The Only Way Out is Through

I hope this finds your eyes dry, and your heart well.

As an empath, I have always felt very affected by the suffering of others, of this world. I know, intimately, the cavernous ache that is the pain of another’s story or experience, as if it were my own. As an act of self-preservation over the years, I have worked to have a bit more control over this tendency, rather than the reverse. It is a gift, to feel so deeply, and yet it can also be a curse. I have found myself suffering another’s pain long after they themselves had made peace and turned the page.

That said, I am only just now coming to you with dry eyes. This past week has been intensely triggering, challenging, and unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. The unknown – whose presence is, as a law of nature, is unfailingly relentless – feels drastically more tangible. I feel tremendously more involved in its undulations.

Despite my empathic nature, I have never in my 28 years been so swept from the shore of my own personal suffering and into the waves of national, even global distress.

Save for the profound tragedies that have occurred in my cognizant experience like 9/11, mass shootings, and earth-shattering natural disasters.

If that paints a picture of privilege, I’ll be the last to argue. I just can’t say I have ever been so distraught over an external circumstance. Normally, as a coping mechanism, we retreat inward and count our blessings. My loved ones are healthy and safe, I am healthy and safe, my life is untouched by the suffering that has overcome me, may I remember this so my energy can be extended towards comforting those in need rather than mistaking this crisis as my own.

Some might say that to feel the world’s pain as our own is part of the human condition, and in some ways profoundly beautiful. Others might see it as a waste of useful, active comfort and productivity, to be so lost in the suffering that we cannot fully be of aide. Either way, we all feel and process differently. And this past Tuesday night changed the way I look at the world, and the people who walk alongside me.

I sobbed Tuesday night, as I watched the downward spiral that was this election. I haven’t had an appetite since that evening (which is really saying something). I spent Wednesday spontaneously bursting into tears. I felt weighed down with grief. Grief that I am still processing a whole week later. It was such a strange experience. I was visiting my mom and stayed the night. When we awoke in the morning to the final news (which had not been made final by the time we took our frantic selves to bed), I was crushed. I never could have imagined ever being crushed by politics. But I was. Utterly. Irrevocably.

My heart was shattered. For Hillary Clinton, whom I found to be an exquisitely competent, experienced, and deserving candidate, lifelong public servicewoman (despite her flaws, which none of us are without), and “most qualified person to ever run for the presidency ever“, in the words of great President Obama himself…for Hillary, I wept.

I wept for women, and for all of the rights and dignity we have soldiered to acquire. I wept for immigrants, for minorities, for the colorful fabric that makes up our nation, for our youth. I wept and wept and wept.

My  mom stayed home sick, and I was off of work. We spent the morning together. We hiked out into nature and spent several hours in the greatest medicine Mother Earth has to offer. We talked. We cried. We cursed. We were in awe. We were in pain. We were awakened. We forgot for a moment, and then we remembered, and we started all over again.

It was the most unreal experience of what had become, shockingly, reality. Nothing this disastrous has ever happened in our system  of politics ever before. Despite the party one subscribes to, or the sentiment one might feel towards past or present Commanders in Chief, there has never been such an outright dangerous, ill-equipped, inexperienced, FOOL of a man to even run for office, much less be elected. I, for one, refuse to allow this country to be made into a mockery and theatre of cruelty. I know I am not alone.

In some bizarre way I felt more united with my fellow Americans than I ever had, and yet more wrecked by what had happened than I have memory of ever being. I really can’t compare it to anything but 9/11, and I actually owe that comparison to my mom. We were both just so ill at ease and cradled by disbelief.

A week has now passed, and I am crying far less. I am slow to process, I crawl into my Cancerian crab shell and sob quietly, but in this solitude I have charged up for action. Coiling so as to spring forth. I am fortified by the powerful women of this country who have stood up, boldly. I am strengthened by the men who have turned their backs on the misogyny that built this nation and proclaimed that “the future is female.” The ones who have vowed to maintain high visibility and equality for all women. The ones who wept with me. I am built up by the unity that has risen from the ashes of this earth-splitting division. I have faith, in our power, in our process, and in the revolution that is churning.

I will admit, in weaker (or perhaps just inquisitive) moments, I am looking from face to face. Did you vote for him? Did you vote at all? I recognize a feeling of resignation in these wonderings, rather than accusatory denial or anger. I also acknowledge a heavy undertone of disappointment and confusion. Because the statistics give me enough information to know that many of those faces did indeed vote for him, and did indeed not vote at all. Both of which break my heart all over again.

Differences are what make us beautiful, but not when those differences highlight half the American population as those for whom sexism, racism, narcissism, sociopathology, misogyny, prejudice, violence, sexual assault, zero experience, and downright unstable mental capacity is not a deal breaker.

My prayer is that, somehow, in the utter American collapse of what most of us find to be general decency, humanity, and universal love, we can come to better understand one another. The outcome of this election has exposed a great wound in our nation. One that requires immediate, emergency attention.

I do trust that everything happens as it should, in this life. But I don’t accept the decision of the electoral college with understanding. I accept it because it is reality, and I don’t believe in arguing with what is (thank you, Byron Katie). I accept it with the terms that this means we are going to battle. A war cry for love is echoing across our lands. We will not stand for hate. We will not stand for oppression. We will not tolerate the dismantling of human dignity by the highest office of our country. We will not tolerate a dangerous, caricature of a man attempting to fill the shoes of, arguably, the greatest human being to ever be President, with his lies, abuse, and disgusting beliefs. We will not allow darkness to dampen our light.

I don’t have a way to neatly tie up the ends of this essay because, well, we’re knees deep in this right now. Every day is a little less shocking and yet all the more alarming. The evolution of this decision is shifting away from sadness and disbelief, into an echoing call for engagement affirmative action.

This is not a time to stay quiet, to filter or censor. This is a time to find the divine balance between accepting reality, and acting upon the injustice. Accepting, and then creating change. Accepting as a means to strengthen our collective resolve, but not allowing the madness to ensue. Doing everything in our human power to pull from power any entity who does not uphold the standard of dignity, decency, empathy, and love.

We are sent here with a holy mission. We have taken a creed to honor one another, as sacred beings of God, and to protect and uphold a standard of LOVE. Pure love. The kind of love we are all born knowing, but which this world sometimes begs us to forget. We are here as warriors of the luminous light we were brought here to remember.

We must come together. We must commit to the self-care, selfless service, and promotion of tight-knit community  that is required to heal this wound, and redefine “what this country is built on.” No room for “was.” We are finished with tyranny.

The flames are flickering high, the earth is smoldering. We have been called to action, called to rise. There is no way around it. The only way out is through.

 

Spiritual Growing Pains

To say the vibrations of September have been intense, would be just a bit of an understatement. There’s been a tremendous amount of build-up, spiritually, and quite a substantial wind of change coming about. Not the kind of change – for most of us, at least – that is tangible and alarming, ground-quaking and “in your face.” It has that feeling, yes, of monumental presence, but it’s a bit more cryptic, impalpable, below the surface. The kind of sensation you can’t exactly identify, but that can have you writhing in your own skin. It’s nothing we can really grab onto, having no real texture or weight, but it’s there. I feel it. You feel it. Intentions set long ago, seeds planted under moons past, are coming to fruition. Dreams are being made manifest.

And it’s really…fricking…uncomfortable.

If you feel like you’re bobbing around in a cauldron of simultaneously cruel and exquisite passion, feeling like you’re undergoing this miraculous and life-saving operation, just without the anesthesia, please know you’re not alone.

Mercury goes direct tomorrow (thank GAWSH), the Autumnal Equinox is Thursday (read: HUGE ENERGY SHIFT), and the Full Harvest Moon and Lunar Eclipse was this past Friday (if you were wondering why you’ve been feeling all the feels).

That is a LOT of energy, celestially, subtly, astrologically. I mean, I’ve cried two dozen times in two days. I feel the fibers of my astral body stretching as I squirm my way through this phase. As I cope with these spiritual growing pains.

I find myself feeling there aren’t enough hours in the day. I find myself “making trouble.” By that I mean, I find my poor, frayed mind seeking out trouble that isn’t there. Venturing way down the imaginary road that is “the future” and worrying over potential obstacles that don’t even have any context in my current life.

Am I speaking to you?

As my divine teacher (also known to me as MOM) always says, “Don’t go making trouble where there isn’t any.” It’s really so true. I know this to be true because I make such trouble on a regular basis. I always have, actually. As a child, I was a “worry wart.” As if that were really a common thing, ordinary vocabulary for any seven year old.

As an adult, I’ve taken it upon myself to constantly be checking in on my own stress levels. Rather addictively, even. I make daily potions of tonic herbs to support my adrenals and my organs and moderate my anxiety. I practice daily yoga, mantra, meditation and pranayama to try and chill myself out. I journal out all my fears and worries so as to unburden myself of stress and “leave it on the page.” I tell myself that stress ages the body, and then I get stressed out that I’m stressing in the first place. And then I go to sleep and wake up again the next day, lacing my existence with the same lineup of healing practices to calm my precious, fragile nervous system.

Sometimes I think that souls as sensitive, tender, and vulnerable as mine weren’t manufactured for a world this chaotic, this unpredictable, this powerful.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for my awareness and for an arsenal of self-care alchemy to combat the cumulative stress that IS the experience of being alive, and of “adulting.” But I can’t help but laugh at the irony of it all. I try so hard at everything I do. Sure, some aspects of life are purely effortless. But as a “Type A”, highly sensitive, people-pleasing, worry wart, perfectionistic individual, I walk through the world enveloped in emotion, with landmines of potential disappointment or over-analysis at nearly every turn. And sometimes, I can’t help but think that people who just don’t give a fuck, striding through life without incessantly reading and sponging up the energy of their surroundings, are probably doing so with a lot less stress, discomfort, and worry. That they must skate through life in all of their “not giving a fuck-ness”, free of all the jaw-clenching, hiding in the bathroom to think, mind racing existence of the highly emotional person. Raise your hand if you feel me.

Perhaps they do, I’ll never really know. And frankly it doesn’t make any difference to me. Because, I’ll confess, I wouldn’t trade my experience for all of the stress-free, smooth-sailing, giving no fucks-ness there is. While it can be a burden to experience the world through a lens of such intensity, there is also so much endless, boundless, incomprehensible beauty and feeling that would be utterly and irrevocably lost without this sweet, tender perspective.

Recently, my divine teacher (again, MOM) sent me a book. I’ve only just begun it, but already it’s becoming my bible. It’s The Highly Sensitive Person, but Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., and I quite honestly spent the entire introduction, cross-legged on my bed, highlighting every other passage and ugly crying…

Slight chance I’m a highly sensitive person, just possibly.

I highly recommend this book if you at all feel that it calls to you, or have ever felt like you’re the only one who must feel everything and process the details of this world the way that you do.

I have always been crushed by the quote,

“It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.”

I mean, that’s just it, isn’t it? Well, that’s the thing. I say that, but you may be reading with a furrowed brow thinking, No…no, that’s not really it…I’m not even sure about this “it” to which she’s referring. And that’s totally fine. That’s kind of the whole point. We don’t all experience life this way. But as highly sensitive people (HSPs), we vacillate – well, I should speak for myself – vacillate between the assumption that everyone else also sees the world and our interactions this way, and acute disappointment/shock/emotion when I’m met by the harsh reality that they, indeed, do not…followed by the harrowing realization that I must be alone in this hypersensitive, fiercely potent manner of intuiting/feeling/projecting/analyzing/reading others and that it is just plain an exhausting way to live.

I mean, when someone hurts my feelings or offends me, I get more worked up over how my reaction to that is going to affect them! It only recently occurred to me that not everyone operates this way. It only took 28 years for me to come to that conclusion. *Going strong.*

I suppose the point of that is, with all of these astrological and celestial events occurring, plus my God-given orientation as a Cancer Sun, Aquarius Moon, and Cancer Rising (hellooooo, waterworks!), I’ve been really knees deep in the spiritual growing pains lately. The “I can hear the threads of my auric waistband snapping” sort of growth. Which is a good thing, despite it’s aching discomfort. Just as my joints and bones ached as a child when I’d go through four to five inch growth spurts in a single year (seriously, kept up at night crying for the pain in my ankles and knees, *shudder*), those agonizing nights are what facilitated my transformation into this evolved (ish?) adult that I am today.

No transformation occurs without discomfort. 

That is the bottom line. No psychological growth, physical metamorphosis, emotional renewal, or spiritual advancement is complete without (usually, a gross amount of) hardship. Even if it’s a relatively smooth ordeal, you’re sure to undergo at least some mild irritation. This. Is. Life. I am only just now, in my late twenties, coming to fully embrace – well, let’s not get carried away – coming to accept that no obstacle will ever be the “last.” I will never heave myself over the final hurtle (if I expect to keep on keeping on with this earthside journey, that is). There will always be trials, perceived or actual. There will always be pain and discomfort, fleeting or prolonged. But they will always pass. We will always grow from them. The earth will continue to spin, the stars will continue to align (and, then, stir shit up again like a ninja sorceress). Life will continue to bring us to our knees over large and small experiences alike, testing our limits, expanding our consciousness, and exploring our emotional metronome.

There is mystical alchemy afoot, energetically and seasonally. The most magical season is upon us. Richly transcendental spells of golden hour melting each late summer day into inky night, gliding us closer and closer to the Equinox, where everything will shift and we will shed all that no longer serves us. Stepping into a quieter, more grounded, introspective time that is equally energetically expansive and spiritually charging. We will be provided the darkness, the cold, the quiet that invites us to turn inwards. Into ourselves, into our homes, into our rituals, and relationships. We will be provided the external framework to catch up to our internal rewiring. An intimate peek inside our own beings, to listen to the whispers of our souls, the musings of our higher selves, gaining understanding of all that has occurred within and around us.

We are moving towards the time of year where we can settle into the calm after the storm, the comfortable sensation after this aching round of spiritual growing pains, before the next bout sets in. This is where the magic really lingers. In the realization that we may be uncomfortable, but we are okay. That comfort is just up ahead. And that, even though more discomfort is sure to come – because what is the spectrum comfort without discomfort? – we know how to navigate these spells.

We have the tools and the resources, the spiritual foundation and metaphysical infrastructure, the faith and surrender that we need to always be okay. We have ourselves. We have God. We have each other. We have the dawning wisdom that no level of discomfort would ever be worth the sacrifice of our very birthright…our sacred Awakening.

 

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You Are Already That Which You Are Trying To Be

I came across this Osho quote last night and shared it on social media because POW.

 

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How’s that for a truth bomb?

It really just so undeniably IS. Truth. Reality. Wisdom. That which you are trying to be, you already ARE.

Even for those who are studying (my latest obsession has become Herbalism), even for those with big dreams (who amongst us doesn’t fall into that category?), even for those who believe they have so far to go before they “get there” (you’re already “there”!!!)…you’re already it. It’s already you.

That person who’s becoming a doctor, is already the skilled, determined, intelligent being that it takes to commit to such a practice. The person who’s trying to strike big with acting, is already the talented, thick-skinned, quirky, hilarious individual required to don such a cloak. The person who’s aspiring to a life of manifestation, spirituality, intuition, yoga, holistic living, is already doing that work just by calling such a vision into mind.

Do you see?

One cannot even give birth to an idea of what one wishes to be, without already being the beginning stages of that vision.

Whether it’s more creative, kinder, softer, more self-assured, harder-working, more adventurous, a better partner…you.already.are.

That limitless potential already exists within each and every one of us. That inherent drive to bring this inspiration. That latent energy to be. It is all there, already. The urge, the desire to embody it is not some pipe dream, it is in fact your sweet, sacred intuition whispering to you, and you ready to receive it.

Please do not let the lower mind, the ego, the [sadly] primary operator of consciousness [for most of us] squash this heavenly alarm. This blinding call to be what you have already been divinely programmed to be. Do not let “can’t” or “should” or “what if?” be a part of this conversation. This holy intelligence. This sanctified conversation between you and God (the God of your own unique understanding, of course).

Step into it. Adorn thyself with the cloak of magic that is not an apparition but a physical, tangible presence in the wardrobe. Speak your vision into existence. Even if it feels foreign and heavy on your tongue; even if the cloak feels too big, or too small; even if you feel like an actor on a stage who never received a copy of the script. Very seldom is the discomfort a beacon of Grace, guiding you away from the light to which you were drawn.

Occasionally, yes, but more often than not the discomfort is born of the ego. Virtually all of the time we feel uncomfortable and out of place stepping into our power because we are unconsciously setting up obstacles in our own path. Because staying put is more safer than growing. Growth is uncomfortable. Change is scary. These moments are us letting the ego tell us that something feels wrong, that we aren’t enough, that we’ve made a mistake. The ego. That wretched, albeit essential, beast that races along at our heels, beckoning us backward.

You know what I like to say to that little creature, when she bids me look backwards? Without turning my head I reply, “No, thank you. I’m not going that way.”

 

 

The Art of Living

My great love, of late, has been cultivating the most artful form of living. Life in action. Existence as a verb.

On the first of July, I turned 28. Since then, I have experienced powerful transformation. I’ve begun crafting potent tonic herbal potions on a daily basis that have upped my physical and subtle vibrations tremendously. I have introduced Vedic Meditation and Kundalini yoga into my practice. Several moons ago, I was promoted at work, which exponentially leveled up my happiness and general quality of life. I continue to work with nutrition clients on the side. I am busier than I have ever been before, in my adult life, since finishing college.

Working full-time (and, sometimes, up to 10 days consecutively) while also having clients on the side is…a beautiful type of madness. I don’t know how I’d manage that if I had anyone else to take care of besides myself. My singleness is on my side in moments like these (shout out to all the girl boss mamas out there managing entrepreneurship, relationship, motherhood, and self-care…you are the heroes).

With less “spare” time to flit around, I have come to really cherish the slow and sacred moments before and after spells of “obligation”, if you will. By that I mean, time spent at work, driving to and from, in meetings or in line at the DMV or on hold with the auto dealership who sent you a notice about a recall requiring replacement but has no ETA on said replacement…I digress.

In my very recent and very intriguing transformative experiences, I have begun to look at every aspect of my life as fluid and beautiful, not just the moments “before and after the obligations.” That is one of the core purposes, or perhaps beneficial side-effects, of mindfulness, of intentional living, of spiritual practice – is for one’s entire life to be flooded by the magic of those moments, of that intention, of that Spirit.

There is magic in all of it. Every bit of it is art. The transient, quiet space of waking up…recalling dreams, settling Spirit back into body, marveling at the wonder of eyelashes blinking, sands of sleep fading into the brilliant light of day. The sacred ritual of morning; for me, that means boiling water, sitting for meditation, concocting a morning mug of healing warmth, preparing for my day. The slow mornings of tarot and altar space, sage burning and gratitude practice, journaling and introspective journeying. The quick mornings when I fall victim to my phone before I’ve found a seat for meditation and everything gets pressed into fast forward, but I still find a gentle response within myself to understand this action, to sympathize with it, and to allow myself to slowly reintegrate mindfulness into my motion. The sweet reminders, in the car on that doggone freeway, to breathe deeply, sing loud to the radio, roll the windows down and recall that it’s not where I’m going that anchors this experience, it’s the manner in which I get there. The energy with which I travel, through this life, to and from, in and out, beforeduringafter.

It’s the intentional love and artfulness that we bring to our every phase. Our mornings, choosing ritual over routine; our workdays, allowing our creative selves to infuse magic into the often burdensome need to earn a living; our physical movement, praising the abilities of our bodies rather than the aesthetics; our spiritual practice, giving thanks for a Higher power through which to stay rooted on this orbiting globe; our evenings, a time of surrender and coming home to ourselves; our relationships, mirrors of perfectly flawed humanity through which love is born, karma burns, the land of our bodies scorched and deliciously scarred by the searing, lightning-hot bursts of passion; our self-care, steeped in holy essence, sacred only to us, the thread that holds together our entire fabric.

It is a gift, this awareness. It is a gift, this life. The capacity to experience life as art, as ritual, as sacred. This is all a gift. To connect here is a gift. To be lost in the colors undulating outside the windowpane as my fingers dance across the keys bringing my musings to your brilliant minds is a gift. To be unhurried is a gift. To be alive is a gift. May it always be electric. May it always be saturated with creativity. May it always be art.

 

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A prayerful affirmation for body, for mind, for spirit.

Repeat after me:

“Dearest Self-
Exhale. Soften. Surrender.
There is no reason to worry. I’ve got your back, and your front, and your sides. I am a l w a y s on your side.
I promise to let go of everything that I think that I know, so that I may stay open to the truth in all of its forms. You can depend on me to lead you to what feels good, to seek out the light, to protect rather than punish you.
I vow to always celebrate you, never taking you for granted. Every day I will endeavor to drench you with loving energy.
Please forgive me for any and all harm I’ve brought upon you in the past. Let’s agree that it was a journey needed to get us to this place, together, united. One single entity.
I understand now that in unconditionally and compassionately loving YOU, I am taught how to extend this same healing vibration outwards. I understand now that this practice is the sole (and soul) reason we are here. And I shall devote myself to it, with every ounce of my being, from this moment forward. OM.” ૐ

Trust the Timing

I have not taken this long of a hiatus since this past November. It’s almost funny to me that, all through yoga teacher training and nutrition school (if my memory serves me, and perhaps I’m remembering myself as a more forthcoming Body Karma essay producer), I wrote weekly. Now I’ve graduated, am working full-time (7 days a week for the past few weeks, actually), I share something bi-monthly at most, it seems.

That might seem to make sense, being with the whole adulting, full-time career business, but to me, it’s surprising. I am not buried in textbooks and exams, why wouldn’t I be sitting down at least one evening a week to write?

I’ve discussed in recent posts how much more conservative I am with the direction my essays now go, and maybe that has something to do with the decline in publication frequency. I’m still completely and utterly willing to peel away the layers to reveal that uncomfortable, cringe-worthy “real life” stuff; because I believe it is the marrow of our existence, and the divine thread that connects us to one another. The threads of I am not alone, other people know what it’s like to grope helplessly through the shroud of darkness, and the ribbons of wow, I’m not the only one on this earth who doesn’t have my shit together, and even the moments of sweet, a reminder that it’s OKAY TO CHANGE MY MIND.

I’m still totally willing (and eager) to go there, because it’s the material that matters, that shifts and shapes our experiences, that has the potential to save us – even if it’s just me from myself.

But I no longer use this platform as a place to vent, like I once did. Not that anyone’s venting blog is wrong. It’s awesome. You do you. I just realized, I have always had a fierce need to cleanse my guilty conscience, since I was a very little girl (must be the Irish in me). As a child, I had to “get things off my chest” on an obsessively frequent basis (sorry Mom and Dad…seriously). If I didn’t, these thoughts would haunt and eat away at me. This morphed into an anxious and mildly OCD adult brain, one of which yoga has been the saving grace (because yoga is, ultimately, “the science of the mind” and the practice of regulating our thoughts).

It took a few years, but as I grew and evolved, I realized that laying out every detail of my self-discovery, self-reflection, and even self-doubt – from the ethics behind my diet, to my anxiety around shifting said diet, to my insecurities around living differently than others, to defending myself against negative experiences with unhappy people, to unraveling the reasons behind processes I’d never understood, to mending a broken heart with the written word – was becoming less cathartic and more uncomfortably vulnerable over time. Not uncomfortable in the “push yourself outside your comfort zone to really soar” sense. Uncomfortable in the “why did I just word vomit a journal entry to the entire inter webs?” sense.

Balance. Subtlety. Intuition.

These three basic concepts have shifted the way I write and, more importantly, the reason behind my writing. The driving force. I have messages to share, yes. We all do. I have survived, over the span of my 27 incredibly blessed years, some intensely shitty life experiences. We all have. I believe in sharing our trials and tribulations because it’s therapeutic for us, and also because it can help (SO much sometimes) others along the way (I have clung like a drowning monkey to other people’s blogs before because OMG THEY GET ME).

Not a one of us is “doing life” any better than the next. I am not failing by not pumping out a blog essay per week as I’d expected, in this year post-grad. I am not failing even if I never wrote again (…but in the words of Cher Horowitz, “AS IF!”). I’m okay with the fact that I’ve hibernated, linguistically, for the past few months. I’ve been navigating a lot of shit. Some of it intense and difficult, some of it absolutely amazing and all-consuming. So much has changed. There were many hard – albeit natural – changes last year, followed by an organic period of grief. Then came (and are still coming) the epic, “prayers answered and dreams-come-true” types of changes. I’ve been bobbing in the fluid waters of this growth, soaking it all in, experiencing it fully. I’ve even been journaling less than I was. Just really sitting with it all, wholly present.

I want to write about so much of it, too. I’ve just been overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of LIFE and its incredible, unpredictable, tangibly and intangibly exquisite nature. Its essence. I am floored by it on a regular basis. Amazed.

And I do have heaps I intend to write about, post-its filled with ideas, scribblings of essays waiting to be. A book in the wings. Blogs brimming with vulnerable material, the mundane, and everything in between. I have so much work to do in the realm of the body positive movement, writing about my experiences as a teenager; I have so much interest in sharing how very real and, oftentimes, ungraceful it is to be human, and connecting with others over the sheer beauty and absurdity of it all. I have so much interest in writing about my processes, whether people care about them or not, because it’s therapy for me, it’s art, it’s passion. Words placed on the page function in my spirit are like paint on the canvas, or musical notes in the air, or a waltz across a stage. For me, it doesn’t matter where it goes, how often it’s put out into the cosmos, or even how it’s received (well, that part’s not true, but the disregard for others’ opinions is always a work in progress, no?). For me, it’s about the art. The transformation. The bits that transcend time, space, even human opinion and experience. Because everything is in flux. Always changing. Ever fluid. May we always have the dignity and courage to flex with it, to ride the tides, and to trust the timing.

 

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Unrestrained by Demons

It’s been quite a year. Can you relate? I’m not speaking of 2016 (although…my heavens, 2016 has been filled with revelations and reckoning), but rather the last 12, 13, 14 months themselves. The last…long while. So much self-reflection and quite painful investigation into the what’s and why’s of this life.

It can get heavy. Being an emotional being can at times be draining, can leave us feeling depleted and weepy. The lows can get as low as they get high. It can become incredibly daunting to process the ups and downs of life, to navigate one’s own emotional liberation, while still going out everyday and operating as a functioning member of society. That sounds dramatic, but do you ever feel as though the sheer weight of processing your own grievances feels like a full-time endeavor? One you want to just commit yourself to for a week (or five), in solitude, surrounded by healing, supportive space and silence? It’s so challenging to sort through our thoughts when we’re burdened by the need to simultaneously work, maintain relationships, construct the outward appearance of having it all together (not that we’re meant to pretend that our suffering doesn’t exist, but most days no matter how lost in our heads we want to get, we still have to be adults and live our lives). This is reality, despite the suffocating moments of fear and anxiety that visit us all, from time to time.

It can be really tempting to live a life shut off from that emotional processing. Because it’s just hard. The idea of avoiding all that mess can seem easier. Sometimes denial can look, from afar, like such a cozy alternative; not having to feel our feelings, not being blindsided and ambushed by the underbelly of what it means to be an emotional creature in this huge, undulating universe.

But I would never again choose that alternative. I’ve lived in it before; the stuffy, damp, darkly shrouded realm of denial. It’s isolated. It’s claustrophobic. It actually doesn’t feel safe at all. If you’ve ever been there, you probably know that it feels like laying in a dark room with a heavy box on your chest. Even though the box may be like Pandora’s, filled with a whole mess of stuff, it can be far more productive, albeit terrifying, to throw open the windows and start sorting through the aching feelings and thoughts that lay locked up and waiting for our attention.

This stuff – the wading through the suffering, I mean – is, as I view it, the price we pay for being alive.

I’m currently reading (slowly, savoring) my favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert’s, newest book Big Magic. Liz’s prose slay me. She is, as I say, one of those authors that “makes you feel so much more comfortable with being alive.” Because, let’s be honest, the human condition can feel really intense, lonely, daunting, and uncomfortable at times. Liz reminds us that fear (insert: trepidation, personal demons, struggles – all manifestations of fear) is always with us. She suggests that we be inclined to accept and embrace our fear. Invite it along on the journey we are taking with creativity (insert: love, joy, adventure, abundance – all manifestations of creative living). Her brilliant concept is that, on this road trip of life, we are driving, creativity gets the front seat, and fear gets the backseat. Fear is welcome to come along (because we don’t actually have any choice in the matter, do we?), and it is allowed to speak up, but it does not get to decide where we’re going. It does not get to lay its hands on the map, or even fiddle with the radio station (Liz, seriously, is my greatest inspiration as a writer – this stuff comes from the creative depths of her imagination – what a vision! – get thee to a bookstore and buy yourself Big Magic).

What a notion, right? I feel, and I’m speaking for myself here, that the overwhelming urge is to banish fear, and all its expressions, from my life. I have been standing outside the car, arms crossed, brow furrowed, tapping my toe impatiently waiting for fear to unbuckle, get out of my backseat, and let me get on with my journey.

I might as well turn my distressed gaze upward and start looking for pigs flying.

I’m not proposing, nor is my great hero Elizabeth Gilbert, that we should be super comfortable with the idea of carrying fear around in our back pockets. It’s uncomfortable; it’s supposed to be. But this is the non-negotioable byproduct of having been gifted the most exquisite opportunity of creative living (which we all have been gifted, by being born as human beings with opposable thumbs and incredible cognitive function and hearts so gloriously capable of being wrecked by love that they could just swallow up the whole world with their power for adoration).

We all have our “things” that hold us back. We all have our demons. But we are worthy of living lives unrestrained by demons. If we can, collectively, stop waiting for the demons to release us, for fear to get out of the car, and just realize this uncooperative passenger is going to endlessly serve as a beacon of where we don’t wish to go (because, at its root, fear is a mechanism of self-preservation, sounding off when danger might be present), we can see its purpose. We are high-functioning human beings with the discerning power to notice when we are being chased by a lion and fear should get to use its lung power with all its might, for good rather than evil…and when faith, love, intuition, and creativity are being drowned by the drunken, garbled hollering of our backseat fear (who somehow seems to have climbed onto the dashboard and got its sticky hands on a microphone).

We have the capacity to take a step back, look at our lives, and see where we’re being pinned (or, sometimes, glued) to a spot we no longer wish to be. We have the power to investigate why we’re immobilized. We have the capability to change that.

I have a tendency of getting stuck in a rut. I am fearful of change, and the unknown brings me great anxiety. A life of ritual and routine has brought me great comfort. My chest grows a bit tight at the image of jet-setting wanderlusts, living out of suitcases and going where the wind blows. No, no, I’ll wait patiently for my niiiiiiice, detailed itinerary please.  But that’s just me. And a huge part of this presses is in getting to know ourselves, and embracing our quirks and tendencies. Learning, through trial and error, where to push our boundaries and where to respect our needs. I went heaving and hyperventilating into a 3-month study abroad venture overseas back in 2009. I literally fought for breath and sucked on tears as I wrestled with the militant French operator and a dinky little calling card in a Parisian phone booth, begging my mom to come and visit because WHO DECIDED IT WAS OKAY TO PUT AN OCEAN BETWEEN US FOR A QUARTER OF A YEAR and I hadn’t slept in 36 hours and HOW DID I GET TO FRANCE?

By the end of my trip I was seriously devoted to finding a way (ANY way) to stay in Italy, cash in my plane ticket, and preserve the little world I had created with my friends in this foreign land where everything exotic had become familiar and reality was suspended in favor of 20 year old, wide-eyed, first-time independence.

…didn’t see that coming.

What made it so wonderful and tolerable was that, after the initial shock and severe discomfort of having no familiarity, no routine, and no way of predicting what was ahead…I reestablished all of those things that kept my needs met. I made routines. I settled into my Florentine flat, put my belongings in their new places, found a local market, carved new neural pathways in my brain, got to know my surroundings, created nourishing relationships, and set up a daily routine. All while testing my boundaries.

I did return home as planned, fortunately, but I do think back regularly and fondly on my time living Europe as an experience I’m so deeply grateful I had. It showed me I am capable of wrestling fear to the ground and making a run for it.

Letting go of control and powering through the impending horror such an act produces makes for a sweet, intoxicating exhale; like a flood of dopamine, or (on some much smaller level) the ecstatic amnesia a new mother experiences, forgetting the pain and agony of birth upon beholding their precious infant.

It is so tempting to stay on the shore where everything is safe and protected. But, the reality is that we only perceive this space to be safe and protected. It’s a deeply seductive act, for many of us, to try and preserve a sense of stability and safety by putting on our control freak panties and hyper-managing every aspect of our lives. This doesn’t make us safe. This sacrifices sanity for perceived safety. Not even real safety. Just our carefully constructed belief patter of “if I do this, and this, and this, everything will stay okay. I will be safe.” That is a very sad and disappointing way to live each day, I think.

I’m not saying we all need to turn our lives upside down, or go jump on a plane and live in Europe for 3 months in order to experience life from a place of love and creativity rather than fear (though maybe the thought makes your heart skip a beat and, actually, is just the type of experience you do need). For many of us, though, the healing medicine can be found on a much smaller scale. It can be accessed in our day-to-day lives. It might just mean doing things differently today than you did yesterday (that is often a big enough shake up for me, honestly, as a diligent creature of habit). It also doesn’t mean things have to be different every single day, because ritual and routine are beautiful and holy, just so long as they don’t come from a place of fear and seal every crack in the structure where love and creativity might try to seep in and stir things up.

Maybe it means starting a creative project or finishing a degree. Maybe it’s finding the courage to use some of that built up PTO and taking a trip. Maybe it’s climbing out of the unemployment shame and getting excited about a new career. Maybe it means going to a yoga class for the first time or revisiting a forgotten passion for hiking. Maybe it means going out to eat, or maybe it means staying in and preparing a favorite recipe. It could mean asking for help. It could be breaking a pattern of isolation and going out with friends, for an introvert. It could be a day or night of self-care and indulgent alone time at home, for an extrovert. Perhaps it’s looking at your body in the mirror and not breaking your gaze until you are able to see yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you unconditionally. Maybe it’s a commitment to a new routine, or maybe it’s the courage to break out of a rut. Maybe it’s the act of daring greatly enough to build an avenue between the two.

Whatever it is, whatever your sweet, pulsing heart knows in its very depths is an act of great courage…that is the first step in your journey. We all have demons (not a one of us is immune, no matter how “perfect” someone else’s existence and “put together” life may seem…they too struggle, I promise).

We all experience loss, fatigue, sadness, anxiety, depression, negative self-talk, FEAR. We are all united in this human condition, no matter what ways our fear and creativity display themselves. We may look different, but we are not. We are all the same. We are all paddling our little boats furiously towards freedom and love. But perhaps, in a joint effort of all the eyes reading this, we together can start to see our fear as something new. Rather than a block of darkness, threatening to sink our boat, we can view our fear as something useful. As a necessary component on our journey, an irreplaceable cog in our wheel of healing. A threatening shadow of heaviness to keep the brilliant light from blinding our eyes; a little hunk of pressure providing just enough weight to slow our speed, so that we don’t race feverishly past all the opportunities to pause, and be shattered by the staggering beauty of how very far we’ve already come.

 

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