Poison or medicine? A personal story

I recently took a trip to Breckenridge with a group of my soul sisters and their families -- 16 of us together under one rented roof, cooking, playing games, and soaking in the hot tub. Some spent days skiing, some exploring the town. Of course, the trip was not without interpersonal drama among us and our children, but five of us are therapists and adept at processing. 😆 My family stayed one day longer than the others, and on the morning when everyone left the house, my husband and daughter also went off to ski. There I was, suddenly all alone in this gorgeous place, which was left sparkly clean by my thoughtful friends. I sat at the table with fresh flowers, warm tea, fire roaring, and my laptop, ready to dive into some writing while gazing out at the beautiful mountain view. After all the noise and hubbub, this would likely be a delicious scene for almost any other human being on earth, right? But all I could do was CRY. In the cozy quiet, I sensed the ghosts of our weekend moments in the house together, and the warm sun streaming in the windows with fresh mounds of snow outside was just too beautiful not to share. Heart all filled up and registering as empty -- a perfect example of my early attachment stuff playing out in my adult life. 

This very old attachment wound leaves me longing for consistent, deep connection, where all parts of me get to feel truly seen and where I can truly see another. Even when I receive this sort of yummy, nurturing, reciprocal witnessing, like I did in Breckenridge, I feel devastated when it ends. It is never enough. I've done my time in inner-critic land, feeling all thirsty and shameful about this. That's the predictable, well-worn route to take -- the easy way out. I'm done with that mentality because our needs are never wrong. While working on consciously drinking in nourishing moments while they're happening, I'm also welcoming and accepting (and in my more clear moments, truly digging) my insatiable, longing nature. 

A gorgeous side effect to tuning into where we feel most vulnerable or wounded or where we might fear the most judgement from others is undoubtedly where we are most gifted. In many Germanic languages, the word poison is equivalent to the English words for gift or medicine. Our deepest wound can point us directly to the unique medicine we are here to offer the world. Rather than ignoring that thing we feel is most painful or shameful, rather than stuffing it down to be forever hidden, we can try a new tact. Get curious about it, befriend it, be transparent about it, and examine where we might be leaking or misusing our medicine for the sake our egos. This work can lead us to the very thing we are here to offer. radiate. do. be.

My insatiable longing, when I can cleanly welcome it and love it up, is the fire of me that sparks deep connections, creates playful soulful beautiful experiences for others, and weaves kindred spirits together in meaningful ways. Making lemonade out of all those lemons of insatiability and longing has been a process. It reminds me (while we're talking lemonade) of Beyoncé's lyric: "My torturer became my remedy" -- or we could go with Rumi's "Don't turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you." Whichever classic you prefer. 😉  In one of my recent weekly Instagram challenges, #visiblyunmasked, I reveal more about this scenario in my own unmasking post, which you can read here. This is just one of example of how one of my vulnerabilities birthed what I most prominently bring to the world. I have a few of these, as do you. And damn it feels healing to shine light on them and share them unapologetically. Like I said in my last post, this act creates connection. 

I want to mention that big part in my owning my gifts was as a participant in a life-changing program called Courting Your Medicine, which I participated in during the summer of 2017. I'll be one of a few former participants assisting the facilitators in running the same program this summer in Boulder. Check it out here if this topic speaks to you.

Vulnerability is a doorway

Here I am, propped up in my bed with my cat nesting on my legs and a cold relentlessly occupying my sinuses. Used tissues, empty tea mugs, and Apple devices are scattered around me -- even still, my heart feels full because I'm looking over all of your thoughtful responses to my last blog. Deep gratitude for sharing your stories of resonance -- I heard comments about how your "résumé self doesn't jive with [your] internal self," you're "sick of the patriarchal shapeshifting [required] to navigate this world," how my sharing "struck something very familiar within," and how you are "working on [your] own emergence and pathless path." Your collective feedback was a crystal clear reminder to me that when we share our vulnerability, it fosters connection and it disarms others so they may feel permission to share their own truths.

We all saw Brené Brown tout vulnerability in her TED talk almost nine years ago, and she gave all of her "not messy" scientific research to package and sell its merit to us. It doesn't take statistics to feel that the act of unmasking the self is contagious and magnetic.

Even though I constantly teeter the tightrope between the desire to be seen and the desire to hide, my focus for 2019 is to engage in radical, visible truth-telling. Lately, nothing piques my interest and arouses my curiosity more than to access and bear my rawness, and to see/hear/feel others doing the same. This is a doorway to intimacy, to connection, to community, which is something we crave as human beings. It's how we're wired. (That's a data point. Brené would be proud.)

Then what keeps us hiding our deliciously awkward truths from each other? I think it's the stigma around the messy, the shame in the untamed, the fear of not being loved. The irony is that I have repeatedly seen evidence of being loved, accepted, and welcomed more when we are most soft, unguarded, and unmasked. I'm welcoming you into experimenting with your own unmasking -- all of us together. My invitation to you and you and you and to myself is in this week's Instaprompt: #visiblyunmasked.  

Welcome the mystery

I confess… I've SO been hiding out! A couple years ago, I listened inwardly to a deep and undeniable call to pause my private psychotherapy practice because something new was screaming to be birthed. In this time, I began a midlife emergence (You like that? That's my lil euphemism for a midlife crisis, but I'm here to report from the inside thick of it that it's no less of a fiery, intense soul-f*ck as the crisis bit. Ah, semantics.) I moved my family from the Bay Area to Boulder. I nested and waited, almost uncomfortably pregnant with a million possibilities and bursting with new ideas that I've only allowed to peek out partially and leak out quietly via my daily Instagram habit. Then shushing them and shoving them back in the oven (closet? womb?) expecting them to cook longer to become fully packagable, digestible, marketable GRAND OFFERINGS... you know, all wrapped in hand-painted papers, tied with a raw silk bow and a sprig of dried lavender, please. 🙄 OMG, the pressure!

As I've waited for this New Path to reveal itself to me -- I walked in the darkness, envied all those around me with seemingly clear direction and distinctly specific medicine to offer the world. What was mine to do next? I went through it all: I hated the mystery of it. I got angry, sad, complacent, and stubborn with the mystery. Over time, I began to challenge the mystery to just freakin' bringggg itttt and to absolutely werk me. From that stance, I began to welcome the mystery. I actually fell in love with how exciting she felt - how open, how free, how wild. I courted her, and she absolutely seduced me in turn. What we seek is indeed seeking us! (Dude, Rumiis always right.) This mystery and I have been wining, dining, dancing and making spicy and sweet love. One night she whispered into my ear: "The pathless path IS your Path." Boom.💥  

Not only is the pathless path the New Path, it's the Always-Has-Been and Always-Will-Be Path. I've always been one who dabbles in a zillion forms of beautiful, multifaceted magic and shares them to connect with others, and to connect others. I can't not be this medicine in the world, even if I tried. In hindsight, my stressing over how to massage this into a concise elevator speech to recite when asked "aaand what do you do?" feels so trivial. Even if my ego/personality had signed up for a subscription to that patriarchal, linear, left-brained way of being in the world ages ago (to assimilate out of fear,) my Soul never (ever ever ever) did. And I have a hunch that many of yours may not have either. 

So it's time to stop the silly shame game of "I don't have all my shit together yet" and proudly stand for the feminine, the shapeshifting, the non-linear, the mystery, the messy, the deep, the raw, the creative, the authentic, the wild, the soulful, the pleasurable, the esoteric, the vulnerable, the edgy, the witchy, the unseen, the playful. To do this work requires that I make what I'm already up to absolutely and unapologetically visible and transparent. (Something that was harder to do in the past when in a psychotherapist role.) Ahhhhhhh... on the other side, there is such ease and such fun to be had. In the world we're in right now, this feels like a radical act. 

I'm inviting all of you to come with me - to watch curiously or voyeristically or supportively or even cautiously through squinted eyes and slightly parted fingers -- or to celebrate this rise in yourselves by participating where you're drawn. I can't know what's going to happen, but I do know it'll be juicy -- with depth and levity, with the sacred and the profane. Both sides of these paradoxes are absolute necessities to me -- honest and whole, they keep me awake and engaged. 

Homecoming

Almost two years ago, I heard a call from within, and even though it was a scary one, I answered. This was a very clear call to shift the way I offer my medicine and gifts to the world. It needed an update, a refresh, and to realign with my authentic Self - a Self who had been changing all along, who was waking up into a new chapter of her life. I paused the part of my work that involves in-person private psychotherapy clients, and followed my gut and heart into a soul searching expedition.

This time has been (& is) a gift — rich with quiet, deep self inquiry and fiery, raucous dances with my inner teenager. I’m catching up to who I’ve been becoming on the inside over this past decade when I was keeping my head down in parenting-a-tiny-human mode & in career mode. This discovery time precipitated my family’s upcoming move to Boulder and juicy personal developments. Since last June, I've been part of an ongoing council and ceremony designed to take a deep-dive into how I can walk as my medicine. It has become so clear to me, through that experience with a tribe of soulful women, how much we need each other's reflection in order to adequately see ourselves.  

I am relearning how to value BEing as much as (or more than) DOing. At a dinner party, wouldn’t we all rather be asked “who are you?“ than “what do you do?“ Sure, I’ve got artsy side gigs here & there, I do some remote supervision and consulting work, and I’m momming nonstop, but without clients walking into and out of my office, “work” has been less visible. A few weeks ago my daughter asked, “Do you even have a job anymore?” Honestly, the question struck a nerve... likely because of my own accidental indoctrination into & expectations about work/worth culture, and also that she may have already absorbed some of that bullshit just by breathing the air. So, I took the opportunity to talk about the importance I place on reevaluating, reinventing, recreating — on BEing. On aligning, centering, and getting into right relationship with the Self. How it’s a socially unsanctioned and radical act in our current culture. How it’s the opposite of glorifying busy-ness. And how slowing down to listen is an extreme privilege I absolutely recognize and for which I feel immense gratitude. While putting “work” on hiatus to explore myself (& as a biproduct, how I can most authentically be of service in my next “professional” incarnation,) I hope I’m inadvertently modeling for my daughter the supreme value of simply walking as one’s medicine in the world.

I feel so much more ME, and it is only from that place that I can know what is mine to offer, and offer these gifts wholeheartedly. I’m trusting that the service/doing part will unfold, once I’m settled in my new Boulder digs, and with divine timing. And for now, I gotta finish packing up my studio and dusting off my wings... almost time to fly!

Making Mabon Magic

The upcoming autumnal equinox (in the Northern hemisphere,) or Mabon, is a perfect opportunity to create a ceremony to mark a seasonal transition. Ceremony is a sacred and active prayer that opens communication with spirit. It can be as modest or elaborate as you'd like, as long as you infuse your ritual with clear intention and heartfelt meaning. Here is a loose guideline for a very simple, personal autumn equinox ceremony:

1) Gather materials: You'll need your journal, a piece of scrap paper, pen, candle, lighter, favorite scents (oils, smudging plants) and any other objects that speak to you in this moment (stones, bells, photos, jewelry, flowers, etc.) 

2) Carve out a sacred space. It can be in your home or yard, the forest or beach -- anywhere! You may wish to create a small autumn altar on a shelf, table, or near your yoga mat or meditation space. If outside, you might use a stone or tree stump as an altar, or create a beautiful spot at the base of a tree. Place your special candle on your altar. You might also include seasonal objects you've gathered, such as leaves, acorns, stones, fruits.

3) Set your intention for autumn. Reflect on what you want to manifest by writing or making art in your journal. Then write a your intention statement on a small piece of paper to use in ceremony. You may wish to flow with the energy the fall equinox offers naturally, such as:

  • Recognizing and honoring the balance of the light and dark within you, as there are equal hours of each on this special day.
  • Harvesting, expressing gratitude for, and celebrating the bounty and abundance from the seeds you've sewn earlier this year.
  • Soulful planning for the cooler, darker, introspective months ahead. The seed you plant now can bloom next spring.
  • Making a commitment to open your inward eye during these darker months, discovering more about your unfolding, authentic self.
  • Replenishing yourself - mind, body, and spirit. As reflected in the plant and animal life around us, we are also moving into the time for dormancy, hibernation, rest, and renewal. 
  • In this season of roots, spend time honoring your ancestors, calling on them for guidance or protection. 

4) Open the ceremony by marking the time as sacred using a symbolic act. This can be done any in any of the following ways: Crossing a threshold; lighting the candle on your altar; sounding a bell, gong, drum, or rattle; using a scent to bring you into the dreamtime (diffusing or anointing with essential oils, lighting sage or palo santo, misting rose water, etc.)  

5) Now call your guides into the space. Your personal guides might be your spirit guides, angels, gods/goddesses, animal spirits, ancestors or any un/seen entity that feels good and clear to call on in support of your highest good and your intention.

6) Cast a circle, calling upon all directions. You can do this however you prefer. I like to speak the following:

Facing east: "Spirit of the east, great spirit of air, cleanse this space."

Facing south: "Spirit of the south, great spirit of water, bring peace to this space."

Facing west: "Spirit of the west, great spirit of fire, energize this space."

Facing north: "Spirit of the north, great spirit of earth, ground this space."

Directed upward: "Great father sky, protect this space from above."

Directed downward: "Great mother earth, nurture this space from below."

7) Say your intention aloud and/or meditate on it like a mantra. Allow the intention statement to flow through your body in both directions -- inhaling the earth's energy up from the bottom of your feet (or base of your spine if sitting) from root to crown until it ascends from the top of your head to the heavens. Then exhale it down from crown to root, grounding your intention into the fertile soil of the earth.

8) Place the small paper with your intention on your altar. I often place mine under a candle or a stone to ground and enliven it. 

9) Close the ceremony circle by offering gratitude to your guides. Also you may want to repeat or reverse the act you chose for opening your ceremony, such as snuffing the candle or herbs, sounding the bell, or crossing back over your threshold. 

10) Allow the ceremony live in you as you move through the season ahead. Interact with your altar and/or journal, revisiting your intention and noticing the ways you are actively manifesting it in your life.