Monday, August 1, 2016

Starting Anew

In more than one sense. Not only do I hope to return to blogging more regularly, but I hope to write more than I ever have about the topics that have engaged me since I became a mother almost 7 years ago. I'm also literally starting over as a mother, as I'm expecting my 3rd child any day now. I haven't had a baby in almost 4 years, so I've got a lot to relearn!

Still, I have been feeling a real desire to reach out and share what I've learned, what I'm doing, what I'm thinking about and to see how to send these experiences and thoughts into a larger domain, where I can both give and receive support, especially in my homeschool/unschool journey. Nothing has been more transformative in my life than my decision to become a mother who intends to opt out of the mainstream educational path. I'm passionate about this path, while at the same time muddling to figure out exactly where the path is leading us as a family.

I will likely ramble at first as I search to find my voice and the topics that most engage/interest me. If you're here, thank you. If you want to know what I need most, it's just kindness and support as I return to writing after a very long hiatus. I'd also love to hear your experiences and thoughts if you feel so inclined. This is a bit scary to begin again, so I appreciate your patience as I loosen the rust and attempt to return to this space on a regular basis.

Thanks, and lots of love.

Monday, November 4, 2013

My Experience with Red Raspberry Leaf Tea after a Miscarriage

Today's post is for all the women who come to this blog to find healing and hope after a pregnancy loss. I'm so sorry you're here--I wish you weren't--but since you are, I hope to offer some empathy and support and peace. 

After my miscarriage in 2011, I did a lot of research on what I could do to nourish my body and care for it. Mainly, I wanted it to come back into balance so that I could feel good and strong and healthy, and so that I could be prepared for another pregnancy, since my husband and I really wanted to try again for a pregnancy that would result in our second healthy baby.

I've talked about this elsewhere on the blog (see this) but the first thing I did was to change my diet and go Primal /paleo. It was October of 2011 that we ditched grains, legumes, refined sugar, processed foods and rancid vegetable fats, and I've been living that way ever since. That has been a huge success, which I'll cover in another post, but today I want to talk about the tea.

One of the reasons I suspected I miscarried was that my hormones were off due to nursing. I don't really know if that's the reason, and I'll never know. But when my son reached two, I decided it was time to wean him so that I could focus on healing and conceiving again.

That was, for us, relatively painless. He was down to two nursings per day anyway, and so over the course of about two months, we just tapered off until we said "bye bye to milkies." It was a very emotional process, but it was the right decision and it was ultimately pretty gentle for both of us.

For years, I've charted my menstrual cycle with the method outlined in Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Even after weaning I noticed that my luteal phase was too short. I also noticed that my menstrual cramps since giving birth to my son were waaay worse than they'd ever been in my life. I knew my cycle was off.

After consulting Dr. Google, I decided to try B6 supplementation to lengthen my luteal phase. After two cycles doing that, I noticed that I was having mid-cycle breakthrough spotting, and I didn't like that. It had never happened to me before, so I knew the B6 was not helping, and was possibly hurting.

I stopped taking that, and that's when I did some research on the balancing and fertility promoting properties of red raspberry leaf tea, which I'd heard about from my doula, but never really looked into.

You can read a lot about what it is supposed to do here. This story even talks about boosting goat fertility!

I used the Traditional Medicinals organic tea bags. I brewed 4 bags in 4 cups water in a big Mason jar, and then stuck it in the fridge so I could drink it iced. (I only drink hot tea in the dead of winter, and the taste of RRL is better iced, IMO.) I drank 3-4 cups a day, every day.

I knew it was helping when I noticed a significant improvement within the first cycle. I had a longer luteal phase, much better EWCM, almost no cramping at all when my period did come, and I just felt more balanced.

In my second cycle of drinking the 3-4 cups of tea daily, I conceived again, and this time the pregnancy stuck. :-) My daughter is now almost 11 months old.

Now, I want to say that I don't want this to come off as a "If you do this, then you will conceive" kind of message. I know intimately the fragile state of a woman who has miscarried, and the even more fragile state of a woman who has miscarried and is desperate to conceive again. It is very easy to want to control everything and try to "do" something. The last thing I want to do is send anyone into a tizzy of "I need to order this and this and this." Because, just as I don't know why I miscarried, I don't know why I conceived again when I did. I have my suspicions. But I don't know.

I have my little anecdote, and if it is helpful to you, or you think my story sounds similar to yours and it might help, I don't think trying RRL tea can hurt you in any way. It will cost you a few bucks. (And, full disclosure, the links on my site are Amazon affiliate links to help support my writing, but I want to just put that out there so that you know I'm not trying to sneakily earn some money off anyone's pain.)

But your body is unique and if it is healthy, you could probably do nothing and still conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. And it is my most fervent wish that you achieve your heart's desire. I guess what I'm trying to say is that only you know what you need.

I listened to my body, watched its signs and realized that I was out of balance. I did a bunch of things (including using Pre-Seed Lube in my fertile window and also undergoing Mayan abdominal massage and regular Swedish massage) to try to help me to conceive, and maybe they helped, maybe they didn't. It's in your heart and hands what you can undertake and what you can handle in the quest to have a baby, especially after a loss.

It's so, so hard to be in that spot, and if you're reading this, I'm so, so sorry that you are. I wish none of us had to go through the pain of a lost pregnancy. It's such an awful grief and sorrow. But, sisters, I offer you a hug and some hope that you will be well again.

With all my love,

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to Practice Conscious Wanting

Something I've learned is that it is normal, if you are alive and engaged and enjoying the gifts the world has to offer, is to want.

I'm not totally clear on the why of wanting--why it seems to be written into the very fabric of human DNA--but I am clear on the reality of it.

I've seen how natural it is in my own two children. My 3.5 year old sees what the world has in it, and he just wants some of that goodness! My baby, only 9 months old, is already grasping and taking and holding whatever she can get her hands on.

And it's not a good thing or a bad thing, as I've also learned. It just is. We are alive, and we want. I've spent a long time passing judgment on wanting as a negative thing, tinged with moral decay and poor spiritual health. As though the state of wanting is a one-way ticket to hell. Jeez, did those Puritans do a number on me from across the centuries or what!

That's not to say that wanting can't send you to a hell of your own making. Just that it is actually neutral. Wanting is like money in this way. Money is just a means of exchange, a currency. What meaning you attach to it and how you habitually relate to it creates your experience and your enjoyment or suffering. And so the same goes for wanting.

Wanting is just a part of our nature, as pervasive and eternal as hunger. Any problems that come with wanting are related, I think, to a deformation in some other aspect of our lives--and then we begin to go beyond wanting and either move into envy or acquiring, depending on our means and our character.

Just as our drive to eat to satisfy hunger can be healthy and normal or disordered and a sign of an underlying dis-ease--physical or mental/emotional--our drive to want can be healthy or it can be disordered.

If you are looking for distraction, or self-worth, or a feeling of security, your wanting can lead you to acquire what you don't need or can't afford. If you don't have the money to acquire what you think you must have to create these feelings, you will find yourself either envious or discontented or worse. If your character allows it, you may even find yourself using deception or outright theft to acquire what you want but can't purchase.

And that's just for the things that money can buy. There's a whole other order of wanting that can cause even more suffering for the very fact that money can't buy it: love, friendship, freedom, relationships, family, etc.

Another manifestation of disordered wanting is that you deceive yourself into believing that you, unlike every other human on the planet, don't want. This generally is accompanied by a pretty healthy dose of self-righteousness and a good deal of self-convincing. This one is harder to spot as a disorder, as it doesn't make itself as obvious--no debt, no clutter, no addictive behavior.

Indeed, you can't necessarily look at someone's bank statement or home or possessions or Facebook friend list and know whether that person has a healthy relationship toward their instinct to want or not. You can really only evaluate your own relationship to your wanting, and decide if it's healthy or disordered.

You probably already know the answer, but here are a few questions to get you thinking if you're really not sure:
    1.    When you are in a state of wanting, do you begin to fantasize about a certain outcome or feeling you will have when that thing is acquired? Do you tell yourself a story about what will happen in the future when you get that thing?
    2.    Do you feel pangs of jealousy, envy or judgment when you see others possessing what you want but do not have?
    3.    Do you tell yourself that you don't need x, y or z because wanting that thing is stupid, selfish, invalid or some other dismissive, negative judgment?
    4.    Do you see your desire and wanting as a force in yourself that you're either ashamed of or wish would go away? Or, even more extreme, do you believe you actually don't want anything?
    5.    Do you spend more than you have or pursue unethical/illegal behaviors to get what you want?
    6.    When you do get what you want, do you have feelings of guilt, self-loathing or sadness?
    7.    How do you currently feel about the things and people in your life? Do you value them, or do you barely notice them now?

Don't panic if you find yourself answering these questions and finding that you're uncomfortable with the answers. I think, if you are a normal human being, raised in the culture of consumerism, that you will find that you have misused your instinct to want to try to generate feelings that comfort and soothe you. But, you're an adult now, and you get to decide if you want to want in a more conscious way.

What follows are some guidelines that I've found helpful in my own life for handling the wanting in a thoughtful, compassionate, and authentic manner.

    1. First, you have to acknowledge the wanting. It does you and no one else any good to pretend that you don't want. I actually think those who remove themselves to a mountain top or a monastery may appear as though they don't want what the world offers, when it is actually an inability to practice their spiritual path while being tempted and finding no other way to control the impulses but to detach fully from the world. Incidentally, I'm not judging here. If that is what works for you, it is what works. However, I, personally, prefer to remain in the action of the world, with all its evils and temptations and challenges. It is where I, personally, find my path. So, bottom line, acknowledge and accept. You are human. It's OK.
    2.  Practice gratitude for what you already have. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but there is no more powerful foundational practice--meaning it will underlie all your other practices, spiritual, relational, emotional, etc.--than that of gratitude. The more you appreciate the gifts and blessings in your life, the more content and satisfied you will be. This will begin to take the sharp edge off of that hungry, devouring kind of wanting.
    3.    Celebrate, don't covet, what others have. OK, maybe for a split second you can say to yourself, ah, that looks so nice--to have a magazine-perfect home, or to have a charming family, or to have a healthy relationship with a spouse, or to have that shiny new sports car. But, once you've named the thing you are wanting, celebrate it without judging. Appreciate and generate feelings of generosity--that house is so beautiful--yes, that's awesome! Or, how amazing that people create and people buy beautifully engineered, gorgeously designed sports cars! Or, I am so happy that she has a beautiful, healthy family she gets to enjoy--the world needs more happy families! Envy and covetousness does you no good. Celebrating, on the other hand, improves your relationship to things and people, and leaves no guilty aftertaste.
    4.    Eliminate sources of "wanting influence" in your life. For me, this means advertising, magazines, shopping in stores and online. Yes, you will see ads, magazines and you will need to shop. No, you do not need to invite those things into your home. Cancel cable, or DVR your favorite shows so you can skip commercials. Don't shop for recreation--shop only to replace or purchase what you need. Cancel magazines that make you feel inadequate--that's really what most of them exist to do: tell you you have problems that they can solve.
    5.    Get clear on money. As I've said, for me this means "counting" as practiced in Julia Cameron's The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of "Enough" Evenually I'll get comfortable with this practice, and do a budget. Once I know what money flows in and out, I will know when it's okay to spend, how much to spend, and this will eliminate some of the emotional energy that surrounds money.
    6.    Don't berate yourself for wanting. Negative self-talk never, ever gets you anywhere but a one-way ticket to Guiltville, with a side trip to Selfloathington.
    7.    Allow yourself a wish list. This goes for things you can buy, as well as things you can't. (From the sports car to a spouse or a baby or a bestselling book.) If it's really important to you, you'll come back to the wish list and eventually get what you need. If it's not, and more an impulsive want, some distance and the visual of seeing it written down will usually clarify whether the want is a conscious one or an emotional one. Again, you can't be alive without wanting, so it's OK to want, and this is a great way to clarify your wants and validate the conscious ones.
    8.    Operate from a starting point of minimalism. This doesn't mean you have to actually practice minimalism, though it's what I, personally, am striving toward. But a minimalist always asks themselves what the true cost of something (beyond the price of acquisition) is: What will it cost to maintain? What space will it take up? Is it energizing or draining? Is it beautiful or ugly? Does it align with my values and who I am, authentically? Do I really want this or is it to satisfy some other impulse--to distract, impress, maintain a fiction or fantasy about who I am or how I live?
    9.    Give. For those of us raised in a mindset of scarcity, this is a huge challenge, which is why it's so important. But if you're practicing gratitude and you're feeling clear on the flow of money, this gets easier. And it reminds you that others want and need, and that you can give of time and money to connect, vitalize and fulfill your (hopefully) higher purpose. And the more you can give, and feel how good it feels, the more your wants become clarified and conscious.

So there you have it--some thoughts and ideas for how to manage your wanting and make it a more conscious force in your life. Cause really, it's not going anywhere. You may as well get to know it and make friends with it, and realize how profoundly wanting consciously can improve your life.

Please let me know in the comments if you found this helpful, and what your relationship with your own wanting is like.

With all my love,

Monday, September 9, 2013

How to Cultivate Limitless Prosperity

Eldorado Canyon Stream, near Boulder, Colorado. August 2013.

It was in this place, hiking this canyon and picnicking by this stream that I was overcome--to the point of tears stinging my eyes--with a feeling of limitless prosperity.

This feeling was not a brief flit through the mind or body--it was all-consuming, powerful and true. I felt it down to the marrow of my bones.

In a way I didn't know before, I now understand: it is moments like that that are the definition of wealth.

Now, it's true we spent money to get there, but that's not the kind of wealth I mean. I had a feeling, not quite this intense, but similar, just a week before in Zilker Park--which we had to spend almost no money to get to--just the price of a few mile drive--watching my son and daughter cavort on a wide expanse of green lawn in the copper light of the setting sun.

I have begun to feel wealthy and rich and prosperous--which, I will assert, is no different than being rich, wealthy or prosperous--with no change in my income level.

I think this has become possible in a few ways, which I will share with you now:
  1. My daily practice (for 1.5 years now) of 5 gratitudes a day
  2. My daily practice of setting an intention
  3. Spending the time I used to spend shopping in nature/parks/the outdoors
  4. While I'm outdoors, working really hard to limit my smartphone use, and to only use the camera (I find it helpful to place it on airplane mode so I'm not as tempted to check it)
  5. Turning around my feelings of lack and envy into feelings of prosperity and appreciation 
  6. Practicing clarity around money by "counting" as described in The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of "Enough" by Julia Cameron
So, how do these things give me the experience of wealth and prosperity and richness that it seems so many believe only comes from money?

  1. No matter where I am, what my situation is, what the circumstances are, if I can practice gratitude for what is here, now, I am in a state of appreciation.
  2. Setting an intention allows me to also place myself in positive states, where I help to facilitate good feelings and energy for the tasks, joys, and challenges that face me in day-to-day life. 
  3. Shopping for anything beyond the essentials is not only a waste of time and money, it also exacerbates feelings of lack and envy. Conversely, spending time in nature is restorative and plunges you deep into the abundance of the natural world. Have you ever thought about the fact that the only beings on the earth that use money are humans? (For more on this, read this fascinating interview about "The Man Who Quit Money".)
  4. Smartphones, while useful, are pitfalls of distraction. Just what exactly do I need to be distracted from, if I'm feeling lucky, appreciative and prosperous? If I'm present, I can deepen these feelings and discover new details and thoughts and feelings. 
  5. I'd like to write a whole post on this, but I've decided that when I see something that someone else has that is beautiful or fine in some way, rather than sinking into feelings of longing or envy or wanting, instead I make an effort to smile and say, "good for them!" or "how lovely!" or something that appreciates the element that I find so attractive, and celebrates the fact that someone has that beauty or fineness in their lives. It is not up to me to judge whether or not they deserve it, or whether they have earned it...that's not my concern. I get to be excited by prosperity wherever I find it, and not just when I own something. And, as the brilliant Carrie Contey has taught me, "What you appreciate appreciates."
  6. So much of our anxiety around money comes from not really knowing how much we have, how much we get, or how much we spend. If you begin to consciously write down what comes in and what goes out, you can begin to lessen your anxiety and inhabit a place of greater trust and peace when it comes to the money part of prosperity. And, if you debt frequently, this can help you address that. 
In our culture, money (and specifically, the having of money) equals prosperity. But while money facilitates a lot of things in life, and can of course buy beautiful things and important services, you do not need a lot of money to have the experience of being wealthy and prosperous.

I know people who have lots of money, but do not have this experience. There's always a number that would make them feel better, more secure, more important. No amount--really--will change those feelings.

And, after all, as Tim Ferriss, author of the The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
 says, it's not the million dollars in the bank that people are really after--it's the way people assume those with millions in the bank feel and live.

There's also a way in which carping about what we lack or what other people have, or what we have that other people want to take is a shirking of responsibility, a way to play the victim. When we always say that we don't have "enough," we give up a lot of our power to others. It's a game where you're the loser and someone else is the winner, even though that's not how the world works. Focus on yourself and your sphere of influence. Save the world by saving yourself first

Let me repeat: You can be prosperous and abundant and rich right this very second, if you appreciate what you already have--both the material and non-material--and you realize that you have enough. For those of us raised with messages and feelings of scarcity, this is powerful medicine. I know that I often asked my parents if we were poor, not even knowing really what that meant. I just knew what I heard--that we didn't have enough. This is hard to overcome, and why the practices I listed above are daily ones. The gratitude and prosperity muscle needs daily work to keep it strong.

 I'll close by saying that I love living like this. I love looking at my children, my husband, my dog, the trees around me, the birds and frogs and earthworms and my amazing (totally normal, but still amazing!) refrigerator full of good food, my strong, healthy arms, my eyesight, my comfortable office chair, scotch tape, nicely bound books full of poetry... (you get the idea, I could go on!) and I! I am rich beyond my wildest imaginings. And if I only had my family and we were all healthy, I think I'd feel rich even then. And if I didn't have my health, I would have to do some serious work to appreciate what I did have--but I think I'd get there, so long as I survived.

It's a practice, but to live feeling wealthy and fortunate regardless of the number in my bank account is such a blessing.

I hope this post has given you some good ideas on how to increase your wealth and prosperity right now, in this moment that is all we really have.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me, and let me know your thoughts in the comments. When was the last time you felt really prosperous?


Friday, September 6, 2013

Back from vacation...

...and working on a new post for you soon. I could just rush through it, but it feels meaty to me, so I'm gonna take my time. Look for it early next week. As always, thanks for being here!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

How to Declutter Using Faith

What on earth, you may ask, does faith have to do with decluttering?

If you'd asked me six months ago, I'd have said absolutely nothing. But now I see how critical faith is to a simple life, a decluttered home, and a feeling of prosperity and ease.

I don't mean faith in the sense of religious beliefs, though that can work if that's what works for you. I'm such an eclectic spiritual soul that I don't know how to define my "faith," but I don't think of it in religious terms. More in terms of a belief in something larger, something mysterious, something that is perfect and whole, no matter what is actually going on, and no matter how I perceive it to be otherwise. A universe that exists is enough, for me, to have faith that I can surrender to its integrity, even if I don't understand or even like it.

Here we are. Amazing.

Now, in my home, I have struggled, for years, with a yearning for a simple, uncluttered lifestyle, a clean, open and cozy place that has room to breathe and feels good and actually achieving it. I can tell you that right now I don't have that. My house is also not so bad as to be the other extreme--it is not heavily congested, it is not chaotic, it is not cramped and airless and it does not look to be the home of a hoarder.

But. I want the feeling of simplicity and space and enough-ness in my home. My discovery vis-a-vis faith and decluttering is that the only way to let things go AND not bring more than what's absolutely necessary into my life is to have faith in a universe that provides enough.

The process of getting to that faith, by the way, has taken me years. And I can discuss more of that in another post. But today, I want to leave you with the thought that if you crave a decluttered home, if you want simplicity and peace and ease in your life, you are gonna have to cultivate faith to achieve it. I really think it's the only way.

I mean, you could hire a professional organizer to come in and declutter and organize your stuff, but the only way to maintain that state is to feel differently than you did when you were in the process of cluttering your home. (And, by the way, you have to take responsibility--clutter doesn't just happen. You either make it or you allow it via various avenues, another topic for another post.)

And for me, the way I've begun feeling differently about prosperity and material possessions and all that goes along with it--money, work, buying, selling, giving and sharing--is to apply faith to the process.

If you're feeling it, tell me what the biggest obstacle is for you on your path to a decluttered, simple home? And what do you think faith could do for you regarding this area?

As always, peace to you.

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Set an Intention

In my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to discuss intention setting. (In the stressful situation I wrote about, I had told my son, "I'm wanting to feel calm and spacious..." and that that was my intention for that day.)

This, intention setting, is another tool I practice to help my days feel rich and vital and blissful. Or, on days when I'm coping with something difficult, it helps my day to have the space and calm and peace I need to make room for difficult emotions or situations that I know I'll have to navigate.

It's really simple. The key is that you have to make it a habit and make room for intention setting in the beginning of your day.

On an average day, I might set an intention like this: "At the end of the day, I want to feel energetic and joyful."

Other common intentions in my household include:
  • Abundant and free
  • Calm and spacious
  • Peaceful and content
  • Patient and loving
  • Playful
  • Appreciative
  • Present and aware
  • Empathetic
  • Mindful
  • Rich and prosperous
You get the idea. Choose one, choose a few. Mix and match. Create what's relevant to you. The other thing is, you can pick whatever you want, but you can't let circumstances derail your intention. That's where the practice comes in. If you want to feel patient and loving and your child is testing your patience with huge tantrums, you have to devise some way to try and generate, authentically, the feeling of patience and lovingkindness, in the face of tests.

That's why I often like to add a strategy at the end of my intention. So, it might look like this: "At the end of the day, I want to feel patient and loving. --> Deep breaths, counting and lots of hugs!"

That way I have the intellectual touchstone--the idea about the feeling--and a roadmap for how to actually generate, in my body and brain and heart, the feeling.

My son and I have a little whiteboard we keep on the table where we write down our intentions over breakfast. You don't have to do this, but I like to model this practice for my children, so that's important to me. You can keep yours private if you want.

My family has had so much success with this practice, because it prevents us from reacting out of a more primitive and emotional place. Just by setting the intention, we have a positive, healthy direction we've placed in the front of our minds.

I don't want to be a mama who yells all the time. I don't want to be angry, impatient, frustrated, distracted, discontented, etc. I want to be rich, happy, joyful, grateful, loving, patient, kind, contented and all the other good qualities we admire. I want to live in those feelings. And, as a wise teacher says, what you appreciate, appreciates. The more you can authentically dwell in those feelings, the more good feelings come to you.

As if it weren't enough to just feel better and have happier, more spacious days, other benefits accrue from this practice: Healthier relationships. More time. An instinct toward simplicity, gratitude and kindness. Less debt. More productivity in the areas of the most meaning. Clarity of thoughts. Less time spent in regret, less time apologizing. More playfulness and creativity.

Go ahead. Give it a try. Let me know how it goes for you, or if you have any questions.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Gratitude Is the Way, but Breath Is the Path

There's so much I want to say in this space now that it's hard to know where to start. I promise it won't be dull--you'll just have to deal with some potentially weird non sequiturs.

First, as per my last post, I do believe gratitude is the secret to living in bliss. Not that it's always easy. Gratitude is the practice, the yoga, if you will, that leads you to your path, to *the* path that is yours and yours alone. There are many, many days that still arise in my life where feeling grateful is a struggle. But I'm so certain that it's the way, that it's the source of good and vital things in my life, that I come back to the practice. There are days when practicing gratitude feels so hard I can't do it with real authenticity. That's OK. That's normal. I want to remind you that there are days where our humanness, our feelings, overwhelm us and we just have to feel what we're feeling so we can get through it and eventually resettle into our higher, more luminous selves. On these days, I take deep breaths and I count.

Yesterday I found myself trying to get to a meet up with other mamas and their kids, and we were running late. The baby slept longer than usual. My son was distracted by his deep thinking on what kind of train he was going to be that day. Then we got lost. The baby was getting fussier and fussier. Finally, as we arrive at the splashpad, I see that it is dry. A mama from our group sidles up to the car: "It just broke.We're heading to Ricky Guerrero." New plan, new address in my phone's GPS. Screaming baby, impatient 3.5 year old. Traffic.

I was in a primitive, stressed part of my brain. Thinking of gratitudes in that moment was in no way going to make me feel bliss. It would be like my brain trying to sell my body on something it didn't need. "Gratitudes for sale---pathway to bliss!" it would sing out. And my body, stressed, heart pounding, muscles tight, would say, "What a moron! Can't my brain see that what I really need is a strong drink?"

(Not that I advocate drinking for stress relief, though sometimes, you know, it's what ya got.) The point is, like people use alcohol to bring their bodies through the stress, what I needed was a physical aid, a way through the fight-or-flight response. My intellectual brain was useless to me. And, thus, so was a gratitude.

Which leads me to breath. I told my son, "I'm wanting to feel calm and spacious (my intention for the day, a topic for another day's post), so I'm gonna take some deep breaths and then count." (He loves to count, so that helps him through stress.)

And that's what we did. In traffic, baby screaming to get out of her restraining (and therefore nefarious) carseat, we took big, deep, settling breaths. And we counted. (Up to 70.)

And that's how, in a stress-filled moment, rife with the potential to explode and go wrong with yelling, inattention, or hurtful words, we rerouted by acknowledging what we were feeling and then
relied, like a cripple on a cane, on our breath to carry us through some stress and big feelings.

That's how, by the time we got to the park, we were human again, escorted by breath past our reptilian response.

And there, in the dappled sun, by the rushing sound of water, in the good company of friends, we could relax, and I could look around and feel, with authenticity, how blessed and lucky I was to be there. How grateful I was. How happy.

If gratitudes are like the signs that show you the way, breath is like the earth upon which you walk your path. 

So, don't feel bad on those days you feel shitty and gratitudes seem like a cruel joke. What I'm saying is that all you really need to do to stay on the path is breathe.


Monday, August 5, 2013

The Secret Is Gratitude

The last post here was about 13 months ago. I was five months pregnant at the time, and now I have a beautiful, healthy 8 month old baby girl.

Man, having a baby is hell on blogging. :-)

But, a routine has reestablished itself and I'm back, feeling again like I have some things to say. I've been through some crazy things over the past few months, some traumatic, some amazing, and some just mundane.

But through all that, I've been following a plan that has kept me growing, evolving, and believing in the possibility of bliss and a rich life today, right now. And, the more I live this way, the more I believe that it speaks to the great myths and ancient wisdom traditions that point to the truth of bliss being here, always available, no matter the circumstances.

Today, I am living a life I consider to be a dream, not because it looks like something in the movies. It is a far richer, yet more humble dream: I work doing work that I love, for a few hours a week, and the rest of the time, I am with my beautiful and amazing children and my seriously fantastic (and yummy!) husband.

This dream would not be possible without the help of others, it's true, but it also isn't only chance. I have worked in many ways, consciously and unconsciously to design a life where help slots into place and is available for me to take advantage.

I want to say more about this as I go along here in this space. I look at my life, and while not perfect by any means, it is a life I deeply, deeply appreciate and feel gratitude for.

And, the thing is, every life, no matter the circumstances, deserves appreciation and gratitude. It is not too much to say that deep, abiding gratitude for what is here, for who you are, for what is, is the secret to finding bliss.

That's all I'll say for now. I hope to see you back here for more. In the comments, feel free to tell me what you are deeply and wildly grateful for right now.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Embody life. Embody love.

Those two sentences, along with, "Give my wish to god," are what I wrote on my whiteboard sometime around this past January or February.

I have long held the theory that whatever you want in your life, you must practice at. (Not that I've always been able to do this, but it has been a belief I've held for a very long time.) If you want to find love, you must love. And not just the people whom you suppose you'd like to love. Not just the men you might want to marry. Not just the women you'd like to date. But you do your best to love yourself. Your annoying boss. Your inconsiderate neighbor. You just try to pour out love, and love will be returned to you.

If you want to find peace, you must practice peace. Not by moving to a house away from the city. Not by standing outside a building chanting protests. Not by going to a meditation retreat once a month. Instead, you do your best to feel peace at the world, peace toward yourself, even when there are sirens wailing, even when the wars being waged break your heart and hurt your mind, even when there are horns honking at you, angry voices calling you names. It's hard. But you do your best.

It's what I believe. It's what I work at. I fail a lot. But it guides me. (I also like to tell myself to have high standards and rock bottom expectations. It keeps me moving in a direction I like, while taking off some of the pressure. I mean, jeez!)

As I wrote in my last post, I spent so much time clutching at what I wanted, losing sight of what I believed in, struggling with grief and loss and misguided ideas about detachment, that I had to finally throw up some words on a whiteboard to tell me what to do. I had to put it outside myself. I had to assert to the universe what I believed, and give my wish to god, because I sure as hell couldn't handle the burden of my own wants, needs, desires any longer. They were crushing me. Hurting my family. Blackening my heart.

I had to remember to live. To love. To say to myself, look at how goddamn lucky I am. If I never get another good thing to come my way in this life, I will be content with that, because look at how mothereffing blessed I already am. Who am I to think I deserve the certain image I think of when I think of "my life"? Where does peace and love and a good life reside? Within me, dammit, within me.

I appreciated my son more, rather than just mourning over the time slipping by. I decided to have fun with him, rather than just grow sorrowful that he might be my only baby, and his babyhood was very much in the past. I decided to direct love toward myself, and acknowledge that I had not been kind to myself, kicking myself over regrets and lost time and misguided efforts. I decided to be lively again with my husband, tired of cocooning myself in a protective shell that prevented me from having to cry and feel vulnerable and scared of possibility and hope.

And I did these things. Not every day, but a lot. To the best of my ability. I didn't just think them. I emerged from my shadowy hiding place and I started loving. I started living. I found help. I talked to people. I took care of myself. I began daily gratitudes. I surrendered.

Today, as I write this post, I am almost five months pregnant.

Lately, I am so grateful, so joyful, so peace-filled. Would I be feeling these things were I not already pregnant again? I don't truly know, but I'd like to say that the answer would be yes. Because I started living my beliefs, and embodying life, embodying love, regardless of the external circumstances in my life.

I know how lucky I am. I know how little control I have over my life's shifting circumstances. But I have the ability to turn toward love, life and peace, no matter what. I know that when I need help, help is there for me if I ask for it. I know that when I take care of myself, my body and my mind heal. I know now for a fact that what I appreciate, appreciates.

I think I've learned that what your heart desires isn't any given thing, even though your brain will tell you that's the case. A husband. A baby. A bestselling book. A great medical career. A million dollars. Whatever. I think what I've learned is that what your brain tells you your heart desires is the tangible object that you've fixed on as the path to the experience of love, life and peace. And, that that thing--that desire--isn't what you need to experience any of those things, even though they might be very nice to have.

Not that any of this is easy. Or necessarily obvious. But I think it's true.

Embody life. Embody love. Give your heart's desire to god or the universe. Feel peace.

Love and peace to you all,