A Year of Leaning In

A Year of Leaning In

A couple of weeks ago Orionne and I celebrated our one year anniversary! What a meaningful threshold for us to cross. And what a profound year of leaning in it has been. We met (re-met) one year ago in July and immediately bowed in to a most extraordinary love. We bought and renovated a home, moved in together, and bravely surrendered to the bittersweet complexity of blending our families.

At the deepest level, this whole last year has been teaching me how to line my own heart up with Grace, how to sneak up on my own unfurling destiny and lean in. What a mystery this leaning in business is?!. How much I’ve learned and gathered and received by listening to the commands of my innermost knowing.

How could I have known, a little over 16 months ago, that listening to that inner command of moving our family to Ashland would so radically change my life, blossom my heart, forever altering my experience of home and family?! I couldn’t have. I’m just thankful that somehow I knew enough to listen, deeper than my fear and resistance and attachments and preferences, to what I knew was a trustworthy compass, guiding my life into its next perfect season.

In this year of leaning in, I’ve seen that listening and courageously responding to the tides of change—dutifully following what guides us, making of ourselves an irresistible target for Grace—does not mean life suddenly gets easy or manageable or uncomplicated!

Saying yes to more love and more life usually means also saying yes to more mess and more tests of faith and patience; it usually means more ways Life gets to stretch our hearts wider open, simply for Love to have its way with us.

For many months we have been navigating a harrowing personal situation tenderly impacting the heart of our home and union. We have all been fiercely worked at the very edge of our soul growth, challenged to rapidly and continuously evolve, to keep opening to love in the face of these painfully tricky tests and trials Life has asked us to meet.

Crisis has such a way of showing us what we are made of, right? Through leaning in again and again, (as opposed to running as fast as we could for the nearest exit,) we have both been invited into newfound reservoirs of honesty, clarity and compassion for us all.

In rising to the occasion of what our union has invited us to embrace, we are rewarded by a love that is as strong, resilient and resourceful as it is breathtakingly true to the truth.

Every opportunity to deepen in self-awareness, to be kinder to ourselves and one another, and true to Love~ is nothing less than a precious gift. And what an astounding beauty to find myself with a partner who not only knows this, but beckons and models this with inspiring consistency.

The older and wiser and more humbled I have become, I’ve come to recognize that my greatest challenge and steepest assignment in this lifetime is leaning all the way in to Love.

Surrendering to this Love that I am—it’s truly all I want, what I love most of all, what I live for. And yet to really, completely lean in to this ruthless inclusivity of love and life, to say YES to it all, just as it is? This is utterly annihilating.

I don’t mean just this romantic, relational love; though, yes, love in all its true forms is annihilating. But what I mean is that this deep, vast, impersonal, essentially un-nameable truth of our beings, to which I’m fondly referring here as Love, wants to claim us and our entire lives so profoundly, leaving nothing but LOVE in its wake! In my perception, the greatest task of union is to provide us with an exquisitely annihilating, everyday opportunity to lean in to this Love we are.

Beloved, thank you. Thank you for leaning into love with me, and for letting our union be devoted to this Great Love to which it all surrenders, belongs and returns.

Thank you for meeting me in the immediacy and depth of our original YES, and for the courage of your continuous yes to me, to us, to our family and all our life together entails`~ from the most gorgeously delicious to the most tedious, trying and at times terrible!

Thank you for stretching wider open to this love with yourself; for the wisdom of self-compassion you align with again and again. Thank you for your exceptional patience with me, your startling goodness, your extraordinary innocence, your quiet brilliance, your stunning devotion.

You inspire me, delight me, crack me up and turn me on in so many ways. Thank you for pushing me up against the wall and for lifting me up in your strong arms to find the dark chocolate you’ve hidden in the highest cupboards!

Thank you for the way you challenge me to trust love more, to love life more, to continuously open to the lotus blooming majestically from muddy waters.

This incomparable way you have my back so I can bring my truest medicine to the world arrives like a long-awaited wind beneath my wings. You make me want to blossom eternally, to give everything to Love’s grace, because I want you to have the very best woman Love could bring you.

I treasure our magnificent life, our precious family, our holy union. I’m so blessed by your love. And I surrender. <3

Reporting From The Heart of Fire Season

Reporting From The Heart of Fire Season

What a particularly challenging and poignantly vulnerable life experience it is to be living through another fire season in the Pacific Northwest. Each year it seems to come earlier and more ferociously than the last.

Experiencing these blatant repercussions of severe imbalance in our eco-system is sobering and heart-wrenching. At times it is difficult to not feel downright panicky.

Continuously following the progress and containment of many nearby wildfires asks of us a particular kind of vigilance, one that rubs up against our mammalian drive to stay safe and keep our kids alive. It’s a unique flavor of stress when we feel these fires encroaching on our precious town and other nearby communities.

Looking around our house and imagining what we’d grab if we only had 20 or 30 minutes before needing to evacuate brings a unique perspective on our relationship with objects, illuminating what carries the most value for us. To have our fire-safe packed with all the most important documents brings a simultaneous sense of preparedness and unsettledness. How odd that this has become the new normal?

Preparing the older children for the real possibility of evacuation, without scaring them beyond reason, asks us to meet and hold it all from a particular quality of centered calm that is difficult in moments to authentically embody.

Reading the true horror stories of precious people, families who didn’t have time to flee, who were not warned in time, and found themselves suddenly engulfed and claimed by the fires~ brings such an ominous sense of sorrowful concern. We leave our phones on at all hours in case we were to receive sudden notification of needing to evacuate.

And then there’s the smoke. Last year we were more casual in our family about consistently wearing high quality masks, and within a few weeks we all had deep respiratory inflammation and signs of liver stress. This year we are being much more cautious. We stay inside as much as possible and are incredibly privileged to have central air conditioning and high quality air purifiers running in our home. Whenever we leave our home we wear our masks, and even the children don’t resist. They say that if they take them off their lungs hurt.

I think of all the many local folks who do not have a way to breathe clean air through this season, and feel deeply concerned for the short and long term impact for us all.

Orionne has been watering the land around our house daily, keeping things as wet as possible. In the last few days he cut down and hauled away many tall trees that were dead and brittle-dry, obvious fire-fuel standing precariously close to our house. I feel so grateful for his incredible competence and hard work, and am amazed to discover what it takes to soothe and comfort me in this season.

We had a major power-outage late at night a few nights ago in our neighborhood that lasted until dawn. We’ve heard this can commonly occur when there’s a lot of smoke~ something to do with the shift in condensation. Wilder and Arayla slept through it, but Ezra got scared and came to sleep in our bedroom.

I lay in bed trying to sleep that night, feeling the collective anxiety creeping in and communal PTSD from all the annihilating fires of these last years—in Lake, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties and really all up and down the state of California—the devastating fires that violently leveled countless neighborhoods of Santa Rosa last fall, destroying over 2800 homes and killing 22 people.

The deadly Carr Fire that has been burning in Redding, CA 130 miles south of us for the last 9 days, as of today is still only 35% contained. They say because of the record-high heat and force of the flames, the fire is creating its own 25 mph winds to fuel itself, and a new weather phenomenon, called “firenados” is occurring. Yes~ a fire-tornado; as scary as it sounds. So far the Carr fire has torched over 121,000 acres, destroyed over 1500 structures and claimed at least 6 lives.

It’s so obvious how we share a collective mind-stream and nervous system, and how painfully we feel in our cells the trauma and losses others have suffered and are suffering right now. At times when I look outside at the trees in our yard, covered in a thin layer of ash, I think I sense them trembling in empathic concern.

What times these are, my loves. And of course it’s not just the fires. What of the numerous earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis of recent years? The effects of climate change are ruthlessly making themselves known, impacting every corner of our world.

And what of the horrifying political climate; the living nightmares so many dear humans are facing at this time, simply trying (and failing) to find a safe place to be in this world?

My heart truly aches and breaks with it all.

And, it’s clearer than ever what these times require of us.

It’s clearer than ever how we have a choice, every single moment, in how we choose to meet what’s arising.

Obviously it does not serve to ignore, avoid, or gloss over the challenges we are facing as a people. Nor does it serve to be consumed by terror, panic, doom and gloom. We live in times that require us to stay awake, aware, prepared, and available to respond to any number of challenges we might be asked to face.

In my experience it DOES serve to stay open, present to it all.

It does serve to keep feeling what arises~ the sadness, the raw-nerved fear, the grief, the outrage, the empathy, the vulnerability~ to keep it all moving through, so that our hearts and centers are available to meet what comes, moment by moment.

It does serve to let joy and gratitude find its way to be here, too. Wow. SO much to be grateful for!

It does serve to cherish the moments we can feel love thriving, prevailing, totally winning in our brilliant little lives.

It does serve to hold our beloveds close, to breathe in their scent, to cuddle and snuggle and linger in sweet embraces.

It does serve to be generous and patient out in the world, knowing that everyone is going through something, and the vast majority of people don’t have the resources~ spiritual, social, financial~ by which to make sense, prayer or medicine of the challenges.

It does serve to be super gentle and compassionate with ourselves; to be honest with ourselves about what is challenging us, and discover fresh kindness in response.

It does serve to pray, in whatever way prayer feels true and right for each of us.

Thank you Beloved Life, for another day. Thank you for this chance to feel so much, to open wider still, to tell the tender truth of my heart, to love more bravely in spite of it all, and to pray.

Thank you so much for this chance to feel, to love and to pray.

Sending love in all directions… xoxo J

So Many Thresholds

So Many Thresholds

This past weekend Ezra (9.5) and I drove the 6 hour trek alone together to Lake Tahoe, CA, delivering him to his first ever week of overnight camp, at Camp Woodward! He will be scootering, skateboarding, swimming, (possibly snowboarding!) and being initiated in all that a rigorously athletic Camp with especially talented peers brings to light! He’s been looking forward to this opportunity ever since he first heard about the camp a couple years ago.

We decided to stretch the journey over two days, mostly so I wouldn’t have to drive the 12 hour round-trip all in one day, but also to get some special time together before being apart.

Not unlike my experience of bringing Arayla to her first week of overnight camp a couple years ago, in the hours leading up to our impending separation, I was fascinated to notice Ezra preparing for it by subtly pushing me away, proclaiming his independence and boundaries. There was a palpable tenderness between us as we approached this sacred threshold of his growing up, just a little more, into his extraordinary self.

Yesterday, in the early morning hours waking in our hotel room, Ezra crawled into bed with me and we luxuriated in many minutes of skin-to-skin Mama-son snuggles. With his face close to mine on the pillow, he whispered: “I’m making a memory right now Mom. So if I miss you too much while I’m at camp, I’ll just bring my heart back to this moment, and feel you close beside me.”
“Me too.” I said softly.

Later as we approached Camp Woodward, he skillfully laid out the ground-rules for what our goodbye could consist of. Clearly he had some concerns that I might indulge some weepy or mushy mama-sentiments or embarrassingly expose the outrageous immensity of my love for him. (No idea where he got this crazy idea from?! ) Needless to say, I assured him that I would play it absolutely cool, and let him lead the way.

I told him everything I needed to tell him while we were still alone in the car, so that when the time came to say goodbye, after he was all unpacked and bunk set up, I looked to him respectfully for how he wanted it to go.

He motioned me into an empty hallway, where he threw his arms around my waist, squeezing me tight, and I quickly planted a kiss on the top of his precious head. Then he pulled away, grinning in that gorgeous, sunny way he does, and said quietly: “Thank you. I love you! I gotta go!” He turned on his heel, generously tossed one more smile behind him in my direction, and zoomed off to catch up with the tour of the grounds.

A few minutes later I snuck back in to his cabin, without anyone seeing me, and tucked a little mama love-note deep into his sleeping bag! Then I got in my car and made the long drive home, over the mountains and valleys of Northern California, without his body close.

As I drove I reminisced about the day Ezra was born into our world, after only 3 hours of mostly exhilarating labor. That unforgettable way I could feel him powerfully propelling himself down and out, with confident strength and focus, masterful even in his own birthing, towards the light of his own distinct life, his beckoning breath, his beauty. Just like now.

So many thresholds we cross with our children; so many chances to graciously get out of the way of their becoming, so many ways to courageously let go a little more, to bless them with our release of them. I love you so, my beloved boy.

Be safe. Be kind. Be true to yourself. 

 

“Free of Mom”~ Attachment & Surrender

“Free of Mom”~ Attachment & Surrender

The other morning I was sitting at my desk writing, when suddenly my son Ezra was beside me, tapping me on the shoulder in his fluffy red bathrobe. As I turned to greet his morning brightness, he surprised me by tumbling completely into my arms, so I had to move fast to catch him and gather him close.

As I breathed him in, I let my heart widen and shoulders broaden to make room for all that he is, all he has been, and all he is becoming.

We were quiet like that for many moments, just resting together, mutually relishing the comfort of our sweet mammalian bond, how deeply golden and cozy it feels when we surrender.

9 ½ years human now, taller by the minute, fiercely strong and startlingly solid, Ezra carries an intensely driven, independent and self-respecting soul. As I celebrate all his shining strides of confident growth, I confess there are moments when I deeply miss my cherubic baby boy, tucked safe in the pack on my back. At times I yearn for that deliciously endearing toddler with the copper ringlets and missing consonants, whom I could just scoop up, squeeze tight, and shower with kisses whenever I pleased.

Now this seriously cool guy has places to go, wheels to master, and a blooming world of peers who inspire his wonderful laughter. Now he’s got endless hoops to shoot, ships to build, Karate Katas to practice, and a sacred handful of wonderful men from whom to gather the gems, seeds and tools of manhood.

So believe me, I know better than to miss a precious chance to pause with him completely, letting us both drink as deeply as we can of his instinctual return to the lap of Mama.

It’s different now than when he was littler. Loving him requires giving him a lot of space, respecting his growing need for independence, while generously supporting his distinct, emerging passions and drives. And yet to always be waiting with quiet, open arms for moments like these, when he leans in for primal reassurance. In these moments I can feel him simply receiving me, letting himself be soft and small again, refueling as he rests all the way into my body. How I cherish these moments I still get to be a sanctuary for my beloved boy.

Finally he spoke: “Hey, Mom?”

Still deep in love-reverie, I replied softly: “Yes Love?”

His face blissfully smooshed into my bosom, he asked me: “Do you think when I’m 18 you’re still going to, like, CONTROL my whole life?”

Struck by the humorous poignancy of his question~ this future pacing of his own freedom, I asked him: “What do you mean by ‘control your whole life’?”

He said: “Like~ will you still control my screen time when I’m 18?”

I secretly rolled my eyes: screen time~ my all time favorite topic. 😉

Holding him close, I answered: “Hmmm….when you’re 18? I’m not sure how much control I’ll still have over your screen use by then? That’s why I have to do everything I can to teach you about practicing moderation now.”

He was quiet, nodding, considering this.

He turned his head to the other side, readjusting his face upon my chest, his arms still tightly clasped around me. Then he asked: “What about food, Mom? When I’m 18 will you still get to control what I eat?”

I shifted his weight in my arms a little, saying: “Same thing. I mean~ hopefully I’ll still get to make you meals that you love? But by the time you’re 18, when you’re out of my sight, you’ll get to choose for yourself. These years when you’re still growing at home are the years we get to help you learn how to make wise choices~ for yumminess, but also for health.”

He pulled his face away from my chest and looked up into my eyes, grinning broadly in that amazingly sunny way he does, and chuckling a little, he said:  Yeah. That’s just what I thought.” 😉

Smiling, I asked him ~ “What do you mean? What did you think?”

He giggled: “About the GREAT news of when I’m 18!”

I laughed with him: “The great news?”

His eyes got wide as he explained: “About how then I’ll be SO FREE!”

Oh yes, I thought to myself~ my beautiful, amazing, trailblazing son. You are going to be SO incredibly FREE.

Then with curiosity, I asked him: “Free of WHAT?”

He laughed, and answered unabashedly: “Um? Free of MOM?!”

“Ohhhhh…Free of MOM?!” I teased him, tickling him a little in between his ribs, making him squeal as I pretended to find offense, in truth loving his innocent humor and comfortable transparency.

Then suddenly I could feel how tenderly attached I am to forever being his Mom, and raw emotions began to rise soft and full in my chest.

Sensitively catching the subtle wave of emotional tenderness flowing between us, Ezra squeezed me tight, assuring me: “I don’t ever REALLY want to be ‘free of Mom’, ok, Mama? You know that, right?”

I gathered him close again, burying my face in his thick head of curls, and said quietly: “Oh, I know, my Love. You’re just so excited to grow up all the way into yourself?! I really respect the powerful independence of your soul. But you’ll never be free of my love, Ezra. I’ll ALWAYS be loving and caring for you. I’ll always be your Mom. You can’t get rid of me.”

He pulled himself back again, checking me out, making deep eye contact. It was clear we were mutually enjoying this sweet acknowledgement of his growing up, alongside the steady promise of our unending bond.

Then he said, adorably: “And besides? I’m really NOT READY to control my own screen time and my food? That would be, like, actually not a good idea?” He laughed out loud, imagining it.

I laughed too, and said: “We are definitely in agreement on that one.”

The moment’s end was approaching, and then quickly upon us. He lifted himself up straight, adjusting his red bathrobe, and just stood there for a moment in silence, shining upon me, heart to heart and eye to eye.

I said: “Thanks for coming in so close for snuggles, Love. I sure do always love when you do.”

Beaming happily, he said: “Yeah. You’re welcome Mom.”

And then just like that he was off again, turning on his heel, zooming away into the rising morning light of his exceptional lifetime. <3

Photo~ Mama & Ezra when he was 2.5!
photo credit: Ahri Golden

“But either way, isn’t Love always the answer?”

“But either way, isn’t Love always the answer?”

“But either way, isn’t Love always the answer?”

That’s what my beloved partner said to me yesterday with fierce truth pouring from moist eyes, devotedly calling me back, in a moment when defense had gotten the better of me, to the common ground of our living intention.

Learning to lean in to the mirror of conscious relationship is an invaluable evolutionary tool, one that asks us to surrender being right for the opportunity to be TRUE, and the need to feel safe for the chance to BE LOVE.

What does it take to truly embody Love in our lives, with our choices, with our actions, with our words, with our gestures, with our continuous living breath of surrender?

What must be surrendered, in any given moment, if Love is what I most want to live and serve? So much, apparently!

I’ve been in a potent fire of self-inquiry around this recently, challenged by some undoubtedly tricky and tender personal circumstances impacting my intimate home and family life, disturbing my precious nest and ruffling my feathers in extremely uncomfortable ways.

How humbling it is to see what still has the power to trigger me, reducing me to a burst of reactivity or a puddle of collapse. How supremely useful it is to continuously meet my own growing edge of surrender to Love.

When life unfolds in such a way that we feel invaded or overwhelmed by circumstance, or forced to lay down our cherished preferences, then what about Love? What does Love want? How does Love act?

Devotion to Love, in my experience, is the ultimate humbling path of surrender; one that asks us to give everything, while relinquishing all of our expectations of what IT will give US.

I’m not interested in a Love that bypasses the honesty of healthy boundaries, but I AM interested in seeing how I use boundaries of self-protection to defend against Love.

I’m not interested in self-betrayal in the name of Love, but I AM interested in seeing how I betray Love, in avoidance of the messy, sticky, and heart-achey ways Love clearly likes to school us.

Love asks: What are you afraid you will lose, in fully aligning with Love?
Love asks: What are you left with, when you stubbornly refuse to let Love lead?

True Love is profoundly courageous, and often difficult to choose~ in the face of fear, in the face of humiliation, in the face of insanity, in the face of taking something personally, in the face of exhaustion, stress, and overwhelm.

But oh~ such a gift comes in the choosing.

It is the gift of handing over any righteous stance to what’s even more true. It is the generous gift of offering up personal preference to divine will. It is the sometimes painful gift of stretching open even wider to my own tender humanity.

It is the gift of truly belonging~ to myself, to Life, to Grace, to my own deepening maturity and integrity.

How does Love respond to the shame of having withheld love, the embarrassment of having grossly failed to choose love in the moments that mattered most?

Love generously forgives: myself, and you, and certainly them.
Love says: here is a fresh moment, in which Love can be chosen.
Love says, without hesitation or condition: I choose YOU. 

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