authenticity

Watch me unfold

Can you feel the springtime energy abound? Even though it's still hoodie-required chilly here in Boulder, the whoosh of rebirth, refresh, and renewal are evident in my system, and I am witnessing it in those around me. It shouldn't surprise me by now how in sync we are with the cycles of the earth, but in some ways, I've had a long personal winter. I'm SO ready to unfold... thus the subject line of this email is the ear worm in my head right now: Unfold by Alina Baraz

As I talked about in previous posts, I've been in a hibernation of sorts for a couple years, cocooning up, listening internally while undergoing a metamorphosis. In a recent reading with my favorite astrologer, I learned that I'm coming out of a new moon phase in regards to my vocation -- the dark, new moon being the lunar cycle's equivalent to winter. And now, with an elegant eyelash of a waxing moon visible on my progressed chart, I'm astrologically moving into springtime. I am being invited to create from this fertile, rich soil of mystery and experiment in leading, inspiring, teaching, and writing -- urged to bring my playful, fiery, witchy, sensual, risky, artistic, psychospiritual, edgy, embodied life force --my full Eros-- forth into my career. Eros refers to our erotic nature, our primal passion, our vitality. It's what turns us on and brings us pleasure. I've had an opportunity to allocate mine into my interpersonal relationships during these couple years when I've not been seeing clients. Now, I finally feel an unmistakable call to pour a portion of this lush well of sacred yumminess into how I serve and express through my work in the world.

In this new chapter, the form my offerings takes will not be created by top-down, linear 'should's and patriarchal rules -- rather the form is guided by pushing the emergent edge of the wild, feminine mystery... the idea that formlessness is okay, experimentation is encouraged, shapeshifting is natural, and sharing our unpolished humanness not only makes us more accessible, but it's also deliciously magnetic. These are the conversations for which I want to provide a forum to have with YOU. I'm beginning to create just that. Stay tuned to my offerings.

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. 

Extending the invitation

Today feels like the day to revisit this Oriah Mountain Dreamer poem I've loved for years, so I've posted it below. Authentic connection and being truly present with another person is what I love the very most about my career as a therapist -- that is the purpose of this work I feel so honored to do.

The Invitation    

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. 
I want to knowwhat you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know 
if you will risk 
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are 
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you 
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know 
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone 
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

~by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Shedding what no longer serves us

Do you feel you could be holding yourself back from your full potential because of a belief you have about yourself or a story you've been telling yourself about who you are? What if that belief or story is no longer true for you... and you are free? You can reauthor these stories and live with more authenticity. John Welwood, psychotherapist, teacher, and author, says that we all live with some degree of dis-ease (absence of ease) that he defines as the cocoon function of alienation from ourselves in the face of pain.

Welwood says that dis-ease has three levels:

Level 1: The initial pain we feel as a result of a life circumstance. For example, if we experienced an unpleasant event as a child that was too much for our nervous systems to handle or understand, and the adults around us were unable to help us relate, we protected ourselves by shutting ourselves down (or contracting.)

Level 2: The contracting away from or trying to escape from the pain when it arises. It is a natural human preservation response to turn away from pain (in body, emotion, mood, etc.), thus causing a secondary pain of living in a state of contraction. By state of contraction, Welwood means that over time, an overall style of avoidance or denial develops, creating an identity that is based on grasping what we like in ourselves and rejecting what we don't like. For example, we might avoid anger by trying to "be a nice person."

Level 3: The energy vested in this contracted version of self. This creates a third kind of suffering that comes about in our story lines or the stories we tell ourselves (and others) about our life. These can be overt thoughts and beliefs, or ones that are unconscious, which have tremendous power. This creates a partial or contracted identity that is not the whole of who we are. It requires ongoing maintenance to keep up and defend an elaborate web of rationalizations to justify this avoidance (perhaps not consciously.)

These stories become self-fulfilling prophecies because we create a reality that reinforces the story and keep up behavior that provides an illusion of stability and permanence. It's likely that we're all walking around with old stories about ourselves that no longer fit for who we really are or that no longer serve us. There was a time that the story served a purpose of protection, but it's okay now to drop that storyline in favor of living with more EASE and truth.

How can we begin to do this work? Bringing mindfulness to ways in which we may have crafted these stories and how we support them can help us to live in a more authentic state. We can observe contractions we may be experiencing due to painful thoughts, feelings, or stories - some of which may be very old and longstanding. (These are called sankaras.) By naming these difficulties, we are open to whatever arises.  Mindfulness is a practice of NOT contracting away, but instead, bringing more attention and awareness to the pain, further exploring the cocoon and not trying to change it. The contracted part isn’t alone anymore; it is supported by mindfulness and maitri, or unconditional self-love. By slowing down and observing our own stories, we have the power to shed what no longer fits and reauthor our own lives.

If you'd like to read more about this concept from John Welwood, I highly recommend his book: Toward a Psychology of Awakening.