Sitting has never been my thing. When I first began working with Ben 5 years ago, I could only manage 2 minutes of breathing practice. But over time with continual commitment it has gotten better, deeper and at times even enjoyable! Always looking to push myself beyond my comfort zone I signed up for a 4 hour online meditation class with a focus on duration training. I settled into my favorite practice chair as class began allowing whatever feeling and sensations to arise. I was in a deeply peaceful place when I collapsed from my contemplative abode into a rage and unrest as a fly landed on my face. In nearly an instantaneous motion I killed the bug. A torrent of emotions followed like bullet train from… Elation! I GOT Him! Horror… Omg I just came out of meditation and killed something and everything in between. The cascade of my consciousness landed in the realization I had just terminated the tool for my duration focus. Anger, frustration are the most difficult emotions for me to sit with. I settled in again with all the feelings of what just occurred. Fly number 2 emerged (and note to self to address the fly problem in my house!!) with a fondness for my nose and face. I sat with all of it as the creature danced across my physicality. And right at the end of the class those little fly feet and all the intensity of emotions around my fly experience dissolved into an indescribable ecstasy. Have you sat with your fly today?
As women our lives ebb and flow in cycles and rhythms. When we begin to menstruate, when we give birth, when we transition through menopause we go through tremendous shifts in how we define ourselves. The underlying structure of who we thought we were dissolves on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually during these life passages. In the process of these transformations we often feel like we are in a void and struggle to grasp a sense of who we are when we don’t even know what we are becoming. In adolescence we scrambled to define ourselves and how to fit it. In motherhood we relinquished that sense of definition we found in our youth in order to care for and love our children and families. In menopause as the nest empties we are again faced with redefining “who am I now?”. Not only does our definition of ourselves alter, but our physiology and our emotional bandwidth changes. And on top of these major transmutations our relationships may end, we may experience loss when our loved ones succumb to illness and age, when our children pass to the other side before us, leaving us feeling life is a fleeting, fragile crystal that can shatter at any given moment.
In this high tech world it is easy to get distracted with all the electronic options modern society has to offer. A few clicks and your off to what feels very different than your unsettledness, emptiness, pain or the helter-skelter feelings of your transition. The demon of distraction is like moving the furniture around on the deck of the Titanic. Things look and feel different on the surface but your whole being is still swirling in a chaotic whirlpool underneath.
So how do we find our core when we don’t even know who we are, or its too painful to even visit what we are feeling? How do we get in a good relationship with ourselves when we feel messy? Mindfulness practice. That’s the term everyone knows, but I want to call it EMBODIMENT time. The transitions I spoke about above involve our bodies as well as our emotions and mind. I think when many people approach mindfulness their immediate experience is overwhelming watching their crazy thoughts ping from past to future without a second for presence. While this is a component of mindfulness it is important to embrace our emotional and physical bodies to form an integrated relationship with ourselves. When we involve the physicality of the breath, along with honoring our emotional states by allowing them to BE the mind becomes centered in the experience of experiencing . You form a relationship with yourself that is visceral, palpable, grounded and secure—no matter what you are experiencing. You come into awareness of your truth and what is right for you. “Oh I can’t sit. “ I hear you. When I began practice under my mentor I made it a whole 2 minutes. But like anything in life that is worthwhile it requires time and attention. Working in groups has always helped me and there are many local resources for group meditation. When we give attentiveness to ourselves in the form of practice, the fruits expand exponentially in greater knowingness of who we are and what we are feeling. In relaxing deeply into who we are we can expand our consciousness into who we are becoming smoothing the chaos of difficult feelings and life transitions.
When I look at this tree I feel so much. The picture does it no justice. This enormous tree is growing on top of a boulder… roots splayed and curled around to reach the soil it needs for its development. I’ve seen it many times on my favorite loop around Looking Glass Pond. It is my go to place to do breathing/walking practice. I was having one of those difficult days. Dragging myself there, I was dreading the hour hike along the shore of the pond. I was having a bad case of what I call “ the fuckits” —days when I question everything I am doing in terms of personal growth and want to throw in the towel and quit.. And I looked at this tree, its ontogenesis. When life was difficult for this tree it didn’t say “fuckit, I am on top of a rock I am not going to grow”. There was no way for it to run or hide from the fact that its life was going to be more difficult than the lives of other trees. It utilized every part of its determination to figure out how to make its life work on top of an impossible substrate. I stood there in awe that day. I have a tremendous connection with trees and i felt the resolutness, and the drive that needed to be part of my consciousness again because if we are not growing we are dying. Spending time breathing deeply into the “fuckits” while allowing myself to absorb the energy of the perfectly balanced forest around me was incredibly healing. Such deep gratitude for this tree that was a beacon of inspiration on that difficult day.
Grief is one of those multidimensional feelings because it occurs on so many levels. The morning I began drafting this article, unbeknownst to me, a coworker had lost her son the night before. When we lose someone the shock to our consciousness doesn’t really register it at first. There is a numbness, a disbelief, a denial that who we love is gone. Its not possible, they can’t be departed. And then our hearts begin to recognized the reality our minds don’t want to admit. It hurts a pain unequaled to anything else. Grief spans the dimensions of time because now we are flooded with memories of the fullness and richness of past and the stark cupboards of the future. When a feeling encompasses not only the boundaries of our heart but the space backwards and forwards in our life it can feel like there will never be an end to it. An overwhelm of emptiness. And if matters couldn’t be more encompassing our departed love ones take up residence in the physicality of our life. You recognize them in what they loved. All of their favorite things inhabit the living everywhere we look. Their favorite hat seems to be on everyone’s head you see at the store, their favorite song or color appears with an uncanny frequency. Once I was tending to a man with end stage pancreatic cancer who had only a few weeks to live. I remember so viscerally the weight of the moment his wife paused before the pellet stove on her way to the bathroom. She looked at the radiant heater and mumbled,” I am going to have to learn how to use that,” —a task in their 40 odd years of marriage she never tended to. Each time she feels the chill of the weather, she will feel the presence of his memory in that little black stove. The same kind of feelings occur when a breakup or divorce happens or when we lose a beloved pet. One of the most common themes I have seen in people that come to my healing circle is they feel “they should be over it by now, “ because its been x number of months or years and there is still a pain that won’t leave. We are all unique in the way we process what happens to us in life and how that takes place is highly individual. But it is always good to use the assistance of counselors and healers in these kinds of difficult times. Sharing our burdens eases the weight. No one can take away difficult feelings, but they can help lighten an unbearable load.
Twice a year for the last 4 years I have fasted for 4 days and nights without food and water alone in the woods. Other than sessions with my mentor (Benoofana.com) this time is unprecedented for personal growth. When I step out of the business and craziness of life, I step into awareness of who I am. I am there with myself for days without the distractions of modern life, of social media and news. The fast brings graciousness and presence to the smallest things.. a slight breeze or chipmunks chasing one another. It certainly brings consciousness to how much food we consume and how little we actually need to get by. It brings very deep appreciation for water, how truly precious a resource it is and how grateful i am to still be able to drink it from a spring that gushes from the side of a mountain near where i live. This kind of fast is an intensive practice and should be under the guidance of one who can oversee you on a spiritual level. It is the ultimate presence practice because if you sit there counting days and wishing it was over it will take forever. There is no where to run or distract to when difficult feelings arise. When you are angry, sad, insecure, frightened, cold, hot, cranky or think you are crazy for being alone in the middle of the woods you must remain present to all the parts of yourself. You cannot hold up resistances, because you don’t have the energy to keep your walls up. . All your messiness arises and …. you just have to accept it, be with yourself and allow you in all your fullness. In embracing all of these parts of yourself there is a deep sense of groundedness and connectedness you experience as you no longer try to keep your messiness at bay.
I fast because it gives me greater capacity to work with others as a healer. The world is in a precarious state right now and we need to be working as hard as we can to heal ourselves because in doing so our families, communities and the world can become a better place.
I remember Madd Libs from my youth… those pre-written stories where the verbs, nouns and adjectives were left blank so you could fill in your own description and create your own nonsensical narrative. We create our own crazy stories about ourselves everyday. “I should be______”. What are your words? I should be…..thinner, more organized, less moody, more motivated…. the list is endless isn’t it? The litany of “I shoulds” parades in our mind like a herd of elephants, leaving no room for what we ACTUALLY ARE. Even as I write this article, the “should be” gremlin is on my shoulder announcing that I SHOULD be doing my morning practices. And I am aware it is making me tired to think this way. The thinking is separating me from the part of me that feels deeply that I need to write this morning. This is part of what drains our energy away, this disconnection of what we think we should be doing and what we feel in our hearts is right. We are aware of it when we see it outside ourselves, when we are speaking with someone and we can tell they are a million miles away and not paying attention to a word we are saying. Then we watch a TED talk of someone who inspires us and we can feel their 100% alignment in what they feel, think and are doing and it is very powerful. So how do we change the “ I shoulds” to the “ I am” ? Have you ever tried to give something up only to have it appear everywhere you look with an uncanny frequency that could only be possible because you are trying to distance yourself from it? Reigning in our monkey mind is similar. When we bring our attention to wanting to change the way we think, it shines a light on the frenetic ping-pong game of thoughts bouncing from the the past and jumping to the future. As we sit with the insanity, it slows, it will give rise to feelings situated underneath the heard of elephants. Complete acceptance of our current state of being and all of our feelings —even if they are negative allows us to tap into our unity which is very powerful. From that state of complete acceptance of all the parts of ourselves, even the negative we have an effectual base from which to create the changes in ourselves we truly want. This is accomplished through mindful meditative breathing practice. It is a continual daily process that takes time and attention as does anything that is worth our while. The beauty about mindfulness and breathing is that no matter where go, there you are and you can bring it with you: waiting in line at the grocery store, driving, washing dishes, eating. Change up your story today with “ I am ____” and fill in the blank to embody who you truly are.
The human experience is variegated. It exists as a sine wave of negative numbers and positive integers sliding passed the neutral zone of zero. No one gets around that no matter how good they look on Instagram. Suffering as well as joy is a very real part of our existence. But we like to factor out the yukky parts. Who can blame us? No one wants a negative balance.
For many years my meditation altar stood as my gateway of escape to other realms. Adorned with special items and photos of Masters who were aglow in a radiance I wanted. It was a place I could experience deep peace and expanded consciousness but in hindsight also avoid the reality of my life.
As the blessing of my children came along, so did the lack of time to do those practices. Motherhood has a way of ushering you to the brink of what you thought life was suppose to be and flipping it upside down. With little time and energy to devote to my etheric meddling I was left with the rawness of who I was without it. And it wasn’t pretty.
I swore I wouldn’t become my mother, and there I was becoming what I never wanted to be. I was relating to my life from patterns set very early on in the dysfunction home I grew up in.
It wasn’t until I began working on my internal landscape with the help of a very gifted healer (Ben) that the insights, information and higher consciousness of my meditation time could actually be integrated into my physical life. Doing the deep internal work (shadow work if you prefer) actually brought my daily life to an amazing place of being very grounded, centered, emotionally functional, engaged and creative. Embracing and relating to all of the parts of myself, including the “negative” has produced this security and comfort I have internally that I can navigate life and all its entanglements being present in all my bodies, physically, emotionally and mentally and spiritually—at the same time.
#Meditation #Grounded #Shadowwork #Internallandscape
I want to strike the phrase, “I am sorry” from the feminine vocabulary. Each time I hear this apologetic idiom slide out of a woman’s mouth she is crumpled. She’s embarrassed and shamed by her own needs, her own intensity, by the tears that may be falling , by the very fact that her own state of being is being “too much”. But that being too much is not her own definition. She’s been told, “ If you don’t stop crying I’ll give you something to cry about”. She’s been told no one will love her if she gets angry. She’s been told to worry about other’s feelings first and disregard her own. She’s been told a lot of lies and its time to change the story.
I catch my own self using the diminutive term when I ask someone to repeat themselves because I have difficulty hearing. I don’t really need to say, “ I am sorry, what did you say?” Do I need to apologize for a genetic issue I was born with? Do I somehow feel less than perfect? Do I feel I am being an such extreme burden for asking to repeat a few words hence the need to apologize first? A simple, “ Could you repeat that” is sufficient isn’t it? Words and language are powerful and when we look at the way we express verbally its good way to see into how we truly feel about ourselves.
Our power as women (and men) lies in our ability to connect our expressiveness with our emotions appropriately. Those three little words. “ I am sorry” when used after we have felt a feeling that’s deep and raw, or touched the rim of our grief, or shed waterfalls of tears throws a wet blanket on the flame of our passion that makes us living , breathing sentient beings. It also keeps us from feeling the full bandwidth of the beautiful joyful feelings. Connecting to what we truly feel and not saying I am sorry is what takes true courage and strength.
#Iamsorry #Womanpower #Makenoise
“That’s what wine is for!!,” she fumed as she stormed out the door of her parents house. Her heart full of rage, anger, hurt and pain. My heart broke as I witnessed the response of a family member having a hard time with her relationships. I had been there. I used wine to quell the powerfully intense emotions I had in the 28 year marriage I left. The emotional merry-go-round of my inability to express my feelings because I was afraid to confront because I feared loosing the relationship and the house that went with it, so it was just easier to have another glass of wine—in the short term. The cabernet cover would give me that warm, rosy cheeked buzz and suddenly my life and my feelings seemed more tolerable. But the fierce energy of my unmet emotional needs was still raging underneath the alcohol induced okayness like the Yellowstone caldera. The wine only worked for so long before my bodies (mental, emotional and physical) began to break down under the weight of that cover. It’s hard to step beyond what is such an accepted way to deal with life, especially when your whole lineage has bowed to the bottle and obsessive behaviors. When I stopped drinking, I had to come face to face with the fact that I was miserable and I was really angry. It wasn’t easy, probably the scariest thing I have ever done, but honoring my feelings gave me the strength and energy to get out of that relationship that wasn’t a good fit for me. The quick fix of wine paved the road for long term misery and it is not a sustainable coping mechanism. The best cork to pop is the one holding back your intense emotions because in truly feeling we are truly living.
#Drinking #Emotionalintensity #Wine #YellowstoneCaldera
For many years my expressiveness was locked away in fear. Fear of being rejected, fear of not being good enough, fear of feeling my own emotional landscape . I placed my value in the silent role learned in my youth to just go along and not make waves. It was the ultimate way to get approval and love back then. But it’s a terribly depleting way to live because the balance of your energy is outside the core of who you truly are. When we are willing to step outside what is comfortable and pull back the needy chains of our self worth we have anchored in other peoples ideas of who we should be, there is an unsettling void that happens. Oh my gosh! No one is validating me!! Who am I? I feel lost, empty, alone. But if we can sit in that void a bit without hurling another anchor to an external source of endorsement the balance of our power returns home to our center. Our needs, wants and desires come from the natural well-spring of who we are grounded in our authenticity. We are enough as we are and we then can share that integrity with others. Then we can enter relationships from strength and not need, from being whole and not in desperation for someone to fill our fear gaps. When we are fully embracing, caring for and honoring ourselves we unfold in our own unique, dynamic beautiful way. Its the greatest gift we can give ourselves and soooo much better than a box of chocolate!
#chocolate #Love #Needsanddesires #Expressiveness
My ex would use this phrase often when he was dealing with a messy project that was disrupting our household flow. A degree of demolition has to occur before things are put back in a more beautiful, functional way. The same principle applies to healing. In order for us to feel better, have more energy, be at peace or live purposefully the energetic-emotional patterns that are making us tired, sick, conflicted, anxious and depressed have to become undone. And there is no other way to do this than to face and breathe into our ailing, both on our own and with the assistance of truly gifted healers. It’s a messy process but our pain is our road map to greater awareness and wholeness. It’s like when we take all the ingredients out for the cake: flour gets all over, utensils get dirty and you have to break the eggs. The other morning in my own breathing practice a roar of anger emerged from the recesses of my body along with the energetic goo it was compacted in for the last 40 years. It was gross. My body felt as if this thick garbage barge of sludge was sliding, slug like out of my body. I felt like running from it. But no matter where I go, there I am so I stayed with it the best I could and moved into a walking practice my mentor taught me. I am motivated because when I embrace the hidden muck in myself I can feel my creative energy having more room to express itself. It also enables me to be a clearer conduit for healing and have greater capacity to hold the space for others. So break your eggs, make your cake and enjoy!!
#Breakingeggs #Healing #Emotionalmessy #Energeticcompaction
Being fully present with ourselves and all of our emotions seems like a pretty simple task. I am here, I know what I am feeling so? And there in lies the problem: you can’t know your feelings from your mind. You can only truly know your feelings from feeling them in a fully experiential way.
Being aware of the multiple layers of the experience an emotion provides like sadness for example is a completely different experience than knowing from your mind you are sad. In the beginning of my journey, I was like most people. Uncomfortable emotions were something to be covered and not catered to. Why not? It works doesn’t it? Think for a moment about a situation you have experienced when an angry person walked in the room and you felt it before you even turned around. There is so much force and energy around that persons feeling it was palpable and visceral across space. All emotions have that charge. So when we choose not to feel our anger for example ( Ugh anger is so hard for me!) it doesn’t disappear, it goes somewhere and that somewhere is usually our bodies. Or it gets projected onto others. When dysfunctional emotional patterns learned in our youth are repeated over years and years an energetic compaction occurs. Have you witnessed the fluidity of small children’s movements? And the old timers saying, “Where do they get all that energy from?- where did mine go?“
Children flow because they express. Crying one minute laughing the next, nothing is held and there is no layering of unmet feelings. I was raised in a home where children were seen and not heard and emotional expression of ANY kind was not acceptable. Drinking was the way to cope with life. I spent nearly 30 years in a marriage that replicated those childhood patterns. When we don’t face and feel the emotions that are hard we are missing the half of us that makes us whole. Facebook, Netflix, alcohol ... my nemesis Ben and Jerry’s make us feel different and distracted from being truly consciousness and connected to all the parts of ourselves. When we skitter on the surface of our shadowy emotions it also keeps us skittering on the surface of the ones that feel good. If we want a rich, deep emotionally fulfilling relationship with someone else, we have to first have that rich deep, emotional connection with all part of ourselves, which includes the crud.
I work with an amazingly gifted healer who assists with breaking up those old parts of myself. Every time we work together it amazes me how much more truly alive I am, how my creativity, my fire for life, my verbal expression, my energy, my emotional resilience improves —even at 55 years old. I post this with deepest gratitude for Ben.
It began the moment I opened my eyes in bed in the morning, the moment I stepped out of dreamworld. I don’t want to get up. To get vertical means something is required of me, something I have to face and do. And if I just get to the coffee pot fast enough I can over-caffeinate the feeling into Folgers Oblivion. When I become abuzz in frenetic energy I can catapult myself through the day. Did the Folgers advertisers know that feeling when they coined the slogan, “ The best part about waking up is Folgers in my cup” ? But the difficulty with caffeine, as with any other drug is it numbs us from our emotional bandwidth and prevents us from experiencing the deeper nature of who we are. Had I lay long enough in bed with the feelings of resistance to my day I would have discovered a lot more about myself. Allowing myself to feel the messy, uncomfortable emotions fully may have become a gateway for change. If my day is making me feel this bad, perhaps it’s time to alter what I am doing instead of just caffeinating and getting through.
#coffee #caffeinatedlife #Folgers
Maintenancing My Emotional Body
Photo by Jim Rhoads
We do a lot of regular maintenance to keep our lives running optimally: oil changes, dental visits, exercise for our physical body— and no, “two for Tuesday drink specials are NOT emotional maintenance!
It was after one of my 10 hour rent payer job days. I was exhausted. Both of my daughters spoke about their futures in terms of living in other states plus the coming loss of the sweatlodge I have attended for a year and half. It was all too much to feel. Enter Ben and Jerry’s. It made me feel gloriously “different” with it’s lactose, sugar induced high. But it didn’t heal the sadness. The pain submerged itself in my abdomen along with the thousands of calories I didn’t need. My sadness was neatly covered over but not gone. It would emerge at untimely moments in a flood of tears that seemingly came out of nowhere. It was still there deep inside where I pushed it.
I have the opportunity to work with a very gifted healer trained in both traditional Native American medicine and Chinese healing who comes to the little town of West Fulton every month or so. The ancient forces that work through my healer facilitate balancing my emotional body by assisting me in processing through them.
In session we talk, I breathe deeply into the feelings and sensations in my body peeling off the layer of Ben and Jerry’s and awakening my humanity, my emotional resilience. Sometimes it’s difficult and I resist the whole thing. But it’s afterword. I feel so much lighter, grounded, whole, peaceful. I can feel more deeply. There’s a saying that you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. I thought I was only a little off, a little sad. But after that stored emotion was released from my abdomen there was a smooth clean feeling that made me realize the weight of the emotions I was carrying was much more and deeper than I surmised.
I post this with the deepest gratitude for my healer.
It’s not something we generally think about. We lump it in the category of digestion or heartbeat, it’s just there. But when it’s not there we are dead! So it holds an incredible amount of power for us and it is something we CAN control, unlike digestion or heartbeat. So the way we are breathing affects the quality of how we are living. We all remember a time we were so stressed or anxiety ridden that we felt like it was hard to breathe. Deep body centered breathing is a powerful tool we can learn to use to manage our stress, gain deeper insights into ourselves and expand our awareness. It is the go to tool for presence practices and mindfulness. When we center our awareness on our breath the story of what our bodies are telling us unfolds. We learn a new means of communication with our physicality. We come down out of the incessant craziness of our minds and begin to truly inhabit our bodies, making us feel whole and grounded. This awareness is our ticket to change.
I awoke the other morning brooding in dismal disparity, resistant to allowing myself to feel. It was a night of bad dreams and a long day ahead of a rent payer job. It’s what chickens do when they want to hatch their babies. They have to sit, to stay put until enough heat builds for their babies to hatch and emerge into the world. That was me, brooding on the concept of my of my unhatched potentials, brooding on the eggs of my depression. And then the conversation started in my mind, “... but you should be happy you have a good paying job, you should be grateful for where you are in your spiritual growth.” When that conversation ensued the realization came that the conversation itself was causing me greater pain, discomfort and disparity in who or what I think I should be. While seeing the glass half full can sometimes help shift our awareness, it can also create an enormous gap in our consciousness of what we think we should be and what we are actually experiencing. So I went back to my broody mood, remaining present to the feelings of sadness and frustration, breathing into them. And they shifted, they softened. I allowed them the space of their expression, honoring their existence as part of who I am and in doing so it made them more wearable to me. Rather than pushing them away with a brilliant mantra of how happy I should be, it was embracing and breathing into the difficult feelings that actually made genuine difference in how I feel