Category Archives: Core Values

Wishcasting Wednesday

picture from jamie’s post

What do you wish to make room for?

Myself. I am outwardly focused so much of the time (what I have to do for my paid work, what I want to communicate on my blog, what my tiny family needs, what I want to share, what my body requires) that I forget myself, deny myself, abandon and reject myself.

Meditation practice. It’s the thing that gets cheated in a day that’s too busy, when I’m overwhelmed, but it’s the thing that is medicine, a cure and comfort to those conditions.

My hungers and core values. This is an ongoing shifting and clearing to make room. I can get caught up in should and external expectations, in pleasing, perfecting, performing, and these important, deep desires get squashed.

Joy. This hurts to admit, makes me so sad, but I am caught right now in a cycle of dread, panic, and depression, and I’m not allowing for joy. I either “don’t have time,” am too tired, or am so focused on and upset about the bad stuff I can’t see beyond it, can’t see past its shadow. I wish to make room for laughter and light, for softening into appreciation, for joy.

Rest. I’m still so bad at this. I carry a mental to-do list with me everywhere, heavy and long, adding to it and updating it constantly, pushing and doing and going. I wish to make room for relief, relaxation, rest, time to do nothing, accomplish nothing, restore.

Connection and service. These are so deeply wed, so closely joined that I don’t even know how to wish for them separately. I wish to notice and be noticed, to help and belong, to offer love and be loved in return.

Grief. I wish to make room for this profound sadness, the heartbreaking loss, to open up to how big it really is, how vast, to allow it to fill the space it fills.

Uncertainty and impermanence. Instead of rejecting, trying to control, wishing things would be different, I long to open the door, make room for this truth.

Love. There could always be more room for this–the answer to every question, the true and deep longing underlying every other wish ever made.

Day of Rest

It’s not about letting go of worry or getting over fear.

It’s about letting go of the idea that you can control everything, or anything.

It’s about making space for uncertainty and doubt.

It’s about surrendering to impermanence and getting past resistance to change.

It’s about “having the life you want by being present to the life you have,” (the subtitle to Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening).

It’s about confidence, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment,” (the brilliant Susan Piver said that).

It’s about paying attention, being mindful and present.

It’s about letting go of both hope and fear.

It’s about having faith in basic goodness, our innate and fundamental and natural wisdom and compassion, our essential and shared humanity.

It’s about risking heartbreak and failure, knowing that it’s so much better than being numb.

It’s about living a wholehearted life–“engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging,” (from Brene’ Brown’s new book, Daring Greatly).

It’s about refusing to smash yourself to bits, and not being afraid of yourself.

It’s about choosing vulnerability over safety and predictability, letting go of the longing for solid ground, for a life of nothing but happiness and security.

It’s about love.

It’s about having the courage to face your own life, show up, keep your heart open, and allow yourself to be seen.

It’s about being brave.

a winnebago parked in my neighborhood, the brave model

Who’s with me?

Cultivating Courage and Daring Greatly

Brave BellyRecently, I have been feeling a real need to be brave. My life has been presenting all kinds of opportunities to show up with an open heart, even though I am terrified. There are two things coming up I am certain will be of great help to me in this practice: Andrea Scher’s Cultivating Courage ecourse and Brene’ Brown’s Daring Greatly book and read-along.

Brene’ Brown’s book Gifts of Imperfection was a critical resource when I started the Life Rehab this blog chronicles. It made me see I had been in a long term abusive relationship–with myself–and helped me to understand the way out of it. I’ve had the opportunity to hear her talk multiple times about her work and research, her life and experience, and her new book is going to be brilliant, (my copy is in transit, on its way to me as I write this, and I can’t wait).

P.S. Look at what showed up just a few hours later!

By showing up, opening her heart, sharing the truth (part research, part personal experience) about shame and vulnerability, daring greatly, and living a wholehearted life, Brene’ Brown is helping so many to discover the value of being brave, in being exactly who we are, in living a wholehearted life. This is the trailer for the book:

And what better to match the Daring Greatly read-along than a Cultivating Courage class with Andrea Scher?! Everything Andrea does is magic. I have taken three classes with her, and every one expands my sense of possibility and purpose. She is electric, pure love energy, vibrant and wise and playful. Just thinking about this latest offering, I feel braver already.

Andrea asked for courage stories from her readers to use in this class. I sent her one, and want to share it with you, kind and gentle reader. Maybe you need a little dose of courage too? Maybe I’ll see you in class?

Our first dog Obi, a Rottweiler/German Shepherd/Husky mix my husband and I rescued at eleven weeks old, was diagnosed with lymphoma, a treatable but incurable canine cancer, right after he turned seven years old. Just after his birthday but before the horrible phone call confirming his cancer, I told my friend, “I don’t know what it is about seven, but I feel like if something happens to him now, I don’t have the right to say it’s not fair. He’s had a really good life.” A few days later, when I told her about his cancer, she whispered, “Do you remember what you said? Do you think you knew?”

I didn’t, couldn’t have guessed it. Other than a tiny lump in his chest the size of a pea, he was completely healthy, vibrant and fully alive. We didn’t know the lump was a swollen lymph node, weren’t even worried enough to make a special appointment to have it checked, simply waited and asked during his next visit. Our vet insisted on doing a needle biopsy right away. The resulting diagnosis was a complete shock, the worst kind of surprise.

Courage can mean either doing something that frightens you, or having strength in the face of pain or grief. Caring for a terminally ill loved one requires the full measure of courage, the entire weight of its meaning. There is no place to hide when the quality of a being’s life is your responsibility, when they are sick and cannot help themselves, when you love them with your whole heart. Because Obi couldn’t tell me what he wanted, it was up to me to intuit what he needed, and to judge when his suffering got to be too much. I had to be present with his pain, and love him enough to let him go. When the time came to make that decision, I made the phone call, provided a loving and safe space, and stayed with Obi as he took his last breath, with my heart open, broken and raw, loving him and letting him go—courageous.

Loving any dog takes courage. In all likelihood, you will outlive them. It might even be your responsibility to make an end of life decision for them. No matter how it happens or when, you won’t be ready, it won’t be okay–and knowing that, you open your heart, invite them into your life anyway. To love a dog, to love anything mortal, knowing you will eventually be separated, that you will ultimately lose them, is the purest form of courage I know. The magic, the medicine is that every time my heart breaks, it expands, gets stronger, and my capacity to love grows with it. Because of my grief, my loss, I have the heart of a warrior, open to both the tenderness and the terror of life.

sweet obi

Resolve: Mid-Year Review

On this, the first day of the second half of this year of Retreat, I have been reflecting on what I’ve experienced so far, and contemplating what’s to come. My word for the year was Retreat, with the clarifying words being rest, practice, balance, and transformation. Retreat, a time to remove myself from the usual expectations and obligations, to study and practice.

My life, my experience, my path in the last six months has been 1000 shades of love, 1000 shades of weird, 1000 shades of magic. Sometimes, I feel like a starfish caught on the beach, moving as fast as I can but my progress barely perceptible to others, or like a butterfly just out of the chrysalis, slightly confused about my new state of being, sitting on a branch waiting for my wings to dry. I am utterly transformed, but exactly the same. I am as I always was, but suddenly awake, and in that way so completely different.

image by peter harrison

Through all the classes, blogging and regular features, writing and meditation retreats, workshops, books, challenges, practices, the genuine and constant effort of the past six months, I feel a little like I’ve been in graduate school, earning a Master’s of Arts in Wholehearted Living, a Master’s of Science in Applied Practice, a Master’s of Fine Arts in Loving. My teachers and guides have been Susan Piver, Andrea Scher, Susannah Conway, Brene’ Brown, Laurie Wagner, Jen Lemen, Jennifer Louden, Rachel Cole, Patti Digh, Geneen Roth, Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron, Jamie Ridler, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Pema Chodron, my dogs, and so many others, along with an amazing group of fellow students on the same path–many of whom I’ll be meeting and connecting with at the World Domination Summit later this week.

room with a view

I still struggle with perfectionism, with lack of self-care and self-love, with being gentle with myself and present with my experience, and yet so much has changed. I don’t suffer from the crushing depression I did for so long. I’m not riddled with anxiety and stress. My path is no longer muddled by confusion or lack of clarity. Surprisingly, much of the transformation has been remembering who I am rather than becoming something else, about getting clear about the purpose and superpowers born into the world with me, a repeated mantra of “This is me. I am enough and I have enough. This is who I am, wise and compassionate and powerful.”

I still struggle to rest. I know intellectually how important it is, that I can’t give what I hope to from a place of overwhelm or exhaustion, that self-care is really just another way of ensuring the quality of my offering–but I long to know this in my gut, in my blood and bones, deep in my heart, to embody it fully. To practice it in the same way I do so many other things that are essential, that I do regularly without having to apply any special effort, like making 1/2 a cup of coffee in the morning, feeding and walking my dogs, or writing morning pages, these things that happen each and every day, no question and no matter what.

dexter and sam know how to play

Since rest is still an issue for me, balance has not been achieved–I find it for brief moments, but it’s not yet sustainable. I still work too much, which means I don’t eat or sleep or exercise or play like I should. Practice, which is deeper and richer (yoga, meditation, writing, reading, dog, walking/hiking, and love) is helping me to contemplate, consider, creep my way towards a middle path, a middle way. I have confidence, curiosity, and more clarity than ever, so there’s no despair or smashing myself to bits about it, (most of the time, anyway).

I’ve experienced so many things I wished for, longed for, imagined and dreamed about–my sense of what is possible has been expanded and reinforced to such a degree that I can start to relax a bit, sink into being, into the present moment, into “this minute of eternity.”

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~Rumi

Wishcasting Wednesday

from jamie’s post

What heights do you wish to reach?

In the Shambhala Buddhism tradition, “there is a developmental process for deepening and furthering authentic presence…called the warrior’s path of the four dignities,” (Shambhala Training Glossary). One of the four dignities is the Dragon. Sakyong Mipham Rinphoche describes the Dragon this way:

The dragon’s confidence is prajna, deep wisdom based on knowing how things are. The dragon knows we’re always trying to project a concrete world onto a fluid process, mistaking our ever-changing experience for a self. Like the elements, this kind of wisdom doesn’t need to be propped up. It is a direct experience of reality, empty and ungraspable.

As the wisdom of the dragon destroys our illusions, we begin to understand basic goodness, the unconditional purity and confidence of all. With this view, life itself becomes our source of energy, and the enlightened world begins to appear. The wish-fulfilling jewel of wisdom and compassion are liberated, and we can play in the blessing and magic of our everyday existence.

I wish to reach the heights of the Dragon, to soar in the sky, gentle and wise, above all my illusions and confusion and suffering, to “play in the blessing and magic of our everyday existence.” More specifically, if I had to guess, that might look like this:

  • Doing work I love, work I’d do anyway, for pay. To spend my days writing, making art, practicing yoga and meditation, engaging with amazing women, studying and serving. I would make a loving living, with the same quality of benefits and pay I have now. I’m not going to rush or push this, don’t need to force what I love to pay my bills, but I think that eventually it’s possible, and that I would be of more value to others, be more personally satisfied if this were how things were.
  • Yoga and Meditation Instructor Certification. These practices have meant so much to me, been so helpful, that I want to be able to share them, teach them, and want the proper training and wisdom to do so ethically and safely.
  • To reach my optimal physical strength and health, quickly and without obstacle. Resting when I need rest, practicing loving self-care, enjoying moving through the world in this body with minimal pain, breathing, walking, hiking, headstands in yoga, running, playing, eating, being nourished.
  • To be in a position to give, to help, to decrease suffering in the world.
  • Published and paid writing. Again, I don’t necessarily want to strip the joy from my writing by making it too work-like, but I also think there’s value in being recognized, validated for that work in these tangible ways. I don’t have a specific idea of what this might look like, but it would make me happy for my books to be a physical manifestation in the world, to be held in people’s hands.
  • Confidence. To manifest the funny, silly, brave, confident, open-hearted, generous, wise, gentle, kind, and creative women that lives deep in my heart. I want everyone else to know her like I do. They don’t all have to love her, I know she’s not for everyone, but I want her to be seen, to be known, to be realized and embodied, instead of a secret I kept, instead of a quiet whisper in the dark. To be confident in the way Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

R is for Retreat

my shrine

Retreat is my word for the year. The qualities of retreat I hope to manifest: practice, balance, rest, and transformation. At four months in, a third of the way done, it seems the perfect moment to give you a progress report, to tell you what I’ve learned while on retreat so far.

I am studying a lot with the “master teachers” of my path, mainly women, artists and healers, studying with them both directly and at a distance: Pema Chödrön, Susan Piver, Tara Brach, Andrea Scher, Jen Lemen, Brene’ Brown, Susannah Conway, Rachel Cole, Laurie Wagner, Patti Digh, Jennifer Louden, and Mary Oliver. There are men too: Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Daniel Collinsworth, Leo Babauta, Ze Frank, Chris Guillebeau, Jonathan Fields, Hugh McCleod, and Austin Kleon.

This isn’t even the full list, simply the primary instigators, the masters. I am reading, studying, taking classes, practicing, connecting and communicating with a rich, vibrant community of creative and compassionate people, and learning so much.

I am continuing to practice: writing, yoga, meditation, and dog. Yoga is steady, constant. There’s nothing new to report there. My meditation practice is deeper, stronger, more intense, more heartfelt and committed. Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project instigated the shift, the softening, and continues to support my practice. I also took vows and recommitted to working with a meditation instructor and participating in my local sangha.

As for dog, every day this practice deepens, as does my relationship with my dogs, my love and appreciation for them. Sam continues to teach me about enthusiasm and patience. Dexter reminds me there’s joy and play in every moment, even as we age and our body begins to change and confuse us. Losing Rocky, along with Dexter getting older, is a contemplation on impermanence–there is enough time, but time is short.

they might be giants

And writing…this is the practice that is the most transformed. Morning pages, this daily writing practice, has been constant for the past 3-4 years. But, starting a blog, taking myself seriously, going to a writing and meditation retreat with Susan Piver, taking Telling True Stories, sharing more of my writing publicly and regularly, has allowed me to rediscover, to claim, my voice and my confidence. I am also clear about my purpose for writing and then sharing it: writing is at first an act of self-care, and then it becomes service. I connect to my basic goodness, my innate wisdom and compassion and strength, and out of this renewed awareness and mindfulness, I can share my insights and hopefully ease suffering in the world.

I believe that at the heart of everything we might judge as “wrong” with our self, our life, our community, our culture, our world is that we have forgotten basic goodness. We have forgotten that we are all connected and fundamentally the same, all of us desiring to be happy and safe, that everything, including us, is precious and sacred, that we can, with confidence, be with what is, as it is–even the messy, confused, brutal, and sharp bits. We are brilliant and sane, one blink of an eye from being completely awake, and brave and strong enough to work with whatever arises.

The things I am still working with, struggling with are resting and my relationship with food. I am getting better. I am more fully embodied, connected to my body and aware of my actual hungers, more loving and kind in my response to them, more willing and likely to provide what is needed, to feed the right wolf.

These habitual patterns, of pushing too hard and too far, pandering to ego and fear, smashing myself to bits, are old, deep, and sticky, so they shift, but more like the way water wears at a rock. The eye doesn’t see the change, but it is happening, slowly and with time transformation happens. There is more love, more kindness, gratitude and confidence.

In terms of my food issues, I realized that at the heart of it was the need for self-love. There is no diet, exercise program, external wisdom, strategy, technique, plan, or routine that would “fix” it. All I have to do is love myself, realize that I am precious and treat myself accordingly. When you know you are precious, you care for yourself, you get enough rest and exercise, you feed yourself well. It all falls into place when your perspective is love, gentle and kind and wise and brave.

just as i am

The biggest realization so far is that I didn’t need to change.

This process of life-rehab has revealed that I didn’t need to become someone else, different or improved, but rather I simply needed to remember, to sink in to, BE who and where I already am. My strengths are exactly those I was born with. I am, and always was, generous, sensitive, kind, insightful, wise, creative, imaginative, curious, wanting connection and community but also needing time alone with stillness and silence and space, a nature and animal lover, collaborative, easy going, nurturing, loving, peaceful, and funny. This is who I have always been, but I learned to mask it, hide it, torture it, because I believe it, believed I wasn’t loveable or enough or worthy or whole or healthy already.

While on retreat, I have remembered myself. I love myself, I appreciate everything I am and everything I have (most of the time), and I am brave enough to be vulnerable, to risk that I’ll show up as I am, my fully embodied and real self, and you might not love me, might not even like me, might actively dislike and reject me. That’s becoming more okay. I love myself, I have faith in my basic goodness, and in that way, I don’t have to depend on you as a source of love and acceptance–I’ve already got that covered. This frees me up to get busy with the real work, of realizing and manifesting my basic goodness, my “buddha-nature,” and being of service, easing suffering where and when I can.

This is freedom. This is life. This is love. I am love.

path with a heart

I want you to believe yourself

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. ~Anne Lamott

For the past week, I have been a mess. I am dealing with a health thing, an imbalance that is making me anxious and depressed and tired and cold and heavy, (if you have a functioning thyroid, thank it right now for all the good work it does for you). I don’t want to get out of bed, and if I do, I certainly don’t want to leave the house, sometimes can’t trust myself to open my mouth, and a lot of the time, I feel like I’m about to cry. I have a doctor’s appointment early next week that will hopefully begin the process of getting that balance restored.

Then there’s Sam. He is sweet and goofy and I love him so much, but he’s also a challenge for me. We had our training session yesterday with the amazing Sarah Stremming from Cognitive Canine, and while I’d hoped to feel better, lighter, more confident and calm afterwards, instead I felt overwhelmed and shaky and discouraged. Watching him be frustrated and anxious and feeling like I don’t quite understand how to help him navigate that just makes me so sad. Sarah gave me a lot of new information and I was trying to process and remember, what to do and what not to do, but I felt myself sinking lower and lower. I went to bed at 8 pm, because I could no longer keep myself upright and I needed to have a good cry. I know that a lot of this is due to my thyroid being out of whack, and because of that I can’t completely trust myself right now, but when you are in it, it’s hard to be rational, to remember that there’s that thing that is distorting your perception–you just feel what you feel, and it doesn’t feel good.


On Kind Over Matter’s Friday’s Lovelies list this week, there’s a link to Tanya Geisler’s “Thing Finding Thursday,” (you might remember, I wrote a post about “The Thing” before), which she describes as “stories of people who found their Things, and how they did it — so you can do it, too.” I looked through Tanya’s archives, and found two videos I wanted to watch: one with Dyana Valentine and one with Jennifer Louden, two of my favorite women.

Dyana Valentine talked about rooting what you do, your thing, in your strengths and core values. And she reminds us that “just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you have any business doing it.” Towards the end of the video, when Tanya asks her “what do you want for the people watching you right now?” and Dyana’s answer had me in tears. She says:

I want for you to believe yourself. And I don’t mean believe in yourself but I want you to believe yourself. I want you to believe what you experience. I want you to believe what you say to yourself and to other people. I want you to believe that you are on the planet and we are happy that you are here. I want you to believe that if you know something is not working for you that you can make that change–you don’t have to make it now, but I want you to believe that you know the difference between right and right now.

Jennifer Louden said of The Thing in her “Thing Finding Thursday” video with Tanya “it’s okay if you found it and abandoned it and found it and abandoned it and found it and abandoned it. And we can be ashamed that we’ve given up and we’re here again, or we can celebrate and get support.” She finishes up by saying:

Sometimes the things that you most care about are the things that you’re most afraid of, so you may know very well what your thing is and you may know that you may not be able to bring it to life the way that you want and that may break your heart, but don’t let that heartbreak stop you from trying.


“Warriorship means that when there are obstacles, we do not back off,” (Sakyong Mipham). So, as I feel discouraged, brokenhearted, and messy, I choose to get support and help rather than to give up. I believe myself. And I don’t let the heartbreak stop me from trying. This is my dog, my thing, my life. “I know the more I embrace My Thing, the more exciting and dangerous the adventure of life will become,” (Brandy Glows on Thing Finding Thursday). I am challenged and afraid of failure, and more than a little tired, but I am not broken, I am not done. I am already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who I was born to be.