Embracing Our Holy, Imperfect, Astounding Resilience

Embracing Our Holy, Imperfect, Astounding Resilience

At first glance, my closest women friends and I appear to be confident and worldly women; women who enjoy the privilege of education and opportunity; spiritual women whose natural orientation is to love and service.

One of us recently produced a brilliant documentary about grief.

Another just had her first book published, and is the founder of an internationally acclaimed online school for women’s spirituality.

Many friends are exceptionally gifted artists, therapists, healers, and spiritual teachers; the kind who change the world merely with their perspective and presence.

One friend is a stunningly brilliant coder, using technology to evolve our collective relationship with currency.

Several friends are acclaimed singer/songwriters—and when they sing, our hearts crack open wider to life.

Another is the founder of a conscious wealth management company that funnels tremendous wealth into opportunities for global healing and regeneration.

I could go on and on.

We are smart, strong, and devoted mothers. We are daughters, sisters, lovers and partners.

Our eyes shine from a place of potent self-knowing, and we walk with dignity.

To look at any one of us, it’s clear that we have learned to love ourselves.

Look a little closer and you’ll discover that many of our marriages have failed, we’ve had partners who betrayed us, and we’ve betrayed ourselves time and time again—for image, security, sex, money, love.

We’ve been seduced by temptations of rescue. We’ve learned about self-respect the hard way. Our children have faced scary struggles of various kinds.

Many of us have walked a path of single motherhood. Many of us have struggled with how to support ourselves on an artist’s or a healer’s or a teacher’s income.

More than one of us have buried a child. More than one of us lives with a scary diagnosis. More than one of us navigates the ongoing throes of mental illness.

We’ve each found ourselves flat on the ground, begging for mercy, more times than we can count.

Life can be heartbreaking. It is not a pretty picture on social media most of the time, let’s be honest.
It is a wild life, this human realm, and even for the most blessed and privileged amongst us, life asks so much of our hearts.
 
Life hurts and panics and puzzles us.
Life kicks us to the ground in pain, and then takes our breath away in its tender-loving mercy.

Life is brutal, and yet we are resilient. Resilience doesn’t mean we bounce back effortlessly from major life losses. It doesn’t mean we ever get over the grief of our lives.

But it is our human instinct to recover, to rise again, to blossom from the mud, to make medicine of what has broken us.
 
And I’ve got to say, there’s something startlingly wonderful when all our hopes for an unbroken life and body and world have been dismantled.
 
What freedom—when we’ve lived through the ruining of personal dreams and realize that we are, in fact, not ruin-able!
When we finally turn and face what we’ve been fiercely avoiding—financial failure, divorce, worthlessness, disease, death, despair—we recognize that we were actually designed to bear this.
Life encourages us to embrace our holy, imperfect, astounding resilience.
This is the way we come all the way home to Love.
excerpted from my forthcoming book, “Holy Messy Love~ Parables from the Heart of an Everyday Mystic”
“Nobody is Watching”— Beyond the Seduction of Significance

“Nobody is Watching”— Beyond the Seduction of Significance

One morning last summer, in my first moments upon waking, I heard three potent words reverberating in my awareness: “Nobody is watching.”

These words struck a chord of deep resonance in my heart. I gasped. I felt such divine relief. Oh my goodness—nobody is watching! In truth there is only one of us here.

In this image-fixated culture, where almost everything is made to seem like some kind of performance or display, I find these true words tremendously comforting. Nobody is watching!

But it seems so much of what goes on is based on the premise that everyone is watching, and so whatever you say or do, it had better be good! Or at least cute or catchy or smart or sexy. Right?

Something I’ve been sitting deeply with—as I’m poised in the prayer of greater use, and offering my voice to the mix in a deeper, wider way—is what I’m seeing as the seduction of significance.

It’s the crushing egoic weight that comes alongside any striving to be valuable; to have an impact; to be relevant and useful in these times.

This can be such a trap for most minds. It’s an intricately interwoven aspect of our greater culture, definitely permeates our spiritual sub-culture, and perhaps especially rules our social media culture.

In this social-media-driven age, where how many likes and comments and shares one gets is what signifies one’s public value, it can be a very sticky place for offering one’s earnest heart.

On the other hand, a relevant offering can simply and clearly light the way towards meaningful contribution, right? Yes, of course.

I mean it’s one thing if the underlying intention is to sell or appeal or seduce. But if the intention is to sincerely share our selves, our honest voices, our heart’s medicine—then this world can be a volatile realm in which to stand nakedly.

It can require so much vigilance to mind our own business around this issue of being perceived as valuable. And if what we share, or do, or provide is somehow publicly perceived as valuable, what do we then take that to mean about us?

How has being perceived as impactful come to equal our sense of love-ability, or given us some sense of “being on track” or of “having made it”? Or even confirm for us our ultimate worthiness as human beings?

And if we somehow feel that what we are offering or how we are living is lacking in public value, or contribution, or significance to the whole, how does that then make us feel about ourselves and our lives?

Public relevance seems to have become the newest popular version of “being OK”, a way for the personal self to feel special, seen, accepted and celebrated in the world.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this of course, unless it’s subtly feeding the insatiable hole of “somebody needing to be seen” in order to feel OK in ourselves, or whole in ourselves, or even alive.

And if we aren’t extremely careful, in weaker moments even the most disciplined minds can fall down the rabbit holes of comparison and competition, suddenly perceiving ourselves through some imagined external measurement of “media value.”

We might find ourselves ensnared by the insecurity that accompanies “somebody who needs to be perceived as valuable/relevant/inspiring, in order to be…” (fill in the blank: accepted, loved, successful, happy, beautiful, worthy etc…) Oh my goodness.

When I’ve fallen prey to this phenomenon myself, I then notice the part of me that just wants permission to be quiet, to rest, to not do another thing, to not write or say another thing ever again.

To not participate in the grand parade and charade of significance and contribution.

To just lay it all upon the altar of surrender. All of it—insecurity, self-doubt, comparison, significance, relevance, impact and value. Offer it all up once again to Holy Mother.

When I then give myself that permission—to have no perceived value at all, no relevance, no impact, no significance in this lifetime? Ahhh, thank God! I’m free.

And then from the ashes of my surrender, from my egoic deathbed, once again I’m authentically compelled to give all that I can give. Most of us are.

Because I do want my life to be of true use, yes.

Not because I then matter in specialness, relevance and significance.

But simply to be in right relationship with all I’ve been given.

To give back. To be a light. To bring medicine in these troubled times.

It’s natural. When I’m useful to the world it is one of my greatest joys. One and the same with the joy of being useful to my own heart, or to a cherished student, or to my precious children.

But there is a quieter usefulness and significance in our sacred lives that goes publicly unseen.

There is an inherent value that needs nobody else’s witness, in order to be.

For the most part, our greatest moments of grace, love, wisdom and service occur in the innermost private corners of our days.

Like that casual inner glance of self-compassion.

That sweetest resting place where our hearts meet humility.

That quiet gush of vulnerable love for humanity.

That utterly ordinary moment of carrying the wood or washing the dishes or folding the socks, when nothing else is needed.

The moment when our open gaze meets the eyes of a stranger.

That kind voice extended towards some place of inner shame.

The sun or rain or snow on our purely grateful face.

The fingers of our beloved clasped in our own.

In my own private conversation with God, the deepest value I receive comes from the courage of my own surrender.

The most exquisite significance I experience is the stillness of my own mind.

Truly, nothing in this world compares to the bliss of essential silence; this unspeakably wondrous truth that doesn’t come and go.

What’s most impactful to my own evolution is the simplicity of self-love.

What inspires me most is when my heart unburdens itself of needing to be anybody at all.

The most profound teachings of my life arrive innocently, as love.

So, my friends, as we willingly participate in the game of public exposure and putting ourselves out there as voices in service, let us not lose sight of where the truest value is to be found, of what holds the deepest significance for our own hearts, and what is most relevant and inspiring to our own becoming.

After all, nobody is watching.

~*~ J

Post-Millenials on The Way to School

Post-Millenials on The Way to School

This morning as we drove the short distance to my son Ezra’s school, my daughter Arayla (14) asked, “Is it true about the rumors, Mom? The ones that say we could have World War III in 2020?”

Her stark words reverberated painfully inside our car. I was quiet, noticing how her question landed in my body and my heart. I felt my hands tighten their grip on the steering wheel.

I took a breath and asked evenly, “Where did you hear that?”

She shrugged nervously, “Places. Instagram. Friends at my barn.”

Before I had a chance to respond, my son Ezra (11) asked from the back, “But they would never do a draft again, right, Mom? The government could never make someone—like boys—fight in a war, who didn’t want to, right Mama?”

I looked into the rearview mirror and saw his face staring worriedly out the window.

Arayla glanced at me and then turned around quickly and said to her brother, “Don’t worry, Ezra. You’re way too young to be drafted. They’re not going to draft kids. And if it ever came to that—where people were being drafted into war again?—we would leave this place in a heartbeat. Right, Mom? We would just leave.” She exhaled defiantly.

My heart starkly in my throat, I responded assuredly, “Absolutely. I don’t know what’s to come, my loves. But I promise to protect you.” Then I added something like, “There’s a lot of craziness in the world right now, it’s true. But there’s also a lot of good; a lot of powerful awakening and change and healing; a lot of uprising; a lot to be grateful for. Let’s stay awake and aware of it all.”

Oh my goodness, these questions from my astute post-millennial children, and the searing way their mundane morning dialogue eerily reflects these wild times we are in, right?

We were almost at Ezra’s school. Without losing his sense of humor, and with an ironic grin, Ezra said, “On that cheery note, I hope you guys have a great day!” 😉

We chuckled warmly, “You too!” and I blew him a kiss.

After he got out, and we pulled away, Arayla said thoughtfully, “I’m sorry for my timing on that question, Mom. It was totally bothering me, but I should have thought it through better since we were about to get to his school. Sorry if that wasn’t sensitive.”

I felt into it for a moment and then said, “It’s okay. I trust your timing, Love. Who knows how Ezra will bring that powerful consideration into his day?”

She nodded in agreement. Then she proceeded to chatter happily about horses and friends, delighting exuberantly in the snow-capped hills surrounding our valley. I listened, wholeheartedly agreeing with her about the beauty surrounding us, and felt a renewed appreciation for the ease and innocence of her natural joy.

When we got to her barn, she pulled her pink hat snug over her ears, hopped out and beamed at me brightly, calling out, “I love you Mom!” before closing the door.

I watched her walking away, my daughter who is almost a woman.

I love you. I love you. May your innocence and radiant, rosy-cheeked joy continue to be protected, even as you open to allow the realities of these times into your growing mind and heart. Even as you wonder if World War III is coming, and ask the hard questions you must.

May you always know what’s worth protecting—in your body, your mind, your heart, your family, your community, your home and your planet.

May you always know the deepest truth—this love for life blooming alive inside you; what can’t be touched by any of the foolery and madness.

May this continue to be our deepest inspiration and our refuge.

Ezra’s Tiger Medicine Dream

Ezra’s Tiger Medicine Dream

A couple of mornings ago I woke up in a funk of my own grumpiness.

A sinus headache I’d had for a few days was proving difficult to shake off.

A cold winter greyness was pouring in from the outside, and I sensed in my heart a definite hint of the blues.

I was finding it difficult to rise with gratitude.

I sighed, pushed myself out of bed, then I showered, got dressed, and went into the kitchen to begin the morning routine. All the while I navigated an intensifying inner scowl.

Suddenly I felt my son, Ezra, sneak up from behind me and wrap his arms around my waist.

I turned around to face him, and he looked up at me with such surprisingly joyous radiance, my heart couldn’t help but soften a bit.

(Ezra is not usually a morning person, so it was an extra special treat to find him so happy.)

“Goodmorning!” he smiled at me.

I smiled back at him quietly, “Goodmorning, Love.”

And then he burst out, “Mom, I just had the BEST dream!”

I met him in wonder: “You did?!”

He nodded exuberantly, “It was seriously, like, one of my most favorite dreams I’ve EVER had. It was soooo cute!! Oh my God!” His eyes were wide, clearly still seeing the dream in vivid display.

Intrigued, I pried, “What was it?! Can you tell me about it?!”

He said, “YES. We were deep in the forest—you, me and Arayla—and all of a sudden there were these beautiful tigers! A little family of tigers! It was a mom and her two cubs!! They were SO cute! And they followed us home, and came inside with us!”

Astonished, I asked, “They did?! They came inside??”

He continued, “Yes! They were powerful, but they weren’t dangerous. And we were all just loving them and playing with them in our house! And Arayla was taking care of one of the cubs, and I was taking care of the other cub, and YOU were taking care of the mama tiger! And they were all just soooo cute!”

Suddenly feeling the profundity and healing magnificence of his dream, my heart cracked all the way open and tears sprung to my eyes.

I repeated softly, “You guys were taking care of the little tigers, and I was taking care of the mama tiger?”

Ezra nodded enthusiastically, “Yep, you were. We were taking care of all of them.”

I asked, “And even the mama tiger was cute?”

Ezra said: “VERY cute! And very playful!”

I hugged my boy tight and close, kissing the top of his head, then kissing his warm, happy face.

Fully receiving the medicine of his dream, I let out a laugh alongside a deep sigh of relief.

I let myself be thoroughly moved and reassured and healed by my son’s dream.

With smiling tears, I said, “I love that dream SO much, Ezra. What a powerful gift of a dream! Thank you for dreaming it, and for sharing it with me. I’m so grateful. I love how we knew how to bring the tigers home and play with them and care for them. I love how you guys took care of those little tigers, and how I knew just how to care for the mama…”

Ezra beamed up at me, deeply pleased with himself and his potent dream medicine.

My little shaman.

And with that, my entire funk lifted and my headache vanished.

I mean—how could I feel anything but blessed and comforted, knowing the tigers are so truly loved and welcome?

I couldn’t. The blues didn’t stand a chance.

Winter funks begone. There’s a Dreamer in the house.

The Grit, Grime & Grace of Family Healing

The Grit, Grime & Grace of Family Healing

 

One recent night before bedtime my children and I gathered in the living room for a family meeting.*

My daughter Arayla, who is fourteen, had called the meeting, informing us that she had some “grievances” she needed to clear with her younger brother, Ezra.

Ezra, who is eleven, trudged slowly into the room, wrapped in a blanket. He plopped himself down in a big chair opposite his sister, exuding obvious resistance.

Arayla sat poised on the couch with fire in her eyes.

I got up and lit a candle, and then sat back down. The tension was palpable.

What followed was a challenging and painful conversation, as my children powerfully unearthed a multitude of unresolved feelings between them. Tender and raw, they both cried deeply.

Occasionally I would mediate a bit, to facilitate greater flow, but for the most part, I simply held space for their process. At times it was nearly unbearable for them to stay with it. I watched them dancing with the temptations of judgment, blame, and defense.

In moments I marveled at how consciously my kids were communicating, mirroring back to one another what they each were hearing, diligently tending the possibility of repair.

But other moments were sticky and tricky and messily expressed, bordering on the edge of creating fresh wounding.

In moments I felt awed by their courage and emotional intelligence. In other moments I was horrified and saddened to learn of the hurtful content of their grievances. Vulnerably, I couldn’t help but wonder how this reflected on my mothering.

I listened intently as they talked about what it means to prey on one another’s vulnerabilities and insecurities. I witnessed them as they took turns exposing to one another the specific instances in which they each had felt injured by the other’s words. I watched them stretch open to take in the harm they each had caused.

It was really something.

They delved into the complexity of their sibling dynamic, first-born and second-born, big sister and little brother, daughter and son, and revealed to one another how confused, trapped and lonely they each feel at times inside the defined roles of their relationship. They talked about a longtime presence of competition between them, of which they both were feeling weary.

At one point my children turned and put me in the hot seat, offering me challenging, tearful feedback about what it feels like to them when I raise my voice or when I am quick to react. They talked about the heartbreak they have harbored, as children of divorced parents, children of a single, hard-working mom; ways they have longed for a quality of attention I’ve been too busy to provide.

I had to work hard to not defend myself, to openly receive them, while burning in the mirror of my own inadequacies. Tearfully, I gave presence to their grief, acknowledged my limitations and mistakes, thanked them for telling me, and made a fresh commitment to embodying my presence and love with them in ever-truer ways.

 

It got late, and we all got tired, and we stumbled to bed still tearful and tender, with pieces of our hearts still untidily scattered all over the room. I found myself wishing for us all a deeper sense of resolve.

As I tucked Ezra in, pulling his covers up snug around his body, I could hear his breath was still thick with emotion. I kissed my boy’s head and told him how proud I was of all his true listening and honest expression. I called to the holy ones to come and tend his hurting heart.

I closed his bedroom door and then went and found Arayla and hugged my beautiful girl close. I thanked her for following her wise instinct for calling the meeting. I acknowledged her brave sharing, and I praised her for modeling patience and forgiveness with her brother.

Then I crawled into bed and lay in the dark with both of my hands holding my own aching heart. I could still feel the sting of the painful reflections, both between my children, and towards me. I burned in the hot fire of inadequacy and shortcoming. I grieved.

And then, with a deep breath of self-compassion, I opened wider to bear the limitations inherent in motherhood, inherent in humanness. I asked for self-forgiveness, and I went to sleep.

 

In the early morning hours, as I was just beginning to stir, Ezra came and crawled into bed with me, backing his body up into my spoon. I snuggled him close and felt the blessing of his comfort. And there in the dark, our hearts fresh and still raw, we each shared the words we needed to, to bring further resolution. I felt the gift of trust and respect deepening between us.

After we got up, as I tended to breakfast, I caught a glimpse of my children in a full embrace in the living room. I heard Arayla say to her brother, “I feel so much better now. Thank you.” And I heard Ezra reply simply, sweetly, “Me too.”

True relationship is not for the faint of heart. It is a flawed and fumbling, precious work of art, crafted from grit and grime and grace, overflowing in apology and forgiveness.

Bless us all as we give everything it takes to show up for true love.

 

*Shared with gracious permission from my beautiful children, Arayla and Ezra.