From Bird to Wasp~ A Teaching in Transformation

From Bird to Wasp~ A Teaching in Transformation

Last year during fire season, as the fires began encroaching upon the periphery of our town here in Southern Oregon, I began to regard the dry, brittle trees standing closest to our house with an anxious eye.

My strong, gallant partner (at the time) quickly got to work, devotedly clearing away the trees and branches that could most naturally lend themselves as kindling, should the fires arrive to our land.

It was a powerful act of loving care and protection that carried a particularly poignant weight. This gesture of protecting our home from the local wildfires came in a moment that found us simultaneously navigating fast-moving flames of a different nature, actively threatening the viability of our sacred union and family.

The icing on the cake of that devoted act was when my partner sweetly surprised me by mounting a few wooden birdhouses in place of the missing branches he had removed.

It made me so happy when I looked out into the trees from our house and saw what he had done! The birdhouses were like a prayer—bringing in the potential for hosting new life. Life that could thrive. 

For a few weeks the birdhouses remained empty, but one day a small, black-capped chickadee moved in to the birdhouse just adjacent to our master bathroom.

Every morning while we showered we would watch that magnificent little bird flit and flutter, emerging from her tiny house, perching at the entrance, and then flying off into her day.

In a time that found my heart often wrought with angst and uncertainty, that little chickadee filled me with innocent joy and hope. We fondly and somewhat humorously named her “Hope”, and played with the word, saying silly things like, “Hope comes and goes,” or in harder moments we’d mutter wryly, “Nope, Hope’s nowhere to be seen.”

All fall we enjoyed her presence. She was our precious neighbor, bringing such sweet and joyous medicine. I was delighted to read online that Chickadees as animal totems are symbolized as cheerful and truthful beings who teach us the art of flexibility, along with protection, defense, bravery, and adjustment. All of these energetics were ones we were working with on a daily basis in our home.

Then it got cold, and colder still. Finally it snowed, covering Hope’s house with ice and several inches of snow. I can only imagine how she must have needed something warmer, safer, more stable and nourishing.  

And so, unsurprisingly, she left.

Not long after, in the coldest, darkest part of Winter, after eighteen months of carefully making a family together, my partner and his little boy moved out of our house. The fiery circumstances that had burned at the periphery of our home for so long had finally made their destructive way into the very center of our home and family, breaking our tender hearts and requiring us to separate.

One chilly and snowy morning, a few weeks after they left, I got into the shower, and when I turned to look out the window I could hardly believe my eyes! It was Hope! She was back, flitting and fluttering in and out of her snow-covered house. I ran dripping naked through the house, looking for my phone, then quickly ran back to take a picture of her, which I sent to my partner. I texted happily: “Look who’s back?!” And he replied: “She’s so attuned.”

But two days later she was gone again, never to return.

For a little while we didn’t know if his needing to move out meant we were actually breaking up. Through everything we had weathered, our love and passion remained so deep and strong.

It was difficult to accept that such a profound love could be dismantled by an external destructive force. But with time it was clear that the mystery of life was simply choosing a different path for us and our love than either of us could have expected or desired.

Spring came, and tiny green buds unfurled into leaves. Every morning in my shower I would glance to the little birdhouse and make note of its persistent emptiness. I thought to myself—I understand why Hope can’t return. But couldn’t another little bird maybe come and make a home?

I longed for the return of that sweet, innocent joy I had received simply in witnessing a bird being itself. I wondered if maybe birds mark their territory in some possessive way, making it an instinctual faux-pas to move into another bird’s abandoned home?

And then yesterday, on the first day of my children’s Summer break, I rose to shower. And when I looked out the shower window, I noticed, for the first time in many months, there was movement surrounding Hope’s house.

I stood there for a long time, the hot water pounding down upon me, as I took in this startling sight. Big, golden wasps, too many to count, were buzzing in and out through Hope’s doorway. The nerve!

The wasps made me frown. They worried me. I didn’t enjoy their vibe. I thought to myself with a tone of sarcastic cynicism: How fucking perfect.

Their presence didn’t inspire joy, but instead a feeling of irritated defense. I wondered what it would take to remove them, and then I felt a bit futile, imagining it would be fairly impossible to remove them without using poison or causing multi-faceted harm to the natural order of things.

Then, this morning, slowly waking alone in my bed, I curled onto my side, noted the bright light of new day shining in, and openly pondered the reality of the wasps. Quietly, I asked myself: I wonder what Wasp medicine is about?

And so the first thing I did when I sat down at my desk and opened my computer was to look up Wasp Medicine.

I opened a link from Rev. Nancy Schluntz, who wrote eloquently: “As a Shamanic totem, Wasp is a powerful female warrior and healer energy who urges us to another level. She takes care of her own, and fights back when disturbed. She helps others learn the hard lessons of humility and the appropriate use of power—that stinger is not to be used indiscriminately.

She’s also reminding us that resistance to change is self-sabotage. When wasp buzzes by, she’s reminding us to follow her example. Make dreams a reality by actually working on them: plan, persevere, take action, and don’t let anything get in your way. Remember the hive mind, allowing yourself to believe that all things are possible, and that you deserve to have your dreams come true.”

When I read these incredible words, on point in so many ways, I immediately felt a defensive armor around my heart soften. Humbled tears came to my eyes. I thought to myself—Wow, Wasp—my friend and ally. Who would have known? How perfect your arrival is indeed.

I mean, truly. What an astounding and magical mirror all of life is, if only we dare to look and listen.

Undoubtedly, Life can be hard on our hearts. We don’t always get our way. Perhaps it’s even skillful to assume that we get what we need, more often than we get what we want.

Wildfires come raging, recklessly claiming cherished forms.

Things break and fall apart, again and again. And before we can wisely remember that it’s perfectly making space for something new to arise, it just feels horribly broken.

Sweet, joy-bringing birds fly away and we grieve, and then the wasps move in, bringing lessons of humility and hive-mind manifestation.

Ok then, Life. I say Yes to you.

Life says: Are you sure?

I nod firmly. 

I say: Yes. Once again, Yes. 

Yes, yes, just as you are. Yes to your Love that looks and feels like this now.

Yes to your Love in all the gritty, grueling and graceful ways it lands upon my heart—teaching me, healing me, asking more of me I ever knew it could.

I say Yes to you. I say: Thank you. I say: Bring it on, Beloved. I say: I’m in.

“You Don’t Have To Be Good”

“You Don’t Have To Be Good”

Single working parenthood has gotten the intimidating reputation that it has because it’s no joke. I mean, obviously any form of parenting is quite the rigorous task. And married or partnered parenting certainly brings its own set of fierce and complex challenges; I remember well.

But single parenting can be a particularly sobering, humbling shitload to juggle—requiring a tremendous amount of ongoing self-compassion, resilience, humor, and devotion.

And sometimes, no matter how much we might wish or will it otherwise—our stress and exhaustion, hormones and triggers can get the better of our parenting. We make painful mistakes with our children, and then get to work with remorse and the blessed opportunity for repair inspired by those mistakes.

One recent evening, I invited my children to join me at our living room altar. They came willingly—open and curious. “What’s up, Mom?” Arayla (14) asked, plopping herself down on the copper-colored meditation cushion to my right. I patted the other empty cushion to my left, motioning to Ezra, as I replied, “I just want us all to have a chance to sit together and share a bit.” Ezra (10) planted his bottom dramatically on the cushion beside me, exhaling deeply.

We all faced the altar. I sat in the middle, between them, and carefully lit the center pillar candle, and the two candles beside it. Everyone was quiet. Then I lit the small bundle of cedar in our abalone shell, letting the sacred smoke cleanse my body, mind and heart before handing the shell to Arayla, who did the same, before reaching around me to hand it to her brother.

After a moment I took a deep breath, and vulnerably shared, “I just want to acknowledge that I’ve clearly been carrying some extra stress lately, my Loves. And I know there have been moments when that stress has leaked out onto you both, through my voice and my energy; moments when I’ve lost my center and my temper.”

They both nodded quietly, listening with presence.

I continued, “And I know I already apologized in the moment, but it’s been weighing heavy on my heart—those moments when I fail to live as love with you. And so I just wanted to say again how sorry I am for any and all of those ways that my energy has felt abrasive to you, or for the moments when my words have been reactive and sharp. I always want to be so skillful and graceful with you, and I’m sorely aware of the ways I fall short.”

I picked up the lighter and burned some more cedar, offering it to Spirit, acknowledging the power in my own prayer.

The kids were quiet, just taking this in. Then Arayla placed her hand on my thigh, and with compassion responded, “Oh Mama, Thank you. And it’s okay, really. You’re holding a lot. I’m sorry we stress you out sometimes! I’m sorry for when we’re bickering and driving you crazy. And thank you for everything you’re giving. Thank you for everything you do for us all the time.”

Then Ezra piped in, “Yeah, Mom, thanks for everything you do for us. And…. I’m sorry for my part too. Like the mess I left in the kitchen yesterday, and for forgetting my homework and my lunch twice this week! And for, you know…when I don’t listen.” His shoulders slumped down, clearly feeling his own remorse of shortcoming.

I smiled at him tenderly and pulled him close. “Thank you, and it’s okay. We are all growing.”

I made eye contact with Arayla, feeling the simple grace of forgiveness flowing between us. I took another breath, and continued, “There’s something else I wanted to say, perhaps especially to you, Ezra.”

He turned to me, looking straight into my eyes, asking, “Yeah, what is it?”

I shifted my position back a little, so we could all see each other. I chose my words deliberately, “I’ve been noticing lately that you’ve been working extra hard to be so helpful around the house, Ezra. You’ve been helping out with cleaning, and taking out the garbage and recycling without being asked, and you’ve been setting the table, and taking out Freya in the morning. So many ways you’ve been really showing up as such a helpful member of our family.” Ezra’s face brightened and his golden chest lifted proudly.

I continued, “And I’ve been praising you every time, haven’t I, and letting you know how wonderful it is to feel your support?” Ezra nodded happily in agreement.

I glanced over at his sister, who raised her eyebrows at me, curious about where this was going. Then I turned and looked deeply into Ezra’s eyes, and slowly, with power behind my words, I said to him, “I just want to make sure you know that you don’t have to be good in order to be loved.”

The room got extra quiet.

I looked back and forth between them, as I continued, “You don’t have to be helpful, or act in a certain way, in order to secure my love.” I paused, to see how this was landing.

Ezra said quickly, “Oh I know Mom, it just feels really good to show up! I like it.”

I nodded in understanding, and then added, “Hey, helpful behavior is a wonderful skill to have in life. It DOES feel good to show up. It’s so important to find meaningful ways of contributing to one another and to our home and to our world, in all the ways we can. And it’s very important in a family that all the work doesn’t fall upon one person.”

I looked at both of the kids, beaming, as I accentuated, “Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE your help. It’s awesome and necessary! Please don’t stop.”

Ezra giggled a little to feel how excited I get about receiving support.

I continued, “BUT I just want to make sure you know that you don’t have to be good. It’s not your job to be good in life. What you give, and what you do, and how you perform, and act—these are not the reasons I love you. Sometimes your behavior triggers me, and sometimes your behavior delights me. But my love for you is constant, having nothing to do with what you do. I love you just for your being, okay?”

I dove into Arayla’s ancient, wise-blue eyes, and echoed to her softly, “I love you just for your being, okay?”

She smiled at me, cozying up to me sweetly, as she mumbled shyly, “Okay, Mom.”

Then Ezra galumphed all of his 105 pounds of ten-year-old boy into my lap, straddling me, almost knocking me over, as he said into my ear, “You don’t have to be good all the time either, Mom. We always love you too.”

I laughed out loud at his quick reversal of the teaching.

I said, “Hmmm, are you sure about that? I thought Mamas were supposed to be good all the time? I’d certainly like to be.”

Ezra shook his head and said, “Nope. Nobody’s supposed to be good all the time Mom, not even you.”

I sighed then, resolutely, and shrugged happily, “That settles that, then.”

Sooner or later, most of us find the need to trade in being good, for simply being wholeheartedly ourselves.

Do you maybe wish to burn some holy cedar now, and truly apologize, and be forgiven, and once again surrender being good for being wholeheartedly yourself? I left my candles lit on my altar for you. Be my guest, my friend. Please be my guest.

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Oh, Death~ Is That All?

Oh, Death~ Is That All?

Lately as I’ve inquired bravely into what is in the way of my absolute surrender to Love’s outrageous use of my life, I’ve seen that I’m still afraid.

Like most of us in the spiritual sub-culture, I’ve come to see my fear as a mostly un-useful bi-product of conditioning; one which serves to keep me small, tight and hesitant in self-doubt; mired in past hurt and future projection.

 And yet at times our fear appears to be our evolutionary ally, shining the light on precisely what we need to do, simply because we are afraid of it. When our fear is our ally, it actually points us in the direction of deepening fearlessness, inviting us to rise more fully into our dharma, our genius, our love, our capacity for breathtaking generosity.

Afraid of what, you might ask?

Honestly? At some deep, soul-cellular level, I think I’ve actually been afraid of being killed for taking a huge stand for love.

How many times, I wonder, have I been killed, have any of us been killed, for taking a huge stand on behalf of truth and love? Innumerous times indeed.

Call it a Witch wound, or a Christ wound, or a Gandhi, MLK Jr., or Joan of Arc wound. And so many countlessly nameless, forgotten others. Those of us who have stood up and spoken out boldly for love, for holy truth, for justice, for peace, for freedom have proven this to be a risky calling. The imprints on our collective psyche are undeniable and run deep.

And so, whether it shows up in this current day, age and culture as a fear of social-media stoning, or being burned at the stake of massive projection, or shot for standing out in the human crowd, or imprisoned for blowing a whistle, or otherwise crucified simply for being ourselves—fear in this case is clearly my wise and precious ally, pointing me in the direction of deepening liberation.

This kind of fear dares my heart to live courageously and presently, nakedly, honestly and truly. It invites me to take a stand even when it makes me tremble in excruciatingly tender vulnerability to do so.

What do I stand for in this life, and what am I willing to give for this? What am I willing to risk for this?

And what about you, dear Love? What about you?

How many lifetimes have we been brought to this moment, this very threshold, and asked to make a vital choice? How many times even inside this single lifetime have we been brought to the cliff’s edge of our soul’s evolution, and asked to choose between clinging to the safe, outgrown familiar, and leaping boldly into the wild, vast unknown?

What are the costs, of not taking a leap? What do we live with as a result of not listening to what calls us deeper? What do we potentially take to our deathbeds, when we overlook what burns inside us to be chosen, to be said, to be sung, to be shared, to be claimed, to be given?

How poignant indeed that we might withhold ourselves from LIFE, for fear of death, or judgment, or failure, or ruin.

haps it is only when our fear of not living what we were born to live surpasses our other fears, that we then can finally surrender all the way into life.

I’m spreading my wings open wide beside you—One, two, three….are you ready?

Xoxo J

And Then, Spring Came~ An Intimate Share

And Then, Spring Came~ An Intimate Share

This life is such a wild rascal Mystery; heart-slaying, heart-blooming Master. Isn’t it though?

How I cherish this sweet time of year, when the sun returns, tree buds blossom, and new flowers rise from the blackest soil. The resiliency of life surrounds us, triumphant birdsong fills the air, as we carefully, courageously untangle our hearts from the long, dark Winter.

A couple days ago my children and I discovered a nest in the hidden branches of a tree nestled up right next to our house! Quietly, respectfully, I climbed up the branches and peered inside to find a single, tiny turquoise egg shimmering in the nest. What a good sign. It made me cry with wonder.

This past Winter worked my heart fiercely, I won’t lie. So much unexpected, painful transition happened all at once, both personally and professionally. There was no choice but to surrender to the grand, sweeping hand of Change, and to let my living prayer get even bigger.

The fates required me to let go of my treasured partnership, neither for loss of love nor passion, and to embrace the excruciating disillusionment that comes when life does not go our way.

I finished writing my beautiful book “Holy Messy Love” and sent it off with wholehearted surrender into the world, only to be met with first a decline, and then weeks upon weeks of silence from other potential agents.

What a potent reflection all this has been. What a stunning beckoning of patience and faith. What a ruthless invitation to not move even an inch from love.

This has vulnerably exposed my most tender growing edges in relation to my calling. It has provided a catalytic illumination of my tenuous relationship with being a public figure, my shyly introverted ambivalence about increasing visibility, alongside my sacred yearning to share my heart with Life as boldly and generously as I can!

Last week after caring for my sick kids for days, I was finally walloped by this nasty flu virus—bedridden, coughing and aching, feeling truly miserable and somewhat sorry for myself. And yet, not unlike potent medicine journeys, illness can have such a skillful way of cleansing us of what no longer serves. At one point, lying in my bed with my feverish head pounding in the dark, I gave way to such a deep and necessary weeping from within.

Underneath all the strength and power of being such a capable woman—a single, hard-working mama, a trustworthy friend, inspiring teacher, devoted daughter and disciple of Truth—there was an utterly broken, weary heart, full of grief, just needing to be felt and seen, honored and allowed.

As I emptied myself of this deeply harbored grief, essential space was made in my body and heart for more life, more health and more gratitude. Thank you cleansing flu. Thank you grief. Thank you holy Mystery.

Thank you precious Life for how you keep me on my toes, always honing and refining my prayer and my promise. Thank you for your rough hands and your gentle ones, Life; for your grit and your grace.

Thank you for how you keep me humble; ever-close to the ground of what truly matters most; intimately close to the pulse of my own humanity; unspeakably close to this love I love most of all.

In this Love, xo yours