Magic-splaining

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Greetings Dear Ones –

In my line of work, illusions can get a bad rap. In the context of healing and coaching, I’m often questioning the stories that may be unconsciously ruling our lives. Our mind is constantly playing tricks on us – robbing us from the gifts of the past, aliveness of the present and limitlessness of the future by projecting our conditioned version of “reality” over it all.

Often we simply watch our script of life playing out.

But even in those moments of full presence when we meet life with our eyes wide open, illusions are still at work. When I look at a tree, I’m not seeing the literal tree. The cells in my retina absorb and convert light into electrochemical impulses carried through the optic nerve in my brain, which then does it’s best to translate the impulses into a picture of what I have learned to call “tree”.

The genetic condition in my ears, which affects the mechanical functioning of my hearing, has led to many experiences where I *perfectly* heard something the person never said. They may have said “please pass the potatoes” and I heard, clear as day, “I sneezed past the tomatoes” Since my ear bones had fused together impeding the clear signals, my brain stitched it together to resemble some form of language, even if it was a bit nonsensical.

All of our senses, including our sixth sense, are constantly transmitting information through our central nervous system, which then works to translate these waves into a digestible reality in sync with our current understanding.

This reality is only as fixed as we perceive it to be. But the true reality is multi-dimensional, and stretches far beyond anything that any of our senses can comprehend or our linear minds can conceptualize.

When our experience doesn’t match what we have come to know – our minds either disregard it completely or do their best to whip up a new box that can hold an understanding about whatever just happened. When this doesn’t work – we call it  supernatural… miraculous… magic.

Speaking of magic, last weekend I attended a show of the illusionist, Brad Barton,“The Reality Thief”.  He spent the show bending our linear time and space understandings, asking our minds to do olympic level gymnastic moves.

I certainly wasn’t gold medaling in understanding his magical ways, but I made it fit with the logic that “he’s clearly not doing actual magic, he’s just really good at his job”.

But then I got called up on stage to be part of one of the tricks. The short version of this elaborate and mind-blowing illusion involved his presenting a sealed envelope containing a letter he had written before the show. While on stage he asked me some personal questions, including my mom’s name and plans I had for the week. Then, ta-da! He opened the sealed envelope, took out the letter, and asked me to read aloud what he’d written.  The letter included my specific plans for the week and my mother’s name, Lorelei (spelled correctly, no less, which even people who know her often miss). Say what???

No matter how much “magic-plaining” my logical mind reaches for, my inner jury still comes back with the verdict that what he did was totally impossible. It just literally couldn’t have happened the way I saw it.  So my only choices are to… ignore it and move on…. assume that he can time travel… crown him the slickest illusionist in town… and ultimately, to surrender to the liberating knowledge that there is SOOOO much happening beyond what my mind can see, interpret or digest.

I wonder how much magic have I missed in my life, having stuffed it into a box of my knowable reality? How often have my beliefs kept me from seeing something I wasn’t expecting?

There is, of course, a base level of stability we all need to function, and part of this stability involves leaning on pillars of what we “know” to be true. But these pillars sometimes need to expand, lean or even fully crumble to wake us up to our soul’s next evolution. When we trust knowable concepts as capital T truth, this can feel terrifying. But when we surrender to remembering that life is infinitely bigger than we are, and say yes to flowing with the mystery, this disorientation becomes exciting and even magical…. explainable or not.

With love… and magic,

Vanessa

What Are You Fixing For?

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Hi friends,

Just wanted to drop in your inbox to remind you-

There’s nothing about you that needs to be fixed.

Seriously, there’s not one single part of you that showed up on this planet, or slowly became, defective. You are not fixed and you don’t need to be fixed.

In my coaching practice the most common sentiment of suffering I hear is “I’m not enough.”  The second most common is, “I’m too much” Our striving for some unattainable level of perfection comes from the illusion that intrinsically we don’t measure up. So much suffering comes in trying to avoid falling off a precarious, impossibly narrow, and ultimately non-existent cosmic balance beam.

Along our life’s journey we pick up strategies to survive, physically and socially. At the time, these patterns were brilliant responses based on circumstances and our understandings of reality. But like everything in nature, we are meant to evolve, change and grow, never truly fixed in one way of being. Feeling the pain of what’s no longer working is not a sign of what’s wrong with you… but an indication that you are aligned with your natural rhythms of your life.

There was nothing “wrong” with the caterpillar, but eventually, it was time to grow wings.

Still don’t buy it?  Is your mind coming up with a long list of supportive evidence for all the ways you are f*cked up? Great! This means you’ll have plenty of material to mine when exploring the deeper needs buried under all these rules about how and who you should, and should not, be.

Is some part of you dismissing this as new age, rose colored delusion meant to avoid true responsibility? Awesome. Response-ability, the ability to respond to what’s really there, is a crucial part of healing, skepticism is a response.

Because, of course, there are plenty of ways in which we have disconnected from and contorted our essences. But instead of trying to “fix” them, we can notice which outdated patterns have become fixed and bring curiosity and compassion to them. Instead of asking “Why I am so messed up?” We can ask “What is the deeper need that this pain is expressing?”

*The moments I feel I am too loud, I see the part of me who has needed to scream… and in this moment, welcome the opportunity to tune in and listen.

*The times when I feel like my body isn’t the right shape, I can feel back to the earnest young girl trying desperately to fit impossible standards of beauty… and in this moment, celebrate my deep and sacred desires for intimacy, acceptance and connection.

*The points when I get frustrated at my lack of willpower, I tap into all the ways in which I’ve tried to avoid feeling powerless… and in this moment, claim the wonder and mystery of all that is beyond my ability to control.

*When I get on myself for being defensive, I can stand in awe of the protector within me, who at times has had to work hard to keep me safe… and in this moment, pause and feel the sweetness of my innocence and vulnerability.

Try this yourself… create a list of everything that you’ve assumed needs “fixing” in your life… and see if you can find both the ways that this pattern once served you, and the deeper needs that it’s now expressing.

In fix-ness and in health,

Vanessa

Falling Thoughts Ahead

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“Maybe they won’t like this newsletter. Someone may read it and think I’m too ‘out there,’ or don’t know what I’m talking about… or not sensitive to other people’s realities… or perhaps there will be grammatical or spelling errors… or I’ll mess something up and send it out with the wrong month written in the heading, and I’ll look careless….. or maybe everything will go great, and my life will expand and dreams come true, but then maybe I won’t have the energy to live up to the new demands… or I’ll never relax… or create… or… or… or maybe…”

Hello friends,

Meet Ms. W (short for Ms. Worrier), a vigilant aspect of me that shows up in my thinking brain when I’m wired, tired, stressed or stretching way out of my comfort zone.

When I’m more resourced, I barely notice her- because even if any or all of this came to be, I know I’ll be okay. Life – and most likely my newsletter – will go on, and I’ll have an opportunity to learn and expand and improve for next time. If Ms. W were a friend, and not a part of me, I’d distance myself from her, and her very narrow lens of the world, filled with some many potential pitfalls and “what if’s.”

But for better or worse, she has a physiological assignment to alert me to potential danger, regardless of the statistical likelihood or actual threat to my safety. Thankfully, through the process of learning new ways and unlearning old, she’s has been regulated to occasional consultant in my life. When I’m facing a challenge, or stretching into something new, she may show up to point out any and all possible obstacles. From there, I’ve learned to take Ms. W’s suggestions and use more expansive parts of myself to creativity prepare.

I’m guessing you have your own version of her. Thanks to evolution, this ability to scan the future and the past for any threats and/or thwarted plans is programmed into our brains. The following points may be helpful to remember for building a healthier relationship to this part of yourself:

*There’s nothing wrong with you.

This is simply part of how humans tick. And every single response you have, including this one, has a wisdom to it, even if it’s a misguided or outdated wisdom. There are times when this kind of vigilant response is perfect, the key is engaging the tools to help see, and shift, when it’s overworking or not helpful.

*You are not your thoughts.

Learn to observe…. practice stepping out and watching these thoughts. Our thinking minds are actually more like radios, receiving the thoughts that are in the collective field – some of them higher frequency than others. When you notice a thought, become curious about what happens to your body, energy level and emotional state. If it lifts and expands you, it’s most likely a thought that’s aligned with your truth. If it contracts, depletes or stresses you, it’s most likely a load of crap.

Meditation, SRI and other mindfulness practices help reprogram the brain to observe from a larger vantage point.

*Learn to identify and acknowledge what’s underneath the thought.

When you notice a thought that contracts or depletes you, speak it out loud, write it down or record it in a voice memo. Now listen back to the words, as though a beloved friend is sharing them. What’s the emotional subtext of that thought (fear, anger, loneliness, etc.)?  What might be the deeper need underneath (connection, safety, self-empowerment, preparation, etc.)? This practice helps create space to compassionately witness the emotion and respond to the need in a more creative, effective way.

The more we practice having a new relationship to our own Ms. W’s, the longer the gap between the trigger and the response.  We can see the worried thoughts the way we might see a “Falling Rocks Ahead” road sign. 99% of the time, no boulders are going to fall on us…. but the sign, like the thought, is an invitation to pause and respond appropriately.

From this perspective — we can use the information to WIDEN the view of the current conditions, rather than shrink it, making us paradoxically more able to respond to potential danger. And with that, Ms. W can relax once more.

With love, and an awareness of all the falling thoughts ahead,

Vanessa

KonMari’ing Our Souls

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Welcome to March Dear Ones,

Last weekend, I held up an old sweater of mine, considering whether it still “sparked joy” in me. Turns out, not so much. So I thanked the sweater for occasionally keeping me warm and for keeping my closet full, and placed it in the “to-go” pile along with several of its closest closet companions.

For those of you who aren’t following, recently I immersed myself with the contagiously sweet goddess of organizing, Marie Kondo, and her KonMari method of “Tidying Up.” In this work, she suggests viewing possessions in light of the energy they spark within us. Although I’m usually resistant to joining bandwagons, “KonMari” sparks flew through my home recently via a Saturday afternoon of streaming her show. I can now proudly say that every single piece of clothing, paper, and once randomly stuffed piece of “stuff” in my home has been intentionally chosen to carry into my future and has a clear, visible place to live.

And beyond my home’s newfound lightness, this process has sparked so much creativity and energy in me. Now that I can see everything in my drawers (thanks to her unconventional folding methods), I am starting to put unlikely articles of clothing together in my day’s outfit. Since all my notes are filed and marked clearly, I suddenly feel more excitement to go through them and work on my book. Seemingly unrelated to any home organization, I finally finished the redesign of my website that’s been lingering for months…. and, for no explainable reason, I’m enjoying wearing my hair in a whole new way.

I’m not simply feeling “tidied up,” I’m feeling like all my most engaging and energizing parts are suddenly available at my fingertips… and I have a hunger to take it deeper. What would life be like if we could KonMari our souls?

I summarized her method into four basic principles that seem to have some interesting parallels in how we approach our own internal clutter and vision for what could be.

Here goes… KonMari’ing Your Soul…

  1. Envision What You Desire Your Home (Body/Mind) to Eventually Be

In regards to your life… how do you sense your future self would like to feel? In the most energized fulfilled version of yourself – what are you spending your time on? What thoughts are you focused on? How do you feel in your body?

When we get a sense of what we desire –  and what our most energized self is like – we can use that version as a magnet, pulling us forward into our next chapter.

  1. Commit to Tidying Up Completely (Or, in this case, with complete presence)

Before we move forward, we must bring full presence, acknowledgment and acceptance to where we are right now. One thing Marie asks people to do is to gather up each category of of their possessions, in its totality, in one big pile. This way they can really see – and feel – just how much stuff they have. Really being with it brings up the necessary emotions to fuel change.

In a similar way, we are invited to pause and be with all that’s moving through us, acknowledging what’s true and real in the moment, with compassion and acceptance, allowing the necessary cry, scream and/or laugh in response. From here, the way forward starts to become more clear.

Unlike clutter in our house – there is no “completely” uncluttering our psyches. But we can bring complete presence to any given moment and, when the emotion comes, allow that wave to have complete expression. This is what moves us through, rather than keeping us stuck.

  1. Pause and ask “Does This Spark Joy?” & “Do I Want To Carry This Into My Future With Me?” If Not, Thank It and Let It Go.

When we do feel heavy or stuck, even after presencing and emoting – it’s good to ask what belief/story is underneath this feeling. What’s happening is what’s happening… but the story we spin about what’s happening and where we focus fully dictates our experience of it.

If the narrative we’ve been buying into sparks anything other than joy – it’s time for an upgrade. When someone says “be realistic” what they probably mean is “keep reality limited to the view I’m currently aware of and can be “certain” of.” There are always multiple perspectives from which the view the same set of circumstances. If you current vantage point leaves you feeling powerless and/or exhausted – put it in the goodwill pile of your life, thanking it for serving you over the time that it did. (Every story had wisdom at some point, it just may be outdated wisdom now.)

Your future self will thank you and a better story to navigate will have space to emerge.

  1. (Re)Organizing In A Way That All Is Visible

One of my favorite parts of the KonMari method is her clear way to display and honor each thing chosen to keep. She encourages her followers to fold and sort everything in ways that keep all our stuff visible, therefore respecting their importance.

Now, when I open my drawers, I see a beautiful palette of color and design – and my creativity feels so nourished. Nothing is in the shadows, or hidden balled up in the back of the drawer.

What if the same were true with parts of ourselves? It’s not about undiscerning exposure or oversharing – even Marie is a fan of doors and drawers. But what if, within our own awareness, we left room for every part of us to stay in the light, nothing shamed or hidden or contorted to try to be something we are not?  This means that the scared, messy and insecure parts have spaces on the shelf right along with the confident, put together and brave parts.

When we have committed to and done the work of feeling what’s calling us from our future, accepting and being with what’s in our present, tidying up our limiting beliefs and allowing all of our internal pieces to be seen, attended to and loved, there is a wholeness that brings flow, energy, creativity and new possibilities… not to mention a tidier home.

With sparks of joy,

Vanessa

The Gall of It All

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Hello Loves –

And Happy New Year to you! (A bit belated for the Gregorian calendar, but right on time for the Lunar Calendar, which begins anew today!)

I had every intention of getting a January newsletter out  – even had it half written a few days after NYD – but, so far anyway, 2019 is offering me a fresh dose of demands to stay present with what is here and asking to be experienced, rather than what I’d *planned* to do/feel/experience. Such is the way of a life committed to soul guidance, over linear trajectories.

Feeling run down and heavier than usual last month, I committed to clearing out excess – unnecessary weight from my closet, my schedule, my diet, my body and my heart. Almost immediately I began feeling lighter and more energized.

And then, as the youngsters say, “sh*t got real.” A little over a week ago, about two weeks into my “operation liberation,” I begun having extreme abdominal pain. Several hours of this, and realization that my abundant bag of self-care tricks weren’t cutting it, I went to the ER. Their conclusion: Elevated liver numbers and a gallbladder attack caused from gallstones.

What?? The gall of this diagnosis initially offended and confused me. My protective, but less evolved, parts felt self-righteous and defensive that such a thing could possibly be true after two weeks of feeling so great and twenty years of relative clean eating and well living.

But then my soul gently and compassionately nudged me, as she does, inviting a larger perspective. I paused and choose to just stay with whatever my body was communicating – to be with, even welcome, this extreme pain as a messenger carrying wisdom that my conscious mind had clearly been oblivious to. Within a few days, the composting of this  oh so “real sh*t” going down in my internal organs began clear – and insights, clarity and healing poured in.

What I know from my years studying energy medicines is that our gallbladder and liver connect not only our body’s ability to process and filter fat and toxins – but also serve to digest frustration, anger and rage. Perhaps no surprise, these are not emotions that this Midwestern gal, with deep lineage roots in both Japanese and Evangelical Christian culture, learned to experience in very healthy ways. I basically got a PhD level education in how to be “nice” at all costs.

Gratefully,  through my own healing path I’ve learned to value these – and all emotions – for the wisdom they bring. I’ve had moments of being able to just scream, punch a pillow and dance out my rage in ways that liberated and energized me and freed me from the stories.  In my role as a healer, I’ve facilitated countless people in creating safe containers to emote in similar ways and use these hot emotions for breakthrough and boundary upgrades.

I’ve learned to more easily act upon one of my soul’s missions, to be a truth teller and liberator, by feeling these emotions and then communicating them with presence and kindness – even when I need to say things that don’t sound or feel “nice”.

But clearly my body’s been holding, quite literally in the knapsack of my gallbladder – little gemstones of some unmetabolized energy – and the “attack” was my body’s brilliant way of getting my attention and pointing me to where this available fuel was hanging out.

There’s plenty to be angry about, of course – you can’t turn on the news for more than a minute without some fresh hell to digest. But anger is not the same thing as blame. Blame is a story that keeps us from feeling our emotions and can stay fixed for years, steaming and suffering.

Frustration, anger and rage, often triggered by external events, are here to act as portals into feeling our way through to a higher level of truth. When fully expressed without attachment to the story, they can be cleared of all charge in about a minute and catapult our growth and efficacy as change makers in our world.

Every time we lower our standards, say yes when we mean no, contort our desires and/or values, buy into limiting beliefs, or stay quiet when we need to speak up – all to stay safe or avoid the risk of losing approval or love – our natural energetic flow gets bound up. If enough of this energy binds up, we feel stuck – life feels like it is happening “to us” rather than “through us.” And it is… because we aren’t participating fully and truthfully.

Frustration, anger and rage are conduits that can break that stuckness and allow us to finally say… scream… ENOUGH!!!!! And then we can begin to take action and make choices aligned with the truth of our souls.

So this month, I’m saying “Enough!”

…Enough! to ignoring my intuition because I’m scared of  the uncomfortable and new territories it’s leading me to.

…Enough! to betraying my true desires just because it’s not so hard to go along with what someone else wants.

…Enough! to telling any story that credits my pain and suffering solely to external circumstances.

…Enough! to believing the cultural hallucinations about what is and is not possible.

…Enough! to numbing and stuffing my feelings with food or stimulants or alcohol.

…Enough! to waiting for permission, validation or certainty to leap toward the life I desire.

My body’s got a lot of gall, speaking up how it did… and I’m so thankful.

With love (and the full range of emotions that goes with it),

Vanessa

*P.S. – one upgrade I’m making in 2019 is changing up my stylized all lower case writing style. It was a style that’s worked well for me for the last twenty years or so, but something about this new version I’m incarnating, wants capital letters. So there you go.

*P.S.S. — I’m feeling SOOO much better – physically and in every other way since my body’s wake up call last week. I’m raising my standard for health and committed not to “getting rid of or managing” the stones – but to having the most vital, healthy, fully expressed liver and gallbladder possible!

advent of surprise

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 happy december friends,

at the beginning of the month, i headed back to my home state of indiana to celebrate my father as he rang in his 70th year. it was a surprise party that he knew nothing about, including the fact that my husband and i were coming from california for it. i’m happy to say – it worked! he was surprised indeed, and the whole night was a magical time of his family, friends and colleagues affirming his life so far and life to come.

the look on his face when he walked in, despite seven decades of life, was pure childlike wonder and awe. it was clear his brain was doing it’s best to integrate and catch up with what was happening, while his heart was bursting open and receiving the love. and the joy pulsed through my whole being as well, after seeing the vision realized. there was total and pure presence, the kind that comes effortlessly at these heightened moments.

and yet, unique circumstances like this that create heightened moments aren’t the only portals into energized aliveness and presence. within each moment lies the potential to be engaged, awakened and even amazed. the key is staying open to, and intentionally seeing life through this lens.

in the christian tradition which i was raised, december is the season of advent – a four week period focused on building anticipation toward a miracle.

for me as a kid this meant daily chocolate from my advent calendar, tearing off loops from the paper chains, lighting one more candle each week, and watching presents, containing unknown treasures, slowly gather under the tree. this coupled with the fact that my own birthday lay in the middle of advent, meant the whole month of december was laced with expectant anticipation that created a ripe field for magic to grow.

the latin root word in advent literally means “to arrive.” and operate in a state of advent — means holding space for the possibility that something miraculous is always on the verge of arriving.

our brains go partially to sleep when things feels monotonous and predictable. when we fall under the spell that we know what’s coming or at least the nature of what’s coming, energy floods out of life, and we live with our primary attention caught in the ongoing chatter of our thoughts.

however, we can choose to wake up and tune into the unknowable mysteries of the universe, understanding that within this moment – and every single moment – lies unlimited potential for change, magic and awe inspiring love. in this state our black and white life becomes technicolor… the once predictable day becomes fertile for new seeing.

but many times we don’t want to be surprised. the infinite nature of each moment include lots of frightening storylines and our brains evolved to live under a false sense that we can know – and even control – what’s coming. but although certainly not all surprises are welcome ones, living this way –  boxed into routines and life as we think we know it – doesn’t actually protect us from any potential pain, and ultimately disconnects us from thriving.

even momentary investigation reveals the truth that ultimately, the only thing we can truly control is where we put our focused attention. our souls are hungry to be fully alive, enraptured by the awake, engaged and unpredictable nature of our journey. ultimately, we long to be joyfully surrendered to the current of our life, wherever it flows.

this does not make us victims, with life happening *to* us… but participants in the fabric of life, that is happening *through* us. we are life itself, mysteriously living.

are you willing to be surprised? are you open to releasing your stories about people and situations and enter into real time, present relationships? are you able to humbly admit that most of life is beyond knowable reality? are you interested in reclaiming some of the awe and wonder you had as a child?

if so, you may want to try some of the following, to put this willingness into practice this season.

*start each day with the expectation that you will be shown an aspect of your life that you’ve never had conscious awareness of.

*when you are with a family member, partner, child or close friend, open yourself up to notice three things that you’ve never noticed about them before. (especially good for the people you feel you have totally figured out and don’t think ever change)

*start intentionally bringing novelty into your life in the meals you choose to eat, routes you take to familiar destinations, ways you wear your clothes, hair, etc.

*be on the lookout for static stories about how yourself, others or the world “just are” — when you catch one that feels limiting or draining, pause and ask yourself “what if it wasn’t true?” and “how might i contribute to a new story?”

*if there are situations you feel stuck in, zoom out and imagine you were looking at the situation as an impartial observer – what do you notice now that wasn’t there before?

hope you find these surprisingly helpful! and here’s to the advent of your next adventure – unknowable as it finds you in this moment.

with love,

vanessa

pause, breathe, soften… love

wavesdear friends,

being overseas, mostly offline except for uploading some photos now and then – immersed in mama’s nature’s radiance and in relationship with so many beautiful, powerful souls, for an entire month was a sweet and rejuvenating respite.

my time, in both indonesia and japan, was rich beyond measure, and i’m still integrating at a body and soul level. i won’t try to summarize it all here, and instead happily share more in person for anyone interested. (but i’d be remiss not to tell everyone that if you ever find yourself in nara, japan – hanging in a park filled with tame deer – make sure not to miss freshly made red bean mochi rolled in sesame powder exactly five seconds before being handed to you to eat. seriously the best thing my taste buds have ever experienced.)

right after returning home, still dreamy with jet lag, i began my slow reemergence to life in america by casting my ballot in the most engaged in midterm elections of my lifetime. the results, although not the blue tsunami that some of us dreamt of, included an inspiring number of historic firsts for women, people of color and lgbt leaders. this along with some of the close races in parts of our country that would have never have been close just a few years ago, are all death rattles in the patriarch’s lung and infusions of life into a new consciousness that’s emerging.


one of my favorite sentiments from the modern day prophetess, has been coursing through me over and over these days…

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“another world is not only possible, she is on her way. on a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”   

-arundhati roy

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perhaps the patriarch, commonly associated as dominance of males over females, is more nuanced and far reaching. the greek word “patria” literally means family, the idea being that one person (historically presumed a male) has dominion over the rest of the family. however, the literal word is not masculine in nature – it simply implies that one has dominion over the rest. a construct so deeply embedded in our psyches, it can be impossible to imagine a world that isn’t built on someone/something in power over us… it’s hard to find a time in history when the storyline hasn’t been set up this way… god having dominion over humans… humans over nature… one group of people over another…

women and other under represented groups claiming roles of power, in even greater ways than we saw tuesday, is a crucial step toward healing for where we are at this collective moment.  further out, i see the the next step toward wholeness beyond simply ‘someone else’ in charge, but an entirely new consciousness all together. i sense us ultimately moving from “dominion over” to being “in relationship with” (with our earth, with one another, with different parts of ourselves).

beyond any previous structures of equality or shared power… what is being birthed on this planet now is an entirely new lens from which we as a species begin to see all of life in relationship to each other – many threads in one interconnected weaving.

every cell in my being is already feeling this way of being coursing through our collective experience. but change, especially change that upends the building blocks of how life has been structured, can be scary and has its own timeline. so let’s not confuse the tight grip and loud bark of the patriarch as regression… this is a sign of progress. when someone, or an idea, isn’t ready to die, it doesn’t go down quietly.

during the women’s retreat i co-led in bali last month our manta was… “pause,  breathe, soften… love” perhaps these four simple steps are tools we can use to move with more grace out of the patriarch and into a more relational, interconnected way of being.

what would conversations around politics, or at work, or with your family… or even with yourself, look like if you followed these four simple cues? what if everyone first included a moment to:

pause (respond, rather than react)…

breathe (draw in energy from beyond yourself)….

soften (connect to your most flowing, embodied space)…

and love (speak and move from our hearts, rather than your mind)?

may we each pause long enough today to hear yourself… and the next level of consciousness… breathing it’s way towards us my friend.

with love,

vanessa

falling leaves, spaces left

IMG_8182blessed equinox dear ones,

the first twenty-one years of my life were lived in indiana and then massachusetts, where each year at this time, the foliage began an explosion of color and the air turned crisp like the apples. for the last twenty years, i’ve called the temperate, somewhat seasonless, climate of san francisco home, but the autumn air is still my favorite, and i love detecting the little clues that mama nature leaves, showing the transitioning from summer into fall.

this fall, the autumnal experience of falling away has been heightened in my own life by loss. right around the time i would have normally written my september newsletter, two deaths in my close circles stopped my usual flow and created a spacious pause from which i am now beginning to navigate anew.

the first came as a total surprise when a dear friend very unexpectedly lost her newborn infant due to complications in childbirth. sage, the name our friends gave to this precious little girl, breathed on this earth for just a few hours. her death brought up within me, and our community, shock, confusion, anger, deep sadness and ultimately total humble surrender to the mysterious forces weaving together life beyond any of our control.

all births, like all deaths, bring us to our knees in surrender that life’s power resides beyond what our minds can micromanage or really, even comprehend. and when the gap between the two is so devastatingly short – we have no choice but to throw in the white flag and ask for grace and trust to go forward with faith.  

a few days later, while still processing the gravity of sage’s passing, a less surprising, and perhaps more digestible, loss came with the peaceful passing of my 94 year old grandmother edna. she had been ready to go for years, after a long and full life of service, creativity, devotion and deep love for her family and her faith. she left me with so many gifts, including a dedication to writing, song, art, service and witty wordplays. on her final day on earth, she was surrounded by family singing the songs to her that she’d composed earlier in life. when she transitioned at the auspicious moment of 11:11, with her children by her side, there was a deep sense of peace in all of us connected to her.

and yet losing my mother’s mother, my last living grandparent and the woman whose womb was the birthplace of the egg that came to create me twenty-six years later, has shifted the tectonic plates of my psyche in ways hard to express.

that initial week after both deaths, and somewhat even still now, my mind was fuzzy, dancing between the worlds in that liminal space where the veil is thin and sometimes even lifted.  words were often at a loss and life’s been feeling a bit like the empty branches of late fall, waiting dormantly through the winter and into spring when new life will emerge.

every season has shedding, of course – the kind we choose and the kind we have no choice around. but autumn especially reflects a spaciousness, pause and a reminder of that all that we are losing now will turn into the composted riches of next season.

in a couple of weeks, i embark on a month long journey to asia, knowing that as i explore indonesia (a land i’ve never seen) and japan (a land i’ve visited before, that my mother was raised in and that grandma edna and grandpa harold spent nearly four decades in), that both sage and grandma edna will be traveling with me – guiding me from the unknown, through the unknown.

on this equinox, whether you are grieving, growing or both simultaneously, may we each harvest the gifts left in the spaces of loss, and be guided gently toward all that life is readying us for.

much love,

vanessa

these are the emotions in your neighborhood

these are the emotions in your neighborhoodgreetings friends,

last week i went to see “won’t you be my neighbor?” a documentary about fred (mr.) rogers and his iconic television show that helped raise so many children in late twentieth century america.

my inner child and i sat in the theatre remembering this man who was our television neighbor, ally, friend and advocate.

what i mainly remembered before watching the movie was his kind presence and embodiment of pure love (as well as his puppets, train cars, sweaters and songs, of course!) but the movie reminded me that he was also passionately committed to presenting the hard realities of the day in ways that were more digestible for children; giving us all permission to safely feel and emote the wide ranges of emotion that come with being human.

his songs included bright, heart warming favorites like  “i like you as you are”, “it’s such a good feeling” and “won’t you be my neighbor” of course, but also more shadowy songs like “what do you do with the mad that you feel”? and “sometimes isn’t always”

these more somber tunes let kids know it’s okay to mad, frustrated, sad, scared or whatever else they are feeling and reminded us that whatever we are feeling won’t stay ‘always’.

the movie also showed that this man, who had become iconized for his good heartedness and gentleness, had his own moments of feeling frustrated, discouraged, angry and unsure of himself and his purpose in the world.

if mr. rogers made space for all the emotions in the neighborhood, certainly we can give permission for all of ours.

we have been conditioned, for the most part, to think our emotions rather than feel them. we’ve learned that displays of emotion can be unsafe, unacceptable or indicative of poor character. but an emotion, in its purest form, is simply e* (energy) in motion. when we feel safe enough we will naturally emote (cry, laugh, growl, moan, shake, scream, tremble, etc.)  this happens for anywhere from a few seconds to about two minutes; in fact, the full length of an emotional circuit in the body doesn’t exceed two minutes. when an emotion is kept in motion in it entirety, we almost always feel at least a little more space, ease and peace of mind with which to respond to what life is asking of us.

alternately, when we don’t feel safe enough we will wall off the emotion and begin to create stories and painful thoughts about it. the response becomes frozen and shows up in the body as tension, anxiousness or numbness (a strategy our body uses when we short circuit from an overloaded system). all of this bottled up emotion can’t stay contained forever or completely, and it will leak out in toxic ways all over our life, causing eruptive reactions rather than clear responses.  

instead of feeling and safely expressing pure rage for one minute, we might go around leaking out small amounts of irritation for years.

it is also important to acknowledge that the emotion we experience is our own. as mr. rogers tells us, when we aren’t sure what to do with “our mad” we can “stomp, stomp, stomp.” he doesn’t tell the children, you can go scream at your parents and tell them how terrible they are. reactionary emotions directed at someone else are unproductive and tend to be generative of more of the same. when we give ourselves the space to emote without story or blame, then our responses are clearer and truer to our intentions and desired outcomes.

in order to do this we don’t need to just find an outlet – we can remember that we *are* the outlet, we just need to plug in to ourselves.

there are infinite numbers of ways to plug into our emotions. (i’ve shared a fun one below!) listening to or making music is a big one for me. as is screaming in the car with windows up, punching a pillow or dancing wildly with lots of unedited sounds.  or more gently, finding a few quiet moments to do become present with myself or someone i love and trust, and simply acknowledging what feels hard, always opens my emotional gates.

one of my favorite and most and fun, accessible ways to get blocked emotion moving is “the laughing game.”  to play this simple game, you simply set a timer for a minute or two and then laugh for no reason. and then laugh some more about the silliness of laughing for no reason and keep going. you can do it on your own, but is even more fun with friends, and especially children.

i shared this trick with a client of mine who shared it with her toddler son. earlier this week she sent me an audio clip of her four year old teaching his baby sister the game. i’ve had listened to it every day since and laughed right along with it every time, always feeling better after.  below is a clip of it to get you started!

(click here to experience the pure joy of a little one playing the laughing game!)

sometimes we’ve bottled up emotions for so long it can feel like once we open the floodgates, it will never stop. but i promise you it will. and finding a safe place on your body to come back, reground and breath slowly after an wave or two, will be very helpful in that.  

so thank you, mr. rogers, and all the many allies in this world, who remind the children, and the children within us all, that there is wisdom to be found in all the many emotions in our neighborhood…. our sadness sensitizes us for compassion… our fear alerts us to potential threats… our joy reminds us to play through it all. they all play their part in the fullness of our humanity.

laughing, crying, screaming, moaning, shaking, dancing and moving through it all with you,

vanessa

interdependence day

interdependence day illustration

greetings friends —

last week around the solstice, when the sun was shining it’s peak number of hours, i danced on the roof with a small group of close friends. we laughed and posed for hilarious photos and made shadow puppets with our bodies high up on the building across the street. we created impromptu songs and moved our bodies freely and called out for one another to watch ourselves when one of us got a little too close to the roof’s edge.

i felt alive and light… grateful to be in a community of people who value wild expression and objective-free play through all ages of our lives. i felt fully seen and and able to see fully, all at once.

being with them in this way reminded me of the rhythms of my long summer days as a child, when my friends and i would create for the sake of creation and travel through our worlds, real and imagined.

it’s summer my friends — and mama nature is calling us to get out, engage in new creations, soak in the sun (or in my city’s case, the sweet layer of fog) and play. but for those of us who have spent even one minute tuned into the constant string of horrors of the news cycle, sometimes it can feel impossible to locate enough available energy to even consider ways to play and make sweet connection with your community.

today america, in it’s fractured state, observes independence day…  but perhaps true liberation and freedom comes not from the concept of independence from something, but from the experience of interdependence with all. becoming independent inherently implies separation from someone or something. this serves a purpose in certain moments of bondage, when one’s power has been stripped and their agency in life must be reclaimed, but as a way of life, the model of rugged individualism isn’t working and the visible wounds of living in this isolated way are everywhere. going it alone, protecting yourself at the expense of other’s wellbeing – as a country – or as an individual, disconnects us from the true nature of reality. 

technologically speaking the world is reflecting interconnectedness more than ever, and in the face of that, our addiction to tribal and isolationist thinking becomes increasingly toxic and dissonant to our beings.

when we see ourselves as individual beings trying to stay afloat with all that is happening “to” us or our world, connected to our devices, but disconnected from the multi-dimensional reality of the stories we are in taking in, we can feel flat, two-dimensional,  anxious and depressed. from this vantage point, things appear to get worse and worse, stress heightens and the most common instinct, micro or macro, is to isolate further in fear and a false notion of some form of an “other” who is against us and must be fought against.

it serves no one to put our heads in the clouds and ignore the atrocities happening in our country and beyond right now, nor does it serve to bury our heads under the covers in despair and ignore all the beauty and miracles that are unfolding around us every day. when we stay engaged and present as part of the larger whole, there’s room and resourcefulness to respond to it all.

we are all in that all together, friends. the air you breathe out is the air I breathe in. in fact that air contains the same molecules that every living thing that’s ever lived and died on this earth has breathed. pausing to bring attention to your breath, by design, reminds our system of our interwoven nature.

it’s easy to focus only on what’s been taken, or what we fear will be taken, but what if we each shifted our focus to what we are adding to our collective right at this moment? every thought and action you engage with ripples through us all, for better or for worse.

may we each feel supported and connected enough to choose the thoughts and actions that are the most engaging, energizing, beneficial to the whole and lead toward true liberation. and may today, in this country and beyond, be a celebration of our interdependence day – a chance to compost the idea of “other,” step out of isolation and despair and begin to dance, sing, create art and be in the community.

interdependently with you,

vanessa

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