I've had the great fortune lately, of getting a chance to look at my internal dialogue in a new way. I found that the story I told myself, that I always assumed to be true, was actually false. It may have applied at the time it was created... or maybe it was only created to justify something I felt I needed to do.
When the story got wrapped in shame and betrayal and isolation... it solidified itself... like some kind of rock. And then it was impenetrable. It just wasn't possible to notice it as a story anymore. It was too overwhelming to address all of the emotions at once. So it sat, emanating its lies... inflicting more damage... as I pretended it didn't exist.
But, these things have a way of continuing to insinuate themselves into our lives... they refuse to sit quietly in the corner... despite all hope that they will. We always cross our fingers and hope we can leave it behind us... don't we? I did.
And as I've been gloriously held in the unwrapping of this story... and the dismantling of the rock that seemed to hold it all as one story... I have found so many personal truths. And one of the truths... is that this story, at it's core, is false.
It means there's room inside of me to write a new story.
In holding myself to unearthing this rock... and in the being held as I saw and felt the things that went into its creation... I've been able to find within me a Fierce Mother. She is the one who cuts to the chase, speaks the truth, and she's always fought for the light... even when the light was the tiniest glimmer. She never gives up. She knows that life is complex and messy and that she can find love in it somewhere. And she is relentless in her pursuit.
She has the trust, the certainty, the clarity, that I felt I lacked. And I'm so grateful that somewhere inside of me the thing I needed but was sure I did not have was actually there.
So the new story begins... what do I want it to be? I know I want it to be more fun... I want it to contain connection and love and laughter and truth. I want it to contain healing tears and words. I want it to be about standing for humanity and desire and meeting needs.
I'm ready... to recommit to the Hero(ine)'s Journey! It's time!
Last night, playing a family game of Clue, my nine-year old ran right straight into her own story. She’s the youngest, and had a story in her mind that she wasn’t capable of winning this game up against two adults and her older sister.
But there was a moment where, by luck, she realized she had learned two of the three things she needed to know to win the game. In her surprise, she gave away part of what she had found out. Her world fell apart. She was so close. But with her slip, the possibility of winning had evaporated.
I know this place. The one in which the untrue story that I believe in comes into direct conflict with what is possible if I believed in something else. It’s a direct challenge to my world view… it’s painful… and confusing.
I’m actually deep in the throes of writing that story down. In fact, I’m going to be performing that story live in Santa Cruz at the YoniVerse Monologues in March. It’s the story of my conflicting experiences of myself as a mother.
And so, as I sat with my girl last night, and she felt all of her anger and frustration and sadness about the story that she wasn’t capable… she ripped paper into little pieces and told me about how much it hurt. My heart ached for her… and I sat with her as she tore the paper and felt the feelings.
And then we talked about the stories she believes about herself… and we talked about what was really true… and we talked about how which story we put our attention on matters… and I told her my story about motherhood. While I talked I tore some of those tattered pieces of paper into hearts. Pretty soon… she was helping me… and organizing them into a larger heart.
She understood my story, and I understood hers. It was so amazing.
Truth is that we’re both still sad about the truths that exist in our stories about how we’re not perfect (because we’re not perfect… we’re human). But, we both found a bigger landscape for truth and possibility. And best of all, we got to feel human together.
As we came to our sense of humanity she made a “snow angel” in the remaining scraps of paper… and we brought greater definition to the angel… and made her “real”.
And so when my daughter crawled into bed we marveled at how the anger and frustration and sadness had resulted in an angel and a heart on her floor.
I’m humbled by her wisdom and her ability to feel her feelings. I’m still worried about how easy it is for her to believe that she’s not good enough. And I’m heartened by our ability to be present with each other.
Ram Dass said “We are all just walking each other home”. The key implication is that we’re in this together. And I think the together part is the healing part.
So, I've been thinking a lot lately about bodies, illness, and healing. I've been thinking about western medicine, alternative healing, and energy work. Even though this is what I do, I still sometimes wonder when something happens to my body, which realm it falls in.
It's funny, that I've come full circle with my own healing this year. I began the year knowing that I had some emotional healing that was coming. I knew it was big... I knew it would be intense... and I was ready. What I didn't expect was the physical stuff that blew all that perceived control of the emotional wide open. I cried more this year than in a long time. I feared more this year than I have in a long time.
And I went to the doctor about the physical. I was finally referred to the fifth doctor... who I liked and trusted. But whatever is going on is mysterious. She told me Friday that if this next thing we're trying doesn't address my issues, then she doesn't know what will.
I came home and cried again. I really want it to be "fixed". But the ball is back in my court. Yes, I'm doing what she suggested. And I'll follow up with her in a month. But I already know. Nothing will change.
Unless. Unless I give my body the chance to tell the truth... to call a spade a spade. Unless I hear this body... let her say the things that no one wants to hear... that honestly, I'm not sure I want to hear. I don't want to revisit old crap... my life feels good right now... I just celebrated (truly) my fifteenth anniversary, my kids are healthy and wonderful, and things are just good.
But, my body says it's time to deal with the things that need stability and love and wellness so that they can even begin to express what they've been holding. I heard my body say that it's OK. That I'm OK.
I got clear that this physical stuff is only a mirror for me right now. And I have to address the core of what's being reflected. It will take time, and things will be fine.
And I want to be clear. I believe that illness (or discomfort or disease) sometimes originates in the body and needs to be addressed in the medical system. And sometimes it originates in the subtle realms of emotions, beliefs, and agreements. Sometimes those things are conscious, and sometimes not. For me, right now, this thing... it's about healing the shames, the darknesses, the shadows. It's about reclaiming something of me that is rightfully mine. And when I do, I believe my physical body will stop reacting. I've done it before. I see it with clients all the time.
I live in this intersection of physical and subtle bodies... I love this intersection of physical and subtle realms... I am at home here. It should come as no surprise that this is where my own healing is right now.
The other day I had the opportunity to reflect on receiving... for like the millionth time. I was creating content for my Body Wisdom Healing Intensive, Returning to Center... so I had to stick with it even when I couldn't figure out what to say about it. I struggle so much with the concept of receiving.
It's the worst sort of circle... the one where I start with a good intention... receiving happiness, or joy, or a compliment, or really anything at all that feels good... and then I hit resistance. Instead of stepping back and questioning resistance I tend to fight with it... and eventually I lose and end up with my head in my hands wondering how broken you have to be to push away happiness/joy/pleasure.
And then... the Muse opened a channel... and there it was. Receiving isn't easy because PARTS of it aren't easy. Check this out...
Maybe receiving isn't one thing... but many things. Maybe, if I looked at it as separate types of receiving I could find my way. (Note: these are not mutually exclusive categories, and this is a question-posing exercise... I don't have answers... so... um... only keep reading if you are cool with that.)
1. Social: We are interact with others through the giving and receiving of attention. It includes chatting about the weather, social niceties, and small talk.
2. Emotional: This is our sense of connection with others... it can come from social receiving, but includes the sense that we are not alone, that we can see our kindred spirits in others.
3. Mental: This is the transfer of knowledge or information. Generally this happens within our institutions... and it reinforces an established hierarchy. Someone has the knowledge or information and imparts it to someone who does not have it.
4. Spiritual: Our relationship with ourselves and our connection to all other living beings, including that which is bigger than us. The details of HOW you do this is unimportant in this context, what IS important is THAT you have this.
Let me tell you why Spiritual Receiving is my saving grace...
Social, Emotional, and Mental receiving always involves another human being. This creates a situation in which fear is a constant companion. I'm going to venture that all of us have experienced some kind of betrayal, question of our worthiness, or general trauma in these kinds of interactions. If someone else is involved, we simply cannot control the situation such that we can always trust it. It makes receiving, an act of trust, very difficult if there is fear and protection involved.
There is nothing wrong with fear, or protection. Both, when utilized at the appropriate times keep us safe. If we're new to receiving, though, they also keep us from being able to receive.
And then there's Spiritual Receiving. Thank all that is holy. Because this... this is where our receiving is all about us. We have complete control. There is not another unpredictable human in the mix with their own baggage to dump on us... it is just us and spirit.
You can find Spirit lots of places... and whatever gets you connected is perfect... nature, church, an altar, a candle, meditation, prayer... it's all good. Do you know where you find your sense of connection? Where is Spirit? How much time do you spend there?
To be clear, the goal is not to rid ourselves of fear and protection... but for them to stick to their job of blocking danger... not blocking our reception of some of the greatest gifts of connection in our lives.
I know this because this year I'm actively relying on my connection with Spirit to help me clear up confusion in my receiving through relationship. Yes, I said year. It's nowhere near over. It may be stretched before me for many years still. But it's so worth it. I have had such great joy from the connections I'm building as I reach into those vulnerable edges with someone I love and trust... and I come out happier, more connected, and more willing to play on that edge again.
Because I can receive from Spirit, in a way that is safe and trustworthy, I know that I can both have good receiving experiences AND move slowly in relationship with others. This is how I take tiny steps toward big healing. For me it's the easiest way.
While I know it's not uncommon to have an adversarial relationship with your body... I can promise you that idea... that the very thing you can't get away from is out to get you in do you in... isn't supporting your well-being.
When we feel like we're under attack... that something is out to get us... our only safe response is defense and/or counter-attack. At the very least, then, we become defensive about our bodies... wondering when it's going to interfere with our planned life next... preemptively warding off the next thing we're afraid of with supplements, exercise techniques, or diets.
What if your body really loves you? What if it wants to be vibrant and healthy as much as you want it to work for you? What if it is constantly speaking in its own language... telling you what it wants and needs... only for you not to be able to hear it... to have the whims of lifestyle gurus telling you what to do to your own body to whip it into shape - submission - function.
I'm not suggesting that all of the nutritionist - exercise - health coach - foodies are steering you wrong... no. But what would it be like to learn something new about health and to bring it to the body to tell you if it's right for you or not.
I brought raw food to my body and it laughed at me. I understand the argument for raw foods, and I believe in the basic understanding of nutrition around raw food... but my belly wanted NOTHING to do with it. More power to the people that it supports. But it doesn't support me. At least not now.
I have had foods that disagreed with me (dairy)... and I've been able to work through my relationship with them because the problem wasn't about the food but what it represented (mothering)... and now I can eat dairy and have been able to for years.
But how would I have known that was the case - that it was even possible - if it wasn't for my belief that my body loves me and wants us to have a good relationship? What if I hadn't spent years building a relationship with my Body Wisdom so that I could hear these messages?
Our relationships with our bodies are like any other. They are dependent on interaction, support, acknowledgement, love, and persistence. Keep listening. Your body is telling you what and how much it wants to eat, what kind of movement it loves, how much sleep you need, and how your thoughts make it feel. This is our most precious earthly relationship... the one we have with our bodies.
Thank you Earth Mother for this body,
For this gift of motion and manifestation.
With deep gratitude I honor my body,
And I allow us to love one another.
There is thinking to come up with some kind of conclusion, and there is intuitive knowing. Both are important. It's obvious why we need to think, but what does intuition get us that we can't get from logic?
Well, my almost-11-year-old got a close encounter with it tonight. We were talking about why her teeth aren't falling out. She's only lost eight teeth. Her sister (two years younger) has lost 12. Her canines, unfortunately, are starting to interfere with her grown-up teeth that are present, and the dentist is suggesting pulling them. We didn't want to . So, we found ourselves wondering why the canines aren't letting go.
We went through several possible stories... maybe the baby teeth don't want to go... maybe the adult teeth aren't wanting to push them out... and she opened her eyes wide! "Yes," she said. "When I was little I thought it was scary for teeth to fall out! The adult teeth don't want to push out the baby teeth because it's what I used to be afraid of!". We wondered if the big teeth had been being formed during the time that she was afraid of her teeth getting loose. A muscle test confirmed this to be true.
As we talked to her teeth, we offered an updated experience. Here at 11, she is not afraid of losing teeth, and she actually is thanking these teeth for their service and inviting them to let go. After we talked to her teeth, she said she felt a shift in her mouth... she thinks they're ready and understand now.
THIS is the beauty of intuition. When we can keep our logical mind from telling us that we can't talk to teeth, or that this is stupid, we can actually allow shifts to happen that might not occur without our willingness to be open to possibility.
Intuition is our guidepost when our thinking brain
isn't getting us to where we want to go
This might sound silly to some, but I will say that my own healing (from a dairy allergy) happened when I was willing to open to new possibilities and new points of view, so that there was space for the motion that had been lacking in my body and life.
I'll keep you updated on the teeth.
I'm grateful to my daughter for reminding me that intuition can often lead you where logic cannot, and for modeling the trust that I so often still struggle to connect with in my own life.
Do you listen to your intuition? Do you know what it feels like to suspend logic and follow your heart? How do you know when it's time to go with your intuition?
Every year for the last four years I've chosen a Word of the Year. It's a word that has layers of meaning for me, that invites me to stay mindful of what I desire in my life. It is my touchstone... the thing I check in with when I'm wanting to make sure I'm still moving toward more of what I want... and less of what I don't. In the past I've chosen proportion (as in balance), emerge, and stand. All of these words have had multiple layers to them... and I've understood them more and more deeply over the course of the year.
This year I chose devotion. My perspective on devotion is this: If I don't take care of myself, if I don't devote myself to making sure that I am standing on my own two feet, then I can't really support anyone else. Thus, my devotion to all that I want to nurture in this world comes through being devoted to my own needs first... and through that sense of being nourished... I am free and able to meet others' requests of me.
This is a tough one to swallow for me... as I've been well trained to do the opposite. To believe that I need to take care of everyone first... THEN I can have time for me. But, you know what? I found out that when I do that... there never tends to be consistent time for me. It is like trying to water your house plants after every other chore gets done... and then being surprised when the plants wilt before you get around to caring for them.
So, in 2015 I decided to devote myself to my own nurturing care. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?
By January 2nd I was having to check in with myself to see whether the choices I was making were really in resonance with "devotion to me" or not. By the end of January I felt that my "devotion to me" was pushing me to the edges of my ability to keep up. Devotion... it turns out... will not be as easy as it first seemed.
For me, it looks like a holding pattern. I will keep doing my Body Wisdom Healing Circle calls in 2015, and the Body Wisdom Seasonal Intensives, and working with my one-on-one clients. I will devote my other time to myself... to my physical health and well-being, and to laying in the forest, and to playing at the water's edge... to getting my needs met. I give myself six months to explore the possibilities of what creating vitality and robustness in me looks like... then I'll get back to creating for my practice.
What does it look like for you when you take time for yourself? What do you do? What does it look like to "take time off"? How often do you really do it... does it take a crisis of some sort to motivate you to make the space for you?
Today's installment of exploring Stress and Resilience through fairy tales leads us to The Beast.
An evil fairy or witch puts a spell on a young prince when he refuses her what she is asking (the details differ across versions). The spell makes the prince look like a monster, though he has a good heart. When Belle comes to live with him in exchange for her father, the Beast has to choose how he is going to behave with Belle. He can act like his outer shell, a monster, or he can try to show her his true heart. In the tale (as opposed to the movie) Belle has a recurring dream of a prince, and becomes convinced this prince is being kept within the castle walls. She does not recognize this prince as The Beast in his true form.
In a series of kindnesses by The Beast, and the magic mirror's ability to show her his heartbreak over her departure, she returns to him realizing that his behavior is true to who he is. As she cries over him he is released from the spell and regains his form of prince.
What does this tell us about resilience? That the magic lies in living true to who we are, no matter what we appear to others and what stories they tell themselves about us. Happiness comes because we honor ourselves and our true hearts, not from having wealth, possessions, or beauty. Beauty and love come to us because we live our hearts, because we behave as is true to our hearts, not because we do something for someone else.
The key to persistence while we're living our hearts and whatever it is that we desire is flitting around not noticing us? Strength. Strength of character, of truth. I don't mean truth like some universal principle that is true for everyone... but your heart truth... your essential truth.
And they lived happily ever after... which means... they kept holding truth as a path, a way of living, with no arrival. They went on forever and ever finding their truth and embracing it.
Further exploration of how fairy tales can show us the path to the life we most want to live can be had in the Moving From Stress to Resilience e-course.
Alice falls into the rabbit hole into a realm of chaos. Initially she's interested in finding the white rabbit, she's following her curiosity. It takes a bit of time to realize that she doesn't really seem to fit in here, that this land is full of "nonsense".
The Cheshire Cat is the first to suggest that Alice might benefit from getting clear about where she would like to be going. In fact, this very advice, from a parent coach when my children were little, changed my life. I had been trying to get away from what I didn't want in my life, but didn't have a solid sense of direction about where I was going... what I wanted to cultivate in my life. This is a critical step for building resilience. It provides a beacon... something we're moving TOWARD.
Alice, as a character, shows us that while she goes through many emotions, sometimes treats others badly, and is sometimes nurturing and kind... it is how she sees herself that colors the story (this is a dream, after all). The moment that we get some inkling about how to get out of this chaos, is when we meet the Queen of Hearts, who suggests to us that the answer lies within us, not within our logic (or illogic, as the case may be). Confronting the Queen forces Alice to decide what she believes to be true, and Alice decides that the soldiers are simply playing cards, and therefore have no power over her.
While the story ends rather ambiguously (don't ours too?)... it does tell us that those moments when we are consumed by chaos, are moments of deciding what we truly believe and are about, in order to assert ourselves and walk forward with strength and purpose... to get ourselves home.
Interested in going deep with fairy tales? Intrigued by the possibility that these entertaining tales can provide us with a map to ourselves? We can have fun while we dive deep, developing awareness, self-compassion, and resilience as we go. Doing our inner work can be highly rewarding personally, and in relationship with family, friends, and colleagues. And it doesn't have to be serious and curmudgeonly. Join me for Moving From Stress To Resilience online beginning November 17th!
Did you know that in medieval times books were written on animal skin? And there was a deep association between stories and skin?
This is the kind of stuff I absorb from listening to NPR on my way back from grocery shopping.
But it made me think... what stories are written on my skin? Stretch marks, wrinkles around my eyes, the freckles on my arms, callouses on my feet, and surgery scars... and the mind kindles the stories that go with them.
I have to be honest... that my body is often a difficult spot for me... I've always been highly critical of my body and it's caused a great deal of emotional pain. I even admit that recently I was thinking of having surgery... getting rid of this funny lump here... and the wideness there. I'm not sure how serious I was... and I certainly don't judge anyone who does this... but this idea of looking at my body as a story... it changed that a bit.
I see writ, not only in my skin, but my very cells... deep and archetypal stories... of hardship, triumph, valor, failure, and rebirth. Oh... the rebirth. How things can begin anew... even when we're sure the world is over. The gift of rebirth... the blessings of time continuing to march forward.
So, what is that story? It's a snapshot... a moment in time when one truth exists and we look at it from the perspective in which we are. And then, something else happens... and that story... it isn't what it used to be. I can't possibly express enough gratitude that life is as it is... always in motion... because some of the stories I conjured in the moment were painful. To be able to move out of pain... to grow out of it... means that we must be in the flow of life.
Surrender to the flow... that is how to ride life! When we hold and grasp, we try to keep things from shifting... which is their true nature... we resist life. We create tension and difficulty where surrender belongs.
I used to hate the word surrender. One of my best qualities is persistence... which used to feel in conflict with surrender... as if I should let things... even injustice... be as they are... and not stand for something better. However, I've come to see surrender differently in the last month or so. I see it as a way of dancing with something, not ignoring it. I see surrender as a flow, rather than trying to control the tide. And it is how I dance... with stories... with the events in my day... that determines what I lend my energy to... what I support and strive for... and always... that is to leave the world more true to itself than it was when I arrived.
I'm an explorer of inner realms, a pattern observer, and an invitation maker. I believe that healing the world starts within.
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