Category Archives: Courage

Day of Rest

Sweet, lionhearted Henry, a beautiful beast of a dog, died yesterday. Only one day before, his mom learned he had an inoperable tumor on his liver and was already very sick, too sick, and she’d have to let him go. I never met Henry, or his mom, but the pictures and stories she’s shared made me love him, and her, anyway.

Every loss like this is folded into my own. I almost can’t separate the sadness of losing my Dexter (or Obi before him) from the loss of every other dog loved and missed by someone, just like me. And certain dogs, for whatever reason and especially if they have cancer, touch that tender raw spot that I carry with me everywhere, always.

That’s what they don’t tell you about a broken heart — it’s not that it gets broken and then fixed, restored to its former state, but rather it gets broken open. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking around in the world not just naked, no clothes on, but with all my skin peeled off, my chest cracked open, utterly vulnerable and wounded, nothing to hide behind, no armor or mask or shield, no protection.

Oddly enough, this is an experience I chose. This is my path. You can armor up and numb out, run away or reject this way of living. It’s entirely possible through all sorts of means to disconnect from reality, to opt out. And yet, two years ago I made a distinct, conscious choice otherwise.

Committing to benefit others is traditionally called the path of the bodhisattva…the path of the spiritual warrior whose weapons are gentleness, clarity of mind, and an open heart. The Tibetan word for warriormeans “the one who cultivates bravery.” As warriors in training, we cultivate the courage and flexibility to live with uncertainty–with the shaky, tender feeling of anxiety, of nothing to hold on to–and to dedicate our lives to making ourselves available to every person, in every situation. ~Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

This is my path, to ease suffering, in myself and the world. There are days like today when I am feeling sad and a little stuck that I wonder if I can really do this, and yet when I give any attention to contemplating the matter, I understand that for me there really is no other way.

Self-Compassion Saturday: Laurie Wagner

Again I caught myself this morning thinking “you should have these posts written earlier, ready to go.” But first there was meditation, a half cup of coffee and the writing of morning pages, and then there were dogs to be walked and I wanted to get to the Farmer’s Market before all the strawberries were gone. I let go of the should, gently set it down on top of the pile of mail I still haven’t looked at, certain that my dear friend and teacher Laurie Wagner, of all people, knows the importance of going on a long walk, taking a pause, focusing on the moment as it is, as it arises, and would completely understand how a strawberry is so much more than a piece of fruit.

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Laurie Wagner is the creator of 27 Powers, “a writing teacher + coach, author of 7 books, mixed-media artist, fervent collage-maker, mother of two, and a one-time amateur racquetball champion.” I’ve written about Laurie before, saying in that post that “Laurie’s energy is radiant, vibrant and raw, lighting up and electrifying the space, however virtual it might be. She is at once your favorite grade school teacher, most popular camp counselor, beloved childhood friend (the one who climbed trees and loved books), best girlfriend, and precious mother.” She’s recently dubbed herself “Tender Truth Serum, In Human Form” and I couldn’t agree more.

I get to finally meet Laurie in person in September, get to hang out with her three different times over the course of three months. I’ve been having dreams about it, and in each one, I am talking to someone else in a crowded room, turn to see her for the first time and burst into tears. When I imagine meeting her, there is a sense of intense joy, but also an odd mix of relief and sadness, as if there’s a part of me saying “where have you been? I’ve been waiting, looking for so long.” It’s enough to almost make me believe in reincarnation, like she was my guru, my beloved, or my mother in a past life and I’ve been searching for her ever since.

As a teacher, Laurie has a particular kind of magic, power, love. It makes me think of what Thich Nhat Hanh said, that “you must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” Laurie’s teaching loves you in just this way. When I find myself in a moment of not knowing what to say, or being afraid to say what I know is true, all I have to do is imagine Laurie, touch in to her energy, and I am brave, free to write what is wild and raw and beautiful. I’m so happy to share her answers to my self-compassion questions with you today, so happy for you to meet her if you hadn’t already.

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image by andrea scher

1. What does self-compassion mean, what is it? How would you describe or define it?

Because I am imperfect, because I am flawed, I allow myself to make mistakes. I will bumble things and the wrong words will come out of my mouth. I will hurt you and I will hurt myself. But because my heart is good, I’ll know that I never meant to. And it’s this “never meant to” that enables me to forgive myself and to forgive you too. I believe in the words, “ I’m sorry.” What else is there to say?

My husband and I had a therapist who told us that the only two words couples need to say to one another are, “I’m sorry.” So my husband and I made these little badges that said, “I’m sorry.” Whenever we failed each other – which was daily – we held these badges out to the other. We didn’t mean to hurt each other, but we knew we would. This is how we found compassion for each other and our marriage.

image from Laurie's website

image from laurie’s website

2. How did you learn self-compassion? Did you have a teacher, a guide, a path, a resource, a book, a moment of clarity or specific experience?

I’ve always been incredibly hard on myself. My Father was hard on himself. We looked so valiant, so full of humility – but it wasn’t for either of us. Sure we both had a desire to learn and to grow, but I think we were just as afraid that we needed to be perfect so we wouldn’t get creamed by people. My desire to be perfect has a lot of FUCK YOU in it – as in “FUCK YOU – now you can’t touch me.” Anyone with an alcoholic parent will understand this.

Someone once said of me that I was the most tender, tough person they knew. I think that’s true of me and age has helped me to become even a little more tender. There’s just so much each day that I can’t control and that I have to shake my head at. It’s getting easier to let go because holding on – trying to get a perfect dinner on, AND get to the gym, AND meet a friend, AND edit those papers, AND be a good mommy is more and more impossible. Self-compassion for me might be emailing every appointment I have over a week and canceling everything. It helps that I surround myself with wonderful people – people who are on the self forgiving path – people who love me – who don’t want to see me cream myself because they know that that doesn’t bring the best out of me, or you, or anyone.

image by andrea scher

image by andrea scher

3. How do you practice self-compassion, what does that experience look like for you?

Recently I fell into the nasty habit of smoking cigarettes. It had been a rough spell in my life and one thing I know about myself is that I tend to reach for immediate gratification when I’m stressed. Coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, shopping. Not in excess, but those are my go-to’s. Sure, I’ll take a bath, or sometimes lie down, but I know myself. The cigarette thing was ugly and I knew it had to come to an end. So I blogged about it. I outed myself instead of holding it inside like some cherished, slimy secret that I was going to feel lousy about. Outing it allowed me to come clean – not in a punishing way – but with compassion and understanding for myself. A lot of people wrote to me about their own tendencies to do something similar. We’re all in the same boat, just different details. I’m not a bad person for smoking, it’s just a bad habit.

Here’s another:

Last week in my writing class I inadvertently hurt a student’s feelings. She began crying, got up from the table, slammed a door and wrote an entire piece about how mad she was. As she read her piece my little tin heart was beating so loud. I was scared. I’d F’d Up – the part of me that wanted to be the best teacher in the world was very uncomfortable. It would be clear that I wasn’t perfect. After she read, I simply apologized in front of the whole class and hugged her. What else could I do? I’m not perfect. But my heart is good. I make mistakes. I learn. What more might I do?

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image by andrea scher

4. What do you still need to learn, to know, to understand? What is missing from your practice of self-compassion, what do you still struggle with?

Self-compassion is something that I get to practice multiple times a day. Every morning when I wake up, I place my hand on my heart and I say, “help me.”

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I’m sure you can see, kind and gentle reader, why I am looking so forward to sitting in one of these chairs at 27 Powers. I’m not entirely sure I won’t burst into flames (immediately after bursting into tears), but I’m so willing to risk it. To find out more about Laurie, to connect with her:

Next on Self-Compassion Saturday: Judy Clement Wall.

P.S. If you didn’t see the first post in this series, you might want to read Self-Compassion Saturday: The Beginning.

P.S.S. Special thanks to Andrea Scher for allowing me to share some of the amazing pictures she’s taken of Laurie.

Wishcasting Wednesday

Nurture-the-Creative-Within

On this Wishcasting Wednesday, Jamie asks, “How do you wish to nurture the creative within?”

I wish to provide her space, the time and room to slow down and stretch out, look closely and contemplate, expand and play, twirl around or sit still in a deep, quiet, safe place all her own.

I wish to give her love, an unconditional sense of herself, brilliant and beautiful, wise and compassionate and powerful, seen and valued, precious and protected.

I wish to balance her effort with ease.

I wish to offer her gentleness, to quiet the critical, mean voices, to stop the pushing and smashing, to silence any “should” or “have to” or “can’t” or “not enough.”

I wish to provide her mindfulness, to allow her attention to be fully in the present moment, hands and heart on the same task.

I wish to practice with her, to show up regularly, to maintain a routine, a way of letting her fully touch the work, to repeat and retrace and revise and remember.

I wish to pause with her, because sometimes doing nothing is the exact thing to do, sometimes staying still to stare at your toes or the sky, to feel a soft furry body against the palm of your hand, to notice your breath going in and out is everything.

I wish to soften to allowing, letting go of resistance or rejection or grasping or pushing or hiding, and simply surrender to what is.

I wish to give her courage, the willingness to be vulnerable and weird, accepting the possibility of being wounded, practicing being brave, showing up and being seen.

I wish her to know and attend to her hunger, to not fear or deny her desire and longing, even when it has teeth, even when it rages, even when it wants what is impossible, even when it wants to love the whole world.

I wish to open her to joy, pure feeling, heart wide open, full of light and love.

I wish to surround her with all the tools and resources she needs to do her heart’s work.

I wish for her connection and community, a tribe of understanding and love and support, a collection of artists and healers and teachers, those with big hearts and amazing ideas and the ability to make her laugh until it hurts.

Something Good

For those of you who are new to my blog, here’s the story behind my Something Good posts: When I am feeling bad, I will often ask my husband Eric to “tell me something good.” When I need something to hang on to, to make me feel better, something to show me that it’s not all bad. When I am in that dark hole, way down at the bottom, and the mean things with teeth are down there with me –”tell me something good.”

He’s really good at it, because even when all he can think of is “I love you,” it totally works. I mean, how great is it that the person that you picked and who said “yes” almost 20 years ago, and knows you better than anyone, knows all the embarrassing and ugly stuff, continues to love you? He usually is able to give me a whole list when I ask him, followed by a hug and “what can I do for you, how can I make you feel better?”

So on A Thousand Shades of Gray, Monday’s feature is: Something Good. I like the idea of gratitude generating joy, and the opportunity my gratitude has to spread joy when I share the good things, so every Monday, I give you a list.

Here’s this week’s list:

1. 5 Plants You (Almost) Never Have to Water on House Logic.

2. Stunning Self-Portraits by a 14-year-old Photographer on Bored Panda.

3. Diana Fayt’s Painted Rocks (& Other Lovely Things) from Lisa Congdon.

4. Be Brave: A Poem-Film for Anyone Asking for Courage to Create from Jeffrey Davis.

5. Cute Pets in Windows from Bold Italics, originally shared by Rachel.

6. Reflections on Fearlessness and Best Links (May), a great list of good stuff from Sandra at Always Well Within, (confession: one of my posts is on the list).

7. Reason to Forgive | DubStep, video of a 12 year old who is an amazing dancer.

8. You’re not needy. You’re starving. from Rachel Cole. Amazing.

9. Out of the water from Lisa Bonchek Adams.

10. Patrick Stewart Speaks About His Childhood, Domestic Abuse and PTSD. The woman involved in this specific moment wrote about it on her blog as well, Let me tell you a thing, about an amazing man named Patrick Stewart.

11. This message from Brave Girls Club came just when I needed it,

Dear Sweet Girl,

You don’t have to have special permission to take a break, you know. You have done enough. When you are tired, and weary and feeling worn out, you need to be kind to yourself and take good care of your body and your spirit.

Please be good to yourself, beautiful friend . . . the world is not the same without the best of you. The people that you love the most have better lives because of you and the people you have not even met yet will have enriched lives because of you.

Your life will be better, happier, more effective, more efficient and more meaningful if you stop and take care of yourself. No more putting guilt trips on yourself or letting anyone else do it. No more working yourself so hard that you can’t even feel anymore . . . it’s time to REALLY nurture and take care of yourself. You are a gift to the world, please take care of YOU. Today’s a great day to start.

12. There’s Just No Time from Paul Jarvis, shared by Laura of Create as Folk.

13. Rijks Museum Free Hi-Res Art Downloads shared by Pugly Pixel.

14. Introducing Prancercise, just silly enough to be kind of awesome.

15. Be the Giver from Danielle LaPorte.

16. 9 Rules for a Simpler Day from Zen Habits.

17. What is Your Gift to the World? on Scoutie Girl.

18. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

Tigers Above, Tigers Below: There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.

19. 7 Things You Need to Stop Doing Every Day from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

20. Make Me: Fabric Gift Bags from Decor8.

21. Celebrate and Embrace Ventures and Adventures from Be More with Less.

22. Her Lilac Jacket on SouleMama. The sweetest pictures! This one is my favorite, (her little hand!).

23. Racists Very Upset Over Interracial Family in Cute Cheerios Commercial. The little girl in this commercial is super cute. Someone posted on Facebook last week about this and added, “Whomever has a problem with this better just go buy a white hood right now and be honest with yourself.” I couldn’t agree more.

24. it’s complicated from Sas Petherick. *sigh*

25. Inside the Paris apartment untouched for 70 years: Treasure trove finally revealed after owner locked up and fled at outbreak of WWII.

26. Your Daily Rock from Patti Digh: your daily rock : what would love do?, and your daily rock : just breathe, and your daily rock : you are enough.

27. Name-calling Has Its Place: BED is Now Named as a Distinct Eating Disorder. So what’s in it for you? from Drop it and Eat.

28. Another Origami Fox from How About Orange. I wish I was better at this. I’d be making some of these, (shared by Positively Present).

29. This quote, People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. ~Iris Murdoch

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30. Google Poetics, (shared by Positively Present). “This blog started collecting Google Poems on October 2012 and is run by its founder Sampsa Nuotio and curator Raisa Omaheimo. Google Poetics is born when Google autocomplete suggestions are viewed as poems.” I could get lost in this site for a very, very long time. For example,

pain is temporary
pain is weakness leaving the body
pain is inevitable suffering is optional
pain is love

Or,

I am a disco dancer
I am a dwarf and I’m digging a hole
I am a dynamic figure
I am a dreamer

Pure awesome.

31. Patti Smith, We all have a creative impulse, shared by Susannah on her Something for the Weekend list. The site where this video is posted, Channel Louisiana, has lots of other really cool stuff, if you want to get lost for a little while and haven’t already spent all your time on Google Poetics. Also on Susannah’s list this week was What’s Inside Our “Going Out” Bags.

32. Humans of New York. I’ve shared this site before, but it’s so good, I want to share it again in case you missed it the first time. You can also follow them on Facebook.

33. Issa Rae: Own Your Awkward on The Conversation.

34. From Rowdy Kittens’ Happy Links post: A Revolution of Contentment by Sandra Pawula on the Bridgemaker, and Chic Tiny House in Omaha Nebraska on Air BnB, (the loft beds in tiny houses always make me think of sleeping in a tree house — magic).

35. My Dentist Was Made To Believe I Was Dead And It Made Me Realize Why I Shouldn’t Kill Myself And You Shouldn’t Either on xojane.

36. This wisdom from Marianne Williamson, “The kind of rest you seek you will find not from sleeping but from waking.”

37. This Poster Might Just Change Your Life. by Nicole Duncan on Elephant Journal.

38. This wisdom from Lama Christie McNally, The Tibetan Book of Meditation,

Tibetans say we should do our meditation practice “as if our hair was on fire.” We should have the same urgency to get out of this pain filled place as someone who has just woken up in a burning, smoke filled house. But it’s hard- all the distractions of this life keep stealing away our time and our mind. We keep telling ourselves, “I’ll meditate later.” Then one day you look up and realize life has passed you by, the time is gone, and it’s too late.

39. This wisdom from Jen Lemen, “I don’t want to be famous or popular or known for anything other than that I was deep and wise and had a soul that was wildly beautiful, full of mercy and light.”

40. Amanda Palmer on Creativity as Connecting Dots and the Terrifying Joy of Sharing Your Art Online and Be All Your Selves: Joss Whedon’s 2013 Wesleyan Commencement Address on Embracing Our Inner Contradictions on Brain Pickings.

41. Quotes shared by Justine Musk, You cannot truly enjoy life through your mind…It’s through the heart + the body that we get to party,” (Kagiso Msimango), and “There’s nothing more powerful than a woman who has met the truth inside her. Nothing,” (Meggan Jane Watterson).

42. Are Children Natural Vegans? by Sara Crolick on Elephant Journal.

43. This quote from Cheryl Stayed, “That silence is such a beautiful thing. It’s like the stars at night in the great alone and you there beneath them, saying thank you.”

44. Karma and Smartphones: How to Use Technology From a Buddhist Perspective, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on Huffington Post.

45. Dog People Problems, from Reddit.

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46. 2 year old problems: cinnamon rolls aren’t instant, from Reddit.

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47. Wisdom from Chogyam Trungpa,

Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquility, nor is it attempting to be a better person. It is simply the creation of a space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes.

48. Father and 2-year-old boy sing Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ in viral hit.

49. Let go … again, still, more from Lindsey on A Design So Vast.

50. The Pros and Cons (But Mostly Pros) of Adopting a Shelter Dog on Hello Giggles.

51. you are worthy. from Liz Lamoreux.

52. Feeding the Right Wolf, with Marianne Elliot on Sacred Circle.

53. The Big Book Giveaway! from Susannah Conway. This is a great set of books, some of my favorites! You should totally enter this, (but just know, I plan on winning the Book Bomb).

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P.S. I think this might officially be the longest Something Good list e v e r.

Not Knowing Where to Start

This is one of those posts, kind and gentle reader, that is at this moment as much of a mystery to me as it is to you. All day I have been thinking about what I wanted to tell you, what I had to say, to share, without being sure exactly what I would write. There is a big shift happening in my life right now but it’s not entirely clear to me how this is going to work out so I haven’t formed a neat and tidy way of communicating it. All I know for sure is that I want to tell you the truth.

I finally had an appointment with my new doctor. I have been struggling with fatigue for the past few years, have hypothyroidism and a family history of diabetes, (all kinds, on both sides), am most likely perimenopausal, and don’t get enough rest. I am a highly functioning food addict who has struggled with disordered eating for 30+ years, having gained, lost, and regained the same 20 pounds at least that many times. I want to be free of it, this struggle and dis-ease. I want to be strong, healthy, and whole, with the energy and stamina necessary to do the work I long to do, to live a full life.

Things have to to change. A series of unfortunate incidents with my previous doctors made me realize that I wasn’t being cared for as well as I should be, that I needed to seek out a new perspective, someone who would view me as a whole person (not just a body) and consider all the potential healing modalities available. I chose someone who practices Integrative Medicine, which according to her, “evaluates the patient as a whole. It does not view the patient as a chronic disease, an illness, a list of medications, or a recent hospitalization–but rather as a complex being made up of physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual parts all interdependent and woven together. All of these elements are respectfully addressed in developing strategies to treat illness and more aggressively prevent disease.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

It was good. But, we have some work to do. I have something to teach her about dealing with people who have a history of dis-ordered eating and self-loathing. For starters: don’t call them obese, no matter what the BMI chart says. And for heaven’s sake, don’t call them obese repeatedly. Call them curvy, solid, voluptuous, thick, full, well-rounded, sturdy, slightly heavier than optimal, weighted down–but don’t call them obese.

Brave Belly

I get it. I need to lose some weight. It’s the same weight I’ve been losing and gaining for years. I already knew that. I get it. It’s there, in part, because I am an incredibly sensitive and porous person, without natural thick skin or any other kind of protective barrier between myself and the energy of my environment, the suffering of every person I encounter, the meanness and brutality of life. I am easily hurt, and I eat my feelings. This in turn makes me bigger, more stable and substantial, heavier, harder to knock down, safer, calmer (at least in theory).

What she said hurt me. I’m pretty sure she thought I was confused about my situation, didn’t realize it was serious, and that this “truth” would motivate me to change. In reality, it sent me into a shame spiral. Thank goodness that same afternoon I was leaving for a retreat with Susan Piver, had a safe, supportive space to go in which to process what she’d said. I truly believe that without my practices, the support and wisdom I have access to, she would have only made things worse with that one word. I’m hoping the next time we meet, I can effectively and kindly communicate this to her so that she is better able to help the next person like me, a person who might not have the support, the tools I do to process and cope.

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For now, I get back to the work of educating myself. Along with Susan Piver, her support and wisdom and our shared practice, I am so grateful for the work and friendship of Rachel Cole. Both of these amazing women, (along with such writers and healers as Geneen Roth and Tara Brach), remind me to always approach myself, my struggles, with gentleness, to give myself space and compassion. In this way I can face this transition, which is going to be so difficult, with wisdom and lovingkindness–because this is so much more about loving myself than about what I do or don’t eat.

I can also count on the people in my life who love me to support me, encourage and help me, to make me smile, to laugh. Like my trainer, who after hearing what my doctor had said was extra encouraging to me when we worked out, telling me much more often than normal what a great job I was doing, (seriously, it was adorable). And my husband, who told me “we’ll figure this out, you’ll know what to do, and I’ll help you,” who loves me, is more concerned with the size of my heart and how much I love him back than a set of numbers anyway, who won’t judge me when I eat a cinnamon roll the size of my head. And my courage circle and other friends who reminded me of how much I am loved, of my real value, my truth worth. And my friends who gave me recommendations when I asked them for a kind and gentle therapist who works with dis-ordered eaters.

I can find and accept help, but more importantly I can trust myself.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: A walk is magic, medicine. If you can go longer and take a few dogs along, even better. It clears my head, gets me unstuck, lifts my mood, gets me moving, reminds me to breathe. It brings my mind back to my body, gets my feet on the ground, holds both my mind and body in the present moment, in the same place at the same time. A walk softens the hard edges, relaxes tension, releases strong emotions, dissolves discursive thoughts.

2. Truth: Surrender, letting go of control is really, really hard. This morning in my meditation, I set an intention to invite surrender and let go of control. It arose naturally, those two things, the choosing of them specifically felt genuine and right–for about three minutes. Then I thought to myself “what have I done?!” I felt myself wanting to struggle with surrender, to cling to my sense of control. And yet, I know this is the edge I need to lean into, move past. Courtney Carver just put up a new post on Be More With Less, Let the Monkey off the Chain, that is helpful. And from my Inner Pilot Light today came this:

You may feel like if you let go of the reins, all hell will break loose, you won’t get what you want, and everything will fall apart. But what you may not realize is that grabbing the reins and trying to exert control is actually sabotaging all the blessings the Universe is trying to bestow upon you. So darling, please, let go. Surrender. Trust.

I’m trying, kind and gentle reader, I really am.

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3. Truth: I miss Obi. I was watching videos of him this weekend, and it made me so happy to see him again, but so sad too, the hard fact that he is gone, that while I’m alive I will never see him again. That grief only gets heavier knowing the same is coming with Dexter, that soon I will be missing them both.

When they are, I can watch videos like this one and remember when we were all here together. They had just gotten a bath, which always makes them go a little crazy. When they would play like this, we called it Dog Fu. It’s hard to believe that this was Obi three months into chemo (if you look close, you can see the bare spot on his leg where they shaved it to put the IV in), which clearly wasn’t slowing him down.

One Wish: That we find ease, that we find the courage to surrender and let go, that we are lucky enough to love deeply and be loved.

I Surrender.

treeshadowicecrackThe ponds at Lee Martinez are singing as they melt–humming, gurgling, snapping and cracking. The places where the ice is softening around the edges form patterns that look like the shadows of trees, their bare branches stretching out over the surface of the water.

Today feels like it could be spring. The sky over Fort Collins is clear and bright blue, the sun is shining and it’s warm. It seems like the population has suddenly doubled because everyone is outside.

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I feel like my color this year is aqua–sea glass, soft turquoise mixed with deep blue. The color of water, the color of the sometimes sky, the color of the typewriter and the water and the arrows on my 2013 vision board, one of the colors in my eyes. Bridget Pilloud wrote about it on The Intuitive Bridge today, saying of the color:

It’s speaking your truth. It’s hearing the truth of others. It’s synthesizing intuitive information with observed information.

Aqua is especially important to speakers and writers, to singers, to teachers, because in an Aqua year, you grow in your ability to speak and listen, to synthesize information, to integrate your energy.

Aqua also gives the gift of the greatest healing and the strongest connection. And when your heart is healed, you learn that life is much simpler than you’ve thought, that you’re a better person than you ever imagined and that you knew the whole story all along.

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I feel inspired by the students in Mondo Beyondo, allowing themselves to want what they want, to dream big, some of them for the first time in a long time, some of them for the first time ever.

I feel inspired, as well as supported and encouraged by the students in Cultivating Courage, who are practicing bravery, making big and small moves every day, who are pushing against their edges, daring greatly, opening their hearts and telling the truth.

I am inspired by my friends who are learning to ask for help when they need it, who are reaching out for support, asking for assistance.

I am inspired by Andrea Scher, who creates safe spaces for her students to connect, to contemplate, to dare, to take chances. I’m also inspired by her own acts of courage, her willingness to ask for help, her willingness to invest in herself.

In the midst of this contemplation, this thawing, softening, this cultivation of courage and inspiration, this practice of bravery and dreaming, I am considering the obstacles to my freedom, and what I need to do to dissolve them.

freedomthanksgivingcrow

Last week, I had to make a big deal doctor’s appointment. There was some shame, guilt, anxiety, panic involved in the multistage process, and after it was all taken care of, scheduled, I ate half a bag of chips (popped and organic, but still), two slices of toast with butter (organic bread, but still), and a whole box of Annie’s Organic mac and cheese for “lunch.” I have told you before that I am a highly functioning food addict, and there was something about this particular incident that brought me to a “I give up, I surrender, I’ve had enough” moment.

I feel afraid or stuck when I see myself falling into old and discursive habits, ways of being and thinking. While I’m better than I used to be, more aware, kinder and gentler, healthier, when I get too stressed or tired, overwhelmed, when I start to go off the rails, when I feel my body getting heavy and my thoughts racing and my heart feeling dull, it’s hard to not freak out, hard to not feel trapped, having never truly been without this “thing,” this monster that lives in my belly, this frozen spot in my mind and my heart.

And you know what, kind and gentle reader? I’ve had it. I am over it, done. I need to be free of this. I surrender, and I’m admitting I need help. Just before I started writing this post, I contacted a therapist (whose practice is a mix of Western and Buddhist theories) and requested a meeting.

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I surrender. I surrender to radical self-acceptance, to truth, to reality, to this:

There is no love affair, no perfect best friend, no all-mighty parent, no incredible career, no ideal body, no distant and separate God/dess that can make up for the aching want, the hole, the yearning, that exists beneath the surface and at the center of our lives. It can only be healed by cultivating a dangerously authentic, reciprocal love affair with the bare truth of who we are, and allowing ourselves to become infused with a sacred courage that teaches us how to embody and articulate the essence of a truth that we’ve had since before we were born. Holding that truth so close to ourselves that it cuts into our hearts as a real, deep love and moves through our breath as the sound of our truest voice is all that we have ever looked for in anything or anyone else. It is also the only thing the universe has ever looked for from us. ~Grace Emilie