presence

Support for When Things Suck

 

“Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need. Watch for the guru.”

Let’s call a spade a spade, here. Sometimes, life just sucks. Sometimes pain takes over and ruins everything. Sometimes shitty things happen. Sometimes watching for the guru feels impossible. Sometimes, screw the guru.

In the middle of our muck, our dark nights of the soul, when our lives are falling apart at the seams, when we’ve lost the very people or things we trusted most, whether we have infections, diseases, chronic pain, migraines, nosebleeds, bug bites, lay-offs, miscarriages, death, break-ups, any of these crappy things, finding the light, finding the good, claiming “everything happens for a reason” in the middle of some very sucky everythings… is just not humanly possible.

There it is: humanly possible.

And guess what we are? Souls walking around as human manifestations. What if we accepted that during certain times, it’s okay to wallow? It’s okay to surrender to the suck.

“Look for the bright side?” Eff you.

But what we can trust is the other side. There is always movement.

We are always moving toward the other side.

Sometimes it happens on its own, microscopic and minute, like the blooming of a bud, unseen with the human eye. Sometimes we work hard at it, like a construction crew with a deadline and a strip mall to build.

Sometime the only thing required to move out of the muck and the suck is to surrender and trust in the natural unfolding and healing salve of time.

In the meantime, if you need to whine, whine. Find your support team that will love you through.

If you need to scratch the rash, scratch it. Do what you need to do that will give you even fleeting seconds of relief.

If you need to cry, let the tears flow.

If you need to curl in a ball, retreat from the world, stop showering for a few days, go on, curl. You’ll save money on hot water.

If you need to destroy property, well, you might want to rethink that one… but you get my point.

Feel your broken heart. Grieve. Gripe. Groan. Give in to what needs to be felt and experienced.

So much of our pain comes when we are resisting our pain. When we are thinking that as spiritual people, we should always find the gifts in our pain, after all, we chose our pain, we created it, as some spiritual teachers will have us believe. And maybe sometimes we do. It’s quite the mind-numbing paradox.

But sometimes, suck just happens.

Over the last few years, one of my gurus has been a chronic nerve pain condition in my hip, back and leg that has sometimes debilitated me, sometimes turned me to a crying sack of gloom, has slowed me down, has pissed me off, has enraged me, has cost me lots of money, has shut down my life and kept me from the things I love to do… how the hell am I supposed to bless this guru? As a human being, how can I love this pain?

Yes, I am human, AND within me resides the infinite power of the universe. So sometimes I can access that, and use the Big Love when mine falls short. But, mostly, it’s when the pain subsides. It’s when a flare-up flares down.

It’s only when I’m on the other side, I have said, wow… I learned so much. I slowed down, I practiced exquisite self-care. I re-prioritized. I rested. I learned to count on friends. I practiced asking for help, receiving. I grew. Thanks, Guru, Chronic Pain.

But until then, when I am in the suck… it sucks, okay? Let’s stop trying to fool ourselves about that.

Be with your pain. Be with your suffering, be with your suck. Allow yourself to feel every ugly or pitiful feeling you need to feel. Wallow if you need to, cry, scream, whine, fully occupy your humanness and all of the messy, crappy, sticky, stinky, painful things that come with that.

Trust the other side. You’re always moving toward it.

Are you a “Ho-ho-ho”, a “Ho-hum”, or a “Bah-Humbug”?

humbug__by_xhee_heex-d6wa0dgThere are three types of us, it seems, when the holiday season rolls around… which are you?
The Ho Ho Ho – Overflowing with holiday cheer, the Ho Ho Ho loves to decorate, shop, wrap, and really revels in the joys and sensory pleasures of the holiday spirit. Finding rich meaning in the season, their love for family, giving, togetherness, peace and joy are amplified.
The Ho-Hum – Neither a lover nor a hater, the Ho-Hum is mildly annoyed by the pressures and obligations wrapped with a bow during the holiday season. They will go through the motions, and even enjoy certain parts of the season, like holiday cocktail parties and Secret Santa games, but for the most part, they could take it or leave it, and often harbor a secret guilt that they “should” be doing more, feeling more, giving more, baking more, and being jollier in general.
The Humbug –  The Humbug can’t stand the holiday season, the contrived peace and love, the forced togetherness, the pressure to spend, the commercialization, the obligation to be with people they secretly hardly like, and oftentimes have painful associations with the holidays, so in the midst of all the contrived joy, they are harboring deep pain, loss, grief, loneliness. The holidays are something they must get through, resisting and even resenting the whole shebang.
I’m definitely a borderline Ho-Hum/Humbug. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of personal inquiry around this, to explore the reasons. I’ve identified a few, and better understand my resistance. I’ve given up trying to change myself into a Ho-Ho-Ho, in preference of allowing myself to be who I am. I’ve also done some shifting and healing organically, by practicing openness, presence and intention.
There are certain holiday rituals I admit to enjoying… parties, of course. Ugly sweater ones and fancy red dress ones. And  I’m not gonna lie: I love opening presents. Here’s a holiday hypocrisy: I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. I hate the chore of sending them.
A few years back, I asked the Humbugs in my Facebook community what their reasons for being “humbug” were. I got dozens of interesting responses, but they all seemed to fall into one of two categories:
  • Pressure: The pressure from media, family, the world at large to “feel” jolly, to buy, to bake, to wrap, to send cards, to feign happiness in family situations that are less than healthy or happy. So much pressure to be, feel and do what is out of line with our personal truth.  When we feel, do or are what is out of line with our personal truth, we are out of integrity. NO WONDER Humbugs don’t like the holidays! NO WONDER Ho-Hums feel uneasy about them.
  • Pain: The saccharin-sweetness messages of peace, love and joy doesn’t fit with their personal experience when there is loss, grief, death, loneliness and other painful experiences and feelings linked to the holidays
So what should we do, those of us who find it difficult to be folded into the fluffy cream of the holiday season? Go through the motions, out of integrity, getting through til January? Ditch the whole thing, disappearing from society until it’s over? Tell our families we won’t be participating this year? (Oh, THAT’LL go over well…) Buy, when we don’t feel like buying? Smile, when we don’t feel like smiling?
Here’s what I suggest we all do, whether a Ho Ho Ho, a Ho-Hum or a Humbug…
  1. Feel your feelings as they arise. When you are feeling funky, say for example, shopping, stay in touch with yourself and your experience. When you’re feeling overjoyed with holiday spirit, notice it, bask in it. If the holidays are a time of pain for you, give yourself a designated, sacred time to feel your pain, to tend to your tender heart, to be a loving friend to yourself.
  2. Stop shoulding on yourself. Shaming yourself, feeling guilty for what you don’t feel or don’t want to do, adds an extra layer of crappiness onto the crappiness you’re already feeling. Ie, “everyone’s so happy at Thanksgiving. I should be happier than this.” We spend too much energy thinking we’re ‘supposed’ to be feeling something different than we are. Stop it!
  3. Practice presence in everything you do, holiday-related. If you “must” participate in a holiday activity that feels inauthentic to you, how can you become present to that activity? How can you open up to what might be there for you in your resistance? Can you start a holiday tradition that feels more authentic and meaningful to you, privately, or with others?
  4. Focus on the activities that bring you joy and give yourself permission to scrap the others. A few years ago, I decided not to do cards. I had to come to terms with the fact that this would mean I’d receive less cards, and I had to be okay with that. It was a fair trade-off.  On the other hand, I am one who is easily excited by pretty, sparkly things, so I love ooh-ing and ahh-ing at impressive holiday lights. I will keep doing that.
  5. Allow others to feel what they feel without the impulse to judge or change them.  No need to jump down mom’s throat about the commercialism of Christmas, if she’s really into giving gifts. Perhaps you can let go of the urge to teach the family what really went down, during colonization, while passing the the sweet potatoes. Let them have their experience, while you own yours. 
And Ho-Hums and Humbugs, take solace in the fact that it will all be over soon. But here’s the thing: when it’s over, we’ll be that much closer to the end of our ride, to the day of our death. So why not be as present as we can, no matter what we’re feeling, and savor as much as we can- out of every day, and the enjoy the extra sweetness that the holiday season offers? After all, there are more cookies!
Feel your experience, give yourself and others permission to be exactly where they are and savor every moment, as much as you can. It will all be over too soon, I’m afraid… all of it.  Now pass me a gingerbread cookie, please.

A Double-Spaced Life

white-spaces
I’d been doing it unconsciously for the last few weeks. And the other day I noticed.
I looked at my hand-written to-do list for the day, and between every task listed was a blank line. I’d skipped a space between every list item.
Interesting, I thought. And then as the deeper epiphany landed, I realized…
Whoa. This is my life now.
I’m living a double-spaced life.
Let me back up a little. I’ve been a purpose-driven, passion-fueled entrepreneur for more than fifteen years now. I’ve worn many hats, juggled many balls, spun many plates, had many irons in the fire, many pots on the stove, insert your preferred-busy-AF metaphor here. I was no stranger to overwhelm.
In fact, if you’ve been following my work over the years, you know I’ve written a blog or ten about busyness, overwhelm, stress and that constant gnawing feeling I know many of us are familiar with: I’m not doing enough. I should be getting more done. How am I going to get it all done? And if you looked at my to-do lists from the years gone by, not surprisingly, they were single-spaced, one task stacked tightly on top of the other.
I’ve also always found it interesting that I journal on my blank page notebooks from one end of the page to the other, with no margins to speak of. When I create a vision board, there is never any posterboard left peeking behind the images I paste onto it. Filling time, filling space, filling my life to overflowing was how I did life. It’s what I knew.
Until I began to know a different way.
This summer I let go of a huge part of my life and my work, when I decided to close the Burlesque Experience. I also scaled back considerably on the other events, workshops and programs I was offering.
In doing so, I created a spaciousness in my life that at times has been uncomfortable. Who am I now, without this work?
I’ve resisted the urge to create filler, to throw new things together hastily, so that I “still matter” so that I don’t disappear or go broke. Because for so much of my life, I assumed that my greatest contributions to the world required me to be spread too thin. As if this was the only way to be successful. I watered down my potency, my very essence, and it took a major crash and clearing for me to realize this.
Living in a chronic state of overwhelm is not possible without the help of our adrenal system to kick in like a furnace, to support us, give us the energy we need, but guess what? That’s not what adrenaline is for.
Our bodies are marvelously wired with adrenaline for emergency situations. We were never designed to use adrenaline for getting through daily life, for managing our daily to-do list, for the everyday fuel. Yet so many of us are relying on our adrenal systems for just such support.
Until we can’t anymore. Until our adrenal system is fried. Until our bodies say no more.  I was. And mine did.
I spent much of the summer healing my adrenal system through diet, a restorative adaptogen regimen, rest, self-care. And I vowed to do things differently, going forward.
One of the greatest gifts middle age is giving me is the wisdom to slow the heck down. To breathe. To create space, in my home and my work and my life. To leave blank days on the calendar and blank lines on the to-do list. To commit to less. To rest. To seek quality over quantity. To declutter and let go and scale down.
Realistically (though I hate to even type this), I’m in the second half of my life now. I have given myself permission to slow down.
I have given up the hustle to do, do, do, so much of the time, in order to focus instead on being magnetic and being potent—to just be, be, be more of who I am. I still need my business to generate revenue. I still have bills to pay and dreams to fund and a future to plan for. But I refuse to utilize panic and fear as my personal motivator any longer. I refuse to sacrifice my well-being and water myself down, I am done with being stressed out as a normal way of life.
Desperation, overwhelm, over-commitment and stress are no longer invited into my work day. I am far more interested now in being the flower rather than the bee. My bee days are behind me. Letting go in this way can feel scary. Especially for a recovering control freak. Yet what a beautiful way to practice deliberate actions, clear intentions and deep trust. I’ve even noticed the chronic pain I’ve dealt with for years is subsiding, I feel more embodied, of course I do. It’s a friendlier place in there.
New ideas are gestating within me, I am inspired to create more, to express more, to inspire more. There are still big things I have yet to create. In fact, I think my greatest impact and contributions to the world exist in my future, not my past.
But a lot has changed, and I am clearer than I have ever been. I refuse to utilize my adrenal system for day to day living. That means shorter task lists, less events, less overlapping projects, more focus, more self-care and ritual and spiritual care. More white space.
With more space available, I’m finding myself to be a more potent coach, a more present partner, a more available mother. I’m a better friend. My close relationships feel richer.
I am more emotionally (and physically) accessible, more joyful and more me. And it’s easy to understand why…
I am showing up for life, undiluted.
I have gone from a single-spaced life to a double-spaced life, and wow, does it feel great.

 

Reality Check

ac11b59841a3ae3e0c1cb460ccc05585“Vacation was wonderful, but now it’s back to reality.”

 “Lately, I just want to escape the real world and curl up with a book, in my jammies with my kitty.”

“I’m having a challenge returning to reality after the glitter and glamour of the Burlesque Experience…”

I’ve heard all three of these statements, in the last few days, in fact, from three different people. One of those people was me.

We all know this feeling, this reluctance or resistance to “return to reality”.

Life gives us those temporary shining, sparkling respites, that take us out of the mundane, out of the routines and duties and obligations, and give us transcendence, ecstasy, bliss, or just simply relaxation.

And then, ho hum, back to reality we go, sheepishly, begrudgingly.

Well, I’d like to turn that thought-process on its head, by offering a new perspective.

You aren’t escaping reality with your relaxing weekends, your transcendent experiences, your vacations and blissful days off.

You’re expanding it.

What if we stopped the polarizing thinking of “reality” as the chores, the mundane, the routine, and those transcendent, fully-engaged, joyful experiences as being outside of reality?

What if instead we chose to embrace it all as one great big, luscious, multi-faceted range of reality?

What would happen?

Something would shift.

And when it does, it’s really beautiful.

Vacation-Return-HomeI had this experience the other day myself, driving home with my fiancé, from our weekend getaway in the country, that feeling of “returning to reality” came over me, and with it, a sadness, a reluctance, and then a quiet voice whispered from my heart, “it’s all reality.” And then, suddenly, my reality expanded.

That, too… that glorious weekend experience of rest and relaxation, connecting with nature, with myself, painting, drawing, reading, doing or not doing whatever I chose, that was reality, too.

Of course it was! I didn’t imagine it.

How insulted and offended these rich, meaningful experience and moments must be, to be left out and excluded from what we consider reality! “Wow, thanks a lot! I gave you so much! Well, it was real for me! Pffft!”

Silly to think about, I know, but do you get what I’m saying here?

What if we chose to widen reality, to include more moments and experiences of ecstasy and bliss, even within the folds and creases of everyday life, rather than escape it?

What if we widened our reality so much that in these moments and experiences, we aren’t escaping anything, but enriching it?

Reality, after all, is what we decide for it to be.

Is your reality a relentless pushing, striving and doing, loaded with obligations and duties and responsibilities and roles to fulfill?

Can what you perceive to be reality include transcendence, connection, relaxation and retreat, instead of excluding it?

Visualize it on paper. On the left is the “real world”. On the right is all that other stuff, the activities and events and moments you lose yourself in, when and where and how you get charged and refueled and realigned. Yours might include vacationing or travel, creative endeavors, relaxing activities, connection, socializing, time off.

Next, take your imagination’s pen and draw a big circle around it all, and call it reality.

What shifts with this simple expansion?

And how can you enlarge and widen and deepen your current experience of reality, every day?

Gasp… dare I say, in every moment?

My reality is wide, and deep, and rich, and includes all of it. The duties and the getaways. The challenges and the ease. The doing and the being. The scheduled routines and the loose, lazy, unstructured respites.

We can’t vacation all the time. Well, most of us can’t. But how can we create the feelings and sensations of vacationing in our day to day lives? The truth of the matter is, it’s those feelings we’re after.

What if we made these respites and retreats and moments outside of the ordinary every day a priority, committing to them with the same fervor we commit to being responsible?

We are responsible for our reality, right?

Our longing for magic and the opportunities to satisfy this longing exist at every turn, in every one of life’s pockets.  Sometimes they’re obvious, a week on a beach, for example. Other times, they’re hidden, quietly present, tucked in, needing only for you to discover them, claim them, and make them a priority of your reality. A big reality, one that includes all of it.reality

A reality as expanded as this needs your conscious design. Your deliberate intention. With it, reality expands, just like that.

And when reality is this wide and expansive, there is no more need to escape it.

Of course, there is the mind-numbing paradox of possibility that none of this at all is reality, that it’s all a dream, but maybe that’s for another blog. For today, let’s just say, if it’s happening, it’s reality.

It’s all reality.

What will you make of yours today?

Can you be with this feeling?

by Jordan_K, ©photographer reserves all rights
by Jordan_K, ©photographer reserves all rights

Can you be with this feeling?

This is the question I hear, in my mind, in this moment, when I am in a lousy, cranky, hormonal, bitch-on-wheels mood. The sun is shining, it’s a perfect afternoon, there is much to be grateful for, I know. But sometimes crankiness happens. I don’t like it. I want relief. I want to escape this feeling.

Can you be with this feeling?

The inner voice asks again. I prefer being happy, of course. But what if I surrendered to this crankiness. I did have a terrible night’s sleep. My back aches, my head hurts, my moon storm is in full force, and I decide, in this moment, yes. Yes, I will be with this feeling.

It will not destroy me. It will not last. I will not get swallowed.

Yes, I am always at choice. And in this moment, I choose to be with this feeling.

I have spent years of my life trying to escape unpleasant feelings. Fight, flight or freeze. That is our human condition, after all. And in this moment, I embrace my humanity and allow this feeling to be what it is. A feeling inside of me. I am not the boat, battered on the waves of an angry, restless ocean. Can I be the angry, restless ocean, in this moment? Yes. I can.

I, like most people, find it easiest to be present when things feel good, when I feel good. I have no trouble being present for joy, bliss, peace. Easy-peasy! The real practice of presence becomes a true practice when I can become fully present to those “other” feelings, the ones that live on the opposite side of my wide and vast emotional landscape. I will not die. I will not be swallowed.

I am the ocean, not the boat.

I become present to the sensations in my body. Some unpleasant. I notice and observe what is happening now. The sun is warming my body, as I sit on my breezy balcony, typing away, noticing the warmth of the sun on my skin. Noticing the aching in my head. In my body. Noticing. Being present to what is. There is nothing else, after all, except what is.

When your darker moments come, can you stay with your feelings?

Can you not abandon yourself in attempts to feel something different?

Can you be a safe place for every feeling?

Even the unsavory ones?

I am learning how.

My busy mind wants to label, identify, sort, find cause, pinpoint reasons, organize, define, correct.

My spirit says “relax into the now.”

I consider what I can trust:

I trust in the temporal nature of all feelings. I trust that this will pass. I trust that I am safe. I trust that I can be gentle and kind and avoid the desire to flee this feeling.

I trust in the larger, more broad perspective. I trust that this is not “who” or “what” I am. This is simply a feeling. Who I am is larger, much larger, than any feeling.

Oddly enough, miraculously enough, when I surrender to what is, when I allow myself to be present to this very moment, something starts to shift, subtle and small, something starts to lift, and I am reminded that even the darkest storms eventually dissolve and pass.

It is the dark that defines the light. How can I know pleasure, if I never knew pain? How can I know peace, if I never knew unrest? How can I know joy, if I never knew this funk? Is it not then a gift, an odd one, in strange wrapping?

I unwrap.

Yes. I can be with this feeling.

 

 

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Originally published October, 2013.

I will not abandon myself

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I know how to be here
in this gray place,
so familiar in its charm-less charm
I’ve learned how to be herein this dark space
and not be afraid,

I know how to be here, now.

I know when it shows up,
uninvited visitor.
the best thing to do
is to take its coat,
offer it a seat,
a snack,
a footrest.

I will not resist its embrace,
I will not run from its force,
I’ve been down that road before.

I will not abandon myself.

instead I will stay.

I will be.
I will know
that everything changes
and that the light
is defined by the dark.

This is the poem I scribble in my journal on a dark day. I am weighed down by the heaviness of what I easily recognize now as depression. All I want to do is sleep. When I’m not sleeping, I’m fantasizing about sleeping. I cancel meetings and lunches with girlfriends because I don’t want to talk to anyone or get dressed or brush my teeth. I want to crawl under a rock or a blanket and sleep ’til springtime.

Maybe it’s the change in seasons, maybe it’s hormonal, maybe it’s chemical, maybe it’s Mercury in retrograde, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that, maybe it doesn’t even matter. Melancholic and mopey, I have no ‘reasonable’ explanation for these feelings, they’re just here, hanging over me, blocking my view of the light. I cannot feel the light. I want to run. I want to hide.

But this time, I don’t. Because things are different now.

I’m trying something different these days. I am a scientist in my soul’s laboratory. I am experimenting with a new idea. This time, I will stay with these feelings.

I have spent so much of my life running from my negative emotions, hiding, numbing from anything that felt bad, completely convinced that feeling bad was BAD, and that bad feelings were to be avoided. I had a hundred ways to avoid a bad feeling. Anything to leave that bad feeling. On some days, I’d try all hundred.

“Cheer up!” my well-meaning friends might say, while I waffle in this mud puddle of murky emotions, splashing around, getting some of my muck in their eyes. Yes, they mean well, yet I know (finally) that ‘cheering up’ is not what I need- that’s how I got myself into the habitual behaviors and shadow comforts that I have spent years weaning myself from in the first place.

Instead, I have vowed to not abandon myself.

To not turn my back on this dark feeling in me. To just sit with my emotion, that is my challenge, to just be with this ache, this hollow feeling, that is my sole job today and it’s taking more energy than I anticipated.

It’s so much easier (and familiar!) to hide, to run, to numb, to bail. Instead, this time, I acknowledge the yuckiness. This time, I don’t turn away from it, but simply hold it like a colicky baby. I rock it back and forth and whisper soothing words. There, there. You’re okay, baby. I’m here…

Richard Moss in his work “The Mandala of Being” talks about the difference between being in your feelings, and your feelings being in you. We so often buy into the illusion that our feelings can actually engulf us, swallow us, that we can lose ourselves in them. Moss gently urges readers instead to be a safe place for their feelings, to create spaciousness around the feeling, no matter how dark and ugly the feeling might be, and I am now driven by the challenge of discovering what a life lived this way will look like. I am experimenting, all right.

I will not abandon myself.

What I also know is this: When I create a safe space for my feelings, it turns out these feelings are not as terrible or ugly or awful or deadly as I imagined them. They’re more hungry-baby than scary-monster. All they want is to be acknowledged, to be felt, to be held. They will not destroy me, or engulf me, because they are just feelings, they are mine, I hold them inside of me, and lo and behold, I am finally a safe place for my feelings.

Just the other day, I heard a woman on the radio talking about her inner work, the way that she had learned to accept all of her feelings with love and compassion, after a lifetime of rejecting her ‘bad’ emotions. Mmm… I could relate. Just a little. At the end of the show, she was asked to share her motto, and I loved her answer so much I’ve now adopted it as my own. (I don’t think personal mottos are copyrighted. If so, my bad.)

If I would have heard this woman ten years ago, five years ago, last year even, I probably wouldn’t have gotten it- it would have been just beyond my understanding, like hearing a foreign language, as I was still so passionately dedicated to avoiding and rejecting my own ‘bad’ feelings. (But because we receive exactly what we need, what we are ready for, exactly when we are ready for it, I didn’t hear it ten or five years ago, I heard it the other day.)

She said: “All feelings are welcome here.” And I thought, for the first time in my life, yes. Yes, they are.

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new front cover TODLExcerpted from my book, Truth or Dare Living: Wild Adventures for Your Sacred, Sexy Soul. Now through the holidays, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite chapters from the book, available on Amazon.com, while I revive and reignite my creative fire with some much needed rest. Enjoy!

Ho Ho Ho, Ho-Hum or Humbug: It’s All Okay

Merry-Christmas-christmas-465663_1024_768There are three types of us, it seems, when the holiday season rolls around… which are you?

The Ho Ho Ho – Overflowing with holiday spirit, the Ho Ho Ho loves to decorate, shop, wrap, and really revels in the joys and sensory pleasures of the holiday spirit. Finding rich meaning in the season, their love for family, giving, togetherness, peace and joy are amplified.

The Ho-Hum – Neither a lover nor a hater, the Ho-Hum is mildly annoyed by the pressures and obligations wrapped with a bow during the holiday season. They will go through the motions, and even enjoy certain parts of the season, like holiday cocktail parties and Secret Santa games, but for the most part, they could take it or leave it, and often harbor a secret guilt that they “should” be doing more, feeling more, giving more, baking more, and being jollier in general.

The Humbug –  The Humbug can’t stand the holiday season, the contrived peace and love, the forced togetherness, the pressure to spend, the commercialization, the obligation to be with people they secretly hardly like, and oftentimes have painful associations with the holidays, so in the midst of all the contrived joy, they are harboring deep pain, loss, grief, loneliness. The holidays are something they must get through, resisting and even resenting the whole shebang.

I would classify myself as a borderline Ho-Hum/Humbug. I’ve done a lot of personal inquiry around this, to explore the reasons, and understand my resistance and maybe even change myself, so that I can be more Ho Ho Ho and less Humbug.

There are certain holiday rituals I admit to enjoying… parties, of course.  I’m not gonna lie: I love opening presents. Here’s a hypocrisy: I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. I hate the chore of sending them.

Yesterday, I asked the Humbugs in my Facebook community what their reasons for being “humbug” were. I got dozens of interesting responses, but they all seemed to fall into one of two categories:

  • Pressure: The pressure from media, family, the world at large to “feel” jolly, to buy, to bake, to wrap, to send cards, to feign happiness in family situations that are less than healthy or happy. So much pressure to be, feel and do what is out of line with our personal truth.  When we feel, do or are what is out of line with our personal truth, we are out of integrity. NO WONDER Humbugs don’t like the holidays! NO WONDER Ho-Hums feel uneasy about them.
  • Pain: The saccharin-sweetness messages of peace, love and joy doesn’t fit with their personal experience when there is loss, grief, death, loneliness and other painful experiences and feelings linked to the holidays

So what should we do, those of us who find it difficult to be folded into the fluffy cream of the holiday season? Go through the motions, out of integrity, getting through til January? Ditch the whole thing, disappearing from society until it’s over? Tell our families we won’t be participating this year? (Oh, THAT’LL go over well…) Buy when we don’t feel like buying? Smile when we don’t feel like smiling?

Here’s what I suggest we all do, whether a Ho Ho Ho, a Ho-Hum or a Humbug…

  1. Feel your feelings as they arise. When you are feeling funky, say for example, shopping, stay in touch with yourself and your experience. When you’re feeling overjoyed with holiday spirit, notice it, bask in it.
  2. Stop shoulding on yourself. Shaming yourself, feeling guilty for what you don’t feel or don’t want to do, adds an extra layer of crappiness onto the crappiness you’re already feeling. Stop it!
  3. Practice presence in everything you do, holiday related. If you “must” participate in a holiday activity that feels inauthentic to you, how can you become present to that activity?
  4. Focus on the activities that bring you joy and give yourself permission to scrap the others. This year I decided not to do cards. I had to come to terms with the fact that this would mean I’d receive less cards, and I had to be okay with that. It was a fair trade-off.  I am one who is easily excited by pretty, sparkly things, so I love ooh-ing and ahh-ing at impressive holiday lights. I will keep doing that.
  5. Allow others to feel what they feel without the impulse to judge or change them.  We are all having our own experience here in this life adventure. There’s room for all of it.

And Ho-Hums and Humbugs, take solace in the fact that it will all be over soon. But here’s the thing: when it’s over, we’ll be that much closer to the end of our ride, to the day of our death. So why not be as present as we can, no matter what we’re feeling, and savor as much as we can- out of every day, and the enjoy the extra sweetness that the holiday season offers? After all, there are more cookies!

Feel your experience, give yourself and others permission to be exactly where they are and savor every moment, as much as you can. It will all be over too soon, I’m afraid… all of it.  Now pass me a gingerbread cookie, please.

Can you be with this feeling?

depression

Can you be with this feeling?

This is the question I hear, in my mind, in this moment, when I am in a lousy, cranky, hormonal, bitch-on-wheels mood. The sun is shining, it’s a perfect autumn afternoon, there is much to be grateful for, I know. But sometimes crankiness happens. I don’t like it. I want relief. I want to escape this feeling.

Can you be with this feeling?

The inner voice asks again. I prefer being happy, of course. But what if I surrendered to this crankiness. I did have a terrible night’s sleep. My back aches, my head hurts, my moon storm is in full force, and I decide, in this moment, yes. Yes, I will be with this feeling.

It will not destroy me. It will not last. I will not get swallowed.

Yes, I am always at choice. And in this moment, I choose to be with this feeling.

I have spent years of my life trying to escape unpleasant feelings. Fight, flight or freeze. That is our human condition, after all. And in this moment, I embrace my humanity and allow this feeling to be what it is. A feeling inside of me. I am not the boat, battered on the waves of an angry, restless ocean. Can I be the angry, restless ocean, in this moment? Yes. I can.

I, like most people, find it easiest to be present when things feel good, when I feel good. I have no trouble being present for joy, bliss, peace. Easy-peasy! The real practice of presence becomes a true practice when I can become fully present to those “other” feelings, the ones that live on the opposite side of my wide and vast emotional landscape. I will not die. I will not be swallowed.

I am the ocean, not the boat.

I become present to the sensations in my body. Some unpleasant. I notice and observe what is happening now. The sun is warming my body, as I sit on my breezy balcony, typing away, noticing the warmth of the sun on my skin. Noticing the aching in my head. In my body. Noticing. Being present to what is. There is nothing else, after all, except what is.

When your darker moments come, can you stay with your feelings?

Can you not abandon yourself in attempts to feel something different? Can you be a safe place for every feeling? Even the unsavory ones?

I am learning how.

My busy mind wants to label, identify, sort, find cause, pinpoint reasons, organize, define, correct.

My spirit says “relax into the now.”

I consider what I can trust.

I trust in the temporal nature of all feelings. I trust that this will pass. I trust that I am safe. I trust that I can be gentle and kind and avoid the desire to flee this feeling.

I trust in the larger, more broad perspective. I trust that this is not “who” or “what” I am. This is simply a feeling. Who I am is larger, much larger, than any feeling.

Oddly enough, miraculously enough, when I surrender to what is, when I allow myself to be present to this very moment, something starts to shift, subtle and small, something starts to lift, and I am reminded that even the darkest storms eventually dissolve and pass.

It is the dark that defines the light. How can I know pleasure, if I never knew pain? How can I know peace, if I never knew unrest? How can I know joy, if I never knew this funk? Is it not then a gift, an odd one, in strange wrapping?

I unwrap.

Yes. I can be with this feeling.

Buzzing and Blooming, Flowers, Bees & Me

bee-flowerSomewhere, at some point recently I began entertaining the sweet notion of attraction rather than attainment, magnetism over motion.

I decided I wanted to be the flower, and not the bee. I’ve spent most of my working life being a bee. Buzzing, buzzing from flower to flower, looking for nectar, making honey. It worked, sure. But it was exhausting as hell.

I began to learn from various teachers, messages, signs and synchronicities that there may be a better way, an easier way. I decided to experiment with the practice of being a flower.

A flower stands proud in its fragrant, vibrant essence. It need not scurry, hustle, chase or pursue. It releases such a sweet aroma, by simply being what it is, that the bees take notice and are drawn to the flower’s irresistible perfume. Then the magic happens.

And yep, just like magic, my shift in thinking, my change in focus, my recommitment to simply doing what I do, as sweetly and naturally as I can has drawn enchanted, miraculous events, people and opportunities my way. Here are just two examples that blow my mind and rock my world…

  • For years, I have thought the Burlesque Experience would make great reality TV. I’ve had some conversations with producers in the last couple years, but the chemistry was off, they didn’t really get the heart and soul of the work, and even though they were interested in going further, my heart was saying “wait.” Recently, a seasoned and gifted producer found my business card and contacted me. We’re currently in conversation and planning a demo reel for her network contacts. She gets it. She loves the work, she understands the transformational power of it and how it can translate into compelling TV.

    I don’t know what will come of it, I’m optimistic, yet unattached to any outcome. I fully trust in things unfolding as they are meant to. Here’s the crazy part: I’ve never even set foot in the print shop where she picked up my card, from a community bulletin board.

  • Lately, I’ve been sharing, recommending and quoting from like crazy, this phenomenal, game-changing book I’ve been reading called “Inspired and Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding Doing Your Life’s Work” by Tama Kieves. I haven’t been this shaken and stirred by a book in years. I fantasized about having Tama as a guest on my upcoming internet radio show, SacredSexyU Radio, but had no idea how little-old-me could snag such an opportunity.Within days of that fantasy, sitting in my inbox was an email from her publicist from Penguin Publishing. She had found me through my blog where I had quoted from the book, and asked if I would be interested in interviewing Tama, both in my blog and on my radio show. Holy YES. Yes, I pinched myself. Yes, this is happening. Flower-energy does it again.

Yet, in all of my fragrant flower-energy experimentation, there is still something vital and undeniable in me.

It is also in my nature to be a bee.

There is bee energy in me. It is also my purest essence.

To buzz toward what attracts me, to hustle, to seek.

As a bee, I am aggressive and hungry, and I scan and work and create and connect. I cannot lose this part of me. I don’t want to.

So, I’ve decided to embrace both my flower self and my bee self. I’ve decided I am a hybrid creation. I am calling myself a FLOWBEE. What do you think? Catchy, huh? I thought so, too.

I can proudly and lovingly embrace and claim these varying facets of myself; they actually work well together. I want to be both.

So I’m off to do some buzzing and blooming now. Join me, won’t you?

Are you a bee, a flower or a Flowbee?

Whatever you are, when you stand in your most natural essence, being exactly who you truly are, magic happens.

Coming out of the dark: dumb mistakes and lovely little miracles

Sunday evening,  I was driving to my fiance’s place. Like I’d done a thousand times. I know that route like the back of my hand. Which is why I must have thought it was okay to text while driving.

Yes. I was texting. While driving. Suddenly, a high curb came up to meet me, I drove into it, onto it, off of it, my car flying out of control on a usually busy street, which thankfully at that moment was empty. My two passenger tires were shredded in pieces. I drove on my rims to a place to park. I cried.  I finished sending my not-so-important, SO-coulda-waited text message. Called Matt. Went straight to his couch, to nurse my trauma and guilt with a bottle of Reisling.

Then I sank into a dark place. The money I’d been saving for more important things was now being eaten up by repairs. The repair shop found more problems, engine stuff, brake stuff…  hundreds of dollars of my hard-earned money, washed away, in a matter of a couple of phone calls.

Even worse was the shame I was feeling for having “known better”… I could have killed someone. I kept picturing a mom and a baby in a stroller in that spot. I could have killed a baby. I don’t know why my imagination kept wanting to take me there, to a baby in a stroller.  It hadn’t happened. Sure, it could have. But it didn’t. But my imagination wanted me to feel, really feel, the shame and guilt that it thought I should be feeling.

What a waste of money… I could have killed somebody… I know better… What the hell was I thinking? How many times do I have to be taught the same freakin’ lesson: be present. Lisa. Be here.

I wallowed. I whined. I bitched. My fiancé kept calling me Grumpy Cat. And in the privacy of my own mind, I shamed myself, quite relentlessly.

Then, on the third day, I decided I was done. I was ready to leave my dark cloud of self-pity and self-flagellation, and I was ready to return to love. But how? I felt so stuck. I sat in front of my blank journal and could not muster anything nice or pleasant to write. I cried out to God on the pages of my journal.

“You have the tools.” Is what came out.  Bah. Tools, schmools.

Start with a gratitude list.”  I sat there for a moment, gratitude the last thing on my mind. I was feeling SO ungrateful. Pissy. Bleak. Self-pity and gratitude don’t like to play together. They just don’t have very much in common.

I forced myself to write. I ended up listing twenty things I was grateful for. And I’m serious, right then, I felt the clouds begin to part in my heart. An openness began to reveal itself. Damn, this shit works.

Then, I tuned in, I asked my Higher Self to write me a love note, another powerful tool, one I’d picked up from SARK.

Hey Sweetheart,

You’ve been pretty hard on yourself. Do you not know that as a human being, you are allowed – not just allowed—invited—to make mistakes? You are exactly right on track. Money comes and money goes and everything will be alright. It’s just money. Thank goodness you have money saved! Doesn’t it feel good to take care of it yourself? I love you more than anything in this world. You are precious.

I got on Facebook and ran into a couple of super inspiring posts, including Jim Carrrey’s minute-long pure love manifestion… it made me cry! It returned me to my essence. And the lovely image I posted here for you at the top of this blog showed up. Then, a friend (aka, angel) posted this magical playlist, “A Springtime Love Letter” on my FB page. Little miracles, one by one, returned me to love.

And as the dark gave way to the light, as I returned to pure perfect love, as I looked beyond the form, of cars, mistakes, money and whatnot… I was able to find in the folds of my soul a greater capacity for self-compassion and gratitude.

As joy returned to me, and I returned to joy, the world suddenly became a beautiful place again.

As a human being, I am invited to make mistakes. It’s part of my soul’s journey, for its evolution. My ego, however, HATES mistakes.

My soul learns from them.

As I return to my pure essence, which is love, I am also invited to appreciate the very human experience I am having. It’s all me. It’s all learning. And I have finally been cured of my urge to text and drive. Long time coming.  I’ve seen the light. And I’m alright. Yeah, everything is quite alright.