When Toci-heart Suzanne emailed a piece she had written about a chance encounter with someone who shifted her assumptions in a big way. I loved it so much I wanted to share it with you. So here you go. Thanks, Suzanne!
I recently volunteered at a week-long event in the Austin area. About mid-week, I drove a fellow volunteer back to his apartment to pick up his volunteer crew shirt. In his mid-twenties, nicely muscled, wearing sweats, a knit cap and beat up shoes, he had arrived for our shared shift a bit late. I found myself judging him as “lazy” and “inattentive”, for who could be late AND forget their “uniform”? But nobody else was available who could drive and help him out, and the kid DID need his crew shirt. So, just to have something to do in an otherwise slow part of the shift, I agreed to assist.
He spent our first few minutes together with his head down, attention on his smart phone, answering my questions about where we were heading in a somewhat distracted manner. I presumed he was preoccupied with communicating with his friends about who knows what. (Great, I thought to myself. He can’t even carry on a conversation with the live person sitting next to him.} With the traffic backup in the downtown area, I was anticipating a long, silent ride.
But as he looked up occasionally, I would slip in a question or two, trying to engage him. You know, like, what’s your name, where are you from. His name was unusual, and he patiently told me 3 times before I caught on that it was NOT the typical western name of “Brian”. He cheerfully said his parents hadn’t known how to spell Brian, but in the end he hadn’t wanted to change it. I met that with a yeah, well, better to keep the uniqueness and have to tell people 14 times before they get it right than to be ordinary. That made him smile. (I wondered why his parents hadn’t known how to spell “Brian”, but I didn’t ask!)
With this ice breaker, we launched into other small talk. He mentioned that he’s a film-maker, creative designer and artist and was getting ready to move to LA. Over the next few minutes, I learned he’d earned a full-ride scholarship to UT-Austin through the McCombs School of Business (really?! Wow!). But once he arrived on campus, he became much more interested in exploring and learning as much as he could rather than “just” making good grades. Which is how he found himself in the creative arts field, developing a flair and affinity for story telling through film. He had just graduated with a combined degree in RTF and Business! (Hmm, I thought, there’s a lot more to this young man than meets the eye! I felt myself starting to grow curious.)
I shared that I, too, was an artist, and we talked media and favorite subjects for a bit. I then said I’d been on artistic hiatus for awhile and had spent the last few years pursuing shamanic, spiritual and energetic development. His eyes lit up at that, and he exclaimed “I’ve gotten into meditation recently!” (Can you hear my prejudices getting bumped hard? A 20-something who’s discovered the power and utility of transcendental meditation?)
He waxed eloquently about how he’d stumbled onto the practice as a means of dealing with a specific personal challenge. He shared freely about how he now finds space in the middle of a distressing situation to just breathe, be still, and ALLOW the steps that need to be taken to arise and unfold from within. (At this point, I find I am really starting to like this kid for his open-hearted awareness, and his ability to connect and share. NOW I’m paying full attention to his story!)
Turns out he grew up in the slums of a large city in Colombia and moved to Florida when he was 6. Growing to maturity in the US, but returning to Colombia almost every year to visit family, he began his dual-cultured life – one rooted in the love for his native homeland and the people in it, with all its unpredictability, pain, joyfulness and richness in personal connection, and the other filled with gratitude for the opportunities, safety, abundance and comforts of his adopted home.
But he hadn’t realized what kind of horror and heartbreak he’d witnessed as a young child until he got into the US and had enough experience with an alternative way of life. Nor had he understood how deeply those early experiences had affected him. But now, through his meditation practice, he was finding the ability to recognize and hold some of his traumatic childhood pain, which was driving many of his own reactions in the present day. For example, he now understands why he can wait in line for an hour to receive a much-anticipated meal, and then feel compelled to give the food to a homeless man standing just outside the waiting area rather than eating it himself. As a child in the slums, he had often gone hungry for days in a row!
“You just have to be grateful for what you have every day” this young man said. “When you are homeless, you never know when you are going to get to eat. So I am grateful to go hungry once in awhile now because it reminds me that I’m not going hungry all the time anymore.”
He strongly recommended anything creative as a stress outlet, but especially that I should write, often and long, asking myself the questions that matter to me, seeking answers to my troubles. (Which is the same advice I’ve heard from other teachers, mentors and coaches with many more years of life experience behind them than this bright young fellow!) Then he shared his current writing habit: each day, he writes one page of all his blessing, one page of “regular” journalling, and one page on something he’s curious about, something he’s been thinking about, or something he’s puzzling over how to integrate into his next piece of art, film or writing. He said it provides him with lots of fodder for future projects. I tell him I think the practice is brilliant for other reasons, too. His practice instills the habit of focusing on what’s working well, tracking what he’s doing in his life, and feeding what draws him forward.
At this point, I’m actively thanking him, for I have also used writing as a tool to find clarity and peace of mind, but my approach had been simply to fill 3 pages with stream-of consciousness flow. About 90% of such writing is mental noise and emotional whining, 7-8% of it reveals a creative idea, solution or insight to a problem. In the remaining 2-3%, I swear the Universe uses me to speak, and the experience is both bewildering and inspiring. Though this approach is cleansing and cathartic, each time I have adopted the practice, I eventually abandon it after a few months because I’m tired of “listening” to all my own whining! I am really excited about integrating this young man’s approach into my writing projects. I suspect both approaches have their place, each serving a different set of needs.
My new friend said he would love to live in Colombia someday and help the people there, but for now he recognizes that his greatest opportunities lie here in the US. I suggested that maybe in the not too distant future, the skills and contacts he would be building here, or rather, in his soon-to-be home of Los Angeles, would enable him to serve that dream someday.
We parted back at our volunteer crew room with ease, my own heart full for having met another human in a way that was meaningful and genuine, aware that I would have missed this opportunity had I listened to my initial sub-conscious prejudices. I was more willing to consider that the easy-going attitude I originally perceived wasn’t laziness nor lack of care at all, but one of appreciation and relaxed confidence that life is good, and that solutions to problems will arise.
Oh, and I learned that all the initial distraction with the phone wasn’t even social. He was working out a problem with technical support regarding the computer that has the bulk of his latest creative work on it!
So here’s to you, my young inspiring friend! Best of luck to you in your future endeavors. And thank you for enriching my world!
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Friday, December 27, 2013
Freedom is having choice in each moment. The highest truth is that mo matter what our external situation, we always have choice. While we may not be able to choose what is happening in any particular moment, we always have the choice in how we respond to it.
One of the most graphic teachings around choice in difficult situations comes from a psychologist and holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl. In his book Man's Search for Meaning Frankl shares how those living in the Nazi concentration camps who found a sense of meaning or held hope were more likely to survive. He affirmed that even the worst-case human situations cannot take away freedom. Frankl writes:
"We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering."
"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."
We are blessed to live in a time of great external freedom. We may have limitations on our resources - financial, emotional, health - but we are graced with many many freedoms in most places in the world. So let's start there: having gratitude for the freedoms that we do have. Take a moment to look around your life and name the freedoms that you do have, and to honor all the beings that helped create the freedom you are enjoying. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and the beings that walked before us that struggled for basic freedoms. Thank you, thank you.
Now from that place of gratitude, let's explore personal choice. While we always have the theoretical ability to make any choice, we may not have the energy or support or skills to make the choice we would want to make, or to make the actual best choice for us.
But we always have the choice to find the energy and support we need to come into more choice.
So to get to choice, we need to befriend discipline.
Discipline is not a punishment, but an ally to help us focus and direct our attention exactly where we want it to go.
I love this quote from empowered fitness guru Patricia Moreno: "Discipline is freedom. It is you getting yourself to do what you really want to do."
The truth is I'm not the most disciplined person. I'm more a wait for the inspiration to come and then stay up all night completely excited about the project I am working on sort of person. And while I'm learning to rest into the ebb and furious flow of my creativity, there are some places that more discipline would be well-received in my life.
And here we are, another year starting, another opportunity to join with millions of people around the world to start over, to turn over a new leaf, to become a new me. Yay!
Every day we have the opportunity to make a new choice. And New Year's is a party of people rocking out to new choices. But how to make those New Year's goals last? That takes discipline.
Here's what I'm exploring for 2014:
Focusing more on the why of making change than the how. Why do I want to write regularly, exercise more often, and eat foods that my body likes? When we jump right to the how sometimes we create unrealistic goals that we then judge ourselves about not completing. But when we focus on the why, and really get clear with ourselves about why we want something, we can then guide ourselves to better choices from a place of love and acceptance. Then discipline shifts from being something we push ourselves to do and becomes a gift we give ourselves every day.
I'm also starting with "for today" goals. My intent is to have more energy when I wake up, and so my goal for today is to not eat any sugar and see if that supports my intent. My intent is to finish my book and write regularly; so for today I'll work on chapters 5 and 6. Tomorrow I'll reset my goals and priorities, based in my overall intent, guided by how I want to feel, rather than what my brain thinks is right or wrong.
Add a pinch or a pound of discipline into each day, and invite your own sacred why and intent to bring you more and more freedom to do what you really want to do in 2014.
Blessed New Year!
Thursday, December 12, 2013
This morning as I laid in bed listening to the rain outside I knew it was time to break my blogging log-jam.
I've been talking to Toci's Thirteen Moons circle about the importance of keeping the channel of inspiration clean as we open to manifesting from spirit. When we open up our crown and intuition and listen deeply, guidance comes from the unmanifest source / god / goddess / creator / life into manifestation in the form of inspiration or insights. We then have a choice if we want to feed this spark of spirit into a fire that is grounded on earth. When we choose to take action, we are in a co-creative dance with spirit, bringing the invisible into form.
But if we ignore the messages, or don't take action on something without consciously letting it go, things can start to stagnate in our being. Energy is meant to flow. So when we have an impulse from the divine, a nudge from our highest self, a tap on the shoulder from life, we want to either take action or let it go. For me, joyful creativity is the thread that I want to run through all my actions. We take action by taking steps, which might be gathering more data, talking to others, creating a task list and starting the next baby step, going into meditation to get more insight, getting on the phone or email or a plane to meet with allies -- the list of actions is infinite. But there is also the action of realizing this is not feasible right now, and letting it go. Or the action of: that inspiration that flew by is now gone, stop grasping after it. Or the action of: I don't want to do this, and surrendering it up. Or the action of: not now, later, and setting it aside with awareness. Without this conscious choice to go forward or let inspiration go, we can end up chin deep in unmanifested possibilities and the dried up shells of dreams.
So in the spirit of creating flow again in my blogging world, here is the final blog in a series I started a year ago, on Dissolving a Marriage.
First, thanks to all the folks that have written or shared with me over the past year how much reading my process has helped them. My prayer is that by sharing a part of my intimate process around a big transition in my life, I can help others find a bit more ease and grace in their own transitions.
Synopsis for those who haven't read part 1 Dissolving a Marriage or Part 2 Dissolving Into Light: Last year my beloved, business partner, husband, and friend moved to Colorado and we ended our ten-year partnership, sparking an intense year of healing and transition for me. The journey has been deep into the underground of my being, a shake up of my soul, a shattering of my heart that I chose to step towards, to explore. I wanted to stay with my process, to witness what it takes to heal when it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under your feet and the foundation of what is familiar and loved is gone. I wanted to not abandon myself in the spiritual abuse of: "you shouldn't feel this way. Everything is perfect, why are you suffering?" Instead I embraced my own journey, and my desire to heal from the inside out. I stayed with my broken heart, curious about how we heal as humans, curious about how this being of HeatherAsh would heal her heart.
What I've learned: time does heal the heart when we allow it to. I've watched and felt my emotional body go through the initial stabbing, tearing pain of my loss and grief, to feeling tender and vulnerable and how the pain was only activated by a big event, which would reopen the tears and grief. It has been a process for sure, ups and downs, days where I didn't think about my ex-husband at all, days when suddenly it felt like he and I were energetically continuing a conversation started long ago, weeks when I couldn't stop the cycling of the past, or trying to figure out what I could have done differently.
As I've let go more and more, I've been able to look back with more ease to see my part in the dynamic, where the turning points were, what I might have changed. These are what I call the choice points. It took me a while to find the spaciousness to look back with love and curiosity.
Early on I made an agreement with myself that served me well: To not scour the past for clues of what went wrong if I was in self-judgment or feeing victimized. When I did this, I only created more pain for myself. I chose to focus on nourishing myself, continually asking myself: "what are you missing/craving/needing right now?" I practiced letting go of what I had lost to focus on what I had now. I listened deeper than the pain, not shoving it aside, but peering beneath the waves of grief, anger, despair, frustration, confusion, letting them roll over and through me as I quested for the calm knowing beneath. Sometimes I was smashed by a wave, sent tumbling in emotion and story, not knowing what was up or down. Sometimes I found my breath, inhaled deeply, and dove beneath the chaos of mind and emotions into the expansive silence of spirit.
Many days I face planted in the sticky stagnant swamp of story, caught in the quicksand of "why" and "what if." And over time I learned to avoid the swamp and instead ride the waves of my emotions more gracefully, to weep when I needed to weep, and then to dry my eyes, smile, and move on. I knew I wasn't weeping just for the loss of my relationship, but for all the losses in my life, for all the little heartbreaks I never let myself feel, for the exquisite pain of being human and loving deeply. I learned to welcome the grief and let it wash me clean. This cleansing happened most when I wasn't blaming myself or others, or wishing things were different.
As I got stronger I'd go visit my ex-husband's website to see what he was up to. I downloaded photos of him and his new beloved and sat with them, sending love. I walked towards the edge of my discomfort, leaning into it so I could stretch into this new reality, but being careful not to re-traumatize myself. Some days an Facebook post could leave me in a puddle, some days I found myself smiling when a friend mentioned his name.
I celebrated the day when I received an email from someone saying, "Sorry about Raven ... thought you two were "the match." I smiled, feeling my love and appreciation for Raven and our relationship, and for all the people we touched in our years together teaching and being a couple. Then I smiled bigger, realizing I was happy, and a reminder of the past was no longer a knife of loss but now brought up love in my being. Yay! Happy dance!
In this past year I've learned so much about attachment and learning how to release, but also about the beautiful strength of intertwined lives, and how long it can take to unweave the energetic threads. I've learned that sometimes no matter how much I might crave reconciliation, talking things out, cleaning the past with someone else, it doesn't always look like I wish it would. And how it seems each place I visit or friend I see for the first time without Raven there is a little healing, a letting go that happens, more space that is opened up in my being. At first it is tender, sometimes the grief comes back again, sometimes I just feel a whisper of "we once loved each other passionately and fully here." Yesterday was the anniversary of our marriage, this week is a ten-year cycle of when we first came to the firewalk training together, and left glowing in love to have a hand fasting celebration with our community in Berkeley. I honor these memories. I honor the immense love we once shared. I honor that I have immense love to share, and that I can let it overflow to everyone I meet. And now I can also honor the closing of our relationship, a new cycle opening. I can honor the choices we both made. I can honor that nothing stays the same, that death brings new life, always, when we let the past go.
Writing this is bringing tears to my eyes, not because I wish our marriage had not ended, but because I miss my friend. And I know that friend lives in my heart, always. Nothing can take that away.
None of us are immune to loss on this human dance. We humans are so tender, and so resilient. So fragile and vulnerable, and so wicked strong. My prayers is that everyone who is in a time of transition, of life change, or loss, may dive deep to discover the calm waters beneath the turbulence, but also to learn to let life ravish us open, to let the waters of transformation crash through us, to surrender to the river of life. May we find peace and know the beauty of still spirit ocean in our core as we learn to surf the waves of death and rebirth, death and rebirth.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
As I sit on the king-sized bed writing I feel the perfect balance of two experiences: a sense of contentment and a sense of loss.
I've been feeling both of those things for a while now. In December I blogged about dissolving a marriage, sharing my vulnerability and experiences of the transformation of a deep, nine-year partnership. At the time I wrote I was amazed at how my heart literally felt crushed. While I've been through plenty of breakups in my life, I had never so clearly felt how the heart can experience physical pain and wounding from an emotional loss. I was really curious to see how it would heal.
Looking back I can see how my old favored solution to heartbreak was to fall in love as quickly as possible. Overlap between the end of one intimate relationship and the beginning of another was even better. I was like a trapeze artist, letting myself freefall only long enough to catch the handhold coming towards me.
This time, I let myself fall.
Letting go of my relationship was hard. I fought, I resisted, I hung on. Partially from my deep love for this human, partially for my fear of not having him in my life. We had built so much together, and I didn't believe that I had what it took to hold it all. We so loved being with each other, and I didn't know how I could ever fill the void where our energetic beings overlapped, where my heart was intertwined with his. The signs that it was time to transition the relationship were all there, but I didn't want to see them. I wanted to hold on to possibility, and to the past.
When I did let go, I made an agreement with myself to not catch myself by grabbing onto another new love. I wanted to catch myself, for myself, by myself, with myself, for me. I wanted to go through the pain and fear to true healing, knowing that the pain was not just about the loss of my marriage, not just the loss of an identity, not just a loss of love, but the pain of humans struggling against loss, and an accumulated of all my losses that I hadn't healed.
The fall was sometimes scary, and sometimes a relief after so much struggle. But I was not without a net; I have an incredible group of people who held me and whispered encouragement, wiped my tears, held me close, and kept pointing to the open sky. And from their love and belief in me, I'm finding my wings, and learning to soar with the wind of life under my wings.
I've watched myself every step of the way; noticing where I was in blame, noticing where I felt victimized and wanted to defend myself, noticing where I wanted to close, noticing where change began to slip in. One day I'd think or hear about my almost ex-husband and feel as if I had literally been kicked in the stomach. I'd breathe through the feeling, going into it, questioning, loving, holding compassion. Then the next day when his name was mentioned all I would feel was love and gratitude. I knew change was happening at a deep level when someone asked me, "Are you married?" and I easily and with a smile said "no." My heart was light, it was okay to not be married, it was okay to let the past be the past.
A friend just sent me a blog post from a prominent Ashtanga yoga teacher who has been highly criticized by her peers and community. It is a beautiful sharing that sometimes our path and our expression looks different from the purity of the teachings. (read it here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/02/confessions-of-a-loved-hated-ashtangi-kino-macgregor/ )
In the Toltec world one of the main teachings is to release our personal history, let go of our past, and as don Miguel would say, to change as fast as God.
If we hold to this rigidly, I am a bad Toltec.
I've judged myself fiercely at times for my struggle to let go. Some people have judged me for the choices I have made. Some for not being able to release the past in the wink of an eye. Some are simply disappointed that I have been grieving and feeling loss, because of the illusion that once you get to a certain level you can leave all of those messy emotions behind and not have to feel any pain.
But are we really here to not feel pain, to avoid loss and suffering? Or are we here to be in life fully, and to learn through our experiences to come more and more into our center, faith, and love?
There are things I would have done differently over the past few months, and other things I wouldn't change. I've done my best to keep moving past the black hole of regret and should have's and steer myself towards compassion and learning what I am here to learn. I am learning so much, I can tell you that! Have I been messy? Yes. Have I learned from each experience? Yes. Have I learned how to go deeper into myself to listen for my truth? Yes. And do I think I have this all figured out? No. I'm in process. I'm learning. I'm exploring. I'm listening. I'm open.
The point is not to use the teachings to judge and point fingers at others for where we think they should be, or at ourselves for where we perceive we should be.
The point is to be with ourselves, to honor our unique expression, to have compassion, and to keep going towards healing, however long it takes. And to learn and grow and expand. And sometimes that takes being with our contraction, mistakes, and struggles. Not drowning in them. Not wallowing. Not feeding them with stories. But staying present and in love with the process of healing, messy parts and all.
When I don't try and control my own healing process, things seem to flow better. Today my heart still feels tender, but no longer crushed. The pain has been replaced by a sense of gratitude and a huge compassion for beings that are going through loss. I am so grateful to my friends, and to so many of my friendships that are deepening so beautifully. Wow. I am truly blessed.
I still cry at certain memories or have moments of deep longing for Raven's presence. I cried on the way to baggage claim at the San Francisco airport, because for so many years I've had that one particular beloved at my side. I found the perfect little cabin to stay in, and I cried when I first walked into it, not having that familiar someone at my side to share the awesomeness of the space.
And when these waves pass I feel whole and happy with who and where I am. I'm crying now, and at the same time I feel loss I also feel joyful happiness about how cool my life is, how much I love being alone here, writing to you, nestled in the arms of the Universe.
As I searched for a link, I just "accidently" discovered the following blogpost. Of course, more perfection. Here's to being broken open, and for becoming the most beautiful prisms of life.
Yay for healing!
Why Being Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
A Spiritual Community Cleanse
By Heather Ash Amara
All of the emotional, physical, and mental unweaving and clearing we
do can be boiled down to one focus: by clearing out what we are not,
we create space for the Divine to enter us and remind us who we are.
The more space we have internally the easier it is to listen and tap
into Spirit's wisdom and clarity.
When I worked with don Miguel our Toltec community did a physical
cleanse once a year for Lent (about a month and 1/2 between Ash
Wednesday and Easter). This was always a sacred time for me, and a
time of huge growth.
We can use this time of year to gently release what no longer serves
us and gather our energy and focus as we prepare for Spring.
There are many ways to work with the energy of this time of year to
create space and healing. The focus is to lovingly break up old
routines and remove distractions that keep you separated from Spirit.
Make sure as you form your own individual focus that the container is
one of heart and desire for more space for Spirit, rather than a
subtle punishment or creation out of frustration, judgment, or
self-punishment. This commitment is to yourself and is a prayer and
offering, a sacred gift to clean your temple to receive more of the
gracious presence of the Divine in your being.
Here are some ideas for your cleanse. Make sure to work with your
coach to come up with a solid focus that takes into account where you
are on your path. You want to make sure to not overload yourself. And
also step up! What I have experienced is that the strong energy of the
community carried me along in beautiful ways, beyond what I thought
• Opinion fast
Refrain from sharing any opinion you have with others. This is
especially useful for controllers. Start by defining what is an
opinion, and have a focus for what you are going to do instead of
sharing your opinion. Where you are moving towards is not even having
the opinion arise in your mind.
Partial or Full Silence: Pick one day a week to be in silence, or go
into silence for the entire time period. It is possible to continue to
work and interact in silence, it just takes creativity. Read more
about my 40 days of silence at:
• Mindfulness practice
Pick a place where you tend to go unconscious and create a mindfulness
practice, such as saying a prayer before eating and giving your food
your full attention, staying conscious of your breath throughout the
day, sitting quietly instead of reading or watching TV.
• Repression fast
If you tend to bottle up your emotions this is a good cleanse to take
on. The fast is from any type of repression of your emotions, which
means you consciously express any emotions that arise in the moment.
• Expression fast
If you tend to cycle emotions or stories an expression fast invites
you to pick one emotion/state (anger, victim, fear) and consciously
choose not to express. You will need to give yourself a focus for what
you will do instead of expressing that emotion or story.
• Distraction fast
Pick your favorite distraction (TV, video games, alcohol, looking in
the mirror) and stop doing it! What will you replace it with….
Pick one food and stop eating it. Practice staying open-hearted and
soft around the item, not closing to it. Example: if you pick
chocolate after a week or so put yourself around chocolate or people
eating chocolate and watch what arises when you refrain. Be curious
about its purpose and effects in your life.
• Partial Cleanse
Choose a category of food to refrain from: sugar, bread, coffee, etc.
See notes above for staying open-hearted.
• Full Cleanse
Commit to a thorough cleansing program and stick to it. We recommend
Arise and Shine www.ariseandshine.com, which is the best cleansing
program we have found. For this cleanse you will probably need to
start now to get your body alkalized. For any full cleanse make sure
you start slow so the detox process is gentle. Educate yourself first!
All of these cleanses, from mental to emotional to physical, are
interwoven. When you do a mental cleanse you will also have the
opportunity to cleanse your emotional body. When you do a physical
cleanse you will get to find loving discipline with your mind.
Whichever cleanse you choose, from the most simple to the most
challenging, be conscious about how you set it into motion. Plan a
ceremony to initiate yourself into your commitment on February 2nd.
We encourage each of you to talk your commitment over with your coach
and then write to your Spiritual Integrity google group and share what
you will be cleansing; this way we will all share in each other's
commitments. And watch how you think and talk about your cleanse;
remember it is a joy to make more space, not a chore! Enjoy!
Thursday, December 27, 2012
The first line in my book, The Toltec Path of Transformation, asks the question, "Have you ever had your life turned upside down in an instant?"
When I wrote that line it was a theory in my own life. But the week my book came out my life was turned upside down in a spectacular way; not in an instant, but in a series of instants that accumulated in a tearing of the fabric of my world.
Damn, I'm glad I wrote a book about change, because I have certainly needed it!
In the beginning of October I waved goodbye to my husband, best friend, beloved, business partner, teaching partner, and main support system as he drove away in his truck packed with his belongings to start a new life in Colorado.
There is obviously backstory to that moment of his departure, a history that led to us having our last long hike and celebratory sushi meal together, a series of events that led to us saying goodbye to each other and to the form of our relationship.
One day I may write about those events. For now I am healing at deep levels of my being. I've been amazed at the magnitude of my own vulnerability, fragility, and grief.
I've been in awe at how my community has supported and loved me through this transition.
I've been aware that this moment in time, this transition is as precious and powerful and perfect as the moment of Raven and my weddings (we had three!), or of our teaching together over the years, or of our teamwork in running Toci. It is all part of a cycle of birth and death, of coming together and moving apart, of creation and dissolution. Life.
I'm learning that dissolving a long-term relationship takes time and patience and great self-love. There are parts of me that are still in shock and disbelief that Raven left. There are parts of me that flip between being scared, sad, furious, overwhelmed, devastated, and wanting my friend back. And there are parts of me that are really happy for Raven as he settles into his new life, and I'm excited to see what he will create next. There are parts of me that are really happy for HeatherAsh as she settles into her new life, and I'm excited to see what she will create next.
Sometimes the transition feels graceful and smooth and effortless, sometimes it feels like my heart has been run over repeatedly by a bus.
And through it all there have been so many gifts. I'm finding a strength inside of me that comes from being with my own process and deeply accepting myself, even when it is messy. Even when it is emotional. Even when my mind has an opinion of how the process should be going. Even when others are disappointed in me. I'm learning to give myself things that I had leaned on Raven to provide. I'm learning to let my friends and family hold me and support me when the waves of shock or fear or grief or anger wash over me. Even though I miss Raven, I love living alone, and I deeply love my life. I'm learning to get even bigger to hold all of myself in love and acceptance.
I'm learning to let go of any stories and focus on what is arising within me to be witnessed, loved, and healed. Moment by moment, day by day. I'm wrapping myself in the immense gratitude I have for Raven and for the beginning, middle, and end of our marriage.
And that is my prayer for all of us humans: that we continue to support each other in releasing stories, opinions, judgments, and fears; not from a place of "you shouldn't have any stories" or "it is wrong to be judgmental." That is the old matrix, the one where we punish ourselves and each other for our experience. Instead, let's honor ALL aspects of ourselves and others, even the parts we don't like. Let's immerse ourselves in the healing salve and sparkly joy of gratitude. We are all so powerful, and we are also so fragile. Let's hold spaciousness for our hearts to expand past old hurts and fears, and lovingly invite change to unfold, like a new butterfly unfurling its wings for the first time. Let's embrace both the caterpillar, the cocoon, and the wet wings part of our process as much as we embrace the flight; because ALL of it is life.
Thanks for being with me on this amazing journey!
And two last shares; one of my favorite poems from Adrienne Rich; a reminder to release ourselves and others from boxes, definitions, and the past.
If you have taken this rubble for my past
raking though it for fragments you could sell
know that I long ago moved on
deeper into the heart of the matter
If you think you can grasp me, think again:
my story flows in more than one direction
a delta springing from the riverbed
with its five fingers spread
~ Adrienne Rich
And a writing that came into my inbox this morning, from a friend.
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. ~ Louise Erdrich
Today, like tomorrow and all days to come, I plan to spend licking apple nectar off my fingers and moving deeper into the heart of the matter... deeper into the sweetness of unconditional love, deeper into unconditional acceptance, deeper into unconditional healing, deeper into unconditional living.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
A few years ago I read an article that shifted how I viewed aging. The author interviewed 70 and 80 year olds who were actively involved in extreme sports/activities: everything from climbing the world's highest mountains to skiing to jumping out of airplanes.
They all shared their experiences of what helped them get out of bed each morning and continue to live their passions, despite the changes in their bodies.
One 85-year old man's advice was simple: "Cultivate your enthusiasm now. You are going to need it when you are my age."
Gracefully aging doesn't happen spontaneously; it is something we cultivate day by day, beginning at whatever age we are now. You don't have to be "old" to lay the foundation to age fabulously.
Here are some tips on aging fabulously, or just plain living fabulously:
Read inspirational stories and watch inspirational movies about aging, illness, and death. Don't avoid making friends with again, illness, and death, they are not your enemies, but reminders of the fragility and preciousness of life. They can teach you much that will bring you fully alive.
Set goals for yourself at 60, 70, 80, and 90. Who would you like to be? Let go of believing that you will remain 39 forever; and let yourself dream without limits of what you want to have accomplished or do at different markers in your life. Celebrate each birthday as another blessing. One woman I met did something outrageous for each birthday after she turned 70; at 75 she did a firewalk; the year before she had gotten a tattoo with her daughter. How might you celebrate getting older?
Cover all your mirrors for a week and bring your focus to feeling yourself from your core rather than through your eyes. Get to know your unique vibration as a sensation, rather than defining yourself by what you look like.
If your body hurts or tweaks, smile and breath into the area. Ask that area what it needs or what would support it. Bring more oxygen and awareness to the tight, painful, or difficult areas in your body.
Change your languaging. Be curious and open about getting older rather than whining about it. It's going to happen no matter what; why not enjoy it? How you speak to yourself and others makes a huge difference.
Below are two inspirations I received via email from my mama (thanks, mom!); feel free to share others as you find them!
A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.
As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. I love it,' he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait.'
'That doesn't have anything to do with it,' he replied.
Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. 'It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day
and all the happy memories I've stored away.. Just for this time in my life.
Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put in..
So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank
account of memories!
Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.
from MARION P. DOWNS, DHS, DSc (Hon.)
Author of Shut up and Live!
How do some people, as they grow older, continue to lead happy, vigorous, event-filled lives, while others don’t? Meet Dr. Marion Downs. In her 94 years, she has...
Participated in a mini-triathlon (running, swimming and biking) at age 89.
Won Senior Olympics gold medals in tennis.
Achieved mandated hearing tests for more than 90% of US newborns when she was an audiologist in her 50s.
Retired -- often.
Here’s what she has to say...
It’s fun to be old. I can do almost anything I want to do. Nobody cares! But one thing I know -- to continue, I must take care of myself physically and mentally.
My “old age” got off to a great start. The day I turned 51, I stood at the top of a hill wearing ski gear that my kids had left in a closet, scared to barrel down that first slope. I turned to the instructor and said, “I can’t do this! It’s too steep. What should I do?” He said, “Shut up and ski! You know how.” I did? Yes, even though it was my first time, somehow I did. So I went.
Now, whenever life gets strange and I don’t know what to do next, I tell myself, “Shut up and live! You know how.”
Most of us are living longer than our parents did, with no guidelines to see us through those critical years. “Girls” in their 80s and younger claim I’m their role model and ask for my longevity secrets.
A few years ago, I noticed that youngsters in their 50s and 60s dared to write books about how to live to a ripe old age. Why not me? I know how! So I wrote a book, too.
My three children, 11 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren are 38 great reasons to stick around. But only I can take care of myself. And I do.
I believe in taking full responsibility for one’s own life. Stop blaming Grandpa. According to a report on aging from Harvard, our genes account for only about 25% to 35% of our longevity and 30% of our physiological changes. My parents died at 72. Not me.
Maintaining a vigorous old age requires determination. My number one priority: Daily exercise.
Every morning I stretch for 15 to 20 minutes. Back stretches keep me free of pain from a serious back problem decades ago. Neck and shoulder stretches keep my head high, shoulders back. Daily leg stretches prevent the old folks’ shuffle, caused by short, weak leg muscles. Striding is better.
At home, I do an hour of strengthening exercises (with weights, stretchy exercise bands, on a large balance ball and with a soccer ball) three times a week and one to two hours of aerobics (mostly running, but I love my three-wheel bicycle, too) four times a week. My trainer, whom I call the Marquis de Sade, protects me from harm but keeps me hopping. I see him periodically for consultations about increasing the number of repetitions of an exercise, trying a new exercise regimen or device and general advice and help.
Exercise is play, too. Tennis has been my game since I retired from full-time work at 68. I prefer it over golf because it involves more activity. I play two hours three times a week in a league with changing partners.
MY SO-CALLED DIET
I’m no dietitian. But I look pretty good for a nonagenarian, and people ask for my nutritional secrets.
What I eat: Foods high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Lots of fruit and as many veggies as I can swallow.
That regimen keeps me lean, clean, healthy and strong.
Another essential food group: Each morning I put a milk chocolate turtle on the kitchen counter. I admire it all day and eat it at night.
MY KIND OF FUN
When I turned 90, I decided to try skydiving. My family tried to stop me. Ha! Strapped to an instructor, I did a 3,000-foot free fall at 120 miles per hour. The landing was nice. We glided in. I sat down on a sand pile. For my 95th, next January, I’m doing it again.
My bridge games, doing crosswords in pen -- who knows if they help my brain stay healthy? I keep active and hope for the best.