a wake, with love

nessy-awake-pichello dear ones,

in the wake of this election (and for many it has felt like a wake), the moon rushed in closer than she’s been to earth in seventy years to shine some light, and asking us to stay awake through this darkness. (or at least that’s one of the stories that keeps me inspired and moving forward at this time).

we all sit with uncertainty of what these results say about the current state of our citizenry and what it may mean for our individual and collective future. many times this past week, i have felt like a first responder to a tragic scene where the rights and lives of so many people are directly threatened. trauma responses have been reactivated in a huge number of people and a massive amount of energy has been unleashed in our interconnected experience. there’s so much to say, so much to hear and so much to feel. with these newly improved hearing ears of mine, i’ve been doing my best this past week to actively listen. we don’t know (ever) know what’s coming, but i can do my best to be present with what is.

last sunday, i walked around lake merritt in oakland with 8000 other folks who circled the perimeter of the heart shaped body of water, gathered together to grieve and call for a better expression of collective life. underneath the tears, the songs, the drums and the beautifully painted signs declaring different variations of “love wins,” i heard a deep call within me for something beyond winning and losing.

love doesn’t win, because love is not in battle with anything or one.

people, sometimes deeply wounded people, win positions. certain ideas win out over other ideas for a time. unlikely baseball teams win world series once every 108 years or so. but love doesn’t win… and it doesn’t lose either. love does not exist in the polarity where our minds compartmentalize so much of life. love has no opposite. when the illusions of our mind that cause disconnect melt away, love just is.

plugging into a fearful and worried mind. covering up. isolating ourselves from all but those who agree with us. believing every thought we have or thing we read. being disconnected from the pure energy that flows naturally from our hearts – these are not in opposition to love anymore than thirst is competing with water. thirst is a cry for water and a sign that our natural state of hydration is off in the same way that hate, fear, worry, complacency, unworthiness, arrogance and so many other constricted aspects of the human condition are not our enemies but calls to reconnect with our natural state. love.

but there does seem to be an intense struggle between a worldview that is fueled by a desire to create a more diverse collective experience fueled by love (which will include lots of risk and uncertainty) and one that is isolated, disconnected and fueled by fear (but much of the time feels “safer” and more comfortable).  we are steeped in a longstanding state of collective consciousness that no longer serves us,  built on tribal polarities of: us vs. them, good vs. evil, right vs. left, “love” vs. hate.

i believe there is an evolution of our consciousness beyond this binary understanding, and humanity is continuing to hunger for it and be ushered into it. we’ve seen it in all the many strides forward we’ve made in understanding the “other” – including and protecting the rights and lives of people who share a set of different experiences. it’s been facilitated by the intimate knowing of one another in cities and online, where we can no longer so easily isolate from those who have different experiences. it’s been disrupting the power structures whose existence was fueled by keeping certain people or groups silent and out of their power. many of those who have ruled over and felt safe within this last level of consciousness are grasping on to their scraps and lashing out.

we must acknowledge that we are not yet anywhere close to fully embodying this new level of knowing and being. in the end the unity that comes from being fully connected to our natural state of love IS the tonic we each need and our world needs – but calling for an immediate jump to that place, without being present with all that has kept us disconnected, stunts our healing. i confess that many times in my life i have tried to jump right to holding hands and singing kumbaya primarily because it feels better than actually facing all the parts of myself and relationships that have been disconnected from or actively betrayed my own truth and nature. i’m working on metaphorically holding hands and singing with all those shadowy parts now.

in the body there is a concept called a “healing crisis.” it’s a time when a state of imbalance can no longer be repressed, numbed out or ignored. the innate intelligence of one’s body takes over and purges the toxicity in what are often painfully sympathetic ways. it’s the moment of vomiting, break out, pus releasing or the like when we can no longer look outside of ourselves for a fix. the only real choice is to move through the parts of ourselves that had been buried in the shadows. afterward we are restored to a new level of understanding and wellness, but in the thick of it it is typically quite terrible and hard to stay with.

i sense that the energetic system that we call “america” is in the midst of such a healing crisis right now. we are confronting the toxic residue of generations of oppressed parts of our community and ourselves. we are moving out of the belief that some external power or authority can make everything okay and seeing that we are at some level responsible for what is being expressed. many of us who have had the privilege to avoid the daily pain and symptoms of these realities are being confronted with them in a new way. this is the point we must be with the pain, naming it, stumbling through it, moving us through to the next level. right now, we must be with all the shadows that have been blocking our individual and collective light – with love, because that’s all there is.

love is the answer, but it’s not a platitude or an excuse for ignoring the painful realities. love is a verb that keeps us actively engaged and present with what is, continually holding space for what could be.

how does love show up in your life, when you really love someone or something what version of you arises? for me, when i’m fueled by love, i have space to really hear and be with the true need underneath someone’s words… i feel unafraid of speaking my own truth, or being vulnerable… when i am fueled by love i feel the pain of all the parts of me that have been denied loved and judged and can more easily be present with someone’s experience, even when it’s very different from my own or it makes me uncomfortable. when i’m in that space i am better able to stand up, refusing to give my power to anything external, including answering to an authority that i sense is being motivated from a wounded, disconnected place.  

as we move collectively and individually through this healing crisis, be kind to yourself and others.do your best to practice radical empathy, which is not putting yourself in someone elses shoes, but listening for and imagining what walking in their shoes, with their experience, might be like. this next phase of consciousness demands that we find a way to do what often feels impossible… to let all the polarities exist within and without… to recognize that we exist on both sides of the battle lines… to be both engaged and at rest… to listen to others while hear our own deepest knowing… to speak the truth of the disconnection while acknowledging how deeply connected we are to those parts.. to find the gratitude while simultaneously feeling the outrage… to move beyond the polarity, without growing complacent or agreeing to things that betray our souls.

to support this evolution we must care for our bodies and souls by getting the rest we need, exercising, eating well, consciously interacting with (and at times limiting) the media we take in, being with people that expand our heart and when we are more resourceful, being those who are harder for us to stay open-hearted around, making art, speaking our truth and feeling our feelings as they arise. self-care that leads to true presence is a revolutionary act in these times, may you find the discernment to hear what you need, supporting what we all need. 

with the love that is, whatever may be,

vanessa

here, hearing.

hear-hear-here-herei write to you after eleven spacious days of rest and recuperation following the surgery i mentioned in my last newsletter. the procedure (laser stapedectomy), helped to reverse the effects of otosclerosis, a genetic condition that has contributed to significant and progressive hearing loss for me over the years. i am beyond grateful for all the love shown in the form of encouraging notes, flowers, offers of meals and errand running, walks and massive amounts of prayers and visualizations sent out to the ether in my name.

the day of the surgery (even before the anesthesia!) i felt this tangible sense of floating on a cloud of light, covered with a blanket of love that allowed me to fully surrender into trust and receptivity. every single person that cared for me at the hospital, from the warm receptionist to my outstanding surgeon, felt like their own unique species of angel. there was constant synchronicity and serendipity that flowed through what could have been a scary and stressful day and i’m thrilled to report that the surgery went extraordinarily well.

i now move through the world with a very small piece of titanium (with the strength of titan himself, no doubt) that has replaced my right stapes middle ear bone. this makes for much better mechanical functioning of my hearing so that suddenly, after years of often frustratingly unclear, muted sounds, i can hear SO MUCH!!

in many moments over this last week and a half, as my body adjusts to the prosthesis and the amplification of sound, this gift of hearing has felt overwhelming and painful. the fight or flight wisdom in my nervous system was suddenly on high alert – interpreting nearly every sound as loud and jarring. airplanes flying by, the blender making my morning smoothie, the telephone ringing, any music or audio being turned up beyond the lowest volume, the voices of those i love and even the hum from the refrigerator were suddenly sending distress signals to my whole system. there were many moments i felt anxious and inundated with stimuli. i had several waves of physical and emotional pain, which at times felt like they would last forever. the moments of relief came when i allowed myself to sit still, simply being. when i could let the sounds be there; witnessing them as they were, there was less resistance in my body. when i let myself just feel the emotion, however sucky, and make unfiltered sounds of the pain or distress, my suffering diminished and resourcefulness to ride the waves arose.

my patient and kind husband cared for all my needs so that, as much as i allowed myself, i was free to simply rest, integrate and be. with time, as the surgeon promised, my body’s innate wisdom has been recalibrating to receive my auditory environment with more ease. as the swelling reduces and the middle ear area heals, sounds are getting even more refined and clear. yesterday i returned to work and noticed for the first time in years that i could hear people speaking quietly without strategically placing my body.  miraculous!

this experience has offered me more than the gift of hearing… it’s been an invitation to be here in each moment more fully, with all of my heightened senses. it’s a been a chance for my expansive, compassionate and strong parts to hold space and nurture the parts of me that feel weak and scared. the journey has amplified and confirmed a profound knowing of the absolute genius of our bodies and the brilliant minds that create and perform such miracle surgeries.  the pace of my life has necessarily slowed and reminded me that nothing i produce or check off my daily (or lifelong) to-do list makes me any more worthy of a human being. and it’s revealed just how deep and wide the circle of people who love and care for me is.

perhaps most significantly, i’m feeling the unleashed power of having moved with and through something that scared me. there were some small but serious risks to this surgery, as there are risks to choosing anything that veers us in a new direction from life as we know it. within every frustrating and painful circumstance, or pattern of thinking, there is always a choice. we can either remain stuck in the familiar pain or walk into the risky unknown. when we make the choice to move forward with trust, either the circumstances, or the way we view the circumstances, will change. either way, we find ourselves with access to more energy.

something deep within me pointed to going forward with this surgery, so i went forward, fear and all. i let the fear remind me to do my due diligence and prepare as well as possible, but i didn’t let it stop me. listening to my soul’s whispers prompted me to make a choice that now allows me to hear you whisper.  hear, hear to that indeed.

with love,

vanessa

plugging in when the power goes out

lightbulb-nessy

 

hi friends,

i’m writing this around 10am on a monday morning. when i woke up this morning i assumed that i would be teaching a yoga class at this time, as i do most monday mornings. however, when i arrived to jewish community center where i teach, the power was out, and would be for the foreseeable future, making it impossible for the center to conduct business as usual. no energy source connected – no class.

thankfully, i tend to live under an assumption that life is happening for me/us, not to me/us, so, despite being disappointed (i love teaching this delightfully open group of students!) i trusted something even better was in store for my day. i enjoy seeing seemingly random circumstances as a notes in a larger orchestration, ripe with metaphor and meaning if viewed from the right angle. the “truth” of this worldview is irrelevant to me. as far as i see it, every story our limited minds paint over life is some degree of hallucination, so i prefer to stick with a hallucination that feels spacious and energizing.

optimism and curiosity are the parents of seeing new possibilities. so – what are we left with when the energy source we have depended upon malfunctions or becomes disconnected? perhaps we can see it as an opportunity to tap into where the real energy lies.

think back to the times in your life that felt most energized, vivid and beautiful. i suspect what comes to mind are not times when you were steeped in the familiar, comfortable and secure. my guess is that it’s those moments of serendipity and surprise, those days that turned out totally different than you’d imagined, or when you were traveling to a new place or with a new person and no expectations had been formed yet. people rarely talk about the “good ol’ days” when they had more than enough money, stable jobs, and predictable routines. usually we reminisce of times when we had no idea what was coming and the future felt full of possibilities. this is not just a condition of youth, it’s a state of mind and a daily choice to live in.

a stressed out, taxed mind and body crave homeostasis and certainty, but once some level of safety has been established, and we are recharged, a relaxed mind and body love novelty and adventure. it’s these two that tap us into that abundant fuel source for life.

so this morning, instead of teaching as i expected, i am sitting in a cafe i’ve never been to before, enjoying a tea and snack i’ve never tasted before and feeling a renewed flow of creativity to write this newsletter. life will predictably give us gifts of interruption to break up our routines and throw us for loops. what we do with this space is what determines how much energy we get from it. even better – we can make intentional choices each day, even small ones, to introduce novelty and train our brains to expand in the face of uncertainty that we did not invite.

this week – try a new food… a new way home… a new way of communicating with a family member or friend…  sitting in a new seat… trying (fill in the blank with your particular dream) that thing you keep telling yourself it’s too late to learn or try.

the stories we tell ourselves are just that… stories. every day is filled with infinite possibilities and abundant energy. so next time life changes course, find out what might light you up and connect to a new power source, regardless of what’s going on with pg&e.

with love – and the whole spectrum of light,

vanessa

fly (with) me to the moon

nessy moon kite.jpg

happy full moon friends,

as some of you may know, i have a deep and passionate love affair with the moon. when she is new, i bask in her spaciousness. when waxing, i swell with her expanding energy. i adore the surrender and release that comes when she is waning. and all bets are off when, in her fullness, i give my rational mind a savasana, dance freely and delve into creating beauty for beauty’s sake. this month, in all my eagerness for luna’s energizing effects, i announced her full arrival to a group of my yoga students a full three days ahead of schedule!

the moon reminds me of the magical rhythms of a cosmos that is beyond my little mind’s understanding. her consistent cycles orchestrate my own body’s rhythms and cradle me within an infinite intelligence. when i see the moon reflecting light on the ocean near my home, i soften with the knowledge that the same light is reflecting down on the oceans and lakes and rivers that flow near my family and friends far away. we are all connected through her. she whispers sweetly to me to relax in the knowing that all of life is constantly expanding or contracting, and will come back to expand once more. she is the nightlight to my dream world when it is time to sleep and a flashlight for my journeys when i feel the call to venture through the dark and unknown places.

the moon awakens each of us to our feminine side – the parts of us that are formless, spacious, creative, radiant, and filled with infinite possibilities. what is this moon waking up within you? when is the last time you stopped and admired her beauty? if you are reading this at night or early in the morning, take a moment to go outside, stretch your arms out and take five deep breaths while you look up toward the her magnificence. unlike the sun, the moon invites you to stare wide eyed and take in her luminosity. she shines over light polluted cities, on nights when nearly every star is hidden. even when she is snuggled up behind a blanket of fog or clouds, she is there and holds the potential to melt you with her enchanting trance. you may or may not experience a consuming urge to dance or howl, but at very least it will interrupt the dependency cycle to your devices, the stress inducing news of the day, or whatever thoughts the mind was currently looping and remind you of the magic that inspired awe in you as a child.

as sinatra sang, in his own ode to the moon…

“in other words, i love you.”

vanessa

trust walking with ourselves

realeyes

hi friends,

a couple of weeks ago i had a dream. i was asked to teach a yoga class to a new group of students. i felt tired, my eyelids heavy and closed, but i started to teach anyway. i tried to pry my eyes open, but even when they would open a little, i still couldn’t see anything. i flailed around for awhile, and eventually told the students

“don’t be alarmed, but i seem to be blind.”

despite my request, i was actually quite alarmed. i was scared and unsure how i could manage teaching, but continued as best i could. i asked the students to look up at me if they were new to this practice. a few looked up and, as they did, i thanked them.

“i thought you were blind?” one student asked.

“some part of me sees,” i responded.

and at that point in the dream, i became aware that there was another me — more expansive and not embodied — that was seeing the whole picture. she was guiding the blind me in leading this class. i was both the terrified and confused one who could see nothing and the peaceful, calm and wise one who could see everything. i somehow realized that there were another set of “real eyes” seeing, even as the clarity was unavailable to the rest of me.

in the weeks since i’ve had to continually surrender to trusting what my ‘real eyes’ can see. i’m being called to navigate new territory in all aspects of my life. after ten years i have decided to release my bodywork practice. this work has been a reliable source of joy, richness and livelihood, but it’s become clear that it’s time to more fully focus on building my creative callings to coach, write, illustrate, sing and teach. it’s strange to let something that’s successful and that i enjoy go, especially when the next steps aren’t clearly laid out. but the inner prompting is strong, so i’m practicing leaning on of that, and taking the leap with trust.

simultaneously, in some of my close personal relationships, built on so much love, compatibility, trust and understanding, i am coming against new edges that are challenging and at moments seem impassable. relationships are our mirrors, and right now some of mine are mirroring back parts of myself that have fragmented off for the sake of keeping things comfortable. i am being asked to speak my own truth, and listen to other’s people’s truth, even when they aren’t in alignment with one another. i am grateful for the all the ways i am both supported and stretched by these relationships.

and then, of course, there’s the continued tension and division in our country. the shadows of old and deep seeded fear are surfacing through bigoted, hateful rhetoric and violence. as often happens with politics and in the media, people’s stresses and fears are being capitalized upon and reported on. i know that space must be made for more truth to be heard and spoken, but sometimes i feel helpless in knowing how to do that. there are many moments of my waking life that feel the way i did dreaming in front of that class… tired and unable to have any insight or eyesight to comprehend what’s in front of me, let alone know where to go next.

and still i have the sense beyond my five senses into that “some part of me” that sees a bigger picture. i often feel myself somehow moving through my life at the very moments my mind thought i had no idea how to move through my life. not a switch into a new version, but a parallel reality where i’m both blind and fully see… scared to death and surrendered to life… unsure and totally clear… all alone and wholly interconnected.

are there areas of your life where you are feeling blinded and fearful? do you ever sense some other part of you that sees? what if you didn’t have to identify as one or the other? what if you chose to step up and move forward through your life, speaking your truth even when you feel blind… seeing where your experience is reflective of the collective experience… leaning on the more expansive part of guide you?

i’m reminded of my blindfolded trust walks from my childhood summer camps, only this time i’m guiding my own blind self, trusting my real eyes to help the rest of me realize the truth. wishing you all the same, as we trust walk with ourselves through life together.

with love,

vanessa

in light of shadows

b2d59c74-05e5-4521-a253-a6cfa2a64e30

hello friends,

summer solstice is just a few days away, which means (in this hemisphere anyway) we are in the midst of the lightest days of the year. simultaneously, the tragedy in orlando this past weekend has cast a shadow making it impossible to ignore the places where, individually and collectively, we are still living in darkness.

as typically happens in the aftermath of such horrendous tragedies – a majority of people respond with an outpouring of compassion, shared grief and heartfelt support. it’s consistent amongst devastation because it’s what we are actually made of and what’s left when so much else is stripped away. when our hearts break open, the truth of what’s inside pours out.

some have responded to this by desperately searching for who to blame or shamelessly harnessing this for political gain. this comes not because some among us are evil and others good – but because fear always leads to contraction and/or lashing out. look to nature – when an animal feels threatened and is wounded, they respond with aggression, freezing or fleeing. it’s the classic fight or flight mode and we human animals have the same physiological response when we go into defense. we then stack our stories and beliefs so high onto this fear response that everything is seen through it’s lens, as a threat. the stronger the fear, the more shadowed the light. but the light is there… it’s who we are, and when we are able to pause and examine these responses, we start to move back into our natural state of luminosity.

let it not be lost that the murders in orlando were specifically targeting our lgtbq brothers and sisters who were gathered together in a place to love, dance and be together in the fullness of who they are — or that the scope of this very sick, profoundly fearful, man’s destruction was made possible by far to easy access to mass killing devices and fueled by divisive and hateful propaganda.  this is not acceptable and not representative of  who we could be as a species. it is time to say ENOUGH! to repent, as a nation and individuals, for the parts we have played in this. now is the time to collectively come together, like never before, and demand that we raise the standard for what is possible for humanity, because it’s SO MUCH BETTER than this. it’s time to stop fighting against someone or something we don’t like or understand and start standing up for the truth of who we are and what is possible when we live congruently with that truth.

history is moving in this direction. collective consciousness is expanding and a more feminine, inclusive way of being is becoming more of the norm. are the voices for division and hate louder than ever? perhaps, but this is what happens when an ideology begins to crumble. those who feel safest in the dark begin screaming louder and gripping tighter. the parts of us that remain in fear more easily focus in on the people and things that scare us. it takes courage to pause and reflect back light, rather than take in the darkness.

the sun is always there shining, it is only those times that our earth has rotated away from it that the light seems to no longer exist. this week, as the we have more access to the sun than any other during the year, may we harness this light to let every shadowy part be revealed and examined.  may we see with eyes that recognize that every spew of blame, hatred, or revenge is covering up someone’s deep desire to feel seen, safe and loved.

may we answer blame with personal and collective repentance…

disconnection with community building…

fear with courageous speaking out…

apathy with committed action…

divisive hatred with uniting love…

and the illusion of darkness with the truth of light.

thank you for offering your light to us all,

vanessa

stuck in the middle with me

stuck image

happy full moon friends!

i had started writing this newsletter several times this month, but kept hitting a stopping point. there were many external factors (i.e. excuses) that i could point to, but when it comes down to it, i just felt a stuck. i changed my topic focus about ten different times (and now have several months worth of good writing prompts!), but nothing seemed to fully resonate with what i wanted to share right now. i would keep getting distracted while writing… or just ramble on and on… and eventually fizzle out and give up.

“what can i offer to the world, when i’m feeling so stuck myself?” i wondered.  i felt frustrated and twisted up and more than once uttered another powerful word that, conveniently, rhymes with stuck. (*#^*!!) all my usual tricks for approaching writer’s block weren’t working. nothing seemed to be working.  and then, like the light of the full moon shining through my window and onto my sleeping body this morning, inspiration struck… “the stuckness is it!”

it’s funny to me that i didn’t clue into this sooner. over the last couple of weeks many clients i’ve worked with, as well as friends around me, have shared how stuck they’ve felt. many of told me about patterns that they don’t see an obvious way out of, no matter what they do. then yesterday i was invited to share as a guest speaker on a conference call where the topic was SRI stage three, which is called, (no surprise) “stuck!”

these were all pointers to my own state. in fact, i always seem to learn best by seeing what’s happening around me. whenever i’m unclear about something within myself, i try to remember to pay attention to what’s showing up in my space and the words i am saying to the people around me. it’s amazing how often the support i am offering a client or friend, is the wisdom i hadn’t been able to access by myself. the teaching is the learning.

i realize now that i was stuck in not knowing what to write about, because what i needed to write about was feeling stuck. the particular pattern that kept me from seeing this is rooted in an outdated idea that i must be in a fully “healed” place to offer insight or support others in their healing. coming from a long line of missionaries and pastors, this pattern is deeply rooted in my family and has been in a process of transformation for years. as i was able to be with it once again, unpeeling another layer. i was able to bless it, accept the ways it served me and set it free to be transformed into a story that serves my life better now.

i now have way more available energy, allowing me to nearly effortlessly write this newsletter. all the pushing and forcing of the last few weeks has been replaced with focused, clear action today.

have you been feeling stuck in some area of your life, or with a specific project or relationship?  does it feel like nothing you try is working? here are a few things that i’ve learned don’t work for me when i’m in that place: forcing an answer/solution… trying to fix the issue… blaming something/someone for the pain…  distracting myself from really feeling the frustration of not being able to progress.

and here are some things that have given me more energy, insight, and peace when i’m in that place: being with the frustration and really feeling it… owning that i’m stuck and that it’s about my own limited patterns, whether i consciously understand them or not… practicing self-compassion and curious observing of those patterns… seeing that there was once a wisdom to playing out these patterns…  letting the teaching i offer others boomerang back to me… focusing on what’s working, rather than what’s not… giving my gifts freely and acknowledging all the gifts being freely offered back… trusting and accepting what is, rather than what i want it to be.  also, the full moon helps.

with some of that freed up energy, i was also able to complete a new version of my website, after months of working on it. i’m so excited to have a site that feels more aligned with what i’m offering these days and i’m very open to feedback of all kinds to help create the best possible vehicle for sharing those offerings. check it out here.

for those interested, the conference call i mentioned was with an amazing practitioner, dr. matthew lyon of the network wellness center in charlotte, north carolina. you can listen to it for free for the next month here. it’s about an hour long – with lots of rich dialogue about the nature of being in that “stuck” place and then, around minute 45, i lead SRI stage 3, an exercise to help access more energy in your body when you are feeling stuck. hope you find it as helpful to hear it as i found doing it!

wishing you the patience, peace and compassion to be with your own stuck places so that they may feel seen, safe and energized to break through.

with love,

vanessa

 

pushing the creative edges you didn’t know you had

creativestretching

greetings friends,

i returned home earlier this week from the magical village of ashland, oregon. i spent the much of last week there hanging with and performing alongside my husband, filmmaker/musician jeremy rourke, who had live expanded cinema performances featured in the film festival there. it was a full and beautiful week, both supporting his creative work and meeting so many other creators and appreciators of innovative and gorgeous art.

now i’m back in the bay and preparing to birth another edition of my own creative baby – the v.v. variety show – the eighth of which is happening this saturday evening. the premise of the show, for those of you don’t know, is that performers bring an act that stretches them out of their comfort zone… something out of the typical performing repertoire. singer-songwriters might do a dance… seasoned drummers may play the banjo while reciting poetry… classical pianists may try their hand at stand up comedy…. stand up comics may try their (presumably less trained hands) at a classical piano piece. the results may not always be perfectly executed – but it always feels magical and energizing for performers and audiences alike. the very act of acknowledging that one doesn’t know what will happen seems to create more space for something exciting to.

are you pushing your creative edges? do you even recognize that you have creative edges to push? regardless of whether you believe you have are an “artist,”  every human is a creative being. the very cellular reproduction that sustains our life is, in fact, a constant act of creation. the choices we make and the stories we tell ourselves about those choices — all creative acts. in fact, the word “creativity” is defined as “the ability to make things or think of new ideas.” have you ever made anything or had a new idea. bam. you’re creative.

so… what are you creating? have you been stuck in the same plot line for months… years.. decades? have you forgotten the wonder you had as a child when you still danced with your imagination? have you decided that you already “know” what’s coming? how else might your day… and the days ahead, play out? the brain lights up when novelty is introdcued and the soul sings when we dissolve what we thought were the limits of our identity. there is literally an infinite number of versions of your life. every thought, word and choice leads to the version you are creating right now. is it time for a rewrite of yours?

this week, i encourage you to have your own little variety show in your life. switch things up… try something new… surprise yourself and the people around you. stretch your creative edges that you didn’t even know you had.

creatively yours,

vanessa

stressed out or stretched out?

stressed out or stretched out?

greetings friends,

first, thank you so much for the outpouring of love and support around the death of my grandfather last month. it was such an honor to share his essence with all of you. what a gift we have when we let ourselves hold and be held by community.

as always life continues to be filled with beautiful opportunities, small hiccups, large frustrations, magical moments, integration, regeneration, growing spurts and growing pains.  life does what life does. our response to it that determines both how much peace we feel and how much energy we have access to for moving through it.

stress, defined as “a state of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium,” is inevitable. barely a day goes by when this word isn’t in a headline we read or a conversation we have. stress has become a cornerstone on which the modern life is built. and the accepted paradigm is that most of the time we are either stressed or doing something to counter the stress. how much of our life’s energy is an attempt to simply manage?

what if, instead of shrinking down our lives to avoid getting stressed out, we expanded our minds and lives, choosing to get stretched out? if the equilibrium is set at a higher point, more pressure can come onto the system without breakdown. what if we saw stress as an invitation to stretch, like a well trained athlete who welcomes a more seasoned competitor? then, like a muscle being worked, the stressing creates the strengthening.

when you feel your body, mind and spirit are in breakdown/managing mode from all the outside pressure, i invite you to consider this response:

pause, rest and be with the state you are in. put your hands on your legs, belly, chest, over your eyes or any other place that feels comfortable and take a few slow breaths in your nose and out your mouth. this will help guide you more into the present moment and massively reduce the reactionary signaling of the fight or flight part of your nervous system. this simple act alone may be enough to stretch you into a version of yourself that can flow through the situation and feel whatever emotions were being resisted (a common underlying cause of stress is resisting feeling what’s really there).

if after this, you still feel a “state of bodily or mental tension” – then at this point, with a little more calm and presence, you have an ability to respond and ask questions about what changes are within your power to make. no matter what the situation, we ALWAYS have the power to make a change in it. sometimes it’s obvious and external; making choices that change the actual make up of what’s happening. but often our choice lies not in changing the circumstances, but in changing the story we tell about what’s happening. when we reframe the picture, the image starts to shift.

right now think of one that are causing you stress. what, if anything, can you do, right now, to change the circumstances around this? and, even more importantly, what story are you telling about this? is there a more energizing/empowered story? how can you stretch yourself to make space for what’s happening?

here’s an example from my recent life:

six weeks ago i broke my pinky toe, and then two weeks ago my jaw began to hurt in a way that made chewing nearly impossible. in my nearly four decades of life, i’d never broken a bone or had any jaw pain and it was strange to have new conditions in my body that i had no experience in knowing how to help heal. resistance was useless and ignoring either led to more pain. the only helpful response was to slow down my usual pace and stop most of my regular exercise and movement routines. there have been many moments of frustration and humility, but the moments i chose to look deeper my body’s message in this, it became a tenderly beautiful experience. what if these injuries came as way of my body asking me to pause and digest? it’s been a very expansive and full past few months. perhaps this is not the time to leap into new things. my broken toe has been a reminder to sit with what’s in front of me and commit to going deeper there. maybe it’s not the time to expand my palate and give myself more to chew on? my jaw has asked me to simplify everything that comes in, so that i can digest all that is already within me. instead of letting these interruptions stress me out, arguing with reality, i’ve (mostly) let them stretch me out. and from this stretched consciousness, it’s clear these were necessary and important messages from my body to my mind to stop and integrate.

would love to hear about places where you are being called to stretch in your life. or if you’d like support in reframing the places of stress, i’d love to hear that too.

may our existent equilibriums be stretched to meet what life is offering us today.

much love,

vanessa

my gregarious, gorgeous grandfather

grandpa j pic

on friday morning i got word that my grandfather harold, father to my mother, left his body and returned back into the unexplainable ether from which we all came.

he was 91 years old and, up until this past year, had more energy and a busier schedule than most people i know half his age. a year or so ago, his health began to decline and energy levels dropped – but he still stayed actively engaged with life and was intentional about getting out to spread love and positivity each day. in fact, until very recently, he continued to preach at a monthly service, perform in two choirs, visit the skilled care facility where his wife of 67 years (my wonderfully wise and witty grandmother) lived, so they could have their daily scrabble game and dinner together, host a bible study in his apartment building, organize regular garage sales, scout thrift stores looking for things to gift to his family, friends and neighbors (and resell at his own garage sales!) and have countless other little routines of engagement and service that i didn’t know about, i’m sure. i never knew him to exercise in any formal way, and his favorite food groups appeared to be sugar and dairy, but all of this kept him vibrant and healthy for nine decades.

i did not know him well when i was growing up. he and my grandmother were missionaries in japan for over forty years, spanning the entirety of my childhood. by the time they had returned to the states, I had already flown into my adulthood and away from the midwest. when our paths would cross, for much of my 20s and into my 30s, i honestly found him somewhat hard to relate to and steeped in a theology and political position that felt about as far from mine as was possible. i’m sure he felt the same about his tattooed and pierced prodigal granddaughter who no longer held to the christian teachings that he had dedicated his whole life to. i felt judged by him and he felt, i can imagine, worried for me.

and then in the last several years something shifted – in us both, no doubt. my confidence and ease with myself grew and i had more space to see others for who they were, rather than as a threat to who i was. i began to see how similar we actually were — and how much of me was a reflection of him. now, when he would say to me that he and my grandmother “pray for you every day” at the end of each conversation, or ask some variation of whether i was “right with god” i no longer had a knee jerk reaction, or heard judgement and fear — but rather i felt the emotional subtext underneath it of …“i love you.” i felt his heart – eager to let me and everyone he met find the freedom and joy he discovered through his faith – and sad to imagine an eternal life without me – or anyone he met – in it.

he was a complex man, full of light and shadows where the light is blocked, as we are all. and somehow in these last few years i felt the purity of his soul, even the parts that were hidden in shadows. i saw all the joy, gregariousness, creativity, flamboyance, compassion, dedication, tenderness and truth seeking that i feel in myself. i feel deep gratitude for him, not in spite of his complexities, but along with them. i no longer see those places of constriction or pain within him (and me) as brokenness or weakness, but as cries for love and attempts to find his, and our, way back home.

and now, he’s home. wherever that is. and now i am here – wherever this is. and i sense we are both at peace.

the last conversation we had, just a week ago, started with the words ‘hello gorgeous! are you as gorgeous today as you were yesterday?”

(gorgeous: “characterized by magnificence or virtuosic brilliance,”)

this what i shall strive to be grandpa, not by pressing the repeat button on your belief systems or theology, but by shining my light, at least as gorgeously and magnificently as you shone yours.

today also marks the ushering in of a new lunar year – a day when the stars are aligned to support a new view and fresh start. may we take this opportunity to consider the people who have shaped us – ancestors we know or those we will never know, family, teachers, friends who are just like us, as well as those who are so different and so hurtful to us that they stretch us out of our minds, into our hearts, and smack dab in the center of our souls, where nothing other than love and light exists.

loving you, in all your gorgeousness.

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