Mother

Mother

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For Mother’s Day today I wrote to my mother:

“My dear, beautiful, amazing Mom!!

Happy Mother’s day!! I love you so much. What a lucky life I live with you as my mother!! 

If you knew all the moments my heart beats with sheer gratitude for who you are, and how you show up in this world, and in my life specifically, along with the lives of my children… you might be astonished. 

Thank you for my life! And for mothering me in just the ways you did while I was a baby and child, adolescent and young woman. And now as I get soooo old, how amazing it is to still get to be your child! 

Being a mother myself only accentuates my awe and appreciation for the mother you have been, and continue to be for me in my life. 

So much of what is good in me was nurtured by your wise sensibility, your intuition and kindness and authenticity, your humor and graciously creative ways, your tender reverence for beauty. 

I feel so proud of you, and this in me that comes from you. 
I hope you know this always. “

How beautiful to have arrived to this place in my life and heart where every word I wrote is true. Where it isn’t said because it should be said, but because itmust be said.

I remember the time in my life when I harbored disappointment in my mom for her shortcomings; for ways I wished and imagined (from my all-knowing young woman perspective) that she could have loved, cared and mothered me differently as I grew. Shouldn’t she have nursed me longer, not let me cry it out; shouldn’t she have been happier, modeled more strength of voice and courage of self-love? It seems so young and outrageously self-righteous now, as I remember that particular lens of critical daughter perception.

But that aching recognition of limitation; that illumination of restless yearning and need inside me~ was a sacred threshold which delivered me at once to the claiming of my own self-mothering, while opening me to receive mothering from all of life. It led me to discover the many mothers and mentors who could help raise me into myself, into the person my mother had given birth for me to become.

So that before too long I could return to her, this woman who had so graciously birthed and nurtured my life, with humble gratitude for the absolutely perfect mother she had been for me~ in every mistake, wound and limitation she embodied, alongside endless gestures of selfless commitment, astounding generosity, unwavering love.

I remember the time in my life when all I wanted was to become a mother with my own body; to be granted the chance of embodying the archetype of Mother directly with children from own flesh. And oh my God the unimaginable Grace of giving birth, of growing those babies on my golden milk, and this holy honor of stewarding them now as they grow powerfully upright into the ones they are here to be. I am humbled and humored and touched and moved every single day by Life’s gift that names me Mother.

And I remember a distinctly challenging day of single motherhood where one moment in the private aloneness of my own despair I yelled at the universe the most horrific confession: “I HATE MOTHERING!!” What a relief it was to let that small, yet very real and self-judged thread of my consciousness express itself!

And oh the moments of painful remorse that arise in the face of my own shortcomings as a mother. Mothers always know more than anyone else possibly could the places where we’ve messed up, missed an essential cue, weren’t as present as we could have been, were more reactive than we should have been. And it haunts me in moments, this truth of my imperfections, my challenges in mothering, always so achingly transparent to my own tender, earnest heart.

But something softens within us as we recognize more and more deeply how everything serves; how motherhood was never meant to be a perfect expression~ permanently open and flawless, conscious, whole and shining.

Sometimes Motherhood is broken and ugly and boring and scary.

I continuously become a better mother through stretching the messy edge of mistake and repair; through being real and vulnerable with my kids, spacious and forgiving with myself, and through recognizing the incredible people my children are somehow becoming in spite of my undeniable flaws. (Go figure!)

I remember again and again that THIS LOVE that I imperfectly am IS the very ground of my motherhood. This LOVE that I so dearly, wildly live to loveand love to live, to summon, inspire, celebrate, and surround not only my children in, but everyone I meet, has got to be the god-darned point of it all!

This love that I serve and reflect and confirm in my children; condition, mold and hone them by the light of, has just got to be more than enough in the end.
It is certainly everything to me.

Mother is who I find as I bow into my yoga practice with reverence and self-thanks, as I twirl on the dancefloor, and when I prepare myself a beautiful bowl of nourishing food, meeting myself with care and kindness. Mother is who I am when my hand rests with self-appreciation and humility solidly on my own heart.

Mother is who summons the wildness with which to tackle and wrestle my growing son; who tentatively learns the art of giving my blossoming daughter all the space she needs to spread her wings beyond my embrace.

Mother is who I discover again and again as I sit in stillness at the flame, after everyone is in bed, overcome with tender devotion and reverence.

Mother is the warmth and nest of true self-embrace, and Mother is the sharpest sword, willing to slice through all that is not of service to life and growth and health and love.

Mother is the fierce baring teeth and claws, willing to do everything and anything to protect her young. She is the one who is exhaustingly devoted as she nurses us back to health. And she is the one who is not afraid to hold up the hardest mirror, and name the hardest truths, to reflect that which must be seen.

My Mother is Moon and Ocean and Stars; this very body and soul of our precious world. My Mother is Plant Medicine, is Ceremony, is Dance, is Healing Waters, is Fire. Mother is who I taste as my tears and in her seas, rolling down the cheeks of Creation. Mother is Life and Death; she who awaits our last breath, just as she inspired our first.

Mother is this hugely humbled, spacious, deeply intimate and personal love with which I love and am loved and lived as Mother.

Mother of my body, mothers of my heart and soul, Mother Gaia, Holy Mother of All Life, exquisite Mother that I am and you are, thank you. Thank you.

Photo: My Mother, and her Mother, and my daughter, who made me Mother.

The Gorgeous Grace of Living from a Thankful Heart

The Gorgeous Grace of Living from a Thankful Heart

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The longer I live and older I get, the more I come to realize this simple phrase“thank you” is amongst my most favorite.

When “thank you“ is offered with true presence and intention, it becomes one and the same in sentiment as “I love you” and “I see you;” a simultaneous extension and receiving of blessing. These simple words have such a magical way of opening the heart the moment they leave the mouth, only to then open the heart of the one who hears them!

I must confess: sometimes walking through life I find myself searching out any place I might be able to voice my appreciation, my genuine acknowledgment, my seeing and naming what I am thankful for. This might strike you as odd, or funny. It’s a bit selfish, really~ this addictive love for giving thanks~ because it feels so amazing, so life-affirming, so connecting and rewarding to simply let the gratitude wash through the heart, off the tongue, and land upon the open ears of the world.
Thank you Fig Tree growing so wild and leafy in my yard. Thank you Sun for the way you brighten my face in your direction. Thank you pink roses on my altar bursting open with such naked exquisiteness. Thank you Great Spirit for this new day, this chance to let my heart be lived, this holy chance to say thank you, once again.
It is especially delicious to thank the frequently un-thanked ones. We can take a moment before we eat our bountiful plate of food to honor with humble acknowledgment the many hands through which our food passed in order to reach our lucky mouths. Thank you soil, rain, sun, seeds. Who might be touching and blessing our lives behind the scenes, or along the mundane periphery, without us ever really seeing them or thanking them?

How wondrous to stretch beyond the rote expressions of life exchange we tend to take for granted~ and when that barista hands us our drink, to really look her in the eye and say from our hearts: “Thank you!” and when someone bags our groceries for us to take a moment and just say “Thank you. You did that so well.” Thanking the person who changes the oil in our car, who brings us our mail, who takes our phone reservation, our bank deposit, our order in the restaurant. Thanking the one who graciously holds the door open for us so we can walk through it.

Sometimes we get confused, and think that our payment, or perhaps even our tip, is our best way of thanking someone. Payment and tipping are necessary, wonderful, and appreciated, but they are not one and the same as genuinely extending thanks.

Sometimes we (who are amongst the most privileged on the planet,) are so busy running an internal story of lack and complaint~ about what isn’t going right, what annoys us about living, what (or who) stands in the way of our ease and joy; about our unresolved failures of the past and yet-to-be-realized desires for the future, our long list of wants and un-wants~ that we chronically overlook the abundance of good fortune, of beauty, of kindness; the fruits of our great good luck that we are literally surrounded by, if only we dare to notice.

When I tuck my children into bed I often look for new ways of thanking them for sharing their precious lives with me, for being the exceptional people that they are and for letting me love them; for putting up with my moods and moments of stress, and teaching me in all the incredible ways they do. Their little ears open wide in the dark, just to hear me acknowledge freshly what I truly love, what I simply cherish and am thankful for!

​My kids know better than anyone how challenged I can be as a single, working mother, juggling the complexity of my profession alongside intimate relating and a fierce commitment to self-care. It’s a lot to hold, and they witness firsthand my many humbling moments of disgrace; moments when thankfulness simply eludes me. So it’s especially fulfilling to feel my earnest expression of gratitude resonate within them, inspiring self-appreciation while watering the sprouts of their own growing thankfulness.

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Towards the end of a prayer ceremony I have been participating in for many years, we pass the sweet medicine bowl around the circle, for everyone to have a chance to speak our gratitude.

It can take time and practice to learn how to truly say “Thank you.”

I notice sometimes people who are newer to the ceremony will dread the arrival of the bowl, and then let it only briefly touch their hands, only the merest of thanks leave their lips before they quickly pass it on. It can feel so vulnerable, so naked and exposed to openly name what we are grateful for.
Sometimes in the beginning of learning how to say “thank you” to Life, we feel painfully shy, almost as though we are saying “I love you” to a lover for the first time.

We might even feel superstitious in naming our thanks, as though to do so might tempt the angry Gods and beckon plenty to feel unthankful for! Or perhaps we feel conflicted in naming our gratitude, as though to say “thank you” to Life negates how much pain we still feel; how much unresolved anger, trauma, and grief we still feel pulsing in our personal and collective heart; as if in our bold proclamation of thanks, we are then overlooking everything in the world that is disastrous and horrifying and begging repair.

But we cannot wait for our lives to be perfectly healed and manifest, our work and relationships to feel altogether harmonious and flowing, the larger world to feel saved from imminent crisis, to begin to feel our gratitude.

We must start where we are, and start small, if need be.

What are we thankful for in this very moment? (And if it is truly nothing~ then can we be thankful even for the chance to notice this?)

Sometimes, as the holy bowl rests in my hands, it surprises me what arises in my heart to be thanked. There are all the undeniable blessings~ my children, my mentors, my amazing community of friendships, the mysterious grace of my livelihood as a healer, teacher and writer~ that are so easy to feel grateful for.

But what I discover as the bowl rests in my hands is that it is the times, experiences and relationships in my life that have rocked my world and challenged me in the deepest ways, worked my heart and soul in the hardest ways, that reveal their shameless thirst for my genuine, generous thanks.

In this, then “thank you” becomes one and the same with a prayer for forgiveness, a granting of grace, a humble acknowledgment of the utterly mysterious way in which every single thing can serve our heart’s coming all the way home to peace. 

Thank you to my ex-husband for being my most challenging mirror in moments, and in this my greatest teacher of forgiveness, generosity and compassion; for giving me these children I am so blessed to cherish with all my heart.

Thank you for the illness I have suffered in this lifetime and witnessed my dearest loved ones suffering, for the holy humbling this delivers, illuminating the supreme preciousness of health, the delicate precariousness of our aliveness, the invitation to cherish every breath.

Thank you for every heartbreak, every dark night of the soul, every depression, every life moment that has brought me to my knees in grief and despair~ as these have united me with the pain of humanity, seasoned my heart’s wisdom, while teaching me how to bow, how to pray and ask for help. What else could have so brilliantly shown me how to open wider to Grace, tell a deeper truth, and surrender?

Some of the people in my life who have known the greatest losses and whose faith has been tested in the deepest of ways are the ones I notice living most intimately with gratitude.

I’m talking about the ones who have buried their own kids, the ones who were severely abused as children~ their innocence robbed in horrific ways, or the ones who have lost all their belongings to fire, the ones who have lost control of their bodily functions due to illness, the ones who have suffered one miscarriage after another, one death of a loved one after another. You know the ones, the ones who make our hearts throb and skip a beat with painful empathy when we hear of their trials?

These are some of the ones I know who live with the deepest, most profound gratitude. Maybe it doesn’t make sense, but I’ve seen it again and again.

It’s not that in suffering losses we always become thankful for the loss itself. Sometimes, (I might even say usually) the loss remains a source of continuous grief. Trauma certainly takes its toll and its time to unwind inside a nervous system.

But in the gift of the loss comes the realization of what cannot be lost: this LOVE that we are, this love that we helplessly extend inside of impermanent lifetimes, this Great Love in which all life appears, in which stars and birds are born, in which the cycles of birth and death, illness and wellness, harm and repair, the breaking and the healing~ all rise and fall like waves upon the shore of God.

When we can walk through life alert for opportunities to give our thanks~ for the gifts and presence of others, for the preciousness of our own selves doing the best we can, for this wild-ride rascal of Life in all it includes~ what we become aware of most acutely, is the gorgeous grace of living from a thankful heart. 

And we also notice, undoubtedly, that gratitude is tremendously contagious! (Have you caught even just a little, in reading this article??) 

“Thank you. So simple and so powerful these words that arise, again and again, that extend themselves~ as prayer, as praise, and as promise.

Thank you for “Thank you,“ and the limitless bounty of healing wisdom these simple words so generously transmit, inspire, reveal, deliver.

Bowing, I thank you.

(photo credits: Lone Morch)

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Retrograde Mama Morning

Retrograde Mama Morning

This morning was one of those mornings where it was quite clear that all the retrograde planets were colliding and exploding in my very home! Ezra’s alarm didn’t go off at 6 am as he was expecting it to, disrupting his cherished self-made morning rhythm of showering and playing early, before Arayla and I rise, so he can claim his 7-year-old space and his center.

And so I woke first thing, my softly open and tender morning self, to his enraged yelling and blaming and storming around the house… So much harshness for my sensitive early-morning heart and ears. I found myself energetically cringing, the sorrow creeping in. And then, after his hateful rage storm towards the world had moved through the house, he decided it was time to turn it towards himself, yelling out heartbreaking things, like “Maybe you should just put me up for adoption?! Who would want such a mean child like me?

Oh my dear heart~ how it aches in moments like these. These incredible young people, my challenging offspring/housemates, my amazing and terrible beloveds~ how they work my patience, my kindness and compassion like nothing else.

A few minutes later, when the storm had passed into grumbles, I heard Arayla (11) quietly counseling her little brother~ “Ezra, please stop feeling sorry for yourself. So your alarm didn’t go off and you didn’t get to take a long shower. Is it really worth all this? And please stop telling yourself that story of suffering…it doesn’t help anything or anyone.” I chuckled to myself: how convenient, at least, that I have cloned my own consciousness…

I called an urgent family meeting at the altar in the living room. It was 7:22 am. Arayla, Ezra, and our little puppy Freya all came and sat at the altar with me. I lit the candle, then lit some palo santo, letting the smoke cleanse my body and heart before handing it to Ezra, who did the same, before handing it to his sister. I spoke briefly about responsibility when it comes to the energy we meet inside ourselves and embody in our home.

I reminded about the choices we have when we don’t get our way; when something is disappointing and upsetting to us. I talked about energetic impact and contagion~ the call to become more conscious about what we are “spreading” to others~ is it anger, resentment and blame? Can we intend to “spread” our forgiveness, love and compassion?

And finally I talked about self-hatred and what we harbor against ourselves. How important it is to fully feel the pain when it arises, but then to let it go, let it move on through…to forgive ourselves and one another. I addressed Ezra’s ‘adoption’ comment directly, saying “There is nothing you could do or say; no way you could ever act, no mistake you could make, that would change how much I love you, or how fully I want you, or my commitment to being here for you, no matter what, for your whole life and beyond. Ok? ” Ezra cried then, and buried his face in my lap, releasing. I stroked his precious head for a moment… and then invited him to blow out the candle and carefully make a wish.

We moved into the kitchen and prepared for breakfast. Arayla took the puppy out to the yard, and Ezra got his clothes on. Just another single mama retrograde morning~ stretching me to new depths of tenderness, dharma and resolve.

Bless us all as we teach and learn from one another in the hardest ways… through pain and mistake, through wound and repair, through this love and grace that works us over and uses us~ again and again and again, always only in service of more love.

“This Too Is Sacred”~ Finding the Crack that Opens a Way for Gratitude

“This Too Is Sacred”~ Finding the Crack that Opens a Way for Gratitude

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Many years ago my teacher Gangaji said to me, very simply: It is impossible to suffer when we are feeling gratitude.” What a life-changing teaching this has been! I’ve found it to be true again and again, and so deeply useful in navigating my life-long journey with suffering and peace.

Suffering and gratitude do not arise in the same breath. And yet interestingly, this is not the same as with pain. I’ve noticed that pain and thankfulness can arise in the same breath~ physical pain, emotional heartache, mental anguish, spiritual yearning… can indeed arise alongside deep gratitude for the Mystery which undeniably includes this pain. (Here’s a picture of my daughter at age 9, after a harrowing week in the pediatric ICU, still not out of the woods, yet feeling grateful for so many people sending her healing prayers.)

My Dad likes to tell a poignant story from the Summer I was 19, in between my sophomore and junior years of college.  I had just endured major abdominal surgery for the complete removal of a benign yet enormous, melon-sized tumor that had originated inside my spleen. He sat with me in the hospital recovery room holding my hand as I slowly came around from the anesthesia. I still had a thick, clear tube which ran from my nose down my throat into my belly.

Suddenly, an older male doctor we didn’t recognize walked into the room and up to my hospital bed. He nodded in solemn greeting, barely glancing at me while briefly checking my chart. Then all in one violent, yanking motion, he ripped out the long tube from my nose, letting it whip its way through my body, causing me to cry out in shock and pain.

My father speaks of feeling terrible, angry, helpless in his inability to comfort me. The doctor left the room unapologetically, and I wept profusely while my father tried to soothe me. And then suddenly I stopped crying and whispered: Dad~ this too is sacred.”

(As he tells the story, my Dad then goes on to say humorously and endearingly that this became a defining moment for him as my father, in which he knew for certain there was something very strange about me indeed!)

This is a rather extreme example, but I’m sure many can relate~ to finding ourselves in the midst of immense challenge, a heart-wrenching loss, or genuine pain, while still feeling deeply and undeniably connected to the sacred, to a current of love and faith; a knowing of what’s still here to be grateful for.

Remembering our connection with the sacred provides a clear pathway for gratitude to flow freely, to re-establish itself authentically and presently within us. When we can touch the sacred in any moment, even the most challenging, we can know that every moment of life is precious, inseparable from a miraculous Mystery of the wholeness of creation, as gloriously beautiful as it can be devastatingly humbling.

On the other hand, we can never force ourselves to feel thankful if we are not authentically feeling so! Yet the sheer act of recognizing the absence of gratitude can also be of such true service, if only we allow ourselves to consciously presence its absence.

We have to get curious about our own suffering, in order to set ourselves free.

And just as suffering and gratitude do not arise in the same breath, so too is it impossible to be in gratitude, and not be fully present. While gratitude can and does certainly stretch to include the past and the future, the sentiment of alive thankfulness arises always only in this moment. And the sheer force of its presence pulls us into NOW.

Usually, when it’s hard for me to get in touch with authentic thankfulness, I have found it is useful to tune in to what IS present? What subtle form of suffering might be blocking the path for real thanks to flow?

With self-honesty, I quickly discover fear, grief, or anger, a restlessness of boredom, an ache of longing, or even a subtle hint of futility. Whatever the emotion, once curiously examined, it’s seen to be entangled in some story of want or unwant; some wishing of life to be different than it is.

This is simple and universal. Suffering arises in the desire for this moment to not be how it is.

There is real, horrific suffering happening all over the world in this very moment, and sometimes right next door. War, starvation, disease, murder, poverty, the violence of abuse. I’m in no way way negating or minimizing that reality, or its unfortunate place in human experience.

I’m speaking more towards the endemic ways we suffer habitually in our blessed lives, and sometimes unnecessarily, in less severe, yet still deeply impactful ways.

In these more insidious forms of suffering there is either an internal movement of grasping and reaching for something outside ourselves, or a pushing away~ in resistance or aversion to something unpleasant or uncomfortable that we wish would disappear.

And when we can simply see this? When we can simply turn and face directly our complete lack of thanks, our suffering, and just be with it? When we can simply open wider to it, to dare to be still and allow the fire of this yearning or resistance to burn? When we can allow the grief to rant and flow, the rage to crackle and blaze, the fear to tremble in our bones?

Then, slowly or quickly, an opening occurs. 

Sometimes it starts small, like a whisper of quiet admittance: This too is sacred.
All we need is a tiny crack in the concrete of our hardened heart, for new sprouts of faith to shoot upwards towards the light.

Once we feel even the slightest opening within us, we can find the courage to open even widerto this that wants to have its way with our heart. We can let the pain itself purify us, while letting the sacredness remind us of what’s true.

We might begin to remember a mysterious force which connects us to all sentient beings, through all space and time, all our ancestors and all those yet to be born; every hurting soul and every enlightened Master.

Perhaps we can begin to feel the breath of the holy, breathing through us, and the place within us where our hearts beat, (at least for this moment,) to the rhythm of the Great Heart of Life.

When we are truly present with this moment of LIFE~ fleeting, precious, uncontrollably and undeniably itself~ then, quite naturally, simply and authentically, this gives rise to gratitude again. And so it is. 

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The Thankless Job~ & How It Invites Us To BE The Thanks

The Thankless Job~ & How It Invites Us To BE The Thanks

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I remember one time, when my kids were much smaller, maybe 5 and 2 years old, we had just gotten over a horrendous family stomach flu. You know the kind~ where just like dominos, everyone goes down? One by one, everyone is violently, grossly sick, all over the house. And then, after scrubbing the bathrooms and doing 15 loads of laundry and taking care of everyone for days, finally the Mom gets it too?

I distinctly remember speaking to my dear mother at the time over the phone, from a safe, non-contagious distance, and she said, compassionately: “Oh Love, I’m so sorry. You know~ Motherhood is an utterlythankless job.” 

And while the truth is I actually feel immensely appreciated as a mother, and profoundly grateful as my mother’s daughter, I totally understand where the saying is born from. Don’t you?

Mothers give endlessly, night and day, in infinitely seen and unseen ways. We show up to love and care for the children because we must; because it calls to us; it is our sacred duty. We fall short in undeniable ways, we absolutely hate it some days, we unconsciously wound our offspring with our own unhealed wounds and blind spots, it’s a total mess a lot of the time, but wow do we LOVE them: dearly, profoundly, vulnerably, endlessly, and often thanklessly.

And think of all the invisible, thankless jobs that people do in this world~ to support our flowing with the current of life, our receiving of nourishment, of health, of blessing, of beauty? Think of the farmers who grow and harvest the food that lands magically in our grocery carts and then our refrigerators, the trash truck drivers and street cleaners, the dishwashers in restaurants who scrub clean our plates, the sweepers and the moppers of the world, the countless hidden masses whose work never gets acknowledged?

And yet~ what does this lack of acknowledgment throw back upon the un-thanked? What value and self-worth must we discover and know for ourselves, if that thanks from the world is not always forthcoming? 

Really, as lovely and undeniably supportive it is to experience others appreciation; to be seen for what we’ve brought through our evolving hearts, to be acknowledged for that delicious, nourishing dinner we just cooked, or the thoughtful and generous gift we gave? To be celebrated for the inspiring poem or song that moved though us, that amazing meeting we just facilitated or session we just offered? To be admired for that random act of kindness, or even just the beauty we naturally embody and extend…

As good as this feels~ to be appreciated, seen, and acknowledged, doesn’t others thankfulness simply PALE in comparison to this pure flood of thankfulness that arises within our own hearts?Tell the truth.

And what if it is the very same invitation in relation to bringing our precious gifts, our tender offerings, our truest hearts into the world? 

What if it turns out that showing up and shining and sharing what we are here to share, letting out what’s within us, is actually “a thankless job?” At least a good part of the time? And what if, just like Motherhood, it is never intended to be a perfect, flawless expression? What if instead it is inherently loaded with limitations, humbling stumbles and downright mistakes?

Yet it is our sacred duty, our calling, nonetheless~ regardless of ever being thanked or appreciated for bringing through and raising up what we must?

What an invitation this is~ to find the essential shift of attention within us: from the necessity of being thanked, to the imperative of BEING The Thanks? From the necessity of being loved, to the imperative of Being Love?

In this then we are given an opportunity to GIVE for what we receive in the giving, with all the beauty, tedium, angst and evolution it inspires within us.

No~ not just to be thanked or acknowledged, celebrated or loved. But more so as to be lived, purely and truly and fully by Life; so as to BE the unique expression of Thanks and Love we came to be.  

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