Speaking From Our Center; Claiming Our Medicine

Speaking From Our Center; Claiming Our Medicine


After we got home this afternoon from the children’s all-morning orientation at their new school, I was fully ready to ground out, clean our home, and relax. But Ezra (5) had other ideas. He wanted to go to the skatepark and work on his new tricks.

I told him clearly, with a deep breath: “We can go at 4:00, my love. First we are going to just settle in at home, play a bit, and I’m going to clean up our house.”

This must not have been a satisfactory answer for him, because every 5 minutes or so after that he would come to me and say insistently: “Mom? Can we please go to the skatepark now?!” And I would repeat myself: “No, love. We will be going to the skatepark at 4:00. “

After the third time, it got a bit annoying and I got a little sterner as I looked into his eyes: “Ezra~ please stop asking me that. I told you we are going a little later.” He nodded his head somberly and went back into the garage to play on his skateboard in there.

About 5 minutes later, he came back once again to me, and said: “Mom?” I looked at him with raised eyebrows, (as in: “You’re not going to ask me again, are you?”) And he held up his palm in the stop position, and said in a very mature, non-whiny voice: “Mom~Just listen to me, ok?” I sat back in my chair, gave him my full attention and said: “Ok, I’m listening.”

He said: “Mom. I’m trying not to be all grabby-grabby about what I want? Really, I’m trying. But: Skateboarding is like~ my LIFE! I am feeling like it is my…um…my” (He put his finger on his chin, eyes raised, word-searching: “..it’s my passion! And I really need to move all this nervous energy in my head? From like, my new school and stuff? ” (He motioned to his head) “…and like, bring it down into my body.” (As he motioned with his hands, down to his chest and legs…)

I looked at him, astonished and impressed with his centered somatic articulation. I said, smiling: “Wow, Ezra. That was really clear. That really helped me to understand why it’s so important for you to go to the skatepark as soon as possible. “ He nodded, sincerely, and then added: “Skateboarding is like my medicine, Mom. You know? Like dance is for you? Or prayer ceremony is? I just really need it right now.”

With that choice of language I giggled outloud… It’s amazing when I hear my own vernacular spewed back at me from the little loves. They really are always listening, absorbing, receiving, learning.

I said: “Yes, Ezra, we can go to the skatepark on the sooner side. How about 20 minutes from now? At 3:15, when both hands on the clock are on the 3, ok? Thank you for explaining that to me and speaking from such a grounded place.”

He said: “Yes!” his fist thrust in the air, and strode away with his head held high, clearly pleased with himself for his successful communication strategy.
Apparently, speaking from our centers and claiming our medicine really pays off in this household. 😉 

Me: A “Spiritual Sham”? Yes, Perhaps…

Me: A “Spiritual Sham”? Yes, Perhaps…


Yesterday, someone was so triggered in my presence that they called me a “spiritual sham”, and angrily claimed that they were “not the only one” to think this.

I must say it is pretty unusual at this point on my path to attract such volatile insult…. And I must confess that at first it stung my ears and my heart, and I felt defenses rise, in being someone who cares deeply about integrity, and about truth, and about embodying love with authenticity, accessibility, ruthless honesty and realness, about the courage it takes to truly walk my talk in this world.

And then, later, as I examined it, my heart less inflamed, I silently inquired: “what part of me is attached to not being seen as a ‘sham’?”….”what part of me still deeply cares what others think, how they perceive me, and is hurt by the thought of being misunderstood, or judged, or criticized for boldly sharing my own heart?”

I remembered Byron Katie’s invaluable work around projection, inviting us to fully unwind and unravel our own projections, and those of others onto us, to find what is true inside it all; to find the place of radically taking responsibility and ownership for it all. I remembered my spiritual mother Gangaji saying to me so many years ago “People will love you, Jesua, and people will hate you, and you must learn to not take on either one.”

And I thought about my recent experiment of consciously walking head-first into the field of a stranger’s silent, palpable, wrathful judgment of me, instead of scurrying in the opposite direction. And how, just as an experiment, I sat down inside it next to her, feeling her sense of threatened hatred about my physical appearance, about what my beauty meant in her inner world. And how I just decided to be with her in it, feeling the waves of her projection and judgment intensify, entering my body, as I received without resistance the ‘negative’ energy, until it dissolved. And how she noticeably softened, emptied, and I stood and walked away, unscathed, both of us transformed by this willingness to not resist what comes towards us.

I looked up the definition of Sham. It reads “something that is not what it purports to be; a spurious imitation; fraud or hoax.“
And innocently, openly, I considered: what could be true in this? What do I ‘purport’ myself to be that I am not? I suppose there are moments walking through the world, when my heart is actually aching or grieving in some way, and it is skillful to not be entirely transparent in this, while, for example, paying for my groceries. Do I put on “a happy face”? No~ I’m actually pretty terrible at pretending; most of the time my children report that I am transparent to a fault.

Do I ‘purport’ myself to be a perfect mother? Oh please, dear God, I hope not! I am so far from perfect, my children would quickly boldly attest to this, right alongside their loyal adoration. I make mistakes all the time as a mother. Truly: I find parenting young humans to be the steepest, most humbling spiritual path on the planet.

Do I ‘purport’ myself to be more awake or evolved or resolved or together than I am? I don’t think so, do I? I am a whole being, a human being, and as such always learning, evolving, growing through my edges, just like all of us. And as such I experience such a diverse spectrum of truth: dark and light, pleasant and unpleasant. And I am blessed to have directly realized, a very long time ago, the unmoving ever-present ground of being from which it all arises. The deepest truth of my being is an unmoving awareness of what never comes and goes. And the full spectrum of human experience certainly comes and goes from that, in me.

I guess the interesting thing is the combination of these two words: “spiritual sham.” What do we mean by ‘spiritual’? What is ‘Spirit’? What does ‘Spirit’ not include?

If the true meaning of ‘Spiritual’ were to mean in opposition of humanness, of reactivity, of the presence or arising of anger, trigger, or fear, or sorrow, or boundaries…then Yes, I could be called a “spiritual sham”, as in my humanness I admit everything still arises in moments: anger, fear, frustration, loneliness, grief. If “spiritual” was exclusive, and certain aspects of humanness were not included, then it’s true: I’m a guilty sham.

But what feels most true to me is that “spiritual” is not a look, it’s not a way, it doesn’t wear particular clothes or only say certain words or refrain from certain human activities or emotions. I once looked into some of the most beautiful, luminous eyes of Love I had ever seen, of a woman who was serving in the form of a toll booth attendant, and as I handed her the $5 and she saw me see her, astonished by her light, she winked at me from the heart of God. There are secret ‘spiritual’ agents, everywhere.

I heard of a guru once who lived in a tree and despised his devotees, angrily throwing fruit at the people who tried to come and worship him! Great spiritual teachers, sharing invaluable wisdom and insight who were also chain-smokers or alcoholics. Or the great sage Ramana Maharshi, when people would come to him where he lived at the foot of the great mountain Arunachala, and would tell him the painful stories of their lives…he would weep! He would weep with them, sobbing for all they had suffered. He had not transcended his own empathy, his own deep human feelings.

All is included in “spirit.” Spirit is Life. Am I a Life sham? I must be, in some way, in being all. Sham gets to be included too, I suppose, in this that I am. Can I be generous enough, to include sham in my heart’s knowing of myself? Yes. But closer than this, deeper and truer than this: I know that I am nothing at all. And as nothing, I am love; fierce love, true love, love in all forms and all directions.

Giving Up vs. Giving In To Life~ An Invitation

Giving Up vs. Giving In To Life~ An Invitation


I’ve been really loving lately finding the juicy aliveness inside this sacred distinction between giving up and giving in to life.

It feels to me like we get to a certain place in our growth as human souls, where we’ve been truly ripened and honed, seasoned, matured, wounded, humbled and deepened by life.

We’ve come to see that life is not what we thought it would be. Our younger projections onto life have been disillusioned. Relationship is not what we thought it would be. Adulthood is not what we thought and if we’ve become parents, parenthood is not either. Success and failure are not.

And really, it all feels a bit wild, this world. A bit reckless in the way it’s all unfolding with technology, with big-bad-wolf corporations and our dangerous addiction to oil, with Fukushima and Monsanto and all the worrisome rest. And we find ourselves sighing, or maybe shrugging, sadly; many of us praying, quite a lot.

Love asks more from us than we could have ever imagined, humbles us daily, stretches our edges and breaks our hearts open. We are tender and raw in our aliveness, in our love, in our wants, our unmet needs, our willingness.

And some of us get to a place where we are truly tired. We are wearied by the immense tasks at hand~ for us personally, and for humanity. We are tested every day in the simple walking of our talk and living of our truth. We are no longer buoyed by a childish hope of life being about our personal wishes being granted by some Fairy-Godmother God.

And yet still we care so deeply. Our care is real and deep, profound and true.

There is genuine care for this mother earth planet, for these younger generations we are blessed to steward, for this world in all its adolescent short-sighted madness; care for the bees, care for the soil, care for the trees, care for the waters, care for the food, care for the air, care for the warring humans, dutifully carrying the torches of wars past; care for our earth’s ancestors, and all those yet to be born; care for our own dear lives, our sweetly beating hearts.

There is a humble prayer for the possibility that our precious lives might be of some true use, might be of some real service, might come to embody true peace and freedom. And yet, how? And with so many daily tasks and this mundane grind to keep up with; the constancy of dishes and laundry and bills to pay and chores to complete; some of us with children to tend to with as much grace and presence as we can muster?

To be so tiny in this world, and imperfect and still growing and so human, and to care so much, to have so much to share~ can feel in moments, like a helpless conundrum. Yes?

And here is the place where at times we feel like we might just need to buckle under the weight of it all, and give up. Just give up. Not (for most of us) in some dramatic or tragic way. But just to give up some true piece of our soul. Let the light fade just a tad from our eyes, let our dreams dissolve, our faith wither, our shoulders fall, our mouths frown, our hearts cave in.

And in truth there can be great spiritual benefit and beauty found in giving up certain things, certain habits, certain addictive ways of searching for anything other than this moment. Right? Yes, of course. There is an important and noble place for giving up.

But truly giving up? On ourselves? On our inherently aging, fallible bodies? On our tender hearts? On our fellow humans? On life itself? On the Great Mystery? No~ when we do this, when we collapse under the weight of seeming burden, we only contribute to the suffering in our world. We add our weight to the burden of The Mother, the very opposite of what we want.

What is most beautiful, I’m finding, deeper and deeper, is the possibility ofgiving in! Of giving in to this moment, with all it includes. Giving in when we feel like giving up.

Giving in to the intensity of what’s called for. Giving in to the depth of all we feel. Giving in to the passion of our own sweet hearts, even if it is our passionate grief or passionate fear. Giving in to fierce truthtelling! Giving in to the thrust of action which follows our genuine care; giving in to the generosity of forgiveness, the courage of honesty; giving in to our laughter, our joy, which blesses us in moments, so organically.

Giving in to life, as it is, with all its challenges. What a choice! What a simple gift.

I see it like this: down on my knees, my hands to the heavens, and then to my heart, proclaiming at the top of my lungs, and yet absolutely silent, smiling with tears, I say to life: “I give in. I give in. Take me. I’m yours. I give in.”

It’s a surrender. Moment after moment. And Life knows exactly what to do with our surrender. Life knows exactly how to make true use of our earnest hearts.

I invite you to give in, with me, my friends! Especially in the moments when you feel like giving up. So simple, really. Just give in. Give in. Give in.

“How Generous Are You Willing to Be?” ~ A Dance Teaching Story

“How Generous Are You Willing to Be?” ~ A Dance Teaching Story


When I was 20 years old, a junior at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, I made an incredibly brave choice. I decided to dedicate one third of my college curriculum to the studying of Modern Dance.

Prior to that point I had been studying psychology, philosophy, writing and religion, as well as the visual arts. But the Summer after my Sophomore year I had a near-death experience, spanning several months, suddenly finding myself bizarrely ill, drastically losing weight, finally, after collapsing in fever, discovering a huge tumor the size of a cantaloupe swelling rapidly with blood inside my spleen. And so, after maneuvering and surviving 3 surgeries, having negotiated with angels and revisited all my life-contracts, I was, needless to say, irrevocably transformed.

After taking a semester off for healing, I returned to college in January for my Junior year and somehow knew that if I was going to successfully remain free of disease, I would need to fully and completely incarnate. I would need to actually inhabit this body I was living in, not just drag it around, loosely tethered to my spirit. And so, I decided, with huge trepidation and terror, to dance.

It was an especially courageous choice not only because I had never danced before, but because I still actively lived with mostly invisible neurological “damage” from my waist down, as the bi-product of childhood meningitis, had worn leg braces as a child, and did not have access to “normal” mind-leg control.

I had healed to the extent that hardly anyone (besides my mother, maybe) would notice I still slightly dragged my left foot. But in a dance class, requiring complex coordination and balance, my physical limitations would be horribly exposed.

And so they were, and so it was: immensely, painfully humbling. How many times did we, the students, line up, one by one, to dance across the floor? And how many times, come my turn,  did I trip and fall, and then feel the others turn away aghast, in excruciating embarrassment on my behalf? Plenty of times, I’ll tell you.

There were days I simply couldn’t face the challenge, and pretended I was sick. There were days I sat on the sidelines, fuming with grief and envy that I couldn’t move with the grace and fluidity and ease of neurological connection my classmates could seemingly take for granted.

And yet slowly, slowly, I learned to dance. Neurological pathways literally opened, healed and came to life in my lower body. Muscles developed. I cultivated my mid-line, learned to celebrate gravity, learned to enjoy the power and thrust and pleasure of movement. My spirit dove all the way down into my pelvis, my legs, my feet. My life-force came IN.

There were moments I actually tasted physical ecstasy for the first time, true surrender to life. There were moments I discovered, firsthand, what it was to be danced.

Then, one day, in the middle of morning warm-ups, moving through a simple routine to the comforting familiarity of the live piano player’s warm-up melody, suddenly my dance teacher waved to the piano player to stop playing. The room was silent and all the students stopped dancing.

A tiny woman with a huge voice and presence, our teacher approached me slowly in her petite, graceful, chiseled body, with hungry, angry ferocity shining in her eyes like a panther about to pounce.

Then, in front of the entire class, she yelled at me, scolding me, with so much intense love and conviction and passion I have perhaps never recovered since.

She said: “Look at you, shame on you! Holding these long, beautiful limbs so close, so tight to your sides? Look at you!?”

Then she got in my face: “How generous are you willing to be? How generous are you willing to be with your whole life? Will you share yourself with us? With the world? Do you dare? Or are you just going to hold yourself tightly in, hold these long arms and legs all to yourself?

“Are you just going to be stingy? Just keep yourself to yourself for the rest of your life? In case you fall? In case you fail? In case you make a fool of yourself? In case we see how imperfect you are?

“OR: are you going to choose to just be generous anyway? To just take up as much space as you actually take up? To be as big, as graceful, as long, as gorgeous, as enormous as you actually are?”

She stopped, out of breath from her spontaneous explosion, and stood there, staring up at me, tears of wisdom’s fierce love glistening in her eyes. Stunned tears came to my eyes as well, and I met her gaze, with what must have been the light of humbled gratitude.

If I had known how to bow then, I would have bowed. I would have fallen to my knees and kissed her feet. But instead I just stood there, meeting her gaze, shaking, knowing I had been given a tremendous teaching, a true gift.

That was one of those life-changing moments: in my dance, in my heart, in my life. Bless her heart, such a true teacher, a true life-midwife. She awakened in me something that was sleeping still; in fear, in laziness, in reluctance to actually embodying my imperfect body, in resistance to taking up as much space in this lifetime as I was here to take up.

Her words come back for me now, 20 years later, as I continuously summon the courage for leaps and bounds and surrender of a different nature. Her words are a soothing balm, an affirmation, a blessing: “How generous are you willing to be? Will you share yourself? Do you dare? Or are you just going to be stingy?  In case you fall? In case you fail?  How generous are you willing to be with your whole life?”

True generosity can look as many ways as there are individual moments to live. It is not necessarily a grand or public gesture of exposure. It could be as simple as your own hand tenderly touching your own face. It could be a deep breath. It could be the generosity of forgiveness, or self-forgiveness. It could be a smile. Or the simple word “yes.” We always know, deep inside, what the choice of generosity could look like for us, in any given moment. Generosity of presence, of honesty, of kindness, of trust, of love, of truth.

Just imagine her fierce eyes of immense love, my friend, glaring at you like a hungry predator, saying: “How generous? How generous?” and just feel how it inspires you to open your heart, spread your wings, and live and love and dance and be danced with what remains of this fleeting life.

I dare you. I meet you here in this generosity. With all my being, I meet you.

Telling Our “Medicine Story”

Telling Our “Medicine Story”


The older I get and longer I live, I notice that from my soul’s perspective the essence of my life’s learnings and lessons can be narrowed down to a sacred handful of potent life teaching moments, experiences and passages.

In the Peruvian Q’ero Shamanic tradition I was trained in, I learned to associate this soul perspective as an aspect of wisdom medicine from Hummingbird, Siwarkente, the joy bringer. Hummingbird teaches us how to engage fully with life and drink deeply of the nectar of life, learning how to receive the “nectar” even from those life experiences which caused us the greatest suffering.

I often love to invite my clients and students to share their life story with me from the perspective of their soul. How would you tell your life story from the perspective of life being a profound, exquisite and often ruthlessly true response to the very lessons and learnings you actually took birth to receive?

It can be an especially beautiful, powerful (and sometimes provocative and triggering) exercise for those of us who have felt victimized in any way by our lives… and many of us who in fact truly were victims, in one way or another.

I’ve worked with countless people who were sexually and/or physically and verbally abused as children, by trusted elders, relatives, teachers, caretakers. I’ve worked with several people who were raped; both women and men. I’ve worked with many people who were forced to become intimate with the tragic influence of illness and death, alcoholism and drug addiction, sometimes from the time they were within the womb. I’ve worked with people who have survived the horrific loss of their own children, or the loss of their parents or siblings when they were children.

And so to find the “medicine story”, as I like to call it, (the medicine that came from our experience) we look at our life story from the perspective of imagining our unique life unfolding as the perfect response to exactly what we somehow needed to learn in this lifetime, in order to receive from life what we, as souls, came for. (*Even if you don’t know that you believe in a soul, you can pretend, for the sake of the exercise, and just see what comes!*)

To do this we need to look at our life experiences through a very special lens, (especially the really challenging experiences, moments or passages that worked us the most deeply, that traumatized us, broke our hearts, humbled or even hobbled us) and somehow stretch to glean the gems, the sacred gifts received, to see what they taught us, brought us, in a way that nothing else quite could have.

Such a shift happened in my own heart’s life, my own stance, stride, embodiment, and capacity for service, when I stopped telling my life story in a way of feeling somehow sorry for myself, and instead started embodying the wisdom of life’s many gifts to me, often in the form of “divine humbling.”

For example: the invaluable gifts I received as a child, very sick with meningitis at 18 months old, suffering countless invasive medical procedures, and the many years of neurological challenges that followed. What a ruthlessly immense gift of compassion I received in being meanly teased as a little girl for my leg braces, for neurological clumsiness, for the humiliating loss of control of my bladder and bowels.

How the deep experience of self-hatred in feeling “broken,” betrayed by life and my own body, gave me so much rich and potent material to work with; transforming deep wounds of pain, invasion and shame into sources of power, healing, self-love and empathy.

How the extreme disembodiment and suffering I was granted by dis-ease, was, in time, exactly what I needed to be called in to the body, into life, with great intention and dedication; the courage to study dance and yoga and embrace my body and life with passion and celebration. How the material I was given to work with allowed me to be of that much greater healing service to the people who come to sit with me today.

That’s just one of many personal examples of “Medicine Story” from my own life’s inclusion of pain. The rewards that come as we open to the gifts, the actual “nectar” that was unleashed by the wounds we suffered, allows us to feel grateful for this sacred moment, grateful for our own perseverance and courage, grateful for the chance we’ve been given to learn like this, to be humbled like this; brought to our knees by life again and again and again.

It is a wild life, this human realm, and even for the most privileged, the most supremely blessed of lives, suffering comes, of one kind or another.

Telling our medicine story lightens our load, and in so doing lightens the load of the world, brings true grace, meaning, beauty and blessing, medicine and healing to what previously knew only pain.

Love in all directions: past, present, future… Love to you, sweet reader, and all that you have met, all you continue to meet, in service of the lightening of the load in your own sweet heart, and so in the heart of our world…. xo ~*~ J

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