A Little Dose of Family Car Medicine

A Little Dose of Family Car Medicine

This morning, driving with my kids, I couldn’t help but notice Arayla (14) seemed a little forlorn and distant sitting beside me. Slightly concerned, I asked her, “Everything okay Babe?”

Her eyes conveyed tension, and she shrugged sadly, responding, “Yeah, I guess. I don’t know…”

I placed my right hand gently on her leg, asking, “Hmmm…I can tell something’s bothering you. Did something happen you want to share?”

She sighed deeply with an air of annoyance, and responded sharply, “No, I don’t think so.”  She turned away from me then, looking out her window, staring off into space. I took my hand off her lap, honoring her expressed boundary, and we were all quiet as we continued driving along.

I felt into Arayla’s energy with curiosity and wonder, silently empathizing with what must feel in moments like a super confusing time of multi-layered metamorphosis.

Then suddenly Ezra (10), from the back, mimicking my serious line of questioning, yet with a tone of wry humor, asked his big sister, “Arayla, are you a teenager?”

LOL. His silly question made us all giggle. I noticed the light-hearted medicine of his inquiry.

Then Arayla turned around towards him, nodding with genuine relief. She said, “Yeah, I’m a teenager. That’s totally IT…”

Leave it to Ezra to name it so succinctly.

Then Arayla took a deep breath, as she vulnerably confessed to both of us, “I actually think I have a serious case of teen-itis.”

I squinched up my face towards her in sympathy, “Oh gosh, really? Teen-itis? Ugh… that’s the worst!

She said, “I know. Sorry my energy is so off, guys! I seriously didn’t know anyone could feel so awkward inside their own skin, soul and personality—all at the exact same time! It’s amazing, actually.” She shook her head in miserable disbelief.

My heart swelled with tender love for her, feeling nothing but awe for her wondrous self-awareness.

I said, “Oh I feel you, sweet girl. And it’s OK. You are rocking this. We love you just the way you are.” She softened, smiling a little, taking this in. I glanced back at Ezra in the rear-view mirror, looking to him for a little big-sister-loving back-up, prompting, “Right, Ezra?”

Silence from Ezra.

And a moment later he said dead-pan, “I’m still thinking…”

This made Arayla totally crack up! The thought that her little brother had to think about whether she was loveable just as she was—teen-itis and all—totally broke the spell. She laughed hard and I laughed along with her. 

Ezra chuckled gloriously too, clearly pleased with himself. Ten points for humorous sibling rapport.

Our car-ride had transformed from being laden with weighty teen angst to one of playful family intimacy.

We arrived at Ezra’s friend’s house, and Ezra quickly opened his car door, eager to get to his playdate, running off as he tossed back cheerily towards us, “See ya!”

Arayla beamed at him: “Have fun!”

With immense fondness, I yelled after him, “I love you! See you later…”

Arayla and I drove onward. And inside myself I made a careful, grateful note of the tiny, mundane, easily-overlookable ways we get to show up as nourishing medicine for these ones we love. How truly easy it can be to catalyze deeper closeness and trust, simply through being ourselves.

 

The Golden Key of Unmet Yearning

The Golden Key of Unmet Yearning

Many years ago, I suddenly understood that even with all the extraordinary healing and freedom I had realized, I was still carrying a deep, unmet yearning in my heart that was profoundly impacting my life.

I experienced it as an almost constant sense of subtle, gnawing want. A want for something other than what was already here.

I don’t mean to say that I was consistently joyless or restless or ceaselessly searching. But it was almost as though there was a continuous underlying noise in my psyche– an underlying sound of subtle discontent, of yearning, of longing.

I also noticed I had to feed it, in order for it to thrive. I had to fuel it with my emotional and mental attention. And there was a slight pleasure I noticed in this as well.  A kind of pain/pleasure inside my relationship with this unmet yearning. It was almost as though I associated this presence of longing with aliveness itself. 

I recognized that for the most part in my life I had habitually projected this longing outwards, and usually onto the masculine, in a deep desire to be powerfully met and claimed by the home of true union. As I pondered the energetic signature of this yearning, and contemplated where else I had come in contact with it, I realized that almost everyone I knew, young and old, partnered and un-partnered, seemed to carry some version of this same unfulfilled yearning.

For some people it seemed to arise more around issues of work and life purpose; about reaching some financial ideal, or some external recognition of success. For still others I noticed this yearning was mostly concerned with spiritual realization or liberation; attaining some form of “ultimate enlightenment.”  

During a week of personal retreat away from my young children, in which I was given the rare gift of ample time to really examine this pattern of yearning, I allowed myself to become openly curious about it.

I found myself wondering if this longing was simply an unavoidable aspect of the human condition, or perhaps something more sacred? Emotionally and mentally it carried the signature of a subtle story of slightly masochistic suffering, and yet deeper than that I sensed it also contained what could be interpreted as a holy longing for The Beloved; a longing for peace, for truth, for rest. 

I remembered my teacher Gangaji saying to me once, “Your longing for God is God’s longing for YOU. Give yourself fully to this longing. Let it have you. This is holy longing.

I considered: what part of this unmet yearning of mine was “holy longing”?  What part was biologically or hormonally motivated? And what part was a socially conditioned, collective trance of suffering based on the assumption that something or someone was missing?

Finally, after tossing all of this around in my heart for days, I decided I would just turn and meet it, once and for all—this unmet yearning.

I was staying at Kripalu, a yoga retreat center in Western Mass., and one afternoon I took myself on a leisurely walk towards the breathtakingly serene Lake Mahkeenac. When I arrived upon the shore, and noticed I was the only person there, my sense of this longing grew more pronounced in my chest. I found a tall, empty lifeguard chair, and I climbed to the top of it, facing the exquisitely still lake. 

It was there, sitting in that lifeguard chair, that I decided I would just fully embrace this unmet longing. I would turn towards it, opening my heart completely to it. I wanted to meet it all the way, to finally “let it have me” and see what might happen.

The experience that followed was one of immaculate bliss; a feeling of being absolutely consumed by vast, golden self-love; nothing needed, nothing longed for; an open unfurling of limitless, bottomless self-love. 

I was Home. 

In this homecoming, I realized that this unrelenting longing I had carried in my heart was both incredibly human, as well as sacredly useful towards its evolving resolution.

It was a death of sorts, as that longtime habit of projecting my unmet yearning outwards came to a halting stop. But as I surrendered into this ending, what was revealed was a LOVE that is exquisitely full and whole in itself, while still tenderly open to the natural relational desires and sacred needs that come with my humanity.

When we allow our yearning to nourish our deeper wantlessness, inviting our surrender to the grace of true self-love and self-fulfillment, what an offering this is. When we aren’t looking to life, or to others, or to our work, or to “enlightenment” to give us whatever it is we imagine we are missing, then we can serve as a mirror for what’s already whole, already found, already home within us all. 

The intimacy of true self-love fuels a capacity and availability for intimacy with all of life. 

We do need each other. We humans are interdependent pack animals. Even the most innately introverted and shy and anti-social amongst us (ahem, such as myself!) still have a true human need for others. Without the ability to lean into one another for connection, for touch, for empathy, for a good laugh, for belonging, for love, it would be nearly impossible for us to survive, let alone to thrive.

And yet, as you realize yourself to be the greatest source of love and fulfillment you could ever know, and as I do the same, it lets the rest of life off the hook.

In the light of your bright and brave self-love, our entire world rests easier.

Burning Cleanly

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Everyone Has A Role to Play

Everyone Has A Role to Play

This past Sunday evening I began heading home to Ashland after a full weekend in the Bay Area. I stopped at Harbin Hotsprings in Middletown for a few blissful hours of alternating hots and colds before getting in my car to continue North.

About 15 minutes after leaving Harbin, as I drove along the 2-lane Hwy 29, in one mesmerizing instant I witnessed an approaching car suddenly crash horrifically into the side embankment, flipping over and rolling twice before skidding to an upside-down stop just off the road.

It was a moment of profoundly heightened awareness. Everything seemed to slow way down and I noticed a powerful lucidity of presence. Filled with immense concern for the people inside the car, I immediately pulled my own car over to the side, along with a few other cars who had also witnessed the accident.

I got out of my car and stood back for a moment, leaning against my car, as I watched two men running at full-speed towards the upside-down vehicle. For maybe 10 seconds I waited, breathing and reading the situation from a short distance, trying to discern whether it was right and true for me to get involved.

Then I heard a very clear voice within my own heart, saying simply: “You have a role to play here. You are needed here.” When I heard that voice speak with such clarity, I moved quickly without hesitation towards the accident.

Two people, a young couple, were managing to crawl out from the upside-down car. There was a flurry of activity amongst the people who had all stopped to help. Someone was calling for an ambulance, someone else was determining whether or not the car might explode. I knew where my place was—right with the couple, and so I helped them to crawl as far from the car as they were able to before collapsing, and I sat down in the gravel, holding them as they were shaking and crying.

I watched as the adrenaline that had propelled them to escape from the car, gave way to deeper waves of shock and trauma.

The young man, who had been the one at the wheel, was in pretty rough shape. His face was cut up badly and bleeding profusely from several different wounds. He wept continuously, “I’m so sorry, oh God, I’m so sorry…” His girlfriend seemed relatively physically unscathed, but was experiencing extreme shock and terror, rocking, weeping hysterically, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay….”

I helped the young man to lie down, and then sat at his head, holding his head and his heart, while his girlfriend shuddered, sobbing and shaking beside me. A couple of other people pulled their cars over to help. By some incredible luck, amongst the people who pulled over, one was a firefighter and another a nurse. It was determined that the most notable physical injuries were to the young man’s face, and we decided that it was best to keep him lying still on his back while we waited for the ambulance. Someone handed me some clean rags to help stop the bleeding.

For maybe 30 minutes as we waited together for the ambulance I overheard myself speaking with supreme gentleness to this young couple.  The heart spoke so simply—powerful words of reassurance and protection, gentle words of gratitude for their lucky lives. To his constant wail of profound apology and remorse, it felt natural to acknowledge his sorryness for the accident, to remind him that accidents can serve to teach us, and to invoke a possibility of self-forgiveness.

I carefully picked shards of glass out of this young man’s hair, so acutely aware of his damp, dark curls, tenderly feeling how this was someone’s precious child in my hands. I felt the unmistakable grace and divine timing of my getting to be there; the honor of getting to hold this young couple through such a scary life moment of trauma.

All the while I simultaneously watched others moving around us, everyone doing their unique part to help. It was the most extraordinary orchestration and collaboration of human support.

Two people found a way to crawl into the car to retrieve the couple’s wallets, keys and phones. Somebody else directed traffic slowly around the accident. I could hear a woman staying on the phone with 911 to help direct the ambulance to our exact location. Yet another person helped the young woman beside me to call a couple of her relatives to let them know that they had been in an accident. I helped to hold the phone up to the young man’s ear so his sister could speak comforting words of love to him.

It’s amazing to notice how in a crisis situation, there are no strangers. We are so clearly in this together. All the socially conditioned agreements we collectively carry about how we are supposed to behave with people that we don’t know instantly fall away in a moment of crisis. What arises instead is the underlying pulse of our shared humanity, and the natural ways we can let our love and care for one another lead.

We all stayed until the ambulances, firetrucks, and paramedics came, and then it was clear my role was complete. I carefully handed them over, and stood up to walk away.

One of the men who had also been helping stopped me, taking both of my hands in his, and we shared deep eye contact for a moment, exchanging simple words of mutual gratitude, speechlessly alive together in this collision of crisis, humanity and Grace.

I waited for a pause in the traffic, and then crossed the highway back to my car. I glanced back at the scene of the accident and noticed the young man was being put onto a stretcher and carried to the ambulance.

As soon as I was back inside my car, I felt a big wave of cleansing release move through my entire body, rippling through my emotional body and nervous system… my animal body shaking it off, coughing it off. I was impressed by the efficiency with which my human so simply cleared out the pain, fear and trauma it had presenced. And that was it. I pulled back out onto the highway, and continued onward, driving the remaining 4 hours back home to my children.

There was something incredibly beautiful about this experience that has stayed with me, four days later. The simple words I heard, “You have a role to play here” have penetrated with such poignancy. It was a powerful way to be reminded—through this heightened presence invoked by crisis—that everyone carries different, yet equally necessary gifts.

Thank God for the people who know how to determine whether a car will blow up, or whether there are broken bones, or how to extract valuable objects from an upside-down vehicle, or how to actually save lives.

And since I don’t really know how to do any of those things, I’m so grateful that I do know how to sit with people in their pain and terror; how to help move the weighty burdens of shock and trauma. With all the awkwardness I feel at times in this earthly realm, how honored I am to simply be an angel here… for as long as this fleeting human life allows.

This time of being alive on our planet IS a crisis of sorts. May we notice the reality that there are no strangers, EVER, and that we are all clearly in this together. May we each hear the undeniable clarion call of the heart, announcing that we too have a role to play, and that we are absolutely needed here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting the Discomfort of Uncertainty

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In this video Jesua explores the possibility of meeting the discomfort of uncertainty, unknowability and heartache with a simple willingness to bear it… 

Asking questions such as: 

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How can we allow these humbling, sobering times of facing the unknown to invoke our deeper trusting and resting into LIFE?

How might we burn cleanly in the fire of life’s challenges, without making even more mess?

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