Cleaning House

imgres

A few months ago I started to clean out parts of my life. I have been experiencing a lot of shifting and changing in my world and clearing out and cleaning house has been very cathartic for me. We rented a huge dumpster and I started to literally clear the debris of my life away. Papers, old books, broken chairs, items “to be fixed” that were never fixed, old rugs, the huge “potential yard sale pile” that I never got to that sat in the garage and became destroyed by the elements- all of this went into the dumpster. Then I started on clothes asking myself, ” Does this shirt serve me any more? Do I really need this skirt?”. The more I asked the more I realized that NOPE, I didn’t need most of it. All of this stuff was creating clutter in my life. I was done with it. The more I released, the easier it became. I started to look at the really hard things “I know I have had this dress for 20 years and I have so many good memories in it- but it no longer fits me. Do I really need this dress? Nope, I’m done with it.” The lightness that I felt from getting rid of all of the things I no longer needed was exhilarating.

I now realize that the next step has to be decluttering the internal me. I need to let go of what no longer serves me (and perhaps never did), and I have to accept the fact that like holding onto the physical junk in my house, holding onto many things in the attic of my mind is just creating clutter. I am making a commitment to myself to stop emotionally hoarding things due to fear. So here it is- I am throwing it all away. I am done.

Im done feeling bad about the fact that I think all.the.time and that I have things to say all.the.time.. It doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else that I have a super active inner life, but for some reason in my life I decided that this part of who I am is something that is bad. I am letting go of making excuses, dumbing down, dismantling my natural inclination to be a voice, to continuously ask questions, to challenge. I am no longer making excuses for any of  the subversive bullshit that a woman still has to deal with in our society…. (wage inequality, horrible maternity leave policies, gaslighting, double standards for dress codes etc). It doesn’t matter how much of a wage earner a woman is, what kind of mother a woman is, what kind of lover,friend,spouse,teacher,human a woman is….so many of us  find ourselves apologizing for our perceived inequities. I am done feeling bad for saying  thousands of words because I think ALL THE TIME about 10 things at once. I like that, and I dont want to change it.  I am not longer going to dim my light. I am no longer going to feel inadequate. I am no longer going to apologize for the way that my existence just seems to push people’s buttons and trigger them (and that bums me out more than anyone could ever know because I would never intentionally do that). I’m done feeling silly for not writing in paragraph form, the way I speak to people, my horrible punctuation skills or the way I have a fondness for drinking wine, dancing and making really deliciously crass comments. I am no longer secretly going to feel that I cant be beautiful, sexy, AND smart. I am no longer going to act like more of a man to be more of a woman…..and I am never, EVER, going to apologize or explain myself for loving myself,being my biggest fucking fan and putting myself first. (Yep, I know that’s hard for some of us to digest, but before you get upset read this ). I am not going to be afraid of my shadow side, because my darkness is as much a part of me as my light. I am done with telling a man who hits on me  that “I’m married”, as a way to turn him down instead of just saying “no”.  I am throwing away my insecurity that I still like to wear a bikini after having two kids and being over the age of 40. I am finally letting go of the last little souvenirs of a 3/4 of a lifetime of needing to be liked, (but I am holding onto my understanding that sometimes people don’t like me, and that’s ok). I am done with resentment and finger-pointing.

So dear amazing people in my life, since I am making this commitment to myself, I will make a commitment to you. I will try my best to listen to all of your words (and that’s a hard one that I am really working on every single day), marvel in your beauty, (yep sweet brothers I mean you as well…) celebrate your strengths, hold you up when you are in pain, sit in awe in the YOU that is you and when I can’t do that due to my history and story, try to find the enough self love to look at you and to never ask you to be any different than you are because the essence of you is hard for me. I promise that because I honor myself and take care of who I am and what I need, I will try to never let my fear eclipse your happiness. I promise that I will never ask you to change, and that I will see that asking you to change is a sign of MY unhappiness with myself. I will promise to  try never forget that your voice is different from mine and just as important. I promise to love you….and I promise to let you know that when I can no longer keep that promise and accept that it is something I need to look at inside myself. I promise that I will take responsibility for the moments I don’t honor you because I am no longer taking care of myself. NO matter how hard it is- Im never going to ask you to dim your light or for you to deny your shadow side, because your darkness is as much a part of you as your light. I promise to be a mirror for all that is wonderful in you. I promise that I will be present with you and when I cant, let you know that. I promise that I will hold your hand when we can walk together and not judge you when you need to walk away, no matter how much it hurts me. I promise to never hand you my junk and ask that you hold onto it for me in the attic of your heart, and I ask that if you are holding some of it there because I asked you to so long ago- that you give it back to me….It’s ok. I’ve been cleaning house. I have some extra room now.

tumblr_laq4ndDLtH1qcb94go1_500

Love Is Our Essence

quote-love-is-our-true-essence-love-has-no-limitations-of-caste-religion-race-or-nationality-mata-amritanandamayi-78-54-62So true confession…I have a hard time with love. I know that sounds mental to the people who know me as I really do try to live in a space of clarity and love (though the people closest to me just did a spit take if they were drinking anything and reading that last statement). Ok, so let me clarify things…I really have a hard time fully feeling comfortable with love. This is because it is the most mutable emotion in the pantheon of emotions. It’s painful, expansive, subjective, powerful, small, selfless, selfish, passionate, fleeting,enduring,timeless, terrifying (this is a big one in my love dictionary)….With this kind of complexity how can any of us really understand what drives the heart of most conscious beings? In my job I have realized the importance of helping people understand the idea of love (as when working with people it is what everyone is struggling with ),  and to hopefully demystify the seemingly undefinable ,most sought after state of being in our existence. If we can hold it to the light and see what it really is it no longer controls us. It is exactly what it needs to be.

Real love is so much more complex than the types of love we have been told about in fairy tales by Disney, “Motherhood”(Fatherhood), “Childhood”,(as seen through the eyes of hollywood, books and stories). These are the narrow definitions of love we think we understand.  These paradigms of love have already been digested and explained to us. What is a deeply personal experience has been defined, stripped down and often controlled  by an external source. None of this is real. All the complex real love we feel is never addressed. In reality, love is so many things combined…including anger and fear. A lot of love is not easy. A lot of love is complicated. When we are never told that what is the equivalent of the ultimate good in the universe and our awareness also holds within in our shadow sides – all of the things that we spend our lifetime trying to  (unsuccessfully) avoid, we have a very two dimensional view of love. That limited understanding of what really creates the complexity and the enormity of love leaves many of us confused. Since our definition of love is so narrow we often don’t even see that the emotion we are often sitting in IS love, just not in a way that we have been taught to understand it .

The first thing people do when I speak to them about the complexity of the emotion of love is defend love, as if it is a person that I have insulted; “but LOVE would never feel like that! it is pure and selfless! LOVE asks for nothing in return! LOVE is eternal. LOVE has no expectations attached to it.” My response to them always is: “Why are you making love impossible?” The idea that love is all of these things is beautiful for sure, but not attainable….for love is not something that exists outside of ourselves that we pluck from the universe like an apple off a tree- love exists inside of us because it IS us. Love is who we are- what we create, what we have the capacity to understand- and therefore it is flawed. It is in those flaws that we are presented with the most powerful essence of what love is. Love is mutable, love is angry, love is vulnerable,love is painful, love is often finite, love is lonely, love is scary. Why then, is this the powerful part of love? Its the powerful part of love because even though love can be all of these things, we still have faith in it. These flaws create the need for faith (we wouldn’t need to have faith in something that was perfect). Faith is the magic that is love. With every breath breathed with love, every moment we allow ourselves to be ALL of us- which includes the fear, the vulnerability, the unknowing -and give those parts to others as well as ourselves to hold, we have faith that our love will be taken care of. The most amazing part is that we know that it’s impossible to always take care of this expression of our true selves and yet the faith that is love allows us to continue to give it away, no matter how many times it is dropped, forgotten, unseen, unappreciated. The way we present love may shift and change when it is dropped and dented over the years; we may try to wrap it in cotton wool and put it in a box, we may try to bang out the sides to make the edges hard so people hold it with caution, we may open it up, take out the softest most tender bits, spin it into a blanket and wrap it around our children, but our love will always be our love. It will always be the essence of who we are, a  profound expression of our true selves. It is faith in ourselves and the boundless power of our existence that allows us to give this gift, this expression of ourselves.

So the true power of love is not its perfection- it’s its flaws, persistence and its faith. When we accept that, we are in essence accepting ourselves. We can judge the way we love, we can judge the way others love, we can look at the way it has been wrapped because of the dents and dings it has received and call it something less than it is because we don’t understand it, but at the end of the day it is all the same thing- the offering up to ourselves or others our essence. It is the offering up of our understanding of the world and our place in it. It is the offering up of all of most fundamental spaces that make us who we are. As we are all part of this universe, when we offer our essence we can start to understand our connection with the universe and our divinity.  “Love is our true essence. Love has no limitations of caste, religion, race, or nationality. We are all beads strung together on the same thread of love. To awaken this unity–and to spread to others the love that is our inherent nature–is the true goal of human life.” ~ Amma

A life well lived: moving through grief and loss

suffering  I have thought a lot lately about grief, sadness, loss. These are emotions that are so terrifying to most of us that we do anything and everything in our power to avoid them. We are very good at throwing up emotional blockers to try to side step and navigate around them. I am the master of that. I had no idea that this was even occurring until recently I was in a situation that really at the heart of it was, and is: grief, sadness, loss. There I found myself in that space- and no matter how hard I tried to dodge and weave- grief, sadness and loss were sitting squarely on and waiting patiently for me on my door step.

I tried all the normal things I had always tried to get them to leave- denial: “Really IM FINE.” (that by the way is one of my all time favorites), drama:”I cant believe this is happening!” externalizing: “You are really sad about this, I can tell, don’t worry, I can help keep you safe- because  (remember?) I’m FINE.”  Implosion and trust issues : “I can handle all of this on my own, I’m FINE (see? told you it was a favorite), I don’t need you OR anyone, because let’s be real here at the end of the day, you really can’t count on anyone, so I’ll just act like im ok and deal quietly on my own.” The thing was this time there was no budging – no over intellectualizing  – no denying- no externalizing that made these feelings retreat,  morph into something that was less scary, more recognizable and more in line with “MY STORY OF MYSELF” (if you haven’t figured it out, in times of crisis, I go straight into denial, implosion, trust issue mode- yeah shocker, I know). At the end of the day there they were: grief, sadness, loss, sitting squarely on and waiting patiently for me on my doorstep.

So i decided to do something  I had never done before, I decided to let these feelings in…. actually not let them in- invite them in. Oh and they came in and set up camp. They were there when I woke up in the morning and there when  I went to sleep at night. They came with me to work and sat with me when I was with my friends and family. I noticed however, that it wasn’t so awful. Since I didn’t fight these feelings and I acknowledged them as part of myself and honored them, they honored me. They didnt bully me and beat me up the way I feared. Instead, they became an organic part of my day…washing over me like waves. When I needed to feel sad and grieve, I did. Soon enough the feelings would pass, and without fear I moved forward knowing that perhaps another wave would wash over me, but trusting that it would be a moment (or several moments) and then it would roll away. I started to look at these feelings in the way I looked at joy, excitement, contentment accepting and in many ways not dreading their arrival and releasing them when they needed to leave. With every wave I tried to stay present and not white knuckle the experience and to not tell myself- “just get through it- it will be over soon and then you will be fine.” I realized that though the grief and loss I was feeling from the experience that created the feelings would not live with me every moment of every day, the feelings would always be a part of me….and I honor that. It is now part of me- part of the story of me.

Of course, old habits die-hard and I still have many moments when I throw up blockers because fear sets in. It is hard to change the story of how I deal with the scary bits of life, as I  up to then had dealt with them in a different way. I try to remain present and aware and make the choice to change my process, every time my process presents itself. I try to remember that pain, grief and loss are far less difficult to navigate than fear, denial and anger. Our hearts naturally want to hold us with love, keep us safe- it will make sure that it is only takes in what it can handle. Making the choice to ride the waves of these emotions in many ways brought me great comfort, for I realized that as I have gotten older It feels much easier and natural to surrender. Surrender brings a softness and a resilience that has allowed me to have faith in myself. This hard-earned faith has made me realize that the storms of life, no matter how violent they may seem, will pass. Pain will diminish, scars are not really scars (more like rings on a tree, marking the passing of time of a life lived), loss will stop seeming like a darkness and will take on a more sunbleached hue and sadness will still wash over me, but in time will lift me up again. A life lived is a series of moments- if we only spend time being present in the ones that feel easy – and fighting off, fighting through, ignoring,white knuckling the ones that are hard, we are missing a life well lived. We are denying who we are. We are saying no to what we create. I am making the choice to stop saying no to myself, to have faith in my deep strength and the process of all things- and to wake up every day knowing that I am present in a life well lived.

Where has the balance gone?

018Harries061213

Somewhere we stopped listening. We stopped listening to that voice inside of us that told us the answers to things that we can not see, rather we feel, we (used to) know.  We stopped honoring this voice and knowing and started looking at it as something that maybe just maybe, only women posses. Women retreated deep into themselves, into this knowing, into this intuition and further into our isolation “Red Tents, Kitchen Witchery,Womanly Arts,The Vapors, Hysteria,Like a Girl,Stand Behind Your Man.” Women retreated further and further until that voice of knowing was diminished, forgotten, scoffed at. When that voice started to fall silent in women, it started to fall silent for everyone in the world. That voice, that knowing ,was and is the divine feminine in all of us. Women and men too have this voice, as we are all part of this dance thats is movement of all energy and the divine balance of the universe. Just as the divine feminine is present (albeit dormant in most of us), the divine masculine is present as well. The divine masculine allows us to address the knowable world: it is a space of action and when in balance, protection.

When women allowed their voices to fall silent and realized that they wanted to find their way back into the world, they forged ahead, holding on firmly to the masculine spaces inside of them…they convinced themselves that the only way to be powerful, to be heard, to be seen, was to embrace the masculine. The masculine which because it is out of balance, has lost its divinity. It has spilled over into violence, fear and oppression. Instead of being a protector, it has become a great destroyer. It’s time that we stop. Its time that for just a moment we become quiet, we listen….we find that small spark of knowing that is inside of us, and we nurture it, we tend to it, we flame it with the fans of faith, acceptance and reverence. Until the divine feminine is honored in all of us, we will continue to forget that at one time masculine was not only divine, but it stood side by side with the divine feminine in the dance of the energy of the universe.

So how do we connect with this space in ourselves if it is something that seems to be born from mystery and fostered by faith alone? We take the first step forward by using what is tangible in our world and move from there. We look at the cycles of the moon, and notice how the moon affects our sleep, our behavior. We honor the “pulling inwards” we all experience when the days are shorter and there is snow on the ground. We feel and acknowledge the energy and joy we feel when the earth is reborn in spring. We look to our farmers and gardeners and watch how they plant their seeds and look to the cycles of the earth to guide their hands. We look at the tides and how they are affected by the cycles of the moon. We then take a small leap of faith and look at sentient beings and recognize that they have consciousness, and resist the urge to anthropomorphize what we do not not understand, but extend them respect and kindness, understanding that they are inhabitants of this earth in the same way we are. We then look at anything with any kind of life force (plant and trees) and understand that there is energy there and that they play as much of an important part of the existence of everything as we do.  Finally we take the biggest leap of faith of all….we listen to ourselves, deeply, clearly, with love and compassion. We honor the voice deep inside ourselves that speaks to us all the time. We dont excuse it, diminish it, or bully ourselves for listening. We exalt, feel, accept, embrace and honor that voice. It is not “women’s intuition”, it’s deep knowing that is present in all of us. It is our connection with the universal consciousness (we are all made of the same energy after all). We stop looking at femininity as weak, and instead (as we have embraced masculinity as strong) we embrace femininity as powerful.We as women stop trying to take back our divine power by acting more like men. We instead encourage men to embrace their divinity  (both male and female) by saying “no” to the exclusive male power paradigm (and I speak to us women as well as we are so guilty of  trying to overly exert our masculinity in order to keep up in a long-standing patriarchy). We listen, we honor, we exalt the shiva and shakti of the cosmos- recognizing that the universe will always find balance,and in embracing the divine masculine and feminine in us all, we are living in harmony with the earth and all energy. With this balance comes ease, grace, knowing, joy, ferocity, strength and most of all a deep abiding love and recognition of our place in this great existence.

Somewhere I think I stopped playing by the rules

So the other day, a dear friend of mine stopped by the local wine store to pick up a bottle of wine for me and walked in and told one of the owners of the store who she was buying the wine for. My friend got the wine and came to my house (we have a standing knitting and drinking session at least once a week, where perhaps we sometimes we devolve into listening to John Denver songs on Spotify- or maybe I force her to listen to my favorite old Prince songs while I dance and she giggles at me and knits…that’s a different post) she put the wine down and laughed. I asked her why she was already laughing (that’s usually a glass or so in) and she said “When I told him who I was buying the wine for, he asked me how you were feeling today….and when I asked him if he meant physically or in here (and she pointed to her heart, and head) he said in here. I told him that you felt a little sad yesterday, but today you were feeling better, and he said, okay- then give her this wine. It will work for her today.” When my friend told me this my heart smiled and it really struck me that somewhere I think I stopped playing by the rules. I live in a small town and own a small yoga studio and have the honor of working with, witnessing, facilitating the healing of many wonderful people. I have the rare privilege of routinely seeing people stripped down to their rawest states, trusting me to hold this space where they can do their work and feel safe. People trust me with what they feel are the darkest, ugliest, parts of themselves and I have the honor to be able to watch them confront these parts and realize that though it may feel dark, none of it is ugly…it is part of who they are. I have the amazing honor of watching people learn to love all parts of themselves, understanding that there must always be dark in the midst of light to find the universal balance that we all seek at a primal level. I watch people connect with each other, support each other, release judgment. This morning I watched a woman make the profound connection that her mind and body are the same, while watching another woman start to realize that she even has a body that works together to support itself instead of as a jumble of parts working separately. I watched a man who is on hard, brave,long, journey continue to work through a lifetime of emotional and spiritual pain that he has held in his body. I worked with and witnessed a couple who are about to have a baby affirm their already instinctual ability to breathe, move, connect with each other in preparation for labor and the crazy, awesome journey ahead of them as parents. That was just this morning. Somewhere in this caccooned life of small town and safe space, I stopped playing by the rules- but didn’t even realize it. I stopped censoring myself when I wanted to tell someone I loved them (and I realized I love a lot of people), I stopped really worrying about what other people thought about me, so when people asked me how I was- I started to actually tell them. If I didn’t go out, I told people why, I stopped apologizing as much for what I thought my failings were. I wore my heart on my sleeve. I listened to my deepest inner voice, I trusted my gut, I stopped judging myself for feeling very clearly that the universe is made up of energy and profound mystery that we can only begin to tap into. I became spiritual. I spoke about tangible and intangible things with the same conviction. I allowed myself to see beauty. I allowed myself to feel happy. I allowed myself to go deep into my pain and fear without trying to fix them instead seeing them, honoring them, and allowing the parts of myself to unfold the ways they needed to.I accepted the dark parts as real parts of myself, and started to have a dialogue with it. I started to understand faith. I talked unabashedly,I said the irreverent things no one wanted to say and people really felt. I complimented people without hesitation. I fell completely head over heels in love with myself….at the same time in some ways fell completely head over heels in love with everyone I met. It was their light, their honesty, their bravery that I saw reflected in myself. Does that mean I LIKE everyone I meet- shit, no! A lot of people make me crazy, are annoying, needy,selfish, a pain in my ass….but somewhere in there I realized that if I stopped loving them, i would have to stop loving myself, for am I not all of these things too? (just ask the people closest to me).  When I leave this safe haven of my studio and my hometown, where people have now gotten used to the way I move through the world (and like the owner of the wine shop honor that), I have moments of doubt and fear. I have noticed though, that if I allow myself to smile at people, look people in the eyes, hug someone, tell someone I love them, (if that’s how Im feeling) acknowledge the kick assedness that is them (cause holy shit people are sooooo kick ass), no one gives a shit that I just stopped playing by the rules (and we all know what the rules are), and as a matter of fact very often I can tell through the softness, lightness, smiles and EASE people feel in those moments, they are dying to stop playing by the rules. At the end of the day we all just want to be SEEN. We all just want someone to realize that we are amazing, and perfect, and flawed, and scared. We all want to be safe. So what if we all stop playing by the rules? What would happen if we all wrote a new set of rules?  (I know Id still be dancing my ass off and laughing so hard I pee my pants a little- but hey, each to her own <3)

19870-Free-Spirit