Welcome Home

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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.

 

Road School 2017

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)
  • Gas
  • Campgrounds

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

 

12 Do’s (and Don’ts!) Supporting a Friend Through Surgery

or… What I Learned Last Week Through Trial and Error

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I spent a chunk of last week caring for my dear friend Barbara after she had surgery.  I have never had surgery and really had no idea what to expect.  I just knew that this is one of my best friends and I wanted to be there for her and so I volunteered to be her main person for the first few days.  What I know in hindsight is that this is no small task nor should it be taken lightly.  And…it’s not for everyone.  So I’ve compiled a list of what I learned in the hope that it will help others – both caregivers and people about to have surgery – so that they can make the best decisions about who is in their space at this tender time.

DO’s

1-Play to Your Strengths

For example if you don’t have the best bedside manner but you make a really mean chicken soup, volunteer to make meals, but don’t sign up to be the hand holder for your friend or family member when she’s getting prepped for surgery.  If you decide to take on the “job” of caregiver, go for it wholeheartedly and no holds barred. Be on board. If rubbing somebody’s feet makes you squeamish, find someone who is great at giving massage to come sit with the patient while you have a little break.

2 – Take Your Job Seriously

Remember that you are the gatekeeper and that your job, to the best of your ability, is to filter all the personalities, energies and information that the patient is being bombarded with. You are an advocate for the patient.  You’re another set of eyes and ears, don’t be afraid to take notes or even record the doctor when they are speaking.  In my experience, nobody minded when I asked for clarification on certain things or had questions about the aftercare instructions. In general, I felt that the hospital preferred that I was there as a go-between for Barbara.

3 – Be Gentle with the Patient!

Even if you’ve never had surgery before, it’s important to note that the days leading up to surgery, immediately after the operation, and the days shortly after the procedure can be a very tender and vulnerable time for the patient and her family. My friend Barbara kept saying that the veils were thin.  I think she was referring to the fact that all of her defenses were stripped away and this can be a time where fear and powerlessness are magnified.  Be especially gentle and kind with your loved one.  This is definitely where a nurturing and gentle caregiver will be preferred over somebody with very little bedside manner.  Let that person run errands for you or help in other ways.

4 – Have Food in the House

Do have lots of yummy and nourishing snacks available in the house for the patient after surgery. Don’t assume that the patient only wants to eat soup or bland foods. In fact, I knew Barbara was feeling better on day two when she started fantasizing about lasagna!

5 – Rest

Encourage the patient to have many breaks and to rest quietly. It can get a little overwhelming with friends and family calling, texting, and stopping by. No matter how wonderful it is to be reminded how loved she is, my little Energizer Bunny needed quiet time so that she could recharge. One of my best memories was playing my Dragon Drum for Barbara while she napped.  Also in this category, do encourage the patient to take her 3 AM pain pill and go right back to sleep.  You do not want her to get chatty, nip that right in the bud.  You need your sleep too!

6 – Show Some Emotion

Let yourself have feelings. Your friend will appreciate someone else expressing themselves; it’s not just the patient who is feeling an overwhelming amount of emotion. Once all the forms were signed and Barbara came out of the bathroom in her cloth gown and paper cap, s*** got real and I couldn’t help myself, the tears just flowed.  Barbara held my hand and it was a very loving moment.   Also, don’t be afraid to share a laugh – always good medicine (where appropriate, see below.)

DON’Ts

A lot of these will seem like a giant “Duh!” to most of you but I assure you these were either learned the hard way or witnessed.

1 – Don’t Forget to Eat

Don’t eat the patient’s yummy nourishing snacks!  And don’t underestimate how hungry you as the caregiver might get.  It’s important to think ahead if you can and if you have that luxury, stock the refrigerator for you as well.  When well-meaning friends text and ask what they can bring you can also say that the patient is very hungry and wants chocolate and almonds (even if they’re really for you!)

2 – Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive to Surgery

Do not, repeat do not, let the patient drive herself to the hospital on surgery day with you in the passenger seat. The patient has a lot on her mind and will be distracted. When she tries to back up into a very tiny space it will not go well.  Avoid this scenario by insisting upon driving.

3.  Laughter is Good Medicine Except When Patient is Nervous/Crabby

Don’t make too many jokes right before surgery. Usually the patient will not appreciate you making references to your giant pimple on your face and asking the surgeon if they have any medical recommendations for you.   Once again, the patient will not think this is funny.  Neither will the doctor.

4.  Let It Roll

Don’t take anything the patient says prior, during, or after surgery personally.  A lot of emotions can come up.  It’s best to encourage the patient not to make any long-lasting, life-changing decisions in this general window of time.  The patient’s mood could be perceived as erratic – something seemingly harmless like a little elderly man pushing a motorcycle up a hill could drive the patient into a murderous rant.  Best to just soothingly reassure the patient that you hate that motorcyclist too…there, there.  The patient will have almost zero recollection of what they said or asked for. For example when your friend/patient asks you to mince garlic in her lemon water she might actually mean ginger and will look at you like you have sprouted a second head when you ask her if she really wants you to put garlic in her tea.  (Actually, as I write this, it occurs to me that this section could be written for perimenopause too…aaack.)

5.  Don’t Be A Jerk

In her tender time post-surgery, do not give the patient any books regarding her medical condition or tell her stories about people who have died from the same medical condition.  Right?  Also in this category, do not judge any type of procedure or follow-up care the patient decides upon afterwards.  This may take an attitude of trust on your part, but I assure you most people think long and hard and confer with their doctors and their loved ones before they decide on any follow-up treatments and it is OUR job as a supportive community to love our friends and family members through all of their decisions without judgment or opinion unless asked.  And even then, people, use your heads.  Remember…this is a tender time.  Tread lightly!  No bombarding the patient with statistics and medical data.

6.  Don’t Forget What a Sacred Window of Time you are Sharing Together

Take as much opportunity as you possibly can in the surprisingly busy days post surgery to reassure your loved one what an absolute gift it is, and continues to be, to spend time with them.  To hold their hand, to do their laundry, to steam there garlic tea, to warm up their soup, to stroke their hair, to give them a kiss, to cry with them, to laugh with them, to drive them around, and to just be in their presence.  It is a rare gift to share so intimately with another and I am grateful to have had this bonding time with my sweet friend of 26 years.

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Isn’t she cute?

Huge thank you to my family and friends for supporting me in making this trip happen, kids got shuffled, pet/house sitter bent backwards, drum carrier got fedexed so I could bring it with me on the plane, friends held space for me and said healing prayers for Barbara.  I know it’s cliche but it truly takes a village.

Go With The Flow…


Udaipur, November 2015.
Traveling in Udaipur. Early morning breakfast. Nice looking man nods good morning and asks waiter for coffee “now”. Soon he is talking to the two men eating breakfast with their baby. A conversation starts up and the coffee drinking man says he lives in Santa Cruz. The couple say they are from The Bay Area and one of them grew up in Santa Cruz. This gets my attention as I have just spent the last three years splitting my time between Boulder and Santa Cruz. I have to say something right!? Before you know it we are all sharing synchronistic connections and stories. The solo gentleman brings his wife up to join the party (by now we are all clustering around each other excitedly) and we share MORE common threads. “You worked at Levi’s? I did too!” “Your kids were born at Alta Bates? So was my daughter!” The end result is an invitation for all of us to dine together that evening for Thanksgiving dinner. One of the dads is Indian born and takes the initiative to find us the perfect Indian restaurant that serves traditional Indian thali – a platter with tiny metal bowls filled with delicious bites of delectable vegetarian fare. As plans are made and some of us disperse for showers or planned adventures, Kate and I finish our coffee/tea with the couple from Santa Cruz. They are talking about how they love their beach home – having lived there for a year after retiring and moving from the East Bay. They love the flowers, their garden, the Monterey Bay. And just like that, as we speak of dolphins and whales, I feel the tears start to sting my eyelids. Part of me thinks “Oh no, not here!” and part of me just notices the tears – no stopping them. Let them come.

Rishikesh, January 2015.

I began this year in India as a married woman. When friends hear I’m officially divorced, almost all of them say ” Wow that was so fast!” and I think to myself “Maybe for you.” I can see their point. I guess it does seem fast from the outside looking in.

I have never worked harder to keep a relationship going than this one. Ever. And somewhere along the line it started feeling like I was caught in a rip current and the water was going up my nose and pressing me hard but I kept holding on to a tree root and shouting “hang on!” All the while the waves were crashing into my face and I kept clinging. We were both exhausted. And at some point, in April to be exact, I let go.  This ending has been years in the making.

Rishikesh, December. 2015.

11 women are joining us in India. Like individual tributaries, they flow separately and we will all meet in Rishikesh tomorrow; joining together to form one Radiant Tribe. As I type, some of us are in the air, flying over the top of the world in an arctic airstream. This is the first time I have been in India as a single woman. I wonder, as I prepare for our group’s arrival, what lives for each of them – what stories do they have to share? All the individual flavors and colors of them – of all of us – that will soon blend together into a beautiful masala. A lot of our time together will be spent on the banks of the Ganges – in fire ceremony, bathing and making offerings to the river. Mata Ganga – Mother Ganges. The only Hindu goddess that takes the form of water, residing in Shiva’s matted locks, Ganga is fluid in her grace.

India 2015.

Always a land of powerful transformation for me. In my experience, the easiest way for me to traverse India – literally and figuratively – is to cultivate and maintain an attitude of surrender. No agenda. Magical experiences happen for me on days where I have no attachment to plans and I can flow from one experience to the next.

As my tears well up and spill out in Udaipur, grieving the loss of my ocean town, and another layer of grief regarding the end of my marriage, my new friends draw closer. The woman shares that she too mourns the loss of a relationship and even now, 20 years later, she can feel unexpected grief. As she tears up, her husband hands her a tissue. They invite me to visit them in CA. Generous with their compassion.

I can’t think of a better place for me to mark the end of this year than in Rishikesh. I never want to will a relationship into being again. Ever. I am finding that it’s easier to go with the current vs. hang on to the banks. The river that had been pummeling me over the past two years swept me up in its arms and carried me down, out of the froth and I floated. I’m on a rich and beautiful ride. Yes, sometimes it can get bumpy but it keeps moving and I lift up my feet so I can float better.

In the next 10 days I will be sitting in ceremony releasing that which no longer serves, washing away past experiences and baptizing myself anew – creating the next chapter of my life and witnessing and supporting our group to do the same.
I feel safe in the rhythm and flow of ever-changing life.  – Louise Hay

Into the Mystic

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My husband shared an article with me about a whale “Varvara” who journeyed from Russia to Mexico and back again on a completely new migratory path – solo – setting a record for the longest migration ever for a mammal.

What made this she-whale venture into the watery deep,  without familiar landmarks or celestial navigation, creating a brand new migratory pattern, eschewing the ancient wisdom of her mother?  The article states: “she made her way from Russia to Alaska by swimming straight across the Bering Sea, an area with deep water and little in the way of landmarks to guide her. Instead of retracing her steps on the return journey, she swam a new path”.

“Varvara” I whisper to myself.  Something about this story touches a chord in my own mammal heart, and I can feel it beat faster as I shiver with wonder and awe at the enormity and solitude of this epic quest.  Something else, deeper still, thrums with recognition as I see my life unfold, making its own unique arc, separate from my mother’s path.  Forging my way into the deep, the dark, the uncharted.  I am sure there were many times that my mother wondered if I was lost, and sent prayers up to the starry sky that I would find my way.

I think of my own daughter, who has not taken any route I have painstakingly laid out for her.  She has stroked a new path – and I have wrung my hands and wept when I couldn’t see her, lost in the high seas of her choosing.  But I know, on a deep inner level, that my girl must be given the freedom to go her own way – trusting her own sonar, feeling the inner turnings of her compass.  And I must as well, setting out for more unknown, no manual, no familiar land mass, stepping into the mystery.  Re-birthing again and again and again.

On the eve of the new moon, Kelley Rosano has this to say about change:  “What happens when you have one foot in the boat (new life) and one foot on the dock (old life)? Yes, your butt ends up in the water. We do not have to know how the future will work out to move forward. You are being asked to have courage, faith and trust. You may begin a new life, a new career and a new relationship. These can be better than your wildest imagination.

The ego goes into fear because it can’t control what is happening. Control is an illusion. The only thing we can control is our response to what is happening. The ego is going into fear because you have never been here before. You are charting new territory. So, when the ego pulls up past occurrences that are fear based to understand your current experience. This too is an illusion.”

Lonely Hearts Club Band

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Last year I wrote a post about how I always go within at this time of year – actually I wrote that 2 weeks ago too – hah.  Well, I guess it’s a theme for me.  But something is starting to shift and lest you think that I only write about tough things, I wanted to share a bright, beautiful light that is shining on me right now.  It’s called Embracing Loneliness.

Eleven years ago, I admitted to myself that I might be sensitive.  Don’t laugh!  Sensitive people had always made me feel uncomfortable and I had spent a lot of energy distancing myself from people that seemed “overly” sensitive.  It’s been a process of accepting that indeed, I am a very sensitive person, and finding the gifts in that – it’s my creative spark, my drive to connect from the heart with others, what makes me approachable to people.  I have a gentle nature and I try to honor that and try not to get too stressed out, because under stress, my fierce protector comes in and mows everybody down.  Balance is a good thing.  Praying for that.  And working on it.  Always.

Well, now I’m on to a new one – uncomfortable emotion, that is.  Being in a long distance marriage, having one kid live in another state, and traveling a lot myself, I have a lot of time by myself.  All my life I’ve felt lonely and it’s never been comfortable for me.  Never!  I’ve done so much on my own.  I’m an only child, had a lot of freedom as a kid, saw my dad once or twice a year, moved a lot, felt like a ‘weirdo’ because I was ‘different’ (probably being overly sensitive – hah), I’m fiercely independent, a little bit of a loner – ok, a lot of a loner, march to my own drummer, not a joiner, etc.  You can probably get the picture.  All this time, I’ve thought there was something wrong with me for feeling lonely.  I gave ‘loneliness’ a value judegment of wrong…or worse, unevolved – not spiritual enough.  If I was truly connected to God, I would “never be alone” right?  We’re all connected.  So anytime I felt lonely, I felt bad about myself and tried very hard to NOT feel lonely!  Push it down.  Call a friend.  Judge myself.  Blame somebody else (ok, Andy) for making me feel lonely!

And then…something happened…something so small and every day, but for some reason, it got in and I had an “Aha!” moment.  I was having a therapy session with someone that I respect.  He leads workshops all over the world and lives with his wife and son and they all seem to have a very loving, connected relationship with each other.  He was talking about how loneliness can overcome him during his morning meditation time and he will weep with it – even when his beloved family is in the very next room!  He shared that loneliness is universal and just a feeling – a feeling to be felt and expressed and allowed to pass through.  I really did feel like a bull, drunkenly tilting my head to one side and thinking “huh….?  Wha??”  He also went on to say, that loneliness, when felt, can be an indicator of deep love and yearning – something that I can convey and share with others and further my connectedness.

I thought about how so many people in the hospice groups for the newly bereaved are overcome with grief and afraid of how overwhelming it can feel.  What we teach is that the only way ‘out’ is really ‘through’ – feeling the grief is the only thing that lessens the grief.  I am comfortable with grief, I feel it every day.  I allow it in and really ‘go there’, knowing it will pass and my tears will dry in minutes.  What if I applied this to loneliness?

The past several days, I’ve had a lot of time alone in the house, the weather has been bitterly cold, all the animals are using me as a heating pad.

coldRuby

I’ve felt alone and have been missing my family, and have even felt some melancholy and existential angst about the passage of time as well as knowing that I am preparing to be away in India for several weeks – which always makes me feel as if I’m in outer space – as far away from familiar as I can get.

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But what’s different these last few days is that I’m sitting in stillness (usually with at least one animal on top of me) and lighting candles, painting, creating beauty and warmth, and saying out loud “I’m lonely” and really feeling it.  Letting myself go there.  I’m sharing it with others without (and this is big, and new) hoping somebody (ok, Andy) will make it better.  And guess what?  Big surprise.  It’s passing!  Not only is it passing, it’s kind of welcome.  In a  poignant way.  Like shedding a tear for a beloved grandparent – so sweet to remember their face, and sad to miss their embrace, but heart-opening to connect to that loving memory.  This moment of loneliness connects me to my heart.  I long for my husband and connect to the love I have for him.  I notice the beauty of the falling snow.  I’m present and aware that this moment is fleeting.  I am grateful to be in my own good company.  I heat soup.  I feed the cats.  I walk the dog.  I feel content.  So simple.  So big.

Early Morning Sunrise
Early Morning Sunrise

There is a loneliness more precious than life. There is a freedom more precious than the world. Infinitely more precious than life and the world is that moment when one is alone with God.  – Rumi

Chakra Series – 2nd Chakra

Beach BlissAnd forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  – Kahlil Gibran

The second chakra is about pleasure, sensuality, touch, sexuality, creativity, fire, passion, life.   Its essence is water.  When open, there is an openeess to intimacy, an ability to express oneself freely, and a level of comfort with one’s sexuality.

When I was 25, living in the Midwest, I knew I was ready for a change.  I wanted to move west and applied to several colleges in WA, OR and CA.  I flew out to Eugene for a school visit and then drove down the coast of Oregon with a friend and landed in the Bay Area.  We stayed with some friends of hers in Berkeley in a communal household that seemed like the “overground” railroad stop for dead-heads and free spirits.  Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore.  The beauty of the Berkeley hills, the smell of jasmine in the air, the bountiful potlucks and the constant stream of colorful people coming in and out of the house awakened my yearning for life, like a hibernating bear smelling the winds of Spring.

One day we drove to “Red Rocks”, a nude beach just south of Stinson.  It was my first nude beach. We parked on a cliff and hiked our way down.  Far below, I could make out tiny brown people playing Ultimate frisbee (naked!) in the sparkling surf.  A few hours later, I was splashing in the waves, feeling the water on my bare skin and throwing a disc, leaping and jumping with abandon.  I felt like I was “home” and free in a way I had never experienced before.  I was sold.  I flew back to Illinois, packed up my car, grabbed my cat and drove back to Berkeley to the purple house on Oregon Street to begin my new life in CA.

That was 24 years ago.

Along the way, there has been plenty of “life” to fill in those 24 years.  College, Grad School, work, lovers, marriage, children, divorce, re-marriage,  friendships, yoga teacher trainings, ceremonial arts training, Reiki training, hospice training, work, travel.  Somewhere in all of that living, I think I lost sight of that free-spirit that is my nature.  One day, sitting in a women’s circle, the facilitator asked “If you were to die today, would you feel like you had reached your fullest sexual potential?”  I was shocked at how fast my mind screamed “NO!”

It’s virtually impossible to be a woman in this society and not have experienced unwanted sexual energy/attention at best, and sexual abuse at worst.  At 13, I was my full height (5’9″) and looked much older than I was. I attracted male attention and had no idea what to do with it,  I became overwhelmed and shut down.  I also had an aura of shame about this attention, as if somehow I had done something to make these men think they could speak to me inappropirately or touch me intimately.  I was confused and scared.  A part of me – my second chakra – closed down.    “The second chakra is water ruled.  Water holds emotional memories of past hurts and sexual abuse.  Deep healing is possible through this sacred vortex.  With great love and care it is possible to reclaim one’s eternal innocence and purity.”  (from the Triple Goddess Tarot)

This year, 2014, has been the year of consciously reclaiming my “eternal innocence.”   I am rediscovering my true nature; which is a sensual, creative, free-spirited being. As I near 50, I  ask myself, “If not now, when?”  This is my one good life in this body and I want to make it memorable and potent!   On the winter solstice last year, I set an intention to do the Level 1 training at the Human Awareness Institute.  The Level 1 workshop is titled “Love is a Miracle” and focuses on opening the heart, accepting and loving your body, and experienicng love and trust with others, among other things.  When I looked at their website, all I saw was “Love, Intimacy and Sexuality Workshops” and it was an edgy step for me to sign up to do this weekend – solo!  I can’t speak highly enough of the caliber of facilitation, the sweetness of the participants and the potency of the exercises I was lead through over the course of the weekend.  The other men and women who were in the training were sweet, courageous, gorgeous souls that I connected with deeply.  It was life changing for me.  Deep bow to my husband for letting this butterfly fly free and be there to greet me upon my return.  I know he is feeling the benefits of my deeper love and kinder heart.  I’m in love with the world right now, and it feels amazing!

Yesterday, in Santa Cruz, I went to the nude beach and met up with some friends.  We played frisbee in the sparkling surf and I felt alive and embodied – sprinting across the sand, leaping in the air to catch the disc, diving in the waves.  There were moments of pure joy of movement where the appreciation for my body bubbled up within and I laughed outloud.  I felt ageless, beautiful and sexy.  I thought to myself…”If I die tomorrow, I hope my friends remember me just like this.”  This is my essence, my second chakra spinning freely, an orange disc.  Afire with Shakti, sensual goddess, my passion for life dripping off of each strand of hair, empowered with Light and Creativity.

May all things move and be moved in me and know and be known in me.  May all creation dance for joy within me.  -Chinook Psalter

 

hOMe is where the heart is

hOMe sweet hOMe
hOMe sweet hOMe

I once heard a woman say that as soon as she sat on her yoga mat, she was home.  I will go one step further and say, when I sit and connect to my heart, I am home.  There’s a lot going on right now for me around the concept of  ‘home.’  For years I have prayed to be a “Citizen of the World” living the life of a gypsy, meeting people from different countries and learning about their cultures.  I imagined I would have a home base somewhere (Colorado?  California?) but most of the time I would be off having adventures – sometimes by myself, sometimes with Andy and sometimes with the kids.  As I write this, I think it sounds like the musings of a young girl and perhaps sounds immature.  Yet, these “adventures” I’m referring to stem from a deep desire to be of service, to connect from the heart with humanity, to experience the “oneness” in all things and to show this world to my kids.  To expand my boundaries into the unfamiliar, because in doing so, I get out of my ‘self’ with a small ‘s’ and see that I am a drop of water in a vast beautiful ocean.

vast

I once went to a homeopathist for a consultation.  After several hours of questions, she gave me my personal remedy – not for an ailment, but for who I am:  Falco peregrinus.

Know what that is?  Falcon.  Peregrin Falcon.  I looked it up.  Falco Peregrinus is Latin for Falcon Wanderer.  Yup.  Sounds about right.  I’ve lived in 2 countries and 11 states, and moved over 23 times.  In some Native American culture, Falcon is referred to as “The Stranger.”  I can relate.

Andy and I drove out to California this summer on our 3rd annual road trip.  Just us.  No cell phone service, no computers.  Just the two of us, a great playlist and a lot of sky.

Big Sky (somewhere in Utah)
Big Sky (somewhere in Utah)

Want to know what’s living for your partner?  Sit in a car with them for 2 days.  And listen, really listen, to what they have to say.  Turns out, sweetie has been phoning it in on our daily life.  (I knew it!)  I’ve been extra busy with kids, India, death work while he’s been busy with work but with a growing dissatisfaction with his time off.  This is a guy who is feeling his mortality, a man who loves the ocean and has never lived near one.  A man nearing retirement who has never had the luxury of time to himself.  I’m all about freedom (falcon, remember?) I never want to feel trapped and sure as hell don’t want my partner to feel trapped.

For the next hour, somewhere in Utah, under the vast expanse of sky, I listened to my husband talk about how unhappy he was in his daily life.  How he longs to live near the ocean before he gets too old to appreciate it.  How he’s lived in Boulder for the past 28 years and how he’s ready to leave.  A life lived for others…wives, companies, children – and now maybe it’s his turn…

The blessing of this talk was that I heard – really heard – him.  I took it seriously.  I love him and want him to be happy.  I want us to both feel free, never trapped.  Andy’s conclusion was that he could never live in CA because I wasn’t ready to make a permanent move – yet.  And so, he was trapped.  Stuck.  Grounded.

Long story short…we signed a year lease on a beach cottage in Santa Cruz.  Over the next year, Andy will live there two thirds time.  I’ll be there at least a third of the year.  This means we will be spending some time apart.  This means that sometimes I will be living in Boulder without Andy.   As much as I consider myself a free spirit, I have been surprisingly challenged by this new arrangement.  My beliefs around home, marriage and parenting are crumbling and there is no manual for this!  Where is my manual!!!  (shaking fist!)  Once again, I am pioneering a different vision of what is “normal” (I don’t think there is a normal per se) and I can’t find the “how to” manual.

Home Sweet Home in Santa Cruz
Home Sweet Home in Santa Cruz

When I am in Santa Cruz, I feel suspended in amber – like I have stepped out of my “real” life into a fantasy life I have dreamed up for myself.   I have a beautiufl yoga practice in Santa Cruz with an amazing community that has welcomed me.  I ride my bike everywhere.  I have a beach house where every thing in it has been carefully chosen by Andy and me.   I sit at the harbor and watch dolphins (yes, dolphins) play in the surf.  I surf!  I paddleboard.  I am going to learn the ukelele and paddle the outrigger canoe with other women on Thursday mornings.

When I’m in Santa Cruz, on a long weekend with Andy, I miss my kids.  half of my heart longs to be with them.  When Andy and I are apart, I am loving that he is filling up at the beach, giving himself the gift of being near the ocean and I am missing him and looking forward to the time we will be back together.  When I am in India, skyping from outer space, nothing could be more poignant that calling my children and getting the answering machine.  It’s rare that we are ALL together and when it happens, I cherish it.  Heart overflowing.

“There is nothing from outside. Try to understand that. All is in you. You are the storehouse of your totality.”

-Yogi Bhajan

True Confessions – Part 1

Every day I make a ‘to do’ list and I write: “blog post about India.”

'to do' lists
‘to do’ lists

I usually get everything done on my list, except the blog post.  Why?  Well…I have a secret to share.  I am sharing this with the hope that it will help others and set me free at the same time.

When I first decided that I wanted to plan a trip to India, a part of me felt that I needed a “draw” – like, I needed a big name or talent to get people to sign up.  I knew I could handle the details and organize the trip, but I didn’t think that I could get people to sign up just because I was leading it.  So I set out to get a well known teacher to co-lead with me.  Only problem was, for different reasons, the teachers weren’t able to do the trip.  This was not working out how I planned.  I kept giving God a squinty-eyed look that said “I am not doing this trip myself God!”  I didn’t want to.  But here’s the dirty little secret…it wasn’t because I didn’t think I could do it – that wasn’t the scary part for me at all – it was because…because…if I couldn’t get enough people to sign up for the trip, and had to cancel, then I would be a FAILURE.  And not only that, but I would fail PUBLICLY.  Everyone would know that I failed.

I wrestled with this for awhile.  I suffered.  During a BARS energy work session with Kate Spear’s gentle questioning, I started to unravel my beliefs around the trip.  What would it take for me to put both feet in regarding the trip?  What would it look like if I partnered with God?  What would it feel like if I let India be the “draw”?  What if I planned a beautiful trip and trusted that the participants would have their own experiences?  I could feel my chest expanding with each question Kate asked.  The true freedom of letting go of any attachment to the outcome…the relief of stepping back and trusting that India, and India alone, would be the bell calling out to each soul.  Partnering with God filled me with trust.  I felt humble and unafraid.  I was committed, both feet in, to follow this journey towards India and see where it would lead me.  There was no failure in trying, only learning.  I made a commitment to move forward.

The very next day, Nancy West McGuire sent me a freind request on Facebook.  I knew her peripherally but I had always been too shy insecure to reach out.  I accepted her freind request and shared my secret that I had always wanted to be her friend but had been holding back.  She responded instantly and warmly, saying “Hello new friend!  Life is too short to be shy!”  and we set up a date to meet and have tea.  Two days later, we met at one of my favorite cafes in Boulder and talked for hours – discovering many common themes, one of which was a shared passion for India.

In Part 2  I’ll write about how a Facebook request, and a truth shared with vulnerability from the heart led me to be co-leading a trip to India with Nancy.  See you tomorrow!

Escape to Reality

“Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.”
— Rumi

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Sometimes when a dream dies, it can feel like a death. A death of the self – an idea, a belief, or an identity…or all of the above.

Our family has had a series of big hits lately. To protect everyone’s privacy I won’t go into details, but I can share that there were a lot of surprises – the kind that make your mouth make a silent ‘o’ as you stop to catch your breath. The kind that make you wonder if you ever really knew a person like you thought you did. The kind that make you take a step back and wonder who you are. Heavy stuff.

Miraculously, Andy and I happened to have a trip to Mexico scheduled in April. One week in paradise at an all-inclusive. Nothing to do but lie in the sun, float in the bath water Caribbean, eat a ridiculous amount of food, make love, and share our broken and gentle hearts with each other.

When we arrived last Sunday, we brought only the hope that time would restore us. Neither of us are strangers to reinvention and we both know from experience that when one door closes, another opens. But this time, I will admit we were going on blind faith.

The lunar eclipse this week signified the end of an old way and new beginnings. On the day of the eclipse, Andy and I sat on the beach and took stock of our life – the cast of characters, our finances, our work goals for the year, our deepest desires.

I love this man for his ability to look at the big picture and stay in the field of possibilities with me. What emerged was a beautiful plan (I love a plan) that is based on reality – not fantasy – and it is quite amazing and enlivening. I won’t spoil it by detailing it, but let’s just say it involves a lot of travel and more beaches…feeding the soul while still actively parenting two teenagers and an 11 year old. Of course, more hospice work as well. Appreciating what IS vs. what we wish could be.

Thank you to the ocean for restoring me. Thank you to my sweet friends for loving me. Thank you to my children for grounding me. Thank you to my husband for your truth and vulnerability. Thank you life for all your gifts. I’m committed to staying present to all of it.

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