Category Archives: Cultivating Courage

Gratitude Friday

frozen feather

This post started as a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. Roasted Vegetables. I could eat roasted brussel sprouts every day of of the week. I like them even more than french fries.

2. Responses to a Cultivating Courage dare. The goal was to ask 5-10 people our strengths, gifts, superpower and to be able to hear, accept, allow their response, to take the compliment instead of brushing it off or shutting down. As in the last time I did this, I loved the responses I got, was so grateful for the people who took the time to answer, to make the offering. It’s such a powerful exercise to hear how other people see me (and they only tell you the good stuff).

3. Walking with the dogs. It’s been nice to get back to our routine. Over Winter Break, with both Eric and I off work, all four of us would go, and I love that, but there’s also something great about just me and the dogs. It is a beautiful world out there, and I love having a reason to go see it, to walk around in it and look, to be.

4. My health. A very nasty crud or two, along with a few varieties of the plague are out there this season. I am trying really, really hard not to judge, not to get frustrated or irritated when people who have the option of paid sick leave don’t stay home and get well, when they risk infecting other people with the same thing that’s making them feel so crappy, how that makes what is going around continue to go round and round. Instead, I shift my focus to being grateful for my continued good health, and to sending anyone who is sick healing vibes and compassion, and a wish that they know it’s okay to take care of themselves, that for most of them no one will die if they didn’t go to work for a few days–and I’m also washing my hands like a mad woman.

5. Videos of my dogs. I love being able to see Sam as a puppy, to watch Obi and Dexter play (even though it makes me sad too).

Here’s one of Dexter, rolling in the grass, one of his favorite things, growling and grunting like a pig.

Bonus Joy: Dexter is still here, still doing well. Just a bit ago, when I went out to clean up the backyard, he brought a ball for me to throw, and we played fetch for a bit. He and I have spent hundreds of hours this exact same way over the last 9.5 years.

The beam of sunlight in this picture from one of our walks this week makes him look like a unicorn.

Unicorn Dex

P.S. I remember back when I was so excited anyone read my blog, that I took a picture of my stats page when I hit 2000 views. At some point today or tomorrow, it will reach 50,000. I can barely wrap my mind around that number. All I know is that I have the kindest and gentlest readers, and I bow deeply and with such gratitude to each and every one of you who took the time to show up. Thank you.

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.

aqua

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.

myeye

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.

crow

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

Shower, Eat, and Meditate

janmorningskyEven though I’ve been posting Small Stones and I rewrote my About page, I’ve skipped some of my regular posts lately, didn’t do a Three Truths and One Wish this week, haven’t been Wishcasting regularly, and in general, I feel like I haven’t been “around” as much lately. And yet, it’s been a necessary shift.

This past week, I started as a teaching assistant for Mondo Beyondo. That course is even more amazing than I remember, and this time through, I’m seeing so many new things, still getting so much out of it for myself as a student. I’m so eager for Andrea to feel like it was right and good to ask me to help, and so excited for the wonderful people involved, so happy to be there that I have to be careful to not run around like a big clumsy Great Dane puppy, barking and knocking things over and generally annoying everyone with my enthusiasm. I’m trying to be really careful to keep the “volume” down, but I just love that class and Andrea’s work so much–but you already knew that. (P.S. Cultivating Courage starts on Monday, January 14th, and there’s still room in Mondo Beyondo).

janmorningsky13

In other news, I’m trying not to panic that I have to start back at my paid work on Monday. This morning, I made a “Big To-Do” list of everything I have going on next week, in the hopes I could put that all aside, having it now organized, and not have to think about it anymore this weekend. That sort of worked, but then again all day I’ve been thinking today is Sunday, that I start back tomorrow, and that doesn’t feel nice.

Here’s the real issue: I currently have two full-time jobs, my paid work and my heart’s work. And it is about to get even crazier, because on Monday two more classes will start, Cultivating Courage and The Story of You. I have two long meetings next week, and had to schedule things like getting a haircut, going to the eye doctor, and having the plumber finally come fix our leaky sink in the bathroom, along with going back to CSU and doing that work.

janmorningsky28

My strategy, my mantra has become “shower, eat, and meditate.” I already have a set morning routine, what happens from 4:30-8:00 am–feed the dogs, drink half a cup of coffee while I write my morning pages, check in with my email and Facebook and blog, and then either walk the dogs, go to yoga or the gym. Where I can get stuck is when I come back home to get ready for work, what happens between 8 and 9 am. I got in the habit while on break of “just checking one thing, real quick” before getting in the shower, which would usually lead to me being on the computer for two or three hours instead, and by then being so hungry that I’d eat whatever was fast, not what I really wanted or what was healthy, and once I showered, it would be so late, I’d think “I can’t meditate now, I have work I want to do, so I’ll meditate later,” and later never came because by the time I’d stop working, I was too tired, would allow myself to skip it.

So this mantra, “shower, eat, and mediate,” reminds me to take care of myself, both literally (these are the things I need to do first thing, that I seem to need help remembering, that I tend to skip in order to help or love someone else) and it also triggers a bigger remembering of necessary self-care, self-love, reminding me of the place to begin, to let go and come back to center.

And this busyness, this activity is just how things are going to have to be for awhile. Unless my fairy godmother shows up, I win the lottery, or a kind benefactor decides to fund my heart’s work, I need to keep my job that pays. As for the rest, I will keep taking tiny steps, dreaming my big dreams, anticipating mystery and magic and surprises, and learning to love and care for myself along the way. This is my life, and I am completely in love with it.

What I Learned in Cultivating Courage

I just finished the first session of Andrea Scher’s Cultivating Courage E-Course. In the course description, she says:

One conscious, brave choice — every day for 30 days. Who will you be on the other side?

During those 30 days, I developed a practice. I experienced inspiration, comfort, community, and a refined definition of courage. Here I am, on the other side, and this is who I am:

1. “I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.” ~Walt Whitman Every act of kindness is an act of bravery. My first thought often is something generous, but I usually stop myself, especially if a stranger is involved. I let those old, nasty voices about how I’m “too much” stop me, but this class, this practice has reminded me that this is my superpower, my nature, and maybe even my purpose.

2. I am not alone, and with a tribe, I am so much stronger. After 30 days in this class, I remember the importance of tribe, of communicating and connecting, of showing up and being vulnerable. Even though most of us in class were meeting each other for the first time, Andrea created a safe space, a secure container for our practice and our sharing, and we dared to be vulnerable, to connect. We quickly became a support team, a tribe of tender-hearted warriors practicing courage, encouraging each other and celebrating together.

3. What is an act of courage for me is just that, brave for me. Cultivating courage isn’t about becoming anyone else’s idea of brave. For me, right now, courage means cultivating confidence, the kind that Susan Piver describes as “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.” Trusting myself, having faith in my own voice, showing up with an open heart, even when it’s hard and even when it hurts.

4. Courage doesn’t have to be big or bold. It can be quiet and gentle, soft and simple. You don’t have to save someone from a burning building, or make a grand gesture to be brave. As Mary Anne Radmacher says, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’ ”

Andrea Scher is a maker of magic. She has a compassionate vision, and it’s so vivid, so vibrant that you can see it too, and this shared dream has the power to move you. You know immediately that you can trust her, and that with her support, amazing things are going to happen, you are going to happen.

P.S. One of the NaBloPoMo prompts this week was “What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?” and another was “Tell us about your favorite pet.” As Andrea was putting together this course, she asked for courage stories, and the one I sent her was about my first dog, Obi, and having to let him go–the bravest and most loving thing I ever had to do. Andrea’s Cultivating Courage e-course has reminded me that this is who I am.

Gratitude Friday

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. Lemon Poppyseed Scones. I’m kind of obsessed right now. The lemon and sugar combo are like sunshine in my mouth.

2. Cultivating Courage ecourse. It’s technically over now (next session starts January 14th), but we have a private Facebook group and Andrea offered alumni a discounted rate for the next session. 30 days of cultivating a habit is really effective, especially when you have such amazing support. The class gave me more confidence and also allowed me to reconsider what it means to be brave.

3. My original art piece from Mary Anne Radmacher, which I wrote about yesterday.

4. More light for our morning walks. This will only last a week or so, but it was nice that first day after we “fell back” to not have to wear my headlamp and walk in the dark.

5. The end of another election season. Every year, it’s just way too nasty and stressful. Even without regular TV, it’s hard to not feel its impact.

Obi and Dexter

they were so in love

Bonus joy: Three years ago today, we had to let Obi go. He taught me so much about life and love, about fear and courage, about accepting another just as they are, about being safe and loved even when things are uncertain, but most of all how to let go.  It’s because of him, his loss, that I can be with what’s happening with Dexter, be with it and keep my heart open. They loved each other so much. Dexter was actually Obi’s dog, and Dexter loved him even more than he loved us or his Little D. If I could only know for sure that letting Dexter go meant he could be with his Obi again, I’d more easily surrender him.

Gratitude Friday

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. A new washing machine. Something weird about me that you might not know: I love doing laundry. It’s comfort, therapy, so peaceful and simple, the warmth and the clean smell and the hum and spin, beeps and clicks of the machines, the “setting things right” and renewing of order that happens taking the clothes from dirty to clean, wet to dry. It was unsettling for me when our old machine broke and it took a week for the new one to arrive and be installed, (and believe me, I get that this is a first world problem, and as such, I’m grateful to be lucky enough to have such “problems”).

2. Clean sheets, (see list item #1).

3. Dalai Lama chant, gifted to me by the kind and generous Sherry Richert Belul, at the request of my equally awesome reader and friend Tina. It’s a little over an hour long, and I have been listening to it constantly. It has been such a comfort, helping me to feel centered amidst a swirl of uncertainty.

4. The Open Heart Project and Susan Piver, as well as all the practitioners committed to meditation. When I am struggling with my practice, when I’ve dropped it altogether, I know that when I come back, this resource, this support will be there waiting for me. And I know that even when I am not practicing, they are, and many of them are dedicating the merit of that activity, their kindness rippling out to meet me where I’m at.

5. Cultivating Courage ecourse with Andrea Scher. This class and the beautiful humans in it, all of us working so hard to be brave and Andrea making the space for us, has been an inspiration.

Bonus Joy: Another week with Dexter.

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