Dear Women

I wish I had realized earlier that our worldwide tribe of women is not bound by age or beauty or success and that heroines are often the woman we just walked by without noticing.

I wish I had recognized my sister in every woman I’ve ever met and not just the ones I called friends.

In your face I see myself. The woman I’ve been, the woman I am and the woman I will be. In your strength and your weakness I see courageous examples of being human.

This is for you, for me, for us.

And for the little girls who are watching our every move.

***

For the women who have lost children, raised children or never had them.

For the ones with three kids or two jobs or both,
putting out heart and soul and pulling in minimum wage.

For the women with no one to mother them because their mamas were pulled from this earth too early,
and the ones whose mothers never showed up.

For the ones changing the world by raising tolerant, conscious, open-minded sons and daughters,
and the ones changing the world by raising community instead of children,
who mother tribes instead of families.

For the ones who can’t put food on the table but keep feeding little hearts each night,
and the women who become empowered leaders instead of power-hungry tyrants.

For the women who stand at kitchen sinks all day and sit behind desks all day and stay up all night nursing sick babies or grandparents or their own demons,
who care for everyone else first and often forget their hearts,
but when they remember them rock the world with its love.

For the women doing their best in their own corner of the world,
with the cards they’ve been given and the lot they’ve drawn.

Your best is good enough.

These are the women who are heroes because they are human,
and becoming more so with every tear they wipe and every heartbreak they survive.

This woman is you. It’s me. It’s your mother. Your sister. Your daughter. Your wife. Your grandmother. Your neighbor. Your friend.

This woman is equal parts strength and vulnerability.
We learn how to be women by watching her walk through the world,
and we become more human by walking beside her.

Originally published on The Huffington Post.

Advertisements

What if We Didn’t Call it “Prayer”

FullSizeRender (1)“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned towards heaven; it is a cry of recognition and love; embracing both trial and joy.” – Thérèse de Lisieux

I used to pray for the saving of my soul, but now I pray for the shoring up of my heart; because for me it’s not about being saved. It’s about being human.

Be it prayer to god or to the great unknown, in grief or in gratitude, by rote or from our heart, it is all sacred.

That voice, belted out from our belly at a concert with the same soul as a church choir;

The sacred groans of childbirth. And that first liberated cry of life;

The gut-wrenching wail of grief when we lose (for first time or the nth time) a piece of our heart called our mother, our father, our child, our partner, our friend, our pet.

Thank you is its own prayer, and You’re Welcome is too; a sweet exchange of soul from one god to another.

This embrace is a prayer, the one that makes us feel loved, welcome, human.

And this digging in the dirt, skin to skin with Mother Nature, a simple prayer of presence.

The quiet commune with nature: be it snow or sea or tree. Here is where I find god. Here is where I pray.

Not all prayers have words.

Movement can be prayer. One body-sized, breath-filled amen.

And stillness too. A silent, heart-pumped hallelujah rising from the depths of the soul.

For others or with others, community is its own prayer, full of heart and healing no medicine contains.

I use these words prayer and god. But what if we didn’t call it prayer and we didn’t call it god.

Might then all our hearts surge and merge with primordial consciousness when called; and then, with our hearts twice as large, go about the work of being human.

Wouldn’t that be a prayer answered for mankind, by mankind.

Originally published on The Huffington Post.

Plan A

plan a

Somewhere in my teens or 20s I missed the turn sign that announced:
You are now leaving your Plan A life and heading for Plan B.

Who knew the path back to Plan A would be so hard to find,
be the journey of a lifetime,
a pilgrimage into the heart that would deliver me,
not to the golden gates of Plan A but to the starting line.

no map,
no compass,
just this heart,
just these questions,
just this knowing what it wasn’t,
just this commitment to staying the course.

The friends and teachers I’ve met along the way tell me their stories,
share a little bit of their soul to encourage me onward (or inward as the case may be.)
Often we travel together for a time and then diverge,
for we must each listen to our own calling.

This living is a learning, an unlearning, a growing,
a coming together and a falling apart,
a practice in loving. Not the soft kind reserved for kittens and babies,
the powerful kind that can heal countries and families and the humans who make up those families.

I keep an eye out for the sign that says I am detouring back to Plan B,
because while both paths begin at birth and end at death, one only requires I live while the other demands I come alive.

What Are You Waiting For?

woodsWhat are you waiting for?

The world will never approve those big dreams
those too-good-to-be-trues

It will never applaud your going-for-broke
your trusting your instinct
your following your heart

You must approve yourself
trust in it all and risk it all
that heart, that gut, that comfortable life
it must all get put on the line
(the one that keeps moving forward)

This living fully is not a choice but a calling
in the pilgrimage we find the confirmation we seek
in the discomfort we find the aliveness we crave

it is hidden not in the place we search but in our bones
it is trapped in our very being that we push aside trying to please others

we must sojourn to the emptiness we fear to find the enoughness within
and journey it back to the home of our heart where it can seed, rest, and grow
big enough to support our souls and all living beings we encounter
strong enough to cradle vulnerability in its boughs and set her down softly into the world.

It’s a question that has many excuses but only one answer.
What are you waiting for?

The 4 Gratitudes

shadowsI am so grateful he comes home every night
and sleeps in my bed
and loves our child
and holds us together
heartsoulandskin

I am so grateful he is my teacher
those little eyes so wise and clear
reminding me of what matters
and what doesn’t
sharing giggles and tears and teaching me patience
every step of the way

I am so grateful I said yes
the day my brother offered to buy her for me
those human eyes in that furry body
and that I didn’t know she would tear my life and home apart
only to help me rebuild it full of love

I am so grateful we four sync our hearts together
day in and day out
in love, in sadness, in triumph, in loss
and witness the unraveling of our egos
and the stringing together of our souls

one heartbeat at a time.

The Hard Things

I want to speak of the breakthroughs and the dreams achieved
and not about how I keep running up against the edges of my heart.

those cold, stubborn edges that don’t want to budge for anyone,
soften for anyone,
open for anyone,
which is why she often has to be broken open in joy or sorrow.

I want to preach of strength and success
and not of looking in the mirror at weakness, fragility, emptiness,
or of the patience it takes to sit with the nothingness
and hold space for its very existence
until the enoughness emerges out of the dark womb
and cries out for the very first time.

I want to tout the answers
and not the questions no one wants to hear:

when is the first time we hated something about our reflection?
who planted the seeds of shame in our hearts?
why did we leave our dreams to follow someone else’s dream?

I want to speak of hand-holding and baby-cuddling and sweet nothings,
but I don’t

because those are the easy things,
those are the things that dance proudly on the stage of our life,
the things that don’t hide in corners and only reveal themselves in shadows.

but these, the hard things,
are just as sacred,
deserve as much a voice and a listen,
crave just as much love as the easy things

if not more.

Shamelessly

full moon

There was a time when the sun and the moon were my only constants.

I could see both out my window and, although I didn’t know it at the time, they were serving as my nonjudgemental friends, as the witness to an inner life that I shared with almost no one.

They rose with me, set with me and refused to leave my side.

At some point I ventured into mama ocean and over and over tested her watery strength to hold all the parts of me that needed holding, challenging, cleansing, nourishing.

During this period a connection was created between nature and myself that has never waivered. Sunsets are always a time of respectful silence and awe. Full moons and new moons are cycles of filling and emptying. Mama Ocean is my mirror, reflecting back to me every nuanced mood shamelessly, as all things in nature live.

Shamelessly.

I return to nature time and again to take solace in her light, in her darkness, and in her wild wisdom. Tonight I sat under her light and listened. I didn’t ask my questions. I didn’t ask for anything. I just listened.

There, in the listening, I found clarity. Which is to say I came home. Home to my heart that houses that same light, darkness and wildness I often seek.

I share it with you here. On these pages. In this voice. In person or online, face to face or heart to heart. Shamelessly. As we are all entitled to share our hearts.

Shamelessly.

The Words

writethe words don’t ask us to fake it
and the words don’t ask us to make it
the words just ask us to open
to where we are, to what we are, to who we are

they invite us to tell our story
and they encourage us to speak our truth
they remind us we are free and whole
even when we are broken and caged

come here and be, they beckon
and who can resist that, to come here and be
it’s too easy, it’s too free
it’s too you. it’s too me

when our wail can no longer be contained
we find ourselves at their door
we enter clumsy human beings
and exit creatures of grace

they hold our hearts shamelessly
shape-shifting to whatever is needed
allowing us to unravel our cells
one word at a time

when we are tongue-tied and writer-blocked
they wait patiently for
the trickle or the flood or the downpour
with open arms

so write your words whatever they are
the words your heart is whispering in your ear
the words you are afraid someone will read
the words that will set you free.

Finding Our Soul Rhythm

“A child’s natural rhythm is much closer to a soul rhythm than that of most adults.”-Shefali Tsabary

reflectionLately my son has been trying to talk. He curls up his tongue and spits out whatever noises, grunts, or howls he can muster.

Unlike when he was learning to walk, he’s not cautious about it. He just keeps hammering away at sounds until, word by word, he’ll slowly begin to talk.

It’s made me wonder, When did I stop trying that hard?

Because if he tried to talk like I sometimes attempt new things, well, he’d never talk. He’d get frustrated with slow progress or self-conscious at how he appears and stop trying so whole-heartedly.

I love observing his nature and seeing how limitless, curious, and in sync with our natural rhythms we all start out. Somewhere along the line we forget that moving in time with our nature, trusting our five senses and listening to our intuition is how we accomplished amazing feats like crawling, walking, and learning to speak. No one tells babies this is what they should do. They are just naturally propelled forward by an innate drive to grow because it is how they survive and thrive.

I often observe myself reaching out for answers instead of diving in. I know people have been where I am or stuck where I’m stuck or going where I want to go, and so I want them to give me the shortcut so I can skip the hard stuff and get right to the gold.

The self-help empire is booming ($10 billion/year in the U.S. alone) because people are obsessed with getting happy, fixing themselves, self-improvement, and with “getting there.” On the surface this seems like a good thing, but what is being sacrificed in exchange?

Are we letting other people tell us what happy looks like, feels like, tastes like? Are we subscribing to other people’s definition of success, failure, and growth? Have we lost touch with our own version of happy? Have we stopped following our dreams, our instincts and listening to our soul speak?

We are here to support each other as we grow, often in deeply personal and intimate ways, but there is some work we must do alone. If we try to cheat and get the answer from someone else it may get us by for a while, but at the end of our lives we may realize we were walking someone else’s path the whole time and not our own.

Trusting my heart sometimes feels awkward because I spend so much time in my head. Speaking my truth sometimes feels vulnerable because I spend so much time listening to other people’s truth. Then I do the things I do to reconnect, recenter, self-regulate, and suddenly it doesn’t feel so awkward, so vulnerable. It just feels so right.

In those moments I know how my son feels: at home in his body, full of trust for his process and in sync with his soul rhythm.

Soul Work

To get right to the point, Why are you here?

Let’s put our learned answers aside for a moment because I’m interested in your answer, not something you learned from a doctrine or a book or an authority figure.

And I’m not even that interested in your answer. I’m interested in your asking the question and sitting with that space in between the asking and the answering.

That space, that’s what I’m after. For you, for me, for all of us soul-seekers and truth-speakers.

A few weeks ago my teacher posed that question to a room full of yogis high on meditation and asana: Why are you here?

Tonight I ended up at this same question oddly enough through what I thought was a very innocent analysis of why Rich and Strong are so sought-after in our society. To put it another way, why Weak and Vulnerable are what we try to hide away from the world. Not what we try to deny – because deep within, in our most private of moments all of us surrender to weak and vulnerable. What is interesting to me is why we try to hide it away.

Here’s what I came up with (non-scientifically speaking):
If we reveal to the world that we are weak or vulnerable there are a few things we fear will happen:

We will get hurt.
We will be outcast and not accepted.
We will feel embarrassed.
We will look pitiful.

Wrap these up into one line and it sounds a lot like this: We will not be loved.

Follow me into this hypothetical world of We are not loved. What are our options then?
Some people avoid their reality.
Some people kill themselves.
Some people confront their reality.

Why do these drastic measures seem the only option in a world where we don’t feel loved? Because many of us would ask in that moment, Why am I here if I am not loved?

Feeling loved is powerful, healing, and vital to our thriving. But in our hypothetical world of not being loved we aren’t concerned with thriving.

We are concerned with surviving.

So the more important question in that moment seems to be not do we feel loved, but Do we love ourselves?

What I observe is that most of us don’t wrestle with these two questions – Do I love myself and Why am I here – until we have no other choice. Until life takes everything away from us that matters and strips us of every label, identity, and story we ever had.

Then all we’re left with is that question, why are we here, and the haunting echo of nothingness.

Our minds will give us answers, just as they do with the other powerful question – Who Am I? – but while the answer would be helpful, I believe the transformation happens in between the question and the answer, in the darkness. In the silence.

In the absence of knowing we bathe in pure being. The answer doesn’t matter and the question doesn’t matter. This matters. This being. This wholeness.

If we are lucky enough to get an answer, to learn our dharma, then we are both privileged and tasked with the obligation to live it.

Maybe that’s why we don’t ask the question in the first place until it’s the only thing we have left to hold onto. Maybe it’s why we cling to what we know and what other people think of us. Maybe it’s why we spend our lives trying to prove we’re strong enough, good enough, and just plain enough. Because if the world takes away its good impression of us what do we have left?

We have ourselves. And we have questions. Questions that have no answers. Darkness everywhere we turn until we look within. There we find the ember of being that is the only light that ever mattered.

Stoke that ember. Stoke it like your life depends on it.

Because it does.