. Where each body part was forced into place, shoving my limbs to bend or not bend, pushing my legs here or there. Without the ease and softening, my practice would be rigid, mechanical, stiff, and dull. Robot yoga. 

"Your ego is a wonderful servant, but it's a terrible master..." Elizabeth Gilbert

My inner critic, or my ego, is a vicious nasty creature. My fear in life has always been success, not failure. Failure was ok. Failure was expected. Failure was ease. Failure was as easy as not even trying at all. I failed because I didn't show up, I didn't try, I didn't let myself care. 

The thing about ego is that your ego will ALWAYS be disappointed, whether you try or don't try, win or lose, or draw. Ego will always be there to pick you apart no matter your effort or your ease. 

"An unchecked ego is what the Buddhists call a "hungry ghost"--- for ever famished, eternally howling with need and greed." Elizabeth Gilbert

Don't feed the ghost. 

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray." - Rumi 

Feed your soul. Listen for it. Be silently, quietly drawn by it. Find it in mediation or in the ease of your breath or softness of your practice. What does your soul want? Elizabeth Gilbert says, "More wonder, please."  What else? 

My soul wants to be alive and to have that equality among ease and effort, to tiptoe over a tightrope between the buildings of intellectualism and wild daydreams, I want salty and sweet, tough and tender. I want be the paradox and to love the paradox. I want to lose myself, to find myself. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Power of Now

What would happen if you operated as if you were only as old as you felt, as if you weren't sure how old you really are?  How old would you be if you didn't know your true age? Who would you be if you didn't know your own past, if you didn't carry your stories and hurts around from year to year, from moment to moment?

You can only shed your skin when it's ready. 

There this yogic idea about cultivating your breath in the easier parts of your practice, like at the very beginning when you're lying down and gently twisting, let's say, so when your practice gets challenging (and you're trying to focus on a revolved half moon into revolved dancer) that breath that you built in ease is there when you are engaged by challenge and need breath for focus and stability. 

That's what I'm doing in my life. My past skin is shed. My new skin is growing. MIXED METAPHOR ALERT: My old foundation crashed and crumbled and in the midst of the rubble, I found my breath. Slowly, I cleaned away all the debris, worked to exhaustion to make an empty lot.  Now, I'm not re-building, but I'm building a whole new place, not just a new version of my old landscape. I cultivate these new places in me, grow in the ease of a flat, leveled, clean plane. I foster openness, compassion, meditation, and kindness for myself and others in my daily practice. I'm building soft skills, healthy and strong mental pathways and habits to build strength in foundation but also to lean into when my life is engaged in challenge. Unlike a skin, I'm building a whole new landscape from the ground up. 

I write to figure out what I think. That's all for now. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Day of Awakening: Making Space for De-Light

I write about holding space and what that means--finding capacity in my psychic/spiritual body for myself, or more often for someone else, and holding that space to honor/allow/acknowledge truths and emotions: fear, pain, joy, sorrow, fancy. Today I want to explore making space. Taking away or leaving behind a behavior, a way of speaking, a habit that no longer serves my growth and journey in this part of my life. 

In the Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo writes that burying something and planting something are the same thing. 

In the spirit of May Day, Beltane, the day of awakening, I want to let go of my old rusty habits. Habits formed by a young, scared, imbalanced me.

Smoking and drinking regularly outlived any usefulness awhile ago. And yet, depending on the person I'm with or the day I'm having, I crawl back to my emotional-infant habits to grab a bottle and a pack and howl with the teenaged rebel inside me. I want to honor her spirit because she had youth, vibrancy, untapped power, and best of all, two tons of potential. I love her. I am her. But her silly childlike vices and fear and longing have to go for good. 

Swearing off any thing is not necessary for me. Now I will drink with intention. To imbibe with purpose. Toasting, lifting up, union with friends, to have that balance, not tipping over that line without intention. 

My habits were born from boredom and fear, a birth to mask my anxiety and loneliness. In that space, of course and irony forms hot and wild, because we all know that drugs take you away from connection, take you away from finding intimacy. You are walled off from reality, distanced enough to take the sting off, to feel a little less--until you are hammered/FUBAR and then you feel every thing so exaggerated that you can't sort any truth from the muck that dumps out of you, and then, you go numb. What good is being numb, when you crave feeling? 

I crave connection and love and affection and intimacy. I thrive being close. We all do. It is what makes us human and mammal. How beautiful our humanity is. 

I used to be scared of that. Afraid that no one could or would love me if/when I was really myself or if I was too kind or soft. So I hid over and over and over. I toughened up. I was after all too sensitive for the world. Lied about who I was and who I wanted to be. I sheltered myself from being hurt by building up so many protective walls around my inner, sweet self, that I kept every single person away. Arms length, cigarettes length, or more. I was determined to live a lonely isolated life, half-dead, hidden forever to protect my insecure, small, loving, raw self. 

I have changed so much. What a blessing. 

I am alive. Here I am. 

Today, I am burying my old habits and fears to make room for something alive. Carving out space for my sweet, loving, kind, compassionate, attentive, real, raw, imperfect self to grow. I'll toss away those little bits that no longer serve me. And in that space, the space that I created, with time and light, I will grow. Cultivated, sweet, raw, and real. 

Dancing in de-Light. No longer holding space, for now, but creating space for growth. 

This little light of mine. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Clearing the Chatter: Day 1 Yoga Teacher Training Pre-Training Pep Talk

This morning my head is full of chatter. In my excitement my mind is busy nitpicking around, picking myself apart subtly. 

- Will I be the most inexperienced yogi there? Yes. I'm sure I will. 
- Will I be the oldest student? Maybe. 
- Will I have anything to offer to the class?
- Will I offer too much?
- Be authentic. Do it. Do it now. 
- Be quiet. But not too quiet. Be yourself. But not all of yourself. 

School girl's nerves on a grown woman is tiresome at best. 

So, I sat on my mat and took some big belly breaths and thought about all the lessons I've learned so far as a yogi, lessons for asana practice and for life practice. 

Find your edge. 
Go right up to your edge. How does it feel? Go over it or pull back. It's your edge. 

Stay when it's hard. 
Don't back away. Don't wiggle or rinse it out. Stay. Don't shift. Breathe. Hold here. 

Breath is power, heat, pause, guide, force, flow, stop and start, release. 

Soften somewhere. Find strength somewhere else. 
You can't be strong everywhere all the time. Soften somewhere so you can be stronger somewhere else. 

Wobbles + Drishti = Strength/Growth

Are you looking for an exit?
When something is challenging, are you looking for a way out, the next pose, the next release? Honor your practice where it is at that very moment, and stay, breathe, be there and nowhere else. 

Writing meditation to clear the chatter in my noisy brain. I'm so excited for training. I feel better now. After all, I'm just getting my wobbles out. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Mother of Invention: My Daily Gratitude

Invent. Reinvent. Carve out. Sculpt. Create. 

A teacher told me recently that we need not to be afraid to reinvent ourselves as many times as necessary to satisfy our heart's song. As beautiful as that is, I think she said it better, but her words, the feeling, struck a chord deep inside of me. A note sounded and reverberated. There is a spot where this is still resonating. 

Originate. Bravery. 

I am not fearless--fearlessness is stupidity/immaturity to me--but I am brave. Brave for unapologetically listening for my heart's song, listening to it, letting my heart move me. I am a stubborn woman at times--unmovable, rigid, and yet, I've softened so much, moved, changed, blossomed, undulated forward toward my creative life. 

My heart's is singing it's song. Can you hear it?

I'm both humbled and proud. What a long journey this life is. How rich and strange. Full of wonderment and magic and blessings and beauty. The toil, and fear, and loss--well, it was all worth it to me. 

I have arrived. Gratitude.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Bow. Hands. Eyes. (a.k.a., Pray, Eat, and Hopefully Love)

Growing up, before every meal, we prayed. We bowed our heads, pressed our hands together, and closed our eyes, while someone, usually Grandpa, said the prayer, which went something like this: "Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the food that we are about to receive and bless it to our bodies' use. In Jesus' name" and we all said, "Amen." Then we ate. 

Bow. Hands. Eyes. Gratitude. Ask for blessing. Amen. Eat. We did this over and over again, day after day. On holidays, the extended family would all gather around in a big circle and hold hands and pray. Amen. I would always get all goosebumpy when the whole family would say amen at the same time. I was taught when two or more voices are raised in prayer that God answers--it's more powerful in unison. 

The collective ask. We are all asking as one. Power to the people. Safety in numbers. We are all grateful. We are all approaching the same space with humility and love to honor, respect, and ask for blessings. The collective voice strikes a chord in my soul. We all say amen. 

It happens at yoga. In the beginning when we all sigh out our big-bellied breaths at the same time, as if we all shared one breath and are all releasing it. And again at the end of class after practice, after shavasana, when we return to seated and bow, eyes closed, hands pressed together at our hearts, and say Namaste in unison. Yoga is not a prayer to God. Yoga is not religion. I'm not comparing. Yoga is the union of body and mind, of breath and movement, of spirit and practice. Yoga is yoking, intertwining two--or more--parts together to one union. 

In a way, dinner table prayers were my first yoga. Of course, I didn't know it then. My first yoga class was in 1996 as a college-level PE class. There was no connection then of my mind and body, no connection of my breath and movement. I was just trying to do poses and learn balance. I flung and flopped my body wherever I could get it to go. I had no intention. I don't remember much about the class except for squirming throughout shavasana and being completely relieved when it was over. [Funny that now, shavasana is my favorite part--sometimes I do a few vinyasas just so I can justify another shavasana. I'm a damn fine model of the corpse pose. That's right. Look at me lying on the floor. Magnificent.] 

I finally get yoga. I finally get prayer. I'm becoming a student again. This time not one who flings limbs to land any old place, but a student of intention, a student of union, a student of yoga. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Magic H Ball

I'm diving in. Reading, researching, writing--study, practice, meditate, repeat. My body is getting stronger. My mind too. Imagine me, but smarter, kinder, more centered, grounded. Me focused.

I still feel like a hot & sweaty, snot-bubbling, no-pants spaz. I feel this way less and less. Just sayin' so you feel okay here too--it's not all the way to the top on day one--takes some time to transform into yourself.

I'm softening into the fleshy person that I am now. Parts of me died. Parts are being reborn. Other parts are steely and toughened. Some still are raw, new, delicate. I am building my fire. But the earth around my fire is sweeter than ever, more aromatic, forgiving, welcoming.

Not all of my writing will be metaphors. And alas, neither is this.

I will not fight my power any more. I will not fight my sweetness. Acceptance. That's what I'm learning. I am learning to love and accept myself, just as I am, right now--in this body both soft and strong, in my moments of frustration & anger, in my quiet uneventful day-to-day driving-around-town moments and in the crazy rage-y cage-y getmethefuckouttahere moments--I love, accept, and honor me.

It's resignation of and surrender to all of me: my power, faults, flaws, fuck ups, bad choices, shoulds, could-haves, shining glorious moments, perfection, weaknesses, all of the good, bad, and indifferent stuff that I am made up of--I just decided to love me the way I am. (The same way that I write about how LOVE is--the same way that I LOVE my kid.)

It's like when they say in the movies that admitting you have a problem is the first step. Almost all of my blog is about me admitting that I have a problem and taking brutal inventory of each thing that I missed/ended/destroyed. I was working through all this shit, trying to make peace with something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. What's wrong with me? How can I fix it? How can I change me? How can I change you and the world and my job and my body and Facebook and my past?

I made amends. I worked through so much of my anger and fear (but those emotions are still present and pop up whenever I'm not looking.) And I asked myself (and you) over and over again, so now what? Now what do I do? I thought through all this and dredged up the past and the present, sifted through it, made peace and made sense and made closure. And now what? That's what I kept asking.

The one thing I couldn't/didn't figure out was that anger and fear still exist. None of my growth/change made any difference.  Change, change, change, change. Why do I need to change?

I don't need to change, instead I will love, accept, and honor myself: my feelings, thoughts, movements, ideas, emotions, distractions, motivations--I will let me have all of the things. It's not happening overnight. It can't. It's like a minor shift inside that allows it all to flow. I am in transformation. Sounds like "change" doesn't it? Well, it's not. Not the way I mean it. Outlook good.

I still have all the things about my personality, my demeanor, my life, my loves and passions and crazies. It is certain. I will no longer spend time and energy fighting. It's treating myself like I treat S on my best parenting days. Listening to her. Respecting how she feels, what she wants. Helping her get there. Holding her hand when she's unsteady. Loving her limitations. Making room for her feelings and weaknesses and sadness. Loving myself in the way that I love the person that I love the most without a doubt.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Stoking the Fire Within (Yes, I Know It Sounds Porny)

When I'm fiery, man I burn up some shit. I didn't mean to when I was a lass--I would accidentally move into a draft and be in a moony mood and leave the place singed behind me. Later in my 20s, I did mean to; wreck it--I would douse the rubble in some moonshine and toss the whole lighter in. Let it all burn, baby, burn. [The roof is on fire.] 

Alas maturity calmed my fire. I craved less heat, less carnage. Took to smaller arts, lamps and lights, cigarettes, moonlight, fear. Motherhood and marriage almost smothered the flame all together. The spark would hide, quietly under the cover of a sheath and then, after a long time, one big boom, usually late at night, usually alone. No one to feel the heat. 

Now, it's time to rebuild my flame. MY flame. Not yours. Not his or hers, MINE. I'm building the balance. A large clearing. Rocks around the outside, for your protection.  Kindling, twigs, and paper set up in a nice little triangle. I will flick the match. I will fan the flame. I will tend my fire. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Strengthening Into the Back Body

I'm being called back to yoga. It started on a trip last week to Virginia. I lucked into a really good level 2 Hatha class at the local Charlottesville athletic club a few blocks from my hotel. The class was challenging and fun and, most importantly, made me forget about my troubles, stresses, work schedule, conferences, all of it. I was so focused on being in the poses, in my breath, in my body--so focused on movements and stillness, balance and release--on being back on the mat, that I missed a meeting. In my post-yoga glow, I took a long hot shower and went for beer and lunch. What meeting? 

Is it crazy that I forgot that really good yoga is sometimes better than really good sex? 

After the class I felt focused, bright, aerated. The next day I was still reaping benefits--better sleep, lighter body, better alignment, more attention span. Why did I quit doing yoga?

I don't remember feeling this good from yoga ever. I've been practicing off and on for 20 years. Sometimes for health or easing back into some fitness routine after periods of bodily trauma (birth) or long sabbaticals from movement (bartending & partying). 

It's the first time in all of those cycles of practice and backsliding and practice, that yoga has had this effect on my mind and body. This time is the first time that I've had an OM moment where I want to be on the mat every day. I want to read and learn and ready my body for the transformation. I want more twists and more knowledge about what the twists touch inside as well as out. Which of my organs are being wretched and released now? I want to know. 

Teacher training is calling me. 

I've talked and thought about it a number of times, but it was more of a fantasy and never felt like something that I really wanted to do.... 

Can an ex-bartending, ex-smoking, ex-badass, ex-hooker become a yogi without transforming into the complete dippy-hippy fae creature? Will I float away?  (Wouldn't you freaking shit if I did float away? I'm LOLing right now.) 

Let's find out. We shall. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Say My Name: Wanting It More Part 2 (Not About Kids)

I read an online "article" that states one way to flirt is to say a person's name often in conversation. You know the type of "article"--one of those lists written by some wannabe writer/college dropout posted on HappyNumbWife or WholeGreenMindBodyButtHealth (a.k.a., another way to waste hours of my own precious life)-- that lists the ten best ways to flirt.* 

When people say my name a lot, I'm very uncomfortable. 
"How are you, Heather?" 
"Heather, have you read the report? Let me know what you think, Heather, after you finish reading it."
"Good morning. Let's meet after lunch, ok, Heather?"
or the worst (sorry DJF) "Hello, Heather"

When people call my name, my skin crawls a little. Maybe I prefer eye contact to identify who the speaker is speaking too. Look at me. Who else could you possibly be talking to? Or maybe it feels too fake, too pseudo-personal-- that's where the "article" is going--say my name to make me think that you feel connected, say my name over and over again to brainwash me into thinking you are my friend. Does that tomfoolery constitute flirting? Hogwash. [it's 1920 now? yikes]

My friends call me lots of things. Very rarely Heather. What do your friends call you? 

Maybe those interactions where people say my name make me uncomfortable especially at work for this very reason-- it's false intimacy. What's grosser than intimacy faked? Barfbag. 

I know this is a sort of stupid blog today. I do beg your pardon. I'm just being a writer and procrastinating. I'm not writing down the bones sotospeak. I'm writing crap until I'm ready to write the stuff that's been banging around in my head and making that awful racket this week/month. 

To the words in my head--not today. Pipe the fuck down. I'll get there. Don't rush me. 

Writers are such ridiculous people--obsessed we are with magic, voodoo, sorcery, fruition, divination, manifestation, and augury. And lists too, just not stupid flirtatious lists. Obsessed with all lists, with using our vocabularies and thinking through each word that makes every sentence. It's crippling. Especially if you, like me, are already in a peak procrastination phase and want to avoid writing at all costs, making sure each word is perfect in your head BEFORE you start writing. That's the best way to never write anything ever again. It's an internal dialog alright and a complete scare tactic. It's crap--my critic strikes again. That's why, I'm so sorry for you readers, I'm writing this pure drivel. Wasting time, mine & yours. I owe you one. I won't forget. 

* I don't even know why I care to read these articles, other than boredom or procrastination, except that I find myself rather horrible at flirting. Best said, if flirting was a means of survival, I would die.