Come Back

A relationship is a daily practice. 

We practice LOTS of things in relationships. Vulnerability and conflict. Giving. Receiving. Advocating and surrender…

We practice not so great things, too. Like needing to be right, finding fault, walking on eggshells.

Whatever it is we practice, we get better at it. 

The ground zero, most basic practice of any relationship is to notice when we have left ourselves, our center, and to bring ourselves back.

Often, as we relate and interact, we leave ourselves. We go and reside elsewhere.

There was a time when, for the most part, I did not reside in myself. That may sound silly. Here I am, so where else would I be?  And yet… I pretty much had packed my bags and abandoned myself.  It may not be something that you'd have noticed in passing, but if you looked a little deeper, you may have sensed a vacancy… an emptiness… where there would otherwise have been a solid sense of me.

Where did I go?

Sometimes I’d so over into the mind of my son. Sometimes into the emotional drama of my daughter. Sometimes I’d be miles away with a friend or my brother or my mom. Very, very often I’d move into the psyche of my husband. 

I connected to their thoughts and feelings. I witnessed their reactions. I focused my awareness on their body language or nuance of their voice. I tuned into them because I believed the way to be ok was for them to be ok. And for me to be in good standing. 

Sometimes this awareness would get obsessive. All my energy would be channelled into the other person’s movements, mannerisms, words, silence, sighs... (EXHAUSTING, yeah?)

Can you relate? 

The most important relationship practice is to bring all of this connecting, witnessing, awareness, tuning in.. to ourselves. Because a healthy connection to ourselves is the basis of true connection to another. The good news is that we are really good at these things... we just need to bravely turn them inward.

And practice coming back home.

It might feel safer to attach yourself to other people.

It might seem like you need to put other people first to feel worthy. 

It might be hard to figure out what you need and want. 

And it might bring up a lot of things you don’t want to know, see or feel when you sit still. 

That’s ok, Brave One. I get it. 

We will always leave. The practice is to notice. And to... 

Feel your heartbeat.

Notice your breath. 

Press your feet into the ground.

To come back. One step at a time. Again and again.

The Gift of Failure

My daughter is a hip hop dancer. Eat, sleep, dance, repeat. Seven days a week. 

She’s very good. I love to watch her dance. 

Inevitably after a show, there are people who seek me out to tell me the same thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I just love to watch your daughter dance.” 

Is she the best dancer out there? No. 

Does she dance so people say this? No. 

She does it because she can’t not do it. And she is brave enough to go all in. 

She is finishing up her senior year of high school. She’s known her plan for some time now. To take a year after high school, move to NYC or LA and commit to professional dance completely. To immerse herself in the mecca of hip hop. She believes supporting herself however she can so that she can dance every day is the ideal life. And that getting paid to dance, to do what she loves most, would be the ultimate. 

Does this scare me as a parent? Yes, of course. For all kinds of mama bear reasons.

But I am not afraid of her devoting her whole self to this pursuit and putting all her eggs in the dance basket. I’m not afraid that she may or may not go to college. And I’m not afraid she will reach for her dream and fail. Not because I am naive enough to believe she can’t fail. But because I fully believe that if she does, she was after a dream that may have been close, but that wan’t hers. The universe will always move her... all of us...  in the direction of dharma. And sometimes that means failing big.

It’s too late for us to choose our dharma. It’s done. 

I have no doubt that right now, dancing is on my daughter’s right path. I feel it as I witness her absolute knowing. Rumi talks of two types of knowledge. One that we get from outside of us and bring in. The other comes from inside and goes out. Dancing is inside her. This is what we see when our eyes are riveted to her on the stage. And there are many, many ways it may evolve and manifest.

So I’m not going to pretend to know that making it as a professional dancer in LA is part of that path. 

If that doesn’t happen for her, it will break her heart. It will crush her ego. And it will take away her constructed identity. 

And yet, there will be a small whisper of truth somewhere deep inside her being saying, “It’s ok. That wasn’t quite it.”

Sometimes we can take a hint. And sometimes we need a big, bold un-ignorable message that we have veered off course. 

Right now my daughter is following the path that she has seen others walk because it is all she is capable of seeing. We are only privy to a limited exposure of what’s possible. She has found the closest thing perceivably available to her soul’s longing. And I trust that it will take her, teach her, give her exactly what she needs on this phase of her journey. That might be success. That might be failure. Either way it will be her dharma.

I support her wholeheartedly. 

I’d like to say that I support myself in the same way. But this is my work. 

What is the thing you MUST do? Not because you think it will be profitable. Or because it is expected of you. Or even because it’s fun. But because it’s IN you and needs a way out. All any of us can do is to do that thing in whatever way is available to us. Give it all we’ve got. And then...  let go of the outcome so Life can show us the way.

Today I ask for the clearing of the path.

Dear Life, 
Show me the way by giving me the gift of failure in the places I am pushing against my dharma...
May I fall on my face as soon as possible?
May the train wreck happen if it’s going to happen?
May I stay out of the way if this needs to fall apart?
So I may be open to the next step on my truest path.

When to say YES!

How do you feel when you look at your calendar? How about your to-do list? What does it feel like to see the transactions on your bank statement? What about the food on your plate?

What have you said “yes” to? And have those commitments been conscious? 

When we are approached with opportunities, requests and desires (from others and from ourselves,) how do we know when to say yes, what to prioritize and when to gracefully decline?

I can tell when I need a cleanse in the commitment department when I start feeling like my schedule has taken over my life. Or when my money is “already spent” as soon as it comes in. And when food is entering my mouth because it’s there and not because it’s what I’m really hungry for. 

Part of the reason things get like this for me is because I tend to resist commitments. I drag my feet, procrastinate, talk to myself in not-nice ways... in fact, the definition of commitment that most resonates with me is- an obligation that restricts action. And who wants that?? 

I am ready to redefine what commitment means to me. I do fully believe that every single thing is a choice. Even not choosing is a choice. Which means in each moment, we get to choose whether to move closer to what we want, who we are, why we’re here or further away. We have to opportunity to connect more deeply or disconnect more completely. 

What if I began to see each, “yes” not as a relinquishment of freedom, but as a privilege, an opportunity and a responsibility to my dharma, my purpose?

What if making a commitment became devoting myself to an action? 

Our moments, days and lives are going to fill up with something. What if they were overflowing with devotion?

This seems like an approach I could embrace when it comes to planning a yoga class, going on a date with my husband or buying a basketful of fresh veggies at the farmer’s market. But what about vacuuming out the car, dealing with a technology glitch on my website or having a difficult conversation? Or worse... going through all the bank and credit card statements to see where my money really went this past year. 

Before we know what makes the devotional cut, we need to know what’s truly important to us. When we are confused about this, choices become whims, external input overrules intuition and giving up is totally an option. Our why is what gives us meaning. The foundation of committing... devoting... is knowing what we want. Like deep-down-soul want. The antidote to confusion is intention. So let’s get clear. 

1.Identify what’s important.

Bring to your awareness something that is causing some inner commitment turmoil. Identify what life area it falls into. Is is in the context of home or work? A wellness goal? Does it have to do with your relationships? A creative or spiritual pursuit? Envision this life area. What matters most in this part of your life? Determine what you value in that realm. 

2. Shed light on resistance.

Become curious. When you consider making or breaking this commitment, what does it feel like? Notice if there is an emotion that arises. What thoughts flood in? Is there physical sensation present? 

3.Determine if this commitment is aligned. 

Brave and true devotional commitments have three components. Sit comfortably with your feet on the ground. Close your eyes. Take a few deep, even breaths. And ask yourself these three questions.

•Does this commitment support my core values in this life area? 

•Does this commitment build competency?

•Does this commitment elevate my best self? 

4. What are you actually devoted to?

The two obvious results are when our answers are all yes (this is something you can devote yourself to) or when our answers are all no (bag it immediately.) What about when the answers are more in the “sort of” category? Begin by asking yourself why you are considering this commitment. When you get an answer, ask why again. Continue this inquiry until you have the truest reason this commitment is even on your radar. Check in with the questions again.  In devoting to that, maybe there is some way to help yourself by hiring or bartering someone to to the parts that don’t fit. 

5. Find the bigger meaning. 

How is this commitment a privilege? An opportunity? A responsibility to your dharma? This goes for ALL commitments. Even doing the laundry. 

6. Are there any preliminary commitments that need to be made to make this possible?

This includes supplies, arrangements, announcements, conversations, going to a specific location. It also includes making or carving out space for it. (Sometimes these can be our biggest reasons for resistance.) 

7. Is there a counter commitment that needs to be considered?

In yoga there are counter poses. When we stretch in one direction, we neutralize by stretching in the other. What needs to be neutralized or balanced here? If your commitment requires intense movement, a counter might be rest. If it involves lots of people and talking, a counter could be some time with yourself and a book. If it’s very left brained, a creative pursuit could bring balance. This consideration gives a holistic viewpoint, honoring the inherent connectivity of all things. 

We get to choose the moments that make up our lives. It’s so easy to get busy and lost in it. We hop on the treadmill and important things get put in the “someday” category, When that happens, I invite us all to take a look at our moments.

Each moment has the potential of being a devotion, a true yes

And each conscious yes becomes a brave step on our truest path. 

 

Reclaim Your True Worth

Sometimes my worthiness feels like a fluctuating entity. It seems to go up when my writing is praised or gobs of students show up for my yoga class. It plummets when my teenage daughter accuses me of not caring enough or the credit card bill reveals my mindless spending.

But this fluctuation is a myth. Worth is intrinsic. It exists inherently in each of us. It can’t be added to with accomplishments, possessions, our relationships or by holding a perfect handstand. It can’t be taken away by mistakes we make, the number on the scale, by words or even by fists. 

We are born with it. And when we arrive into the world, our sense of it exists without question. So what happens? 

In the words of Terry Real, therapist and founder of The Relational Life Institute-

We hold ourselves the way we were held.

We were held by our family of origin, by our culture and society. We were held by every facet of our environment. 

If we were held with harshness, we are likely to be harsh with ourselves. The same holds true with any flavor of holding- neglect, indulgence, over-importance. If our holding was conditional in any way, learned our worth was, too. 

It doesn’t matter why we were held that way. This is not about bashing and condemning our upbringing or our parents. (Inevitably, they are responding to the way they were held.) It’s letting go of the rationalizing and denial to allow whatever was true for us to simply be true.

I was born premature and spent the first eight days of my life in an incubator without human touch. I was fed on a schedule, not in response to my cries of hunger. I learned that my voice wasn’t heard, that I was dependent on others knowing what I needed and that if I were going to be soothed I would have to do it myself. It doesn’t matter that all of this was with the intention to save my life. It doesn’t matter how much my parents and caregivers wanted what was best for me. My experience was one of isolation, of not being heard and devoid of contact. This is how I was held. How were you held?

No matter what our experience was, we learned to adapt. As kids, we were not capable of independence. To survive, we acquired very effective skills to protect ourselves. Those adaptations stick with us and we continue to rely on them. (Even when it’s no longer necessary.) Some of us avoided being berated by not being noticed and hiding. Or became hyper-vigilant to gauge a caregiver’s mood. Others over-performed to collect accolades and approval. Some begged, “watch me!” in hopes of being seen. If love and acceptance were at all tenuous, we lost touch with our inherent worth. We learned that we could be less valuable than other people. And we learned we could be better than some. We learned to measure, compare and prove. We abandoned our true nature to accept, connect and be.

We’re left with two choices. We can hang out in shame and hold others in higher regard than ourselves. Or we can dwell in grandiosity and hold ourselves in higher regard than others. Either place will eventually become toxic. And both are incredibly lonely. Separating ourselves in this way goes against what we know- deep down in our hearts and souls- to be true.

That every single being is equally worthy.

Every single one of us. And that we are all connected. 

We need to find our way back to that. By holding ourselves with kindness. By inviting love and warmth to be a no-matter-what constant. I have spent my entire life aching to be seen and heard. To feel real. We all long for worth. And this longing is insatiable when sought externally. Because it’s not something that can be given to us or earned. It’s something that needs to be reclaimed because it’s already there.  

Is there someone (human or furry) who you have a very uncomplicated relationship with? Who you hold in loving kindness regardless of their behavior? Someone who makes your heart swell no matter what? I have a 13 year old yellow lab who I adore. I can’t imagine holding his essence in anything but warmth. Over the years he has chewed the moulding, eaten sticks of butter and dug holes in the yard. And although I do not condone these choices, my regard for him does not waver. 

No matter how hard we try, we cannot convince ourselves of worth. We need to show ourselves by holding our own essence in the same way we hold this being. Next time you find yourself sinking to less than or rising to better than, try coming into warm regard with the following practice.

• Take pause. 

• Notice what’s happening in your environment. 

• Approach yourself with curiosity by tuning in to body sensations. Feeling what emotions are present. Bring awareness to what is present without judgement or need to change it. 

• Ask, “What is making itself known? What needs to be seen, heard, felt?”

• Actively listen with your full attention. 

• What do you really want?

• Is there a way to help, care or nurture yourself? 

In this way we hold ourselves the way we were meant to be held. With attentiveness, respect and loving care. We become real. And when we do this, we tap into the worth our souls already know. And from that place, we remember we are all one, all worthy. And it is impossible not to hold all beings the same way. 

 

"That I Would Be Good"

that I would be good even if I did nothing

that I would be good even if I got the thumbs down

that I would be good if I got and stayed sick

that I would be good even if I gained ten pounds

 

that I would be fine even if I went bankrupt

that I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth

that I would be great if I was no longer queen

that I would be grand if I was not all knowing

 

that I would be loved even when I numb myself

that I would be good even when I am overwhelmed

that I would be loved even when I was fuming

that I would be good even if I was clingy

 

that I would be good even if I lost sanity

that I would be good

whether with or without you

~Alanis Morissette

 

 

Why being selfish is a surprisingly good idea.

With a suitcase full of chunky sweaters, leggings and cozy socks, I will be making my way to a retreat in the woods. Four days of yoga, reflection and connection with 12 other women. Meals provided. No reason to leave the premises… And it feels completely SELFISH! My son is home on break this week. My daughter needs rides and support. The money could go towards so many other things. Should I really be doing this for myself?

Well, I'm going. So obviously I have decided… YES.

It is just recently that I truly started to embrace taking care of myself first. And I still slip out of it VERY easily... Taking responsibility for the happiness (and unhappiness) of certain people in my life. Trying to meet their (assumed) needs. Basing my very own well-being on the emotional state of those around me.

Putting other people (people I love dearly...) first just. doesn't. work. It becomes impossible to creatively and authentically respond to my family, friends, events, circumstances, requests, emotions, thoughts... that are life. I get easily agitated, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I react, not respond. Resilience? Forget it. So although at times like this I am operating under the guise of selfless service… who or what exactly am I serving?

(Aside from regret… worry… doubt…reliance on external validation…)

It is only when we are grounded, centered and clear… when we are balanced and strong emotionally, mentally and physically… that we are able to be fully present, alive and engaged.

What if we made sure our own selves were in beautiful working order? If we tuned in and fostered physical, emotional and mental self-awareness. Self-trust. What if we treated ourselves as if we were someone we loved and cared for and were responsible for? And strengthened the practice of coming back to center again and again and again.

When we show up fully present, living our purpose, allowing our true selves to be expressed… that's where the magic is. And who knows how far that awesomeness will ripple?

 

 

How are you being?

I spent most of my life believing that external circumstances had to change for me to be OK. If I could look a certain way or weigh the right amount, I would feel good about myself. If I could get a phD, I would feel smart. If my kids were well-behaved, I would feel like a good mother. If my husband was attentive, I would feel loved. If my house was clean and organized, I would feel competent. All kinds of stuff had to happen before I could feel worthy, respected, important and happy.

So, of course I exerted tons of energy trying to change people and things. It was exhausting because it was impossible. I saw situations and other people’s behavior as obstacles to my well-being. Pretty helpless. Funny though, no one would have known it. I was smiley and cheery, successful and always put-together. I was really good at making things seem fine.

But underneath I was becoming resentful. And as I grasped more fervently at the external, I became needy and dependent.

I didn’t want to feel that. So I made sure I was busy enough that I didn’t have time to feel it.

We have buckets of lists and bucket lists. Always trying to get things done. We think we need circumstances (finances, weight, where we live) or people (significant other, mother, friend) to change in order to feel better or move forward.

Guess what? The lists that matter to you will get checked off. And your circumstances will align with who you are. They are right now.

This is not a realization I came to on my own. We are a doing culture. How are we taught to make changes in our lives? I was taught to change my actions. I knew that by doing my homework I could improve my grades, but I didn’t do it. I knew that eating less would result in dropping a few pounds, but I didn’t do it. I knew that saving some of my paycheck would allow me to eventually have the things that I wanted, but I didn’t do it. I was taught to change my actions to make these things happen. But I could never change them for long. And the patterns continued as life went on.

Trying to change your actions is backwards. It may work temporarily, but it leads to defeat and frustration. It causes us to question, “What is wrong with me?”

There is nothing wrong with you.

Our actions are a direct result of our thoughts and beliefs. Our beliefs make up our being. They are often automatic because we have thought the same way for so long that we have ruts carved in our brains from the paths they take. And our thoughts trigger our emotions and our actions.

Why is this a problem? Because our thoughts tell us stories. And sometimes those stories aren’t true. When they aren’t, our actions will never line up with who we are without the story.

But when we start paying attention, and take unhelpful patterns off of automatic pilot, we can choose to be in alignment.

When you’re being is in alignment with who you are, your actions will follow.

It’s not about will power. It’s not about stifling desires. It’s not about deprivation. It’s not about your circumstances changing to make you happy.

It’s all about your being.