I know many people are feeling overwhelmed with everything they are reading and hearing about in the news. Whether I am discussing the natural disasters, or the latest events in the United States, every conversation I have with friends revolves around what we can do, how we can help. I had tea with a friend of mine, a retired attorney and fellow yogi, who said “I didn’t used to believe in evil.” and paused for a moment, calmly picking up croissant crumbs with his fingers, “Now I do.” Things are feeling pretty dire – more than usual. Is this just me? I wonder… I am deeply saddened by recent happenings in the world (both natural and human) and I also believe that we are greater than this and that LOVE conquers all.
I have written before about Yogi Bhajan‘s prophecy that the world’s hectic pace will only continue to increase and many people will be overwhelmed – on all levels – and not know how to keep up with the chaotic energies. He went on to say that a third of the world’s population would die, a third would go nuts and the last third would be left to hold it all together. There are times when this prophecy feels like it has come true and it’s my choice to decide which third of the population I want to be a part of.
The day this picture (above) was taken, I had just driven 500+ miles in very challenging driving conditions: high winds, forest fires and driving rain for several hours. I was driving a 22 feet van that I was not wholly comfortable with and even hydroplaned a few times. When I finally pulled into the RV park, my legs were shaking. I then proceeded to get into a huge argument with my daughter who left to stay with a friend for the evening. I called a friend and sobbed. After the cry, I felt…so much better. Lighter. Less alone. Normally, I like to cry in private and talk to friends after I’ve had my breakdown. I made a conscious decision to let myself be seen in my tenderness and it was a personal stretch. I am grateful I made the decision to be vulnerable and reach out vs. keep it all to myself. Thank god for loving friends that are lifelines!
When the darkness befalls me (whether because of what’s happening out in the world, or because of whatever is going inside of my own psyche) it’s time for me to reach into my Self Care tool box and use whatever is appropriate for the situation at hand. I don’t intend to be Pollyanna or to sound naive, but don’t underestimate the power of Self Care! When the world feels overwhelming, I turn inwards and listen closely. “What do I need right now?” I ask myself. Usually an answer pops right in. Othertimes, I have to just use trial and error to see what helps. Getting out in nature is always a great place to start for me.
Spending the last month on the road, in a van, living with a 15 year old boy, has challenged my self care routines. There is very little alone time (something that I normally rely on heavily for self-sourcing), there is limited wifi (connecting with friends/lifelines is almost nil), the weather was initially very challenging (exercise was not happening for days.) I wasn’t meditating, I wasn’t practicing yoga, I was feeling isolated from adults and totally catering to another human 24/7. Thankfully, I am remembering my own teachings on Self Care and Self Love from LOVELUTION! and putting my oxygen mask on first again. Phew!
What does that look like? Have you heard that expression “If Mama Aint Happy, Aint Nobody Happy”? I’ve started making sure that I am doing something for myself each day that fills up my tank. Whether that’s a solo run, a tea date with a friend, making time to write at a wifi cafe or bringing back my meditation practice (why oh why do I ever let this go?) The expression “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” is my simple prayer and intention. I want to shine as brightly as I can so I can add my light to all the other brilliant lights in the world and we can shine light in all corners, dispelling the darkness and love it up so that it doesn’t need to spread.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the LIGHT that is you. -L.R. Knost
All my life I’ve been traveling. I was born in Maine and at one and a half, moved to Beirut, Lebanon. Another country, another culture, another climate. At four, in the middle of winter, my mother and I left the Meditteranean and moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, newly divorced in the late 60’s. At eight, my mother re-married and we moved to Oberlin, OH where academia coexisted with rural poverty and racial tensions of the early 70’s. After two years, we moved to Lake Forest, IL, listed in the “Preppie Handbook” as one of the 10 preppiest towns in the United States. I moved from place to place feeling like an alien. This is a pattern that has repeated itself my entire life. Always moving, trying on the new customs, reinventing myself.
One of the things I have always loved about traveling to India is the feeling that I am so far from anything familiar that it forces me to let go of any outward identity my ego may cling to to define myself: parent, wife, hospice volunteer, runner, home owner, etc. The only thing I have in India is the over-arching requirement to stay present.
I read somewhere that gold fish grow to the size of their bowl. If they’re swimming around in a tiny glass, they will stay that size, if they’re put in an aquarium, they will grow larger. The Bay Area is a much bigger fish bowl than the the one I’ve been living in. And I feel…free. I feel anonymous. I feel alive with possibility.
The past several days have been jam-packed with moving and arriving and storing and unpacking. It’s been exhausting. Yesterday was the first day I had a glimpse of the ocean. I forced myself to drive in afternoon traffic and when I got out of the car, the wind whipped my hat off. I stood at the shore, turned off my music and consciously welcomed myself home. In that moment, I knew that this land isn’t home. I know it’s cliche, but still I want to share. I am home. I am my home. Wherever I choose to go, I will always be home.
That said, I also had the realization (for ME) that 16 years is too long to yearn to be somewhere else. I feel a peaceful joy to be back, this multi-cultured holy land where I am both completely unknown and deeply loved.
My kids are having some last adventures with family this month and in September we will all meet up and take my daughter to college and then Harlan and I will begin Road School 2017 for the fall semester. Just like a blank canvas can inspire the painter, the open road calls to my soul – it always has. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I look forward to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” me, mile by mile.
I’m not sure if it was the rainy day today that made me even more dreamy than usual or just the seemingly random events that occurred this morning. I read a woman’s post on Facebook that said she remembered her birth, that there were bright lights flashing in her face as she entered the world. I thought about this (and her) for most of the morning. Marveling that somebody remembers her own birth. I believe her. It’s just that I don’t think there are many people that remember their own births.
I’ve been tripping out on that more and more. How special each one of us is…and how really getting to know somebody (for me anyway) is like learning a new language. Sometimes like becoming an expert in a whole new species, surrendering preconceived notions and judgements.
I am driving on the road, past where the body of a young raccoon has been decomposing for a couple of days. I can smell it. But today I see another raccoon, a big one, dead on the other side of the road. “Oh no!” I exclaim. I wonder if they’re related, was this the already decomposing one’s Mama? My heart sinks as I touch my heart.
I have a vivid memory of riding in the backseat of my grandparents car. We passed a dead dog on the side of the highway. I was shocked to see it. I didn’t realize that this could happen. That dogs could get hit by cars and their bodies could lie by the side of the road, cars whizzing by. I spent the rest of the ride in silence, deeply saddened. That was a gray day too.
Early this morning the phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number but I answered it anyway. I rarely do that. “Is this the Grief Support Network?” he asks. “Well…not exactly”, I answer. Yes and no. The hotline still transfers over to my cell phone even though I haven’t worked there in 6 months. They don’t know how to fix it.
I start to go into a rambling explanation but then stop myself and ask if he is looking for support (sometimes it’s a sales person.) He is. He tells me what’s going on and I listen. He explains to me that he has plummed the inky depths and also connected to his brightest divine nature. “I can tell you get it,” he says. And I do. I am sitting at my computer in the darkness, having an intimate conversation with a “stranger”.
The older I get, the more I feel that each one of us speaks our own language and to really listen to somebody, to really get somebody, takes a certain amount of amazement and awe in humanity in general. What delicate and finely-tuned creatures we all are; senstive, unique, miraculous energy bodies that communicate on so many deep and subtle levels. Right now, for me, this is the best show in town. Peace and Love.
This Spring, my son announced that he had two life goals: quitting school and living in a van. His love of learning has been with him from infancy, but ever since 6th grade, he’s slowly and progressively been losing interest in school. Over the past four years, I’ve watched the light go out of his eyes while in the traditional educational system.
By April, things had spiraled rapidly downward; my son was depressed, uninspired and feeling powerless to change his life. Uncharacteristically, he wasn’t getting up in the morning, he was isolating from friends and was refusing to go to school. I had no idea what to do or how to help him. Finally, at a crisis point, Harlan opened up to me. What I heard more than anything was that he really and truly doesn’t want to go back to school and wants to “drop out”.
As I listened to him, I had an “Aha!” moment. What if we “Dropped In” and hit the road? What if we took this Fall Semester of 2017 and he got to live and learn in real time, in the real world, seeing life through the eyes of a traveler? As a mother, I knew I needed to act quickly to come up with a creative solution that might serve to inspire my son into not giving up. Since nothing traditional has worked (and we’ve tried it all), I wanted to come up with an out-of-the-box learning opportunity that would spark his innate curiosity.
Without knowing exactly how I could pull it off, I proposed the idea of living on the road this Fall to Harlan. Almost instantly, like pumping a bicycle tire with air, I watched him come back to life. He became motivated and finished 9th grade. He joined a gym and is working out daily. He’s working with an inspiring mentor who is teaching him about meditation and healthy living. We’re training for our first Sprint Triathlon in October. He has a summer job and is saving money for the trip. We’re working with an educational consultant to design a personalized curriculum for Harlan.
We’re plotting our itinerary on the map:
Vancouver to Baja from September through December.
Along this route, we will be researching people and places that inspire us, in order to learn from these interactions. Together with an educational consultant, we will design a curriculum that Harlan resonates with; creating projects that involve writing, music, photography, and natural science – all with the rich backdrop of the Pacific West to support his education.
Since I have announced our decision to hit the road this August, miracles are happening. People are reaching out with places to stay, well wishers are offering words of support, and we are packing up and moving out of our home on July 31! Finances are an issue. I’m a single mom navigating work, life, and parenting two teenagers, the oldest of which is heading off to college in September.
I’m a grief counselor. I work with people who have lost a loved one and are navigating life without the person they love. I have teenagers. I know angst. I have lost family members to suicide. I have close relatives that struggle with clinical depression. I know life is short. And mysterious and powerful and awe-inspiring. I know that I love my son with all my heart and will do anything within my power – anything – to help him get the light back in his beautiful brown eyes. And yes, that means even asking for money, something I’ve been raised never to do. I’ve started a Go Fund Me Campaign, called Road School 2017, to help with our costs.
Donations will go toward:
- Online Educational Consultant
- Used laptop
- School Supplies
- Educational Experiences (e.g. Museums, State Parks)
NOTE: 5% of what we receive in donations will go to Pacific Sands Academy, a program that offers an accredited, interest-led, passion-driven independent studies program for teens. This money will help families afford an alternative choice for children who may be struggling with the traditional educational system.
There is no training manual for what Harlan and I will are about to embark on, but there is a road map – the one he and I will follow along the highway. As a parent, my job is not to mold him into a smaller, younger version of myself, but to hold a safe container large enough for him to expand his wings. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I want to introduce my son to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” him. Stay tuned, Road School starts late August 2017! #roadschool2017
I’m hearing daily stories of heart break, illness and tenderness from friends and clients. It seems to be in the collective energy field right now. Regardless of where you fall politically, I think many people are experiencing the chasm in our country: between parties, between groups, between relatives and friends.
If our true nature is to be universally connected to all (which I believe) then this rampant atmosphere of divide and finger-pointing must be painful to all of us on a soul level.
So what to do? How to keep my heart open? No matter what? No matter who I am thinking about or dealing with? That is my practice that I’ve dedicated my life to. Even if it feels good to distance myself from somebody (or some group) because of their actions or words, I choose to take a look within myself and try and access compassion.
It’s a spiritual axiom that we can only change ourselves. Gandhi said “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I know I’m not saying anything new, but I’m sharing my practice with you with the hope that it may be helpful. Living a heart-opened path (no matter what!) is much easier to do when everyone is doing what I think is right, or “playing nice” and not triggering me. But what about when someone does something egregious? It’s so tempting to distance myself and say “Oh no. I would never do that!”
But if we’re all connected…I need to take a long, deep look at myself and find the part(s) of me that are related. Instead of pushing away aspects of myself that I don’t like to see in others, or that make me uncomfortable, I need to shine a light on those parts, and love them up. I believe that I do have the wounded masculine aspect in myself that acts out of insecurity and powerlessness. I am the wounded feminine that is too afraid to speak up, or speaks out harshly, fearing I can’t have what I want. I am the divine as well – we all are. I have all aspects of shadow and light inside of me because I am human. I am a spirit having a human experience. I think I signed up for all of it!
I am practicing loving myself. Unconditionally. Simple yet profound.
Love. It’s been written about. It’s been sung about. It’s an energy. It’s a feeling. It’s a way to live. So often I have looked externally for this feeling and offered it freely to others, but I forgot (or rushed past) the first step: Self-love.
If you are like me, you might read those two words and think “Blech”. Self-love? That’s no fun. I like to connect with others. I like to interact. Self-love sounds lonely. And boring. I really used to think that! (TRUTH: Sometimes it is kind of lonely and boring – definitely not instant gratification land.)
I believe self-love is the foundation for my life. When I skip this step (and I have) the opportunities keep showing up to allow me to get it right. Like pulling a weed and not getting the root, it just keeps coming back.
How do I practice self-love?
One of the ways I do is to stay present to “what is” vs. what I wish was happening, and not try and escape any uncomfortable feelings that may arise (like loneliness, fear, grief). It’s a practice and some days are better than others. When an uncomfortable emotion shows up, I try to be loving and patient – the same way I would be with one of my children. Acceptance and forgiveness are huge players in this arena. Trying to love all parts of myself, not just the “nice” parts.
Unconditionally loving ourselves means accepting all parts of us, not “fixing” or removing the more prickly parts of self, rather shining true love and compassion on those harder to accept aspects of ourselves. This is love unconditional. This is love invincible. This is LOVELUTION.
LOVELUTION: a beautiful and quick shift from simply existing to loving oneself constantly and totally, radically impacting all areas of your life to ripple out to others. (I made it up. You’re welcome.)
Ripple out to others?
Yes! The best part of this, is that when I fully give myself to this path of open-hearted living, it is guaranteed to benefit everyone in my life. That’s right, by loving myself, I am increasing the love in my life. Love begets Love. I am surrounding myself with love. This is an energy I can always impact and control because it begins with ME. When I plug into this, I see its effects immediately. People respond and behave lovingly to me. Some days are easier than others. Some days I love myself more than others. One day at a time. Progress not perfection. I’ll keep you posted.The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
We the people are rising up because we are strong, we have been silent too long and we shall overcome. Love prevails, let Love rule. My country tis of thee, great land of Liberty. Let freedom ring through our voices, through our hearts, through the steam of our nostrils, as we stand with our sisters and brothers at Standing Rock. Last stand. Our land. A land of the free and the home of brave veterans, mothers, brothers, native elders who fight for our rights = the right to clean water, fresh air, sacred burial grounds to remain unmolested.
We the people entreat you, our Government, to Honor your Word. If not our word then what? In oil we trust. We must worship something more than that, more than cash. Blood sweat and tears are shed for this line in the sand. This Last Stand – again. History offers us another chance – again. I stand with Standing Rock, I stand for democracy – not hypocrisy. I am sick of this elephant stench. Open the window so that I may breathe the fresh air of truth Live streaming. The revolution will not be televised, but it will be on Facebook. Are you listening?