Stewarding a New Way

Stewarding a New Way

As I witness all this outrageous trauma playing out on the global stage between man and woman, one of the most poignant components it illuminates for me is the power we hold in how we choose to steward our daughters and sons in these times. What is our part to play in creating something different for the rising generations?

I pray we can model for our daughters what it means to powerfully use her voice; what it looks like to embody true self-respect and self-care; what it is to know her sovereign worth and power in the world; to cherish the sanctity of her sexuality, and treat her own body as a temple. I pray we can model for her how to deeply honor the masculine; how to respectfully perceive his vulnerability and not feed his shame. How to honor him for his whole self, his strength and passion of purpose alongside his tender uncertainty; how to celebrate his accomplishments while embodying compassion for what’s still growing in him.

I pray we can model for our sons how to become self-respecting men of true power and integrity; men who value their own capacity to feel, listen, empathize, emote and attune with others; to boldly stand up for truth, and to know their sex as a sacred extension of their powerful hearts. I pray we can raise him to deeply respect the feminine; to honor her intuition, her body and her multi-faceted expression. How to honor her for her whole self, her depth and radiance alongside her sensitive needs; how to celebrate her victories while holding space for her evolving maturity.

I want us to continuously teach our children how to stay vigilant and aware of any signs of danger or violation, to trust the wisdom of their instincts, and to speak out bravely if they notice anything is off. I want them to value their ability to be brilliantly discerning and to clearly distinguish what’s ok from what’s not ok.

I want us to continuously model for our children how to stay in right relationship with alcohol and other substances; how to recognize the difference between medicine and poison in their own bodies, and how to directly meet their discomfort, grief, rage and despair, rather than seek to numb their pain.

I want them to know that what’s really, unbelievably “cool”, like, truly the coolest thing of all~ is to be real and honest and accountable; to say thank you, and I’m sorry; to take responsibility, to apologize, and to forgive.

Children who learn in the deepest way how to love and respect themselves—their own bodies, hearts and souls— grow into adults who inherently love and respect those around them; who come to lead others in a way that shines with radical dignity and decency and life-changing kindness.

In this way, modeling self-love, self-respect, restraint, courage and integrity feels to me like one of the most revolutionary actions we can take in these times. It’s no small task, but hey, we signed up for this. ~*~

Smoky Grateful Boredom Breakthroughs

Smoky Grateful Boredom Breakthroughs

My son Ezra and I had a glorious breakthrough about boredom a few days ago, and I’m inspired to share it with you, in case it just might be contagious. (And no, it wasn’t about boredom breeding creativity or genius or whatever it was someone wise once said, though I’m sure that’s totally true too. ;-))

It all started when I found myself navigating a serious Saturday morning funk. These weeks of unending smoke in our valley— making the children stir-crazy in full-blown complaint— were really starting to get to me. Along with the simple challenge of needing to keep our active kids inside, it was consequently invoking a seemingly endless battle with Ezra about screen-time. The combination of his restless agitation and a constant vying for passive entertainment was becoming as exhausting for my ears as it was excruciating for my heart.

I’d also had a nasty headache on and off for days, and was pining for the personal space needed to work on my book. It was all feeling rather depressing and maddening. In my pain I began getting grouchy with my beloveds~ stingy with kindness, nit-picky, critical, and sloppily tossing around my agitated scowl.

Thankfully I finally overheard and oversaw myself, noticed the essential choice at hand, and realized an immediate attitude shift was in order. I escaped momentarily into the privacy of our master bedroom, took a cleansing shower, and then softly and deeply invoked the remembrance of gratitude.

Oh my, oh wow, thank you. Thank you for the sweet truth medicine of Thank You. How it changes everything!

I dropped through the sticky layers of emotional discontent, all my wants and un-wants, and simply let my guard down— to myself, to the smoke, to the day. I looked around my bedroom through these fresh-seeing eyes of my heart and gasped to notice white gladiolas standing tall in elegant bloom on our bedroom altar!

I had placed them there myself, two days earlier, but I hadn’t really seen them until now. Oh the gift of seeing flowers offering their open bloom~ what an honor this is! And just like that, I found my heart flooded with humble thankfulness for the abundantly blooming love and beauty of this lifetime.

I took a deep breath and knew I needed to go out there and meet my amazing boy Ezra and his restless struggle in an utterly new way.

I found him in the living room and wrestled him into lying on one of our healing mats. I started giving him some bodywork~ shiatsu style~ really working his meridians, reveling in the powerful trust between us. I even sat on top of him while I massaged his points, giving him something tangible to struggle against. Ezra’s such an incredibly embodied being and I knew if I could help him move his physical stagnancy, it would immediately loosen up his emotional energies as well.

It was then, while I sat on top of him, smooshing and trapping him, working his heart, lung and large intestine meridians, that Ezra and I stumbled into a fairly fabulous breakthrough about boredom.

It went something like this:

Ezra, sincerely irritated, his face scowling with aversion, whined: “It’s just because I’m SOOOOOO BORED, Mom.”

How many times have I heard this plaint of boredom? But for some reason this time, freshly cleansed by true gratitude, I just dove freely into it with him.

I said, “Oh my God, I know. Me too! I’ve NEVER been more bored than this. Ugh~ what a boring day and boring life. It’s the most awful thing in the world to be SO BORED.”

Ezra seemed shocked by my response. He was incredulous: “Well I’m even more bored than that! WAY more bored than you. Like, the most bored EVER!!”

I retorted: “Impossible. I’m the most bored person of all! And, you know what? YOU are the most boring! Wow oh wow this is just SOOO BORING.” I yawned loudly for emphasis.

Ezra, looking horrified, but a slight smile starting to appear, squealed: “What? Me~ boring? How DARE you?!”

I guffawed: “Oh my God. Truly? This is the most boring conversation I’ve ever had! I mean— talking on and on about being bored? What could be more boring than this? It’s the worst! I’ve never been more bored in my life!”

Ezra, laughing hard: “YOU are so boring! YOU are the MOST boring person and this is the MOST boring day, and the most boring Summer EVER. And this is the most boring thing to even talk about! God, Mom!”

By now he was giggling madly, squirming as my meridian work turned into deep tickles in his ribs. I was still sitting on him, giving him as much weight as possible to push against.

I gave another exaggerated yawn, patting my mouth, saying loudly: “BOR-ING!”

Ezra, wailing with laugher, cried out: “We are the MOST BORED!!”

Laughing too, my heart so deeply glad, I agreed wholeheartedly: “Truly, we are bored beyond belief.”

We grinned at each other.

Then I said, “Can I take a picture of you being SO unbelievably bored?” I grabbed my phone and took his picture. He howled with laughter. Then I showed him the picture and said: “This is you, bored out of your mind. Looks pretty fun, huh? Maybe we should try to get bored more often?” 😉

Ezra took my picture then as well, saying: “This is you being the most boring Mom a boy could ever have.” His undying fondness for me was oozing from his shining blue eyes.

Iit

From that moment on, we decided we rather fancied being bored. I suppose we discovered the gem of not resisting it?

I mean how many times have the kids complained of being bored, usually invoking some fleeting mixture of irritation, futility and helplessness, imagining I was then supposed to think up something great for them to do, or generously remind them of their capacity for creative brilliance?

How fabulous instead to just be completely bored and boring and let this wild moment of fresh presence trample all over it.

How wondrous to remember the transformational power of simply allowing something to be. And to remember how easily a challenging dynamic can shift— with a little rapport, openhearted humor, and a refusal to insist that it shift.

So here’s to finding gratitude in the grumpiest, scowliest moments, and to discovering the riveting nectar of absolute boredom!

“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

Nurturing Self-Love as Healthy Self-Image~ A Clothes-Shopping Story

Nurturing Self-Love as Healthy Self-Image~ A Clothes-Shopping Story

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Due to the vulnerable nature of this writing, this piece is published with explicit permission and blessings from my brave and generous daughter Arayla, who after reading it shared her hope that our story might serve in some small way~ especially other mothers and daughters, in navigating the steep challenge of healthy self- image and radical self-love in our culture.
 
One of my most treasured delights as the mother of my beloved daughter Arayla, (newly 12 years old,) is the incredibly sweet experience of going clothes-shopping together. It’s true~ I find these times we share to be among our most intimate, fun, mutually cherished opportunities, during which I’m granted the honor and power to actively nurture her tender, blossoming self-image in a concentrated way. There’s a story I want to share with you from one of these shopping adventures. But first~ a necessary preamble.
 
As a woman who grew up in this image-fixated culture, and who was born into a long line of particularly image-fixated women, wherein physical beauty and especially the necessity of thinness was seen to be of upmost importance in life, I suffered quite intensely in my teens and early 20’s with body dysmorphia and eating disorders.
 
When I became pregnant with my first child at 30, upon discovering that I was indeed carrying my long-awaited daughter into the world, I was thrilled beyond belief. But I was also overcome with fear, as I imagined what painful tendencies this beloved female child might inherit from me alongside biological genetics. What if my daughter received the self-destructive, self-rejecting body imprints I myself had been passed in this lineage and culture of thin-obsessed women? 
 
My maternal protection for my unborn daughter motivated me to do my best to clean up whatever subtle presence of body-rejection still lived inside me. As a well-trained energetic healer, I set to work shielding my unborn daughter from any unresolved, body-loathing tendencies she might somehow absorb, through psychic osmosis, in my womb. “It ends with me…” I whispered with firm resolve towards the listening ears of this toxic mis-perception within me, determined to fully resolve this issue, once and for all. I stretched to embrace my rapidly expanding pregnant body with joy and pride, replacing old habits of fat-phobia and body-rejection with new mantras of loving slef-embrace.   
 
After she was born, I watched my daughter closely as she grew from baby to toddler and into her little girl years. I reveled in the innate freedom and innocent joy she obviously experienced inside her own body. Self-embrace and love for her own body was clearly an inherent given; a natural by-product for her of having a body. I was so delighted and inspired to experience this innocent truth vicariously through being her mother.

Yet I also noticed the insistent emphasis and value our world placed on the physical appearance of my daughter. When well-meaning strangers would exclaim “What a pretty girl you are!” or “Wow~ look at those gorgeous eyes!” I was right there in my new-mother vigilance, to quickly translate the image-praise into affirmation of her innate soul-worth. I would whisper into my daughter’s ear: “They can see your beautiful heart, Arayla!….Your gorgeous spirit is shining through your eyes!” Or I would say outloud: “Yes~ she IS so beautiful. AND so very smart!”
 
Naively, I imagined that if I did my best to de-emphasize image, (which granted, was difficult for the inherently image-conscious woman I had become) while modeling self-love and body-acceptance, frequently voicing appreciation for my own aging woman body, my sweet girl would remain psychically unscathed in her own precious body-perception.
 
As she grew older, began attending school, seeing movies, was exposed more and more to the world beyond the sheltered cocoon of our family life, I still hoped that her self-perception would remain anchored in a foundation of essential self-embrace. I continuously imagined that in being her mother, the woman she still looked up to most, I could protect her self-perception from being twisted and trampled by the external world; a world that insists on valuing a woman’s appearance above all else, while holding feminine beauty to a very narrow set of unrealistic and rarely sustainable standards. If I taught her to rejoice in herself, her spirit, her body, her personhood, just the way she was, she’d be more than fine, right??
 
So you can imagine my devastated horror, when at the tender age of 10, I heard my perceptive, wise, radiant daughter begin to share deeply troubling sentiments such as: “I’m so FAT. I hate my butt! It’s too BIG. And I hate my belly too. It’s so UGLY! My face is so round. I just want to be skinny, Mom! I HATE the way I look!!” This painful confession coming with tearful wails from my sweet girl, who also happened to be naturally tall and strong and slender! This coming from my beloved child who just one year prior had been fighting for her life in the ICU, whose precious body was thankfully, above all else, healthy and alive!
 
Well, I was shocked and heartbroken to hear these body-rejecting words come out of Arayla’s mouth. And I’m not proud to admit that my initial response to this deeply tender, vulnerable exposure from her wasn’t skillful in the least, but rather triggered in fear and anger. Of course I wasn’t angry at her. But I was enraged and horrified to hear her express these feelings.

As crazy as it might sound, I somehow took these feelings of hers personally, as though they were a direct assault to my own idealized image of successful mothering. For her to be voicing the very thought-forms I had so hoped to shield her from was painful proof that I had failed her! But aside from this somewhat narcissistic reaction, hearing this from her also truly scared me. I had personally watched too many young girls turn to anorexia, bulimia or compulsive exercising, as a way of battling their blossoming curves, vehemently rejecting the promise of an uncontrollably wild and messy womanhood brewing under the surface of their changing skin.
 
And I felt renewed anger at our culture! What is this skinny-idealization indoctrination anyway? This that blatantly insists in a myriad of ways that beauty for women is to stay small, lithe and girl-like; that anything too big, too strong or too loud; too round, too radiant or wildly feminine; too MUCH in any way~ must be rejected, starved, toned, tidied, hidden, stifled, diminished, apologized for?! How could this not make the pre-teen years the ideal  environment for fostering eating disorders and self-negation? As the little-girl body and personality disappears and is rapidly replaced with something altogether unfamiliar~ bigger, messier, moodier and uncontrollable~ something our culture tells us we would never want to be, our girls are filled with a deep, inner self-conflict.
 
I felt so personally triggered by Arayla’s painful confession, and horribly exposed in my reactivity, that with my face flushed and heart pounding, I quickly excused myself from her bedroom before I said something I wouldn’t be able to take back. I ran to my own bedroom and closed the door, curling up in a ball on my bed and weeping deeply. I writhed in the pain of reaction, feeling all the sadness and anger and terror of not being able to protect my beloved child from this   deeply familiar, insidious flavor of first world suffering.
 
After giving myself ample space to grieve and feel my personal disappointment and sense of defeat about this, I realized that while I had perhaps failed to immunize my sweet girl against self-hating thoughts and toxic cultural conditioning, I was also uniquely suited to support her in navigating this infection. Perhaps what had taken me many painstaking years to unwind and reveal to myself, I could support her in discovering with much greater ease? After all, more than most people, I truly understood the mechanism of this unique form of suffering~ the way it worked, the emotional and mental paths it traveled, the depth of damage it could wreak~ as well as the blessed remedy and potential cure.
 
I also realized, not for the first time~ that as much as we might wish to protect our young from suffering, our children come to this world with their own fierce lessons to learn; their own life hurdles, challenges, tendencies and wounds to resolve. And as their parents and stewards we cannot~ nor should we even try~ to protect them from their own learning, no matter how deeply painful it is in moments to witness their pain.
 
Arayla’s exposure of these self-rejecting thoughts initiated an essential transition in the nurturing quality of our mother-child relationship that has continued to evolve over the past two years. I’ll tell you, it has not been easy. To the contrary, it’s been by far one of the steepest learning curves I’ve embraced in all my years of motherhood.
 
Whenever these difficult thoughts and feelings have arisen for her and she’s been guided to share them with me, I’ve had to learn to simply hold space for her expression, letting her unravel and release what is clearly too painful to hold all on her own. My instinctual desire as a mom to “make it better” has had to be replaced with a spacious trust in the process. Rather than trying to take these hard feelings away from her, or fix them, or replace them with better feelings that aren’t so triggering for ME to witness, I have had to learn to just be quiet and present with her as these feelings move through. And no matter how hard it might be for me to witness my daughter’s angst, I’ve discovered how rewarding it is for both of us when I can find a courageous willingness to simply be with her in all of it.
 
Arayla has been teaching me so generously, the way she always has, how to mother her through these rapid changes in her being. Whenever I have slipped, by subtly trying to fix, negate, deny or in some other way take her experience away from her, she has let me know immediately by getting even more inflamed, insistent and upset in her expression. And so I’ve had to learn that what she needs most of all from me in this passage, is just to hold space, witnessing her with emptiness and quiet strength, empathy and deep love; holding vigil for her storm to pass. Like a mean fever, it seems to need the chance to burn all the way through.
 
Usually, after the storm passes, once she is emptied of all her difficult feelings, and deeply met in her pain, Arayla is tenderly open to a new perspective. As the trust and intimacy between us deepens and grows, I am granted new opportunities to invite, reflect and nurture self-love within her.
 
She lets me hold her and kiss her damp, tear-streaked face, while I say things like: “Oh how I wish you could see yourself through my eyes… because if you could? It would truly take your breath away.” Or quietly empathize, “We all have moments where we wish something was different about us. We all have parts of our bodies we wished looked different. It’s such a painful feeling, isn’t it, to not love some part of ourselves?”
 
Most powerful is when she lets me cuddle up next to her with my hand on her heart~ and speak to the unbelievable beauty and brilliance of her BEING. Even deeper than the exquisite beauty of her body and her image, this true gorgeousness of who SHE IS. And still other moments, where we have pondered together the temporary nature of the flesh~ how much our bodies change throughout our lives, with a mysterious expiration date somewhere ahead.

Lying close together, cuddling in her bed in the timeless dark of bedtime space, we look at how the primary purpose of our bodies is truly not to look a certain way in our clothes, but rather to house our bright spirits! We talk about the deepest reason for incarnating: to receive a vehicle through which we can learn and live, shine our love and share our gifts with the world; which is why it’s such an important honor~ to care for these precious, temporary bodies, with true love and respect.
 
                                                                        ***********

And so yes~ back to my original inspiration for writing this piece: Our cherished mother-daughter shopping dates, and a sweet story to share in this vein.
 
At the start of Arayla’s 6th grade school year, she had a rapid growth-spurt, and suddenly none of her jeans fit her. Well~ as everyone who wears jeans know, the feeling of jeans suddenly being too tight around the middle, or hard to pull up over our hips, is really not a great sensation. She came out of her bedroom one day before school, clearly miserable, tears flowing down her sweet face, unable to comfortably button her jeans, insinuating this must be due to some newly developed flaw of her body, and I said: “Oops! Did we wait too long to get new jeans for your beautiful growing body?”
 
A couple days later, as we approached the Mall entrance, Arayla sidled up close next to me, grabbing my hand, and said: “Mom? I was wondering if maybe we could try something new this time shopping? If it would be ok?” Curious, I said: “Sure Babe~ Like what?” Carefully choosing her words, she said: “Well I was just thinking maybe instead of coming into the dressing room WITH me, maybe you could wait outside the room? And I could try things on by myself, and then come out to show you?”
 
Inside myself I made careful note to myself: She’s naming a boundary~ celebrate this!  Outloud I simply said to her: “Of course my Love~ that sounds like a great idea.” She squeezed my hand joyously, jumping up and down a little with excitement, saying: “Really?!” And then she added, tenderly: “I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings~ did I Mom?” I pulled her close to my side as we walked, kissing the top of her head, exclaiming: “Are you kidding me? I love it when you name your boundaries. You’re growing up~ that makes perfect sense you would want some space in the dressing room.” Arayla beamed up at me: “Thank you, thank you!” This seemingly small boundary had clearly taken some courage for her to ask for, and felt somehow significant for me to honor.
 
So after we selected clothes for her to try on, I dutifully sat outside the dressing room door, cozied up next to the mirror. I must admit~ it was a change! Gone were the days of taking the clothes off the hangers to hand to her, helping her pull shirts on over her head, my hands and eyes all up in her business. I realized as I relaxed on the floor outside the dressing room that I rather enjoyed the liberation of this new arrangement!
 
And when Arayla would come out modeling some clothes, I would ooze appreciation, “Wow! Look at you!” but then ask her questions like: “How does that feel on your body?” Hoping to encourage an inside-out perception, I wanted her to feel good in her clothes, rather than basing her choices solely on how things look.
 
When she would ask me questions like: “Do these make my butt look too big?” I would get the chance to say: “I think your butt looks totally gorgeous in those jeans. But how do you feel? Can you move comfortably? How do you feel when you sit down? Can you still breathe deeply and freely?”  She would check it out, crouching down in a squat, bending over, feeling how the clothes moved with her. And more and more often she would smile as she twirled around, pleased with how she felt as well as what she saw in the mirror, and say: “I feel really beautiful in these Mom. Can we get them?” 
 
And so~ this is why I find shopping with my pre-teen daughter one of the most wonderful ways to nurture her self-appreciation and blossoming body-love.

                                                                          ***********
 
Maybe it was foolish of me to think I could protect my children (both my daughter and my son) from the onslaught of distinct, gender-specific expectations they are given from the culture we live in, from media, from the mad soup of collective consciousness. I mean~ talk about osmosis~ perhaps it really is unavoidable at some level?
 
But the opportunity we have to meet our children, right inside the dangerous impact of all these damaging messages and imprints, and feel that pain with them, simply bearing witness, is immeasurable indeed. To then earn our children’s trust enough to skillfully suggest a different possibility, infused with the conviction of our own self-love, laced with the invitation to adore ourselves just the way we are, is one revolutionary way we can turn the delusional poison of our collective into healing medicine for our collective.

Teaching our children self-love in all its forms is one of the most powerful ways we can guide them. And yet one of the most honest, and commonly overlooked ways to do this, is to first be willing to hang out with them in the painful reality of self-judgment, self-rejection and self-hatred. Think about it~ what better way to deepen in our own self-love, but to compassionately shine the light on the very ways we don’t fully love ourselves? The ways we habitually reject ourselves, judge ourselves~ seeing ourselves, our bodies, and our lives through shaming, critical eyes? 

From a ground of spacious inclusion for these ways we habitually reject ourselves, we can reflect the deeper truth of  essential self-love: a love for no reason other than the deepest truth of who we are. We can also invite self-love as an aspect of self-awareness in how we show up in the world; how we choose to relate with others; opportunities for kindness and empathy, courage, honesty, and perseverance.

We can teach our children about the fiercely inclusive and unconditional nature of self-love~ how our inevitable life experiences of mistake, failure and challenge provide us with endless opportunities for self-embrace, right alongside our successes and accomplishments. And we can inspire self-love in our children by carefully nurturing self-image; sharing our birthright to feel really good inside our own skin; to truly love our own bodies, these temporary vessels~ messy and fleeting and holy, just as they are.

Encouraging self-love in its many forms is one of the most profound powers we are given as human beings; as women and men, as parents and teachers, grandparents, aunties and uncles, stewards and mentors in this world.
 
Grace willing, self-loving children grow into healthy, self-loving, self-respecting adults. And from true self-love, this which is informed by the shadowy underbelly of self-doubt and self-denial, comes the ability to live powerfully loving, creatively inspired and generous lives. 
 
May we all be committed to nurturing self-love~ within ourselves, our world, and the lives of our dear ones we are blessed to so intimately touch. 


Birthing A Star

Birthing A Star

This morning as I lay in my bed in the dark, gently transitioning into the new day, I saw the light pouring out through the crack of Ezra’s bedroom door, which shares a wall with my own bedroom.

I stretched my ears to listen to the most marvelous sound~ a sound that is deeply familiar to me by now~ of him playing joyously by himself, deep in imagination, building some starry lego ship, for noble star warriors to zoom through the universe of his bedroom. I couldn’t decipher a single word of his play, but my heart rested with such simple happiness on the golden strand of his voice, simply enjoying being himself.

I called to him then: “Ezra my love?” And quickly he was jumping to his feet, swinging open the door, leaping into my bed, scrambling with all his freshly showered damp boy skin into my warm, welcoming arms. His radiant morning happiness oozed from his sweet face, his bright eyes, his powerful sunshine heart, as he snuggled in close to Mama. And as my own heart burst for the ten millionth time about his very existence, I whispered into his ear: “Tomorrow you are turning 8 years old!!” And he wriggled and squiggled with uncontainable delight.

Eight years ago today I was beginning to cross the luminous bridge of souls, opening the path for Ezra Star to find his way out through my womb, into his birth, his breath, his glorious being.

I had been up most of the night before with contractions, sitting in meditation by candlelight, communing quietly with my unborn son, cherishing what I knew to be our last moments together, as one, like this.

Before I had woken with the contractions, I had dreamt the most amazing dream, of being greeted at the top of a trail by a small lion cub! This playful, fuzzy-golden cub had sparkled his mischievous eyes at me, daring me to follow him down the trail, and I had followed him happily in the dream, all the way down, around each bend of the trail to the river. When we got to the bottom I sat down on the riverbank and the little cub pounced on me, with all his glorious playful wildness, knocking me down, licking my face. I had woken up just then to contractions, and knew in my dream I had just met my little lion of a son!

I tiptoed downstairs, past my sleeping husband and daughter, and lit a candle by the couch, then settled into a deep space of meditation, exploring with innocent curiosity this phenomenon of “contraction.”

In those hours of breathing alone with my baby inside, it felt to me like my son was teaching me how to open to his birth, he was leading me down the trail to the river; saying “Follow me, Mom!” showing me the possibility of pleasure and play and joy in birthing.

I had given birth 3 ½ years earlier, healthfully and powerfully at home, to my gorgeous daughter Arayla Grace. But her birth had been a different kind of initiation into Motherhood~ 3 days of excruciating back labor, overcome by searing pain, wailing prayers for mercy; requiring me to discover a kind of strength, courage, tenacity and surrender I had never before known I was capable of.

This time, I wanted to know a different flavor of birthing. I wanted to know the wild, primal pleasure I had heard was possible for women as we open in giving birth to Life. I felt my ancient unborn son showing me, as we sat in those sleepless hours together, teaching me about breathing into the sensation of pleasure, expanding my consciousness, opening my heart with every contraction of my womb, letting it be sensuous and full of love, moving him slowly down, down, closer and closer to the gateway.

As dawn approached, the contractions subsided. Chris and Arayla awakened, and we all bowed into a new autumnal day together, wondering: will this be the day our boy makes his journey out into our arms?? We went to see our incredible midwife, Laura Roe, and she took one look at me in my in-between-worlds state, and nodded with confidence: “Yes, it’s close!” She gave me the assignment to go to the flower shop and find 4 roses, blooming open, for me to put on our birth altar at home, as an inspiring mirror for my own blooming open.

Around 10 pm that night, the contractions started again, first gently, then strong. Chris and I lit candles and he built a big fire in the wood stove. We anointed each other with special oils and dove into prayers of welcoming our son. He started to fill the birthing tub and I began my birth song~ toning, breathing, following the energy from my womb to my cervix, the way Ezra had shown me the night before.

Stretching open into the edge of pleasure inside each contraction. Staying curious about sensation, unwilling to presume pain. There were many moments of wild, life-changing bliss as my body did what it knew how to do. Chris fed me honey by the spoonful. Less than 4 hours later, and not long after our amazing midwives arrived, in the wee hours of October 26th, I allowed the primal pushing, breathing, singing the sacred wail of opening, to bring Ezra Star to crown, as he moved very deliberately out of me, like a Master, into his first cry of love for life.

What a birthing. How much I learned in that process of opening to bring him through; how much trust in my body, trust in what was there to be discovered if only I remained innocent and curious about intense sensation.

And what a boy! This Starry, huge-hearted Jedi-Prince, who leads me still, every single day, down the trail to the river of LIFE; his eyes flashing with brilliant love, heartrending courage, fierce fire and pure joy.

How much I learn from getting to play this role as his mother, his adoring steward, champion, devoted servant of his precious becoming. How much I learn from his tender, sensitive perceptions, his anger, his disappointment, his grief and his fears, his big life questions, his contagious laughter, and hard-headed stubbornness. How much I learn from him about the way to meet in Love, moment by moment, how to say yes and how to say no, how to be patient and kind, brave and honest and real, and how to play through it all.

His official birthday is tomorrow. But I’m celebrating now, and always…
I love you Ezra Star. Thank you for choosing us. Thank you for your sacred life.

“Come In”

“Come In”

Tonight I go to tuck Ezra (7.5) into bed, and there’s a little handwritten note taped to his door that says: “Come in.”
I walk into his room and find him already in his bed, lying there quietly in the dark, waiting for me.
He asks, somberly: “Did you see the note?”
I say: “Yes, I did!”
He says, still serious in tone: “So that’s why you came in?”
I chuckle a little and say: “Yes, that’s why I came in.”
He asks: “Did you see the *first* note I put on my door?”
I say: “No I didn’t. What did it say?”
He responds: “It said: ‘Do not come in.’”
I say with surprise: “Oh! But then you changed it?”
He answers: “Yes.”
He asks, sadly: “If I left the first note on my door would you have just walked away and not tucked me in?”
I say: “Nah… I think I would have knocked on the door, and said: ‘Please oh please can I come in??’”
Ezra giggles, relieved. He hugs me. He says: “Good.”
I ask, sensitively: “But why did you write the note that said to not come in?”
He gets somber again, remembering: “Oh, I was just feeling some sadness and madness about the nectarine.” 😉
Puzzled, not remembering any particular nectarine issues, I say: “The nectarine?”
He sighs deeply, and says with a fair amount of annoyance: “You know. When you said that 3 nectarines was enough for one day? And I wanted to eat another one. And you said no.”
I nod in the dark, cozying up, spooning him, and say: “Oh right. Yes, that was a very sad moment when you wanted another nectarine.”
He sighs again in agreement, saying: “Yes.”
Then he squirms around in my arms, facing me, and says: “Want to sing some Sanskrit?”
I say: “Yes! What shall we sing?”
He’s quiet a moment, considering.
Then says with certainty: “Gayatri.”
So we sing the Gayatri mantra together, maybe about 10 rounds. I notice how sweetly he is singing along; really grasping all the syllables.
At the end, we sing: “Om, shanti, shanti, shanti….”
We lie there together in the nectar and beauty of how the mantra leaves us aglow.
Then I say quietly: “Do you remember why we sing ‘Om Shanti’ at the end of the mantra?”
He says: “No. Why?”
I say: “It means: ‘May all beings in all worlds come to peace.’ Then our prayer goes out to everyone, everywhere.”
He says: “Remember what I wrote in the sand today Mama? With my stick?”
I delightedly remember: “Yes! Did it say~ ‘Peace and Love to all the world’?”
He nods in the dark: “Yep.”
I say: “That was such a beautiful prayer you wrote.”
He adds, with a bit of remorse: “I bet the Mother Ocean already washed it away…”
I say: “I’m sure you’re right. Lucky Mama Ocean.”
He says: “But do you think God read my prayer before it got washed away?”
I’m quiet a moment, curious about this unusual way he is speaking of God.
I say: “I think God reads your prayers all the time, and even in the washing away they are still read.”
He nods in happy agreement.
His eyes are getting heavy. I can see the blinks of his eyelids are lengthening.
I kiss his face tenderly: “Goodnight my Love.”
“See you in the morning Mama…” he says with a sleepy voice.
I whisper: “Yes.” I lift myself up carefully from his bed.
He says: “Mama?”
I say: “Yes, Ezra?”
He says: “Goodnight Mama.”

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